Daily Update – July 25

Since I am hard at work thumbing through Hillary Clinton’s Korea policy for my post on Thursday, I am going to keep this brief today.  I apologize.

South Korea

South Korea’s economy grew about 0.7% in the second quarter.  This growth, as Yonhap news reports, is due to a rise in exports and consumption.  Despite this growth, gross domestic household income fell around 0.4%.  This marks a 3.5% growth from a year ago.

The Ministry of Environment held a hearing against the German automaker Volkswagon, harping it for emission violation.  The hearing took place at the National Institute for Environmental Research, and could revoke the certifications of 79 models implicated in the report.  Currently, the cars of Volkswagon amount to 70% of the total sales of Volkswagons and Audis in Korea, but a revocation of certificates will see a shift in those numbers.

An article in HanKyoreh criticized her claim that as Secretary of State, she assisted in created a US-Korea-Japan missile defense system to respond to the provocative actions of North Korea.  The article reaffirms what many Koreans fear, becoming a part of the US missile defense system and alienate China, losing trade from Seoul’s biggest trade partner.  As the election cycle continues, though, South Korea will be faced with a slew of important questions regarding both candidates.

North Korea

North Korea has condemned the construction of artificial reefs off the eastern shore around the Northen Limit Line.  South Korea states that the reefs are being built to control Chinese fishing around the NLL.  Pyongyang official media, KCNA, called the creation of the fake reefs a provocative action.  (I would not be surprised if there was a provocative action surrounding the creation of the reefs.)

North Korean officials have started to confiscate items bearing a symbol representing the Christian Cross.  This adds to the level of restrictions regarding the importation of items; currently, North Korea checks for items imported from South Korea.  There is also reports that North Korea has started to confiscate items with an “x” on them.  Currently, there is no system or location for people whose items are falsely confiscated to file a complaint, and there probably will not be.


Daily Update – July 22

Due to big news regarding the economic situation of North Korea, today’s update will feature one story on the economic situation in both countries.

South Korea

The government has outlined an 11 trillion won ($9.46 billion) extra allocation to the budget in order to prop up the economy which is still sliding.  The extra money is a part of Seoul’s 28 trillion won being used to ensure that the South Korean economy grows at least 2.8% this year, a number lower than previously predicted.  It will  be used to assist the youth in gaining employment, as the unemployment rate of youths aged 15 to 29 reached 10.3% last month, up from May’s 9.7%.   Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho said the time is right is aggressive refinancing.  Of the 11 trillion won, 9.8 trillion will be going to stimulate the economy, and 1.2 trillion will be going to pay off state debts.

North Korea

The Bank of Korea reported a shrink of 1.1% of North Korea’s economy last year.  This is the first time the reclusive nation has recorded a shrinkage in the economy in 5 years.  Under Kim Jung-un North Korea averaged an annual growth rate of 1%.  The Bank of Korea also reported that North Korea’s foreign trade dropped to around $6.25 billion, an 18% decrease.  The bank estimates these number based on sources from South Korean agencies and then compares them to Sout Korean figures.

Will return to the more thorough Daily Updates on Monday.

Daily Update – July 21

Again, as the Republican National Convention comes to a close, I wish to reiterate the need for us to make smart and responsible decisions in the upcoming election – those who live in the United States.  I have commented on Trump’s Korea policy and today I wish to present a very condensed version of that post.

Trump has supported: troop withdraw from South Korea unless Seoul pays more for stationed troops; preemptive strikes on  North Korea, which he has backed off of; and writing the North Korea issue to China; and talking directly with North Korea.

Trump is against: the Korea-US free trade agreement; currently preemptive strikes against North Korea, but this could change.  He also would favor not having the US involved in Korea – North or South – unless we make money from our involvement.

Trump has based his policy of the myth of Chinese total control over North Korea and other broad, misled ideas on the Korean Peninsula.

This is a shortened version of my earlier post on his policy.  I look forward to resuming Daily Updates tomorrow.  I would have done a more updatey update tonight if I hadn’t stayed up to watch Trump’s acceptance speech.

New Information on Missile Launch

The missile launch earlier this week, which I did two posts on, has some new information.  North Korea did not launch three scud missiles; in fact, it launched two scud missiles and a Rondung missile, North Korea’s short-range missile.  This test was also said to be practice for the preemptive strike of American troops in South Korea, a claim which the United States brushed off, urging North Korea to not raise tensions on the peninsula.  President Park has also vowed to convene the National Security Council over the North Korean provocations.

For a good look at the latest missile launch, see this article in Yonhap.

Daily Update – July 20

South Korea

Politics – The Constitutional Court ruled, for the fourth time, today in favor of a smoking ban in all restaurants.  A restaurant owner, who name is not mentioned in the article, complained to the court that the ban violated his rights as a property owner, and added the government had failed to pay him in return for his loss because of the ban.  The court ruled against the complainant, saying the ban does not violate the constitution and the government does not have to pay for the losses since the owner made changes he did not have to make.  This is the fourth time a case against a smoking ban has been argued at the Constitutional Court, all have ended in a ruling in favor of the ban.

