Will the recent North Korea’s nuclear test affect Park’s Engagement Policy?

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Park Geun-hye, the first female president of South Korea, faces an additional enormous struggle at a start of her presidency by the North Korea’s detonation of an underground nuclear device that took place on February 12, 2013.

 

During the presidency campaign, Park introduced a very determined engagement policy with North Korea that was meant to lessen the tension that has been growing between the two Koreas for last five years. It is now questionable whether she would turn to the old Lee Myung Bak’s approach of the tough and rigid policy her fellow conservative predecessor chose to implement. Her decision will play an extremely critical role in influencing the diplomatic relations of U.S., China and Japan with North Korea and the methods they will take to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon ambitions.

 

Again, it is clear that the division and the tension on the Korea Peninsula is not merely a domestic, but an international issue which will affect both the superpowers and the non-superpowers. Victor Cha, Director of the Asian Studies program in Georgetown, stated that “The overall policy direction on North Korea among the U.S., Japan and South Korea will be [Park Geun-hye] to decide”.

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This nuclear test clearly signifies a violation to the council resolutions and is a threat to international peace. The South Korean Foreign Minister, Kim Sung Hwan says the council will work “on appropriate measures in a Security Council resolution” and promised “significant action,” if another nuclear test takes place. The U.N. Security Council, along with the world leaders across the globe, severely condemned this nuclear test. Korean Central News Agency stated that the purpose of the test was “to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S.” and “if the U.S. continues with their hostility and complicates the situation, it would be inevitable to continuously conduct a stronger second or third measure.” So, some analysts have said that this provocative act signifies a foreign policy challenge for the U.S. president, Barack Obama.

 

During Park’s inauguration speech, she took a firm stand by saying “North Korea’s recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people and there should be no mistake that the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself…I will not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation.”

 

However, Park says she won’t change her policy despite the concerns and doubts about the plausibility of her engagement policy. Park acknowledges the South Koreans have been unhappy and frustrated with the current state between the two Koreas under Lee Myung Bak’s rule as they saw two nuclear tests, three long-range rocket launches and the sinking of the South Korean navy that killed nearly 50 South Koreans in 2010. She urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions for peace and mutual development. Furthermore, she emphasized that “trust can be built through dialogue and honoring promises, which will allow the trust-building process on the Korean peninsula”.

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Secretary of State John Kerry Could Change U.S.-North Korea Relations

In January, John Kerry replaced Hilary Clinton as United States Secretary of State. Secretary Kerry, who has called for more engagement with Pyongyang in the past, could usher in a new American strategy towards North Korea.

            In a 2011 commentary for the Los Angeles Times, Secretary Kerry advocated a policy of direct engagement. He called for a return to the six-party talks. He also proposed resuming recovery operations in North Korea for American military personnel still missing from the Korean War, as a means of communicating directly with Pyongyang. This would have the dual purpose of opening communications with North Korea, as well as ensuring that no American is left behind. Secretary Kerry has also criticized the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience,” in which U.S. dialogue with North Korea is conditional upon North Korea’s denuclearization. He argues that the administration’s current approach of harsh sanctions and ignoring North Korea is inadequate, and will not change its behavior.

However, there is also the possibility that Secretary Kerry will maintain the status quo of U.S.-North Korea relations. His attention may be occupied by security threats in the Middle East, which would move North Korea down on the U.S.’s list of diplomatic priorities. Furthermore, Secretary Kerry will have to work with President Obama, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Republicans in Congress, and other hardliners against North Korea, who would impede his more liberal vision. Political climate at the moment—so soon after the North’s recent missile launch—calls for sanctions against North Korea, not direct dialogue. Lastly, there is a very real possibility that Secretary Kerry will grow tired of North Korea’s intransigence and violations of international law, and adopt a more conservative policy down the road. When President Obama first entered office in 2009, he advocated resuming the six-party talks and directly engaging with the North. But after repeated breaches of international agreements and numerous missile launches, President Obama abandoned this agenda for his “strategic patience” doctrine.

