In the News – Obama issues proclamation on Korean War Armistice anniversary


In the News – Obama issues proclamation on Korean War Armistice anniversary

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, July 27 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Barack Obama issued a proclamation Friday to commemorate the end of the Korean War 59 years ago, as the Pentagon hosted a formal ceremony to mark the anniversary.

“Today, on the 59th anniversary of the Military Armistice Agreement signed at Panmunjom, we honor all who served in the Korean War, and we pay lasting tribute to the brave men and women who gave their lives for our Nation,” Obama said in the proclamation. Panmunjom is a truce village in the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas.

The Korean War ended with an armistice agreement on July 27, 1953, after three years of fierce fighting between the invading North, supported by China, and the South with the help of the U.S. and other U.N.-coalition forces.

“Most of all, we honor the tens of thousands of Americans who gave their lives defending a country they had never known and a people they had never met,” Obama said. “Their legacy lives on not only in the hearts of the American people, but in a Republic of Korea that is free and prosperous; an alliance that is stronger than ever before; and a world that is safer for their services.”

More than 50,000 U.S. service members were killed during the war, according to government data.

Obama called upon all Americans to observe the day with “appropriate ceremonies and activities” to honor Korean War veterans.

He has issued the proclamation each year since taking office in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon held a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the anniversary.

Named, “Heroes Remember,” it began with a wreath-laying ceremony to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war
In his speech, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the Korean War is not “America’s forgotten war.”

“Today, thanks to the service and sacrifice of our veterans six decades ago, South Korea has grown strong and independent. South Korea is a trusted ally, an economic power, a democracy, a provider of security in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world. To the veterans of this war: your sacrifice made a difference,” he said.

He pointed out the contrary fate of North Korea, “which remains a dangerous and destabilizing country that is bent on provocation and is pursuing an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction while its people are left to starve.”

Panetta said the U.S. needs to take a crucial lesson from the Korean War, in which lots of troops paid a heavy price due to a lack of necessary training and the right weapons.

“They were sent into a tough fight with little preparation,” he said. “That is a mistake that we will not make again. And that’s why today, coming out of a decade of war, we have put forward a strategy-driven defense budget to meet the challenges of the future.”

The Pentagon may face $500 billion in spending cuts on top of the $487 billion already being implemented.

Congress is stuck in a political deadlock, however, ahead of presidential elections in November.

Panetta emphasized the urgency for the U.S. to beef up combat readiness.

“The world remains a dangerous place, and America must maintain the decisive military edge. We must remain the most powerful military power on the face of the earth,” he said. “With this strategy, we will not only have the strongest military, but make no mistake: we will be ready to deter aggression — anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”

Original Article 

In the News – 150 Students to Launch Cross-DMZ Ride


In the News –  150 Students to Launch Cross-DMZ Ride

A group of university students will launch a journey all the way across the DMZ by bicycle with a ceremony on Yeouido tomorrow.

The event, which is being supported financially by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, has been organized by two student organizations, Youth and Students Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea and Youth Future Forum.

A group of more than 150 students is expected to travel 218.38km along the DMZ, learning about national security as they take in the sights and sounds of the counties of Goseong, Inje, Yanggu, Hwacheon, Cheorwon and Yeoncheon, and Paju City.


Original Article 

A Song to Imjin River

I first heard the folk song, Imjin River, when I watched the Japanese film Pacchigi, the Korean word for head-butt. The 2004 film took place in 1968 Kyoto, a time when the Korean resident youngsters living in ghettos had taken on a hostile stance toward the discriminatory Japanese environment that confronted them. In 1965, the Japanese government had recognized the South Korean government, but did not initiate any policy with the North Korean regime. In 1965, Koreans living in Japan were offered South Korean citizenship or remained stateless if they either supported the North Korean regime or adhered to their hopes for a unified Korea in the near future by refusing South Korean citizenship.[1] The film featured the gang of a Chosen (North-Korean affiliated) high school “butt heads” with the gang of a local Japanese high school. Continue reading

A German Story: Part 1 of 3

This story was told to me by Horst one Friday morning, November 9th, when I was the only one who showed up for class. Horst was a professor of mine when I studied abroad in Germany. He is quite tall, probably 200 pounds, dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin, has an air about him like he may have been a former military officer. He is full of conspiracies, and when I knew him he was in the process of building a bicycle-powered wood-chopper for his cottage in the event of a crisis-level power failure. He carries around first editions of 17th century books, his finger marking the page.

