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Michael Auslin: South Korea’s Political Crisis Could Become Regional

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This is a time of extreme uncertainty on the Korean peninsula, and the next months could see dangerous instability.

Michael Auslin writes: After weeks of massive public protests in downtown Seoul of up to one million people, South Korea’s parliament decisively impeached President Park Geun-hye last Friday. The vote now propels South Korea into the next phase of its political crisis, which will culminate when the nation’s Constitutional Court ratifies or rejects the impeachment vote, within six months. Initially indicating during the run-up to the vote that she would resign if impeached, Park apparently has chosen to fight the parliament’s vote.

South Korean Prime Minister and the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn bows after releasing a statement to the nation at the Goverment Complex in Seoul, South Korea, December 9, 2016.

South Korean Prime Minister and the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn bows after releasing a statement to the nation at the Goverment Complex in Seoul, South Korea, December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji.

According to South Korean law, Park is now removed from power, pending the court decision. The Prime 514fnemhevl-_sl250_Minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, now becomes acting president. Yet Hwang is seen as a loyal Park subordinate, and is himself unpopular with the protesters and Korea’s opposition parties.

[Order Michael Auslin’s book “The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region” from Amazon.com]

This is a time of extreme uncertainty on the Korean peninsula, and the next months could see dangerous instability. Most importantly, North Korea may try to take advantage of the crisis, possibly by testing the caretaker president. An attack on South Korean territory or military facilities, as happened back in 2010, could result in a full armed conflict, if the caretaker government wants to show its power. Alternately, a lack of response would further embolden the North.

[Read the full story here, at RealClearDefense]

A missile test could also spark a South Korean response, especially if one goes wrong. While they may see the end of their term looming, those in the Obama administration should be prepared for a crisis in their last six weeks in power; just as importantly, the incoming Trump team needs a policy immediately, for they may face an alliance challenge soon after taking power. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] South Korea Parliament Impeaches President Park Geun-Hye

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Seoul (AFP) – South Korean lawmakers on Friday passed an impeachment motion against President Park  stripping away her sweeping executive powers over a corruption scandal that paralysed her administration and triggered massive street protests.

The National Assembly motion — passed by 234 votes to 56 — transfers Park’s authority to the prime minister, pending a decision by the Constitutional Court on whether to ratify the decision and permanently remove the president from office.

Update: South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment Friday means she has been stripped of power — but not the perks.

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Even as her prime minister governs in her stead, Park gets to keep living at the presidential Blue House, using her official car and plane, collecting the same monthly salary (about $15,000 reportedly) and receiving round-the-clock security.

She also holds onto the title “President.”

But with nothing officially to do, it’s uncertain how she’ll spend her days during the up-to-six months the country’s Constitutional Court has to decide whether to accept the impeachment and formally end her presidency. Read the rest of this entry »


South Korea: President Park Geun-hye to ‘Calmly Accept Impeachment Outcome’ 

in the Nov. 4, 2016 photo, people watch TV screens showing the live broadcast of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's addressing to the nation at the Yongsan Electronic store in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye will calmly accept impeachment if the opposition-controlled parliament votes for her removal this week, but prefers to resign on her own terms, lawmakers from her party said Tuesday.

Chung Jin Suk, floor leader of the conservative ruling party, said after an hour-long meeting with Park that she was willing to accept a now-withdrawn proposal by the party for her to voluntarily step down in April to set up a presidential election in June.

The party’s chairman, Lee Jung Hyun, who also attended the meeting, said it seemed that Park was hoping lawmakers would accept her resignation rather than push ahead with an attempt to impeach her.

Park has been accused by state prosecutors of helping a close confidante extort money and favors from large companies and manipulate state affairs.

Read the rest of this entry »


Japan and South Korean Governments Expand Unilateral Sanctions Against North Korea

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The government decided Friday to strengthen unilateral sanctions against North Korea using measures such as expanding the range of entities and individuals subject to asset freezes.

The decision follows North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.

The new measures, which are in line with the unilateral sanctions introduced in February, include expanding a reentry ban to include people who have traveled to North Korea.

The government intends to urge Pyongyang to change its position by stringently blocking the departure and entry of people linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments and flow of funds, according to sources.

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“I intend to take further unilateral measures in cooperation with the United States and South Korea,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a meeting of Cabinet ministers concerned with the issue of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea, held at the Prime Minister’s Office the same day.

