The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: Inter-Korean Issues (page 1 of 40)

Current Bias in South Korean Art, Education & News

Prison, artwork, media bias & control . . .

A court in Seoul has handed down a 12-year sentence to Kim ki-jong for his assault on American Ambassador Mark Lippart back in March. The prosecutors originally asked for 15 years though both the prosecution and defence will have a week to determine if they wish to appeal the decision. (cite)

attack_artMeanwhile . . .

I like looking at art but, hey, isn’t putting up a painting showing Kim Ki-jong attacking Mark Lippart a bit risqué? a branch of the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) in southwestern Seoul recently displayed the above painting, by Hong Sung-dam and has decided to take it down after reports in local media about the work being more a political endorsement of violence than merely art. The inscription in the art work is as follows:

I have felt despair about these problems for a long time. However, I’ve kept my mouth shut about the despair. On the other hand, Kim Ki-jong expressed it with a knife, though it was just a fruit knife.

The artist takes great liberties with reality. Even Kim Ki-jong, during questioning by the police, stated that “South Korea is a semi-colony of the U.S. and that North Korea has an independent, self-reliant government” and shortly after his arrest, Kim shouted that the U.S.-South Korea war games were an obstacle against a Korean unification” (cite). Imagine that – truth takes a very long holiday, it seems. If I were the ambassador, I might buy this work and hang it somewhere as a part of his tenure, in this space and time. Then again, he could just let his basset hound have a go at it.

Historical revisionism and who(?) audits the auditors

Ten education superintendents on Tuesday released statements opposing state-authored history textbooks in response to a government plan to standardize them. (cite) This controversy has been around for some time, even before 2013 when material in some history textbooks approved by the National Institute of Korean History were deemed controversial.

Currently, Minister of Education Hwang Woo-yea “has insisted that history education be standardized and consistent”. Even Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung commented, on September 2 of this year, that neutral state-authored history books, based on facts, were needed to prevent confusion among students.

The real question is whose version of history is going to be told and how will it be told.

As in the recent debate over displaying the Confederate battle flag in America, what is taught as history also reflects a societies’ values.  A good question that should be asked and answered is how can the mutual histories of the ROK and DPRK be narrated so as to best serve the interests of all Koreans. Reunification will take place and a mutual history that preserves the dignity of both groups will be an important and positive step in the right direction, even if some viewpoints are difficult for Saenuri legislators and North Koreans to comprehend.

Almost simultaneously, the Saenuri Dang has also decided to go after the major internet portals in South Korea, accusing them of lacking both professionalism and being biased. Per the JoongAng Ilbo:

The Saenuri Party said changing how portals handle news will be a key issue for this year’s audit of state affairs. (The National Assembly will begin an audit), under the order of Chairman Kim Moo-sung, vowed to scrutinize the nation’s largest web portals, such as Naver and Daum.
“Precious news articles produced by genuine journalists and the media autonomy are being distorted by the power of giant Internet portal sites,” (claimed) Rep. Lee Jae-young, who was recently appointed to head the ruling party’s think tank, the Yeouido Institute. (cite)

Why would Lee Jae-young feel this way?

According to research piece performed by Choi Hyung-woo from the School of Communications at Sogang University (Big data analysis of mobile news main pages of portal sites), after analyzing the headlines of 50,236 news postings, Choi determined that both Naver and Daum “had more content using negative expressions about the Blue House and Park Geun-hye administration than content using positive expressions“.

<Spit coffee on screen here>

The report also said Chairman Moon Jae-in of the NPAD was featured on the main pages of the portals more frequently than Saenuri Chairman Kim (Jealousy?). While 153 articles on the main pages were about Moon, 101 were about Kim, the report said. “Portal sites are not media companies, but they are deciding which articles from which media will be put on the main pages and how high they will be positioned in the layouts,” Rep. Lee said. “They are also editing the headlines. This is a de facto act of journalism, and this a serious issue.” the portals have no oversight or limits. “To ensure the independence of the media, conglomerates are only allowed to own certain stakes in broadcasters and newspapers, but portals are performing the role of the media, and conglomerates own them 100 percent. This is a serious issue. . . Portals have absolute influence over society, particularly the young, and it is unacceptable for them to distribute distorted information (information that makes Saenuri Dang look bad).”

