Daily Update – July 18

South Korea

Politics – President Park Geun-hae and her Mongolian counterpart announced the begining of a possible trade deal between the two nations, in hopes to improve bilateral relations between the two countries.  Park met her Mongolian counterpart on the sideline of the ASEM meeting in Mongolia, in which they vowed to improve ties, maintain a sense of security and work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The debate over THAAD continues in South Korea, as Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-an announced that the deployment of the advanced missile defense system does not require a parliamentary session and vote.  He argues deployment of the new defense system falls under the United States-South Korea defense agreement, which has brought many weapons of defense into South Korea without parliamentary approval.  Opposition parties are challenging this train of thought, however, and attempting to force the issue to parliament.

Economy  – Sales at South Korean duty-free store is 26.1% higher than this time last year.  Currently, duty-free sales have amounted to 5.77 trillion won and are expected, if the current rate continues, to surpass 12 trillion by the end of the year.  Stores in Busan and Jeju are making the most of this trend, amounting to over 70% of the total sales.  A large influx of Chinese tourists is the reason for the rapid increase.

Culture – For years there has been a long reputation of control over what women in South Korea were able to wear, with several regulations lasting into the Park Chung-hee era of the 1970s.  Today, one does not need to walk far to find a short skirt or a woman smoking on the side of the street or even a group of young women drinking in the torrid sun of summer.  This was not always the case, as Korea has long regulated the role of the female in society, including activities a woman could perform, dress she was able to wear and even when she could leave the house.  For a good summary analysis on the influences which led to such regulations in Korea, see this article.

North Korea

Politics – As stated in an earlier post, North Korea fired three scud rockets from North Hwanghae province into the sea.  Two of the missiles flew between 500 and 600 meters.  The act appears to be in defiance of the United States and South Korean decision to deploy the THAAD defense system in South Korea, a topic which has been hotly contested in South Korea as well.  This launch marks the first physical response to the deployment of THAAD by North Korea since the decision was made one week ago.

Economy – In North Korea, since the great famine in the 1990s, the black market has long become a staple in securing a way of life within the closed country.  Women have become absorbed in the way of running black market business, and the market reforms have led to a very interesting divide in power and money within North Korea’s borders.  However, success in the black markets, or jangmadang, may come with some unforeseen downsides.  Dhzon Khen-mu, a 60-year-old defector who now works for Unity Radio in South Korea, worked his whole life to turn a mere $300 tip – a substantial amount in North Korea – into an importing empire which garnered him over $100,000.  For comparison, most North Koreans are lucky to take home $1,000 a year.  His success led him to fear the government, thus leading him to fake his death and flee to the South.  In this wonderful, yet short, article in the Guardian, Dhzon retells his account.

Culture – People in North Hwanghae Province are experiencing a water shortage despite a larger rainfall than normal this year.  Subpar technology makes getting water to those living in the county very difficult and in times many are forced to carry the water on their backs, limiting their ability to carry a lot of water.  See the report in DailyNK.

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