06/04/2021 News & Commentary – Korea

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs

1. FDD Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: Late May KOREA

2. The North Korea Threat Is Growing. U.S.-South Korea Military Training Must Press Forward.

3. HRNK Letter to Her Excellency Ms Siobhán Mullally (north Korean Human Rights)

4. Could More Powerful South Korean Ballistic Missiles Actually Help North Korea?

5. N. Korea expert says WPK turned into “Kim Jong-un party” with amendment in party rules

6. South Korea’s Military Is Shrinking and Some Say Women Must Answer the Call of Duty

7. FM meets U.S. senators, discusses alliance issues

8. Moon visits S. Korea’s spy agency for briefing on its reform steps

9. Kim Jong-un’s disappearance from public view stokes speculation

10. UN may probe possible sanctions violations by South Korean firms involving oil tanker transfer to North Korea

11. North Korea places Yanggang Province village under seven-day lockdown in late May

12. North Korea’s Ninth Corps lets soldiers go home on “grain leave”

13. Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s sister, likely being formally elevated in secretive N.K. regime

14. South Korea’s cultural spats with China are growing more intense

15.  An Economic Blueprint for North Korea

16. Guessing game: Will Kim’s sister become his No 2?

17. Why North Korea is facing a major food shortage that could lead to the death of millions

18. North Korea Restricts Local Markets, Pushing Sales in State-Owned Stores

 

1. FDD Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: Late May KOREA

FDD · by David Maxwell and Mathew Ha

 

2.  The North Korea Threat Is Growing. U.S.-South Korea Military Training Must Press Forward.

19fortyfive.com · by David Maxwell · June 3, 2021

My latest essay. It focuses on combined training, the post summit statements from South Korea on cancelling or scaling back training, and the statements from north Korea that it no longer seeks unification by revolution. Needless to say, I take both Moon and Kim to task.

 

3. HRNK Letter to Her Excellency Ms Siobhán Mullally (north Korean Human Rights) 

HRNK  · by Greg Scarlatoiu, Amanda Mortwedt Oh, Rick Herssevoort, and Damian Reddy
 

4. Could More Powerful South Korean Ballistic Missiles Actually Help North Korea?

thediplomat.com · by A. B. Abrams · June 3, 2021

Interesting analysis.  I think the author is slightly overreaching or overthinking on alliance issues.

Excerpts:While an unrestricted South Korean ballistic missile program may initially appear to threaten the North, with which Seoul and Washington have been technically at war for over 70 years, assessing the full implications of a less restricted South Korea missile program indicates it may in fact strengthen Pyongyang’s position for multiple reasons.

First, the existing range restrictions for South Korean missiles already allow it to field munitions that can strike anywhere on the Korean Peninsula with warheads of any size – with its latest missiles deploying exceptionally large two ton warheads. This means a lifting of restrictions may not actually have any notable impact on the South’s ability to strike the North, in contrast to the previous loosening of restrictions in 2012 and 2017.

The lifting of missile restrictions notably comes as part of a growing trend toward greater autonomy for South Korea’s armed forces, with Seoul expected to gain wartime operational command over its military in 2022, when a decades-long arrangement that placed its assets under U.S. wartime command comes to an end. This trend could well lead to a reduced dependence on Washington for protection, and in turn provide Seoul with greater room to conduct policy independently. This has particularly significant implications for its relations with China and North Korea.

While Pyongyang will protest the possibility of an expanded South Korean ballistic missile deterrent, and will seek to use Washington’s green light to an expansion of Seoul’s arsenal and capabilities to highlight the double standards under which its own arsenal has been condemned, in the medium term North Korea’s position is likely to only be strengthened. The extent to which Seoul may seek to increasingly assert its independence from Washington as the country takes greater responsibility for its own defense, as trade with China becomes increasingly central to its economic interests, and as the economic benefits of potential rapprochement with Pyongyang remain alluring, is yet to be seen.

 

5. N. Korea expert says WPK turned into “Kim Jong-un party” with amendment in party rules

Hani · by Lee Je-hun,

This is playing right into the regime’s political warfare strategy.  All the pundits are coming out with their analysis that the scorpion of the Kim family regime has been able to change its nature.  This can contribute to splitting the ROK/US alliance and will also be used as ammunition by those who believe we should appease north Korea.

Words have meaning. Omitted words may have no meaning.  No one should be duped by this or take it as gospel unless there are substantive actions to back the words (or the omissions).  The only way for me to believe this would have any credibility would be for the regime to come out and tell the Korean people in the north that it has been wrong for 70+ years and that pursuit of unification by revolution was only a pipe dream.  The regime would have to undo 70 years of indoctrination (and again admit it was wrong).  If it does not try to do that, this recent announcement about the change in party rules is not credible and is only part of its political warfare strategy and its intent is trying to generate responses such as the one below.