THAAD continues to rise several questions throughout the political landscape of Korea.  The current debate deals with the issue of the deployment of THAAD being incorporated into the United States Missile Defense System, a move which would place relations with China and Russia.  An article in the Hankoyreh details the debate between the Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo and other political parties. Minister Han has said that the deployment of THAAD in Korea would be simply as a deterrent against North Korean provocations and not place South Korea in the US Missile Defense.  Opposition parties, however, disagree with this argument.  If South Korea is placed in the United States Missile Defense structure in Asia, this move may have detrimental effects on the Russia and China relationships with South Korea.

Economy – The Bank of Korea reported a fall of fake bank notes detected in South Korea.  In the first half of the year, the number of fake bank notes detected in South Korea fell by 76% from a year earlier.

Over the past few days, several large companies have had employees strike to push for improvements in working conditions.  Hyundai, a major manufacturer in South Korea, has had worker strikes for 3 days at its Ulsan factory.  Currently, Sanaeuri, the traditionally conservative party in South Korean politics, is calling for the strikes to end, citing the wage of the average Hyundai workers.

Culture – A South Korean man was detained while attempting to enter North Korea.  The individual, whose identity was withheld, went to China and sought assistance from Urriminzokkiri, a pro-North Korean group.  He also sought assistance from the North Korean embassy in China.  He has been detained in violation of the national security law, which bans South Koreans from engaging in conversations with North Korean in any manner.

North Korea

Due to a slow time of news in North Korea, I am going to just give two stories.

A woman in her 40s committed suicide in North Ryanggang Province.  Her actions were as a result of the State Security Department and the Ministry of State Security agents pressuring her to work in the 200-day campaign, in spite of physical ailment.  This highlights the physical resolve that occurs throughout the campaigns in North Korea, as well as how much pressure is placed on its citizens throughout the campaigns.

North Korea is continuing its fight against foreign mobile phone users in its country.  Currently, the government is soliciting informants to arrest those who are using imported phones, and also calling for citizens to ensure each other is abiding by North Korean law and not using an imported phone.  The phone crackdown is just another in Kim Jung-uns quest to consolidate power by stricktly enforcing the laws of the country.


Daily Update – July 19

So, this evening, Donald J. Trump was officially announced to the Republican nominee for the Presidency of the United States of America.  Therefore, this post will focus on the nominee’s Korea’s policy, outlining the presumptive candidates views on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea

Donald Trump has long been an advocate of pulling troops from bases around the world, of which he has explicitly mentioned South Korea, where more than 30,000 American troops work to ensure the security of 40,000,000 people from a North Korean attack.  His calls consistently for South Korea to shoulder more of the cost of stationing troops in the country, under the pretense that Seoul pays, in Trump’s own words, peanuts.  This policy prescription is seen, in many eyes, as a way for the United States to ensure that it makes money off defending nations who we consider to close allies.  However, his policy ignores the fact that South Korea, since the early 2010s, has paid over $800 million per year to station American troops in the country.  Another curious factor that Trump has overlooked in this policy prescription is the immeasurable amount of cultural exchange which exists between the two nations.  In order to make this sound less of a critique of Trump, I will say that the American position in South Korea has been effective in deterring Northern aggression, and one can make the argument that South Korea should take control over its own national security.  In short, a Trump in the White House would mean a smaller presence of American military in the world, even in countries regarded as major regional allies, such as South Korea.

Another crucial aspect of the relationship between Seoul and Washington D.C. has been criticised by Trump; the KORUS Free Trade Agreement, which was signed in 2010.  Trump has taken aim at the majority of trade agreements made by the United States, most recently the Trans Pacific Partnership, saying that they take jobs out of America.  Trump has advocated that he would repeal a majority of the current standing free trade agreements in hopes of negotiating a better deal, or, in Donald Trump logic, a way for America to get as much money for as little involvement in the process of trade.  Now, I will stave off from commenting in detail on the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement since I have mostly studied defense and North Korea policy, and am in no way have anything of any contribution to the discussion on the KORUS Free Trade agreement.  However, I will say that I feel the KORUS Free Trade Agreement, as it stands, offers another vessel for cultural and material cooperation and exchange between Seoul and Washington D.C. while also making it easy to promote effective cross-cultural communication by indulging in the cultural products released by the two nations since they are more affordable under the agreement as imports.

North Korea

It is a lot harder to discern Trump’s true policy towards North Korea.  He promotes preemptive strikes, then resigns such callings under the guise of China’s total control over the internal politics in North Korea.  He has also advocated for personal talks with Kim Jung-un in hopes of solving the nuclear issue.  Now, I will not bite your ear off with a step by step, thorough analysis of his policies, but I will discuss them a little here.

