ROK and Inter-Korean relations
Return to DPRK indexpage
Return to ROK and Inter-Korean relations page
Cabinet minister-nominee resignations raise doubts about new president
Lee Myung-bakís pragmatic ideology favoring ability over morality may have contributed to current situation
"In a nutshell, this is the worst Cabinet line-up ever," a lawmaker of the ruling Grand National Party quipped, referring to President Lee Myung-bakís minister-nominees, three of whom were recently forced to step down amid growing controversy over questionable activities conducted in their personal lives. The Lee administration has said it spent two months choosing the candidates, but the recent resignations have raised the possibility that there may be serious problems with its screening system. [Corruption]
'Neocon' Unification Minister Nominee Resigns
Environment Minister-Designate Also Quits
By Kim Yon-se
Two more Cabinet minister-nominees for the new administration withdrew their nomination Wednesday amid mounting public criticism on allegations that they were involved in illicit speculative real estate trading or enjoyed inappropriate tax breaks.
They are Environment Minister-designate Park Eun-kyung and hawkish Unification Minister-designate Nam Joo-hong.
The move came after Grand National Party (GNP) Chairman Kang Jae-sup advised President Lee Myung-bak to withdraw one or two more nominations during a breakfast meeting. Lee was elected president in December on the GNP's ticket.
Spy Agency 'Broke Rules' in Questioning N.Koreans
The 22 North Koreans found drifting in South Korean waters in the West Sea on Feb. 8 were interrogated by South Korean intelligence agents in groups of five or six, rather than one at a time as regulations require, it was learned on Tuesday.
It was also learned that the North Koreans were returned to their home country after only four or five hours of questioning. North Korea demanded twice that the 22 be returned, it was confirmed.
The National Assembly's Intelligence Committee on Tuesday grilled the National Intelligence Service on suspicions of irregularities involving the return of the North Koreans.
In a briefing after the committee's closed-door meeting, Grand National Party lawmaker Chung Hyung-keun said, "Rules require that refugees be interrogated one by one. Some committee members found fault with (intelligence authorities') interrogations of the (22 North Koreans) in groups -- by fives or sixes each time -- for four to five hours."
Another committee member said, "The NIS interrogated them in groups of five at first, but later switched to individual interrogations to find out if they intended to seek asylum in the South. According to intelligence rules, refugees must be questioned one by one to find out if they intend to defect. Group interrogations are against the rules."
North Korean defectors' organizations claimed that South Korean investigators have used threatening tactics when questioning refugees, and that refugees have been browbeaten in group interrogations into returning to the North. They demanded that it be ascertained whether the investigators used intimidating methods in the latest case.
Lee Myung-bak Sworn in as 17th President
The 17th presidency of Korea started as Lee Myung-bak formally took over presidential authority from former president Roh Moo-hyun at midnight on Monday, with the Bosingak Bell in downtown Seoul tolling the momentous hour. Lee now embarks on a government of pragmatic conservatism after putting an end to the decade-long leftwing rule.
No Inter-Korean Summit for Summit's Sake: Lee
President-elect Lee Myung-bak has said the leaders of the two Koreas "should think about how to improve the lives of their 70 million people." The March 3 issue of Newsweek quoted Lee as saying while a summit could be helpful, "I will not have a formal summit just for the sake of domestic politics."
South Korea's new President vows to upgrade ties with traditional allies
South Korea's new President Lee Myung-bak took office at a ceremony here Monday, vowing to secure peace and prosperity in East Asia through closer partnerships with the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.
Lee Wants Improved Ties With NK
President to Outline Policy Goals During Inauguration Today
By Yoon Won-sup, Kang Hyun-kyung
Lee Myung-bak , who will be sworn in as 17th-term President of Korea today, said Pyongyang does not need to worry over government changes in South Korea as he is fully aware of the need for peace-building and reconciliation on the peninsula
NK Official Suspected of Embezzling Funds From Seoul
By Jung Sung-ki
North Korean authorities have been investigating the chief of a North Korean committee in charge of inter-Korean economic cooperation for months after seizing $20 million from his house, a report said Friday.
Quoting an unidentified Chinese source informed on North Korean affairs, the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said Pyongyang authorities are intensifying their investigation into Jung Woon-eop and 80 other officials of the committee over where the money came from.
South Korean experts on North Korea hinted that the money came from bribes paid by South Korean firms that are operating or want to operate in the joint industrial complex in the North's border city of Gaeseong, according to the newspaper.
Is give-and-take possible in inter-Korean economic cooperation?
