Security and Peace Settlement in North East Asia by Victor Hsu

[At a conference on Common Prosperity in the 21st Century, North East Asia held in Kwangju, South Korea on 7 July 2011, CanKor Brain Trust member Victor Hsu (Professor at the KDI School of Public Policy and Management in Seoul) made a number of points as a discussant. Some excerpts from his intervention are reprinted below. The full text can be accessed by clicking this link: Security and Peace Settlement in Northeast Asia. –CanKor]

The one dimension that should elicit more analysis in depth is the Inter-Korean conflict resulting from the post WWII division of the peninsula. Perhaps the speakers simply assumed that it is unnecessary given that we are meeting in Korea. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize that our geopolitical analysis must not be limited to the DPRK’s nuclear program in the 6-Party Talks, important as it is. There are several equally urgent issues that require our collective attention.

  • The peace and prosperity of North East Asia will remain elusive as long as Korea remains divided. Should there be any doubt let’s remind ourselves of the military tensions created by the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeongypong Island.
  • The division of Korea represents a dangerous tripwire for a major military conflagration. Political miscalculation, misperception of the other’s intentions, posturing or brinksmanship, however you call it, can easily ignite the peninsula with unimaginable consequences. The world’s top four armies may be pulled in, unleashing fire power hitherto unseen in any war theatre. Read the rest of this entry »

South Korea’s Internal Division over Humanitarian Aid to North Korea and North Korean Human Rights, by Jhe Seong-ho

[Jhe Seong-ho is Professor of Law at Chung-Ang University in Seoul; he is a former Human Rights Ambassador in the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. KOREA FOCUS is a monthly webzine and a quarterly journal published by The Korea Foundation, featuring commentaries and essays on Korean politics, economy, society and culture, as well as relevant international issues. Prof. Jhe’s essay examines the various positions held in South Korean academia, politics and society on the question of whether to provide food aid to the DPRK and if so, how and under what conditions. We highly recommend it as a useful summary of South Korean perspectives. The following is the introduction to the essay. To read the rest, please click on the link at the bottom. –CanKor.]

I. Introduction

The question of humanitarian aid to North Korea has become a major social and political issue in South Korea, pitting liberals against conservatives, and moderates against hard-liners. These groups have taken sharply different positions regarding the distribution of aid to the North, suspected diversion of aid to the North’s military and linking material assistance to other matters concerning inter-Korean relations. These conflicts derive from North Korea’s uncommon status as an entity that will eventually have to be reunified with the South and as a threat to the South’s security. If assistance was intended for a country stricken by natural disaster, there would be no such discord. Read the rest of this entry »

CHOSUN ILBO on North Korean food aid

 [Chris Nelson pulled this excerpt from the Chosun Ilbo on April 6 for consideration.]

Some 78.2 percent of North Korean defectors never received any foreign grain aid when they lived in the North, a survey revealed Tuesday. The survey of 500 defectors by the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights conducted on March 25-31 found that 391 or 78.2 percent never received food aid from South Korea or the international community. Of 106 respondents who did receive such aid, 29 said they returned whole or part of the aid. This suggests the North Korean regime tried to deceive the international community by taking back already distributed aid as soon as international monitors’ backs were turned. Read the rest of this entry »

American released after being held in North Korea

The Associated Press reported today that an American man held by North Korea for a half year, for allegedly proselytizing has been released and will return to the United States. His release was negotiated by US envoy Robert King. King had travelled to North Korea with a team of specialists earlier in the week to assess the severity of North Korea’s latest food shortages.

King says he did not agree to provide North Korea with assistance in exchange for Mr. Jun’s freedom.

South Korean Churches under fire for sending aid to North

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) is coming under fire for sending aid to the DPRK. The shipment of 172 tons of food aid was not approved by South Korea’s government. Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo says it was not right for the church organization to contact the North Koreans and go ahead with the aid shipment, without getting South Korean government approval. Lee says the ministry will take necessary measures after hearing from the National Council of Churches about its activities. She adds that the government is monitoring the situation.

The NCCK acknowledges having unauthorized contact in Beijing with North Koreans to arrange the donation (Read Press Release here).


Appointment of NSC advisor points to Obama’s DPRK policy

Headquarters of the NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland.

NSA Headquarters

Sources confirm that Sydney Seiler has been appointed NSC advisor to President Obama.

Seiler is credited with being the true architect of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) approach, and then the program, especially the workings and vulnerabilities of the DPRK’s international banking connections.

The NSC posting is perhaps Seiler’s first direct policy-making position and makes clear the direction of Obama’s policy on North Korea.

Seiler’s Bio, from the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (

Deputy North Korea Mission Manager, Director of National Intelligence [assistant to Joe deTrani]

Syd Seiler is a member of the Senior National Intelligence Service who has served as Deputy DNI Mission Manager for North Korea since mid 2007, having joined the Mission Manager office as in January 2006 as the office was stood up. Prior to joining the DNI, he was serving with the National Clandestine Service of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Seiler has spent over 27 years in the intelligence community following North Korean affairs, with assignments in both the collection and analysis fields in multiple intelligence disciplines. This includes working as a collector for the National Security Agency, an all-source analyst and manager with the Directorate of Intelligence and Directorate of Operations in the CIA, and as a senior media analyst and manager at the Foreign Broadcast Information Service. He spent over 12 years serving in the Republic of Korea in a variety of positions.

Mr. Seiler received his Masters of Arts degree in Korean Studies from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies, and is a graduate of the Korean language programs of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey and Yonsei University. He is the author of the book, Kim Il Song 1941-1948: The Creation of a Legend, the Building of a Regime.

