The heir apparent to the Samsung empire, Jay Y. Lee, was trying to push through a corporate merger seen as critical to his plans to succeed his father as chairman.
For months, key shareholders fought the move. Then, suddenly, the standoff broke as South Korea’s government-controlled pension fund, which held the shares to cast the deciding vote, endorsed Mr. Lee’s deal.
A week later, President Park Geun-hye invited Mr. Lee to her office and asked for Samsung’s help with a campaign to promote South Korean culture and sports. Within months, Samsung had donated $17.4 million to two foundations controlled by the president’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and $6.2 million for the training of Korean equestrians, including Ms. Choi’s daughter.
Those donations — and whether they were part of a quid pro quo — are now at the heart of the impeachment case against Ms. Park. The nation’s full Constitutional Court will begin formal hearings on Tuesday into the case, the biggest influence-peddling scandal in South Korea’s history.
The court has never before ousted a president, though seven of the last eight have left office tainted by allegations of corruption. Whatever the court decides, the Park scandal has already put recurring collusion between big business and government in South Korea under intense scrutiny and could reshape the nation’s flawed, young democracy.
[…] In the last few years, the Obama administration and the Pentagon have used China’s expanding military might and the never-ending standoff with nuclearizing North Korea to incorporate Japan and South Korea ever more fully into a vision of an American-dominated Pacific. One stumbling block has been the deep animosity between the two countries, given that Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945; later, during the Korean War, which devastated the peninsula, Japan profited handsomely by supplying US forces with vehicles and other military supplies. In addition, Korean anger over Japan’s refusal to apologize for its use of Korean sexual slaves (“comfort women”) during World War II remains a powerful force to overcome.
Until recently, the US has had the help of a compliant leader, President Park Guen-Hye who, just as the Trumpian moment begins, finds herself scrambling for her political life as the first Korean president to be legally toppled since 1960. (An interim president, Park’s conservative Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, will run the government until the Constitutional Court reviews the legality of her impeachment, a process that could take up to six months.) Despite all these problems, and while never quite publicly stating the obvious, American officials have been focused on putting in place a triangular alliance that would transform the Japanese and South Korean militaries into proxy forces capable of helping extend US power and influence ever further into Asia (and also, potentially, elsewhere in the world).
On the eve of Donald Trump‘s election, such arrangements were quickly reaching fruition. As 2016 draws to an end, the Pentagon appears to be rushing to make Obama’s Asian pivot and the militarization of the region that goes with it permanent before Trump can act or, for that matter, the United States can lose its Korean political allies (which could happen if Park’s conservative ruling party is replaced in next year’s elections).
- Protests over South Korea’s mysterious presidential scandal enter their fifth week
- ‘Choi Soon-sil linked to Lockheed Martin’
- Samsung is sucked into South Korea’s political crisis
- K-pop video director charged in South Korean corruption scandal
- ‘We followed our orders,’ say Park officials
- South Korean president’s approval rating tanks at 4%
- A Million in South Korea’s Streets
- Choi Soon-sil given time to destroy evidence
- Woman at centre of South Korean row says she ‘deserves death’
Inside the intensive-care unit (ICU) of Seoul National University Hospital, Baek Nam-gi, a 69-year-old farmer and lifelong political activist, lies in a deep coma. His skull is still partially open after his surgery last November, when he was rushed here after being knocked violently to the ground by a burst from a high-powered water cannon deployed by the police forces of President Park Geun-hye’s government. They were trying to block a massive demonstration of 130,000 people in downtown Seoul protesting Park’s labor and trade policies.
I am here with Doraji Monica Baek, his eldest daughter, a slim, quiet woman who works as an editor for a local publisher of novels. She has asked me to accompany her to the ICU to visit her father. Baek had read my article in The Nation last December about the events that brought her father here as part of her family’s quest for justice. I feel a mixture of sorrow and privilege as we stand quietly by his bed, where he lies motionless except for the deep heaves in his chest as a machine forces him to breathe in and out. I touch her arm, and she places her hand on mine. There are no words at moments like this.