[Read the full text here, at The Japan News]

Under the new measures, the range of asset freezes will be expanded to 54 entities and 58 individuals, the sources said.

The list includes a trading company in Liaoning Province, China, that was sanctioned by the United States in September for its alleged involvement in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by North Korea. Read the rest of this entry »


South Korean President Park Geun-hye Struggles to Avoid Impeachment

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SEOUL (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she will resign — if parliament arranges the technical details — in her latest attempt to fend off impeachment efforts and massive street protests amid prosecution claims that a corrupt confidante wielded government power from the shadows.

“If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will step down from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law.”

— South Korean President Park Geun-hye

Opponents immediately called Park’s conditional resignation offer a stalling tactic, and analysts said her steadfast denial that she has done anything wrong could embolden her enemies. The country’s largest opposition party, the Minjoo Party, said it would not let Park’s “ploy to avoid impeachment” interfere with a planned vote on impeachment on Friday.

“There is no possibility that the opposition parties will accept her offer; not when the public is this angry. She apparently wanted to buy more time, but in the end she might have hastened the end of her presidency.”

— Yul Shin, a politics professor at Seoul’s Myongji University

Park, who did not take questions from reporters after her live address to the nation, said she will “leave the matters about my fate, including the shortening of my presidential term, to be decided by the National Assembly,” referring to parliament.

[ALSO SEE – South Korean president’s office explains Viagra purchase]

“If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will step down from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law,” she said.

How exactly this might play out is still unclear. But some saw Park’s speech as a clear effort to avoid leaving office, despite the resignation language. Read the rest of this entry »


A Presidential Scandal Transfixes South Korea 

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Park Geun-hye faces calls for impeachment after a friend was indicted and the president was accused of giving her access to government documents.

Now, one friendship Ms. Park does have has imperiled her presidency.

The friend, the daughter of a cult leader who once claimed to speak with Ms. Park’s murdered mother, sought to enrich herself through ties to the presidential office, South Korean prosecutors have alleged in an extortion indictment. The friend also received access to classified presidential policy documents, they say.

The snowballing political drama is paralyzing the government of South Korea, a close U.S. ally, at a time when the Obama administration considers North Korea and its increasingly aggressive nuclear strategy to be the top national security priority for the next administration.

Prosecution documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal say that foundations set up by the president’s friend, a 60-year-old woman named Choi Soon-sil, allegedly used her presidential ties to wrest millions of dollars in donations from Korean conglomerates. Prosecutors have raided most of South Korea’s biggest business groupsseeking evidence. Some of the money, prosecutors believe, went to pay for Ms. Choi’s affluent lifestyle and her daughter’s equestrian aspirations.

Ms. Park, second from left, in 1975 with Choi Tae-min, right, a religious leader and mystic who claimed to commune with Ms. Park’s assassinated mother.

Ms. Park, second from left, in 1975 with Choi Tae-min, right, a religious leader and mystic who claimed to commune with Ms. Park’s assassinated mother. Photo: Yonhap

A political scandal linking South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye to a charismatic cult leader and his daughter has prompted hundreds of thousands to demonstrate in the streets. The Wall Street Journal looks at how she got there. Photo: AP

Both Ms. Park and Ms. Choi deny the accusations. The president, in a tearful televised statement this month, disputed colorful reports in the Korean press that include shamanistic rituals supposedly held in the presidential office. Such claims are a “house of fantasy,” Ms. Park’s lawyer said.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

The denials haven’t stemmed a clamor for her resignation. Five mass rallies in five weeks have demanded the president’s ouster, with organizers estimating over a million protesters gathered in Seoul on Saturday. In surveys, Ms. Park’s approval rating has sunk to 4%. One poll showed that 80% of South Koreans favor impeaching her.

Choi Soon-sil, left, who is at the heart of a political scandal engulfing Ms. Park, was arrested in Seoul this month.

Choi Soon-sil, left, who is at the heart of a political scandal engulfing Ms. Park, was arrested in Seoul this month. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Opposition parties say they will push for an impeachment vote by early December if Ms. Park doesn’t step down. She has given no indication she will, though she has offered to share power with a new prime minister suggested by the opposition.

Even if she survives the tumult, Ms. Park’s diminished political authority presents risks for the U.S. and an early foreign-policy challenge for President-elect Donald Trump. The U.S. relies on close ties with Seoul to manage dangers presented by a bellicose North Korea. The U.S. has around 28,500 troops based in South Korea.

South Korean protesters calling for the resignation of Ms. Park held candles during a rally in Seoul on Nov. 19.

