South Korean spy arrested in Pyongyang

8 11 2013

north korean police car(BY OLIVER HOTHAM ,, NOVEMBER 7, 2013A South Korean spy has been apprehended in Pyongyang, the North Korean Ministry of State Security announced to the Korea Central News Agency on Thursday. The man, who initially claimed to be a Chinese resident of North Korea, eventually confessed that he was a South Korean who had entered North Korea from a third country, the KCNA said, and had been disguising himself as a “religionist”.

KCNA reported that the Ministry of State Security’s initial investigation indicated “that he was engaged in anti-DPRK espionage and plot-breeding activities in a third country bordering the DPRK for nearly six years”. The spy allegedly “entered the DPRK to rally dishonest elements within the boundary of the DPRK and use them for undermining the stability of the social system in the DPRK,” according to the report, and the “an institution for state security is now intensifying investigation”.

[…] This is not the first time the DPRK has alleged that religious missionaries in the DPRK were engaging in anti-state activities. Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in November 2012 when he was acting as a missionary in North Korea, was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for an alleged plot to overthrow the North Korean state called “Operation Jericho”.

The KCNA’s article on Bae’s trial reported that: ”When last in America and South Korea, Kenneth Bae went to several churches and preached about the need for North Korea’s immediate collapse.” North Korea claims Bae had a following of “1,500 people,” and worked with other South Korean missionaries to create an “anti-government coalition.”

Leonid A. Petrov, a Korean studies expert at the Australian National University told NK News that it is natural for spy-related stories to come out: “States and nations divided by civil war always spy against each other – it would be strange if North and South Korea, who share the language and culture, were not doing the same”.

“Both regimes claim exclusive legitimacy on the peninsula and won’t compromise,” he continued. “Spying operations of Seoul and Pyongyang against each other will cease only when Korea is unified, but this would also mean a victory for one and the demise for another regime”.

North Korean spies are often caught in the Republic of Korea. In 2010 DPRK spies were dispatched – and caught – trying to kill high level defector Hwang Jang Yop.

See the full text of this article here…

Moment of truth coming for President Park’s ‘Trustpolitik’

29 05 2013

park-geun-hye-multiplyingby Leonid Petrov (Australian National University, 28 May 2013)

CANBERRA – Inter-Korean relations are in the lime-light again. On June 15, Koreans in the North and South were meant to celebrate another anniversary of their first historic summit, which took place in Pyongyang thirteen years ago. Nevertheless, the late South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il would have been very sad to see how their successors continue destroying the legacy of the Joint North-South Korean Declaration.

After the recent exchange of threats and muscle-flexing, the demise of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) came as a symbolic end of a once-blooming inter-Korean reconciliation. What is particularly disturbing is that this happens just months after newly-elected South Korean President Park Geun-Hye had pledged to implement a new North Korea policy.


Based on the two principles of ‘Trustpolitik’ and ‘Alignment’, Park’s strategy was supposed to be more pragmatic than Kim Dae-Jung’s ‘Sunshine Policy’ but less ideologically-driven than Lee Myung-Bak’s ‘Vision 3000’. Disappointingly, Park’s strategy for the normalization of inter-Korean relations was flawed from the outset.

She emphasized the promotion of cooperation in security, which is impossible in the context of the continuing Korean War. She also insisted that the trust building process would be linked to the progress in resolving the nuclear issue and, finally, Park outwardly declared that her goal was to encourage North Korea to become a “normal state”. Such a program certainly has no appeal for Pyongyang to be cooperative in its realization.

The last five years have shown that neither in Seoul nor in Pyongyang is there any appetite for cooperation. The zones of economic cooperation are now dead and buried; they were too expensive for South Korean entrepreneurs and too damaging for the North Korean regime.

Politically, North and South Korea continue to demonstrate disdain to each other. In April Seoul was “demanding” that Pyongyang negotiate the resumption of KIC operations by setting an ultimatum. In response, the North cut a military hot line connecting the two militaries on both sides of the DMZ. In reciprocation, Seoul has recently brushed off a North Korean offer to resume the Six-Party Talks.


Zero-sum game on the Korean peninsula is continuing. Whatever North Korea proposes is blocked by the South and vice versa. Pyongyang policy makers know all too well that the Blue House in Seoul will refuse their offers, regardless of how sensible or tempting they might sound.

Similarly, the conservative Saenuri Party does not want to look weak or manipulated by Pyongyang’s initiatives and will always find a reason to decline the offer. Interestingly, however, mistrust between politicians sometimes creates some rare windows of opportunity, which could lead to a major breakthrough in inter-Korean relations.

