Breaking News: North Korea Missile Test

North Korea conducted a missile test on Saturday, taking off from Pukchang, South Korean media reported. The missile, supposedly a Pukguksong scud, is the same missile which was tested on the 16th, and was the second failed test this month (Yonhap*).

The test comes as saber rattling has made he situation tense. In past week, THAAD made its way to Seongju, Trump called on Korea to pay $1 billion for the system and said withdrawal from the KORUS FTA is a possibility, North Korea released a cryptic propaganda video, and, earlier today, Rex Tillerson reiterated that all options are on the table but a diplomatic solution is favorable. Korea is also in the throngs of a election cycle which may drastically shift the political leanings of the Blue House.

So far their is no statements regarding the missile test. The UN is likely to condemn the test, as Trump will. Other nations will likely join in the condemnation. China is likely to continue a push for restraint while attempting to coax Pyongyang to give up its missile and nuclear programs.

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Daily Update: February 16

South Korea

Economy – I put economy first, breaking with the typical tradition of this post, because a story is currently breaking.  A South Korea court has ruled Hanjin Shipping Company, a leader in the South Korean shipping industry for decades, officially bankrupt (MarketWatch).  In August of 2016, Hanjin went into receivership and applied for court protection.  However, it was unable to get money from its creditors.  Therefore, the company will be liquidated and all assets sold off (Yonhap).  As a result of the news, many Hanjin ships were denied entry at ports for fear that payments would not be made (BBC).  The fall of Hanjin also means that most of the companies seamen are suddenly out of a job.  Some analysts have commented that the failure of Hanjin may work to bring down overcapacity in the shipping industry down to a sustainable level, arguing that a crash of another major Korean shipping company was unlikely (BBC).

91203982_2fee3fd1-012d-4f3e-80f3-aba39e4933dc(Image: Hanjin employees lobbying to save their company.  Source: BBC)

mw-ev014_hanjin_20160830232802_zh(Image: Cargo sitting on a Hanjin ship in a German port.  Source: MarketWatch)

Politics – Choi-gate has continued to claim victims throughout every aspect of life in South Korea.  This week, two different arrest warrants were issued.  On Wednesday, Special Prosecutors formally arrested Choi Kyung-hee, the ex-head of Ehwa University.  She has been charged with giving admissions and grading favors to Choi Soon-sil’s daughter (Korea Times). Last month, Choi Kyung-hee avoided arrest when her name was brought before the court.  De-facto head of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, also had a warrant issued for his arrest when his name came up a second time in court.  Lee was arrested on the same day, charged with paying over 40 billion won to get the National Pension Service to back a controversial merger (Yonhap).  These arrests come as Park is still waiting for the Constitutional Court to make their decision on her impeachment.

Culture – South Korea is home to some of the worst air in the world.  According to the “State of Global Air 2017” report, South Korea’s population -weighted national average concentration of PM2.5–ultra-fine particles or matter of a diameter of at least 2.5 microns–was 29 micrograms in 2015, well above the OECD average of 15 micrograms (Korea Herald).  Over the past 25 years, South Korea’s PM2.5 problem has gotten worse while the OECD average has gotten better.  In 1990, the OECD average was 17 micrograms while Korea’s average was 26 micrograms (Korea Herald).  Many point to China as the culprit, but the South Korean government highlights emissions from diesel engines.  To combat this, the Environmental Ministry rolled out anti-yellow dust measures in June.  This plan did not garner the public’s interest (Korea Herald).

North Korea

North Koreans have not heard of the death of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jung-un’s half brother.  State media has not reacted to the slew of media reports covering the news.  A source cited in the Korea Herald commented that he thought Kim Jung-un was the oldest son of Kim Jung-il (Korea Herald).  As Pyongyang looks to strengthen its hold on power, the government may suppress news of Kim Jung-nam’s death due to his close ties to China.  Despite the lack of official coverage in North Korea, some reports of Kim Jung-nam’s death have gone viral in the border region (Korea Herald).

Breaking News: UN Security Council Adopts Resolution 2321

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2321, adding more sanctions to the North Korean regime as a way to choke off the regime from its sources of hard currency. The resolution was adopted 82 days after North Korea fifth nuclear test on September 9.

