ROK and Inter-Korean relations
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[Editorial] Pres. Park’s UN remarks just make the inter-Korean stalemate even worse
Posted on : Sep.26,2014 15:49 KST
President Park Geun-hye came out with a hard-line stance on North Korea in her United Nations General Assembly keynote speech on Sept. 24. That body looks to be just the latest battlefield in inter-Korean antagonisms that have been ongoing since the start of the year. It now appears it will be that much tougher to address problems for inter-Korean relations and the peninsula as a whole.
Park’s references to North Korea during the speech focused on three main arguments: the need for denuclearization before anything else can happen, calls to turn up the pressure on Pyongyang, and the belief in reunification as a panacea. At one point, she said South Korea and the rest of the international community would actively support the North‘s economic development if it decided to give up its nuclear program and introduce greater openness and reforms. In its substance, this is the same policy that her predecessor Lee Myung-bak served up with his “Vision 3000” - which only led to North Korea beefing up its nuclear capabilities. If anything, Park’s version is a step backward, since it doesn’t actually offer anything in terms of conditions or a process for denuclearization. At least Lee gave some kind of vision for a “grand bargain” with Pyongyang in his UN General Assembly address in 2009, the year after he took office.
Park asked for the international community to take “necessary actions” on human rights in North Korea. This could have just been a generality, but at a time when Pyongyang’s relations with Seoul and Washington are so poor, it’s inevitably going to sound like a call to raise pressure on the North. The North Korean Foreign Minister asked to attend a senior-level meeting on his country’s human rights situation that was organized by the US on Sept. 23, but both the US and Seoul said no. For the South to then turn around and invite the North for a bilateral “dialogue” on human rights sends a very inconsistent message.
[SK NK policy] [Park Geun-hye]
NK rules out talks with S. Korea, US
Updated : 2014-09-28 23:02
Neither South nor North Korea has made the first move in the latest round of a war of words between the two nations, with each side blaming the other for a continuing stalemate in dialogue.
At the moment, it appears unlikely that the Pyongyang will talk to Seoul and Washington anytime soon. And if there were any doubts remaining about this, North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Ja Song-nam said on Saturday in the U.N. building in New York that there will be no dialogue between the two Koreas and between Pyongyang and Washington.
The totalitarian regime has mobilized its big guns to criticize President Park Geun-hye about her recent U.N. address on seeking international support for inter-Korean unification efforts in New York.
Firing volleys of criticism were the National Defense Commission (NDC), Pyongyang's supreme policy-making body, and two other organizations affiliated with the communist regime's ruling party _ the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) and the Rodong Sinmun.
"President Park will pay the price for her' provocative and unacceptable speech," they said.
In her U.N. General Assembly speech, Park called for an end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and for improvements to human rights. She said such efforts will contribute to inter-Korea unification and peace in the region.
[SK NK policy] [Park Geun-hye]
South Korea: Still Stonewalling about the Sewol
September 22, 2014
J.J. Suh | September 22, 2014
The Sewol, a South Korean passenger-cargo ferry that was carrying 476 people—including a group of high school students on a field trip to Jeju Island—capsized on April 16, 2014, and sank to the bottom of the sea off Korea’s southern coast.
The Korean Coast Guard rescued most of the crew, including the captain, and some of the passengers. Before the Coast Guard or the Navy arrived on the scene, fishing boats and commercial vessels saved other passengers who happened to be on the deck or escaped soon after the capsizing. The rest were, unfortunately, trapped inside and sank together with the ferry. 294 were later found dead, and 10 are still “missing” almost 5 months after their disappearance.
The ship’s sinking may seem an unfortunate accident, and the passengers’ deaths its tragic ending. Once the surface is scratched, however, a more complicated picture emerges.
The Sewol sank under the weight of the neoliberal state that diminished its role in safety regulation and oversight. Its passengers drowned to death because the state relegated the rescue operation to a private salvage firm and prioritized its own interests over those of the passengers. But when victims’ families demanded the truth, the strong state reared its menacing head by deploying its force to silence them and mobilizing its resources to hide its responsibility.
The Korean state’s deregulation and dereliction combined to create the perfect storm that sent the Sewol and its passengers to the bottom of the sea. The state’s intimidation has suggested that a cover-up is under way to obscure the state’s responsibility, contrary to President Park Geun-Hye’s public promise to get to the bottom of the accident.