South Korean protesters calling for the resignation of Ms. Park held candles during a rally in Seoul on Nov. 19. Photo: AP

Ms. Park wants to deploy a sophisticated U.S. missile system next year to defend against North Korea’s advancing nuclear-weapons program. Opposition leaders, by contrast, put priority on closer ties with China, which strongly disapproves of the missile-shield idea, at a time when other Asian countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia are tilting toward Beijing. Ms. Park’s domestic opponents also seek to break with Washington by rolling back the sanctions pressure on Pyongyang. Read the rest of this entry »


Meanwhile, in South Korea: Hundreds of Thousands Rally to Demand Park’s Ouster 

Protesters march toward presidential house after a rally calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded Seoul's streets on Saturday demanding the resignation of Park amid an explosive political scandal, in what may be South Korea's largest protest since it shook off dictatorship three decades ago. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Hundreds of thousands of people flooded Seoul’s streets on Saturday demanding the resignation of Park amid an explosive political scandal, in what may be South Korea’s largest protest in three decades. 

SEOUL (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people flooded Seoul’s streets on Saturday demanding the resignation of President Park Geun-hye amid an explosive political scandal, in what may be South Korea’s largest protest since it shook off dictatorship three decades ago.

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“Park’s presidency has been shaken by suspicion that she let a shadowy longtime confidante manipulate power from behind the scenes. Protest organizers estimated the crowd at 1 million.”

Police said about 260,000 people turned out for the latest mass rally against Park, whose presidency has been shaken by suspicion that she let a shadowy longtime confidante manipulate power from behind the scenes. Protest organizers estimated the crowd at 1 million.

“People said it was a bad idea to bring my kids here, but I want them to remember today…and learn that democracies are built on participation.”

Waving banners and signs, a sea of demonstrators jammed streets stretching about a kilometer from City Hall to a large square in front of an old palace gate for several hours, roaring and applauding to speeches calling for Park’s ouster.

“In addition to allegedly manipulating power, the president’s confidante, Choi Soon Sil, is also suspected of exploiting her presidential ties to bully companies into donating tens of millions of dollars to foundations she controlled.”

Protesters also marched on a road in front of the palace gate and near the Blue House, the mountainside presidential office and residence, carrying candles, blowing horns and banging drums, while shouting “Park Geun-hye, resign!”

[Read the full story here, at The Japan News]

Bae Dong San, a 45-year-old man, said Park’s government has “worsened the living conditions of workers, completely messed up state governance and monopolized state affairs with her secret inner circle.”

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“It feels much better to shout together with many other people.”

— Bae Dong San, a 45-year-old protester

“It feels much better to shout together with many other people,” he said.

Despite rising public anger, opposition parties have yet to seriously push for Park’s resignation or impeachment over fears of triggering a backlash from conservative voters and negatively impacting next year’s presidential election. However, they have threatened to campaign for Park’s resignation if she doesn’t distance herself from state affairs.

“I have never been interested in politics and I don’t even have a TV at home…but unbelievable things have been happening and I came out today because I didn’t want to feel defeated as a South Korean citizen.”

— Cho Jong-gyu, who took a five-hour bus ride to participate in the rally

The protest on Saturday was the largest in the capital since June 10, 2008, when police said 80,000 people took part in a candlelight vigil denouncing the government’s decision to resume U.S. beef imports amid mad cow fears. Organizers estimated that crowd at 700,000. In the summer of 1987, millions rallied in Seoul and other cities for weeks before the then-military government caved in to demands for free presidential elections.

Train and express bus tickets to Seoul were difficult to get from some areas Friday evening and Saturday morning, with the protest reportedly drawing tens of thousands of people from other cities.

“I have never been interested in politics and I don’t even have a TV at home … but unbelievable things have been happening and I came out today because I didn’t want to feel defeated as a South Korean citizen,” said Cho Jong-gyu, who took a five-hour bus ride from the small southern island of Geoje to participate in the rally, where he quietly held a cardboard sign calling for Park to resign. Read the rest of this entry »


Protests in South Korea: Prosecutors to Question President Park

Seoul prosecutors are set to question South Korean President Park Geun-hye early this week for her role in the political corruption scandal involving an informal adviser.

It follows a second weekend of mass protests that saw hundreds of thousands of demonstrators cram city streets demanding her resignation.

