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Could resuming tourism to Mt. Keumgang violate UN sanctions?
Posted on : Feb.27,2014 16:06 KST
A tourist looks out at the North Korean side of the DMZ near Keumgang Mountain from an observation post in Goseong County on the South side of the DMZ in Gangwon Province, Aug. 21. (by Shin So-young, staff photographer)
Unification and Foreign Affairs ministries disagree over interpretation of UN sanctions barring transactions with the North
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
The Ministry of Unification (MOU) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) are marching to different beats on the possibility of resuming tourism at Mt. Keumgang.
The MOU, which is the chief agency for inter-Korean activities, believes United Nations Security Council sanctions shouldn’t apply to tourism, while MOFA is arguing that the matter requires UNSC consent. Tourism at the resort has been suspended since the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist.
Speaking at a regular briefing on Feb. 25, MOFA spokesperson Cho Tae-young responded to a reporter’s question on whether resuming tourism at Mt. Keumgang would violate UNSC Resolution 2094 - adopted in the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear test - by saying, “Ultimately, we will have to hear the authoritative interpretation from the UNSC.”
[Kumgangsan] [Sanctions] [UNSC] [UNUS]
Cross-Border Family Reunions End
The latest rounds of cross-border reunions of families separated by the Korean War came to a close on Tuesday. They were the first reunions in three years and four months.
Through the events, 455 South Koreans and 268 North Koreans met relatives from the other side for the first time in about 60 years.
The event appears to have led to a slight thaw in inter-Korean relations, sparking pledges of more talks.
But experts have pointed out that the small size of the event makes it impossible for all 72,000 applicants to meet their relatives even if they have another 20 years to live. That is why there are growing calls to make the reunions a regular fixture.
"At least 3,000 old people should be allowed to meet their relatives each year," Prof. Nam Sung-wook of Korea University said. "We need to consider the West German 'Freikauf' model of offering money to bring back separated family members from the North."
Freikauf means "buying freedom" in German.
Left: Members of a family hold hands during a reunion at the Mt. Kumgang resort on Tuesday.; Right: A South Korean daughter cries looking at her North Korean father during a reunion at the Mt. Kumgang resort on Tuesday. /Newsis Left: Members of a family hold hands during a reunion at the Mt. Kumgang resort on Tuesday.; Right: A South Korean daughter cries looking at her North Korean father during a reunion at the Mt. Kumgang resort on Tuesday. /Newsis
It remains to be seen whether the improvement in inter-Korean relations will last. As an apparent first step, the two Koreas have started discussions on how to help the North contain the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease there.
Chung Sung-jang of the Sejong Institute speculated that the North will likely ask for concessions in return, such as resumption of lucrative package tours to Mt. Kumgang and lifting of sanctions.
[Divided families] [Kumgangsan]
Park Wants Special Committee for Reunification
President Park Geun-hye makes a speech marking her first year in office on Tuesday. President Park Geun-hye makes a speech marking her first year in office on Tuesday.
President Park Geun-hye has proposed setting up a special committee to prepare for Korean reunification. In a televised speech marking her first year in office, Park said she is after "a systematic, constructive direction for reunification" by launching the committee.
"The committee will embrace public opinion by inviting civilian experts and civic groups in the fields of diplomacy, security, economy, society and culture, and map out a blueprint for a unified Korea," she added.
Park explained that Germany prepared for its eventual reunification for many years.
She has recently described reunification as a potential "bonanza" not only for South Korea but neighboring countries as well.
[Analysis] Pres. Park’s vague plans for a ‘unification preparatory committee’
Posted on : Feb.26,2014 14:29 KST
On the day that the Key Resolve ROK-US military exercises begin, the usual traffic goes between South and North Korea to the Kaesong Industrial Complex through the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Office in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, Feb. 24. (Yonhap News)
Experts say Park’s plans may not fit with existing government bodies and lack specifics on steps toward reunification
By Seok Jin-hwan, Blue House correspondent and Park Byong-su, senior staff writer
The “unification preparatory committee” announced by President Park Geun-hye in her Feb. 25 address appears to be an advisory body for fleshing out the “unification-as-jackpot” idea that she announced in her New Year’s press conference last month. It is also being described as a sign that the President, emboldened by improved ties with North Korea after the divided family reunions and strong public support for her administration’s North Korea policy, is committed to working more actively on reunification.
It is not yet clear exactly what the committee’s role will be. Blue House spokesperson Min Kyung-wook stressed that it was still in its “early stages,” adding, “Our next step now is to establish the organization and develop a concrete action plan.”
“We anticipate there will be an announcement once it is ready,” Min added.
Seoul Offers N.Korea Help with Foot-and-Mouth Epidemic
South Korea on Monday decided to offer North Korea vaccine and medical equipment to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Pyongyang area.
A Unification Ministry official said Seoul proposed a meeting between quarantine officials from both sides.
The proposal was made in a telephone message from the commissioner of the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency to his North Korean counterpart.
"The situation in the North is serious," the official said. "If the North sends a reply, we'll try to get a rough picture in the talks and then make a concrete plan on how to help."
"This purely humanitarian offer has nothing to do with the reunions" of families separated by the Korean War, he added.
Cross-border relations are likely to improve with the offer. On Feb. 19, the North reported the outbreak to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The North's official KCNA news agency last Friday reported the disease, which broke out at a pig farm in Pyongyang's Sadong district on Jan. 8, has spread to 17 areas in Pyongyang and North Hwanghae Province. More than 3,200 pigs are infected, of which some 360 have died of it and 2,900 have been culled.
The regime has declared an emergency quarantine across the country but failed to contain the disease due to the lack of vaccine, diagnostic equipment and disinfectant.
This is the first foot-and-mouth outbreak there since April 2011. In 2007 Seoul helped the North with disinfectant and other equipment, worth W2.6 billion (US$1=W1,073) as well as technicians.
[Aid] [Sanctions] [Unintended consequences]
Family Reunions Continue Despite S.Korea-U.S. Drills
A second group of families separated by the Korean War were briefly reunited in North Korea's Mt. Kumgang resort on Monday. The reunion went ahead even though South Korea and the U.S. started annual joint military drills on Monday, which many feared would give North Korea an excuse to abort it.
Sisters who separated during the Korean War offer drinks to each other during a family reunion at Mt. Kumgang resort in North Korea on Monday. /Newsis Sisters who separated during the Korean War offer drinks to each other during a family reunion at Mt. Kumgang resort in North Korea on Monday. /Newsis
Some North Korean officials who were present at the event blamed Seoul for bringing in the U.S. troops while separated families were meeting. Others questioned why President Park Geun-hye could not have postponed the drills.
Asked about the prospect of making the family reunions a regular fixture, Ri Chung-bok, vice chairman of the North's Red Cross, said, "We need to discuss the matter further. The atmosphere right now is good."
Meanwhile, North Korean officials declined to discuss with South Korean reporters rumors that leader Kim Jong-un's wife is pregnant again.
[Divided families] [Joint US military]
[Analysis] The reasons behind Pres. Park’s strong approval rating
Posted on : Feb.25,2014 12:22 KST
Modified on : Feb.25,2014 12:29 KST
To maintain high approval into her second year, Pres. Park will need to show more tangible results domestically
By Kim Nam-il, staff reporter
A Gallup Korea poll found a 56% approval rating for Park Geun-hye’s performance as President as she marks her first year in office on Feb. 25. In another survey by the Hankook Ilbo newspaper, the rating was five percentage points higher at 61.6%. As she continues to enjoy approval ratings some five to ten percentage points higher than the 51.6% of votes she won in the 2012 presidential election, her brief drop below 50% could be interpreted as a one-off exception to an ongoing positive trend
Amnesty sends Pres. Park a letter over human rights
Posted on : Feb.25,2014 15:34 KST
Modified on : Feb.25,2014 15:42 KST
Secretary General mentions National Security Law, labor suppression and Miryang towers as human rights concerns
By Song Ho-kyun and Kim Hyo-jin, staff reporters
Amnesty International sent an official letter to President Park Geun-hye asking her to address violations of human rights in South Korea. The decision to send the letter just ahead of the first anniversary of Park taking office was seen by many as an unusual move.
The official letter from Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty was sent on Feb. 24. In it, Shetty asked the South Korean government to take action to resolve concerns about the human rights situation, adding that he looked forward to Park’s response.
N. Korean patrol ship violates sea border amid family reunions
The Northern Limit Line (NLL) known as the western maritime border / Yonhap
A North Korean patrol ship violated the tensely guarded western maritime border several times Monday night, but it retreated after repeated South Korean military warnings, Seoul's defense ministry said Tuesday.
The North Korean vessel crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a de facto maritime border, at around 10:46 p.m. Monday, and sailed to a location about 23.4 kilometers west of South Korea's Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea.
Park to launch unification preparatory committee
President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday she will make a "preparatory committee for unification" with North Korea to map out a blueprint for how best to become one nation with the communist neighbor.
The move underscores Park's commitment to inter-Korean unification. In recent months, she has talked about unification many times, saying repeatedly that it will be an economic "bonanza" for South Korea as well as a blessing for neighboring countries too.
It also came as relations between the two Koreas have been showing signs of improvement.
In second round of reunions, N. Koreans seek their relatives from the South
Posted on : Feb.24,2014 12:15 KST
Sisters Cho Do-soon (center) and Cho Oh-soon from South Korea clasp hands with Cho Won-jae, their older brother from North Korea, Feb. 23.
Many participants in tearful reunions had been forcibly drafted to the N. Korean army during the Korean War
By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer and press pool
“My sister went North during the Korean War when her fiancee was drafted into the North Korean volunteer army. I thought she was dead, and now here she is. . . .”
Hong Myung-ja, 65, was weeping after embracing her sister Sok-sun, 80, at the reunion center for members of divided families. Hong, who is South Korean, was astonished that the two were able to reunite at all.
Families to reunite in 2nd round
Park Un-ha tries to touch the hands of his brother boarding a southbound bus after completing a three-day family reunion in Mount Geumgang, North Korea, Saturday. / Yonhap
By Kim Tae-gyu
Hundreds of Koreans, mostly in their 70s or 80s, met with their families for the first time in six decades during the second round of family reunions in North Korea’s Mt. Geumgang resort Sunday.
For the long-awaited and emotional event? the 19th since 2000 and the first one since 2010? a total of 357 South Koreans and 88 North Koreans congregated at the scenic resort town in a rare opportunity for the reunion of families separated by the Korean War (1950-53).
Distorting Democracy: Politics by Public Security in Contemporary South Korea1 [UPDATE]
Jamie Doucette and Se-Woong Koo
Update February 24, 2014.
Since our article appeared, there have been several developments that demand the reader’s attention. The scale of electoral interference was found to have been more extensive than we originally reported. Last December, prosecutors investigating the case disclosed that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) had produced over a period of two years leading up to the election some 1900 online posts and approximately 22 million Tweets with political or election-related content—roughly 30% of all election-related content that was generated on Twitter. This was circulated by agents of the NIS’s psychological warfare team and hired contractors.
The trial of former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon, who stands accused of overseeing the spread of messages favorable to the ruling Saenuri Party, is due to begin in the near future. On the other hand, on February 6 Kim Yong-pan, the former Seoul Metropolitan Police chief, was acquitted on the charge of ordering a cover-up of the NIS’s criminal activities after the court deemed the evidence insufficient to establish his guilt, ignoring the testimony of a key whistleblower in its entirety. The conduct of the trial and its verdict were condemned by members of the legal group MINBYUN (Lawyers for a Democratic Society) which criticized the police for limiting the scope of their initial analysis into NIS tweets and failing to fully investigate the online activity of NIS agent Kim Ha-young, the woman discovered on the eve of the presidential election to be spreading pro-Saenuri tweets and social media posts from her studio apartment.
