Chronologies

North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Jan 2018 to May 2018


: The ROK defense ministry (MND) says removal of loudspeakers at the DMZ will begin tomorrow (May 1). MND calls this a “rudimentary” and easy step, noting that (by contrast) creating a peace zone in the West/Yellow Sea will require further consultations.

: President Moon calls for swift parliamentary ratification of the Panmunjom Declaration. This is not guaranteed, for Moon’s Democratic Party (DP) holds only 121 of the National Assembly’s 299 seats. The conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), which has vowed to block ratification, has 116. How minor parties vote will thus be crucial.

: MOU says the South is considering early high-level inter-Korean talks on the new agreement to open a North-South liaison office in Kaesong. If all goes well, the office could open by June.

: Confirming a surprise decision by Kim Jong Un at the Panmunjom summit, the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the DPRK parliament, decrees that Northern time will move forward by 30 minutes on May 5 to become the same as in South Korea. That was the case until 2015, when Pyongyang quixotically set its clocks back half an hour – to protest at Japan having brought Korea into its own time zone during the colonial era, a century ago.

: First in a tweet and then at a press conference, President Trump describes as “intriguing” the idea of the DMZ as one possible venue for his forthcoming summit meeting with Kim Jong Un: “There’s something that I like about it because you’re there.”

: Yonhap quotes major credit rating agencies hailing the inter-Korean summit as “credit positive” for the ROK, while not yet eliminating geopolitical risk on the peninsula.

: The third North-South summit is held on the Southern side of Panmunjom. A long, busy and various day mostly goes off smoothly, ending with a banquet and a substantial Panmunjom Declaration. (The full schedule, fulfilled almost to the letter, can be read here.)

: DPRK advance team comes South and stays until Friday’s summit.

: Blue House announces that the two Koreas have reached agreement on protocol, security and media coverage for the third inter-Korean summit later this week.

: Pouring cold water on pleas – including a joint letter from over 200 NGOs – that DPRK human rights should be discussed at the upcoming summit, MOU states: “The main agenda will be denuclearization, establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula and improving North-South relations. Nothing more, nothing less.”

: The two sides discuss protocol and security for the summit at Panmunjom. Several similar meetings follow.

: ROK musicians give their second Pyongyang concert, in a much larger venue:  the 12,000-seat Ryugyong Chung Ju Yung Gymnasium, paid for by and named for Hyundai’s northern-born eponymous founder.

: In a rare DPRK apology, Kim Yong Chol visits ROK reporters in the Koryo hotel. He blames Kim Jong Un’s security guards for their exclusion from the K-pop concert.

: ROK musicians give their first concert in the East Pyongyang Grand Theater, with Kim Jong Un present. He claps along, and has a photograph taken afterwards with the assembled performers. Several South Korean journalists are refused entry, however.

: 120 Southern musicians et al – officials, reporters and a taekwondo demonstration team – fly into Pyongyang.

: The two Koreas set April 27 as the date for their third summit. The same day, 70 ROK music technicians fly to Pyongyang to prepare for the upcoming concerts.

: Seoul’s summit preparation committee suggests talks with Pyongyang on March 29 to finalize details of the meeting.

: In talks at Panmunjom, the two Koreas agree that 160 ROK musicians will visit Pyongyang from March 31 – April 3, giving two concerts there. Performers include girl group Red Velvet, Seohyun of Girls’ Generation (who joined the Samjiyon Orchestra on stage in Seoul), and crooner Cho Yong-pil, who gave a solo concert in Pyongyang in 2005.

: While the US and ROK discuss cost-sharing for USFK, the WPK daily Rodong Sinmun weighs in: “What South Koreans want is an unconditional withdrawal of US troops from the South, an unwelcome guest that poses a threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.”

: Chung Eui-yong reveals that the two Korean leaders will hold a summit in late April, at Panmunjom on the southern side. A hotline between them will be installed before then. Chung adds that Kim restated his commitment to denuclearization.

: A five-strong ROK delegation headed by Blue House security adviser Chung Eui-yong flies into Pyongyang. Hours later they begin four hours of talks with Kim Jong Un, including a banquet: the first time Kim has met Southern officials. They fly home next day.

: Asked by independent lawmaker Rep. Lee Jung-hyun whether a North Korean reconnaissance submarine sank the Cheonan, ROK Defense Minister Song Young-moo says:  “I believe that to be the case.” This contradicts the official ROK government line, invoked during Kim Yong Chol’s recent visit, that it is unclear who precisely was behind the attack.

: Kim Yong Chol and party return home, after two further days of intensive but little-publicized meetings (at least six official one) with senior ROK officials in Seoul.

