Daily Update – August 31

South Korea

Politics – South Korea’s National Assembly started its first regular session on September 1, South Korean time.  The session will last through December and a variety of topics are slated to be discussed, including THAAD deployment, the budget, and possibly ramping up response to the growing number of North Korean provocations.  This will be the first session after the Saenuri upset in the election earlier this year.

President Park Geun-hae will have a busy schedule starting on Friday.  From Friday through Saturday, Park will attend the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.  Then she will travel to Hangzhou, China to attend the G-20 summit.  Finally, she will travel to the Vientiane, Laos where she will attend the South Korea-ASEAN summit, the ASEAN-plus-three summit, and the East Asia Summit.  During her trip, Park seeks to stronger unity against North Korea, while also an agreement with Russia and China on the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.  Her trip will conclude next Friday.

Economy Yonhap News reports a rise in South Korea’s exports for the first time in 20 months.  Imports also rose 0.1% in August, its first rise in 23 months.  Semiconductors and petrochemical products nudged up 2.5% and 4.1% respectively.  Flat panels and automobiles, however, fell 7.1% and 14.8% respectively.  Overall, South Korea’s exports rose a total of 1.7% in August after recording losses of 11.9% in July and 4.1% in June.  By region, exports to Vietnam rose by 22.8%, while exports to China and the West – the United States and the European Union – fell by 4.8%.

Culture – After the landmark agreement reached last year, a bronze statue depicting a comfort women located across from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul has come under fire, with many calling for it to be removed.  When interviewed, the sculptor, surnamed Kim, said the statue should stay as a reminder of the painful, dark past wrongdoings of Japan during WW2.  The artist has also erected 44 statues of the women around Korea.

Other – South Korea reported its third case of Cholera on Wednesday when a man who had diarrhea for week tested positive.  Over the past two weeks, Cholera has been slowly resurfacing in Korea; these three cases are the first in Korea for 15 years.  The man was treated for diarrhea earlier in the week after consuming squid bought from a local market. He was transferred to a hospital in Busan when his symptoms got worse, and then moved to isolation after testing positive.  His symptoms resided and he was released.  Authorities are examining the materials used to cook the food in an effort to isolate the source.

North Korea

Reports have surfaced that North Korea purged multiple officials this week.  Kim Yong-jin, North Korea’s cabinet vice premier is reported to have been killed by a firing squad, while United Front Department director Kim Yong-chol is said to have been sent to a farm for re-education.  Kim Yong-chol had taken the position at the United Front Department after his predecessor Kim Yang-gon was killed in a car accident earlier this year.

Ukraine has ended a Soviet-era deal allowing visa-free travel for North Koreans.  This only adds to the growing isolation of North Korea; recently Malta refused visa extensions for North Koreans, and earlier this year Namibia cut ties to two North Korean companies.  Poland has also not issued new visas for North Koreans and Singapore will impose visa restrictions for North Koreans in October.




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