Mr. Baek, whose prognosis is not good, has become a symbol to many Koreans of the increasingly harsh response of the Park government toward dissent. In particular, people are angry and disgusted with police violence and a climate of impunity in which the government refuses to take responsibility for the actions of police officials. In Baek’s case, Park’s government has never apologized to his family and, according to human-rights activists, promoted officials involved in the November incident, including the police commander who ran the operation that day.
The reliability of South Korea’s spy agency has come under renewed scrutiny after the reappearance of a North Korean army official who was previously reported killed.
In the latest in a series of embarrassing intelligence failures out of Seoul, former army chief of staff Ri Yong-il emerged alive Tuesday in state media coverage of the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency reported that Ri was appointed to several high-ranking party positions at the first such meeting since 1980. The Congress, which finished Monday, reaffirmed North Korea’s right to nuclear arms and announced a vaguely-defined five-year plan to improve the weak economy.
Following the KCNA report, Seoul’s Unification Ministry confirmed that Ri was in fact alive.
North Korea announced recently that it had successfully detonated its first hydrogen bomb. “This test is a measure for self-defense,” state media announced, “to firmly protect the sovereignty of the country and the vital right of the nation from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the US-led hostile forces.”
South Korea, Japan, and China were swift to respond with condemnation, as was the UN Security Council, which issued a statement that North Korea’s test was a “clear violation of Security Council resolutions” and resolved to take “further significant measures.”
Many observers, however, including nuclear-weapons experts and government officials, doubt whether North Korea really did test a hydrogen bomb.
“I don’t think this was a hydrogen bomb,” said Bill Richardson, a former diplomat who’s traveled to North Korea. “It was apparently six kilotons. A hydrogen bomb is 20.” The White House also issued a statement saying that data collected by US intelligence was “not consistent” with a hydrogen-bomb test.
While an independent verification may take days, and the world may never fully know the true extent of North Korea’s nuclear capacity, what we do know is that this would be Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear-weapons test since 2006—and the third under President Obama’s watch.
If anything, this proves the utter failure of the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” when it comes to achieving North Korean de-nuclearization.
The author of the above piece was recently interviewed on Democracy Now!:
‘The specter of nuclear mushroom clouds rising over northeast Asia has long been a staple of nightmare scenarios in the event of another war between North and South Korea. It’s a prospect so apocalyptic that American officials have rarely articulated exactly what would trigger their use of weapons that could instantly kill millions and make the entire peninsula uninhabitable for decades.
In a memoir published last week, however, former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reopened the prickly issue, recalling a chilling, 2010 briefing in Seoul by General Walter L. “Skip” Sharp, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, who told him just such a nightmare could come true should communist forces pour across the DMZ as they did in 1950.’
‘North and South Korea exchanged land fire today [Oct 10th], Yonhap news agency reports, after a group of South Korean activists launched propaganda balloons across the border. South Korean military officials tell Yonhap that North Korea targeted the balloons and that the South Korean army returned fire after some shots landed on their side of the border. The two sides exchanged machine gun fire, though there as yet no reported casualties.’
‘The National Security Agency has had agents in China, Germany, and South Korea working on programs that use “physical subversion” to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.
The documents, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, also indicate that the agency has used “under cover” operatives to gain access to sensitive data and systems in the global communications industry, and that these secret agents may have even dealt with American firms. The documents describe a range of clandestine field activities that are among the agency’s “core secrets” when it comes to computer network attacks, details of which are apparently shared with only a small number of officials outside the NSA.’
- NSA May Have Undercover Operatives in Foreign Companies
- The NSA’s Corporate Collaborators
- The NSA’s Cyber-King Goes Corporate
- NSA Wants America’s Most Powerful Corporations to Be Dependent on It
- Latest Leak Shows NSA Engaging In Economic Espionage — Not Fighting Terrorism
- NSA ‘Alliances With Over 80 Major Global Corporations’
- NSA and Corporate Cooperation Revealed
- NSA and Corporations Are Watching You
‘North and South Korea have agreed to resume formal high-level talks that had effectively been suspended since February, reports from South Korea say. The agreement came during a surprise visit to South Korea by North Korean officials for the closing ceremony of the Asian Games.