No sooner did South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se call upon North Korea to make some steps to resume economic cooperation in Kaesong then Pyongyang proposed the return of South Korean managers to the ill-fated Industrial Complex. The South has all reason to fear the abduction or usage of its citizens for propaganda campaign, but this visit could be helpful in minimizing financial losses through the conservation of the abandoned facilities until times are better.

This informal meeting could also be used as a second track dialogue opportunity to improve the atmosphere for government-level negotiations. Will South Korea use this occasion to break the vicious circle of mistrust with North Korea? The moment of truth is coming for President Park’s ‘Trustpolitik’.

Northeast Asia – a Region without Regionalism

20 05 2012

(Leonid Petrov for East Asia Forum, 23 May 2012)

Last week once again demonstrated to the world the sad truth about the inability of Northeast Asian nations to establish good working relations in political and economic spheres. The ambitious plan to build a Free Trade Zone across China, South Korea and Japan was pompously declared, only to stumble over old unresolved issues. The legacies of colonialism, international wars and civil conflicts persist, thwarting any attempts to rebuild trust and achieve multilateral cooperation.

The creation of a network of FTAs between the neighbouring states could serve as a confidence building mechanism toward deepening regional integration in East Asia, but efforts have been lagging. Japan and China have yet to enter talks for a bilateral FTA. South Korea and Japan suspended negotiations for a bilateral FTA in 2004 and have made little progress since. This year Seoul has agreed with Beijing to start negotiations for a bilateral FTA, and the first session took place in Beijing on 14 May.

The trade ministers of South Korea, Japan and China for the first time agreed to launch negotiations for a three-way FTA by the end of this year. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met in Beijing with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for annual summit talks, where they discussed the future of tripartite economic cooperation. The three leaders shared the view that a trilateral FTA would boost trade and investment among the three countries and provide a framework for comprehensive and structural cooperation.

But at the press-conference after the summit, South Korean President Lee looked less enthusiastic than his Chinese and Japanese counterparts. Lee said the trilateral FTA would be meaningful to the countries’ future, but avoided answers regarding the possibility of concluding the FTA negotiations within two years. Also further undermining confidence among the three countries, Chinese President Hu Jintao refused to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda without any explanation. Speculators have suggested Hu’s cancelation may have been triggered by the heated debate on May 13 between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Noda over the sovereignty of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, or Japan’s granting of a visa to Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer to run the World Uyghur Congress in Tokyo.

The three leaders also discussed the continuing North Korean provocations, but the absence of North Korea in these negotiations was conspicuous. A successful regional FTA could allow products produced in North Korea to be freely sold in South Korea and Japan, helping its flagging economy. Similarly, the lack of consumer goods in North Korea could be rectified by an influx of quality products from South Korea and Japan. But for ideological reasons this opportunity remains closed for North Korea.

It is no coincidence that just days prior to the trilateral summit in Beijing, the President of North Korea’s Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong-nam, went for his first foreign trip since the death of Kim Jong-il. But rather than heading to China, he went to Southeast Asia where he met with the President of Singapore, Tony Tan, and the city-state’s parliamentary leader Michael Palmer. Kim Yong-nam was accompanied by Ri Kwang-gun, who heads the Joint Venture and Investment Commission, and An Jong-su the Minister of Light Industry. Obviously, North Korea is trying to attract foreign investment by offering itself to manufacturers interested in cheap labour, and to boost exports of its own consumer products and minerals. In Singapore the leaders discussed a variety of issues, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula and bilateral relations, but President Tan and Mr Palmer stressed that while Singapore was open to advancing bilateral relations with North Korea, they were constrained by the fact that North Korea remains subject to UN Security Council sanctions.

The following day, Kim Yong-nam flew to Indonesia, where he also drummed up support for foreign investment. Most western multinational companies avoid direct business with North Korea because of US trade embargo. Washington has warned financial institutions in Southeast Asia that they should not do business with North Korea. Banks in Macao and Singapore stopped doing business with North Korea several years ago. Given this backdrop, what is the reaction of Indonesia to such pressure?

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for dialogue to resolve problems on the Korean peninsula, while Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa suggested that isolating North Korea further was not a constructive solution. When discussing the issue of the controversial rocket-satellite launch, Yudhoyono underlined that misunderstandings should be avoided through dialogue and communication. Kim Yong-nam was assured that there are areas where cooperation is possible. For example, the two leaders resolved to raise bilateral political relations by promoting visits by officials, ministers, managers, and media professionals of the two countries. The media swap deal will allow networks in both North Korea and Indonesia to share content and participate in journalist exchanges.

