Five Myths About North Korea, by Joel S. Wit & Jenny Town

[This article appeared in the 29 March 2013 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Joel S. Wit is a visiting fellow with the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and founder of its North Korea website, 38North. Jenny Town is a research associate at the Institute and the editor of its website. –CanKor]

It’s Not a Hermit Kingdom, and 4 Other Myths About North Korea

Yes, we should be taking Kim Jong Un’s recent threats seriously. But first, we have to lose the comic-book caricature of his country.

(Photo by Erich Weingartner)

(Photo by Erich Weingartner)

Every day the media is filled with reports of North Korea threatening to attack the United States and its close allies. An escalating cycle of threat and counter-threat has been going on for the past few months. It started with the North’s partially successful long-range rocket test in December, was followed by its third test of a nuclear bomb in February, new U.N. sanctions in response to those tests, U.S.-South Korean military exercises, Pyongyang’s bellicose threats to launch strikes against the United States, and now the temporary deployment of long-range U.S. B-2 bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, to South Korea.

Americans should be deeply concerned about these events. While the North may eventually be able to put a nuclear weapon on top of a long-range missile and attack the United States, Pyongyang’s bombs can already reach our friends in South Korea and Japan. There is also a danger that North Korea may export nuclear technology to other rogue states, like Iran and terrorist groups. Remember that the North did send a nuclear reactor for producing bomb-making material to Syria — luckily Israeli warplanes destroyed the unfinished facility in 2006. The danger of exports will grow in the future if the North’s nuclear arsenal continues to grow. Read the rest of this entry »

The Koreas resume talks, The Current on CBC Radio

[CanKor Human Factor editor Jack Kim was one of three guests interviewed on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s public affairs programme “The Current” this morning, 10 June 2013, on CBC Radio 1. The following text is from the CBC.ca website. The 22 minute segment can be listened to by clicking on the image of host Anna Maria Tremonti below. –CanKor]

North and South Korea have gone from a chilling standoff, to the start of talks that could mean a thaw with plans for the first senior government talks in six long years. All of this comes just as the Presidents of the United States and China wrapped up their own weekend meetings promising greater cooperation. Today, we’re asking about the future of the two Koreas when the biggest players outside their borders aren’t interested in a fight.

Listen to The Current segment on Korea by clicking the image of host Anna Maria Tremonti below:

TheCurrent-220x124

The Current: The Koreas resume talks

“Immortal Feats for DPRK-China Friendship”

[Under the above title, the DPRK’s most authoritative newspaper Rodong Sinmun published a rare editorial on the eve of the new Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s first summit meeting with US President Barack Obama in California. Rodong Sinmun is the official organ of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Ostensibly, the occasion for the editorial is the 30th anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s first visit to China. It is a legacy to which young leader Kim Jong Un is said to be paying “great attention”. The China-DPRK friendship will go “a long way towards stabilizing the situation in the Korean Peninsula,” says the editorial, without wasting a single word on the nuclear question, a topic that will likely figure prominently in the Obama-Xi talks. –CanKor]

Xi, right, and Pyongyang's special envoy Choe Ryong-hae meet in Beijing. (Photo by Xinhua)

Xi, right, and Pyongyang’s special envoy Choe Ryong-hae meet in Beijing. (Photo by Xinhua)

This is the 30th year since Leader Kim Jong Il’s first visit to China from June 1 to 13, 1983. His train trip covered a total of 6 250 km, making more solid the DPRK-China friendship provided and kept in bloom by the leaders of old generations of the two countries.

It is a beautiful tradition for the leaders of the two countries to frequently visit each other like brothers without being restricted by any diplomatic conventions and rules and share and deepen the friendly feelings.

The 30 years that followed his first visit to China furnished an ample proof that the DPRK-China friendship would be unbreakable.

Over the past 30 years the situation of Korea and the North East Asia was very complex, but the two countries supported and closely cooperated with each other in their struggle for socialist construction and national unity. Read the rest of this entry »

What a Tangled Web We Weave, by Kim Dong Jin

[Kim Dong Jin is Director of the Peace Culture Institute in Korea (PCIK), a newly-founded research institution based in Seoul, Korea. The PCIK is dedicated to sharing information, knowledge and experience on peace-building in conflict-affected societies. Pursuing a collective peace intelligence and peaceful open source collaboration, the PCIK provides space for researchers, practitioners and experts from various disciplines to discuss issues related to conflict transformation by peaceful means on the Korean peninsula, in Asia, and beyond. This article was first published on the PCIK blog site on Thursday, 30 May 2013. –CanKor]

kaesong_ind_nk_624On 22 May, the North Korean Committee for the Realization of the 6.15 Joint Statement proposed holding a joint ceremony at either Kaesong or Mt. Keumgang, to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Statement issued at the conclusion to the 15 June 2000 Summit meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The South Korean counterpart Committee responded positively, interpreting the proposal in relation to the issues at the closed Kaesong Industrial Complex.

