Seoul’s Reaction to France Attacks

Thursdsy night, a truck drove through a crowd gathered to celebrate the Bastelli Day Holliday in Nice, France.  The driver, a French-Tunisian man, diliberatly drove into the crowd; his actions have left 84 dead, another 50 walking the tight rope between this world and the next, and even more wounded.  This nonsensical violence has drawn worldwide condemnation, with the international community rallying to support France in its time of need and suffering.

On Friday, South Korea joined the rally, offering its strong words of condemnation against the attack, and kind words of support to France and those who lives were lost in the attack.  The Foriegn Ministey, in a statement, called the attack a “barbaric terrorist attack” also offering up that such attacks cannot be condoned in any form in the world.

Seoul’s response also included some kind words for the families and the victims of this attack.  South Korea’s Foreign Ministry also said it is looking to see if any South Koreans died in the attack, though it appears that none did.

As the author, I also stand with France in this time of deep struggle, and believe that we should work together – nation helping nation – to ensure that such illogical acts never occur.  The international community should be appalled by such acts, and they should create an inferno driving us to ensure that we don’t live in fear of terrorism being written as our cause of death.  However, we cannot let this cloud and dilute our judgement of the at least millions of Muslims who are not violent, and in no way condone what has happened.  This attack raises many questions about Islam, but let’s work together to ensure that this attack doesn’t unnecessarily deepen rifts between brothers or sisters.

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Daily Update – July 14

South Korea

Politics – President Park Geun-hae has departed to Mongolia to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).  She will also hold a sideline meeting with the Mongolian president while in country.  Though ASEM will bring leaders from 51 nations to Mongolia, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and other Asian leaders, Park has no intention to hold sideline meetings with those mentioned.  At ASEM, Park will work to bolster international support for issues which are, or becoming, major issues on the international stage; two main topics she will discuss are the world economic fallout in the wake of BREXIT and North Korea.  This is the president’s first trip to Mongolia since she took office in 2012.

Jeon Gyeong-bok, president of the Korean Foreign Language Promotion Association, has called for the government to reform its English proficiency exams for civil servants.  Currently, those who wish to take Korea’s civil service exams must get a score of 700 on TOEIC or 71 on TOEFL, which Jeon argues test a student’s knowledge of business English and are inapplicable to the civil service.  He has called for civil service exams, for grade 7 and higher, to mimic those taken at schools, testing the students ability to use and acquire English, rather than simply testing knowledge of the language.

Economy – As the economic downturn continues, local cooperations are attempting to do their part in spurring local economies.  Many of the larger cooperations have adapted an “Eat Out Day.”  One day a week, the large cooperations shut down their in-house cafeterias, forcing workers to eat out for lunch, adding more money to the local economies.  Areas that have instituted this measure have seen a rise in local economic spending, which is a positive in a time of economic downturn.  Many South Koreans are for this program, calling for the majority of large cooperations to institute such a day in order to maximize the effect of it on the overall economies.  Some workers at these cooperations are against the day, citing their right to cut food costs and choose healthier options while maximizing their productivity for the day.  In the author’s opinion, this is a clever way to spur local economies, since it provides restaurants with at least day of more than usual business.

Foreign currency deposits saw a rise in the month of June.  Outstanding deposits of foreign currency, in the hands of local citizens, grew around $2.76 billion totaling $59.61 billion.  Deposits of US dollars also grew in June by $3.1 billion, amounting to $50 billion at the end of the month.  The Euro did not favor as well, with around $900 million dollars leaving, bringing the total to around $2.73 equivalence.  This rise has been attributed to a rise in US dollar deposits in South Korea.

Culture – As Pokemon Go fever sweeps throughout the world, South Korea has fallen into a very interesting predicament.  Due to legal regulations forcing South Korean map data to stay within the country, Google Maps is unable to acquire any data on the country.  Pokemon Go uses the data from Google Maps to set up Poke-stops, place Pokemon in the game, and a variety of other intricacies that make the game as dynamic as it is.  This is seen as a loss for the Niantic and Pokemon companies, as they are unable to reach a majority of the fourth largest gaming country in the world.  However, near the North Korean border, a small town by the name of Sokcho, is not technically South Korean territory, and therefor, is not forced to abide by the same mapping restrictions.  This has led to an increase in tourism to the small town; Seoul bus station has reported that tickets to Sokcho are sold out.  Many visit the town simply to play the game.  The city has taken to the craze as well.  Officials have handed out maps of the free wi-fi spots and even marketed the city as the Pokemon Go haven on the peninsula.

