PN's Voice 49

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PN's Voice 49, 07-07-2015
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PN's Voice No. 49  07. 07. 2015 
Small steps, Road to peace


Ex-First Lady to Visit N. Korea in Early August

Lee Hee-Ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-Jung, has set plans to visit North Korea in early August in a move expected to help improve the strained inter-Korean ties, aides to the late president said on Monday. Lee Hee-Ho, 93, who was the South's first lady during Kim's five-year tenure until 2003, plans to visit the reclusive country on August 5th-8th, arriving via plane, according to officials from the Kim Dae-Jung Peace Center. The announcement came as five representatives from the center returned home earlier in the day after visiting the North's border city of Kaesong to set the specifics for Lee's trip. "We hope that Lee's visit could serve as a good occasion to help improve inter-Korean relations and promote cooperation," Kim Sung-Jae, an official at the center, told reporters at a checkpoint near the inter-Korean border. Her itinerary includes a visit to a children's hospital and a nursery facility in Pyongyang and Mt. Myohyang in North Pyongan Province, north of Pyongyang.

Lee's planned visit has won much attention amid high prospects that she may meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. But Kim Sung-Jae said nothing has been decided over whether Lee could meet with the North's leader. The North proposed that the ex-first lady arrive in the country by plane in consideration of her age and health conditions, he added. Lee's late husband was the architect of the "sunshine" policy that actively pushed cross-border exchanges and reconciliation. He held the first inter-Korean summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in 2000. At that time, she accompanied her husband to Pyongyang. If she makes a trip to Pyongyang next month, it would mark the first time since December 2011 when she last visited the North, with Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-Eun to pay condolences to the death of Kim Jong-Il. Lee first expressed her wish to visit the North last October to provide knit hats, scarves and clothes to North Korean children, but she had to postpone her trip due to cold winter weather. She sent a wreath of flowers in December last year to the North to mark the third anniversary of the death of the current leader's father, Kim Jong-Il. In response, the North's young leader said in a letter that he was "looking forward to having Lee in Pyongyang once the weather got warmer in 2015."

The planned visit comes amid chilled inter-Korean ties as the North has sharpened its verbal attacks against the South following the opening of a U.N. field office in Seoul tasked with monitoring Pyongyang's dismal human rights records. The North warned that Seoul will face catastrophic fallout in inter-Korean ties due to the U.N. move. However, analysts in Seoul say whether the visit will lead to improvements in relations between the two Koreas mainly depends on the possible meeting between Kim and Lee. “If South Korean President Park Geun-Hye sends a message to the North through Lee and if she meets with Kim Jong-Un during the trip, it could serve as an important foundation for restoring the inter-Korean ties. But if there is no such message and the meeting does not happen, it will be just a personal event,” said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at University of North Korea Studies. Some are skeptical about whether Lee can play such a role. Chang Yong-Seok, senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification, said receiving Park’s message might not be Pyongyang’s motive for inviting Lee. “It is designed to promote Kim Jong-Un’s attempt at improving inter-Korean ties and to strengthen his image as a leader supporting unification,” said Chang.

The Unification Ministry said that it plans to actively provide necessary support to help make Lee's visit a success. Any trip by South Koreans to North Korea requires the South Korean government's approval along with the North's consent.
Source : Voice of America, Yonhap News


UNESCO Decision Hailed as Victory for History Issues

Seoul and the international community welcomed the news that a group of Japanese industrial sites gained UNESCO world heritage status Sunday, under the condition that Tokyo acknowledged that Koreans were forced to work under harsh conditions in some of the locations during the 1940s. The World Heritage Committee designated a group of 23 Meiji Revolution industrial sites as world heritage sites on Sunday at its ongoing 39th session in Bonn, Germany.

Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se said in a press briefing after the classification late Sunday in Seoul, “I am glad that a decision on the world heritage designation of Japan’s modern industrial sites in the 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee was made faithfully reflecting our legitimate concerns.” He added that the process adhered to Korea’s principle of “reflecting historical facts as they are” and also showed that “Korea and Japan were able to avoid extreme confrontation and solve the problem through dialogue.”

After Japan proposed the industrial sites mainly in Japan’s southwest - including coal mines, steel mills and a fortress island - be designated world heritage sites, Seoul voiced concerns since they included seven facilities where 57,900 Koreans were forced to work in the 1940s, often under conditions of maltreatment and abuse. These concerns were addressed by Kuni Sato, Japan’s ambassador to UNESCO, when he said the following at the World Heritage Committee session: “There was a large number of Koreans who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions in the 1940s at some of the sites.” Sato also said that Japan will also take steps to help commemorate the victims, including setting up an information center at related sites, and the committee will check on the progress through a report at the end of 2017.

