Chronologies

North Korea - South Korea

Chronology


: 400;">May 3, 2024: “Sources familiar with the issue,” doubtless military, tell Yonhap that in March (date unspecified) the ROK Marine Corps shot down an unidentified 2-meter balloon, which crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL) near Baengnyeong, a front-line South Korean island in the West/Yellow Sea. A KA-1 light attack aircraft shot down the intruder; salvage efforts failed. It is assumed to have been North Korean, though it could also have been Chinese.

: Two NGOs tell NK News that in April China forcibly returned some 260 North Koreans. Jang Se-yul, head of the North Korean People’s Liberation Front, says that on April 26 about 200 were repatriated from Changbai Korean Autonomous County in Jilin province. The same day, according to Lee Young-hwan, executive director of the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG), a further 61 were sent back from Tumen, Hunchun, and Dandong. MOU vice-spokesperson Kim In-nae comments: “The [ROK] government maintains the position that under no circumstances should North Korean defectors residing abroad be forcibly transported against their will.”

: MOU Kim Yung-ho meets Carsten Schneider, Germany’s minister of state for East Germany and equivalent living conditions, after the annual session of the Korea-Germany Unification Advisory Committee, founded in 2011. Kim asks for Berlin’s support for the ROK’s “unwavering commitment to pursuing a peaceful unification of the two Koreas based on liberal democracy.” 

 

May 11, 2024: A joint probe by South Korea’s police, prosecution and National Intelligence Service (NIS) finds that over a two-year period in 2021-23, the North Korean hacking group Lazarus stole a total of 1,014 gigabytes (GB) of data and documents from an ROK court computer network. The report did not name this, nor say how the breach was effected. 

: South Korea raises the alert status at its embassies in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, and its consulates in Shenyang and Vladivostok, all places where North Korea has a strong presence. Seoul claims to have intelligence suggesting a “high possibility of a terrorist attack.” In 1996 an ROK diplomat in Vladivostok, who monitored DPRK activities there, was bludgeoned to death; no conclusive link to Pyongyang was proven. 

: MOU says that North Korea appears to have dismantled a South Korean building near the former Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). Never used, the facility was built by an ROK company “for investment purposes.” No further details are provided.

: MOU reports that in the first quarter 43 North Korean  defectors—eight men and 35 women—arrived in the South: fewer than in the previous quarter (57), but more than in the same period in 2023 (34). 

: South Korea’s defense and culture ministries announce 10 new peace-themed hiking trails at various locations along the DMZ. These will open to the public on May 13. The intrepid can sign up for tours at www.dmzwalk.com

: An unnamed ROK military official tells Yonhap that “late last year” the Korean People’s Army (KPA) laid mines on an unpaved road within the DMZ near Arrowhead Hill, in Cheorwon, 85 km northeast of Seoul. In 2018, in happier times, the two Koreas built the road to facilitate joint searches for MIA remains; this was the site of a major battle in the Korean War. In the event ROK troops conducted the exhumations alone. South Korea’s JCS rule out laying any mines in retaliation as “disproportionate.”

: South Korea’s National Police Agency (NPA) says that three different DPRK cyber groups— Lazarus, Andariel, and Kimsuky—have stolen data files from at least 10 ROK arms manufacturers, in campaigns which began in Nov. 2022. They especially target secondary defense subcontractors, whose systems may be more vulnerable. 

: South Korea’s JCS say North Korea is preparing to launch a second military satellite, but this does not seem imminent. ROK MND Shin suggested a launch this month was highly possible. Pyongyang has said it will put three more satellites in orbit this year, after its first successful launch in November—which followed two failed attempts.

: “A source” tells Yonhap that in March North Korea removed street lamps along two (notionally) cross-border roads: Gyeongui, which runs between Kaesong in the North and Paju in the South, and the Donghae east coast road. In Jan. the North mined both roads. Calling this a violation of the spirit of inter-Korean agreements, MOU also wants its money back: during 2002-08 Seoul lent Pyongyang $133 million for inter-Korean works. As with every Southern loan ever, nothing was ever repaid.

: The ROK Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) chooses DPRK founding leader Kim Il Sung’s birthday to further publicize its campaign, symbolized by a three forget-me-nots motif, drawing attention to South Korean abductees, detainees and POWs held in North Korea. (See also Feb. 1 and March 27, above).

: Visiting Kim Jong Il University of Military and Politics (some DPRK media style this Kim Jong Il Military and Political Academy), Kim Jong Un says: “Now is the time to be more thoroughly prepared for a war than ever before.” KCNA’s photos show blurred maps and a model, which appear to depict South Korea and central Seoul.

: Prosecutors in Suwon seek a 15 year jail term—plus a fine, confiscation of assets and legal costs—for Lee Hwa-yong. The former vice governor of Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul, was indicted for bribery and illicit money transfers in October 2022 in a case centred on underwear manufacturer Ssangbangwool. The firm is alleged to have sent $5 million to North Korea in 2019 on behalf of Gyeonggi, whose then Gov. Lee Jae-myong—who now leads the liberal opposition DPK, and is himself facing charges—had hoped to visit Pyongyang and to support a smart farm project in the DPRK.

: It is a year since North Korea stopped picking up the phone, severing thitherto twice-daily liaison contact with the South. Yonhap notes that inter-Korean communications have an on-off history: Pyongyang broke contact in Feb. 2016, resumed it in Jan. 2018, broke it off again in June 2020, and resumed in July 2021. Kim’s new line on the South suggests prospects are bleak this time. Absent direct contact, Seoul has two options: megaphone diplomacy, making announcements in public media; or more privately, via the US-led UN Command, which oversees the DMZ and thus has its own channels to the North.

: ROK’s second indigenous military reconnaissance satellite is launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida; it goes into orbit 45 minutes later. Whereas its first spy satellite, launched in Dec., used electro-optical and infrared sensors, the new one has synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors; these use microwaves, and thus can gather data unaffected by weather conditions. South Korea’s next three spy satellites, to be launched by 2025, will also have SAR sensors. By contrast, North Korea’s so far solitary spy satellite—three more promised are yet to appear—which Seoul claims to be bothered by, lacks any technology approaching this sophistication.

: In line with surmise in Seoul (see Feb. 23), Daily NK quotes “a source in North Korea” as confirming that the UFD is essentially being shut down. The Party will retain a small specialist staff, but most functions are being transferred—in two directions. MOFA is taking over strategic projects regarding South Korea, while activities in the South will fall to the KPA Reconnaissance General Bureau. (The RGB already handles those operationally, so the precise impact of this aspect of the reorganization is unclear.) The source claims it has not yet been decided which agency will take charge of pro-North sympathizers in South Korea.

: Noting that North Korea should have staged a parliamentary election this month (the last was held in March 2019), MOU speculates that the current 14th SPA may first be convened once more to formally scrap further inter-Korean agreements, and to approve the constitutional changes regarding South Korea which Kim Jong Un called for in January.

: Meeting relatives and advocacy groups, MOU Kim Yung-ho denounces North Korea’s past abduction and continuing detention of thousands of South Koreans as “inhumane.” The new forget-me-not motif is much in evidence: President Yoon and other ministers also wore pin badges of this in Cabinet the previous day.

: In a message to the commander of the ROKN frigate Cheonan—a newly commissioned warship, named after the corvette sunk by North Korea exactly 14 years earlier—MND Shin says: “North Korea is claiming the NLL is a ghost line without legal grounds and is continuously trying to nullify it…Protect the Yellow Sea and the NLL that the comrades before you have defended by giving up their lives.” Cdr. Park Yeon-soo, who commands the new Cheonan, served on the old one and is a survivor of the 2010 attack.

:   At a forum held in Seoul by the government’s Korea Institute for National Unification, Cho Han-bum, a senior research fellow at KINU, argues that the 1994 National Community Unification Formula (NCUF) should be kept but recalibrated, since it is hard to obtain bipartisan consensus and this should not be politicized. The NCUF posits three stages: reconciliation and cooperation, the creation of a Korean commonwealth, and full unification. By contrast, Kim Hyun-wook, a director-general at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, says the NCUF must be replaced, as stage two (commonwealth) “is not valid anymore.”

: ROK’s Unification Future Planning Committee (UFPC), an advisory body launched last year, holds its first meeting. UFPC is tasked with drawing up a new vision of unification, which “espouses the principle of freedom” and reflects the changed security situation on the peninsula. (See also March 20, below.)

: Freedom Shield wraps up with a live-fire tank drill near the DMZ involving US military engineers, Yonhap notes that North Korea did not launch any missiles during the 11-day exercise, as some expected. Kim Jong Un did guide other drills, including artillery and tanks. Suspected DPRK attempts to disrupt Global Positioning System (GPS) signals around the northwestern border islands were detected from March 5-7, but no damage was reported.

: North Korea reveals a new battle tank (no name or model is mentioned) during a training competition. Kim Jong Un drives one, calling this “the most powerful [tank] in the world”. First paraded in 2020, the new tank looks to have been upgraded since. After “watching with satisfaction the fierce advance of tanks dashing ahead like wind”, Kim calls this the most satisfying of all the KPA exercises he has guided. He congratulates the winners, the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su Guards 105th Tank Division, noting that they are “a unit with the proud history and tradition of having occupied the enemy capital” (in June 1950). If all KPA units were this well prepared, “he would never worry about the preparations for war.”

: Visiting Army Special Warfare Command in Icheon, 56 km southeast of Seoul, MND Shin tells his troops: “If Kim [Jong Un] starts a war, as a key unit of Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR), you must become the world’s strongest special operations unit to swiftly eliminate the enemy leadership.” KMPR is the ROK’s operational plan to take out the DPRK leadership if the North starts a war.

: MOU says: “In response to North Korea’s policy shift into an anti-national and anti-historical stance, the year 2024 will be the most appropriate time to actively lay out our unification vision and lead the North’s change.” In other words, Pyongyang’s new stance facilitates Seoul proceeding with its own previously announced revisionism.

: In a second successive day of military-related activities, Kim Jong Un guides artillery drills, at front-line sub-units “who have put the enemy’s capital in their striking range. Yonhap deadpans: “The enemy’s capital is believed to be referring to Seoul.”

: Dismissing recent threats by Kim Jong Un as an attempt to promote unity within North Korea’s “unstable” internal system and sow division in the South Korea, ROK MND Shin—as often—returns fire with fire. Visiting a key military bunker operated by the Capital Defense Command in Seoul, Shin tells the troops: “Make all-out efforts for realistic practice and training to ensure the end of the Kim Jong Un regime in the shortest period of time, if the enemy invades the Republic of Korea.”

: They wouldn’t put it this way, but Seoul follows Pyongyang’s lead—see Jan. 1 and 13—with some reorganization of its own. ROK MOFA says it will abolish its Office of Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, replacing it with a new Office of Diplomatic Strategy and Intelligence. As per its name, intelligence collection and strategic planning will be folded into the new office: placing North Korea in a broader context, while also shifting the main focus from dialogue to deterrence. Critics warn that the long-term goal of peace and denuclearization should not be lost sight of, remote as these prospects may seem right now.

: Visiting “a major operational training base in the western area,” Kim Jong Un calls for intensified “practical actual war drills” to counter the enemy’s “slightest attempt to ignite a war.”

: North Korea as usual denounces Freedom Shield. Warning that the US and ROK “will be made to pay a dear price for their false choice,” a DPRK MND spokesman adds: “The large-scale war drills staged by the world’s biggest nuclear weapons state and more than 10 satellite states against a state in the Korean [Peninsula] where a nuclear war may be ignited even with a spark, can never be called ‘defensive.’”

: NIS reveals that DPRK hackers have broken into at least two ROK makers of chipmaking equipment. In December and February they stole photographs of facilities and drawings of product designs, using hard-to-detect “living off the land” (LOTL) techniques which take over legitimate tools installed within servers.  Warning firms to be vigilant, the agency adds: “We believe that North Korea might possibly be preparing to produce its own semiconductors in the face of difficulties in procuring them due to sanctions.”

: Yonhap says KCNA has removed from its website most articles referring to unification and the like. (Everything can still be found as it was on KCNA Watch)

: Freedom Shield, a large-scale annual US-ROK military drill, begins. It will last 11 days. Though a regular event, these are the first such maneuvers since the inter-Korean military accord collapsed in Nov. They include 48 field drills, over twice as many as last year—although none are near the DMZ. Personnel from 12 member states of the United Nations Command (UNC), including Australia, Britain, the Philippines, and Thailand, will also join, observed by the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC). 

: Yonhap reports that the DPRK website dealing with postage stamps has erased all reference to stamps with unification themes, including those issued to commemorate past inter-Korean summit meetings. Pyongyang has also removed images of the Korean peninsula from other websites, or blurred the southern half. 

: MOU Kim says of Kim Jong Un’s new line: “There’s a high possibility that erasing the achievements of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, who are the basis for hereditary power, will create an ideological vacuum or confusion among North Korea’s elite…If there is internal conflict, there’s a high possibility [North Korea] will carry out a military provocation to overcome the crisis…Our government considers the situation very serious, and we have prepared thorough measures in response, including military deterrence measures.”

: Ko Young-hwan—a former North Korean diplomat who defected in 1991, now a special adviser to MOU Kim—suggests that Pyongyang may create a post of first vice foreign minister to handle South Korea in future, and might appoint Ri Son Gwon, head of the United Front Department (UFD) of the WPK. Lower UFD officials may similarly transfer to MOFA, which had previously handled inter-Korean relations until the mid-1990s. (Later reports suggest such a reorganization is indeed happening; see March 29 below.)

: MOU Kim says his ministry will push for July 14 to be designated an official day for North Korean defectors. On that date in 1997 a law protecting and supporting defectors came into effect. Ji Seong-ho, a defector and lawmaker of the conservative ruling People Power Party (PPP), had earlier proposed July 8: the date the Hanawon resettlement facility opened in 1999. Another PPP defector lawmaker, Thae Yong-ho, suggested Aug. 26, when the Soviet Red Army, which liberated northern Korea, closed off the 38th Parallel in 1945

: NIS says it will ask the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) to block access to “Olivia Natasha,” a YouTube channel featuring a young North Korean woman. Google shut the account down last year, but new content has been posted, and reuploads can be found.

: Ten years after a special UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) found the DPRK regime responsible for “widespread, systematic and gross” human rights violations, MOU says the situation remains “poor and dismal, with North Korean people not being guaranteed the minimum level of human rights amid the regime’s harsh surveillance and punishment.” MOU urges Pyongyang to “make the right choice.”

: DPRK media report that Kim Jong Un, at the test-firing of a new surface-to-sea missile named Padasuri-6—it means sea eagle—the previous day, termed the NLL “a ghost [line] without any ground in the light of international law.” Kim calls on the KPA Navy to “thoroughly defend the maritime sovereignty by force of arms and actions, not by any rhetoric, statement and public notice.” (Pyongyang’s stance, that the terrestrial MDL be extended westwards, takes no account of three ROK-controlled islands located north of that.)

: Responding to Kim, the ROK JCS say: “The NLL remains our military’s unchanged maritime border. We will firmly respond to any provocations.”

: South Korea’s presidential office says that the private email of a staffer, which he was also using for work (in violation of regulations), was hacked—“presumably” by North Korea—just before Yoon’s visits to the UK and France last Nov. “Necessary measures were taken,” and the office’s own security system was not compromised.

: Citing Safe and Secure World (S2W), a South Korean cyber threat intelligence firm, NK News reports new DPRK malware designed to steal data from ROK targets.

: SPA Standing Committee, which acts when the full Assembly is not in session (i.e., most of the time), approves a decree abolishing laws on north-south economic cooperation and the Mt Kumgang tourist zone, plus various related accords and regulations.

: Denouncing MND Shin’s “worst ludicrous statements” (see Jan. 24), KCNA warns that such remarks could be a “catalyst” for a physical clash.

: South Korea unveils a new National Cybersecurity Strategy. This criticizes the document it replaces, issued in 2019 under Yoon’s pro-engagement predecessor Moon Jae-in, for not “look[ing] squarely” at North Korea, “the biggest actual threat.” The new version stresses the need to be pre-emptive: “simply reinforcing our defense capabilities has its limits…we must change our paradigm to respond offensively to North Korea.”

: MOU publishes a symbol—first trailed on Jan. 18—created for its campaign to raise awareness of South Koreans detained in North Korea. This consists of three blue forget-me-not flowers, representing respectively abductees, detainees, and unreturned POWs. Ul:kin, a leading streetwear fashion brand, features the new motif in a collection shown at Seoul Fashion Week (Feb. 1-5).

: Not for the first time, MOU says it is considering suing North Korea for its illegal use of Southern-owned facilities in the defunct Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). This follows a report by the Seoul daily Dong-A Ilbo that the ROK government plans to seek Won 400bn ($300m) in damages from Pyongyang. Without commenting on the amount, MOU confirms that “we are closely reviewing legal aspects necessary for a lawsuit and preparing for it…We will decide on the specific timing…after taking into account the situation at the complex.” Like MOU’s lawsuit last June over the North’s destruction in 2020 of the joint liaison office at Kaesong, any such action would be purely symbolic.

: Cho Hyun-dong, ROK ambassador in Washington, insists that notwithstanding the DPRK’s threats, bilateral cooperation—as well as trilaterally with Japan—will only grow stronger: “We will never be perturbed [and] never bow to those provocations.” He terms Seoul’s approach “wholistic” (sic), involving “deterrence, dissuasion and dialogue” (MOU calls this 3D). The first two Ds will supposedly persuade Pyongyang to opt for the third. 

: Introducing a screening of Beyond Utopia, a high-profile US documentary about escapees from North Korea, MOU Kim Yung-ho condemns unspecified South Korean “liberal experts,” who reportedly told a forum at the National Assembly that “they can accept North Korea’s perspective of war for the purpose of peace.” Kim avers: “Their remarks made in the name of academic freedom carries (sic) an anti-state view that undermines the achievements and identity of the Republic of Korea. This cannot be tolerable.”

: South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) says that production of spy drones to monitor North Korea has begun, under a Won 471.7 billion ($353.6 million) contract it signed in December with a consortium comprising Korean Air and two defense firms, LIG Nex1 and Hanwha Systems. 13m long and 3m high with a 25m wingspan, the new craft will fly at 10-12km altitude. It can take high resolution images from distances of over 100km.

: After North Korea testfires several cruise missiles over the Yellow Sea, ROK MND Shin tells ROKAF 17th Fighter Wing, which operates  40 F-35 stealth fighter jets out of Cheongju Air Base (112 km south of Seoul): “If the Kim Jong Un regime opts for the worst choice of waging war, you should be at the vanguard of removing the enemy’s leadership at the earliest possible time and put an end to the regime.”

: An unnamed MOU official denies reports that Pyongyang’s new hostile stance is prompting Seoul to rethink its own unification blueprint. Formulated in 1994, among much else this includes the concept of a “Korean commonwealth.” (In fact, a rethink is indeed under way under Yoon, preceding the North’s change of line; see March 8, 15, and 20 below.)

