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

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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 

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In the News – Both Koreas mark 59 years since war armistice after North announced military changes

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In the News – Both Koreas mark 59 years since war armistice after North announced military changes

 

PANMUNJOM, Korea — Elderly North Korean veterans pledged loyalty to their 20-something leader in Pyongyang during Korean War armistice commemorations Friday that were being closely watched after Kim Jong Un reshuffled the military and revealed he’s married.

Over the last two weeks, Kim has taken on the title of marshal and replaced his army chief — once a key mentor. Both moves were seen as an effort to build loyalty among the million-man armed forces and solidify his credentials as commander.

North Korea also revealed Wednesday that the stylish woman at Kim’s side in some public appearances this month is his wife. Images of her walking with Kim were choreographed to show the leader as modern, mature and down-to-earth, analysts said, and contrast sharply to his intensely private father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled for 17 years before his death in December.

Kim Jong Un and his wife weren’t at Friday’s event. Hundreds of aging veterans were shown on state television in a huge auditorium as Choe Ryong Hae, the military’s top political officer, stood beneath giant portraits of Kim Jong Il and North Korea founder Kim Il Sung and urged the crowd to “follow the leadership of Marshal Kim Jong Un and win 100 out of 100 battles.”

North Korea later set off fireworks. At another location earlier in the day, soldiers from a tank unit named after military officer Ryu Kyong Su, famous in North Korea for leading troops during the war, also staged firing drills.

The commemorations are meant to kindle patriotism and loyalty in North Koreans, and especially the young, by showcasing veterans who fought for their country, said Kim Yeon-su of Korea National Defense University in Seoul.

Separately, North Korea is filling vacancies left by the sudden dismissal of former army chief Ri Yong Ho. Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency introduced the new military chief, Hyon Yong Chol, as Ri’s successor as a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party in a dispatch Friday. Hyon was promoted to vice marshal and chief of general staff after Ri was dismissed earlier this month. Kim Jong Un chairs the commission.

While South Korea and the U.S.-led U.N. forces that fought in the Korean War call Friday the 59th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 conflict, North Korea calls it a celebration of “victory in the Fatherland Liberation War” and veterans streamed into the capital.

“Airports, railway stations and parking lots were crowded with delegates to the celebrations, their comrades-in-arms, families and relatives, people from all walks of life and youth and students,” KCNA said.

U.S. and South Korean officials marked the armistice at the border village of Panmunjom. Because no peace treaty was signed, the Korean Peninsula remains technically in a state of war.

Ahead of the anniversary, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry reiterated its long-standing demand that the United States sign a peace treaty with North Korea to replace the armistice.

Washington says normal ties will only come after North Korea abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons and takes other steps. International nuclear disarmament talks have been stalled since late 2008, and animosity between the Koreas is high.

Original Article

In the News – N. Korean leader’s wife visited S. Korea in 2005: spy agency

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In the News – N. Korean leader’s wife visited S. Korea in 2005: spy agency

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) — The wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited South Korea in 2005 as part of a cheering squad for an athletic event, a South Korean lawmaker said Thursday, citing information provided by the South’s spy agency.

The revelation came one day after North Korean media identified the woman recently pictured flanking Kim as his wife, Ri Sol-ju.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) confirmed local media reports claiming Ri had visited the South Korean city of Incheon in 2005, Rep. Jung Chung-rai of the main opposition Democratic United Party told reporters after a parliamentary interpellation session attended by Won Sei-hoon, the director of the NIS.

Her visit was during an Asian athletics competition held in Incheon in September of that year, he said.

It is rare for South and North Koreans to visit each other’s countries, as they must receive special permission from their respective governments. The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war following the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

NIS officials told lawmakers they believe Ri was born in 1989 and married the North Korean leader in 2009, according to Jung. The leader, whose age has been disputed due to the secretive nature of the reclusive regime, was confirmed to have been born in January 1984, the NIS officials said in the closed-door session.