Park has admitted sharing classified documents with close friend and informal adviser Choi Soon-sil. Read the rest of this entry »


China Paper says U.S., South Korea will ‘Pay the Price’ for Planned Missile System

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea are destined to “pay the price” for their decision to deploy an advanced missile defense system which will inevitably prompt a “counter attack”, China’s top newspaper said on Saturday.

“If the United States and South Korea harm the strategic security interests of countries in the region including China, then they are destined to pay the price for this and receive a proper counter attack.”

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high this year, beginning with North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January, which was followed by a satellite launch, a string of tests of various missiles, and its fifth and largest nuclear test last month.

In July, South Korea agreed with the United States to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to protect against any North Korean threats.

South Korea aims to deploy the system on a golf course, a defense ministry official said on Friday.

But the plan has angered China, which worries that THAAD’s powerful radar would compromise its security and do nothing to lower temperatures on the Korean peninsula.

Military parade in Pyongyang

In a commentary, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said China’s opposition to THAAD would never change as it was a serious threat to the regional strategic security balance.

“Like any other country, China can neither be vague nor indifferent on security matters that affect its core interests,” the newspaper said in the commentary, published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give views on foreign policy. Read the rest of this entry »


Defense Minister Han Min-koo: South Korea Has Plan to Assassinate Kim Jong Un

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A top South Korean defense official admitted this week that Seoul has a plan in place to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

The Asia Times reported that Defense Minister Han Min-koo made the remarks Wednesday during a parliamentary meeting in the country’s capital. He was asked about rumors circulating about such a plan.

“If it becomes clear the enemy is moving to attack the South with nuclear missiles, in order to suppress its aims, the concept is to destroy key figures and areas that include the North Korean leadership.”

— Defense Minister Han Min-koo

“If it becomes clear the enemy is moving to attack the South with nuclear missiles, in order to suppress its aims, the concept is to destroy key figures and areas that include the North Korean leadership,” Han said. He said Seoul is “considering launching a Special Forces unit to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.”

Meantime, North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho railed against the United States in his United Nations General Assembly address, warning the U.S. of “tremendous consequences” for its aggression and justifying Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear tests to defend North Korea from American hostility. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] U.S. Flies Bombers Near North Korean Border

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The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday conducted a low-altitude flight over South Korea in a show of force against North Korea, which last week conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test to date.

 


North Korea Fires Three Ballistic Missiles as G20 Leaders Meet in China 

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The missile launches were the latest in a series by the isolated North this year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by China, that ban all ballistic missile-related activities by the North.

Ju-min Park reports: North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Monday, the South Korean and U.S. militaries said, as the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies held a summit in China, the North’s main diplomatic ally.

“We are still analyzing details but this is a grave threat to our nation’s security, and we express deep concern.”

— Japan Defence Ministry

The missiles were fired from a region south of the capital Pyongyang just after noon (10.00 p.m. ET) and flew about 1,000 km (600 miles), hitting Japan’s air defense identification zone, South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

“We are still analyzing details but this is a grave threat to our nation’s security, and we express deep concern,” the Japan Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The launches drew immediate condemnation from the United States, which described them as “reckless,” and diplomats said the U.N. Security Council will discuss them behind closed doors on Tuesday at Washington’s and Tokyo’s requests.

The missile launches were the latest in a series by the isolated North this year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by China, that ban all ballistic missile-related activities by the North.

Pyongyang rejects the ban as infringing its sovereign right to pursue a space program and self defense.

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Shortly after the missile launches, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines of the G20 summit and agreed to cooperate on monitoring the situation, a Japanese statement said.

The South’s military said the missiles were medium-range Rodong-class, launched as a show of force timed to coincide with the G20 summit. The U.S. Strategic Command said in a statement that two of the three were presumed to be “intermediate range” ballistic missiles and that the third was still being assessed.

In 2014, the North fired two Rodong medium-range missiles just as Park and Abe were meeting U.S. President Barack Obama at the Hague to discuss responding to the North’s arms program. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] North Korean Propaganda Video Depicts Nuclear Strike on Washington 

SEOUL, South Korea — Choe Sang-Hun reports: North Korea released a propaganda video on Saturday that depicts a nuclear strike on Washington, along with a warning to “American imperialists” not to provoke the North.