The biggest theme running through Trump’s North Korea policy is the myth of Chinese total control over the politics in North Korea.  He, as have many other people, has made this statement without looking at the intricate intentions and goals of the North Korea-China relationship.  China does not enjoy North Korea’s tests, and has even condemned them, urging North Korea to show caution in its testing.  But North Korea continues to test missiles and nuclear weapons in hopes of either driving a wedge in the Beijing-Washington relationship, or to show internally how strong the military is.  China is not even close to be in control of North Korean domestic politics, nor will it ever – so long as Kim Jung-un places his retention of power over his position on the international community.

Finally, talking with Kim Jung-un.  Donald Trump has openly called to met with the sitting leader of North Korea, as the sitting president of the United States.  If this occurs, it would be an unprecedented meeting, since most the diplomatic work between Pyongyang and Washington is done at a ministerial level, which is then reported to the president.  Trump also has not examined how this meeting would be shown in the North Korean state media, which may undermine any attempt to come to negotiations with the upper hand.  Now, this being said, North Korea is more likely to cooperate when it feels that its concerns are being addressed, and North Korea has always responded well when visited by a foreign dignitary; however, these changes rarely create long lasting success in solving any issue, with the security concerns returning within years of such changes.  This is not to say his talks will be unsuccessful.  It is unfair to him to say he would not be able to negotiate a deal with North Korea to solve the nuclear crisis, when he hasn’t even been elected yet.  I will close by saying that this policy idea, discussing the issue with Kim himself, has the most reasonable chance of success in his entire platform.

Other Comments

So, there is an outline of Donald Trump’s policy ideas for the Korean peninsula.  I have tried my best to stay unbiased – a very difficult to task conquer – which I know I have failed at doing, but I hope to have at least raised a few questions in your mind about what Donald Trump means for the Korean peninsula, and what a Trump president would do on the peninsula.  I look forward to getting back into regular daily updates tomorrow, but will promise to do this for Clinton as well.

Daily Update – July 18

South Korea

Politics – President Park Geun-hae and her Mongolian counterpart announced the begining of a possible trade deal between the two nations, in hopes to improve bilateral relations between the two countries.  Park met her Mongolian counterpart on the sideline of the ASEM meeting in Mongolia, in which they vowed to improve ties, maintain a sense of security and work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The debate over THAAD continues in South Korea, as Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-an announced that the deployment of the advanced missile defense system does not require a parliamentary session and vote.  He argues deployment of the new defense system falls under the United States-South Korea defense agreement, which has brought many weapons of defense into South Korea without parliamentary approval.  Opposition parties are challenging this train of thought, however, and attempting to force the issue to parliament.

Economy  – Sales at South Korean duty-free store is 26.1% higher than this time last year.  Currently, duty-free sales have amounted to 5.77 trillion won and are expected, if the current rate continues, to surpass 12 trillion by the end of the year.  Stores in Busan and Jeju are making the most of this trend, amounting to over 70% of the total sales.  A large influx of Chinese tourists is the reason for the rapid increase.

Culture – For years there has been a long reputation of control over what women in South Korea were able to wear, with several regulations lasting into the Park Chung-hee era of the 1970s.  Today, one does not need to walk far to find a short skirt or a woman smoking on the side of the street or even a group of young women drinking in the torrid sun of summer.  This was not always the case, as Korea has long regulated the role of the female in society, including activities a woman could perform, dress she was able to wear and even when she could leave the house.  For a good summary analysis on the influences which led to such regulations in Korea, see this article.

North Korea

Politics – As stated in an earlier post, North Korea fired three scud rockets from North Hwanghae province into the sea.  Two of the missiles flew between 500 and 600 meters.  The act appears to be in defiance of the United States and South Korean decision to deploy the THAAD defense system in South Korea, a topic which has been hotly contested in South Korea as well.  This launch marks the first physical response to the deployment of THAAD by North Korea since the decision was made one week ago.

Economy – In North Korea, since the great famine in the 1990s, the black market has long become a staple in securing a way of life within the closed country.  Women have become absorbed in the way of running black market business, and the market reforms have led to a very interesting divide in power and money within North Korea’s borders.  However, success in the black markets, or jangmadang, may come with some unforeseen downsides.  Dhzon Khen-mu, a 60-year-old defector who now works for Unity Radio in South Korea, worked his whole life to turn a mere $300 tip – a substantial amount in North Korea – into an importing empire which garnered him over $100,000.  For comparison, most North Koreans are lucky to take home $1,000 a year.  His success led him to fear the government, thus leading him to fake his death and flee to the South.  In this wonderful, yet short, article in the Guardian, Dhzon retells his account.

Culture – People in North Hwanghae Province are experiencing a water shortage despite a larger rainfall than normal this year.  Subpar technology makes getting water to those living in the county very difficult and in times many are forced to carry the water on their backs, limiting their ability to carry a lot of water.  See the report in DailyNK.