The spy agency interpreted the North’s disclosure of the first lady as an attempt to give Kim a “stable image,” according to Jung.

News reports have often cited sources familiar with the communist regime as saying Kim lacks the support of his people due to his young age and lack of experience.

The young leader inherited the military-backed regime following the death of his father and longtime leader Kim Jong-il last December.

NIS officials also confirmed reports that Ri is a singer for the North’s Unhasu Orchestra, according to Jung. Details of her background have yet to emerge, but she is believed to have been born into an ordinary family and studied vocal music in China, he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling Saenuri Party quoted NIS officials as saying North Korea’s former military chief Ri Yong-ho was dismissed earlier this month because of his “uncooperative attitude” toward Kim’s drive to tighten his grip on the military.

North Korea announced Ri’s dismissal last week in a surprise move that fueled speculation about a possible power struggle in Pyongyang.

Asked to explain the “uncooperative attitude,” Yoon said it was related to a generation shift within the 1.2-million-strong armed forces as Kim Jong-un moves to transfer control of the economy from the military to the government.

The lawmaker also quoted NIS officials as saying Ri appeared to have been “purged,” based on a July 21 re-run on North Korean state television of a visit to an orchard by Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un last year. Scenes of Ri, who accompanied the Kims on the trip, were deleted from the clip, he said.

On Kim Jong-un’s aunt Kim Kyong-hui and her husband Jang Song-thaek, both powerful figures in the communist regime, NIS officials said they appear to be strengthening their roles as the young leader’s guardians by respectively providing mental support and policy advice.

It is also the spy agency’s assessment that the North’s three-generation hereditary power succession has been completed with Kim’s promotions to the top levels of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party, government and military.

Following Ri’s dismissal, the North announced its leader had been given the title of marshal, the highest functioning military rank.

The NIS noted it took three years for former leader Kim Jong-il to complete his inheritance of power from his own father, the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung.

Original Article 

In the News – S. Korea to resume recording video messages for separated families

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In the News – S. Korea to resume recording video messages for separated families

SEOUL, July 16 (Yonhap) — South Korea will resume recording video messages of families here who parted from their parents, children or siblings in the North during the Korean War, officials said Monday.

Since the first summit meeting between the two divided Koreas in 2000, the two countries have arranged reunions of separated family members twice or three times a year.

But the humanitarian events came to a halt in September 2010, amid the deepening Inter-Korean political tensions. As part of the reunion gatherings, video messages from families in the South are given to their family members in the North for those who cannot travel to the event location.

Several thousand separated family members die every year, yearning to reunite with their spouses, children or siblings whom they had to part with due to the 1950-53 Korean War and the truce which left the Korean Peninsula divided thereafter.

“We decided to produce video messages, which are to be delivered to family members in North Korea after the reunion events restart,” a government official said. The decision to resume the video messages after a four-year hiatus was made because an increasing number of divided family members in the South are dying of old age, the official said.

The South Korean Red Cross, which took over the video project from the Ministry of Unification, will start the production after conducting a demand survey among all the separated family members in South Korea next month, the official said.

“It is deplorable that about 3,000-4000 divided family members pass away every year due to old age,” a Red Cross official said. “The video messages will feature family members’ living images as well as their messages to families in the North.”

As of the end of June, a total of 128,713 people were registered with the government as having family members in the North. Among them only 77,122 are alive. Nearly 80 percent of those alive are now over the age of 70.

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In the News – Insight: A secret plea for money from a mountain in North Korea

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In the News – Insight: A secret plea for money from a mountain in North Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) – In May this year, a North Korean defector in her 40s took a call from an unknown number at her office in the South Korean capital Seoul.

It was from her brother, who she had not seen for more than a decade, calling illegally from North Korea after tracking her down.

He was speaking from a remote mountainside near the border with China, and was in dire need of money to help treat another sister’s late stage cancer, she said.

Accompanied by a Chinese broker, the brother had spent five hours climbing up the mountain, avoiding North Korean security and desperately searching for a signal on a Chinese mobile telephone. Contact with anyone in the South is punishable by death in North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated states.

