Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quote of the Day:

"Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man."
- Benjamin Franklin

"In the sustained determination to accomplish there is an invincible power which swallows up all inferior considerations and marches direct to victory."
- James Allen 

“I believe in my fellow citizens. Our headlines are splashed with crime, yet for every criminal there’re 10,000 honest decent kindly men. If it were not so, no child would live to grow up. , business could not go on from day to day. Decency is not news; it is buried in the obituaries–but it us a force stronger than crime. I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses…in the tedium sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land.”
- Robert A. Heinlein, Excerpt from This I Believe.

1. Abrams’ remarks on China challenge ‘very surprising’ to South Korean military
2. KINU Unification Survey 2021: US-China Conflict & South Korean Public Opinion
3. N. Korean leader convenes key party meeting to discuss policy issues
4. N.Korea Reactivates Uranium Plant
5. Korea-Japan-U.S. defense ministerial talks are in the works
6.  How hackers keep North Korea’s economy afloat
7. Virtual inter-Korean summit unlikely before end of the year
8. Seoul should opt for strategic clarity in US-China rivalry: Yoon's foreign policy aide
9. S. Korea urges Japan to retract push to list mine linked to forced labor as World Heritage site
10. Family of former soldier found collapsed due to hunger in unheated home
11. N.Korean Defector Picked as a 'Hero of Year' by U.K. Times

1. Abrams’ remarks on China challenge ‘very surprising’ to South Korean military
We should note the primary target audience for Voice of America's Washington Talk is the elite in Pyongyang. Everyone who goes on the show (or speaks to VOA/RFA in general) should tailor their remarks for the north Korean regime elite (as I try to every time I participate). However, the South Korean press relies heavily on VOA (and Radio Free Asia) reporting because they provide thorough and objective reporting of US policy issues (I know the haters of VOA/RFA will not like that statement but I can attest to the excellent reporting by the Korean service of VOA and RFA).

I think much of the general's comments are taken out of context and certainly blown out of proportion. His comments about new strategic guidance and the Chinese threat are simply common sense - no military planner would discount the probability of China intervening on the Korean peninsula (we already made that mistake once); therefore, the updated strategic guidance and the new operation plan (OPLAN) should account for that threat. The threats posed by China (and Russia) to the Korean peninsula are obvious (and we should also understand the political warfare activities that China is conducting).  But of course in South Korea that is interpreted as using ROK and US forces to defend Taiwan or in other operations against China outside of the Korean peninsula. Ironically, South Korea's reaction to these statements plays right into the Chinese, Russian, and north Korean political warfare objectives: to drive a wedge in the ROK/US alliance. Their respective Propaganda and Agitation Department action officers are sitting back in their chairs, reading the reports from South Korea, and saying in unison, "our job is done here."

Abrams’ remarks on China challenge ‘very surprising’ to South Korean military
Stars and Stripes · by David Choi · December 28, 2021
U.S. Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams, U.S. Forces Korea commander, is shown here in November 2018. (Alexandria Craw/U.S. Air Force)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense on Monday pushed back against remarks by a former commander of U.S. Forces Korea who said wartime plans against North Korea must account for China’s militaristic influence in the region.
North Korea’s weapons testing demonstrates that it persists as a threat, but the Chinese military also has “to be accounted for in the war plan,” retired Gen. Robert Abrams, who led USFK and U.N. Command until July, said on Voice of America on Saturday.
“It’s not a secret that they have increased their presence in and around the Korean Peninsula since 2010,” Abrams said, referring to China’s military.
“These are indications of things that have to be accounted for in the war plan that the current [guidance] does not contain,” he said.
Abrams was talking about the next version of the Strategic Planning Guidance, a joint U.S.-South Korean military plan for a potential war with North Korea.
However, South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesman Boo Seung-chan on Monday described Abrams’ remarks as his “personal opinion” and his reference to China as “very surprising.”
During a news conference, Boo recalled that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Defense Minister Suh Wook agreed to update the decade-old war plan to address emerging threats and situational changes.
In his VOA interview, Abrams referenced the many times in which Chinese aircraft entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone — a buffer between a country’s airspace and international airspace in which approaching aircraft are expected to identify themselves.
Two Chinese and seven Russian military aircraft flew into the South Korean zone on Nov. 19, prompting South Korea to scramble fighter jets and a refueling tanker, according to a statement from the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time.
The Defense Department has described China as its “pacing challenge” and in February launched a 15-member China Task Force to assess the U.S.’s current strategy.
“China is seeking to overturn the current rules-based structure, which has benefitted all nations in the Indo-Pacific region,” the Defense Department said in a news release Feb. 10. “The United States and its allies seek to continue the free and open environment in the region. China is using all elements of national power to bend the nations to its will.”
South Korea continues to balance its diplomatic relationship with neighboring China and its longtime ally in Washington, D.C. Envoys from South Korea are still in discussions with China, North Korea and the U.S. over a possible declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Dec. 13 said the three countries have agreed “in principle” to formally end the war and that he hoped it would generate “significant dialogue momentum.” Twitter: @choibboy
David Choi

