The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Tag: NLL

Losers, NLL transcript, invisible US ambassador, Japan and UNESCO redux, complaining foreigners, pretty shaved heads and Lego


With guys like this running the Ministry of Defense, is it any surprise they’re dragging their feet with the transfer of wartime operational command?

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency touched off a furor by saying at a National Assembly audit that South Korea would “lose” in a one-on-one war with North Korea.

South Korea’s 2013 military spending is 33 to 34 times more than North Korea‘s.

Speaking at the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee annual audit of his office at the Ministry of National Defense on Nov. 5, Cho Bo-geun reportedly responded to a question about who would win in a war between South Korea and North Korea by saying, “If we fight as an alliance with the US under the current operational plan, we‘ll win by an overwhelming margin. If South Korea fights alone, North Korea has the superior fighting strength, so South Korea would lose.”

Twice the population, a military budget 34 times the size of North Korea’s, an economic gap that looks like this, and you still think you’d lose?

I just don’t know what to say, other than the Defense Ministry should hire Doug Bandow as a consultant or something.

Which way did the transcript go, George? Which way did it go?

More nonsense with the NLL:

“People all know that President Roh Moo-hyun guarded the NLL (Northern Limit Line),” Moon told reporters before his questioning. “The transcript [of the summit] is intact.

“The crux of this matter is that the ruling party and the National Intelligence Service abused the transcript stored at the NIS by distorting its contents for [last year’s] presidential election,” said Moon, who was also the Democratic Party candidate defeated in last year’s presidential election.

When asked by reporters why the transcript wasn’t transferred to the National Archives, Moon did not answer.

He’s probably right about the NIS using the transcript for political purposes in the last election. As far as everyone knowing that Roh defended the NLL, I’d say recent elections and polling would suggest that’s far from the case.

US ambassador needs to drink more

Somebody at the JoongAng Ilbo apparently doesn’t think US Ambassador Sung Kim is drinking enough:

Modesty and passiveness are different. Kim’s background is too special for him to be just another ambassador.

Because he is the first Korean-American to be appointed U.S. ambassador to Seoul, and because he is the forerunner for other people of Korean descent who will take senior posts in other countries, our expectations are high.

It is not too late. We want to see His Excellency Kim meeting Koreans over glasses of makgeolli during the rest of his term.

There seems to be some confusion here, and I’ve noticed it with previous ambassadors here, too. More specifically, it sometimes seems the media expects the US ambassador to represent Korean interests to the US government. Sure, I guess in terms of public policy, it doesn’t hurt to mix with the locals. Could be fun, too. But that’s not his job.

Oh, not this again…

The JoongAng Ilbo thinks the Japanese are being insensitive by pushing the registration of their modern cultural heritage with UNESCO:

Japan was a regional front-runner when it came to industrialization and economic success. The government is seeking to register its early industrial sites as Unesco World Heritage sites to rekindle pride in its economic legacy. Doing so, however, the country has once again demonstrated insensitivity toward its neighbor. Eleven out of the 28 “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” it plans to seek for UN recognition in February 2015 served as labor camps for Korean prisoners and civilians during World War II.

At least 1,481 Koreans were forced to work as slaves in sites that include a shipyard in Nagasaki, a defunct coal mine and a steel mill in Fukuoka, according to a study by the Prime Minister’s Office.The Hashima coal mine was notoriously referred to as the “island of hell” because Koreans were forced to work for 12 hours a day in pits of 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) below the surface. Few Koreans came out alive or even healthy.

Any country is entitled to vie for international recognition and protection for its heritage and cultural properties under the World Heritage Treaty of 1972. The places Japan wants to list as World Heritage sites may be valuable assets to the Japanese, but they trigger bitter and painful memories for Koreans. It is spiteful to honor its past glory at the expense of others’ pain.

I’ve already explained why I think this is a losing fight for the Korean side here.

Sometimes, this blog just writes itself

OK, it’s a bit dated, but in case you missed the Korea Times piece about the gay American pastor in HBC complaining about Korea’s homophobic textbooks, then you also missed this beauty from an Education Ministry official—be warned, though, that you should not be drinking anything when you read it, especially coffee, which can be especially difficult to wipe off your monitor:

“Every country has its own set of laws in evaluating and approving the education material for books. I don’t know if it’s appropriate for a foreigner to judge how we manage our education. You won’t see us commenting how other countries teach at schools.”

I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing.

Like a very pretty bhikkhunī

Say what you will about Rep. Kim Jae-yeon’s politics—needless to say, I’m not a fan of her party. Still, she does look good with a shaved head.

