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S.Korea Celebrates Inter-Korean Summit Alone
By Lee Min-seok
April 29, 2019 12:17
Saturday marked the first anniversary of the inter-Korean summit in the border truce village of Panmunjom, but South Korea found itself in the absurd situation of having to celebrate it alone with guests from anywhere but North Korea.
Instead, North Korea fired a broadside at the South over joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, which have already been drastically scaled down. "Be reminded that only disastrous regrets and destructive results will come out of unfettered war exercises," the North's official Korean Central News Agency thundered.
[Panmunjom Declaration] [Joint US military] [Moo Jae-in] [Tragedy]
S.Korea to Mark Summit Anniversary Without N.Korea
By Yoon Hyung-jun
April 22, 2019 13:20
South Korea plans a celebration of the first anniversary of the historic inter-Korean summit in April last year.
The Unification Ministry on Sunday said the event will be held in the border truce village of Panmunjom this Saturday. Artists from South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have been invited to perform at the event.
But the ministry has not even notified Pyongyang of the plans since the North seems to have no interest
[Panmunjom declaration] [Stalemate]
More Evidence Points to S.Korean Ship Selling Oil to N.Korea
By Ahn Jun-yong
April 17, 2019 09:59
A South Korean tanker suspected of carrying out illegal ship-to-ship oil transfers for North Korea never made the port calls in Singapore it regularly reported as its final destination, Voice of America said Tuesday.
The Lunis was the first South Korean ship to be put on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of vessels suspected of carrying out illegal ship-to-ship transfers with the North last month.
Records show that it steamed out of South Korean ports on 27 occasions since 2017, carrying a total of 165,400 tons of refined oil. But the Lunis has not docked in Singapore since April 9 last year, a spokesman for the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore told VOA, and since then it left South Korea ostensibly bound for the city state on 12 occasions.
Instead, the tanker was repeatedly spotted near Zhoushan Island in the East China Sea and other spots where the U.S. Treasury believes these illegal ship-to-ship transfers often take place.
"As a floating gas station, the Lunis has sold oil to fishing boats and barges in those waters," the operator of the tanker said. "We reported a nearby port as its destination because of these characteristics."
The medium-sized shipping company, which posted W18.2 billion in revenues last year, also owns the P-Pioneer, which has been detained in Busan on suspicion of transferring more than 4,300 tons of diesel oil to North Korean ships (US$1=W1,137).
A government spokesman here said the company leased the P-Pioneer and Lunis to Singaporean firms and there is "no proof" that they were involved in illegal ship-to-ship transfers.
Meanwhile, some 26,500 tons of North Korean coal worth about US$3 million was unloaded recently from the North Korean ship Wise Earnest, which had been detained in Indonesia since April last year on suspicion of illegal ship-to-ship transfers, and a Panamanian-flagged ship is currently traveling to Malaysia with the coal, according to VOA.
It is expected to arrive around Wednesday.
[Sanctions busting] [oil]
Soldier Who Fled N.Korea in Hail of Bullets Speaks out on TV
By Cho Yi-jun
April 17, 2019 11:39
North Korean defector Oh Chong-song speaks in an interview with NBC on Monday, in this grab from the U.S. broadcaster's website.
A soldier who fled North Korea through a hail of bullets in November 2017 made his first TV appearance on Monday in an interview with the U.S.' NBC.
Oh Chong-song said his decision to escape was "spontaneous." "I crossed the border at 3:15 p.m., but even that morning I had no thought of going to the South," he added.
Asked if he is enjoying his new-found freedom, he said yes.
Oh admitted to being "extremely terrified" when he drove through the inter-Korean border at Panmunjom in a jeep. "I watch this video [showing the escape] once in a while and every time I see it, I realize the fact that I am alive is a miracle. Even I can't believe something like this happened... I can't believe it's me in the video."
If he had been caught, he "would have been either sent to a concentration camp for political prisoners or, worse, executed by firing squad," he said.
