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To wear or not to wear: Korea in dilemma over mandatory bike helmet use
Posted : 2018-07-30 16:11
Updated : 2018-07-30 18:46
Helmets are stored while bicycles are all being used at a bike-sharing station on Yeouido, southern Seoul. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is currently test-operating a free helmet rental service in the area but not many people use the helmets. / Yonhap
By Kang Seung-woo
A plan to mandate bike helmets still seems to face a bumpy ride as cyclists are avoiding the protective gear, especially for public bikes.
Some question how effective the approach will be, citing hygiene and loss or damage of the public helmets as concerns, while others claim the government is ignoring more important safety measures and only requiring bikers to wear helmets.
Wearing a bike helmet will become mandatory from Sept. 28 after a revision of the traffic law in March. The government believes that headgear will reduce the risk of serious head and face injuries. No penalty is set yet for violators.
They also said the mandatory helmet use will discourage people from using bikes, as evidenced by an Australian case, in which the number of cyclists decreased by up to 36 percent after the country adopted a helmet law in 1990.
Seoul's Defense Reforms Slash Ground Troops
By Jun Hyun-suk
July 30, 2018 12:56
The Defense Ministry will slash 118,000 ground troops and shorten military service by two to three months as well as drastically slimming down the military's top-heavy command structure.
The defense reform plans announced last Friday and now approved by President Moon Jae-in also discard a two-week scenario to seize the North Korean capital in case of a war.
The plans envisage reducing ground troops, slimming the command structure by getting rid of some 18 percent of idle generals and shortening mandatory military service from 21 months to 18 by the end of 2021.
The number of Army divisions will be cut from the current 39 to 33, while frontline divisions will be slashed from 11 to nine, which means that each division will have to defend 1.2 times more of the frontline. Standing forces will shrink from the current 618,000 to 500,000 by 2022, only about 39 percent of North Korea's 1.28 million. But troop reductions will occur only in the Army, which plays a smaller role in modern warfare than it used to, from the current 483,000 to 365,000.
Moon to Spend Summer Holiday in Military Facility
By Lee Min-seok
July 30, 2018 13:02
President Moon Jae-in will spend most of his brief summer break this week at a military base, Cheong Wa Dae said Sunday.
"The president decided to take a break at a military facility because that involves less hassle than moving around with a massive security detail and he can be easily reached in the event of an emergency," a presidential spokesman said.
President Moon Jae-in (left) and first lady Kim Jung-sook (center) have tea with a Buddhist monk in a temple in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province on Saturday.
He did not say where Moon will go or how he alighted on the peculiar destination.
Moon will not be meeting members of the public during the vacation, which some previous presidents have used as an opportunity to press the flesh.
[Moon Jae-in] [ROK military]
Unthinkable in North Korea: Ordinary and elite defectors mingle in Seoul
Posted : 2018-07-29 14:52
Updated : 2018-07-29 14:54
Eunhee Park with Thae Yong-ho. / Courtesy of TNKR
On July 22, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) held a special forum with Thae Yong-ho, the former North Korean diplomat who escaped to South Korea in 2016. In attendance were four students studying at TNKR. Two of them gave the following responses to meeting Thae.
[Thae Yong Ho] [Defector industry]
Roh Hoe-chan’s death calls into question legitimacy of Political Funds Act
Posted on : Jul.28,2018 07:39 KST Modified on : Jul.28,2018 07:39 KST
System is drastically in favor of sitting lawmakers and big parties
Blue House Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs Cho Kuk (starting from the left); Kim Seung-ha, head of the KTX division of the Korean Railway Workers‘ Union; members of a group for disabled able; comedian and talk-show host Kim Jae-dong; and Han Sang-gyun, former president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) all paid their respects to the late Roh Hoe-chan, Justice Party lawmaker and leader, at the funeral hall of Yonsei University Severance Hospital on July 24. (photo pool)
In the end, even Roh Hoe-chan, the “star” of South Korea’s progressive politics, could not stay free of the campaign finance trap. Figures both inside and outside the political establishment denounce the Political Funds Act as a “law that not even Roh Hoe-chan could obey.” The regulations about state subsidies for political parties and campaign fundraising create a system that is drastically tilted in favor of sitting lawmakers and big parties. As such, critics say, it serves as an obstacle that keeps minority parties, newcomers and unelected figures out of politics
[Roh Hoe-chan] [Electoral system] [Funding]
Two Koreas to hold general-level military talks at Panmunjom next Tuesday
Posted : 2018-07-27 10:49
Updated : 2018-07-27 14:54
South and North Korea have agreed to hold general-level military talks next week to discuss measures to enforce the military part of their April summit agreement, Seoul's defense ministry said Friday.
The talks will take place at the Peace House, a South Korea-controlled building at the border truce village of Panmunjom, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
Pyongyang first proposed the talks, which Seoul accepted later, the ministry said.
Major Gen. Kim Do-gyun will lead South Korea's five-member delegation, while the North Korean side will be represented by Lt. Gen. An Ik-san.
The two sides are expected to discuss measures to build confidence and seek arms control, such as disarming the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, and withdrawing troops and equipment from border guard posts.
The agenda could also include the idea of a joint project to excavate the remains of troops in the DMZ, who were killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
Some observers said that the militaries could also discuss the summit agreement to turn the Northern Limit Line, a de facto sea border, into a peace zone to prevent accidental clashes in front-line waters, which have long been a flashpoint.
The last such talks were held on June 14, for the first time in more than a decade, at Panmunjom. At the time, the two sides agreed to completely restore their military communication lines.
After their April 27 summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued the Panmunjom Declaration that called for joint efforts to alleviate military tensions and "practically eliminate the danger of war." (Yonhap)
[SK NK Negotiations]
North Korean defector jailed for sending 130 tons of rice 'home'
Posted : 2018-07-26 09:37
Updated : 2018-07-26 18:38
Some defectors return to North Korea. Yonhap
By Jung Hae-myoung
A North Korean defector who made unauthorized contact with the North's secret police to deliver 130 tons of rice and to return to the country has been sentenced to two and half years' jail.
