ROK and Inter-Korean relations
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North Korea raises prospect of detaining South Koreans at complex
(Reuters) - North Korea has said it can detain South Korean workers at an joint industrial park in the event of a dispute with their companies, South Korea said on Tuesday, in the latest ruling that could hurt confidence in the factory complex.
The Kaesong Industrial Complex is just on the North Korean side of the two Koreas' heavily defended border and is one of the few examples of cooperation between the rivals. It is also a major source of revenue for the poor North.
Gov't rebukes NK preconditions for dialog
By Jun Ji-hye
The government said Monday that it is not willing to comply with preconditions North Korea has presented for talks.
The conditions include suspending joint military exercises by Seoul and Washington, and lifting the so-called May 24 economic sanctions.
Seoul imposed the sanctions after the North torpedoed a South Korean warship in 2010, killing 46 sailors.
"We have no intention to take actions on their preconditions first," said unification ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol. "Such issues need to be discussed at inter-Korean talks."
Lim said if the government complied with such "improper" preconditions before dialog began, it would not help improve South-North relations fundamentally and sincerely.
North Korea issues strongly worded statement seeking dialogue
Posted on : Jan.26,2015 16:10 KST
A Korean Central Television anchor reads the statement issued by the policy bureau of North Korea’s National Defense Commission on Jan. 25. (Yonhap News)
Pyongyang is calling on the South to call off military exercises and stop launch of propaganda leaflets
In a statement issued by the policy bureau of the National Defense Commission on Jan. 25, North Korea once again urged South Korea to create the atmosphere and conditions for inter-Korean dialogue by ending the US-ROK joint military exercises and by blocking the launch of balloons filled with anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets.
“The South Korean authorities need to know that this is a time when a single meaningful act will speak louder than a hundred flowery words,” the statement said.
“The South Korean authorities are currently making a lot of noise about inter-Korean dialogue and improving relations with the North, but the actions that they are taking completely contradict their words,” the statement said.
“Having made it clear that it will go forward with the Key Resolve joint military exercises as planned, [the South Korean government] is hinting that it will continue to provide implicit support for the reckless launch of propaganda balloons, while it brings the American bastards into its plot against our republic,” the statement explained, criticizing the South Korean authorities.
In the statement, Pyongyang complained that the South Korean government has been bashing its proposals for talks with the South as a ruse to escape from its economic difficulties and its international isolation. “The South Korean authorities must not miscalculate, mock, or distort our sincere intentions,” the statement warned.
S. Korea Should Not Forget Koreans Watch Them with High Vigilance: NDC
Pyongyang, January 25 (KCNA) -- The Policy Department of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK made public a statement Sunday in connection with the grim situation now prevailing on the Korean peninsula.
Growing stronger than ever before at present is the unanimous desire of the nation to break with the inglorious past and write a new history of the north-south relations, true to the noble intention of supreme leader Kim Jong Un, peerless great man. World people are also growing strong in their support and encouragement to it in response to the historic appeal for defusing the danger of war and creating a peaceful environment on the Korean peninsula.
But even a basic climate for dialogue has not been created as the north-south relations are not freed from the phase of freeze.
Noting that what is happening at present is very grave, the statement clarified the following principled stand:
1. The south Korean authorities should stop making willful interpretation of the measures of great significance in the nation's history taken by the DPRK, and wagging their tongues at will.
NK mixes calls for dialogue with threat
By Yi Whan-woo
North Korea told South Korea, Sunday, to get positive about the resumption of dialogue or face stern punishment.
"Inter-Korean relations are still strained as in the past and we've not even laid the groundwork to resume dialogue," the North's National Defense Commission said through the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency. "The South has misinterpreted, distorted and ridiculed our offers that were made with sincerity. We ask to them to refrain from doing so."
The commission claimed Seoul is denouncing Pyongyang as if the latter has made such offers as a means to escape from economic impoverishment and international isolation.
The latest threat by the North comes at a time when the South has not positively addressed its two biggest grievances — activists' floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets in balloons across the border, and joint military exercises with the United States.
The two Koreas are widely seen as engaging in a tug of war for better terms before they sit down for talks.
The Ministry of Unification, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said such a claim was "one-sided."
"North Korea should not be making one-sided claims repeatedly and instead come to the table to engage in discussions openly."
Experts say that Pyongyang is trying to step up its pressure on Seoul.
Park's popularity hits new low
By Jun Ji-hye
President Park Geun-hye appointed senior secretaries Friday including, from left, Hyun Jung-taek, Woo Byung-woo and Cho Shin in charge of policy coordination, civil affairs and future strategy, respectively. / Yonhap
President Park Geun-hye's approval rating has gone down to 30 percent, the lowest since she took office on Feb. 25, 2013, according to a survey released Friday.
The record low rate appears to have been prompted by the fiasco involving the government's new tax settlement scheme coupled with Park's no-compromise stance, experts said.
Gallup Korea conducted a poll of 1,001 adults between Tuesday and Thursday, which shows Park's rating at 30 percent, down from 35 percent the previous week.
Respondents who negatively evaluated Park's management of state affairs reached 60 percent, up from 55 percent. Among them, 17 percent accused Park of poor communications, while 15 percent cited the possible tax boost amid lingering controversy over the bungled tax policy.
"Last week's falling popularity could be attributed to her New Year speech that only showed a gap between her perception and public expectations," Gallop said in its statement. "The continuous decrease this week can be attributable to furious employees over income tax."
More than 15 million employees are upset over a possibly increased amount of tax payment in their year-end tax filings, despite the government's explanation that only high-income earners would have to pay more tax.
It was noted that a considerable number of those aged over 50, Park's main support base, seem to have withdrawn their support.
[Park Geun-hye] [Public opinion]
Four ministries lay out plans for unification full of one-time events
Posted on : Jan.20,2015 15:44 KST
President Park Geun-hye enters the conference room for a joint briefing on “unification preparations” held by the Ministry of Unification, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Ministry of Patriots’ and Veterans’ Affairs, at the Blue House, Jan. 19. (Blue House photo pool)
Park administration details number of projects to lead to unification, though it’s not clear how realistic the plans are
“Whatever format the talks may take, you must represent the feelings of the Korean people in the negotiations and work to create conditions that North Korea can accept,” President Park Geun-hye said on Jan. 19 in regard to inter-Korean dialogue.
