Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

"Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.​"​
​- ​Richard Armour

​"​Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.​"​
​- ​George Orwell

“I was that which others did not want to be. 
I went where others feared to go, and did what others failed to do.
I asked nothing from those who gave nothing, and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness should I fail.
I have seen the face of terror, felt the stinging cold of fear, and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moments love.
I cried, pained, and hoped but most of all I have lived times others would were best forgotten.
At least someday I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was, A Soldier.”
- George Skypeck,  

1. The Forgotten South Korean Prisoners of War Who Sacrificed and Suffered for Seven Decades for Korean Freedom

2. A rare South Korea-US missile test is meant to show they can strike back after a flurry of North Korean missile tests

3. South Korean officials say major sale of weapons to Poland is imminent

4. Why Are There so Few COVID Reinfections in Korea?

5. ROK-U.S. to resume joint military drills in five years

6. S. Korea further strengthens its economic security alliance with U.S.

​7. No more unauthorized spying​ (South Korea)​

8. N. Korea's new suspected COVID-19 cases under 200 for 2nd day: state media

9. Child YouTuber in North Korea's charm offensive

10. S. Korea, US poised to reinstate combined drills abolished in 2018

​11. ​30 North Korean ‘defector’ families forced to relocate to hardscrabble hinterland

​12. ​Was North Korea’s Covid-19 “victory” planned from the beginning?

​13. ​The Ukraine war’s gifts to North Korea

​14. ​Russia requests North Korean labourers be sent to Donbas in exchange for wheat and machinery

1. The Forgotten South Korean Prisoners of War Who Sacrificed and Suffered for Seven Decades for Korean Freedom

My remarks in Seoul this week.

The Forgotten South Korean Prisoners of War Who Sacrificed and Suffered for Seven Decades for Korean Freedom · by ByDavid Maxwell · July 21, 2022

Editor’s Note: This essay is adapted from the prepared remarks of the author for the “International Forum on Urging the Repatriation of Korean Prisoners of War and Human Rights Complaints” in Seoul, Korea on July 20, 2022

The sixty-ninth anniversary of the Korean War Armistice is July 27, 2022. The war is known as the “Forgotten War.” One of the most forgotten aspects of the war are the South Korean prisoners of war who were never returned to the Republic of Korea. Although 8,134 South Korean prisoners were returned at the time of the Armistice, an estimated 50,000 South Korean soldiers were forced to remain in the north. These prisoners were subject to a life of extreme hardship mostly mining coal for the regime in North Korea. In 2014 there were an estimated 500 still alive. Over the years, some 80 have escaped, bringing the truth about what happened to these Korean patriots who fought for freedom and were sentenced by Kim Il Sung to suffer for their sacrifices.

I cannot imagine any human beings in the history of the world who have suffered so much for so long. They sacrificed the remainder of their lives since 1953 for the one thing they could never again experience: Freedom.

We are all free today here in the Republic of Korea and around the world because these soldiers sacrificed their future and their lives in the name of freedom against the scourge of communism, a blight on the world that continues to persist in various forms in North KoreaChina, and other places around the world. Had they not sacrificed so much we would not be here today, and we would never have witnessed the Miracle on the Han.

We should all put ourselves in their shoes and think hard as to whether we could sustain a will to live and the ability to continue to live in the face of such inhumane and brutal treatment. Very few of us have endured a level of pain anywhere near theirs. And no one alive today has experienced that level of suffering for so long.

Except for the family members who remained in the South. While they might not have suffered the same physical pain, they have suffered the loss of their loved ones that is made worse by not knowing their status, or whether they are dead or alive. They do not know where they are or where their remains are. They may never have closure.

We believe there were some 50,000 South Korean prisoners forced to live as slaves to the mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim Family regime. Except for the few who have been able to escape, they have lived out their lives in the Guerrilla Dynasty and Gulag State of North Korea.

In 2014 the UN Commission of Inquiry recognized them. Let me quote from paragraph 298 on page 84 of the report:

Among those who suffered the most extreme discrimination were South Korean prisoners of war (POWs) retained in the DPRK after the armistice.
Mr Yoo Young-bok, a former POW who fled the DPRK and returned to the ROK, explained at the Seoul Public Hearing:
“Because we were POWs, we were discriminated against. They were looking down on us. Although we married North Korean women, our children were controlled, our children were kept under surveillance. They did not really give us good jobs; there were just no opportunities to make better lives for our children.”
Another former POW from South Korea worked in a coal mine in North Hamgyong Province for 40 years. He told the Commission that about a quarter of the miners were POWs and were under particularly strict surveillance by the Ministry of Public Security and the State Security Department. The witness was regularly interrogated and his interrogators seemed to know many details about his life. He married and had three sons and two daughters. His sons were neither allowed to join the army nor go to university, and one asked him “Why are we even born?” His daughters were not able to marry a man of good songbun, because they were from a POW family. Even his grandsons were denied the opportunity to join the army or to obtain a tertiary education. The witness recalled how a POW friend hung himself because his children complained so bitterly to him about their situation yet he could not do anything about it.

Please put yourself in that father’s shoes and think about how your children would suffer in that situation and that there is nothing you can do for them. Thinking of the words of that father and his children makes my heart hurt.

Although not described in the report, my assessment is that the evil regime decided to use these prisoners of war and establish a kind of slave caste that would eternally perpetuate a slave class to benefit the regime. They were allowed to marry so the regime would continue to have access to a slave labor pool in perpetuity. Such evil.

Surely this is a crime against humanity without parallel. There is no greater example of cruelty and brutality and this will continue for as long as the Kim family regime survives.

Their suffering is made worse because these POWs are the forgotten men of the “Forgotten War.” The lack of recognition is a terrible hurt for their families.

The suffering of these POWs must be recognized and accepted in the South. It is time for the ROK government to recognize them and their families. Surely their sacrifices have contributed to all the greatness of the Republic of Korea today.

Yes, it is shameful that they have never been properly honored and thanked for the contributions. However, South Korea is a strong democracy. And one of the hallmarks of a strong democracy is the ability to recognize and admit mistakes and take corrective action. Just as the ROK government is acting to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the forced repatriation of the two fishermen in 2019, the ROK government can begin the long process to make things right for the families by recognizing what happened to their loved ones who were forced to remain in the north. They deserve recognition and respect. All freedom loving people should demand that they be recognized and honored.

The strength of the ROK- US alliance is that we share the values of freedom and individual liberty, liberal democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. Both our countries pledge to not leave our fallen behind. Look at the efforts our militaries and governments undertake to try to account for and return all those missing in action. Look at the remains recovery operations that recently took place in the DMZ at White Horse and Arrowhead Ridge. The ROK military worked tirelessly to recover South Korean and allied remains and return them to their countries and families for proper honors. South Korea must make the same effort for all those prisoners left behind in North Korea in 1953. They and their families deserve the same recognition. In addition to recognition and respect, the remains of the prisoners who have died over the past seven decades need to be accounted for and recovered. Unfortunately, that is not possible for as long as Kim Jong Un remains in power.

Yes, the likelihood of recovery is low as long as the Kim family regime remains in power. Closure for the ROK POWs and their descendants in the north and their families in the South will only come after there is a free and unified Korea. To return the remains and bring honor to their sacrifice we all must work toward a free and unified Korea. Then and only then will their sacrifices be realized.