The sanctions will close a major loop hole present in previous attempts to siphon off cash flow from the regime.  Coal exports – the single biggest export item and source of hard currency – are capped at 7.5 million tons even if the export is for livleyhood reasons.  This cap represents a cut of North Korean ability to make money exporting coal by 60% or around $700 million, a quarter of its exports.  The resolution also forces countries to reduce the number of North Korean officials at North Korean missions.  North Korea could also see its membership to the United Nations suspended if it continues its push for nuclear weapons.

South Korea welcomed the passing of the resolution, calling it a milestone, similar to resolution 2270 which was adopted earlier this year.  The Foreign Ministry released a statement detailing its praise for the resolution.  “The government strongly welcomes that the resolution was unianimously adopted, with the backing of China and Russia, in response to North Korea’s fifth nuclear test,” the statement read.  South Korea is set to work with United Nations memeber nations to enforce the strong round of sanctions.

The looming question, as it has been with other adopted sanctions, is the role of China in enforcing the new round.  China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner, and supplier of aid, and is normally adverse to strong sanctions on the reclusive nation; China fears collapse of North Korea may lead to an economic nightmare as refugees pour across the Tumen River seeking better opportunities, and that a unified Korea places a strong democracy right at its border.  However, China may also save face, as it has done in many situations, and enforce this round of sanctions as a way to show its opposition to the North Korean nuclear program.

Daily Update – October 25

South Korea

Politics – President Park Geun-hye continues to suffer damaging implications in the Choi Soon-sil scandal which has rocked the ending of her term.  Choi was revealed to have had access to presidential speeches before they became public as well as confidential documents, despite not holding an official position in the Park administration.  Party leaders from both sides of the aisle are calling for her to come clean on the scandal.  Even members of the Saenuri party – the party Park belongs to – have called for Park to step away from the party.  No South Korean president since Lee Myung-bak in 1987 has stayed a member of their party during their time in office.

Economy – Two South Korean electronic companies –LG and Samsung – are looking toward Africa as an expanding market.  LG was the first to tap into the African market and currently has 7 sales corporations and 2 production corporations in South Africa.  As it looks to expand its growth in Africa, LG is embarking on a Localization Strategy in which LG works with the existing technological infrastructure in African nations to develop targeted products.  It is also embarking on several CSR campaigns.  Samsung is looking to develop a similar strategy, as it opens stores in Zimbabwe and South Africa.  The two companies are looking to tap into African growth and prosperity.

Culture – (Photo) Visitors taking a picture at a statue in Yeido by the Han River.  The statue is 80% the size of the Litte Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.  Photo is from The HanKyoreh

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North Korea

North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol and Robert Gallucci, United States State Department Special Envoy on the North Korea Nuclear Issue, concluded behind the scenes talks in Malaysia.  Han called the talks exploratory, where the two delegations – there was five members from each side at the talks – discussed issues of concern as both sides are starting to prepare for a new US president.  Topics discussed were North Korea’s missile and nuclear program, which the two said they made strides on.  South Korea demurred the talks, saying they will continue to enforce strong sanctions with the US if North Korean behavior continued to be provocative.

Chinese residents in the border area are working night shifts to ensure a barbed wire fence is erected quickly to prevent a flood of immigration from North Korea.  Signs in the region have also been erected warning the residents of a 500 RMB fine for assisting defectors.  This rise in activity comes as the government warns about, and hopes to protect against, a possible rise in “livelihood” defectors as living conditions in North Korea are worsening due to the flood from earlier this year.  Many fear an uptick in violence if there is a rise in defectors, which is another motivating factor of residents working on the fence.  (The photo below is from Daily NK depicting a signs in Kaishan Village.  The first warns of the fine, the second warns people to give their possessions quickly if a North Korean comes to rob them.  Pictures are taken from this DailyNK article.)

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Nuclear Update

The world has sprung into action following the nuclear test.  Japan has convened its National Security Council in response to the test.  South Korea is also calling its National Security Council to meet on Friday (South Korean time).  Across the world, the White House has acknowledged the seismic activity in North Korea and is looking into the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test.  Chinese state media also posted a picture of students who were evacuated during the test (will post analysis with a citation to this tomorrow when there is more on the test).  Stay tuned for more updates as they become known.

Edit at 11:30pm (12:30pm Friday Korean Time) :  Japan has come to the conclusion that the earthquake was in fact from a nuclear test.  The world is wondering how it came to such a conclusion.  However, Japan has lobbied a protest with the North Koreans for the test.  South Korean president Park Geun-hae has called United States president Barak Obama to discuss the nuclear test.  So far North Korea has not acknowledged the test and its next news broadcast is scheduled for 5pm local time.