Stars and Stripes · by David Choi · December 28, 2021

2. KINU Unification Survey 2021: US-China Conflict & South Korean Public Opinion

For Korea Watchers. A lot of data to parse.

The summary of the findings can be found on page 10-12. Note the findings on nuclear weapons and security.

KINU Unification Survey 2021: US-China Conflict & South Korean Public Opinion
AuthorSangsin Lee,Tae-eun MIN,Kwang-il YOON,Bon-sang KOOPublish Date / Page2021-12-27 / 69 p. ;Series No.2021-APriceFileRead Hit71
  • 목차
  • 초록
I. Introduction

II. Public Opinion on Current Issues and Inter-Korean Relations

III. ROK-US Relations and Perception of US

IV. Perception of Neighboring Countries and Assessment on US-China Relations

V. ROK-China Relations and Perception of China

3. N. Korean leader convenes key party meeting to discuss policy issues

When will Kim give us his vision for 2022? From this meeting or a New Year's Day address?  

Here is my spoiler: He will provide lip service to a lot of issues (such as economic development and COVID defense), he will blame the US, the ROK, the international community, and the climate for everything that he has done wrong but the summary of his "new" policy will be to continue to prioritize nuclear and missile programs, advanced military capabilities, and support ot the elite, over the welfare of the Korean people in the north who will be asked to sacrifice even more to support the regime.

(LEAD) N. Korean leader convenes key party meeting to discuss policy issues | Yonhap News Agency · by 최수향 · December 28, 2021
(ATTN: ADDS photo, more info throughout)
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, Dec. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has kicked off a key ruling party meeting to decide on "strategic and tactical policies," its state media said Tuesday, amid expectations the session could serve as a venue to unveil Pyongyang's major policy directions for the new year.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over the plenary of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee held the previous day, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
"The plenary meeting is to review the implementation of main Party and state policies for the year 2021 and discuss and decide on the strategic and tactical policies," the KCNA said.
The meeting "approved the agenda items and went into the discussion of them," the report said without further elaboration, indicating that the event may continue for multiple days.
The North's previous plenary meetings were held for one to four days.