 

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제1차 숭실 교류 협력 포럼 개성공단 어디로 가나? – 제재 이후 개성공단의 미래

안녕하세요? 제1차 숭실 교류 협력 포럼이 열린다는 소식을 듣고, 숭실대학교를 찾아가 보았습니다. 2월 13일 수요일 조민식 기념관에서 여러 전문가들이 개성공단의 현황과 미래에 관해서 토론을 나누는 좋은 시간을 가졌습니다. 남북협력지구의 서호 단장님과 경남대학교 북한대학원 교수이시며 전 통일부 차관을 역임하신 이관세 교수님의 발표가 있었습니다.

 

<개성공단의 사업적 성격>

개성공단의 본질은 남한의 자본과 기술에 북한의 노동력과 토지를 더하여 상생을 이루기 위한 사업입니다. 또한, 우리 중소기업의 활로로서 작용한다고 합니다. 북한 노동력에 대한 의문이 전문가들 사이에서도 많이 나오고 있습니다. 실제로 서호 단장님께서는, 북한의 노동력은 남한의 60% 정도라고 하셨습니다. 생산성이 낮은 이유에 대해서는, 국가 차원의 행사로 인한 잦은 동원과 턱없이 낮은 급여 때문이라고 말씀하셨습니다. 실제로 지급되는 월급이 2~3달러 정도에 불과하며, 숙련공과 초보자의 급여에 거의 차이가 없는 것도 생산성 저하의 원인이라고 설명해 주셨습니다. 현재 개성공단에 들어와 있는 123개의 기업 중, 6~7개의 기업을 제외한 대다수 기업이 유지 상태라고 하는데요, 이것의 근본 이유가 턱없이 낮은 급여에 있지 않나 하는 생각이 들었습니다. 즉, 경제적 제재에 의한 불이익보다 개성공단의 이익이 아직 있기 때문에 유지할 수 있다는 말입니다.

 

<개성공단 1단계 완성을 위하여>

현 123개의 기업과 신청은 하였으나 천안함 이후 리스크 때문에 들어가지 못하고 있는 80여 개의 기업이 있다고 합니다. 서호 단장님께서는 새로운 정부에서 1단계를 내실 있게 마무리하기를 기대하고 있다고 말씀하셨습니다. 그러나 현재의 기업과 새로 들어올 기업 간에는 대립의 여지가 존재합니다. 즉, 현재 있는 123개의 기업은 노동력이 부족하므로 노동력 충원을 요구하고 있는 상황입니다. 한편 새로 들어갈 80여 개의 기업은 노동력의 기본적인 보장을 요구하고 있습니다. 현재 1단계의 38%만 분양이 되어있는 상태이며, 개성 외의 지역에서도 많은 노동력이 들어오고 있다고 합니다. 이관세 교수는, 여성이 약 70%에 달하는 상태에서, 1단계를 내실 있게 마무리 하기 위해서는 단지 노동력 확충뿐만 아니라 탁아소 등 지원시설이 반드시 준비되어야 할 것이라고 지적하셨습니다.

 

<북측 근로자의 변화>

1. 초기에는 남측 인원과 눈 맞춤을 회피하며 인사를 외면하고, 남측 업무지시를 거부했다고 합니다. 즉, 협력사업을 하기 위해 온 것이지 남측의 지시를 받기 위해 온 것이 아니라고 생각했던 것입니다. 그러나 현재는 묵례와 함께 간식을 나누며, 업무나 생산활동에 대해 자연스럽게 대화를 나누게 되었다고 합니다.

 

2. 초기에는 우리 기업을 자본주의에 입각한 착취자로 인식하고, 야간 근무에 대해 노동력 착취 문제 제기를 하였으나, 기업의 생존이 중요하다는 인식으로 바뀌었으며, 자발적인 야간 근무도 시행되고 있다고 합니다.

3. 자신의 급여명세서 등에 대해 무관심했었으나, 현재는 매월 급여명세서에 본인이 확인을 해 나가고 있으며, 현금보다는 현물을 중시하는 경향을 보인다고 합니다.