The real atrocity is that committed by the Kim family regime in the north. The regime needs to be held accountable. However, that is not likely to ever occur until there is drastic change in the north. This is because the root of all problems in Korea is the existence of the most evil mafia- like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime that has the objective of dominating the Korean Peninsula under the rule of the Guerrilla Dynasty and Gulag State.

Frankly speaking, there will be no justice for these prisoners for as long as the regime exists.

More specifically, the only way we are going to see an end to the nuclear program and military threats as well as the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity being committed against the Korean people by the mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime is through achievement of unification and the establishment of a United Republic of Korea that is secure and stable, non-nuclear, economically vibrant, and unified under a liberal constitutional form of government based on individual liberty, rule of law, and human rights as determined by the Korean people. We all must work to support a free and unified Korea. This is how we can honor the 50,000 heroes who sacrificed for our freedom and the freedom of all Koreans. The greatest gift that can be given to them is a free and unified Korea, In short, a United Republic of Korea (UROK).

David Maxwell, a 1945 Contributing Editor, is a retired US Army Special Forces Colonel who has spent more than 30 years in Asia and specializes in North Korea and East Asia Security Affairs and irregular, unconventional, and political warfare. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Small Wars Journal. He is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Senior Fellow at the Global Peace Foundation (where he focuses on a free and unified Korea), and a Senior Advisor to the Center for Asia Pacific Strategy. · by ByDavid Maxwell · July 21, 2022

2. A rare South Korea-US missile test is meant to show they can strike back after a flurry of North Korean missile tests

There should be no doubt, the ROK/US alliance can strike quick and strike hard.  The message is this: Kim Jong Un's political warfare, blackmail diplomacy, and war fighting strategies cannot and will not be successful.

A rare South Korea-US missile test is meant to show they can strike back after a flurry of North Korean missile tests

Business Insider · by Benjamin Brimelow

An M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System fires an MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile on South Korea's East Coast, July 5, 2017.

US Army/Staff Sgt. Sinthia Rosario

  • North Korea test-launched a flurry of missiles during the first half of 2022.
  • The US and South Korea did a joint missile test in June to show they could respond to "provocations."
  • The joint test reflects South Korea's ongoing efforts to invest and expand its missile arsenal.

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In June, US and South Korean forces fired eight missiles into the Sea of Japan in a coordinated show of strength.

The launches — a response to North Korea's firing of eight short-range ballistic missiles into the same waters a day earlier — "demonstrated the capability and posture to launch immediate precision strikes on the origins of provocations, even if North Korea launches missiles from various locations," South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

They were just the latest in a flurry of missile tests around the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has launched over two dozen missiles since January, putting it on pace for what could be "the busiest year of missile-testing in North Korean history," according to Ankit Panda, a weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The US-South Korean response was a first for new South Korean President Yoon Seok-youl, and reflects the increased importance Seoul is putting on its SRBM arsenal as well as its desire to increase those capabilities after restrictions on them were lifted last year.

Launch and response

People watch a TV broadcast about a North Korean missile launch in Seoul, June 5, 2022.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The eight SRBMs that North Korea launched on June 5 represented the most test-launches that Pyongyang has ever conducted in a single day.

The missiles, believed to be a combination of KN-23sKN-24s, and KN-24s, were launched from four locations within a 35-minute period. They traveled between 68 miles and 416 miles and reached altitudes of 15 miles to 55 miles.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called the barrage "unprecedented" and said at least one missile flew on an irregular trajectory, possibly indicating that it was designed to evade anti-missile defenses.

Previous North Korean launches into the Sea of Japan were seen as messages that US bases across South Korea and as far away as Japan were well within range of Pyongyang's arsenal.

A missile is fired during a joint US-South Korean exercise on South Korea's East Coast, June 6, 2022.

South Korean Defense Ministry/Dong-A Daily via Getty Images

Less than 24 hours after the North Korean tests, US Forces Korea and the South Korean military fired eight MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System ballistic missiles from M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems into the Sea of Japan over a 10-minute period.

ATACMS missiles have a maximum range of nearly 200 miles. Firing those missiles rather than something like South Korea's larger, longer-range Hyunmoo SRBMs has led some to believe that the US and South Korea had limited ambitions for their demonstration.

"My guess is this was not a very serious show of force," Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation think tank, told Insider.

"This was a case where we didn't want to spend a whole lot of money, so we fired a missile that could be called a missile but we didn't choose to fire a missile that was more capable that South Korea certainly has," Bennett said.

A developing arsenal

A South Korean Hyunmu-2 ballistic missile is fired during an exercise on September 4, 2017.

South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images

South Korea has its own large and advanced arsenal of cruise and short-range ballistic missiles. That arsenal has a central role in two of South Korea's three main strategic defense strategies: the "Kill Chain" and the "Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation."

Kill Chain refers to a plan for preemptive strikes on North Korea's missile arsenal, long-range artillery, and nuclear weapons. The KMPR is a decapitation strategy involving precision missile strikes against North Korean leadership.

While South Korea has long had cruise missiles with ranges up to almost 1,000 miles, its SRBMs were limited by guidelines put in place by the US and South Korean governments in 1979.

South Korea's first sub-launched ballistic missile is test-fired from a submarine in South Korean waters, September 15, 2021.

South Korea Defense Ministry via AP

The guidelines restricted South Korea's SRBM range to just over 100 miles and limited their payload to 1,100 pounds. As the North Korean threat to South Korea evolved, the guidelines evolved to allow larger, longer-range missiles. The restrictions were scrapped entirely in 2021.

Seoul was working hard to introduce new missiles even before the restrictions were lifted. Its newest SRBM, the Hyunmoo-4, can reportedly carry a 4,400-pound warhead up to 500 miles. Last year, South Korea's navy successfully tested the Hyunmoo 4-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile, a variant of the Hyunmoo-2B, which has a range of up to 500 miles.

South Korean officials have already said they will make larger missiles with longer ranges, and Seoul's recent success in launching satellites into orbit shows it is likely capable of doing.

Increased deterrence

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in front of an ICBM in a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on March 24, 2022.

KCNA via Reuters

With the restrictions lifted, South Korea will be able to fire SRBMs from as far away as Busan and Jeju Island, an important capability given the role SRBMs will likely have in targeting hardened bunkers in North Korea as part of the KMPR strategy.

With longer-range missiles, Seoul will also be in a better position to deter other threats, the most likely of which comes from China. Though China and South Korea have a close economic relationship, South Korean perceptions of China have rapidly deteriorated, due in large part to Beijing's support for Pyongyang and its aggressive diplomacy toward South Korea.

South Korea's Yoon has taken a harder stance on China than his predecessor and has already indicated a preference for less deferential relations with China. Yoon has also advocated more South Korean involvement in the region and around the world.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.

Seong-Joon Cho/Bloomberg/Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

"Yoon is going to be much more careful managing that [relationship with China] in the future and probably wants to have capabilities that will go beyond 800 kilometers and allow South Korea to become a middle power on its way to an upper power," Bennett said. "I think South Koreans very much want that."

Recent polls show South Koreans broadly support developing nuclear weapons. The government shows no signs of pursuing them, but more capable SRBMs would allow it to establish its own effective nuclear deterrent more quickly if it decides to do so.

"In order to field a nuclear capability meaningfully, they have to have nuclear weapons and a delivery means," Bennet said, adding that Seoul already has the means to deliver nuclear weapons "at least as far as North Korea is concerned."

Business Insider · by Benjamin Brimelow

3. South Korean officials say major sale of weapons to Poland is imminent

The indirect approach? Weapons from South Korea to Poland so Poland can provide other weapons to Ukraine?