Lego screwing Korea

Or that’s what some folk are complaining, anyway:

“Lego is too expensive, that’s why moms usually band together and make bulk purchases through the Internet,” Park Jin-hai, 38, a mother of two kids aged nine and six, said.

“Moms all know Lego is expensive, but we have no choice because kids love it. Also, it is difficult to find individual stores and service centers where customers can get the customer service in person,” Park added.

“Lego uses its international economic scale to raise awareness and the price here. Comparably smaller Korean toy firms cannot win with those strategies,” a market insider added.

Foreign coffee chains, outdoor fashion brands, Danish toy companies… when will these outrages stop?

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).

Did Roh give up the NLL, or didn’t he? And if he did, what does it mean?

This whole mess over the NLL is getting more interesting that I thought it would get.

The main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) said they plan to take legal action against presidential security secretary Chun Yung-woo and an unspecified official responsible for record keeping at the country’s spy agency, for violating existing laws governing non-disclosure of highly classified files.
Chun said Thursday during a parliamentary audit session that he saw a transcript of the 2007 inter-Korean summit two years ago that is held by the National Intelligence Service (NIS), although he declined to elaborate on its contents.

The NIS has confirmed that it has a copy of the official summit transcripts.

The NIS director, for his part, doesn’t think the transcripts should be made public, and what’s more, there’s no “secret transcripts” of conversations between ex-president Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il.

The Hankyoreh thinks the NIS’s testimony should have brought the NLL issue to a conclusion. As Korea’s paper of progressive record sees it, Chung Moon-hun’s claim that the NIS and Unification Ministry possessed a secret transcript—given to them by the North Koreans!—in which Roh tells KJI that Seoul would no longer claim the NLL since it was simply a line drawn by the Americans to grab more territory was revealed to have been a lie, and it’s that lie that kicked off the Saenuri Party’s calls for a parliamentary investigation and even President Lee’s visit to Baengnyeong-do. Sure, since we can’t release the official summit transcript in the NIS’s possession, you can think maybe something’s in there, but the officials who accompanied Roh to Pyongyang all say he never gave up the NLL, so the Saenuri Party should just shut up and repent.

The Dong-A Ilbo, of course, begs to differ—they want to see what’s in the transcript. Harmonizing protecting secrets with the right to know and all that. The head of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee has asked the NIS to allow him to see the documents, which I’m guessing he can as secret documents can be viewed by anybody with clearance (which I would certainly hope he has). I confess, even if Chung Moon-hun was talking out his ass (and the Saenuri Party says he ain’t), the opposition’s, well, opposition to even reviewing the documents—and the Hankyoreh’s concern for state secrets—have got me quite curious. What’s in there they don’t want the Saenuri Party to see?

Something else has me curious. A couple of days ago, I read an interview in OhMyNews with Professor Moon Chung-in, who served in the Roh administration and is frequently cited in the Western press. He argued the NLL wasn’t a territorial line—either under Article 3 of the ROK Constitution (which claims the entirety of the Korean peninsula) or according to American CIA documents—and to claim it as a territorial line would violate Article 3 since this would in effect be recognizing North Korea as a sovereign state, and then the NLL would become a UN Law of the Sea issue. It’s an interesting interview—if you read Korean—and while he says he’s certain Roh didn’t tell KJI he’d give up the NLL, Moon does say that even if he had, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Moon is also on record—not by his own choosing—discussing the summit and the NLL in a 2007 US State Department cable leaked via Wikileaks:

(C) Moon said the NLL (Northern Limit Line) issue should not be considered a military or sovereignty issue since that would be an acknowledgement of perpetual division of the Peninsula. Instead, the NLL was simply a fisheries issue and, while complicated, could be solved by the two Fisheries Ministers so that both North and South Korean boats could fish in the West Sea. This issue was pressing, Moon said, since PRC fishing vessels were already encroaching in West Sea fishing grounds.

Anyway, it’s got me thinking Roh is recorded saying something about the NLL.

N. Korea still upset, murders perfectly edible fish

Lest people think North Korea was bluffing, they’ve finally began their “physical response” to recent South Korea—US naval drills with a massive artillery barrage on the poor fish that live on their side of the NLL:

North Korea fired 110 artillery rounds at waters near a disputed western sea border with the South on Monday, escalating already high tensions after the sinking in March of a South Korean warship.

