Thursday, August 25, 2016
Blog

London-based N. Korean diplomat surfaces in S. Korea

0

AEN20111221002800315_01_i

We heard earlier today that a North Korean diplomat fled North Korea’s London embassy. For hours after the initial announcement, no one knew where he fled. Well, South Korea’s Unification Ministry confirmed that he showed up here in South Korea.

Why is this a bit bigger news than the mass exodus of North Korean restaurant workers? Well, London’s North Korean embassy is seen as a priority. You know, sort of high profile. Posh even. Look at that nice building. But they flee for the same reason: “disillusionment” with the North Korean Kim Jong-un regime. Whether it’s at a North Korea-themed restaurant overseas or a diplomatic post overseas, you’re still a slave to the state. But aren’t a lot of others even in ‘free states’. Anyhow.

The WSJ’s Jonathan Cheng reports that the diplomat was ‘sick and tired’. That’s not hard to believe.

Yes, there’s been a 15.6% increase in North Korean defectors to South Korea in the first seven months of this year. But that’s still only 815 North Koreans compared to the millions in the population still nestled in North Korea. Nevertheless, if the privileged classes are breaking rank at a faster clip, it may be cause to worry about whether the end is coming sooner rather than later to the Kim Jong-un regime.

As one North Korea expert, Andrei Lankov put it —  “Leaving before the fall is a very rational choice.”

And if that’s the case, shouldn’t we get off our complacent behinds and start putting unification scenarios to rigorous stress tests?

When’s the fall? When is the fall?

Read the full wire story below!

 

  • Sanctions-squeezed N. Korea witnesses exodus of the elite

    (News Focus) NK-elite defection

    By Park Boram
    SEOUL, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) — Squeezed with the harshest-ever international sanctions, North Korea is witnessing an unprecedented increase in the number of the country’s elites abandoning their homeland, with the latest defection by a London-based diplomat highlighting the difficulties it is facing, officials and experts here said Wednesday.

    South Korea’s Unification Ministry announced that Thae Yong-ho, a minister at the North Korean Embassy in London, and his family are currently under the South Korean government’s protection after leaving his post in the British capital.
    The ministry’s spokesman Jeong Joon-hee explained that the reason behind the unusual, high-level diplomat’s defection was his “disillusionment” with the North Korean Kim Jong-un regime and aspirations for freedom.

    “This case shows that North Korean elites are feeling there is no hope for their country,” the spokesman said. “It also indicates that North Korea’s regime’s internal solidarity is weakening.”
    The North Korean career diplomat is one of highest-ranking foreign service officers who have sought asylum in South Korea. As a minister, he was No. 2 man at the North Korean mission in London.’

    Thae’s defection is loaded with signs of growing agitation and discontent among North Korea’s ruling class, given that he was among the privileged few in the impoverished communist country, experts familiar with internal North Korean affairs said.

    The 55-year-old diplomat was one of North Korea’s point men on Western Europe, having been educated in China during high school. Overseas study is allowed to only a select group in the country of those who are very close to the leadership through their family backgrounds. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Pyongyang, he also went to Denmark to continue studying, according to former North Korean diplomats now in South Korea.

    His stay in London spanned nearly 10 years, during which he has been actively engaged in a campaign to promote North Korea’s national image against the backdrop of growing international pressure in the wake of North Korea’s relentless nuclear program.

    Thae’s defection also comes amid increasing talk in South Korea about signs of a possible exodus by privileged North Koreans who are feeling the squeeze of international sanctions.

    In March, the United Nations Security Council adopted a new punitive resolution on North Korea in reaction to the communist country’s fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the following month. The North is prohibited by previous UNSC resolutions from conducting nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

    Banning exports of mineral resources, jet fuel or other strategically import materials to North Korea, the latest resolution is viewed as putting considerable pressure on the country. Individual sanctions have been adopted by countries like South Korea, the U.S. and the European Union that are further hurting the country.

    Reflecting this, a group of 13 North Korean employees posted at a North Korean state-run restaurant in Ningbo, China, defected to South Korea en masse in April. In June, three more North Korean restaurant employees working in China escaped to Seoul.

    The group defection cases were the first that signaled rising discontent permeating in the country.

    People who work in overseas restaurants are from relatively well-to-do families and deemed loyal to the state.

    A North Korean senior colonel was also confirmed in April to have defected to South Korea in 2015. He was known to have been at the North’s reconnaissance bureau tasked with carrying out espionage missions against the South.

    Experts pointed out that North Korea is experiencing a steady number of defections by upper-echelon members of society that could lead to social disintegration.