The Suwon District Court made the ruling Tuesday.
The defector, Lee, 49, twice sent rice to the North Korean government. She also transferred 80 million won to pay a broker for arranging the deliveries.
Lee escaped from North Korea in 2011 and has been working in the entertainment business in South Korea. Since last year, she has been clandestinely keeping in touch with a broker and the NK secret police.
"The rice was for my son I left back in North Korea," Lee said.
But the prosecutor said she sent rice to prove her loyalty to North Korea and to escape punishment when she went back.
"The rice was sent through an official route," the court said. "It is impossible to transfer such a large amount of rice without prior consultation or contact with NK officials."
[Human rights] [Return] [Moon Jae-in]
S.Korea to Pull Troops out of DMZ
By Lee Yong-soo
July 25, 2018 09:50
The Defense Ministry will pull troops and equipment out of guard posts in the demilitarized zone under an agreement the leaders of the two Koreas reached on April 27.
In a report to the National Assembly Defense Committee on Tuesday, the ministry said, "The two Koreas agreed to demilitarize the Joint Security Area and turn it into a peace zone. As a first step, we will pull some troops and equipment out of the guard posts on a trial basis before withdrawing all of them."
The ministry did not specify any conditions or timetable for the pullout. It mentions a possible "survey of historical relics and the area's ecology" along the way. There was also no mention of any reciprocal steps from the North.
"We will make the proposal in cross-border military talks," a ministry official said. "This doesn't mean that we will pull out troops unilaterally."
Meanwhile, satellite photos indicate that the North has started dismantling a missile test site in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province, the website 38 North at Johns Hopkins University reported Monday.
A rocket-carrying vehicle that moves on rails was being dismantled and the shade cloth that once covered the nearby missile engine test site has been removed.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promised U.S. President Donald Trump during their summit in Singapore on June 12 to dismantle the test site.
Defense ministry pursues test withdrawal plan for guard posts and equipment in DMZ
Posted on : Jul.25,2018 17:39 KST Modified on : Jul.25,2018 17:39 KST
Measure part of effort to honor Apr. 27 Panmunjeom Declaration
South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo answers inquiries during a general meeting for the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee on July 24. (Yonhap News)
The South Korean Ministry of National Defense is pursuing a test withdrawal plan for guard post troops and equipment within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) as part of an effort to honor the agreement reached between the South and North Korean leaders in their Panmunjeom Declaration on Apr. 27.
An issue report by the ministry on July 24 for the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee included a “future pursuit plan for talks by inter-Korean military authorities,” which mentioned “conducting a test withdrawal of troops and equipment at guard posts (GP) within the DMZ as a practical step toward conversion of the DMZ into a peace zone, with a subsequent phased-in expansion.”
In their Panmunjeom Declaration following an Apr. 27 inter-Korean summit, the South and North Korean leaders agreed to “transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone in a genuine sense.”
[Detente] [DMZ] [Panmunjom Declaration]
Security command resisting President's reform drive
Posted : 2018-07-25 16:53
Updated : 2018-07-25 18:34
Special probe team raids DSC offices
By Lee Min-hyung
Defense Security Command chief Lee Suk-koo
The scandal-hit Defense Security Command (DSC) is apparently resisting the Moon Jae-in administration's reform plans amid signs of rift with Defense Minister Song Young-moo.
The simmering conflict between the military intelligence unit and the defense ministry spearheading DSC reform was evident Tuesday when both sides made contradicting claims over a document outlining a plan to declare martial law last year if the Constitutional Court rejected the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye
[DSC] [Candlelight Revolution] [Coup]
[Editorial] Roh Hoe-chan’s suicide a crushing verdict on the state of Korean politics
Posted on : Jul.24,2018 16:52 KST Modified on : Jul.24,2018 16:52 KST
People mourn the passing of Roh Hoe-chan, Justice Party lawmaker, on July 23 at Seoul’s Severance Hospital Funeral Hall. (joint photo pool)
On July 23, Justice Party lawmaker Roh Hoe-chan took his life. The death of this lawmaker who had spent his entire life fighting the military dictatorship and advocating the spread of progressive values is saddening and heartbreaking for many in South Korea. The anguish is multiplied by the questions of what could have brought a man who was a symbol of progressive politics and who had played a key role in its popularization to end his life and whether he had been left with no other choice.
It’s undeniable that Roh played a major role in enabling progressive parties to gain popular support and put down their roots in South Korean politics. In several recent public opinion polls, the Justice Party’s approval rating has surpassed 10 percent, bringing it close to the level of the Liberty Korea Party, the largest opposition party in the National Assembly, with 112 seats.
To be sure, there is no telling how long this trend will continue. But considering that progressive parties started planting seeds in Korean politics in the 1990s – when the country was a wasteland for the progressives, who barely had one percent of popular support – this is obviously a remarkable amount of growth.
[Roh Hoe-chan] [Corruption] [Suicide]
Details of coup plot come to light
Posted : 2018-07-24 16:59
Updated : 2018-07-24 21:17
Unveiled plot reminiscent of military rule
By Lee Min-hyung
Defense Minister Song Young-moo
The military set up a comprehensive plan to impose martial law ahead of the Constitutional Court's ruling on Park Geun-hye early last year, according to a document released Tuesday.
This plan could have been executed to quell protests and control media and the National Assembly, if the Constitutional Court had rejected Park's impeachment.
The document, which the Ministry of National Defense submitted to the National Assembly on Monday night, included an array of plans for the military to take control of the nation by force. They encompass schemes to seek press censorship, emasculation of the Assembly and request for assistance from the U.S. government, according to the document.
