PN's Voice 59

Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 59, 05-11-2015
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PN's Voice No. 59  05. 11. 2015 
Small steps, Road to peace

Park & Abe Make a Small Step Forward

The gap in historical awareness between Korea and Japan was too wide for the leaders of the two countries to plug in one summit. This sums up the first one-on-one on November 2 between President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Seoul summit was the first of its kind between the two countries in more than three years. As such, it raised expectations for a breakthrough in normalizing the frayed bilateral relationship.

Yet the meeting must have been disappointing to those who expected substantial progress in resolving the long-standing issue of the Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II. After more than 90 minutes of talks, the two leaders simply announced that they agreed to “speed up” the ongoing negotiations to quickly resolve the thorny problem. By agreeing to accelerate the bilateral talks on the matter, Abe expressed his will not to leave it unresolved. Nevertheless, it would be naive to expect an early settlement, given the widely different perspectives of the two sides.

A breakthrough can be reached only when Abe commits himself to addressing Seoul’s long-running grudge. If he seeks a genuine reconciliation with Seoul, he needs to be more willing to heal the wounds Japan had inflicted on it. For this, he should have the courage to face up to history.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Korea and Japan. For mutual prosperity in the coming 50 years, they need to put the relationship on a firmer ground. The Seoul summit was the first step in that direction. The two sides should keep the ball rolling.
Source : The Kyunghyang Shinmun, The Korea Herald, Forbes

US confirms that Alliance with S. Korea will Stand Firm Regardless of US Politics

The US alliance with South Korea has stood firm for more than six decades regardless of politics in Washington, a US Defense Department official said Wednesday. Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, made the remark in response to a question about Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's accusations that South Korea is getting a defense free ride from the US "We have 65 years of alliance with the Republic of Korea, decades-old alliance with the Republic of Korea. I don't see that alliance changing," Davis told reporters after a Foreign Press Center briefing. "Our commitment has been long-term; it's been enduring. It has stood constant, regardless of whom the president was, regardless of which party was in power, and I don't see that changing," he said.

Trump has repeatedly made such unfounded criticism, even though South Korea has shouldered part of the burden needed for the upkeep of 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea to deter aggression from the North. Trump recently claimed that countries that depend on the US for protection should pay for the troops and the equipment the US is providing.

Last year, the two countries renewed their cost-sharing agreement, known as the Special Measures Agreement, with Seoul agreeing to pay 920 billion won (US$886 million) for the upkeep of the U.S. troops in 2014, a 5.8 percent increase from a year earlier. Moreover, the American military presence on the peninsula is seen as in line with U.S. national interests in a region marked by a rising China.
Source : Yonhap News

NK Leader May Visit China Next Year

Amid thawing relations between North Korea and China, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is expected to visit China for his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping early next year, reports said. The bilateral "blood-forged" partnership from the 1950-53 Korean War had been at its worst ever, due to the North's third nuclear test and execution of Jang Song-thaek, the former No. 2 man in the repressive state who was known to be close to China. As a result, Kim has yet to meet Xi since taking power in 2011.

However, a visit by Liu Yunshan, the fifth-ranking official of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee, to Pyongyang last month for a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the North's ruling Workers' Party seems to have turned things around, raising speculation of Kim's potential summit with Xi in the near future. "Kim and Liu agreed to increase exchanges of high-ranking officials and economic cooperation, and the high-ranking officials include their leaders," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies. He added that the agreement means the two sides are seeking to normalize their strained relations and further restore their blood alliance.

Japan's Mainichi Shimbun newspaper also reported last week that the North and China are in negotiations over Kim's one-on-one talks with Xi in the first half of next year, citing multiple diplomatic sources. While in the North, Liu handed Kim a personal letter from Xi hoping to renew their frayed bilateral ties. The Japanese newspaper also reported that in the letter, the Chinese president proposed that Kim's visit China at his convenience. However, the Seoul government said there is nothing to confirm about the report.
Source : The Korea Times

S. Korea Reveals Thousands of Remains of Korean Wartime Forced Laborers Found in Japan

Yesterday a South Korean commission confirmed that a decade long investigation uncovered more than 2,700 sets of remains in Japan were identified as Koreans who were forced into labor during the Japanese colonial rule. It is the first time that the number of remains of Korean laborers confirmed by South Korea and Japan has been made public. The commission affiliated with the prime minister's office, which carried out the joint investigation, said the number of remains could increase if the investigation continues.

Historians in South Korea estimate that at least 1.2 million Koreans were coerced, or sometimes duped, into laboring as part of Japan’s war efforts in Japan, China and elsewhere. They toiled in mines, airfields and factories for their colonial masters, and thousands died under brutal conditions. Their families in Korea were never told about the locations of their remains. South Korea and Japan began searching for those remains after Roh Moo-hyun, then the South Korean president, asked Junichiro Koizumi, then the Japanese prime minister, for help in returning them home in 2004. As of October, 153 remains have been identified and 95 bereaved families have expressed their intention to repatriate them, the commission said. An official from the commission said "Despite the families' will, the Japanese government has been passive in cooperating with the repatriation” as a result of the deteriorating Japanese-South Korean relations due to unresolved historical issues, such as a formal apology over Japan’s wartime use of so-called comfort women.

The forced mobilization was carried out when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony from 1910-45. Many Koreans were conscripted into the Japanese military or drafted to work in the military industrial sector, being deployed in Japan and other countries against their will. It is unclear how many people were mobilized for forced labor and died. Some civic groups claim the number of conscripts goes up to a million or more.
Source : Yonhap News, The New York Times

S. Korean Firms at Kaesong Complex to Pay New Tax

South Korean firms at the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex will begin paying tax to North Korea this year, South Korea’s Unification Ministry announced this Wednesday. Under an inter-Korean deal regulating the management of the complex, the South Korean firms were exempt from the tax for the first 10 years after the establishment of the industrial park in 2004.

Park Soo-jin, deputy spokeswoman for the ministry, told reporters that the government would begin negotiations with the North over the tax. The inter-Korean agreement calls for the amount of the tax to be decided through mutual consent, but Park stated that nothing had been decided yet. North Korea has reportedly suggested that South Korean firms pay $3.50 per 3.3 square meters of land. It is not known whether Seoul will accept the offer. Some owners of the firms have raised concerns that a possible disagreement over the payment could protract the negotiations.

Earlier this year, the Seoul & Pyongyang clashed over the monthly minimum wage for North Korean workers at the complex. The standoff was finally ended after several months of tension that jeopardized the operation of the firms. Meanwhile, North Korea banned two South Korean officials from entering the complex Wednesday. It was not clear why their entry to the industrial park was blocked. Whether these recent issues will produce a similar clash to that of the minimum wage disagreement, remains to be seen.

About 50,000 North Koreans are working at factories run by about 120 South Korean companies in the Kaesong industrial zone.
Source : Voice of America

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