About 10 shells landed near Byeongryeong, a South Korean border island, followed by an additional 100 rounds falling near another border island, Yeonpyeong, said a spokesman of the Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul, who insisted on anonymity until there was a formal government announcement.
The spokesman said that all the shells fell just north of the so-called Northern Limit Line, or N.L.L., which both South Korea and the United States consider the only legitimate western sea border between the Koreas and have patrolled since the three-year Korean War ended in a cease-fire in 1953.

No word on how many innocent fish were killed.

Now, what’s interesting about this is that a couple of South Korean sources are claiming some of the shells fell on the southern side of the NLL:

But the South Korean national news agency Yonhap and SBS, a domestic television network, citing unidentified military sources, reported that some of the rounds crossed the line. The two South Korean islands, heavily populated by South Korean marines and fishermen, lie within the 17-mile range of North Korea’s coastline artillery.

I  hope that 1) those reports are mistaken; and 2) if they are correct, a few South Korean artillery shells begin falling uncomfortably close in the waters just off North Korean artillery positions.

More Talk of Retaliation

And of course, it’s Defense Minister Kim Tae-young:

Defense Minister Kim Tae-yung on Sunday threatened North Korea with retaliation if it is found to have been behind the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26. “Retaliation — whatever form it takes — must be done,” Kim said on KBS TV. The possibility of a vicious cycle of retaliation “must clearly be considered,” he said.

The minister was echoing Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Kim Sung-chan’s pledge during Thursday’s funeral for the 46 sailors killed in the shipwreck that whoever caused the tragedy would not be forgiven and get away.

As we know, the defense minister talks a lot. But this time, he was joined by former USFK commander B.B. Bell (operative word: former), who, according to Ye Olde Chosun, called for strict blockade measures against the North if it is proven they sank the Cheonan.

The Chosun runs down some of the options, including large naval drills near the NLL, attacks on North Korean submarines, and my personal favorite — as it is of the defense minister, apparently — bringing in nuclear-armed US bombers:

Dispatching U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bombers or B-52 bombers to the skies over the Korean Peninsula is also an option.

Asked by lawmaker Kim Jung of the Pro-Park Geun-hye Coalition at the National Assembly Defense Committee session last Wednesday whether deploying nuclear bombers alone could send a sufficiently strong message to the North, the minister replied, “I think it would be good show of force.”

Nothing like a little nuclear posturing to brighten one’s morning.

Anyway, I’ll believe any of this talk only when it actually happens.

Bruce Klingner Said a Funny/N. Korea Faces Constraints, Too

And even the Chosun Ilbo thought so. Well, maybe not funny.

Anyway, from TIME:

Kim didn’t specifically say it was a North Korean torpedo. He didn’t need to; nor necessarily does the South Korean government want to. “South Korea is now like a CSI investigator who, upon seeing a dead body with a bullet hole in the forehead refuses to rule out a heart attack as the cause of death since the only suspect in the room with a pistol is a vicious gangland boss,” says Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former CIA analyst. “Better to engage in a lengthy investigation, both to gather irrefutable evidence and to delay the inevitable day of reckoning.”

It’s not a bad piece, to be sure, but I disagree with this:

The gangster analogy is apt. It precisely captures the dynamic that keeps the North’s relations with the outside world pretty much exactly where they’ve been for the past 20 years. As long as Kim & Co. don’t do anything truly crazy, like start bombing Seoul, there is virtually nothing that South Korea, the U.S. or anyone else can do to constrain their smaller acts of war. And make no mistake, shooting a torpedo that sinks a South Korean ship in South Korea’s own waters is an act of war, no less than a North Korean artillery attack on the South Korean parliament building in Seoul would be.

It’s just that smaller acts of war cannot be allowed to matter. Hillary Clinton infuriated many South Koreans when she said on April 22 that she hopes “there is no talk of war, there is no action or miscalculation that could provoke a response that might lead to conflict. That’s not in anyone’s interest.” The Secretary of State also added that “the way to resolve the outstanding differences [between the Koreas] was for the North to return to the six-party talk framework [which involves trying to bribe the North into giving up its nuclear weapons] as soon as possible.” Though the State Department says Clinton’s message was aimed at Pyongyang, that’s not the way a lot of people in the South took it. To them it sounded like 46 South Korean sailors lie at the bottom of the sea, but God forbid South Korea do anything that might “lead to conflict.”

It’s not that South Korea, the US or anyone else can’t do anything to constrain North Korea’s smaller acts of war. It’s that they don’t. Much is made of the threat of war, and with good reason. Seoul has much to lose if the balloon goes up. That said, so does North Korea. Pyongyang has the ability to hurt the South terribly, but the South — with the United States — has the ability to terminate the existence of the North Korean state if they choose, as they certainly would in the event of a war. Assuming North Korea — which I think is much more rational in its decision-making than people give it credit for — doesn’t want to start a war that it will lose in a very permanent sense, South Korea could take a page from the North Korean play book and launch some retaliatory “provocations” of its own. JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer Kim Jin was right — the military option has to be on the table.