: Apropos the recently tested Haeil-5-23, the ROK Presidential Office says: “We are weighing the possibility that North Korea’s claim is exaggerated and fabricated.” It continues, bizarrely: “There is a very slim possibility that it is a nuclear-powered system. There is no case of the development of a small reactor that can be fitted in a torpedo with a diameter of less than 1 meter.” No one suggests this craft is nuclear-powered; the issue is whether it may be nuclear armed

: ROK opposition leader Lee Jae-myung calls on Kim Jong Un to “immediately stop missile provocations and put an end to hostile acts…so as not to undermine the efforts made by his predecessors…Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.” Lee also criticizes Yoon’s hard line: “If we respond to a neighbor throwing stones by throwing an even larger stone and cause greater harm, what benefit would that bring us?”

: A DPRK defense ministry MND press statement, headlined “We will never tolerate the reckless military confrontation hysteria,” claims that in response to tripartite naval maneuvers off Jeju island by “military gangsters of the US, Japan and ROK” held on Jan. 15-17, “the Underwater Weapon System Institute under the DPRK Academy of Defence Science conducted an important test of its underwater nuclear weapon system ‘Haeil-5-23.’” No range claims are made nor any photographs issued, unlike after the weapon’s first test in April 2023. In March 2023 KCNA trumpeted an earlier model (Haeil-1) at length, boasting that it could “stealthily infiltrate…and make a super-scale radioactive tsunami through underwater explosion to destroy naval striker groups and major operational ports of the enemy.”

: MOU data show that North Korean defector arrivals almost tripled in 2023. From a high of 2,914 in 2009, numbers have declined since 2012 in the Kim Jong Un era—and then fell dramatically to just 63 in 2021 and 67 in 2022, amid Pyongyang’s drastic anti-COVID border restrictions. In last year’s cohort of 196, the great majority (164) were female.

: South Korea sanctions 11 vessels, two individuals, and three companies. Most are North Korean, and all have been named in UN Panel of Experts (PoE) reports as involved in ship-to-ship transfers of oil, coal and other products: violating UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against the DPRK. These are Seoul’s first ship sanctions [a great tongue-twister!] in eight years: Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in (president 2017-22), eschewed such gestures. By contrast, this is the 15th set of sanctions imposed in the 20 months since Yoon became president in May 2022.

: Condemning Kim’s stance as “anti-national and ahistorical,” Yoon Suk Yeol  tells his Cabinet: “The current ROK government is different from any previous [one]…Our military has an overwhelming response capability….Should North Korea provoke us, we will punish them multiple times as hard (sic).” Ironically, later in the meeting, apropos employer penalties under a new SME workers’ safety law, he declares: “Punishment isn’t everything.”

: KCNA briefly reports that on Jan. 14 “the DPRK Missile Administration conducted a test-fire of an intermediate-range solid-fuel ballistic missile loaded with a hypersonic maneuverable controlled warhead.” It adds: “The test-fire never affected the security of any neighboring country and had nothing to do with the regional situation.” No flight details were given, but the ROK military say it was launched from the Pyongyang area and flew circa 1,000km (presumably eastward). This is a double threat: solid-fuel propelled missiles can be loaded and launched faster than liquid-fuelled; and hypersonic missiles are hard to intercept, flying at Mach 5 or more at low altitudes on unpredictable flight paths.

: In a lengthy speech—mainly economy-focused—to the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA, the DPRK’s rubber-stamp Parliament), Kim Jong Un elaborates his new line on South Korea. This includes changing the Constitution to “specify …the issue of completely occupying, subjugating and reclaiming the ROK and annex it as a part of the territory of our Republic in case of [sic] a war breaks out on the Korean peninsula.” North Koreans must no longer think in terms of “consanguinity” and “80 million compatriots.” Instead, “education should be intensified to instill into them the firm idea that ROK (sic) is their primary foe and invariable principal enemy.” 

: The SPA abolishes three bodies handling inter-Korean matters: the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRK), the National Economic Cooperation Bureau, and the Kumgangsan International Tourism Administration.

: KCNA reports that “officials in charge of affairs with enemies” (organizations were not specified, nor persons) met on Jan. 12 to implement Kim’s “switchover in the policy towards the south.” This is summarized as: “a firm viewpoint that the clays (sic) in the region of south Korean puppets who have pursued only the ‘collapse of the DPRK’s power’ and unification by absorption’ are the main enemy of the DPRK to be completely wiped out .,, [while] making preparations for a great event…in keeping with the powerful military action of the Korean People’s Army to suppress the whole territory of the southern half of the Republic.” On this basis, four named solidarity organisations are to be “readjusted.”

: At his first formal press conference, directly after being sworn in, MOFA Cho opines that North Korea’s recent shelling had “the intention of driving a wedge between [the ROK], the US and Japan.” Seoul’s response will remain “firm and very restrained,” in consultation with Washington: focused on bolstering deterrence, while continuing efforts to a change Pyongyang’s stance.

: In a wide-ranging interview, MND Shin Won-sik tells Yonhap, South Korea’s quasi-official news agency, that Kim Jong Un’s recent inspection of munitions factories featured new close range ballistic missiles (CRBM) that can carry tactical nuclear weapons. Shin reckons Pyongyang may supply some to Russia. As of end-Dec North Korea has sent Moscow some 5,000 containers of weapons, which could hold 2.3 million rounds of 152 mm shells or 400,000 of 122 mm (sic). Going forward he expects new IRBM tests and non-lofted ICBM launches. Regarding the collapse of the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) in Sept, noting how quickly the KPA re-occupied its former guardposts in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Shin speculates that they had only been destroyed above-ground, with their underground structures remaining intact.

: NK News reports that several North Korean propaganda websites targeting South Korea went offline simultaneously. Sites affected include Uriminzokkiri, DPRK Today, Arirang Meari, Tongil Voice, and Ryomyong. This appears related to Pyongyang trying to work out Kim Jong Un’s new line on South Korea. Four months later, all remain offline.

: Asked about seeming US-ROK analytical discrepancies, an embarrassed ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) says it has nothing to add. John Kirby, the US National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said yesterday the US is unaware of any military links between Pyongyang and Hamas. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), by contrast, had issued photographs of a North Korean F-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher used by Hamas. (There is a simple explanation: Hamas probably acquired these weapons from Iran, its main sponsor, rather than directly.)

: Starting work as South Korea’s 41st foreign minister, Cho Tae-yul—a career diplomat, unlike his predecessor Park Jin—dismisses calls for peace talks: “I don’t think it’s that time yet…North Korea continues to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities, and we’re not in the mood for dialogue.” Besides, Pyongyang refuses to talk.

: Citing precedents from 2016 and 2020, ROK Vice Unification Minister Moon Seoung-hyun warns that with parliamentary elections upcoming in April, “North Korea will continue with its psychological warfare against the South to split public opinion and pressure the government.” (Looking back from May, it is far from clear whether Pyongyang even tried such tactics—much less succeeded.)

: MND spokesman Jeon Ha-kyu confirms that since Seoul regards Pyongyang’s recent artillery firing as nullifying the former buffer zones, it too will resume military drills—live fire, and field or marine maneuvers—near the DMZ. The ROK military regards these exercises as important for operational readiness.

: As it has done ever since 1996, the Korean Institute for National Unification (KINU), the ROK government’s main think-tank on North Korea, releases its annual White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea (an English translation follows in May). Highlights—if that is the word—of this solid 800-page report include the first confirmation, from recent defectors, of a public execution for violating COVID-19 regulations; no details are given. In general public executions are now rarer, even as the number of capital offenses has grown. At the report’s launch, researcher Joung Eun-lee highlights sexual violence: a 2022 revision of 2015’s DPRK Criminal Code reduced maximum penalties for rape. 

: Experts consulted by NK News agree that Kim Yo Jong is playing mind-games: her claim of deception is itself meant to deceive. In fact Seoul has several ways to distinguish between maritime and terrestrial explosions. For one thing, it can detect splashdowns.

: ROK JCS declare that, since North Korea has resumed live-fire drills near the border, the South will do the same—not tit-for-tat, but “according to its own plan.”

: Visiting Drone Operations Command (DOC) in Pocheon, 52 km northeast of Seoul), ROK Minister of National Defense (MND) Shin Won-sik calls for a strengthened defense posture, given that “North Korea keeps raising the level of asymmetric threats by bolstering its drone capability and advancing its nuclear and missile programs.” The DOC was created in Sept., following a Northern drone incursion in Dec. 2022. Pyongyang has since rolled out new surveillance and attack drones; Dec. 2023’s Workers’ Party (WPK) Plenum vowed to build yet more. 

: Kim Jong Un visits “major munitions factories” (unnamed) “to learn about the production of weapons and equipment.” Praising their achievements (while “pointing out some shortcomings”), he calls for “greater leaping progress…by further elevating the surged spirit [sic].” He also summarizes his new hard line toward South Korea (see Appendix, I).

: Kim Yo Jong issues another statement. She claims the KPA did no sea shelling yesterday, but rather “conducted a deceptive operation” with explosions on land—to see if Seoul could tell the difference: “The ROK military gangsters quickly took the bait we threw.” The ROK JCS dismiss this claim as “psychological warfare” More briefly and soberly, the KPA General Staff confirms that on Jan. 6 “the southwest coastal defence of the 4th Corps…conducted a deceptive operation simulating shelling.” They admit they also held real shelling drills next day, but say this was just routine training—and not near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL, the de facto inter-Korean border): “any intentional threat was not exposed to an enemy state” (sic). NK News notes that the ROK JCS was vague as to the exact location of the North’s shelling on Jan. 6 and 7, having been precise regarding Jan. 5.

: A military source tells Yonhap that most of the recent KPA shells landed in the former maritime buffer zone, some as close as 7 km to the Northern Limit Line (NLL, the de facto maritime border, which Pyongyang does not recognize). The source adds: “As North Korea vowed to scrap the inter-Korean military pact and conducted live-fire drills near the maritime buffer zone, mutually agreed buffer zones that ban hostile acts no longer exist.”

: ROK JCS report a second day of KPA coastal artillery firing.

: ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) says that from 0900 to 1100 the DPRK fired some 200 shells into the sea from two locations: Jangsan Cape, north of South Korea’s northernmost island of Baengnyeong, and Deungsan Cape, north of the ROK’s western border island of Yeonpyeong. Residents of both islands are ordered to “evacuate” (meaning seek shelter, not to actually get off the islands: regular ferry services are briefly suspended).

: (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA) General Staff (GS) admits it held a live-fire drill between 0900-1100, with 192 shells fired from 47 “cannons.” However, “the direction of naval live-shell firing doesn’t give even an indirect effect on Paekryong and Yonphyong islands [as DPRK orthography renders them in English].” Calling this exercise a “natural countermeasure” to (unspecified) “military actions of the ROK military gangsters,” the KPA GS warns of “tough counteraction” to any provocation, adding: “The concept about the same nation and fellow countrymen has already been removed from our cognition.”

: MOU says it will dissolve a foundation supporting the former joint venture Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), which Seoul shut down in 2016: “As the [KIC] has long been suspended, it is almost impossible for the foundation to normally carry out its…work.” Reports that the North is illicitly running 30 Southern-built and (nominally)—owned factories in the zone also influenced this decision. So didoperational inefficiencies”: running the foundation has cost the ROK government 58.4 billion won (almost $45 million) since 2016.

: An unnamed MOU official says Pyongyang is “attempting to create tension on the Korean Peninsula and divide our society through threats and criticisms.” Specifically, they accuse the party daily Rodong Sinmun of exaggerating or distorting facts in covering South Korean protest rallies; e.g. by using photographs which were actually of a different event.

: DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, issues a press statement. Sarcastically, she thanks “President Yoon [Suk Yeol] [who], indeed, deserves to be granted the title of ‘special class hero,’ as he makes steady ‘contributions’…to bolster up the military muscle of the DPRK.” By contrast, she damns his liberal predecessor Moon Jae-in—South Korea’s friendliest leader ever towards the North, who in 2018 first invited her to Seoul and then held three summits with her brother—as “crafty” and deceptive.

: South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) launches a new early warning system to detect Northern defectors who need more support or are at risk. (See also Oct. 5 in our previous issue.)

: Official (North) Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reports: “Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui held a consultative meeting with officials concerned on [Jan.] 1 to thoroughly carry out the tasks given by the respected Comrade Kim Jong Un at the historic 9th Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea to dismantle and reform the bodies in charge of the affairs related to the south and the struggle against enemy (sic) and change the fundamental principle and orientation of the struggle.”

: KCNA reports the Party Plenum, at length. Among much else, Kim Jong Un announces a radical reorientation, and hardening, of North Korea’s stance and policy toward South Korea (see Appendix).   

: Echoing the NIS a day earlier, Yun Jae-ok, floor leader of South Korea’s conservative ruling People Power Party (PPP) avers: “It seems certain that North Korea has planned to simultaneously carry out military provocations and covert operations against South Korea to interfere in our elections.” 

: The NIS says “there is a high possibility that North Korea could unexpectedly conduct military provocations or stage a cyberattack in 2024, when fluid political situations are expected with the [April 10 parliamentary] elections.” The agency cites three factors: past precedent; the return to high office in Pyongyang of three figures linked to previous incidents; and military measures the North has taken since the CMA collapsed.

: As has become the norm at year-end, North Korea holds a party plenum to look forward and back. The 9th Enlarged Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the WPK is held on Dec. 26-30, with short daily reports on KCNA from Dec. 28 onward.

: Yoon Suk Yeol tells the third meeting of the presidential defense innovation committee, which he set up a year ago, to “dramatically strengthen our military’s surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities…against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.” MND says it will streamline procedures to halve average procurement time from 14 to seven years.

: UN Command (UNC) permits ROK troops in the JSA to carry guns. Its spokesman says “Given the KPA’s current armed security posture, [we have] authorized … members of the guard forces on the UNC side of the JSA to re-arm to protect both civilian and military personnel.” He adds, “UNC has also informed the ROK government and KPA of its position that a disarmed JSA is safer and more peaceful for the Korean Peninsula, and that this can be achieved by reimplementing the previous UNC-KPA agreements.”

: A day after North Korea test-fires its fifth ICBM this year, Yoon tells his Cabinet: “The North Korean regime will come to realize its provocations will only come back to them (sic) as greater pain.” He does not say how such a learning experience will be arranged. The third successful test of a Hwasong-18 probably means that this solid-fuel, road-mobile ICBM is now operational.

: ROK Defense Counterintelligence Command reveals that a young sailor doing his national service has been indicted for distributing pro-DPRK materials in his unit’s restroom. The unnamed petty officer second class is also accused of using his smartphone to disclose his vessel’s location to an unidentified Chinese during maritime operations.

: A report by South Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA) broadly endorses Pyongyang’s claims of a good harvest this year. RDA estimates total output of North Korea’s main crops—rice, corn, potatoes, wheat, barley and soybeans—at 4.82 million tons, up 6% from 2022. This is still below the pre-pandemic figure of 5.2 million tons, let alone the 8 million tons claimed in the 1980s and set as a target for 2020 in 2016’s five year plan.

: Defense Minister Shin tells senior ROK military commanders: “North Korea has only two choices: peace or destruction…If they make reckless actions that harm peace, only a hell of destruction awaits them…Our military must clearly imprint this on North Korea.” He also savages Moon Jae-in’s approach: “The ‘peace process,’ which relied on North Korea’s goodwill and surreal optimism, was completely fake. It would not be an exaggeration to describe it as a well-planned fraud.” He makes other similarly trenchant speeches.

: MOU Kim tells a press conference that his ministry will “introduce a new human rights roadmap” and establish a National Center for North Korean Human Rights, to raise awareness about abuses there. It will also publish a report titled “Economic and Social Reality of North Korea,” based on interviews with over 6,000 defectors. He insists he also supports humanitarian aid to Pyongyang.

: MOU says North Korea is illegally operating some 30 South Korean-owned factories—up from 10 in May—at the joint venture Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), which the ROK unilaterally shut down in 2016. Pyongyang is also removing debris from the former joint liaison office in the KIC, which it blew up in 2020. Seoul warns that both these actions infringe on its property rights, and tells the North to desist—or it may sue. Reports that Kim Jong Un’s riposte was “Go ahead, dude, make my day” remain unconfirmed.

: After a year-long investigation into how Seoul handled the case of Lee Dae-jun, the ROK fisheries official killed in mysterious circumstances off the DPRK coast in 2020, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) issues a damning final report. It accuses the then Moon Jae-in government of (1) not acting promptly to try to save Lee; (2) seeking to cover up the incident, after the North killed him and burnt his body; and (3) distorting the truth by claiming Lee was seeking to defect. Agencies failed to coordinate; data were deleted, facts withheld, and Parliament misled. BAI recommends that 13 officials involved be disciplined or cautioned, including ex-Defense Minister Suh Wook and a former Coast Guard commissioner. Last year BAI called for 20 officials to be prosecuted; several court cases are in progress.

: For the first time under Yoon Suk Yeol, the ROK government holds an inter-agency meeting—MOU, MOFA, and MND—on Southern POWs detained in North Korea. Seoul urges Pyongyang to acknowledge this issue, “and cooperate in uncovering their fate.” An estimated 80-90,000 were not returned as the 1953 Armistice stipulated. The DPRK has always denied this, but over the years around 80 have escaped; at least one wrote a gripping memoir. As of 2016 the South reckoned some 500 might still be alive. 

: After a joint investigation with the FBI, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency says that a hacker group dubbed Andariel, a unit of the DPRK’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, stole 1.2 terabytes of data in 83 separate raids between Dec. 2022 and March 2023. “Dozens” of ROK entities were compromised: defense firms, universities, research centers, financial institutions, et al. A laxly monitored Southern server was used to hack the targets, who were unaware. The stolen data is thought to include key defense technologies, notably anti-aircraft lasers. Andariel also netted 470 million won ($360,236) from ransomware attacks on three South Korean firms; the transfer of some of the proceeds to Pyongyang was traced. (See also Nov. 21.)

: MOU raps Pyongyang for its “false and far-fetched claims” and using “rude language” (see Dec. 3). The ministry specifically denies the North’s claim that Seoul “blared anti-Pyongyang loudspeaker broadcasts along the border 3,200 times this year.” Propaganda loudspeakers at the border remain banned under ROK law, although Yoon’s ruling People Power Party and other conservatives have called for their resumption.

: Among much such bluster daily from DPRK media, KCNA carries a lengthy (2,850 word) article by “a military commentator.” Accusing Seoul of multiple provocations, this warns that a “physical clash and war on the Korean peninsula have become a matter of time, not possibility…Any hostile act of the puppet group against the DPRK will lead to the miserable destruction of the puppet army and the total collapse of the ‘ROK’ (sic).”

: Ten days after the North’s launch, South Korea too gets its own (much higher quality) first indigenous military reconnaissance satellite, launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

: “Informed sources” tell Yonhap that KPA troops at Panmunjom are now sporting pistols. Photos released by MND show Northern troops installing temporary guard posts, carrying what appeared to be recoilless guns and standing guard at night in the DMZ.

: ROK MND says North Korea has begun rebuilding guard posts and is bringing heavy firearms into the DMZ.

: Pyongyang responds to Seoul’s partial suspension of the CMA by repudiating it in toto. Accusing Seoul of breaking faith—while also claiming that the accord “has long been reduced to a mere scrap of paper”—the DPRK MND declares: “From now on, our army will never be bound by the September 19 North-South Military Agreement …We will immediately restore all military measures that have been halted.” If “an irretrievable clash” occurs, “the political and military gangsters of the “ROK”…will be held wholly accountable.”

: Defense Minister Shin calls Seoul’s partial suspension of the CMA “a proportional response” and “a minimal defensive measure” to Pyongyang’s spy satellite launch. 