North Korea is clearly trying to curb its excessive reliance on China by reaching out to other countries in Asia. But how many countries can or will help North Korea integrate successfully? Why should North Korea look for partnerships away from its own region? Would not it be more logical to improve relations with its immediate neighbours, namely South Korea and Japan? Is the US or Russia willing to see the three countries building a genuine free trade platform in the region? The combined population of the three major Asian powers is around 1.5 billion people, with an aggregate GDP of US$15 trillion or 20 per cent of the world total. The establishment of a multilateral FTA would definitely help lay a foundation not only for strong economic partnership, but also for trust, reconciliation, and reliable peace in the region.

But developments over the last week have shown once again that domestic affairs appear to carry more weight for national leaders than regional projects. The disputes of the 20th century continue to affect the hearts and minds of politicians in the two Koreas, China and Japan. And it may take longer than expected before regionalism in Northeast Asia will prevail over political mistrust and economic protectionism.

See the Korean version of this article here…  동북아시아- 지역주의 없는 지역

Also published by The Korea Times (23.05.2012)

“South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century”

30 03 2012

The Volume 1 of “Asia’s Unknown Uprisings: South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century” by George Katsiaficas has been published by PM Press in Oalkland, CA.

Using social movements as a prism to illuminate the oft-hidden history of 20th century Korea, this book provides detailed analysis of major uprisings that have patterned that country’s politics and society. With a central focus on the1980 Gwangju Uprising that ultimately proved decisive in South Korea’s democratization, the author uses Korean experiences as a baseboard to extrapolate into the possibilities of global social movements in the 21st century. Ten years in the making, this book provides a unique perspective on South Korea. Richly illustrated, with tables, charts, graphs, index and footnotes Approximately 420 pages with about 77 photographs and wood block prints by Hong Sung-dam

“This book makes a unique contribution to Korean Studies because of its social movements’ prism. It will resonate well in Korea and will also serve as a good introduction to Korea for outsiders. By providing details on 20th century uprisings, Katsiaficas provides insights into the trajectory of social movements in the future. His world wide field-work experiences and surprising impacts in Korea are described well in this book.” — Na Kahn-chae, Director, May 18 Institute, Gwangju, South Korea

Advance Praise for Volume 2 of “Asia’s Unknown Uprisings: People Power in the Philippines, Burma, Tibet, China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia, 1947-2009”

“This book about people’s power movements in Asia over the last sixty years makes the case, convincingly, that they should be seen as part of the worldwide new left. Reading it will broaden the perspective of activists and analysts in North
America and Europe, a very important task.” — Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University.

Find Asia’s Unknown Uprisings: South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century at Amazon, and possibly save by using Amazon coupons from

South Korean agents arrest ‘spy with poison-tipped needle’

17 09 2011

(Mark Willacy, ABC Radio Australia) South Korea’s spy agency has arrested a man allegedly sent by North Korea to assassinate an anti-Pyongyang activist with a poison-tipped needle. The alleged North Korean agent has been identified only as a man in his 40s known as An.

An is a former special forces commando who supposedly defected to the South more than a decade ago. But recently he asked to meet outspoken anti-Pyongyang activist and defector Park Sang-Hak. After a tip-off from South Korean intelligence agents, Mr Park said he did not show up for the meeting, which was supposed to be held at a subway station in southern Seoul on September 3.

“An told me by phone that he was to be accompanied by a visitor from Japan who wants to help our efforts. But then I was told by the NIS not to go to the meeting due to the risk of assassination,” Mr Park said. “Following advice from intelligence authorities and police, I don’t see any strangers these days.”

Instead An was arrested at the rendezvous point, allegedly carrying a poison-tipped needle and other weapons that investigators believe he was going to use to kill Mr Park. South Korea’s intelligence agency says it will not comment on cases under investigation.

Mr Park is a former North Korean defector who along with other activists sends thousands of anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border, sparking angry protests from North Korea. It has threatened to fire across the border at launch sites for the towering gas balloons that carry the leaflet bundles. Recent leaflets have urged North Koreans to rise up “like Libyan rebels” and topple the regime.

North Korea has a history of trying to silence critics in the South. In January a court jailed a North Korean spy for 10 years for plotting to assassinate the highest-ranking defector ever to flee to the South. The court said the would-be assassin intended to murder Hwang Jang-Yop on orders from Pyongyang, after entering the South posing as a defector.