The problem is that it would take a very, very big set of balls to test this theory, especially in the face of North Korea’s carefully crafted image of bat-shit insanity. Most responsible leaders don’t have that kind of set, a fact we all should probably be very thankful for. God knows, I doubt I’d have the stones to order the F-15s to start bombing North Korean naval bases. Unfortunately, this leads the North to believe — quite rightly — that its adversaries are so frightened of it that it can get away with provocations that would get other countries bombed. So they continue to do so, knowing full well that, at worst, their adversaries will get pissed (oh no!), and at best, it’ll win them concessions and/or create political headaches for whoever is leading South Korea.

‘고통 준 세력 찾아내 큰 대가 치르게 할것’

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Kim Sung-chan is clearly angry:

In a eulogy that followed, Adm. Kim Sung-chan, the Navy chief of staff, hailed the heroic endeavors of the Cheonan soldiers and vowed to take revenge on whomever attacked the ship.

“What happened on March 26 at Baengnyeong Island [near which the ship sank] should not have happened,” Kim read, his voice trembling.

The nation’s military leaders plus Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of the U.S. Combined Forces Command, were in attendance.

“We cannot and must not forgive this or forget this. Whoever caused our people great pains, we will not sit idly by. We will pursue [the responsible party] to the end and make it pay a huge price.

I actually tend to agree with the Hankyoreh that some of the reporting on Cheonan has been irresponsible, but it seems to me the Navy is certain this was no accident.

On a final note, while I’m not one to take joy in anything that happens at a funeral, I did feel some degree of satisfaction reading that the mother of one of the fallen, Senior Chief Petty Officer Min Pyeong-gi, harangued Democratic Labor Party chairman Kang “The Hanboked One” Ki-gap (can’t watch the video) — he who apparently thinks the Americans know what happened to the Cheonanafter the floral tribute:

After a floral tribute, the mother of the late Senior Chief Petty Officer Min Pyeong-gi approached the chairman of the progressive Democratic Labor Party, Kang Ki-kap, who was seated in the front row. She said, “North Koreans killed my son. Please, never say (we should assist North Korea),” and then collapsed.

She actually said a bit more than that.

Open Thread #145

Have a good weekend.

Torpedo ‘Likely’ Cause of Cheonan Sinking?

The Defense Minister is talking again:

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said yesterday he thinks a torpedo attack is the more likely cause of the sinking of the Navy patrol ship Cheonan.

During a question-and-answer session on emergency matters at the National Assembly in Seoul, Kim said a torpedo attack and a sea mine blast were the two most likely causes of the tragedy, but he put more weight on the idea of a torpedo attack.
In case of a torpedo attack, either the weapon can hit the ship directly or it can explode right below the vessel and create a bubble jet effect [a type of underwater explosion] to break the ship, Kim said. The picture of the cut sections seems like it had been hit by a torpedo directly.

OK, at this point, I note:

I’m going to assume at this point that if the Cheonan was torpedoed, it wasn’t by the Cambodian freighter. Speaking of which:

A fishing boat has vanished and is feared to have sunk after searching for sailors missing from last week’s naval disaster, maritime police said Saturday.

Police said they lost contact with the 99-ton boat, carrying nine people aboard, after receiving a distress signal at around 8:30 p.m. Friday in the area off the western sea border with North Korea, where the patrol ship Cheonan ship sank on March 26.
The police said they were also chasing a Cambodian-registered 1,472-ton vessel sailing nearby to determine whether the two vessels had collided. They cite oil floating in waters near the scene.

The Coast Guard, BTW, caught the freighter on the high seas and are bringing it back to Incheon.

Marmot’s Note: If the North Koreans DID sink the Cheonan — and I really, really hope they didn’t — it would be more than just the usual nonsense: it could be “Load the JDAMs and Fire Up the F-15s, Cheol-soo” time. Now that the incident is several days old and the government has had time to consider the potential consequences of making it rain steel on North Korean naval installations, I have no idea what President Lee will do. I will say, however, it’s going to be very, very difficult for him NOT to retaliate in one way or the other for the murder of over 50 ROK Navy sailors IF that’s what the sinking turns out to be.

UPDATE: Please see ROK Drop’s post, too.