On February 17 the United Progressive Party (UPP)’s left-nationalist lawmaker Lee Seok-ki was found guilty of sedition, plotting an armed rebellion, and National Security Law (NSL) violation based on a transcript from meetings held by Lee and his associates. He and his lawyers have vowed to appeal the verdict. The evidence against Lee, especially the transcript originally circulated by the NIS, was called into question in the course of the legal proceeding, as several original recordings on which the transcript was based proved missing and the transcript itself appeared to substitute extremist language in place of more neutral words. The court, however, largely accepted the case as presented by the NIS and prosecutors. Lee’s conviction on the charge of NSL violation was deemed especially troubling by progressive commentators as it relied heavily on the fact that Lee and his associates had sung “revolutionary” songs from North Korea.
S.Koreans Gather for Cross-Border Family Reunions
A woman checks gifts for her relatives in North Korea in Sokcho, Gangwon Province on Wednesday, a day before family reunions at Mt. Kumgang. A woman checks gifts for her relatives in North Korea in Sokcho, Gangwon Province on Wednesday, a day before family reunions at Mt. Kumgang.
South Korean families gathered in Sokcho, Gangwon Province on Wednesday, a day before reunions with relatives from North Korea at Mt. Kumgang.
The family reunions take place for the first time since October 2010.
Eighty-two South Koreans and 58 accompanying family members are to be reunited with their relatives from the North. Sixty-six are over 80.
Fewer divided family members participating in this week’s reunions
Posted on : Feb.20,2014 12:06 KST
Kim Sung-yoon, 96, the oldest of the South Koreans selected to participate in today’s reunions of divided family members, smiles with the expectation of meeting her siblings and niece in North Korea, with her son at an orientation event in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, Feb. 19. (pool photo)
Most divided family members are elderly and have health concerns, meaning many will never again see their relatives in the North
By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter
Before Chuseok, the Korean harvest festival, in Sep. 2013, North and South Korea each chose 100 people to take part in the reunions of families divided by the Korean War. Five months later, there are 30 fewer participants, with 82 from South Korea (58 accompanying family members) and 88 from North Korea. On Feb. 19, just one day before the reunions, Lee Geun-su, 83, an elderly man born in South Hamgyong Province in the North, had to cancel his participation because of health complications.
In economic development, will N. Korea choose China or S. Korea?
Posted on : Feb.19,2014 15:28 KST
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits a snack factory, in an image released on Nov. 17. (Reuters/News1)
Official materials show North Korea seeking foreign investment at a time when Seoul is reluctant to work for so-called ‘unification jackpot’
By Kim Bo-geun, director of the Hankyoreh Unification Institute
Which of the two will North Korea choose as its partner for economic cooperation: China or South Korea?
If the administration of President Park Geun-hye is to move beyond the slogan and actually achieve the “unification jackpot,” this is the question that it must confront. Considering that Pyongyang has been showing considerable interest in foreign investment recently, there is a good chance that it will choose China as its partner for long-term development if the South Korean government hesitates or fails to take action. If this happens, it is very likely that South Korea will have to watch China win the jackpot instead.
[SEZ] [Sanctions] [China NK]
Family Reunions Could Be Held Regularly
Cross-border family reunions could become a regular occurrence if the current event proceeds smoothly, experts speculate.
This would give more families separated by the Korean War the chance to meet relatives from the other side of the border. Experts are encouraged because for the first time North Korean officials refrained from nitpicking over the arrangements.
Seoul is likely to resume limited humanitarian aid of rice and fertilizer if Pyongyang is willing to expand the family reunions. Chung Sung-jang at the Sejong Institute said, "The government needs to consider expanding aid to fertilizer and farming equipment if the reunions are broadened or separated families can exchange letters regularly."
Seoul can also expect more cooperation if it agrees to resume package tours to the Mt. Kumgang resort, he added.
The package tours were a significant cash cow for the North before a South Korean tourist was shot dead there in 2008 and they were suspended. Whether the North will apologize for the shooting and pledge to prevent a recurrence remains to be seen.
Pyongyang is keen for Seoul to end a ban on cross-border trade and new investment in the North imposed in 2010 after the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
"The North could revive the issue of South Korean prisoners of war who are still held there or developing special economic zones to lure investment from the South," said Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification.
But unless palpable economic benefits for the North materialize soon, some pundits worry, the mood could swing back to icy again.
Witness: falsified documents were used in case of framed spy
Posted on : Feb.22,2014 13:03 KST
Cho Baek-sang, general consul at the South Korean consulate in Shenyang, China, testifies at a hearing the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Feb. 21. Next to him is Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. (by Lee Jeong-woo, staff photographer)
Chinese government concludes that documents presented as official Chinese records were indeed falsified
By Lee Seung-jun, staff reporter
A witness in the Yoo Woo-sung espionage case testified in the National Assembly that two of the three documents submitted by prosecutors as records of the onetime Seoul city employee’s trips to North Korea were not received directly from Chinese security authorities by the South Korean consulate in Shenyang.?
The two documents were also reported to be personal documents obtained from an unidentifiable source by a consular officer for overseas citizen protection - and known National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent – Lee In-cheol.?In a testimony at a hearing the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Feb. 21, Cho Baek-sang, general consul at the South Korean consulate in Shenyang, China, answered “no” when asked whether the consulate had acquired the document by contacting or telephoning civil servants in Helong. ?“Since the documents acquired by the relevant intelligence organization were all in Chinese, this was a private document where the consul in charge [Lee] translated the gist of it and verified that it was accurate,” Cho said.?
Abductees to N. Korea participating in divided family reunions
Posted on : Feb.22,2014 13:00 KST
Before leaving the ongoing inter-Korean family reunions at Mt. Keumgang in North Korea, Hong Shin-ja's daughter Lee Kyung-hee (center) clasps hands with Han Gwang-ryong, her cousin, along with her aunt Hong Young-ok from North Korea, Feb. 21. Hong Shin-ja (in the ambulance) was taken back to South Korea one day early because of health issues. (Yonhap News)
North and South have never found an amicable way to address contentious issue of South Koreans taken North
By Ha Eo-young, staff reporter
One noteworthy aspect of the current reunions for families divided by the Korean War is the participation of five people abducted by North Korea, including Park Yang-soo, who was on the Odaeyang, a ship that was captured by North Korea in 1972. South and North have vastly different positions on the issue of abductees and prisoners of war (POWs), making it a matter of considerable delicacy. South Korea claims that these people were kidnapped, while North Korea insists that they came to the North of their own accord.
The abductees are divided into two categories: wartime abductees, who were taken to the North during the Korean War, and postwar abductees, who were brought to the North after the armistice agreement was signed in 1953. While the South Korean government’s current official tally of wartime abductees is 2,825, the number is unofficially estimated to reach the tens of thousands.
3 families divided by abduction share tearful reunions in North Korea
Posted on : Feb.21,2014 14:22 KST
Park Yang-gon, who was kidnapped by North Korea while fishing in the West (Yellow) Sea in 1970 meets his older brother Park Yang-soo at the divided family reunions held at Keumgang Mountain Hotel in North Korea, Feb. 20. (pool photo)
Kidnapped fishermen and others taken to North Korea meet relatives who had wondered if they were still alive
By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer and press pool
On Feb. 20, the divided families from North and South Korea were reunited at the Mt. Keumgang Hotel.
Locked in an embrace, two men in their fifties pulled away for a moment and stared at each other, as if curious what their faces looked like, as thick tears streamed down. Park Yang-gon, 52, from South Korea, met his older brother Park Yang-soo, 55, who was abducted to the North 42 years ago, long after the Korean War. The two were separated in 1972, while they were still in their teens. Despite the years that have passed since then, they both seem to remember what the other looks like.
Separated Korean families hold last day of reunions
South and North Korean families who had been separated for more than six decades met for the fifth time on Saturday, the third day of emotional reunions at a North Korean mountain resort.
The families were the first of two groups who were authorized to meet with their long lost relatives at Mount Kumgang, a scenic resort on North Korea's east coast.
A total of 80 elderly South Koreans, accompanied by 50 family members, began their third day meetings at 9 a.m. as planned with about 180 North Korean relatives in their hotel rooms. The South Koreans are set to return home later in the day.
Initially there had been 82 elderly South Koreans, but two had to return home the day before due to health problems.
By the end of this three-day trip, the first batch of families would have spent a total of 10 hours with their North Korean kin.
Meanwhile, the second group comprising 361 South Koreans will depart for the communist country Sunday to meet with 88 North Korean relatives under the same schedule. (Yonhap)
Cardinal-designate Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul talks to reporters at Incheon International Airport last Sunday before leaving for the Vatican to attend a formal ceremony on Saturday (KST) when his title becomes official.
New cardinal in hot water over controversial interview
By Kim Tong-hyung
Cardinal-designate Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul is at the center of a controversy over an interview he gave to an Italian newspaper, in which he blasted a group of Korean priests who have been critical of the Park Geun-hye government.
The 71-year-old, a polarizing figure in the Korean church that is becoming increasingly divided over political issues, is currently staying at the Vatican to attend a formal ceremony on Saturday (KST) after which his title becomes official.
In its Friday edition, L’osservatore Romano quoted Yeom as describing the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice (CPAJ), a left-leaning group of priests who actively engage in social and political debates, as “entirely irrational.”
Among senior members of Korea’s Catholic clergy, Yeom has been the most outspoken critic of the CPAJ, accusing them of going against the principles of the Roman Catholic creed by getting involved in secular matters.
More evidence that NIS forged documents to frame man as a spy
Posted on : Feb.19,2014 12:01 KST
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se speaks during at a hearing of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, Feb. 18. (by Kim Kyung-ho, staff photographer)
Foreign Minister’s comments cast doubt on NIS claims that documents used as evidence were acquired from the Chinese government
By Kim Jeong-pil and Cho Hye-jeong, staff reporters
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se reported “hearing there was no official request from the South Korean consulate in Shenyang” to issue two of the documents submitted by prosecutors in the appellate trial of Yoo Woo-sung, an ethnic Chinese refugee from North Korea and former Seoul city official accused of espionage.
The documents include a record of transit between China and North Korea for Yoo, 34.
Yun’s account suggests that the documents, which the Chinese government is claiming were forged, were not acquired by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) through formal procedures. If true, that would lend credence to claims that the prosecutors and NIS fabricated evidence in the case, as Yun’s remarks amount to an official refutation of NIS claims that the documents were acquired through the Shenyang consulate.[NIS]
[Editorial] The court’s politicized ruling on Lee Seok-ki
Posted on : Feb.18,2014 11:55 KST
Modified on : Feb.18,2014 12:01 KST
A court has just found lawmaker Lee Seok-ki and others guilty of conspiring to carry out an “insurrection” and sentenced them to long terms of twelve to fourteen years in prison. The court agreed with most of the prosecutors’ charges, including claims that the so-called “revolutionary organization” (RO) was the vehicle for the insurrection plan and that Lee was the one in charge. And it rejected all of the arguments from Lee and the defense, who called the RO a “fiction” and the product of pure speculation by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the person who tipped the authorities off.
It isn’t clear just how much water the court’s decision is going to hold, not only in legal terms but also in terms of the way the case has unfolded so far. Having seen it erupt amid allegations of political interference by the NIS in the 2012 presidential election, the public would be justified in feeling that the court has been enlisted in a scapegoating campaign designed to get the administration and security authorities out of a difficult spot.
To begin with, the ruling on the conspiracy and incitement charges is legally questionable. The court agreed with the prosecution that the RO was a secret underground revolutionary organization operating under North Korea’s “juche” ideology, which plotted to organize an unconstitutional insurrection and overturn South Korea’s liberal democracy. As press reports have already shown, recordings from the meetings do include some rather startling language - talk about “busting water tanks,” “demolishing towers,” and “harassing rear guards.” Another conversation among three people - one of whom, an individual named Lee, was the one who informed the authorities - includes a kind of ideological study session with parts that seem to recognize the legitimacy of North Korea’s hereditary succession.