The document, drawn up in March last year by the Defense Security Command (DSC), was aimed at suppressing pro-democracy demonstrators who took to the street to demand Park resign or be impeached. The DSC is under investigation for plotting to declare martial law by writing the document.
The 67-page-long document is drawing strong public backlash here, as the planned armed crackdown raises concerns that the military may have even plotted a coup.
[DSC] [Candlelight Revolution] [Coup]
Iconic politician's death sends shockwaves through nation
Posted : 2018-07-23 17:07
Updated : 2018-07-23 18:52
By Park Ji-won
Political parties and Cheong Wa Dae expressed shock Monday over the suicide of the Justice Party floor leader Rep. Roh Hoe-chan, and offered their condolences to his family.
Roh was being investigated for allegedly receiving illegal political funds. The minor opposition party said its floor leader's death was "tragic." "There is no way but to feel tragic," said spokesman Choi Suk in an emergency briefing Monday.
Party members stayed silent for many hours after Roh's death declining to answer any questions.
"This was abrupt and sad news about our party floor leader Roh Hoe-chan's death this morning. The overall facts about the incident were announced by police. We are also in the process of grasping the details of the situation," Choi added.
The party said it will hold an emergency meeting at Roh's memorial service at the Severance Hospital, Sinchon.
The presidential office and political parties consecutively released statements and canceled their planned schedules to deal with the suicide of the iconic lawmaker.
[Roh Hoe-chan] [Corruption] [Suicide]
Roh Hoe-chan's last note [FULL TEXT]
Posted : 2018-07-23 18:56
Updated : 2018-07-23 19:11
A mourner pays his condolences to the late Roh Hoe-chan at an altar set up at the Severance Hospital in Shinchon, Seoul, Monday. / Korea Times photo by Hong In-gi
In March 2013, I received 40 million won from Gyeong-gong-mo (an online political forum led by "Druking") over two occasions.
It was given with no strings attached. The money was voluntarily collected by a majority of Gyeong-gong-mo members so it should have been accepted after passing through due process regarding sponsorship. I didn't however. Who else should I blame. It was a foolish choice and shameful decision.
I have to take the responsibility. Above all I have tarnished the name of our party that has come this far against all odds. I cannot face straight party leader Lee Jung-mi and dearest party members out of shame.
Neither statutory punishment nor discipline of the party would suffice. I request to my dearest party members. I stop here but the party should proudly move forward. I am sorry to the public. Please blame me for all of my faults and I sincerely request you to support the Justice Party.
July 23, 2018
(Translated by Jung Hae-myoung and Park Si-soo)
[Roh Hoe-chan] [Corruption] [Suicide]
Another DSC document emerges containing more specific martial law plans
Posted on : Jul.21,2018 15:02 KST Modified on : Jul.21,2018 15:02 KST
Evidence increasingly points to deliberate plans as opposed to preemptive measures
Blue House spokesperson Kim Eui-kyum discloses outlines of the “Specifics of the Provisional Plan,” which was part of the DSC’s “Wartime Martial Law and Joint Investigation Plan,” at the Blue House’s Chunchugwan (Spring and Autumn Pavilion) on July 20. (Kim Jung-hyo, staff photographer)
Another document has emerged from the South Korean military’s Defense Security Command (DSC) that details how martial law would have been instituted in the event that former president Park Geun-hye’s impeachment had been overturned by the Constitutional Court in Mar. 2017. Contradicting the explanation given by former Defense Minister Han Min-goo that the army had only “considered” the possibility of rioting, this incendiary document contains very specific measures for deploying armored vehicles and tanks to the Seoul neighborhoods of Gwanghwamun and Yeouido and controlling the National Assembly and the press.
During a briefing on July 20, Blue House spokesperson Kim Eui-kyum disclosed the broad strokes of the “Specifics of the Contingency Plan,” which was part of the “Wartime Martial Law and Joint Investigation Plan” composed by the DSC. This 67-page document consists of 21 points under the four major sections of a “phase-by-phase countermeasures,” “garrison decree,” “declaration of martial law” and “carrying out martial law.” The document essentially lays out a plan for carrying out the martial law decree that was reviewed in the document that Democratic Party lawmaker Rep. Lee Cheol-hui released on July 5.
“It says that the key to successfully instituting martial law is taking preemptive measures, such as swiftly declaring martial law while maintaining security and having martial law troops take control of crucial junctures,” Kim said when asked about the details of the document.
[DSC] [Candlelight Revolution] [Coup]
Disclosure of new DSC document indicates turning point in investigation
Posted on : Jul.21,2018 15:05 KST Modified on : Jul.21,2018 15:05 KST
Additional details reveal intention to concretely implement martial law
Soldiers at the entrance to the Defense Security Command (DSC) in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, on July 10, the day when South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered an independent investigation into the DSC’s “Wartime Martial Law and Joint Investigation Plan.” (Yonhap News)
The disclosure on July 20 of a new 67-page document in which the South Korean military’s Defense Security Command (DSC) reviewed a garrison decree and martial law decree during the impeachment proceedings early last year represents a turning point in the investigation into another document about the martial law decree.
An independent team of investigators under Chun Ik-su, chief legal officer for the Air Force, is expected to focus its efforts on determining how and why this document was composed. The team, which was set up last week under orders from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, is charged with investigating the DSC’s “Wartime Martial Law and Joint Investigation Plan” document and its alleged surveillance of civilians connected with the sinking of the Sewol ferry.
This 67-page document, which is titled “Specifics of the Contingency Plan,” goes beyond the previously released eight-page “Wartime Martial Law and Joint Investigation Plan” document with what appears to be a concrete action plan, including the text of proclamations of martial law and emergency-level martial law and a way to prevent the National Assembly (which was controlled by the opposition at the time) from voting to end martial law.
