Korean War Armistice Signing Anniversary

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Truce In Korea 1953

This past July 27th marked the 59th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that officially put the Korean War on hold. It was a silent holiday that went nearly unnoticed by the world. However, for those soldiers who lived through the Korean War, this was an important day, no matter what side they fought on, and many gathered to remember and to celebrate.

In North Korea, this day was celebrated with war veterans visiting Panmunjom to pledge their unchanging loyalty to North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un. Fireworks were also fired to celebrate the day. 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. 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. However, the United States continues to stand by its claim that normal ties will only come after North Korea abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons and takes other steps towards change. Continue reading

In the News – Lee donates to ‘unification fund’

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In the News – Lee donates to ‘unification fund’

SEOUL, July 16 (Yonhap) — President Lee Myung-bak donated Monday to a government campaign to raise funds to finance what are expected to be massive costs South Korea will shoulder in the event of unification with North Korea.

Lee put an envelope containing an unspecified amount of money into the “unification jar,” a white earthen pot the government had made in a symbolic gesture to raise money to help finance the costs of potential unification with the impoverished North.

“What matters is not how much will be collected. I hope as many people as possible will take part in this and chip in,” Lee said during the donation ceremony at the presidential office.

Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told Lee former Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara had made an impromptu donation after learning of the jar’s purpose in a meeting with Yu. Maehara, a ranking lawmaker of Japan’s ruling Democratic Party, has been on a three-day visit to Seoul since Sunday.

The state-run Korea Institute for National Unification has estimated the initial costs for the integration of the two Koreas could range from 55 trillion won (US$47 billion) to 249 trillion won ($216 billion).

The estimate, which is projected to cover the first year of integration, was based on the assumption the two neighbors could be unified two decades from now, according to the institute.

Lee has said unification could come at any time and South Korea should be prepared for it.

In the News – Lee: Tolerance Won’t Stop the Attacks

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In the News – Lee: Tolerance Won’t Stop the Attacks

President Lee Myung Bak, speaking in San Francisco on Tuesday 26th, once again emphasized the importance of maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula through strength.

“The Republic of Korea has always tolerated [provocations] not because it lacks strength, but in order to maintain peace,” he asserted. “However, we have come to realize that tolerance is not the way to deter provocations.”

“If North Korea provokes us, it is now our firm stance that it should receive a still greater punishment,” he went on.

In addition, President Lee compared the per capita income of North and South, saying that in the 60 years since division, South Korea has achieved economic success and development similar to that of Japan because “we maintain liberal democracy”.

He noted also that although there are a multitude of different views in South Korea, he affirmed the success of his country “through a strong liberal democracy and a market economy we have created a society in which citizens live well and human rights are guaranteed.”

 

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 – N. Korea says it targets S. Korean media for possible attack

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In the News – N. Korea says it targets S. Korean media for possible attack

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) — North Korea said Monday its military has entered map coordinates of some conservative South Korean media offices as it threatened to strike their headquarters for their alleged insult to North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un.

The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said the country’s troops have been targeting the Seoul headquarters of the Chosun Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 56 minutes 83 seconds North latitude and 126 degrees 97 minutes 65 seconds East longitude. It also revealed the coordinates of the JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo newspapers, as well as the KBS, MBC and SBS television stations and CBS radio.

It is the first time the North has released coordinates of intended targets in South Korea.

“We would like to ask the Lee group if it wants to leave all this to be struck by the (North) or opt for apologizing and putting the situation under control, though belatedly,” the General Staff said in an English-language ultimatum, referring to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Seoul, the South Korean capital city of more than 10 million people and home to South Korean media headquarters, is within range of North Korea’s artillery and rockets.

“If the Lee group recklessly challenges our army’s eruption of resentment, it will retaliate against it with a merciless sacred war of its own style as it has already declared,” the General Staff said in the ultimatum carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

It also warned the North is “fully ready for everything” and “time is running out.”

South Korea defended its media reports on its communist neighbor, saying freedom of the press is a basic right guaranteed in free and democratic countries around the world.

The South Korean government said in a statement it “will maintain a posture to immediately cope with any North Korean provocation.” A South Korean military official said no particular movements in the North Korean military have been observed.

Also Monday, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk urged the North to immediately stop threatening the South’s media outlets. He said the North’s threat was a grave “provocation” against South Korea’s free and democratic system.

There is no freedom of the press in North Korea where authorities use state media as a propaganda tool to strengthen personality cults of the country’s leaders.