The meeting has drawn keen attention from the outside world, as it may offer a clue to the reclusive regime's next step amid a prolonged stalemate in its nuclear negotiations with the United States.
The North has remained unresponsive to U.S. overtures for talks after the countries' no-deal Hanoi summit in 2019, demanding Washington first retract what it calls "double standards" and "hostile policy" against its regime.
The KCNA did not provide details on the plenary's agenda items, but the economy is also expected to be high on the list as the North is struggling from crippling sanctions and a protracted border closure due to COVID-19.
Experts say this week's plenary could replace Kim's annual New Year's Day address.
Kim has skipped such speeches in the past two years, opting instead to unveil key messages via major party sessions around the turn of the calendar.
At the end of 2019, Kim presided over a four-day party plenary session and accused Washington of "hostile acts" against Pyongyang. This year, he convened a rare party congress in January and called the U.S. the North's "principal enemy."
Eyes are also on how the North will mark the 10th anniversary of Kim's rise to power, which falls this Thursday on the occasion of the party event.
Kim officially took the helm of the North on Dec. 30, 2011, with the "supreme commandership of the Korean People's Army," 13 days after his father and former leader Kim Jong-il died.
On Monday, Seoul's unification ministry urged North Korea to "start the new year by opening the door for dialogue" and "take a step forward for engagement and cooperation."
(END) · by 최수향 · December 28, 2021

4. N.Korea Reactivates Uranium Plant

Indication of intent?

N.Korea Reactivates Uranium Plant
Satellite images suggest that a uranium plant in Pakchon in the North Korean province of North Pyongan, which was neglected since 2002, has been reactivated recently.
Jacob Bogle, an American analyst of satellite images, pointed out the developments signs on his blog AccessDPRK last Saturday based on satellite images shot in March 2012, February 2019, and September this year.
"When I first wrote about the site in 2019, I noted two buildings that were either being demolished or that had been left to fall apart. Since then, commercial satellite imagery from Sept. 14, 2021 shows that one of those buildings has been completely reconstructed. Additionally, a repaired section of roof on the main milling building can be identified," he said.
"The imagery also shows that the complex's administrative section has seen construction and that the waste material reservoir is still being used."
The Pakchon plant is one of five nuclear facilities former U.S. President Donald Trump asked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to dismantle during their second summit in Hanoi in February 2019. Its reactivation after the recent restart of the Yongbyon nuclear facility suggests that Pyongyang is going all out to increase its nuclear capabilities.
During a party congress back in January, Kim ordered officials to make nuclear weapons smaller and lighter and develop tactical nuclear bombs.

5. Korea-Japan-U.S. defense ministerial talks are in the works

Sustained high level engagement of the Biden administration. It will be interesting to assess the statistics by amount and type to compare with previous administrations. I think this is going to be called the "administration of alliances."

December 28, 2021

Korea-Japan-U.S. defense ministerial talks are in the works
Korea, the United States and Japan are discussing the possibility of holding trilateral talks between their defense ministers, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
Defense Ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan made the remarks in response to a journalist’s question about a report by the Japanese broadcaster NHK that the three countries are coordinating preparations for possible talks in Hawaii in mid-January between Defense Minister Suh Wook, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.
“We are currently in consultations with the relevant countries regarding the issue of holding a trilateral defense ministerial meeting,” Boo told reporters at the regular press briefing.
Boo remarked that Seoul and Washington had reached an understanding through their annual Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul earlier this month and other high-level talks that the allies will seek to hold three-way defense talks with Japan at an early date.The last trilateral defense ministers’ meeting between the United States and its two allies in East Asia took place on the sidelines of security talks involving Asean in Bangkok in November 2019.
If held, the trilateral talks come at a time when Washington is trying to rally its East Asian allies and strengthen cooperation between the two to counter an increasingly assertive China as the United States finds itself locked in an intensifying rivalry with the country on multiple fronts, including technology, security, trade and supply chains.


6. How hackers keep North Korea’s economy afloat

Circular reporting but we need to heed these reports.

How hackers keep North Korea’s economy afloat · December 28, 2021
North Korea’s lucrative side hustle is an elusive cybercrime unit.