But he has forgiven the North Korean soldiers who riddled him with bullets. "If I were in their shoes I would have done the same thing."
Oh was in critical condition for several days, and made further headlines when a large number of parasites were found in his intestines, which highlighted chronic malnutrition and substandard medical care in the North.
Detention period for Park Geun-hye ends amid ongoing trial
Posted on : Apr.17,2019 17:46 KST Modified on : Apr.17,2019 17:46 KST
Ex-president remains in custody due to pending prison sentence for election law violation
Ex-president Park Geun-hye awaits her trial at the Seoul Central District Court on May 23, 2017. (photo pool)
The detention period for Park Geun-hye, whose trial in an influence-peddling scandal is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court, came to an end on the evening of Apr. 16. The former South Korean president won’t be released from custody, however, because of a pending prison sentence she was given for meddling in candidate nominations by the Saenuri Party (today known as the Liberty Korea Party). With the Supreme Court’s full bench scheduled to hold its fourth hearing on Apr. 18 in the case, which involves Park, her former confidante Choi Soon-sil, and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, some analysts believe the court could issue its verdict on Apr. 25.
The trial detention period for Park has been extended a total of three times (October and November 2018 and February 2019) since her influence-peddling case was taken up by the Supreme Court this past September. Detention can be extended a maximum of three times, at intervals of two months, during the final appeal.
Though her trial detention period has expired, Park will remain behind bars. She didn’t appeal a two-year prison sentence she received for violating the Public Official Election Act by meddling in the Saenuri Party’s candidate nominations, which meant that her sentence was confirmed in November 2018.
As of the evening of Apr. 16, when the period of detention in her ongoing trial expired, Park’s official status changed from a prisoner awaiting conviction, still on trial, to a convicted prisoner, serving a prison sentence. In April 2018, a district court sentenced Park to a 24-year prison sentence and a fine of 18 billion won (US$15.86 million); in August of the same year, a high court gave her a stiffer sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of 20 billion won (US$17.62 million).
Ordinarily, convicts are transferred to a prison when beginning their sentence, but Park will remain at the Seoul Detention Center. “Since the trial is still underway, we have no plan to transfer her to a prison. She will wear the blue-green uniforms worn by convicted prisoners instead of the light-green uniforms worn by prisoners who are awaiting conviction,” said an official from the Ministry of Justice. In addition to her influence-peddling trial, Park also has another appeal pending: a district court convicted her of pocketing money from the National Intelligence Service’s special activity fund and sentenced her to six years in prison.
Moon Still Pushing for Summit with Kim Jong-un
By Jeong Woo-sang
April 16, 2019 09:36
President Moon Jae-in was undaunted Monday by a swipe from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and said he will keep pushing for another summit with Kim.
"It is now time to pursue a summit with North Korea and make preparations," Moon told top officials in a meeting at Cheong Wa Dae. "If conditions permit, I hope that South and North can sit face to face without being restrained by the venue or format and discuss ways to achieve results that go beyond the two previous summits with the U.S."
Kim last September agreed to visit South Korea but later lost interest as sanctions remained in place, and last week he called on Moon to stop acting like "an officious 'mediator' and 'booster' that adopts a vacillating stand depending on the trend."
Moon claimed U.S. President Donald Trump had expressed his support for an inter-Korean summit when the two met in Washington last week and "even voiced the possibility of a trilateral summit if Kim makes the decision."
But there was no mention of that in official briefings by either Moon or Trump after their brief discussions.
Moon made no mention of Kim's attack on him but claimed Kim "repeatedly voiced his will to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and achieve peace."
In last week's session of the rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly Kim made no mention of denuclearization, but he said he is "open" to meeting with Trump "one more time" if the U.S. changes its attitude.