[DSC] [Candlelight Revolution] [Coup]
South Korean private group works to repatriate remains of Koreans drafted under Japanese occupation from North Korea
Posted on : Jul.20,2018 15:52 KST Modified on : Jul.20,2018 15:52 KST
South and North Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation agrees and signs document
Kim Hong-geol, president of the South Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, speaks with reporters in Beijing on July 19 after his trip to North Korea (Yonhap News)
The South Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, a deliberative body facilitating inter-Korean exchange in the private sector, announced that it is planning to work with North Korea to repatriate the remains of Koreans drafted for labor during the Japanese imperial occupation.
While on his way back to South Korea on July 19 after a four-day trip to North Korea, council president Kim Hong-geol met with reporters at Beijing Capital International Airport. “I drafted and signed an agreement [with the North Koreans] to bring back the remains of the victims of forced labor from Japan. The signing ceremony was held at Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang yesterday afternoon [July 18] with Kim Yong-dae, president of the North Korean council and vice chair of a permanent committee in the Supreme People’s Assembly,” Kim Hong-geol said.
“In addition to the agreement about cooperating on the repatriation of remains, we discussed continuing deliberations about several kinds of private sector exchange, such as extending invitations to North Korean officials. We could invite them to Seoul, meet them in Beijing or go to Pyongyang,” Kim Hong-geol said.
The council is planning to proceed with more concrete discussions during working-level meetings starting next month.
Kim Hong-geol said that he also met Ri Taek-gon, vice director of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s United Front Department. Ri was one of the North Korean officials who attended the inter-Korean summit this past April.
By Kim Oi-hyun, Beijing correspondent
[Joint Korean] [Japanese colonialism] [MIA]
Plan to deploy tanks in Seoul included in martial law document: Cheong Wa Dae
By Yeo Jun-suk
Published : Jul 20, 2018 - 16:23
Updated : Jul 20, 2018 - 18:29
The government confirmed Friday that the martial law document drawn up by the Defense Security Command during the Park Geun-hye administration included a plan to deploy tanks in Seoul, censor the media and block the National Assembly from ending the emergency action.
Presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said during a press briefing that there were key differences from the usual plans for martial law, such as the people who would be in command, indicating the document in question was designed for implementation.
The controversial martial law document “Wartime Martial Law and Joint Action Plan” was first released by an opposition lawmaker and a human rights activist group earlier this month. The Defense Ministry submitted the appendix to the document to Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday, Kim said.
“We realized the (newly submitted) document was totally different from other regular martial law documents drafted by Joint Chiefs of Staff every two years,” Kim said. “We expect a thorough investigation to discover whether the document was designed for implementation.”
[Candlelight Revolution] [Coup]
Moon to Meet Kim Jong-un Again in Late August
July 20, 2018 13:23
President Moon Jae-in is expected to visit Pyongyang in late August for another meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday held a meeting to review progress in the agreement the two leader signed in their historic summit on April 27
"The meeting was held to prepare for a visit by [Moon] to Pyongyang in the autumn as he had promised at the summit," a government official said. "It's possible that he will visit Pyongyang in late August."
In a recent interview with the Straits Times of Singapore, Moon said he is focusing on implementing the agreement rather than on his visit to Pyongyang.
But now Cheong Wa Dae believes there is an urgent need to break the stalemate in denuclearization talks with the North, so Moon could visit Pyongyang earlier than expected.
The Cheong Wa Dae meeting concentrated on how to prepare for the third summit between the two Korean leaders, but officials also discussed a mooted denuclearization process and a trilateral summit between the two Koreas and the U.S. in New York during the UN General Assembly session in September.
[Interview] Leader in intellectual community says Moon administration has “returned to the past”
Posted on : Jul.19,2018 17:37 KST Modified on : Jul.19,2018 17:37 KST
Professor Lee Byeong-cheon says administration has changed significantly in one year
The Moon Jae-in administration has “returned to the past in a way that will be difficult to come back from,” according to Kangwon National University emeritus professor Lee Byeong-cheon, one of the driving forces behind a recently issued ““Intellectuals’ Statement to Urge Bold Social and Economic Reforms from the Moon Jae-in Administration.”
Speaking to The Hankyoreh in a telephone interview on July 17, Lee urged the Blue House to “seriously consider why the people who supported President Moon have been moved to make a declaration one year later.”
Hankyoreh (Hani): Why did you decide to issue a statement by South Korea’s intellectuals?
Lee Byeong-cheon (Lee): We saw the changes one year into the Moon Jae-in administration as being extremely significant. Thing like chaebol reform or revisions to the real estate tax system are not being handled properly, and there has been a regression to the past. I think it’s something that will be difficult to come back from. We decided to do the statement because we concluded there was a need for a new resolution.
[Moon Jae-in] [Criticism] [Economic policy] [Reform]
Crashed helicopter was modeled on seriously defective Surion model
Posted on : Jul.18,2018 16:47 KST Modified on : Jul.18,2018 16:47 KST
Questions arise concerning cause of crash that killed five service members
The site of the crash of the Marineon (MUH-1) helicopter that killed five service members and injured one on July 17 in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap News)
The Marineon (MUH-1) amphibious utility helicopter that crashed on July 17 was modeled after the cutting-edge Surion (KUH-1), South Korea’s first homegrown helicopter that cost more than 1 trillion won (US$885.68 million) to develop. The Marineon had been adapted for the purposes of the ROK Marine Corps.
Developing a domestic amphibious utility helicopter had long been a pet project of the South Korean military. Until the Marineon came into service in January, South Korea’s marines had relied on the US amphibious helicopters used in joint operations. On Jan. 10, the marines acquired Marineon 1 and Marineon 2, the latter of which was reportedly the helicopter that crashed.
