SEOUL — North Korea on Sunday accepted South Korea’s proposal to hold discussions this week on the emotional issue of family reunions and also suggested discussions on restarting the Mt. Kumgang resort that had been closed since 2008.
The announcement followed an agreement last week between the two nations to launch negotiations on reopening a joint industrial park in North Korea, feeding the recent optimism that relations between the two nations might be on the mend.
Three days after Seoul’s call for talks on family reunions, the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland released a statement on state media saying the two nations should hold talks Friday and use the coming Korean holiday of Chuseok as an occasion to bring together parted relatives.
Published on Jul 17, 2013
The world’s biggest ship is about to set sail from Kwangyong port. While it is made of 60,000 tonnes of steel or the equivalent of 8 Eiffel Towers, the shipping line says much of it is recyclable. Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett reports from South Korea.
From the Washington Post
SEOUL — South Korea has asked to postpone a change that would give Seoul control of its own troops during a war, rather than place them under U.S. command, South Korea’s semiofficial Yonhap News Agency said Wednesday, citing a top U.S. government official.
The reported request, coming on the heels of delays, underscores South Korea’s ambivalence about how it would handle a potential war with the rival North and whether its military is capable of operating independently of Washington.
Under the current arrangement, a legacy of the Korean War, the United States would command not only its own troops amid fighting on the Korean Peninsula but also those of the South.
The transfer of operational wartime control from Washington to Seoul would mark the greatest power shift in a six-decade alliance. When the South first pushed for the transfer seven years ago, government officials here described it as an affirmation of the South’s sovereignty and its rapid modernization.
But the transfer — originally planned for 2012 and then pushed to December 2015 — has since drawn occasional criticism from conservative analysts in Seoul and Washington, who say deterrence against North Korea will suffer if the militarily superior United States takes a back seat. Earlier this year, a former U.S. commander in Korea, retired Gen. B.B. Bell, said the United States should “permanently postpone” the deal in light of the North’s nuclear weapons capability.
The Yonhap report was attributed to an unidentified top U.S. government official and confirmed by a senior South Korean official.
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense did not confirm the report but said in a statement that Seoul had proposed Washington take into account “North Korea’s heightened nuclear problem” as the two sides discuss the handoff. The statement added that the transfer will be “continuously discussed” by the two governments.
In its statement, U.S. Forces Korea said “no formal proposal” has been made to adjust the so-called OpCon plan. A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Jeff Pool, said both sides believed that certain conditions had to be met before the transition. But the allies “continue to work to meet” the 2015 milestone, he said.
When the transfer occurs, the 28,500 U.S. troops here will not fall under the command of the South during war. Rather, the United States and South Korea will have separate commands.
South Korea gained control in 1994 of its troops during peacetime. But analysts and U.S. officials say the South needs to improve some of its capabilities — its intelligence systems, transport planes, amphibious vessels — before the wartime transfer.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Joseph Yun, the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a congressional committee in May.
Yoonjung Seo in Seoul and Ernesto Londoño in Washington contributed to this report.
From the LA Times:
The KTVU newscast was captured in a video posted to YouTube, in which the station displayed four incorrect pilot names on the screen and an anchor read them aloud.
“The NTSB has confirmed these are the names of the pilots aboard Flight 214 when it crashed,” the anchor said. “We are working to determine exactly what roles each of them played during the landing on Saturday.”
Filed under: Asia, Culture, Economy, Espionage, History, Info, North Korea, U.S. Policy
South Korea’s multiculturalism
Filed under: Asia, Info, North Korea, Nukes, Soft Power, Trade, Travel, U.S. Policy
The meeting at the “Truce Village” of Panmunjom in the Korean Demilitarized Zone — so-called because the armistice that brought the 1950-53 Korean War to a close was signed there — signaled that the two countries may be prepared to move beyond months of mutual mistrust.
