ROK and Inter-Korean relations
Return to Asian Geopolitics indexpage
Return to ROK and Inter-Korean relations page
Despite objections, Pres. Park pushing with state-issued history books
Posted on : Oct.28,2015 17:22 KST
Opposition lawmakers affix messages opposing state-issued history textbooks and calling on President Park Geun-hye to improve livelihoods as she addresses the National Assembly, Oct. 27. (by Lee Jeong-woo staff photographer)
Opposition arguing that government should turn its attention to economy and people’s livelihoods
President Park Geun-hye made it clear in a policy address at the National Assembly on Oct. 27 that she intends to go ahead with state issuance of middle and high school Korean history textbooks, which she described as the “correction of an abnormal situation.”
The message was that Park remains undeterred in proceeding with the issuance despite fierce objections from educators and academics and growing negative public opinion. Despite Park describing the aim of issuance as to “unify a divided public discourse” during her speech, the designation push appears poised to intensify existing divisions and conflicts.
“The correction of an abnormal situation that I am currently pursuing is an attempt to fix mistakes and vices that have become common practice throughout society and to create a Korea with the ‘right fundamentals,’” Park said while addressing the National Assembly on Oct. 27 for a policy speech on the 2016 budget.
Thousands Mark Anniversary of Park Chung-hee's Death
A memorial service marking the 36th anniversary of the death of former strongman Park Chung-hee at the National Cemetery in Seoul on Monday morning was attended by some 5,000 politicians and government officials.
Park was President Park Geun-hye's father but remains a divisive figure.
Park herself did not attend the event but visited her father's tomb over the weekend. Cheong Wa Dae said Park felt it would be inappropriate to attend an event organized by a civilian group.
The memorials are an annual event, and Park used to attend until she was sworn in.
Participants pay tribute to President Park Chung-hee at his tomb at the National Cemetery in Seoul on Monday. Participants pay tribute to President Park Chung-hee at his tomb at the National Cemetery in Seoul on Monday.
Her younger sister Park Geun-ryeong and younger brother Ji-man also stayed away. A wreath was laid in the name of Ji-man and his wife.
Lee Hee-ho, the widow of Park senior's nemesis and later President Kim Dae-jung, sent a wreath as she did last year.
Similar memorial services were also held in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, where Park's hometown is located. A memorial service at his birth house in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province was attended by some 1,000 people, including lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party.
20,000 additionally enlisted over next 2 years
By Jun Ji-hye
The government and the ruling Saenuri Party agreed Tuesday to allocate additional funds to allow for more enlistment into the military as part of an attempt to reduce unemployment among young people.
The number of those enlisted would increase by 20,000 over the next two years ? 10,000 per annum, officials said.
Rep. Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling party, and Rep. Kim Jung-hoon, the chairman of the party's policy committee, along with Defense Minister Han Min-koo, agreed to secure an additional 60 billion won ($53 million) government budget to enlist more soldiers.
The measure came as more young people are applying to join the military amid rising youth unemployment. They are choosing to serve in the military as an alternative after failing to get jobs, officials said.
Party Chairman Rep. Kim said, "Being enlisted can be an alternative for those who suffer high youth unemployment rates. If the government fails to support them, it would be a big disappointment for the people."
According to data the Military Manpower Administration submitted to the National Assembly, the competition rate to join the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marine Corps from January to July went up to 7.5:1 from 6:1 of last year.
Officials noted that about 250,000 men are enlisted every year on average, and this number will increase to 260,000 in 2016 and 270,000 in 2017.
[ROK military] [Military balance]
S. Korea fires warning shots at N. Korean vessel
Posted on : Oct.26,2015 17:05 KST
Incident reportedly took place after N. Korean ship crossed the NLL in pursuit of Chinese fishing boats
On the afternoon of Oct. 24, during the first day of the second round of reunions at Mt. Keumkang for families divided by the Korean War, the South Korean navy fired five warning shots from an onboard gun when a North Korean fishing patrol ship reportedly crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the waters to the east of Yeonpyeong Island in the West (Yellow) Sea. This did not come to light until a day after the fact.
NK seen adopting reconciliatory approach
Koo Song-ock, 71, from North Korea, kisses her South Korean father, Koo Sang-yeon, 98, while another daughter from North Korea, Koo Sun-ock, 68, looks on as they say farewell Monday, the last day of their three-day reunions at the Mount Geumgang Resort in the North. More than 900 elderly people from 186 families were reunited from Tuesday for the first time since the 1950-53 Korean War separated them. / Yonhap
Family reunions end without major hiccups
By Yi Whan-woo
North Korea is apparently taking more reconciliatory steps toward South Korea, while refraining from activities that could raise tensions, analysts said Monday.
South Korean families returned home after they reunited with their loved ones living across the border since the 1950-53 Korean War at North Korea's Mount Geumgang Resort for three days.
Their return completed the reunions of over 900 elderly people from 186 war-torn families from Oct. 20.
Previously, there were concerns that Pyongyang could engage in military provocations prior to such meetings and call them off, but it did not. On Saturday, the South Korean Navy fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol boat that violated the western maritime border, but the regime did not link the incident to the family reunions.