Park made the request in a meeting at the Blue House on Monday morning. She was being briefed by the Ministry of Unification, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Ministry of Patriots’ and Veterans’ Affairs on the topic of preparing for unification.
Top court upholds 9-year jail term for ex-lawmaker for sedition
South Korea's top court on Thursday confirmed a nine-year prison term for a former leftist lawmaker for instigating an armed rebellion against the Seoul government in the event of an inter-Korean war.
Lee Seok-ki, affiliated with the now-dissolved minor opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP), was indicted on charges of conspiring with members of a clandestine organization to topple the government if a war with North Korea broke out.
Ending a 17-month legal battle, the Supreme Court, acquitted the 54-year-old former legislator of charges that he had plotted the rebellion, but found him guilty of instigating the members to stage the rebellion.
In December, the Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of the UPP, leading to the party's immediate demise. All five sitting lawmakers of the party, including Lee, also lost their parliamentary seats. (Yonhap)
[Lee Seok-ki] [Repression] [Democracy]
US experts call for Seoul's active role in inter-Korean relations
By Kim Hyo-jin
Updated : 2015-01-21 19:24
U.S. experts have called on Seoul to take a more proactive role to promote inter-Korean reconciliation, at an academic forum Tuesday.
They said Seoul's further engagement with Pyongyang is the only way to restart contact between Washington and Pyongyang, during a seminar hosted by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
"Without progress on the South-North front, and without pressure from the South Korean government on the U.S. government, nothing is going to happen," said Joel Wit, the founder and editor of 38 North, an academic website that covers North Korea.
The expert pointed out that the Obama administration has had little interest in resuming talks with the repressive regime. Its diplomatic stance toward Pyongyang will hardly change as the U.S. is facing a presidential election, they added.
He advised that under such circumstances, Seoul should take the lead in changing the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
[Engagement] [SK NK policy]
Thaw inter-Korean relations before grand talk of unification
Posted on : Jan.20,2015 16:16 KST
President Park Geun-hye showed a more flexible stance on North Korea at a joint briefing on “unification preparations” held on Jan. 19 by four ministries, including the Ministry of Unification and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unfortunately, the briefing failed to produce any specific initiatives for practical improvements in relations with Pyongyang.
Park did take a step forward with her demands for “some form of dialogue to rally the public’s support for negotiations and efforts to create conditions that North Korea might respond favorably to.” It’s a message where she’s directing her administration to “create conditions” that take Pyongyang’s position into account, rather than just making unilateral demands on the North. She was also right in stressing “qualitative improvements in exchange and cooperation that can contribute substantively to happiness for South and North Korean citizens,” as opposed to one-off “event” projects. The Ministry of Unification, for its part, took the right road by putting “shared preparations with North Korea” as one of its reunification strategies.
[SK NK relations]
More Bridge Building
By Robert Carlin
21 January 2015
Neither this “appeal” (see below) nor the KCNA report on the “joint meeting of the DPRK Government, political parties, and organizations” mentions Kim Jong Un’s suggestion that a summit is possible if the “atmosphere and environment” for it is created. That is a reference to joint military exercises, and chances get slimmer every day that there will be any movement on that front.
However, the joint meeting does repeat Kim’s formulation that “it is possible to resume the suspended high-level contacts and hold sectoral talks if the south Korean authorities are sincere in their stand towards improving inter-Korean relations through dialogue.” That can be (and is probably meant as) a more easily met standard (“sincerity,” after all, is in the eye of the beholder). In other words, there are (apparently) different thresholds for summit talks and “high-level contacts and sectoral talks.”
Judging from the KCNA English report, the “appeal” from the joint meeting then puts forth—with no preconditions—the goal for the year of “promoting contacts and exchanges between north and south in sports, cultural, and all other fields…” Once the joint exercises are over in a couple of months, this opens the door for the North to fire volleys of its own proposals (or even entertain those from the South).
[SK NK relations] [Overture] [Joint US military]
S. Korea to redouble efforts to prep for unification
SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to ramp up efforts to prepare for unification and seek dialogue with North Korea on a variety of cooperative projects this year, the government said Monday.
Under the plan, Seoul will push for a trial run of a rail line connecting Seoul to the North Korean cities of Pyongyang and Sinuiju and try to enact a law to lay the foundation for the peaceful reunification of the divided Korean Peninsula, the unification, foreign and defense ministries said in their joint policy report to President Park Geun-hye for this year.
Details and schedules of the plans have yet to be determined through future discussion with the North, officials said.
"The government has set this year as a starting point for widening discussion over unification and making progress in inter-Korean relations as it marks the 70th anniversary of independence from Japanese colonial rule, as well as the South-North division," a unification ministry official said.
South Korea calls on North Korea to respond to an offer for the resumption of inter-Korean talks so the countries can have a chance to discuss these issues in detail, he said, referring to Seoul's overture in late December.
Under the policy plan, Seoul will also push for a variety of joint inter-Korean commemorative events to mark the 70th anniversary of what are now the two Koreas' independence in 1945 from Japan's colonial rule.
The South also plans to set up Korean cultural centers in Seoul and Pyongyang to induce better cultural exchanges. Besides that, Seoul will seek other joint projects with the North on the three non-political fields of humanitarian assistance, environment and culture as part of the unification preparatory efforts.
Other envisioned joint plans include the opening of a logistics route that connects a South Korean port to the railway linking North Korea's Rajin port to the Russian border city of Khasan.
Despite the envisioned fence-mending measures, South Korea will go ahead with its annual joint military exercises with the United States this year, a high-ranking defense ministry official said on background, rejecting the North's recent calls for scrapping them
[Unification] [Joint US military]
Experts are negative on unification proposal
By Kim Hyo-jin
Experts remained skeptical of the government's plan for joint inter-Korean projects unveiled at Cheong Wa Dae Monday.