Park Heung-ryeol, Chairman of the South-North Korea Exchange and Cooperation Support Association
If we were to summarize the criticism of the South Korean governmentís policy on North Korea over the past decade, we could say it was an "all-carrots, no-stick" approach. In the Korean language, this phrase has the dual meaning of "one giving to another as one pleases, with no regrets" and "one-sided" giving. Therefore, advocates of the Southís sunshine policy toward North Korea have been vulnerable to the criticism, even as they were eager to develop a logical defense.
Recently, the critics have strongly argued that the approach to inter-Korean economic cooperation projects should change from one of "all-carrots" to one of "give-and-take." They claim that business between South and North Korea should be conducted under the principles of the market economy.
S. Korean Ultra-Right Conservatives' Anti-North Smear Campaign under Fire
Pyongyang, February 22 (KCNA) -- Recently the ultra-right conservative forces of south Korea in collusion with conservative media talked nonsense, asserting that 22 inhabitants from the north adrift near Yonphyong Islet in the West Sea are presumed to be "punished" after they were rescued and repatriated to it. They became vocal crying out for "confirming whether it is true" and letting them know about "the truth". They went the lengths of letting loose a string of vituperation against the north, groundlessly accusing it of "worst human rights performance."
They also asserted that they have "obtained or eavesdropped information" about "suspected diversion" of the food aid to the north to "the military purpose."
A spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, answering the question put by KCNA in this regard on Feb. 21, dismissed this anti-north smear campaign of the ultra-right conservative forces in south Korea as a sheer fabrication devoid of any ground.
He went on:
As far as the above-said shipwrecked inhabitants are concerned, they resolutely brushed aside the sugar-coated words that if they were "defected" to the south, they would receive a large amount of money and lead a happy life, after they were taken away by a patrol boat of the south side. They are now leading a normal life in their homes after coming back to the north.
The story about the "suspected diversion" of food aid to the north to "the military purpose" is nothing but a politically motivated plot as it has never happened and can never take place.
Their talks about "punishment" and "the diversion of food aid to the military purpose" are nothing but charades which can be orchestrated only by those hell-bent on confrontation with the north and rash acts to antagonize the fellow countrymen.
The anti-north smear campaign staged by the pro-U.S. ultra-right conservative forces in south Korea, vilifying even the system in the north, arouses a serious concern about the prospect of the inter-Korean relations as it stripped bare their anti-reunification nature.
We will never overlook the challenge of the anti-north plot-breeding institutions nor tolerate any slightest mud-slinging at the system in the north which represents its highest dignity, in particular.
[Diversion] [Human rights] [Disinformation]
N. Korea denies executions of citizens who crossed border
SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Thursday blasted rumors that its citizens who crossed the sea border into South Korea and who were returned by South Korean authorities earlier this month have been executed, claiming that the people are currently living normal lives, and that the rumor is an "anti-North Korea plot" by South Korea's extreme conservatives.
Two fishing boats carrying 22 North Koreans -- 14 women and eight men including three teenagers -- drifted into western waters off South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island on Feb. 8. The North Koreans were sent back home after South Korean interrogators found they had no intention of defecting, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) said last week. The NIS announcement came only after a local daily reported the return.
[Disinformation] [human rights]
S. Korean foreign minister calls on president-elect to stay the course in resolving N. Korean nuclear issue
Song Min-soon advises perseverance and diplomacy, and maintaining a balance of interests between nations
"Resolving the North Korean nuclear issue and establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula are simultaneously two wheels and two sides of the same coin. Like it or not, we have to move towards peace and overcoming the division (of the peninsula). Think of the nuclear issue like running; instead of being on a 100-meter track, it is more like being in a long-distance competition on roads. The approach needs to befit this. (South) Korea needs to lead with a clear sense of ownership and a clear mindset if the issue is going to be resolved."
Comedian Park Crosses Inter-Korean Border
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Hit entertainer of ``Infinite Challenge,'' Park Myung-soo became the first comedian to cross the Military Demarcation Line by an overland route, Wednesday.
``I heard that I am the first entertainer to cross the border through the land route. It is an honor for my family,'' Park said.
As a part of an OBS program ``Park Myung-soo Meets the CEO,'' Park visited the joint industrial complex in Gaeseong in North Korea. During a one-day trip to the North, he met with South Korean businessmen and workers in the complex.
Unification Minister-Nominee Hardliner on N. Korea
Professor Nam Joo-hong
By Jung Sung-ki
Progressive civic groups criticized President-elect Lee Myung-bak's nomination of Professor Nam Joo-hong as unification minister, calling him a ``neocon warmonger.''
They expressed concern that Nam's hard-line North Korea policy would mar relations with the North, which has warmed to an extent because of the engagement policy toward Pyongyang under the liberal governments of the past 10 years.
Nam is currently a professor of Kyonggi University's graduate school of politics and policies in Seoul.