The four-minute video clip, titled “Last Chance,” uses computer animation to show what looks like an intercontinental ballistic missile flying through the earth’s atmosphere before slamming into Washington, near what appears to be the Lincoln Memorial. A nuclear explosion follows.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a shelling drill of an artillery sub-unit under Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 681 at undisclosed place in North Korea. AFP

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a shelling drill of an artillery sub-unit under Korean People’s Army (KPA) Unit 681 at undisclosed place in North Korea. AFP

“If the American imperialists provoke us a bit, we will not hesitate to slap them with a pre-emptive nuclear strike,” read the Korean subtitles in the video, which was uploaded to the YouTube channel of D.P.R.K. Today, a North Korean website. “The United States must choose! It’s up to you whether the nation called the United States exists on this planet or not.”

Such remarks are in line with recent threats and assertions from North Korea about its nuclear and missile capabilities. Read the rest of this entry »


CHILL: China Asks United Nations to Impose International ‘Code of Conduct’ on Internet 

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Rudy Takala reports: A Chinese official on Friday called on the United Nations to impose an international code of conduct on the Internet.

“It is highly necessary and pressing for the international community to jointly bring about an international code of conduct on cyberspace at an early date.”

“It is highly necessary and pressing for the international community to jointly bring about an international code of conduct on cyberspace at an early date,” said Wang Qun, director-general of the Arms Control Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in comments to the U.N. General Assembly.

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“China, for its part, will continue to commit itself to establishing a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and pushing for an early international code of conduct acceptable to all.”

Wang’s comments were reported by China’s main state-owned press outlet, the Xinhua News Agency.

“China, for its part, will continue to commit itself to establishing a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and pushing for an early international code of conduct acceptable to all,” Wang added. Read the rest of this entry »


Asia’s Largest Film Festival Closes with Record Visitors

The annual Busan International Film Festival drew to a close on Saturday with a record number of visitors and many new Asian movies for the world to enjoy.

The start of the 20th edition seemed doomed by a cut in the South Korean government’s budget for the event and typhoon-triggered strong winds that grounded red carpet guests.

But the festival overcame those obstacles, as companies based in Busan, other corporate sponsors and South Korean film professionals stepped up to help fund the festival. Organizers also arranged bullet trains or drivers to whisk many of the A-list guests stranded at a Seoul airport, including German actress Nastassja Kinski, to Busan in time for the opening ceremony.

The event drew a record number of 227,000 visitors over 10 days, a slight increase from last year. Legendary filmmakers such as Hou Hsiao Hsien and Leos Carax, American actor Harvey Keitel, French actress Sophie Marceau and Korean heartthrob Yoo A-in were among the top stars who met audiences at a movie screening or at an open air talk on the beach. Read the rest of this entry »


Hey Japan, Have You Apologized Enough Yet?

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A scene at a Tokyo courthouse last month showed why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has had to work all year on a statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. As WSJ’s Henry Hoenig reports:

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Dozens of people stood in the heat, hoping to win a lottery for a seat to hear two of Japan’s most renowned historians debate, as part of a libel suit, whether the term “sex slaves” accurately described the women in Japan’s World War II military brothels.

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On your knees, descendant of Imperialist dogs!

[Read more at Japan Realtime Report]

That the subject still draws a crowd after seven decades shows how divided the country still is—and helps to explain why Japan’s statements about the war have swung back and forth over the years, to the annoyance of its neighbors. Read the rest of this entry »


Kim Jong Un’s Defense Chief Hyon Yong-chol Publicly Executed with Anti-Aircraft Fire

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North Korea’s Defense Minister Hyon Yong-chol executed for showing disloyalty to leader Kim Jong-un

MPs were told Mr Hyon was killed on 30 April by anti-aircraft fire in front of an audience of hundreds, the Yonhap news agency reports.

“It said the ‘most plausible explanation’ for the image was a ‘gruesome public execution’ by anti-aircraft fire.”

It said Mr Hyon had fallen asleep during an event attended by Kim Jong-un and had not carried out instructions.

Hyong-Yong-chol

“Mr. Hyon had fallen asleep during an event attended by Kim Jong-un and had ‘not carried out instructions’.”

South Korea said a senior military officer was also killed. The news comes weeks after the reported panic-bettyexecution of 15 senior officials.

Among them were two vice-ministers who had challenged Mr Kim over his policies and members of an orchestra, the South’s National Intelligence Agency (NIS) said at the time.

Analysts told the BBC that while reshuffles of officials were commonplace in North Korea, the execution of a figure as close to Mr Kim as Mr Hyon was surprising and could give cause for concern about the country’s stability.

