ROK and Inter-Korean relations
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The antitank barricades that dot the landscape in border towns near DMZ
Posted on : Sep.29,2019 14:55 KST Modified on : Sep.29,2019 14:55 KST
Local governments demand removal of structures designed for war
An antitank barricade known as “dragon’s teeth” near Jiyeong Bridge, which crosses Gongneung Stream in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.
The most prominent military structures on the border region in Gyeonggi Province are the barbed-wire fences along the Han River and the antitank structures built along the roads and waterways. After the experience of being left defenseless against People’s Army forces with Soviet-made T-34 tanks in the early stages of the Korean War in 1950, the South Korean military went to work after the armistice busily setting up antitank barricades and dragon’s teeth” on roads and rivers. With the likelihood of total war shrinking since the 2000s, local governments are now demanding that the dragon’s teeth and other antitank structures be removed.
[DMZ] [Peace effort] [Détente]
'N. Korea's role crucial for Moon's mine removal initiative'
Posted : 2019-09-29 15:53
Updated : 2019-09-29 18:20
South Korean soldiers remove landmines at Arrowhead Ridge in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, on May 28, 2018, as part of an inter-Korean military agreement under which the two Koreas decided to carry out a joint excavation project to retrieve war remains from the frontline hill area. Yonhap
By Lee Min-hyung
The success of President Moon Jae-in's drive to collaborate with the United Nations on removing hundreds of thousands of landmines from the inter-Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) will depend on North Korea's willingness to cooperate, experts said, Sunday.
At the U.N. General Assembly, the South Korean leader stressed the significance of his proposal to transform the DMZ dividing the Koreas into an international peace zone. The President called for joint efforts with North Korea to remove landmines, invite U.N. bodies and seeking registration for the region as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
[Landmines] [Demilitarisation] [Detente]
Mystery Island Is in S.Korea on Defense Ministry's Own Map
By Yang Seung-sik
September 27, 2019 10:08
A small island in the West Sea that houses a North Korean military installation is located south of the de facto maritime border on the Defense Ministry's own map.
The ministry claims that Hambak Island lies north of the Northern Limit Line and any maps indicating otherwise are wrong. But Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Lee Yang-soo on Thursday said the ministry's own website features a map that shows Hambak as South Korean territory.
The map appears on the page giving directions to the ministry, and scrolling to the West Sea shows Hambak below the NLL.
Hambak Island (circled) is located south of the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea on this map from the website of the Ministry of Defense.
A ministry staffer said the map was copied from Kakao's map service and "must be wrong." A government official said, "We can't change the map overnight, but revisions will be made to civilian maps once the results of an investigation by a committee of civilian and government experts are out."
Hambak has become the focus of controversy after a North Korean military installation was discovered there even though it is listed under South Korean jurisdiction.
The ministry has repeatedly claimed the inclusion of Hambak in South Korean territory was a "clerical error" and insisted it sits 700 m north of the NLL.
But newspaper reports from the 1960s suggest otherwise, and the Korea Forest Service surveyed the island during the Roh Moo-hyun administration in 2005 and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries did the same during the Lee Myung-bak administration in 2010.
A military source said, "There has been a deluge of materials that directly refute the ministry's claim that Hambak Island belongs to North Korea. If this continues, unnecessary misunderstandings could arise."
Moon Arrives in New York as Hopes Rise for U.S.-N.Korea Talks
By Jeong Woo-sang
September 23, 2019 11:18
President Moon Jae-in arrived in New York on Sunday to meet his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump and attend the UN General Assembly.
As he boarded his plane, Moon told U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris that Seoul-Washington relations "will not be impacted" by soured relations between South Korea and Japan.
The U.S. has complained several times about Seoul's decision to scrap an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, and Trump is expected to urge Moon to sort out its spat with Japan and bolster trilateral security cooperation.
President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook arrive at JFK International Airport in New York on Sunday. /Yonhap
One diplomatic source said Moon wants to "use the visit as an opportunity to encourage Trump to bring the talks with North Korea back on track" and is taking investment gifts with him.
Prosecution raids justice minister's home
Posted : 2019-09-23 17:03
Updated : 2019-09-23 22:16
Justice Minister Cho Kuk leaves his home for work in southern Seoul, Monday, before the prosecution raided the house for evidence. / Yonhap
By Lee Suh-yoon
The prosecution raided Justice Minister Cho Kuk's home in southern Seoul, Monday, in connection to widening allegations that he and his wife peddled their influence to secure internships and dishonest "qualifications" for their children to boost their college or graduate school applications.
This is the first time that the residence of an incumbent justice minister, who supervises the prosecution ― in personnel and administration ― has been searched by prosecutors.