: DPRK National Aerospace Technology Administration (NATA, formerly NADA; the D was for Development) reports a successful satellite launch, late on the previous evening, overseen by Kim Jong Un. It plans to put up several more “in a short span of time.” Next morning, Kim visits NATA’s Pyongyang General Control Center and congratulates all concerned. He is shown “aerospace photos of Anderson Air Force Base, Apra Harbor and other major military bases of the US forces taken in the sky above Guam in the Pacific.”

: An extraordinary Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo officially suspends Article 1, Clause 3 of the CMA, which stipulates no-fly zones, effective 3 p.m. local time. President Yoon later approves this electronically from London.

: At short notice, the DPRK notifies Japan (but seemingly no one else) of a 10-day satellite launch window, starting midnight, through Dec. 1. In the event they jump their own gun by 78 minutes, launching at 2242 local time that same day.

: ROK and Japanese military officials say the DPRK has launched its satellite, slightly ahead of the window it had notified. President Yoon chairs a National Security Council meeting from London, where he is on a state visit: the North’s launch interrupted his lunch at Buckingham Palace. South Korea announces that it will resume reconnaissance activities close to the DMZ, ahead of formal suspension of the relevant section of the CMA. 

: ROK National Police Agency (KNPA) says that a DPRK hacking group, dubbed “Kimsuky,” hijacked the email accounts of 1,468 South Koreans so far this year: a 30-fold jump from 49 cases in 2022. Victims include 57 current or former government officials. Nothing important was stolen, however, thanks to strict security protocols.

: Lt. Gen. Kang Ho-pil, ROK JCS chief director of operations, warns the DPRK to “immediately stop” its satellite launch preparations. Should it go ahead, “our military will come up with necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of our people.”

: Defense Minister Shin predicts that North Korea may launch its military satellite “within a week or so,” having “almost resolved” its engine problems “with Russia’s help.”

: DPRK media carry no reports of the recently designated missile industry day being marked. Kim Jong Un too has gone unreported for almost a month; he was last seen greeting Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Oct. 20.

: Kim Myung-soo, the next JCS Chairman nominee, tells his parliamentary confirmation hearing that the CMA “clearly limits [our] military’s capability.” Specifically, it restricts surveillance of North Korea in terms of “space and time,” including (as Yonhap puts it) “real-time monitoring of the North’s rear side,” and live-fire drills on ROK islands close to the DPRK in the West (Yellow) Sea. (See also Oct. 24.)

: MOU Kim presents his ministry’s “fourth basic plan,” a five year blueprint for inter-Korean relations (2023-27; President Yoon’s term ends in May 2027) to the National Assembly. This includes a pledge to raise the issue not only of separated families, but also of detainees, abductees and POWs held by North Korea. Pyongyang has never admitted the last two categories, estimated as originally having numbered almost 100,000 and over 90,000 respectively. After 70 years almost all must now be dead, so the point of pushing this as an agenda item is unclear. For that matter, with no North-South talks held since Dec. 2018 and none in prospect, any and all of what Seoul might propose now is arguably hypothetical.

: Government “sources” tell Yonhap that if Pyongyang tries again to launch a spy satellite, Seoul “is considering partially suspending [the] 2018 inter-Korean military agreement as a precautionary measure against North Korean provocations.”

: ROK’s task force on South Korean abductees held in North Korea meets for the first time since 2012. Four ministries are involved—MOU, MND, MOFA, and MOJ (justice)—plus the National Police Agency and NIS. Admitting past government action has been “insufficient,” MOU’s Kang Jong-suk says the North “continues to deny the presence of abductees, detainees and prisoners of war, and remains unresponsive to our requests to verify their status and repatriate them.”

: MOU responds, calling the leaflets “a voluntary activity carried out by civic groups in accordance with the freedom of expression guaranteed in our Constitution … We sternly warn North Korea against acting rashly.”

: Following reports that North Korea has revised its election law to permit some voters in local elections a choice between two candidates, instead of just endorsing one as hitherto, MOU comments: “This is far from [an] actual guarantee of people’s suffrage.” The ballot will still not be secret. The first elections under the new system are due in Nov.

: A KCNA article headlined “It Will Act as ‘Detonator’ of End of ‘Republic of Korea’” warns that, if propaganda balloon launches resume (see Sept. 26), “it is the stand of the enraged revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK to pour a shower of shells into the bulwark of the region of south Korean puppets.” (Bylined as commentary by a named author, this carries less weight than an official government or Party statement.) It also repeats the ludicrous canard that this is how Covid-19 got into North Korea, referring to “the inroad of the malignant infectious disease caused by shabby things of human scum.” (sic).

: MOU Kim Yung-ho tells an academic forum in Seoul that the ROK “will continue to support” the stalled joint project of compiling a unified Korean dictionary. In 2005-10 and 2014-15 lexicologists from North and South met 25 times, in Seoul, Pyongyang, Kaesong, Mount Kumgang, and three Chinese cities: Beijing, Shenyang, and Dalian. They agreed on the definition and pronunciation of 128,000 of a projected 307,000 words. Since 2015 the Southern team has continued alone, faxing their work to Pyongyang, but receiving no response. One comments: “It’s like a one-sided love.”

: Seoul deplores Pyongyang’s designation of a missile industry day.

: MOU Kim says North Korea seems to have been getting technical help from Russia for another satellite launch. He also suggests that Pyongyang’s recent “designation of a ‘missile industry day is …apparently not irrelevant to [Kim] Ju Ae’s emergence.”

: North Korea designates Nov. 18 as “day of the missile industry,” marking the date in 2022 when it tested a Hwasong-17 ICBM. More significantly, this was the first public appearance of Kim Jong Un’s daughter Ju Ae. (In 2021 some DPRK calendars marked Nov. 29—the anniversary of an earlier launch of a different ICBM, the Hwasong-15, in 2017—as ‘rocket industry day’; but this was not celebrated, and has gone unmentioned since.) 

: MOU says it will recognize relatives of South Koreans imprisoned in the North as victims of abduction. This renders them eligible for state compensation, at a modest 15-20 million won ($11,234—15,100) per family. Six such detainees are known—three missionaries and three defectors; four have family in South Korea. Pyongyang is silent about their fate. (See also Oct. 8.)

: MOU urges North Korea to reactivate the inter-Korean liaison line; Pyongyang has not picked up the phone since April. Seoul notes that cases like the recent drifting DPRK vessel—see Oct. 29—highlight the need for this; although in fact the ROK found other ways to get in touch, via the UN Command and international maritime communication channels.

: A “government source” tells Yonhap that the four Northerners who defected by boat last month include a pregnant woman in her 20s. They cited food shortage as their reason for leaving.

: Adm. Kim Myung-soo, named on Oct. 29 by Yoon as the next chairman of the JCS, says “there are certainly limitations militarily” caused by the CMA. He adds: “The South Korean military should exist as a tiger and fight like a hound.” (See also Nov. 17.)

: After the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) decides, for the 13th consecutive year, to keep the DPRK on its list of “high-risk jurisdictions subject to a call for action,” MOU spokesman Koo Byoung-sam declares: “The North Korean regime’s seizure of illicit funds to secure money for its rule and development of weapons of mass destruction is becoming bolder day by day, in means and scale … The shortcut to resolving all problems on the Korean Peninsula, such as the North’s denuclearization and promotion of human rights, lies in blocking the inflow of black money to the regime of Kim Jong Un.”

: ROK JCS says a spotter plane found a small (10m) DPRK vessel drifting near the Northern Limit Line (NLL, the de facto maritime border) in the East Sea. Seoul dispatched a patrol boat. Those aboard said they had been adrift for 10 days, and asked for food and water, which they were given. They did not wish to defect. Next day the JCS reports that a North Korean vessel came and towed them away. 

: Defense Minister Shin says North Korea has violated the CMA “close to 3,600” times in the western maritime buffer zone. Most (3,400) of these involve failing to cover gun barrels; Shin acknowledges that Pyongyang “doesn’t seem to recognize leaving the porthole (of artillery pieces) open as a violation.” It has also fired artillery shells into the sea 110 times.

: With the end of the month nigh, MOU sees no signs of a fresh satellite launch attempt by North Korea. After two failures, Kim Jong-un had vowed to try again in October. 

: South Korea’s Marine Corps Commandant tells a parliamentary audit that live-fire exercises need to resume on five front-line islands in the West Sea. Lt.-Gen. Kim Gye-hwan says the CMA has weakened military readiness, which requires firing major assets such as K-9 self-propelled howitzers into the sea. Since 2018 such drills have been held on land, but this is more expensive and the range is too short.

: The ROK coast guard and military report that four North Koreans—one man and three women—have defected in a small (7.5 meter) boat via the East Sea. They first approached a Southern fisherman, Lim Jae-kil, asked where they were, and said how nice his vessel was. As for their own craft, Lim said “he had never seen such a boat in his more than 40 years of life as a fisherman … it appeared to have the engine of a cultivator.” 

: MOU data show the number of Northern defectors reaching South Korea this year so far has more than tripled: up from 42 in January-September 2022 to 139 in the same period of 2023. This is still far below the pre-pandemic annual norm of 1,000 or more. (Very few of these will be direct arrivals; most have spent years elsewhere, usually in China.)

: Visiting the frontline island of Yeonpyeong, shelled by North Korea in 2010 (four died), Defense Minister Shin again calls for the CMA’s suspension.

: In policy reports for a parliamentary audit, the ROK Army and Air Force describe how each plans to strengthen defense capabilities against North Korea’s evolving WMD threat and asymmetric warfare tactics. (For details, see the link.)

: Unification Minister Kim tells Yonhap: “If Russia offers military technology to North Korea … we cannot help but seek powerful sanctions against Russia and North Korea, with the US and other nations.” Taking a harder line on the CMA than a week ago, Kim now calls the pact “an own goal in the security field.” He ventures two predictions: doubting Pyongyang if could have “addressed technical challenges in a short span of time to enable it to make [a] third attempt” to launch a reconnaissance satellite—oops: see Nov. 21,—and (on safer ground) that the trickle of defectors reaching the South will more than double this year, as North Korea starts to reopen its borders.

: A propos reports that last week China repatriated some 600 North Korean defectors detained in its border provinces Jilin and Liaoning, South Korea’s Ambassador to the UN Hwang Joon-kook, says, “We strongly protest this grave human rights incident, which should never happen again…The international community cannot tolerate such actions…We all should understand that the horrendous living conditions and human rights situation in the DPRK have continually forced its people to flee across the border, mainly to China…It is both horrifying and heartbreaking to witness North Korean escapees, who had risked everything including their lives on their long arduous road to freedom, being forcibly repatriated.” Such trenchant criticism of Beijing by Seoul is rare, even under Yoon.

: ROK blocks two DPRK accounts on X/Twitter, YuMi_DPRK_daily (aka Olivia Natasha), and @Parama_Coreafan. Fronted by winsome young women, both —especially the former—post ‘soft’ propaganda, supposedly portraying normal everyday life in North Korea. (Although ‘normal’ is relative.)

: After Washington says the DPRK has delivered over 1,000 containers of arms and munitions to Russia recently, contra Pyongyang’s denials, MOU spokesperson Koo Byoung-sam comments, “The true nature of North Korea, which has attempted to deceive the whole world, has been exposed.”

: Gen. Kim Seung-kyum, soon to be replaced as chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), echoes new Defense Minister Shin in criticizing the CMA. He tells a National Assembly audit, “Due to no-fly zones set under the military agreement, our surveillance range is restricted in terms of time and space.”

: After the shock of Hamas’s Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel, an anonymous MOU spokesperson suggests that Seoul could suspend the CMA even without any prior provocation by Pyongyang, “if it judges such a move is necessary for national security.”

: MOU Kim Yung-ho, not often the voice of moderation, tells a parliamentary audit of his ministry that the CMA suspension issue should be “prudently discussed.” 

: At the same audit, MOU (the ministry) provides data on past humanitarian aid by South Korea to the North, mainly via UN agencies. From 1996-2022 the ROK sent $151.3 million via the World Food Program (WFP), $66.48 million to the World Health Organization (WHO), and $40.14 million to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Bilaterally, during 2018-22 Seoul gave nutritional supplies and medicines worth 36 billion won ($26.8 million), using a mix of state and NGO funding. (These figures seem incomplete: excluding, for instance, aid provided by ROK NGOs during the ‘sunshine’ era, 1998-2007). All this is loose change for South Korea, whose own GDP rose from $610 billion in 1996 to $1.7 trillion in 2023.

: Visiting Ground Operations Command in Yongin, 42 km south of Seoul, soon after Hamas’s attack on Israel, Defense Minister Shin orders the unit—tasked with neutralizing DPRK artillery: “If the enemy provokes, punish them immediately, strongly and until the end…I call on you to push for developing and deploying an operational system that can completely destroy the enemy’s long-range artillery capabilities within hours of an enemy provocation.” Shin again reiterates his call to suspend the CMA. 

: A detailed study by Mandiant (Google’s intelligence arm), titled “Assessed Cyber Structure and Alignments of North Korea in 2023,” reports—among much else—that DPRK hackers have targeted Lee Min-bok, head of a defector group which claims to have sent 300 million leaflets and other items by balloon into the North between 2003 and 2018, when Moon Jae-in’s government made him stop. Lee, who came South in 1995, confirms that Pyongyang tries to hack his emails “about once a week.”

: Defense Minister Shin renews his attack on the CMA: “I will push for the suspension of the Sept. 19 inter-Korean military agreement as soon as possible … Scrapping (the accord) requires a legal process, but I understand a suspension only requires a Cabinet approval.”

: On the 10th anniversary of North Korea’s arrest of South Korean pastor Kim Jung-wook, later sentenced to hard labor for life for alleged espionage and religious activity, MOU urges the North to free Kim and five other ROK nationals similarly held since 2014 and 2016, calling their detention “illegal and inhumane.” The DPRK holds a further 516 South Koreans, mostly fishermen abducted at various times since 1953. Choi Sung-ryong, head of an association of their family members, claims that more than half have subsequently died.

: As he is empowered to do, President Yoon appoints Shin Won-sik as minister of National Defense, despite the opposition-controlled National Assembly’s refusal to confirm him.

: A propos the North’s “puppet” slur—see Oct. 1—an unnamed MOU official comments: “North Korea has generally used the term South Korea in sports games. But the regime has revealed its own lack of confidence by using such an extremely belittling expression and overreacting even in a sporting event.”

: South Korea beats North Korea 3-1 in women’s volleyball at the Asian Games in Hangzhou. Neither team is a medal contender by now, having lost earlier matches to China and Vietnam, respectively. 

: MOU says it is “closely monitoring some 6,000 vulnerable North Korean defectors considered at a high risk of suicide attempts and lonely deaths due to financial difficulties and other hardships.” (That is more than one in six of all defectors, who total just under 34,000.) This monitoring began in Nov. 2022, after some high-profile tragedies. MOU now uses 39 “crisis indicators, such as whether the supply of electricity, water and gas was suspended for their households or there was any previous attempt to commit suicide.”

: Seoul is oddly vague about its stance on sending leaflets across the DMZ, now that this has been unbanned (see Sept. 26). MOU says: “We will consult with organizations while comprehensively factoring in circumstances such as the inter-Korean relationship … [and] think about what policy [we] will take by taking various points into account.”

: ROK National Intelligence Service (NIS) reveals that in August and September it detected “multiple” North Korean hacking attempts against South Korean shipbuilders and related firms. The agency attributes this to Kim Jong Un’s order to build mid- to large-sized warships. Methods include infiltrating the computers of shipbuilders’ IT maintenance firms, and sending malware-infected emails to employees to steal sensitive information.

: Responding to the DPRK enshrining its nuclear force in its Constitution (see Sept. 28), the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) warns: “If North Korea attempts to use nukes (sic), it will face the end of its regime.”

: In a speech to the Korean Veterans Association, President Yoon says: “We will firmly protect the free Republic of Korea and defend our people’s safety by strengthening our capability to immediately and overwhelmingly respond to any provocation from the enemy.” He adds: “Our security is under threat from within and outside. Moreover, fake news and instigation through false manipulation are threatening this country’s democracy.”

: Speaking in Berlin, ROK MOU Kim Yung-ho says that Pyongyang’s vicious cycle of provoking Seoul into talks, receiving aid, and then breaking off agreements “will no longer work” in the Yoon era.

: South Korea’s foreign ministry responds to Choe: “The international community clearly bans North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and provocations … Regardless of North Korea’s actions and claims, its possession of nuclear weapons will never be recognized, and the sanctions of the international community will further deepen.”

: KCNA reports: “The women’s football team of the DPRK attending the 19th Asian Games advanced into the semi-finals. The quarter-final match was held between teams from the DPRK and the region of south Korean puppets (sic) on September 30. The DPRK team defeated its rival 4:1.” Similarly, the North’s Korean Central Television (KCTV), while broadcasting the match, tags it as being between Choson (the DPRK’s name for Korea; the ROK uses Hankuk for itself) and “Puppets” (Goeloe 괴뢰 in Korean). (See also Oct. 5, below.) 

: North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui blasts the UN Security Council (UNSC) for its “extreme double standard” in taking issue with Pyongyang’s “exercise of its legitimate sovereign right” to strengthen its nuclear forces, while ignoring “the US and its vassal forces’ ceaseless nuclear threats…which has lingered for more than half a century.”

: KCNA reports that, among the SPA proceedings (which also include a small Cabinet reshuffle), the section of the DPRK Constitution (chapter 4, article 58) which covers nuclear policy has been beefed up. (An amendment a year earlier enshrined the right to strike first.) Kim Jong Un avers: “The DPRK’s nuclear force-building policy has been made permanent as the basic law of the state, which no one is allowed to flout with anything.”

: At his National Assembly confirmation hearing, MND nominee Shin vows to end or suspend Sept. 2018’s inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA). This created air and sea border buffer zones, banned live-fire drills with artillery and coastal guns, and partially withdrew guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Shin says the accord “primarily benefits North Korea and is largely unfavorable for us.” In particular, the no-fly zone (in Yonhap’s summary) “restricts surveillance and ROK capabilities for precision strikes against North Korea.” Seoul claims Pyongyang has violated the CMA at least 17 times. Shin adds: “If North Korea attempts a nuclear attack [against us], the DPRK regime will meet its end…If it provokes, we will retaliate powerfully so they miserably regret it.”

: By a 7-2 vote, the ROK Constitutional Court strikes down the Moon-era revision to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act, which since March 2021 has prohibited—though not effectively prevented—the sending of propaganda leaflets by balloon into North Korea. Activist groups had challenged the constitutionality of this. The Court rules that the ban excessively restricted freedom of expression.

: North Korea holds the 9th session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), its rubber-stamp Parliament. The date was announced in advance, but unusually the meeting goes unreported until afterwards; causing brief doubt in Seoul as to whether the assembly actually assembled.

: Following Kim Jong Un’s trip to Russia (Sept. 10-19) and summit with Putin, South Korea sanctions 10 individuals (mostly North Korean) and two entities—both Slovakian companies—said to be involved in DPRK weapons exports, including to Russia. These are the 12th unilateral sanctions of Yoon’s presidency. Those sanctioned now total 64 individuals and 53 institutions. (See also Sept. 1, above.)