Filed under: Culture, Fashion, Food, History, Info, Soft Power, Technology, Trade, Travel
Filed under: Asia, Culture, Economy, Espionage, Info, North Korea, Nukes, Technology, Trade, Travel, U.S. Policy
Published on Apr 16, 2013
While North Korea’s ‘Supreme Commander’ Kim Jong-Un has been threatening thermo-nuclear war against the United States, Panorama reporter John Sweeney spent eight days undercover inside the most rigidly-controlled nation on Earth. Travelling from the capital Pyongyang to the countryside beyond and to the de-Militarised Zone on the border with South Korea, Sweeney witnesses a landscape bleak beyond words, a people brainwashed for three generations and a regime happy to give the impression of marching towards Armageddon.
Students slam BBC for ‘gambling with lives’ in N.Korea
The UK’s top economics university has accused the BBC of gambling with students’ lives after it emerged the BBC used unwitting students as cover to film in North Korea.
The London School of Economics said its students, who went to North Korea on a study trip, could have been detained for years if the BBC scam unraveled.
The LSE claims that BBC’s Panorama reporter John Sweeney posed as one of the university’s professors, and took the students on an alleged study trip in order to film an undercover documentary in North Korea. The students were not aware that they were involved in the filming of a documentary and the BBC did not warn them of the imposed dangers, General Secretary of the LSE Students Union Alex Peters-Day told RT.
According to Peters-Day, rather than make a concerted effort to inform the entire student group headed to the country, individual students overheard conversations in hotel lobbies and in minivans en route to Beijing airport.
“A couple of years ago two American journalists were found to have been doing undercover journalism in North Korea. They were both sentenced to nine years of hard labor. Obviously, as we now have just heard, the climate in North Korea is more heightened than it was back then, but students should have had the right to make the decision for themselves whether or not they are going to face danger. The problem for us is that the BBC made that decision for them,” Peters-Day told RT.
“The group was just told there would be a print journalist only. It wasn’t actually until they arrived in North Korea that they were told there would be a documentary in which they would be appearing. It wasn’t until they arrived in Beijing to fly to North Korea that they were joined by other journalists. When we are talking about a trip like this, with such risks involved, it’s so important that the students would have been briefed at all stages and would have been made aware. They just weren’t in this case. The BBC deliberately withheld information from them,” she said.
In addition to the potential danger to students, Peters-Day claims that this situation potentially jeopardizes all academic work in the UK, preventing future access for professors to politically-sensitive countries.
“I know Universities UK, which represents over a hundred universities in Britain, have come out and condemned the BBC for doing that, because it places at jeopardy huge amounts of academic research. And the problem is LSE academics and other academics do work into regimes like North Korea, which is really insightful. Whereas this is a tourist trip. I’m pretty certain the information, the footage they will get would have been the same sort of footage of tourist monuments and statues of Kim Jong-un, when actually the important work that is done by universities uncovering authoritarian regimes is now at risk and jeopardy,” added Peters-Day.
The same sentiment was expressed in an email sent by the university to students and staff: “It is LSE’s view that the students were not given enough information to enable informed consent, yet were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.”
According to an anonymous student present on the trip who spoke with the BBC, they were not made aware of the presence of several journalists working prior to their flight to Pyongyang. Rather, students were told that John Sweeney was a history professor with the university, though that subterfuge seemed to dissipate slowly once the group had arrived in North Korea.
For its part, the BBC has thus far refused to pull the program, while Craig Calhoun, director of the LSE, questions whether it was worth it for anyone involved.
“The BBC story put LSE students at danger but seems to have found no new information and only shown what North Korea wants tourists to see,” wrote Calhoun via Twitter.
Not everyone is entirely convinced that the BBC’s gamble was not worth the risk. John Lloyd, director of journalism at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, believes the timing and the content of the program made it “extremely valuable.”
Regardless of whether the program will ultimately be viewed as being of value, the incident comes at a delicate time for the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall, who is still trying to navigate the institution beyond last year’s accusations of a cover-up and editorial failure over the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.
Perhaps even more damaging, according to one BBC news executive who spoke with Reuters, the decision to embed journalists with the LSE student group had been “right to the top,” and involved Hall in at least some regard.