[Overture] [NLL] [Provocation] [Divided families]
S. Korea fires warning shots at DPRK patrol boat
Xinhua, October 25, 2015
South Korea fired warning shots on Saturday at a patrol boat from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as the reunion continues for families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War, a sign of a thaw in inter-Korean relations.
The DPRK ship violated the northern limit line (NLL), which Pyongyang has never accepted as a sea boundary as it was drawn by U.S.-led forces after the Korean War ended, at about 3:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday citing military officials.
While clamping down on fishing boats, the DPRK military ship sailed south several hundred meters away from the NLL, according to the South Korean military authorities.
Seoul's navy vessels fired five warning shots with 40-mm machine gun at the DPRK boat, which returned back minutes after the firing
Foreign scholars join anti-state textbook move
By Chung Hyun-chae
A total of 154 professors and scholars giving lectures and conducting research on Korea at foreign universities issued a joint statement on Saturday to denounce the Park Geun-hye administration's plan to publish a state-authored history textbook.
The scholars include Bruce Cumings, chair-professor at the University of Chicago; Don Baker, a professor at the University of British Columbia; Remco Breuker, a Leiden University professor; and Yoon Seung-joo, a professor at Carleton College.
"In a democratic state, history textbooks should reflect different voices and be made based on diverse insights of historians," they said in the statement. "the Korean government's push to monopolize the rights to author history textbooks is in line with its other policies suppressing free speech and academic freedom."
They pointed out that balanced historical view cannot be made based on a single interpretation; and also expressed concern that the government's plan would tarnish the nation's international reputation as a democratic country.
"We hope the Korean government will stop monopolizing history textbooks and embrace various opinions that depoliticize history education," they said.
Hundreds of Korean families reunite in North Korea
A group of 90 families consisting of around 250 South Koreans reunited with their separated North Korean family members on Saturday at the scenic resort of Mount Geumgang in North Korea.
The reunion began with a group meeting at 3:15 p.m. As soon as the meeting started, family members wept, then smiled, then wept again, according to Joint Press Corps reports.
This is the second three-day reunion in this round and will last through Monday. The first three-day reunion ended Thursday.
The families in the second group, in their 80s and 90s, are visibly older than those in the first. They have not seen their lost kin in more than 60 years. The oldest participant from South Korea is 98-years-old, and from North Korea, 88.
Koo Sang-yeon, 98, from South Korea who bought new shoes for his two daughters, wept after reuniting with them.
After another tearful farewell, divided families sing “Let’s Meet Again”
Posted on : Oct.23,2015 16:22 KST
Long divided families rejoice in reuniting, but suffer the pain of having to again go separate way
The passengers stuck their hands out the windows of the bus as it prepared to take them back to their homes in the North. Their family members who were returning South hovered around the bus reaching out plaintively. People in their late eighties chased after the bus, pounding on it and knocking on the windows. The time had come to let go of their hands, yet they seemed unable to. Once the bus left, the hands were empty.
Goodbyes from 65 years ago were replayed on the morning of Oct. 22 in the heavily clouded foothills of Mt. Keumgang. The ending of the three-day-long first half of the twentieth inter-Korean divided family reunions left yet another scar of separation behind.
The time was 9 am local time (30 minutes behind South Korean time) at the Mt. Keumgang reunion center. South Korean relatives sat and stared at the entrance, their eyes swollen and red. When their North Korean family members finally arrived at the farewell meeting site, they leapt to their feet. Just two hours remained. The gathered relatives embraced, whispered to each other, patted each other on the back and held hands. Some gave piggyback rides and put their arms over each other’s shoulders. It was a physical prelude to the goodbyes.
Park steps up campaign for state textbook
By Yi Whan-woo
President Park Geun-hye is forging ahead with her campaign for the state-authored history textbooks, adding fuel to the ideological war with the opposition.
She plans to call for public support for the publication of the state textbooks during her National Assembly speech on Oct. 27, according to presidential aides Friday.
Park and the ruling Saenuri Party have claimed that the textbooks used now, written by private publishers under the guidelines set by the government, carry "predominantly left-leaning content."
The officials said Park will also ask for bipartisan cooperation in passing economy-related bills during her speech. They include those on the 2016 budget, the Korea-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the President's labor reform plans to revitalize the faltering economy.
However, the escalating ideological war between Cheong Wa Dae and the opposition over the history textbooks is casting shadows over the prospects of the National Assembly in handling major state affairs.
[Textbook] [Park Geun-hye]
Taurus seeks to supply mid-range missiles on Korea's FA-50
By Jun Ji-hye
Taurus Systems, a German-Swedish joint venture, is seeking to supply its middle-range air-to-ground standoff cruise missiles for Korea's indigenous FA-50 light attack fighters, the firm said Friday.
Christoffer Drevstad, president of Taurus Systems Korea, said that the company has nearly completed the development of the Taurus KEPD 350K-2 with a range of 400 kilometers, and it would enhance the combat capability of the FA-50s.
[Military Balance] [Cruise missiles]
N.Korean Reporters Engage S.Koreans at Family Reunion
North Korean reporters covering the reunions of families separated by the Korean War in an unusual move approached South Korean journalists and told them they were surprised by the patriotism of soldiers in the South last summer.