: MOU offers to repatriate the remains of a North Korean—identified as such by his badge of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il—found on a beach on the South’s Seongmo island on Sept. 10. During the decade 2010-19 Seoul returned 23 Northern corpses, but latterly Pyongyang has turned unresponsive. The last two such cases, in November 2022 and June 2023, were cremated after the North failed to reply.

: A propos the previous day’s summit between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, South Korea’s National Security Council (NSC) says in a press release: “North Korea and Russia will clearly pay the price if they are involved in any acts that pose a significant threat to our security by violating UN Security Council resolutions.” Earlier, the ROK foreign ministry (MOFA) similarly warns that any Russia-DPRK military cooperation deal would have a “very negative impact” on Seoul’s relations with Moscow. MOU Kim Yung-ho chimes in too, calling on “North Korea and Russia to stop illegal and reckless acts that only deepen their own isolation, and abide by international norms.”

: Yoon nominates Shin Won-sik, a hawkish retired three-star general turned lawmaker, as minister of National Defense. Among many incendiary remarks, Shin has said the ROK military should prepare for “unification through marching North” and train units ready “to decapitate Kim Jong Un when there is a possibility to remove him.” He also called Yoon’s liberal predecessor Moon Jae-in “a North Korean spy,” adding that it is a “matter of time until we cut his throat.” (On. Sept, 27 he apologizes for that last comment.)

: ROK prosecutors question opposition leader Lee Jae-myung (on hunger strike since Aug. 31) for 11 hours; a medical team is on standby. This is Lee’s fifth interrogation; already indicted on two other counts of corruption, he claims political persecution. This time, it is alleged that $8 million illegally remitted to North Korea in 2019-20 by Ssangbangwool Group, an underwear maker, included $3 million to facilitate a visit to Pyongyang by Lee, then governor of Gyeonggi province (greater Seoul). Lee says not a shred of evidence was produced. Admitting he had “tried to do business with the North for humanitarian support and exchanges,” he insists he “did not provide, or ask to provide, money and goods to the North in violation of South Korean laws and United Nations sanctions.” Lee is questioned again about this on Sept. 12, this time for five hours. He ends his hunger strike on Sept. 22.

: After receiving a complaint from a Seoul city councilor, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) opens a probe into Youn Mee-hyang, an independent lawmaker who recently attended a commemoration in Tokyo of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. The event was organized by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon, Chosen Soren), which supports Pyongyang. Under the National Security Law (NSL), South Koreans must notify their government in advance of any contact with Chongryon.

: South Korean canoeists, who at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia won gold (500 meters) and bronze (200m) in dragon boat racing as part of a rare joint Korean women’s team, say they look forward to beating their erstwhile Northern teammates at the upcoming Asiad in Hangzhou, China—but also hope to hang out with them. The DPRK has registered to participate in the Games. In May KBS, citing Kyodo, said Pyongyang will send 200 athletes for at least three events, including dragon boat racing. On Sept. 13 it is confirmed that the DPRK has registered 191 athletes for eight events, including dragon boat racing.

: Speaking in Jakarta where he is attending the ASEAN and related summits, ROK President Yoon says: “Attempts at military cooperation with North Korea, which damage peace in the international community, should be stopped immediately.”

: New MOU Kim Yung-ho appoints Ko Young-hwan—the first DPRK diplomat ever to defect to the ROK, and a former French interpreter for North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung—as a special adviser “to help bolster the ministry’s capabilities.” (This must be for his experience rather than current knowledge: Ko came South in 1991.)

: South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has delivered 98 speeches since inheriting power in late 2011. 32 of these, or almost one-third, were carried by DPRK media in his own voice—unlike his microphone-shy father Kim Jong Il, who during his 17-year reign was only ever heard to utter a single sentence in public.

: MOU suggests that, as Yonhap headlines it, Kim Jong Un is “flaunting” his daughter Ju Ae at military events to “elicit” the Korean People’s Army (KPA)’s loyalty. 12 of Ju Ae’s 15 reported public appearances have been on military-related occasions. (As of Sept. 9 this becomes 13 of 16: father and daughter attend a paramilitary parade marking the 75th anniversary of the DPRK’s foundation in 1948. 

: A propos US media claims (correct, it soon transpired) that Kim Jong Un may shortly visit Russia for a summit with Putin to discuss an arms deal, MOU opines that “cooperation between North Korea and a nearby country, in all forms, should be conducted in a direction that does not hurt international order and peace.” The ROK “is closely watching cooperative ties involving North Korea and has raised the reminder that all member countries of the United Nations have a duty to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions.”

: Confirming Seoul’s report, KCNA says that “two long-range strategic cruise missiles tipped with mock nuclear warheads were fired” by “a high-spirited … unit of the Korean People’s Army in the western region.” It calls this “a firing drill for simulated tactical nuclear attack…to warn the enemies of the actual nuclear war danger.” Pyongyang claims this “nuclear strike mission” was a success: the missiles flew 1,500 km for 7,672 and 7,681 seconds, respectively, detonating at a preset altitude of 150 meters above the target.

: ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) says that in the early hours the DPRK fired several cruise missiles toward the Yellow (West) Sea.

: Responding to North Korea’s failed satellite launch on Aug. 24, South Korea sanctions the Ryugyong Program Development Company (which reportedly “develops unmanned weapon systems and deploys its experts abroad”), plus the firm’s CEO and four other officials. This is the 11th set of bilateral ROK sanctions imposed in little over a year under Yoon Suk Yeol, targeting 51 institutions (mostly DPRK) and 54 named individuals. None of these have any dealings with Seoul, obviously, so this gesture is largely symbolic.

: An unnamed official tells Yonhap, South Korea’s semi-official news agency, that the ROK military has halted search and salvage activities after the DPRK’s second failed satellite launch, having found nothing significant.

: KCNA, which does not normally disclose the exact date of Kim Jong Un’s military-related activities, reports that on Aug. 29 he visited “the training command post of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA),” to observe a command drill “aimed at occupying the whole territory of the southern half by repelling the enemy’s sudden armed invasion and switching over to an all-out counterattack.” This is in response to “the US and ‘ROK’ [sic, including quote marks] military gangsters [staging] extremely provocative and dangerous large-scale joint exercises simulating an all-out war against the DPRK.”

: Destroyers (one each) from the US, Japanese, and South Korean navies stage a trilateral ballistic missile defense exercise. A US military press release links this to North Korea’s recent rocket launches in “brazen violation of multiple unanimous UN Security Council resolutions that raises tension and risks,” and cites the recent Camp David summit as “inaugurat[ing] a new era of trilateral partnership.”

: Amid further signs that North Korea is starting to partially reopen its borders, MOU characterizes Pyongyang’s steps so far as a “limited border reopening,” prompted by economic problems and the inconveniences of closure for personnel.

: For the second time in three months, a North Korean satellite launch fails. Promptly admitting this, KCNA quotes the DPRK’s National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) as blaming “an error in the emergency blasting system during the third-stage flight.” Calling this “not a big problem,” NADA vows to try again in October.

: Amid several signs that Pyongyang is partially easing stringent border controls it had imposed in Jan. 2020 to keep out COVID-19 (unsuccessfully), MOU says it is monitoring when North Korea will reopen its border with China “in a full-fledged manner.” Reporting to the National Assembly, the ministry judges that so far the North “has opened its border in a limited manner while struggling to stabilize a food crisis.”

: South Korea holds its first nationwide air defense drills in six years. Many citizens ignore the sirens and officials telling them to get off the streets and seek shelter.

: In a response to UFS, headlined “DPRK Armed Forces Show No Mercy,” KCNA warns: “An unprecedented large-scale thermonuclear war is approaching the Korean Peninsula every moment as reality.” (Despite the apocalyptic tone, comments from a mere news agency—as opposed to, say, Kim Jong Un—are a relatively low-key reaction.)

: After Pyongyang reportedly notifies Japan’s Coast Guard that it plans to put a satellite in orbit during Aug. 24-31, South Korea’s foreign ministry urges the North “to

: ROK Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries issues a maritime safety warning for the three areas which Pyongyang notified Tokyo its satellite launch might affect—while noting that “South Korean ships do not frequently pass through these zones.”

: Back from his trilateral summit with the leaders of the US and Japan at Camp David, President Yoon tells his Cabinet: “The larger North Korea’s threats of provocations become, the more solid the structure of trilateral security cooperation among South Korea, the US and Japan will become. [This] will lower the risk of North Korea’s provocations and further strengthen our security.”

: KCNA reports that Kim Jong Un oversaw a naval drill involving cruise missiles.

: Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS), a large joint US-South Korea annual military exercise, begins. Continuing through Aug. 31, it includes some 30 field training events—more than in past years—“based on an all-out war scenario,” according to the ROK JCS.

: After the rightwing Seoul daily Dong-A Ilbo claims there was some sort of terrorist bombing in or near Pyongyang a month or two earlier (alleged details are extremely vague), South Korea’s NIS says it has detected no such event. In May, however, the spy agency told lawmakers that violent crime in the North has tripled from a year earlier, including “large-scale and organized” crimes like “throwing of homemade bombs in attempts to extort goods.”

: MOU offers some figures regarding Kim Jong Un’s titles and trips, as well as DPRK economic trends and nomenclature.

:  MOU Kim Yung-ho urges Beijing not to send defectors back to the DPRK: “North Korean defectors in China should be…able to enter countries that they are hoping to go to, including South Korea.” They should be treated as refugees, not as illegal immigrants. According to the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, among 8,148 cases—no time period was given—of such forcible repatriation, 98% were from China.

: Pyongyang issues its first report on defector Travis King. KCNA says he “decided to come over to the DPRK” due to “inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.” (King is Black.) “He also expressed his willingness to seek refuge in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society. The investigation continues.”

: Chairing the second quarterly meeting of a new (mostly civilian) presidential defense innovation committee he set up, President Yoon says Seoul must prioritize boosting its deterrence capability against Pyongyang’s “imminent” nuclear and missile menace, along with the North’s other asymmetric threats (cyber and drones). By contrast, “we need to…boldly adjust projects aimed at operating weapons systems that are not immediately urgent.” (That sounds like bad news for those in MND who harbor blue water and aircraft carrier ambitions.)

: MOU spokesperson Koo Byong-sam tells a regular media briefing that Kim Jong Un’s recent visits to major weapons facilities “appear to have had multiple purposes—show off the country’s achievements in the defense sector, respond to [US-ROK] joint military drills, and seek arms exports”—despite the last being banned under UN sanctions.

: KCNA reports that on Aug. 3-5 Kim Jong Un “gave field guidance to major munitions factories.” These included facilities producing “the shells of super large-caliber multiple rocket launchers,” “new serial small arms,” engines for cruise missiles and UAVs, “erector launchers for major strategic weapons,” and “a new light electrical appliance factory which will play an important role in modernizing the KPA.”

: MOU Kim pledges that the Yoon government will “never” seek a formal declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War. That had been a key, if chimerical, policy aim of Yoon’s liberal predecessor Moon Jae-in. Kim explains: “Conditions for the end-of-war declaration have not been met. If [it happens], the issue of abductees, prisoners of war and detainees in the North will be overshadowed.”

: UN Command (UNC) at Panmunjom, which controls the southern half of the JSA and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), says North Korea has confirmed that it is holding the fugitive US soldier Travis King.

: New MOU Kim Yung-ho announces his first official schedule: a meeting the next day with civic groups focused on Southern abductees and detainees in North Korea, and their relatives. The ministry will create a task force on the abductee issue.

: South Korea’s Ministry of Unification confirms a Radio Free Asia report that on July 20, 24, and 27 North Korea opened floodgates on its Hwanggang Dam to release water, without first warning Seoul as it is supposed to do under inter-Korean accords. Noting that Pyongyang “frequently” released water thus during July, “despite our repeated request” [to be notified], MOU calls this “very regrettable.”

: New MOU Kim Yung-ho visits the National Cemetery in Seoul to pay tribute to South Korea’s patriotic martyrs and war dead.

: A propos Pyongyang’s military parade on July 28, which displayed a wide range of WMD and other armaments, MOU spokesman Koo Byoung-sam expresses “strong regret over how North Korea is adhering to nuclear development and an attitude of confrontation rather than seeking denuclearization and peace despite this year marking the 70th anniversary of the Armistice.” He calls on the North to choose the “right” path.

: President Yoon formally appoints Kim Yung-ho as minister of unification, as the law permits, despite his not having been confirmed by the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Kim is the 15th minister appointed by Yoon without parliamentary approval.

: At the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD) meeting in San Diego CA, Chun Young-hee, who heads the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Korean Peninsula Peace Regime Bureau, deplores North Korea’s WMD provocations and inattention to its “dire” humanitarian crisis. NEACD is an annual Track 1.5 meeting of all the former Six Party Talks participants. The DPRK has not showed up since 2016.

: Reacting to DPRK Defense Minister Kang Sun Nam’s threat (July 20), the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) warns that any North Korean attack “will face an immediate, overwhelming and decisive response from the [US-ROK] alliance and…will result in the end of the North Korean regime.”

: MOU nominee Kim Yung-ho tells  National Assembly confirmation hearing that he will prioritize “substantive” results in any dealings with North Korea, rather than “dialogue or its own sake.”

: North Korea’s Minister of National Defense Kang Sun Nam issues a press statement, warning that the US SSBN deployment “may fall under the conditions of the use of nuclear weapons specified in the DPRK law on the nuclear force policy.” This “allows the execution of necessary action procedures…[if] it is judged that the use of nuclear weapons against it is imminent.”

: ROK’s Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), a division of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF), reports that last year North Korea’s trade dependence on China rose even further to 96.7%, a 10-year high. While doubling in volume year-on-year, trade has grown even more unbalanced. Pyongyang imported goods from Beijing worth $1,398 million, while exporting a mere $134 million.

: South Korea’s NIS claims North Korea stole cryptocurrency worth $700 million last year, but has not yet monetized it. The agency says this could fund 30 ICBMs, and that hacking accounts for 30% of Pyongyang’s foreign currency earnings. It adds that a DPRK hacker was caught trying to get a job with an ROK energy company abroad, having posted his resume on LinkedIn, using a forged passport and graduation certificate.

: USS Kentucky, an 18,750-ton Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), docks in Busan. This is the first visit to South Korea by a US SSBN since 1981.

: US-South Korea Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG), set up at April’s summit between Presidents Biden and Yoon, holds  inaugural meeting in Seoul. Yoon stops by and  urges that the allies’ nuclear deterrence be beefed up such that North Korea “does not dare to use nuclear weapons.”

: A man later identified as Travis King (23), a private (second class) serving in US forces in Korea (USFK), breaks away from a tour group and dashes to the northern side of the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom. It emerges that he was being sent home, unguarded, to face disciplinary charges. Instead of boarding his plane he exited Incheon airport, returned to Seoul, and booked a tour of Panmunjom.

: MOU reports that defector arrivals, while still a trickle by historical standards, almost doubled in the second quarter. 65 North Koreans—18 men and 47 women—reached South Korea during April-June, compared to 34 in January-March. The ministry attributes this to China easing its coronavirus restrictions. Almost all defectors come via China.

: Seoul retaliates to Pyongyang’s latest ICBM test by again slapping unilateral sanctions on three DPRK entities and four named individuals. Since none (obviously) have any dealings with the ROK, this move is largely symbolic.

: North Korea test-fires an ICBM off its east coast. According to Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno this flew for a record 74 minutes to an altitude of 6,000 km (3,728 miles) and a range of 1,000 km. Next day Pyongyang confirms that this launch was of its large Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM, first tested in April, which has a range of 15,000 km. Analysts reckon this second successful test means it could soon be deployed.

: At the Hanawon resettlement center for defectors, three North Korean women, recent arrivals from China—where they had lived since 2004, 2014, and 2019, respectively—describe how Beijing’s anti-coronavirus restrictions worsened their lives. Lacking Chinese ID cards, they could not access most services. Even so, life was better than in North Korea.

: Kwon Young-se–still unification minister, though his successor has been named—tells a media briefing that North Korea faces a serious food crisis, despite grain imports from China and prices stabilizing somewhat. On Kim Jong Un’s health, Kwon says it “does not appear good, but it is not serious enough to pose some problems for him to work.”

: MOU says it has issued hard copies of the English translation of its 2023 report on North Korea human rights, “as part of efforts to raise global awareness on the issue.”

: MOU publishes  dossier of hitherto classified government documents on North -South contacts before and after the first inter-Korean accord: joint communiqué signed on July 4, 1972. Covering the period Nov. 1971-Feb. 1979, this has 1,678 pages—of which 230 remain redacted.

: ROK JCS say that South Korean and US experts, having analyzed debris from North Korea’s failed satellite launch in May, retrieved from the Yellow/West Sea, have concluded that the spy satellite would have had “absolutely no military utility.”

: After Pyongyang’s rejection, Hyun Jeong-eun withdraws her application to visit Mt. Kumgang.

: President Yoon signals a major policy shift on MOU, telling his staff: “Hitherto the unification ministry has operated as if it were a support department for North Korea. [T]hat shouldn’t be the case any more…It’s time for the unification ministry to change.”

: Pyongyang publicly and brusquely rejects Ms. Hyun’s visit; previously it had welcomed her as an honored guest. Kim Song Il, a director general at North Korea’s foreign ministry, tells KCNA: “We make it clear that we have neither been informed about any South Korean personage’s willingness for visit nor known about it and that we have no intention to examine it.” He adds that policy is not to allow South Korean nationals entry, and that the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (APPC), which Ms. Hyun sought to contact (as in the past), has no authority in this regard.

: MOU nominee Kim says “there is a need to selectively [re]consider inter-Korean agreements.” Specifically, September 2018’s military accord may require review, if (in Yonhap’s paraphrase) “the North continues to violate it with high-intensity provocations.”

: MOU says it is considering an application by Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of the Hyundai Group, to visit Mount Kumgang in North Korea—where Hyundai Asan ran tours during 1998-2008—to mark 20 years since the suicide of her husband, former group chairman Chung Mong-hun, on Aug. 4. She last held a memorial service for him there, with DPRK participation, on the 15th anniversary in 2018.

: As heavy rain pounds the peninsula, MOU urges Pyongyang to notify Seoul of any planned release of water from its Hwanggang Dam on the Imjin river, which flows into South Korea. In 2009 flood waters from an unannounced discharge killed six South Koreans who were camping. Despite Pyongyang promising advance notice in future, last year (as often) this was lacking. On July 14 MOU says the North has made no response.

: President Yoon nominates Kim Yung-ho, a professor of political science and trenchant “new Right” critic of North Korea, as minister of unification.

: FFNK says it marked the 73rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War on June 25 with another balloon launch. This one sent 20 balloons carrying 200,000 leaflets, 10,000 face masks, Tylenol pills, and anti-regime booklets into North Korea.

: Amid reports that some 2,000 North Koreans held in China face imminent repatriation now that the PRC-DPRK border has begun to reopen, the head of the ROK’s National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Song Doo-hwan, urges Beijing not to do this.

: At the NIS’s request, South Korea blocks three North Korean propaganda channels on YouTube. As of 1400 local time, attempts to access Sally Parks Song-A Channel, Olivia Natasha- YuMi Space DPRK daily, or New DPRK come up as “not available” in the ROK. On June 27 YouTube itself terminates all three channels.

: ROK Cabinet approves a plan to establish a drone operations command in September. “A source” tells Yonhap that South Korea “has adopted an aggressive counter-drone operational principle, under which a single North Korean drone infiltration would prompt it to send 10 or more unmanned aerial vehicles into (sic) Pyongyang.”

