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COMMENT
Turning tables on North Korea
It is obvious North Korea is on a diplomatic outreach program after the release of US citizens Kenneth Bae and Mathew Todd Miller. The natural tendency would be to spurn the gesture as inadequate to make up for the belligerence Pyongyang has shown under Kim Jung-eun's leadership. With China's help, an international strategy could yet be devised to ensure North Korea shuns nuclear and missile proliferation. - Joseph R DeTrani (Nov 17, '14)



First Lady oils North Korean gravy train
The wife of Choe Ryong-hae, North Korea's former number two official, may have used her connections with the country's powerful First Lady to have her husband reinstated. However, the increasing use of personal connections to former singer Ri Sol-ju could undermine the power of Ri's own husband, North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun. (Nov 7, '14)

Fishing for peace in Korean waters
Environmental problems, by their nature, don’t respect borders. One such is the damage arising from overfishing in the waters around North and South Korea. Developing sustainable fishing policies for the area offers a chance for the two countries to reach common ground. - Michal Witkowski and John Feffer (Nov 7, '14)

Pictures of life on North Korean tourist trail
Everyday life matters in forming a more complete picture of North Korea. In as much as anything can be learned about the trials and tribulations of ordinary people, observations "on the ground" count. One way, although not perfect, to gather them is to travel to the Hermit Kingdom as a tourist. - Emma Campbell (Oct 21, '14)

North Korea in grip of leadership tension
North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun's extended absence for medical reasons created room for his powerful officials to offer more-conciliatory displays than the world has become accustomed to after more than two years of belligerence. The diplomatic outreach could imply that seniors close to the young leader have now convinced him that his policies were failing. - Joseph R DeTrani (Oct 17, '14)

English lessons for Kim’s secret agents
Authorities in North Korea have made English lessons compulsory for state security agents working directly for foreign-educated dictator Kim Jong-eun, as the language has become more popular than Chinese among students. According to one source, Kim himself may have issued the order. (Sep 25, '14)

South Korea stonewalls on the Sewol
Six months after a ferry crash killed nearly 300 South Koreans, the government in Seoul continues to stymie investigations into its behavior and harass the families of victims. The sinking of the Sewol may seem an unfortunate accident. Once the surface is scratched, however, a picture emerges of a government afraid to face demands for the truth. - J J Suh (Sep 23, '14)

The Tao of North Korea
Most outsiders think of the Korean peninsula as starkly divided: to the dark north is Gulag style, while the lights of the south flicker Gangnam Style. Forgot the statellite photos that illustrate the difference - North and South Korea are more Ying and Yang than many suppose, and they're slowly growing closer. - John Feffer (Sep 19, '14)

North Korea leery of Chinese TV sets
North Korea is stepping up inspections on households with television sets imported from neighboring China, targeting LCD sets with USB ports and remote control functions, in Pyongyang’s latest attempt to prevent citizens from accessing foreign media ahead of the Asian Games. (Aug 27, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Leap of faith needed on North Korea
The West and its East Asian allies have failed to coax North Korea out of isolation with both economic incentives and punishments, underlining the need for more-creative strategies. Rather than a carrot and a stick approach, perhaps what is needed is a policy of "principled engagement" based on incremental trust-building. - Zhiqun Zhu (Aug 15, '14)

COMMENT
A bold initiative with North Korea necessary
Encouraging developments such as unexpected progress in talks over the repatriation of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s bode well for the chances of moving forward with talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. While there are deep reasons for the international community to despise the Hermit Kingdom, a bold imitative from China could yet reap solid peace dividends. - Joseph R DeTrani (Aug 7, '14)

SPEAKING FREELY
Healing the 'comfort women' rift
One theory has it that the Imperial Japanese Army's creation of "comfort women" stations during World War II - while irrational, brutal and immoral by today's standards - created a channel for soldiers' rage that may have paradoxically "saved" larger female Asian populations from the rape and worse seen from Shanghai to Nanking in the late 1930s. However controversial, this theory could become a basis for healing the rift between nations. - Yu Bin (Aug 7, '14)

WHO slams Korea on failure
to monitor traditional medicine

Many South Koreans have recourse to traditional medicine, notably herbal treatments and acupuncture. The Korean authorities' failure, highlighted by the World Health Organization, to track the negative effects of such treatment means patients have little knowledge of the risks they face. - Alexander Casella (Jul 28, '14)

Tough month looms for South Korea's Park
As South Korea gradually moves on from the Sewol ferry tragedy, attention is reverting to President Park Geun-hye's botched reshuffle attempts and stalled reform plans. While her ruling conservative Saenuri Party will likely retain its majority at a July 30 round of by-elections, with growth slipping and quarter of her five-year term already over, pressure is growing to deliver.
- Aidan Foster-Carter (Jul 11, '14)

Seeking truth for 'comfort women'
As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leads a nationalist campaign to deny Japan acted criminally in World War II, including in the establishment of so-called "comfort stations" that forced an estimated 200,000 women into sexual slavery, a growing global movement is rising with the aim of ensuring that history holds Tokyo in account. - Christine Ahn (Jun 26, '14)