: 299 North Koreans – cheerleaders, athletes, journalists and officials – return home overland via Dorasan. (The link details the cheering squad’s activities: generally well-received – with some exceptions – and including several unscheduled local shows.)

: Kim Yong Chol and his party cross into the South by an unexpected route, to avoid protestors seeking to block them. Going first to Seoul, Kim meets Moon Jae-in at the Blue House (this was not pre-announced) before heading to PyeongChang for the Olympics closing ceremony, where as predicted he has no interaction with Ivanka Trump nearby.

: DPRK names an eight-member delegation to attend the PyeongChang Olympics closing ceremony. Controversially it is led by KPA General Kim Yong Chol. Now vice-chairman of the WPK CC in charge of inter-Korean affairs, Kim is seen in South Korea as responsible for sinking the corvette Cheonan and shelling Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 when he headed the DPRK’s Reconnaissance Bureau, which runs clandestine operations. Also in the delegation is Kim’s close aide CPRC chairman Ri Son Gwon.

: KCNA reports on two further joint taekwondo performances, in Seoul on Feb. 12 and 14. The DPRK team “knocked out their opponents with swift actions and strong strikes … winning the admiration of the spectators.”
Feb. 21, 2018: Yonhap tallies North Korea’s performance at the Winter Olympics. It won no medals (South Korea ranked seventh). The North’s star performers were figure skating pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik, who placed 13th with a personal best of 184.98 points.

: Welcoming back the North’s delegation to the Olympics opening ceremony, Kim Jong Un calls their treatment in the South “very impressive.” He vows to “continue making good results by further livening up the warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue.”

: The Samjiyon Orchestra performs in Seoul. In the audience Moon Jae-in sits next to Kim Yo Jong (their fourth meeting in three days), who flies back to Pyongyang with her delegation later that evening. The orchestra returns home overland next morning.

: At a luncheon in Seoul, Kim Yo Jong extends her brother’s invitation to Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang. He thanks her but does not immediately accept.

: Reuters reports “kicking, screaming and flying planks” at PyeongChang. Nothing untoward, just the two Koreas’ taekwondo demonstration teams performing their second show. The first was at the Olympic opening ceremony the previous day.

: A 22-strong delegation, formally led by the DPRK’s nonagenarian titular head of state Kim Yong Nam and featuring Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong as her brother’s special envoy, flies into Incheon on the Northern leader’s personal aircraft. After official welcomes, they proceed directly to PyeongChang for the Olympic opening ceremony.

: President Moon opens the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. The North and South Korean teams enter the stadium jointly, to a standing ovation: pointedly not joined by US Vice President Pence, who also blanked the DPRK VIPs seated just yards away.

: MOU says the North has withdrawn a request for fuel for the Mangyongbong-92. It would have been hard to ensure this contained no US elements, which would breach sanctions. The vessel sails home on Feb. 10, evidently able to do so without refueling.

: With Kim Jong Un in attendance, a military parade in Pyongyang marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Many in South Korea deplore the timing of this, on the very eve of the Olympics. One new missile is spotted.

: Samjiyon Orchestra gives its first Southern concert at Gangneung. The 45 numbers include 11 from South Korea, mostly decades-old ‘trot.’ After some argument the North complies with ROK demands to exclude two songs: one saying ‘socialism is nice’, the other referencing North-led reunification. A source at Gangneung Arts Center reveals that Hyon Song Wol borrowed an iron, and said she will miss their coffee.

: Shortly after midnight, 280 North Koreans – 229 cheerleaders, 26 taekwondo arthletes, 21 journalists and four sports officials including Sports Minister Kim Il Guk – enter South Korea at the Dorasan crossing. They proceed by bus to PyeongChang, with the ROK media in hot pursuit.

: DPRK vessel Mangyongbong-92 docks at the ROK’s Mukho port on the east coast. It conveys the North’s Samjiyon Orchestra, and is their ‘floatel’ till they perform at nearby Gangneung on Feb. 8. They stay on board till Feb. 7, shunning a welcome dinner in their honor; possibly due to noisy anti-communist protests near their boat.

: The return flight from Kalma to Yangyang conveys not only the 31 South Koreans (12 each of alpine and cross-country skiers, support staff and reporters), but also 32 North Koreans including 10 athletes (3 alpine skiers, 3 cross-country skiers, 2 figure skaters and 2 short track skaters.) This completes Team DPRK; as their 12 female ice hockey players are already in the South for joint training.

: In a commentary headlined “South Korean conservatives, nation’s enemy,” the Pyongyang Times repeats in surprising detail right-wing ROK criticisms of the new inter-Korean thaw.