So, here is the really funny part: if Daum and Naver are producing articles that are more negative towards Saenuri Dang, and Saenuri Dang representatives are in a position to audit Daum and Naver, isn’t this also a conflict of interest on the part of Saenuri politicians who have a vested interest in such an audit, especially just months in advance of general elections? Who audits the Saenuri Dang when they actively support the activities of the NIS electioneering and after the libellous slander used in the Chosun Ilbo – a notorious agent for Saenuri Dang interests – against the Prosecutor General’s Office, how can the public trust any audit performed by Saenuri Dang members? When Park Guen-hye said “They (DPRK) don’t have to come to the South, but they can always create social confusion and manipulate public opinion using cyberspace” (cite) was she referring to Daum and Naver!?
How is it that business leaders in large companies like Naver and Daum could possibly act as a proxy for DPRK concerns?
Are all media companies that criticize the Saenuri Dang working for the DPRK!?

Considering its claims, I think the Saenuri Dang has much to account for itself.

New Korea-US OPLAN calls for “preemptive attack,” R-E-S-P-E-C-T… and other things

– A South Korean military official who asked not to be named told the JoongAng Ilbo that Korea and the United States signed in June a new operation plan (OPLAN) which would guide joint military operations in the event of a war with North Korea. What’s interesting about this OPLAN is that unlike the OPLANs of the past, which called for the allies to respond to a North Korean invasion by falling back to assigned locations, waiting for reinforcements and counterattacking, the latest plan – called OPLAN 5015 – calls for launching an immediate counterattack sans retreat, and operations to take out North Korea’s missiles, nukes and other WMDs, something the JoongAng calls a “virtual preemptive attack.”

The military official said offensive punch has grown significantly with its development of nuclear weapons and missiles and the OPLAN was changed because the South would suffer too many losses unless the North’s offensive power was blunted quickly.

That’s not all. The military official said OPLAN 5015 also includes joint plans to respond to localized North Korean provocations. Seoul had been calling for such a joint action plan, but Washington had been worried that the South Korean military might overreact to a provocation and blow things up into a full-scale war. Now, however, the United States would provide support with its own weapons in the case of a localized North Korean provocation should such support be needed. The official said the United States’ basic position is to deter North Korean provocations and maintain the peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, but the new OPLAN greatly reflects the South Korean position.

MARMOT’S NOTE: Seems to me Seoul is trying to keep the North Koreans honest by scaring them with the United States, something the South Koreans have done before. Not sure how the Americans are going to feel about leaking this stuff to the press, though.

– Speaking of Korea-US military cooperation, SBS laments the fact that during the last crisis, South Korea was almost completely dependent on US intelligence gathering and strategic weaponry. It was the United States that detected the disappearance of North Korea’s submarine fleet. It was the United States that detected the movement of North Korean hovercrafts south towards the DMZ. Seoul had to rely on American strategic assets to respond to North Korea’s show of force.

SBS concludes with some quality whinging about how South Korea has been prevented by “surrounding nations” (but really, mostly the United States) from developing nuclear submarines and missile/rocket systems that could be used to deter the North or launch spy satellites into space. Mind you, these complaints are in large part justified IMHO, but me thinks a large part of the problem is simply bureaucratic inertia – Korea has been relying so long on US intelligence and strategic assets that it’s simply easier to keep doing so rather than change it. And perhaps that’s not such a bad thing – alliances, like all organizations, need a division of labor, and perhaps its more efficient to rely on the Americans to do what they do best – like high-tech intelligence gathering and strategic air and sea assets.

– Heo Yeong-il, the vice spokesperson for the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, has resigned after he posted on Facebook that he “respects” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Well, he actually said he respected both South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Comrade Kim for making tough decisions during the latest crisis, and that he actually respected Park more for making the really tough call, but that was enough for people to call for his head. In announcing his resignation, he apologized to the two soldiers who had their legs blown off at the DMZ and explained that all he was trying to do convey to people how much he wanted peace and reunification.

PHOTO: Joint Korea-US exercises in 2011. © Republic of Korea Armed Forces

I’ll give the North Koreans this – they really know how to troll

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, North Korea’s equivalent of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, is engaging in some creative trolling by denying-but-not-really-denying responsibility for a land mine attack on a South Korean patrol in the DMZ that they apologized-but-not-really-apologized for.

At Uriminzokkiri, the committee quoted an unnamed South Korean civil group which released a statement claiming, among other things, that the mine attack was a frame-up by the South Korean government.