The visit was led by two top-ranking North Korean officials seen as close aides to leader Kim Jong-un. Both sides were said to have agreed to meet again within the next few weeks. Hwang Pyong-so, seen as the second-most powerful man in North Korea, held talks with Ryoo Kihl-jae, the South’s reunification minister, on Saturday after flying to Incheon to attend the sporting event.’
‘The Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow argues for the U.S. to pull out of South Korea…
Chances are slim to nil that the U.S. will actually pull out of South Korea and stop subsidizing its security from the North. Primarily, this is because, as I wrote at Al Jazeera America earlier this year, “the U.S. military presence in South Korea is not about deterring North Korea. More accurately, it is about maintaining U.S. military dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.”
In other words, containing China…’
‘North Korea threatened on Tuesday to “wipe out” South Korea’s government in a furious response a day after a Seoul official said the North “must disappear soon,” in an escalation of rhetoric between the rivals. The North’s powerful National Defence Commission called the South Korean comments an “intolerable” provocation that showed the South wants to take over the North. It said in a statement carried by state media that North Korea will launch “all-out … merciless” strikes to “wipe out every last person” in South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s government. South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said on Monday that North Korea wasn’t a real country and existed for the benefit of only one person — a reference to its leader, Kim Jong Un. He said the North has no human rights or public freedoms. Kim’s comments followed a series of slurs by North Korea against the leaders of South Korea and the United States.’
- South Korea has ‘smoking gun’ proof North sent drones
- South Korean draft dodgers in prison
- North Korea military official Choe Ryong-hae replaced
- Satellite Image Captures Fires Raging Across North Korea
- South Korea’s PM resigns over ferry disaster
- S Korea, US to hold largest-ever joint air drill
- Japan orders SDF to shoot down any new North Korean missiles
- North Korea launches unprecedented personal attack on South Korea leader
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged the army to develop to ensure it wins any confrontation with the United States, the reclusive country’s news agency said on Sunday, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama warned the North of its military might. Kim led a meeting of the Central Military Commission and “set forth important tasks for further developing the Korean People’s Army and ways to do so”, KCNA news agency said.
“He stressed the need to enhance the function and role of the political organs of the army if it is to preserve the proud history and tradition of being the army of the party, win one victory after another in the confrontation with the U.S. and creditably perform the mission as a shock force and standard-bearer in building a thriving nation.” Obama said on Saturday on a visit to Seoul, where the U.S. army has a large presence, that the United States did not use its military might to “impose things” on others, but that it would use that might if necessary to defend South Korea from any attack by the reclusive North. North and South Korea are still technically at war after their 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a mere truce.
President Barack Obama said on Saturday the United States did not use its military might to “impose things” on others, but that it would use that might if necessary to defend South Korea from any attack by the reclusive North. The North warned last month it would not rule out a “new form” of atomic test after the U.N. Security Council condemned Pyongyang’s launch of a mid-range ballistic missile into the sea east of the Korean peninsula.
Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye presented a united front against North Korea at a joint news conference following their summit on Friday, warning that they would respond firmly to any “provocations” by Pyongyang which routinely threatens the United States and South Korea with destruction. “We don’t use our military might to impose these things on others, but we will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life,” Obama told cheering U.S. forces at the Yongsan garrison on a sunny spring morning.
- Obama: ‘Further isolation’ for nuclear North Korea
- South Korea, U.S. pledge firm response to North Korea
- U.S. Confronts Consequences of Underestimating North Korean Leader
- Increased Activity at North Korean Nuclear Site Raises Suspicions
- Think tank: Satellites show North Korea nuclear test unlikely
- Institute: Water woes endanger NKorea reactor
- US to send 2 more ships to Japan by 2017 to counter North Korea nuclear threat
North Korea yesterday blasted South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s proposal on laying the groundwork for reunification through economic exchanges and humanitarian aid as the “daydream of a psychopath”. The attack from the North’s powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) was the first official reaction from Pyongyang to a proposal Park made in a speech last month in Dresden in the former East Germany.
She urged the North to expand reunions of families and increase cross-border economic and cultural exchanges, starting with the South bolstering humanitarian aid. “Germany’s unity is for us an example and model for a peaceful reunification,” she had said. An NDC spokesman noted that German reunification came about with the West absorbing the East and accused Park of begging foreign countries to help a reunification in which South Korea absorbed the North.