In this particular class, we went through some of my questions about grammar, such as “Ob…?” implicit questions and how one uses Intentionalpartikeln such as doch, bloß, mal, etc. Then he said that he thought that today we would work on hearing comprehension, he would tell me a story and I should take notes, and then I could write something up and we could see how I did. So he told me this story.

If you are a particularly acute student of history—as Horst was—you might recognize the date on which he told me this story as a significant one. November 9th is the date the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Horst was 26 at the time; he had grown up his entire life in East Germany, behind the Wall. Continue reading

After Kim Jong-Il: America and the Two Koreas

Recently while listening to the National Public Radio (NPR) in the car I came across this program, made by “America Abroad,” about predictions on the future of North Korea and its relations with America. I found the nearly hour-long program at the “America Abroad” website and thought it would be helpful to show others this fairly comprehensive study of the past of Korean relations and to highlight its main points for those who don’t have a free hour to listen to the entire program. The program ended with a quote on the current state of relations; “The 65 million dollar question is… are we going to be ready if this succession doesn’t work.” This question colored the discussion on predictions for the future and unification through the hour. Continue reading

In the News – Lee calls for int’l attention on N. Korean gulags


In the News – Lee calls for int’l attention on N. Korean gulags

SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) — President Lee Myung-bak called for greater international attention on political prison camps in North Korea, saying Friday that they are the worst gulags in the world and global human rights groups should be allowed to visit there.

Lee made the remark during a meeting with a group of visiting U.S. lawmakers.

The five Republican congressmen, including Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Richard Burr of North Carolina, arrived in Seoul earlier in the day for a three-day visit that also includes talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and a visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

“There is no place like political prison camps in North Korea around the globe,” Lee was quoted as saying during the meeting by presidential spokeswoman Lee Mi-yon, referring to massive human rights violations believed to be happening at those facilities. “International human rights groups should visit there.”

Burr said he shares South Korea’s concern about North Korea issues and pledged to back whatever decision is made under Lee’s leadership. The lawmaker also said he will have a first-hand look at the division of the Korean Peninsula during a trip to DMZ, according to the spokeswoman. Continue reading

In the News – Obama visits DMZ amid N.K. rocket tension


In the News – Obama visits DMZ amid N.K. rocket tension
By Chang Jae-soon
SEOUL/WASHINGTON, March 25 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Barack Obama made his first visit to the heavily fortified border with North Korea on Sunday as the communist nation is believed to have moved a long-range rocket to a launch site for final preparations for a threatened liftoff.

Obama’s visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas is seen as a gesture underscoring Washington’s security commitment to South Korea at a time of high tensions over the North’s plan to launch what it claims is a satellite-carrying rocket next month. Continue reading

In the News – Obama to China: Help rein in North Korea


In the News – Obama to China: Help rein in North Korea

(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama urgedChina on Sunday to use its influence to rein in North Korea instead of “turning a blind eye” to its nuclear defiance, and warned of tighter sanctions if the reclusive state goes ahead with a rocket launch next month.

North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations,” a stern-faced Obama said after a tour of the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas resonant with echoes of the Cold War.

Such a launch would only lead to further isolation of the impoverished North, which much show its sincerity if on-again-off-again six-party aid-for-disarmament talks are to restart, Obama told a news conference in the South Korean capital.

