Daily Update – August 29

South Korea

Politics  – THAAD deployment is continuing to rear its head in South Korea.  Today the ruling Saenuri party officially adopted the deployment of THAAD as its official position.  This move will help Park gather support for the deployment since now it is the accepted party position.  However, the Minjoo party, currently the majority in South Korea’s National Assembly, remains indecisive on the issue.  Choo Min-ae, recently elected Minjoo Party of Korea chief, may draw the line on Saenuri on this issue, a strategy which may see the party oppose the deployment of THAAD in Korea.

The Ministry of National Defense in South Korea selected 3 new, possible deployment sites for the future deployment of THAAD.  The original deployment site was slated to be at Seongsan artillery battery.  Citizens of Seongsan, however, came out in protest of the location, citing that the battery’s radar may have negative effects on the environment. Two of the new locations, Mount Yoemsoek and Mount Kkachi, had failed South Korea’s initial feasibility test.  Lotte Skyhill Golf Club, therefore, is the more promising of the three new locations.  Despite this new development, it will be a joint decision of the United States and Korean officials as to the location of THAAD on the Korean peninsula.

In presidential politics, Ahn Cheol-soo hinted at a possible presidential bid on Sunday.  If he chooses to run, Ahn would be making his second attempt at the office.  In a press conference on Sunday, Ahn promised to enact “reasonable reform” if elected.  He also said that next year’s election would be a collision of the old and new.  Currently, Ahn is ranked 3rd, according to a Realmeter poll, among presidential hopefuls.  Number one in the poll is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at 24.1%, followed by Moon Jae-in at 17.7%.  Ahn received a mere 9.7%.

Economy – KTB Securities made its first overseas investment, buying an Airbus A330-300 aircraft run by Singapore airlines.  Investors are slated to receive principle and interest for six years until the leasing period expires.  This purchase was made as KTB works to become an investment banking specialist.

South Korea’s foreign short-term debt rose $2.7 billion dollars since June, totaling in at $106.8 billion dollars.  This equates for 27.3% of South Korea’s total debt, a rise of .5 percentage points.  Meanwhile, South Korea’s net foreign investment and assets reached a record $234.1 billion, up $21.3 billion.  Currently, South Korea has a total of $1.193 trillion dollars invested overseas, a rise of $26 billion dollars in the last 3 months.

Culture – A new South Korean Television show highlights a major shift in South Korean culture.  More young people are eating, shopping, and even drinking alone, in a society which is normally characterized by many social activities done in groups – some restaurants refuse to serve those who eat alone because they do not make portions small enough for only one person.  “Drinking Alone” follows a cast of characters as they choose, for a variety of reasons, to drink and do other activities alone.

North Korea

Many North Korean trade officials based in China are being recalled.  Those recalled are not struggling with procuring foreign currency; however, they are the ones which are more successful at the task.  They are being recalled due to rumors spread about their personal lives by other traders.  Foreign currency has long been a lifeline of the regime, and it is likely they will work to replace or reinstate many of those who were recalled so they can work to earn more currency for the cash-strapped regime.

A recent United States State Department report released to congress details the abuses of North Korean workers based overseas.  The report includes lists of countries which forcibly repatriate North Koreans, as well as ones who have North Korean workers stationed in the country, including those with formal ties to the regime.  This comes as the United States has been stepping up pressure on North Korea for its human rights abuses, adding to the July sanctions levied on North Korean leader Kim Jung-un for human rights violations.  Another report is said to released to congress, this report will focus on the prison camps in North Korea.

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Weekly Roundup: August 21-28

Since I didn’t do any Daily Updates this week, I am going to do a broad overview of the news of this week in this post.  I apologize for having a little less for South Korea for this post, but North Korea tried to steal the spotlight in terms of major political issues this week.  As for Daily Updates, they will restart tomorrow evening.

South Korea

South Korea’s main happening this week is the start of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military drill.  This year the drill features around 25,000 American troops, more than 50,000 Korean troops, as well as a Patriot missile from Guam.  The drill is reported to contain Operations Plan 5015, a countermeasure scenario which calls for a preemptive strike on North Korean nuclear facilities in a crisis.  The drills have drawn many threats from North Korea, but will continue until September 2.  (Beyond Parallel released a study detailing how provocative the drills really are, reaching a very interesting conclusion.)

South Korea has also been demanding a harsh response to the SLBM launch by North Korea early this week.  President Park Geun-hae has spearheaded the movement for harsh sanctions, with the NSC convening after the test.  Among her remarks after the test, Park called North Korea’s decision-making process irrational and called Kim Jung-un “hard to predict.”  This movement ended with the United Nations Security Council releasing a statement condemning the test, which North Korea flatly rejected.  However, South Korean political hawks are calling for nuclear submarines to counter the growing threat of North Korea’s SLBM program.  Park concluded the week by ordering the military to maintain full readiness, while also tasking ministers to craft effective measures against the growing North Korean threat.  South Korean and American officials are planning to meet to discuss retaliatory actions for the test and resumption of reprocessing of plutonium for weapons use.

