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 – S. Koreans to file suit against N. Korean leader in int’l criminal court

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In the News – S. Koreans to file suit against N. Korean leader in int’l criminal court

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) — A South Korean private committee said Wednesday that it will file a lawsuit against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with the International Criminal Court in September.

The move is designed to put pressure on the communist country to repatriate the hundreds of South Korean soldiers taken prisoner and the remains of those killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, said Park Sun-young, a former lawmaker who has championed the rights of North Korean defectors and South Korean prisoners of war (POWs).

The committee, which calls for the return of the South Korean POWs, also said it plans to present a petition to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the issue in the fall, said Park, one of about 50 committee members.

“The pressure will be enormous,” Park said after a news conference in the National Assembly as she vowed to make efforts to try to bring home aging former South Korean soldiers.

South Korea estimates about 500 POWs are believed to still be alive in the North. Pyongyang denies holding any POWs and claims former South Korean soldiers voluntarily defected.

Park claimed former South Korean soldiers toil in mines in the North, citing testimonies of some of the 56 former POWs who escaped to the South after spending decades in the North.

The war ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.

She also said the committee plans to upload testimonies of former South Korean POWs to YouTube to raise international awareness of the issue.

Choi Eun-suk, a North Korea legal expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said he did not think it is impossible to pressure the North to return former South Korean soldiers. He did not elaborate.

Original Article

In the News – North Korea’s cult of personality surrounds Kim

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In the News – North Korea’s cult of personality surrounds Kim

The man before me is not yet 30. He stands, perhaps a little unsure of himself, a nervous tic in his shoulders seeming to betray his unease.

Before him is one of the largest armies on the planet. It is a war machine, still fighting a battle from more than half a century ago.

They move in lockstep, legs kicking and arms swinging as one, discipline and focus measured in millimeters.

A vast arsenal of weapons, missiles and tanks, pass by. The cost of this show of military might has been paid in the suffering of the people it is primed to defend. Aid groups say thousands have starved here; meanwhile, the army has grown fat.

The young man eyeing all of this is master of all he surveys. This is North Korea, and the man is Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Un named marshal of North Korean army

This was a rare glimpse indeed of a man who now rules the notorious hermit kingdom. In April this year, North Korea opened its doors to the world’s media. CNN was there to cover the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung.

The eternal president and “Great Leader” had passed power to his “Dear Leader” son, the erratic, eccentric Kim Jong Il. Now a third generation Kim, the so-called “Supreme Leader,” stood on the shoulders of his forebears.

He gained power by birthright, but the world is watching as he attempts to rule in his own right.

“He is the youngest head of state in the world,” said analyst Patrick Chovanec. “There’s still a lot of debate about how much power he has, whether other family members are in control or the military.”

Reading North Korean tea leaves

His soldiers certainly pay lip service to their loyalty.

These men are combat ready, never forgetting they have a sworn enemy in the United States.

“With the strategy of the great leader Kim Il Sung, the dear Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un with our bombs and weapons we will destroy them,” they tell me.

But beyond the war rhetoric are the realities of leading an impoverished, isolated and paranoid country.

As I stood below him at this military parade, my mind wandered to the young Kim’s thoughts. What would have been going through his mind? We’re told he was educated partly in Switzerland, loves music and western movies and is a huge basketball fan.

But the country he rules is largely sealed off from the outside world. People here mostly don’t have telephones; they never get exposure to foreign television, newspapers or films. The world is defined by endless statues, portraits and tributes to the cult of the Kims.

What Kim’s ‘mystery woman’ says about North Korea

When CNN visited Pyongyang, North Korea was putting on its most intimidating face.

But amid this display of what the regime called power and prosperity was the lone voice of the young leader.

For the first time North Koreans heard him speak.

This is why he appeared nervous.

Kim Jong Un mouthed the usual threats and warnings, but there was something different: an acknowledgment that North Korea must find a better future.

“Our fellow citizens, who are the best citizens in the world, who have overcome countless struggles and hardships, it is our party’s firmest resolve not to let our citizens go hungry again,” he said.

It was an important, if veiled, concession. Yes, North Korean people had suffered. Yes, the regime was responsible — not just for the past but a better future.

“This was really his introduction. A few years ago no one even knew he existed but they’re being told to worship him,” Chovanec said.

Our government-assigned minders escorted us around the city. They were there to make sure that what we saw and heard was strictly according to the party line.

In North Korea it is impossible to separate what is genuine and what is just for show.

In the streets of the capital, Pyongyang, we were given a glimpse of the great future Kim Jong Un was promising.

We were taken to bustling neighborhoods, saw families shopping, cars on the street.

But all of this only served to hide another harsher reality. Outside this showcase city, life was so very different.

In the bleak countryside, aid groups say people continue to starve. Defectors tell of surviving on little more than corn. Children are reportedly malnourished and have stunted growth.

All the while billions of dollars are still spent on high-tech missiles and nuclear weapons.

This is the essence of this secretive country.

Kim Jong Un may struggle to emerge from the shadows of his father and grandfather, but the gun here looms even larger. As young and green as he is, he knows this much: Without it, his rule and the regime itself will not survive.

Original Article

Military Service and Support for Unification

South Korean marines train at Baengnyeong Island near the North Korean border. Photo credit Seo Myeong-gon / Yonhap / AP.

South Korea is a little bit smaller than Kentucky, yet it has the sixth-largest standing military in the world. There is only one country that is remotely similar in size with a comparable military: North Korea.

Because the war between North and South Korea is technically still ongoing, military service in both Koreas is compulsory, though only for men. In the South, all men must serve for two years. In the North, it’s ten years. We know instinctively that the North Korean military is drastically different from the U.S.’s, just as almost everything about North Korean society is drastically different from ours. The compulsory service in the South, though, also makes the South Korean military quite different from what we’re used to here, and it affects not only the military itself but also society at large in interesting ways. Continue reading

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.

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

Cheonanham

There is a difficult balance between honoring the dead and the living.

This summer I visited Cheonanham, the memorial for a Korean Navy corvette that had sunk in March 2010. At that time, I had been teaching English in Jeollanam-do. We heard that a ship had sunk off of the coast, and 46 Korean sailors were dead. I remember the televised funeral services.

The ship was recovered from the seabed in two halves; upon investigation by an international team (South Korea called in foreign experts to increase the investigation’s credibility), the investigators determined that the ship broke in two from something called a bubble jet, caused by the explosion of a torpedo a few meters from the hull of the ship. The resulting pressure differential tore the ship in two.

Approaching the Cheonanham (author’s photo)

Continue reading