Of the seven pallbearers at former leader Kim Jong-il's 2011 funeral, apart from Kim Jong-un, all have either been executed, have lost their jobs or have not been seen in some time

Of the seven pallbearers at former leader Kim Jong-il‘s 2011 funeral, apart from Kim Jong-un, all have either been executed, have lost their jobs or have not been seen in some time

Hyon Yong-chol, as defence minister, was as close to Kim Jong-un as it is possible to get.

“Such a public and brutal method of execution as obliteration by anti-aircraft gun would emphasize the cost of disloyalty.”

Intelligence reports always have to be treated with skepticism but, in this case, the claims of the South Korean spy agency will be easy to verify. If they are not true, the defense minister would appear again in public.

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Earlier, the South Korean agency said that senior officials were being executed at the rate of one a week. It all adds up to a picture of a leader in Pyongyang who feels very insecure and who is dangerous in his insecurity.

“‘This is indicative of Kim Jong-un’s impulsive decision-making’ and a sign of a leader who is ‘not feeling secure’…’entirely a demonstration of power and authority.'”

— Mike Madden of North Korea Leadership Watch

Mr Hyon is believed to have been a general since 2010, though little is known about him. He served on the committee for late leader Kim Jong-il’s funeral in December 2011, an indication of his growing influence.

Kim Jong-un has conducted a series of purges of officials since coming to power

Kim Jong-un has conducted a series of purges of officials since coming to power

He was appointed defence minister last year. NK News said he last appeared in state media a day before the alleged execution date. Read the rest of this entry »


BLOSSOM FIGHT! ‘Cherry Blossom is Chinese, Not Japanese,’ Claim Growers in China

Artfully Awear Cherry Blossom 5

Old literary references prove flower synonymous with Japan originated on Chinese soil, argues association, after South Korea has also laid claim to the species

Alice Yan reports: A group in China has weighed into the debate about the non-stop-panic-pearlsorigins of a flower synonymous with Japan, the cherry blossom, saying it was first found on Chinese soil.

“We don’t want to start a war of words with Japan or Korea, but we would like to state the fact that many historical literary references prove that cherry blossom originated in China. As Chinese, we are obliged to let more people know about this part of history.”

He Zongru, executive chairman of the China Cherry Blossom Association, told a press conference that historical references proved that the flower originally came from China.

He’s comments came after media reports in South Korea earlier this month suggested that cherry blossom was first found in the country’s southern province of Jeju.

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”To put it simply, cherry blossoms originated in China and prospered in Japan. None of this is Korea’s business.”

“We don’t want to start a war of words with Japan or Korea, but we would like to state the fact that many historical literary references prove that cherry blossom originated in China. As Chinese, we are obliged to let more people know about this part of history.” he was quoted a saying by the Southern Metropolis News.

Tang Dynasty

He said the species spread to Japan from the Himalayan region during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

Zhang Zuoshuang, an official at the Botanical Society of China, was quoted as saying that among the 150 types of wildly-grown cherry blossoms around the world, more than 50 could be found in China. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Dwarf Village’: A Shining Example of North Korea’s Spectacular Human Rights Record

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Little people sterilized, forced to live in remote area

TOKYO –   reports: The abuse of North Koreans who have dwarfism, a genetic condition that produces short bodies and disproportionate limbs, is the latest disclosure of widespread human rights abuses within the country. A U.N. commission report a year ago charged the regime with “crimes against humanity.”

Several North Korean defectors disclosed the existence of the village, called Yeonha-Ri, and said it is located in Kimhyongjik County, a border region in northeastern Ryanggang Province. The province is named after North Korea’s founding dictator Kim Il-Sung’s father, Kim Hyong-Jik.

“It is tempting to see the treatment of little people as evidence of the revolutionary state’s obsession with the purity of the race…”

Dwarfs are persecuted by the regime under a policy that combines Korean superstitions about physical deformities manifesting from personal or ancestral sin, and the hardline communist regime’s demand that all citizens must work, according to North Korean defectors.

“…But when you consider that Kim Il-Sung himself had a goiter the size of a fist on his neck that didn’t appear to disqualify him from leadership, I fear we have to look for other explanations.”

— Michael Breen, a Seoul-based specialist on North Korea

As part of the anti-dwarf measures, all people under 120 centimeters in height, or just under four feet, have been forced to relocate to the farming village at Yeonha-Ri.

One defector, who disclosed details of the village on condition of anonymity, said the North Korean government originally planned to exterminate the dwarfs as part of a policy of eliminating those within the population with undesirable physical traits. But concerns about international reaction to the population “cleansing” instead resulted in allowing the dwarfs to set up the farming village.