A Korean Village Torn Apart From Within Mends Itself
By CHOE SANG-HUN
Published: February 21, 2008
KURIM, South Korea ó This village was once drenched with blood. Bodies of villagers shot or stabbed to death lined its lanes, and the stench of people burned alive saturated its air.
What makes Kurim remarkable, however, is not the killings of about 300 people in the months surrounding the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950.
When Korea was divided at the end of World War II into the pro-American South and the pro-Soviet North in 1945, Kurim, like many other villages, was engulfed in bloody conflict between guerrillas who dreamed of unifying Korea under a Communist flag and pro-American government forces who pursued them into the rugged mountains.
The guerrillas would come down from the hills after dark, confiscating food, killing uncooperative villagers and pressing the younger ones into joining their ranks. When day broke, the police would return, beating or executing those suspected of collaborating with the Communists.
[Korean War events]
West Sea Battle Victimís Widow to Come Home
The widow of Petty Officer Han Sang-guk, who was killed in a June 2002 naval battle with North Korea near Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea, will return to her mother country in April three years after her departure to the U.S. Kim Jong-seon left the country in April 2005 due to disappointment that the government ignored those killed in the battle. Kim told the Chosun Ilbo on Monday she is winding up her life in the U.S. and booked a flight leaving for South Korea on April 1.
Kim had said until last year she would not return to South Korea although she missed her family, since the nation seemed to pay inappropriate respect to the young soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it. Now she has changed her mind, motivated by reports that president-elect Lee Myung-bakís Transition Team and the Defense Ministry decided to upgrade the memorial service for the victims of the West Sea Battle to a state event.
The Unification Ministryís minister of obstruction
Looking at what Nam Joo-hong, the Kyonggi University professor who has been chosen to head the Unification Ministry, has said about North Korea until now, you can see how wrong the new government is about the issue of relations with North Korea. When President-elect Lee Myung-bak appoints a scholar so ultra-right that it would have had a hard time putting him to use even in the Cold War era, itís enough to make you wonder whether the motive is to heighten tensions. There has never been anything like this in the history of the Unification Ministry.
Nam is your typical member of the "school of collapse." He has consistently claimed that there are signs that a sudden situation could arise in the North, saying that it has problems in five major areas, including food, energy and succession. Immediately after the February 13 agreement was made, he said that the crisis management ability of the leadership in Pyongyang was reaching a breaking point. Naturally this leads to the position that Seoul should participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI, and put pressure on Pyongyang in the form of economic sanctions. His thinking is the same as that of the neocons who led the North Korea policy of the Bush administration before it turned out to be a failure.
Police investigate Web sites posting pro-North articles
February 19, 2008
The Ministry of Information and Communication has asked police to investigate representatives of three South Korean civic groups on charges of posting pro-North Korean articles on their Web sites and refusing to remove them, the National Police Agency announced yesterday.
N.Koreans Returned by South 'Executed for Defection'
Twenty-two North Koreans who were turned back by South Korean authorities earlier this month after their fishing boats drifted into South Korean waters were executed last week and may have been seeking to defect to the South, sources said.
All This Fuss Just to Leave Rohís Name in North Korea
Full details are coming to light over a row over a stone monument which former National Intelligence Service chief Kim Man-bok famously carried to Pyongyang on Dec. 18, the eve of presidential elections in South Korea. During last yearís inter-Korean summit, the leaders of the two countries planted a tree to commemorate the meeting and agreed to place a 250 kg memorial stone there. But it didnít happen. Some news media reported that the North rejected the stone, saying it was too large, while Cheong Wa Dae said it was the failure of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to turn up at the tree planting -- the monument bore the names of both President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim.†
Kim Jong-il and the President's Stone
A monument South Korea prepared to place in North Korea to commemorate the bilateral summit in early October last year was unceremoniously swapped for a smaller affair, it has emerged. The south carried a pine tree and a stone monument to the North on Oct. 4.
The monument was a 250-kg stone with the names of President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il inscribed. It is not North Korean custom to place a monument in front of a commemorative tree. But Seoul asked Pyongyang to make an exception for this occasion and the North accepted the request.
No specialists on N. Korea in list of potential ministers
Nominees for ministers of security, unification and foreign affairs reflect president-electís emphasis on U.S.-S. Korea relations
President-elect Lee Myung-bakís nominations for his ministers of security, unification and foreign affairs are virtually complete.
The president-elect, who will assume office on February 25, is likely to appoint Yu Myung-hwan, 62, a career diplomat, as his foreign minister. Lee Sang-hee, 63, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is highly likely to be named as the defense minister, and Nam Joo-hong, 56, a university professor, is likely to be appointed as unification minister. Earlier, the president-elect named Kim Byung-kook, 48, a professor of political science and diplomacy at Korea University, as senior presidential secretary on foreign and security policy.
Return to ROK and Inter-Korean relations page