[Lee Seok-ki] [Repression]
Korean Peninsula Club to deal with NK instability
By Chung Min-uck
Seoul on Tuesday held the launching event of a consultative council consisting of 21 foreign diplomatic missions stationed here that don’t have missions in North Korea but are in charge of affairs relating to both Koreas, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
“I ask for your cooperation as we seek to consolidate sustainable peace so that we may overcome the current structure of division on the Korean Peninsula,” said Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se during his congratulatory speech made to the ambassadors of the countries. “We are hoping that by engaging in more efficient two-way communications we can broadly refine our understandings on North Korea.”
Dubbed the “Korean Peninsula Club,” the new body seeks to get a better grasp into the reclusive country that underwent a political upheaval following an unanticipated execution of once-powerful Jang Song-thaek, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle and political mentor, in December.
Activist Resist Gov't Request to Go Easy on N.Korea
The government's request Monday that activists here refrain from floating propaganda leaflets across the border has sparked strong opposition from the organizations here.
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said that in high-level talks held last week, the two Koreas agreed to stop mutual vilification and denunciation against "authorities."
Lawmaker Gets 12 Years in Jail for Sedition
Lee Seok-ki Lee Seok-ki
Lawmaker Lee Seok-ki of the hard-left United Progressive Party was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Monday on charges of plotting to sabotage key installations should war break out with North Korea.
He is also barred from public office for the next 10 years.
[Lee Seok-ki] [Repression]
Lawmaker sentenced to 12 years in prison on insurrection charge
Posted on : Feb.18,2014 12:00 KST
Modified on : Feb.18,2014 12:06 KST
Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok-ki and co-defendants are taken by bus to Suwon Detention Center from Suwon District Court after being sentenced to time in prison for plotting an insurrection, Feb. 17. (by Kim Sung-gwang, staff photographer)
Court accepts most evidence from politicized National Intelligence Service and its unnamed informer
By Hong Yong-duk, south Gyeonggi correspondent
A court found Unified Progressive Party (UPP) lawmaker Lee Seok-ki guilty of plotting an insurrection to overthrow the government, sentencing him to 12 years in prison and banning him from running for office for 10 years. It has been 34 years since then-opposition leader Kim Dae-jung was convicted of the crime.
The court also convicted the other six defendants - including Kim Hong-yeol, chair of the Gyeonggi Province branch of the UPP - of most of the charges they were facing and sentenced them to 4-7 years in prison and banned them from running for office for 4-7 years.
On Feb. 17, Kim Jeong-woon, presiding judge of the 12th criminal division of the Suwon District Court, gave Lee a harsh sentence: 12 years in prison, and a 10-year ban on political activity. Lee had been charged with plotting an insurrection, inciting others to participate in the plot, and violating the National Security Law.
For the other defendants, prison sentences and bans on political activities were 7 years for Kim Hong-yeol, Lee Sang-ho, Cho Yang-won, and Kim Geun-rae, 6 years for Hong Sun-seok, and 4 years for Hong Dong-geun.
[Lee Seok-ki] [Repression]
Leftist lawmaker gets 12-year jail term
By Kim Da-ye
Leftist lawmaker Lee Seok-ki of the minor Unified Progressive Party (UPP) was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.
The Suwon District Court found Lee guilty of conspiring with other members of an underground organization to stage an armed insurrection in support of North Korea.
[Lee Seok-ki] [Repression]
Family Reunions at Mt. Kumgang Set to Begin This Week
The two Koreas agreed to hold family reunions as scheduled for those separated by the Korean War despite joint South Korea-U.S. military drills. The agreement was reached in high-level talks held at the truce village of Panmunjom last Friday.
Two rounds of reunions are expected to take place at the Mt. Kumgang resort from Thursday to Tuesday. They will be the first reunions since October 2010. It remains to be seen whether family reunions will become a regular event, with the upcoming reunions as momentum.
Eighty-four South Koreans and 88 North Koreans are scheduled to meet their relatives as of Friday. Originally, before family reunions were cancelled last September, 96 people from South Korea and 100 from the North were to meet relatives. But each side now has 12 fewer people due to deaths or deteriorating health.
Dream of fried chicken empire in N. Korea goes bust
Posted on : Feb.17,2014 12:12 KST
Modified on : Feb.17,2014 12:21 KST
The Rakwon Chicken Restaurant, selling South Korean-style chicken, opened in June 2007 in Pyongyang by Choi Won-ho. Choi borrowed 500 million won to invest in the business but hasn’t been able to operate due to restrictions on inter-Korean economic exchange. (provided by Choi Won-ho)
With Pres. Park talking about ‘unification jackpot’, inter-Korean businesses still prohibited from operating
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
“How are they supposed to hit the ‘unification jackpot’ when they can’t even keep a little chicken restaurant going?”
Choi Won-ho was once the head of a chicken franchise with over 100 restaurants. In 2007, he drew worldwide attention by opening North Korea’s first fried chicken restaurant in Pyongyang. But soon his whole business was foundering as inter-Korean exchange was cut off by the South Korean government. Today, Choi, now 55, has just a single chicken restaurant in Seoul’s Gangseo district to his name -- and dreams of a comeback.
“I did get my hopes up a little,” Choi admitted on Feb. 15 about North and South Korea agreeing at a recent high-level meeting to “make some progress” in their relationship.
“But you can tell how sincere the South Korean government is by looking at how they’re dealing with the businesses involved in economic cooperation with North Korea,” he added.
President Park Geun-hye talked in her New Year’s press conference about hitting the “unification jackpot,” but Choi said, “I still don’t buy that yet. How are you supposed to hit the ‘unification jackpot’ when you’re fundamentally suspicious of the other side?”
[Jackpot] [Park Geun-Hye] [Sanctions] [Inter-Korean business]
Bookseller loses livelihood for selling N. Korea-related literature
Posted on : Feb.17,2014 16:28 KST
Dreams of being a scholar are crushed by lengthy legal battle against National Security Law charges
By Kim Mi-hyang, staff reporter
In 2003, Kim Myung-soo, 59, who was working on a master’s degree in Korean literature, opened a small bookstore online to help cover his tuition and living expenses. Kim bought books at used bookstores for his graduate studies and then put them for sale online.
For four years, business went pretty smoothly. Kim, who had majored in modern and contemporary literature, also sold books about socialist literature from the Japanese colonial period that he was studying and writing papers on for his graduate classes. The books included “North Korean Literary Theory,” “Anti-Japanese Revolutionary Literature and Art,” and “History of Armed Resistance to the Japanese.”
But around the time that Kim completed his coursework in the fall of 2007, he suddenly came under the scrutiny of the prosecutors. Apparently, selling books about North Korea on his online bookstore was a violation of the National Security Law
Police criticized for using bus barricade to deter protest
Posted on : Feb.17,2014 16:23 KST
Modified on : Feb.17,2014 16:33 KST
Police use a bus barricade to block off a candlelight vigil supporting a national strike ahead of the one-year anniversary of Park Geun-hye’s inauguration as president, at Cheonggye Square in central Seoul, Feb. 15.
A tale of two protests suggest police using harsher tactics for anti-government rally
At a protest organized by conservative groups at the same time, no buses were used by police.
By Jung Hwan-bong, staff reporter
Critics are crying foul over the police’s decision to erect a bus barricade around a candlelight vigil protesting the Park Geun-hye administration, while leaving open a demonstration just across the street by conservative groups calling for a “purge of pro-North Korea forces.”
The National Rally to Eradicate Anti-State Pro-North Korean Forces began at 5:30 pm on Feb. 15 in front of the Dongwha Duty Free Shop at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul. The event, organized by the Korean National Police Veterans’ Association, was attended by around 1,000 people.
Thirty minutes later, a similarly sized weekend candlelight vigil began just on the other side of Sejong Road at Cheonggye Plaza, with participants expressing support for a Feb. 25 national strike to mark the first anniversary of the Park administration’s inauguration.
Police erected a barricade of ten buses - but only on the Cheonggye Plaza side.
Peninsula Club to be launched
By Kang Seung-woo
A cooperative network to secure stronger international support for the reunification of the Korean Peninsula in the mid- to long-term will officially be launched Tuesday.
The group, tentatively referred to as the “Korean Peninsula Club,” is comprised of 21 foreign ambassadors in Seoul who cover both South and North Korea.
The 21 ambassadors have their own meeting, called the “Pyongyang Club.”
The member states are comprised of 15 European countries, while others include Canada, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is scheduled to host an inaugural meeting at the ministry.
Will NK be different this time?
By Jun Ji-hye
Inter-Korean relations are apparently showing signs of detente following an agreement at high-level talks to hold reunions of war-separated families from Feb. 20 to 25 as planned.
However, the most serious question is: Will North Korea be any different this time?
Pyongyang promised not to link the reunion to the joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises, which will kick off on Feb. 24. In return, Seoul agreed ? as did the North ? to the cessation of all forms of slander and insults.
[SK NK Negotiations]
Regular citizen turned to fiery protestor
Posted on : Feb.17,2014 12:16 KST
A fire set on Feb. 15 on a steel platform below the elevated roadway outside Seoul Station by Kim Chang-geon, calling for former President Lee Myung-bak to be arrested and decrying state institutions’ interference in the 2012 presidential election. The incident took place 49 days after Lee Nam-jong self-immolated on the same elevated roadway. (Yonhap News)
Man hospitalized after set a fire in protest of Park administration’s anti-democratic acts
By Bang Jun-ho, staff reporter
Kim Chang-geon, 47, climbed up the elevated roadway in front of Seoul Station at 5:35 pm on Feb. 15. Around 10 that morning, he had purchased seven chocolate bars, coal briquettes, gas, chains, and paint thinner near the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul and put them in his backpack.
Kim let himself down to a steel platform below the roadway and stacked three briquettes to both sides before setting them on fire. He also hung up a banner with various slogans written in red script - “Park Geun-hye should resign!” “Arrest Lee Myung-bak!” “Government intervention, unfair election.” He slipped the chains through the railing and then wrapped them around his neck, locking them and throwing the key to the ground below.
After Kim had chained himself up, police officers showed up above and below the elevated roadway. This also attracted about 200 citizens who were attending a memorial service held at Seoul Station Plaza. The service was held before the 49th Day Ceremony (Feb. 18) for Lee Nam-jong, who burned himself to death in the exact same location on Dec. 31, 2013, calling for Park Geun-hye to step down.
[Protest] [Lee Myung-bak] [NIS] [Election]
Leftist lawmaker gets 12-year prison term for rebellion plot
In a landmark ruling, a district court Monday sentenced a left-wing lawmaker to 12 years in prison for plotting an armed rebellion against the South Korean government in case of an inter-Korean war.
Rep. Lee Seok-ki, affiliated with the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP), was found guilty of conspiring with members of a clandestine organization to topple the Seoul government if a war with North Korea broke out.
The Suwon District Court in Suwon, south of Seoul, also stripped the 52-year-old legislator of his civic rights, such as suffrage, for 10 years following his eventual release from prison.
It is the first time that a sitting member of parliament was convicted of the rare charges of plotting an armed uprising to overthrow a democratically elected government.
[UPP] [Lee Seok-ki] [Repression]
Inter-Korean High-level Contact Held
Panmunjom, February 14 (KCNA) -- A north-south high-level contact took place in Panmunjom on February 12 and 14.
Present there were the delegation of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK headed by Won Tong Yon, vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, from the north side and members of the delegation with Kim Kyu Hyon, first vice-chief of the "National Security Section" of Chongwadae and secretary general of the "National Security Council", as chief delegate from the south side.
Both sides confirmed the will to open a new phase of national unity, peace, prosperity and independent reunification by improving the inter-Korean relations, sincerely discussed various issues arising between the north and the south and issued a joint press release.