Jacob Cohen
December 28, 2021
Matt Anderson / Getty Images
North Korea isn’t exactly known for its flourishing cross-border economic relationships.
Intense sanctions make it extremely difficult for the country to conduct trade (which is why they do it on secret boats).
To make up for this, North Korea has built some lucrative side hustles, including an elusive state-run cybercrime unit responsible for ~8% of the country’s economic output in 2020.
Kim Jong Un is a fan
In 2010, there were just ~1k members in North Korea’s cyberwarfare guidance unit. Today, it’s estimated there are 6k+.
According to the US Army, the unit consists of multiple divisions, including Bluenoroff, a group of 1.7k hackers on a fairly straightforward mission to “conduct financial cybercrime.”
Under Kim’s reign, the country’s cybercrime operations have garnered ~$2.3B in returns since 2011.
What type of crimes we talkin’?
Big ones. The group’s resume includes:
  • An attempt to steal $2B from networks run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
  • Deploying a malware that tricked people into thinking they were trading on a cryptocurrency platform — which banked the hackers $316m.
  • A wildly elaborate attempt to steal $1B from Bangladesh’s central bank that got stopped because of one tiny overlooked detail. (The story is straight out of a movie.)
Speaking of movies, remember that time North Korea hacked Sony and threatened to attack US movie theaters if the studio screened The Interview?

7. Virtual inter-Korean summit unlikely before end of the year

Maybe someday we can bring Kim ong-un into the Zoom age. But I do not think he wants to meet this way (and of course it does not appear he wants to meet at all ).

December 27, 2021
Virtual inter-Korean summit unlikely before end of the year

Kim Chang-hyun, assistant minister for inter-Korean dialogue, demonstrates to media a new video conference system designed to hold negotiations with North Korea on April 26. [YONHAP]
A virtual inter-Korean summit is unlikely to come to fruition within this year despite the Moon Jae-in government's efforts to revive dialogue with the North and move along an end-of-war declaration.  
The Moon government has pushed a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War as a means to reengage the North and considered the Beijing Winter Olympics next February as a possible venue for such diplomacy to unfold. 
A virtual summit between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could have been a step toward laying the groundwork for such declaration, which would also involve other key players to the armistice agreement, namely the United States and China.
The two leaders exchanged letters in April, leading to the revival of inter-Korean hotlines in July, unilaterally severed by Pyongyang on June 9, 2020. The communication lines were once again severed soon after, as the North protested a joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States, but were again restored in early October. 
The Unification Ministry has worked toward a possible inter-Korean videoconference summit since earlier this year and revealed to media in April that a conference room designed to hold virtual talks with the North. It likewise stressed that North Korea has the technical capability to hold a videoconference meeting.
In late July, Unification Minister Lee In-young said that Seoul proposed ways to set up a virtual conference system for inter-Korean talks, noting that while a face-to-face meeting is preferred, Pyongyang is sensitive to Covid-19 disease control measures. 
Senior Pyongyang officials, including Kim Yo-jong, sister of the North Korean leader, have indicated openness to engagement with the South. Kim Yo-jong in September called Moon's end-of-war proposal at the United Nations an "admirable idea" and indicated that Pyongyang is open to "constructive discussions" with Seoul, under the right conditions.
Kim Jong-un also directly referred to an end-of-war declaration in a Supreme People's Assembly later that month and warned that even if the war ends, hostile acts by Seoul and Washington would lead to continued "distrust and confrontation" between the two Koreas.
Pyongyang has called on Washington to withdraw its "hostile policy" as a condition to return to denuclearization negotiations, interpreted as a called to lift some sanctions and withdraw U.S. troops from the peninsula. It also seeks to be recognized as a nuclear power state. 
The Moon government indicated that it was in the "final stages" of discussions with Washington on an end-of-war proposal, a longtime initiative of the administration which has less than half a year left in its five-year term. 
South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun said during a trip to Washington last month to discuss the matter, "I think there will be good results soon," noting it would soon be the end of the year. 
However, some U.S. congressmen and experts have expressed skepticism about an end-of-war proposal and also its repercussions, including what it would mean for the status of U.S. troops in Korea. 
Robert Abrams, former commander of United States Forces Korea, told the Voice of America in an interview Saturday, "I am very unclear what it is we are trying to accomplish by declaring an end of war."
He said that "any premature declaration of an end of war" opens up the possibility for people to propose to "revisit" UN Security Council resolutions from the summer of 1950 and question the existence of the United Nations Command, "and then it becomes a slippery slope" without "one inch of progress on denuclearization." 
"North Korea seems to have determined that there is no justification, nor any real benefit to be gained from an inter-Korean summit at the moment," said Park Won-gon, a North Korean studies professor at Ewha Womans University, and continues to observe the situation with South Korea and the United States by setting forward "virtually unacceptable conditions," possibl preparing to enlist"brinkmanship tactics."
Another hurdle is the mounting pressure on U.S. allies to join its diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, with Japan the latest country to announce it will not send a government delegation to the Winter Games.
In a press conference in Australia earlier this month, Moon said that the United States, China and North Korea agree "in principle" on declaring a formal end to the Korean War. 
Seoul and Beijing held its first "strategic dialogue" in more than four years between its vice foreign ministers last week. Vice Foreign Minister Choi expressed hopes for a successful Beijing Olympics to his Chinese counterpart, Le Yucheng, in the virtual talks last Thursday. They exchanged opinions on ways to restart the Korean Peninsula peace process and discussed Seoul's push for and end-of-war declaration. 