South Korean officials say major sale of weapons to Poland is imminent

Defense News · by Daehan Lee · July 21, 2022

SEOUL, South Korea, and WARSAW, Poland — Korean defense companies Hyundai Rotem, Korea Aerospace Industries and Hanwha Defense expect to sign a memorandum of understand on July 27 with the Polish Ministry of Defense for wide-ranging weapon exports, officials here said.

A senior official of the Korean Presidential Office recently met these companies’ executives to discuss export volume, price, and timeline, following President Yoon Suk-yeol’s defense sales diplomacy during the recent NATO summit, according to these officials.

The Polish government is reportedly discussing with the Korean defense companies the acquisition of K-2 tanks from Hyundai Rotem, FA50 light attack aircraft from KAI, and K9 self-propelled artillery from Hanwha under a long-term arrangement.

The three companies’ export volume could reach up to 19 trillion Korean won ($14.5 billion) when all of those sales are added up. Specifically, Hyundai Rotem is talking with Poland to supply 180 K2 tanks (worth 3 trillion KRW, or $2.3 billion) by 2024, and the country may additionally purchase 400 K2 tanks by 2030, worth 8 trillion KRW, or $6.1 billion. KAI is discussing selling 48 light attack aircraft FA50 for 3.4 trillion KRW, or $2.6 billion. Poland also plans to purchase 670 K9 self-propelled artilleries that worth 4-5 trillion KRW, or $3 billion to $3.8 billion.


South Korea to buy 20 more F-35s

South Korea will buy 20 more F-35A fighter jets from the United States, as a part of its F-X project focused on acquiring foreign stealth fighter jets from 2023 to 2028.

A spokesperson at the Ministry of Defense in Warsaw declined to provide details about what deals are on the table in the two countries’ negotiations, saying only details would be released soon. “The ongoing talks concern not only the acquisition of military equipment to strengthen the Polish Armed Forces, they are also related to the issues of industrial cooperation and transfer of technology,” the spokesperson told Defense News.

Defense exports to Poland would be the South Korean defense companies’ first sales to Europe, raising the prospect of additional deals there and elsewhere. Specifically, South Korean companies are eying tenders in Norway, Australia, Malaysia and Colombia.

Meanwhile, Polish National Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced that Poland has decided to buy 116 used M1 Abrams tanks from the U.S. on top of its previous order for 250 new tanks to replace the Soviet-designed T-72 tanks it has supplied to Ukraine.

“These tanks are stored by the United States Army. The first of these tanks will be delivered to the Polish Armed Forces next year. We want them to fill in the gaps left after we donated our gear to Ukraine,” Błaszczak said during a press conference on July 18.

The value of the procurement was not disclosed. However, the minister said that Warsaw will pay the U.S. for restoring the tanks’ operational capacities, an accompanying logistics package, and spare parts. Błaszczak said the 116 tanks represent “an older version” of the M1 Abrams.

About Daehan Lee and Jaroslaw Adamowski

Daehan Lee is a South Korea correspondent for Defense News. He previously worked at the U.S. and Belgian embassies in Seoul, for the People Power Party, and for election camps. He also served as a translator for the South Korean Navy. His interests include Asia-Pacific security, defense acquisition, South Korean politics and foreign policy.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

4. Why Are There so Few COVID Reinfections in Korea?


Why Are There so Few COVID Reinfections in Korea?

July 21, 2022 09:44

Some 97 percent of new COVID cases in the first week of July were people who were infected for the first time, while only 2.88 percent were reinfections.

In the U.S. and U.K., reinfections account for 10 to 20 percent of infections, but here the proportion is much smaller. The BA.5 subvariant, which is the dominant strain now, is the same Omicron-induced recombinant as the BA.1 and BA.2 subvariants which led new infections early this year, so people who caught it earlier already appear to have developed some immunity.

Antibodies that were formed after infection tend to be highly effective in preventing reinfection for three or four months, so the 14 million people who caught the disease during the previous peak in March and April still appear to have some immunity left.

Cumulative coronavirus infections in Korea stand at 18.93 million or 37 percent of the country's population. That means more than six out of 10 Koreans have not yet been infected. Weekly cases have doubled from 59,000 in the last week of June to around 111,000 in the first week of July and again to 230,000 in the second week. An estimated 200,000 cases reported last were first-time infections.

People wait to get tested for coronavirus in Seoul on Thursday. /Newsis

Vaccine immunity is the only protection for those who have not had COVID yet, and that is weakening as uptake for second booster jabs remains low. "Most of these people got their last vaccine shot more than three months ago and preventive effects are unlikely," a health official said.

But existing vaccines are at any rate largely ineffective in preventing infection with the BA.5 subvariant. A new vaccine may be a long time coming. Moderna promised roll out before the end of August an Omicron vaccine that has 6.3 times more preventive power against the BA.5 variant.

Other major pharmaceutical companies have also begun developing vaccines that are effective against BA.5 and BA.4, but it is uncertain when they will become available.

Immunity from previous infection could also be on the wane. The proportion of reinfections has grown fourfold from 0.59 percent in early May to 2.88 percent in early July.

On Thursday morning the daily tally of new coronavirus infections stood at to 71,170, over 70,000 for the third day in a row.

BA.5 Becomes Dominant COVID Strain in Korea

COVID Reinfections to Become the Norm

Daily COVID Cases Surge over 70,000 Overnight

Korea Reports 1st Case of 'Centaurus' COVID Subvariant

No Fresh Lockdown, Gov't Promises

New Daily COVID Cases Soar Above 30,000

Daily COVID Infections Surge Sharply

Daily COVID Cases Top 10,000 Again

7-Day COVID Self-Isolation in Place for Another 4 Weeks

Nearly All Koreans Have Antibodies Against COVID-19

COVID Infections Cases Fall to New Low

No Major COVID Surge Expected This Summer

COVID Likely to Linger Until Autumn

Korea Lifts Outdoor Mask Mandate

Outdoor Mask Mandate to Be Lifted Next Week

Korea Lifts COVID Restrictions

COVID Travel Advisories Lifted

Most COVID Restrictions to End Next Week

Gov't Mulls Shortening COVID Self-Isolation

Lockdown Eased Further as COVID Becomes Endemic

  • Copyright © Chosunilbo &

5. ROK-U.S. to resume joint military drills in five years

Ulchi Focus Lens, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Dong Maeng (Alliance), and now Ulchi Freedom Shield.

ROK-U.S. to resume joint military drills in five years

Posted July. 21, 2022 07:52,

Updated July. 21, 2022 07:52

ROK-U.S. to resume joint military drills in five years. July. 21, 2022 07:52. by Kyu-Jin Shin

It is reported that Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) is considered the most prominent new name for the ROK-U.S. joint military exercise scheduled for August, the first since the inauguration of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration. The Key Resolve (KR), Foal Eagle (FE), and Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), whose name would be changed into Ulchi Freedom Shield, are the three major joint military drills between the two countries. Of note, the UFS is getting resumed in five years since it was abolished in 2018 during the former Moon Jae-in administration. The two countries are reported to have agreed on conducting an outdoor drill as well.

South Korea and the U.S. have reached consensus on the new name for their military drills, UFS, scheduled for Aug. 22 to Sept. 1. Ulchi Freedom Shield practically inherited its former name, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, with the only difference found in the last letter. “Whether to include the word ‘ally’ or to stick to the original name was discussed, but the UFS was the final pick,” said a person familiar with the matter in the government.