It is rare for North Korean officials to speak to South Koreans at all unprompted, let alone so frankly.
They were apparently referring to an incident when two South Korean soldiers were maimed by North Korean box mines in the demilitarized zone.
One North Korean, who said he was monitoring the South Korean media, said, "I was very surprised to see South Korean reports about soldiers postponing their discharge from mandatory military service” as tensions mounted in the aftermath of the tragedy. "How could that be possible?"
The North Koreans were also curious how much media coverage the reunions are receiving in the South, and asked about the future direction of inter-Korean relations.
Several North Korean reporters came up to their South Korean counterparts on Monday and tried to strike up conversations, asking their names and who they worked for, though they were reluctant to identify themselves in turn.
A Unification Ministry official pointed out that there are few genuine North Korean reporters, and most of them were probably from state security agency or other officials whose job is to keep an eye on the North Korean participants.
Families bid farewell in tears
2nd round of reunions to take place Saturday
By Yi Whan-woo and Joint Press Corps
A group of elderly South Koreans bid a tearful farewell to their North Korean relatives at the Mount Geumgang Resort in the North before returning home Thursday, ending a three-day visit to attend reunions.
A total of 530 people from 96 families, including 141 North Koreans, hugged relatives and burst into tears as they parted.
"Live long and prosper," Lee Soon-kyu, 85, told her 83-year-old husband, Oh In-se, from the North as she helped him knot a tie during a farewell meeting.
Seoul Bans Entry to Ethnic Korean Writer on 1948 Massacre
October 17, 2015
By Tetsuya Hakoda – Asahi Shimbun
South Korea has banned an ethnic Korean from entering the country for an event on his book featuring the 1948 massacre on Jeju Island, an incident that was long taboo in the nation.
Kim Sok Pom, the 90-year-old Korean who lives and writes in Japan, was expected to attend a literary event in Seoul on Oct. 16 marking the release of the Korean translation of his novel, “Kazanto” (Volcano island).
The South Korean Embassy in Tokyo was quoted as saying the decision to deny him entry is based on the “results of screening in light of the Passport Law,” but gave no details.
[Human rights] [Censor] [Jeju massacre] [Syngman Rhee]
20 N.Korean Officials Defected to S.Korea This Year
Twenty North Korean officials have defected to South Korea so far this year, the National Intelligence Service told a National Assembly audit Tuesday.
They were mostly diplomats but also include a high-ranking officer from the powerful Army politburo.
NIS chief Lee Byung-ho told lawmakers the number of North Korean officials defecting from overseas is steadily increasing. Lee added that all 20 who defected this year now live in South Korea.
Although they rank lower than the late Hwang Jang-yop, a senior Workers Party secretary, some are from the elite class, Lee said.
[NIS] [Canard] [Defectors]
Family reunions lay bare the emotion of 65 years of division
Posted on : Oct.21,2015 17:23 KST
Oh In-se, 83, and his wife Lee Sun-kyu, 85, at the divided family reunion event at Mt. Keumgang in North Korea, Oct. 20. The two were married at age 19 then separated shortly after. In the middle is their son, who was just a newborn when Oh left. (by Shin So-young, staff photographer)
Members of divided families have tearful encounter on first day of three day reunion event in Mt. Keumgang
The bridegroom’s face showed all the marks of the 65 years that had passed. The hair of the bride, a pretty 19-year-old when she left alone for the South, was now frosted with gray. The son that had been in her belly seven months into their marriage had passed his sixtieth birthday without ever having seen his father’s face.
“Come sit next to me,” whispered Oh In-se, 83, to his wife Lee Sun-kyu, 85. It was as if he was calling forth an old memory.
“Meeting again like this after 65 years? It’s all right, I guess. Once I start talking about how much I missed her, there’d be no end to it.”
Dressed in a reddish-brown traditional Korean hanbok outfit, Lee was shy. Oh expressed his apologies to his wife.
“It was the war,” he stammered. “I mean, I…I had no idea how hard it was going to be.”
Park tells police to set up security plans for unified Korea
By Kang Seung-woo
President Park Geun-hye told the police Wednesday to set up plans to maintain public order in the event of unification of the two Koreas.
"The police are required to gradually prepare a roadmap on how to maintain public order ahead of unification on the Korean Peninsula," Park said in a speech during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of Police Day in Seoul.
Park has repeatedly drummed up public interest in peaceful unification between South and North Korea, saying that it would be an economic "bonanza" for the two Koreas as well as a blessing for neighboring countries because it would touch off massive investments in the North, mainly in infrastructure projects.
This is the first time that Park has commented on the need to establish security maintenance plans for a unified Korea.
"Park believes that it is time for the administration, the judiciary and the National Assembly to draw up their own plans in preparation for unification," a presidential aide said. "Park's call for such security plans appears to be part of those efforts."
[Unification] [Invasion] [Pacification]
Separated families' dreams come true
Lee Soon-kyu, 85, smiles as she meets her 83-year-old former husband, Oh In-se, living in North Korea, during reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at Mount Geumgang resort in the North, Tuesday. Over 500 elderly people from the two Koreas gathered for the reunions that took place for the first time since February 2014. / Yonhap
Reunions take place at Mount Geumgang
By Joint Press Corps, Yi Whan-woo
Over 500 people had emotional reunions with their relatives and family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at the Mount Geumgang resort in North Korea, Tuesday.