[Moon Jae-in] [SK NK Negotiations]
“Human chain” to commemorate Panmunjom Declaration anniversary
11 April 2019
The National Council of Churches in Korea will join civil society organizations to create a “human chain” on 27 April alongside the Korean Demilitarized Zone to celebrate the first anniversary of the Panmunjom Declaration, as well as to break the current deadlock since the Hanoi Summit.
[Panmunjom Declaration] [Gesture]
Korea Ranks Near Bottom in Income Inequality Among OECD Members
April 12, 2019 08:19
Korea ranked near the bottom in income inequality among members of the OECD.
Statistics Korea on Thursday reported that the country ranked 30th out of 36 OECD members in terms of the wealth gap between rich and poor, with a lower ranking representing a larger gap. Only Chile, Mexico and the U.S. had a wider gap than Korea.
The report was based on the so-called "Palma ratio," which divides the share of income of the top 10 percent by that of the bottom 40 percent.
Seoul City Wants to Improve Water Quality in Pyongyang
By Lee Hae-in
April 11, 2019 13:17
The Seoul Metropolitan Government wants to help the North Korean capital of Pyongyang improve the water quality of the Taedong River that runs through it.
The city on Wednesday said it has launched a committee that will help with the task. The first step is to modernize Pyongyang's water supply and drainage system. "It's a humanitarian project to ensure access to clean drinking water, which is at the core of the UN's sustainable development goals," a city official said.
The committee consists of eight civilian experts and four city officials. The city has earmarked W1 billion for the project from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund (US$1=W1,140). A preliminary survey and consultation are planned for this year. Some W210 million will be spent on equipment to check water quality and detect leaks.
But the equipment cannot be delivered to Pyongyang under current UN sanctions, so Seoul needs to apply for an exemption through the Unification Ministry, just as South Korea did for a survey of inter-Korean railways last year.
Critics said this is no time for the city government to spend money and time helping Pyongyang when its own water and sewage pipes are in dire need of an overhaul.
Some 71.1 percent of the city's sewage and drainage pipes are more than 20 years old, according to the city government, and some 32.1 percent were laid 50 years or more ago.
The project seems at any rate rather immature. The city government claimed it will serve as a role model for other local governments' cooperation with the North, but the relevant laws do not recognize local governments as parties to exchange and cooperation with the North.
And when a member of the committee asked who its North Korean counterpart will be, committee chief Hwang Bang-yeol admitted, "We haven't gotten that far yet. We're thinking of using the Inter-Korean Liaison Office as a communication channel."
It is not even clear whether North Korea will respond. No work has been done at the liaison office since Pyongyang unilaterally pulled out all staff last month after the collapse of the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi, though a handful have since returned.
Nor is the exemption likely to be granted. "Equipment needed to improve water quality is capable of causing chemical reactions and can easily be diverted to military purposes," said Prof. Nam Sung-wook of Korea University. "It seems that the city is just randomly throwing out ideas because relations with North Korea are deteriorating."
[Detente] [Pushback] [Health] [Conservatives]
DMZ “human chain” movement gaining ground nationwide
Posted on : Apr.1,2019 16:52 KST Modified on : Apr.1,2019 16:52 KST
A movement to form a “human chain” along the DMZ is gaining ground all over South Korea. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Mar. 1 Movement and the first year anniversary of the Panmunjom Declaration, movement organizers are calling for people to hold hands in a line stretching along the DMZ, stretching from Ganghwa County, Incheon to Goseong, Gangwon County. The distance would be covered by around 500,000 people standing about a meter apart from each other. (provided by the Peace Chain Movement)
N.Korea's Coal Power Plans Threaten Air Quality
By Choi Won-woo
April 09, 2019 10:03
North Korea is seeking to build more coal-fired power plants to solve its chronic electricity shortage, which could have devastating consequences for air quality across the peninsula.
"An increase in thermal power generation is essential," the official Rodong Sinmun daily said Monday. "We need to give priority to coal mining to operate thermal power plants at full throttle."