Mr Hwang died of natural causes at his closely guarded Seoul home last October aged 87. In July last year, two other North Korean spies were sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to murder Mr Hwang.

In 1997 Lee Han-Young, a nephew of Sung Hye-Rim – the deceased first wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il – was shot dead outside his apartment in South Korea. Mr Lee, who had lived in the South for 15 years, was murdered after breaking his long silence about Kim’s private life.

Brian Myers: Korea’s most dangerous writer?

11 08 2011

By Andrew Salmon (SEOUL, Aug. 10  Yonhap)  He may be the most influential intellectual writer from the Korean Peninsula, but he is not Korean. He is obscure among domestic Pyongyang watchers but writes about North Korea for some of the world’s most influential media.

He is Brian Myers, an American who teaches international studies at Dongseo University in the southern port city of Busan. An academic, author and columnist, he contributes to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. It’s his status as an iconoclast that has won him fame. “I come across orthodoxies that I think need challenging,” he said in a recent interview. “But I’m not a full-time contrarian.”

The first group to feel the sting of Myers’ pen was America’s bookish establishment: He slammed the pretensions of the literary fiction community with “A Reader’s Manifesto” in 2002. He went on to redefine North Korea in his 2009 book “The Cleanest Race,” perhaps the most significant work on that country published since Kim Jong-il came to power. More recently, he has savaged a target closer to home: foodies.

Myers was born in New Jersey in 1963. The first “grown-up book” he remembers reading was Orwell’s “1984”; he went on to read Soviet studies in Germany. With the fall of European communism leaving him nothing to research, he relocated, after a few years in the auto industry, to Korea with his Korean wife.

Speaking with Myers, it is hard not to be impressed with his wide range of cultural references, his linguistic abilities and wicked intelligence — he bounces effortlessly from Cormac McCarthy to Kim Il-sung and speaks fluent German and Korean; one minute he is demolishing Korea’s emotive nationalists, next he is slamming war-mongering U.S. “chickenhawks.”

Naturally, the critic has critics. Salon criticized “A Reader’s Manifesto” as “a cranky lament”; Slate called it “bombastic” and sniffed at Myers as “a previously unpublished critic.” Conversely, The Times and The Washington Post hailed the work; many readers were delighted that someone was finally slaughtering the sacred cow.

No naysayers reared their heads over “The Cleanest Race,” albeit possibly because the English-speaking North Korea-watching community is a lot smaller than its literary community.

Based on Myers’s decade studying Pyongyang propaganda, it garnered rave reviews in The Economist, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Polemicist Christopher Hitchens called the book “electrifying” and admitted Myers had identified what he himself had overlooked.

The book overturned conventional wisdom: Myers portrays North Korea as neither a Stalinist nor even communist state; with its blend of arch-militarism and ultra-nationalism, it is essentially fascist. The book has been translated into French and Italian; Korean and Polish versions are in the works.

A more recent target — the subject of a Myers article in The Atlantic that generated a heated response from New York’s Village Voice — was foodies.

“You can’t get away from food talk,” he says. “Foodies tend to earn more, so they are worth more to advertisers, which is why dining sections of newspapers are expanding, while book pages are disappearing.” As a vegan himself, is Myers not trying to spoil others’ fun?

No, he argues, the issue goes beyond the personal. Food obsession is incompatible with attempts to fight obesity, and with millions of Indians and Chinese acquiring middle-class dining aspirations, it threatens environmental sustainability and animal rights.

“Raising more cows on open pastures or chicken on free-range farms is no solution,” he says. “We can’t sustain current levels of meat consumption without factory farms.”

Still, he does not plan a book on the issue, partly because he does not want to subject himself to a study of foodie writing. At present, he is translating a German novella into English, but his ever-critical eye remains firmly focused on the peninsula.

He is currently researching how pan-Korean nationalism undermines state patriotism in South Korea. Successive Seoul administrations have neglected to inculcate pride in the republic as a state entity, Myers says, instead equating it with the Korean race: “This is no problem when you have a nation state like Japan or Denmark, but is a problem when you have a state divided.”

This explains why, he continues, there were no mass protests against last year’s North Korean attacks. Moreover, the issue impacts beyond the strategic space: It also hinders South Korea’s globalization.

So Myers won’t be departing Korea quite yet? “I want to be here for unification,” he says, though he warns that it could be cataclysmic. “Ultra-nationalism is an appealing ideology — the Third Reich fought to the end, even sending their children into battle,” Myers muses. “We should not underestimate its appeal.”