A total of 389 South Koreans and 141 North Koreans hugged and collapsed in tears in the rare reunions, the first since February 2014.
Most of them were aged 70 or older.
They included Lee Soon-kyu, 85, who met her 83-year-old husband, Oh In-se, from the North for the first time in six decades. Oh left home in South Chungcheong Province in June 150 for military training and went missing.
President Park Geun-hye: “an eternal girl with a father complex”
Posted on : Oct.20,2015 17:08 KST
President Park Geun-hye speaks at a forum in Seoul on Feb. 23, 2007, when she was leader of the Grand National Party (predecessor to today’s Saenuri Party). (Yonhap News)
A desire to cleanse her father’s legacy may be behind the president’s drive to take control of history textbooks
From becoming the first daughter when she was 9 years old to acting first lady at 22, from a member of the National Assembly at the age of 46 to the president at 60, President Park Geun-hye has always seen her father as being solely a symbol of the modernization of South Korea who had no personal ambition. On several occasions, Park has made comments that suggest she views her life’s mission to be reassessing her father’s life and correcting the distortions.
In her 2007 autobiography, she wrote, “The slander against my father continued, and I couldn’t just stand by and watch. As I saw it, my father had no personal ambition other than for his country, the Republic of Korea. Driven by the desire to correct these mistakes and to clear my father of this bad name . . .”
Park is the main source of the momentum behind efforts by the Blue House and the Saenuri Party (NFP) to take over the production of Korean history textbooks despite the objections of historians, educators, and civic society. The Saenuri Party is aggressively countering that there are no grounds for the argument that state-issued textbooks will justify the Yushin constitution, glorify past administrations, or toe the government line.
[Park Geun-hye] [Park Chung-hee] [Textbook]
Aid to N.Korea 'Could Save Billions in Reunification Cost'
South Korea could save more than W170 billion in reunification cost and speed up reunification by 11 years if it gives substantial aid to North Korea, a study suggests (US$1=W1,125).
Park Yong-joo of the National Assembly Budget Office announced his findings at a forum hosted by the Chosun Ilbo on Monday.
Supposing the two Koreas reunite in 2026, the study says the cost of reunification would vary significantly depending on the amount of money South Korea spends to aid North Korea over the next 10 years.
If Seoul continues its limited engagement with Pyongyang, North Korea would only reach two-thirds of the income level of South Korea in 2076, while reunification cost would balloon to W4,822 trillion.
But if South Korea were to give W272 trillion to North Korea to develop its food and agriculture industries and W193 trillion in medical aid over the next 10 years, the North would reach the two-thirds income level 11 years earlier or in 2065, while reunification cost would fall to W3,100 trillion.
The study said as North Korea's birthrate rises, the chronic aging of South Korean society could be eased, boosting both the labor productivity and economic growth potential.
It forecast that South Korea's medical spending and other welfare costs would also decrease following reunification.
Families prepare to visit North Korea
By Yi Whan-woo
The government will today gather the first of two groups of families scheduled to be reunited with their relatives in North Korea from Oct. 20 to 26.
The Ministry of Unification said Sunday it will invite 394 people to a hotel in Sokcho, Gangwon Province as part of final preparations for the reunions of the families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
The ministry will provide travel guidelines to Goseong on Oct. 20. This is a provincial town where an immigration office is set up to enable South Koreans to legally visit North Korea.
They will then cross the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) by bus and meet their loved ones at the Mount Geumgang resort before returning home on Oct. 22.
The second group of 255 war-divided family members will also meet in Sokcho on Oct. 23 for reunions planned from Oct. 24 to 26.
Raising the Korean War Dead: Bereaved Family Associations and the Politics of 1960-1961 South Korea
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 40, No. 2, October 12, 2015
Throughout the Korean civil war, thousands of real and imagined "leftists" were slaughtered by South Korean security forces. The families of these victims were silenced and persecuted throughout the rule of Syngman Rhee (1948-1960), while the deceased were labeled as "commies" (ppalgaengi) unworthy of mourning. However, in the brief period following the 4.19 revolution of 1960, some victims formed bereaved family associations (yujokhoe). These groups petitioned the Second Republic for compensation, investigation, prosecution of perpetrators, honor restoration, and the establishment of collective graves and monuments. Initially, these efforts achieved some success, but were laid to waste in the wake of the May 5.16 military coup of 1961, with the mass-arrest of the yujokhoe leadership and the destruction of the monuments and victims' graves.
This paper explores these doomed attempts at restorative justice, focusing primarily on the ideological and narrative strategies invoked by these groups through their petitions and memorial services (wiryongje). I show that beyond "truth seeking", the yujokhoe sought to radically challenge the dominant understanding of the nation's recent fratricidal past. The lynchpin of this strategy was an alternative nationalist narrative in which the alleged "ppalgaengi" were reconceived as patriotic martyrs for a not-yet-authored unified democratic state. Though they offered a radically subversive critique of state-violence, the yujokhoe still operated within the confines of anticommunism--the very ideological project responsible for the politicized extermination of their loved ones.