    Citing results of interviews with North Korean defectors, Yoon Yeo-sang, director of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, said “the ratio of North Korean defectors who say they were upper-middle or upper class back home has been increasing since several years ago.”
    With recent desertion cases involving well-to-do citizens, the ratio has risen even more lately, Yoon said, without disclosing exact data.

    In the past, the yearly number of defections by North Korean overseas workers stood at only one or two, he said, adding that the recent sharp increase appears to have come in the aftermath of sanctions slapped on North Korea.

    An estimated 815 North Koreans defected to South Korea in the first seven months of this year, up 15.6 percent from the same period last year, the unification ministry has said.

    The seven-month figure marks a turnaround in the number of North Korean defectors, which had been shrinking since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un came to power in late 2011.

    In the face of new U.S. sanctions against North Korea’s human rights violations, which specifically targeted leader Kim Jong-un, Thae must have felt ever more inner conflict in his position to promote North Korea, Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute said.

    “In London, he may have been exposed to frequent criticism from Western countries … and that might have spawned psychological conflicts,” the researcher said.

Political Comeback: Cho Yoon-sun appointed Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism

0

PYH2013090600530001300_P2_59_20130906083807

First, let’s start off by declaring the superficial. Cho Yoon-sun, Korea’s new culture minister (appointed today as part of President Park’s cabinet reshuffle) DOES NOT LOOK her age. She just turned 50. I thought she was 35. She’s absolutely stunning.

theSeoulite points this out because as the head of a very coveted ministry (or I should say the spot as the minister is what’s highly coveted), Cho will have to navigate the wild terrain of Korean politics where the old have no problem eating their young. That’s why I thought she was in trouble as someone in her 30s. But not to fear! She has more experience than that and her resume already includes being Minister of Gender Equality and Family. She’s had major roles in the Blue House including her role as senior presidential secretary for political affairs. But that job got her into some hot water over last year’s debacle over pension reform. Some suggested it was because of communication errors in the web of protocols. What a headache.

Now it’s comeback time and a source of theSeoulite says this position is something she truly wanted. Somehow I think she will really impart a real passion to improve the ministry and its programs instead of using it as a stepping stone to the next political position. So many well trodden stepping stones. Why do the one’s in real life look so innocent?

Stepping-stones

Again I bring up her age, because I believe she’s at the sweet spot of Korea’s current talent pool when it comes to leadership. She’s old enough to garner respect, but young enough to have the training, background and energy to bring sharp newness to government. She also studied law at Columbia University. Let’s hope she can clean up shop and dust out the corrupt old fogies while she’s at it!

Best of luck Madam Minister!

Read the wire stories below.

  • (Profile) Park’s trusted confident named new culture minister
    (profile) culture minister nomintee

    SEOUL, Aug. 16 (Yonhap) — Cho Yoon-sun who was nominated to become the new culture minister on Tuesday is a trusted confident of President Park Geun-hye and could help the chief executive push forward key agendas towards the end of her term in office.

    She served as minister of gender equality and family in the first Cabinet under the current government from 2013 to 2014 and later became the country’s first chief presidential secretary for political affairs.

    The lawyer-turned-politician had aided the president since 2012 as a spokesperson for the then Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate.

    But there also were tough years in her successful career.

    Eleven months after becoming Park’s chief aide for political affairs, Cho had to quit due to the slow progress in the government-led reforms for the state employee pension system.

    In April, she joined the ruling Saenuri Party’s nomination race to pick candidates for the 20th general election but was sidestepped by her rival Lee Hye-hoon.

    Despite the setbacks, many expected that Cho would be appointed to a key government post thanks to her fresh image.

    She began her political career in 2002 as a spokesperson for the presidential election camp for Lee Choi-chang, then candidate for the Grand National Party, a precursor to the ruling Saenuri Party. In 2008, she was first elected to the National Assembly as a proportional representation lawmaker.

    Cho graduated from Seoul National University, majoring in diplomatic science, and studied at Columbia University Law School and worked as a lawyer for South Korea’s largest law firm, “Kim & Chang.” She also served as a vice president of Citibank Korea in charge of law affairs.

    Although she is an attorney, Cho is known to be well versed in music, fine arts and other cultural fields with enough expertise to contribute columns about opera and films to a local magazine specializing in performing arts. She has authored two books on culture.’

    [email protected]

 

  • Park conducts partial government shake-up
    president-govt reshuffle

    SEOUL, Aug. 16 (Yonhap) — President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday conducted a partial reshuffle of high-level posts, including three ministers, in a move to inject fresh momentum into her administration for the remainder of her term.