The former Moon administration abolished all three joint military exercises and substantially reduced the size of the drills, mostly as a result of keeping with the talks with North Korea on de-nuclearization. In a move to reverse the decision of the former administration, South Korea and the U.S. have agreed to resume the joint drills, including an outdoor one, in addition to changing the name of the drill. The August joint exercise used to be conducted as a computer simulation-based training exercise; but this year’s August military drill will include an outdoor drill to increase the effect of the training. Earlier, the leaders of the two countries announced in the joint statement in May that they had agreed on the resumption and expansion of the joint military exercises in response to the evolving threats from North Korea. However, even if an outdoor drill is resumed, it appears to be difficult to mobilize a large number of troops greater than the size of regiments.

The United States Forces Korea stated that its policy is not to publicly state its opinion on either planned or conducted jointly military drills, but that every decision with regard to joint military exercises will be made by the ROK-U.S. alliance.


6. S. Korea further strengthens its economic security alliance with U.S.

​"economic security alliance". Economic security or an economic alliance and a security alliance? All of the above.​

S. Korea further strengthens its economic security alliance with U.S.

Posted July. 20, 2022 07:56,

Updated July. 20, 2022 07:56

S. Korea further strengthens its economic security alliance with U.S.. July. 20, 2022 07:56. .

In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Treasure Janet Yellen on Tuesday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said that he “expects the scope of the ROK-US security alliance to be firmly expanded beyond the political and military area to the field of economy and finance. At LG Science Park she visited earlier, Secretary Yellen highlighted the importance of cooperation for economic security between the two nations, saying, “We must keep countries that make arbitrary decisions like China from becoming a threat to the security of our nations taking advantage of unfair practices.” She also met with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho, and Bank of Korea Governor Rhee Chang-yong to explore various ways for bilateral cooperation.

The efforts to strengthen the ROK-US alliance in economic security are being made in an ever more concrete and in-depth way, evolving beyond the comprehensive strategic alliance declared by the two leaders two months ago and the participation in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The two sides have been discussing diverse ways for economic security cooperation through a variety of channels and now reached a point to set the level and scope of cooperation in detail.

Korea’s participation in the “Chip 4” alliance, regarding which the U.S. is putting pressure on the Korean government to join by the end of August, seems to be on track. As the U.S. remains firmly committed to gaining the upper hand for cutting-edge technologies in its competition for technological hegemony with China, it has become difficult for Korea to decline the U.S.’ offer giving the reason that China will be up in arms. Korea may have thought that it may work as an opportunity for the country to raise its international profile in the global semiconductor market when the global supply chain is put under great strain by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putting its domestic semiconductor sector first, the U.S. is currently working on a bill to foster the industry by establishing guardrails to block global semiconductor companies supported by the U.S. from working with China in leading-edge semiconductors. The bill would put a great deal of pressure on Korea, which is thinking over joining the “Chip 4” alliance. Some say that if the country decides not to, the alliance will go by “Chip 3” and the Netherlands will pitch in later instead of Korea.

As expected, Korea is facing a backlash from China. China’s public news agency argued that it is clear Korea’s surrender to the U.S. will do more harm than good.” It may be interpreted as a threat from China that Korean companies can be targeted for revenge as almost half of Korea’s memory chip exports go to China. But the government cannot hesitate on the issue that could put the national interest at stake.

Economic security alliance has become an irreversible reality with no options left. However, Korea cannot ignore the fact that 90 percent of raw materials, the backbone of Korea’s leading five manufacturing sectors, are from China. It is desperate for active diplomacy that focuses on the national interest. Seizing the opportunity for strategic communications and discussions with China, the South Korean government should explain the country’s current position to its neighbor and refrain from sparking any unnecessary disputes or conflicts.


7. No more unauthorized spying​ (South Korea)​

​South Korea needs Church Committee hearings and a Church Committee Report.


July 21, 2022

No more unauthorized spying

The Constitutional Court has put the brakes on the spying by investigative authorities on individual telecommunication records without consent. On Thursday, the top court ruled that the prosecution, police, the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (CIO), military and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) must inform suspects that they are looking into their communication records after those agencies committed such an act — in case the authorities did it without a court-issued warrant. In the wake of the ruling by the court, the National Assembly must revise the current Telecommunication Business Act — which allowed investigative agencies to check sensitive telecommunication records at their discretion — by the end of next year.

Potential unconstitutionality of the telecommunication law has been debated since the days of democracy movements in the 1970s and 80s. The issue was put under the microscope after the CIO excessively screened telecommunication records of a number of suspects last year to find criminal evidence from socially explosive cases. In the process of investigating those cases, the CIO methodically looked into piles of telecommunication records of politicians, journalists, lawyers and members of civic groups. In an infamous case over the suspicion that the People Power Party (PPP) pressured the prosecution to bring criminal charges against pro-government figures in 2020 when President Yoon Suk-yeol was a prosecutor general, the CIO under the liberal Moon Jae-in administration accessed a plethora of telecommunication records of up to 80 PPP lawmakers and more than 100 reporters.

After the news broke that CIO head Kim Jin-wook gave special treatment to Lee Sung-yoon — then chief of the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office — during the course of investigation, the CIO was hell bent on finding out who leaked that information. In the process, telecommunication records of a number of journalists and even the mother of a reporter were exposed. But CIO chief Kim flatly denied his violation of the law.

The Constitutional Court did not find fault with the arbitrary referencing of communication records. Yet the top court pointed out the need for investigative authorities to notify people of their act of surveilling communication records after they obtained the records within the boundaries of not hampering their own investigations.

The Constitutional Court also underscored the need for investigative agencies to strictly limit the scope of surveillance so as not to infringe on the privacy of citizens. We hope the legislature will revise the Telecommunication Business Act by the deadline to reflect Thursday’s meaningful decision by the top court.

8. N. Korea's new suspected COVID-19 cases under 200 for 2nd day: state media

N. Korea's new suspected COVID-19 cases under 200 for 2nd day: state media | Yonhap News Agency · by 채윤환 · July 22, 2022

SEOUL, July 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's new suspected COVID-19 cases remained below 200 for the second consecutive day, according to its state media Friday.

More than 140 people showed symptoms of fever over a 24-hour period until 6 p.m. the previous day, the official Korean Central News Agency said, citing data from the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters.

It did not provide information on whether additional deaths have been reported.

The total number of fever cases since late April came to over 4.77 million as of 6 p.m. Thursday, of which 99.99 percent had recovered and at least 330 others are being treated, it added.

The North's daily fever tally has been on a downward trend after peaking at over 392,920 on May 15, three days after it announced a coronavirus outbreak.

(END) · by 채윤환 · July 22, 2022

9. Child YouTuber in North Korea's charm offensive

Cute child or a child being abused?

Can north Korean "soft power" attract anyone?

Child YouTuber in North Korea's charm offensive

The Korea Times · July 21, 2022

Song-A, an 11-year-old North Korean vlogger, introduces her favorite book, "Harry Potter," in her first video uploaded on April 26. Screenshot from the Sary Voline YouTube channel

By Lee Yeon-woo

An 11-year-old vlogger whose favorite book is "Harry Potter," written by J.K. Rowling, and who speaks fluent English is not the sort of person you can see often in North Korea. However, on the YouTube channel, "Sary Voline," you can.

Her YouTube channel is filled with four propaganda videos describing North Korea as a paradise for children, with plenty of amusement parks, children's hospitals and caring healthcare workers who came by her home when she and her other family members were infected with COVID-19.