[Syngman Rhee] [Democracy] [Repression] [Coup]
[Column] North Korea’s nuclear weapons can’t simply be wished away
Posted on : Oct.16,2015 17:14 KST
The South Korean government’s policy of empty rhetoric and little else won’t bring peace to the peninsula
Yi Yong-in, Washington correspondent
When I was in middle school, I attended a church in my neighborhood for a while. Thinking back on it now, it must have been a pretty big church with a considerable history. It had an assistant pastor, and it held major revival meetings on a regular basis.
The reason that I remember that church so well is probably because of a sermon by the assistant pastor that crushed my faith right when it was beginning to blossom. The sermon that he delivered to the students was completely different from those of the main pastor, who usually emphasized the life of the spirit.
The gist of the sermon was something like this: “If you lay a staff in front of you and pray for it to move, you might think that it‘s moving, but actually it isn’t.” When I heard the assistant pastor tell us to get our heads out of the cloud, I remember being quite surprised.
Looking at the issue of North Korean nuclear weapons, I am reminded of that assistant pastor’s sermon. For several years now, the governments of South Korea and the US have repeated their call for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. But there is no reason for the staff to move. If anything, it is just becoming more firmly rooted in the ground.
[SK NK policy] [Self-delusion] [Rhetoric]
Conservatives rally over textbooks, claiming “this is war”
Posted on : Oct.16,2015 17:07 KST
Early signs that the right’s real agenda with state history textbook is whitewashing dictators and Japanese collaborators
“Ladies and gentlemen of the National Assembly, I hope that you will not back down one inch or make a political decision in the face of this resistance from historians who are trying to see through their own interests in the battle to set history straight! You must stand tall against the slander that there are ‘political motives’ underlying the use of new history textbooks.”
These remarks by Center for Free Enterprise secretary-general Jeon Hee-gyeong were met with shouts of approval from the lawmakers present. “Yes!” shouted one. “Outstanding!” cried another. “Great job!”
The mood at the emergency meeting of lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party (NFP) at the National Assembly on Oct. 15 was similar to a rally, with attendees pledging their full support for the “holy war” to institute state designation for middle and high school Korean history textbooks. The conservative-leaning Jeon and Cho Jin-hyeong, representative of the group Student Parents’ Alliance for Autonomous Education, delivered talks in which they evangelized on the need for designation to address “serious distortions in history textbooks today.” Their words were punctuated with applause from the roughly 100 lawmakers attending -- out of a total of 159 Saenuri lawmakers. “This is the best talk we’ve seen,” they shouted back. At some points, the speakers even encouraged attendees to fight with talk of “war.”
“So far, we’ve been led along by the need for ‘left-right balance,’ but how are we supposed to have a proper account of history when we have blocs where handfuls of left-wingers and right-wingers get together to vote?” asked Jeon.
“I implore you to get away quickly from this mechanical insistence on ‘neutrality,’” she continued.
Challenges only beginning for state history textbook
Published : 2015-10-14 18:15
Updated : 2015-10-14 18:15
The government’s path to reclaiming issuing rights for history textbooks from private publishers entails a myriad of tasks, such as procuring the authors and budget and getting the general education circles to fall in line.
The Education Ministry on Monday announced that it would reinstate government-published history textbooks for secondary education starting in 2017. But history professors from Kyung Hee University on Wednesday announced that they would not participate as authors in the state-published history textbooks.
Their announcement is on the coattails of professors from Yonsei University saying they would not “be involved in any way concerning the state history textbooks.” Other major universities including Seoul National University are expected to follow suit as hundreds of professors in history-related departments across the country have criticized the ministry’s plans for state textbooks.
It is widely seen as backlash to the government and ruling Saenuri Party’s claims that the currently privately published textbooks are written in favor of liberals, and that 90 percent of historians in the country are leftists.
Several scholars have raised suspicion that government intervention will result in a textbook that suits the taste of those in power.
“State history textbooks will make history education a tool for politics. I don’t think scholars will be able to participate impartially as authors since the reintroduction of state textbooks is very political in nature,” Chung Yong-wook, a professor of contemporary Korean history at SNU, told local media.
[Analysis] History textbooks: a ruling party gamble that could backfire
Posted on : Oct.15,2015 17:16 KST
Experts suggest textbook decision more about Pres. Park‘s convictions than a strategy for 2016 parliamentary elections
The issue of a single Korean history textbook designation is escalating from demonstrations into a fierce national debate.
President Park Geun-hye claimed the decision to designate textbooks was made because “history education and political debates should not be allowed to create ideological conflict and divide the South Korean people.” But the rifts and conflict are, if anything, only deepening. While the administration and ruling Saenuri Party (NFP) are claiming they have support from half the country in going ahead with the single textbook, the decision could come back to haunt them in the 2016 parliamentary elections.
Recent opinion polls have shown a clear divide among the South Korean public on the textbook issue. An Oct. 14 survey by Money Today and Real Meter showed 47.6% of respondents supporting the designated textbooks and 44.7% opposing them. The opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) released its own polling findings on Oct. 13 showing 44% in support and 48.1% against. A previous NPAD poll the week before showed similarly close numbers, with 44% support and 42.9% opposition.