The government proposal features establishing a law in preparation for peaceful unification, test-runs of trains across the Korean peninsula and setting up cultural centers in Seoul and Pyongyang.
Seoul also seeks to establish a joint agricultural complex and launch a health project for North Koreans.
However, experts expressed negative views on the possibility of the proposal providing progress in stalled bilateral talks.
"It is just a unilateral gesture," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korea Studies at Dongguk University.
He pointed that such policy plans will unlikely generate momentum for dialogue as inter-Korean relations still remain mired in a long stalemate.
"Even though there are growing hopes that Seoul may ease the May 24 measures, it remains to be seen whether the proposal will make any breakthrough," Kim said.
[Unification] [Ploy] [Sanctions]
North Korea watchers unimpressed by South’s unification proposals
Continuing sanctions, Kumgang suspension, military drills symptomatic of flawed approach, experts say
January 20th, 2015
Experts polled by NK News regard South Korea’s new push for unification, emphasizing mutual cooperation projects and the anniversary of liberation, as underwhelming and misguided.
The plan, jointly presented on Monday by Ministry of Unification, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, seeks to standardize unification policy across different sectors of the South Korean government. It proposes, among other things, a railway connecting Seoul to the North Korean cities of Pyongyang and Sinuiju, and the establishment of cultural centers in both capitals, and a number of commemorate events marking the 70th anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule.
However, Seoul plans to go ahead with the joint military exercises with the U.S. military, starting in March, which the North claims are a prelude to an attack on the North. It includes no gestures toward the recognition of the North Korean government or revisions to the National Security Law – which essentially criminalizes support for Pyongyang.
For these reasons and others, long-time North Korea watchers were largely unimpressed with it.
[SK NK relations] [Joint US military] [Sanctions]
An Unprecedented Ruling: #Shigak no. 18
By Sino-NK | January 17, 2015
The lead columns for the Hankyoreh and Chosun Ilbo the day after the court ruling to disband the UPP. Image: Steven Denney/Sino-NK
>The leaders in Hankyoreh and Chosun Ilbo the day after the court ruling to disband the UPP. | Image: Steven Denney/Sino-NK
“Shigak” (??), or “perspective,” is a multilingual data collection effort that uses Twitter to curate sources dealing in key political, social, and economic issues on South Korea. Each monthly issue takes only the most important tweets posted by Sino-NK analysts under the hashtag #?? and augments them with essential annotations and a small dose of concentrated analysis.
Shigak is edited by Steven Denney and Christopher Green. Back issues can be found on the dedicated page.
An Unprecedented Ruling: #Shigak no. 18
So as to allow for time for stories and discourse to develop, Sino-NK has decided to extend the period of coverage for Shigak. Rather than publish bimonthly, we have decided to publish analysis on the latest news and develops in South Korea once per month. This issue of Shigak looks back on the unprecedented move by South Korea’s Constitutional Court to disband the Unified Progressive Party (UPP). Many different angles and perspectives are discussed. Other important stories are coverered, including the race for opposition party leadership, new labor legislation, and some troubling developments at Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co.
[Interview] Does capitalism have a future?
Posted on : Jan.18,2015 10:17 KST
Immanual Wallerstein, Senior Research Scholar, Yale University
Yale professor Immanual Wallerstein says South Korea’s future hinges on integration with the rest of Northeast Asia
Does capitalism have a future? Today’s capitalist system is facing such serious issues that the word “crisis” has become part of the everyday conversation, while discussions on alternatives have become tinged with despair. Last year saw the publication in Korean translation of a book that asks this very question: Immanual Wallerstein’s “Does Capitalism Have a Future?,” co-written with Randall Collins, Michael Mann, Georgi Derluguian, and Craig Calhoun (translated by Seong Baek-yong for Changbi Publishing). The release was accompanied by a conversation exchanged in letters between main author Wallerstein, a Yale University emeritus professor and analyst of global systems, and Lee Kang-kook, an economics professor at Japan’s Ritsumeikan University.
In the conversation, Wallerstein said the recent crisis of capitalism is beyond solving through the Keynesian approach of increasing state intervention. While Thomas Piketty, whose “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has drawn global notice, contributed to the public debate on worsening inequality under the current global system, Wallerstein also noted that he suffers from the same limitations as other mainstream economists. According to Wallerstein, US hegemony is in a state of catastrophic collapse, and while its place could be taken by China and Northeast Asia, the growth of the middle-class of Chinese consumers is poised to strain the world economy and exacerbate the crisis. As an alternative, he suggested more environmentally-friendly pattern of living based in community closeness and social solidarity.
As South Korea loses its economic vitality, its future hinges on integration with the rest of Northeast Asia, Wallerstein said. He noted that the country could play a pivotal role in that process, but added that doing so would first require improving relations with North Korea and creating a system of inter-Korean integration.
[SK NK policy]
[Interview] One old man’s arduous attempt to find the truth about the Cheonan
Posted on : Jan.16,2015 17:22 KST
Sam Ahn (Ahn Soo-myong) (right) pictured at home with his wife.
Sam Ahn has lost work contracts and his freedom to visit his motherland since trying to get to the bottom of 2010 sinking
“If I don’t make an effort to reveal the truth about the Cheonan, I’ll hate myself.”
This is what Ahn Soo-myong, also known as Sam Ahn, 72, a scientist residing in the US, was thinking when he made his vow in 2011. In the field of antisubmarine warfare, Ahn is a preeminent expert, not only in the US, but worldwide.
When Ahn explains why he made his resolution, he always shares a story from around that time.
“I discussed the topic with engineers I had worked with, talented and dependable people. It was early 2011. Is the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group (JIG) telling us the truth in its report about the Cheonan? All of them agreed that it wasn’t.”
[Cheonan] [Coverup] [Human rights] [Diaspora]
Hopes for improved inter-Korean relations are flagging
Posted on : Jan.16,2015 17:03 KST
North Korea has remained silent for a while, and officials in the event appear to be losing enthusiasm for improvement
After some positive signs around the beginning of this year, hopes for a thaw in inter-Korean relations are dimming once again amid time-worn questions over the relationship between improved ties and North Korean denuclearization and Seoul’s flagging enthusiasm over the prospect of improvements.