Navy Diver Dies in Search for Cheonan Crew

Condolences go out to the family of this man:

A Korean military diver died Tuesday after falling unconscious while searching for sailors, who went missing after a Navy ship sank in the western waters Friday night.

Han Joon-ho, 53, a warrant officer, passed out around 3:20 p.m. due to the strong underwater pressure and currents when he was trying to enter the bow of the frigate Cheonan, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

Han from the Navy’s Ship Salvage Unit (SSU) was immediately moved to a nearby U.S. rescue ship but pronounced dead, a ministry spokesman said.

Defense Minister Says Warship May Have Hit NK Mine

From the KT:

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young cautiously raised the possibility Monday that the ill-fated frigate Cheonan may have hit a mine laid by North Korea.

His remark drew attention as Cheong Wa Dae and defense officials had previously sought to downplay the North’s possible involvement in the deadly ship wreck Friday in which 46 South Korean sailors remain missing in action.

Answering questions at the National Assembly on the cause of the incident, Kim said, North Korean mines may have floated into our territorial waters.

However, he refused to comment on whether the mines had been placed by the North intentionally or had drifted into South Korean waters.

Defense Minister Kim likes to talk. A little too much, IMHO. Can’t anyone just say “we’re keeping all possibilities open”?

On the speculation front, we have the Kukmin Ilbo wondering what the Cheonan was doing there in the first place (the speculation being it had something to do with North Korea declaring the area a no-go area) and the guy from Nambuk Story speculation that if North Korea did it (and he doesn’t think they did), they’d use female commando/suicide bombers in semi-submersibles.

Interestingly, the ROK military apparently has TOD footage of the sinking vessel, although it’s doubtful it will provide many clues. At any rate, the military won’t release it.

BTW, GI Korea has been doing a great job blogging this tragedy/outrage, so go to his site for the links.

40 Sailors Missing After ROK Patrol Boat Sinks in West Sea

I pray that both the missing are found and that this was just an accident:

A South Korean Navy ship sank off the west coast near the maritime border with North Korea, officials said Saturday, with just more than half of the 104-member crew rescued.

The 1,200-ton ship Cheonan went down around 9:45 p.m. near a South Korean island in the Yellow Sea, and 58 of the crew members have been rescued so far, Navy officials said.

Patrol boats and helicopters have been deployed in a rescue operation, but officials said the efforts were hindered by strong winds and darkness.

The possibility of a North Korean attack was raised when local residents reported having heard “loud artillery firing” for at least 10 minutes from 11 p.m. Military officials initially said a South Korean vessel fired a shot northward at an unidentified ship, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the object caught on radar appears to have been a flock of birds.

“We have been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the incident as of this moment,” the Navy said, with multiple officials saying an unexplained explosion in the rear of the ship may have ripped a hole in the vessel’s bottom.

Great, More Dead Fish

Looks like the North Koreans will resume shelling in the West Sea.

I sure hope they’re having fun.

Will North Korea Fire on South Korea?

That’s the question Bradley Martin asks in GlobalPost:

Expect North Korean naval and land forces to fire missiles and guns in coming days at South Korean targets in a disputed north-south border area in the Yellow Sea, killing some South Koreans and suffering a measured military retaliation.

If the North Koreans do launch an attack in the West Sea — which is likely, IMHO — expect South Korea to whack the North.

Expecting the North Koreans to try something, President Lee Myung-bak has been going out of his way to impress upon Pyongyang that he is NOT Kim Dae-jung or Roh Moo-hyun. Perhaps concerned that leaked plans of artillery and air strikes on North Korean coastal targets hadn’t done the trick, the ROKAF issued a press release Wednesday that said, I quote, “If North Korea launches an armed provocation in the NLL, etc., the Air Force plans to respond promptly and powerfully. At the vanguard of the response, we plan to deploy F-15Ks.” And I quote the Chosun Ilbo, “This is interpreted as revealing the intention to deploy F-15Ks to launch precision strikes with long-range missiles or JDAMs if North Korea attacks our warships with coastal artillery or land-based anti-ship missiles, despite concerns of escalation.”

Again, to reinforce this message, the Air Force apparently released footage from some training exercises involving F-15Ks.

Some civic people believe this is all Lee Myung-bak’s attempt to focus attention away from worsening domestic opinion. Of course, then again, some people also say things like, “Would even the authorities of the United States, which is trying to ram through sanctions against the north to maintain its nuclear superpower hegemony, express dissatisfaction with the detailed live broadcast-like reporting through the media of intelligence on the North Koreans ICBM?”

(HT to Korea Economic Reader)

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