Cholera is now present on the Korean peninsula; this week South Korea announced two cases of the disease.  The first reported case is a 59-year-old man who resides in Gwangju province.  The second reported case is a 73-year-old woman residing in the southern coast.  Inspections are underway, according to the most recent news, at a restaurant the woman visited; authorities fear the bacteria could be from imported seafood.

Finally, South Korean Defense Ministry said Monday that it had excavated the remains of 320 soldiers killed during the Korean war, 6 of which have been identified and returned to their families.  The excavation ended this month.  In March, South Korean authorities repatriated the remains of 36 Chinese soldiers to China, and the remains of 2 American soldiers were sent back to the United States.  South Korea is working to identify the rest of the remains.

(Majority of the articles in this section are from Yonhap news simply as a time saver.  If anyone wishes to see other sources on these issues, please comment and I will link to other sources.)

North Korea

North Korea has been experiencing its fair amount of tumult and seeming upheaval throughout the week.  The week in Pyongyang started with the defection of Thae Young-ho late last week.  Looming in Thae’s shadow is the recall of a diplomat, a few more defections, as well as other military headlines.

One of the first challenges for North Korea this week was acknowledging the defection of Thae Yong-ho.  In its report on Sunday, Korean Central News Agency said Thae was running for fear of punishment for his illegal activities.  KNCA reported these activities to include embezzling money, rape of a minor, and stealing state secrets.  The announcement continued to denounce Thae, calling him human scum.   KCNA’s announcement broke a long streak of silence on Thae’s defection.  This story is highly unlikely; it appears North Korea is working to smear the image of Thae in the public realm so they can write off the defection without losing any domestic legitimacy.  South Korea is relishing Thae, with the Korea Times even reporting that he may work for a South Korean spy agency.  Whatever Thae’s future holds, he will prove an invaluable resource of information about North Korea’s activities overseas for the international community.

North Korea has also taken other actions as a response to Thae’s defection.  Hyon Hak-bong, North Korea’s ambassador in London, has been recalled to Pyongyang to face interrogation over the defection, according to the Telegraph and Joongang Daily.  The rest of the London embassy employees also went under interrogation by State Security Department team about the defection.

Pyongyang was also hit by another set of defections this week.  Yonhap news reported on Tuesday that 3 other North Koreans defected earlier in the month.  The announcement states the defectors were found by the Coast Guard off the west coast, and they expressed intent to defect immediately after being approached.  All three men were then carried by the Coast Guard vessel to Inchon and handed over to intelligence agents.

The military in North Korea also underwent some changes throughout the week.  Due to the low birth rate in North Korea, officials have expanded North Korea’s conscription policy in order to combat dwindling military numbers.  The new policy now forces all previously exempted men up to their mid-30s to serve.  This policy, however, may not be enough to fully assuage the effect of the declining birth rate on the military.

Finally, North Korea is feeling the pressure from the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills.  On Tuesday, North Korea launched an SLBM off the coast of Shinpo.  The missile flew 500km, but was launched from a 500km trajectory.  Bruce Klinger writes, in The Daily Signal, that if launched on a regular 150km trajectory the missile could fly 1000km.  This adds credence to North Korea’s claim that the test was successful.  (38 North released a brief analysis of North Korea’s SLBM progress, arguing that, despite showing signs of rapid progress, North Korea’s SLBM program will require more time before it will be fully functional.)

Also in response to the drill, North Korea has ordered its troops along the Demilitarized Zone to enter “combat mobilization readiness.”  This is a low rating, as several other units across the nation were already under this distinction, even before the drills kicked off.  This response is also markedly less provocative than last year’s response to the drills; last year Kim declared a quasi-state of war in response to the military drills.

 

Site News for the Week

North and South Korea are both having eventful weeks – military drills, SLBM launches, and many other highly political events.  For this reason, and partly because I am going to take a pseudo break after my Olympic coverage, this week will run differently.  Rather than daily updates I will post a long read covering the political shifts in more detail.  To round off my Olympic coverage for the last two weeks, another long read is in order.  Daily updates will resume after I take a small break to recharge and work on other projects, such as novel writing and reading.  Thanks for bearing with me, and I am excited to resume my typical routine next week.

Breaking News: North Korea Fires SLBM

North Korean has fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile in the East Sea.  The launch comes as North Korea is reacting to the US-ROK military drills which started on Monday and are slated to be the bigger than ever before.  North Korea has constantly defied sanctions around the time of military drills, firing missiles and threatening nuclear strikes on Korean and American military bases around the world.  As it currently stands, today’s launch is a protest to the most recent drills.

