Daily Update–June 14

South Korea

Politics–China, ostensibly to see if the radar of THAAD reaches into its territory, recently asked Seoul if they could perform a site inspection of the deployment. According to a source, Beijing was making the claims “through various claims” (Choson Ilbo). THAAD has rocked South Korea, as well as the entire region, into a political parlay in which there appears to be no middle ground. Before being impeached, Park Geun-hye was a fervent defender of the deployment and made diplomatic visits to convince others to come around to the system (The Korea Page). However, in his brief tenure, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for deployment to be suspended while an environmental impact assessment is completed, a process which could take up to a year (Military.com). China and Russia have taken stands against the deployment (Reuters; Sputnik). Even North Korea has tried some interesting tactics and was recently accused of spying on the system (Joongang Ilbo). THAAD will continue to be a thorny issue in the region, pitting one nation against another.

Culture–Yesterday, an explosion rocked Yonsei University, injuring a sole professor. Today, police arrested the culprit, a 25-year old graduate student who confessed to making the bomb and placing on his professor’s office door (Joongang Ilbo). The bomb was made out of a tumblr filled with small bolts. Kim, the student, said he made the explosive out of spite of the professor after being “told off” about his thesis (Yonhap). The professor is currently being treated for minor burns.

North Korea

Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student, was medevaced from North Korea last night. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, in brief remarks, that Warmbier’s release was “at the direction of the president,” though refused to make further comments out of respect to the family (Rex Tillerson Remarks on Otto Warmbier). Officials told Warmbier’s family that he contracted botulism and fell into a coma after being given a sleeping pill shortly after his sentencing in March of last year (USA Today). The family was alerted last week about Otto’s health in a phone call (Fox News). Upon arriving home, Warmbier was rushed to a hospital and nothing is known of his condition at the moment. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea for “anti-state” acts in early March of 2016 after a one-hour trail (CNN). He was accused of attempting to steal a propaganda poster from an employees only floor at his hotel and arrested at Sunan International Airport as he was boarding his flight home in January of 2016. His release comes as Dennis Rodman makes another visit to North Korea. A State Department spokesperson unequivocally denied that Rodman had any part in securing the release of Warmbier and was unable to cover issues of his health or the exact timeline of his release (State Department Press Briefing 6/13/2017). Currently, Otto is in an Ohio hospital.[1]

Notes:

[1] An interesting read on how North Korea treats foreigners in captivity can be found in the New York Times.

Correction: June 15: An eariler version of this post wrongly stated that Warmbier was accused of taking the poster from his hotel room. The poster he was accused of taking was located in an employees only floor of the hotel.

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Breaking News: North Korea fires Missile

South Korean military is reporting a North Korean missile test, thigh details on the test are scarce. This is North Korea’s tenth test this year as it looks to push the limits of two newly elected presidents, Trump and Moon. Pyongyang is also likely testing the dynamic of the Korea-US under Moon and Trump.

This is breaking story and will be updated with more details tonight.

Breaking News: South Korea’s New President

Exit polls are saying that Moon Jae-in has won South Korea’s 2017 election with around 41% of the overall vote. The National Election Commission is set to start counting votes and will offically announce a winner in the wee hours of the morning. Once announced the winner, Moon Jae-in will be automatically sworn in and begin his term as president (Korea Times).

Moon’s victory marks a major shift for Korea’s highest office; for the first time in a decade the liberal party has control of the Blue House and the National Assembly. (Will write a longer analysis this week to post.)

Breaking News: Indicments For Choi Scandal

The prosecutor investigating the Choi scandal released its first wave of indictments on Monday. First, the SK Chairman avoided prosecution. But others were not as lucky.

Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin was indicted on charges levied against him, stemming from a donation of 7 million won to the K Sports Foundation, a foundation run by Choi (Yonhap).

Park Guen-hye, the embattled ex-president, was also indicted on charges of bribery, peddling, and sharing of classified information. She has been in custody since the end of March (Yonhap).

Daily Update–April 3

South Korea

Politics — South Korea, the United States, and Japan kicked off joint drills to counter North Korean submarines on Monday. South Korea is dispatching the Kang Gam Chan destroyer to the three-day long exercise (Yonhap). The drills come at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. They are a result of dialogue in December, following North Korean SLBM tests last year (Korea Times). The drills will focus on searching, identifying, and tracking a mock North Korean submarine.

Moon Jae-in won the Democratic Party nomination in the race to the Blue House. Moon swept the primaries and secured 57% of the vote. An Hee-jong won 21.5% and Lee won 21.2% (Korea Times). Moon’s blowout win was expected, as he has been steady at the top of national polls throughout the nomination process and since the impeachment motion passed the National Assembly. Many polls, such as a Gallup Korea Poll conducted the Friday before the Court’s decision, has placed Moon with almost double the next candidate’s approval rating. In the Gallup Poll, Moon secured a 32% approval rating while An Hee-jong took a meager 17%. Ahn Cheol-soo, another leading candidate only secured 9% in the poll (Business Insider).

Economy— South Korea’s first online bank opened on Monday, the first addition to Korea’s banking sector in 25 years. Interest in the bank was promising, as 20,000 new people opened accounts and 1,000 loans were issued. K-Bank is targeting the mid-rate loan market, known as those with a loan score of 4-7 on a scale of 1 to 10 (Joongang Ilbo). K-Bank hopes to offer less burdensome rates through its cost-cutting measures. Kakao Bank, K-Bank’s main competitor, is expected to gain approval soon.

Culture— For the K-pop fans of the world, Seo Taiji, a legendary artist in Korea, will hold a 25-year anniversary concert in September. The concert will take place on September 2, and will be a one-day event (Yonhap). Seo Taiji got his break in music as a member of Seo Taiji and Boys, the group which featured Yang Hyun-suk, the current leader of YG Entertainment. His most recent album, Quite Night, was headed by the title track Sogyeokdong, a collaboration with singer IU (Youtube; Youtube)[1].

North Korea

President Donald Trump remains slightly ambiguous yet positive on solutions to the North Korea issue. He views North Korea as one of the greatest security risks in the world. In an interview with the Financial Times, President Trump expressed strong indications that he may try to reach a deal with Xi Jinping during their meeting in Florida this week. “China has great influence over North Korea. And they will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” he said in the interview. The administration accelerated a review of North Korea policy, possibly in order to preview options before the summit. Trump also expressed his strong desire to resolve the issue, even without China’s assistance. In the interview, he hinted at the possibility of solving the issue one-on-one with Pyongyang (Financial Times). There was no indication of a shift in Trump’s thinking on the North Korea issue. For a good analysis of this interview, see this NKNews article.

Notes:

[1] The first link is to the Seotaiji version of the song, while the second is to IU’s. The song is recorded to tell a story from a dual perspective, hence the two music videos and recordings.

Correction:

April 4: A previous rendition of this post incorrectly stated that Seotaiji started in music with Seotaiji and Boys. However, Seotaiji founded his first band, metal group Sinawe, before the founding of Seotaiji and Boys. The band Sinawe was founded when Seotaiji was 14.

Breaking News: Moon Jae-in Wins Democratic Nomination

Moon Jae-in has won the nomination for the Democratic Party in the 2017 race for the Blue House. Moon’s win was honestly nothing new, as he has held high approval ratings throughout the nomination process, and even before. Moon swept the primaries, securing over 57% of the overall vote (Korea Times). I am sorry my post on Hong Joon-pyo is not finished yet, but it will be up shortly. I will also write a briefer on Moon Jae-in.