The broker was part of a growing group of people, mostly Chinese of Korean descent, who use ties on both sides of the border to funnel money to the North, an illegal and highly dangerous operation.

At first, the defector in the South suspected a trick and demanded the caller answer a question that only her brother could know the answer to.

“I asked him to tell me the name of the train station where we were separated. I am now 40 and we were separated when I was 26,” she said, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals against her family. “Then he said he needed money.”

Next morning, she wired 15,000 yuan ($2,400) to the broker’s account at a bank in China, near the border. His wife confirmed receipt of the funds, informed her husband, and the defector’s brother got money in North Korea, a state where the average income is estimated at just $1,200 a year.

Brokers typically charge up to 30 percent fees for such transactions, but by and large, they work well.

“I heard it only took 15 minutes for my brother to get the money (after funds were wired),” said the defector, who is officially listed as dead in North Korea. “Two days later, my brother called me back saying ‘Thank you. We will spend your money wisely’.”

The woman is one of the 23,000 defectors living in South Korea, with which the North remains technically at war after an armistice ended the 1950-1953 Korean War. Continue reading

In the News – Korean War from the Other Side

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In the News – Korean War from the Other Side

The Korean War most of us know is the one suffered in the South. It usually starts with the invasion of Seoul then goes down to Daejon and Gwangju, then there is a counterattack on the Nakdong River and all the way back up to the Yalu River and then down to the 38th Parallel and an uneasy truce.

But Kim Jin Chul (75), who experienced the Korean War in Pyongyang, has a different image embedded in his memory.

The day the Korean War started was an ordinary day. People came and went with great urgency, but Kim and his family were watching out for the chance to go to South Korea. His family had come north because of his grandmother, who was sick in her Pyongsung home, and could not return. His mother said it was actually quite a good thing.

“I knew that a war had broken out when I heard Kim Il Sung’s radio address on June 28th, where he announced, ‘We have captured Seoul after just four days following South Korea’s sneak attack’,” Kim recalls. He didn’t even know what war was, but after hearing from his mother that it is where ‘some people live and some people die’ his heart dropped.

Just seven months after the outbreak of war Kim became an orphan. “I was trembling with fear,” he recalls. “My father and then mother both died in the bombing, but I still waited for them to come back. You have no idea how scared I was waiting for my mother.”

Three days after the outbreak of war, President Truman approved support for the ROK army. On the 29th, the day after North Korea invaded Seoul, the U.S. mobilized B-29 Super Fortresses to bomb major cities including Pyongyang.

Kim and his family went into the nearby mountains to escape. He lived with his grandfather, parents and younger sister in a hut. That August, his father lost his life in the bombing, but they never even found the body.

His mother also died in January the same year. “My mother went to the factory where my father worked to ask for his salary,” he explains. “But she never returned again. One day her body came back to us but we could not recognize her.”

After that, Kim went through three long years of suffering. He lived on handfuls of rice and grass. Even after the Armistice Agreement was signed on July 7th, 1953, his suffering did not stop. He entered elementary school but was mobilized to carry stones and soil to restore sites damaged in the war. We “carried stones and soil across mountains and rivers the whole day except for two hours,” he explains. It was a routine that continued until he graduated from vocational school in 1965.

Thereafter, Kim lived as a worker. His visit to Pyongsung in 1948 had turned into a permanent change of residence. He was still there to feel the pain of starvation in the 1990s, and it took him a total of 64 years to defect and come back home, thinking about how late his arrival had become. Continue reading

In the News – Canada remembers Korean War

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In the News – Canada remembers Korean War


Canadian sailors visit the graves of Canadian soldiers killed in the Korean War (1950-53) at the United Nations Memorial Cemetary in Busan, Friday.

/ Korea Times photo by Lee Sung-deok

By Kang Hyun-kyung

Back in December 1950, the first Canadian troops came to South Korea, then fighting its Stalinist northern neighbor after the North launched an attack at dawn on Sunday, June 25.