 

6. South Korea’s Military Is Shrinking and Some Say Women Must Answer the Call of Duty

WSJ

I have observed many extremely competent women in the Korean Special Warfare Command.

Video here and here.

But this article covers more than just the theoretical.  It discusses very real problems that currently exist in the ROK military.

 

7. FM meets U.S. senators, discusses alliance issues

en.yna.co.kr · by 오석민 · June 4, 2021

The ROK peace agenda.  Yes, we should all want peace (I certainly do). But we should not seek it at the expense of the security of the ROK and the protection of US strategic interests.  We need to always consider the nature, objectives, and the strategy of the Kim family regime.  And we should remember the importance of deterrence and peace through strength.  

Excerpts: “He asked for the continued congressional support for Seoul’s peace efforts with North Korea.

Later in the day, Defense Minister Suh Wook also met with the senators and discussed ways to cooperate for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a permanent peace, according to the defense ministry.

Suh said the Korea-U.S.alliance and the combined defense posture are stronger than ever before, and expressed gratitude for the congressional support and the senators vowed continued backing for peninsula peace and the alliance, the ministry said.

 

8. Moon visits S. Korea’s spy agency for briefing on its reform steps

en.yna.co.kr · by 이치동 · June 4, 2021

Excerpts: The president replied that the NIS is now back as an intelligence agency for the state and the people, and called on it to become a “future-oriented” body faithful to its duty.

“The NIS will not go back to the past,” Moon was quoted as saying by Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.

The reform measures represent the “precious fruit” of NIS officials’ dedicated efforts and the government’s strong will, which would serve as a brilliant milestone in its history, he added.

He recalled his previous visit to the NIS in July 2018, during which he pledged to guarantee its “political neutrality” without using it for political purposes. He said he has kept that promise.

The president expected the agency to help advance South Korea’s emergence as a “pacesetting” nation via intelligence activities in the cyber and aerospace sectors.

 

9. Kim Jong-un’s disappearance from public view stokes speculation

koreaherald.com · by Ahn Sung-mi · June 4, 2021

I would not get too worked up about this.  We go through this periodically.  Yes we need to be observing for indicators and be ready for any contingency. However, based on past history we will see him again sooner or later.

 

10. UN may probe possible sanctions violations by South Korean firms involving oil tanker transfer to North Korea

The Korea Times  · by Nam Hyun-woo · June 4, 2021

Excerpts: “The allegations were raised in a June 1 report released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), an arm of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a U.S.-based think tank. The report said that Pyongyang had added two new vessels to its fleet for smuggling oil from China, which were previously owned by South Korean companies.

 

Of those tankers, the report said the Shin Pyong 5 was owned by Young Sung Global, a small shipper based in Busan, South Korea, before it was transferred to North Korea. The Shin Pyong 5, which is a 1,579 ton tanker, had been renamed Woojeong in 2019 when its last communication transmission was logged.

The AMTI report noted that the tankers made their way to the North via South Korean brokers to China, although the brokers “were reticent to give further information on the sales.” It added that the U.N. resolutions prohibit both the “direct and indirect” transfer of sanctioned materials and assets to the North, and whether or not the South Korean brokers breached resolutions may rest on what due diligence they conducted into the China-based buyers.

 

11. North Korea places Yanggang Province village under seven-day lockdown in late May

dailynk.com · June 4, 2021

The Anti-Epidemic Command.

Excerpts:What the village’s lockdown shows is that North Korea is mobilizing all possible means at its disposal to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

According to the source, animals crossing into the Sino-North Korean border’s buffer zone are typically killed and the region is locked down. “People’s lives will only get worse if these kinds of measures continue,” he added.

On Thursday, Rodong Sinmun called for efforts to secure the “perfection” of the country’s COVID-19 quarantine efforts. On Wednesday, the paper called for “thorough” organizational and political efforts to prevent even the “slightest crack” in quarantine efforts.

 

12. North Korea’s Ninth Corps lets soldiers go home on “grain leave”

dailynk.com · by Jeong Tae Joo · June 4, 2021

Again, this is not a new edict. 

Indicators that bear watching to determine loss of coherency within the military and potential instability.

Excerpts: “In early May, an order handed down by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pointed out that “soldiers are in a perilous state of nutrition” and directed military units to ensure that “soldiers be given at least one bean-based meal a day [such as pureed soybeans or soy milk].”