“I think that in this case…the nanny state in its zeal for social engineering is simply expressing the harsh and superstitious culture that it derives from.”

The goal of the separation is to prevent the dwarfs from marrying and reproducing. To that end, they are forced to undergo sterilization.

Also, North Korean dwarfs face a greater risk of starvation because they are not given the same food rations as other North Koreas.

Travel is also restricted under the dubious claim that as little people the dwarfs could be crushed while riding on crowded train cars.

The defector said stories related to the village include reports that during some of North Korea’s frequent famines, women would move in with Yeonha-Ri’s men who had reputations for being resourceful and good providers.

Michael Breen, a Seoul-based specialist on North Korea, said the treatment of the dwarfs is typical of the systematic abuse of human rights in the country. Read the rest of this entry »


US Ambassador Attacked in South Korea

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The U.S Ambassador to South Korea has been attacked in the country’s capital, according to local reports.

Mark Lippert

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Photos from South Korea’s official news agency show Ambassador Mark Lippert with blood on his hand and holding his face after he was attacked by what the Yonhap news agency says was “an armed man.”

Developing…

 ABC News


Macademia Justice: Court Sentences Korean Air Nut-Rage Executive to One Year in Prison

Cho Hyun-ah

Cho’s behavior, dubbed ‘nut rage’, caused an uproar in South Korea. The incident touched a nerve in a country where the economy is dominated by family-run conglomerates known as chaebol that often act above the law.

(SEOUL) — A Seoul court on Thursday sentenced a former Korean Air executive to a year in prison for aviation law violations that stemmed from her inflight tantrum over how she was served macadamia nuts.

 “I know my faults and I’m very sorry.”

— Cho said in her letter

The court said Cho Hyun-ah was guilty of forcing a flight to change its route and two other charges.

Cho, the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, achieved worldwide notoriety after she ordered the chief flight attendant off a Dec. 5 flight, forcing it to return to the gate at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

She was angered she had been offered macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a dish and had a heated confrontation with members of the cabin crew.

The court also found Cho guilty of obstructing the flight’s captain in the performance of his duties and forcing a crew member off a plane. It found her not guilty of interfering with a transport ministry investigation into the incident. Read the rest of this entry »


South Korean Activist Plans to Launch The Interview DVDs into North Korea

TV-screen-korea

A South Korean activist said Wednesday that he will launch balloons carrying DVDs of Sony’s “The Interview” toward North Korea to try to break down a personality cult built around dictator Kim Jong Un.

The comedy depicting an assassination attempt on Kim is at the center of tension between North Korea and the U.S., with Washington blaming Pyongyang for crippling hacking attacks on Sony Entertainment. Pyongyang denies that and has vowed to retaliate.

“North Korea’s absolute leadership will crumble if the idolization of leader Kim breaks down.”

— Activist Park Sang-hak

Activist Park Sang-hak said he will start dropping 100,000 DVDs and USBs with the movie by balloon in North Korea as early as late January. Park, a North Korean defector, said he’s partnering with the U.S.-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation, which is financing the making of the DVDs and USB memory sticks of the movie with Korean subtitles.

Park said foundation officials plan to visit South Korea around Jan. 20 to hand over the DVDs and USBs, and that he and the officials will then try to float the first batch of the balloons if weather conditions allow. Read the rest of this entry »


Dr. K: Sony Made the Wrong Decision to Pull ‘The Interview’

On Thursday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said Sony Pictures made a bad choice to scrap the release of The Interview.

 “I think this is not sort of rocket science, Sony made exactly the wrong decision. What you do is…you put it out on the Internet for free. So it’s a gesture, but also it doubly screws over Pyongyang.”

more

NRO


Bureau 121: Defector Says North Korea is Running a Vast Hacker Network

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SEOUL, South Korea — A defector who once worked as a computer expert for Pyongyang says North Korea is running a vast network of hackers committing cyber warfare against the perceived enemies of the Stalinist state.

“Raising cyber agents is fairly cheap. The world has the wrong view of the North Korean state. With that incorrect world view, North Korea was able to increase its ability to launch cyberattacks.”

Jang Se-yul, who defected from North Korea seven years ago, told CNN that he thinks there are 1,800 cyber warriors in the agency in place around the world, but he says even the agents themselves don’t know how many operatives work for the secretive group, labeled Bureau 121.