S.Korea's Defense Policy Has Been an Unmitigated Disaster
September 20, 2019 13:43
The Joint Chiefs of Staff on Thursday admitted to an opposition lawmaker that the ability of the military's drones along the frontlines to identify targets in North Korea had dropped 44 percent due to an expanded no-fly zone agreed last year by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Before the agreement, frontline Army corps' drones were able to observe 713 targets in the North, but now they can only see 399. In some frontline areas, the military's ability to identify North Korean targets has declined 84 percent. The drones can spot targets 15-20 km away, so once the no-fly zone was set at 10 to 15 km along the demilitarized zone, it drastically reduced their usefulness. That means most of them will be unable to detect North Korean long-range artillery attacks.
[Anti-Moon] [Rightwing] [Military balance]
Conciliatory Babble Only Encourages N.Korea to Misbehave
September 16, 2019 13:05
President Moon Jae-in said in a TV interview on Friday, "It's wrong that the two Koreas have failed to ease the pain of families separated [during the Korean War] and denying them the chance to meet for such a long time." Moon added, "This need was shared during my meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and we announced that reunion events will continue, but it is unfortunate to see a lack of rapid progress." That is all well and good, but the only reason why the reunions failed to become a fixture is that North Korea uses them as bargaining chips in negotiations with South Korea. Yet the president is saying that South Korea should share the blame.
[Anti-Moon] [Rightwing] [SK NK policy]
Moon to Stress Engagement with N.Korea at UN
By Jeong Woo-sang
September 20, 2019 11:24
President Moon Jae-in is expected to elaborate on how to improve inter-Korean relations and resume U.S.-North Korea negotiations when he addresses the UN General Assembly in New York next week.
But Moon has "no plan" to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the event, according to Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday.
Instead of the spat with Japan, Moon wants to move the focus on North Korean issues during his five-day stay in the U.S. that starts Sunday.
During a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and in his speech at the General Assembly, he will remind his listeners of agreements with North Korea struck last year and try to make a case for the importance of good inter-Korean relations in any progress on denuclearization.
But the campaign comes at an awkward time for Moon, when North Korea has virtually stopped talking to South Korea and is going straight over its head directly to the U.S. with an offer of fresh talks.
[Moon Jae-in] [Self-delusion] [Sidelined]
N.Korea Only Kept 1 Promise to S.Korea
By Yoon Hyung-jun
September 19, 2019 12:16
The inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang a year ago resulted in 17 agreements between the two sides, but North Korea has lived up to just a single one.
The only agreement that North Korea fulfilled was a ground-breaking ceremony to reconnect railways and roads severed by the 1950-53 Korean War.
International sanctions at any rate prevented actual construction from starting. Shortly after the summit, the two Koreas also held a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of a summit between then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2007.
President Moon Jae-in (left) shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after signing a joint declaration in Pyongyang on Sept. 19, 2018.
But plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement together this year were scrapped.
Officials also met several times last year to discuss cooperation in forestry and health services, but no progress has been made since then. The other agreements were not even addressed due to a lack of interest from the North.
The South has repeatedly asked for meetings to discuss the joint celebration, the establishment of an inter-Korean military committee, video reunions of families separated during the Korean War and a visit to the South by Kim.
But North Korea either ignored the requests or refused.
It appears that North Korea was chiefly interested in the resumption of lucrative cross-border business projects, but when they failed to materialize due to international sanctions, it lost interest in dealing with the South.
Yoo Dong-ryul of the Seoul-based Korea Institute of Liberal Democracy said the joint declaration signed in Pyongyang "has virtually been scrapped and left only a bad taste in the mouths of the public."
[Detente] [US disapproval]
Dipping approval ratings may put Blue House in conflict with Democratic Party
Posted on : Sep.20,2019 16:44 KST Modified on : Sep.20,2019 16:44 KST
Fallout from Cho Kuk appointment has put ruling party in turmoil
South Korean President Moon Jae-in appoints Justice Minister Cho Kuk at the Blue House on Sept. 9. (Blue House photo pool)
“A presidential election vote of 41% is a psychological red line. Once the governance approval rating drops below that, it’s going to have a negative impact on relations between the party and the Blue House.”
The ruling Democratic Party is in turmoil amid the fallout from the Cho Kuk scandal, which has continued for more than a month now. Speaking to the Hankyoreh on Sept. 19, a first-term lawmaker from the party representing a constituency in the Greater Seoul area predicted that discord between the party and the Blue House would begin to manifest as the situation drags on. Just before Cho was appointed as minister of justice, the lawmaker said the administration had “no choice but to back Cho to avoid a lame duck situation.” Now, having perceived the chilly sentiments among constituency voters, the same lawmaker said, “I’m not sure we made the right call.”
