South Korea’s National Council of Churches issues Prayers for Peace

[The National Council of Churches in Korea (South) held an emergency prayer for peace on 5 April 2013. After discussing the urgent crisis on the Korean peninsula, the NCCK released this “Urgent Petition for peace on the Korean Peninsula”. –CanKor]

NCCK logoPraying for the peace of God and in the name of the Lord:

The interruption of the work at the joint South and North Korean Industrial Complex in Gaesung is just another sign of the crisis actual arising on the Korean Peninsula. The South-Korean/U.S. American military exercises are aggravating the situation and thus the conflict is rapidly approaching the next stage of danger of a confrontation between South and North Korean military forces. North Korea’s third nuclear test, the UN’s violent propagandistic sanctions towards North Korea and the American high-tech weapons being used in the large scale Korean-American joint military exercises, etc. escalate the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. In these circumstances, the irresponsible, alarming and offensive statements of both South and North Korean authorities’ are driving the citizens of both countries into fear. The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), which for a long time has desired the nation’s reconciliation, and longs for peace and reunification, opposes the movement toward this catastrophic situation and cannot suppress a severe anxiety. We call on all Korean churches which are striving for justice, and all Christian believers who are striving to make peace and become guardians of history, at this time to hold firmly a responsible attitude to this issue. In the following petition we express the earnest prayers of Korean Christians for peace on the Korean Peninsula and humbly ask for your participation. Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner on “Russia Today”

[Earlier this month, CanKor Editor-in-Chief Erich Weingartner was interviewed on “Russia Today”. According to its self-description, “RT is a global news channel broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. With a global reach of over 530 million people, or 25% of all cable subscribers worldwide, RT news covers the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more. Our team of young news professionals has made RT the first news channel to break the 500 million YouTube views benchmark.” The interview took place live on 5 March 2013, and may be viewed here. The following article was published 6 March 2013 and is taken from the Russia Today website. –CanKor]

N. Korea vows to scrap ceasefire if South, US continue military drill

North Korea has threatened to scrap the armistice which ended the 1950-53 Korean War if the South and US continue with an ongoing military drill.

“We will completely nullify the Korean armistice,” the North’s KCNA news agency said, quoting the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Supreme Command spokesman.

Pyongyang warned it will cancel the Korean War ceasefire agreement on March 11 if the US and its “puppet South Korea” do not halt their joint drills.

“We will be suspending the activities of the KPA representative office at Panmunjom (truce village) that had been tentatively operated by our army as the negotiating body to establish a peace regime on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA quoted the spokesman as saying. Read the rest of this entry »

Much ado about style over substance: Kim Jong Un’s New Year

Continuing the theme of channeling his grandfather’s charisma by reversing his father’s aloofness, the young DPRK leader Kim Jong Un read his first major policy speech on New Year’s day. During his 19-year reign, “dear leader” Kim Jong Il (Jong Un’s father) substituted the traditional New Year’s pronouncements of “great leader” Kim Il Sung (Jong Un’s grandfather) with a “joint New Year’s editorial” published by the official newspapers of the Korean Worker’s Party, the Korean People’s Army and the Party’s youth wing.

Kim Jong Un delivers 2013 New Year message (Photo by KCNA)

The young Kim Jong Un appeared before television cameras to read the lengthy speech, which will be the subject of intensive study within North Korea. But as can be seen by a sampling of “expert” opinions, this annual summary of DPRK policies is also carefully dissected by DPRK-watchers the world over.

The full text of the speech (courtesy the Korean Central News Agency KCNA) can be read at the following link: New Year Address Made by Kim Jong Un.

To see the young leader reading the text (with the voice of an interpreter in English) please watch the video at the bottom of this article.

Here follow some early commentaries about the significance of this speech by a number of (mostly American) experts as assembled by Chris Nelson taken from the 2 January 2013 Nelson Report:  Read the rest of this entry »

North Korean power shuffle no surprise, by Gwynne Dyer

[Although the title highlights the recent dismissal of KPA chief Vice-marshal Ri Yong Ho, this opinion piece by Canadian columnist Gwynne Dyer compares Kim Jong Un’s hereditary accession to leadership in the DPRK to the likely scenario of another hereditary leader becoming the next president of South Korea. Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries. –CanKor]

What has been happening in North Korea recently is straight out of the Hereditary Dictatorship for Dummies handbook. Kim Jong-un, the pudgy young heir to the leadership of one of the world’s last Communist states, is removing powerful people who were loyal to his father and replacing them with men (it’s always men) who owe their advancement only to him.

Vice-Marshal Ri Yong-ho, the chief of the North Korean army until late last week, was not disloyal to the new boss. On the contrary, Ri’s support was vital in ensuring a smooth transition after the death of Kim Jong-Il, the old boss, and he gave it unstintingly. But in the end the vice-marshal didn’t owe everything to Kim Jong-un, so he had to go.