While the drills alone tend to draw an aggressive response from North Korea, the current situation on the Korean peninsula is ripe for the most aggressive action of protest aginst the military drills.  South Korea has agreed to a THAAD deployment in country and North Korea is currently riding a wave of military and high-level defections.  With this in mind, the reaction to the drills must be monitored with the utmost importance, as a more volatile situation could provoke North Korea into more provocative action than before.  It is important that the United States and South Korean forces show restraint in the drills, sticking to the layout and not deviating and causing an unnecessary rise in tension on the peninsula.

Olympic Update – Days 14-15

Medal Count

South Korea – On Friday, South Korea won a single gold medal, following with another gold and a bronze on Saturday.  South Korea enters the final day with 9 gold, 3 silver, and 9 bronze medals.  A total of 21 medals places South Korea in 8th place in the medal standings.

North Korea – North Korea won zero medals on Friday and Saturday, its current medal count staying at 2 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze.

Breakdown

South Korea – South Korea started with a defeat on Friday.  Wrestler Yun Jun-shik lost to Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan in the Repechage of the men’s freestyle competition.  Despite a bleak start, taekwondo competitor Oh Hye-ri defeated Melissa Pagnotta of Canada in the women’s -67kg comepition.  Oh then defeated Chuang Chia-Chia of Taiwan (officially listed as Chinese Taipei) in the quarterfinals and Farida Azizova of Azerbaijan to advance to the gold medal match against Haby Niare of France.  After a 10 point second round, Oh Hye-ri would hold off Niare to bring in South Korea’s 8th gold medal of the Rio games.  As for the golfers, South Korea’s Park In-bee maintained her lead with a 1 under par 70.  Teammate Yang Hee-young also shot a 70 and ended round 3 in a tie for 5th place.  hun In-gee ended round 3 with a one over par 72, but stayed in decent position in a tie for 5th as well.  Kim Sei-young would turn in the highest round 3 score at 2 over 73, leaving her in a tie for 22nd place at 1 under through 3 rounds.

Saturday started with a run away gold in golf.  Park In-bee built on her 2 stroke lead with a final round score of 66; her overall score of 16 under par won the tournament by 5 strokes.  Her closest teammate was Yang Hee-young who shot a final round 67 to finish the tournament in a tie for 4th at 9 under par.  Both Chun In-gee and Kim Sie-young struggled on day four, both posting an even par 71 to finish in 13th and 25th respectively.  Cha Dong-min, a gold medal hopeful, looked to add to Park’s already stellar performance, starting his day with a victory over Arman-Marshall Silla of Belarus in men’s +80kg taekwondo round of 16.  However, Cha lost to Radik Isaev of Azerbaijan to fall into the repechage bracket.  By defeating Kazakhstan, Cha advanced to the bronze medal match.  Cha then defeated Uzbekistan’s Dmitry Shokin to take home a bronze medal for South Korea.

North Korea – North Korean wrestler Yang Kyong-il was the only athlete to compete on Friday, taking part in the men’s freestyle 57kg competition.  His first match, against Japan’s Higuchi Rei, ended in defeat and a trip to the repechage.  In repechage round 1, Yang defeated Asadulla Lachinau of Belarus.  Success, however, was short-lived as Yang lost to Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez of Cuba in round 2, and was eliminated from the competition without a medal.

North Korea did not have an athlete compete in any event on Saturday.

Headlines

South Korean Park In-bee Win’s Gold in Women’s Golf

LPGA Star Overcomes Injury Concern to Claim Rio Gold

South Korean Golf Legend Relishes Olympic Gold By Pupil

South Korean Rhythmic Gymnast Finishes Fourth In All-Round

Ex-Taekwondo Gold Medalist Knocked out in Quarters

Golfer Defies Odds; Fifth Taekwondo Medal in Rio

Taekwondo Medalist Grateful for Bronze at Final Olympics

South Korea’s Cha Dong-min Wins Taekwondo Bronze

Disappointed Golfer Learns From Mistakes in Rio

Oh Hye-ri Wins Taekwondo Gold

Women’s Volleyball Captain Laments Lack of Support

Olympic Update – Day 13

First, I misspoke about the North Korean diver yesterday.  She did not qualify to compete in the semifinals.

Medal Count

South Korea – South Korea picked up 2 bronze medals on Thursday, bringing its count to 7 gold, 3 silver and 8 bronze.  The 18 total places South Korea in 11th place.

North Korea – North Korea did not win a medal Thursday and its current count stands at 2 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.