North Koreans wise up to China smartphones
As smartphone use emerges in North Korea, shops have sprung up in Chinese border cities targeting North Koreans who travel there for shopping. While Chinese phones cost less and offer superior quality to home-grown smartphone models like the "AS1201 Arirang", prospective buyers balk at the complex and expensive process of bringing them home. (Jun 26, '14)

South Korea education war heats up
The heat is about to be turned up on the pressure cooker of South Korean education as progressives, stoked by landslide victories for the left in local elections this month and the reaction to the tragic loss of children in the Sewol ferry sinking, challenge conservative cornerstones of schools policy. The battle will be long - and fought hard. - Aidan Foster-Carter (Jun 16, '14)

COMMENT
Iran, North Korea as proliferation epicenters
If North Korea continues to retain and build more nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and others will inevitably seek their own devices, just as Middle Eastern countries will follow if Iran builds its own. Regional nuclear arms races increase the prospect of materials falling into the hands of non-state actors and a real threat the whole world. That is why it is imperative nuclear talks succeed. - Joseph R DeTrani (Jun 3, '14)

The many masks of Yoo Byung-eun
Korean authorities are still clarifying the reasons for the Sewol ferry tragedy in which more than 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, lost their lives. Hardly less mysterious is Yoo Byung-eun, the tycoon owner of the aged ferry, who would rather be known for his photographs - and is evasive about his role as founder of a cult, which may even now be sheltering him from arrest. - Aidan Foster-Carter (May 22, '14)

Is Sewol tragedy South Korea's Katrina?
The South Korean government is bearing the brunt of the public's wrath over the Sewol ferry tragedy as the country continues to be wracked by a mix of grief, guilt and outrage over the loss of so many young lives. In many ways, the tragedy mirrors the US government's calamitous response to Hurricane Katrina. - Geoffrey Fattig (May 19, '14)

Koreas united by rule-breaking spirit
South Korea became rich by breaking the rules to participate in the global economy. If North Korea traded its nuclear weapons program for a peace treaty, security guarantees, and economic development assistance, it might be able to accomplish the same trick. They both share the understanding that the rules of the game are rigged in favor of the already powerful. - John Feffer (May 14, '14)

Divers race to recover ferry bodies
Dive teams raced on Friday to pull more than 100 bodies from sunken South Korean ferry the Sewol as storm clouds loomed and the victims' families angrily pressed officials to wrap up the recovery effort. The confirmed death toll rose to 181, with 121 people still unaccounted for, while prosecutors officially attributed the sinking to improper stowage of cargo and a loss of stability caused by a change in the vessel's design. (Apr 25, '14)
Click here for latest news on the disaster.

Boy made first ferry distress call
A fire station passed on to coastguards the first distress call from a sinking South Korean ferry, made by a frightened boy three minutes after the vessel made its fateful last turn. The call was followed by others to the fire brigade from about 20 children, Yonhap news agency reported.
Click here for the latest news.

COMMENT
North Korea needs 'strategic shaping'
As diplomacy languished in recent years, North Korea doubled the size of its uranium enrichment facility and expanded the range of its missiles. Instead of an "all-or-nothing" approach that rejects anything short of a timeline for verifiable denuclearization, the US could resume multilateral diplomacy that envisions realistic, achievable interim steps. - John Bradshaw (Apr 8, '14)

Six-party legacy emboldens North Korea
North Korea appears to have stepped up missile launches and human-rights abuses since six-party talks on the country's nuclear program stalled in 2009. It is likely that the six-party powers' past weakness conditioned the North to believe that escalation and intimidation eventually would succeed in getting the US and others to capitulate and return to negotiations. - Joseph R DeTrani (Apr 4, '14)

A cut too much for North Korean students
Male students have reacted with dismay to an order from North Korean colleges that they trade their hairstyles for leader Kim Jong-eun's trademark half-buzz, half-mop look. The dictate on the style, which was sported by smugglers a decade ago, follows a ruling Workers' Party recommendation. (Mar 27, '14)

Korea's jailed bosses keep power points
Inter-cultural studies claim shame is a big deal in South Korea. No one seems to have told the leaders of the country's big industrial groups. Even now, those behind bars and with no get-out-of-jail-free card don't seem to get it as they cling on to power. - Aidan Foster-Carter (Mar 25, '14)

North Korean elite shell out on finery
Even though the average North Korean worker makes less than a dollar a month, the country's better-off few are willing to pay top prices in Chinese border towns for South Korean fabric. The transactions are part of a thriving black market linking the two Koreas, between which most trade is banned. - Kim Jun-ho (Mar 20, '14)

COMMENT
Turn off the Korean deep freeze
The political stalemate on the Korean peninisula continues to be very costly and the risks of inadvertent war, further nuclear proliferation, and US-China strategic competition are growing. Yet the six states of Northeast Asia have it in their power to switch the Cold War button to "off". - Ron Huisken (Mar 19, '14)