: ROK skiers (not in fact Olympians) fly North for two days’ joint training with DPRK counterparts at Masikryong. Their chartered Asiana flight from Yangyang airport near Gangneung is the first ROK aircraft to fly to the DPRK using an east coast route, and also the first such to land at Wonsan’s pristine Kalma airport: a military facility adapted in 2015 to take tourists too. Its modernization costing $200 million, but it has hardly been used.

: Blaming “insulting” Southern media coverage, North Korea abruptly cancels a joint concert at its long-shuttered Mt Kumgang set for Feb.4. An ROK advance party mooted bringing their own generators as the local power supply was so poor, prompting critics to claim this would violate sanctions. Pyongyang was also cross with Southern criticisms of its planned military parade (see Feb.8).

: 12 female DPRK hockey players, their coach, and two support staff cross the DMZ. They are greeted by their ROK counterparts, with whom they will form a joint team.

: After consultations with both Koreas, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach announces that North Korea will send 22 athletes, plus 24 coaches and officials, to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Besides forming a joint women’s ice hockey team with South Korea, the North will compete in figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing. DPRK participation required “exceptional decisions” by the IOC, as none of its athletes had actually qualified.

: Seven-strong DPRK team enters the ROK by road at Dorasan to inspect venues for the Samjiyon Orchestra’s Olympic concerts. Its leader is Hyon Song Wol attracts huge media interest, but says little in public. Her party returns home late on Jan. 21 by the same overland route.

: Meeting at Panmunjom, the two Koreas confirm they will march together in the Olympics opening ceremony, field a joint women’s ice hockey team, and do joint skiing training at the North’s Masikryong resort: a project closely associated with Kim Jong Un.

: Meeting at Panmunjom, the two Koreas agree that the North will send a 140-strong orchestra South to perform in PyeongChang and Seoul during the Winter Olympics.

: A commentary published by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) commentary flays Moon Jae-in for giving Donald Trump credit for the new inter-Korean peace process, calling this “brownnosing” and “coarse invectives”.

: A KCNA commentary flays Moon Jae-in for giving Donald Trump credit for the new inter-Korean peace process, calling this “brownnosing” and “coarse invectives.”

: Pyongyang proposes talks on Jan. 15 at Panmunjom about sending an art troupe to Pyeongchang, rather than a working meeting on sports issues. South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) notes that the art troupe seems to be the North’s main priority. The South accepts, while urging the North to also set a date to discuss sports.

: An unnamed activist tells Yonhap that two female North Korean defectors drowned recently when their boat capsized on the Mekong River. Ten more swam back to Laos, but later made it safely to Thailand. The group began their journey in Shandong, China; most had previously been trafficked into China.

: Pyongyang proposes talks on Jan. 15 at Panmunjom about sending an art troupe to Pyeongchang, instead of a working meeting on sports issues as Seoul wanted. MOU notes that the art troupe seems to be the North’s priority, rather than the Olympics as such. The South accepts, while urging the North to also set a date to discuss sports.

: ROK Vice Sports Minister Roh Tae-kang says Seoul proposes a joint inter-Korean women’s ice hockey team, and also that North and South should march together at the Olympic opening ceremony.

: South Korea uses the newly reopened inter-Korean hotline to inform the North it plans to return four corpses found by ROK fishermen in a DPRK boat adrift in the East Sea.

: ROK Vice Sports Minister Roh Tae-kang says Seoul has proposed a joint inter-Korean women’s ice hockey team, and that North and South should march together at the Olympic opening ceremony.

: South Korea uses the newly reopened inter-Korean hotline to inform the North of it plans to return four corpses found by ROK fishermen in a DPRK boat adrift in the East Sea. (Such finds are not rare in recent years, but more commonly in Japanese waters.)

: Yonhap notes that several aspects of the effort to bring North Koreans to Pyeongchang might violate UNSC sanctions against the DPRK, or indeed the ROK’s own. It claims that the Moon government’s stance on this is as yet unclear.

: NK News analyzes Kim Jong Un’s public appearances in 2017. Almost half (46) were military in focus, followed by economic and political (24 each), cultural (4) and other (4). Over half (58) were in Pyongyang. Kim’s most frequent companion (38 times) was Hwang Pyong So, despite his vanishing in

: Choi Myeong-hee, mayor of Ganggneung – capital of Gangwon province and host to the PyeongChang Olympics’ ice sports matches – says his city wants to “contribute to the ‘Peace Olympics’” by housing DPRK athletes, cheerleaders and performing artistes in Gangneung Ojuk Hanok Village, a new tourist resort that can accommodate 300 people.

: Yonhap notes that several aspects of the effort to bring North Koreans to PyeongChang might violate UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against the DPRK, or indeed the ROK’s own. It claims that the Moon government’s stance on this is as yet unclear.

