What Obama did do

As I started writing this post, aware of the possibility of developments which could add to it, there is breaking news that North Korea released a statement that they are holding an American tourist named Miller Matthew Todd (24).
There is speculation that this was planned as he was seized two weeks ago, and they timed the release of information to coincide with Obama’s visit. It is some new low even for North Korea.
I will add more on this as things develop.

Here is a link to the comprehensive summary (Yahoo English article) of Obama’s visit and some of the scheduled events he will attend (with emphasis on his US military related visits) during his time in Korea, which is overshadowed by the Sewol disaster.:

The president will also reiterate his plea for Asian nations to avoid escalating multiple territorial disputes with China. Seoul’s key concern is over an area in the East China Sea that is effectively controlled by South Korea but falls within a controversial air defense zone China established last year.

I like how the article just raised South Korea’s territorial issue with China at the end.

So what has he done that has been reported in the Korean press so far?

1. In relation to the Sewol disaster:
* He held a 30 seconds of silence before the summit with Park. He also presented her with the Stars and Stripes which was flying at the White House on the day Sewol went down.
* He promised to present the school in Ansan where the students on the Sewol were from with a Magnolia tree from the White House. This seems like such a thoughtful gesture, that we would want to give a big gold star to the person who came up with the idea. However, it’s not the first time that Obama has played this repertoire, as I found out while looking for articles on Google.

2. Obama brought with him 9 Emperor’s seals made and used during the period of “대한제국 Korean Empire”, which were illegally taken by an American soldier during the 6.25 War. The difference between 국새 and 어보 is explained in the report, which I hadn’t been aware of.
Obama said:

this is a symbol of respect that we have for Korean culture and the country.

Kind of makes you wonder though, how much stolen stuff stashed away there must be internationally, and every time some head of state visits another nation, he could ask his secretary “How much stash have we got from country XYZ that I can take with me this time?”

3. Defence
* This is the key issue, Obama mentioned yet another possible 전작권 연기 (postponement of transfer of the Wartime Operational Control, OPCON, to Korea) which was set to be in Dec 2015.
Originally the transfer of OPCON was decided during RMH times(2007), set to be in 2012, however, LMB government had postponed it to 2015.

4. Economy
There were some discussions with regards to firming up the FTA between Korea and USA (the US has complained about Korea’s applying the 원산지 breaks on products from the US – i.e. the country of origin of the ingredients), and also Korea’s possibility of joining the TPP. Interest from the Korean side was welcomed by the US.

5. Comfort Women

Obama calls Japan’s use of Comfort Women a “terrible, egregious violations of human rights”

“Those women were violated in ways that even in the midst of war was shocking,” “They deserve to be heard, they deserve to be respected.”

from http://ajw.asahi.com/article/asia/korean_peninsula/AJ201404250107

This is a post in progress, I might tidy it up, and possibly add more if anything else comes up before his departure.

  • RElgin

    The TPP is a very bad idea and should be avoided. There are enough reasons to avoid this but I will not list them now.

  • redwhitedude

    Greeks are still looking for their marbles. Everybody could dangle that to them to get their act together in their economic crisis.

  • redwhitedude

    Give an abbreviated list of reasons.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    OK, PGH did ask for the postponement of Wartime Command Transfer(PWCT). But should this be the time to announce it? Otherwise, this is just lip service. I do not see people pouring out to street to force PGH to put “maximum” effort into this life-or-death issue. I am telling you SK is going down. PWCT is the most important thing for SK’s future but most SKs are so ignorant of the importance of it. Fools die.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    When the US Army moves out of Korea, that is the end. The US will say “we will leave AirForce. Korean Army can take care of land war” See what happened with Sewol? SK cut corners in national defense too and when the action starts, people will die in large numbers. And, NK will win. People do not know. Fools die.

  • redwhitedude

    Given how Korean side keeps postponing wartime control I’d say it is too sheepish to have the US troops move out. That would be a strategic victory for China. One of the raison d’etre of NK is to constantly bash the US as “colonial power” over SK so it removes one of the justifications of the regime. In other words an ideological punching bag for NK. Without US if SK were given a free hand god knows what will happen between SK and NK, NK’s existence will be uncertain being an economic wreck even if they do significant damage to SK.

  • bumfromkorea

    I’m not too familiar with the topic myself, and I would love to see your reasons for opposing TPP.

  • dlbarch

    If you don’t, I will!


  • redwhitedude

    Please do.

  • Seoulgoodman

    Your inability to differentiate between a company run by a cult leader and the country’s armed forces leads me to question your intelligence.

  • DC Musicfreak

    The former baduk mostly barks at the moon here, but witnessing the Sewol clusterfuck, the government crisis management part of things (costly delays, bickering among agencies that stymied action, etc) I wondered how much of the Korean reluctance to do the OPCON transfer is due to concern about political optics (perceived weakening of US commitment) and how much is due to self-awareness and fear that when the proverbial balloon goes up, important Korean military leaders will be on the golf course, sleeping off hangovers or fondling mistresses.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Obama suffers setbacks w.r.t. TPP (NYT article):


    And a Japanese blogos article, talking about the NYT article.