“There is no daylight between Seoul and Washington over efforts to improve inter-Korean relations,” an official with the US State Department Bureau of Public Affairs said when asked by the Hankyoreh on Jan. 14 about Washington’s position on inter-Korean dialogue.
“Progress in inter-Korean relations could be important in terms of bringing North Korea back to sincere and credible denuclearization negotiations,” the official added.
Democracy is the biggest challenge for South Korea in 2015
14 January 2015
Author: Kim Keeseok, Kangwon National University
It is not hard to list the domestic and international challenges for South Korea for 2015. There are many.
At the end of 2014, South Korea faces economic slowdown, an ageing population, worsening socio-economic inequality, rising youth unemployment, mounting household debt and a real-estate market slump. The list of diplomatic tasks includes sluggish or worsening relations with Kim Jong-un’s North Korea, soured relationships with Abe’s Japan and coping with the dilemmas of China–US dynamics.
But the biggest challenge that now faces South Korea will be ensuring the soundness and strength of its democracy. Since Park Geun-hye’s government took office in February 2013, soundness of political democracy requires special attention. South Korea’s liberal democracy is under threat.
[Park Geun-hye] [Democracy]
The Real South-South Conflict Deepens
By Darcie Draudt | January 16, 2015
While the so-called south-south conflict [????] in South Korea is not a new phenomenon, a study released by Seoul National University (SNU) Institute of Korean Politics in October 2014 reflects growing concern that genuine social divisions are becoming deeper and more problematic. The report [link to PDF direct download here] concludes that in the Korean context, divisions exist throughout society and are particularly divisive along class and generation lines, in ideology and culture, public disputes and regional development, and labor and welfare (report, pg. iii).
It is important to note the data collection context. The survey was conducted at the end of June and beginning of July 2014, coming at the height of widespread dissatisfaction and protest as the Park administration scrambled to deal with the political fallout of the Sewol ferry accident in April and the Saenuri and NPAD parties sought to contain problems in their respective bids to control the National Assembly via the July 30 by-elections.
The following January 12 Kyunghyang Shinmun article highlights the reports’ findings.
How will North Korea react to Pres. Park’s lack of policies or proposals?
Posted on : Jan.14,2015 18:00 KST
Pyongyang is calling on Seoul to call off upcoming military exercises with the US in exchange for a moratorium on nuclear tests
President Park Geun-hye’s reiteration of Seoul’s standard North Korea policy at the New Year’s press conference on Jan. 12 is raising questions about how Pyongyang will react to the absence of new policies or proposals for inter-Korean relations.
Park’s remarks at the press conference are drawing particular attention because South and North generally use the new year as a chance to make efforts towards dialogue, with different ideas exchanged on possible meetings.
With Park failing to come forward with any surprise proposals for relieving the strain on ties, North Korea may find itself in a deeper quandary than before. From Pyongyang’s perspective, the confirmation that Seoul hasn’t moved in its standard positions on lifting the May 24 Measures blocking trade raises questions about what can be expected from inter-Korean dialogue. At the same time, it also finds itself in an awkward position in terms of simply ignoring Seoul’s dialogue offers.
The situation has some analysts predicting a strong possibility that North Korea will wait and see how things unfold for now rather than taking immediate action. Its potential responses are also constrained by the South Korean and US military’s upcoming Key Resolve military exercises, which are scheduled for early March. North Korea, which has maintained that “practice for war and dialogue cannot take place simultaneously,” has made recent calls to halt the exercises.
Another factor limiting Pyongyang’s options is the memory of early last year, when it agreed to Seoul’s proposal for divided family reunions, only to see relations slide even further downhill.
[Park Geun-hye] [SK NK policy] [SK NK relations] [Joint US military]
National Security Law again being used in communist witch hunts
Posted on : Jan.13,2015 16:31 KST
Korean American Shin Eun-mi embraces supporters before leaving Incheon International Airport on a flight bound for Los Angeles, after the South Korean government ordered her deportation on grounds of her having violated the National Security Law with comments about North Korea made during a lecture, Jan. 10. (by Lee Jeong-a, staff photographer)
Opposition lawmaker summoned, not long after Korean American deported for pro-North Korea comments
Article 7 of the National Security Law - the article that makes it illegal to praise or support North Korea - is once again being employed in communist witch hunts. Even though the UN has recommended that the article be revoked, it is emerging once more as a tool for suppressing the freedom of thought and expression, as can be seen in the case of a recent lecture.
After first ordering the deportation of Korean-American Shin Eun-mi for speaking positively about trips to North Korea during a lecture, the prosecutors and the police summoned Lim Su-kyung, a lawmaker with the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, to come in for questioning on Jan. 15. Lim was briefly on stage during the lecture, which took place at Jogye Temple, Seoul, on Nov. 19, 2014.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 13, a court will be reviewing a request for an arrest warrant for Hwang Seon, former assistant spokesperson for the Democratic Labor Party, who is charged with organizing the event and possessing material that praises the North Korean regime.
Because of a single lecture, these three individuals, who have all visited North Korea, are the subject of an investigation. “All she did was greet the audience. We will consider how to respond to the summons,” said a member of Lim Su-kyung’s office staff.
President talks economy, unification in New Year's speech
President Park Geun-hye unveiled plans centered on reviving the economy during her televised New Year's press conference held at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday morning.
Park used the word "economy" 42 times throughout the 25-minute address, making it the most cited term in her speech. It was her second New Year's press conference since taking power two years ago.
"This year is a chance to focus on revitalizing the economy and bring forward national reform, as there are no national elections to take place," she said.
She stressed the need to reform the public sector and abolish unnecessary regulations that impede economic growth. The president also reiterated the importance of a "creative economy" as a growth engine.
Unification was another keyword in the president's address, as this year marks the 70th year since Korea was liberated from Japanese colonial rule.
Park Geun-hye said she would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un without preconditions to lay the groundwork for a peaceful potential unification.