Joint Press Release
The north and the south held a high-level contact in Panmunjom on February 12 and 14, 2014 and reached the following consensus:
1. The north and the south agreed to hold the reunion of separated families and their relatives as scheduled.
2. The north and the south agreed to refrain from slandering each other in order to promote mutual understanding and trust.
3. The north and the south agreed to continue discussing the issues of mutual concern and make positive efforts to develop the inter-Korean relations.
The north and the south agreed to hold a high-level contact at date convenient to both sides.
February 14, 2014.
[SK NK Negotiations] [Divided families]
2 Koreas to Meet for More High-Level Talks
Senior officials from North and South Korea on Thursday agreed to continue their talks on Friday after no significant progress was achieved in their first meeting.
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters that "additional discussions" are needed about issues that were discussed Wednesday.
Kim urged North Korea to not to link the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War with other issues and to ensure that the reunions take place as scheduled later this month.
On Wednesday, North Korea predictably demanded that South Korea postpone annual joint military drills with the U.S. until the family reunions take place between Feb. 20-25.
However, Seoul said the schedule for the drills has already been agreed by South Korea and the U.S. and cannot be changed.
[SK NK Negotiations] [Joint US military] [Overture]
Kang Ki-hoon’s name cleared 23 year after being framed
Posted on : Feb.14,2014 15:26 KST
Not guilty verdict in suicide note ghostwriting case creates an occasion to reform prosecutors
By Lee Kyung-mi, staff reporter
Perhaps the weight of it all had become too much, the years of anger and injustice. When the judge announced him not guilty of assisting a suicide, one might have expected his face to relax, but it stayed the same.
It was Courtroom 505 in the West Hall of Seoul High Court, at around 2:30 pm on Feb. 13, when the judge delivered the ruling. The seats immediately erupted into applause. Some visitors even wept. But the defendant, 50-year-old Kang Ki-hoon, remained expressionless. It was only after the emotional embrace of his lawyer that it finally sank in and a smile spread over his face.
Judge Kwon Ki-hoon of the court’s 10th criminal division delivered a not-guilty ruling on Feb. 13 in the so-called “Kang Ki-hoon suicide note ghostwriting case,” which some have called South Korea’s version of the Dreyfus affair. It was a vindication 23 years in the making.
The spring of 1991 saw a rash of self-immolations by people demanding a more democratic system. On May 18 of that year, ten days after the suicide of National Democratic Movement Union social affairs director Kim Ki-sul, an article on the Kukmin Ilbo society section quoted a sources in the prosecutors as saying, “The suicide note for Kim Ki-sul, who committed suicide by self-immolation on a rooftop at Sogang University, was written for him by a certain ‘K’.” It was a foreshadowing of the terrible fate that awaited Kang.
[Editorial] The “Chun Hae-sung mystery” is part of the Park Geun-hye mystery
Posted on : Feb.14,2014 15:12 KST
Why was Chun Hae-sung switched out as the nominee for national security and strategy secretary in the Blue House national security bureau? The “mystery” surrounding the fate of the former Unification Ministry unification policy office head shows just what a mess the nominations process is, and how little communication is taking place in the Blue House. It’s been an ongoing problem since President Park Geun-hye took office, and it’s not showing any signs of improving. If anything, the situation seems to be getting worse.
The very idea of a senior official being tapped for the Blue House from a government ministry, only to have the nomination withdrawn with no explanation just a week later, is something unimaginable in a country where things are run normally. A host of possible explanations have been offered - for example, that Chun’s moderate position on North Korea was to blame - but none of them make much sense. If his “softness” was the problem, he should have been taken out of consideration before the nomination was made. Another explanation that was recently floated is that Chun fell afoul of hard-liners in the Blue House, but the circumstances aren’t consistent with this. In the final analysis, the “oddness” of the nomination is a sign of deeply rooted problems in the Blue House selection system.
Better late than never for victims in the Burim Case
Posted on : Feb.14,2014 15:21 KST
Defendants in the Burim Case, left to right, Ko Ho-seok, Seol Dong-il, Noh Jae-yeol and Lee Jin-geol celebrate after being found not guilty of violating the National Security Law, outside Busan Local Court, Feb. 13. (Yonhap News)
After spending years in prison, subjects of the blockbuster film ‘The Attorney’ finally exonerated
By Kim Gwang-soo, Busan correspondent
32 years later, the defendants in the so-called Burim Case - which came to public attention when it became the subject of the movie ‘The Attorney’, which was seen by around 11 million people - finally escaped the clutches of the National Security Law.
Han Young-pyo, presiding judge in Criminal Division No. 2 of the Busan Local Court, issued a verdict of not guilty on Feb. 13 for Ko Ho-seok, 56, and four other people who had requested a retrial in the Burim case.
The Burim case refers to an incident in which the government of former president Chun Doo-hwan arrested and tried 19 students and office workers from Sep. to Oct. 1981 who were studying social science books. The case was part of efforts to crush an incipient democratization movement in the Busan area.
[Military dictatorships] [NSL]
Seoul and Pyongyang hold talks as family reunions hang in the balance
Posted on : Feb.14,2014 11:50 KST
The South Korean delegation, led by Kim Kyu-hyun (front-center) to the high-level inter-Korean meeting at the Peace House on the South side of Panmunjeom Peace Village, Feb. 12. Another high-level meeting is being held today. (by Kang Chang-kwang, staff photographer)
Key issue is the overlap in schedules between the family reunions and ROK-US military exercises
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
Heavy 2.5-meter snowfall hasn’t been enough to derail the scheduled family reunions between divided North and South Korean families this month, but one last major hurdle remains. The two sides have themselves been divided on the issue of the reunion’s connection to upcoming joint military exercises between South Korea and the US. Now they have made plans for a second high-level meeting on Feb. 14, leaving open the possibility for a dialogue-based solution.
The first meeting took place on Feb. 12 at Peace House on the South Korean side of Panmunjeom Peace Village. According to the Ministry of Unification on Feb. 13, the North Korean delegation there asked for the exercises to be put off until after the reunion are held. Currently, the last two days of the reunions, which are scheduled for Feb. 20 to 25, overlap with the first two of the exercises, which start on Feb. 24. The South Korean delegation reportedly continued to insist that the exercises should not be tied to the reunions, which they called a “purely humanitarian issue.”
[SK NK Negotiations]
Koreas end high-level talks, no details available
South and North Korea ended their high-level talks meant to break an impasse in their relations, Seoul's unification ministry said Friday.
The ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, did not say whether the rival Koreas reached a deal on family reunions and the upcoming joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises.
The rival Koreas have locked horns over the military exercises that partly overlap with a new round of reunions of separated families set to be held at a North Korean mountain resort from Feb. 20 to 25.
On Wednesday, the North demanded that Seoul reschedule the military exercises until after the family reunions end, a request spurned by Seoul.
The dispute over the military exercises has cast doubt on the planned reunions. South Korea plans to send a 15-member advance team to the North on Saturday to prepare for the reunions, said ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do.
[Divided families] [Joint US military]
12 Million N.Koreans Watch S.Korean TV Broadcasts
Around 12 million North Koreans are believed to have access to South Korean TV shows. A government source said South Korean TV can be accessed from areas south of Sinuiju in North Pyongan Province and Wonsan in Kangwon Province.
A survey of 200 North Korean defectors last month by Media Research showed 70.5 percent of them had watched South Korean TV and other media content in the North. Some 90.5 percent of them said they felt a sense of intimacy with South Korea because of them. And 36 percent said 10 to 30 percent of people in the North use mobile phones.
The Institute for National Security Strategy under the National Intelligence Service estimates there are around 3 million mobile phones in use in North Korea, one million of them registered with Chinese service providers. One North Korean defector said he can call Pyongyang from Seoul on his mobile.
That shows how cross-border contact between ordinary people and access to South Korean culture are growing. One source said, "People who have greater access to mobile phones and South Korean TV programs tend to favor capitalism and support reunification."
South and North agree to hold family reunions as scheduled
Posted on : Feb.15,2014 13:04 KST
Kim Kyu-hyun, Blue House national security bureau first deputy director and leader of the South Korean delegation to high-level talks with the North, welcomes his North Korean counterpart, leader Won Dong-yon, Workers’ Party of Korea Unified Front Department deputy director, in the lobby of the Peace House on the South Korean side of Panmunjeom before the start of the Feb. 14 meetings. (provided by the Ministry of Unification)
Two sides compromise on halting slander; reunions going ahead despite ROK-US military exercises
By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer and Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
“The divided family reunions have to go well for us to move on to bigger things. That is how President Park Geun-hye is thinking. Please trust that she’ll keep her promise this time,” said Kim Kyu-hyun, head of the South Korean delegation.
“Since President Park says that trust is important, we will believe what she says. We will make a generous and courageous decision. This time, we will yield. Let’s do our best in the future,” said Won Dong-yon, head of the North Korean delegation.
With this exchange, an agreement was reached in the second high-level meeting - which dragged on for 17 hours and 25 minutes, with 14 hours and 10 minutes in the first session and three hours and 15 minutes in the second session.
[SK NK Negotiation] [Overture]
Koreas agree to hold reunions as scheduled
By Chung Min-uck
South and North Korea agreed Friday to hold family reunion programs starting next week as scheduled in a deal struck following high-level inter-Korean talks.
“There was a disparity of opinions between the South and the North but following extended hours of sincere talks, we have agreed to hold the family reunions according to the plan,” Kim Kyou-hyun, South Korea’s chief delegate and vice chief of the presidential National Security Office, told a press conference after the meeting at the border village of Panmunjeom, adding that the two sides also agreed to cease slanderous remarks and verbal attacks against each other.
[SK NK Negotiations] [Overture] [Provocation] [Media]
Chinese government says Korean officials forged immigration documents
Posted on : Feb.15,2014 13:13 KST
Immigration documents from Yoo Woo-sung’s travels to and from North Korea, as presented by South.Korean prosecutors.by Yoo’s lawyers. The stamp and other details of the two documents are different, showing that the documents submitted by prosecutors were forged.
Criminal charges could be brought against S. Korean state institutions for presenting forged documents as evidence in alleged spy case
By Kim Jeong-pil and Lee Kyung-mi, staff reporters
In the appeal of Yoo Woo-sung, 34, the Chinese government officially stated that the public Chinese documents that South Korean prosecutors submitted as evidence during the trial, including immigration records of Yoo’s trips between North Korea and China, had been forged. Yoo is a North Korean refugee of Chinese ethnicity who worked as a public servant for the city of Seoul until he was arrested on charges of espionage. China also created a stir when it announced that it intends to investigate the charges that Chinese government documents had been fabricated. This could result in criminal charges being brought against the National Intelligence Service and the prosecutors, who investigated the case and indicted Yoo.
[NIS] [China SK] [Disinformation]
High-level inter-Korean meetings end without progress
Posted on : Feb.13,2014 11:40 KST
Modified on : Feb.13,2014 11:45 KST
Workers’ Party of Korea Unified Front Department deputy director Won Dong-yon (left), head delegate to the Feb. 12 inter-Korean meetings, shakes hands with head of the South Korean delegation, Blue House national security bureau first deputy director Kim Kyu-hyun, at the start of the morning’s first plenary meeting at the Peace House on the south side of Panmunjeom Peace Village. (provided by the Ministry of Unification)
South and North discuss upcoming divided family reunions and US-ROK military exercises in unusual secrecy
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
The first high-level inter-Korean meeting in seven years took place on Feb. 12 at Panmunjeom. The South Korea Ministry of Unification reported a “sincere” atmosphere, with both sides explaining their own focuses and hearing out the other side’s.
But the meeting ended without any concrete agreement after North Korea repeatedly demanded postponement of the South Korea-US joint military exercises until after reunions of divided families scheduled for Feb. 20 to 25. The exercises are currently set to begin on Feb. 24.
With a week left until the reunions, there is a possibility that they could end up being canceled again.