That impression was reinforced on a trip he made to North Korea in June. Driving from Pyongyang to Wonsan on the country’s east coast, he was able to see rural villages up close. Yet despite their poverty, there was no sense of things falling apart.

“You get the impression of a nation that is still cohering,” he said. “It is not simply because of repression, but because the regime still manages to inspire people.”

Still no end to Korean War after 6 decades

27 07 2011

(Russia Today TV 27 July 2011) The Korean Peninsula is the site of one of world’s longest-running armed conflicts. While the war there ended in an armistice, both the North and the South have been preparing to renew hostilities at any moment for 58 years now.

The animosity, which began as part of the Cold War, survived the collapse of the Soviet Union, and is not expected to end anytime soon. At the moment, relations between Seoul and Pyongyang are at a low point, with the current conservative government in the South taking a firm stance towards their northern neighbor.

The latest issues to part the two parties are the sinking of the corvette Cheonan in March 2010 and the shelling of the Yeonpyeong Island by the North.

There is cautious hope that at least some of the tension may be diffused soon after nuclear envoys from North and South Korea sat together for the first time in over two years on the sidelines of a security summit in Indonesia last week. However, no immediate breakthrough is expected from it.

Experts say an end to the conflict between the two Koreas is long overdue.

“Today is the 58th anniversary since of the armistice agreement. It’s interesting that South Korea was not a signatory of the agreement – those were North Korea, China and the United States. South Korea at the time simply refused to sign it. North Koreans have been suggesting a peace treaty to be signed – with the United States first of all – since 1975. It’s probably overdue that all parties sit down and sort out their differences,” historian Leonid Petrov, professor at the University of Sydney told RT.

“The Republic of Korea is more than anyone interested in signing a peace treaty, because it’s certain to assure investors that a new war is not going to break out. I believe the Korean War must end after all and, in order to achieve this, the Cold War structures in the region in general have to be dismantled,” he added.

Meanwhile, South Korea and the US are planning joint military drills in disputed seas next month, which North Korea always finds provocative. Hyun Lee from the Campaign to End the Korean War believes the US use military exercises in the region to disguise their real goal, which is to stop China’s expansion.

“The US military needs justification to maintain its troops in the region, so it can pursue its real interest, which is to contain China’s expansion of power, and also to continue selling its weapon systems – and demonizing North Korea as an axis of evil country conveniently provides that kind of justification,” she said.

See the full interview here…

US nuclear weapons to South Korea?

27 07 2011

By Ralph A. Cossa (The Korea Times 07-26-2011)

Support for the U.S.-ROK alliance has never seemed stronger in South Korea. Our two countries appear to be in lockstep when it comes to dealing with North Korea and our two presidents seem to genuinely like and respect one another, thus permitting an unprecedented level of trust and cooperation. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that a growing number of South Koreans, including many prominent politicians, are calling for the reintroduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea, and an even larger number believe that the South should have its own independent nuclear weapons capability to match that of the North’s.

During a recent five-city lecture tour, informal polls conducted among each of the Korean audiences (with one exception) produced the same results every time: over half the respondents thought it was time to reintroduce U.S. nuclear weapons to the peninsula, and an even greater majority believed that the South needed its own nuclear weapons.

To most Americans, a desire to return nuclear weapons to Korea signals that the extended deterrence provided by the U.S. security umbrella is not credible enough; a desire for an independent nuclear capability means U.S. extended deterrence is not credible at all. South Korean experts argue, and I would agree, that such an assessment is wrong.

The problem today is not a lack of faith in the alliance per se. The problem is a growing sense of frustration in South Korea over Seoul’s inability to prevent the North from conducting provocative acts of aggression, such as last year’s torpedo attack against the Cheonan and the artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. South Koreans fear this trend will continue.

Frustration with the North is matched by a related and, in some cases, deeper frustration with China. China used to be seen as an honest broker that was determined to keep a lid on the North, but last year it seemed to be tilting clearly toward Pyongyang, thus empowering its bad behavior. South Koreans calling for the reintroduction of American tactical nuclear weapons frequently cite “sending a message to China” as the primary reason for such a move.

Others cite “sending a message to Washington.” But, the message here is not that the U.S. nuclear umbrella lacks credibility at the macro or strategic level (to deter an all-out attack), but that it does not (and should not) apply at the tactical level toward acts of harassment, and thus, is not frightening enough to both the North and to China. In short, Koreans are seeking to demonstrate some tangible consequences to continued bad behavior by the North ― short of military retribution, which could escalate out of control ― that would get the attention of both Beijing and Pyongyang.