    Park tapped Cho Yoon-sun, former minister of gender equality, to lead the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, while designating Kim Jae-soo, CEO of the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corp., as minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs.

    The chief executive also nominated Cho Kyeung-kyu, deputy chief of the Office for Government Policy Coordination under the Prime Minister’s Office, as environment minister.

    “Culture Minister nominee Cho has a deep grasp of the culture and arts, and well understands the president’s statecraft philosophy,” senior presidential secretary for public affairs Kim Sung-woo told reporters. “Based on her ample experience both in government and parliamentary affairs, we believe she will contribute to the advancement of tourism, culture and related areas.”
    The president also appointed four vice-ministerial officials.’

    This photo, taken on Aug. 15, 2016, shows President Park Geun-hye speaking during a ceremony to mark Liberation Day in Seoul. (Yonhap)

    [email protected]

Korea Celebrates Liberation Day

0

71 years of liberation from Japanese colonialism and the evolution of modern Korea is being celebrated today. President Park took the opportunity to call on North Korea to join the international community. And numerous stage performances brought some cuteness to the traditional repertoire of songs.  Read the full wire story below.

 
20160815_105533

 

  • Park renews calls for N.K. to stop nuke development, provocations

    SEOUL, Aug. 15 (Yonhap) — President Park Geun-hye on Monday renewed her calls for North Korea to “immediately” cease its nuclear program and threats of provocations, saying its saber-rattling would only aggravate its isolation and economic travails.During a speech to mark Liberation Day, Park also defended the planned deployment of an advanced U.S. antimissile system as a “self-defense” measure to protect the nation from Pyongyang’s “reckless” provocations, stressing that the plan must not be politicized.’

    President Park Geun-hye (Yonhap file photo)

    “I urge (North Korea) to immediately stop developing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and halt its threats of provocations against South Korea,” she said. “Any attempt at threatening our people and the Republic of Korea will never succeed.”
    Park also pressed the communist regime to improve its abysmal human rights situation, saying that Pyongyang must not turn a blind eye to its people’s right to enjoy fundamental human rights.

    “We will not ignore the misery of North Koreans now in pain due to the North Korean authorities’ wrong choices,” she said. “We want North Korea to become a normal member of the international community that respects the universal rights of mankind, and international obligations and norms.”

K-pop inspired at-home men’s hair color experiment

0

How well did I do with my at-home hair color experiment?

I tried out the Mise-en-Scene men’s line. Very excited to be able to have a hair color kit designed for Korean people’s hair. I chose the dark mahogany brown color.

Got hair color in my bag. Swag.

theSeoulite PODCAST Episode 7: To A/C or not A/C? Can you afford your air conditioner?

0

Screenshot_20160813-072358

Sweltering hot week. Will you pump up the A/C? Can you afford your electricity bill? People got pissed off about the decades-long policy that charges households higher rates than businesses.

What happens when Sean dyes his hair with at-home hair dye tailor-made for Korean hair? It’s a 10-year-dream finally come true, or is it?

Check it out on YouTube!

1:30 Citizens complain about being charged higher electricity rates vs. businesses
2:30 What are current electricity prices?
6:15 Hear about the electricity solution
10:00 Favorite summer trips this year
10:45 Bali beach side bar in Jeju
11:45 Fancy infinity pool
13:40 Big Bang in Hawaii!!
16:15 Sean talks about dying his hair
20:20 North Korea’s creepy campaign hits again
24:50 Ask Liz: Do you believe in revenge?

 

Pardon Me? Pardons for 4,870 People!

0

AEN20160812002652315_02_i

Every National Liberation Day on August 15th, Korea celebrates its liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. But it’s also the day that the president of South Korea hands out pardons to people convicted of crimes.

If you’ve ever wondered why ‘suspended sentences’ are so sought after and reviled by a justice-seeking public, it’s because of pardons. Imagine you get convicted of a crime, but instead of going to jail, you get a ‘suspended sentence’. You continue to do you and then, if everything works out, you get a pardon. Then it’s absolutely no jail time!

Of course, there are people who are in the slammer who also get pardoned so it’s not as if everyone does no time. This year about 4,870 people will be pardoned. And most often the public reason is that they have been convicted of  non-violent, petty crimes and society needs to forgive and let everyone move on. And in terms of high-profile cases, the oft-cited reason is that we need the businessman back in society to keep the Korean economy running.

This year’s most arguably highest profile recipient of a pardon is the CJ Group chairman Lee Jay-hyun.