Possible Nuclear Test in North Korea

There appears to have been a nuclear test in NK! Early reports are of a 5.1 magnitude artificial earthquake at Pyunggyeri, the site of the four previous tests.  Will update with more information when it is available.
Edit: South Korean government official says high chance North Korea conducted a nuclear test.  Today is the anniversary of the creation of North Korea, which was officially established by Kim Il-sung on this day in 1948.

Daily Update – September 5

South Korea

Politics – President Park Geun-hae attended a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  Throughout the summit, the two leaders were again confronted with a difference of opinion on the issue of THAAD deployment.  Park attempted to reassure Xi that THAAD deployment would only be aimed at curtailing the North Korean missile and nuclear threat, while posing no harm to other nations.  She also strongly reiterated the need for strategic communication.  However, Xi Jinping continued to highlight his opposition to THAAD.  “Mishandling the issue is not conducive to the strategic stability in the region and could intensify disputes,” Xi said at the summit.  This was the first time the two leaders met since the announcement of THAAD deployment in Korea.  (For a good analysis of the summit, see this Korea Herald Article.)

South Korea’s Special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Kim Hong-kyun and his American counterpart, Sung Kim, will hold talks in Seoul next week.  The two recently discussed “detailed countermeasures” to North Korea’s evolving threat.  The talks will be held on September 15.

On Sunday, South Korea’s first law addressing the abysmal human rights in North Korea went into effect.  The law allows South Korea to establish an archive aimed at compiling North Korea’s human rights violations.  North Korea has not responded to the law well, harshly condemning it.  Pro-North Korean propaganda site Uriminkkori released a statement against the law, saying it is a brazen attempt to hide South Korea’s own human rights violations.

Economy – South Korea’s economy went flat on Tuesday.  The KOSPI – Korean Composite Stock Price Index – rose 0.29 points, around 0.01%.  Samsung rose 0.75 points.  Other companies, such as SK hynix and Naver, also barely rose, advancing 0.53% and 0.35% respectively.  Hyundai, however, shed 0.36%.  The South Korean won also stalled, currently trading at 1,105.75 won per dollar, down .65 won.  The reason for the stagnation of the market is reported to be the Labor Day holiday in America.

Culture – A quadrennial conference bringing together archiving experts from across the world kicked off in Seoul on Tuesday.  The International Council on Archives Congress 2016 kicked off at COEX in Seoul, inviting over 1000 experts from 100 countries.  The congress will feature keynote speakers, and South Korea will exhibit all document related treasures listed under UNSECO’s Memory of the World program.  The congress will conclude on Friday.

North Korea

Instead of the typical daily update format for North Korea, today’s post will examine the aftermath of the missile test yesterday.

Yesterday, around 12-noon local time, North Korea fired off three missiles from Hwangju County in North Hwanghae Province.  The missiles traveled over 100okm, landing within the Japanese Air Defense Zone.  The launch came as world leaders, including President Obama, met in China for the G20 Summit.

Many nations have strongly condemned the missile launch.  The United States called the launch “reckless.”  In a press release, the Japanese Ministry of Defense called the launch a “grave threat to Japanese security.”  At the sideline of the G20, following the launch, South Korean president Park Geun-hae and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met and highlighted the need for cooperation in monitoring the situation.

North Korea, as per usual, prided the launch.  Kim Jung-un announced the need for the for North Korea to continue its nuclear pursuit.  An article released in KCNA chronicled Kim’s personal involvement in the test.

Symbolism has always been a prominent fixture in North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.  This launch is no different.  The launch comes as China hosts the meeting of the leaders of the 20 largest economies in the world, and as Chinese President Xi Jingping hosted a sideline summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hae.  South Korea also enacted its first-ever bill countering North Korea’s human rights violations.  The missile launch is suspected to be an armed to protest to these advancements, though the true intent may be hard to decipher.  However, one thing is painfully clear: North Korea’s most recent launches – the SLBM a couple weeks ago and yesterday’s Nodong missiles – show a clear advancement in many sectors of North Korea’s missile programs.

Articles on the Launch: Yonhap, Korea Herald, Korea Times, Joogang Daily, CNN and Reuters