Let’s be clear – the North Korean government itself isn’t denying it planted the mines… not that it has ever actually admitted to having done so, mind you. All it is doing is simply quoting a South Korean civic group which is claiming North Korea didn’t plant the mines. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Then we have Hwang Pyong So, head of North Korea’s military politburo and his side’s chief negotiator during the marathon talks at Panmunjeom, doing some trolling of his own on North Korean state TV:

During his appearance on the North’s Korean Central Television, the director of the General Political Department of the (North) Korean People’s Army, said, “South Korea promised to stop its propaganda broadcasting that it unilaterally resumed after creating a groundless incident. So, we decided to lift our semi-war state.”

He made the remarks after returning to the North after completing four days of marathon talks with his South Korean counterparts.

Hwang’s remarks that avoided using the word “landmine” were seen as an apparent effort to indirectly deny the North’s provocative act, which maimed two South Korean soldiers.

On a related note, Moon Jae-in, the head of South Korea’s largest opposition party, is criticizing national security adviser Kim Kwan-jin for telling the press that North Korea apologized for the mine attack and promised to take measures to prevent a recurrence when, according to the joint statement, it didn’t. He said this could harm trust with North Korea, although given North Korea’s subsequent antics, I think it’s safe to assume trust isn’t really a major concern beyond the Military Demarcation Line. I do worry, however, that the opposition may use Kim’s overenthusiastic explanation of the agreement results to explain away North Korean bad behavior, i.e., “North Korea wouldn’t be trolling us if Kim Kwan-jin hadn’t provoked them.” I haven’t seen anyone go there yet, but let’s watch and see.

Oh, and that link has a photo from Tony Toutouni’s Instagram feed on the sidebar. Christ, what a douche.

On the MUST READ list is Joshua Stanton’s breakdown of the agreement. Read it in its entirety, but here’s his executive summary which, I’m sad to say, is probably as good a postmortem as you’ll find:

They came, they talked, and they signed, but they solved nothing. Plus or minus one piece of paper, three severed legs, and an implicit promise of payment, we are where we were on the morning of August 4th, when Staff Sergeant Kim Jung-Won and Sergeant Ha Jae-Heon embarked on their fateful patrol.

As I predicted hours before the deal was announced, Pyongyang didn’t apologize, and Seoul will continue to pay. The loudspeakers will be switched off. There will not be an all-out war, and probably never would have been. The limited, incremental war will resume, only at a time and place more to Pyongyang’s advantage.

My guess is that most analysts who prefer not to label the Ikes and the Tinas will be pleased that “both sides” found a “face-saving” way to “de-escalate” a situation that one of the sides created with malice aforethought, and will now use for its financial and political benefit, but I can’t see how we’re any closer to lasting peace or security.

Oh, and if you’re the parent, spouse or child of a North Korean submariner, you’ll be happy to learn that all those missing subs have been returning to base.

PHOTO: South Korean marines looking for North Korean wood box mines on the coast of Ganghwado Island in 2010. © Republic of Korea Armed Forces.

A Change Not Heard Before?

DMZ_shellSomething new that has not been heard before?

As most know, South Korea has turned their speaker broadcasts back on in response to the sneak attack perpetrated by DPRK soldiers, who planted mines on the southern side of the DMZ last week. The speakers have been off since 2004 and as Choe Sang-hun points out, this return to broadcasting seems to be a concern to the leadership in the north and to a degree of sensitivity that is different from the past.


The North is desperate to stop loudspeaker broadcasts because they can undermine the morale of front-line North Korean troops and its military’s psychological preparedness,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul. Given the North’s sense of crisis and anxiety over the loudspeakers, it is highly possible for the North to attempt a military provocation if the broadcasts continue. . .  (cite)

Early this week, the South Korean Army fired about thirty 155-milimeter shells into North Korea, targeting a rocket launcher after an incoming missile was detected (cite).

The events of the coming weeks may prove interesting.

N. Korea unilaterally lifts wage increase limit at Kaesong

If you’re a South Korean business with a factory at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, I hope you’ve stocked up on your K-Y Jelly:

North Korea has removed the legal limit for wages paid to its workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the North’s propaganda site said Saturday, a move that could cause tension with South Korea, which co-runs the industrial park with the reclusive regime.

The North revised the Act on Kaesong Complex laborers late last month, scrapping the upper ceiling for workers’ wages, according to Uriminzokkiri, one of the country’s major propaganda sites.

