Breaking News: Rouge North Korean Soldiers in China

An article released in the  Korea Times recounts the adventure of a violent group of North Korean soldiers in China.  A group of 5 soldiers went on an armed robbiery spree in the border regions, followed by a brief shootout with Chinese authorites.  Currently two of the soldiers are in custody, with a manhunt underway for the remaining 3.  Will update with more information.

Daily Update – July 28

Tonight, Hillary Clinton became the first female to ever accept the nomination of a major political party for the office of President of the United States of America.  Her policies support unity in the face of danger, equality for all, and a more sensible hawkish approach to international relations.  Regardless of politics, this night represents a major stepping stone in the history of the United States.  And now, because I honestly can’t live a day without discussing politics, let’s get into Hillary on the issue of Korea.

South Korea

As Secretary of State, Hillary presided over the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, which brought more troops and investment to the region.  She also assisted in securing support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, along with a variety of other major policies geared toward Asia.  But if Clinton is elected president, what would her administration do for South Korea?

First, she has advocated against the TPP, saying it takes jobs away from America.  Now, she has not, to my knowledge, said anything against the Korea-US FTA, but I feel the entire gambit of FTAs with Washington will be examined under her administration.  Whether review leads to change and renegotiation, we will have to wait and see.

Her most prominent claim to fame, according to her, is the creation of the trilateral defense system in Asia.  This claim focuses on the intelligence sharing with South Korea, but may bode bigger issues now with THAAD deployment in South Korea.  Clinton could work to strengthen the security bond between Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul by incorporating the Korean THAAD battery into a larger regional defense shield.  China would oppose this stance, and may even undertake actions to protest the inclusion of Korea into such a defense system since it will see the action as hostile to its intentions in the region.  However, this is a strategy which could come with a bright side.  Clinton’s commitment to the defense of Asia, if it does not result in a more robust defense system including South Korea, may strengthen the military bonds between South Korea and the United States, without deploying more troops or seriously damaging ties with China.  In fact, Clinton could work to secure Chinese involvement in the North Korea by not including South Korea in the missile defense system.  This policy could hinder relations with the Saenuri party in South Korea since they see the United States as a key to their defense.  

Clinton’s South Korea policy is walking a fine line which incorporates the relations of many nations in the region.  She does promise to never give up allies in the region, a policy which South Koreans, no matter of political leaning, will find promising.  However, her policy is mere speculation, as she has yet to really address the topic of South Korea beyond promising to never abandon it and other international allies.

North Korea

North Korea is an issue which derails any good aspect of Clinton’s past.  She was a key agent in Strategic Patience, a policy which worsened relations with North Korea since it saw itself as being left out of the world conversation.

Hillary in 2016, however, has a more promising solution.  She has advocated to increase sanctions on the regime if it does not forgo any future nuclear testing and development.  This is not the most promising strategy, as sanctions have thus far failed to constrict resources going to the nuclear program, but it does leave the door open to engagement, which has been proven to relieve tensions on the peninsula, even for a short time.   She has not released a detailed outline of what she would sanction, and currently, several hurdles exist for her policy to be effective.  The first is Kaesong’s closure.  This hurdle limits the positive relationship with South Korea, which in a roundabout way, also hinders relations with Washington; now there is no mutually beneficial ground for the two Koreas on the entire peninsula.  Another hurdle for her North Korea policy is closing loopholes in current North Korean sanctions.  This will include an exhaustive policy review, as well as lengthy discussions with United Nations to ensure that future sanctions work to not only increase the amount of sanctions on North Korea, but also work to increase the effectiveness of sanctions already in place.

There is one really promising figure who will be with her if she takes office, Bill Clinton.  He presided over the Agreed Framework of 1994 with North Korea, orchestrating possibly the best method for denuclearization – had the deal been upheld – in North Korea.  One can hope that he would be involved in crafting a diplomatic solution, similar yet more stringent than the 1994 Framework, which could place the world on the path to denuclearization.

Now, to close I will say that Clinton does not have a perfect Korea policy.  Including Korea on the missile defense system in Asia will hinder relations with China and Russia, and sanctions alone have proven to be unsuccessful in the quest for denuclearization.  However, Hillary has been on the ground, and the sidelines, for many of the most important moments in American relations with the Korean peninsula and thus has a policy which comes from her experience.  I would like to see a more dynamic path to denuclearization, as well as a more robust defense system which would not work to alienate China, but at least her policy is founded in reality and may, even though this is a long shot, work to bring more stability to the peninsula.

Daily Update – July 27

Sorry for the lack of posting last night.  I was caught up in the Democratic Convention and might have stayed up late the past few nights watching it and researching Hillary Clinton’s Korea policy for my Daily Update tomorrow.  This is also my lame excuse for lacking in quality this week, which I promise to enhance next week.  Anyway, here is the brief Daily Update for today.

South Korea

Flights, both domestic and international, have reached nearly 50 million.  This number is 14% higher than this period last year, with international travel increasing 15% to 35 million.  The rise in travel comes in the wake of Japanese earthquakes and other world disasters, and because of this is a promising sign for Korea.

An interesting cultural story.  Two British nationals have been protesting the dog meat trade in Korea for the past two weeks.  Their protest has taken place in front of the National Assembly, and most recently in Gwanghwamun Square.  The two activists paid for their trip to Korea out of their own pocket and are not there to attack Korean cultural norms – one of which is eating boshintag, dog meat stew, on the hottest day of the year to recover.  As aminal rights activists, the duo has also sought to get the British government involved, authoring a petition which has garnered over 100,000 signatures, meaning the British parliament will debate sending a formal letter urging South Korea to stop the dog meat trade, a first in the world.  (Disclaimer, I have tried boshintang, and thought it was fairly delicious.  However, I do not condone the torture and/or killing of animals in inhumane methods.  Also, the dish is not cheap in Korean standards and hard to find in Seoul.)