: NIS says DPRK hackers have created a fake version of Naver, ROK’s leading Web portal and search engine, which 25 million South Koreans—almost half the total population—use as their homepage. The agency warns netizens to be on their guard.

: In a further instance—albeit mainly symbolic—of the Yoon administration’s hardening stance, almost three years after North Korea blew up the inter-Korean liaison office at Kaesong, the ROK sues the DPRK government in Seoul Central District Court; claiming damages of 44.7 billion won ($35 million) for destruction of state property. (Although located on Northern territory, South Korea built and paid for this facility.)

: MOU says that it plans to return, via Panmunjom, the corpse of a young (20s-30s) presumed North Korean man, found in waters off Ganghwa island northwest in May. Pyongyang has yet to indicate acceptance. Since 2010 South Korea has sent 23 bodies back to the North, most recently in 2019. In the last such case, a female flood victim in 2022, the DPRK’s radio silence meant the ROK had to cremate her. This time the North again fails to respond, so on June 16 Seoul says he too will be cremated.

: South Korea’s National Police Agency says that the North’s Kimsuky hacked senior ROK officials among others for several months recently, by sending phishing emails to 150 diplomacy and security experts. Nine persons—three former minister and vice minister-level officials, one incumbent government official, four academics or experts, and one reporter—fell for it, and had their account information compromised. Nothing confidential was stolen.

: Yoon administration publishes its National Security Strategy. Besides (unsurprisingly) identifying North Korea’s WMD threat as the South’s most pressing security challenge, it also focuses on wider issues and the ROK’s ambition to become a “global pivotal state.”

: Responding to Pyongyang’s failed satellite bid, South Korea becomes the first country to unilaterally sanction the (not obviously connected) DPRK hacking group known as Kimsuky.

: North Korea’s attempt to put a spy satellite in orbit fails; the rocket crashes into the West/Yellow Sea. The launch triggers an evacuation alarm, sent to millions of phones in Seoul—in error. The Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MOIS) apologizes.

: ROK’s foreign and health ministries jointly voice “deep regrets and concerns” at the DPRK’s recent election to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s executive board. “It is questionable whether North Korea, which has continued to contravene UNSC resolutions and disregard the UN’s authority, meets the standards for a WHO executive board member, which should abide by international norms, pursued by the U.N., and contribute to enhancing global health.”

: “A source” tells Yonhap that earlier this month a DPRK boat (whether civilian or military is unclear) told a 30,000-ton ROK cargo ship sailing in the East Sea/Sea of Japan to “move out to the open sea.” The latter complied, even though it was in fact in international waters.

: Suwon District Court jails An Bu-soo, chairman of the Asia Pacific Exchange Association (a private body), for 42 months, having found him guilty of embezzlement and unauthorized foreign exchange transfers to North Korea. This is the first conviction related to the case of Ssangbangwool Group’s ex-chairman Kim Seong-tae, whose own trial is ongoing.

: In the seventh such action under Yoon Suk Yeol, South Korea unilaterally sanctions three DPRK organizations (all under the North’s Ministry of National Defense) and seven individuals. All are said to be involved in Pyongyang’s illegal cyber activities.

: MOU Kwon urges North Korea to return to dialogue, saying the South has no hostile intentions.

: NIS reveals that a family group of 10 North Koreans, who crossed the Northern Limit Line —the de facto marine border in the West/Yellow Sea—by boat on May 6, told their ROK interrogators that “they had admired our society while watching South Korean television, and decided to defect as they grew exhausted of the North Korean regime amid tightened social control stemming from the pandemic.”

: Two Koreas are both drawn in Group B for the second round, to be held this fall, of the Asian women’s soccer tournament, a qualifier for the Olympic Games. China and Thailand complete the group. North Korea has won 15 of 19 previous inter-Korean encounters, against just one win for South Korea; three were draws.

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri condemns the recent ROK-Japan summit: “The military collusion between South Korea and Japan, much wanted by the United States, has entered the stage …to be recklessly carried out.” It calls Yoon’s foreign policy “submissive.”

: Two years after a major data breach at Seoul National University Hospital’s intranet, when personal data on 827,000 people—mostly patients—was hacked, ROK police now say they attribute this cyber-attack to North Korea.

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri condemns the recent ROK-Japan summit: “The military collusion between South Korea and Japan, much wanted by the United States, has entered the stage…to be recklessly carried out.” It calls Yoon’s foreign policy “submissive.”

: Two years after a major data breach at Seoul National University Hospital’s intranet, when personal data on 827,000 people—mostly patients—was hacked, ROK police say they attribute this cyber-attack to North Korea.

: Suwon District Court indicts and detains four former officials of the ROK’s largest and most militant umbrella labor body, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, for allegedly spying for North Korea. The four unnamed accused deny all charges and are refusing to cooperate.

: MOU says North Korea seems to be illicitly operating some 10 ROK-owned factories at the former Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), which Seoul withdrew from in 2016.

: Perhaps celebrating their recent court victory (see April 27), FFNK say that on May 5 they sent 20 balloons carrying vitamin C tablets, Tylenol pills and booklets across the DMZ into North Korea from Ganghwa Island, northwest of Seoul.

: Perhaps celebrating their recent court victory (April 27), the activist group Freedom Fighters for North Korea (FFNK) say that on May 5 it sent 20 balloons carrying vitamin C tablets, Tylenol pills, and booklets into North Korea from Ganghwa Island, northwest of Seoul.

: Seoul Central District Court orders the DPRK and Kim Jong Un to pay 50 million won ($37,900) each to three former POWs who escaped from the North in the early 2000s, almost half a century after being taken prisoner during the 1950-53 Korean War. The defendants were not represented. With some understatement Yonhap notes: “It seems difficult for the plaintiffs to actually receive the compensation.”

: Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s leading daily, fills half a page with photos of recent anti-Yoon protests in South Korea. DPRK media have not done this for some years. In past instances, according to defectors, this backfired: readers observed that the other Korea looked more developed, and its people better dressed.

: ROK’s ruling People Power Party (PPP) criticises the National Election Commission (NEC) for ignoring warnings from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) that DPRK hackers attacked it eight times in 2021-22. The NEC denies receiving such warnings. The opposition Democrats (DPK) accuse the PPP and NIS of playing politics.

: MOU says it may sue the DPRK for “illicit” actions in the Mount Kumgang tourist zone, “including the unauthorized removal of ROK assets like a floating hotel owned by Hyundai Asan.” This is a tad tardy. As NK News notes, North Korea began demolishing the Haegumgang Hotel in March 2022; by Dec. it was gone. (See also April 23, above.)

: Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s leading daily, fills half a page with photos of recent anti-Yoon protests in South Korea. DPRK media have not done this for some years. In past instances, according to defectors, it backfired: readers noted that the other Korea looked more developed, and its people better dressed.

: ROK’s ruling conservative People Power Party (PPP) criticizes the National Election Commission (NEC) for ignoring warnings from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) that DPRK hackers attacked it eight times in 2021-22. The NEC denies receiving such warnings. The liberal opposition Democrats (DPK) accuse the PPP and NIS of playing politics. On May 23 the NEC agrees to a cybersecurity check-up by the NIS.

: MOU says it may sue the DPRK for “illicit” actions in the Mount Kumgang tourist zone, “including the unauthorized removal of ROK assets like a floating hotel owned by Hyundai Asan.” This is a tad tardy. As NK News notes, North Korea began demolishing the Haegumgang Hotel in March 2022; by December it was gone.

: MOU says that that burning Yoon Seok-yol in effigy at a recent mass rally in Pyongyang was “extremely regrettable” and went “too far”; adding that DPRK authorities seem to be trying “to control citizens by exaggerating external threats via internal media.”

: ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) announces what may be the largest ever joint live-fire drills. The “Joint and Combined Firepower Annihilation Training” will run May 25-June 15 at Pocheon, 20 miles from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), marking the US-ROK alliance’s 70th anniversary. This is the 11th such exercise, since 1977; the last was in 2017 (none took place under Moon Jae-in).

: MOU says that that burning Yoon Suk Yeol in effigy at a recent mass rally in Pyongyang was “extremely regrettable” and went “too far,” adding that DPRK authorities seem to be trying “to control citizens by exaggerating external threats via internal media.”

: MOU Kwon tells the Unification Future Planning Committee (UFPC; see Feb. 28, above): “We need to urge and induce North Korea to make the right decision so that all members of the Korean Peninsula can feel safe and lead prosperous lives.”

: Visiting a front-line area where North Korean drones infiltrated last year, JCS Chairman Kim Seung-kyun warns that Pyongyang will attack “in unknown and unexpected formats going forward.” South Korea must respond “overwhelmingly … We have to imprint in the enemy minds that the only price for provocation is gruesome punishment.”

: ROK Minister of Unification (MOU) Kwon Young-se, tells the Unification Future Planning Committee: “We need to urge and induce North Korea to make the right decision so that all members of the Korean Peninsula can feel safe and lead prosperous lives.”

: Visiting a front-line area where North Korean drones infiltrated last year, the chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), army Gen. Kim Seung-kyum, warns that Pyongyang will attack “in unknown and unexpected formats going forward.” South Korea must respond “overwhelmingly…We have to imprint in the enemy minds that the only price for provocation is gruesome punishment.”

: After Yoon’s summit with Joe Biden, the official DPRK Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) begins a multi-part series under the title: “Puppet Traitor Yoon Suk Yeol’s Visit to U.S. Draws Censure, Ridicule and Concern.” This cites critical media comment from around the world, including South Korea. Six installments are published in the ensuing days.

: Days after ROK President Yoon Suk Yeol’s summit in late April with US President Joe Biden, the official DPRK Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) begins a multi-part series under the title: “Puppet Traitor Yoon Suk Yeol’s Visit to US Draws Censure, Ridicule and Concern.” This cites media comments criticizing Yoon’s trip from around the world, including South Korea. Six installments are published in the ensuing days.

: Meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Washington, President Yoon warns that any use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would elicit an “overwhelming” nuclear response.

: Reversing rulings by two lower courts, the ROK Supreme Court finds that the previous Moon Jae-in administration unjustly revoked the legal status of the militant balloon-launching activist group Freedom Fighters for North Korea (FFNK). The case will now go for retrial. For some reason this verdict is not publicized until May 5.

: MOU publishes an English-language version of its report on North Korean human rights. This is freely available on the ministry’s website. (See also March 30.)

: MOU data show that 34 North Koreans (five men and 29 women) reached Seoul in the first quarter of this year: up from 11 in Q1 2022 and 25 in Q4, and bringing the cumulative total of defectors in South Korea to 33,916. (See also Jan. 10 and Jan. 25 above.)

: MOU says it is considering suing the DPRK for its “clear invasion of [ROK] property rights” at the KIC (see April 5, 6 and 19 above). Potential plaintiffs could include the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM), which handles government funds for inter-Korean cooperation, and MOU’s own subsidiary the Kaesong Industrial District Foundation. Which jurisdiction any suit would be filed in is unclear, and the chances of redress non-existent. (See also May 5, below.)

: A survey by Realmeter, a leading ROK pollster, finds that 56% of the 1,008 adults sampled support South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons to confront North Korea’s nuclear threat. 41% are opposed, mainly fearing that this would incur sanctions.

: Another poll by an NGO, of South Koreans in their 20s and 30s, reports that 24% deem Korean unification “absolutely necessary”—but 61% disagree. 88% view North Korea unfavorably; even more (91%) are negative towards China. By contrast, 67% have positive views of the US, and almost as many (63%) are favorably disposed towards Japan.

: Another poll by an NGO, of South Koreans in their 20s and 30s, reports that 24% deem Korean unification “absolutely necessary”—but 61% disagree. 88% view North Korea unfavorably; even more (91%) are negative towards China. By contrast, 67% have positive views of the US, and almost as many (63%) are favorably disposed towards Japan.

: JoongAng Ilbo reports that North Korea is soliciting Chinese investment for the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). Next day MOU in effect confirms this: “Intelligence related to participation of companies from a third-party country in the factory zone has been detected, [and] we are looking into it with relevant institutions.”

: MOU publishes its annual Unification White Paper: first during Yoon’s presidency. Its language is tougher than in the Moon Jae-in era; calling for instance for the denuclearization of North Korea, not of the Korean peninsula as formerly. MOU says: “The priority … has been shifted to efforts to denuclearize North Korea, normalize the inter-Korean ties, improve the North’s human rights records and prepare for unification.” 2022 saw zero inter-Korean trade or personnel visits. A trickle of humanitarian aid remains, worth 2.6 billion won ($2 million), down from 3.1 billion won in 2021. An English version is forthcoming.

: MOU says that, for a sixth day, the North is still not picking up the phone: on either the main inter-Korean liaison channel, or the two military hotlines. As of mid-May this stony silence continues.

: In a report to a National Assembly committee, MOU says North Korea has been raising threat levels by repeatedly holding drills to simulate tactical nuclear attacks

: MOU Kwon issues a statement on Pyongyang’s continued radio silence: “The [ROK] government expresses strong regret over the North’s unilateral and irresponsible attitude. We strongly warn that this will only lead the North to isolate itself and face more difficult situations.”

: With the North unresponsive to the South’s routine liaison telephone calls for a fourth day, MOU concludes that Pyongyang has unilaterally severed all communications. The DPRK has made no official announcement or comment about this. (Past, briefer failures to answer were sometimes caused by technical problems; but usually the reason is political.)

: North Korea does not respond to the South’s usual twice-daily calls at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on their telephone liaison channel, nor to the separate daily test calls at 4 p.m. on two military hotlines covering the West and East Seas. Seoul’s calls to the latter on April 8 and 9 also go unanswered (the civilian liaison line does not operate at weekends).

: North Korea does not respond to the South’s usual twice-daily calls at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on their telephone liaison channel, nor to the separate daily test calls at 4 p.m. on two military hotlines covering the West and East Seas. Seoul’s calls to the latter on April 8 and 9 also go unanswered (the civilian liaison line does not operate at weekends).

: MOU publicly warns the North to stop unauthorized use of the KIC and ROK property therein (or therefrom). It adds that Seoul sought to convey this message officially via the inter-Korean hotline earlier today, but Pyongyang declined to accept it.

: A photograph of a Pyongyang street in Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of the DPRK’s ruling Workers’ Party (WPK), includes a South Korean-made bus: one of several abandoned in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) when then-ROK President Park Geun-hye unilaterally closed the joint venture in February 2016, in retaliation for North Korean nuclear and rocket tests.

: Seoul Central District Court grants bail on medical grounds (cardiovascular issues) to Suh Hoon. Now aged 70, Moon Jae-in’s former national security adviser had been detained since Dec. on charges related to his handling of the Sept. 2020 killing of an ROK fisheries official in mysterious circumstances by North Korea.

: For the first time, MOU publishes its annual report on North Korean human rights. It has compiled one each year since 2018, as mandated by a 2016 law; but under Moon Jae-in these were not made public. The 450 page report describes some 1,600 violations of human rights, based on the testimony of 508 defectors between 2017-22. (See also April 26.)

: Four unnamed current or former KCTU officials are arrested for alleged illegal contact with DPRK spies in third countries, including Vietnam (Hanoi), Cambodia (Phnom Penh) and China (Guangzhou). According to prosecutors, the chief suspect also briefed Pyongyang about ROK political developments on some 100 occasions, and was given orders—including to lead anti-government rallies. (See also Jan. 18, above.)

: Amid recent intensified WMD tests by North Korea, ROK President Yoon tells his Cabinet: “From now on, the unification ministry should stop giving away to North Korea (sic) and make it clear that as long as North Korea pursues nuclear development, we cannot give them a single won.”

: ROK JCS sounds a skeptical note on the DPRK’s new weapon (see March 24): “Our military is putting weight to the possibility that the claim might have been exaggerated or fabricated.” Any new system is at an early stage of development.

: MOU calls on North Korea to “faithfully” repay a loan that falls due today. In 2007, amid briefly burgeoning cooperation after the second North-South summit, Seoul loaned Pyongyang industrial raw materials, worth US$80 million, to make garments, shoes and soap. Repayment was meant to be in kind, with minerals such as zinc; but the North has made no payments since 2008.

: North Korea claims to have successfully tested an underwater nuclear attack drone during March 21-23, able to cause a “radioactive tsunami” and destroy enemy ports.

: Speaking at a memorial service on West Sea Defense Day (commemorating the 55 ROK service members killed off the west coast between 2002-2010), President Yoon says: “I will make sure North Korea pays the price for its reckless provocations.”

: For the first time since 2018 the ROK joins other democracies in co-sponsoring the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)’s resolution on DPRK human rights. UNHRC has passed such a resolution every year since 2003, but during 2019-22 Moon Jae-in’s administration was not among its sponsors. In Dec. South Korea sponsored a similar resolution in the UN General Assembly (UNGA), again after a four-year hiatus.

: South Korea bans the export via third countries of 77 items that could be used in North Korea’s satellite program. Pyongyang has said it will put a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit this spring.

: Lee Hwa-young (former vice governor of Gyeonggi Province and a close ally of opposition leader Lee Jae-myung), who already faces charges of bribery, is further indicted for collusion in Ssangbangwool Group’s alleged illegal transfer of funds to North Korea in 2019-20. (More details in Korean here.)

: MOU announces increased financial and other support for North Korean defectors, including the first rise in the basic resettlement subsidy for four years.

: Oh Se-hoon, mayor of Seoul and a likely future PPP presidential contender, tells Reuters that South Korea should build nuclear weapons to bolster its defences against North Korea, even at the risk of international repercussions.

: Case papers for the officials indicted on Feb, 28 (see above) reveal that the fishermen were deceived: not realizing they were being repatriated, until their blindfolds were removed at Panmunjom. When the penny dropped, they struggled and attempted self-harm.

: MOU Kwon tells Voice of America (VOA) that the Moon-era law which prohibits sending leaflets into North Korea is an “absolutely bad act” which needs revision: “The clause … which legally blocks the things that could help North Korean people’s right to know has a problem.” In Nov. Kwon opined similarly to the Constitutional Court.

: As often, ROK lawmakers leak tidbits from an NIS briefing to the press. The spy agency claims that the oldest of Kim Jong Un’s three children is a son; rumors that he has physical and mental issues are unconfirmed. His ever more prominent daughter Kim Ju Ae is home-schooled and enjoys riding, swimming and skiing. The third child’s sex is unknown.

: ROK JCS deny claims by their DPRK counterpart, the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), of a “very grave military provocation”: namely firing over 30 artillery shells at a range in Paju near the DMZ. Seoul calls this “not true and a groundless claim.”

: Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office indicts four of Moon Jae-in’s former minister-level officials for alleged involvement in the forced repatriation of two North Korean fishermen in 2019. Chung Eui-yong (ex-national security adviser and foreign minister), Noh Young-min (former presidential chief of staff), Suh Hoon (ex-NIS chief) and Kim Yeon-chul (quondam MOU) are accused variously of abuse of power under the NIS law, obstructing the fishermen’s rights, and falsifying documents. They are not held; Suh is already detained on other charges (see April 3 below).

: MOU launches the Unification Future Planning Committee (UFPC). This new 34-strong advisory committee of experts from academia and NGOs is tasked with drawing up a new policy blueprint for unification “based on freedom and democratic values.” It will meet quarterly. Its five sub-panels include military matters, economic affairs and humn rights. 

: Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office indicts four of Moon Jae-in’s former minister-level officials for alleged involvement in the forced repatriation of two North Korean fishermen in 2019. Chung Eui-yong (ex-national security adviser and foreign minister), Noh Young-min (former presidential chief of staff), Suh Hoon (ex-NIS chief) and Kim Yeon-chul (quondam MOU) are accused variously of abuse of power under the NIS law, obstructing the fishermen’s rights, and falsifying documents. They are not held; Suh is already detained on other charges (see April 3 below).

: As widely trailed, and interestingly timed—on Kim Jong Il’s birthday, a major public holiday in the DPRK—MND publishes a new Defense White Paper (though dated 2022). This calls North Korea an “enemy” for the first time since 2017; under Moon Jae-in that expression was excised. Kim Jong Un is now referenced merely by name; in the Moon era, more courteously, his title was also given (chairman of the State Affairs Commission).

: South Korea’s Foreign Ministry announces the ROK’s first bilateral sanctions against the DPRK’s illicit cyber-activities, including cryptocurrency theft. These target four named individuals and seven organizations under the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), North Korea’s military intelligence agency. Earlier in Yoon’s presidency Seoul sanctioned persons and institutions involved in the DPRK’s WMD programs, and in evading multilateral UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions. As the two Koreas have no intercourse, the South’s sanctions are largely symbolic.

: Under its work plan for 2023-25, MOU vows to “mobilize all available policy means to resolve the issue of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, prioritizing identifying whether their relatives in North Korea are alive.” This hardly seems a realistic hope. Last Sept. Minister Kwon proposed resuming family reunions, but Pyongyang did not deign to reply.

: NIS says it has formed a three-way inter-agency team with the NPA and the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office (SPO) to probe domestic espionage cases linked to North Korea—but only until Dec. 31. Under a contentious reorganization by Yoon’s predecessor Moon Jae-in, from 2024 the NIS will lose its investigative powers in such cases to the police.

: Amid US-PRC tensions over a Chinese weather balloon which overflew the US before being shot down, an anonymous official tells Yonhap that a suspected DPRK weather balloon, some 2 meters long, entered ROK airspace (where exactly is not specified) for a few hours on Feb. 5. Unlike their US counterparts, South Korea’s military took no action “as it deemed the balloon as having no intention for spying activities.”

: Meeting with Ven. Jinwoo—president of the Jogye Order, South Korea’s largest Buddhist denomination—MOU Kwon Young-se asks for help from “the Buddhist circle” in improving ties with North Korea. Kwon stresses that the government wants to revive humanitarian exchanges. Yonhap’s report does not say how Ven. Jinwoo responded.

: Relatives of Kim Jung-wook and Kim Kuk-gi—ROK missionaries arrested by North Korea in 2013 and 2014 respectively—meet Elizabeth Salmon, UN special rapporteur for DPRK human rights, who is visiting Seoul, to seek UN help in gaining their release. The two Kims are among nine South Koreas currently detained in North Korea for alleged anti-state crimes; three of them are priests.

: Prosecutors in the southwestern ROK city of Jeonju charge a local activist, Ha Yeon-ho, head of the Jeonbuk People Movement, with breaking the National Security Law by having unauthorized contacts with North Koreans. Ha allegedly met DPRK agents several times during 2013-19 in Beijing, Hanoi and elsewhere, and sent email reports to Pyongyang on South Korean politics. Denying the charges, Ha says the investigation is suppression.

: On the same day, Seoul Central District Court approves a prosecution request to detain four unnamed activists from Changwon in the southeastern ROK. Taking orders from DPRK agents in Cambodia and elsewhere, the accused allegedly founded an anti-government organization which organized pro-Pyongyang and anti-US activities.

: Citing “informed officials” (aka leaking prosecutors), Yonhap reports that under questioning Kim Seong-tae claims to have delivered $8 million to North Korea in 2019, to promote Gyeonggi Province’s smart farm project and a potential visit by Lee Jae-myung, then Gyeonggi governor. Kim now says he does know Lee; the latter still denies this.

: ROK Coast Guard—specifically its Western Regional HQ in the southern port city of Mokpo—arrests an unnamed oil dealer. He is accused of supplying 19,000 tons of diesel fuel, worth 18 billion won ($14.65 million), to North Korea in 35 ship-to-ship transfers during Oct. 2021-Jan. 2022, using a Chinese firm as intermediary for transport and payment. Two accomplices are booked without detention. This is the first arrest in such a case.

: South Korea’s liberal opposition DPK slams the ruling conservative People Power Party (PPP) for trying to stop the transfer of authority to conduct DPRK-related anti-espionage probes from the NIS to the police (NPA), scheduled for end-2023. With President Yoon calling for this to be reconsidered, the DPK says: “Yoon has revealed his snaky (sic) true intention … after using the NIS to noisily raid labor union offices” (see Jan. 18 above).

: In a report to President Yoon, MOU sets out seven key policy objectives for 2023. The ministry will try to “normalize” inter-Korean relations by seeking both direct and indirect contacts with Pyongyang, including via NGOs and international bodies. Yet Minister Kwon Young-se says that although ready to talk at any time. Seoul is not contemplating any new offer to do so: “It is important for North Korea to come back to dialogue with sincerity.”

: Briefing the National Assembly’s defense committee on the interim findings of its internal inquiry into the drone incident, the JCS explains that although the frontline Army First Corps detected at least one of the intruders, this was not initially classified as an emergency. With over 2,000 radar trails daily, many are hard to interpret: “there are great limitations in determing [sic] that they are the enemy’s small unmanned aerial vehicles.”

: Exactly one month after North Korea’s drone incursion, the US-led United Nations Command (UNC), which has oversees the DMZ, finds that both Koreas violated the 1953 Armistice by sending UAVs into each other’s airspace on Dec. 26. MND retorts that the ROK’s retaliatory drone was in self-defense, ergo not covered by the Armistice Agreement.

: Citing an unidentified “source,” Yonhap claims that nine of the 67 North Korea defectors who reached Seoul in 2022 were workers coming from Russia. All male and previously unknown to each other, they include two soldiers in their 20s and several long-time loggers in their 40s-50s. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “caused a stir” which prompted their separate decisions to flee. MOU declines to confirm any of this, on security grounds.

: North Korea drone post-mortem continues. Citing “informed sources”—no doubt lawmakers briefed ahead of tomorrow’s committee session; see Jan. 26—the ROK JCS blames “insufficiencies” on four fronts—threat perception, internal information-sharing, equipment and training—for the botched military response to the five DPRK UAVs which violated ROK airspace a month ago. Whether heads will roll in Seoul for this is unclear: “As the inspection is not over yet, we are not at the stage to mention a disciplinary step if any.”

: MOU data show that 3,647 applicants to meet North Korean family members died last year. Out of around 134,000 who originally registered for this scheme, only 42, 624—fewer than one-third—are still alive. Since 2000 there have been 21 rounds of face-to-face reunions, but none since Aug. 2018 and no realistic prospect of resumption. (See also Feb. 7.)

: Suwon District Court grants a warrant and Kim Seong-tae is formally arrested. The charge-sheet includes embezzlement, bribery and illegal transfer of cash to North Korea.

: After an hours-long standoff, a team from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the National Police Agency (NPA) raids the Seoul headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU, the more left-wing of South Korea’s two umbrella union groupings), “on suspicion of anti-communist law violations by some of its members.” Amid reports of a scuffle, KCTU claims excessive force was used. Two simultaneous smaller raids take place elsewhere on KCTU members and affiliates. (See also March 28 below.) 

: Handcuffed and flanked by prosecutors, Kim Seong-tae arrives at Incheon International Airport. Answering a reporter’s question, he denies knowing opposition leader Lee Jae-myung. Lee says the same, but a former Ssangbangwool executive claims otherwise. Prosecutors begin questioning Kim the same day.

: Belying expectations of a lengthy contested extradition process, “judicial and other officials” tell Yonhap, South Korea’s quasi-official news agency, that Kim Seong-tae has decided to come home and face the music. (One reason, reportedly, is that South Korean jails are more salubrious than Thai ones.)

: MOU says that in 2022 only 67 Northern defectors reached South Korea: second lowest annual figure ever, after the 63 who arrived in 2021. (See also Jan. 25.)

: Eight months after fleeing to Singapore, Kim Seong-tae, former chairman of Ssangbangwool (SBW) Group, an underwear maker, is arrested at a golf club in Thailand. Besides corruption charges, Kim is alleged to have illegally transferred funds to Norh Korea. (See Nov.16, 2022 in our previous Chronology, and Jan. 12, 17, 20, 31 and March 21 below.)

: South Korea’s presidential office says that last year it granted a meeting request by North Korea human rights activists, including FFNK, and is “keeping the channel open.” Under Yoon’s predecessor Moon the Blue House shunned such groups as hostile.

: NK News reports that the United Nations Command (UNC) has set up a Special Investigation Team to probe whether recent drone flights over the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) violated the Armistice. That could mean the ROK as well as the DPRK launches.

: ROK media report that three persons on Jeju island, linked to the small leftist Progressive Party and the Korean Peasants’ League, are under police investigation for running a pro-North underground group since 2017, directed by DPRK agents. The accused deny the charges and refuse the NIS summons. A separate probe into another pro-Pyongyang network has led to raids in Jeju, Seoul, South Gyeongsang and North Jeolla.

: FFNK says it will use drones rather than balloons to send leaflets into North Korea “at the earliest date possible.” MOU asks it not to and urges caution.

: ROK presidential office reveals that last year (no date was cited) it granted a meeting request by DPRK human rights activists—including the militant group Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK), which has persisted with now illegal balloon launches of leaflets across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)—and is “keeping the channel open.” Under Yoon’s predecessor Moon Jae-in, the Blue House shunned such groups as hostile.

: subscription website NK News reports that the United Nations Command (UNC) has set up a Special Investigation Team to probe whether recent drone flights over the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) violated the Armistice. That could mean the ROK’s as well as the DPRK’s launches. (For UNC’s verdict, see Jan. 26 below.)

: ROK media report that three persons on Jeju Island, linked to the small leftist Progressive Party and the Korean Peasants’ League, are under police investigation for running a pro-North underground group since 2017, directed by DPRK agents. The accused deny the charges and are refusing the NIS’s summons. A separate probe into another pro-Pyongyang network has led to raids in Jeju, Seoul, South Gyeongsang and North Jeolla provinces. (See also Jan. 18 and Feb. 1 below.)

: FFNK says it will use drones rather than balloons to send leaflets into North Korea “at the earliest date possible.” MOU asks it not to and urges caution.

: “A high-ranking presidential official” tells the JoongAng Ilbo (Seoul’s leading daily; its politics are center-right): “If the North sends [UAVs] … again, we will not just respond passively by shooting them down.” Rather, the ROK will send its own drones “deep into North Korea in accordance with the principle of proportionality … We may send UAVs as far as Pyongyang and the launch station at Tongchang-ri [a major rocket launch site].”

: South Korea’s liberal opposition Democratic Party (DPK), which controls the National Assembly, calls the ROK’s tit-for-tat sending a drone across the DMZ on Dec. 26 a “reckless” breach of the 1953 Armistice which blurred Pyongyang’s culpability. Rejecting this charge, MND claims that its riposte was “a corresponding self-defense measure.” (See also Jan. 26 below.)

: Amplifying the above, ROK media cite unnamed officials as warning that Seoul may suspend not only the military pact but also 2018’s inter-Korean joint declaration, should Pyongyang again intrude on its territory. A “key presidential official” tells Yonhap: “It’s part of our sovereignty to invalidate inter-Korean agreements if circumstances change.” Hinting at a major policy shift, MOU says it is reviewing whether it could legally resume propaganda broadcasts or sending leaflets if these agreements were suspended.

: In a U-turn, a military official admits that on Dec. 26 one DPRK drone did penetrate a 3.7-kilometer-radius no-fly zone around the presidential office in Seoul’s Yongsan district. The ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had previously dismissed such claims as “untrue and groundless.” Military authorities still insist there was no security risk, doubting whether the North’s UAV was even capable of taking usable photographs.

: ROK armed forces conduct further air defense drills, this time including live fire, against enemy drone infiltrations. Some 50 aircraft are deployed, including KA-1 light attack planes and 500MD helicopters, as well as troops armed with drone jammer guns.

: Yoon’s spokesperson says he has “instructed the National Security Office to consider suspending the Sept. 19 (2018) military agreement in the event North Korea carries out another provocation violating our territory.” Yoon also “instructed” DM Lee to beef up the ROK’s military drone capacity. His office says the North has “explicitly” violated the 2018 accord 17 times since October.

: A propos Dec. 26’s incursion by five DPRK drones across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ, the de facto inter-Korean border), discussed in our last issue, President Yoon’s spokesperson says he has “instructed the National Security Office to consider suspending the Sept. 19 (2018) military agreement in the event North Korea carries out another provocation violating our territory.” Yoon also “instructed” Defense Minister (MND) Lee Jong-sup to beef up the ROK’s military drone capacity. His office says the North has “explicitly” violated the 2018 accord 17 times since October.

: South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) reveals that in 2022 it approved twelve applications by NGOs to send humanitarian aid to North Korea, worth a total of 5.52 billion won ($4.32 million). Five of these were since Yoon Suk Yeol took office as President last May, including a shipment of (unspecified) goods worth 300 million won in December. It is not known how much, if any, of this aid has actually reached the DPRK, which nowadays normally spurns assistance from the ROK.

: A ceremony to hand over 30 new “super-large multiple rocket launchers” to the WPK—not to the KPA, note—is held “with splendor” outside Party headquarters. Congratulating munitions workers, Kim Jong Un exults at these weapons systems: “Comrades, have a look at them. I really feel invigorated.”

: South Korea holds large-scale anti-drone military drills, apparently for the first time since 2017.

: MND says that in 2023 the ROK will spend 560 billion won ($441 million) on improving its defenses against drones.

: Five DPRK unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, aka drones) cross the DMZ and fly over South Korea for almost five hours. One reaches northern Seoul. The ROK military fails to shoot down any, and loses radar contact. Next day military authorities apologise. The South retaliates by sending drones of its own over North Korea; details are not given.

: As in recent years, North Korea closes the year with a big Party meeting: the 6th Enlarged Plenum of 8th WPK Central Committee. The main focus is military, with tough language even by DPRK standards. Calling South Korea “our undoubted enemy.” Kim Jong Un says this “highlights the importance and necessity of a mass-producing of tactical nuclear weapons and calls for an exponential increase of the country’s nuclear arsenal.”

: South Korea’s riposte to the North’s satellite photos of Seoul and Incheon is to publish a much better one—in color, and high-resolution—of Pyongyang.

: Kim Yo Jong loses it, issuing a furious, lengthy (1,900 words) rant against those in Seoul “who have tongue belittled [sic] our yesterday’s report on an important test for developing a reconnaissance satellite.” Though mainly invective, her point seems to be that a hi-res camera would have been a waste of money, as Dec. 18’s test prioritized other aspects.

: KCNA reports that on Dec. 18 the DPRK National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) “conducted an important final-stage test for the development of [a] reconnaissance satellite.” It publishes grainy black and white aerial views of Seoul and Incheon. Seoul queries whether such “crude” low-resolution images are really from a satellite, suggesting the North still has far to go technically. NADA says it will launch a military reconnaissance satellite by April.

: MOU says that since Sept. 2021 three (unnamed) NGOs have sent soybean oil worth 1.2 billion won ($922,000) to North Korea, under a government program “to offer nutritional aid to the North amid chronic food shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic.” Two of the shipments were since Yoon took office.

: ROK Vice Unification Minister Kim Ki-woong says the Yoon government will map out a three-year blueprint to improve North Korean human rights.

: At a virtual meeting of the Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI), South Korea calls on the North to return to this UN-backed intergovernmental cooperation mechanism, set up in 1995. Current members are China, Russia, Mongolia. and the ROK. The DPRK pulled out in 2009 in protest at UNSC sanctions. From July Seoul will chair the GTI for three years.

: In a joint advisory, South Korea’s foreign, unification, and ICT ministries warn ROK firms against inadvertently hiring DPRK IT workers, who may disguise their true provenance via identity theft and other means. The US issued a similar advisory in May.

: ROK DM Lee tells a “forum on the military’s spiritual and mental force enhancement” that South Korean troops “should clearly recognize as our enemy the North Korean regime and [its] military,” given the North’s provocations and threats.”

: At a ceremony promoting 18 brigadiers-general (one star) to lieutenant general (three stars), President Yoon says that despite North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, the South must “perfectly overwhelm” it in conventional military strength.

: “Sources” tell Yonhap that the next biennial ROK defense White Paper, due out in January, will again designate the DPRK regime and military as an “enemy,” fulfilling a pledge by Yoon Suk Yeol’s transition team before he took office. Troop education materials have already revived the E-word, banished under Moon Jae-in in his quest for peace.

: For the second time in as many months the ROK imposes its own sanctions, targeting eight persons and seven agencies seen as complicit in the DPRK’s WMD programs. Of the individuals, six work for three North Korean banks; the other two are from Singapore and Taiwan. The US and Japan also impose similar bilateral sanctions.

: A new booklet from Pyongyang Publishing House, “The Gallop To Ruin,” denounces Yoon Suk Yeol as a “political moron” who “cannot escape a violent death.”

: Kwon Young-se pays his first visit as MOU to the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom. Hoping for a “warm breeze”—sunshine, anyone?—to thaw frosty relations, he yet again assures North Korea of the South’s good faith and urges it to return to dialogue.

: Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong issues second press statement in three days (the first condemned the UNSC for “double standards” in discussing the DPRK’s most recent ICBM launch). This one lays into “the south Korean stooges” for being “a running wild dog on a bone given by the US,” castigating “Yoon Suk Yeol and other idiots” as “impudent and stupid.” Menacingly, she adds: “Anyhow, Seoul had not been our target at least when Moon Jae In was in power.” (For full text, see the Appendix.)

: MOU responds with dignity and restraint: “We consider it very deplorable that Vice Director Kim Yo-jong criticized the leader of our country with vulgar language today without showing even the most basic level of courtesy.”

: MOU releases a booklet fleshing out President Yoon’s “audacious plan” in a bit more detail. This lays out three stages of gradually increasing South Korean assistance if North Korea undertakes denuclearization, but is vague on what exactly the North has to do to unlock each stage. There is no prospect anyway of this coming to pass.

: MOU sets Nov. 24 as deadline for North Korea to reply regarding the body in the river (see Nov. 11). On Nov. 25, after continued radio silence from Pyongyang, the ministry says the deceased will be cremated.

: PPP leader Chung Jin-sook claims the Ssangbangwool case “is developing into a bribery scandal involving North Korea and the Moon Jae-in administration,” which “should be held accountable.” Saying SBW sent as much as $7 million to Pyongyang, Chung reckons the government and NIS must have known. But he cites no evidence.

: Interviewed by Yonhap, MOU Kwon insists that “the goal of denuclearizing North Korea is not unattainable.” “Extended deterrence, sanctions and pressure” can make the DPRK return to talks. He adds that while Seoul does not seek its own bomb, or to reintroduce US tactical nukes, those stances could alter if tensions worsen and public opinion shifts.