Seoul and Washington say the launch will be a disguised test of a ballistic missile that violates Pyongyang’s latest international commitments. North Korea says it merely wants to put a satellite into orbit. Continue reading

The MOU Internship: Pt. 1

Imagine an internship where your interests are a priority. Now add being treated with respect. And then add on top of that field trips every week to some of the most interesting places in South Korea. And as a bonus, go ahead and add the opportunity to eat some of the best food in Seoul with some of the most important people within the Ministry of Unification. Sound too good to be true? Usually, it would be. But, believe it or not, all of this, and so much more, is what the MOU summer internship was like for me. Hopefully I have your attention by now, so let me give you some more details. Continue reading

Vice’s Guide to North Korea: Review

I remember going to the DMZ and being curious about what the experience would be like from the other side. Even though we saw documentaries during our internship about North Korea, they involved commonly photographed locations, like the stadium for extravagant displays of gymnastics and the theme park from hell. However, recently I saw the Vice Guide to North Korea online, and, though it made the same conclusions about the process of touring North Korea as a foreigner, it did highlight some different occasions, not to mention a funny host that livens up the grim locations. Here are some interesting locations and details they covered that I had not seen in other documentaries: Continue reading

North Korea: the Modern Day Grinch?

With Christmas just days away, the streets here in South Korea seem even more crowded than usual. There are people rushing around doing their Christmas shopping and Christmas carols playing at every store you pass. There’s just something about this time of year that makes the world seem more at peace, more joyful. It’s a time when we can forget our troubles and just enjoy the company of the people we love. Or even just enjoy the time away from work.

But there is at least one place that I can think of that won’t be enjoying the same things that you and I will be enjoying this Sunday. Continue reading

March for Peace and Unification

Team 2 on the March for Peace and Unification

The author's team on the 2011 March for Peace and Unification (photo credit Chan-yong Park)

I traveled the DMZ for one week this summer with five hundred middle school, high school, and college students. We were on a March for Peace and Unification. I think the title can be a bit misleading, so I will clarify.

The “march” was actually more like a tour. We walked, but only for short durations—partway up a mountain, say, or partway down a defunct North Korean infiltration tunnel. I was relieved to discover that we would neither be in step nor carry signs, and that we wouldn’t have to try to knock on doors or anything to persuade people to support unification. I didn’t think that would work.

The march was run by the Institute for Unification Education, with the goal of getting young people to think about unification issues (and, ideally, to support eventual unification), and we were the target audience. Continue reading

The DMZ: A Thin Wilderness

South Korea is a mountainous and crowded country. High hills and low mountains are in view no matter where you go, but there are also fifty million people on the peninsula. So, wherever there is flat land, there is a city. The cities, towns, and farms spread over the low-lying areas like water, and nearly all the undeveloped areas are in the heart of mountains.

The DMZ is an exception. Whether it crosses mountains or lowlands, it is wilderness: it stretches blank and empty like a thin belt across the waist of Korea, uncaring of topography. You can track it on a satellite map by the narrow band of darker green marking it out from the towns and farmlands to the southern side. It very roughly traces the 38th parallel of north latitude, extending two kilometers to either side. It is heavily fenced, mined, and guarded, but attracts some visitors, of whom I was one this summer.

Map of the DMZ (image credit

Map of the DMZ (image credit

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What Does Unification Mean to the Average Korean College Student?

Members from our overseas team with North Korean defectors and South Korean college studentsCHRISTINE OH

From August 4th-7th, our team (eight students from Wellesley College and one from Boston University) embarked on a four-day trip to visit the DMZ and drive along the 38th parallel line dividing North and South Korea. Our complete group was made up of student reporters from the Ministry of Unification, some student leaders from Kyung Won University, and a number of North Korean defector college students.  During the many hours that we spent on the bus traveling from site to site along the border, we were able to share with each other about our backgrounds, our cultures, and most importantly discuss our opinions about North Korea and unification.

Continue reading