Category Archives: South Korea

A Murderous History of Korea

Bruce Cumings, the author of several books on the Korean Peninsula, writes for the London Review of Books:

Image result for A Murderous History of KoreaMore than four decades ago I went to lunch with a diplomatic historian who, like me, was going through Korea-related documents at the National Archives in Washington. He happened to remark that he sometimes wondered whether the Korean Demilitarised Zone might be ground zero for the end of the world. This April, Kim In-ryong, a North Korean diplomat at the UN, warned of ‘a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment’. A few days later, President Trump told Reuters that ‘we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.’ American atmospheric scientists have shown that even a relatively contained nuclear war would throw up enough soot and debris to threaten the global population: ‘A regional war between India and Pakistan, for instance, has the potential to dramatically damage Europe, the US and other regions through global ozone loss and climate change.’ How is it possible that we have come to this? How does a puffed-up, vainglorious narcissist, whose every other word may well be a lie (that applies to both of them, Trump and Kim Jong-un), come not only to hold the peace of the world in his hands but perhaps the future of the planet? We have arrived at this point because of an inveterate unwillingness on the part of Americans to look history in the face and a laser-like focus on that same history by the leaders of North Korea.

North Korea celebrated the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army on 25 April, amid round-the-clock television coverage of parades in Pyongyang and enormous global tension. No journalist seemed interested in asking why it was the 85th anniversary when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was only founded in 1948. What was really being celebrated was the beginning of the Korean guerrilla struggle against the Japanese in north-east China, officially dated to 25 April 1932. After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, many Koreans fled across the border, among them the parents of Kim Il-sung, but it wasn’t until Japan established its puppet state of Manchukuo in March 1932 that the independence movement turned to armed resistance. Kim and his comrades launched a campaign that lasted 13 difficult years, until Japan finally relinquished control of Korea as part of the 1945 terms of surrender. This is the source of the North Korean leadership’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people: they are revolutionary nationalists who resisted their country’s coloniser; they resisted again when a massive onslaught by the US air force during the Korean War razed all their cities, driving the population to live, work and study in subterranean shelters; they have continued to resist the US ever since; and they even resisted the collapse of Western communism – as of this September, the DPRK will have been in existence for as long as the Soviet Union. But it is less a communist country than a garrison state, unlike any the world has seen. Drawn from a population of just 25 million, the North Korean army is the fourth largest in the world, with 1.3 million soldiers – just behind the third largest army, with 1.4 million soldiers, which happens to be the American one. Most of the adult Korean population, men and women, have spent many years in this army: its reserves are limited only by the size of the population.

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Will Donald Trump Start The Second Korean War?

Doug Bandow writes for The Huffington Post:

[…] It’s hard to assess whether President Donald Trump is serious about going to war. He has no constitutional or legal authority to attack North Korea.

A majority of Americans say they are “uneasy” with his approach. Moreover, South Korean and Japanese assent would be necessary for Washington to use American forces stationed on their soil — unlikely given the potentially catastrophic consequences of starting the Second Korean War.

For the last quarter century a nuclear North Korea was prospect rather than reality. No longer. The North is believed to possess enough nuclear material for 20 bombs today and may accumulate enough material for 100 by 2024. With Pyongyang developing long-range missiles, the U.S. appears destined to face a small but potent North Korean nuclear deterrent.

The possibility is disconcerting, to say the least, even though there is no reason to believe that the North’s 33-year-old Kim Jong-un is suicidal. Still, who wants to rely on his good judgment to keep the peace, especially when matched against the equally impulsive and unpredictable Donald Trump?

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The Korean War’s Brutality Turned the Stomachs of America’s Most Hardened Soldiers

Darien Cavanaugh writes for War Is Boring:

[…] On a per-capita basis, the Korean War was one of the deadliest wars in modern history, especially for the civilian population of North Korea. The scale of the devastation shocked and disgusted the American military personnel who witnessed it, including some who had fought in the most horrific battles of World War II.

World War II was by far the bloodiest war in history. Estimates of the death toll range from 60 million to more than 85 million, with some suggesting that the number is actually even higher and that 50 million civilians may have perished in China alone. Even the lower estimates would account for roughly three percent of the world’s estimated population of 2.3 billion in 1940.

These are staggering numbers, and the death rate during the Korean War was comparable to what occurred in the hardest hit countries of World War II.