The site also said that raises will be set every year by the supervisory committee overseeing laborers at the complex.

According to the Asia Gyeongje, the Uriminzokkiri article said the North changed 10 provisions in the Kaesong worker regulations, although the scrapping of the wage increase ceiling was the only one specified. Presumably, one would imagine, to make sure the South Koreans didn’t miss it.

Needless to say, there is concern that the North Koreans will place more pressure on South Korea by demanding high salary hikes at Kaesong in future negotiations, and Seoul has condemned the labor regulation move as unilateral (see link above). The labor regulations as they existed before, agreed upon by both Koreas in 2003, placed a 5% ceiling on annual raises to the minimum wage paid to North Korean workers at Kaesong, which currently stands at US$70.35 a month. Businesses in Kaesong say, however, they pay over US$150 a month when you take into consideration overtime and incentives. Interestingly, they also complain that costs increased as they replaced the South Korean-made Chocopies they’d been giving out as snacks with North Korean-made snacks, a fact that probably tells you everything you need to know about North Korea’s economy.

To be frank, I don’t feel especially bad for the South Korean firms at Kaesong, especially since every time I hear the Kaesong business owners’ association open its mouth, it’s to do things like call for a lifting of sanctions on the North or demand an end to ballooning leaflets. The progressive Seoul Shinmun ran an editorial condemning the North’s move, further evidence of the strange bedfellows Kaesong brings together.

To make this more interesting, the North’s announcement via Uriminzokkiri came just before Seoul making it known that it was considering offering incentives to Pyongyang (i.e., paying the North off) to restart the family reunion program.

Andrei Lankov asks what North Koreans really think about South Korean dramas

If one were to believe many news reports about North Korea, one may be forgiven for having the impression that the starving masses there long for a glamorous life in the South and are highly envious of their southern neighbors.  Well, the truth may be a little more complex.

The eminently readable and relevant Andrei Lankov asked the same question and came up with a highly textured answer.  In short, the Northerners are in fact impressed by Southern prosperity, but are also appalled by the violence, sex and greed exhibited in the dramas.

At first glance, it seems that North Koreans are bound to be admiring and envious of their South Korean brethren, whose income and living standards are so much higher and whose lifestyle is so much more comfortable….


The picture of the South within North Korea is a bit more complex, though. While admiring the almost unbelievable prosperity of the South, viewers are also exposed to many of the negative aspects of South Korean society.


… a number of North Korean viewers have come to the conclusion that South Korea must be a very violent place where police shoot suspected criminals more or less at random…


… casual sex, let alone sex as a means by which to advance one’s career or make some other type of gain, is considered morally despicable by… [North Koreans] . When they encounter a depiction of casual sex and one-night stands in South Korean movies, this confirms their belief in South Koreans’ low moral standards.

Very interesting read.  Dr. Lankov never disappoints.

Pyongyang’s Non-(?) Reaction, North Korean Catholicism(!), and Lankov

Solidifying North Korea’s already dominant position as the more comically entertaining of the two Koreas, Pyongyang reacted to speculation that the three short-range rockets fired off the east coast before Francis’s arrival and the two launched shortly after were in reaction to the Pope’s visit:

“We don’t know and in fact have no interest at all in why he is traveling to South Korea and what he is going to plot with the South Korean puppets,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim In-yong, a North Korean rocket scientist, as saying in reference to the pope.

The real question, the report quoted Mr. Kim as saying, was: “Why of all the days of the year, as numerous as the hairs of a cow, did the pope choose to come to the South on the very day we had planned to test our rockets?”

Reading between the lines, I see that North Korea has developed, to what diabolical end I do not know, a strain of nearly hairless cow with precisely 365 hairs in most years.  I will continue to monitor North Korean media for references to Kim In-yong or infer in lack thereof that Mr. Kim and his kin got sent to gulags for letting slip state secrets in South Korea’s most widely read English-language blog dealing with Korea-related topics.

Surprisingly (certainly to me), the Catholic Church does have a presence in North Korea.  Known as the “silent church”, Pyongyang has sanctioned one Catholic church, which has no official ties to the Vatican and is led by an itinerant South Korean Father John Park who has traveled to Pyongyang once a year since 2000 to celebrate mass.  The State maintains strict controls, and I doubt that Father Park administers the sacrament of confession:  “a confidential one-on-one conversation between a South Korean — even if that person is a priest — and a North Korean is impossible and both could be accused of espionage.”  North Korea has not a single priest residing in the country.  The United States claims North Korea’s few state-run churches exist only for the appearance of religious freedom.