Through her channel, Song-A introduces her "magnificent" life in Pyongyang in English with a fluent British accent. In the latest video uploaded on Tuesday, she said that Pyongyang citizens enjoy shaved ice, a traditional dessert with sweet toppings known in Korean as "bingsu," which is sold by street vendors all over the North's capital. She promised to introduce the best shaved ice shop to viewers who visit Pyongyang.

Song-A claimed military doctors visited her home to deliver medicine when she and her family were infected with COVID-19. Screenshot from the Sary Voline YouTube channelSong-A shared her quarantine experience after she was infected with COVID-19 to show off how North Korea effectively responded to the pandemic. In the video, two men in military uniform are seen with medicine.

 "Everything is under control as it used to be," she added with a grin.

Song-A's channel was started on Jan. 27. It has four video uploads and over 4,300 subscribers as of Thursday.

She claimed she learned English from her mother.

But Rep. Tae Yong-ho from the ruling People's Power Party (PPP) said in an interview with NK News that Song-A is the daughter of a North Korean diplomat who was once based in London.

Tae, also a former North Korean diplomat who served as minister at the North's embassy in London, said he worked with the young YouTuber's father, and that Song-A's British accent is the result of her time living in Britain.

North Korea's main reason to promote child YouTubers is known to be a way to dodge Google's internal policy. YouTube previously closed several channels run by North Korea such as "DPRK Today" and "Red Star TV," on the grounds that they propagated North Korea's political system with aggressive content in their videos.

The Korea Times · July 21, 2022

10. S. Korea, US poised to reinstate combined drills abolished in 2018


From 1976 through 2007, the allies' summertime exercise was called the Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL). The UFL consisted of the Ulchi exercise and the combined Focus Lens drills launched in 1954 by the U.S-led U.N. Command.

The exercise took the new name, the UFG, in 2008. It had been held under that name until 2017. 

S. Korea, US poised to reinstate combined drills abolished in 2018

The Korea Times · July 21, 2022

This August 2017 file photo shows South Korean soldiers during an air assault training, part of the joint South Korea-U.S. Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise. Yonhap

South Korea and the United States are expected to revive a comprehensive combined military exercise abolished in 2018, Seoul officials said Thursday, amid the allies' efforts to reinforce deterrence against North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.

The exercise set for Aug. 22-Sept. 1 is likely to combine the computer simulation-based command post training, field maneuvers and Ulchi civil contingency drills ― a makeup tantamount to a revival of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) drills.

The UFG was abolished in 2018 under the then liberal Moon Jae-in administration, as it remained keen on facilitating diplomacy with the North, which has decried the exercise as a war rehearsal.

On Wednesday, the interior ministry said the four-day Ulchi drills are scheduled to kick off on Aug. 22 ― an indication the drills have been timed to coincide with the allied summertime training.

Seoul and Washington have also been in talks on newly naming their upcoming exercise, the defense ministry here said.

"The list of the new government's policy tasks included changing the name of the South Korea-U.S. theater-level combined training," Col. Moon Hong-sik, deputy spokesperson of the ministry, told a regular press briefing. "Related consultations are in progress, and we will make an announcement once a decision is made."

Among the new names under consideration are the "Ulchi Freedom Shield" or a name including the word "alliance," according to media reports.

From 1976 through 2007, the allies' summertime exercise was called the Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL). The UFL consisted of the Ulchi exercise and the combined Focus Lens drills launched in 1954 by the U.S-led U.N. Command.

The exercise took the new name, the UFG, in 2008. It had been held under that name until 2017. (Yonhap)

The Korea Times · July 21, 2022

11. 30 North Korean ‘defector’ families forced to relocate to hardscrabble hinterland


The second source confirmed the earlier RFA report that escapees are now referred to as “traitorous puppets,” indicating a renewed crackdown on their families. The term "puppet" is often used to refer to the South Korean government, implying its illegitimacy.
“The residents blame the authorities for exiling the families, who can just barely make a living with the help of their defector family members,” the second source said.
“The authorities took this measure to prevent the inflow of external information over the telephone”
According to statistics from the South Korean Ministry of Unification, at least 1,000 refugees from the North have arrived in South Korea every year since 2002, peaking at more than 2,900 in 2009.
Under Kim Jong Un’s rule, though, refugee arrivals in the South decreased to slightly more than 1,000 in 2019, then dropped off sharply in 2020, likely due to increased border security during the coronavirus pandemic.
Only 229 North Korean refugees made it to South Korea in 2020, 63 in 2021, and 11 through March 2022.

30 North Korean ‘defector’ families forced to relocate to hardscrabble hinterland

Families in Ryanggang province are banished for having two or more members who fled to South Korea.

By Jieun Kim for RFA Korean


North Koreans whose family members have escaped the country and resettled in South Korea are being banished to rugged rural areas, in the latest punishment for citizens vilified as traitors by the Kim Jong Il regime, sources in the country told RFA.

Ryanggang province, located along the border with China in the north of the country, meted out the punishment to 30 households in mid-July, shortly after the central government changed escapees’ designation from “illegal border crossers” to “traitorous puppets.”

According to a previous RFA report, the change in terminology coincided with a decision to more fiercely crack down on the families for their relatives’ escape from the country’s sputtering economy and harsh political system.

“On July 13th, The State Security Department selected defectors' families and exiled them to remote mountainous areas,” a resident of Ryanggang province told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“They selected families who had two or more family members defect to South Korea. Thirty households were simultaneously relocated,” the source said.

Both North and South Korea use politically charged terms to refer to escapees, and many international media outlets render these terms as “defector” in English.

Rights organizations make a distinction between defectors, who were part of the government or military at the time they escaped, and refugees, who were not involved in the country’s power structure and left for economic reasons or to flee persecution.

The latest punishment follows previous anti-escapee campaigns, including when North Korea forced citizens to attend mass rallies to denounce the escapees as traitors, arrested people for speaking positively about escapees in public, and arrested families for having phone contact with, or receiving money from, members of their household who escaped to the South.

In many areas close to the border with China, remittances from escaped family members are an important source of income for many families, and they are usually able to get out of punishment by bribing authorities when they are caught. But it has now become more difficult to avoid the consequences.

In this Monday, June 16, 2014 photo, a propaganda billboard stands in a field south of Samsu, in North Korea's Ryanggang province. The sign reads: "Let's complete the tasks set forth in the New Year's address." Photo: AP

The plan for Ryanggang province to banish refugees’ families to remote areas had been in the works for several months, the source said.

While the original plan would have punished all families related to escapees, the authorities decided to narrow their net.

“They reduced the target size to those families in which two or more members had defected … because too many families would have to be expelled for having just one family member who defected from North Korea. That target population is too large,” said the source.

“The expelled families went through a joint investigation by the State Security Department and judicial authorities under the presence of the head of their neighborhood watch unit. They confiscated the family’s cash and valuable household items, such as electronics,” said the source.

The banished families encompass people from all walks of life, according to the source.

“A couple in their 70s was selected for exile because two of their grandsons defected. Others included parents whose sons or daughters escaped, or children left behind after their parents fled to South Korea first,” said the source.

“Those to be exiled did not know where they were being sent until the moment they left. They kept the final orders secret, fearing that if their close neighbors learned where they would be, they might forward that information to their family members in South Korea,” the source said.

The relocation order only affected people whose family members escaped after 2010, another Ryanggang resident told RFA on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

“An industrial truck owned by a company came by in the early morning and transported the exiles somewhere else, and they brought with them only minimal cooking tools,” said the second source.