Strategic impatience on North Korea
The US policy of "strategic patience" on North Korea - essentially ignoring the problem and hoping it goes away - ignores the role Pyongyang could play in developing Asian trade links and in countering China's might. For North Korea to rise higher on the list of US priorities, Washington policymakers must stop considering it in isolation. - John Feffer (Mar 17, '14)

South Koreans living fast in the past
The recent reunions of family members divided by the Korean War highlight some of the contradictions of South Korea. The importance attached to the visits reveals a people that still feel the tribal pull of a once agrarian society, despite living in a country that’s now a showcase for high technology and global connectedness. - Ahn Mi Young (Mar 13, '14)

Asian 'Internet enemies' tighten controls
China and Vietnam have extended controls on the Internet and North Korea is using "increasingly sophisticated" means to spread disinformation through the worldwide web, according to a new report which labels the three nations as the biggest "Enemies of the Internet". Raising concerns about rising cyber-censorship the world over, Reporters Without Borders urged the United Nations to take measures to protect online freedoms. - Rachel Vandenbrink (Mar 13, '14)

North Korea well out of starvation zone
If the North Korea of the 1990s was seen as a starving nation that produced an exodus of hungry people, then the picture should be even gloomier now - six years after it stopped receiving South Korea's generous aid. But it's not. The nation of 24 million people, widely said to be the most secretive in the world and a nuclear threat, appears to have weathered the years well. - Ahn Mi Young (Feb 28, '14)

UN panel warns North Korean leader on abuses
A United Nations panel has written to North Korea's leader Kim Jong-eun warning him that he could be hauled before an international court for rights abuses on a scale unparalleled in modern history. The UN commission of inquiry of human rights abuses in North Korea said Kim might be among "hundreds" of leaders behind violations that amount to crimes of humanity. - Parameswaran Ponnudurai (Feb 18, '14)

JOHN PILGER
War and forgetting on Jeju Island
The Korean peninsula has an unrecognized distinction as the place in which the US turned itself into "an archipelago of empire" from the smoldering ruins of war. Atrocities such as a massacre by US-supported militia on Jeju Island were the "forgotten" prelude to war in 1950, and now, as islanders protest against the building of a US base there, will the threat to all of us posed by US missiles trained on China be "forgotten" too? (Feb 13, '14)

Park seeds 'peace' in the DMZ
Park Geun-hye hopes to displace some of the misnomer of the Demilitarized Zone by turning part of the heavily mined buffer between the two Koreas into a "park for peace". The South Korean president's plan faces significant obstacles, but the wildlife there may at least serve as a talking point for Seoul and Pyongyang. - Alec Forss and Sangsoo Lee (Feb 12, '14)

COMMENT
From hope to despair in North Korea
When Kim Jong-eun took control of North Korea two years ago, his late father had already taken the first steps to put the country on the path of reconciliation. Hopes were high that the new young leader would quicken the pace towards a resolution of concerns over the North's nuclear program. Recent despairing events indicate he has dropped the baton. - Joseph R DeTrani (Feb 7, '14)

Identity complex dogs Japan, South Korea
China's cooperation with South Korea in opening a memorial hall in Harbin last month to honor Ahn Jung-geun, the Korean independence activist who in 1909 assassinated the Japanese colonial governor of Korea, symbolizes the historical obstacles to forward-looking Japan-South Korea relations. It also illuminates the power of deeply held and contradictory notions of national identity. - Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder (Feb 7, '14)

India, South Korea take "middle" path
The kind of networking achieved last week between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South Korean President Park Geun-hye is laying the ground for more countries to punch beyond their geostrategic weight. Such "middle-power cooperation" protects them from the profound changes that are occurring as the US falters and China becomes more assertive. - Sukjoon Yoon (Jan 29, '14)

North Korea cracks down on child care
North Korean authorities are closing all privately run preschools and unofficial day-care centers for children, threatening businesses with tough penalties if they continue to operate. While the order has been made under the pretext of standardizing the state system, that has a lot of growing up to do before it can effectively mind the nation's children. (Jan 28, '14)

Kim purges for a new economic dawn
Western pundits condemned Kim Jong-eun's execution of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, as a hardline step away from reformist promise initially seen in the young North Korean leader. Not so: Kim was acting to secure a grand economic "opening up". These reform plans were threatened by his uncle's corruption - and in any case, it was also time for the natural order to assert itself. - Sascha Matuszak (Jan 10, '14)

Food markets still vital in North Kore
North Korean harvests are improving for the second successive year, and the food deficit is the smallest in a long while. Yet neither the improved harvests nor additional resources from an increase in exports to China have been able to increase food supply enough to replace private markets. - Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein (Jan 10, '14)

COMMENT
The unraveling of North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun's late December rallying call for troops to strengthen their combat readiness should not be dismissed as empty talk. As another indication that the country's leadership is in danger of unravelling after Kim had his mentor executed, it is also a sign that China should invite Kim to Beijing for meaningful dialogue. - Joseph R DeTrani (Jan 6, '14)

ATol Specials

Kim Comes Out
North Korea's nukes and what they mean




PART 1:
Welcome to megalopolis



PART 2:
Hot ovens at the seaside



PART 3:
The great man eats


(Aug, '01)

 
 
 

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