In S. Korea, historical distortions that Abe could only dream of
Posted on : Oct.14,2015 16:51 KST
A second-year student from Gwacheon Foreign Language High School holds a one-person demonstration in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, holding a placard that reads, “Madame President, I want to learn correct history”, Oct. 12. (by Kim Myoung-jin, staff photographer)
With state designated history textbook, Seoul taking a more aggressive approach to controlling history than Japan has
Toshio Suzuki sighed deeply when asked for his thoughts on the South Korean government’s recent decision to designate official Korean history textbooks. The 66-year-old retired high school teacher has long been part of the campaign in Japan to oppose government involvement in textbooks. He then said, “Why wouldn’t more and more people in Japan start thinking, ‘So South Korea is one of those countries that teaches students history however it sees fit’?”
According to Suzuki, Japanese news outlets have consistently responded to debates over historical issues with South Korea -- such as sovereignty over Dokdo and the drafting of “comfort women” -- by broadcasting footage from the schools where the matters are the focus of intensive teaching. The message has been that anti-Japanese education is to blame for anti-Japanese sentiment among Koreans, he explained.
Stronger UN resolution on NK human rights sought
By Yi Whan-woo
South Korea is working on a stronger U.N. resolution against North Korea for its state-perpetrated human rights violations, officials said Wednesday.
They said the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom have joined with South Korea to introduce a new resolution in line with the 2014 version. The U.N. has been adopting resolutions about Pyongyang's dire human rights records for consecutive years since 2005.
Approved by the U.N. General Assembly in December, last year's version asked the U.N. Security Council to refer Pyongyang's leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands, for committing crimes against humanity.
[Softwar] [SK NK policy] [UNUS]
State History Textbooks to Counter 'Leftwing' Trend in Schools
The government on Monday said it wants to reintroduce official history textbooks for middle and high schools by 2017 to counter what it claims is leftwing content in current privately published textbooks.
Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea told reporters, "The government will write history textbooks based on objective facts so that young people can have balanced view of history."
Official history books were brought in during the reign of military strongman Park Chung-hee in 1974 but abolished in 2011. Now textbooks are published by the private sector but monitored by the government.
Guardian Showcases Korean Post-Reunification Novel
The Guardian of the U.K. on Friday printed an extract from a dystopian Korean novel set five years after a fictional reunification.
"Private Life of a Nation" by Lee Eung-jun imagines a reunified Korea of police tyranny and organized crime with a desperately struggling North Korean underclass.
The book was recently translated into English.
The paper said that according to Lee, North Korea's nuclear program "is not the biggest danger facing the divided peninsula. He is more worried about what will happen when the Kim Jong-un regime collapses and the countries are reunited."
After 42 years, state history textbooks are on the way back
Posted on : Oct.13,2015 17:18 KST
University students protest the government’s announcement of plans to reintroduce state history textbooks, in front of the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul Oct. 12. (by Lee Jeong-yong, staff photographer)
Backlash building to plan that government says will correct historical views and ease social friction
On Apr. 20, 1973, the administration of President Park Chung-hee announced that it would take over the production of Korean history textbooks. 42 years later, on Oct. 10, 2015, the government of President Park Geun-hye announced that it would switch from government approval of Korean history textbooks to issuing them directly.
Korean history textbooks had undergone a review and approval process before 1974, when they began to be issued by the government. This continued until 2011, when the government reverted to the approval process. But starting in 2017 - only six years after converting to the approval process - these textbooks will be issued by the government once more, just as under the 1974 system.
[Column] North Korean collapse and the North Korean paradox
Posted on : Oct.12,2015 17:26 KST
Assumptions of the North’s imminent collapse have failed to bring about improved inter-Korean relations
Two days after a 43-hour marathon negotiation ended in an inter-Korean agreement being reached on Aug. 25, details started leaking from the South Korean military about “decapitation operations” and Operational Plan 5015, which had to do with preparations for an unexpected “upheaval” in North Korea. This was a major disaster, one that called into question the very genuineness of Seoul’s attitude toward inter-Korean relations. Yet the administration took almost no action. Does that mean that the administration and military’s vision right now centers on the idea of an upheaval or collapse in the North?
Predictions of a collapse in Pyongyang first began circulating in the South in the summer of 1994. The sudden death of then-leader Kim Il-sung on July 8 -- just a few weeks before a planned inter-Korean summit on July 25-27 -- led experts to start prophesying a collapse scenario. The predicted dates ranged from three months to three years away; some even predicted less than 30 days. What ensued was a competition to figure out the costs of “unification by absorption.”
[SK NK policy] [Collapse] [Logic]
Nuclear threat and Korean reunification: Ultimately no avail
by Ke Chung Kim
12 October 2015
Recently, Peter Hayes presented an interesting paper “Nuclear Threat and Korean Reunification” in this Policy Forum. His arguments prompted me to recall fundamental arguments on the centrality of Korea’s environmental future in the rebuilding of North Korea and the reunification of Korea. Ever since the Korean vision became permanent at the signing of the 1953 Armistice, reunification has never left the mind and spirit of Korean people to this day. This brings us to the current debate on how to manage the North Korean nuclear threat and Korean reunification.