: For the first time since 2017, South Korea joins other democracies in in co-sponsoring the UN’s annual resolution highlighting DPRK human rights concerns. North Korea accuses the South of seeking to distract attention from the recent deadly crowd crush in Seoul. (This is Pyongyang’s first mention of the Itaewon tragedy: no condolences were sent.)

: Headlined “Fugitive underwear boss gave Kim Jong-un Hermès saddle, say prosecutors,” the JoongAng Daily publishes “exclusive” about Kim Seong-tae, ex-chairman of SBW (Ssangbangwool) Group. Besides that luxury saddle, in 2019 Kim allegedly sent $1.5 million to DPRK representatives in China, apparently hoping for business opportunities. (On Jan. 10 Kim was arrested in Thailand, so further revelations may follow.)

: South Korea’s Education Ministry (MOE) says that an advisory committee, formed since Yoon Suk Yeol took office, has recommended 90 changes to social studies text books approved for fifth and sixth grades “due to errors or possible ideological bias.” One publisher has already agreed to alter the phrase “DPRK government” to “DPRK regime.”

: MOU says it is trying to return the body of a presumed North Korean woman (she was wearing a badge of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il), retrieved from the Imjin river on July 23. Pyongyang is not responding, which is unusual in these cases. Since 2010 Seoul has repatriated 23 such corpses, carried down-river across the DMZ; the last was in Nov. 2019.

: Civic groups opposed to the law that prohibits sending leaflets into North Korea reveal a powerful ally. In an opinion submitted to the Constitutional Court, which is reviewing the matter after a petition by 27 NGOs, MOU Kwon Young-se says that the ban “goes against the Constitution because it infringes on freedom of expression.” Kwon also criticizes the law’s vague wording, which could be enforced “arbitrarily.”

: In response to Vigilant Storm, the DPRK launches a record 23 missiles. For the first time, one lands near ROK territorial waters, prompting an air raid alert on Ulleung island in the East Sea/Sea of Japan, where it had seemed headed. The JCS condemns this as “very rare and intolerable.” Calling an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, President Yoon says it was “effectively a violation of our territory.” He orders that “strict measures be taken swiftly to ensure North Korea pays a clear price for its provocation.”

: US and ROK hold their largest ever joint aerial exercise, Vigilant Storm. Over 240 aircraft, including some of the most advanced they possess, fly 1,600 sorties.

: ROK Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup declares: “it’s time to change our strategy” toward the DPRK nuclear threat. Rather than seeking to curb Pyongyang’s WMD development, Seoul should focus on deterrence, to convey “a clear sense that if North Korea attempts to use nuclear weapons, it will bring about an end to [their] regime and it will disappear completely.”

: Two Koreas exchange warning shots before dawn in the Yellow Sea, after a DPRK merchant ship briefly crosses the Northern Limit Line—NLL, the de facto inter-Korean marine border—near Baengnyeong Island. The North, which does not recognize the NLL and claims waters south of it, accuses a Southern warship of intruding. Pyongyang also says the South has resumed propaganda broadcasts at the DMZ, which Seoul denies.

: Meeting with relatives of two South Koreans detained in North Korea, MOU Kwon says: “The government will do its best to win [their] release by mobilizing all available means.” Pyongyang is known to have held six ROK citizens since 2013. Three are pastors, all serving hard labor for life for alleged espionage. The other trio are former defectors. Their prospects are bleak.

: In a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting on women, peace and security, ROK Ambassador Hwang Joon-kook highlights the “appalling and heartbreaking” plight of female escapees from the DPRK. Risks they face include human trafficking, imprisonment, and harsh punishment if repatriated. Seoul has not raised this issue officially before. This is an implicit criticism of China, where all these abuses (including refoulement) occur.

: After further volleys from Korean People’s Army (KPA) artillery into what the 2018 North-South military accord designated as no-fire maritime buffer zones near the inter-Korean border, Seoul calls on Pyongyang to respect that agreement and desist.

: Amid reports that the DPRK has dismantled more ROK-built and –owned facilities at the former Mount Kumgang resort—specifically, a sushi restaurant—MOU calls this “a clear violation of inter-Korean agreements” and urges the North to stop.

: Hoguk, the ROK miltary’s major annual autumn theater-level inter-service field training exercise, kicks off. Some US forces also participate. Seoul says it is keeping close tabs on Pyongyang’s reactions. The drill concludes on Oct. 28.

: In response to Pyongyang’s missile tests and its emphasis on tactical nukes, Seoul sanctions 15 North Korean individuals and 16 DPRK institutions, the ROK’s first such sanctions since 2017, and the first by Yoon; there were none during Moon Jae-in’s presidency. The move is symbolic, given the lack of inter-Korean commerce.

: A propos recent DPRK artillery fire into (its own) coastal waters close to the DMZ, President Yoon says“it’s correct that it’s a violation of the Sept. 19 [2018] accord.”

: Chung Jin-suk, interim leader of the ROK’s conservative ruling People Power Party (PPP), says that if North Korea carries out a new nuclear test, the South should scrap 1991’s inter-Korean declaration on denuclearization—which he says Pyongyang has turned into “a piece of waste paper.”

: President Yoon says North Korea “has nothing to gain from nuclear weapons.”

: ROK presidential office says it takes seriously the risk that North Korea may stage local provocations, like the shelling of a Southern island in 2010 when four died.

: After an especially intense flurry of weapons testing from Sept. 25 through Oct. 9, KCNA explains what this was all about: “Respected Comrade Kim Jong Un Guides Military Drills of KPA Units for Operation of Tactical Nukes.” Kim says DPRK forces are “completely ready to hit and destroy targets at any time from any location.”

: Responding to Kim’s nuclear braggadocio, the ROK presidential office calls the security situation on the peninsula “grave.”

: Asked by reporters whether North Korea’s incessant missile testing might lead Seoul to scrap Sept. 2018’s inter-Korean military accord, as hinted at by Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup, President Yoon says: “It’s a bit difficult to tell you in advance.”

: MOU Kwon says the ROK will “gradually” allow its citizens access to DPRK media, long banned under the National Security Act (NSA). This follows similar hints in July. As of January 2023 no such moves have actually taken place.

: After launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) earlier that day, North Korea does not respond to the South’s daily 9 am call on their liaison hotline. This prompts fears in Seoul that Pyongyang has cut off contact, as in the past. The North answers normally when contacted at 5 pm. As a separate military hotline remained in operation, technical rather than political problems are suspected (e.g. rain damage).

: After a parliamentary briefing by the National Intelligence Service (NIS), ROK lawmakers leak tidbits to local media. The NIS reckons the DPRK may test a nuclear device between Oct. 16 and Nov. 7 (it does not). Leader Kim Jong Un “appears to be showing no signs of health issues and returned to weighing between 130 and 140 kilograms.”

: Activist ROK NGOs urge the liberal opposition Democratic Party (DPK) to stop blocking an official North Korean Human Rights Foundation (NKHRF). The 2016 act establishing this, passed during Park Geun-hye’s presidency, requires the two main parties to each recommend five candidates to the board. The DP, which took power in 2017 and still controls parliament, has refused to nominate anyone—thus rendering the NKHRF stillborn.

: CNN airs interview with Yoon Suk Yeol, made when he was in New York for the UNGA. Yoon opinesthat “in case of military conflict around Taiwan, there would be increased possibility of North Korean provocation…in that case, the top priority for Korea and the US-Korea alliance on the Korean Peninsula would be based on our robust defense posture. We must deal with the North Korean threat first.”

: Ahead of North Korea Freedom Week (Sept. 25-Oct 1), MOU urges activist groups to refrain from sending leaflets and other materials across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) by balloon. It also warns of “strong and stern” action, should Pyongyang carry out its threat to retaliate against such activities.

: A poll of 1,200 adults by Seoul National University (SNU)’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies (IPUS) finds record numbers skeptical that North Korea will ever denuclearize (92.5% deem this “impossible”). A majority—55.5%, the most since the poll started in 2007—support South Korea having its own nuclear weapons. 60.9% think the North may engage in armed provocations. 31.6% reckon Korean unification is impossible, but almost half (46%) consider it necessary.

: Relatedly, prosecutors question Kim Yeon-chul, unification minister at the time. He is accused of cutting short an inquiry into the case and ordering the deportation.

: Yoon Suk Yeol addresses UN General Assembly (UNGA). Unusually, and in contrast to his predecessor Moon Jae-in, he makes no mention of North Korea or peninsular issues; focusing instead on universal global themes (his speech is titled “Freedom and Solidarity: Answers to the Watershed Moment.’)

: Gen. Kim Seung-kyum, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), tells the ROK National Assembly: “I will make North Korea clearly realize that should it attempt to use nuclear arms, it would face the overwhelming response from the South Korea-US alliance and our military, and there would be no scenario for regime survival anymore.”

: MOU Kwon urges Pyongyang to stop “distorting and denigrating” President Yoon’s “audacious plan” to assist the North if it denuclearizes. Better to start a “virtuous circle” and return to dialogue based on “mutual respect and benefit.”

: Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office interrogates former Deputy National Security Adviser Kim You-geun over his role in the unprecedented repatriation in Nov. 2019 of two Northern fishermen (who had reportedly confessed to murdering 16 shipmates).

: In a defiant speech, Kim Jong Un dares the US to maintain economic sanctions for “a thousand years,” adding: “There will never be any declaration of ‘giving up our nukes’ or ‘denuclearization,’ nor any kind of negotiations or bargaining…As long as nuclear weapons exist on Earth and imperialism remains…our road towards strengthening nuclear power won’t stop.” The SPA passes a new law reaffirming the DPRK’s status as a nuclear weapons state; this replaces a shorter 2013 statute. Inter alia, it codifies the DPRK military’s ‘right’ to launch preemptive nuclear strikes “automatically and immediately” in case of an imminent attack against its leadership or “important strategic objects.”

: On the eve of the Chuseok (harvest festival) holiday, MOU Kwon publicly proposes talks on family reunions. With those affected now in their 80s and 90s, “(we) have to resolve the problem before the word ‘separated family’ itself disappears…(the two sides) should map out swift and fundamental measures, using all available methods.” He adds that one-off events for a few families are not enough; those have been held on 22 occasions, most recently in 2018. Seoul is ready to discuss this issue anytime, anywhere and in any format. It is trying to convey the offer formally to UFD head Ri Son Gwon via the inter-Korean liaison hotline (good luck with that).

: SPA passes a new law, replacing a shorter 2013 statute, reaffirming the DPRK’s status as a nuclear weapons state. (See main text for fuller details).

: SPA passes a new law, replacing a shorter 2013 statute, reaffirming the DPRK’s status as a nuclear weapons state. Inter alia, this codifies the DPRK military’s “right” to launch preemptive nuclear strikes “automatically and immediately” in case of an imminent attack against its leadership or “important strategic objects.” A defiant Kim Jong Un dares the US to maintain economic sanctions for “a thousand years…There will never be any declaration of “giving up our nukes” or “denuclearization,” nor any kind of negotiations or bargaining…As long as nuclear weapons exist on Earth and imperialism remains…our road towards strengthening nuclear power won’t stop.”

: On the eve of the Chuseok (harvest festival) holiday, Unification Minister Kwon Young-se proposes talks on family reunions. With those affected now in their 80s and 90s, “(we) have to resolve the problem before the word ‘separated family’ itself disappears …(the two sides) should map out swift and fundamental measures, using all available methods.” He adds that one-off events for a few families are not enough; those have been held on 22 occasions, most recently in 2018. Seoul is ready to discuss this issue anytime, anywhere and in any format; it is trying to convey that offer formally to Ri Son Gwon, who as head of the United Front Department (UFD) of North Korea’s ruling Workers” Party (WPK) is Kwon’s Northern counterpart—via the inter-Korean liaison hotline.

: MOU says it has approved an NGO’s application to send “nutritional” aid to North Korea. No further details are revealed. This is its eighth such approval this year, and the first under Yoon. With DPRK borders still largely closed, and amid icy North-South ties, it is unclear whether any of this has actually been delivered.

: 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), North Korea’s rubber-stamp Parliament, opens its 7th session: second this year.

: MOU says it has approved an NGO’s application to send “nutritional” aid to North Korea. No further details are revealed. This is its eighth such approval this year, and the first under Yoon. With DPRK borders still largely closed, and amid icy North-South ties, it is unclear how much of this has been delivered.

: 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), North Korea’s rubber-stamp Parliament, opens its 7th session: the second this year.

: ROK military authorities say Pyongyang appears to have again opened the floodgates at its Hwanggang dam without notifying Seoul, as inter-Korean accords stipulate. It did the same in late June and early August. MOU says that during today’s regular call on the inter-Korean hotline, it tried to deliver a formal reminder of the need for advance notice. However, “the DPRK [sic] ended the call without clarifying its position.”

: Park Sang-hak says FFNK conducted another balloon launch, their fourth since July 6: “We sent 20 balloons to the North from Ganghwado…on Sept. 4 loaded with 50,000 tablets of Tylenol [painkillers], 30,000 tablets of vitamin C supplements and 20,000 masks to help North Korean compatriots who are suffering from COVID-19.” One balloon carries large pictures of Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong: caption calls for their extermination.

: ROK military authorities say Pyongyang appears to have again opened the floodgates at its Hwanggang dam without notifying Seoul, as inter-Korean accords stipulate it must. The North did the same in late June and early August. MOU says that during today’s regular call on the inter-Korean hotline, it tried to deliver a formal reminder of the need for advance notice. However, “the DPRK [sic] ended the call without clarifying its position.”

: Park Sang-hak, head of the militant activist group Freedom Fighters for North Korea (FFNK), says his group conducted another balloon launch, their fourth since July 6. “We sent 20 balloons to the North from Ganghwado…on Sept. 4 loaded with 50,000 tablets of Tylenol [painkillers], 30,000 tablets of vitamin C supplements and 20,000 masks to help North Korean compatriots who are suffering from COVID-19.” One balloon carries large pictures of Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong: the caption calls for their extermination.

: In its first commentary on Ulchi Freedom Shield (not carried in domestic media such as Rodong Sinmun), KCNA prints in full (3,400 words) a “research report” by the “Society for International Politics Study.” Surveying 70 years of US-ROK war games—in their words. “Aggressive War Drills Lasting on Earth in Longest Period” (sic)—this warns that “the possibility of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is now becoming a present-tense matter.”

: In its first commentary on Ulchi Freedom Shield (albeit not carried in domestic media such as Rodong Sinmun), the DPRK’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) publishes the full 3,400-word text of a “research report” by the “Society for International Politics Study.” Surveying 70 years of US-ROK joint military maneuvers—or in their words, “Aggressive War Drills Lasting on Earth in Longest Period” (sic)—this warns that “the possibility of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is now becoming a present-tense matter.”

: Korea Global Forum for Peace (KGFP), hosted by MOU on Aug. 30-Sept. 1, admits it suffered a data breach on Aug. 29 in which attendees’ personal data was leaked. No fingers are pointed, but North Korean hackers are increasingly targeting DPRK-watchers, among others.

: Korea Global Forum for Peace (KGFP), a big international conference hosted by South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Aug. 30-Sept. 1, admits that it suffered a data breach on Aug. 29 where attendees” personal data was leaked. No fingers are pointed, but North Korean hackers are increasingly targeting DPRK-watchers, among others.

: Urimizokkiri, a DPRK website for external consumption, lambastes the just-ended Ulchi Freedom Shieldwar games as “an extremely hostile and anti-national hysteria and an unprecedented military provocation. The Yoonites who spit out hostile remarks and run wild to ignite an aggressive war are the villains against peace and security in the Korean Peninsula.”

: Uriminzokkiri, a DPRK website for external consumption, lambastes the just-ended Ulchi Freedom ShieldUS-ROK military exercises as “an extremely hostile and anti-national hysteria and an unprecedented military provocation. The Yoonites [sic: the ROK President is Yoon Suk Yeol] who spit out hostile remarks and run wild to ignite an aggressive war are the villains against peace and security in the Korean Peninsula.”

: South Korea reveals its budget for 2023, the first under Yoon. Amid the first fall in overall spending for 13 years, MOU’s budget suffers its first cut since 2018: down from 1.5 to 1.45 trillion won. Within this, the humanitarian aid component is set to rise 15.1% to 751 billion won ($558 million), to finance Yoon’s “audacious initiative.” (As under Moon Jae-in, the prospect of such funds being disbursed is remote.) Defense spending is slated to rise 4.6% to 57.1 trillion won ($42.3 billion): a sum larger than North Korea’s entire GDP.

: ROK DM Lee tells the National Assembly that, as Yonhap’s headline summarizes it: “N. Korea set for nuke test, but no sign of action yet.”

: South Korea’s official Truth and Reconciliation Commission confirms that in Yeongam county in South Jeolla province, “local leftists and North Korean partisans” killed 133 civilians between August and November 1950, during the Korean War. According to Yonhap, the targets “were mostly police, civil servants, members of a right-wing youth group and other people classified as right-wingers and their families…Some people known to be wealthy and Christians were also sacrificed.” 41% of victims were female; 36% were children aged under 15.

: Seoul Central District Court finds in favor of seven veterans and one widow, who in 2020 sued Kim Jong Un and the DPRK government over injuries and losses suffered during an inter-Korean naval skirmish off Yeonpyeong island in 2002. The defendants are ordered to pay 20 million won ($14,886) to each complainant, plus 5% annual interest for the past 20 years. Like similar cases in the US, this is largely symbolic. (By an earlier Supreme Court ruling, North Korea, constitutionally defined as an anti-government organization, is regarded as a “juridical person” under the ROK Civil Procedure Act.)

: South Korea and the US launch Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS): their first large field-training military exercises in four years. Normally annual, such maneuvers were scaled back or suspended for four years (2018-21) under Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in, partly for diplomatic reasons and also due to COVID-19. The exercise concludes on Sept. 1.

: Responding to Kim Yo Jong’s broadside, South Korea’s presidential office says: “We consider it very regrettable that North Korea continues to use rude language while mentioning the president by name, and continued to express its nuclear development intentions while distorting our ‘audacious plan.’”

: MOU Kwon says his government will, as Yonhap puts it, “strive to create a condition for North Korea to embrace” President Yoon’s “audacious initiative.” Seoul plans to “to send more specific messages to the North, going forward.”

: Kim Yo Jong issues a further statement, titled “Don’t have an absurd dream.” KCNA publishes this on Aug. 19. Contemptuously rejecting Yoon’s “bold plan” as a rehash of equally unacceptable past offers by “traitor Lee Myung-bak,” she adds: “We don’t like Yoon Suk Yeol…Though he may knock at the door with [whatever] large plan in the future as his ‘bold plan’ does not work, we make it clear that we will not sit face to face with him.”

: At a press conference marking his first 100 days in office, Yoon clarifies that his ‘audacious offer’ does not require North Korea’s complete denuclearization right away: “As long as they demonstrate firm commitment, we will do what we can do to help them.” He denies hostile intent: “[N]either I nor the Republic of Korea government wants the status quo changed unreasonably or by force in North Korea.”

: In its first missile test for over two months, North Korea fires two cruise missiles into the Yellow Sea. South Korea says these were launched from Onchon; Kim Yo Jong, mocking their inaccuracy, corrects this to Anju.

: MOU says it “urges and hopes” North Korea will respond to “our…sincere proposal for peace on the Korean Peninsula and the common prosperity of the South and the North.” But it has no plans to request working-level contact specifically about this.