“With one damaging media report after another about Cho recently, even the die-hard supporters are starting to voice apprehensions,” the lawmaker explained.
“They’re saying, ‘This is bad news. We may be in for trouble if this keeps up.’ Meanwhile, the ordinary voters are blasting President Moon Jae-in and asking what makes him any different from Park Geun-hye.”
[Moon Jae-in] [Chu Kuk] [Public opinion]
Korea to Develop Laser Drone Killer
By Yu Yong-weon
September 18, 2019 13:39
Korea plans to develop an anti-aircraft laser weapon by 2023 in preparation for threats like recent drone attacks on Saudi oil fields.
It eventually wants to upgrade it into a high-powered laser weapons system capable of intercepting even enemy fighter jets or reconnaissance satellites flying over the Korean Peninsula.
This artist's impression from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration shows an anti-drone laser weapon equipped with a laser gun (1) and a sensor (2).
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration said Tuesday it will invest about W88 billion beginning this year to develop the weapon and deploy it warfare-ready (US$1=W1,191).
The weapon will fire laser beams generated by optical fibers to destroy or neutralize targets, mostly small drones or multicopters flying within a few kilometers. It relies laser beams without the need for bullets or shells and therefore costs only about W2,000 per shot.
Hanwha Corporation is expected to develop a prototype.
Over the last decade, the Agency for Defense Development studied the option of combining, tracking and aiming laser beams but only succeeded in developing a weapon that is capable of puncturing the surface of a small stationary missile a few hundred meters away.
A DAPA spokesman said, "We're going to push a Korean-style 'star wars' project by improving the new weapon's performance so that it could intercept even fighter jets and satellites."
Several advanced countries have already developed or are developing drone-killer lasers. The U.S. has the 10 kw-laser Area Defense Anti-Munitions, Israel the 20 kw-laser Iron Beam, and the 20 to 30 kw High-Energy Laser effector. All of them are capable of intercepting drones flying at a low altitude of 1 to 2 km.
African Swine Fever Found at Pig Farm Near N.Korean Border
By Choi Kyu-min, Ahn Jun-yong
September 18, 2019 12:02
A fresh case of African swine fever has been detected at a pig farm north of Seoul.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said Tuesday that tests on dead pigs found on the farm in Paju, Gyeonggi Province near the demilitarized zone confirmed that they were infected with the disease.
Health authorities culled 3,950 pigs both on the farm and in surrounding areas and banned pig transports to and from the affected region for a week.
Another suspected case of the disease was reported at another farm in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province and also confirmed on Wednesday.
Quarantine workers disinfect a farm in Paju, Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday.
The disease is not harmful to humans, but it can be fatal and highly contagious among pigs with no vaccine or cure available.
It is unclear how the disease spread to Gyeonggi Province. The virus is usually spread through leftover food or by people, but the farm in Paju did not give leftover food to the animals, while none of the workers there had traveled overseas. Authorities suspect it was carried in by wild boars that came from North Korea.
[Swine fever] [Media]
North Korean-themed bar takes down controversial propaganda images and North Korean flag
Posted on : Sep.17,2019 17:19 KST Modified on : Sep.17,2019 17:19 KST
A North Korean-themed bar in Seoul’s Mapo District, which had installed propaganda-style images of North Korean leaders and the North Korean flag, has taken down the images, according to South Korean police. The bar caused controversy with the images, causing people to question whether or not they were in violation of the National Security Act. The North Korean flag was handed over to the police after it was taken down. (Hankyoreh archives)
[Detente] [NSA] [Censorship]
Inter-Korean Liaison Office Celebrates 1st Anniversary
September 16, 2019 08:17
The inter-Korean liaison office celebrated its one-year anniversary on Saturday amid little business being done there.
It was opened to enable 24-hour cross-border communication in Kaesong, but the top liaison officers there have not met since the breakdown of the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February.
Only working-level liaison officers meet routinely but have little business to discuss.
Marking the one-year anniversary, Seoul's Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho, who also heads the South Korean side, visited the office last week.
Moon’s reasoning for pushing through Cho Kuk’s appointment
Posted on : Sep.10,2019 17:02 KST Modified on : Sep.10,2019 17:02 KST
S. Korean president ultimately places top priority on prosecutorial reform
South Korean President Moon Jae-in publicly addresses the public regarding his appointment of Justice Minister Cho Kuk from the Blue House on Sept. 9. (Blue House photo pool)
The biggest factor in President Moon Jae-in’s decision to appoint Cho Kuk as Minister of Justice on Sept. 9 despite heavy controversy, fierce objections from opposition parties, and negative opinion from over half the South Korean public was his commitment to following through on one of the administration’s top priorities in prosecutorial reforms, analysts are concluding. According to this argument, Moon used the absence of any allegations of illegality by Cho himself – even as an investigation of unprecedented scope by prosecutors led to the indictment of his wife – as a basis for pushing ahead with a direct approach.