The global trend is that no nuclear armed state has dared to use nuclear threat to settle political or military conflicts due to the immense risks of escalation.
[Unification] [Logic] [Nuclear weapons]
The Implications of Civic Diplomacy for ROK Foreign Policy
by Kiho Yi and Peter Hayes
5 September 2015
This chapter focuses on the Republic of Korea and the implications for its foreign policy of the actual and potential role of civil society in solving complex global problems in Northeast Asia. It looks at the impact on ROK foreign policy of the emergence of independent civic diplomacy originating from civil society rather than the state.
This Special Report is an extract (Chapter 6) to the book Complexity, Security and Civil Society in East Asia, edited by Peter Hayes and Yi Kiho, published by Open Book Publishers in June 2015 (http://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/326/).
[ROK foreign policy]
[Column] Before ‘blackening’, take a long look in history’s mirror
Posted on : Oct.8,2015 16:55 KST
Instead of working to cleanse S. Korea’s historical narrative, conservative government should reflect on its lessons
When the occupying US forces first assumed control over Japan after its 1945 defeat, one of the events that truly brought home the fact that things had changed was the “blackening over” of old textbooks.
“Until new texts could be introduced, students were required to go through their schoolbooks with the guidance of their teachers and systematically excise with brush and ink all passages deemed to be militaristic, nationalistic, or in some manner undemocratic. This practice of ‘blackening over’ . . . was . . . a ritual exorcism of teachings that had only yesterday been deemed sacrosanct.”
As I read this passage in the book “Embracing Defeat” by John Dower, one of the leading historians on Japan‘s post-wartime defeat years, I recalled my own sense of betrayal and anger at having memorized content from state-designated textbooks during my elementary, middle, and high school years in the 1970s and 80s, only to come to university and learn the true facts that the books had distorted. If I could go back in time, there are more than a few textbook passages I’d like to blacken over: a description of the coup d’etat of May 16, 1961, as a “revolution to rescue the nation and a continuation and development of the patriotic actions of April 19 [the student revolution of 1960],” for example, or an account of the October 1972 Yushin “restoration” as having been carried out to “establish a suitable political and social landscape for achieving the historical mission of restoring the Korean people.”
Supposed watchdog on a tear to “correct media’s left-wing bias”
Posted on : Oct.8,2015 17:34 KST
Criticism rising over ideological agenda of position meant to ensure fairness and objectivity
The chairman of the Foundation for Broadcast Culture (FBC) board of directors responded on Oct. 7 to a growing controversy over what many are calling politically and ideologically biased remarks at a recent parliamentary audit.
“My duty is to correct a situation in which the media has taken on a left-wing bias,” chairman Ko Young-joo reiterated in response to the reaction to the remarks, which prompted the Seoul Bar Association to call for his resignation. The FBC is responsible for administering and overseeing operations at the MBC television network.
Cho Woo-suk, one of the directors at the KBS network, described Ko as “one of the most righteous men of our times” in a recent opinion piece and interview. Many are now voicing concern about the strong ideological bias in the boards of two public television networks that are ostensibly supposed to regard “fairness” and “objectivity” as key values.
Feature: DPRK woman locked up in "island-like" S.Korea
By Yoo Seungki
SEOUL, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- A woman in South Korea, having come from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) four years ago, has wanted back since she got here to her "fatherland." That has been banned by the South Korean government, which doesn't send "defectors" back under the current law.
Kim Ryen-hi, 45, held a press conference in front of the building housing the UN human rights office in Seoul on Wednesday with the help of five pastors from the Christian Pastors for Peace Action to Practice Love and Justice.
Kim said "As a DPRK citizen, I came to South Korea four years ago after being cheated by a broker committing a human trafficking. I made clear when I arrived in Seoul that it was a mistake and strongly demanded I be allowed to return back to my hometown, but (South Korea) made me one of DPRK defectors."
[Human rights] [NSL] [Defector]
War by Other Means: South Korea’s Textbook Battlefield
By Steven Denney | October 09, 2015
What do the state of Texas and South Korea have in common? The unamusing answer: intense debates as to how the nation’s history ought to be portrayed in middle and high school history textbooks. While the content is different, the form is basically the same. In Texas, debate may center on how to depict the institution of slavery, whereas in South Korea it centers on the nation’s very founding. (Both debates address fundamental issues, as debates on nations often do.) Both are worthy of dispassionate analysis, but South Korea gets the spotlight here.
[Softpower] [History] [Textbook]
2nd Miracle on the Han: Mass Media Unites over History by Ministerial Fiat
By Christopher Green | October 09, 2015 | No Comments
As represented by a collection of past events, history is little more than a pile of unstructured data. But mix in the nation and political biases and voila! what you have is a highly politicized national narrative. Involve political elites excessively in the production process and you’ll invariably end up with nationalist history; in other words history instrumentalized for specific (occasionally nefarious) purposes. “Histories written by the state,” Benedict Anderson has concluded, “are almost always false.”
[Softpower] [History] [Textbook]
South Korea’s secret weapon against the North
1 October 2015
Author: Sangsoo Lee, ISDP
On 25 August 2015, top-level negotiators from the North and South Korea reached a six-point agreement in the aftermath of a period of high military tension, which began when a landmine exploded in the Demilitarized Zone on 4 August, wounding two South Korean soldiers. Accusing North Korea of an unprovoked attack, South Korea responded by resuming anti-North Korea propaganda broadcasts for the first time since 2004.