After exchanging artillery fire across their disputed sea border, North and South Korea hurled insults at each other on Tuesday, with the North rejecting an ambitious overture from the South’s president, Park Geun-hye.
In a speech in Dresden, Germany, that was broadcast live in South Korea on Friday, Ms. Park promised a huge investment in North Korea’s decrepit industries, as well as humanitarian aid for babies and nursing mothers, if the North gave up its nuclear weapons program.
Although Ms. Park’s proposal largely reiterated what her three predecessors had proposed, it was her most detailed overture toward the North since she came to office shortly after the North conducted a nuclear test in February 2013.
- North, South Korea Take Turns Shelling Water in Annual Dust-Up
- Seoul examines ‘North Korea drone’
- US Marines Put Obama’s ‘Pivot’ Into Action In S. Korea War Games
- U.S., Japan and South Korea to discuss North Korea nuclear weapons program
- North Korea Threatens ‘New Form’ of Nuke Test
- South Korea proposes aid for North if it halts nuclear arms program
- British components in North Korean rockets, UN finds
- ‘Mind your own business’, North Korea says of U.N. demand for justice
- South Korea to shrink armed forces by a fifth in next 8 years
- North Korean intelligence official tells of aborted coups and assassination attempts
- North Korea appears to ape Nasa with space agency logo
- North Korea allows foreigners to run in Pyongyang marathon for the first time
- South Korea to develop Stuxnet-like cyberweapons
- Andrei Lankov: North Korea and the myth of starvation
- North Korean Meth, Motorcycle Gangs, Army Snipers, and a Guy Named Rambo
South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, has announced a committee to prepare for reunification with North Korea. President Park said unifying with the north would be an economic bonanza, but analysts say the south would face a heavy financial and legal burden. President Park announced the plans to create a blue print for reuniting South Korea with the North on Tuesday.
In a televised speech marking her first year in office, Park said she would form a preparatory committee directly under the presidential office. She said the committee will expand dialogue and private exchanges with Pyongyang. She also said the committee will allow all levels of society to participate, including experts in diplomacy, security, economics, sociology and culture, and private organizations. In this way, she said, they will create a national discussion on reunification and make a concrete blueprint of a ‘unified Korean peninsula’.
South Korea has kicked off its annual joint military exercises with the US despite vocal opposition from North Korea. The drills will test a recent improvement in cross-border ties. The start of this year’s military exercises overlaps with the first reunion for more than three years of families divided by the Korean war – an event that has raised hopes of greater North-South co-operation. Pyongyang had initially insisted that the joint exercises be postponed until after the reunion finishes on Tuesday, but Seoul refused and – in a rare concession – the North allowed the family gathering to go ahead as scheduled.
The annual “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” drills – routinely condemned by North Korea as rehearsals for invasion – will last until 18 April and involve a combined total of 12,700 US troops and many more from South Korea. Key Resolve lasts just over a week and is a largely computer-simulated exercise, while the eight-week Foal Eagle drill involves air, ground and naval field training. Seoul and Washington insist they are both defensive in nature, playing out various scenarios to combat a North Korean invasion.
Last year’s drills fuelled a protracted surge in military tensions, with Pyongyang threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and nuclear-capable US stealth bombers making dummy runs over the Korean peninsula. US defence officials have indicated – in an apparent effort to mollify the North – that this year’s drills will be toned down, with no aircraft carrier and no strategic bombers. However, the South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok insisted on Monday that there would be “no readjustment” in the scale of the manoeuvres.
Rare talks between the rival Koreas ended on an even rarer note of agreement Friday, allowing an under-threat reunion for divided families to go ahead and fuelling hopes of further constructive engagement. The agreement pointed to a significant concession by North Korea which had strenuously objected to annual South Korean-US military drills that would overlap with the February 20-25 reunion for family members separated by the Korean War.
The North had pushed the South to postpone the start of the exercises, but Seoul refused, insisting that the two issues — one humanitarian and one military — could not be linked. “Agreement was reached after North Korea accepted our position that the family reunion event is important… as the first step to build trust” said South Korea’s chief delegate Kim Kyou-Hyun.