8. Seoul should opt for strategic clarity in US-China rivalry: Yoon's foreign policy aide


But this precarious balancing act may no longer be sustainable, according to a key foreign policy adviser to the main opposition People Power Party’s presidential nominee.

In an interview with The Korea Herald, Korea University professor Kim Sung-han, who advises Yoon Suk-yeol, said Seoul needs to replace the deliberately ambiguous policy with one of “strategic clarity,”.

“Korea’s foreign policy needs to be less ambiguous and more predictable. This is in regards to our dealings with China, and also with North Korea,” Kim told the Korea Herald.

“We have to be clear on what we can do and what we cannot do for both China and North Korea.”

The policy of “ambiguity” and “equidistance” between the US and China risks losing credibility on both sides, said Kim.

“In diplomacy, there are areas where ambiguity is needed to a certain extent. But if there’s too much, no one can trust us,” he said.

Seoul should opt for strategic clarity in US-China rivalry: Yoon's foreign policy aide · by Ahn Sung-mi · December 28, 2021
Published : Dec 28, 2021 - 16:09 Updated : Dec 28, 2021 - 17:23
Professor Kim Sung-han of Korea University’s Graduate School of International Studies, who serves as the key foreign policy adviser for Yoon Suk-yeol, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald at his office in Seoul. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

A policy of “strategic ambiguity” has guided South Korea’s diplomacy over the years, with Seoul seeking to juggle relations with its security ally Washington and key trade partner Beijing.

But this precarious balancing act may no longer be sustainable, according to a key foreign policy adviser to the main opposition People Power Party’s presidential nominee.

In an interview with The Korea Herald, Korea University professor Kim Sung-han, who advises Yoon Suk-yeol, said Seoul needs to replace the deliberately ambiguous policy with one of “strategic clarity,”.

“Korea’s foreign policy needs to be less ambiguous and more predictable. This is in regards to our dealings with China, and also with North Korea,” Kim told the Korea Herald.

“We have to be clear on what we can do and what we cannot do for both China and North Korea.”

The policy of “ambiguity” and “equidistance” between the US and China risks losing credibility on both sides, said Kim.

“In diplomacy, there are areas where ambiguity is needed to a certain extent. But if there’s too much, no one can trust us,” he said.

Alliance-based clarity

Kim says the South Korea-US alliance should be at the core of Seoul’s foreign policy. His stance echoes that of Yoon, who has stressed strengthening the alliance with Washington.

But this doesn’t mean Seoul will turn its back on Beijing, Kim said, as China is an important strategic partner that Korea needs to cooperate with on many fronts. For example, the two countries can expand cooperation on trade, culture and people-to-people exchanges, as well as climate change, public health and nuclear non-proliferation -- areas where US President Joe Biden has said that the US and China have overlapping interests.