Read the full Yonhap wire report below.

 

AEN20160812006700320_01_i

 

President Park Geun-hye granted special pardons to a high-profile businessman and more than 4,870 people, many of who were convicted of non-violent, petty crimes, on Friday, three days ahead of Liberation Day.

The list of the beneficiaries was finalized during an extraordinary Cabinet meeting Park presided over at the presidential office.

Among the beneficiaries is CJ Group Chairman Lee Jay-hyun, who has been suffering from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which involves hereditary motor and sensory neuropathies, chronic renal failure and related complications.

“I have been soliciting views from various walks of life (regarding special pardons) to muster up our strength to promote national unity and overcome economic challenges,” Park said during an extraordinary Cabinet meeting.’

“I expect that all of those who are given the pardons can actively join the efforts to revive the economy and contribute to national development.”
The pardons are part of celebrations to mark the 71st anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule. South Korean presidents usually grant special pardons in commemoration of major national holidays.

Regarding the pardon for the ailing CJ chairman, the government said that the decision was made in consideration of views by experts that it would be difficult to carry out his jail sentence due to his deteriorating health.

“(The CJ chairman) was included on the pardon list based on humanitarian considerations and to offer him a chance to contribute to the nation’s economy,” the government said in a press release.

Last year, the business tycoon was given two and a half years in jail, along with a fine of 25.2 billion won ($22.8 million), for embezzlement, breach of trust and tax evasion.

The pardon list did not include other convicted business leaders such as Hanhwa chairman Kim Seung-yeon, SK Group Vice Chairman Chey Jae-won and LIG NEX1 Vice Chairman Koo Bon-sang.

Politicians and civil servants, who were convicted of corruption, were also excluded from the list, the government said, stressing that the pardons this time were carried out in a “restrictive” way that the general populace can agree to.

The president also offered pardons to 1.42 million people who have been given penalty points or had their driving licenses suspended for traffic offenses between July 13 last year and July 12 this year.

Those who were penalized for drunk driving, road rage, hit-and-runs and deadly traffic accidents were excluded from the pardon list.

A day earlier, new ruling Saenuri Party leader Lee Jung-hyun called on Park to offer “large-scale” pardons to those convicted of minor economic crimes so as to give them another chance to contribute to the country’s economic growth.

Living Out Your K-Drama Fantasy in ‘Descendants of the Sun’

0

AEN20160812008100315_03_i

Oh man. Now you can live out your fantasy of being in the hit K-drama series of 2016 — “Descendants of the Sun”. You know, the one with heart throb Song Joong-ki. He’s been EVERYWHERE on ads from ice cream to jeans to contact lenses!

If you can’t get enough of just watching the film, you can experience a restored set from the popular series.

Find out more from the full Yonhap wire story below.

AEN20160812008100315_04_i

Yes – people of all ages can get fully into it!

TAEBAEK, South Korea, Aug. 12 (Yonhap) — The film site of South Korean hit television series “Descendants of the Sun” opened to the public in Taebaek on Friday, attracting tourists from home and overseas with the global popularity of the drama.

The film site is a restoration of the Taebaek leg of the military romance-action series. The municipality of Taebaek in Gangwon Province poured some 270 million won (US$245,000) into the project.’

Launched on local terrestrial broadcaster KBS on Feb. 24, the Wednesday-Thursday series tells the love story of doctor Kang Mo-yeon (Song Hye-kyo) and Army Capt. Yoo Si-jin (Song Joong-ki) in the fictional war-torn country of Uruk.

The Taebaek film site is the location where, in the 16-episode series, the medical camp led by Kang and the Taebaek military troop headed by Yoo were stationed.

At the tourist site located 271 kilometers east of Seoul, visitors can browse the medical camp and military base wearing costumes with the same design as those worn by the cast.

The military camp is equipped with combat uniforms and boots, bullet-proof helmets, military blankets and ammunition belts. Outside the camp are army trucks and a helicopter. The city is considering stationing a replica tank, too.

Next to the Taebaek military camp is the Uruk powerhouse, destroyed by an earthquake.

By 2018, Taebaek city aims to inject 13.1 billion won into building restaurants, storage for fermented food, replica mine facilities and a park there.’

Bold or Thirsty? Conservative Party Makes Unprecedented Choice

0

AEN20160809010853315_04_iThe ruling Saenuri Party has a new leader. His name is Lee Jung-hyun. And for the first time in its history, it selected a party chair from the traditionally liberal South Jeolla Province. This shakes things up and appears to be a smart move to appeal to voters ahead of next year’s presidential election. And did anybody else notice that the traditional ‘red’ color of the Saenuri Party was combined with the ‘blue’ that the rival Minjoo Party has been using? This is more than a turf war. They’re going after colors!