[Military Industrial complex]
Ex-President Park sentenced to 8 years for taking NIS funds, political interference
Posted : 2018-07-20 14:53
Updated : 2018-07-20 15:45
Presiding judge Song Chang-ho speaks during former President Park Geun-hye's trial at the Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul, Friday. Yonhap
A Seoul court on Friday sentenced former President Park Geun-hye to eight years in prison for illegally taking off-book funds from the state spy agency and interfering in elections during her term in office.
Televised live, the Seoul Central District Court meted out the guilty verdict to the 66-year-old, who's already serving a 24-year jail term on a string of corruption charges in a nation-rocking scandal that led to her ousting last year.
The court also ordered her to forfeit 3.3 billion won ($2.91 million).
Prosecutors demanded a 15-year imprisonment for Park.
She was not present at Friday's trial, as she has been boycotting all her trials, which she said "are politically motivated," accusing the judiciary and prosecution of being unfair.
In early January, prosecutors indicted Park on additional charges that include bribery, embezzlement and loss of state funds for illegally accepting 3.5 billion won from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) between May 2013 and September 2016.
She's also been indicted for interfering in the then-ruling Saenuri Party's candidate nominations for the 2016 general elections.
But the court on Friday acquitted her of the bribery charges, ruling that the NIS provisions of its funds to Park's office were not paid in return for any favors.
The court acknowledged that it has been customary for the spy agency to provide funds to the presidential office from its own state coffers, known as the untraceable special activities fund.
The fact that the then spy chiefs had delivered the funds to Park's Cheong Wa Dae in a fixed amount, and on a regular basis, is far from the conventional way of paying someone a bribe, which usually comes in a lump sum payment at one time.
Park is accused of spending some of the money for private use, such as on bills for secret phones she used to contact Choi, maintenance costs for her private residence in southern Seoul and medical treatment. The funds were also used for incentives and bonuses for Park's close aides.
The court ruling is in line with last week's verdict in a separate trial on her three former aides, who were indicted alongside her for their involvement in the NIS bribery case. The court cleared them of bribery charges, ruling the NIS provisions to Park's office were not bribes. (Yonhap)
Documents indicate martial law proposal more deliberate than thought: Cheong Wa Dae
Posted : 2018-07-20 14:21
Updated : 2018-07-20 14:21
Documents submitted by the defense ministry show the earlier reported proposal from the defense intelligence agency to declare a martial law may have been more deliberate than earlier believed, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Friday, apparently implying the military may have actually sought to go ahead with such a plan.
Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said the military maintained and renewed its plans for a martial law every two years, but that the new documents submitted by the ministry showed significant changes and differences from the original plans.
"Usually, the military renews its martial law plans every two years," the spokesman told a press briefing. "(Cheong Wa Dae) has confirmed the submitted documents are completely different from the existing plans." (Yonhap)
[Candlelight Revolution] [Coup]
[Editorial] Essential to investigate orders given to each military unit involved with DSC
Posted on : Jul.17,2018 16:58 KST Modified on : Jul.17,2018 16:58 KST
South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo presides over an emergency meeting of military commanders mentioned on a Defense Security Command (DSC) document outlining plans for martial law on July 16 at the Ministry of National Defense (MND). (Baek So-ah, staff reporter)
On July 16, South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered that all documents and reports related to the martial law decree document composed by the Defense Security Command (DSC) that were exchanged by the Defense Ministry and various military units be immediately submitted to the Blue House. This order applies not only to the Defense Ministry and the DSC but also to the army headquarters, the Capital Defense Command and the Special Warfare Command and the units that report to them. The martial law document mentioned mobilizing troops from these commands.
The president’s order is appropriate and, if anything, ought to have been made sooner. In order to ascertain not only the true nature of the martial law document but also whether the army had actually identified the citizens who had continued to hold peaceful demonstrations as “potential rioters” and had planned to bring military force against them, the most elementary step is investigating what orders were given and what steps were taken by the military units in question.
Then Defense Minister Han Min-goo asserts that he put a stop to the discussion after he was briefed about the DSC’s martial law document on Mar. 3, 2017, but his assertion should not be taken at face value. We have learned that the DSC had already prepared a step-by-step scenario at the end of Oct. 2016, shortly after the first candlelit rally in Gwanghwamun. Nor can we rule out the possibility of the involvement of “higher ups” such as then Blue House National Security Advisor Kim Kwan-jin or then acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn.
Examining what orders were given to the 1st, 3rd, 7th, 11th and 13th Special Forces Brigades (which were mentioned in a draft document called “Disposition of Forces to Execute Martial Law Duties”) and what preparations were made by their subordinate units should be able to bring us the full story not only about who gave the orders and how high they went but also the extent of the preparations for the plan to mobilize the military.
S.Koreans Bank on Thaw Despite Stalemate in U.S.-N.Korea Talks
By Lee Yong-soo
July 16, 2018 13:03
More than 500 civilian applications have been filed with the Unification Ministry for visits to North Korea since the Moon Jae-in administration was inaugurated.
"A total of 507 civilian applications, 193 last year and 314 this year, have been filed with the government for visits to the North," Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters last Friday.
That suggests South Koreans have had high hopes for inter-Korean exchanges as cross-border ties thaw, even though denuclearization talks between North Korea and the U.S. seem to have stalled.
The ministry has approved many of the applications, raising fears that the visits will weaken concerted international sanctions against the North.
"Powerful and unwavering sanctions are essential to achieve denuclearization in the North, but lively inter-Korean exchanges would loosen the sanctions," a diplomatic source said.
Seoul officially views a resumption of cross-border economic cooperation as premature, but encourages non-economic, civilian exchanges. With that, a travel ban to the North, imposed on May 24, 2010 in the wake of the North's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, has effectively been lifted.
Also on Friday, North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri urged Seoul to be more proactive in cross-border economic cooperation.