South Korean customs authorities have confiscated several pills containing powdered human flesh.  The majority of the pills are brought in through the international post, with the second highest rate of entry being with tourists, Lee Jong-ba revealed Tuesday.  The pills also contained several health hazards, including super bacteria and possible strands of Hepatitis B.  (If that is the incorrect lingo, I apologize for not being more in the know of sciency things.)  Pills of this sort have been confiscated at an alarming rate for the past 4 years and have been brought in due to supposed positive effects.

North Korea

North Korea dispatched units to several Asian nations, including China, with the intent to conduct terrorist activities against South Koreans in the region as a response to the mass defection of 13 restaurant workers almost 4 months ago.  Currently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working to step up security for South Korean nationals in the region, emphasizing the need for defectors, priests, and activists to be on high alert, as they are the most likely to be targeted for attacks by North Koreans.

South Korean soldiers found a large amount of North Korean propaganda leaflets on Wednesday.  This is the first time North Korea has floated propaganda down the Han River.  The leaflets said that North Korea won the Korean War and threaten an attack on South Korea with Musudan missiles.

Daily Update – July 25

Since I am hard at work thumbing through Hillary Clinton’s Korea policy for my post on Thursday, I am going to keep this brief today.  I apologize.

South Korea

South Korea’s economy grew about 0.7% in the second quarter.  This growth, as Yonhap news reports, is due to a rise in exports and consumption.  Despite this growth, gross domestic household income fell around 0.4%.  This marks a 3.5% growth from a year ago.

The Ministry of Environment held a hearing against the German automaker Volkswagon, harping it for emission violation.  The hearing took place at the National Institute for Environmental Research, and could revoke the certifications of 79 models implicated in the report.  Currently, the cars of Volkswagon amount to 70% of the total sales of Volkswagons and Audis in Korea, but a revocation of certificates will see a shift in those numbers.

An article in HanKyoreh criticized her claim that as Secretary of State, she assisted in created a US-Korea-Japan missile defense system to respond to the provocative actions of North Korea.  The article reaffirms what many Koreans fear, becoming a part of the US missile defense system and alienate China, losing trade from Seoul’s biggest trade partner.  As the election cycle continues, though, South Korea will be faced with a slew of important questions regarding both candidates.

North Korea

North Korea has condemned the construction of artificial reefs off the eastern shore around the Northen Limit Line.  South Korea states that the reefs are being built to control Chinese fishing around the NLL.  Pyongyang official media, KCNA, called the creation of the fake reefs a provocative action.  (I would not be surprised if there was a provocative action surrounding the creation of the reefs.)

North Korean officials have started to confiscate items bearing a symbol representing the Christian Cross.  This adds to the level of restrictions regarding the importation of items; currently, North Korea checks for items imported from South Korea.  There is also reports that North Korea has started to confiscate items with an “x” on them.  Currently, there is no system or location for people whose items are falsely confiscated to file a complaint, and there probably will not be.

Daily Update – July 22

Due to big news regarding the economic situation of North Korea, today’s update will feature one story on the economic situation in both countries.

South Korea

The government has outlined an 11 trillion won ($9.46 billion) extra allocation to the budget in order to prop up the economy which is still sliding.  The extra money is a part of Seoul’s 28 trillion won being used to ensure that the South Korean economy grows at least 2.8% this year, a number lower than previously predicted.  It will  be used to assist the youth in gaining employment, as the unemployment rate of youths aged 15 to 29 reached 10.3% last month, up from May’s 9.7%.   Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said the time is right is aggressive refinancing.  Of the 11 trillion won, 9.8 trillion will be going to stimulate the economy, and 1.2 trillion will be going to pay off state debts.

North Korea

The Bank of Korea reported a shrink of 1.1% of North Korea’s economy last year.  This is the first time the reclusive nation has recorded a shrinkage in the economy in 5 years.  Under Kim Jung-un North Korea averaged an annual growth rate of 1%.  The Bank of Korea also reported that North Korea’s foreign trade dropped to around $6.25 billion, an 18% decrease.  The bank estimates these number based on sources from South Korean agencies and then compares them to Sout Korean figures.

Will return to the more thorough Daily Updates on Monday.

Daily Update – July 21

Again, as the Republican National Convention comes to a close, I wish to reiterate the need for us to make smart and responsible decisions in the upcoming election – those who live in the United States.  I have commented on Trump’s Korea policy and today I wish to present a very condensed version of that post.

Trump has supported: troop withdraw from South Korea unless Seoul pays more for stationed troops; preemptive strikes on  North Korea, which he has backed off of; and writing the North Korea issue to China; and talking directly with North Korea.

Trump is against: the Korea-US free trade agreement; currently preemptive strikes against North Korea, but this could change.  He also would favor not having the US involved in Korea – North or South – unless we make money from our involvement.

Trump has based his policy of the myth of Chinese total control over North Korea and other broad, misled ideas on the Korean Peninsula.

This is a shortened version of my earlier post on his policy.  I look forward to resuming Daily Updates tomorrow.  I would have done a more updatey update tonight if I hadn’t stayed up to watch Trump’s acceptance speech.

New Information on Missile Launch

The missile launch earlier this week, which I did two posts on, has some new information.  North Korea did not launch three scud missiles; in fact, it launched two scud missiles and a Rondung missile, North Korea’s short-range missile.  This test was also said to be practice for the preemptive strike of American troops in South Korea, a claim which the United States brushed off, urging North Korea to not raise tensions on the peninsula.  President Park has also vowed to convene the National Security Council over the North Korean provocations.

For a good look at the latest missile launch, see this article in Yonhap.