The talks on Wednesday and Friday were the highest-level official contact between the two Koreas for seven years, and the fact they ended as they did will be seen as a significant step forward. As well as ensuring the reunion would take place as planned, the two sides agreed to stop trading verbal insults and to continue their nascent dialogue.
For the second year in a row, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un made mention of improving inter-Korean relations in his New Year’s Address. Pyongyang followed by proposing a three-pronged approach to easing tense inter-Korean relations.
The document released by the North’s National Defence Commission (NDC) called for both Koreas to halt all mutual criticism and slander starting from the Lunar New Year on January 30. Additionally, the proposal called for halting all provocative military acts between the two sides and suggested that authorities in Seoul scrap the scheduled US-South Korea joint military exercises that take place annually between February and April. Contrary to past rhetoric, the NDC highlighted how the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula is a common goal, and suggested that practical measures be taken to avert a nuclear military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
Seoul responded coldly to the proposal, prompting the NDC to publish an open letter to the people of South Korea, containing the most conciliatory rhetoric to come out of the North in recent times. The letter reiterated earlier proposals, calling on concerted efforts by the two sides to cool relations, end military hostilities, and reenergise cooperation and economic exchange. As a sign of good will, Pyongyang also agreed to resume holding reunions of families and relatives separated by the Korean War, a move that was quickly welcomed by the South.
Pyongyang’s overtures can easily be written off as part of a cycle that begins with conciliatory rhetoric and ends in threats and provocation, but in order to move past the decades-long adversarial status quo, a greater degree of pragmatism, problem solving and engagement is needed. The legitimate grievances of both sides must be taken into account in such a process, as well as a willingness to put preconditions and moralising judgements aside to more effectively and straightforwardly engage in dialogue.
One man’s clandestine journey to North Korea has led the South to officially rule it is illegal to “worship” the North’s former leader Kim Il-sung, it appears. Jo Young-nam apparently went to North Korea in 1995. He travelled through Germany, Japan and China to get there, and later claimed political asylum in Germany. He was arrested in 2012 when he returned to South Korea’s capital, Seoul.
A lower court had ruled Jo’s visit was akin to sightseeing. But South Korea’s Supreme Court says Jo was supporting North Korean ideology when he saw Kim Il-sung’s embalmed body at an extravagant mausoleum in Pyongyang, leading it to ban the activity for all South Korean citizens. “His worshipping at the palace, which symbolizes Pyongyang’s propaganda, can be interpreted as praising and propagating the North’s ideology,” the high court ruled. “The way in which he entered the North, his continued support of the enemy and the symbolic meaning of the palace should be taken into consideration.”
The history of the territorial partition which has lasted for several decades has brought untold misfortune and pain to the Korean nation.
Foreign forces are wholly to blame for this tragic and disgraceful history of the Korean nation which started following the liberation of the country.
Firmly determined to put an end to the history of the territorial partition and national split in view of the hard reality to which the Korean nation can no longer remain a passive on-looker, the supreme leadership of the DPRK (North Korea) in the New Year Address clarified internally and externally realistic ways of opening a fresh phase of national reunification.
The ardent appeal sent by the NDC of the DPRK to the South Korean authorities on January 16 represents an important proposal for opening a wide avenue for improving the north-south relations.
The important proposal of the DPRK reflects the steadfast will of its army and people to improve the north-south relations by concerted efforts of the two sides, not asking about all inglorious happenings in the past.
This offer also reflects the desire and wishes of all Koreans for independent reunification, peace and prosperity of the country.
Regretfully, however, the South Korean authorities still remain unchanged in its improper attitude and negative stand towards the proposal.
Today at Al Jazeera America I argue that the U.S. should stop occupying South Korea, not only because they don’t belong there but because the highly militarized alliance between the U.S. and South Korea doesn’t actually weaken North Korea, but helps sustain the regime by incentivizing China to continue to prop up Pyongyang.
At Medium.com, Robert Beckhusen reports on the latest round of U.S.-South Korean military exercises and reveals for the first time that U.S. special operations forces are training for guerrilla war in North Korea and practicing how to grow an “indigenous resistance organization” inside North Korea.
