Daily Update – February 13

After a long period away for the holiday break and sickness, I am proud to restart the Daily Update part of the Korea Page.  I am going to make one shift this year and start citing my sources like I do for longer analysis pieces, linking the name of the source in parenthesis.

South Korea

Politics – Prime Minster and Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn reacted to North Korea’s missile launch by saying “our government, in tandem with the international community, is doing its best to ensure a corresponding response to punish the North” to a group of experts on foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu on Sunday (Yonhap).   Hwang also called the launch a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions and a “grave provocation” at a different meeting earlier in the day (Korea Herald).  Foreign Minster Yun Byeong-se, who is set to meet with United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Germany later this week, called the launch a “new level of provocation” (Korea Herald).  So far, South Korea has been stymied in its response due to the impeachment trail of Park Geun-hye which is still underway.

Presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in has called for the immediate reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex throughout his push to position himself for the 2017 presidential election (Korea Herald).  The complex was closed due to North Korean provocations in 2016, a move which 75% of Koreans felt was unhelpful for inter-Korean relations (HanKyoreh).  Currently, Moon Jae-in sits at the top of the polls with 29% support.  After Ban Ki-moon’s withdrawal from the race, An Hee-jong has made strides against Moon and sits behind with a close 19% support (Reuters).  With no candidate taking a clear lead, the presidential race for 2017 is still a wide-open race.  As for Kaesong, An Hee-jong is on the record in favor of reopening it on the basis of North Korean cooperation (UPI).

Economy – South Korean financial firm KB Group is making inroads for a move into South Asia.  KB Chairman Yoon Jong-kyoo and other top executives flew to Vietnam as the first stop in a week-long tour of South Asia.  While in Vietnam, Yoon had a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to discuss the transition of KB Kookmin Bank Hanoi into a branch.  Other destinations for the delegation include Myanmar, Loas, and Cambodia (Korea Times).

Hyundai-Kia Motor retained its fifth spot among the world’s highest car sales last year despite a 1.3% decrease in sales in 2016.  The car maker sold 7.88 million vehicles in 2016.  The decrease in sales is the result of several factors including stagnating domestic demand; strike-related operations setback; and flagging exports.  As a response, Hyundai-Kia announced plans to implement an aggressive management strategy which will focus on newer models.  For 2017, the company hopes to sell 8.25 million vehicles, a historic high (HanKyoreh).

North Korea

Àμâ(image: A comparison of North Korea’s two Pukguksong missiles.  Source: Korea Herald)

North Korea tested a new class of missile on Sunday, drawing international criticism from Japan’s Shinzo Abe (Japan Times), the United Nations Security Council (Al Jeezera), but received a muted response from President Trump (Voice of America).  The launch was of a Pukguksong-2, a solid fuel powered medium range ballistic missile.  (I am working on a post which analyzes this new missile which should be up this week.)  This missile ensures that North Korea is able to strike targets in South Korea and Japan from a highly mobile and quick to launch missile, making it harder for other nations to catch before it is launched.  It has been reported that Trump and Abe discussed the matter at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort (New York Times).

A document produced by the North Korea strategy center after an interview with Thae Yong-ho, alleges that more purges in relation to Jang Song-theak have occurred in North Korea.  Ri Ung-gik, parent to Han Song-ryol’s son-in-law, the son-in-law, and the son’s child have all been sent to a political prison camp, according to the document (Korea Herald; Yonhap).  Ri’s daughter in law was excussed from the purge due to familial linage and history (Yonhap).  If substantiated, which may be a herculean task, these purges show signs of a Kim who is still trying to consolidate his power base through eliminating those who he sees as threats while also ensuring the loyalty of the current elite.

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