[Sewol] [Neoliberalism] [Deregulation]
Taking Down Samsung’s No Union Policy: The Samsung Electronics Service Union
September 16, 2014
Dae-Han Song · International Strategy Center · Samsung · South Korea · Sunyoung Kim · worker rights
Samsung Electronics Service Union workers occupied the street in front of Samsung Electronics Headquarters for 40 days starting May 19th until June 2014
An Interview with Sunyoung Kim by Dae-Han Song
The International Strategy Center’s Policy and Research Coordinator Dae-Han Song and Communications Coordinator Hwang Jeong Eun met with Sunyoung Kim, the chair of the Samsung Electronics Service Union for the Yeongdeungpo District in Seoul, of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union in July 2014. They talked about the trailblazing struggle of the electronics services workers to organize the first union recognized by Samsung on June 28, 2013.
Dae-Han Song: Can you give us a brief background to the Samsung Electronics Service Union?
Sunyoung Kim: We started the union because of the harsh working conditions. Sometimes, we might work twelve to thirteen hours a day, and still not make the minimum wage. You might come to work on Saturday or Sunday from 8:00 to 6:00 PM and come out on the minus. Why? Because you didn’t get paid, but you still had to pay for lunch and gas. You even had to pay for your own training from Samsung. In addition, our work is dangerous, whether it is installing air-conditioning, or climbing a wall, or working with live electricity. Despite these dangers, the company doesn’t provide any safety equipment. We have to wear neckties even when working with moving parts. They force us to wear dress shoes even when working on a roof in the rain, just for the sake of maintaining a clean and professional image.
Dae-Han Song: How can a person work 12 to 13 hours a day and not even get paid the minimum wage?
Sunyoung Kim: It’s a system based on commission. There is no base pay. You are basically a freelancer. You come in to work, and if there is work you work if there is not then you just stay in the office. However, while a real freelancer can decide whether or not to show up to the office, we have a specified clock in and clock out time. When there is work, we just keep working. In the summer, there’s a lot of work: air conditioning, refrigerators. So, we just keep on working until everything is done. Not only is working such long hours exhausting, it is also exhausting doing so in the summer heat. Sometimes you don’t get home until 12:00 AM and can’t even rest on the weekends. That’s when we make our money that carry us through the fall, winter, spring when there is little work. In these off seasons we might sometimes just get one or two calls in a day and since we get paid by commission, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid.
N.Korea Demands Halt to Propaganda Leaflets
North Korea has urged South Korea to stop floating propaganda leaflets across the border before resuming high-level talks.
In a statement, a spokesman for the North Korean delegation to the talks last Saturday demanded South Korean activists stop floating balloons carrying the leaflets across the border before talks can resume.
It was Pyongyang's first official response to Seoul's proposal on Aug. 11 of another round of talks.
Opposition party in chaos after failed appointments
Posted on : Sep.13,2014 14:01 KST
Park Young-sun, chair of the Public Consensus Reform Committee (emergency committee) for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (second from the right) contemplates during a committee meeting at the National Assembly, Sept. 12. (by Kim Kyung-ho, staff photographer)
Backlash from inside the NPAD comes after leader Park Young-sun pushes for appointments before finding a consensus
By Lee You Ju-hyun and Lee Seung-joon, staff reporters
Park Young-sun, chair of the Public Consensus Reform Committee (emergency committee) for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), intended to appoint Lee Sang-don, professor emeritus at Chung-Ang University, and Ahn Kyung-hwan, professor emeritus at Seoul National University, as joint chairs of the party’s emergency committee and temporary heads of the party. But with the two figures having declined the offers, Park’s plan is effectively dead in the water. A fierce backlash is emerging in the NPAD, with some party members calling on Park to step down from her position because she pushed forward the plan before a consensus had formed in the party.
During a floor measures meeting on Sept. 12, Park said she favored a system with joint chairs recruited from outside the party, one a progressive and one a reform-minded conservative, and said she would appoint Ahn Kyung-hwan and Lee Sang-don to these posts. But on the afternoon of the same day, Ahn and Lee both indicated that they would not be able to fill those positions.