Nearly 26,000 young Canadians, mostly aged 18 or 19 years, fought for the freedom of this nation under the U.N. flag. More than 300 died and some 1,100 were wounded.

On Thursday, Canada’s Ambassador to South Korea David Chatterson said his nation’s decision to send the large contingent of troops to South Korea 62 years ago was “a very difficult political decision.”

“We had just come out of World War II and 10 percent of men in Canada fought in that war. So we had just completed a very long, difficult war in which Canadians fought and died for the freedom of other countries,” Chatterson said in an interview with The Korea Times.

“Five years later, we were asked to do it again…. It was difficult.”

The Canadian envoy said there had been a pros and cons debate regarding the plan to dispatch the troops when Canada was asked to join the Korean War.

“There was a lot of opposition to going back into a war. But we were very supportive of the U.N. and this was the Cold War period.

There were issues much bigger frankly than Korea at play,” Chatterson said.

“I think that’s what tipped the scales toward our involvement in the Korean War.”

Canada has been active in international peace-keeping operations and the military campaign to fight for the freedom of foreign nations. The North American country sent troops to Iraq during the first Gulf War, the Libyan Civil War in 2011 and Afghanistan.

Ambassador Chatterson said Canada’s contribution to international peace and security might have been impossible without support from its citizens and their awareness of the role Canada has to play to help make the world peaceful.

“Canada is a country populated by immigrants. So we always had connections to Europe, to Asia, and to countries around the world. That makes us look outward, not inward,” he noted.

“We can look beyond our day-to-day survival and think about the bigger global issues. We understand that the peace and security of the whole world affects us. We are not selfish people.”

Ambassador Chatterson made the remarks as South Korea marks the 62nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War Monday.
According to the Ministry of National Defense, some 63 nations from all around the world had either sent troops or provided necessary assistance to South Korea during the forgotten war.

The 63 nations included the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, France, Belgium, Colombia, Ethiopia, and the Philippines.

These countries joined the Korean War after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution to begin a police action to help the South in the wake of North Koreans’ launch of the attack.

Chatterson said Canadian veterans, who are now mostly in their 80s, felt that their sacrifices paid off after witnessing the dramatic changes South Korea has made in terms of socio-economic development over the past six decades.

“In my discussions with them, they were very pleased that their sacrifices have enabled this,” he said.

“Our Korean War veterans visit here every year with the support of the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. For many of them, it was their first time. They had come to South Korea when they were at 18 or 19 years old sixty years ago. So they were quite struck by the change as Korea was absolutely ruined during the war. So it was very emotional for them.”

Canada Day

Six decades after the outbreak of the Korean War, the Canadian ambassador, who arrived in Seoul last September to assume duties to South and North Korea, said he felt the need to raise the profile of Canada as well as bilateral relations in South Korea.

The two sides will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations next year.

The two governments have made various efforts to bolster ties. One of them was the restart of negotiations to clinch the Korea-Canada free trade agreement, suspended after the two sides began talks in 2005. Last week, President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper announced this after the summit held on the sidelines of G20 Summit held in Mexico.

“Our negotiations are well-evolved and Canada and Korea have complementary economies,” said Chatterson, revealing optimism about the road ahead of the trade pact.

Near the end of the interview, the ambassador launched the pitch for Canada Day slated for July 1.

“We don’t celebrate this with army parades. Rather we celebrate this with communities in Canada and around the world. We will have concerts, picnics, barbeque and fireworks,” he said.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – ‘N. Korean attacks won’t be tolerated’

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In the News – ‘N. Korean attacks won’t be tolerated’


President Lee Myung-bak, left, walks somberly away after placing a wreath to honor Colombian troops killed in the 1950-53 Korean War at a memorial in Bogota, Columbia, Sunday, a day before the 62nd anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict. He is flanked by Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon. / Yonhap


Lee marks 62nd anniversary of outbreak of Korean War

By Kim Young-jin

President Lee Myung-bak said that no future North Korean provocations would be tolerated on the eve of the 62nd anniversary of the communist state invasion that triggered the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Meeting Colombian veterans who participated in the fratricidal war during his visit to Bogota, Sunday (Korean time), President Lee said, “It is with our own power that we defend our nation and we won’t let the North get away with any provocations.”