In “explanatory materials” released after the meeting ended late on Feb. 12, the Ministry of Unification said, “The North linked the divided family reunion issue to the South Korea-US military exercises and repeatedly asked that the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercises scheduled to start on Feb. 24 be postponed until after the event.”
[SK NK Negotiations] [Overture]
DPRK calls for delay of S. Korea-US military drills
Xinhua, February 13, 2014
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) called for South Korea to delay the joint military exercises with the United States to dates after the agreed family reunion during the senior-level talks held at the border village of Panmunjeom, Seoul's Unification Ministry said Thursday.
Five-member delegations from both sides began their first high- level, inter-governmental dialogue in about seven years around 10 a.m. Wednesday local time at the Peace House, an administrative building in the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjeom.
The high-ranking officials held a marathon dialogue, including two rounds of plenary talks and two separate chief delegate contacts, until around 11:35 p.m. local time, but they ended the dialogue without any specific agreement.
The DPRK delegation returned home at around 00:10 a.m. Thursday local time, the ministry said. The delegation was led by Won Dong- yon, deputy head of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
The South Korean delegation was headed by Kim Kyou-hyun, deputy director of the presidential national security office and former vice foreign minister.
During the senior-level talks, the DPRK linked the family reunion to the joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington, demanding the postponement of the annual drills to dates after ending the reunion event, according to the ministry.
[Divided families] [Joint US military] [Overture]
Cross-Border Talks End Without Progress
North and South Korea held their first high-level talks in seven years on Wednesday at the border truce village of Panmunjom, and agreed to ensure that the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War be held without any hitches.
But the two sides failed to see eye-to-eye on other issues, including the resumption of halted package tours to the North's scenic Mt. Kumgang resort. The two sides plan to hold another round of high-level talks soon.
South and North Korean delegates shake hands before talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday. South and North Korean delegates shake hands before talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday.
A Unification Ministry official said the talks were held with both sides listening to their stances, but there were "differing views" on issues, which made them “unable to reach an agreement."
The focus is now on whether detailed discussions on specific issues can take place during the second round of high-level talks.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency covered the talks, but mentioned only that the two sides discussed "issues involving bilateral relations."
A government official said, "North Korea initially wanted to have high-level talks in secret, but Seoul did not accept that proposal."
[SK NK Negotiations] [Overture]
Inter-Korean meeting held under conditions of secrecy
Posted on : Feb.13,2014 11:42 KST
The North Korean delegation to inter-Korean meetings crosses the military demarcation line to the south side of Panmunjeom Peace Village, on the morning of Feb. 12. (provided by the Ministry of Unification)
Reporters given no access to site of meeting, and details of discussion not released
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
The first high-level meeting in seven years between South and North Korea on Feb. 13 was conducted under conditions of top secrecy. The South Korean government did not disclose either the introductory remarks made by the delegation leaders, or details about the agenda for the talks. Even after the meeting ended past midnight on Feb. 13, the content of the discussions remained a secret, with no joint report issued on it by both sides.
[SK NK Negotiations]
Inter-Korean High-level Contact to Be Held
Pyongyang, February 12 (KCNA) -- A north-south high-level contact will be held at Panmunjom on Wednesday.
Members of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK with Won Tong Yon, vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, as head from the north side will take part in the contact to discuss issues related to the north-south relations.
Shall We Dance?
By Robert Carlin
13 February 2014
Barely a month since Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s address signaling a major North Korean decision to push for improved inter-Korean ties the two Koreas on Wednesday held a high-level “contact” (quietly proposed by the North several days ago) at Panmunjom. Despite the lack of any agreement at Wednesday’s exceptionally long meeting, and early reports that there had been “no progress,” official ROK accounts of the meeting characterized the atmosphere as “sincere,” noting that the session had provided an opportunity for the two sides to lay out their positions. Altogether, that sort of delicate public portrayal was a pretty good sign that the session had been productive in laying foundations for further engagement. Indeed, today it was announced there would be a second meeting on Friday.
Without being in the room or seeing a transcript of the meeting, of course, it’s impossible to know exactly what went on, but the most significant development may have been that the North Korean delegation, led by deputy director of the Central Committee’s United Front Department and including two uniformed officers from the National Defense Commission (NDC), suggested that rather than cancel the US-ROK joint exercises (due to begin on February 24), the South postpone them for a couple of days, so they would not overlap with the scheduled family reunions, due to take place at the Mt. Kumgang resort in North Korea from February 20-25.
[SK NK Negotiations] [Overture]
2 Koreas to Hold 1st High-Level Talks in 7 Years
North and South Korea on Tuesday agreed that senior officials from both sides will meet on Wednesday at the border truce village of Panmunjom.
Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters that North Korea made the offer in a message via a military channel to Cheong Wa Dae. "A final agreement was made on Tuesday afternoon," Kim said.
This marks the first high-level contact since the summit and defense ministers' talks in 2007.
Seoul and Pyongyang are expected to discuss a broad range of topics, including the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, resumption of package tours to the North's Mt. Kumgang, and humanitarian assistance to North Korea.
Kim said there is "no set agenda" for the talks, but "comprehensive discussions" will take place on major issues.
[SK NK Negotiations]
North and South hold senior-level talks in Panmunjeom
Posted on : Feb.12,2014 10:47 KST
Leaders of the delegations to today’s inter-Korean meeting at Panmunjeom, Kim Kyu-hyun of South Korea (left) and Won Dong-yon of North Korea (right).
A wide array of key inter-Korean issues to be discussed, including divided family reunions
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
North and South Korea unexpectedly agreed to hold a high-level meeting at 10 am on Feb. 12.
The agenda is expected to include a wide range of topics, including scheduled reunions among divided family members later this month and joint military exercises by South Korea and the US, as well as the possible resumption of tourism at Mt. Keumgang and the lifting of trade-blocking May 24 measures put in place in 2010 after the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan warship.
Now that South and North have gotten the ball rolling with the reunions, observers are looking to see if the meeting can help bring about other improvements in inter-Korean ties.
Kim Ui-do, a spokesman for the Ministry of Unification, called an emergency press briefing on the afternoon of Feb. 11 to announce plans for the meeting. “We have reached an agreement with North Korea to hold a senior-level inter-Korean meeting at Peace House on the South Korean side of Panmunjeom at 10 am tomorrow,” Kim said at the briefing.
He added that Kim Kyu-hyun, first deputy director of the Blue House national security bureau, would lead the South Korean delegation, while United Front Department deputy head Won Dong-yon would be leading the North Korean delegation. Although Kim is only a deputy director, his status makes him equivalent to a senior vice minister of foreign affairs and national security.
Sources reported that North Korea was insistent early on about having someone who represented the Blue House. Its own representative, Won, is second-in-command for the Workers’ Party of Korea United Front Department, the North’s equivalent to the Blue House national security office. Both delegation leaders, Kim and Won, are key figures with status on par with ministers in their respective governments.
[SK NK negotiations]
Study: foreign embassies in Seoul use “Liancourt” instead of “Dokdo”
Posted on : Feb.12,2014 15:50 KST
Modified on : Feb.12,2014 15:51 KST
Analysis by the Justice Party shows foreign embassies relying on Google Maps, which uses neutral or Japanese names
By Kim Il-woo, Daegu correspondent and Park Byong-su, senior staff writer
Many foreign embassies in Seoul have maps on their websites showing the Dokdo islets as the “Liancourt Rocks” and the East Sea as the “Sea of Japan,” a study finds.
The Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province chapters of the Justice Party held a press conference at their Daegu office on the morning of Feb. 11 to announce the findings.
“We examined 17 websites for foreign embassies with maps and found that all but one of them listed Dokdo and the East Sea in a way that is favorable to Japan,” they announced. They went on to urge Seoul to take action on the matter.
The websites of the Russian and Indonesian embassies in Seoul both list Dokdo as the Liancourt Rocks and the East Sea as the Sea of Japan. A total of 11 countries were found to have used the same format on their websites.
High-level talks today
Kim Kyou-hyun Won Dong-yon
Seoul accepts Pyongyang's surprise proposal
By Jun Ji-hye
The two Koreas will hold high-level talks at the border village of Panmunjom at 10 a.m. today, officials from the unification ministry said Tuesday.
Kim Kyou-hyun, head of the secretariat of Cheong Wa Dae’s National Security Council, will meet with Won Dong-yon, the deputy head of the United Front Department of the ruling Workers' Party, a body that deals with ties between the two countries.
These are the first talks at such a level to be held in seven years since ones under the late President Roh Moo-hyun government in May, 2007.
[SK NK Negotiations] [Overture]
'Kim Jong-un assassination' probable in South's military aggression
By Ko Dong-hwan
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin
A ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker raised in Monday’s interpellation session the possibility of assassinating the North Korean leader in the south’s usurping the northern military, reports said Tuesday.
Rep. Song Yong-keun, during his questioning of Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, quoted a paper noting North Korea will likely strike a revolution with the assassination of Kim Jong-un.
Song added to the question whether South Korean military force can advance to the North given such an initiative is prohibited by the Charter of the United Nations.
Kim responded the North Korea case may be applied to the Charter in a different angle. The minister pointed out that both countries’ military integration will be inevitable.
[Assassination] [Kim Jong Un] [Takeover]
DP leader in pinch over NIS probe
By Jun Ji-hye
DP Chairman Kim Han-gil
Rep. Kim Han-gil, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), is under attack from his own party members for what they say is his failure to push for the appoint of a special prosecutor to investigate the spy agency’s election-meddling scandal.
The complaints within the party intensified following the acquittal of former Seoul Police Chief Kim Yong-pan, one of the key figures allegedly implicated in the alleged intervention in the 2012 presidential election campaign by the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
The opposition believes the Park Geun-hye government, together with the justice ministry, colluded to obstruct the prosecution’s investigation.
Senior lawmaker Park Jie-won argued that it seems Chairman Kim did not do his utmost to push for the special probe into the NIS scandal, which resulted in the failure to establish a bipartisan discussion of the scandal.
[NIS] [Election] [DP]
"The Attorney": The South Korean Film Portrays South Korean Politics
For those unfamiliar with South Korean history and politics, this movie, now playing at theaters in major North American cities with English subtitles (opened Feb.7), may seem like an average-lawyer-turned-activist-fighting-for-justice film. But the lawyer portrayed in this film is no ordinary person -- he is former President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea.
The life/career-changing turn of events depicted in the film shows Roh's transformation from an ordinarily lawyer to a lawyer-activist devoted to defending cases related to human rights, social justice and fairness, which led him to the front of the pro-democracy civil movement in South Korea that ultimately brought down the military dictatorship, and all the way to the Blue House, the presidential office.
[Roh Moo-hyun] [NSL]
Koreas to hold high-level talks this week
South and North Korea will hold high-level talks this week, an official said Tuesday, a sign of thawing ties amid Pyongyang's conciliatory overture toward Seoul.
The two Koreas will meet at the border village of Panmunjom at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, said an official of the unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.
The talks came three days after North Korea made the proposal to discuss overall inter-Korean affairs, the official said.
He said the two sides are expected to discuss ways to ensure that the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War can place without a hitch. They will also discuss ways to hold reunions on a regular basis, though no agenda is set for the talks, he added.
The talks come as the Koreas prepare to hold the reunions at Mount Kumgang, a North Korean scenic resort on the east coast.
South and North Korea agreed last week to stage the reunions at the resort from Feb. 20-25, a move Seoul indicates could help improve cross-border relations after months of tensions.(Yonhap)
North Korea’s Test of Trustpolitik
by Scott A. Snyder
January 31, 2014
South Korean president Park Geun-hye came to office last year pledging a policy of trustpolitik designed to promote inter-Korean reconciliation through principled engagement while holding North Korea to account. The Economist suggested the policy should be named “distrustpolitik,” asserting that “the south does not trust the north to keep its promises; the north does not trust the south to follow through on its admonitions.” Both sides took the measure of each other last year during the closure and reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the industrial park in North Korea that combines North Korean labor with South Korean capital to produce goods to export internationally. That experience provides a valuable lesson for inter-Korean relations.