The young dentist was uncuffed and led to his seat in the courtroom. A few rows back, his mother watched motionlessly, her hands gently clasped together as if in prayer.
Jeon Seong-Jin is being punished for a crime that is not a crime at all in most of the world. A Jehovah’s Witness, he has refused to become a soldier in South Korea, where all able-bodied male citizens are required to serve about 21 months in the army.
More than 660 conscientious objectors have been jailed each year in South Korea, on average, from 2004 to 2012, far more than any other country. Eritrea is second, but imprisoned only about 50 conscientious objectors last year, according to the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Members of the religion refuse military service because they believe the Bible forbids warfare.
Even where conscription still exists, governments often allow conscientious objectors to serve their countries without bearing arms, but not in South Korea. Jeon began his 18-month sentence in 2012 and expects to be released this March.
Asia-Pacific currently undergoing ‘one of the biggest military build-ups in history’ (and more Asia Pivot news)
- The Real Reason Behind China’s Military Expansion (Oil Price)
- China warns U.S., Japan, Australia not to gang up in sea disputes (Reuters)
- Sino-Japanese Territorial Disputes Could Pull the US into War in Asia (Antiwar)
- Japan PM vows more active security role (Asia One)
- The U.S. Rebalance to Asia-Pacific and the U.S.-Japan-Taiwan alliance (China Policy Institute)
- China warns Japan over reported plan to shoot down drones (Global Clarity)
- US stages show of naval force in the South China Sea (WSWS)
- Amid Territorial Disputes, China’s Naval Drills Grow Larger (Epoch Times)
- China nuclear subs ‘gallop to depths of ocean’ (Global Geopolitics)
- South Korea Anxious Over US–Japan Security Moves (Epoch Times)
- North Korea Warns US of ‘Disastrous Consequences’ for Naval Buildup (Antiwar)
- Manila expects early U.N. ruling on sea dispute with Beijing (Reuters)
- China criticizes U.S. for giving tacit backing to Philippines in sea dispute (Reuters)
- ‘Credible’ threats of attacks in Philippines, US warns (Daily Times)
- Tony Abbott warns of conflict risk in South China Sea (Brisbane Times)
- Australians invest millions to upgrade military facilities for Marines (Marine Times)
- From 2011: Obama boosts U.S. military in Australia, reassures China (Reuters)
- Brunei is America’s East Pacific Cash Cow and Military Base (Strategic Culture Foundation)
For nearly 20 years, South Korea and the world’s biggest powers have sought to pry from North Korea a promise – that it would keep – to end its nuclear weapons program.
They have used carrots and they have used sticks. As inducements, the powers offered to build North Korea a nuclear reactor, provided fuel, and gave food. When that failed they have tried punishments, freezing Pyongyang out of the world financial system and imposing sanctions to starve the government there of all sorts of goods.
Yet twin clouds of steam from North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, spotted last month in satellite images, suggest all those efforts have come to naught, and raise questions about how the international community – distracted by Iran and Syria – can deter North Korea’s seemingly insatiable desire for nuclear weapons.
US analysts and the South Korean intelligence agency say the steam indicates that after a six-year hiatus, Pyongyang has restarted its reactor, capable of producing enough plutonium each year to make one or two nuclear bombs as well as of generating electricity.
- North Korea rejects US’s non-aggression pact offer (AP)
- Nile Bowie: Preemptive strike rationale deepens N. Korean status quo (RT)
- North Korea warns of ‘all-out war’ (AFP)
- North Korea confirms it replaced hard-line military chief with little-known army general (AP)
- NKorea blames ‘hostile’ US policy for tensions (AP)
- US worried about NKorea’s cyber, missile threats (AP)
- South Korea warns off Pyongyang with missile display (AP)
- $22 million blimp to fill gap in surveillance of North Korea (Stars and Stripes)
- China bans several weapon-related North Korea exports (BBC)
- North Korea: UN rights probe shows ‘unspeakable atrocities’ (BBC)
- N Korea agrees to reopen military hotline with Seoul (BBC)
- South Koreans Once Again Commuting to North (Newser)
Hundreds of documents meant to ensure the safety of South Korea’s nuclear reactors have been forged, a top official said Thursday.