"I can meet with anyone if necessary to open the path of a peaceful unification," said Park.
On the issue of reunions between separated family members, she mentioned the possibility of hosting a session over the Lunar New Year's holiday.
Earlier in her speech, the president apologized over the ‘memogate' scandal, a document leak that exposed an alleged power struggle at the presidential office. She claimed the allegations over the scandal were groundless.
[Park Geun-hye] [Unification]
Do Civil Liberties Exist on the Korean Peninsula?
Against the background of “tightening the screws” in Russia, the topic of Russia just catching up to the North Korea has become, in some circles, such an attractive topic that almost during every big television interview I am asked the question: how soon will Russia equal to the DPRK in the situation concerning democracy, human rights and so on. And this is the answer I give to the question (starting from a certain moment): “It is not clear whether Russia will catch up with the North Korea, but first it will have to catch up with the South Korea”.
Thanks to its economic growth, the Republic of Korea produces the impression of a democratic country, the more so as the South Korean propagandists expertly use soft power in order to create for their country the image of a flourishing state which has Samsung, kimchee and K-pop. After that, it is very convenient to compare the North and the South, in the style which was used by the Soviet propaganda broadcasting (‘two worlds, two childhoods’). However, being a historian, I understand how inappropriate it is.
Interest in Reunification Rises Again
More and more South Koreans have become interested in reunification over the last five years, a poll suggests, partly as a result of government and press campaigns.
In the survey by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies of 1,500 adults released on Tuesday, 82.6 percent said they are interested in reunification, compared to just 52.6 percent in 2010.
Although there are clear differences according to age group, interest in reunification increased across all the spectrum. Among people in their 20s, a whopping 71.8 percent expressed an interest, up from just 39.2 percent five years ago, and among 40-somethings the figure rose from 57 percent to 81.8 percent over the same period.
Among people over 60 it reached almost complete support, growing from 58.3 percent to 91.9 percent.
[Unification] [Public opinion]
Propaganda balloon launches again presenting obstacle to inter-Korean dialogue
Posted on : Jan.9,2015 14:10 KST
Minister of Unification Ryoo Kihl-jae reports to the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, addressing issues including North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year address and the launches of propaganda balloons, Jan. 8. (by Lee Jeong-a, staff photographer)
South still opting not to prevent launches, which may include “The Interview” DVDs, on the basis of freedom of expression
The balloon launches of propaganda pamphlets into North Korea are once again presenting an obstacle to inter-Korean relations, with experts predicting a reprise of what happened in October and November of 2014. At that time, the visit of three core figures in North Korea’s leadership to the South suggested progress would be made in dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang, but a chill settled on inter-Korean relations after the second round of high-level talks was canceled because of the balloon launches.
North Korea is gradually putting more pressure on South Korea, insisting that the balloon launches must be discontinued before inter-Korean dialogue can resume.
In a statement by the spokesperson of the National Defense Commission released on the evening of Jan. 7, North Korea criticized President Park Geun-hye’s remarks about unification and demanded that the South Korean government make clear its position on a number of issues including unification by absorption, the South Korea-US joint military exercises, and the launches of balloons containing propaganda leaflets.
“It is only too apparent that no major change or transformation could be achieved in inter-Korean relations even if we were to sit down a thousand times with such government officials,” the statement said, referring to the unwillingness of the South Korean government to prevent the balloon launches for reasons such as the freedom of expression and the characteristics of the system.
Official: Seoul taking a “step-by-step” approach on possible inter-Korean summit
Posted on : Jan.8,2015 16:17 KST
Modified on : Jan.8,2015 16:20 KST
A citizens mass gathering in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang, to support Kim Jong-un’s New Year address, from Korean Central Television on Jan. 6. In his address, Kim called for improvement of inter-Korean relations. (KCTV/Yonhap News)
South says a foundation must be built through lower level dialogue before a summit can take place
A senior official with the Presidential Preparatory Committee for Unification (PPCU) hinted on Jan. 7 that the South Korean government is taking a step-by-step approach on the channels for a potential inter-Korean summit.
“Shouldn’t [North and South] at least find out each other’s positions beforehand with ministerial talks?” the official said.
The remarks come after comments the previous day from Blue House Senior Secretary for Foreign Affairs and National Security Ju Chul-ki on Seoul’s method of approaching inter-Korean dialogue. “While it would be nice to make one big step, there are also concerns about failure and unpleasant results,” Ju said at the time. “Our [the South Korean government’s] idea is to build a foundation of small things that we can set it place firmly.”
The senior PPCU official also told reporters on Jan. 7 that it was “very undesirable” to talk about an inter-Korean summit at the moment.
NDC Spokesman Urges S. Korean Authorities to Clarify Stand on Improving North-South Relations
Pyongyang, January 7 (KCNA) -- Talking about "sincerity of the New Year address of the north", politicians of south Korea have described the DPRK's historic appeal as an "attempt to embrace the south aimed at breaking down south Korea-U.S. cooperation" and a "dialogue offensive to get rid of the international pressure".
Worse still, they estimated the U.S. "high-profile additional sanctions" against the DPRK as "proper counteraction" and again prodded the human scum into scattering anti-DPRK leaflets in frontline area for confrontation.
Under the prevailing situation, a spokesman for the DPRK National Defence Commission on Wednesday issued the following statement urging the south Korean authorities to clarify their stand on some problems:
Firstly, do the south Korean authorities have an idea to bring about a great change in the north-south relations through dialogue, negotiation, exchange and contact or to persist in the confrontational racket such as leaflet scattering?
What matters is the fact that they still claim they can hardly stop such confrontational racket conducted under their jurisdiction on the pretexts of "freedom of expression, characteristics of social system and absence of legal grounds".
The south Korean authorities should make clear their stand on whether they will choose dialogue or confrontation.
[SK NK policy]
N.Korea Complains About Fresh Propaganda Flyers
North Korea on Wednesday complained that Seoul is "tolerating and abetting" the launch of propaganda leaflets across the border.