As for numbers, the United Nations estimates about 800 Catholics in North Korea while North Korea’s state-run Korean Catholic Association asserts about 3,000 “registered Catholics.”  I wonder the reason for the North’s higher number, especially given that the regime is officially atheist.

Members of North Korea’s religious groups and the groups themselves are often criticized as being fake.   Here’s MH favorite Andrei Lankov’s take:

“The North Korean government is tolerant of a small controlled religious presence within the country or is willing to fake such presence,” said Andrei Lankov, an associate professor in social sciences at Kookmin University in South Korea.

“Even if some members are true believers, they are selected by the government. The police authorities, the secret police, is checking your background,” he said.

North Korea’s constitution does allow its people to practice religion. However, in the same constitution, it also says it won’t allow it to be “used for drawing in foreign forces or for harming the State or social order.”

Dr. Lankov concluded, “from their (North Korea’s) point of view, it is a very real threat. Right now, Christianity seems to be their most dangerous ideological challenge to the existing regime.”

I would like to ask him whether Christianity in general or Catholicism specifically is the threat.  We have seen in our lifetimes the irresistible political force, even to the Soviet Union and a well-backed Communist state and party, that the Catholic Church and pope can be.  I wonder could the next pope be Asian or even Korean?

For the Pope’s final mass on Monday for “peace and reconciliation for the Korean peninsula”, Vatican representatives had invited North Korea to send a delegation.  North Korea rejected the invitation.  The state-run Korean Catholics Association cited the annual joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces as the reason for rejection.  Apparently as fervently as they might feel about the Pope, North Korean Catholics feel even more so about the annual joint military exercises.

A New Era in Korea – Minus the American Influence

President Xi of the People’s Republic of China, and a large entourage of Chinese businessmen (Alibaba, Baidu), are currently visiting South Korea. The PRC is hoping for improved business ties but this time, there is, IMHO, the possibility of a sea change on the Korean peninsula.

Why and how?

China wants to change that status quo – they want to do so through money and through a redefinition of regional security – without American influence.

First, in business, China is proposing the foundation of a $50 billion “Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank”, first proposed by President Xi in October 2013, during a tour of Southeast Asia. This bank would have the PRC holding a fifty-percent stake in this bank and has hinted at benefits to those nations that participate and Xi’s visit to Seoul, currently under way is very much about the benefits to South Korea. (we will get to what South Korea might actually want from joining this venture shortly). South Korea has expressed an intent to become an offshore trading centre in Chinese currency (renminbi) and this current meeting is expected to address this as well.
For South Korea, this is useful and important since South Korea’s two-way trade with China was $229 billion last year, exceeding the combined value of South Korea’s trade with the U.S. and Japan. Xi told reporters after the 2013 summit that the two countries will strive to boost their trade to top $300 billion (cite). This trade has been hampered by the fact that both countries transactions have been based in US Dollars (because the Yuan and Won are not directly traded) which costs more and reflects the indirect influence of things American in Asia. A statement from South Korea’s finance ministry and central bank said the South Korean won will become directly exchangeable with the yuan, joining major currencies such as the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen and euro that are convertible with the Chinese currency. The decision also makes the yuan only the second currency after the U.S. dollar that is directly convertible with the won. (cite)
China has also given consent to South Korea’s investment of tens of billions of yuan (billions of USD) in Chinese bonds and stocks. The PRC Government is encouraging businesses to invest in Korea as well. Chinese investors are highly interested in cultural content, software and real estate development, thus would explain the drive by the Korean side to have Chinese investment in the so far failed Saemangeum Project (cite) or the attempt at luring Chinese investment in the Yeosu – Dadohae Haesang National Park area, as well as some yet to be announced projects.