The North’s latest threat was in response to some South Korean media reports critical of the North’s celebration of the Korean Children’s Union (KCU) under way in Pyongyang.

About 20,000 North Korean children pledged their allegiance to Kim as the North began a six-day festival on Sunday to mark the 66th anniversary of the KCU, according to Pyongyang’s state media.

Some South Korean media dismissed the celebration as part of the North’s attempt to win support for Kim, who took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

Channel A, a television arm of the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, likened Kim to the late German dictator Adolf Hitler over the anniversary celebration.

The North has long bristled at any outside criticism of its leader and has made similar threats against the South over the past several months, although no actual attack has occurred.

South Korea has repeatedly vowed to avenge any North Korean attacks following two attacks by the North in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

 

Original article can be found here

In the News – NK human rights advocacy ‘turns corner’: activist

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In the News – NK human rights advocacy ‘turns corner’: activist

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, June 1 (Yonhap) — The international community needs to maintain momentum in its efforts to address North Korea’s human rights violations, a U.S.-based activist said Friday.

“We have turned a corner in North Korea human rights advocacy,” Suzanne Scholte, head of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, said in an emailed letter. “We are no longer debating its importance as we have for so many years. It is on the agenda now.”

She was describing the results of the annual North Korea Freedom Week event in Seoul to raise public awareness on the urgency of tackling human rights abuses in the communist country.

Scholte is known for more than a decade of work to publicize North Korean human rights issues.

She won the Seoul Peace Prize in 2008.

“We have seen governments finally making human rights as equal a concern as the security issues,” she said.

South Korea’s conservative government of Lee Myung-bak has openly voiced concerns about the matter, even the fate of North Korean defectors in China, bearing the brunt of subtle diplomatic tension with a key trade partner.

The Barack Obama administration has also constantly talked about its interest in the well-being of North Koreans.

Scholte noted a growing number of North Korean people are fleeing their homeland in pursuit of freedom, not just to escape hunger.

She attributed the trend to access to foreign news and culture through DVDs, mobile phones and other technology.

Citing testimony from North Korean defectors, she said USB flash drives(thumb-size data storage devices) are perhaps the best tool since they are easier to hide and carry.

“The dramatic changes inside North Korea occurring over the past decade, especially the information explosion that has hit there and the market explosion with people no longer dependent on the regime to survive, makes North Korea vastly different today than the last transition in 1994 when Kim Jong-il assumed power,” she said.

Kim’s son, Jong-un, became North Korea’s new leader after his death in December.

There are no specific signs yet of social or political upheaval stemming from the recent leadership change.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Controversy Follows Comments on Military Operations in N.Korea

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In the News – Controversy Follows Comments on Military Operations in N.Korea

Earlier this week, a U.S. Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley stirred controversy this week with comments about American and South Korean military operations in North Korea. On Wednesday, General Tolley said he had been unclear in his comments about possible U.S. operations, and said that “at no time have we sent special operations forces into North Korea.”

There are concerns about the ramifications of what the leader of the U.S. special operations command in South Korea said at a panel discussion in Tampa, Florida, on May 22.

Brigadier General Neil Tolley, to an audience of hundreds of people at the Special Operations Forces Industry conference, discussed the challenges the United States faces determining what is inside North Korea’s many secret tunnels.

Freelance combat reporter and technology writer David Axe was among those listening to the general.

“He was describing the utility of human intelligence on the ground in North Korea. He was describing it as though it were actually happening right now,” said Axe. “He since has walked that back to say that he was speaking hypothetically, although he didn’t say at the time he was speaking hypothetically.” Continue reading

In the News – Lee criticizes pro-N. Korea groups in S. Korea

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In the News – Lee criticizes pro-N. Korea groups in S. Korea

SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) — President Lee Myung-bak on Monday urged “pro-North Korea” groups in South Korea to wake up to reality and stop blindly accepting nonsense assertions Pyongyang makes, calling their unconditional following of the communist regime “problematic.”

It was the first time Lee, who has tried to avoid ideological remarks, has openly criticized those sympathetic to North Korea by using the word, “jongbuk,” which means “blindly following the North.” Pro-Pyongyang followers are criticized as jongbuk forces in South Korea.

Lee made the criticism in his biweekly radio address, saying North Korea has made “wild assertions” denying its involvement in attacks on South Korea, including a 1983 terrorist bombing targeted at the then South Korean president in Myanmar and the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship.