[Park Geun-hye] [Trustpolitik]
Source: Defense Minister failed to act on reports of election interference
Posted on : Feb.10,2014 11:37 KST
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin takes notes while listening to remarks by President Park Geun-hye at a joint briefing of the defense, unification and foreign affairs ministries, at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul’s Yongsan district, Feb. 6. (Blue House photo pool)
Lawmaker calling for appointment of special prosecutor to handle case of Cyber Command’s alleged interference in 2012 elections
By Ha Eo-young, staff reporter
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin allegedly received reports on the Cyber Command’s response to psychological operations directed at the South Korean online networks at the time of the 2012 general and presidential elections.
The Cyber Command’s psychological operations division is alleged to have interfered with the elections in its counter-operation. Kim himself denied hearing the reports before the National Assembly.
A source in the Ministry of National Defense office in charge of investigating the Cyber Command election interference allegations described the reports during a recent face-to-face briefing with lawmaker Jin Sung-joon, secretary of the Democratic Party’s fact-finding team investigating the incident.
[Cyber Command] [Election]
Seoul Has a Duty to Feed Hungry N.Koreans
Food aid to North Korea is expected to become the focal point of any thaw in Seoul-Pyongyang relations. After agreeing to hold reunions of families separated by the Korean War on Feb. 20-25, officials from the North and South also signaled future discussions about humanitarian aid.
In follow-up talks, the government said it intends to raise the subjects of South Korean prisoners of war and citizens abducted by North Korea, but food and fertilizer aid to the North are likely to be higher on the agenda.
President Park Geun-hye on Thursday said South Korea needs to "make efforts to expand mutual understanding" with North Korea by "getting closer to the living conditions of North Koreans suffering from hunger."
North Korea is also in a desperate situation, so it may know better than to act carelessly, even though it is already noisily threatening to scrap the family reunions if joint South Korea-U.S. military drills continue or if the South Korean press criticizes the regime's leader Kim Jong-un.
Official South Korean food aid to North Korea ground to a halt in 2008.
Kim Yu-na Appears on N.Korean TV
South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na was shown on North Korean television on Thursday.
North Korean Central TV aired Kim's performance shot by Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV as it reported on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in a program which deals with general sports knowledge.
It offered no comment on the skater throughout the program.
[Reporter’s notebook] Foolish court ruling ignores the real evidence
Posted on : Feb.8,2014 14:33 KST
Kim Yong-pan, former commissioner of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, leaves Seoul Central District Court after being found not guilty of obstructing a police investigation into state institutions’ interference in the 2012 presidential election, Feb. 6. (by Park Jong-shik, staff photographer)
By Lee Kyung-mi, staff reporter
“You haven’t come up with a single post as evidence. You could have given us a screenshot. You haven’t been able to do that, so instead you drum things up. . . .”
Then-candidate Park Geun-hye delivered these words during a televised debate on Dec. 16, 2012, just three days before the presidential election. They were directed at her opponent, Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in, who alleged that a National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent had been systematically and illegally posting online messages with political content.
Internet posts appear on the internet. They don’t end up stored in a person’s “My Documents” folder. Park argued that a screenshot could have been provided as evidence. Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) examined the harddrive of the notebook computer belonging to Kim Ha-young - the NIS agent in question. The team that did the analysis said it found records of 40 IDs, which appeared to be for internet use, and around 300,000 online logins. It made sense that the investigation would be taken from there to the web.
The police didn’t investigate online.
[Editorial] Need more than empty slogans on unification
Posted on : Feb.7,2014 11:44 KST
On Feb. 6, the government ministries in charge of foreign affairs and national security - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Unification, and Ministry of National Defense - reported their policy plans for this year to President Park Geun-hye. The common theme was “laying the groundwork for a unified peninsula,” and, as that would suggest, the main focus was on advancing Park’s ideas for pursuing the “jackpot” of unification with North Korea. But the lack of any concrete ideas for resolving the current issues affecting the peninsula, and the excessive focus on the President’s own pet issues, raise serious questions about what effect, if any, they will have.
[Unification] [Takeover] [Instability] [Jackpot]
Investigator calls acquittal of former police chief “completely unexpected and shocking”
Posted on : Feb.8,2014 14:29 KST
Kwon Eun-hee says the court didn’t adequately consider the evidence that Kim Yong-pan obstructed investigation into election interference
By Jung Hwan-bong, staff reporter
After Kim Yong-pan, former commissioner of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, was found not guilty by the lower court, Kwon Eun-hee, head of investigation at the Songpa Police Department in Seoul, openly protested the decision, referring to it as “completely unexpected and shocking.” When Kwon was serving as the head of investigation at the Suseo Police Department, Kim was put on trial on charges of obstructing the police investigation of the National Intelligence Service’s illegal interference in the 2012 presidential election.
At a press conference held on the morning of Feb. 7 at the Songpa Police Station in Seoul, Kwon said, “It seems to me that the court gave little if any consideration to the evidence I submitted as the person in charge of the investigation into the National Intelligence Service’s online election interference, evidence suggesting that the scale down and delay in the police investigation had an effect on the presidential election.”
[Analysis] North Korea’s two complaints
Posted on : Feb.7,2014 14:25 KST
Modified on : Feb.7,2014 14:31 KST
Pyongyang objects to B-52 strategic bomber being flown near Korea yesterday and S. Korean media criticism
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
North Korea basically has two complaints that led Pyongyang to threaten to pull the plug on divided family reunions scheduled for later this month. The first is related to critical reports in the South Korean press about North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, referred to as the “supreme dignity.”
“[South Korea] does not hesitate to rashly revile our supreme dignity and to absurdly slander our regime in its treatment of our highest leaders’ visit to a daycare center,” said the spokesperson of North Korea’s National Defense Committee. The statement took issue with recent reports by South Korean newspapers that criticized Kim Jong-un for not taking off his shoes when he visited a daycare center.
In the “important proposal” that North Korea issued on Jan. 16, the first request that it made was refraining from mutual slander and libel. The North also said that it would move forward with discontinuing such behavior.
The other issue angering the North is the fact that an American B-52 bomber was carrying out aerial drills over the West (Yellow) Sea on the day that North and South were discussing the divided family reunions. Continuing its criticism of the South, the statement said, “Formations of American B-52 strategic bombers brought over from Guam spent the entire day in the skies above the Korean West [Yellow] Sea engaged in nuclear strike drills targeting us.” Pyongyang’s point is that the South was taking part in talks while at the same time carrying out military drills using weapons capable of delivering a nuclear attack.
North Korea’s second complaint in particular was related to a imprudent misstep on the part of the South Korean government. The government could not have forestalled North Korea’s first complaint, since it concerned reports printed by domestic papers. But since the government could have done something about the B-52 bomber exercises, it gives North Korea an excuse for breaking its agreement.
[Divided families] [Slander] [B52]
[Editorial] Ruling on goverment election interference defies truth
Posted on : Feb.7,2014 11:46 KST
Modified on : Feb.7,2014 12:44 KST
A candlelight protest is held next to Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul protesting former Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency commissioner Kim Yong-pan being found not guilty of violating the election law and calling for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the real truth of state institutions’ interference in last December’s presidential election, Feb. 6. (by Lee Jong-geun, staff photographer)
A court ruled on Feb. 6 that former Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency commissioner Kim Yong-pan not guilty of violating election law and abusing his authority by downplaying and concealing the findings of a police investigation into interference in the 2012 presidential election by the National Intelligence Service. The court appears to have rejected the testimony of Kwon Eun-hee, the Seoul Songpa Police Department investigation chief who claimed “intent to interfere,” and accepted the accounts of Kim and other police officers who said they had acted on their own judgment in announcing interim investigation findings that the NIS had not posted any materials supporting a particular presidential candidate.
The ruling rests on the chief principle of criminal law, which demands evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. But some things about the ruling defy seem to common sense.
First of all, the court overlooks the core of the accusations, namely that the police influenced the election outcome in no small way by effectively exonerating the NIS of any election interference charges by issuing a late-night press release - an unusual act in itself - a few days before the polls opened.
Acquittal of ex-Seoul police chief backfires
Kwon Eun-hee, in the left photo, a police officer who led an investigation into allegations that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) interfered in the 2012 presidential election, speaks at a press conference at Songpa Police Station, Friday. She criticized the court’s acquittal of former Seoul Police Chief Kim Yong-pan, seen in the photo on the right. / Yonhap
By Jun Ji-hye
The opposition is fiercely protesting the acquittal of former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan, one of the key figures involved in the alleged meddling in the 2012 presidential election by the nation’s spy agency.
The Seoul Central District Court found Kim innocent, Thursday, citing a lack of evidence to prove that he downsized a police investigation into allegations that agents of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) engaged in an online smear campaign against opposition presidential candidates.
On Dec. 16, just three days ahead of the election, police announced that they had found no online posts against the candidates by NIS operatives. Kim had been accused of having orchestrated the hasty announcement, which later proved to be false.
'Korean Peninsula Club' to deal with NK issues
By Kang Seung-woo
The government is seeking to hold a meeting of the 21 foreign ambassadors in Seoul who cover both South and North Korea in an effort to better utilize their knowledge of and connections to the North, the foreign ministry said Thursday.
The group has been tentatively named the Korean Peninsula Club.
The plan comes as Seoul is set to maintain its strategy of using both pressure and dialogue to urge Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs ? labeling the strategy as a principled and effective two-track approach (PETA).
According to the foreign ministry, the basic substance of PETA is to curb further sophistication of North Korea’s nuclear capacity through strong and effective pressure on the one hand, while paving the way for disarmament talks on the other.
N.Korea Threatens to Call Off Family Reunions
North Korea threatened on Thursday to delay or cancel reunions of families separated by the Korean War over South Korean press reports it deemed disrespectful to leader Kim Jong-un. The two Koreas agreed only a day earlier to arrange the reunions at Mt. Kumgang on Feb. 20-25.
The North's National Defense Commission threatened to "reconsider fulfilling the agreement" if South Korea keeps reporting negatively on leader Kim Jong-un and his regime.
The commission was apparently peeved at press reports here criticizing Kim for failing to take off his shoes in a nursery in Pyongyang, which in much of Asia is considered extremely boorish behavior.
The North also objected to the U.S.'s B-52 strategic bombers maneuvering in the West Sea on the same day when Red Cross officials from the two Koreas met.
"As we were reaching agreement on the separated families, B-52 bombers were engaging in nuclear strike drills against us above [South] Korea's western sea," the statement said.
[Divided families] [Slander] [Provocation]
NK threatens to go back on reunions
A 77-year-old man surnamed Lee whose family members were separated during the Korean War (1950-53) wipes away tears at the Red Cross office in Namsan-dong, Seoul, Friday. North Korea called on South Korea to scrap upcoming military drills with the U.S., threatening to withdraw the latest inter-Korean agreement to hold family reunions later this month. / Yonhap
By Kim Tae-gyu
Pyongyang urged Seoul Thursday to cancel its upcoming joint military war games with Washington as part of its conditions for participating in the family reunions on Feb. 20-25 at Mt. Geumgang, a day after the two countries reached the agreement on the schedules.
It also threatened to withdraw from the reunions if Seoul does not stop its negative campaigns against the regime and its dictator Kim Jong-un.
Yet, the Ministry of National Defense said that it has no plan to revise the schedule of the two-week Key Resolve, which is expected to start during the reunions. The precise timetable will be announced early next week.
[Divided families] [Slander] [Joint US military]
Why Did N.Korea Agree to Family Reunions?
North Korea appears to have made a tactical decision to resume cross-border family reunions in efforts to break through international isolation, pundits speculated Wednesday.