Experts indicate performing arts exchange could contribute to inter-Korean exchange
Posted on : Jul.16,2018 17:31 KST Modified on : Jul.16,2018 17:31 KST
Sanctions need to be relaxed before cultural exchange efforts can take off
North Korean films are easily accessed on YouTube. (captured image from YouTube)
North Korea experts predicted the exchange of performing arts would contribute to fostering a climate of reconciliation and cooperation at each turning point in inter-Korean relations amid exchange efforts in the areas of traditional, classical, and popular music.
“The establishment of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula was confirmed in summits between the leaders of South and North Korea and North Korea and the US, but the definite relaxation of lifting of sanctions on North Korea will need to happen before the pace of inter-Korean cultural exchange efforts can be determined,” predicted Park Young-jeong, head of the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute’s arts policy research division.
“To prepare for that, we’re going to need to consider organizing joint inter-Korean festivals or establishing an inter-Korean cultural exchange center in Kaesong,” Park suggested.
[Detente] [Inter-Korean] [US dominance]
Moon orders military to hand in all documents related to proposed martial law
Posted : 2018-07-16 11:03
Updated : 2018-07-16 15:10
President Moon Jae-in ordered the military Monday to submit all its documents related to the declaration of martial law proposed by the military intelligence.
"President Moon ordered (the military) to immediately submit all documents, including those exchanged between the Defense Ministry and the Defense Security Command (DSC), related to the DSC's martial law documents, to the president," presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a press briefing.
The order comes amid a special investigation on the reported proposal from the DSC in late 2016 to declare a martial law to crack down on protest rallies and candlelight vigils against then President Park Geun-hye.
[Candlelight Revolution] [Coup] [DSC]
Approval ratings for President Moon still at 69%
Posted on : Jul.15,2018 12:47 KST Modified on : Jul.15,2018 12:47 KST
Ratings for Justice Party and Liberty Korea Party stand equal for first time ever
A look at approval ratings for South Korean President Moon Jae-in for the past 20 weeks. The blue line represents support while the red dotted line represents opposition.
President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating for job performance stood at 69 percent in a Gallup Korea survey for the second week of July, down two percentage points from the week before.
Support for the Democratic Party was also down two percentage points from the previous week at 49 percent. The decline in President Moon’s job performance approval ratings and support for the Democratic Party has continued for four straight weeks since the third week in June. Meanwhile, support for the Justice Party stood at 10 percent, equaling support for the Liberty Korea Party (also 10 percent) for the first time ever.
[Moon Jae-in] [Polls]
President Moon indicates peace regime must come before economic cooperation
Posted on : Jul.14,2018 16:31 KST Modified on : Jul.14,2018 16:31 KST
In Singapore Lecture, says Kim Jong-un is determined to normalize his country
During a state visit to Singapore, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and First Lady Kim Jung-sook take a tour of Singapore’s iconic Skypark Observation Deck at the Marina Bay Sands resort on July 12. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also visited the observatory one day before the June 12 North Korea-US summit. (Yonhap News)
“Korea has another opportunity that does not exist in Singapore or in any other country in the world. That opportunity is inter-Korean economic cooperation. Korea will draw a new economic map that is based on peace and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea will move forward into an economic community.”
This was part of the 42nd Singapore Lecture, a speech delivered by South Korean President Moon Jae-in while paying a state visit to Singapore on July 12. We should focus on the fact that Moon has employed the themes of inter-Korean economic cooperation and an inter-Korean economic community during the initial phase of denuclearization.
But given the intense sanctions imposed on North Korea by the UN and other bodies in the international community, this does not mean that Moon is going to launch full-fledged inter-Korean economic cooperation right away. “The South Korean government will strive to enable the beginning of economic cooperation through the rapid establishment of a peace regime,” Moon said, indicating that a peace regime must come before economic cooperation.
Even so, the theme of inter-Korean economic cooperation is still significant. This is taken to mean that, if some degree of progress is made on the question of declaring the end of the Korean War – which has emerged as a key point of contention in the process of implementing the joint statement signed during the North Korea-US summit on June 12, which was followed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to the North on July 6 and 7 – then the Moon administration could get the ball rolling on inter-Korean economic cooperation.
In fact, that would appear to be the key item on the agenda of the inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang this fall that was mentioned in the Panmunjeom Declaration after the inter-Korean summit on Apr. 27. During his first meeting with senior secretaries and aides after that summit (on Apr. 30), Moon called on his staff to work hard to prepare for economic cooperation: “I expect that inter-Korean joint surveys and research can be carried out to move ahead with the Oct. 4 Summit Statement (2007) and inter-Korean economic cooperation.”
[Moon Jae-in] [Peace regime] [Wishful thinking]
A journey through advertisements: Part 2 - Northeast Asia
Posted : 2018-07-15 09:42
Updated : 2018-07-15 17:23
Liebig Advertisement - Japan the dance of the Corean tiger Circa 1900s
By Robert Neff
chocolate advertisement in 1896
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, exoticism of the Far East ? as well as the rest of the world ? was used to sell all kinds of products, including coffee, chocolate, medicine and tobacco.
One French soap company even employed patriotism as a tool to sell more of its soap, using a colorful but stereotyped image of China ? urging women to buy its pure soap rather than foreign brands.
Are these visions of the past or forays into fantasy?
It seems doubtful that many of these cards' artists actually traveled to these countries; their images seem too fanciful and were probably inspired by the incorrect "eyewitness" descriptions given in contemporary newspapers and magazines.
Fake news is not confined to the present.
[Editorial] President Moon’s vision for peace and prosperity after denuclearization
Posted on : Jul.14,2018 16:27 KST Modified on : Jul.14,2018 16:27 KST
South President Moon delivers his “Singapore Lecture” during the last day of his state visit to Singapore, July 13, at the Grand Ballroom of the Orchard Hotel Singapore. The Singapore Lecture series is hosted by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies with support from Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is a world-class event that invites leaders from around the world. (Yonhap News)
In a “Singapore Lecture” during the final day of his state visit to Singapore on July 13, President Moon Jae-in outlined his vision for an inter-Korean economic community and peace on the Korean Peninsula. It could be seen as his second “vision for peace,” after the one he presented in the German capital of Berlin in July of last year. It is deeply significant that he shared this vision for a future of Korean peace and prosperity in the same place as the historic North Korea-US summit one month ago.