    It doesn’t go unnoticed by the Japanese that Obama still took a sit-on-the fence position on the sovereignty of these islands.


    And finally, Aso Taro (Mr.Foot-in-mouth) says something *after Obama’s departure* about TPP, talk about hitting 뒷통수:

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Obama remarks on Comfort Women, and the Japanese reaction:

    Japan warned the issue of its wartime system of sex slavery was not a “diplomatic” subject, after US President Barack Obama on Friday called it a “terrible” violation of human rights.

    Katsunobu Kato, deputy chief cabinet secretary, said Japan was aware of the suffering of the victims and was trying to avoid politicising the emotional issue.

    “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he is deeply pained to think of the people who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering,” Kato said in a television programme late Friday.

    “This issue should not be made into a political or diplomatic subject,” he said.

    In a press conference in South Korea on Friday, Obama called for an accounting of the wrongs perpetrated by Japanese troops before and during the second world war when thousands of women were forced into prostitution, many from the Korean peninsula.

    “This was a terrible, egregious violation of human rights. Those women were violated in ways that, even in the midst of war were shocking,” Obama said.

    But the US president also pressed Tokyo and Seoul to look to the future.

    “It is in the interests of both Japan and the Korean people to look forwards as well as backwards and to find ways in which the heartache and the pain of the past can be resolved,” Obama said.

    from South China Morning Post article

    Is the case of Japanese abductees in North Korea that they presented to him during his visit to Japan a diplomatic issue? What do the Japanese want with regards to this?
    Overall, the Japanese press are putting the emphasis that the remarks that they were directed almost as much at the Koreans (to move forward).

  • Sumo294

    I am not familiar with TPP what is wrong with it?

  • Sumo294

    The commies are screwed–war time command transfer will be an issue for the next election–are you for it Mr. Commie or not? Mr. Noh is the gift that just keeps giving.

  • A Korean

    You might wanna throw in the complete phrase when injecting Korean into posts/comments. Mixing “뒤통수”, the backside of the head, with “hitting” dose not quite convey the full impact and meaning of “뒤통수 치다”.

  • Sumo294

    The majority of Japanese do not know that North Korea and South Korea are two different countries and they could care less. Its kinda like the eighty percent of Americans who cannot find Korea on a map even if they were inclined to try to find the ROK. Of the twenty percent or so Japanese that actually have an opinion–their ruling elite really could not care less what they think about the subject at hand. Of the ruling elite–the PM and his circle only marginally cares what the diet thinks as foreign policy is the prerogative of the PM and his bureaucracy. Any politician or academic without a stake in foreign policy should mind their business and let their betters run the country without such distractions. The only issues that the average guy or gal in Japan is aware of is that Koreans shoot missiles and kidnap Japanese citizens and that is why Korean language schools should be shut down. They are far more worried about the local neighborhood dirty Korean pachinko parlor owner who is turning “good upright” Japanese into gambling slaves.

  • yankdownunder

    >Obama called for an accounting of the wrongs perpetrated by Japanese
    troops before and during the second world war when thousands of women
    were forced into prostitution, many from the Korean peninsula.


    >and there should be an accurate and clear account of **what happened**.

    Not what you think happened .

    There is one account


    >A “comfort girl” is nothing more than a **prostitute**

    The last thing you want is an accurate and clear account of what happened.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    The ignorance has payoff. A nuclear armed missiles coming their way, thanks to NK prodded by the Chinese.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    Not on golf courses. On a special plane to Busan. Just like the captain of Sewol, they know when and how to escape. The front line will collapse like it did in Korean war. Heck nobody wants to die. Ask any Sewol crew.

  • Koreandumbdumb

    On paper, Sewol had no problem. No violation on paper. All lifeboats in ship-shape. And, modern Coast Guard station that monitors traffic. 100% ready.
    But when the thing that they supposed to be ready for happened, nothing worked. All bureaucracy, all lies, all bribes, all special favors basically ensured nothing worked.
    When the war happens, nothing will work.
    I guarantee.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Interesting idea.

  • redwhitedude

    I’m sure the other EU countries are kicking themselves for not coming up with this idea.

  • que337

    6. Samsung selfie controversy:

    I could not find any English language news that follow it up, so that I’d like to introduce a short Korean report:


    During his visit to Korea, President Obama had a chance to meet with Lee Jae Yong, vice-president of Samsung electronics and they converse about the Samsung/Ortiz selfie at the White House. Mr. Obama assured Mr. Lee that the selfie incidence was not a problem at all, reported MBN.

  • dlbarch

    I think Samsux should be thankful for the whole Ortiz brouhaha, since it’s taken attention away from this:


    Samsux killing Koreans is not exactly great PR, but this story has been all but ignored on MH, even as it’s gotten Korean and now American play EVERYWHERE ELSE.


  • que337

    I would agree the conglomerate deserves being called “Samsux” for the case. It seems lucrative businesses are inclined to be so greedy that they ignore employees’ working conditions.


    Though I appreciate their contribution to technological advances, both companies would not earn my ultimate respect.