There is also the issue of the recent Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the PRCs desire to exclude powers – such as the U.S. – from regional security, suggesting an arrangement, guided by the PRC that is more than a little reminiscent of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere plan of Showa Japanese origin. As reported in The Diplomat:

Xi called for the creation of a “new regional security cooperation architecture.” He proposed that CICA become “a security dialogue and cooperation platform” for all of Asia, from which countries can explore the possibility of creating a regional security framework. He further indicated that China would take a leading role in exploring the creation of a “code of conduct for regional security and [an] Asian security partnership program.”
In promoting China’s vision for a new regional security framework, Xi took specific aim at the basis for the current status quo: military alliances. Xi tied such alliances to “the outdated thinking of [the] Cold War.” “We cannot just have security for one or a few countries while leaving the rest insecure,” Xi said. “A military alliance which is targeted at a third party is not conducive to common regional security.” Xi in turn offered an alternative vision for Asia, one based on an all-inclusive regional security framework rather than individual alliances with external actors like the United States.” (cite )

The real horse dealing that is not hinted at in the Korean press (which has been very quiet yet unmistakably pro-Chinese) is how will the PRC, under Xi, will resolve the issue of reunification between the two Koreas. The South Korean Government reportedly wants substantial help from Xi for making reunification a reality – in both financial aid and in the momentum that can only come from the DPRK’s only substantial supporter. Though many believe that the PRC will likely not destabilize the DPRK, if the ROK buys into the Chinese sphere of financial and political influence, rejects the American presence in the region and further guarantees their responsibility in dealing with the potential North Korean refugee problem, I honestly don’t see how a belligerent DPRK could possibly avoid change and reunification with the southern half since it would be a matter of survival to do so.

I suppose this is logical; solving Korea’s problem long-standing problem with the north and the cost of unification, while resulting in the exit of America’s influence in Korea and pushing the US further out of the region and likely gaining more support for the egregious regional claims made by the PRC. There is little America can do about this too, since the Chinese have the means to deliver the reality of unification to South Korea and whereas the U.S. can not.

Looking into a Sino-Korean future; also worrisome is the shortage of personnel to staff the larger Korean projects and the increased likelihood that more Chinese will see living and working in Korea as business ties and opportunities grow in the future. What impact this will have on Korean society remains to be seen and considering the tremendous potential influx of money into Korea, the Korea of fifty years from now will likely be a very different one from what we observe today in terms of world view and its relationship with Europe and the US.  Some may even talk about Korea as being a Chinese colony, wistfully remembering the days when their elders talked about how Korea was really an American colony.

N. Korean threats and more Pyongyang Kremlinology

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin is warning that North Korea might act out early next year:

“There is a high probability of the North launching various kinds of provocations between late January and early March,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok quoted him as saying during a video conference with military commanders. “We have to prepare for both provocations and an all-out battle to strike back against the commanding forces of the North.

That last part reads a lot better in Korean:

“국지도발과 전면전 위협에 동시에 대비하면서 적이 도발하면 지휘 및 지원세력까지 강력하게 응징해서 도발 의지를 완전 분쇄해야 한다”고 강조했다.

I.e., if North Korea launches a provocation, we’ll hit not only the source of the attack, but also support and command units. Basically a restatement of previous South Korean warnings.

Kim also said the execution of Uncle Jang marks an important “turning point” for the North, suggesting that while it might solidify the leadership temporarily, internal instability would grow.

The opposition Democratic Party was a bit suspicious as to why the minister would worry the public so when there are no signs North Korea is up to anything unusual (OK, that’s not entirely accurate). To be fair to the DP, they have reason to be suspicious—the Defense Ministry is set to announce the interim results of an investigation into allegations its cyber-warfare command joined hands with the NIS to engage in an online smear campaign against DP candidate Moon Jae-in in last year’s presidential election.

Anyway, if you’re into whatever they call Kremlinology for Pyongyang (there was a great word for this, but I can’t seem to recall it), the ceremonies to mark the second anniversary of the passing of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il are producing a ton of it in the South Korean press. This piece in the Dong-A sums up the most notable observations, including the rise of Choe Ryong-hae, head of the KPA’s political bureau:

The North’s Korea Central TV station broadcast live the memorial ceremony for about one hour from 11 a.m. on Tuesday. At the leadership platform, Kim Yong Nam, executive chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Choe Ryong Hae, director of the Korean People`s Army General Political Bureau, were sitting on both sides of the North’s leader Kim Jong Un. On the first anniversary event last year, Choe Chun Sik, the director of the second natural science institute who contributed to the launch of a rocket, was sitting between Kim and Choe Ryong Hae. Considering that Kim Yong Nam is a post of formality who externally serves as the head of state, the new seating arrangement suggests that Choe Ryong Hae positioned himself as the undisputed No. 2 man since Jang’s execution.