[Editorial] Judge’s comments show the absurdity of NIS ruling
Posted on : Sep.13,2014 14:17 KST
A sitting chief judge recently posted a blistering criticism of the ruling last week finding former National Intelligence Service chief Won Sei-hoon not guilty of violating Public Official Election Act. The comments by Kim Dong-jin, a 45-year-old chief judge at the Seongnam branch of Suwon District Court, were directed at Seoul Central District Court chief judge Lee Beom-gyun, 50.
Court culture in South Korea is such that judges typically try to avoid commenting on what other judges do. So it’s quite startling to see one of them openly assessing the outcome of another’s trial - and all on the court’s internal network, no less. Also, Kim is Lee’s “junior,” a younger alumnus of the same university and an underclassman by four years at the Judicial Research and Training Institute, which makes his comments particularly unheard-of in a culture so sensitive to seniority. If anything, it’s a signal of just how problematic the ruling in the Won case was.
In Kim’s judgment, the rationale for Won’s acquittal on charges of election interference was “sophistry.” The court said although the actions of the NIS did constitute political “involvement,” they did not meet the election law definition of “campaigning,” since they lacked purposefulness, proactivity, and premeditation. The implication was that they should meet a stronger standard than simple involvement to constitute “interference.” Kim called his “schematic and mechanical formal logic.” To illustrate the contradiction, he drew the analogy of a court acquitting someone of drunk driving because although he did drink and drive, his “purpose” was not drunk driving per se, he wasn’t “proactive” about it, and he didn’t draw up a plan beforehand.
Opposition lawmaker causes firestorm by referring to president’s “tryst”
Posted on : Sep.13,2014 14:15 KST
Sul Hoon said that rumors of Pres. Park being involved in “tryst” on day of Sewol sinking probably aren’t true
By Kim Kyung-uk, staff reporter
An opposition lawmaker ignited controversy on Sept. 12 with a reference to rumors that President Park Geun-hye was absent for seven hours on the day of the Sewol ferry sinking in April because of a “tryst.”
The remarks by New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker Sul Hoon drew an immediate backlash from the ruling Saenuri Party (NFP), which demanded his resignation as chair of the National Assembly Education, Culture, Sports, and Tourism Committee and threatened to lodge a complaint with the Ethics Committee.
Sul’s remarks came during a meeting of the National Assembly Speaker and Deputy Speakers and the heads of standing committees, with Speaker Chung Ui-hwa presiding. Sul brought up allegations about Park’s whereabouts during the seven-hours on Apr. 16 - the date of the ferry sinking - while objecting to Chung’s calls to hold the meeting behind closed doors.
“What did [President Park] do for those seven hours at the Blue House?” Sul asked. “I don’t think it’s true what people are saying about her having a tryst. I think that’s probably not it.”
[Park Geun-hye] [Sewol]
Main opposition party names outside conservative to lead its reform
Posted on : Sep.12,2014 11:49 KST
Modified on : Sep.12,2014 11:51 KST
New Politics Alliance for Democracy floor leader Park Young-sun (center) during a meeting of the party’s Public Consensus Reform Committee at the National Assembly, Sept. 11. (by Kim Kyung-ho, staff photographer)
This morning NPAD leader says one progressive and one conservative tabbed to lead party; not yet know if they’ll accept
By Lee Se-young, staff reporter
On Sep. 11, Park Young-sun, floor leader for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), named Lee Sang-don as the head of the party’s emergency committee, a position responsible for party reform. Lee is professor emeritus at Chung-Ang University, as well as a former member of the Saenuri Party (NFP)’s emergency committee. NPAD party members are expressing extreme hostility for the choice because of Lee’s political conservatism and because he helped President Park Geun-hye’s election victory while serving on the Saenuri Party’s emergency committee during the 2012 presidential campaign. Park Young-sun’s decision to nominate an emergency chair from outside the party is sowing the seeds of new conflict.
On the morning of Sept. 12, Park said in an NPAD meeting that she will resign as party leader when the ordinary session of the National Assembly begins. Park said that with the intention of reforming and expanding the party, she is recruiting both progressive and conservative outside figures. From the progressive side she is targeting Seoul National University law professor Ahn Kyung-hwan. It has not been confirmed whether Ahn and Lee will accept joint chairship of the NPAD.