And, the issue of Pyongyang’s nuclear programs is one that requires cooperation with China, the North’s ally.

“South Korea-US relations and South Korea-China relations are not a zero-sum game,” the professor said.

“We should depart from the perceived structure that better Seoul-Washington relations are bound to worsen Seoul-Beijing ties.”

Considering the complexity of the geopolitical environment, Seoul needs to take an issue-by-issue approach to the intensifying US-China rivalry. But such decision-making should be based on “clarity” and the Seoul-Washington alliance, Kim stressed.

Seen as efforts to align closer to Washington, Yoon had dangled the possibility of joining the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

“Yoon’s position is that South Korea should first join the Quad’s working groups, including on vaccine distribution, climate change and critical and emerging technology,” said Kim. “And when the appropriate time arrives, Seoul could join the so-called Quad Plus for a full membership later, with the blessings of the member states.”

Kim says there is a need to expand communication and sharing of information with the US on how it will provide its promised nuclear umbrella over Seoul in case of a nuclear strike from Pyongyang. This request is in light of growing public doubt here on whether the US’ extended deterrence -- which includes the US nuclear umbrella, missile defense and conventional strike capabilities -- could be trusted at a time when Pyongyang has been doubling down on its nuclear and missile programs.

While Kim said he understands Washington’s reluctance to share details of its nuclear capability and decision-making process, “Seoul needs to know at least at a basic level on how the US will operate its nuclear weapons in an emergency,” as it is a matter of national security.

There is already a consultative body between the two countries, called the Extended Deterrence Strategic Coordination Group, which was established in 2016 to improve understanding of the US extended deterrent.

But the group has held high-level talks only twice, the last in 2018, at a time when Seoul was seeking to engage Pyongyang. Kim called the need to regularize this meeting so that the two sides can discuss Washington’s nuclear capabilities, decision-making progress and likely scenarios. Once Seoul is in the loop, even at a partial level, there would be more certainty in the credibility of the US’ extended deterrence.

For years, conservative politicians here have either called for the redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons and a NATO-style nuclear sharing arrangement with the US to deal with the prospect of a nuclear conflict with Pyongyang. But Yoon maintains his stance that such a request is “unrealistic.”

But first, substantial denuclearization steps

Policies for North Korea’s denuclearization may be one of the areas where Yoon collides with his archrival Lee Jae-myung of the liberal ruling Democratic Party of Korea. Unlike Lee, who is widely expected to continue incumbent President Moon’s policy of engagement with Pyongyang, Yoon signaled a more hardline approach on the reclusive regime.

Kim said that Yoon will present a very clear, step-by-step road map toward the full denuclearization of North Korea, which will compensate North Korea at each step of the way.

According to this road map, North Korea needs to do something significant and difficult upfront, said Kim. The action needs to amount to “substantial denuclearization steps,” such as freezing its nuclear program and accepting the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection, that shows Pyongyang is serious about denuclearization.

In return, Seoul could reciprocate with economic support, humanitarian aid and discussion of potential inter-Korean cooperation projects.

“But sanctions on North Korea should not be removed until North reaches a denuclearization stage that is irreversible,” said Kim, adding this was the area where it contrasts with Lee’s policy.

Lee proposes conditional easing sanctions against Pyongyang with a “snapback” provision -- meaning the sanctions could be reimposed if the regime failed to keep its promises.

“We could provide economic assistance that is on par with (the effect of) sanctions, but sanctions shouldn’t be lifted. Because once they are eased, it is difficult to reimpose them, and the North will have no incentive to denuclearize,” Kim said.

North Korea’s economic situation is dire, with much of its population suffering from hunger and malnutrition, Kim believes the North will seek outside help if its situation worsens.

In the meantime, Seoul should not offer concessions when Pyongyang appears uninterested -- such as proposing to declare an end to the Korean War.

But providing humanitarian aid to the North could happen at any time, regardless of progress on denuclearization, Kim said, considering the hardship North Korean citizens face amid the worsening humanitarian situation in the country.