This was essentially a warning from the country’s supreme leader that “commanders who fail to feed [soldiers] beans will be punished without mercy.” Naturally, this lit a fire under military corps commanders with woefully insufficient stores of beans.

 

13. Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s sister, likely being formally elevated in secretive N.K. regime

washingtontimes.com · by Guy Taylor

We are still speculating on the implications of the announcements and what is really happening inside north Korea.  It will likely be some time before we can make a definitive assessment.

 

14. South Korea’s cultural spats with China are growing more intense

The Economist · June 3, 2021

China should be wary of upsetting the Korean people over such things as Kimchi.

Excerpts: “Young people take a particularly dim view of China, especially when compared with other neighbours and America. “I know that eating mala soup or going to shops run by Chinese-Koreans will benefit the Chinese Communist Party eventually,” says Kim Woo-jin, a 25-year-old from Seoul. Ms Kim, the polling analyst, is not surprised. Young people “don’t know as much about China as about, say, America, so they make fewer distinctions between the country, the people and the government,” she says.

The discontent is, for now, limited to the low-stakes cultural realms of food and television. Popular views of China have little bearing on the South Korean government’s carefully calibrated diplomacy, casting China as an important strategic partner while stressing the centrality of the security alliance with America. Even Chinese officials have made the occasional conciliatory noise about the origins of kimchi. Chinese shop-owners and restaurateurs in Seoul report no signs of a boycott like the one that hit Japanese brands and noodle joints during a spat two years ago.

 

15. An Economic Blueprint for North Korea

The National Interest · by Krishna B. Kumar · June 3, 2021

Reform is not a word in the north Korean (or more specifically, the Kim family regime) vocabulary.  Look to the history of China trying to influence the regime to implement Chinese style economic reforms.  They have had no success in doing so.

But I think we (and specifically South Korea) would be better served by planning for the economic integration during the unification process.  As long as the Kim family regime remains in power there is probably a less than zero chance of any real reform.

Excerpts: “Highlighting the mutual benefits that could accrue to a government in power and its people could even make it consider reforms unilaterally. The RAND study recommends the formalization of jangmadang, informal markets that have proliferated across North Korea since the failure of its public distribution system after the famine of the 1990s. The communist regime tolerates the existence of these market institutions out of necessity, and owners often bribe officials to ensure continued operation. Formalization could empower the shop owners while creating tax revenues for the government. The rise of the donju class of traders and businessmen willing to invest in larger enterprises makes less far-fetched the possibility of market reforms in North Korea.

Likewise, firming up dispute resolution mechanisms in special economic zones, in which much of existing foreign investment and industrial activity occurs in North Korea, easing restrictions, and protecting investment, has the potential to create much-needed jobs for North Korean workers, revenues for the government, and returns to foreign investors.

It would be simplistic to think that developing detailed blueprints for economic development could on its own cut through decades of conflict and mistrust, triggering political and economic reform. But by expanding the terms of the debate and highlighting the mutual benefits that could accrue to the various parties it might move the needle on peace by just a bit. Imagine that.

 

16. Guessing game: Will Kim’s sister become his No 2?

asiatimes.com · by Bradley K. Martin · June 3, 2021

Kim Yo-jong is probably the only one who could survive being “No.s 2” for any significant amount of time.  I would not want to be a “No. 2” in north Korea.

 

17. Why North Korea is facing a major food shortage that could lead to the death of millions

The Telegraph · by Julian Ryall

The short answer: Kim Jong-un’s deliberate policy decisions to prioritize his nuclear program, the military, and support to the elite over the welfare of the Korean people living in the north.

Will China bail out the regime?

Excerpts: “Analysts say that to avoid a repeat of that tragedy, the North now has little choice but to appeal to China, its sole major ally, for food assistance, although there are no indications that Pyongyang is ready to reopen its border yet.

“The border with China must be opened and the existing controls must be relaxed to ensure that sufficient food can enter the country,” the South Korean report said.

“North Korea must also request large-scale food assistance from the international community, which must be forthcoming, even in these difficult times.”

 

18. North Korea Restricts Local Markets, Pushing Sales in State-Owned Stores

rfa.org  Jeong Yon Park

The regime cannot tolerate any aspect of freedom and that includes economic freedom. We have seen for the past year the regime use COVID as an excuse to further oppress the Korean people living in the north.

This is why some of us believe that if these conditions persist the people could suffer on a scale much worse than the Arduous March of the famine or 1994-1996.

 

————-

 

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn

 

“To live is to war with trolls.”

– Henrik Ibsen

 

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”

– Max Lucade

DanielRiggs
Fri, 06/04/2021 – 9:38am

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