PN's Voice 26

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PN's Voice 26, 19-01-2015
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PN's Voice 26, 19.01.2015
Small steps, Road to peace


Seoul, Tokyo set for ‘Comfort Women’ Talks

Seoul’s foreign ministry announced that South Korea and Japan are to hold talks today on Tokyo's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II; one of the thorniest issues for Japanese- South Korean relations.

Lee Sang-Deok, Seoul's chief delegate to the talks, plans to meet with his Japanese counterpart, Junichi Ihara, later today in Tokyo in their sixth round of talks to discuss the issue of "comfort women," according to the foreign ministry.

In April, the two historical rivals launched the talks on the sex slavery, but no major progress has been made as Japan has been reluctant to sincerely apologize for the issue. The meeting comes as the two countries are seeking to improve their strained ties as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of their bilateral relations. 2015 also marks the 70th anniversary of Seoul's liberation from Tokyo's colonial rule in 1945.

South Korea’s anger towards Japan on this unresolved issue of Japan’s refusal to atone for its historical wrongdoings is visible in South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s refusal to hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since she took office in early 2013. In her new year press conference last week, Park repeatedly urged Japan to face up to history, warning that the issue could be a "big burden" on Japan unless it is quickly resolved.

Seoul-Tokyo ties have plunged to the lowest levels in recent years mainly due to the sex slavery issue. Historians estimate the number of such sex slaves at about 200,000 with only 55 South Korean victims alive today.

In June of last year, Japan enraged both Seoul and Beijing, both victims of Tokyo's wartime aggression, by saying that its 1993 apology over the sex slavery issue, named the Kono Statement, was the outcome of a political compromise between Seoul and Tokyo.

Abe said he will express remorse over Japan's role in the war in his fresh statement that will come in mid-August to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II. However, analysts predict that the premier is not likely to apologize for the sex slavery issue and may water down the spirit of Japan's 1995 apology for Japan's colonial rule, named the Murayama Statement.
Source : Yonhap News


S. Korea to Redouble Efforts to Prep for Unification

The South Korean government announced today that it plans to ramp up efforts to prepare for unification and seek dialogue with North Korea on a variety of cooperative projects this year. The unification, foreign and defense ministries said in their joint policy report to President Park Geun-Hye for this year that they plan to push for a trial run of a rail line connecting Seoul to the North Korean cities of Pyongyang and Sinuiju and try to enact a law to lay the foundation for the peaceful reunification of the divided Korean Peninsula.

"The government has set this year as a starting point for widening discussion over unification and making progress in inter-Korean relations as it marks the 70th anniversary of independence from Japanese colonial rule, as well as the South-North division," a unification ministry official said.

The unification ministry official added that South Korea urges North Korea responds to an offer for the resumption of inter-Korean talks, referring to Seoul's overture in late December, so the two countries can have a chance to discuss these issues in detail.

Under the policy plan, Seoul will also push for a variety of joint inter-Korean commemorative events to mark the 70th anniversary of what are now the two Koreas' independence in 1945 from Japan's colonial rule. Additionally, the South also plans to set up Korean cultural centers in Seoul and Pyongyang to induce better cultural exchanges, as well as other joint projects with the North related to humanitarian assistance, environment and culture as part of the unification preparatory efforts.

However, despite these fence-mending attempts, a defense official confirmed that South Korea will go ahead with its annual joint military exercises with the United States this year, rejecting the North's recent calls for scrapping them:

"(The government) maintains its stance that joint South Korea-U.S. exercises should be carried out continually and consistently ... because they are a core part of strong national defense capacity building," the defense official said, adding that "for that reason, the defense ministry cannot accept North Korea's calls over joint South Korea-U.S. exercises."