One variation on the above themes is the call to use the threatened reintroduction of U.S. nuclear weapons as a lever to pry the North into taking some genuine, verifiable steps toward denuclearization.

Under this variation, the U.S. and ROK would specify a certain date by which tactical nuclear weapons would be introduced if the North has not returned to the negotiating table and demonstrated a credible commitment to nuclear disarmament. This would provide the North with the necessary incentive to cooperate and provide China with additional incentive to push Pyongyang in that direction … or so the logic goes.

The main problem with these three options ― redeployment, the threat of redeployment, or South Korean nukes ― is that they are likely to prove counterproductive. While they might increase China’s incentive to put pressure on North Korea, there is no evidence that Beijing is prepared under any circumstance to push Pyongyang to the brink; likewise, there is no evidence that Pyongyang is prepared to cooperate short of such an extreme action.

More importantly, such moves are likely to be used as justification for the North’s nuclear weapons program since, at least based on official pronouncements, the North continues to believe that U.S. nuclear weapons are already (still?) on the peninsula and that there is little difference between having them based there and having them available elsewhere for use in the ROK’s defense. In short, the North understands the nuances behind extended deterrence, even if some in the ROK do not.

Bringing U.S. nuclear weapons back to the peninsula would serve another North Korean purpose: to create and exploit splits among the South Korean public on security issues in general and North Korea policy in particular. Nothing would energize the anti-American opposition faster or more firmly than the reintroduction of U.S. nuclear weapons onto ROK soil. We couldn’t even reintroduce (perfectly safe) U.S. beef to the peninsula without widespread protests, imagine the reaction nuclear weapons would bring.

A decision by South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapons would provide the North with the same excuses but, more importantly, would severely damage Seoul’s international image and respectability, especially in advance of its hosting the second Nuclear Security Summit next year. In fact, it is hard to imagine that international summit proceeding under those circumstances. It would also put the alliance at risk and severely undercut President Obama’s pledge to move toward nuclear zero ― you don’t get to zero by supporting the addition of another nuclear weapons state.

There are better ways to send Pyongyang and Beijing a message. One has already been taken. The firm public pledge by President Lee Myung-bak that future acts of aggression would be met by military force ― backed by President Obama, who reportedly warned Chinese President Hu Jintao directly that such a response would be forthcoming and would enjoy unequivocal U.S. backing ― seems to have already gotten the two countries’ attention. It’s unfortunate that it had to take such a harsh and potentially escalatory measure to do so, but the point has been made.

Seoul and Washington also need to continue to insist on greater diplomatic pressure through the U.N. Security Council, not only on the North’s violations of the Armistice Treaty, but also in response to its announced uranium enrichment program and the UNSC Panel of Expert’s Report on how the North is violating the current U.N. sanctions regime. China cannot credibly claim to be in favor of diplomatic solutions when it routinely blocks the UNSC from doing its work.

Let me end with two footnotes. The one audience in which the overwhelming majority was against either redeployment or an independent ROK nuclear weapons capability was comprised of ROK military officers and cadets. They more fully understand the implications and consequences of such actions. This argues for a broader attempt to similarly educate the public on nuclear issues.

Secondly, even among audiences where support for such actions was widespread, no one raised a hand when asked if it would be OK to deploy nuclear weapons in their city or general vicinity. NIMBY ― the “not in my backyard” mentality ― is alive and well and should help temper ROK enthusiasm for nuclear options when all implications and consequences are considered.

Ralph A. Cossa is president of the Pacific Forum CSIS (, a Honolulu-based nonprofit research institute affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and senior editor of Comparative Connections, a quarterly electronic journal (

United Nations Disarmament Conference to Discuss Actions towards Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, in Matsumoto, Japan, 27-29 July

 NEW YORK, 25 July (UN Office for Disarmament Affairs)— The twenty-third United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues will be held in Matsumoto, Japan, from 27 to 29 July.  Hosted by the Government of Japan and the City of Matsumoto, the Conference is organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs through its Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.

Hannelore Hoppe, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs of the United Nations, will deliver the opening remarks.  Senior Japanese Government officials, as well as Mayor Akira Sugenoya of Matsumoto City and Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki City will also address participants at the opening session.  Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will deliver the keynote address.

Approximately 60 participants from Governments, academia and think tanks, international and non-governmental organizations, as well as the media will attend the Conference.  It is open to the public as a way to raise general awareness of and support for disarmament and non-proliferation.