 

한가지 일화로 개성공단에서는 초코파이를 매일 지급한다고 합니다. 그런데 한국의 계 문화와 같이, 초코파이를 받으면 돌아가면서 한 명에게 몰아준다고 합니다. 그리고 그것을 받은 사람은 시장에 나가서 초코파이를 팔고 이윤을 남기게 되는 겁니다. 그렇게 해서 개성뿐만 아니라 북한 전역에 초코파이가 퍼졌다는 이야기를 해 주셨습니다.

 

3차 핵실험 이후, 국민의 여론은 많이 불안정해 있습니다. 선제타격론이 압도적인 지지를 받는 상황이며, 대화를 모두 차단하고 제재를 가하는 정책에 모두가 주목하고 있습니다. 그러나 압박만을 가한다면 아무것도 해결할 수가 없습니다. 결국, 전쟁이라는 말입니다. 이럴 때일수록 침착하게 바라보아야 합니다. [3차]라는 단어가 말하듯, 북한 핵 문제는 최근의 문제가 아닌 20여 년간 진행 중인 문제인 것입니다. 전쟁은 반드시 막아야 합니다. 문제 해결을 위한 최대한 노력을 다하면서, 회유와 제재를 동시에 진행하는 것이 아직은 최선의 방법이라는 생각이 듭니다. 대한민국 정부는 개성공단을 안정적으로 유지하며, 관리해 나가겠다는 뜻을 견지하고 있습니다. 개성공단에 들어가는 돈이 결국 북한 군부에 흘러가고 그것이 핵무기가 되는 것이 아니냐? 라는 의문이 당연히 들 수 있습니다. 그러나 그럼에도 개성공단은 마지막 보루이기 때문에 반드시 지켜야 하는 것입니다. 그곳은, 정치적인 이념을 뛰어넘은 상생의 장인 것입니다. 분명히 어려운 상황이지만, 하나의 숨통이라도 열어 놓는 것, 그것이 문제 해결의 가능성을 다시금 만들어 낼 것입니다.

 

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일본의 북한 제재결의 환영

마이니치 신문(毎日新聞)은 2013년 1월 24일 자 사설에서 북한 미사일 발사에 대한 제재결의를 환영하는 입장을 발표했습니다.

 

북한의 인공위성은 사실상 장거리탄도 미사일이며, 그동안 소극적으로 대응했었던 중국까지 제재에 참여한 점을 높게 평가하고 있습니다. 물론, 중국의 참여가 이제까지의 국제정세를 근본적으로 바꾸는 것은 아니지만, 결의에 반대되는 행동은 하기 어렵기에 의의가 있다고 평가하고 있습니다. 동시에, 주변국들을 군사적 도발로 위협해서는 아무것도 얻을 수 있는 게 없으므로 북한이 자제할 것을 요구했습니다.

 

이번 제재결의의 중요한 점은, 그동안 「의장성명」에 그쳤던 것이, 안보리의 모든 회원국이 제재결의에 동의했다는 점입니다. 이 배경으로는 미국이 적극적인 자세를 지적하고 있습니다. 북한이 미국을 공격하기 위해 미사일을 개발한다고 직접 표명한 이후, 북한은 미국에 있어서 외면할 수 없는 존재가 되어 가고 있는 것입니다. 과거에도, 이러한 협상을 통해 결국은 북한에 유리한 쪽으로 이끌어 간 전례가 있기에, 북한식의 협상을 고수하고 있는 것이라 생각됩니다.

 

북한은 이 제재결의 이후, 외무성 성명에서 장거리 미사일을 더욱 개발하고 쏘아 올리겠다고 선언하였습니다. 미국의 대북정책을 이유로 조선반도의 비핵화는 불가능하다고 까지 단언했습니다. 이 말은, 앞으로의 핵실험을 위한 명목이 될 것입니다. 마이니치 신문에서는, 이제까지와 별 다를 것이 없는 전개가 되리라 전망하고 있습니다만, 필자의 생각은, 더욱 근본적인 대북정책, 특히 북한의 핵 개발에 대한 정책을 새롭게 만들어야 한다고 생각합니다. 북한 입장에서 핵을 포기한다는 것은 생존의 위협에 직결한 것이기에, 그에 대응하는 충분한 안보가 확보되지 않는 한, 핵은 절대 포기하지 않을 것입니다. 그러므로 무조건 먼저 포기하라 하는 것이 아니라, 그 뒤에 안보를 보장하는 평화협정 레벨의 약속을 제시해야 한다고 생각합니다. 마지막으로, 대북정책에 있어서 특히 한미일의 동맹관계는 불가결할 것입니다. 한국과 주변국 지도자들의 현명한 선택을 기대하며, 평화적으로 해결할 수 있는 실마리를 찾아가길 희망합니다.