AEN20160809010853315_05_i

Power struggles that don’t end? Consider it suicide. Remember how the 2012 battle with the liberal party just paved the way for the unified conservative party to power? Well, the conservatives have been fighting tooth and nail with each other and they have the dismal approval ratings to prove it. At the heart is a battle between the pro-Park (as in the president) and the anti-Park faction within the Saenuri Party. Now the new party chair says there’s gonna be no more of that. No more cliques! No more fighting! And they redrafted the rules to give the party chief more power to stomp out castrating battles.

AEN20160809010700315_03_i

Now mark your calendars for August 27th. How will the Minjoo Party (MPK) form its new leadership? Did most of their factional strife leave when Ahn Cheol-soo’s defected, created  the People’s Party and took a portion of the Minjoo Party’s leaders?

Read the full Yonhap wire story below.

AEN20160809010700315_02_i

SEOUL, Aug. 9 (Yonhap) — The ruling Saenuri Party on Tuesday elected Rep. Lee Jung-hyun as its new leader, marking the first time for a politician from the country’s liberal-leaning southwestern Honam region to take the helm of the conservative party.

The third-term lawmaker, part of a faction closely affiliated with President Park Geun-hye, was elected at the party’s national convention in Seoul that also picked five members of the decision-making Supreme Council.

Lee, who represents Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, garnered 44,421 votes, trailed by Joo Ho-young, a four-term lawmaker, with 31,946 votes.

Reps. Lee Ju-young and Han Sun-kyo also joined the leadership race.

Lee’s resounding victory is expected to bolster the influence of the “pro-Park” faction within the party, observers said, although the party’s new helmsman stressed that there would be no factions under his leadership.

“There will be no such thing as factions from this moment onwards,” the party leader declared, making clear that he wants Saenuri united as it moves forward.

During his acceptance speech, Lee also vowed to focus on enhancing the livelihoods of citizens and reshape Saenuri into a “competent and warm-hearted” conservative party that can win back the love of voters.

“Turning the party into one that serves for the people, Saenuri will strive to once again win the love and trust of the people so it can be victorious in the presidential election slated for next year,” the 57-year-old lawmaker said.’

At the national convention, Reps. Cho Won-jin, Lee Jang-woo, Kang Seok-ho and Choi Yeon-hye were picked as the members of the Supreme Council.

To the additional council slot alloted to a youth party member, Yoo Chang-su was elected.

All of the party grandees elected Tuesday, except for Rep. Kang, are seen as belonging to the pro-Park faction. This turn of events is expected to smooth out the party’s relations with the presidential office that had often been subject to friction in the past.

The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae did not issue any official statement regarding Lee’s election as party chief.

Some presidential officials, however, expressed hopes that Lee’s victory will help strengthen cohesion among party members and pave the way for closer cooperation between the party and Cheong Wa Dae.

In Tuesday’s election, the combined ballots by party members and delegates accounted for 70 percent of the election results, while public opinion polls comprised 30 percent.

The new Saenuri leader was first elected to the National Assembly in 2008 as a proportional representation lawmaker of the then-ruling Grand National Party, a precursor to the Saenuri Party.

In a 2012 election, Lee failed to get a parliamentary seat. But he was elected again in a 2014 by-election for a constituency representing Suncheon.

A trusted confidant of the president, Lee served as Park’s chief secretary for political affairs between March and June 2013, and for public affairs between June 2013 and June 2014.

Fresh off an electoral triumph, the new party leader faces the daunting tasks of fostering party unity, overcoming the opposition-led legislature and preparing for next year’s presidential election.

The new party chief will wield greater power in the management of party affairs compared with previous leaders, though he will still be banned from nominating candidates for crucial elections and running for president while in office.

Before the leadership election, the party revised its bylaws to bolster the authority of its chairman in an effort to reduce internal discord in the party’s decision-making process which was rampant under the previous collective leadership system.

Meanwhile, the opposition parties called on Lee to pursue stronger communication and cooperation with the opposition bloc in handling an array of security and economic issues facing the country.

“As voters ordered (the political circles) to pursue the politics of cooperation, (we) ask Lee to actively seek closer cooperation and dialogue with the opposition parties,” Rep. Park Gwang-on, spokesman of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK), said in a statement.
The MPK is set to hold its own leadership election on Aug. 27.’

[email protected]
(END)

Pepero Day

0