“The North has repeatedly made such wild assertions, but what is more problematic are some pro-North Korea groups within our society,” Lee said. “Just as the international community is demanding the North change, those people who unconditionally support North Korea must change; they are, after all, living in the Republic of Korea that has joined the ranks of advanced countries.”

Criticism of pro-North Korean groups has risen sharply in South Korea in recent months after some lawmakers-elect of the leftist opposition Unified Progressive Party displayed strong leanings to the communist nation and reluctance to criticize the regime.

Earlier this month, Lee visited Myanmar as the first South Korean president to visit the country in 29 years since the North’s 1983 terrorist bombing ripped through a Yangon mausoleum. The attack killed 17 South Koreans, including some Cabinet ministers.

Lee visited the mausoleum during this month’s trip.

“What wrong did they do and to whom? They were the victims of the division of the country and a ruthless terrorist attack. I could not hold back my anger thinking about who took their lives. I felt all choked up,” he said in the radio address.

Lee praised Myanmar for opening up to the outside world with sweeping democratic reforms, saying he hopes the North will follow in Myanmar’s footsteps, “change its thinking, make new friends and open a new age.”

South Korea and Myanmar can become good business partners, Lee said.

“It is significant for Korea to have another big market the size of Vietnam in the region,” he said. “Our country can be assured of the abundant resources of Myanmar and actually invest in it. If our two nations consult and make thorough preparations this year, Korean businesses can make inroads in earnest, beginning next year.”

 

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 – Rising Instability Fuels North Korean Rhetoric

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In the News – Rising Instability Fuels North Korean Rhetoric

SEOUL—North Korea’s increasingly inflammatory criticism against South Korea is a sign of instability in its authoritarian regime and doesn’t appear likely to end soon, the South’s top official in charge of dealing with the North said.

Since the death of Kim Jong Il in December, the North’s government has been trying to build support for his son Kim Jong Eun and resorted to greater extremes of rhetoric in the process, Yu Woo-ik, South Korea’s Minister of Unification, said in a recent interview.

“The reason why North Koreans criticize South Korea ever more strongly, we believe, is an expression of anxiety,” Mr. Yu said.

He noted that the younger Mr. Kim has begun reshaping the North’s government and, in an environment where jobs are on the line, people and organizations are jockeying for power by showing loyalty to him—and one way to do that is to criticize the South.

The period has also opened an opportunity for China, North Korea’s political ally and economic benefactor, to wield more influence on the regime, said Mr. Yu, who was South Korea’s ambassador to China until taking his current post last September.

0524yuwooik

Reuters

“If China thinks more progressively, it will be more effective in bringing change to North Korea,” he said. “We believe this is the right time to go in that direction.” Continue reading

In the News – Lee calls for greater attention to N. Korea’s human rights record

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In the News – Lee calls for greater attention to N. Korea’s human rights record

SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday North Korea’s human rights record is an issue as important as its nuclear or missile programs, and should be dealt with more urgently than other matters.

Lee made the remark during a meeting with a group of U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the chairwoman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, presidential spokeswoman Lee Mi-yon said.

“The issue of North Korea’s nuclear test or a missile launch is of the same weight of significance as the issue of North Korea’s human rights,” Lee was quoted as saying. “The issue of human rights for the North Korean people should rather be dealt with more urgently.”

The lawmakers promised to pay more attention to the human rights issue, the spokeswoman said.

Ros-Lehtinen and five other Congressmen arrived in Seoul Tuesday for a four-day visit that includes talks with Lee, meetings with the unification minister handling relations with Pyongyang and the first vice foreign minister, as well as a visit to the border with the North. Continue reading

In the News – Lee: N. Korea’s economy should first stand on its own before unification

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In the News – Lee: N. Korea’s economy should first stand on its own before unification

SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday North Korea’s economy should first get on its feet before the two Koreas become unified again, stressing that Seoul never wants the communist neighbor to collapse.

Lee made the remark in an interview with CNBC television broadcast in Singapore earlier in the day, stressing that the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear programs and other issues can be resolved if the regime opens up and works together with the outside world.

“It is not that we wish something will go wrong and North Korea will collapse because it will give South Korea a great burden,” Lee said in the interview. “If North Korea goes together with the international community, its economy can stand on its own and it would be most desirable to have a peaceful unification after that,” he said.

North Korea has relied on outside aid to feed its people since the mid-1990s.

Regarding the eurozone financial crisis, Lee said debt-ridden Greece should accept austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a bailout package, saying South Korea went through harsher measures when it accepted humiliating IMF bailout loans during the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

“Compared with South Korea, I think the level now being demanded for Greece is reasonable,” Lee said. “I think Greece, including its government, businesses, workers and people, should voluntarily accept this.”

