In the News – Park Geun-hye calls for implementation of previous inter-Korean deals

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In the News – Park Geun-hye calls for implementation of previous inter-Korean deals

SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s leading presidential contender Park Geun-hye said Wednesday that previous deals with North Korea should be respected, signaling she could take a softer approach toward the communist nation if elected in the December election.

Park made the remark during a rare trip to the heavily fortified border with the North.

North Korea has routinely pressed South Korea to honor agreements reached at two previous summits in 2000 and 2007 and made Seoul’s implementation of them a key condition for better ties.

The deals have been in limbo as relations between the two Koreas have been at one of the worst levels in decades after current President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 with a harder-line approach to Pyongyang.

Park said that previous inter-Korean promises “should be kept,” as part of efforts to build confidence between the two divided countries.

Still, she said that deals reached at the 2007 summit should “win a parliamentary endorsement” before being carried out as their implementation requires a lot of money and involvement of private companies.

The first summit paved the way for the two Koreas to ease military tensions and begin economic cooperation after decades of hostilities.

In 2007, the leaders of the two Koreas also produced a deal calling for the South’s massive investment in the North’s key industrial sectors, including shipbuilding and tourism. South Korea is the No. 1 shipbuilding nation in the world.

Park’s rare trip to the border came more than an hour after North Korea announced that its young leader Kim Jong-un had been awarded the title of marshal in the latest promotion following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

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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.

Researching Refugees

North Korean Asylum Seekers (Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

This summer, when I wasn’t driving around in a minivan or eating dinner or talking about Gossip Girl with North Korean refugees, I dabbled in some online research on foreign policy.

This was on assignment from the Ministry of Unification’s Resettlement Support Division, the department that looks after North Korean refugees during their integration process. I looked into Chinese, South Korean, US, Australian, UK, and Canadian policies with respect to North Korean refugees—those are at least the countries with plentiful information available in English about their policies, and generally are also the ones with the greatest influx of North Korean refugees. Continue reading