The overarching theme of this year’s Conference is “Urgent and United Action towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World”.  Issues to be addressed include the implementation of the Action Plan of the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; nuclear disarmament measures by nuclear-weapon States; the prospects of negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty; taking concrete steps towards the negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention; as well as the role of civil society in peace and disarmament.  Enhancing nuclear safety and security is also high on the Conference’s agenda, especially in the wake of the recent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  Furthermore, a special session is devoted to peace and disarmament education, including discussions with high school students on the importance of promoting peace and security through disarmament efforts.

This annual United Nations Conference, which has been hosted by Japan since 1989, is recognized as an important forum for frank dialogue and an exchange of views on pressing security and disarmament-related issues facing the international community.  It also addresses particular regional disarmament and non-proliferation concerns, including those in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Conference is financed through voluntary contributions made to the Office for Disarmament Affairs by the Government of Japan and in-kind contributions by the host city.

For further information, please contact Taijiro Kimura, Director, United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD), tel: +977 1 501 0257; fax: +977 1 501 0223; e-mail:

Cyber-buggers are again targeting Koreanists

16 05 2011

Aidan Foster-Carter Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University in the UK, received the email copied below. Has anyone else received this, or similar? If so, beware. It is almost certainly a virus.

A.F-C: “I have disabled the title section (here in capitals) As sent, this was a hyperlink in the usual blue. It would have been so easy to click on it!

Luckily I didn’t. Instead I hovered the cursor over it, revealing that the link ended in .hta – which is executable code, ie something nasty.

So here we go again. You may recall that I warned of a similar sly ambush attempt in August 2009. See

I know of, and am copying this to, others who have been thus attacked before. The common factor seems to be simply taking an interest in North Korea.

Importantly, those targeted are not only critics of the DPRK but also such blameless souls as CanKor:

As you may know, South Korea recently experienced two serious cyber-attacks: in March and again in April. The former was general, but caused little harm since it met defences strengthened since a similar DDoS attack last year. The latter was specific (Nonghyup), and did serious damage.

The ROK government has officially blamed the DPRK for both attacks. Pyongyang sneeringly denies Nonghyup; see
and some in Seoul are sceptical too. I haven’t seen the North comment officially on the March episode.

Whoever may be responsible for any or all of this, as Curtis Melvin of NKeconwatch aptly put it, a year ago:
He has also just posted a warning of this new threat:

In short: Be careful what you click on.

Aidan Foster-Carter
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University, UK

Forwarded message ———-
From: David L <>
To: “” <>
Date: Thu, 12 May 2011 00:58:07 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: final draft

It’s been a long time since I last corresponded with you.
How have you been? I hope everything is well with you, your family.
Finally, The final draft was complete yesterday.
It will be announced next Month after collecting more opinions from experts in the field.
The Current Situation and Future Prospects in Northeast Asia : JAPAN, NORTH KOREA, SOUTH KOREA, CHINA ( XX is added at the end to prevent anyone from accidentally linking to the server).

I look forward to sharing my insights with you once I receive your assessment.
I hope to hear from you soon .

Sincerely Yours,

David in Japan

Time to Shift from Tension to Talks

1 02 2011

By Tong Kim (Nautilus Institute, Policy Forum, January 27, 2010)

It is far more comforting to talk about talks than to discuss the dangers of war on the Korean Peninsula. Last year was full of tensions and confrontations between the North and South, which culminated in the sinking of the Cheonan ship by an alleged North Korean torpedo, an exchange of artillery fire over Yeonpyeong Island and an ensuing escalation of readiness for war.

The beginning of this year brings a new momentum for resuming talks with North Korea.  Talks, if held, will be about avoiding provocations, keeping peace and stability, improving inter-Korean relations, and ultimately dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programs. We don’t know whether this rare momentum will be harnessed for a breakthrough, or if it will be left to wither away. However, this momentum did not come out of the blue.

Perhaps the tipping point from tension to talks was reached when the North chose not to fire back—contrary to its dire warnings of a nuclear war—in response to the December 20th  live fire drills by South Korean forces. The South had nonetheless continued its intense military exercises to demonstrate its ability to retaliate against future provocations by the North. These drills caused concerns in Beijing and Washington that the South might be foolhardy in militarily confronting the unpredictable North.

A crack in Seoul’s posture appeared when President Lee Myung-bak made conflicting comments on North Korea during his year-end reports to the Ministries of Unification and Foreign Affairs. At this point Lee may have concluded that he had adequately addressed public calls for a stronger posture against North Korean provocation, but realized that resolute security alone would not be enough to resolve the North Korean issue.