 

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Implications of the North Korean Child Welfare Act of 2012 and Tasks Ahead

A child looks out of a kindergarten in the North Korean city of Hyangsan.

  On January 1, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed a new legislation regarding the protection of “stateless” North Korean children. In the subsequent weeks, the unanimously consented bill, named as the “North Korean Child Welfare Act of 2012,” has taken effect after President Obama signed off on it.

“North Korean Child Welfare Act of 2012,” requires the U.S. Secretary of State to “advocate for the best interests of North Korean children and children of one North Korean parent, including, when possible, facilitating immediate protection for those living outside North Korea through family reunification or, if appropriate and eligible in individual cases, domestic or international adoption.”[1]

In order to avoid provoking the country of concern, China, terms of the bill have been modified and protection measures have been extended to welfare aid. American government will promote family reunification or adoption for North Korean defector children and children of one North Korean parent. Department of State will appoint a representative in charge of briefing the congress on the current conditions, supportive measures, and adoption strategies of children who have defected from North Korea and also North Korean defector women’s children who were born outside of North Korea.

According to the research studies conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2010[2], the number of defectors has decreased due to tightened border security, while the number of China-born children of North Korean defector women has risen. Some of these children end up becoming “stateless” because extreme poverty and unstable status of their mothers prevent registration of these children as Chinese citizens However, the figures of children without nationality presented by NGOs are somewhat inaccurate because they tend to overlook the complexity of the situation in efforts to promote awareness of the issue.

Legally, a child of North Korean defector woman born in China can acquire Chinese nationality, following his or her father; or North Korean or South Korean nationality, following his or her mother. Obtaining a DPRK nationality is not likely. However, once the mother enters South Korea, the child is protected as a ROK citizen after family relationship registration. Under these circumstances, many China-born children of North Korean defector women have been accompanying their mothers or coming into South Korea after their mother’s arrival. Problems incur when these children are brought into South Korea without the consent of the Chinese father, in which the conflict of parental rights may rise. Since the South Korean government is aware of these practices, China may hold the ROK government accountable for tolerating such practices in the administrative process.

Ratification of the North Korean Child Welfare Act is expected to spread interest in activities related to North Korean defector children and China-born children of North Korean defector women among numerous NGOs, specifically Korean American citizen or North Korean defector groups. During this process, it is highly likely that many Korean-descent Chinese children will pose as children of North Korean defectors in order to become a South Korean citizen, because there is difficulty in distinguishing the two. For the successful implementation of the bill, the U.S. Department of State must continue to work with the Ministry of Unification and researchers who have conducted the studies in China, and ensure that policy discussions are based on objective analysis of the current situation.


[1] North Korean Child Welfare Act of 2012, H.R. 1464, 112th Cong. (2012)

[2] Courtland Robinson, “North Korea: Migration Patterns and Prospects” (Center for Refugee and Disaster Response, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, 2010).

Photo Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-1300950/The-country-birthdays-banned-Its-people-brainwashed-dirt-poor-starving-Now-prize-winning-book-reveals-time-shocking-inside-story-North-Korea-NOTHING-TO-ENVY-BY-BARBARA-DEMICK.html

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North Korea: An Interesting Collection, Part I

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When talking to my friends about my involvement at MOU and the situation on the Korean peninsula generally, the question “where did you find that?” comes up quite frequently. This series therefore aims at sharing some of the rather unusual and interesting information about North Korea that goes beyond generally streamlined articles that can be found on CNN, BBC or Spiegel. I also hope to provide at least some new insights and links for people who have dealt with North Korea more extensively.