Kim said Yoon is open to meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but not indoing it “for show.”

“Yoon will only be willing to meet Kim if there is a major agenda and a prospect of significant progress through the summit,” he said.

The professor also proposed opening a trilateral liaison office among the two Koreas and the US, stressing that Seoul should be a primary actor in dealing with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Seoul-Tokyo ties need genuine apology

Yoon has vowed to improve the relations with Japan, and has proposed reaffirming the 1998 joint pledge between then leaders President Kim Dae-jung and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

The landmark agreement included Japan’s apology for its colonial rule and a pledge to overcome historical issues and create a “future-oriented” relationship.

“Seoul received a heartfelt apology from Tokyo, and in return, provided a future to Tokyo through the declaration,” said Kim. He said this same formula could still work today.

But he noted that an immediate breakthrough could be difficult, at least until Japan’s House of Councilors election in July, as Tokyo is unlikely to budge from its hardline stance before the election.

“After the election, there could be an opportunity. So in the meantime, we need to start consulting with Tokyo,” said Kim.

There are a number of sticking points between the two countries, including compensation for the victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor and the so-called “comfort women,” export controls and the military-intelligence sharing agreement between the two countries. Kim suggested to put all the items on the negotiation table and seek a grand bargain, rather than solving each issues one by one separately.

Kim suggested that if it was difficult to break an impasse, the two countries could at least go for a “two-track” approach in which historical disputes are separated from security cooperation.

“Frayed ties with Tokyo are a setback for Seoul’s diplomacy,” said Kim. “Especially at a time when trilateral cooperation between the two countries and the US is critical in dealing with various challenges.”

By Ahn Sung-mi (

9. S. Korea urges Japan to retract push to list mine linked to forced labor as World Heritage site

More friction.

S. Korea urges Japan to retract push to list mine linked to forced labor as World Heritage site · by Yonhap · December 28, 2021
Published : Dec 28, 2021 - 16:17 Updated : Dec 28, 2021 - 17:31
This file photo provided by Japan's Kyodo News shows Sado mine where Koreans were forced into labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule. (Japan's Kyodo News)
South Korea called Tuesday for Japan's retraction of a push to list a former mine linked to wartime forced labor as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, calling it "very deplorable."

Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs has reportedly been pushing to register the Sado mine on the coveted list where Koreans were forced into hard labor during Tokyo's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

The move came as Seoul has repeatedly taken issue with Tokyo's failure to properly fulfill its pledge to honor forced labor victims at an information center on its industrial revolution sites designated in the list in 2015.

"It is very deplorable that (Japan) has decided to push for the World Heritage designation of the mine, another site where Koreans were forced into labor, and we call for the immediate retraction of it," Choi Young-sam, the spokesperson of Seoul's foreign ministry, said in a commentary.

"Our government will sternly respond with the international community to prevent a site where workers were forced into toil against their will from being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site without enough explanation," he added.

Later in the day, Kyun Jong-ho, the ministry's director general in charge of cultural affairs, called in Kazuo Chujo, director of Public Information and Cultural Center at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to protest Tokyo's move related to the mine, according to the ministry.

The Sado mine originally operated as a gold mine in the 1600s, but it was turned into a facility to produce war-related materials, such as cooper, iron and zinc, during World War II. It was shut down in 1946.

According to historical documents, at least 1,200 Koreans were forced into labor at the mine under harsh conditions during the war.

The latest move has added to historical tensions between the two neighbors. It remains unclear whether Tokyo will mention the wartime history in its recommendation of the mine for the heritage designation.

If it is selected, the Japanese government is expected to submit a letter of recommendation to UNESCO by Feb. 1, after which the UN body will make a decision in 2023.

In addition to calling in the Japanese diplomat, Korea's foreign ministry has communicated with UNESCO officials on several occasions and plans to form a task force with experts and related agencies to deal with the issue, a Seoul official said.