“A driver in a shoe factory and forestry machinery business reported that he took a banished family from Bocheon to exile in Pungso,” the second source said.

The source said that exiled families are commonly dropped in obscure villages –Samsu, Kapsan, Pungso, and Pungsan—lying somewhere between 12-75 miles from Hyesan, a city of more than 190,000 people and the administrative center of the province.

“These areas have several security guard posts, so it is difficult to wander freely out there,” the second source said.

The second source confirmed the earlier RFA report that escapees are now referred to as “traitorous puppets,” indicating a renewed crackdown on their families. The term "puppet" is often used to refer to the South Korean government, implying its illegitimacy.

“The residents blame the authorities for exiling the families, who can just barely make a living with the help of their defector family members,” the second source said.

“The authorities took this measure to prevent the inflow of external information over the telephone”

According to statistics from the South Korean Ministry of Unification, at least 1,000 refugees from the North have arrived in South Korea every year since 2002, peaking at more than 2,900 in 2009.

Under Kim Jong Un’s rule, though, refugee arrivals in the South decreased to slightly more than 1,000 in 2019, then dropped off sharply in 2020, likely due to increased border security during the coronavirus pandemic.

Only 229 North Korean refugees made it to South Korea in 2020, 63 in 2021, and 11 through March 2022.

Translated by Claire Shinyoung O. Lee. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

12. Was North Korea’s Covid-19 “victory” planned from the beginning?

Sure seems like it.

Was North Korea’s Covid-19 “victory” planned from the beginning?

By: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein 

Since last month, there’s been strong signs that North Korea may soon declare “victory” over Covid-19. Its claims of progress against the virus are puzzling, like many claims the country has made about its Covid-19 situation, especially at a time when cases were climbing in the rest of the region. The most recent example came this past Monday, when the regime said it was close to solving the crisis completely:

“The anti-epidemic campaign is improved to finally defuse the crisis completely,” the Korean Central News Agency said. It added that the North had reported 310 more people with fever symptoms.
The World Health Organization has cast doubts on North Korea’s claims, saying last month it believed the situation was getting worse, not better, amid an absence of independent data.
The North’s declaration could be a prelude to restoring trade long hampered by the pandemic, one analyst said.
“Under the current trend, North Korea could announce in less than a month that its COVID crisis is over and that could be a prelude to resuming crossborder trade,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Sejong Institute’s North Korea studies centre in South Korea.

(Source: Reuters, “North Korea says nearing end of COVID crisis,” Reuters, 18/7/2022.)

Signs that North Korea may soon declare victory began to appear only a little over a month after the country even admitted to having any cases of the virus in the first place. As AP put it a few weeks ago:

According to state media, North Korea has avoided the mass deaths many expected in a nation with one of the world’s worst health care systems, little or no access to vaccines, and what outsiders see as a long record of ignoring the suffering of its people.
What’s clear, though, is that the daily updates from state media make it appear inevitable that the nation will completely defeat a virus that has killed more than 6 million people around the world. According to the official tally, cases are plummeting, and, while 18% of the nation of 26 million people reportedly have had symptoms that outsiders strongly suspect were from COVID-19, less than 100 have died.
The South Korean government as well as some experts believe that North Korea may soon declare that it has beaten the virus. This will be linked, of course, to Kim’s strong and clever guidance.
“There are two sides to such a declaration,” said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy. “If North Korea says that COVID-19 has gone, it can emphasize that Kim Jong Un is a great leader who has overcome the pandemic. But in doing so, it can’t maintain the powerful restrictions that it uses to control its people in the name of containing COVID-19.”

(Source: Hyung-jin Kim, “‘It always wins’; North Korea may declare COVID-19 victory,” Associated Press, 21/6/2022.)

Indeed, a declaration of final victory is by no means a certainty, and the government would indeed lose a powerful reason for the stronger measures of social control it has implemented over the past few years.

But what about all the state has to win by declaring victory over Covid-19? I’m not talking here about the propaganda value for Kim Jong-un and his “clever guidance”, but about the economy. I speculated when the North Korean government first admitted that Covid had spread to the country that it could be a step toward normalizing the situation and, in the longer run, a step toward opening the border back up for trade with China.

When the government recognized it had been hit by Covid, it turned it from a risk to be avoided at all cost into a problem to be dealt with. By doing so, it made the border closure more or less superfluous; if the virus is already in the country, no more need to keep trade at close to a standstill.

In this light, declaring victory over the virus would be a natural step, and that would itself be a step toward fully normalizing trade and easing or abolishing internal restrictions. Several recent signs indicate that this may be happening. North Korea seems to, more or less, want to open trade back up with China, no longer fearing that the virus will enter the country. To the contrary, Chinese authorities are now weary of the virus coming in from North Korea. As Daily NK reports:

Although North Korea is making a show of confidence, claiming that the coronavirus situation in the country has “completely stabilized,” the Chinese government is tightly controlling trade with the North due to concern about the state of the pandemic in the country.
According to a Daily NK source in China on Monday, as coronavirus cases decrease, factories and restaurants are reopening in regions of China that border North Korea, including Liaoning and Jilin provinces. With highways, railways, ports and other inter-regional transportation links soon set to reopen as normal, the movement of goods and people within China is expected to improve.
However, in contrast to moves to relax domestic disease control measures, the Chinese government has yet to begin easing controls and inspections regarding trade with North Korea. In regions that border North Korea, Chinese authorities are reportedly cracking down hard on Chinese people directly contacting or doing business with North Koreans.
The source told Daily NK that the Chinese government is levying fines of at least RMB 300,000 (around USD 44,450) on people caught smuggling with North Koreans, a measure that has helped prevent Chinese traders from readily dealing with their North Korean counterparts.
On the other hand, North Korean trade officials are making more requests for imports from Chinese traders. With North Korean authorities recently allowing certain North Korean trading companies to participate in or expand existing trade with China, these companies appear to be responding by increasingly asking for items to import.

(Source: Seulkee Jang, “China still appears wary about reopening trade with North Korea,” Daily NK, 20/7/2022.)

North Korean firms, presumably on order by or at least approval from the state, are in other words trying to start trade ties back up while Chinese authorities are weary.

Internally, too, authorities have eased restrictions. According to Radio Free Asia, travel restrictions were virtually dismantled late last month:

