February 9, 2018

The Two Sides of Korea March Again at the Olympics

The two Korean teams (South and North Korea) marched together side by side, under one symbolic flag (unifed Korea) at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea on February 9, 2018. The last time that the joint entry at the Olympics opening ceremony occurred was thirteen years ago, during the "sunshine policy" period of inter-Korean thaw and cooperation.

Moreover, North Korea seem to have swallowed its pride and is attending the games held in its arch-rival South Korea, together with unprecedented attendance of high-level government/party officials (including nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam and Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong) -- perhaps suggesting its flexibility and willingness to resume negotiations for inter-Korean rapproachement. The question is, are Washington and Tokyo willing to seize this apt opportunity to pursue a path of negotiated peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula?

January 10, 2018

Two Sides of Korea Are Shaking Hands Again

Another thaw in tense inter-Korea relations is developing, as North Korean reps crossed by foot the Military Demarcation Line (in the DMZ) on January 9 at the Panmunjom, Korea, on the way to talks with South Korean counterparts for sending NK athletes to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
More significantly, both sides also agreed to resume talks on military matters, in addition to re-opening of military hotline few days ago, that may usher in much-needed reduction of tensions in the peninsula.

June 14, 2017

Towards Peaceful Settlement in Korea

"Off Ramps to War: Paths to Building Peace with North Korea" conference was held June 13, 2017, at the George Washington University School of International Affairs, Washington, DC,
 discussing various concrete paths towards peaceful settlement and "shared security" in the Korean Peninsular, with former Defense Secretary William Perry, renowned Koreanist Professor Bruce Cumings, veterans for peace, humanitarian NGOs, UN program officer, separated families, scholars, activists, journalists and concerned citizens.

May 11, 2017

President Moon Jae-in Goes Right to Work

What a difference -- newly-elected President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has vowed to create open, transparent and caring government, work with the progressive and centrist parties and the conservative opposition to promote needed changes, and address pressing economic and security issues. He stopped by at a rally of the Sewol ferry victims families, who were neglected by the previous administration of Park Geun-hye.

Moon announced the nomination of Lee Nak-yon (Governor of South Cholla Province) as Prime Minister and Suh Hoon (who has worked on previous engagement policies toward North Korea) as National Intelligence Service Director and the appointment of Im Jong-seok (former pro-democracy student movement leader) as the Blue House Chief of Staff. The photo shows Moon with his staff, walking in the Blue House compound.

May 9, 2017

Moon Jae-in Becomes President of South Korea

    Moon Jae-in, the former human rights lawyer and a close associate of former president Roh Moo-hyun, was elected as the 19th president of South Korea, in a special election on May 9, due to the impeachment of Park Geun-hye.

    Though he was a strong candidate on his own merit, Moon's candidacy was also propelled by discontented citizens who became wary of public corruption (exemplified by the one that brought down Park Geun-hye), economic policy mismanagement, and uncertain future faced by younger generations. It is also a culmination and sweet victory of "candlelight revolution," participated by millions of citizens in peaceful, orderly protests -- without any violence or casualties.

    Moon's first priority would be to address pressing domestic issues, but he will also need to show keen and strong leadership in promoting steps towards defusing tensions in Northeast Asia.

March 31, 2017

"Park Geun-hye’s arrest affirms South Korea’s rule of law"

[Editorial, Hankyoreh Daily, South Korea]

Former president Park Geun-hye has finally been put in jail. After Kang Bu-yeong, the judge in charge of warrants for the Seoul Central District Court, issued an arrest warrant for charges including bribery on Mar. 31, Park suffered the ignominy of being South Korea’s third former president to be jailed. While personally, this was no doubt a very unfortunate development, legally speaking, it was the obvious outcome.

While there were some who said that Park should be shown lenience out of respect for her status as former president or for the sake of national harmony and unity, it’s significant that the court has affirmed once again the great principle of the rule of law, namely, that all citizens are equal before the law. We hope that Park’s arrest will be a turning point confirming that the Republic of Korea is a democratic republic and ensuring that politics and leaders who think of themselves as above the Constitution and the law and who roll back democracy have no place in this country. READ MORE

March 24, 2017

Sunken Sewol Ferry Recovered

The sunken Sewol ferry has been raised from the bottom of the sea, near the third anniversary of its tragic sinking. Many questions still remain to be answered. The captain and crew got prison sentences for negligence, but it remains to be seen the true nature of the former Park Geun-hye's government in handling (or mis-handling) this incident and (delayed and disorganized) recovery efforts. Perhaps the current prosecution of Park Geun-hye will shed some light on this.

Hopefully the remains of the nine missing passengers will be found and some closures can be made for the families of the victims (304 bodies were retrieved, mostly high school students from one South Korean school on a school trip). The families went through tough ordeal because the government had portrayed them as being anti-government even though they were simply demanding answers.