1) The forbidden railway: Vienna – Pyongyang

http://vienna-pyongyang.blogspot.se/

This blog by Helmut Uttenthaler documents how he and his friend Oliver travelled more than 860km by train across North Korea. They were able to freely travel from Tumangan to Pyongyang without government minders, which—to the best of my knowledge—is the only documented time that this has happened. They were therefore able to secure unique footage and also interact with ordinary North Koreans. As such, this blog is extremely interesting because you know that everything you see and read (apart from the official part of the journey took place once they arrive in Pyongyang) has not been altered or modified in any way, shape or form.

 

 

2) Orchestral Maneuvers in the North

http://www.nilsclauss.com/#orchestral

This short film documents the visit of the Munich Chamber Orchestra to Pyongyang. The trip has been organized by the Goethe Institut Korea in order to foster cross-cultural exchange. It is very refreshing to see a documentary about North Korea that is not directly or indirectly aimed at politics but rather highlights how similar people actually are when they share a common interest.

3) Norway to North Korea and North Korea to Norway

http://www.traavik.info/index.php/home.html

Morten Traavik is a Norwegian artist who regularly travels to North Korea and organizes rather unusual cultural exchanges. He famously lent five North Korean music students a CD of Take on Me by A-ha, which they practiced for just two days. During an interview, he later said that these students were among the best he has ever encountered and the video became a YouTube hit with more than 2 million views. Equally important, this cultural exchange is mutual and Morten Traavik has since arranged a trip to Norway for these five students and two North Korean directors, who taught 250 Norwegian border guards to create a similar event to the famous Arirang Mass Games.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBgMeunuviE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oK015laXq4

 

Photo Credit:   

http://www.flickr.com/photos/33180880@N06/3098067683/lightbox/

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No One Knows What To Expect: Chinese Influence on Unification

A U.S. Senate report published in December, available on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’s website, advises North Korea watchers not to expect China to support full-fledged democratic unification on the Korean peninsula in the event of regime collapse in North Korea. A Washington Post article explains that China’s aggressive stance toward territory in the South China Sea, including some islands currently administered by Japan, suggests that it will seek to preserve as much influence as it can in North Korea. China has ancient territorial claims to the region.

It’s usually thought that if the Kim regime collapses, South Korea would absorb the North in a political unification similar to West Germany’s absorption of the East. It is increasingly apparent that the Korean case is very different, and China’s opposition would present a major obstacle to unification.

China has made major investments in North Korea’s transportation infrastructure recently, putting billions of dollars into building new roads and ports, as we’ve seen in Rason. China also makes up 70 percent of North Korea’s total trade. Moreover, China has a historical stake in the peninsula, the report argues, as the northern regions of Korea have long been influenced (and sometimes controlled) by Chinese empires.

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This map from the Senate report, among others, shows historical Chinese control and influence over parts of the Korean peninsula.

Not all observers agree about China’s intentions, though. In fact, even the leaders in China don’t seem to agree on how China should act. In the Post’s article, Chinese professor Zhang Liangui notes that “one misunderstanding of the U.S. is that they think of China as a whole,” with unified leadership. That’s an oversimplification, and opinions in China are as divided as they are here in the United States.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported in January that Pan Zhenqiang, a retired general and senior adviser to the Council of China Reform Forum, said, “With regards to the format of unification, China’s formula of ‘one country, two systems’ may have some exemplary value.” This type of unification as a loose federation would enable China to exert more influence on the northern half of the peninsula than it would under a completely Seoul-dominated (and therefore US-influenced) government.

On the other hand, Zhang (who, interestingly, has his degree from Kim Il Sung University in North Korea) believes that China will probably support unification. The Washington Post article gives as his main justification the possibility of “even deeper Chinese investment” in the event of unification.

It is certainly probable that China will fight to win as much influence as is possible on the Korean peninsula, now and also if the regime were to collapse. What will really happen is anyone’s guess. Officials in the United States and South Korea hope for more dialogue on this issue to better prepare for it (though the Kim dynasty seems to be holding on to power just fine right now), but such dialogue is too sensitive for China to be interested in talking about it officially. For now, no one knows what to expect.

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