The ministry also called on Japan to fulfill an earlier pledge to inform people about the forced labor of Koreans on Hashima Island, also known as Battleship Island, which was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.

Upon the 2015 designation of 23 Meiji-era sites, including the island, Tokyo promised to install an information center to provide sufficient explanations of the forced labor, but it only highlighted achievements of Japan's industrial revolution. (Yonhap)

10. Family of former soldier found collapsed due to hunger in unheated home

Such horrific conditions and suffering.
Family of former soldier found collapsed due to hunger in unheated home
The family faced a severe threat to their livelihood when North Korean authorities began their “no stone left unturned” crackdown on street and alleyway businesses
By Lee Chae Un - 2021.12.28 10:40am
The family of a former military officer was recently found collapsed in their home due to starvation in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, Daily NK has learned.
According to a source in the province on Dec. 17, the family was found collapsed in their home on Dec. 10 by the group leader of their local inminban (people’s unit).
The head of the family, surnamed Chae, had worked as a military officer on the “frontlines” in Kangwon Province for around 10 years. After leaving the military in 2017, he returned to his hometown of Hoeryong with his two children. He began selling alcohol and food to make a living as that kind of business does not require much money to start.
The family faced a severe threat to their livelihood, however, when North Korean authorities began their “no stone left unturned” crackdown on street and alleyway businesses. The family was caught up in crackdowns by local police and inspection teams every time they went out to the streets to sell food, and their business gradually began to suffer as a result.
Hoeryong / Image: Raymond Cunningham, Flickr, Creative Commons
Last month, for example, the family went out to the streets with cooking oil and stove to sell ggwabaegi (Korean-style twisted bread sticks). Most days, however, they were unable to earn any money at all because of crackdowns by local police and inspection teams. More recently, despite further attempts to sell ggwabaegi, they failed to sell what they had made on a daily basis, putting them further into debt.
Chae’s family was soon left with nothing more to eat before they were discovered collapsed due to hunger in their unheated home.
After the group leader of their inminban found them, the family’s situation was reported to the head of the local inminban. The inminban head proceeded to hold a meeting where she called for every member of the organization to donate whatever they could, “even 100 grams of rice, corn, or anything else that can be eaten.”
Each family in the inminban went on to donate 1.5 kilograms of rice, two kilograms of corn, and one kilograms of corn soup to Chae’s family. According to the source, Chae and his family are now eking by with the food they received from their neighbors.
“The family of a former soldier – someone who should receive protection from the government – almost died of starvation,” the source told Daily NK, adding, “The family is surviving with food from the inminban, but the situation is still unfortunate because it’s unclear how they’ll survive after everything has been eaten.”
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11. N.Korean Defector Picked as a 'Hero of Year' by U.K. Times

Ms. Park is doing important work in the UK but more importantly she is an example who all Koreans in the north should see. Just like escapees Ji and Thae in the South Korean national assembly, she ran for office in her new country the UK (although she was defeated). This should inspire Koreans in the north so they know they can have a good life in the future (when the Kim family regime is no longer in charge).

As an aside I regularly communicate with her and exchange ideas and she sent me a very nice holiday message.

N.Korean Defector Picked as a 'Hero of Year' by U.K. Times
The Sunday Times of the U.K. selected North Korean defector and rights activist Park Ji-hyun on Sunday as one of its 20 "heroes of 2021."
The British daily said Park "arrived in Britain 14 years ago, survived a North Korean labour camp and two failed attempts to escape. The mother of three has helped fellow North Korean defectors adapt to living in the U.K."
"She became the first North Korean to be a political candidate in the U.K. when she ran to be a Tory councilor in May… She lost, but she inspired many," it added.
The Sunday Times selects as its heroes people who "made achievements in public life" and "committed themselves to serving and helping Britain."
Born in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, Park settled in Manchester in 2008 after being recognized as a refugee.

David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email:
Web Site:
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email:
Web Site:
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."
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