Two major joint Seoul-Washington military drills, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are scheduled to kick off in South Korea next month. The 2015 policy plan by the South Korean ministries comes as inter-Korean relations still remain mired in a long stalemate.
Source : The Korea Herald, Yonhap News


N. Korea Repeats Calls to Cancel Military Drills

In an apparent show of its desire for talks with Washington, North Korea has repeated its calls to cancel the annual South Korea-U.S. military drills in return for its nuclear moratorium. In a rare media interview on Friday, Hyon Hak-Bong, the North’s ambassador to the UK, reiterated Pyongyang’s stance against the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercises to begin next month, saying the North was ready to take “responsible steps” to temporarily suspend its nuclear tests.

Washington has already dismissed Pyongyang’s proposal as an “implicit threat,” as it is exploring the full range of tools at its disposal ― as Sung Kim, a top U.S. envoy on North Korea policy, said, to get the North to change its course and stop its “destructive” policy choices.

Seoul and Washington said they would press ahead with the “defense” drills. Seoul stressed that the issues of holding dialogue with Pyongyang and staging the annual drills should be “separate.” The North has long opposed the drills, arguing that they are a rehearsal for a “nuclear war of invasion” against it.
Raising the pressure on the U.S. to accept the North’s proposal, Hyon also warned that no progress in any dialogue would be made and there would only be a threat of a nuclear war should there be military drills against an “interlocutor.” Noting that in 1992, the U.S. stopped the allies’ “Team Spirit” exercise following North Korea’s demand, Hyon also said, “It is time for the U.S. to make a bold decision for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

On Sunday, the Rodong Sinmum, the daily of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, also demanded that the U.S. cancel the drills. It argued that without suspending the plan for the drills, actual dialogue between the two Koreas and between the U.S. and North Korea would be impossible.

“Should the U.S. cancel the drills as we proposed, there will be remarkable progress on the efforts to secure peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also in Northeast Asia,” the daily said in a commentary.
Source : The Korea Herald


North Korean Camp Survivor Shin Dong-Hyuk Changes Story

Shin Dong-Hyuk, a North Korean prison camp escapee, who is now a high-profile human rights campaigner and even testified in front of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, has apologized for inaccuracies in his story. Shin, 32, was the subject of a best-selling book after he fled North Korea in 2005. The book described how Mr Shin was tortured, and his relatives killed. On Saturday, the author said that although the key elements of Mr Shin's accounts were correct, the time and date of some events were wrong:
"From a human rights perspective, he was still brutally tortured, but he moved things around," Blaine Harden, the author, told the Washington Post.

Mr Shin was born inside a North Korean labour camp. He said that he spent 23 years in captivity before his escape, and that during his time inside, he was starved, tortured and saw his mother and brother executed. He managed to flee after climbing through an electric fence, and eventually settled in South Korea. Mr Harden wrote about Mr Shin's experiences in his book Escape from Camp 14, which became a best-seller and was translated into 27 languages.

On Saturday, Mr Harden said he had learned that Mr Shin "had told friends an account of his life that differed substantially from my book", and spoke to Mr Shin to clarify the changes. One inaccuracy in Mr Shin's account was where his mother and brother were executed, the Washington Post said. In the book, Mr Shin had said that they were killed in Camp 14, a prison camp in North Korea. However, Mr Shin now said that the execution took place while they were in another camp, known as Camp 18.

In his original account, Mr Shin had also described being burned and tortured when he was 13, after he was suspected of plotting an escape. However, Mr Shin now says that that torture occurred when he was 20, the Washington Post said.

Shin, told Harden that he was “very sorry about all this mess.” “When I agreed to share my experience for the book, I found it was too painful to think about some of the things that happened,” Harden quoted Shin as saying. “So I made a compromise in my mind. I altered some details that I thought wouldn’t matter. I didn’t want to tell exactly what happened in order not to relive these painful moments all over again.”

North Korea has previously sought to discredit Mr Shin, including releasing a video of Mr Shin's father saying that his son had never been in a labour camp, and there’s little doubt that the North will attempt to seize on these revisions to try to portray all accounts of human rights abuses as fabrications. Human rights experts have argued that the inaccuracies in Mr Shin's account are minor, and do not alter the extent of the torture he suffered.
Source : BBC, The Washington Post


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