The DPRK elite made visible in Pyongyang

Something that surprised me among the many articles officially translated for English-speaking audiences in the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) dispatches are the detailed lists of members of various committees. Since the KWP Conference was the largest of its kind held in at least 30 years, we have on parade the top ranks of DPRK’s elites. In the case of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee, the KCNA has even supplied small bios, including birth dates, of its members. Kim Jong Un is not among them, so we still don’t know exactly how old he is. Read the rest of this entry »

Food Shortage an International Issue — Food Conservation Stressed in DPRK

Wonsan Kindergarten (photo courtesy of EPD)

The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) in Seoul summarized the North Korean government’s explanation about current food shortages in their series of NK Briefs (No. 11-03-09) as follows:

The Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the Korean Workers’ Party (of North Korea), recently reported on skyrocketing food prices around the world, describing the phenomenon as a global crisis. The newspaper encouraged North Koreans to do their part to deal with the current food crisis by being self-reliant and by practicing conservation.

By highlighting the fact that the food crisis is worldwide, the newspaper simply reported the current food shortage situation in North Korea as part of the global phenomenon.

In the government-run propaganda website “Uriminzokkiri,” an article titled, “World Food Crisis and Its Solution” was published on March 7, 2011. The article claimed, “Millions of people around the world are starving from soaring food prices and decline in world grain production and supply.” It also added, “Huge losses are expected this year with unusual extreme weather conditions and natural disasters affecting the major grain producing countries.” Read the rest of this entry »

Business Mission to DPRK

CanKor has received from Paul Tjia, Director of GPI Consultancy the following announcement about a trade and investment mission to North Korea being organized for the time period 14 to 21 May 2011.

Persons interested in joining this mission are asked to contact Mr. Tjia at the following coordinates: Postal address: GPI Consultancy, P.O. Box 26151, 3002 ED Rotterdam, The Netherlands; E-mail:; Tel: +31-10-4254172; Fax: +31-10-4254317; Website:; Twitter:; LinkedIn:

In the current financial and economic situation, companies face many challenges. They must cut costs, develop new products and find new markets. In these fields, North-Korea might be an interesting option. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian MP Motions on North Korean refugees

Anybody suffering from insomnia might wish to consult the Canadian Government website and read “Status of House Business” or the slightly more interesting “Order Paper and Notice Paper”. The former, whose last update was on Friday 8 October 2010, is a listing not only of parliamentary bills currently before Parliament, but also of Private Members’ Motions, which concern “general subject matters” on every conceivable topic.

All I really wanted was to see what, if anything, members had proposed in relation to the DPRK. I found that the situation of North Korean refugees seems to be a multi-party concern. Separate motions have been proposed by Barry Devolin (Conservative), Judy Sgro (Liberal) and Peter Julian (NDP). As I understand it, the order in which these motions come before Parliament is by a sort of lottery.

As you will see by the listing below, Ms Sgro has upped her chances in this lottery by proposing three motions on Korea. One of them seems a little dated, offering sympathy to the families of the sailors killed on the Cheonan, and pledging support for South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s response to “the act of aggression by North Korea”. The two other motions are identical, but assigned different numbers. They call for increased food aid to be sent to North Korea for starving families and for Canada to work with UNHCR to improve the lives of North Korean refugees, while applying pressure on China to stop repatriating them and to work with the International Community “to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.”

Mr. Julian has a more modest approach, simply asking Canada, together with the international community, to pressure China “to authorize the safe passage of North Korean refugees to South Korea.”

Mr. Devolin, the only MP to use the official — and correct — designation “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)” and — also correctly and professionally — asks Canada to “express concern” about the situation of North Korean refugees who find themselves in China, and to “encourage” (not “pressure”) China to work with the international community and the UNHCR “to find a solution that respects China’s right to defend its borders and security while upholding the rights of DPRK citizens, as articulated by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.”

If these motions were to be dealt with as a group (they won’t be) and if I were a member of parliament (I’m not), my vote would certainly go with Mr. Devolin’s deft and diplomatic formulation.

To browse through the texts of these and hundreds of other motions, check out Private Members� Business, Tuesday, October 5, 2010 (No. 77).

Here are the full texts of the relevant motions in both official languages:

M-369 – March 3, 2010 – Mr. Devolin (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) express its concern over the situation of citizens of the Democratic People�s Republic of Korea (DPRK) who have fled to China and who fear imprisonment, torture and potential execution if forcibly returned to their country; and (b) encourage the government of China to work with the international community, including Canada and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to find a solution that respects China�s right to defend its borders and security while upholding the rights of DPRK citizens, as articulated by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

M-375 – March 3, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should use all available means to end the human suffering in North Korea, including, but not limited to, increasing food aid to feed countless starving families, to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to improve the quality of life of refugees, putting pressure on China to accept and not repatriate North Korean refugees and working with the International Community to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.

M-383 – March 3, 2010 – Mr. Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work with the international community to put pressure on the Government of the People�s Republic of China to authorize the safe passage of North Korean refugees to South Korea.

M-539 – May 27, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That the House extend its profound sympathies to the people of South Korea and especially to the families of the 46 South Korean sailors killed during the March 26, 2010, sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan and that the House, on behalf of the people of Canada, express an unwavering commitment to stand with the people of South Korea and to support President Lee Myung-bak in his decision to react following the act of aggression by North Korea on March 26, 2010.

M-540 – May 27, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should use all available means to end the human suffering in North Korea, including, but not limited to, increasing food aid to feed starving families, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to improve the quality of life of refugees, putting pressure on China to accept and not repatriate North Korean refugees and working with the international community to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.

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