Ex-NIS chief gets partial conviction
By Lee Kyung-min
Former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon
A court delivered an ambivalent verdict Thursday on former National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Won Sei-hoon, who was indicted for mobilizing the spy agency to support then-presidential candidate Park Geun-hye in the lead-up to the 2012 election.
The Seoul Central District Court found Won guilty of ordering a smear campaign against her opponents in violation of the law related to NIS operations, but cleared him of breaking the Election Law.
Ministry painting all progressive activities as “pro-North Korea”
Posted on : Sep.10,2014 17:23 KST
Report on possibly disbanding the UPP ties S. Korean activities to N. Korea’s policy of fomenting rebellion
By Noh Hyun-woong, staff reporter
The Ministry of Justice submitted a document to the Constitutional Court, which is deliberating over a request to dissolve the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), that links progressive activities such as the candlelight vigils about mad cow disease to North Korea. The Hankyoreh acquired a copy of the document on Sept. 9. The Ministry went so far as to argue that the opposition party coalition in the 2012 general election was in line with North Korea’s policy of fomenting rebellion in South Korea.
In a document submitted to the court on Aug. 29 titled “How the Anti-American and Autonomous Popular Struggle Followed North Korea Unification Front Tactics,” the Ministry said that major activities by progressive groups had been infiltrated by North Korea’s goal of instigating revolution in the South.
Notice to S. Korean Red Cross
Pyongyang, September 5 (KCNA) -- An institution concerned of the DPRK intercepted a south Korean inhabitant who illegally entered the DPRK via a third country.
According to investigation, the south Korean Kim Sang Gun residing in Kongdo Town, Ansong City, Kyonggi Province, finding it difficult to live in south Korea, left it and went to a third country. Then he headed to the north for no reason, he said.
He frankly admitted his illegal entry into the DPRK and requested it to let him bring his family in the south so that he might live with them in the DPRK. But an institution concerned of the DPRK persuaded him and decided to send him back to the south.
In this regard, the Central Committee of the Red Cross Society of the DPRK on Friday sent the south Korean Red Cross a notice saying that it would repatriate him to the south via Panmunjom on September 11.
[Editorial] Everyone involved needs to reformulate N. Korea policy
Posted on : Sep.2,2014 12:06 KST
The icy relations between North and South Korea and between North Korea and the US are little by little showing signs of thawing. While there is not yet any definite progress, it is possible that the mood will change during the UN General Assembly and the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, both of which are taking place in the middle of September. All of the parties involved will have to work hard to ensure that these new movements will lead toward dialogue and negotiations for resolving the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program.
North Koreans’ opinion of South deteriorating: survey
Published : 2014-08-27 20:59
Updated : 2014-08-28 08:58
Negative opinions of South Korea appear to be increasing in North Korea, a study on defectors showed on Wednesday, apparently reflecting last year’s elevated tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
A June poll conducted by Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies showed 55.7 percent of surveyed defectors said they had thought of the South as a cooperative partner while living in the North, down from 63 percent last year. The IPUS polled 149 defectors who left the North in 2013 and entered the South this year.
Defectors who said they had thought the South was a hostile nation increased to 20.1 percent this year, up from 12.8 percent.
Gov't Refuses to Invite N.Korean Cheerleaders
The government has no plan to invite North Korean cheerleaders to the Asian Games in Incheon starting on Sept. 19, despite demands from the ruling party here to press for their dispatch.
"There is no change in our position that we would welcome North Korea's decision to send a cheerleading squad," a Unification Ministry official told reporters. "But we're not going to ask them."
The official added, "We're well aware of the potential positive effects, but we're not convinced that public opinion would entirely favor them."
Thaw in Cross-Border Ties in the Offing?
Inter-Korean relations could reach a turning point this month, with joint South Korea-U.S. military drills over and Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving just around the corner.
North Korean athletes are also taking part in the Incheon Asian Games, which would give rise to a natural mood of détente. The Games open on Sept. 19.
The question is whether Pyongyang will accept Seoul's proposal on Aug. 11 for a second round of high-level talks. Despite more than three weeks of silence, the South still holds out hope that the North will accept.
"The North probably didn't accept the proposal readily because we proposed Aug. 19 for talks, while the joint military drills were still going on," a government official said. "It's possible that the North will put forward a counterproposal around Chuseok."
[Joint US military]
Can an inter-Korean orchestra come together in harmony?