On Monday, Lee instructed officials to make thorough preparations to stave off any negative fallouts from the fiscal crisis amid concerns that Greece may not meet the terms of its bailout and drop out of the eurozone, a scenario that could destabilize the entire European market and beyond.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Kim Jong Un Bashes ‘Pathetic’ North Korea Fun Park

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In the News – Kim Jong Un Bashes ‘Pathetic’ North Korea Fun Park

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un publicly rebuked officials for the “pathetic” management of an amusement park in Pyongyang in an effort to bolster his image five months after taking power in the totalitarian state.

Kim toured the Mangyongdae Funfair in the capital and pointed out a broken pavement and chipped paint on rides while plucking weeds, the official Korean Central New Agency said yesterday. Improving the facility should be “an opportunity to remove outdated ideological views from officials’ heads and end their old work-style,” KCNA quoted him as saying.

Kim, believed to be under 30, became head of the country after his father Kim Jong Il died in December, inheriting an economy isolated through global sanctions and wracked by malnutrition. His condemnation of the conditions at the amusement park may be the latest effort to shore up his power base by reinforcing an image as an engaged leader, said analysts including Park Young Ho.

“This is Kim’s blatant effort to appeal to the public as a young leader thoroughly engaged in improving the people’s economic lives,” said Park, of the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. “The strong words he uses to censure the officials show just how desperately he’s trying to gather public support.” Continue reading

In the News – South Korea: Myanmar Pledges To Stop Buying North’s Weapons

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In the News – South Korea: Myanmar Pledges To Stop Buying North’s Weapons

South Korea has received assurances from Myanmar that it will no longer buy weapons from North Korea, an aide to President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday.

President Thein Sein of Myanmar acknowledged that his country had bought conventional weapons from the North over the past 20 years but vowed in a meeting with Mr. Lee in the Burmese capital on Monday to end the practice, said the aide, Kim Tae-hyo.

Mr. Thein Sein also indicated Tuesday that Myanmar had not pursued the development of nuclear arms and vowed to honor a United Nations Security Council resolution that bans countries from activities that could assist North Korea’s missile programs, Mr. Kim said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Myanmar Agrees Defector Release

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In the News – Myanmar Agrees Defector Release

Myanmar has agreed to release a North Korean defector imprisoned two years ago for entering the country illegally and declared its intention to comply with all UN resolutions covering nuclear and missile trade, reflecting the country’s recent tentative moves toward rejoining the international community of nations following years of economic and diplomatic isolation.

The imprisoned defector, whose identity has not been released, has been serving a five-year prison sentence following his 2010 conviction for illegal entry. Upon his release, the man is reportedly set to be transferred to South Korea.

The agreement came as President Lee Myung Bak met President Thein Sein in the new jungle capital of Napyidaw as part of the first visit to the country by a sitting South Korean president since a 1983 terrorist attack carried out in the former Burmese capital of Yangon by North Korean agents killed a number of government ministers and came within minutes of killing President Chun Doo Hwan himself.

For its part, South Korea has offered Myanmar a slew of different forms of development assistance matching the nature of its recent reforms, including loans and grants, scholarships and even help in establishing an economic think tank.

Today, President Lee is set to fly across from Napyidaw to the traditional capital, Yangon, to meet with democracy activist and newly elected lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Experts forecast imminenet provocations by Kim Jong-un

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In the News – Experts forecast imminenet provocations by Kim Jong-un

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is likely to keep tensions with South Korea high and continue provocations against the South to help consolidate his power, experts in Seoul forecast Thursday.

Kim would also be very reluctant to pursue reform or open his isolated country out of fear such steps could lead to the collapse of his regime, Koo Bon-hak, a professor of Hallym University Graduate School of International Studies, said at a Seoul forum.

Kim has made frequent inspection trips to military units in an apparent attempt to bolster his support from the military since he took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

“Instead of relying on the United States, South Korea should try to secure independent deterrence against North Korea” to cope with the North’s provocations, Koo said at the forum on the North Korean situation, organized by the private Sejong Institute think tank.

The U.S. keeps about 28,500 troops in South Korea to help deter North Korea’s possible aggression. South Korea has strengthened its defense posture following the North’s two deadly attacks on the South in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

Koo also said South Korea should strengthen ties with China, North Korea’s key ally and economic benefactor, to help Beijing nudge the North to pursue reform and openness.