In a commentary, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency urged South Korean authorities to "make clear whether they want to bring inter-Korean relations to the brink of rupture or to genuinely seek improvement and dialogue."
A defector activist group on Monday sent helium balloons carrying 600,000 anti-regime leaflets into the North from Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province.
South Korea "should be aware that the dialogue atmosphere" created by a visit of senior North Korean officials to Incheon during the 2014 Asian Games "has been dampened by the release of leaflets," KCNA said.
[Subversion] [SK NK policy]
Pres. Park says she’s “relieved” about Kim Jong-un’s mention of possible summit
Posted on : Jan.7,2015 15:57 KST
President Park Geun-hye presides over this year’s first meeting of her cabinet, at the Blue House, Jan. 6. (Blue House photo pool)
North Korea has still not responded to Seoul’s recent offer of dialogue; they could respond after Kim Jong-un’s birthday on Jan. 8
On Jan. 6, President Park Geun-hye spoke positively about the New Year’s address by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in which he mentioned the possibility of a summit with President Park. “I was relieved to hear him express a better attitude toward inter-Korean dialogue and exchange,” Park said.
This was the first time that Park referred directly to Kim’s address.
“This is the 70th year since the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule and since Korea was divided into North and South. We must work hard to lay the groundwork for overcoming the pain of division and to usher in the age of unification of the Korean peninsula,” Park said on Tuesday as she led the first cabinet meeting of the year.
Park’s positive assessment of the New Year‘s address delivered by Kim Jong-un is seen as indicating that she means to maintain the momentum for inter-Korean dialogue that began to pick up at the end of 2014.
“In the past, North and South Korea have failed to achieve lasting results in their relationship and there have been many twists and turns. For this reason, at the present moment, the important thing is for North Korea to take action that will demonstrate its sincerity and commitment to improving inter-Korean relations,” Park said.
“I hope that North Korea will quickly come to the table of dialogue and cooperation with us, have a real discussion with us about concrete projects for achieving peace and unification of the Korean peninsula.”
[SK NK policy] [Summit] [Ploy]
Gov't Wants to Reconnect Cross-Border Railway
The government want to push for a railway line from Wonsan in North Korea to Cheorwon and Seoul in the South to be reconnected.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport says it also wants to connect the railway, known as the Gyeongwon Line, with the eastern Donghae Line leading to North Korea's scenic Mt. Kumgang.
A presidential committee recently said that reconnecting the Gyeongwon Line would be a crucial part of a proposal to create a major metropolitan region after reunification.
The scheme is so far hypothetical. Three railway lines connect North and South Korea -- the Gyeongeui, Gyeongwon and Donghae lines – but they were severed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The Gyeongeui and Donghae lines were already reconnected at one stage as part of rapprochement efforts between the two Koreas, but saw little more than a single train making a brief symbolic journey. But the Gyeongwon Line remains severed.
To reconnect it, South Korea needs to extend its side of the rail by 8.6 km up to the demilitarized zone and then 2 km inside the DMZ, which requires persuading North Korea.
The ultimate aim is to create a railway line linking Seoul to Russia, but it remains to be seen whether North Korea would ever agree to the scheme.
South Korea holds the key toward improved inter-Korean relations
Posted on : Jan.6,2015 12:01 KST
Past examples demonstrate that progress is made when Seoul proactively takes initiative among North Korea and the US
Just as a new wind is starting to blow in inter-Korean relations at the beginning of the year, an executive order by US President Barack Obama to slap North Korea with fresh sanctions is adding a new variable to the trend toward dialogue. At such a time as this, experts say, it is vital for the South Korean government to find the momentum and strategy needed to take the initiative, not only in its relationship with North Korea, but also in North Korea’s relationship with the US.
The Jan. 2 announcement of the measures the US would take as retaliation against North Korea’s alleged hack on Sony Pictures underline the need to carefully review US actions.
In order to bring about rapid progress in relations with North Korea, the South Korean government needs to lift the May 24 measures and to permit the resumption of tours to Mt. Keumgang. However, the US government has resisted these measures, arguing that they could allow bulk cash to flow into the North. The fear is that, if such bulk cash enters North Korea, the North Korean government could use it to fund the development of long-range missiles, nuclear weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction.
Effectively, the situation is one where South Korea cannot expect meaningful improvement in its relations with the North without the cooperation of the US government on key issues such as this.
Consequently, the South Korean government appears to be sounding out US intentions and testing the waters.
[SK NK policy] [US dominance]
Defector group sends anti-Pyongyang leaflets across border
An activist group of North Korean defectors has launched balloons containing anti-North Korea leaflets across the inter-Korean border, police said Tuesday, in an act that could dampen a burgeoning thaw in inter-Korean relations.
The Campaign for Helping North Korean in Direct Way scattered some 600,000 leaflets from Yeoncheon, a county bordering North Korea, on Monday evening, local police said.
Lee Min-bok, the head of the group, and his wife participated in the 30-minute leaflet-scattering event, the police said, adding the balloons are believed to have flown in the northeast direction.
[SK NK policy] [Subversion]
UPP fails to attract foreign reporters
Oh Byung-yoon, left, a former lawmaker of the now-disbanded Unified Progressive Party (UPP), speaks as Kim Jae-yeon, also a former UPP legislator, listens during a press conference for foreign correspondents in Korea at the Korea Press Center in Seoul, Monday. / Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk
By Jun Ji-hye
Members of the recently dissolved Unified Progressive Party (UPP) invited foreign reporters to a news conference, Monday, in an apparent bid to turn international attention on its struggle against the Constitutional Court's decision to disband the party and strip its five lawmakers of their parliamentary seats.
However, the effort apparently failed because only a few foreign reporters attended the event.
Of about 40 reporters who attended the conference at the Korea Press Center, Seoul, only about 10 were from foreign media outlets. Around half of them were Koreans working as correspondents for foreign media here and remaining others were camera crew.
Most participants were Korean reporters. "My company has little interest in the UPP issue, probably because the party is not a major party. Our readers have not shown that much interest about the matter as well," said a reporter working for foreign press, asking not to be named. "Plus, we all know that the party's such move cannot change the already-decided ruling of the court. I came here because I personally wondered about the atmosphere here."