[Moon Jae-in] [Cho Kuk]
Musicians united for peace at DMZ concert
Posted : 2019-09-10 16:37
Updated : 2019-09-10 17:46
Korea's celebrated traditional Korean musicians Ahn Sook-seon, center, and Kim Duk-soo perform together with internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Dorasan Station near North Korea, Monday. Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
By Anna J. Park
A special music concert on the theme of inter-Korean peace was held Monday evening at Dorasan Station in the inter-Korean border city of Paju, Gyeonggi Province. Located very near the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Dorasan Station is South Korea's closest active railway station to the North. The station is regarded as a symbol of inter-Korean relations. It is still used as a real station for a few limited peace-themed rail trips.
Under the theme "Culture Connects," the special two-hour concert held at this symbolic place offered a good blend of traditional Korean music and Western classical music, as well as contemporary Korean pop music, featuring various top-notch musicians from in and outside of the country.
The performers included internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma; Korean pansori master Ahn Sook-seon; percussionist musician Kim Duk-soo, whose band Samul Nori successfully brought traditional Korean percussion music from a rural folk genre to the contemporary stage; as well as musicians who were born in North Korea but defected to the South.
From left, Vice Minister of Unification Suh Ho, Culture Minister Park Yang-woo and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa. Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
The concert was held to celebrate the one-year anniversary of last September's Pyongyang Declaration which was signed by the leaders of the two Koreas in an effort to end hostilities in the border area. The audience of 400 consisted of various groups, such as soldiers of a unit from a nearby region, members of an elementary school orchestra and representatives of a group of people having long-lost relatives in North Korea.
Culture Minister Park Yang-woo, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa and Vice Minister of Unification Suh Ho also joined the concert.
The concert started with a traditional Korean mask dance performance, followed by Yo-Yo Ma's heart-warming performance of Bach's "Cello Suite No.1 in G Major, Prelude."
Ma is currently touring the world with his two-year Bach project; he has already reached the halfway point of the project launched last summer, aiming to perform Bach's masterpiece in 36 significant places around the world.
S. Korean defense minister cautions against neighboring countries’ competition to pursue their own interests
Posted on : Sep.6,2019 15:26 KST Modified on : Sep.6,2019 15:26 KST
Remarks appear aimed at Japan’s retaliatory trade measures
US Forces Korea Commander Robert Abrams listens to remarks from South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo during the 2019 Seoul Defense Dialogue on Sept. 5. (Yonhap News)
South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo said on Sept. 5 that the “competition [by countries] to pursue their own interests ahead of all else is becoming more intense than ever before.”
“Recently, there have been worrisome activities around the Korean Peninsula in terms of [countries] stirring up security conflicts with neighbors to further their own interests,” he added, in an apparent reference to Japan instigating frictions with South Korea through measures including its removal from Japan’s “white list” of countries benefiting from expedited expert review procedures for strategic items.
Jeong’s remarks came in the opening address to the 2019 Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD), held at Seoul’s Lotte Hotel that day. Referring to the inter-Korean and North Korea-US summits that have taken place under the Moon Jae-in administration, as well as the meeting earlier this year among the South and North Korean and US leaders and the Sept. 19 military agreement with North Korea, Jeong said that South Korea “has begun a bold journey toward North Korea’s denuclearization and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
[Self delusion] [US dominance] [Japan SK]
S. Korean defense official and former Japanese defense minister argue over GSOMIA withdrawal during SDD
Posted on : Sep.6,2019 15:23 KST Modified on : Sep.6,2019 15:23 KST
US official questions N. Korea’s denuclearization intentions
The 2019 Seoul Defense Dialogue held at the Lotte Hotel on Sept. 5.
During the Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD), which was held at the Lotte Hotel Seoul on Sept. 5, a senior official in South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense and a former Japanese defense minister got into an argument over the Moon administration’s decision to terminate its intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
“It’s regrettable that this decision was made in a situation in which North Korea continues to pose a threat and make provocations. North Korea is still launching missiles,” said Satoshi Morimoto, who served as Japan’s Minister of Defense in 2012 and is currently chancellor of Takushoku University, during a debate on the theme of “The Peace Process on the Korean Peninsula and International Cooperation.”
Morimoto also said that the GSOMIA question was separate from the trade dispute between South Korea and Japan and argued that “this could lead to a severe change in trilateral cooperation between the US, South Korea, and Japan.”
[SK Japan] [Forced labour] [Intelligence]
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