Corea del Sur

Kim in Pyongyang, February 2018. KCNA / REUTERS

North Korea has all but completed its quest for nuclear weapons. It has demonstrated its ability to produce boosted-fission bombs and may be able to make fusion ones, as well. It can likely miniaturize them to fit atop a missile. And it will soon be able to deliver this payload to the continental United States. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has declared his country’s nuclear deterrent complete and, despite his willingness to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, is unlikely to give it up. Yet Washington continues to demand that Pyongyang relinquish the nuclear weapons it already has, and the Trump administration has pledged that the North Korean regime will never acquire a nuclear missile that can hit the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

A U.S. soldier capturing North Korean prisoners of war in 1953.CreditUniversal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

No, the Korean War still is not over. While an armistice in 1953 ended active fighting, it was never followed by a peace treaty. This is why during their recent meeting, Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, in addition to jointly calling for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, also pledged to formally conclude the war.

Much ambiguity remains about what exactly it would take to accomplish what Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon vowed to do, and many analysts have expressed skepticism about this diplomatic overture, pointing to a number of other supposed breakthroughs in the past that petered out.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women's peace group rally in Imjingak peace park in Paju, near the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas. Photo by Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images.

Friday’s dramatic meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Chairman Kim Jong-un, represents an unambiguous historic breakthrough at least in terms of the image of bilateral reconciliation and the emotional uplift it has given to South Korea public opinion.

Whether the agreement announced at the meeting – the new Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula – offers, in substance, the right mix of concrete measures to propel the two Koreas and the wider international community towards a lasting peace remains an open question.

The symbolic impact of a North Korean leader setting foot for the first time on South Korean soil cannot be underestimated.…  Seguir leyendo »

Quienes lleguen a Corea del Sur, que no esperen descubrir una nación movilizada, angustiada ante una guerra inminente. En el aeropuerto de Incheon, un oficial de seguridad me hizo una sola pregunta: si había estado en contacto con algún camello. No me lo estoy inventando; parece ser que algunos viajeros que habían pasado por Oriente Próximo informaron sobre unos microbios que están propagando una gripe pulmonar por la región. Los numerosos coreanos que utilizan máscaras para protegerse de las miasmas y proteger a los demás –entre las mujeres está de moda llevarla negra– dan testimonio del temor nacional a las epidemias, y no a un ataque inminente de Corea del Norte.…  Seguir leyendo »

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk together at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, on 27 April 27 2018. Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters

What’s happening in Korea?

The leaders of North and South Korea, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in met in the Korean War truce village of Panmunjom today. It was the third inter-Korean summit, and the first such meeting in a decade.

The meeting was rich with symbolism. Every element, from the size of the conference table to the dinner menu, suggested deeper meaning. The pine tree Kim and Moon planted near the inter-Korean border was nourished with soil from the highest mountains in North and South Korea, Paektu and Halla, and water from the Han and Taedong rivers that run through the two Korean capital cities.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pedestrians in Seoul, South Korea, in front of a banner supporting unity between the North and South at a summit scheduled for April 27.CreditChung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

When the government of South Korea announced last week that it would begin work on a formal peace treaty with North Korea, to be discussed at a summit meeting on April 27, its so-called Sunshine Policy of engagement gave way to P.T. Barnum-style, a-sucker-born-every-minute diplomacy.

Fighting in the Korean War ended in 1953 with just an armistice, and South Korean officials are calling for a “permanent peace.” But it is not merely unrealistic to hope that Kim Jong-un, the leader of the North, will offer the South real and lasting peace; it is delusional.