North Korea

Breaking News:  One guard was killed and one wounded in an attack at the Sino-North Korean border, in the town of Hyesan.  They were beaten by at least two perpetrators with stones.  the military is currently working to find suspects in the case and is on high alert.  No one has been arrested as of writing.

Politics – The China-North Korea fishing deal is undermining a large portion of normal fishermans’ lives.  Under the deal, state-run fishing companies have brought in Chinese ships and then sell the catch to China for a cost.  This gives the state another way to amass currency, which it desperately needs, and also works to disrupt the lives of normal fisherman in North Korea.  Many are unable to keep up with the more technologically advanced ships, making it difficult for them to continue to make a living.  The deal also grants China easy money, as it gets to collect rent on the ships, then resale the fish, all without having to go through much trouble to aquire it.

CultureFewer North Koreans came out to remembrance ceremonies on the anniversary of Kim Il-Sung’s death July 8th.  Many who avoided such duty paid bribes, and there has been a notable lack of governmental will to punish those who paid bribes.  Another notable feature of North Korea’s greatest day of mourning that was absent was the political festivities that generally mark the evening.   People spent the rest of the day, after placing flower tributes at the foot of giant Kim Il-Sung statues, like any other day.  This is yet another way in which Kim Jung-un is looking to distance himself from his father, who ensured that every North Korean paid ample respect to the Great Leader.

North Korean authorities are allowing motorists to use a new tunnel which goes through the mountains at Machongryong.  Machongryong has been a very difficult area to pass, and many accidents have occurred along the mountain pass throughout the years.  Though offering a new around the pass, the tunnel is not providing a fully safe method of travel; construction was not completed – it is currently stalled – due to a lack of building material.  In order to pass through the tunnel, one must pay a tunnel fee of 15,000 Korean People’s Won (about $1.90 on the North Korean market).  The fee has dissuaded some brave motorists, which led to a bus accident in May; in order to avoid the fee, the driver attempted to drive around the pass in the rain.  The bus fell into the valley below, killing 26.  As it stands, the tunnel is in need of a cement coating, as well as other enhancements which North Korea is unable to provide at this time.

Breaking News: Two North Korean Border Guards Attacked: 1 Dead, 1 Injured

On July 15, a source from North Ryanggang Province in North Korea told Radio Free Asia two guards had been attacked when patrolling the Sino-North Korean border.  The perpetrators, according to the source amounting to two or more people, beat the two guards repeatedly with stones.  The incident happened near the city of Hyesan, a place frequented by smugglers and defectors.  Military in the city was placed on emergency alert, and are currently looking for any suspects in the case; no arrests have been made at this time.

Daily Update – July 12

Due to the multitude of major stories coming out of South and North Korea this weekend, I will attempt to cover a wide variety of them.

South Korea

Politics  –  This weekend, South Korea officially announced that the THAAD missile defense system in country.  This announcement comes amidst a variety of political advancements in North Korea, most notably an SLBM launch this weekend.  South Korea’s decision has, as of writing, drawn little response from China, whose leadership and scholars were very vocal in their opposition of THAAD deployment in South Korea.  So far, China has only said that it will take necessary measures, but many in South Korea are still wondering what those measures will be.  Seongju, a city in Southern South Korea has been selected as the deployment site; however, officials in Seongju are still opposed to the proposed deployment site.

A few articles from varied sources on THAAD in Korea; HanKyoreh, Yonhap, Korea Times, Korea Herald, CNN, Reuters.  For your research interests.

In other political news, South Korea and Switzerland will hold a summit in Seoul this week to discuss cooperation in trade, investment, science, and security among other topics.  Park Geun-hae and her Swiss counterpart, Johann Schneider-Amman will also discuss how to pressure North Korea.  The summit is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

Civic groups and opposition parties have joined together in an effort to reform the chaebol system in South Korea.  Calls are for the government to abolish practices and laws that favor large conglomerates in South Korea.  The parties present in a rally which took place in central Seoul included the Minjoo Party and the Justice Party – South Korea’s two main opposition parties.