Hydro power accounts for 61 percent of the North's electricity generation but is falling way short of demand, partly because there was not enough rain last winter. The rest is thermal power generation, but oil supplies are also severely restricted by international sanctions, so the only option is coal, which it has in abundance.
In 2015 the North's energy consumption was equivalent to a mere four percent of South Korea's, but it emits 280,000 tons of fine dust particles per year, 2.7 times as much as South Korea's 104,000 tons.
Most of North Korea's thermal power plants have no air filters or other equipment to reduce emissions.
Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae told the National Assembly on March 11 that about 13 percent of high-density fine dust that shrouded the South that month came from the North.
[Sanctions] [Consequences] [Tribute]
Moon Appoints New Ministers Despite Opposition
April 09, 2019 08:22
President Moon Jae-in on Monday appointed five new ministers to his Cabinet despite objections from opposition parties.
Kim Yeon-chul, a former chief of the Korea Institute of National Unification, became the new unification minister, Minjoo lawmaker Park Young-sun minister of SMEs and start-ups, another Minjoo lawmaker, Chin Young, of interior and safety, Park Yang-woo, a former president of the Gwangju Biennale, of culture, sports and tourism, and Moon Seong-hyeok, a professor at the World Maritime University, of oceans and fisheries.
President Moon Jae-in (center) walks down a corridor with newly appointed ministers at Cheong Wa Dae, Seoul on Monday. /Yonhap
The opposition doubts the qualifications of some of Moon's picks, but their appointments do not require parliamentary approval.
Tough life after losing one’s mother during Jeju Apr. 3 Massacre
Posted on : Apr.8,2019 16:22 KST Modified on : Apr.8,2019 16:22 KST
Han Ok-ja’s family was forever changed by the brutality of military and police
A painting depicting a moment when Han’s younger brother still tried to nurse at his mother’s breast after she’d been shot by punitive forces, not knowing she was dead. (provided by artist Kang Yo-bae)
The wind whipped snow into their faces. Hand in hand, frightened villagers headed down the narrow backstreets toward the schoolyard. The drifting snow mingled with the smoke and the acrid smell of burning straw thatch. The dull glow of flames flickered from every house.
On Jan. 17, 1949, soldiers bearing guns fitted with bayonets roamed through Bukchon, a village in the township of Jeju, bullying the villagers and herding them into the yard by the elementary school.
North Korean media slam South's deployment of stealth fighter jets
Posted : 2019-04-08 17:07
Updated : 2019-04-08 22:04
An F-35A stealth fighter jet arrives at an air base in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, March 29. Courtesy of Defense Acquisition Program Administration
By Jung Da-min
North Korea's media criticized the Republic of Korea Air Force's recent deployment of F-35A stealth fighter jets, saying it went against efforts to improve inter-Korean relations.
On March 29, two F-35As arrived at a military air base in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, marking the first delivery of a total of 40 F-35As ordered by the South Korean government from U.S. aerospace and defense giant, Lockheed Martin.
North Korean websites Uriminzokkiri and Arirang-Meari in articles published on Sunday and Monday, respectively, introduced the F-35A as a state-of-the-art weapon. The propaganda outlets also claimed the South's plan to deploy it was a hostile act that heightened military tension on the Korean Peninsula, comparing it to actions taken by the administration of former President Park Geun-hye.
"We pledged to cooperate with the South Korean authorities to open up a new era of peace, and made our stance clear that joint military exercises as well as bringing in war equipment from outside ? sources of intensification of military tension in the Korean Peninsula ? should be ceased completely," stated Uriminzokkiri.
[F-35] [Military balance] [Tension] [Panmunjom Declaration]
On the run and hiding in caves from punitive soldiers looking for blood
Posted on : Apr.6,2019 14:33 KST Modified on : Apr.6,2019 14:33 KST
Yang Seo-ok lost his brother and developed a lifelong limp during the Jeju Massacre
Word came that their father had been shot after being taken by the police. The two brothers heard the news while seeking refuge in the village of Hallim, leaving behind their home village of Geumak in the hills of northwest Jeju Island. He had been slain at a five-day traditional market site in Hallim.