In many ways, President Moon’s Singapore Lecture stood in contrast with his Berlin vision a year ago. Where the focus of that vision was on getting North Korea to agree to dialogue as its antagonisms with the US reached an all-time low, the emphasis in the Singapore speech was on offering a post-denuclearization vision – reflecting the current opportunity for discussions on the issue created by the recent inter-Korean summits and North Korea-US summit. One can clearly sense his aim of reinforcing North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization by suggesting a future of inter-Korean economic cooperation and shared prosperity. We hope it will lead us that much faster to the day when Pyongyang actively responds to President Moon’s vision and joins in building a Korean Peninsula economic community.
[Moon Jae-in] [Wishful thinking] [US NK Negotiations]
South Korean Opinion of North Korea Spikes
Posted on 09 July 2018. Tags: Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, north korea, polling data, public opinion, South Korea, Summit, United States
By Jenna Gibson
In a new poll from the Asan Institute, South Korean public opinion of North Korea has greatly increased since the beginning of 2018, hitting 4.71 out of 10 in their June poll. According to Asan, this is the first time favorability of North Korea has exceeded 4.0 since they started conducting these polls in 2013. Kim Jong-un similarly saw a spike in favorability among the South Korean respondents, rising to 4.06 from just 0.88 in November 2017.
This result is particularly surprising in comparison to other countries in the region. The United States maintains its position as the most favored nation among Koreans, but North Korea had now surpassed both Japan and China in the eyes of the Korean public.
This increase comes on the back of the inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea Summits, which recurved positive reviews from Koreans. According to the Asan poll, 71.8 percent of South Koreans evaluated the Trump-Kim meeting as achieving positive results, and 62.6 percent said they believed North Korea will follow through on its agreements to denuclearize.
While the South Korean public remains optimistic about the recent dentente on the Korean peninsula, they will likely be closely watching next steps and their opinion may shift again as the situation continues to unfold.
[Detente] [Public opinion]
Blue House reiterates hopes of declaration ending Korean War within this year
Posted on : Jul.13,2018 17:12 KST Modified on : Jul.13,2018 17:12 KST
Experts suggest Sept. UN General Assembly instead of July 27 Armistice Day
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) and US President Donald Trump engage in some small talk before commencing the Singapore summit on June 12. (Yonhap News)
The one-month anniversary of the North Korea-US summit in Singapore on June 12 is focusing attention on whether Seoul, Pyongyang, and Washington will be taking part in a joint declaration of the Korean War’s end by the end of the year.
Speaking on July 12, a Blue House senior official hinted at efforts toward a declaration within 2018.
“There is something of an agreement among South and North Korea and the US on making a declaration of the war’s end,” the official said.
Moon envisions prosperity for North Korea
Posted : 2018-07-13 16:59
Updated : 2018-07-13 19:24
President Moon Jae-in speaks in a speech at Orchard Hotel in Singapore, Friday, on the sidelines of the 42nd Singapore Lecture hosted by the country's ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. / Korea Times photo by Ko Young-gwon
By Lee Min-hyung
The two Koreas can open an era of economic prosperity if they achieve the goal of complete denuclearization, President Moon Jae-in said Friday.
He also called for sincere efforts on all sides to move the denuclearization process forward, saying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be able to lead his country into prosperity if he gives up nuclear weapons.
"The inter-Korean economic partnership is the opportunity that South Korea can only have," President Moon said in a special lecture hosted by the ISEAS?Yusof Ishak Institute. "Until last year, the inter-Korean summit sounded like a dream for everyone."
Moon was on a state visit to Singapore from Wednesday to Friday to seek economic partnerships with the Asian economic powerhouse.
If North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continues to fulfill his pledge for nuclear disarmament, the South Korean government is willing to initiate the economic cooperation with Pyongyang, according to Moon.
"There remains a bumpy road ahead for the North's denuclearization," Moon said. "But we can speed up the process of its denuclearization once the North materializes the pledge. In response, the South and the U.S. will also swiftly take comprehensive measures for denuclearization on the peninsula."
Moon went on to say that, after stable peace is established, he hopes to start inter-Korean economic cooperation as soon as possible.
[Moon Jae-in] [Wishful thinking] [Conditionality]
South Korean public opinion on Kim Jong-un and Trump more favorable after Singapore summit
Posted on : Jul.9,2018 17:53 KST Modified on : Jul.9,2018 17:53 KST
North Korea also surpasses China and Japan in likeability
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shake hands at the historic North Korea-US summit in the Capella hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa island on June 12. (Hankyoreh archives)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump’s favorability with South Koreans has greatly increased since the North Korea-US summit, a recent poll has found. North Korea also surpassed China and Japan in terms of likeability.
'Not a good time to be chaebol'
Posted : 2018-07-08 18:02
Updated : 2018-07-09 10:49
Investigations into personal wrongdoings of tycoons should not affect business
By Yoon Ja-young
The country's leading conglomerates are facing unprecedented simultaneous bad events. On top of the current administration's pressure to reform them, the tycoons of the top business groups are making headlines for personal problems such as embezzlement and divorce. Chaebol lobby groups which should defend them are also helplessly struggling for survival.
Most of all, the corruption scandal over ousted former President Park Geun-hye is still haunting the country's top chaebol.
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, for instance, is still going through hearings although he was released from jail this February after a year's imprisonment, for his alleged involvement in the scandal.
S.Koreans Prefer Kim Jong-un to Xi, Abe
By Ahn Jun-yong
July 06, 2018 12:51
South Koreans have had a better impression of North Korea than of China and Japan since the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12, a survey suggests.