One foreign reporter who did not attend the news conference said that the leftist party failed to publicize the event well, adding that he did not even know about it. But he also agreed with others about the low degree of interest shown.
"It simply isn't an international news story. There are bigger issues such as U.S. sanctions on North Korea and so on. People just are not that interested in it," he said.
The party organized Monday's news conference following the court's order issued on Dec. 19 to disband it for sympathizing with the political system in North Korea.
Lee Seok-ki, who lost his seat following the decision, was convicted in February of conspiring to support a North Korean takeover of the South. Lee is now awaiting the final decision of the Supreme Court which is due this month.
Lawyer Baek Sung-moon said the UPP has had some limits to rely on Korean media to promote the public support toward its struggle.
"This led the party to invite foreign reporters to its conference. The party probably believed that foreign media might see the court's decision as the government's suppression against a minor opposition party," he told a cable news channel. "The party's aim was probably to get foreign reporters to the case damaged democracy."
During the conference, former UPP lawmaker Lee Sang-gyu tried to stress that the President Park Geun-hye government is returning to dictatorship like her father, late President Park Chung-hee.
"The 2012 presidential election was totally dominated by the government. It was clear denial of the democracy," he said. When the UPP raised this question and opposed to this dictatorship, the government prosecuted us. It was Korean style McCarthyism."
Meanwhile, the party prevented conservative media such as Chosun Ilbo and Channel A entering the news conference, saying they were denied access.
[UPP] [Repression] [Democracy] [Double standards] [Media]
“Today Is the Day Democracy Is Murdered”:
Wave of Repression Sweeps South Korea
January 5, 2015
By Gregory Elich* | January 5, 2015
[Originally Published in MRZINE, December 29, 2014]
On December 19, the South Korean Constitutional Court delivered a devastating blow against the progressive movement when it disbanded the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) with immediate effect. That act came as the culmination of a long campaign by South Korean President Park Geun-hye to shackle the labor movement and smash political opposition.
The Constitutional Court case was initiated over a year ago when the Ministry of Justice filed a petition with the court to ban the UPP. The pretext for the petition was the arrest of six prominent members of the UPP on the charge of plotting a rebellion to overthrow the government. As evidence, the government offered a speech National Assembly representative Lee Seok-ki delivered to fellow UPP members, which was recorded by a turncoat acting as a spy for the National Intelligence Service (NIS). The NIS released to the media a transcript of the speech that it had substantially altered, replacing ordinary words and phrases with inflammatory rhetoric. By attributing words to Lee that he had never spoken, the NIS succeeded in whipping up hostility against the UPP.
The trial of Lee Seok-ki and his five colleagues was notable for the prosecution’s distortions and fanciful testimony. It was clear that the state’s star witness had concocted the entire scenario of rebellion from his imagination and unsupported supposition. The lack of evidence to back the prosecution’s case was no impediment for the staunchly conservative judge, however, and he found all six defendants guilty of plotting rebellion. The case was appealed to the High Court, which ruled that it could not conclude that the defendants had plotted a rebellion. The defendants were nevertheless found guilty of “incitement” and for having violated the vaguely worded National Security Law, resulting in only a modest reduction of their prison terms
[Repression] [UPP] [Lee Seok-ki] [NIS]
NK may use Seoul to end isolation
By Kang Seung-woo
North Korea is likely to use dialogue with South Korea as a stepping stone toward restoring icy relations with China and the United States, according to political observers.
Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year speech, in which he said he was open to a high-level summit with the South, the North has not slandered its Southern neighbor at all. Instead, it is fervently engaged in attacking the U.S. government, which ordered new sanctions Friday against the dictatorial regime in response to its alleged hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The government responded positively to Kim's proposal and raised the prospect of improved inter-Korean relations.
S. Korea's arms exports record highest in 2014
By Jun Ji-hye
The nation's arms exports reached $3.6 billion in 2014, the largest yearly amount since 2006 when the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) was established, according to DAPA Sunday.
In 2013, sales of exported weapons stood at $3.42 billion.
"The figure has gradually increased since 2006 and recorded the highest level last year," said a DAPA official.
In 2006, the agency's total exports reached only $250 million.
"The increased value of exports is evidence that the technology of the nation's defense industry has developed that much," the official said. "In the past, the nation mainly exported simple components such as ammunition, but now the trend has changed to exporting weapons system such as warships, aircraft and self-propelled howitzers."
The export market has also widened to Europe and South America as well as Southeast Asia, he added.
For instance, a major deal was signed on Dec. 17 by Samsung Techwin Co. and Poland's defense contractor Huta Stalowa Wola. Under the deal, the former sold 120 locally developed K-9 self-propelled howitzers, with a total estimated value of about $320 million, according to the DAPA.
Other deals included a $1.2 billion order from the Royal Malaysian Navy to build six corvette ships in November and a $420 million contract with the Philippines in March to export 12 FA-50 fighter jets.
"We expect this year's volume to soar to $4 billion as South Korea has been pushing further to make inroads into the overseas defense market with diverse, high-tech-based items," said another DAPA official.
Such successful accomplishment was notable, considering that the DAPA and defense industry have had rough time last year amid allegation over a series of corruption scandals involving arms deals.
Since its establishment in November, a joint probe team composed of prosecutors and military officers has been conducting a comprehensive investigation into possible corruption.
[Arms sales] [Corruption] [MISCOM]
Korean Peninsula: Christmas “Tree of Discord”
05.01.2015 Author: Konstantin Asmolov
56546We have not once described the process of inter-Korean relations and rather complicated and very volatile. The course of President Lee Myung-bak led to a very serious aggravation of the relations between Seoul and Pyongyang. The present President Park Geun-hye has inherited the problem and has to solve it within the conservative trend framework. Though formally her approach is marked by greater constructiveness the situation continues to fluctuate swinging to one or other side. This can be demonstrated by a series of events related to the so-called “Christmas tree”.