Breakdown

South Korea – South Korea’s first medal from the women’s badminton competition, where duo Jung Kyung-eun and Shin Seung-chan defeated China’s Tang Yuanting and u Yang for the bronze medal.  Korea’s other medal came from the men’s -68kg taekwondo match.  Lee Dae-hoon started the day with a victory against Central African Republic’s David Sylvere Patrick Boui (again, apologize if I have mis-ordered the name) in the round of 16.  Lee lost to Ahmad Abughaush of Jordan in the quarterfinals.  He made it to the bronze medal match with a victory over Egypt’s Ghofran Ahmed.  In the bronze medal match, Lee defeated Jaouad Achab of Belgium 11-7 to take home the medal.  South Korea’s women’s golfers played very in round two.  Park In-bee carded a second round 66 placing her atop the leaderboard with a two round total of 10 under par.  Her teammate Chun In-gee also carded a 66 and sits in a tie for 8th with a two round total of 6 under par.  Korea’s low player in round two was Yang Hee-young who carded a 65 and sits in a tie for 17th place at 4 under par.  The high player for South Korea in round 2, Kim Sei-young shot a 73 and sits at 3 under par in a tie for 22nd place.

North Korea – North Kore had only one athlete compete on Thursday, wrestler Jong Myong-suk in the women’s freestyle 53kg competition.  She defeated Canada’s Jillian Alice Gallys to qualify and then Bedhia Gun of Turkey to make it to the quarterfinals.  However, the quarterfinals would start the difficulties for Jong.  A loss to American Helen Louise Maroulis would send her to the repechage, but with hopes a bronze medal.  In repechage round 2, Jong Myong-suk lost to China’s Zhong Xuechun, eliminating her from the competition.  North Korea will have a very small schedule for the rest of the of the games.

Headlines

South Korea Gains Bronze in Badminton, Taekwondo

South Korean Lee Dae-hoon Wins Bronze

Two Eagles Propel South Korean Golfer Up Rio Leaderboard

South Korean Park In-bee Leads Women’s Golf at Halfway Point

Badminton Star Hints at Retirement From National Team

 

 

Olympic Update – Day 12

Medal Count

South Korea – South Korea walked away with two additions to its medal count, a gold and a bronze.  South Korea’s cuurent count stands at 7 gold, 3 silver and 6 bronze, placing them in 11th place in the medal standings with 16 medals.

North Korea – North Korea had no medal competitions today, so its medal count remained at 2 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze – 7 total.

Breakdown

South Korea – Taekwondo was the sport of the day for South Korea, with Kim So-hui competing in the women’s -49kg and Kim Tae-hun competing in the men’s -58kg competition.  Tae-hun started the day rough, with a loss to Tawin Hanprab of Thailand in the round of 16.  Tae-hun then battled back to repechage, defeating Austrailia’s Safwan Khalil to advance to the bronze medal match.  Tae-hun then defeated Mexico’s Carlos Ruben Navarro Valdez (I apologize if the name is in im proper order) for the bronze medal, winning South Korea’s first medal in Taekwondo in Rio.  Kim So-hui was more successful, defeating Julissa Diez Canseco of Peru (round of 16), Panipak Wongpattanakit of Thailand (quaterfinals), Yasmina Aziez of France (semi-final), and Tijana Bogdanovic of Serbia (finals) to win the gold medal, South Korea’s first gold in Taekwondo in Rio.  Elsewhere, South Korea’s two golf superstars Park In-bee and Kim Sei-young both shot a 66 in the first round of the women’s golf tournament, leaving in a tie for 2nd.  South Korea’s two other golfers, Chun In-gee (-1) and Yang Hee-young had struggles on day 1, shooting 1 under and 2 over respectivly.  Wednesday was not all good for South Korea.  In Table Tennis, Germany defeated South Korea in the bronze medal match, and badmintoner Son Wan-ho was defeated in the men’s single quaterfinals by Chen Long of China.

North Korea – North Korea continues a slow patch at the Olympics.  This morning, wrestler Kim Hyon-gyong lost in her qualification match against Milana Dadsheva of Russia in women’s 48kg freestyle.  Later in the day, North Korean diver Kim Un-hyang finished 18th in the 10 meter platform diving contest and will be diving in the semifinals tomorrow.

Headlines

Drought Ends With Taekwondo Medals; Golfers off to Strong Start in Women’s Event

South Korean Kim Tae-hun Wins Taekwondo Bronze

Golf Coach Guides Players with Her Cooking

Former Team Phenom Embraces Pressure, Earns Hard-Fought Gold

South Korean Kim So-hui Wins Taekwondo Gold

South Korean Coach Guides Thai Athelte to Historic Taekwondo Medal

South Koreans Enjoy Beign Conditions in Women’s Golf