However, some of Lee’s statements deserve further consideration: “There should not always be military confrontation between the North and South. We should also work for the settlement of peace through inter-Korean dialogue.” (Dec. 29 to the Unification Minister) “We should not be discussing unification by absorption. The North Korean nuclear issue should be resolved through the Six-Party Talks during the year 2011, because North Korea aims at becoming a ‘strong and prosperous nation’ in 2012… Judging from the Yeonpyeong incident, unification is a distant story.” (Dec. 29 to the Foreign Minister)

Even with the positive spin of these statements, the Lee government is still seen as shunning genuine dialogue with the North Korean regime. President Lee’s ministers and advisors are determined to wait for an eventual collapse of the Kim royal family and a “peaceful democratic unification,” for which Lee urges his people to work toward with neighboring countries China and Russia. The Unification Ministry said it plans to work “with the people in the North to precipitate the process of unification”, meaning to turn them against the Kim Jong Il regime. Given the strict surveillance system of North Korean society, few believe this strategy will work. George W. Bush had rhetorically tried to differentiate the North Korean people from their rulers, but that only produced an adverse impact on U.S. negotiations with the North Korean government…

…So the question then is: what do we negotiate for? There are some pragmatic views that even a limited settlement to freeze and contain Pyongyang’s program from expansion and proliferation would be worth trying. For example Ferial Saeed, a State Department official, wrote a paper to argue for the usefulness of “A Nuclear Pause” while she was assigned to the National Defense University last year,

Conservative skeptics and supporters of the Lee government want to discard the latest North Korean overtures as a typical peace offensive that follows provocative brinksmanship. They warn that the latest North Korean offer of unconditional talks is a calculated strategy that intends: (1) to portray the South as the party causing instability; (2) to drive a wedge between the South and the United States; (3) to exacerbate internal bickering in the South; (4) to extricate itself from the condemnation for its provocations; and possibly (5) to move on with its domestic agenda for the completion of succession and for the 100th birthday of its founder Kim Il Song in 2012,(which would be difficult if not impossible to achieve without improved relations with the South and economic assistance from the South).

The skeptics do not completely rule out the utility of dialogue. Nevertheless, they do not believe Seoul should respond to Pyongyang’s call, unless Pyongyang apologizes for the sinking of the Cheonan ship and the Yeonpyeong Island incident. In their view, North Korea should be punished, not rewarded with talks and assistance for its bad behavior. Yet, some of them argue that the Lee government must carry out a skillfully balanced, reenergized two-track policy of confrontation and dialogue.

Progressive critics of President Lee’s North Korea policy welcome Pyongyang’s offer for talks, as they believe: (1) dialogue can diffuse the tension and help prevent further deterioration of the security situation; (2) there has reemerged a loose international consensus that the North Korean issue should be resolved through dialogue; (3) the six-party talks may be resumed against or regardless of Seoul’s position—the government could be left out of the process of starting the talks by the powerful dynamics of super-powers’ interests; (4) Koreans on both sides must take an initiative in the resolution of their own issues to create the most favorable environment for international cooperation; and (5) the Lee government should stop its hostile policy—which has only brought the inter-Korean relationship to its lowest point in the past 20 years—and go back to the engagement policy of the past governments of Roh Tae Woo, Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun…

…It is understandable that Washington does not want to undermine its strategic relations with its allies in South Korea and Japan over the issue of North Korean nuclear programs. Washington does not seem to have decided whether to keep or change its ineffective policy of waiting or “strategic patience.” The countries in the region do not wish to see a revival of the old Cold War divide between the camp of the United States and its two major allies and the opposing camp of China and North Korea, joined by Russia.

There are several bilateral issues between these countries, which complicate the multilateral task of dealing with North Korea. The issue of North Korea imposes a common challenge for the six parties concerned. Inter-Korean cooperation remains a prerequisite to any successful negotiation. In this context, the Obama administration should seriously consider some measures to nudge the Seoul government towards dialogue with the North. China appears to have done its part on North Korea.

Dialogue with the North Koreans is not an award for their bad behavior. And anyway, it is better to talk about talks than to talk about war on the Korean Peninsula.

* Tong Kim, visiting professor at the University of North Korean Studies and adjunct professor at SAIS Johns Hopkins University

See the full text of this article here…

Also by Tong Kim:   Obama Can Disarm Nuclear North Korea (23 Jan.2011 The Korea Times)