Several factors contributed to the high casualty ratios. The Korean Peninsula is densely populated. Rapidly shifting front lines often left civilians trapped in combat zones. Both sides committed numerous massacres and carried out mass executions of political prisoners. Modern aircraft carried out a vast bombing campaign, dropping massive loads of napalm along with standard bombs.

In fact, by the end of the war, the United States and its allies had dropped more bombs on the Korean Peninsula, the overwhelming majority of them on North Korea, than they had in the entire Pacific Theater of World War II.

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South Korea Removes President, North Korea Test Fires Missile During Annual U.S. War Games

Amy Goodman speaks to University of Chicago professor Bruce Cumings, author of several books on the Koreas, and Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, about ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye and North Korea’s latest missile test. (Democracy Now!)

As Scandal Roils South Korea, Fingers Point to Mixing of Politics and Business

Choe Sang-Hun and Motoko Rich reports for The New York Times:

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.

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Cops of the Pacific? The US Military’s Role in Asia in the Age of Trump

Tim Shorrock writes for TomDispatch:

US Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships sail in formation during a joint/bilateral field training exercise on November 12, 2014. […] 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).

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Huge Numbers Demand the Ouster of South Korea’s President In a Fifth Week of Protests

The South Korean Government Is Steadily Eroding Democratic Freedoms

Tim Shorrock writes for The Nation:

Justice for Baek Nam-giInside 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.

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North Korean Official’s ‘Resurrection’ Casts Doubt on Seoul Intel

John Power reports for The Diplomat:

North Korean Official’s ‘Resurrection’ Casts Doubt on Seoul IntelThe 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.

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To End North Korea’s Nuclear Program, End the Korean War

Christine Ahn writes for The Nation:

South KoreaNorth 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.

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The author of the above piece was recently interviewed on Democracy Now!:

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Sparks Debate Over U.S. Nuclear Strike on North Korea

Lauren Walker and Jeff Stein report for Newsweek:

RTR2TB18‘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.’

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North and South Korea exchange fire over balloons filled with DVDs, books, and $1,000

Amar Toor reports for The Verge:

‘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.’

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Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China, Germany and South Korea

Peter Maass and Laura Poitras report for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany‘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.’

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North and South Korea agree to high-level talks

BBC News reports:

North Korea's delegation shakes hands with their South Korean counterparts after a meeting in Incheon, South Korea - 4 October 2014‘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.’

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John Glaser: Pull Out of South Korea

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

US Air Force conducting military exercises in South Korea. Credit: DoD‘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…’

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North Korea threatens to ‘wipe out’ South Korea’s government

Hyung-Jim Kim reports for The Independent:

‘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.’

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North Korea says army must develop to be able to beat U.S.

Nick Macfie reports for Reuters:

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.

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Obama reminds North Korea of U.S. ‘military might’

Matt Spetalnick and Mark Felsenthal report for Reuters:

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.

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Pyongyang slams South Korean president’s reunification speech

From AFP:

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.

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2 Koreas, After Exchanging Fire, Rearm With Insults

Choe Sang-Hun writes for the New York Times:

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.

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South Korea Committee to Prepare for Reunification with North

Daniel Schearf writes for Voice of America:

North Korea at Night (Credit: NASA)

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’.

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South Korea holds military drills with US despite North Korean opposition

From AFP:

South Korea US drills

Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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North, South Korea talks end with rare accord

From AFP:

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.

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North Korea’s ‘peace offensive’: How should South Korea respond?

Nile Bowie writes for Al Jazeera:

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.

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South Korea: Kim Il-sung ‘worship’ declared illegal

An image of Kim Il-sung at the Arirang mass games in PyongyangFrom BBC News:

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.”

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North Korea’s open letter to South Korea calling for reconciliation between the rivals

From The International Business Times:

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.

READ THE LETTER IN FULL…

In South Korea, US Special Ops Train to Help Overthrow North Korean Regime

US Air Force conducting military exercises in South Korea. Credit: DoDJohn Glaser writes for Antiwar:

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.

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South Korea jails hundreds for refusing military stints

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joonFrom AP:

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.

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Asia-Pacific currently undergoing ‘one of the biggest military build-ups in history’ (and more Asia Pivot news)

What’s behind South Korean president’s new strategy on North Korea?

From The Christian Science Monitor:

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.

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