Lee’s visit was the first by a South Korean leader to the nation in 50 years since their establishment of diplomatic ties. Colombia came to the aid as a member of a 16-nation coalition in the Korean conflict.

He noted that the two Koreas are still technically at war, pointing out, “No lasting peace achieved after the war is over. We have spent 60-plus years in a state in which war is put on hold.”

“What we want is to quickly achieve peace on the peninsula and unification through cooperative steps,” the President said.

He thanked the veterans for their contribution to the nation.

“The Republic of Korea of today exists because you fought for and staked your lives to defend the far-flung nation in the East without evening knowing its name,” he said.

Despite the decades that have passed since the war broke out, military tensions remain high, a fact highlighted over the weekend by U.S.-South naval drills meant as a show of force against the Stalinist regime that waged two deadly attacks in 2010.

Lee, on the last stage of a four-nation Latin America swing, earlier paid tribute to Colombian troops killed in the 62-year-old war, laying a wreath at a Korean War memorial in Bogota.

Lee was to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for deepening cooperation in areas such as trade and investment as well as infrastructure development.

He said that thanks to the allies’ help, Korea has become a “donor’ country that makes contributions to poor countries in a major turnaround from a country that lived on international handouts. “We, Koreans and Colombians are blood-sealed brothers,” Lee declared.

Korea and U.S have been staging massive naval drills in the West Sea, which can be taken as a show of force not just against Pyongyang but also its ally, China.

The two allies, plus a contingent from Japan, have been conducting an exercise aimed at increasing deterrence capabilities since the sinking of ROK warship Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. The North is to blame for both provocations that led to the tensest moments since the 1953 truce.

The exercise comes as the North maintains its hard line under the leadership of new leader Kim Jong-un, the son of the late ruler Kim Jong-il.

A total of 8,000 personnel were involved, manning 10 South Korean warships and the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier and hundreds of aircraft, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The war games followed the allies’ largest-ever single-day live-fire exercises, Friday, near the border with the North that featured 2,000 troops as well as jet fighters, attack helicopters and various rocket launchers.

Tensions linger following Pyongyang failed rocket launch in April, which was deemed a test of ballistic missile technology and scuttled efforts at engagement.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. Denies Sending Commandos to Spy in N.Korea

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In the News – U.S. Denies Sending Commandos to Spy in N.Korea

U.S. military officials are rejecting a report that U.S. military commandos have been parachuting into North Korea to gather intelligence on Pyongyang’s underground military installations.

The Tokyo-based political journal The Diplomat carried a report on Monday alleging that a senior U.S. special operations commander revealed the purported commando program at a conference in Florida last week.

U.S. Defense Department press secretary George Little told reporters Tuesday that the report misquoted Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley.

“My understanding is that the general’s comments were contorted, distorted, misreported, and that, you know, there is in no way any substance to the assertion. Again, that was misreported that there are U.S. boots on the ground in North Korea. That is simply incorrect.”

Little said the United States works closely and on a daily basis with its allies in the region to develop information on North Korean intentions and capabilities.

Colonel Jonathan Withington, a spokesperson for the United States Forces Korea, said Tuesday that “great liberal license” was made with Tolley’s comments, and that some of the quotes were “made up and attributed to him.”

The Diplomat quoted Tolley as saying that U.S. and South Korean commandos were taking part in the reconnaissance mission, which it said is aimed at uncovering information on “thousands of tunnels” built by Pyongyang since the Korean War.

Withington said it is well-known that North Korea uses tunnels to hide its sensitive military operations. But he said “at no time” have U.S. or South Korean forces parachuted into North Korea to conduct special reconnaissance.