If the past is any guide, the North will offer the South unenforceable verbiage.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lorsque les dirigeants des Corées du Nord et du Sud se réuniront le 27 avril, ce ne sera que le troisième sommet de ce genre depuis la fin de la guerre de Corée. Un moment rare dans notre monde polarisé. Il y a quelques mois encore, l’escalade des tensions politiques était vive et un risque d’affrontement militaire dans la péninsule coréenne existait. C’est à cette situation de crise, ponctuée de tirs de missiles, d’essais nucléaires et de discours belliqueux, que le monde et les Jeux olympiques d’hiver de Pyeongchang 2018 faisaient face à l’automne 2017. Pour expliquer le relâchement de ces tensions, il convient de considérer le rôle des Jeux olympiques.…  Seguir leyendo »

A TM-61C Matador being assembled at Osan Air Base, Pyeongtaek, South Korea, in 1958. Matadors could be armed with nuclear warheads. Credit Associated Press

As President Trump prepares for a possible meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, many American are raising warnings that North Korea has walked away from previous arms agreements. But those skeptics should remember that it was the United States, in 1958, that broke the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, when the Eisenhower administration sent the first atomic weapons into South Korea.

By the mid-1960s, the United States had more than 900 nuclear artillery shells, tactical bombs, surface-to-surface rockets and missiles, antiaircraft missiles and nuclear land mines in South Korea. Even nuclear projectiles for Davy Crockett recoilless rifles were for several years based in South Korea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Watching & Waiting on Korea’s Border in 1979

For four years, as a Peace Corps volunteer working on drinking water systems, I lived in some of Nepal’s remotest mountain villages, many days’ walk from the nearest motor roads. My love for 35mm black-and-white photography had deepened while in college and in 1975, before heading to Nepal, I purchased a Leica M3 camera which was then always with me. By 1979 I was slowly making my way back to the US. Living in Seoul for a few months was a way of readjusting to modern life. And it was easy enough for young Americans like me to make money teaching English.…  Seguir leyendo »

Seated behind North Korea’s cheerleaders at the Olympics are, from left, Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president; Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee; Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea; and Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un. (AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea made an unprecedented move in the 2018 Winter Olympics. It sent athletes to compete — and a squad of peppy cheerleaders — and did so under a “one Korea” banner.

The international media have largely dubbed this diplomatic maneuver a “gold-medal” success. An official delegation led by Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, helped North Korea get what it undoubtedly aimed for: At minimum, the regime has a friendly human face; at best, Pyongyang has driven a wedge between South Korea and the United States, even as the regime finds itself increasingly isolated in a nuclear standoff.

Far beyond the network cameras, what would this “one Korea” look like, though?…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Unification Church commemorate the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, in Seoul in 2012. Credit Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press

On Friday morning, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was setting off to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics, as well as a side meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, he declared that cooperation among their two countries and the United States was “unshakable” in the face of threats from North Korea.

Yet just last week some commentators were forecasting that the encounter could only be “tense,” citing, as ever, residual tensions stemming from Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-45. As is routinely reported, Japan’s wartime treatment of so-called comfort women — women enlisted to sexually service Japanese troops — appears to endanger its ties with South Korea because, some say, it has not adequately apologized for its record.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Olympics Open, Moon’s Warm Words for Pyongyang Alarm South Korea’s Allies

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has used the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which begin today, to renew the dialogue with North Korea. The countries have formed a joint women’s hockey team and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong, who is said to have strong ties with her brother, is attending the opening ceremony.

Such moves appeal to the people who voted for Moon in 2017, as he is widely known as a North Korea-friendly politician and was looking for opportunities to open a negotiation channel with Pyongyang. But his efforts have wider implications for South Korea’s foreign policy, most notably its relationships with Japan and the US.…  Seguir leyendo »

Will North Korea Win the Gold Medal for Deceit

A gaggle of young North Koreans in neon chased me down the mountain on skis, expertly skidding to a stop at my feet as I sat on the slope tightening my bindings.

They peppered me with questions: “What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from? Are you married?”

It was 2014 and we were at Masikryong Ski Resort, a pet project of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The resort, a multimillion-dollar facility featuring luxury lodges and pristine slopes about 100 miles east of Pyongyang, had opened a few weeks earlier and I was there on a reporting trip — and to get a little snowboarding in.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea’s Lipstick Diplomacy

When North Korea’s 22 Olympians compete in Pyeongchang this month, they won’t be alone: Accompanying them will be 230 young North Korean women, all of them at least 5 feet 3 inches, all of them deemed “pretty” by the state.