North Korea has lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions nationwide, a sign the government may soon claim victory over the coronavirus pandemic, RFA has learned.
After two years of denying the virus had penetrated its closed borders, North Korea in May acknowledged COVID had begun to spread among participants of a large-scale military parade the previous month and declared a “maximum emergency” to fight the disease.
As part of its response, the government restricted movement between provinces and prohibited large gatherings. But now, after a partial lifting of the travel ban in late May, North Korea ended the limitations completely on June 12, a source from the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“Residents are able to travel to other provinces and even to the capital city, Pyongyang,” the source said. “The new order from the National Emergency Quarantine Command was given to residents of each neighborhood in Pohang district.”
Each neighborhood watch unit held meetings to explain the policy change to residents, the source said.
“They have been unable to travel outside the provincial borders with only the partial lifting of restrictions, so they welcome the news,” he said. “It is especially great news for merchants who rely on long-distance travel between provinces for their businesses.
“But even if the restrictions are completely ended, there is still a separate procedure that requires travelers to carry a COVID-19 test certificate issued by the quarantine command. We can get a travel pass only if we have the test certificate,” he said.
North Korea requires passes for travel between provinces even under normal circumstances.
Residents with mobile phones can access test certificates through a smartphone app, a resident of the northwestern province of North Pyongan told RFA. Others must travel to receive a paper copy.
“In rural areas such as Pakchon county, you have to visit the town quarantine center, which is miles away, to get a COVID-19 test certificate,” the second source said. “If a resident who wants to get a test certificate does not have a mobile phone, it is inconvenient.”
But she agreed that most residents are happy the restrictions are ending.
“Now they hope that the residents will have their livelihoods restored as soon as possible, but also by lifting the blockade of the border with China,” she said.
After briefly restarting rail freight shipments from China earlier this year, new outbreaks in China forced Beijing and Pyongyang to suspend trade again. Aside from the short respite, trade has been suspended since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, with disastrous effects on the North Korean economy.
The first source said that not all residents were overjoyed at the lifted restrictions, believing that the government had an underlying and unsaid motive.
“There are speculations that restrictions were lifted in order to mobilize the residents,” the first source said, referring to the government practice of forcing residents to provide free labor for construction, farming and other state projects.
“The COVID-19 lockdown restricted mobilizations on national construction projects and on rice planting duties,” he said.
Nevertheless, the government has been saying that it is the leadership of Kim Jong Un that has eradicated the coronavirus, the second source said.
Sources told RFA that North Korean traders and their Chinese counterparts are preparing to resume trade quickly once the Sino-Korean border reopens. They anticipate that cross-border trade will resume once coronavirus case numbers subside.

(Source: Jieun Kim, ,”North Korea ends COVID-19 travel restrictions as ‘fever cases’ subside,” Radio Free Asia, 22/6/2022.)

It seems, thus, that the admission of Covid back in the spring may have been the first step to normalizing the situation. It is a change that the North Korean economy very much needs.

13. The Ukraine war’s gifts to North Korea

It is important that we need to try to conduct a strategic analysis from Kim Jong Un's point of view.


Strategically and diplomatically, North Korea stands to benefit – arguably, it already has – from the strife in distant Europe.
The most obvious lesson for Kim is Putin’s dual-headed strategy of simultaneously war-fighting while deterring others from joining the fray. His method has been to ring-fence his conventional invasion by threatening nuclear use against any who dare to intervene. And so far, it has worked.
“North Korea is seeing how just some saber-rattling on the nuclear front has dominated the discourse on how to respond to Russian aggression,” said Markus Garlauskas, a senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a former US National Intelligence Officer for North Korea.
“The North Koreans have also probably learned that you can keep a conflict limited,” he continued during a panel discussion at last week’s Asian Leadership Conference (ALC) in Seoul. “They can focus significant aggression and not have it develop into a [wider] conflict.”

The Ukraine war’s gifts to North Korea · by Andrew Salmon · July 21, 2022

SEOUL – Militaries around the world are keenly following events in Ukraine, where a Western-supported defender is facing a massed, multi-dimensional Russian assault.

Strategies and tactics, weapons and technologies, are being put to the harshest test in a brutal contest of blood, gold, iron and will. Lessons are being drawn by politicians and diplomats, scientists and engineers, generals and corporals.

Half a world away, quivering pundits have fretted that if Russian President Vladimir Putin prevails in Ukraine, Xi Jinping might be encouraged to launch a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

But less attention has been paid to the lessons North Korea’s Kim Jong Un might be drawing from the conflict, in the event he ever seeks to – or feels compelled to – ignite Korean War II.

For decades, that possibility looked remote – even ridiculous. Now, however, its possibility is not so easily dismissed.

North Korean tanks on parade. While the world has focused on North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, it is now rebuilding more tactical capabilities. Photo: AFP

Korean War, redux

For decades, South Korea’s survival looked firmly underwritten by its strength and North Korea’s weakness.

How could North Korea, which failed to capture South Korea in 1950 when barely a handful of US troops were deployed on the peninsula at the war’s outset, hope to prevail against an alliance in full-on defensive mode, including 28,000 American GIs “ready to fight tonight?”

This analysis was buttressed by the precipitous plunge of North Korea’s economy in the early 1990s. That left it unable to invest heavily in conventional forces. Instead, Pyongyang spent its dwindling national treasure forging a long-range nuclear deterrent to keep America at bay.

Pundits further comforted themselves with the analysis that the Kim regime would not risk its own survival with a major provocation.

True, violence has simmered over the last two decades, ranging from deadly naval incidents to the shelling of an offshore island to DMZ clashes. But there seemed throughout little threat of a big new war.

Then came 2021. That year, following the failure of his high-profile dalliance with US President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un publicly announced a massive new weapons-build.

Many of these weapons – drones, short- and mid-range rocket artillery and ballistic missiles, tactical nuclear warheads – are designed for use, not non-use. And they are ranged for close, not intercontinental operations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has further spooked some, who fear that if Moscow’s adventure in Eastern Europe is successful, it could encourage similar moves in East Asia.

Strategic lessons, testing resolve

Strategically and diplomatically, North Korea stands to benefit – arguably, it already has – from the strife in distant Europe.

The most obvious lesson for Kim is Putin’s dual-headed strategy of simultaneously war-fighting while deterring others from joining the fray. His method has been to ring-fence his conventional invasion by threatening nuclear use against any who dare to intervene. And so far, it has worked.

“North Korea is seeing how just some saber-rattling on the nuclear front has dominated the discourse on how to respond to Russian aggression,” said Markus Garlauskas, a senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a former US National Intelligence Officer for North Korea.

“The North Koreans have also probably learned that you can keep a conflict limited,” he continued during a panel discussion at last week’s Asian Leadership Conference (ALC) in Seoul. “They can focus significant aggression and not have it develop into a [wider] conflict.”

Ukraine was neither a member of NATO nor a US treaty ally. South Korea enjoys a mutual defense treaty with the US and has US troops based on its soil. Even so, a matter that is much debated among pundits – though not (at least, not publicly) by politicians – is the stickiness of US commitment in the face of a potential kinetic crisis.

US soldiers rest after military exercises by US and South Korea troops at Daegu in a file photo. Photo: AFP / Kim Jae-hwan

Some worry that Washington would weigh its treaty obligation to Seoul against the risk of losing one or more American cities to North Korean nuclear strikes, and back down. Hence, Pyongyang will likely be watching Ukraine as a test of US will.

“If Ukraine falls or comprises, then China or North Korea can use that case as a narrative…that Taiwan or South Korea cannot rely on US resolve,” Cho Sung-min, a professor of the College of Security Studies at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and also a speaker at the ALC, said.

Diplomatic win, material possibilities

With the Ukraine war broadening the global cleavage in geopolitics – one that pits the “Global North” (the Anglosphere, the West, and US-allied Japan and Korea) against an emergent China-Russia partnership – North Korea has already benefitted diplomatically.

“The Chinese and Russians have basically knee-capped the UN Security Council in terms of North Korea,” said Victor Cha, another ALC speaker.

He was referring to Beijing and Moscow’s May 26 veto of a US-drafted resolution to sanction North Korea for its extensive program of missile tests – 31 so far this year. That veto shattered the prior unanimity among the UN Security Council’s permanent members regarding North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.

Pyongyang did not take long to repay Moscow. On July 13, it became the third country on earth – after Russia and Syria – to recognize the pro-Russian, breakaway Ukrainian republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Recognizing the breakaway republics speaks of the willingness of North Korea to be part of the bifurcated system emerging in Northeast Asia,” Cha, the senior vice president for Asia at Washington-based think tank CSIS, continued.