Economy – South Korea is experiencing a shift from private sector economic development to government led.  Last year the government contributed around 1/3 of the economic growth – South Korean government contributed 0.8% of a total 2.6% growth.  This shift, according to a South Korean think tank has been caused by the economic slowdown.

Household debt in South Korea continues to rise.  In June, outstanding loans to banks totaled 667.5 trillion won ($528.67 billion), a 6.6 trillion won increase from May.  This rise in lending follows a cut to the interest rate by the Bank of Korea, also in June.  As 2015, household debt in Korea has been on the rise.

Due to THAAD deployment taking up a large portion of South Korean media, I am not going to have a culture section for today.  I will focus more on culture tomorrow.

North Korea

Politics – North Korea has displayed a very vocal opposition to the THAAD deployment in South Korea.  This includes a military call saying North Korea may “physically act out” against the deployment.  North Korea has a record of badgering the international community whenever something happens which it deems to be an act against the regime – typically involving those acts which restrict the regime’s overall stability.  The THAAD deployment, however, is one of the first anti-North Korea acts which involves an upgrade in military hardware on the peninsula, which should add more prudence to such threats, as North Korea may feel more threatened than it ever has.

The United States levied its first ever sanctions for human rights violations on North Korea late last week, sanctioning Kim Jung-un himself.  North Korea has been diligently working to control the news of the sanctions, hoping it does not leak to the people.  In response to the sanctions, North Korea warned the United States it will be severing its New York communication link.

North Korea may be gaining ground in its relationship with China.  A new paradigm in ties between the two nations comes as a response to the THAAD deployment, according to an article in the Korea Times.  China and Russia may loosen inspections and allow Pyongyang to exploit loopholes in the sanctions regime.  This comes as North Korea has started to send workers into China illicitly.

Finally, signs a fifth nuclear test may be in the works have been spotted at the site of the previous four tests.  38North has reported an increase in action around the facility, though states the reason is still unclear.  An article in the Korea Times takes it a step further, saying North Korea is working to maintain a state of readiness at the site.

 

This weekend and up to today this week, news out of, and about, North Korea has been covering the variety of political developments and therefore there will be no other sections for today.

Update: North Korean SLBM Launch

At this current time, very little is known about the launch.  But we do know that the launch was a failure; the rocket exploded around 10 kilometers in altitude after being fired from a Sinpo class submarine.  South Korea quickly condemned the launch, along with reconfirming its stance on the missile program, with The Korea Hearld quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuk.  “The government strongly condemns North Korea for carrying out the provocation of test firing a submarine-launched balistic missile.”

The United States also quickly condemned the launch, with Pentagon Spokeman Comander Gary Ross, quoted in the same Korea Hearld article, saying “this provocation only serves to increase the international communities resolve to counter the DPRK’s prohibited actions…” Currently, China and Russia have yet to release statements in regards to the test.

The test comes amidst several new changes in the United States and South Korea’s North Korea strategy.  Early this month, the Unitied States adopted a set of sanctions against North Korea for its putrid human rights record, the first of its nature from the United States.  In Seoul, South Korean officials agreed to deploy THAAD defense system within  South Korea.  This test may be a response to such changes, but the international community is unlikely to learn the true reason behind this test.

Finally, what implications will this have on the missile program of the DPRK?  In an analysis on 38North, Jon Schilling argues that the missile programs still require more testing and time before it is able to create a useful missile.  The test is the third unsuccessful SLBM test within a short span, highlighting the DPRK’s fevorent disire to have one within its arsneal.  Despite such rapid testing, Schilling presents a very compelling argument, as not a single test has been successful.  For now, it appears that DPRK SLBM technology is no where near operational, and shall take some time before it advances into a fully operational part of North Korea’s arsenal.

(This was written on my phone, will come back and update with links as soon as I get to my computer this evening.)

Apologies

I have been the worst this week, keeping up daily updates.  Travel back home, family obligations, all the excuses that seem to pile up have prevented me from having the hour or so it takes to put those posts together.  I will start up daily updates again on Monday, and will provide updates for a few that I have promised as separate posts over the weekend.  Thanks for letting me horrible and understanding why.

Breaking News: North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile

At 11:35am Pyongyang local time, North Korea fired off a submarine launched balistic missile.  The overall outcome of the test is not certain at this time; however, a few are calling the launch a failure.  This is the second submarine missile test from North Korea, it’s also Pyongyang’s third missile test in the last few months.  Updates will come on this story as they are released.