“It’s all over now,” their mother said, sinking to the ground. Instead of Hallim, she took her sons to the home of relatives living in the nearby village of Myeongwol. The date was Nov. 20, 1948.
On that day, the anti-communist punitive forces ordered the village of Geumak to be evacuated. The village had suffered major damage in the events of the Jeju Uprising (known locally as Jeju April 3, or the Jeju Massacre). Eighty-seven years old today, Yang Seo-ok was then a 16-year-old sixth-year student at Geumak Elementary School. He left the village with his mother Kang Gi-in, then 48, who carried his five-year-old brother Chang-ok (now 76) on her back. His older brothers Bo-ok and Yun-ok, then 25 and 19, had already fled after coming onto the punitive forces’ radar.
If even one member of a family was found to be missing from the home, the punitive forces would kill the remaining family members as members of a “fugitive’s household.” Chang-ok’s wife Byeon Yeong-ja, now 77, recalled the message she heard from her mother-in-law.
Foreign Ministry 'Ignored N.Korean Defectors' Pleas for Help'
By Kim Myong-song, Roh Suk-jo
April 05, 2019 12:18
The Foreign Ministry here is ignoring the plight of four North Koreans who were caught by Russian border guards on March 26 in an attempt to flee to South Korea, an activist alleged Thursday.
Chun Ki-won of the Seoul-based Durihana Mission, who helped the North Koreans, said Thursday they are laborers who had been sent to work in Blagoveshchensk in Siberia and were arrested when they tried to enter Mongolia en route to South Korea.
"We notified the Foreign Ministry of their plight on March 29 and sought assistance, but we have yet to receive a response," Chun said. "For two years, the defectors had been asking the South Korean government to help them come here, but when they finally decided to make the journey under their own steam they were arrested," he added. "It's become very difficult for defectors to get to South Korea since the current administration took office."
Korean diplomacy: Looking ahead
Posted : 2019-04-06 09:16
Updated : 2019-04-06 09:16
Deputy Foreign Minister Yoon Soon-gu
By Hwang Jae-ho
It has always been a rocky road toward peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, and so far it seems this year is no exception. Following the no-deal summit in Hanoi, the U.S. Treasury Department appeared to add new sanctions relating to North Korea, to which the North responded by abruptly withdrawing its entire staff from an inter-Korean liaison office. It seems now that the two countries are carefully weighing their options, studying each side's every move.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yoon Soon-gu sat with Professor Hwang Jae-ho of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies on the behalf of The Korea Times last Thursday to assess the present state of Korean diplomacy and discuss the way ahead. Apart from having served in some key government posts, such as ROK Ambassador to Egypt, Consul General in Washington, D.C., and Director-General of the International Policy Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense, Yoon also holds a master's degree in international affairs from the Pennsylvania State University.
[Moon Jae-in] [Public diplomacy] [Intermediary]
S.Korean Ship Carried Over 4,300 Tons of Diesel for N.Korea
By Ahn Jun-yong
April 04, 2019 10:26
A South Korean-flagged ship now detained in Busan illegally delivered more than 4,300 tons of diesel oil to North Korea through ship-to-ship transfers in international waters, the government here said Wednesday.
The P-Pioneer transferred a total of 4,320 tons of diesel to North Korean oil tankers -- 1,820 tons to the Kumunsan and 2,500 tons to the Ryuson -- on the East China Sea in September 2017.
The Coast Guard recently referred the 71-year-old captain of the ship to prosecutors for indictment on charges of violating the inter-Korean cooperation laws as well as UN Security Council resolutions.
The South Korean-flagged P-Pioneer is grounded in Busan on Wednesday. /Yonhap
The ship, built by Fukuoka Shipbuilding in Japan in 2000, belongs to a South Korean shipping company identified by the initial D but was leased to a Philippine company before September 2017.