The South Korean government thinks Bureau 121 is the agency at the heart of the cyberattacks that North Korea conducts against foreign countries, a government official who requested to be anonymous told CNN on Thursday.

“This silent war, the cyber war, has already begun without a single bullet fired.”

An unknown number of agents and operatives work with Bureau 121, the official said, adding that South Korean intelligence thinks the group is responsible for the “Dark Seoul” hacks on South Korean banks and media companies in March and June 2013. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Want Your Avoid Having Your South Korean Citizenship Application Rejected? Be Prepared to Prove You Can Sing This Song

Can’t Sing the National Anthem? No Passport For You

Should you have to prove you can sing the national anthem of a country if you want it to make you a citizen?

In the U.S. the answer is no, but in South Korea it’s a clear yes.

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Chinese Woman Denied South Korean Citizenship Because She Couldn’t Sing the National Anthem

That’s what a 52-year-old Chinese woman found out when she failed to pass an interview in November to become Korean.

“At the test, we don’t expect the applicant to sing in perfect tune, but we expect to hear the right lyrics. If the applicant fails at the first try, we give one more chance to sing in thirty minutes or an hour. She failed both.”

According to the Justice Ministry, the woman, known only by her Korean surname Choi, flunked three tests; singing the national anthem, understanding the ideas of free democracy and basic knowledge about South Korea.

Seoul’s education office in August provided a new version of the song in a key two steps lower than the original composition, after complaints were raised that high notes in the song make it difficult for students to sing, particularly boys going through puberty.

Ms. Choi then filed a complaint with the Seoul Administrative Court, which ruled on Sept. 30 that the ministry’s decision was legitimate as it followed due process in a fair and valid way. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan Officially Enters Cold War with China and Korea

Japan's Largest Warship

Japan’s Largest Warship

Michael Auslin writes:  Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (pronounced “Ah-bay”) has just visited Yasukuni Shrine, Ground Zero for political controversy with China and Seoul. In doing so, he has all but acknowledged that a cold war exists between Japan and its northeast-Asian neighbors China and South Korea. It’s a shot across the bow of both countries, boldly, perhaps recklessly, announcing that Japan will no longer seek better relations on their terms. Nor does he have the support of the United States. Abe is putting Japan on a path of increasing diplomatic self-reliance, but doing so with the belief that it is the right response to continued tensions with Beijing and Seoul. That it will inflame those tensions, he is well aware.

North Korean Military

North Korean Military

Yasukuni Shrine is somewhat analogous to Arlington National Cemetery, being the religious site where the spirits of Japan’s war dead since 1867 are commemorated. Founded in 1869 across from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, there are nearly 2.5 million individuals enshrined there. Among them are 14 Class A war criminals from World War II, including wartime premier Hideki Tojo. These individuals were enshrined in 1978, nearly two decades after the first Class B and C war criminals were included in the shrine. Emperor Hirohito, who reigned during the war, refused to visit the shrine after 1978 and the inclusion of Tojo and others.

Chinese Military Honor Guard

Chinese Military Honor Guard

There was little international controversy about the shrine until 1985, when then–prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone paid an official visit to offer prayers for the dead. The outcry forced him to abandon plans for future visits, but annual visits by popular prime minister Junichiro Koizumi between 2001 and 2006 again fanned the flames of diplomatic protest. Both Beijing and South Korea have heatedly and vehemently condemned visits to the shrine by any serving Japanese cabinet official, and especially the prime minister. While no doubt feeling true outrage over what they see as attempts to whitewash the memory of the atrocities committed by the Class A war criminals, Chinese and Korean officials have also used the shrine visits as a means of pressuring Japan and keeping it diplomatically isolated in Asia. Contemporary politics have as much to do with the furor over Yasukuni as does the historical record.

Read the rest of this entry »


North Korea Replaces Hard-Line Military Chief

(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korean state media has confirmed that the nation’s hard-line military chief was replaced only a few months after his appointment.

The personnel change was believed to have been made in August and came as North Korea was pushing to ease animosity and resume lucrative cooperation projects with South Korea after threatening nuclear war this past spring.

The name of new military chief, Ri Yong Gil, came in a Korean Central News Agency dispatch listing top officials who accompanied leader Kim Jong Un to a Pyongyang mausoleum on Thursday. Little is known about Ri.

Ri’s predecessor, Kim Kyok Sik, is the former commander of battalions believed responsible for attacks on South Korea in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans. State media dispatches first identified Kim as military chief in May.

TIME.com