South Korean army soldiers stand guard on Unification Bridge, which leads to the demilitarized zone, near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, 24 August 2015. Marathon negotiations by senior officials from the Koreas stretched over three days as the rivals tried to pull back from the brink. (Photo: AAP)
Throughout the three days of the Panmunjom negotiations, South Korea’s main aim was to have North Korea acknowledge its responsibility and apologise for the landmine incident. North Korea initially denied responsibility while persistently requesting the suspension of the loudspeaker broadcasts. Both sides eventually compromised, with Pyongyang expressing ‘regret’ over the landmine incident. Seoul interpreted this as an ‘acceptable apology’ and agreed to stop all loudspeaker broadcasts in the border area.
Inter-Korean civilian exchange budding amid rocket launch possibility
Posted on : Oct.5,2015 15:55 KST
Uptick in exchange between labor and religious groups comes as divided family reunions are being planned
The door to civilian inter-Korean interchange appears to be opening once again.
The Jogye Order of Buddhism Office for the Promotion of National Unity announced on Oct. 4 that it had reached an agreement in working-level talks with North Korea’s Buddhist Alliance at Kaesong on Oct. 2 to hold a “joint inter-Korean Buddhist dharma meeting to pray for the homeland’s reunification” around Oct. 15 at Mt. Keumgang‘s Singye Temple, which would mark the eighth anniversary of its restoration.
[SK NK Relations] [Religion]
Hidden underground bunker in Seoul publicly revealed for first time
Posted on : Oct.2,2015 13:33 KST
This is a space that had been forgotten. Until it was discovered during the construction of a bus station in 2005, an underground bunker in the Yeouido neighborhood of Seoul remained unknown to the world. Seoul Metropolitan Government checked its archives, but discovered no record of the bunker.
It’s been ten years since the city closed the bunker down, unable to find a purpose for the space. On Oct. 1, however, after correcting some structural problems and removing asbestos, the city opened the bunker to the media for the first time.
A staircase set along one side of the bus station leads to the bunker, five meters underground. Measuring over ten meters wide and 50 meters long, the massive space that spans 529 square meters evoked exclamations of awe from those who entered.
Hotline existed for leaders of two Koreas
By Kang Seung-woo
A hotline between the leaders of the two Koreas was established under the Kim Dae-jung administration, but was disconnected several years later when Lee Myung-bak was in office, according to a former intelligence chief Friday.
"On the back of good inter-Korean relations under Kim's presidency, the hotline was set up," said Kim Man-bok, a former chief of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) under the Roh Moo-hyun administration.
It is the first time for a former government official to disclose the presence of a hotline between the leaders of South and North Korea.
Kim said the hotline was established at the NIS.
"Although it was classified information, the hotline operated 24 hours a day. The hotline was way different from the channel used now, operated by the unification ministry through the truce village of Panmunjom," he said.
Kim was in office from 1998-2003 and held the first historic inter-Korean summit in June 2000 with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, father of Kim Jong-un.
Behind his "Sunshine Policy," which actively pushed for cross-border exchanges and reconciliation, inter-Korean ties enjoyed a heyday during his term.
Kim said that the private communication channel continued through the Roh government, contributing to the second inter-Korean summit in October 2007.
"We did not need a back channel when pushing for the second inter-Korean summit because the hotline was already operating," said Kim, one of the key figures to undertake plans for the meeting.
"The existing hotline helped us easily prepare for the summit with the North Koreans."
However, the hotline is no longer operating because former President Lee cut off the secretive communication channel after he took office in February 2008.
N.Korea Threatens to Cancel Family Reunions
North Korea lashed out against President Park Geun-hye's speech at the UN General Assembly on Monday and threatened to cancel planned cross-border family reunions.
South Korea's "reckless" and "confrontational" behavior means that "the rare reunions of separated families are at stake like being on a thin ice," a spokesman for the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement.
[Park Geun-hye] [Divided families]
North Korea warns that divided family reunions are on “thin ice”
Posted on : Oct.1,2015 11:11 KST
Cho Gap-soon (82, front left), wife of divided family member Lee Chang-yong (91, right), cries after learning that her husband was eliminated as a possible participant in the upcoming divided family reunions, at the Korea Red Cross offices in central Seoul, Sep. 9. (by Lee Jong-geun, staff photographer)
Prickly statement comes after Pres. Park, in UN address, called on N. Korea to refrain from provocations
North Korea warned for the first time since the agreement was reached on Aug. 25 that the reunions of the divided families might not happen. North Korea appears to be implying that it could cancel the reunions if the international community and South Korea impose sanctions in response to a North Korean long-range rocket launch or nuclear test.
“The reunions of the divided family members and relatives have been placed in a situation that is as perilous as thin ice because of the rashly confrontational behavior of the South Korean government. There is a consensus at home and abroad that, if the South Korean government continues to make confrontational remarks as it is doing now, the reunions might not take place,” the spokesperson of North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement released on the evening of Sep. 29.
Return to ROK and Inter-Korean relations page