The author of the report in The Diplomat, David Axe, rejected suggestions that he fabricated the quotes attributed to the general. He said that if the general was speaking hypothetically, “he did not say so” and that “he spoke in the present tense” and “at length.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – China allows N. Koreans to leave for Seoul: reports

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In the News – China allows N. Koreans to leave for Seoul: reports

Seoul, May 18, 2012 (AFP) – China has allowed six North Korean refugees to leave for South Korea after they spent months holed up in Seoul’s consular offices in China, news reports said Friday.

Following their departure last week there are no more North Koreans left at South Korean diplomatic missions in China, the Korea JoongAng Daily and the Seoul Shinmun Daily said.

A South Korean foreign ministry spokeswoman declined to comment.

Beijing allowed the six defectors, who had been holed up at the South Korean missions in Shenyang and Shanghai for many months, to travel to the South through a third country, the dailies said, quoting sources.

China’s decision to let the defectors leave was apparently made as a goodwill gesture before a meeting between South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Korea JoongAng Daily said.

Lee met Hu on Monday in Beijing following an annual trilateral summit with China and Japan.

The six included two relatives of a South Korean prisoner of war, captured by the North during the 1950-53 Korean War. Of the remaining four, two were identified as men and two as women, the reports said.

China last month reportedly allowed another five North Korean defectors to leave for South Korea after they were confined to Seoul’s Beijing embassy to avoid arrest. Some spent months there but others spent years.

China arrests and repatriates fugitives from North Korea, considering them to be economic migrants rather than potential refugees.

South Korea and international rights groups have urged it to change the policy, saying returnees can face harsh punishment.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled poverty or repression in their homeland, almost all of them across the border to China.

Some hide out among — or marry into — the ethnic Korean community in China’s northeast. Others try to travel on to Southeast Asian nations before flying to Seoul.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Remains of S. Korean soldiers killed in N. Korea return home for 1st time

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In the News – Remains of S. Korean soldiers killed in N. Korea return home for 1st time

SEOUL, May 25 (Yonhap) — The remains of South Korean soldiers killed in North Korea during the Korean War returned home on Friday via the U.S., marking the first such repatriation of South Korean war dead since the 1953 armistice.

Twelve sets of remains, two of which have been positively identified, were among 226 sets recovered in the northern part of North Korea by a U.S. excavation team between 2000 and 2004, before Washington halted the joint recovery mission with Pyongyang due to concerns over the safety and security of its workers.

After conducting DNA tests, the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii confirmed last August that some of the remains were those of Asian soldiers.

Since then, Seoul and Washington have conducted joint analyses to identify the remains and 12 sets were confirmed to be from South Korean soldiers, officials at Seoul’s defense ministry said.

The 12 sets of remains were flown Friday to a military airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, where they were met with an honor guard ceremony attended by President Lee Myung-bak, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Army Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea’s nuclear test ready “soon” – source

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In the News – North Korea’s nuclear test ready “soon” – source

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING, April 24 (Reuters) – North Korea has almost completed preparations for a third nuclear test and has the capacity to carry it out “soon,” a senior source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters.

“Soon. Preparations are almost complete,” the source said when asked whether North Korea was planning to undertake a nuclear test.

North Korea said last week it was ready to retaliate in the face of international condemnation over this month’s failed rocket launch, increasing the likelihood the hermit state will push ahead with a third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

The source has correctly predicted events in the past, telling Reuters about North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006 days before it took place. Continue reading

U.S. Suspends MIA Search in North Korea

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U.S. Suspends MIA Search in North Korea

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2012 – The United States has suspended efforts to find remains of U.S. service members lost during the Korean War due to North Korean threats to launch a ballistic missile, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.


Click photo for screen-resolution image

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little and Navy Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, brief the press corps on defense-related issues at the Pentagon, March 21, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Recovering remains of those lost and unaccounted for is a priority to the Defense Department, and U.S. experts were due to enter North Korea this month.