Posted on : Sep.6,2014 12:00 KST
When Won Hyung-joon, CEO and founder of Lindenbaum Music Festival orchestra, first mentioned his idea for an inter-Korean youth orchestra, many called it an impossible dream. But it turned out to be not so impossible. First, the 39-year-old Won, a violinist, succeeded at getting the “impossible” Charles Dutoit, chief conductor of Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, to serve as musical director to support the orchestra. Under Dutoit’s leadership, around 100 young South Korean musicians took the stage in 2009 at the first Lindenbaum Festival in Seoul.
[Inter-Korean] [Peace effort]
When will N. Korea respond to high-level talks proposal?
Posted on : Sep.1,2014 15:06 KST
Kim Yang-gon, secretary for South Korea-related affairs
With S. Korea-US military exercises over, the time may be ripe for inter-Korean dialogue
By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer
Now that the Ulchi Freedom Guardian US-ROK joint military exercises have ended on Sep. 28 (sic), a day ahead of schedule, the next question is whether North Korea will respond positively to the South Korean government’s proposal for a second round of high-level talks. What happens with the meeting between senior officials from Seoul and Pyongyang could be a bellwether for gauging whether the political situation on the Korean peninsula will shift toward dialogue in the upcoming months.
North Korea has remained silent about Seoul’s offer for a second round of high-level talks, which was made on Aug. 11. The North appears to be holding to its principle of not participating in talks while the US and South Korea are holding military exercises.
Indeed, Kim Yang-gon, head of the Workers’ Party of Korea Unified Front Department and secretary for South Korea-related affairs, took issue with the fact that the date Seoul proposed for the high-level talks (Aug. 19) fell during the period of the military exercises (Aug. 18 to Aug. 29). “Why did you have to propose holding the second round of high-level talks on a day when the military drills are taking place?” Kim asked when he met Park Ji-won, lawmaker with the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, at the Kaesong Industrial Complex on Aug. 17.
[SK NK negotiations] [US joint military]
[Book review] The Seoul-Pyongyang megacity model for reunification
Posted on : Sep.1,2014 15:12 KST
Modified on : Sep.1,2014 16:56 KST
New book argues that economic integration can combine complementary parts of South and North Korean economies
By Han Seung-dong, senior staff writer
The Seoul-Pyongyang megacity: a practical idea for integrating, and unifying South and North Korea by linking their capitals together into a supranational economic zone. It is based on the basic assumption that economic integration has to come before political integration. Indeed, postponing political integration, it argues, could actually help the megacity function better and ease integration between North and South while generating maximum synergy. It represents a genuinely feasible form of integration, and one that can achieve unification faster and more cheaply without treading the same path of trial and error as East and West Germany. South and North would each have to give up their obsession with integrating political systems first, only then could the Seoul-Pyongyang megacity take shape as a major economic hub not just for the Korean Peninsula, but for all of East Asia. It would, in short, be the best path to reunification, offering a way out for a crisis-stricken South Korean capitalist economy as well as a way to rebuild a moribund North Korea, and all while avoiding the chaos of a scenario where the North is absorbed by the South and interference by neighboring countries
[Unification] [Economic integration]
On South Korean Justice Again
This is not the first time we have touched upon the high-profile trials on the pro-North Korean conspiracy in South Korea involving members of the leftwing United Progressive Party, headed by MP Lee Seok-ki. One would have thought that this case had come to an end, however, the decision by Seoul’s Supreme Court where an appeal had been filed, has made possible further discussions and debates.
Let’s recall the timeline of events. On August 28, 2013 the staff of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) raided the homes and offices of members of the United Progressive Party whose program was in many ways similar to the programs of moderate Western communists.
According to reports by The Korea Herald newspaper, during the raids secret services allegedly found records of party activists’ meetings, during which they discussed the seizure of arms depots and police stations in order “to help North Korea”, and also talked about a terrorist attack against an unspecified oil facility.
According to intelligence agents, they followed Lee and monitored his correspondence and conversations for three years. But public opinion has linked this case with a number of scandals within the National Intelligence Service – investigations and the inevitable reforms would have affected the senior and middle ranking officials of the intelligence service, and the dramatic exposure of North Korean agents in the stronghold of democracy has proved to be very useful for those who wanted to show that the secret services are able to capture real, not fictional spies.
[Lee Seok-ki] [Repression]
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