“The suggestion to use Kaesong by North Korea as a venue for the event indirectly expresses their desire to restore the Kaesong Industrial Complex”, the South Committee said. Read the rest of this entry »

A Third Way – the United States and North Korea, by Keith Luse

[The following keynote presentation by Keith Luse was delivered at the “Engaging Enemies” Conference, co-hosted by the ANU-IU Pan Pacific Institute, the East Asia Foundation, and other co-sponsors on 18 April 2013. Keith Luse was Senior Professional Staff Member in the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As an East Asian expert, he was East Asia Foreign Policy Advisor/Senior Professional Staff Member to (former) Senator Richard Lugar. –CanKor]

keith luse

Keith Luse

During my initial trip to North Korea in 2003, at a location about an hour north of Pyongyang, one of North Korea’s top American analysts turned to me and said, “We know that Senator Lugar is a very stern person, as his facial shape is the same as President Putin in Russia.”

Three days later on an extended excursion out of Pyongyang to view sites distributing American food aid, an unexpected confrontation ensued with one of my hosts whom I angered during a discussion about U.S. policy toward their country. The North Korean official said, “We made a mistake in allowing you into my country — you are very deceptive. You have a round face of compassion like Congressman Tony Hall who has assisted us with food aid, but you have a heart of hardness.”

And so began my engagement experience with North Korean officials. Five trips and several meetings with North Koreans later — within and outside of North Korea, I am admittedly amazed that all-out conflict has not reoccurred due to a miscalculation by one side or the other. Read the rest of this entry »

Replacing the Armistice With A Peace Treaty in Korea, by Leon V. Sigal

[Leon V. Sigal, a long-time CanKor friend, is director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York. This being the 60th year since the Korean Armistice Agreement (27 July 1953), and after the 17th repudiation of that agreement by the DPRK last month, we find it appropriate to alert readers to this article, published on 26 March 2013 by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability (NAPSNet) Policy Forum. –CanKor]

Leon V. SigalA peace process on the Korean Peninsula is essential to curbing the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs.

For over two decades the DPRK has said that denuclearization requires the United States to end what it calls the US “hostile policy” and to reconcile with it. A peace treaty to replace the armistice that terminated the Korean War is its long-sought manifestation of that end to enmity.
Recently, following US demands that it take “unilateral steps … to live up to [its] obligations,” (US Special Envoy Glyn Davies, VOA interview, July 26, 2012), North Korea toughened its negotiating stance, demanding that the United States move first to reassure it: “The 20 year-long history of the talks between the DPRK and the US has shown that even the principle of simultaneous action steps is not workable unless the hostile concept of the US towards the DPRK is removed” (DPRK Foreign Ministry Memorandum in KCNA, “DPRK Terms US Hostile Policy Main Obstacle in Resolving Nuclear Issue,” August 31, 2012). That stance was implicit in its insistence that the United States tolerate its satellite launches as part of the so-called Leap Year deal. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a role for Europe in the Korean crisis?

Until this past week I had never even heard of the Centre for European Reform. On Friday 12 April 2013, my emailed alerts to the North Korea Forum on LinkedIn brought my attention to Ian Bond’s excellent article Out of range, out of mind: Is there a role for Europe in the Korean crisis?

European union conceptAs you might have read in the left-hand column, CanKor has always been interested in the “role to be played in northeast Asia by second-tier middle powers like Canada, Australia and the European Union.” I have often puzzled over the fact that after the initial “Sunshine” enthusiasm shown by European countries for a role in North Korea in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Europe by and large seems to have ceded its politically astute and innovative role to the geopolitical interests of the USA.

My own European roots have rebelled against the notion that when it comes to North-East Asia, Europe should act as cheerleaders of a  doomed-from-the-start American policy initiated by an American President politically traumatized by the events of 9-11. Who would have thought that Barack Obama would continue his predecessor’s ill-conceived notion that somehow playing the DPRK’s game of brinkmanship would bring them to their knees? I too wish that doing nothing except wagging a finger would have prevented North Korea from building up to 10 nuclear warheads and a missile capable of launching a (non-functioning) satellite into orbit.

Our best efforts over the past seven years have not been able to stir the Canadian Government into any useful direction. Even playing the “good cop” role, as Andrei Lankov recently suggested in Ottawa, seems beyond our government’s ability or intent. The same apparently goes for Australia and New Zealand. Read the rest of this entry »

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