Western news outlets have taken to calling these women an “army of beauties”; in South Korea, they are often “beautiful cheerleaders.” In reality, they are mostly students, selected from upper-class families in Pyongyang for their loyalty to the party, their musical talent and their looks. These women are deployed abroad by the regime on special occasions, when it wants to show its best face — or best faces, rather — to the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sports Diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s decision to dispatch Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Yo-jong to South Korea (Republic of Korea, ROK) as part of a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics has opened up the possibility for the past month of sports diplomacy to garner something more substantive and lasting. With all parties to the Korean peninsula conflict sending senior delegations to South Korea for the Games, everyone should take a moment to give diplomacy a chance.

Kim Yo-jong’s visit is one outcome of high-level talks between the two Koreas during January, a process that started with Kim Jong-un using the annual North Korean leader’s address on 1 January to call for a successful New Year for both Koreas.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korean cheering squads arriving at the Korean-transit office near the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, South Korea, this week. Credit Pool photo by Ahn Young-Joon

In the run-up to the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, some South Koreans have been grumbling that this may as well be the “Pyongyang Games.”

Since the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, announced on Jan. 1 that he was interested in sending a delegation to the Games, there has been a flurry of inter-Korean agreements.

Twenty-two North Korean athletes will participate in the Olympics, and they will arrive with some 230 cheerleaders in tow. The two Koreas are fielding a joint women’s ice hockey team. And at the opening ceremony on Friday, they will march under a single flag, the Korean Unification Flag.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Olympic Truce Could Help Solve the Korea Crisis

In ancient Greece, any and all warfare would pause ahead of the Olympic Games so that athletes and spectators could travel safely to the big event.

That’s not too far from what’s happening on the Korean Peninsula. After a year of mounting tension, North and South Korea have stumbled into a period of self-imposed calm. It’s not just that in the lead-up to the Pyeongchang games, which start on February 9, the two neighbors have agreed to field a unified women’s hockey team and parade together at the opening ceremony under a single flag. It’s that they’ve quietly entered into a de facto Olympic truce.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Lo más importante no es ganar, sino participar”. Esta recurrente frase —que pertenece ya al patrimonio popular— se atribuye a Pierre de Coubertin, el fundador de los Juegos Olímpicos modernos. Con motivo de las olimpiadas de invierno que acogerá la ciudad surcoreana de Pyeongchang dentro de unos días, la frase ha adquirido una renovada vigencia: las dos Coreas han aparcado sus diferencias y han acordado que una delegación norcoreana participe en los Juegos.

Separar política y deporte no solo es imposible, sino que tal vez no sea siquiera deseable. Entre los objetivos del olimpismo figura el de poner el deporte al servicio de la paz y de la dignidad humana.…  Seguir leyendo »

The presidency of Donald Trump has triggered an unprecedented collapse of Brand America and sets the bar exceedingly low for global leaders. Yet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump’s closest if not only friend among them, deserves special scrutiny for his recent refusal to apologize to South Korea over the horrors endured by tens of thousands of women treated as sex slaves by the Japanese military during the 1930s and 1940s.

There is a “been there, done that” aspect of South Korean-Japanese relations. These frenemies have never reached a mutually acceptable understanding of their shared past. Today true reconciliation has become even more elusive due to democratization in South Korea.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Dec. 27, a woman puts a scarf on a statue of a comfort woman sitting in an installation of empty chairs symbolizing the victims in Seoul. (AP)

On Tuesday, the South Korean government wrapped up a months-long process of reviewing a landmark 2015 agreement with Japan over the “comfort women” issue. In the agreement, Japan apologized for the sexual enslavement of Korean women in military brothels before and during World War II. It also offered for the first time government money to support surviving victims through a foundation run by the Korean government. Both sides pledged to stop criticizing each other on the comfort women issue. They pronounced the deal a “final and irreversible resolution” to the issue.

However, the deal quickly faced backlash in South Korea and was further delegitimized when President Park Geun-hye was impeached last year.…  Seguir leyendo »