Due to the multitude of major stories coming out of South and North Korea this weekend, I will attempt to cover a wide variety of them.
Politics – This weekend, South Korea officially announced that the THAAD missile defense system in country. This announcement comes amidst a variety of political advancements in North Korea, most notably an SLBM launch this weekend. South Korea’s decision has, as of writing, drawn little response from China, whose leadership and scholars were very vocal in their opposition of THAAD deployment in South Korea. So far, China has only said that it will take necessary measures, but many in South Korea are still wondering what those measures will be. Seongju, a city in Southern South Korea has been selected as the deployment site; however, officials in Seongju are still opposed to the proposed deployment site.
In other political news, South Korea and Switzerland will hold a summit in Seoul this week to discuss cooperation in trade, investment, science, and security among other topics. Park Geun-hae and her Swiss counterpart, Johann Schneider-Amman will also discuss how to pressure North Korea. The summit is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
Civic groups and opposition parties have joined together in an effort to reform the chaebol system in South Korea. Calls are for the government to abolish practices and laws that favor large conglomerates in South Korea. The parties present in a rally which took place in central Seoul included the Minjoo Party and the Justice Party – South Korea’s two main opposition parties.
Economy – South Korea is experiencing a shift from private sector economic development to government led. Last year the government contributed around 1/3 of the economic growth – South Korean government contributed 0.8% of a total 2.6% growth. This shift, according to a South Korean think tank has been caused by the economic slowdown.
Household debt in South Korea continues to rise. In June, outstanding loans to banks totaled 667.5 trillion won ($528.67 billion), a 6.6 trillion won increase from May. This rise in lending follows a cut to the interest rate by the Bank of Korea, also in June. As 2015, household debt in Korea has been on the rise.
Due to THAAD deployment taking up a large portion of South Korean media, I am not going to have a culture section for today. I will focus more on culture tomorrow.
Politics – North Korea has displayed a very vocal opposition to the THAAD deployment in South Korea. This includes a military call saying North Korea may “physically act out” against the deployment. North Korea has a record of badgering the international community whenever something happens which it deems to be an act against the regime – typically involving those acts which restrict the regime’s overall stability. The THAAD deployment, however, is one of the first anti-North Korea acts which involves an upgrade in military hardware on the peninsula, which should add more prudence to such threats, as North Korea may feel more threatened than it ever has.
The United States levied its first ever sanctions for human rights violations on North Korea late last week, sanctioning Kim Jung-un himself. North Korea has been diligently working to control the news of the sanctions, hoping it does not leak to the people. In response to the sanctions, North Korea warned the United States it will be severing its New York communication link.
North Korea may be gaining ground in its relationship with China. A new paradigm in ties between the two nations comes as a response to the THAAD deployment, according to an article in the Korea Times. China and Russia may loosen inspections and allow Pyongyang to exploit loopholes in the sanctions regime. This comes as North Korea has started to send workers into China illicitly.
Finally, signs a fifth nuclear test may be in the works have been spotted at the site of the previous four tests. 38North has reported an increase in action around the facility, though states the reason is still unclear. An article in the Korea Times takes it a step further, saying North Korea is working to maintain a state of readiness at the site.
This weekend and up to today this week, news out of, and about, North Korea has been covering the variety of political developments and therefore there will be no other sections for today.