“We have suspended that effort because we believe that North Korea has not acted appropriately in recent days and weeks and that it’s important for them to return to the standards of behavior that the international community has called for,” Little said at a Pentagon news conference. “We do hope at some point to be able to re-engage the effort.” Continue reading

Thoughts on Kim Jong-il’s Death

Kim Jong-Il in August 2011

Originally I had intended to write about South Korea’s plan to put up a hundred-foot tall Christmas tree. North Korea was quite upset about this affront to their nation, declaring it to be tantamount to psychological warfare, and threatened that “unexpected consequences” would ensue if the tree went up. Where North Korea is concerned, almost all consequences are unexpected, so I found their threat convincing enough.

But a rather unexpected circumstance popped up on its own, a development more compelling to write about: Kim Jong-il died. I found out after work on the 18th; I had called my boss to talk shop on the walk home and as I was about to hang up she told me. We both sounded happy when we got off the phone with each other. I reflect that most people outside North Korea seem pretty happy about the news, though they may not proclaim it loudly. But the tone of the activity seems, on the whole, celebratory. Continue reading

What I Never Learned in School

In my schooling I don’t remember learning anything about North Korea. At all. If anything existed in my U.S. History book about the Korean War and its aftermath, it was not only glossed over by my class but also completely ignored by myself since we were promised that it wasn’t necessary for the AP History Test (it was, to my dismay). All I ever knew about North Korea was based on a magazine cover that was held by push-pins onto the bulletin board in our history classroom—an ominous cartoon of Kim Jung Il and lots of nukes. In college I didn’t learn much more—in my class in Korea I learned about the Korean War and resulting separation of the Koreas, but nothing about North Korea after the fact. All I’ve learned about North Korea has been from an International Relations class that had a week focused on dealing with nuclear war and the internship this summer. Continue reading

North Korean Defectors and Diversification

When I volunteered at Hangyeore during the summer internship with the Ministry of Unification, I went into the program knowing very little of the history and the political situation revolving around the people who defected from North Korea other than the reality that the difficulty of leaving North Korea to find asylum in South Korea often required the defectors to spend a long time in third countries. However, as I spent time in the school without enough understanding of the Korean language to find out more about the children or other people like them who had defected from North Korea, I felt that it was important to examine further the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and motives for escape from North Korea. In this article, I intend to share what results I found because I am sure there are many others like me who have only a general idea about the situation with defectors but would like to find out more details to better understand how to address the economic, social, and psychological adjustment of the defector community in South Korea. Continue reading

A Hundred-Year Journey of the Family

I had the privilege of working with Professor Kim Duk-chul, the director and producer of A Hundred-Year Journey of the Family, a documentary that appeared in the line-up for documentaries in the sixteenth annual Busan International Film Festival (2011 October 6-14). Professor Kim Duk-chul’s documentary aired on both the 8th of October and the 10th of October. Although I had viewed the documentary while Professor Kim Duk-chul was still editing the film, I was fortunately able to participate in the official first screening of the documentary at the Busan International Film Festival.

The documentary was filmed in Japan over a period of ten years and explored the history and identity-formation of the Korean minority community in Japan. The documentary revealed how the division of the Korean peninsula has not only impacted the lives of people living in North and South Korea, but has also created long-term effects on the Korean communities outside of the boundaries of the peninsula, such as that in Japan. Professor Kim Duk-Chul’s documentary gives the viewer a glimpse of the division of the Korean minority in Japan, the Zainichi Korean community, upon the end of the Korean War and the importance of unification to the communities there as well as to families in North and South Korea. Continue reading

Meet Professor Grace Chae

GI YOON KIM (edited by CL)
“People jump to assumptions, because it’s easy— I hope to show a bigger picture”

Grace Chae is a Korea Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow at Wellesley College. She received her Ph.D. in History at the University of Chicago, specializing in Korean War POWs. Right now she teaches Modern Korean History: From the 1800s to the Present and Prisoners of War: International Norms and Practice at Wellesley College. Continue reading