Notably, Choe Ryong Hae is distancing himself from Jang by underscoring his family’s loyalty to the family of Mount Baekdu (Kim Jong Un) that has lasted for generations. Choe Ryong Hae’s father, Choe Hyon, jointly staged anti-Japanese independence fight as communist with North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, and is a figure admired in the North for his lifetime royalty to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Choe was especially mouthy yesterday, swearing not only undying loyalty to KJU, but also promising to rain fire and brimstone on Seoul if it attacks. Needless to say, that grabbed the Chosun Ilbo’s attention.

Nobody really knows what the long-term impact of Jang’s execution will be in terms of North Korea’s internally stability. It hasn’t done much for Pyongyang’s international image, though. Heck, even Bruce Cumings was appalled. One guy who’s not letting the bad press keep him away though is Dennis Rodman, who’s back in Pyongyang to help train North Korean basketball players.

Needless to say, you should all be reading Joshua Stanton at One Free Korea on a daily basis now. His comments on Uncle Jang’s wife—who doesn’t look like she’s going to get axed any time soon—are rather poignant:

For years, I’d heard from a well-connected South Korean friend that Kim Kyong Hui and Jang were in a Clintonian marriage, and that their estrangement was a bitter one. I’d even heard that she was the more powerful of the two spouses (she certainly is now). The Joongang Ilbo, citing the Asahi Shimbun, says that Kim divorced Jang shortly before his execution. This report, citing South Korean sources, says that Jang and Kim’s “only daughter committed suicide in 2006 while studying in Paris.” What a sad life she must have lived, and she was one of the “lucky” ones.

Some day, a South Korean “drama” producer is going to make a lot of money on this. It’s like “The Borgias” meets “The Killing Fields.

photo credit: bryanh via photopin cc

UPDATE: About that word I couldn’t remember…

Lil’ Kim’s Island – Good Tequila, Good Times

tequilashotglassForget all the negative, political hype, Kim JongUn has a nice island, knows how to treat friends and is trying to slowly make new connections within an old system.  Dennis Rodman knows.  He knows Kim and they’re friends.  Forget all that negative hype from South Korea because Kim is “a ‘good guy’, a ‘good-hearted kid’ who offers the best tequila to his guests on his private island.  South Korea should commission the Rodman to help with their diplomacy and to bring together all the good tequila and private islands from the north and south together for good times and for a possible “Simon Sez – II” movie.  I wonder why the South Korean Government has not done this already considering they were seriously thinking of spending 7.8 billion USD on jets that few people like or can afford.  Surely inexpensive, though odd, approaches to solving problems are worth considering?

The article from the Guardian is here.

So, that’s what happened to those transcripts

Also not surprising:

About a month after the 2007 presidential election, former President Roh Moo-hyun ordered his aides to discard the original transcript of his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at a Pyongyang summit, according to an exclusive report by the JoongAng Ilbo.

And more records were deleted by the president around the time he left office, the report said.

From Roh’s electronic records system, prosecutors have recovered a document showing he ordered aides to delete the original transcript of the summit meeting after the 2007 presidential election, which was won by a large margin by Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party, which was the opposition during Roh’s term.

Now, to be fair, former President Roh probably shouldn’t have had to worry about somebody leaking those transcripts, but alas, that’s exactly what he needed to worry about and exactly what transpired.

Noted – Roh Did It After All

President Roh  had the electronic record of the 2007 inter-Korea Summit deleted . (not to mention other missing things).

Two Koreas agree to working-level talks on Kaesong

Might the left wing’s favorite Third World sweatshop live on? I guess we’ll soon find out:

The two Koreas on Thursday agreed to hold this weekend working-level talks on reopening a joint industrial complex in the communist country that remains suspended for nearly three months, the government said.

The Ministry of Unification said that the government-to-government meeting will be held at Tongilgak, an administrative building on the North Korean side of the neutral border village of Panmunjom, at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

A three-member delegation from each side will attend the meeting, the first of its kind since the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North’s border city of the same name came to a halt in early April amid high military and political tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

According to Yonhap, experts in Seoul aren’t especially optimistic that talks will produce much of anything—the South is likely to demand changes that would reduce Northern control over the complex, and the North is likely to demand the complex be restarted first and safeguards be discussed at a later date.