ROK urges DPRK to respond to its offer of dialogue
Xinhua, January 2, 2015
The Republic of Korea's Ministry of Unification said on Thursday that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea should respond to its offer of talks if it wants to improve relations.
"If the DPRK sincerely wants to improve South-North relations through talks, we hope it will respond rapidly to the dialogue we previously suggested," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the DPRK has shown a more detailed position on inter-Korean relations, compared with 2014. He noted that there has been no change in the ROK's stance that dialogue and cooperation would improve inter-Korean ties and lead to a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
[Chinese IR] [Softpower]
Kim Jong-un Calls for 'Highest-Level' Talks with Seoul
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un raised the possibility of an inter-Korean summit in his televised New Year's address on Thursday.
"Depending on the mood and circumstances to be created, we have no reason not to hold the highest-level talks," he said in a pre-recorded message overlaid with canned applause.
The New Year's address, which lasted almost half an hour, called for efforts to "open a grand path for reunification."
Most Conscripts Take No Pride in Military Service
Six out of ten conscripts take no pride in their military service, a survey suggests.
According to an opinion poll released Wednesday by the Military Manpower Administration, 57.8 percent of respondents said that "their pride has not grown" or that "they take not much pride" in their military service.
The numbers who saw any gain in their conscription were not overwhelming, though some 28.7 percent welcomed the challenge and 26.9 percent thought it might improve their physical and mental health.
No reason not to hold high-level north-south talks: DPRK
Xinhua, January 1, 2015
Top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un on Thursday called on South Korea to halt all provocative war maneuvers and emphasized that there is no reason not to hold highest-level north-south talks in a televised New Year's speech.
The year of 2015 will mark a turning point for blazing a path toward independent reunification of the Korean nation, he noted.
Despite huge changes that have taken place around the world over the past seven decades, the Korean nation is still suffering the pains of separation and such a tragedy cannot be tolerated any more, Kim said.
He said the DPRK has made every sincere effort to try to ameliorate inter-Korean relations in 2014, but only to face worsened ties between north and south because of interference from internal and external forces against national reunification.
Kim underscored the need to remove the threat of war, ease tension and create a peaceful environment on the Korean Peninsula.
As annual large-scale war exercises in South Korea exacerbate tensions and bring danger of a nuclear war, Seoul should stop all war provocations, in particular reckless military exercises jointly conducted with foreign forces, he said.
He said there is no reason not to hold summit talks between north and south when such atmosphere and climate are matured.
[Kim Jong Un] [Overture] [Joint military exercises]
Leaders jack up hope for S-N summit
President Park Geun-hye, along with her Cabinet members, pays a visit to the Seoul National Cemetery on the first day of 2015, Thursday. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, pays tribute to former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, the founder of North Korea and his father, respectively, with his military aides, at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang on the same day. / Yonhap
Experts react with caution and optimism in equal parts
By Kang Seung-woo
Hope for a third inter-Korean summit went up significantly Thursday after leaders of the two Koreas expressed their willingness to hold one in their New Year speeches.
But experts mixed a note of caution with the dash of optimism. Their assessment has frosty inter-Korean relations and the unpredictable nature of summit politics on the minus side; while, among others, the leaders' political needs on the plus side.
"It depends on a decision by the government," said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.
"Should President Park Geun-hye meet Kim Jong-un without resolving any fundamental issues including the North's nuclear program, the South may be seen as providing a sign of acknowledging the North's nuclear weapons and legitimizing the regime."
In a televised New Year speech, Kim said, "If South Korean authorities sincerely want to mend ties with us, we can resume various talks including the high-level dialogue."
He continued, "Depending on the mood and circumstances to be created, we have no reason not to hold the highest-level talks."
His address echoed Park's New Year message.
"We should end the history of division by putting an end to the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula," she said.
NK leader shows strong will to improve ties
By Jun Ji-hye
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed willingness to improve relations with South Korea during his New Year message, as evidenced by a reference to the possibility of holding an inter-Korean summit.
Experts say his remarks regarding South-North relations were more straightforward and detailed than ever this year. They noted that, similar to President Park Geun-hye, Kim is apparently placing great significance on the year 2015, which marks the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan's colonial rule.
"The two Koreas need to write a new history in their relations. A big shift and revolution through communication, negotiation and contact is necessary for such relations. I will make every effort toward that end," Kim said.
During last year's message, Kim used the somewhat vague expression that he would create an "atmosphere" to improve inter-Korean relations
The Erosion of Democracy in South Korea: The Dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party and the Incarceration of Lee Seok-ki
Constitutional Court delivers ruling to dissolve the Unified Progressive Party. Source: Voice of People.
On December 19, 2014, South Korea’s Constitutional Court delivered an unprecedented ruling to dissolve the opposition Unified Progressive Party and disqualify all five of its representatives from the National Assembly.
The ruling was in response to a petition filed by the Park Geun-hye government in November 2013 to dissolve the party based on allegations that it was under orders from North Korea to subvert the South Korean state through violent revolution. The government filed the petition two months after it arrested UPP lawmaker and National Assembly member, Lee Seok-ki, who is currently behind bars on charges of inciting an insurrection and violating the National Security Law (NSL).
This is the first time South Korea’s Constitutional Court has ordered the breakup of a political party since it was founded in 1988. Pro-democracy advocates state that the court’s ruling will set a dangerous and undemocratic precedent for state repression of other progressive parties, civil society organizations, and possibly even individual citizens.
According to South Korean public intellectual and long-time reunification activist Kang Jeong-koo, “The UPP has been the only political party fully advocating not only democracy but also the core values of peace, reunification, and social justice.” Kang further stated that the dissolution of the UPP will “not only destroy democracy, but also undermine peace, reunification, and social justice.”1
Indeed, more than simply seeking to uproot the UPP, the current South Korean administration, under the cover of anti-communism and anti-North national security concerns, aims broadly to delegitimize all progressive elements and values that it deems to be in opposition to its rule. At this juncture, what is on display in South Korea is the state’s erosion of the very democracy that the people of South Korea historically struggled for and continue to defend.
[UPP] [Repression] [Li Seok-ki]
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