The North agreed to hold the reunions of families separated by the Korean War just ahead of annual South Korea-U.S. military exercises, even though the drills are a perpetual thorn in Pyongyang's side.
The government is then expected to discuss a number of humanitarian options such as resumption of food and fertilizer aid once the family reunions end.
"There has been no discussion of any concrete details of humanitarian aid," a government official said. "We can discuss supply of food and fertilizer depending on how the family reunions go."
[Divided families] [Overture]
South and North Korea agree to hold family reunions from Feb. 20 to 25
Posted on : Feb.6,2014 11:57 KST
Lee Deok-haeng (left) and Pak Yong-il, leaders of the South and North Korean delegations to the Feb. 5 meetings on inter-Korean family reunions, shake hands outside the Unification Pavilion on the North Korean side of Panmunjeom. (provided by the Ministry of Unification)
With fresh agreement, the hope is now that first reunions since 2010 could spark a sustained improvement in inter-Korean relations
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
Surpassing a series of hurdles, representatives from North and South Korea at last sat down together at the Unification Pavilion on the North Korean side of Panmunjeom, at 10 am on Feb. 5.
The first person to break the silence was Pak Yong-il, leader of North Korea’s delegation. “We have passed the Lunar calendar’s beginning of spring, but there is still a wintry chill in the air,” Pak said. “The Red Cross organization must take the lead in ensuring that our first meeting this year gets a warm spring breeze blowing to improve inter-Korean relations.”
North-South Red Cross Working Contact Made
Panmunjom, February 5 (KCNA) -- North-south Red Cross working contact was made at the Thongil House in the north's portion of Panmunjom Wednesday for the reunion of separated families and their relatives.
At the contact both sides discussed the issues arising in successfully ensuring the reunion of separated families and their relatives before adopting an agreement.
According to it, the north and the south decided to hold the reunion at Mt. Kumgang resort from Feb. 20 to 25, 2014 and agreed to fix the number of the persons involved in the event according to the final lists exchanged last year and follow practice as regards the way and method of arranging the reunion.
Both sides decided to arrange indoor reunion instead of outdoor reunion, taking weather conditions into consideration, and hold group reunion at the Mt. Kumgang Reunion Centre and Kumgangsan Hotel.
It was also decided to open the north-south Red Cross working contact after the event to further the discussion on settling humanitarian issues.
DP opposes 'absorption unification'
Rep. Kim proposes pan-national body for preparatory steps
By Jun Ji-hye
Rep. Kim Han-gil, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), said Wednesday that his party opposes unification where the South absorbs the North resulting from the scenario of an abrupt collapse of the Stalinist regime.
The DP thinks unification should be achieved in a “gradual and peaceful” manner. To that extent, he called for setting up a body composed of representatives of political parties, the government and civic groups to lead national discussion about preparing for unification.
[Unification] [Takeover] [DP]
North and South Korea to hold reunions in shadow of war drills
By James Pearson
SEOUL Wed Feb 5, 2014 6:49am EST
(Reuters) - North and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to allow some families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War to hold brief reunions, despite a campaign by Pyongyang that Seoul cancel planned war games with the United States.
Any kind of agreement between the two rivals is rare, and in the past unpredictable North Korea has withdrawn permission for the event at the last minute.
A meeting of officials from North and South Korea agreed the reunions will take place on February 20 to 25 in Mount Kumgang, just north of the border, South Korea's Unification Ministry said. At previous reunions, about 100 families have been allowed to meet relatives on the other side for fleeting moments before they are sent back to their respective homes.
Officially North Korea has not linked the reunions with its demand for the cancellation of the annual military exercises by the U.S. and South Korean militaries scheduled to begin this month.
[Joint US military] [Divided families]
Worshipping Kim Il Sung ruled illegal by top court
The Supreme Court overturned the partial acquittal in the case involving Jo Young-nam, a South Korean man who visited Pyongyang illegally and paid respects to late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, who is embalmed in a mausoleum at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
The case was sent back Wednesday to the appeals court of the Seoul Central District Court.
The court said that the judiciary should carefully consider guilt based on whether Jo’s visit to the mausoleum was beneficial to North Korea based on inter-Korean relations at the time and his activities.
“His worshipping at the palace, which symbolizes Pyongyang’s propaganda, can be interpreted as praising and propagating the North’s [ideology],” said the court. “The way in which he entered the North, his continued support of the enemy and the symbolic meaning of the palace should be taken into consideration.”
In the initial trial, Jo was sentenced to two years in prison with a stay of execution for three years for violating the National Security Law. But acting on an appeal for a retrial, the Seoul Central District Court shortened the sentence to 18 months in prison with a stay of execution for three years and dropped the charge of worshipping at the palace.
The judge in the appeals court had ruled that Jo was not guilty of visiting the mausoleum with the intent to support North Korean ideology, but only as a matter of etiquette. The prosecution appealed to the Supreme Court for the acquittal regarding Jo’s activities at Kumsusan Memorial Palace.
In 1992, Jo began to support Lee In-mo, a long-term “unconverted prisoner” from North Korea who had been held in South Korea for his failure to recant his support of North Korea’s ideology. Lee had spent 34 years in prison in the South for refusing to renounce his Communist ideology when he was repatriated to the North in March 1993. Lee died a hero at 89 years old in 2007 in North Korea.
In 1993, Jo heard that Lee, in the North, wanted to meet with his long-time supporter. In 1995, by traveling through Germany, Japan and China, Jo entered North Korea illegally. He remained there for a month.
After his trip, he obtained political asylum in Germany, where he stayed until 2012 before returning to the South. He was arrested when he arrived at Incheon International Airport on Dec. 31, 2012.
[Human rights] [Repression]
Reunification Is Becoming a Palpable Prospect
It has been years since any change in China's perspective on Korean reunification, but now Beijing is making official comments on the issue that were unimaginable in the past.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in a report late last year analyzed the development of the Asia-Pacific region and forecast three possible scenarios: Korean reunification, maintaining the status quo, or military confrontation. The academy said Korean reunification would become the focus of cross-border relations in the future and stressed the need to quell concerns that China would continue to support North Korea under any circumstances.
[Unification] [Takeover] [Approval]
Koreas agree to hold family reunions from Feb. 20 to 25
South and North Korea agreed to hold the reunion of the families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War at the Mount Geumgang, a scenic resort in the North, Feb. 20-25.
Delegates from both sides came with the agreement during a working-level negotiation of Red Cross at the border village of Panmunjeom, the Ministry of Unification announced Wednesday.
Earlier, the South proposed the reunion take place Feb. 17-22 with the North having kept mum on the proposal.
Ahn hit by electoral catch-22
By Jun Ji-hye
Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo faces a big dilemma ahead of the June 4 local elections.
If the independent lawmaker forms an alliance with the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) to field joint candidates, he will risk tainting his image as a reformer of old politics.
If he doesn’t, chances are that his candidates and those from the DP will split the vote, boosting the ruling Saenuri Party’s candidates.
Plus, if the opposition fails to field joint candidates and performs poorly in the elections, Ahn will be an easy fall guy to blame, experts said Tuesday.
[Ahn Cheol-soo] [Elections]
N.Koreans 'Want Reunification'
More North Koreans than South Koreans want reunification, according to a straw poll of defectors by Media Research with the assistance of the North Korea Refugees Foundation.
Interviews with 200 North Korean defectors, most of whom came to South Korea within the last two years, revealed that 76.5 percent of them believe North Koreans want reunification "very much," and only three percent "a little."
Two percent said North Koreans "do not really want" reunification, while 0.5 percent said they do not want it at all.
Some 87 percent of the defectors said they felt reunification was necessary when they were living in the North.
When asked which North Koreans are the biggest opponents to reunification, 82.5 percent of the defectors pointed to high-ranking Workers Party officials and 7.5 percent military officers. In contrast, ordinary workers and farmers are said not to be opposed to reunification.
In a separate survey on attitudes toward reunification of 1,000 South Koreans late last year, 44.5 percent said that their acquaintances feel reunification must happen, while 39.4 percent said people around them do not feel the need for reunification.
That would suggest North Koreans are keener on reunification than South Koreans.
Wine Imports Start to Rebound
Korea's wine imports shrank significantly in the aftermath of the global financial crisis but began to see a reversal last year.
According to data recently released by the Korea International Trade Association and Korea Customs Service, total wine imports fell 10.6 percent between 2008 and 2012 but rebounded in 2013 to $171.8 million. The gross weight stood at 32,558 tons in 2013, up 15.9 percent from 2012.
The largest wine exporter to Korea last year was France, followed by Chile, Italy, the U.S., Spain and Australia. Imports from Chile grew 19.4 percent to $36.4 million from a year earlier, while those from Spain exceeded $10 million for the first time to reach $13.71 million, a 37.6 percent increase.
Argentina saw a 24.6 percent increase to $3.24 million, placing seventh on the list. South Africa climbed to eighth after sales to Korea rose 40 percent to $2.91 million.
On the other hand, wine imports from Australia fell 11.4 percent to $7.33 million last year from $8.27 million in 2012.
German wine also appears to be less popular here. Imports fell from $2.92 million to $2.72 million over the same period, relegating Germany to Korea's ninth-largest wine exporter, down from seventh.
Prosecutors Demand 20 Years for 'Plotter' Lawmaker
Prosecutors on Monday sought a 20-year prison term for lawmaker Lee Seok-ki of the hard-left United Progressive Party, who stands accused of plotting to sabotage key installations of the country should war break out with North Korea.
Prosecutors also sought to ban Lee from exercising his political rights for 10 years after his release from prison.
The lawmaker allegedly held secret meetings with around 100 other members of the UPP where they planned to blow up key infrastructure in South Korea like communication lines and railways.
Prosecutors seek 20-year sentence for left-wing lawmaker
Posted on : Feb.4,2014 16:30 KST
Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok-ki (far right) and other defendants wait for the start of the final hearing of their first trial at Suwon District Court, Feb. 3. Normally photos are prohibited at trials, but in this case the judge permitted photos due to the historical significance of the trial. (pool photo)
Lee Seok-ki and colleagues facing tough sentences on charges of plotting an insurrection and praising N. Korea
By Hong Yong-deok, south Gyeonggi correspondent
The prosecutors requested to sentence Unified Progressive Party (UPP) lawmaker Lee Seok-gi, who is charged with plotting an insurrection, to 20 years in prison and to ban him from political activity for 10 years. They requested that Lee Sang-ho, Hong Sun-seok, Cho Yang-won, Kim Hong-yeol, and Kim Geun-rae be given 15 years in prison and barred from politics for 10 years, and asked that Han Dong-geun be imprisoned for 10 years and barred from political activity for 10 years. This comes 160 days after the National Intelligence Service (NIS) raided the homes and offices of ten individuals, including Lee Seok-ki, on Aug. 28, 2013.
The final hearing of the first trial took place on Feb. 3, presided over by Judge Kim Jeong-un in the 12th criminal division of the Suwon District Court. At the hearing, prosecutors from the public security division of the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office explained why they wanted such severe punishment. “In this case, members of an underground revolutionary organization concluded that war was imminent after North Korea declared it was annulling the armistice agreement [that ended combat in the Korean War] in Mar. 2013,” the prosecutors said. “These members were apprehended as they were trying to overthrow our democratic system by destroying national infrastructure. If they had put their conspiracy into action, the damage would have been incalculable.”
[Repression] [UPP] [Lee Seok-ki]
[Editorial] Lee Seok-ki must be tried according to the law
Posted on : Feb.4,2014 11:45 KST
On Feb. 3, prosecutors requested that Unified Progressive Party (UPP) lawmaker Lee Seok-ki, who is charged with conspiring to overthrow the government, be sentenced to 20 years in prison and that he be barred from running for political office for 10 years. The prosecutors also demanded heavy sentences from the other six people who are charged in the case.