Frankly, I’d rather Seoul just let the thing die. Not to dismiss the potential for revolutionary change of thousands of Choco Pies flooding into North Korea, but really, aside from making the North money and giving Pyongyang potential hostages, I’m not sure what Seoul gets out of it. One could argue it gives the South leverage over the North, I suppose, but it seems that South Korean “leverage” over the North always ends up as North Korean leverage over the South.

A bit more about NLL Transcript-Gate

– Yonhap notes that the release of the transcripts could have a negative impact on South Korean diplomacy not only with North Korea—-which can’t be happy about this breach in diplomatic protocol—but also with Seoul’s other diplomatic partners, all of whom have to worry now that things they say behind closed doors will eventually be aired to the public when politically expedient. Will the opposition one day respond by releasing transcripts from summits between LMB/PGH and US/Japanese leaders? Who knows…

– The Chosun Ilbo’s TV station notes that the foreign media are noting Roh’s anti-American and anti-Japanese statements. I’m not sure if that’s true, but perhaps it should be, especially with zingers like these. My personal favorite was “우리는 미국에 의지해온 친미국가라는 것은 객관적 사실”이라며 “역사적으로 형성되어 온 것으로 하루아침에 미국과 관계를 싹뚝 끊고 북측이 하시는 것처럼 이런 수준의 자주를 하는 것은 불가능.” Like North Korea’s “수준의 자주” was a good thing. Not as Uriminzokkiri-esque as the passage I quoted here, but still pretty telling, I think. As was this:

이후 ‘제일 미운 나라’, ‘동북아 평화 해칠 국가’를 묻는 여론조사에 당시 국민 상당수가 ‘미국’을 꼽았다는 점을 강조하며 “이러한 것이 우리민족이 자주적으로 문제를 풀어나갈 수 있는 환경의 변화”라 말한 것도 이런 맥락이다.

– Oh, not that it has anything to do with Roh Moo-hyun or the NLL, but I’ve posted some photos of Sunday’s “supermoon” over Seoul on my Tumblr. The visibility was shite, and the best I’ve got in my bag is a 200mm, but blah photos are better than no photos.

Roh agreed to abandon NLL: National Assembly intel committee lawmakers

Saenuri Party lawmakers on the National Assembly intelligence committee say they’ve read the sections of the conversation record from the 2007 inter-Korean summit where President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il discussed the West Sea NLL, reports the Chosun Ilbo.

And more to the point, they say Roh made a statement that suggested he wanted to abandon the NLL. To sum up, Roh said he agreed with Kim that the NLL needed to be changed and called for it to be turned into a “zone of peaceful cooperation.” Kim responded by suggesting Roh abandon its laws regarding the NLL so that the two sides could enter working-level discussions on creating said zone, to which Roh said, “Yes, fine.”

They also said the sanctions the US placed on BDA in 2005 were a “clear American blunder.” Best of all, Roh also told Kim that if you poll South Koreans, the country they hate the most is the United States. When asked which nation threatens peace the most, South Koreans respond with the United States at No. 1, Japan at No. 2 and then North Korea.


Much, much more here. The stuff in these documents come from NIS reports in 2009 when the LMB administration was secretly preparing for a possible summit with the North. Wanna play a game? Guess which leader said the following about the BDA sanctions, Roh and Kim Jong-il:

“분명히 얘기를 하는데… BDA 문제는 미국의 실책인데… 북측에 손가락질하고 북측보고 풀어라 하고, 부당하다는 거 다 알고 있습니다.… 뭐 제일 큰 문제가 미국입니다. 나도 역사적으로 제국주의 역사가 사실 세계 인민들에게 반성도 하지 않았고 오늘날도 패권적 야망을 절실히 드러내고 있다는 인식을 갖고 있으며 저항감도 가지고 있습니다.”

If you guessed Roh, you would have guessed right. Among other things, Roh also apparently expressed a desire to build a light water reactor for the North instead of the United States, bragged about sinking OPLAN 5029, and much, much more. Oh, and as for Kim Jong-il supposedly agreeing to the stationing of US troops in Korea during the 2000 summit with Kim Dae-jung, what KJI actually said appears to be more along the lines of “the US troop presence is useful because I can use it to drum up anti-American sentiment at home.” Which is remarkably frank, but also not the line of steaming BS the DJ administration tried to sell the South Korean and American publics.

PS: Yes, the reason the Chosun is going big with this is probably to distract the public from the ever growing evidence that the NIS was engaged in some serious nonsense during the last presidential election. It’s still fun reading through this stuff, though.

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