Kim Dong-yeon, a minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, said government officials combed through about 22,000 test results for parts used in 20 reactors that are currently online. Among the test results, 277 documents or 1.2 percent were fabricated, said Kim.
A separate probe of 218,000 out of 275,000 test results for eight other reactors also showed that 2,010 documents or 0.9 percent were forged, said Kim. The eight reactors include five reactors that are being built and three reactors whose operations were suspended.
The latest probe comes amid lingering concerns about the safety of nuclear reactors in South Korea, especially in light of Japan’s Fukushima accident. South Korea operates 23 reactors, supplying about 30 percent of its total electricity consumption.
South Korean reactors abruptly stopped operating on a total of 128 occasions over the past decade due to defective parts, though no accidents were blamed on the parts that had forged quality warranties, said Kim.
South Korea is pushing to either reexamine or replace parts whose test results are confirmed to have been fabricated, said Kim.
Meanwhile, a total of 100 officials, including those from private companies and state-run companies, were indicted in connection with the scandal, he said.
North and South Korea restored their military hot-line in another sign of improving ties, bolstering efforts to reopen their jointly run industrial park shuttered in April at the height of tensions between the nations.
Officials from the two countries spoke today on the hot-line for the first time since March, when the North threatened war against South Korea and the U.S., the South’s Unification Ministry said in a text message. Previously, the line was used to communicate lists of South Korean nationals traveling daily to Gaeseong complex across the heavily armed border.
“The two governments are now talking on an official communications line,” Oh Gyeong Seob, a researcher at the Sejong Institute south of Seoul, said by phone. “This is a positive signal for the resumption of operations at Gaeseong.”
RECENT NEWS FROM THE KOREAN PENINSULA:
- Rodman Gives Details on Trip to North Korea (NY Times)
- South Korea Pledges Aid to the North (NY Times)
- Leftist Leaders Accused of Trying to Overthrow South Korean Government (NY Times)
- N. Korea’s Latest Demon: Crystal Meth (Newser)
- Kim Jong Un Is Having A Tough Time Finding Virgins (Business Insider)
- Report: Kim Jong Un’s Ex-Girlfriend Executed (Newser)
- Panama’s government say UN experts determined North Korean ship violated weapons sanctions (The Province)
- North and South Korea to resume family reunions (BBC)
- North Korea’s Kim tries new tack with defectors – being nice (Reuters)
President Obama hailed veterans of the Korean War Saturday, saying their sacrifices ensured that millions of Koreans could live safely in a democracy.
Speaking on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War’s armistice, he noted that some had expressed their dissatisfaction with the war’s resolution, which resulted in the establishment of a demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea and did not end with a definitive truce. He noted that many dismissed the conclusion with the phrase “die for a tie.”
But he argued that, decades later, those efforts have proven fruitful.
“That war was no tie. Korea was a victory,” he told those gathered in Washington at the Korean War Memorial. “When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom, a vibrant democracy…a stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North, that is a victory and that is your legacy.”
South Korea has asked to postpone a change that would give Seoul control of its own troops during a war, rather than place them under U.S. command, South Korea’s semiofficial Yonhap News Agency said Wednesday, citing a top U.S. government official.
The reported request, coming on the heels of delays, underscores South Korea’s ambivalence about how it would handle a potential war with the rival North and whether its military is capable of operating independently of Washington.
Under the current arrangement, a legacy of the Korean War, the United States would command not only its own troops amid fighting on the Korean Peninsula but also those of the South.
The transfer of operational wartime control from Washington to Seoul would mark the greatest power shift in a six-decade alliance. When the South first pushed for the transfer seven years ago, government officials here described it as an affirmation of the South’s sovereignty and its rapid modernization.
But the transfer — originally planned for 2012 and then pushed to December 2015 — has since drawn occasional criticism from conservative analysts in Seoul and Washington, who say deterrence against North Korea will suffer if the militarily superior United States takes a back seat. Earlier this year, a former U.S. commander in Korea, retired Gen. B.B. Bell, said the United States should “permanently postpone” the deal in light of the North’s nuclear weapons capability.