: High-level North-South talks are held on the southern side of Panmunjom, for 11 hours. A joint statement agrees that North Korea will send athletes, an arts troupe, a cheering squad and more to the Pyeongchang Olympics, and that further talks including military will be held to firm up the details.

: Korea Times cites Cho Dong-uk, an audio forensic specialist at Chungnam State University, as claiming that sound samples from Kim Jong Un’s New Year speech suggest that the Northern leader has kidney problems. The test reportedly involved jitters, shimmer, noise-to-harmonics ratio and voice ‘energy.’ But his lungs and heart are just fine.
Jan. 9, 2018: High-level North-South talks are held for 11 hours on the southern side of Panmunjom, the so-called ‘truce village’ in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). A joint statement agrees that North Korea will send athletes, an arts troupe, a cheering squad and more to the PyeongChang Olympics, and that further talks – including military, which in fact seems not to have happened – will be held to firm up the details.

: Launching a MOFA task force for foreign leaders’ visits to the PyeongChang Olympics (over 40 are expected), ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha says South Korea hopes momentum from North Korea’s now expected participation in the Games will lead to progress in inter-Korean relations and the North’s denuclearization.

: ROK Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon says that while tomorrow’s talks will “basically … focus on the Olympics,” Seoul will “also seek to raise the issue of war-torn [separated] families and ways to ease military tensions.”

: Yonhap, South Korea’s quasi-official news agency, claims that a serious decline in the squid catch experienced by ROK fishermen in the East Sea is due to over-fishing by Chinese boats in DPRK waters, which sweep the seabed before the cephalopods have a chance to swim South. Since North Korea first licensed PRC vessels to fish in its east coast waters in 2004, their number has surged from 140 in that year to 1,238 ships as of 2016.

: Launching a MOFA task force for foreign leaders’ visits to the PyeongChang Olympics (over 40 are expected), ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha says South Korea hopes the momentum from North Korea’s now expected participation in the Games will lead to wider progress in inter-Korean relations and the North’s denuclearization.

: South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) says that, starting today, it will give regular monthly briefings on North Korea to the foreign, defense and unification ministries. Observers are puzzled at the implication that this had not been done previously.

: ROK Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon says that while tomorrow’s talks will “basically … focus on the Olympics,” Seoul will “also seek to raise the issue of war-torn [separated] families and ways to ease military tensions.”

: North Korea informs the South of its five-person delegation for Jan. 9’s talks. Leader is Ri Son Gwon, an experienced inter-Korean negotiator who chairs the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country. Other delegates include CPRC vice chairman Jon Jong Su and Won Kil U, a top sports ministry official.

: North Korea informs the South of its five-person delegation for Jan. 9’s talks. Its leader is Ri Son Gwon, an experienced inter-Korean negotiator who chairs the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC, formerly CPRK: a state agency since 2016). Other delegates include CPRC vice chairman Jon Jong Su, and Won Kil U, a top sports ministry official.

: The Blue House calls inter-Korean talks “the starting point for the settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula and North Korean nuclear and missile problems.”

: Long-idled inter-Korean hotline is busy all weekend, as the two Koreas embark on detailed discussions by phone and fax to arrange their upcoming talks, due Jan. 9.

: President Trump says apropos the upcoming inter-Korean talks: “I would love to see them take it beyond the Olympics … And at the appropriate time, we’ll get involved.”

: The Blue House (Cheongwadae, South Korea’s Presidential office) calls inter-Korean talks “the starting point for the settlement of peace on the Korean peninsula and North Korean nuclear and missile problems.”

: The long-idled inter-Korean hotline is busy all weekend, as the two Koreas embark on detailed discussions by phone and fax to arrange their upcoming talks, due Jan. 9.

: President Trump says apropos the upcoming inter-Korean talks: “I would love to see them take it beyond the Olympics … And at the appropriate time, we’ll get involved.”

: Northern media report that Kim Jong Un, welcoming South Korea’s positive response to his New Year address, has ordered the Panmunjom liaison channel (hot line) to reopen from 3pm that day so that inter-Korean talks about DPRK participation in the “Phyongchang Olympiad” (as North Korea spells it) and other matters can be arranged.

: Northern media report that Kim Jong Un, welcoming South Korea’s positive response to his New Year address, has ordered the Panmunjom liaison channel (hot line) to reopen from 3pm that day, so that inter-Korean talks toward DPRK participation in the “Phyongchang Olympiad” (as North Korea spells it) and other matters can be arranged. The hot line duly reopens on schedule.

: ROK Foreign Ministry (MFA) pledges that Seoul will continue “watertight” co-operation with Washington, even as it takes steps to resume dialogue with Pyongyang

: South Korea’s Foreign Ministry (MOFA) pledges that Seoul will continue “watertight” cooperation with Washington, even as it takes steps to resume dialogue with Pyongyang.

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