Their opinion of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also improved significantly, and only respondents in their 20s are skeptical of him.
North Korea ranked 4.71 on a scale of 1 to 10 in the phone poll of 1,000 adults released by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies on Thursday. Their impression of North Korea improved by more than one point since March's 3.52. It was still lower than their impression of the U.S. (5.97), but higher than that of China (4.16) or Japan (3.55).
It was the first time that their impression of North Korea was better than that of China and the first time in about four years that it was higher than that of Japan.
Kim Jong-un rated 4.06, about quadruple the figure in November of last year (0.88) and about double that in March (2.02). Kim still ranked lower than U.S. President Donald Trump, who scored 5.16, but higher than Chinese President Xi Jinping (3.89) and almost double the score of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (2.04).
Kim's score was pulled down by 20-somethings, who like him least at 3.0, even lower than those in their 60s (3.71).
"This reflects some conservative trend among the younger generation, who fear tensions on the Korean Peninsula because of their experience of recent provocations by the North," the institute said.
[Public opinion] [SK attitude NK]
UN to Probe Defection of N.Korean Restaurant Staff in China
By Kim Myong-song, Ahn Jun-yong
July 09, 2018 13:22
The UN is to probe the defection of a group of North Korean restaurant workers in China, which North Korea claims is an abduction.
UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights Tomás Ojea Quintana, who arrived in Seoul on July 2, told VOA on Friday that he plans to interview the 12 women who had escaped from the Ryugyong restaurant in China and flew to South Korea.
"The very main principal issue that we need to pay attention in this case is what is the will and what is the interest of this restaurant workers," Quintana said. "What is needed… is a credible and thorough investigation about what happened two years ago with these restaurant workers."
[Election defection] [UN] [Investigation]
BAI directly links Lee Myung-bak to Four Rivers Project disaster
Posted on : Jul.5,2018 15:13 KST Modified on : Jul.5,2018 15:13 KST
Orders to begin project came after Lee’s announcement that he would halt canal construction
Spokesperson for South Korea’s Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) Park Chan-seok announces the results of the BAI’s assessment and analysis of the Four Rivers Project on July 4. (Kim Seong-gwang, staff photographer)
The open secret of the Four Rivers Project has finally been confirmed. The dredging of the Nakdong River to a minimum depth of six meters and the construction of 16 massive weirs holding 800 million tons of waters on the four rivers without any plan for their use was ultimately ordered by former president Lee Myung-bak, according to an audit by South Korea’s Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI).
This is the first time that the BAI has directly mentioned Lee. When the BAI announced the results of its audit into the execution of major contracts, including design and overall bidding on the project to revive the four rivers, in July 2013, it only said that the decision to pursue the Four Rivers Project had been made “with a future canal in mind” and “in line with a request from the presidential office.”
South and North Korea resume ship-to-ship radio communications after 10 years
Posted on : Jul.2,2018 16:56 KST Modified on : Jul.2,2018 16:56 KST
Could prevent accidental clashes near NLL in West Sea
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on July 1 that marine radio communications with North Korea were being resumed to help prevent accidental clashes in the West (Yellow) Sea. The MND released a video on the same day showing sailors aboard a South Korean patrol ship near Yeonpyeong Island using the international merchant marine communication network. (provided by MND)
After 10 years of disuse, South and North Korea have resumed ship-to-ship radio communication, which can be seen as a hotline for preventing accidental clashes between South and North Korean military vessels around the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West (Yellow) Sea.
“The South and North Korean militaries have normalized operation of the global merchant marine communication network in order to prevent unplanned clashes in the West Sea as part of implementing the terms agreed to during the Panmunjeom Declaration and during the 8th inter-Korean general-level military talks,” South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said on July 1.
In a video released by the Defense Ministry, a South Korean patrol ship near Yeonpyeong Island used the international merchant marine communication network (the shared maritime mobile band) at 9 am on July 1 to say, “Mt. Baekdu 1, Mt. Baekdu 1, this is Mt. Halla. How do you read me, over.” A North Korean patrol ship immediately responded by saying, “Mt. Halla 1, Mt. Halla 1, this is Mt. Baekdu 1. I read you loud and clear, over.”
South and North Korean ships first used the maritime mobile band in the West Sea on June 14, 2004, and then discontinued its use in May 2008. The communication network has finally been reactivated after 10 years.
[Detente] [West Sea] [NLL] [hotline]
Koreas to push for co-prosperity by fall summit
Posted : 2018-07-02 17:11
Updated : 2018-07-02 22:24
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon speaks during a press conference at the Seoul Government Complex, Monday, marking his first year in office. / Yonhap
By Kim Bo-eun
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Monday the two Koreas will seek to take concrete steps for peace and co-prosperity by the time they hold a summit between their two leaders in the fall.
"At the fall summit, we are aiming to enter a stage where we can push for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula," Cho said during a press briefing marking his first year in office
Because the term "prosperity" implies economic cooperation, questions were raised about whether his remarks implied South Korea will seek to enable economic cooperation with the North by that time.
Korean Spy Thriller Sells to Over 100 Countries
June 29, 2018 12:49
Yoon Jong-bin's latest film "The Spy Gone North" has been sold to 111 countries.
The espionage thriller, which was invited to the Midnight Screenings section at this year's Cannes Film Festival in May, received rave reviews there and at home.
"We received a lot of inquiries from foreign buyers after the film was premiered at Cannes. We sold it to 111 countries in Asia, Latin and North America, and more recently European countries such as France, Poland, Spain and the U.K.," the film’s distributor CJ E&M said Thursday.
Set in the mid-1990s, the movie revolves around a South Korean secret agent who infiltrates North Korea to obtain information on the North's nuclear weapons programs.
It will hit local theaters on Aug. 8.
[Espionage] [Propaganda] [Hallyu]
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