PN's Voice 12

Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 12, 23-09-2014

PN's Voice 12
Small steps, Road to peace

S. Korea’s Strong Resolve to Improve Ties with Japan & N. Korea

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se recently gave his first interview since taking office in March of last year, and spoke at length of South Korea’s “strong resolve to improve relations with Japan.” Relations between the two nations have been strained for some time over historical and territorial issues. Yun said to expect “a lot of movement between both countries…very soon.” Yun has met his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida three times since taking office and Yun said there was a high likelihood they would meet again before the end of the year.

Yun spoke of President Park’s aim of establishing “stable and irreversible Korea-Japan relations”, especially as next year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of ties between the two countries. Despite the desire to build goodwill between the two countries, Yun went on to warn that using a diplomatic approach to counter the Shinzo Abe administration’s historically revisionist course wouldn’t be easy. Yun also had words of caution towards Japan over unsettled historical issues:
“In the past 20 years, in the earlier years, Korea signaled goodwill gestures to Japan, but toward the end, the situation has just become exacerbated, so we do not want to repeat such measures, having learned from trial and error…we have a definite strategy and road map for what we want…rather than doing what Japan wants when they want it, please watch patiently.”

Yun also spoke of South Korea’s relationship with China. When asked if South Korean had recently begun to shift away from Japan and towards China, Yun responded:
“In a situation in which progress is not being made between Korea and Japan, the Korea-China relationship has progressed, and that aspect has become magnified. If the word ‘shifted’ has to be used, it is more accurate to say that China has shifted more toward South Korea than North Korea when it comes to the peninsula.”

Korean President Park Geun-hye, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to in Beijing for November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Source : JoongAng Daily

Update on Americans Detained in North Korea

There are currently three American citizens being detained in North Korea; Kenneth Bae, Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle. However, the three detainees were nearly joined by a fourth last week as a male American citizen based in South Korea attempted to swim across to North Korea. He was detained by South Korean soldiers after being found lying exhausted on the southern bank of the Han River. Reports claim the man told his detainers that he wanted to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

This news follows on from last week’s announcement of the punishment of six years of hard labor handed down to Matthew Miller, an American citizen who allegedly tore up his visa and demanded asylum upon entering North Korea as a tourist. Recent reports have revealed that Miller had hoped to emulate Edward Snowdon in becoming a “world-famous whistle-blower” by shedding light on the communist state's prison camps. A statement released by North Korean media reported that Miller had hoped to be placed in to a prison camp for the “sole purpose of collecting evidence of human rights violations.” North Korea media also said that Miller had tried to meet fellow detained American Kenneth Bae, who is serving a 15-year sentence for distributing religious texts in Pyongyang.

Amid news this week that the third detainee, Fowle, was sacked from his job due to his prolonged absence, North Korea announced it would not accept offers from the US to send a “high-level envoy” to seek the release of the three detainees.
Source : The Guardian, The Guardian, The Korea Times, The Korea Times,

Shots Fired Due to N. Korean Incursion in West Sea

North Korea’s pattern of carrying out provocative acts on dates of significance continued last week as a North Korean patrol boat crossed the disputed West Sea maritime border last Friday. Friday marked the official opening of the Asian Games in Incheon.

Defense officials say their navy fired warning shots at the boat as it briefly crossed the disputed maritime border to the west of the peninsula around noon, with the boat returning to the northern side of the border six minutes after the warning shots were fired.

This isn’t the first time the date of a significant event in South Korea has been interrupted by North Korean provocation; the visits of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Pope and Obama all coincided with missile launches from North Korea.
Source : Chosun Ilbo

North Korea Releases Its Own Human Rights Report

North Korea has attempted to counter the condemning UN Human Rights report on North Korean human rights abuses, released in February, by releasing its own human rights report.

The lengthy document was published in its 53,558 word entirety on the North’s Korean Central News Agency’s website. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the report denies any of the facts reported by the UN and instead proudly focuses on North Korea’s “11-year compulsory education system, its gender-equality legislation, and its labor regulation that saw the introduction of eight-hour days.” The basic human rights inscribed in the North Korean constitution are too numerous to list here, but include:
The right to elect and be elected (Article 66), The right to freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, demonstration and association (Article 67), The freedom of religious beliefs (Article 68), The right of freedom of residence and travel (Article 75 and The right to free medical care and social security (Article 72).

The report argues that North Koreans really do enjoy "genuine human rights", claims North Korean citizens "feel proud of the world's most advantageous human rights system" and blames the United States, the European Union, Japan and South Korea for the international condemnation the North received in light of the UN’s report. The report however, made no mention of the three detained American citizens currently in North Korea. The report also didn’t mention that North Korea “conducts surveillance on its citizens, or that the state will discriminate against them based on supposed ideological problems”. The report also dismisses claims about torture and killings in their political camp prisons, saying that these stories were fabricated by "riffraffs," "fugitives" and "terrorists".
Source : The Washington Post

US Wants To Maintain Troops in Dongducheon

The possibility of South Korea and the US once again postponing the transfer of wartime operation control (OPCON) is now raising questions and concerns that the planned US forces relocation could be downsized or even reversed.

The US has expressed a strong desire for its 210th Field Artillery Brigade to stay on in Dongducheon in northern Gyeonggi province, and for the Combined Forces Command to remain in Seoul. This US aim is contradictory to agreements signed in 2002 to move the US forces’ headquarters and bases further south. However, the US wants to keep the artillery brigade north of the Han River to be “better able to respond to North Korean long-range artillery and mechanized forces.” US Forces in Korea General Curtis Scaparotti said that “in terms of the residual in what we call Area I (north of the Han River), there may be a need operationally to leave some residual in those areas just for proper defense and response.”

This plan has lead to criticism of the US as it appears it using South Korea’s request for another OPCON transfer postponement as leverage to demand relocation agreement concessions.
Source : Hankyoreh

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