However, the Japanese media reported on Monday that Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida argued that the wording “forced to work” is different from that of “forced labor.” There was further controversy when the media pointed out that the Japanese translation of the statement left out the word “forced.” Seoul has already spoken out to try and calm fears that Japan will backtrack on its acknowledgment. A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said that "We would like to say that the English version is official" and Japan wouldn’t be able to reverse their acknowledgement of its past wrongdoings.
Source : KBS News, Yonhap News, The JoongAng Daily


A Dozen Senior N. Korean Officials Defect

Reports emerging yesterday stated that a group of high-ranking North Korean officials have reportedly fled to the South amid growing anxiety over Kim Jong-Un's brutal reign of terror. This latest group of defections means that about a dozen senior North Korean officials have defected in recent years. The most recent defections included a high-ranking official in charge of Pyongyang's munitions industry. Reports revealed that this one defector was able to give the South Korean government considerable information on the North's nuclear power and missile industry. Another official from the North's ruling Workers' Party, who was in charge of supervising a military industrial area, is also reported as having defected to the South. On Friday, it was reported that Park Seung-Won, a three-star general of the North Korean People's Armed Forces, escaped and arrived in the South via Russia in April. Park attended the inter-Korean defense chiefs' talks in 2000 on Jeju Island as the official ranked second in command. Three high-ranking officials of the ruling Workers' Party, in charge of managing Kim's secret funds, also allegedly came to the South. The Ministry of Unification refused to confirm the defections.

Experts on North Korea say that Kim's reign of terror might have prompted a series of defections by high-ranking officials. "They probably felt insecure because Kim has executed a number of high-level officials who offended his eyes, even slightly," said Park Young-Ho, senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification. "The defectors might have been related to those purged, and believed that they would be the next targeted for execution. The defections were probably motivated by self-preservation." This view seems to be verified by the thoughts of a former mid-ranking North Korean official who worked for the office that handled Kim Jong-Un’s slush fund, defected earlier this year. He reportedly told investigators in the South that he was terrified of Kim's draconian purges, which saw senior officials executed by anti-aircraft gun, and that officials left in North Korea find it almost impossible to flee because of tight controls but those working overseas can find some opportunities to defect.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) confirmed in May that Hyon Yong-Chol, the chief of the People's Armed Forces, was killed by anti-aircraft gunfire on April 30 for dozing off during a military meeting presided over by Kim and failing to obey his instructions. Others executed included Ri Yong-ho, former vice marshal, and Jang Song-Thaek, the No. 2 man in Kim's regime and the leader's uncle. They were killed in 2012 and 2013, respectively. According to the NIS, about 70 officials have been purged during Kim's dictatorship so far.

Despite these defections experts on North Korea don’t believe that this exodus will lead to the collapse of the regime. Experts such as Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University and Chang Yong-Seok, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, suggest that the recent outflow may continue in the future as more officials, terrified of Kim's "reign of terror", are likely to renounce their allegiance to the Pyongyang regime. However, experts stressed that the terror-driven exodus may not immediately lead to a collapse of the Kim regime although it is likely to resort to military provocations outside the country in order to quell potential political instability inside. "If Kim's reign of terror prolongs, his governing style could bring about an instability in the communist country," said Jung Sang-Don, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA). "Then, there is a possibility that North Korea could make provocations in a bid to tide over its internal problems." Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, also dismissed the view that a series of defections by officials meant instability in Kim's regime, saying that there have been no signs of abnormal activities among the North Korean military power or other citizens.
Source : Yonhap News, The Korea Times


N. Korea Threats to Develop Striking Means Against THAAD

North Korea on Friday vowed to develop cutting-edge striking means and bolster its nuclear deterrence against the possible deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system in South Korea. Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling Workers' Party's official newspaper, said in an editorial that the country will develop its own style of state of the art striking means as it closely observes the U.S. plan to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea. The paper also said that if THAAD is deployed on Korean soil, it will break the strategic balance among neighboring countries surrounding South Korea and the U.S. and increase military risks.

The North also warned that if a conflict occurs, South Korea will be the first target of neighboring countries as it is a major nuclear base for the United States. The editorial blasted Washington for dividing the Korean people and putting the two Koreas at the risk of war for the past 70 years to realize U.S. hegemony.
Meanwhile, Philip Coyle, a former senior official in the US Defense Department who was in charge of testing the performance of new weapons has stated his belief that THAAD would not be suitable for South Korea. Coyle expressed his agreement with the analysis of the Hankyoreh and American scholars who raised questions about the performance of THAAD. Coyle also warned that deploying THAAD to the Korean Peninsula would launch an arms race with North Korea and China. During a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh at the end of last month, Philip Coyle, former director of Operational Test and Evaluation at the Pentagon, was asked to assess an analysis of the performance of THAAD interceptors carried out by Theodore Postol, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and George Lewis, a researcher at the Cornell University Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. Coyle said he agreed with the doubts Postol and Lewis raised about THAAD’s capability. Coyle said that another shortcoming of the US missile defense system is the fact that it is incredibly expensive for the US to produce its missile defense systems, but extremely cheap for North Korea to make its missiles. This makes it difficult to deploy enough THAAD interceptors to protect against all of North Korea’s Scud and Rodong missiles.

Despite these defections experts on North Korea don’t believe that this exodus will lead to the collapse of the regime. Experts such as Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University and Chang Yong-Seok, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, suggest that the recent outflow may continue in the future as more officials, terrified of Kim's "reign of terror", are likely to renounce their allegiance to the Pyongyang regime. However, experts stressed that the terror-driven exodus may not immediately lead to a collapse of the Kim regime although it is likely to resort to military provocations outside the country in order to quell potential political instability inside. "If Kim's reign of terror prolongs, his governing style could bring about an instability in the communist country," said Jung Sang-Don, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA). "Then, there is a possibility that North Korea could make provocations in a bid to tide over its internal problems." Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, also dismissed the view that a series of defections by officials meant instability in Kim's regime, saying that there have been no signs of abnormal activities among the North Korean military power or other citizens.
Source : The Hankyoreh, KBS News


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