In his place, Kim Jong-un has promoted a man nobody had ever heard of before. His name is Hyon Yong-chol, but you don’t have to remember it unless you really want to. The point is that Hyon will have annoyed a lot of other generals in the army because he has been promoted over their heads, and so he is absolutely dependent on the good will of the young master. Read the rest of this entry »

Party Time in Pyongyang, by Aidan Foster-Carter

[From time to time CanKor alerts readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by long-time CanKor friend and contributor Aiden Foster-Carter. Please follow our link to the current article on the 38North site. –CanKor]

As I write this article, April is already more than half over. In North Korea, the party is over, bar the shouting. But in Pyongyang, the shouting never really stops, or not for long anyway.

Kim Jong Un waves to the masses during the military parade commemorating Kim Il Sung’s centenary birthday. (Photo: AP)

True, this event-packed month is not quite done yet. The April 28 Spring Friendship Art Festival still has a few days to run, bringing to the good people of Pyongyang such cultural delights as the Trumpet Ensemble of Belarus. Not forgetting the song and dance troupe of the General Political Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. (Catchy name!)

Lest you imagine this has anything to do with art, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) was commendably candid. Announcing the festival on March 29, KCNA hailed the “over 50 art troupes from 20 odd countries… Their performances will be devoted to praising President Kim Il Sung, revered as the sun of Juche by the world progressives.” That surely can’t apply to the Festival’s most unlikely performers: the Sons of Jubal, a 150-strong male chorus who are all Baptist music ministers from Georgia (the US state, not the country). So much for aesthetics.

One important date yet to come is April 25. That’s Army Day, which this year marks the 80th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Like much in the DPRK’s official history, this is fiction. The real KPA wasn’t formed until 1948, on February 8. That was the date they celebrated until 1978, when it got pushed back to mark instead the supposed founding of Kim Il Sung’s tiny guerrilla band in 1932. In North Korea, after all, myth rules.

Just in case the rumors are right and the DPRK is contemplating a nuclear test to compensate for the failed rocket launch on April 13, then April 25 might be deemed an appropriate date for it. But this article lays off the rocketry, amply covered by 38 North of late, to look instead at the politics which unfolded in Pyongyang last week. What happened, and what have we learned? Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Ambassador thanks CanKor

[Ambassador Sin Son Ho, the DPRK ambassador to Canada and Permanent Representative to the United Nations headquarters in New York, expressed his “deepest thanks” to CanKor Editor-in-Chief Erich Weingartner for the message of condolence on the death of DPRK leader Kim Jong Il. A PDF file of the signed letter on UN Mission letterhead can be found here. The text of the letter is as follows. –CanKor]

CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner with DPRK Ambassador Sin Son Ho.

New York, 12 January 2012

Dear Mr. Erich Weingartner,

I would like to express my deepest thanks to you for your message of condolences on 19 December 2012 on the sudden passing of His Excellency KIM JONG IL, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army.

Your message of condolences in sharing the sorrow with us represents a great support and inspiration to our people, who have turned their grief over the loss of their leader into courage and strength and are fully resolved to surely build a socialist prosperous and powerful country, upholding the behest of great leader KIM JONG IL and single-mindedly unite around His Excellency KIM JONG UN, Supreme Leader of the Party, State and Military of DPRK.

Best regards,

Sin Son Ho

Ambassador

Permanent Representative

U.S. and North Korea: The land of lousy options by John Kerry

[John Kerry, a US senator from Massachusetts, heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In an Op Ed published in the Los Angeles Times on 26 June 2011, Kerry states that Washington’s approach to North Korea’s bad behaviour has been measured, firm, but inadequate. He calls for the USA to re-engage directly with the DPRK, beginning with the provision of food aid. – CanKor.]

Senator John Kerry

Sixty-one years ago this weekend, North Korean artillery opened fire along the 38th Parallel, and a war began that claimed the lives of more than 33,000 American soldiers, 100,000 Chinese “volunteers” and 2 million Koreans.

Today, the goal of building a lasting peace remains elusive. In fact, the peninsula is more dangerous than ever. North Korea has twice tested nuclear weapons and is developing missiles to carry them. It has built facilities capable of producing highly enriched uranium for more nuclear weapons. In defiance of a U.N. arms embargo, it continues to export weapons and sensitive technologies to unsavory partners such as Myanmar. And last year, the deadliest since the armistice in 1953, a North Korean torpedo killed 46 South Korean sailors and an artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island killed four more South Koreans.

The U.S. response to all of this has been measured but firm. It has also been inadequate. Read the rest of this entry »

Perspectives on DPRK blast against ROK President Lee by Nelson, Witt, Revere et al

[The following is taken from the 31 May 2011 edition of The Nelson Report, with kind permission by Chris Nelson. Joel Witt is Editor of our “Partner” 38North, a project of SAIS (Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University). Evans Revere was the US State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and former CEO of the Korea Society in the USA. –CanKor.]

CHRIS NELSON writes:

The official DPRK news service, KCNA, delivered a harshly worded blast declaring that it would “never” negotiate with ROK President Lee…so we pulsed our Loyal Reader Korea Network for thoughts, and have some “on the record” responses from former PDAS Evans Revere, and former Clinton-era nuclear negotiator Joel Witt, plus a cross section of the “must be protected” experts for your consideration, below. Read the rest of this entry »

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