This comes about five months after the investigation into the case was made public with the raid on the suspects’ homes and offices on Aug. 28, 2013. Both prosecutors and defense put up a good fight during the four months of the first trial, but the National Intelligence Service (NIS) seized the advantage in the court of public opinion by releasing the transcript of Lee and his colleagues’ secret meeting in Aug. 2013. Looking back over the way the case has been handled, it is doubtful whether it is even possible for a decision to be made that is strictly based on the legal facts of the case.
[Repression] [UPP] [Lee Seok-ki] [Legality]
South and North schedule meeting to discuss family reunions
Posted on : Feb.4,2014 16:28 KST
Park Jong-in, who is from North Korea’s Hwanghae Province, wipes his eyes as he talks with staff at the Korean Red Cross offices in central Seoul about his mother and sister who he believes are still in North Korea, Feb. 3. (by Kang Chang-kwang, staff photographer)
Upcoming meeting appears part of N. Korea’s preliminary steps to improve inter-Korean relations
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
North and South Korea agreed to hold a working-level meeting at Panmunjeom on Feb. 5 to prepare for reunions of divided families.
While the date still has not been set, it is looking increasingly likely that the first reunions since 2010 will indeed go ahead. The key question that remains is the impact of the South Korea-US joint military exercises scheduled to begin at the end of February.
DPRK Red Cross Society Head Sends Notice to His S. Korean Counterpart
Pyongyang, February 3 (KCNA) -- The chairman of the C.C., the Red Cross Society of the DPRK sent a notice to the president of the south Korean Red Cross on Monday.
He in the notice proposed holding a working contact between the Red Cross organizations in the north and the south for the reunion of separated families and their relatives from both sides at the Thongil House in the portion of the north side in Panmunjom on Feb. 5 or 6.
The notice said that if the south side fixes a convenient date, the north side's delegation will go out for the working contact on that day
Will unification galvanize Korea Inc.?
President Park Geun-hye, right, talks about the significance of Korean unification in a discussion with World Economic Forum (WEF) Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab after delivering a keynote speech at the WEF’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22. / Yonhap
President Park Geun-hye’s new agenda generates pro-and-con debate
By Kim Tae-gyu
A new debate has surfaced on the unification of the two Koreas after President Park Geun-hye put the issue on the front burner despite rising uncertainty in North Korea.
Her repeated remarks on bringing together the two Koreas, which were separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, generate as much hope as concern, mostly because of the expected high cost of unification.
“In the past, most Koreans regarded unification as one of their ultimate goals, which they should achieve as soon as possible, but things have changed of late,” said Prof. Yoo Ho-yeol of Korea University.
Gravestone of N.Korean Leader's Grandfather Vanishes
The site where the recently discovered gravestone of North Korean leader Kim Jong-uns maternal grandfather Ko Kyong-taek used to be is covered in fresh soil on Wednesday. The site where the recently discovered gravestone of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's maternal grandfather Ko Kyong-taek used to be is covered in fresh soil on Wednesday.
The gravestone of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's maternal grandfather Ko Kyong-taek, which was recently discovered on Jeju, has vanished from the site. A descendant apparently moved it due to the media exposure
Chun Doo-hwan's Son Owns Prime Real Estate in U.S.
Disgraced ex-president Chun Doo-hwan's son Jae-yong and his wife, actress Park Sang-ah, own a US$2.4-million home in Orange County, California, giving the lie to his claim that he is broke.
The property was discovered by journalist Ahn Chi-yong, who analyzed real estate registration documents and other materials for the Chosun Ilbo's premium website on Sunday.
Prosecutors last month revised an arraignment of disgraced Chun Jae-yong and his uncle Lee Chang-seok, reducing the amount of taxes they allegedly evaded from W6 billion to W2.7 billion (US$1=W1,073). Prosecutors accepted Chun's claim that he did not manipulate a real estate contract for the sale of a plot in Osan, south of Seoul to dodge W6 billion in taxes.
[Chun Doo-hwan] [Corruption]
North Korea agrees talks with South over reunion for families split by war
Thousands given hope of rare chance to be reunited after Pyongyang gives green light for negotiations this week
theguardian.com, Monday 3 February 2014 03.27 GMT
North Korea agreed on Monday to hold talks with South Korea on organising a rare reunion event for families separated by the 1950s war between the two countries, Seoul's unification ministry said.
After days of silence following an initial proposal from Seoul last week, Pyongyang said it would be willing to participate in a meeting on Wednesday or Thursday at the border truce village of Panmunjom.
"We welcome that the North has finally come forward to discuss the reunion," ministry spokesman Kim Eui-Do told reporters.
"Given the urgency of the matter, we will make preparations to hold the reunion as soon as possible," Kim said, adding the ministry would notify Pyongyang which day it preferred for the meeting.
20-year prison term sought for leftist lawmaker
Prosecutors on Monday sought a 20-year prison term for a leftist lawmaker accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Rep. Lee Seok-ki of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) is standing trial on charges of leading a clandestine organization, Revolutionary Organization (RO), and plotting to overthrow the South Korean government in the event of an inter-Korean war, as well as sympathizing with North Korea, in violation of the South's anti-communist National Security Law.
Prosecutors also demanded that Lee's rights, such as suffrage, be stripped for 10 years following his release from prison.
“Pyonyang is ready to have dialogue for family reunion'
A ranking North Korean diplomat said the North is ready to have dialogue with the South for the reunion of the families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, should the latter cancel the annual military drill with the United States.
Hyun Hak-bong, North Korean ambassador to Britain, said the two sides may be able to discuss the exact date for the envisioned family reunion. His statement contained in a video interview Thursday drew attention as it came after the North had kept silence over the issue.
"The two sides can engage in dialogue to discuss the practical and exact date. And we are now working on that,” he said in the interview with the Sky News, a 24 hour-news channel in Britain.
[Divided families] [Joint US military]
[Special report- Part II] S. Korean companies’ shameful self-portrait in Southeast Asia
Posted on : Feb.1,2014 16:23 KST
Modified on : Feb.1,2014 16:33 KST
Bangladeshi garment workers demonstrate in Chittagong, Dec. 2010. Managers from Youngone, a South Korean company, were suspected of assaulting workers. (Yonhap News/AFP)
Enterprises from S. Korea are gaining a reputation for particularly flagrant abuse of workers’ rights
Forgetting can be bliss. Many South Koreans today have no memory of the role that long hours and low wages played in laying the groundwork for economic growth four decades ago. The appeal of “made in Korea” clothing of the 1960s and 1970s lay in its cheapness. As South Korean wages rose, companies began looking elsewhere. They headed to factories in China and the Philippines - borders had no meaning. Since wages have risen in those countries, the companies have started moving once again, this time to places like Cambodia and Burma (also called Myanmar). Monthly average wages for a sewing factory worker in those countries are US$150 and US$110-120, respectively - well below the US$250 in China and Vietnam.
"Even those countries are expected to see a 10% annual increase in wages, which means they would only be viable for two to three years at current productivity levels,” said Korea Federation of Textile Industries general manager Kim In-soo, who visited Cambodia and Burma for a study last year.
[Column] Who is a false prophet?
Posted on : Feb.1,2014 07:20 KST
Archdiocese of Seoul criticizing some priests’ acts to assist the poor and seek inter-Korean reconciliation
By Bosco Seong Youm, former South Korean ambassador to the Holy See
A heated war of words is under way over a recently opened memorial hall for Ahn Jung-geun in Harbin, China. On one side is the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary, who described Ahn as a “terrorist sentenced to death for killing Japan’s first Prime Minister.” On the other is the South Korean Foreign Ministry, which calls him a “great man who gave his life for this country’s independence and true peace in East Asia.” When Ahn, a Korean independence activist, fatally shot Hirobumi Ito at Harbin Station on Oct. 26, 1909, an English-language newspaper in Kyungsung (the name Seoul went by back then) reported it as a “heroic act by the Catholic Ahn Eung-chil.” Bishop Mutel of the Chosun apostolic vicariate (today’s Archdiocese of Seoul) protested, saying Ahn was not a Catholic. When it emerged that Ahn had the baptismal name of Thomas, Mutel responded that he was a lapsed Catholic, a “figure outside the church.” It then emerged that Ahn was a devout believer who served as an altar boy under Father Wilhelm, and when he sent his two younger siblings to the bishop with a message that he wanted to confess before being executed, Mutel forbade the sacrament to be given. Wilhelm still went to the jail, and Ahn was able to confess before giving his life for his country - as a Catholic. The Archdiocese of Seoul ultimately expelled Wilhelm from Korea.
Since its founding in 1974, the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice (CPAJ) has been a touchstone of faith for Korean Catholics. Clerics and congregants alike cannot hide their feelings - they lay everything bare before it. The forty-nine so-called “venerable priests” who put out an advertisement the week of then-President Park Chung-hee’s assassination in 1979, demanding that bishops take disciplinary action against the CPAJ, went down in history as the “save-the-nation association of priests.” During the 1990s, conservative officials and papal ambassadors from the Vatican kept admonishing the college of bishops to do something about CPAJ. The bishops feigned ignorance, anxious to avoid a repeat of the treatment accorded to Thomas Ahn Jung-geun.
This time around, though, former and current Archdiocese of Seoul bishops have been joining in the free-for-all against the CPAJ, with the administration drafting the President and news media into a campaign to attack it based on remarks made about the Northern Limit Line in the West (Yellow) Sea by one priest during a special cathedral mass.
[Interview] An elderly sage says the taste of life is bitter, but sweet
Posted on : Jan.31,2014 00:57 KST
Modified on : Jan.31,2014 09:05 KST
Chae Hyun-gook during his interview with Lee Jin-sun, at Jogye Temple in Seoul’s Jongno district, Dec. 23, 2013. (by Kang Jae-hoon, staff photographer)
Chae Hyun-gook, once a billionaire, became an anonymous sponsor of Korea’s democratization movement
By Lee Jin-sun, associate director of the Hope Institute
The details of Mr. Chae Hyun-gook’s history are not well documented. The year of his birth is unknown. He is from Daegu. He graduated from Seoul National University with a degree in philosophy. He once was wealthy enough to be one of the top ten payers of income tax in the country. This was when he ran Heungkuk coal mining with his father, Chae Gi-yeup, in Gangwon province. Chae Hyun-gook was the last hope for democracy among the chased and prosecuted people during Park Chung-hee’s Yushin period in the 1970s. According to senior journalist Lim Jae-kyung, Chae was a financial sponsor of the progressive Changbi Quarterly and a “revolutionary figure” who provided housing for fired reporters.
Chae was an anonymous sponsor who offered shelter to those on the wanted list during the Yushin period: Kim Chi-ha, Hwang Seok-yeong, Ko Un and other anti-government intellectuals. He also financially supported many pro-democracy organizations. Chae is now chair of the foundation board that manages Gaewoon Middle School and Hyoam High School, but students rarely recognize him because he is usually tending the school gardens, clad in a pair of overalls. He had adamantly refused to have an interview but we finally met on Dec. 23 at a teahouse in Jogye Temple in central Seoul. He was a man in a black beret, dressed modestly, with a heavy backpack full of books. Despite his old age, he greeted us with a deep bow and spoke politely.
N.Korea Warns Against War Games in Rare News Conference
North Korea's ambassador to China warned South Korea and the United States Wednesday against upcoming joint military drills on the peninsula.
In a rare news briefing in Beijing, Ambassador Ji Jae-ryong told selected journalists that Pyongyang is committed to denuclearization. But he said the North wants South Korea and the United States to compromise on the annual drills, which last year sparked heightened tensions and threats of nuclear war from Pyongyang.
"This time, we once again suggest that South Korea stop immediately without questions, all hostile military actions with foreign powers which opposes people of their same nationality," Ji said. "Facing this, I pointed out that South Korea should make up their political mind to stop so-called defensive annual joint-military exercises such as the Key Resolve and Foal Eagles [drills] starting from the end of February."
[Joint US military] [Media] [Inversion]
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