It evaded monitoring by submitting a false report on port entry and exit to authorities and carried far less diesel than its maximum payload tonnage of 7,849 tons for fear that it would look suspicious on satellite imagery if the hull suddenly rose significantly once it had unloaded its cargo.
The government has detained this ship for the past six months based on a tip-off from U.S. intelligence. "We're discussing with the U.S. and the UNSC how to handle it," a Foreign Ministry official said.
The Philippine ship operator will take most of the blame, but the South Korean firm could also be put on the UN sanctions list depending on the findings of the investigation.
A total of four ships, the P-Pioneer and three foreign-flagged ships, are grounded in South Korea for illegal ship-to-ship transfers to North Korean vessels.
Meanwhile, the oil tanker Lunis, the first South Korean ship to be put last month on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of vessels suspected of carrying out illegal ship-to-ship transfers with the North, entered the port of Yeosu on Wednesday.
Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Yoo Ki-june said, "The Lunis transported 165,400 tons of refined oil products from South Korea on a total of 27 occasions since 2017. It didn't sail to its scheduled destinations but stayed in international waters near China for two weeks at a time."
[Sanctions] [Oil] [Inter-Korean]
Commander of special operations was in Gwangju when helicopter fire on civilians
Posted on : Apr.1,2019 17:06 KST Modified on : Apr.1,2019 17:06 KST
Newly disclosed situation log contradicts Jung’s previous claim he was in Seoul
Jung Ho-yong (right), former commander special operations in the South Korean military, greets then South Jeolla Governor Jang Hyeong-tae on May 27, 1980. (provided by the May 18 Democratization Movement archives)
A newly released military document confirms that Jung Ho-yong, 88, then commander of special operations in the South Korean military, rode a helicopter into Gwangju on May 21, 1980, the very day that martial law troops fired on demonstrators around Geumnam Street, in front of the South Jeolla Provincial Office, during the Gwangju Democratization Movement. This flatly contradicts Jung’s claim that he was in Seoul when troops opened fire on civilians in front of the provincial office. The 3rd, 7th and 11th Airborne Brigades, which were under Jung’s command, had been deployed to Gwangju at that time, but this is the first military document to emerge that shows that Jung himself was in the city on May 21.
According to an operational situation log from the army’s operational and educational staff that was exclusively acquired by the Hankyoreh on Mar. 31, the “aircraft support” section for May 21, 1980, includes a record written in Chinese characters stating that “the special operations commander and two other individuals” used a UH-1 utility helicopter (the records simply state “UH-1”) between 8 and 10:20 am. The helicopter’s destination was Gwangju. This document also states that five 500MD helicopters, used for firing tear gas, had also been deployed to Gwangju.
Defense ministry to push forward inter-Korean project without North's response
Posted : 2019-03-29 17:07
Updated : 2019-03-30 13:04
A South Korean soldier stands at Arrowhead Ridge GP, a site of fierce battles in the 1950-53 Korean War, inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), in the central section of the inter-Korean border in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, on Dec.3, 2018. EPA-Yonhap file
By Jung Da-min
South Korea will push forward with a planned project for inter-Korean repatriation of war remains in the border area, independently, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday.
Under the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) made last Sept. 19, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to start the joint war remains repatriation project in April this year at Arrowhead Ridge, an upland area in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province.
On March 6, the South's defense ministry notified the North that it had organized members of a taskforce which will handle necessary preparatory work on the project.
But because there has been no response from North Korea, the ministry decided to resume clearing landmines and explosives in the area of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), in preparation for excavating war remains.
The ministry will also carry out a test-navigation of civilian vessels through Jeollyu-ri Port in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, to the Han River estuary but will not enter the Han River estuary.
In their earlier military talks, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to devise military measures to jointly use the Han River estuary along the western border on a trial basis.
On March 18, the defense ministry,also proposed to the North to hold a high-level military talks, but has not received a response.
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