Future benefits for North Korea may be material as well as diplomatic. North Korea likely sees “a lot of opportunities in Russia, be they coming in the form of energy, or future cooperation in missile technologies,” Cha said.

North Korea’s missile programs, from rocket artillery to ballistic, are heavily based on Russian originals, designs and components.

Moscow remains committed to its Far East despite the challenges it is encountering in Ukraine.

There are multiple indications that the Kremlin, fighting an expeditionary war exclusively with professional soldiers, is facing manpower overstretch. It has already deployed depot battalions – usually used for training, reinforcement and rear-area duties – to active service at the front. It is currently raising volunteer battalions nationwide.

However, with Russia’s two-headed eagle facing both west and east, it maintains significant assets in the Russian Far East. Since the Ukraine war started, it has conducted joint air and naval drills with Chinese forces in the East China Sea.

“Russia maintains a military presence in East Asia and it is not distracted from East Asia,” said Cho. “That sends a strong signal to Kim Jong Un that he has a friend if needed.”

So far, so clear. With its key partners strengthening their united front against the US-led West, North Korea is likely to be drawn closer to their bosom, with related benefits.

But Pyongyang’s tactical learnings from the combat arena are likely to be more nuanced – and more troubling.

Ukrainian fighters in a bunker – essential protection against Russia’s massive artillery forces. Photo: Agencies

Flawed invasion

North Korea has taken not just much of its kit, but also much of its doctrine, from the USSR and Russia. Moscow’s offensive doctrine prioritizes combined-arms, heavily armored, deep-penetration maneuver war.

“Classic Soviet doctrine wise – and according to North Korea doctrine – yes, that is exactly how they would conduct a conventional attack,” Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean general told Asia Times.

Indeed, Russian officers planned Pyongyang’s 1950 invasion of South Korea using these very tactics. But Russia’s vaunted armored assault has borne bitter fruit in Ukraine.

In Phase 1 of their “special military operation,” Russian columns were contained and ambushed on Ukraine’s road net: They could not maneuver off-road due to the spring thaw, which turned soil to mud.

Russian troops also found themselves forced to fight in urban areas – a key force multiplier for defenders – in the suburbs of Kiev, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and elsewhere.

Pyongyang generals will have observed that “a major, broad-front offensive in the face of determined resistance is very difficult to make progress,” said Garlauskas.

And for Kim’s war planners, any southward attack is complicated by problems the Russians did not face.

Firstly, unlike the vastness of Ukraine, the Korean peninsula lacks strategic width, which necessarily channels any north-south attack. Secondly, lacking large-scale airborne or seaborne assets, North Korea’s main ground force would have to punch through the massively fortified DMZ.

That would be murderous, to say the least. However, there is an asymmetric solution: invalidate the DMZ by infiltrating under it using tunnels.

“In South Korea, there are tunnel experts who think they could extend 10 kilometers south of the border, some say 200 kilometers, and some say they have reached [southern port city] Busan!” Chun said. “But everyone agrees there are tunnels.”

Four have been discovered. Their estimated capacities are formidable: They could funnel 30,000 troops, carrying personal kit and light crew-served weapons, per hour.

Even so, once through or under the DMZ, any attack would follow predictable axes. The terrain of the Korean peninsula is mountainous in the east, meaning the key lines of communication are in the west. So, too, is the capital, just 30 miles south of the DMZ.

The key invasion routes into Seoul are the Munsan and Uijongbu corridors. Both are north-south expressways dominated by the cities that bear their names.

And as was the case in early-phase Ukraine, in Korea asphalt will be at a premium: Off-road maneuver is seasonally obviated by waterlogged rice fields. And the roads passing through and beside cities would have to be taken so that second-echelon forces could advance.

The problem for North Korea is that the towns and cities north of Seoul – dominated by high rises, and home to millions – form a defensive carapace. Their capture would consume time that Washington could utilize to marshal its counterattack forces.

South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed wire fenced area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. Photo: AFP

For these various reasons, North Korea would almost certainly do things differently, experts and analysts say.

“They are going to be focusing on use of fire and other capabilities to achieve their goals,” said Garlauskas.

Chun agreed. “Because North Korea would have the initiative, they would probably focus on [eliminating] our command and control, our airbases and our ports, as well as our missiles,” he said.

That would mean special operations missions, cyber assaults and a massive storm of firepower during which North Korea’s fearsome artillery arm – tube and rocket – would be given full play.

But big questions hover over how effective North Korea would be at high-tech, network-centric operations.

In Part II of this story, Asia Times will examine the kind of tactical learnings North Korea may be drawing from Ukraine in terms of the use of firepower, targeting and command and control.

Follow this writer on Twitter at ASalmonSeoul · by Andrew Salmon · July 21, 2022

14. Russia requests North Korean labourers be sent to Donbas in exchange for wheat and machinery

Putin needs manpower. Kim Jong Un has manpower for rent.

Russia requests North Korean labourers be sent to Donbas in exchange for wheat and machinery

Providing technology to Pyongyang would violate UN sanctions that Moscow has supported in the past

The Telegraph · by Julian Ryall

Russia expects North Korean labourers to be involved in rebuilding two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, with Pyongyang likely to be paid in much-needed industrial equipment and wheat from areas of Ukraine that are now under the control of the Russian military.

Alexander Matsegora, the Russian ambassador to North Korea, made the claim in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper, the Moscow Times reported.

Assisting North Korea in obtaining equipment, technology or currency would be a breach of United Nations sanctions designed to stop Pyongyang developing more nuclear weapons or advanced missiles. As a member of the UN Security Council, Russia has in the past supported sanctions on North Korea but is now seeking new allies as it faces its own trade and other embargoes.

"Highly qualified, hard-working and ready to work in the most difficult conditions, Korean builders will be an asset in the serious task of restoring social, infrastructural and industrial facilities destroyed by the retreating 'Ukronazis'", Mr Matsegora told the pro-Kremlin Izvestia, repeating the claim that the Ukrainian government is led by Nazis.

The Defence of Donetsk – battlefield shifts in Donbas

North Korea is the third nation to officially recognise Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics, after Russia and Syria.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the Donetsk People's Republic, said the recognition of Pyongyang was "a triumph of diplomacy" and said he looked forward to "active and fruitful cooperation" with North Korea.

Mr Matsegora told Izvestia there are "wide prospects for bilateral cooperation" between the two breakaway republics and their new Asian ally, with Pyongyang particularly keen to obtain replacements for its Soviet-era manufacturing equipment. Much of that equipment was originally made in the industrial region of eastern Ukraine that is presently the focus of much of the fighting.

"Our Korean partners are very interested in spare parts and units manufactured there, in updating their production base", the ambassador said.

The trade relationship will also see coking coal and wheat shipped to North Korea, which is suffering severe food shortages, in exchange for magnesite clinker.

North Korea last week recognised the independence of the two districts in eastern Ukraine, accusing the government in Kyiv of supporting Washington's "hostile" stance towards Pyongyang.

The Ukrainian government responded by severing diplomatic ties and accused the North of undermining its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister, said the fact that Moscow was having to appeal to Pyongyang for diplomatic support demonstrated that Russia had "no more allies in the world, except countries that depend on it financially and politically".

The Telegraph · by Julian Ryall



De Oppresso Liber,

David Maxwell

Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation

Senior Advisor, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy

Editor, Small Wars Journal

Twitter: @davidmaxwell161


Phone: 202-573-8647


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