China has repeatedly tried to coax its impoverished neighbor to follow in its footsteps in embracing reform similar to that which lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing’s rise to become the world’s second-largest economy. Continue reading

In the News – South Korea tells North it must start repaying its debts

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In the News – South Korea tells North it must start repaying its debts

The South Korean government notified North Korea on Friday that it is time to start paying back a low-interest loan to cover food aid shipped from 2000 through 2007.

The first payment, a combination of principal and interest worth $5.83 million needs to be paid back by early next month, the state-run Export Import Bank said.

The loan, worth $720 million, covers 2.6 million tons of rice and corn sent in six tranches as part of a deal forged under the “sunshine” policy of previous South Korean administrations. The loan was given at an interest rate of one percent, and the North promised to redeem it over 20 years following a 10-year grace period, The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time blog reported.

It is a reasonable bet a country that uses all of its scarce hard currency for spending on the military and the ruling elite will not be rushing to meet its repayment obligations, particularly given its obvious hatred of the current South Korean regime.

The North’s state media ratcheted up its hate-fueled rants against the Lee Myung-bak administration in the South in recent weeks for perceived disrespect of the ruling Kim dynasty.

But should Pyongyang decide to make good on its debts, it has options. An official with the South’s Unification Ministry said that while the North is being asked to pay in cash, payment could potentially be made in commodities if an agreement can be reached.

Earlier this week, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan reported that North Korea has bountiful deposits of coal, magnesite and uranium.

 
Original article can be found here.

In the News – ‘North Korea may have aborted launch’

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In the News – ‘North Korea may have aborted launch’

By Kim Young-jin

North Korea may have intentionally crashed its long-range Unha-3 rocket last month due to problems in staging, a U.S. missile expert said Monday.

David Wright, a senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, put forward the possibility among a range of scenarios in an analysis of the failed April 13 launch that sent regional tensions soaring.

The rocket failed shortly after liftoff, dealing an embarrassing blow to the fledgling regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command said the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 kilometers west of Seoul, some 300 kilometers from the launch site. Local reports estimated the splashdown occurred closer to 400 kilometers from the site.

“North Korea reportedly announced prior to the launch that the rocket was equipped with a flight termination system that would allow operators to shut down the engines manually if the ground station detected a problem,” Wright wrote on 38 North, a website focused on North Korean affairs.

“It is possible that if, as some sources have suggested, the first stage burned to completion but there was a problem with staging, that the North may have aborted the flight at that point.

“For example, if the launcher was seen to be deviating from the intended trajectory, it is possible that it was destroyed intentionally.”

The move earned the North a U.N. Security Council statement that expanded sanctions on the cash-strapped country. Tensions remain high as Pyongyang has reportedly made some preparations to carry out a third nuclear test.

The expert said that based on open source information it remains impossible to determine the exact cause of the failure and that more data on possible irregularities in the flight path and operation of the engines would shed light on whether the flight was aborted.

If splashdown occurred at 300 kilometers, analysts say the failure likely occurred during the operation of the first stage, before staging took place.

The expert said a splashdown at 400 kilometers would raise another possibility.

“That would suggest that the first stage worked essentially as intended, but that ignition and separation of the second stage did not occur properly so that it fell with the first stage into the sea at this location,” he said, adding portions of the rocket could also have landed at both places.

The North insists the launch was meant to put a satellite into orbit for science. But it was widely condemned as a ballistic missile test amid concerns that Pyongyang is working to build long-range missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea faxes propaganda messages to S. Korean groups

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In the News – N. Korea faxes propaganda messages to S. Korean groups

SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) — North Korea has sent faxed messages to 13 South Korean civic and religious organizations in recent weeks to criticize South Korea’s alleged insult to the North’s dignity, an official said Tuesday.

The messages came in response to South Korea’s accusation that the North wasted millions of dollars on celebrating the centennial of the April 15 birth of the country’s late founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korea has said the North should have used the money to buy much-needed food for its 24 million people.

Some South Koreans have recently held anti-Pyongyang events in Seoul.

One of the messages claimed that Seoul’s insult to the North is a provocation by conservative forces to win the presidential election in December, according to the official who is familiar with the issue.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s single five-year term ends early next year and by law, he cannot seek re-election. North Korea has repeatedly condemned Lee as a traitor and called for his ouster in an apparent protest of his hard-line policy toward Pyongyang.

The latest faxed messages came as Pyongyang has threatened to launch special military actions to reduce Seoul to ashes in minutes over Seoul’s defamation of the North’s leader.

 

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