: In his speech for Liberation Day—from Japan in 1945; a public holiday in both Koreas—Yoon fleshes out his “audacious plan” to aid North Korea, slightly. (Appendix I contains his remarks in full.)

: Seoul rebuffs Pyongyang. MOU “expresses strong regret over North Korea’s insolent and threatening remarks based on repeated groundless claims regarding the inflow of the coronavirus.”

: At a specially convened “national meeting of reviewing the emergency anti-epidemic work,” North Korea proclaims (as KCNA headlines it) a “Brilliant Victory Gained by Great People of DPRK.” Kim Jong Un declares the coronavirus “eradicated.” In her first known public speech (as opposed to written commentary), his sister Kim Yo Jong praises her brother’s dedication, implying he too was infected. But she savages South Korea, in absurd and obscene terms, accusing the “puppet conservative gangsters” of infecting the North by “a farce ofscattering leaflets, bank notes, dirty booklets and other shit over our territory.”

: An MOU official notes: “As rain has fallen heavily in North Korea, the North is repeatedly opening and closing the floodgates of Hwanggang Dam,” upstream on the Imjin river which flows into South Korea. As before Pyongyang did not notify Seoul. With northern South Korea pounded by the heaviest rain in 80 years, officials in ROK’s Gyeonggi province warn that the Imjin has risen dangerously.

: Amid renewed controversy regarding the Moon administration’s deportation of two DPRK fishermen, MOU Kwon says the ROK should be clear on the principle that it accepts “all” defectors. Kwon calls the 2019 incident a “forced repatriation.

: South Korea’s arms procurement agency, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), tellsthe National Assembly it is working on almost 200—197, to be exact—separate projects to beef up defenses against North Korea’s evolving WMD threats.

: ROK NSO responds, with notable restraint: “We express deep regret that Chairman Kim Jong Un made threatening remarks at our government while mentioning the president by name.”

: Bank of Korea (BoK), South Korea’s central bank, publishes annual estimates of North Korea’s economy. It reckons Northern GDP fell by 0.1% last year: an improvement on 2020’s minus 4.5%. The inter-Korean trade gap – actual, not estimated – is now unimaginably wide. In 2021 South Korea exported almost as much every hour as North Korea managed in the entire year.

: In a speech on what the DPRK clebrates as “the 69th anniversary of the great victory in the [Korean] War,” otherwise known as the 1953 Armistice, Kim Jong Un for the first time mentions his ROK counterpart by name: “We can no longer sit around seeing Yoon Suk Yeol and his military gangsters’ misdemeanors.” Should the “military ruffians” venture a pre-emptive strike, the “Yoon [Suk Yeol] regime and its army will be annihilated.”

: MND Lee tells Parliament that since the 2018 North-South accords, when Kim Jong Un committed to denuclearization, North Korea is reckoned to have grown its stockpile of fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) by 10%.

: MOU issues a fresh 2022 Work Plan, reflecting the new government’s stance. While claiming to address North Korea’s security concerns, the official summary—to “pursue peaceful unification based on the basic free and democratic order to realize a denuclearized, peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula”—can hardly appeal to Pyongyang. Nor will plans for a new foundation on DPRK human rights. More interesting is a tentative proposal to unban DPRK media in the ROK, supposedly in hopes that the North might follow suit.

: South Korea reopens Panmunjom to journalists and tourists, after a six-month hiatus due to COVID-19. UN Command (UNC) guides note that for two years since the pandemic began, DPRK troops have hardly emerged from their buildings. The Northern side, formerly well maintained and neat, is overgrown with weeds and unkempt.

: Ministry of Foreign Affairs names Lee Shin-hwa, professor at Korea University, as the ROK’s first ambassador for North Korean human rights since 2017. Moon Jae-in’s government left the position vacant, as part of its drive to engage Pyongyang.

: Both MOU and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) say there was no legal basis for Moon Jae-in’s government to repatriate the two fishermen to North Korea.

: Yoon’s presidential office condemns its predecessor’s repatriation of the fishermen as a potential “crime against humanity,” and vows a full investigation.

: MOU publishes unseen photographs of the repatriation of DPRK fishermen at Panmunjom in Nov. 2019. Though heavily pixelated, the images show the men bound and blindfolded; one tries to resist as they are handed over. Video footage is released on July 18.

: FFNK says it has again sent balloons carrying supplies to fight the pandemic across the DMZ. Besides 70,000 painkillers, 30,000 vitamin C tablets, and 20,000 masks, it also includes posters saying “We denounce Kim Jong Un, a hypocrite who let the vicious infectious disease from China spread and put the blame on anti-North leaflets.” MOU again urges FFNK to cease such activities.

: In similar tough-talking vein, at his first meeting with top military commanders (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, plus the MND and JCS chairman), President Yoon orders them “to swiftly and firmly punish North Korea [if] it carries out a provocation.”

: ROK’s new JCS Chairman, army Gen. Kim Seung-kyum, warns: “If North Korea provokes, our military will definitely have it pay a hefty price…through unsparing retaliation….(We) will inscribe even onto its bones (the message) that there’s nothing to gain from provocations.”

: ROK JCS says it is “paying keen attention” and watching out for any sign of Korean Peoples’ Army (KPA) summer drills, usually held in July. So far it has only seen small-scale “related maneuvers,” perhaps due to recent torrential rain.

: In a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the first South-North Joint Statement, MOU Kwon says his government will seek a “new structure” of inter-Korean dialogue, including nuclear talks: “We cannot just sit on our hands and leave nuclear negotiations to the international community.”

: Marking the same anniversary, DPRK Today says: “Until this day, a vicious cycle of confrontation and tension has repeated itself on the Korean Peninsula.” It blames “the South Korean authorities who have neglected the three principles for national unification of autonomy, peace, and solidarity of the Korean nation, and failed to faithfully implement the inter-Korean agreement.”

: MOU confirms “it is presumed that North Korea has recently opened the floodgates of Hwanggang Dam.” However, water levels on the Imjin River remain stable.

: MOU says that although the inter-Korean liaison hotline is operational, the North is still unresponsive to efforts to fax a formal request to be notified before dam waters are released.

: Seoul says it has not succeeded in sending an official message asking to be notified before Pyongyang discharges water from its dams, as seems to have happened after recent heavy rains. This morning the inter-Korean hotline was not working, possibly due to flood damage. It was restored by the afternoon, but the North did not agree to accept the message – which was instead conveyed informally and verbally, via a separate military hotline. After six South Koreans drowned in flash floods in 2009 caused by such a discharge, the two Koreas agreed to notify each other in future before doing this.

: ROK Premier Han Duck-soo tells the Korean Peninsula Peace Symposium that (in Yonhap’s summary) “Seoul intends to normalize inter-Korean relations through a bold plan for substantial denuclearization and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, while upholding the principles of its relations with Pyongyang.”

: ROK Coast Guard’s head again apologizes for “causing misunderstanding” regarding the 2020 death of fisheries official Lee Dae-jun. Lee’s family lodges criminal complaints against three of ex-President Moon’s secretaries, including former National Security Advisor Suh Hoon, accusing them of dereliction of duty and obstruction.

: Reviving a second inter-Korean incident considered closed, Yoon strongly hints that his administration may investigate his predecessor Moon Jae-in’s repatriation in 2019 of two North Korean fishermen, who had allegedly killed 16 of their crewmates: “Haven’t the people had many questions about it?” (See also July 12 below, and thereafter.)

: In his first press conference, MOU Kwon Young-se says: “I will try harder to shift the currently chilled inter-Korean ties into a phase of dialogue…I am willing to meet with the head of [North Korea’s] UFD, Ri Son Gwon, any time in any format.”

: PPP says it will launch a task force into Lee Dae-jun’s death, and calls for Moon Jae-in to be investigated. Refusing to cooperate, opposition leader Woo Sang-ho says Moon “strongly protested” to the North and got “a rare apology” from Kim Jong Un: “It is a case where we brought North Korea to its knees, not where we pussyfooted around it.”

: Unexpectedly resurrecting the case of Lee Dae-jun (see here for details), the ROK Coast Guard now says“no evidence was found to confirm his intention to defect.” It apologizes for imputing that motive at the time. MND reassesses the case similarly. The (NSO) withdraws an appeal, filed under Moon Jae-in, against a court order to disclose classified information about Lee’s death to his family.

: On the 22nd anniversary of the Joint Declaration, adopted at the first North-South summit in Pyongyang in June 2000 by then-leaders Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae-jung, MOU Kwon Young-se pledges a consistent stance: “[Our] policy on North Korea will open a new path that embraces the flexibility shown by the previous liberal administrations, as well as a stable stance kept by conservative administrations in the past.” He calls on Pyongyang to respect inter-Korean agreements and desist from military provocations.

: North Korea’s Committee to Uphold the June 15 Joint Declaration sends a message to its Southern counterpart: “The conservative force that newly took power in the South has taken itself as an assault force for the realization of the US’ hostile policy.”

: Commenting (on background) on the new DPRK foreign minister, an MOU official cautions: “It is difficult to construe the replacement of a particular official as being necessarily related to any change in North Korea’s external policy.” The Sejong Institute’s Cheong Seong-chang notes Ri Son Gwon’s past hawkishness, and even rudeness, toward Seoul. His reassignment may presage a renewed anti-South offensive.

: Lee Young-hoon, senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church (YFGC), the largest Pentecostal denomination in Korea, says the DPRK has asked the church to build ‘people’s hospitals’ in all its 260 counties. He offers no details. YFGC began constructing a cardiac hospital in Pyongyang in 2007, but work stopped after 2010’s Cheonan incident. In November YFGC obtained a UN sanctions waiver to send some 1,500 medical and related items to North Korea; this has yet to take place.

: ROK presidential office adds that the NSO met yesterday, while the suspected MRL test was ongoing, and discussed it. President Yoon did not attend.

: Following media reports that North Korea test-fired multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) earlier today, the JCS belatedly says it observed “trails” consistent with that.

: North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) holds Fifth Enlarged Plenary Meeting of its Eighth Central Committee (their capitals). A wide-ranging agenda includes personnel reshuffles. Choe Son Hui, a seasoned negotiator with the US, becomes the DPRK’s first female minister of foreign affairs, replacing Ri Son Gwon, who takes charge of inter-Korean relations as head of the United Front Department (UFD).

: In a further reaction, the US and South Korea stage a combined demonstration of air power involving 20 planes over the Yellow Sea. Four USAF F-16 fighters join 16 ROKAF combat aircraft, including F-35A stealth fighters, F-15Ks and KF-16s.

: Activist group Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK) claims that on June 5 it sent 20 balloons carrying COVID-19 related supplies—20,000 masks, 30,000 vitamin C pills and 15,000 pain-killers—across the DMZ. In a change of tone but not message from the Moon era, MOU says that while “we fully understand the group’s efforts to help North Koreans,” such actions are unhelpful – and illegal under the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act. A police investigation is launched.

: US and South Korea riposte by firing eight missiles—ground-to-ground Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) —in a 10-minute pre-dawn burst from a single location in Gangwon-do on the east coast.

: A day after the US-ROK navy drill ends, North Korea fires eight short-range missiles (SRBMs) from four different locations into the East Sea/Sea of Japan. Distances flown range between 110 and 670 km, with altitude varying from 25 to 90 km. This is the DPRK’s 18th missile launch this year, its third since Yoon took office, and the largest batch of missiles Pyongyang has launched on one day.

: JCS announces that on June 2-4 the ROK and US held their first joint exercises including a US aircraft carrier for over four years, in international waters off Okinawa. The drills involved air defense, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and maritime interdiction operations.

: On his first visit to the defense ministry and the JCS, President Yoon says he appreciates their dedication and calls for “a firm military readiness posture [to] be maintained.”

: Unnamed officials tell Yonhap that on May 9 (before Yoon took office) MND began distributing new troop instruction materials referring to the North Korean military and regime as “our enemy,” after incoming minister Lee Jong-sup called for “clear education” on this point. Under Moon Jae-in the E-word was eschewed, in favor of “real military threats.” MND is canvassing opinion on whether its next defense White Paper should also revert to naming the North as an enemy.

: In his first media interview since taking office, Yoon tells CNN that, as they headline it, the “age of appeasing North Korea is over.” He adds: “I think the ball is in Chairman Kim [Jong Un]’s court—it is his choice to start a dialogue with us.”

: Hours after President Biden leaves the region, North Korea launches three missiles – including a suspected ICBM—off its east coast. Shortly afterward, the US and South Korea fire two missiles: their first such joint response since 2017

: On the 12th anniversary of the “May 24 measures,” whereby Seoul banned almost all inter-Korean trade (except at the then Kaesong Industrial Complex) in retaliation for the sinking of the ROKN frigate Cheonan, MOU says these sanctions “can be reviewed in accordance with a principles-based and practical approach”—but will remain in effect for now. Meanwhile, at a press conference outside the ministry, entrepreneurs who pioneered North-South commerce protest at the loss of their livelihood: “Over 1,000 businessmen are living miserably, with several having gone bankrupt or turned into delinquent borrowers.”

: According to a poll by Gallup Korea, 72% of South Koreans support helping North Korea tackle COVID-19, while 22% are opposed. Those in their 20s are evenly split.

: ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) says it is trying to confirm media reports that five DPRK border crossers have been arrested in Dandong, China. MOU restates South Korea’s position: “North Korean defectors living abroad can go to any place they desire of their own free will.”

: According to South Korean lawmakers after a confidential briefing—promptly leaked to the media, as usual in Seoul—the NIS reckons North Korea has completed preparations for a nuclear test, “and they’re gauging the timing.” NIS also assesses that Kim Jong Un is unlikely to have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

: Yonhap reports that MND will reinstate the original “hawkish names” for two elements of South Korea’s “three-axis” defense system against Northern WMD: Kill Chain, and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR. The third is Korea Air and Missile Defense). Under Moon Jae-in these were renamed as “strategic target strike” and “overwhelming response,” respectively. A spokesman says reviving the old names adds “clarity.”

: Three Southern NGOs offer medical aid worth 12 billion won ($10 million) to help North Korea fight COVID-19. Urging Pyongyang to accept, they say they will reach out via “all [possible] routes.” Meanwhile, MOU notes that for a fourth day the North has stayed silent regarding the South’s bid to send a formal offer of assistance.

: Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy chief of the ROK’s presidential National Security Office (NSO), says a North Korean ICBM test looks “imminent.”

: Yoon repeats offer of aid to fight COVID-19: “We must not hold back…we will not spare any necessary support.” While that offer is unconditional, he notes that the security situation is worsening and calls for “a sustainable peace under which the process of North Korea’s denuclearization and inter-Korean trust building form a virtuous cycle.”

: MOU says Pyongyang has been “unresponsive” to its offer to cooperate against COVID-19. At the regular daily 9 a.m. test call on the liaison office communication line, Seoul conveys its wish to fax a letter signed by Minister Kwon Young-se at 11 a.m. The second daily call at 5 p.m. passes without the North clarifying whether it would accept this message. The ROK Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) says the South has ample stocks of vaccine to share; adding that the North’s outbreak is “probably much more serious than what has been announced.”

: A day after the DPRK admits an outbreak of COVID-19, President Yoon offers to send COVID-19 vaccines. His spokesperson says: “We will hold discussions with the North Korean side about details.” The North today reports six deaths, and that a total of 350,000 people “got fever in a short span of time,” with 18,000 new cases on May 12 alone; 187,8000 “are being isolated and treated.” However one of Yoon’s officials tells reporters, on background: “We know more than what was announced. It’s more serious than thought.” It cannot be assumed that Pyongyang will accept this and other offers of vaccine aid.

: A day after the DPRK admits an outbreak of COVID-19, Yoon offers to send COVID-19 vaccines. His spokesperson says: “We will hold discussions with the North Korean side about details.” The North today reports six deaths, and that a total of 350,000 people “got fever in a short span of time,” with 18,000 new cases on May 12 alone; 187,8000 “are being isolated and treated.” One of Yoon’s officials tells reporters on background: “We know more than what was announced. It’s more serious than thought.”

: Sources tell Yonhap that, by order of new Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup to the JCS, the ROK military will revert to calling DPRK missile tests “provocations”: a term eschewed under Moon. Seoul will also refer to “unidentified ballistic missiles” rather than “unidentified projectiles.” In a similar hardening of tone, the presidential National Security Office (NSO) “strongly condemns” Pyongyang’s latest missile launch today, and “deplore[s] North Korea’s two-faced actions” of continuing ballistic missile provocations while neglecting its people’s lives and safety amid a coronavirus outbreak.

: Sources tell the quasi-official news agency Yonhap that, by order of Defense Minister Lee, the ROK military will revert to calling DPRK missile tests “provocations,” a term avoided under Moon. Seoul will also refer to “unidentified ballistic missiles” rather than “unidentified projectiles.” In a similar hardening of tone, the presidential National Security Office (NSO) “strongly condemns” Pyongyang’s latest missile launch today, and “deplore[s] North Korea’s two-faced actions” of continuing ballistic missile provocations while neglecting its people’s lives and safety amid a coronavirus outbreak.

: Yoon picks Kim Kyou-hyun, a career diplomat and onetime deputy national security adviser, as head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), succeeding Park Jie-won. Kwon Chun-taek, a former NIS official and diplomat, will be first deputy director: a job largely focused on North Korea. (Some had tipped Kwon for the top job.) Like ministers, Kyou must undergo a parliamentary confirmation hearing, but approval is not mandatory.

: Yoon picks Kim Kyou-hyun, a career diplomat and onetime deputy national security adviser, as head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), succeeding Park Jie-won. Kwon Chun-taek, a former NIS official and diplomat, will be first deputy director, a job largely focused on North Korea. Kim must undergo a parliamentary confirmation hearing; he is duly approved on May 26.

: Yoon Suk-yeol is duly inaugurated as president of the Republic of Korea.

: Yoon Suk Yeol of the People Power Party (PPP) is inaugurated president of South Korea for a single five-year terrm, succeeding Moon Jae-in (2017-2022). Moon’s Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) still controls the National Assembly.

: Incoming MND Lee Jong-sup tells his National Assembly confirmation hearing that North Korea is an “evident” enemy, given its nuclear and missile threats.

: In North Korea’s 15th missile launch this year, the ROK JCS report an apparent submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test in waters near the east coast city of Sinpo. The projectile flew 600 km, reaching 60 km in altitude. The DPRK’s last SLBM test was in October. The JCS adds that it is “maintaining a full readiness posture.” Incoming National Security Adviser (NSA) Kim Sung-han says the Yoon administration will reassess the DPRK’s WMD threat, to “come up with fundamental measures against North Korea’s provocations and actual deterrence capabilities against its nuclear missile threats.”

: In North Korea’s 15th missile launch this year, the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) report an apparent submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test in waters near the east coast city of Sinpo. This flew 600 km, reaching 60km in altitude. (The DPRK’s last SLBM test was in October.) The JCS says it is “maintaining a full readiness posture.” Incoming National Security Adviser (NSA) Kim Sung-han says the Yoon administration will reassess the DPRK’s WMD threat, to “come up with fundamental measures against North Korea’s provocations and actual deterrence capabilities against its nuclear missile threats.”

: Both the outgoing and soon-to-be ROK governments condemn the DPRK’s missile launch today, its 14th this year. The NSC calls on Pyongyang “to stop its actions that pose serious threats.” Yoon’s transition team promises “more fundamental deterrence measures.”

: Lee Jong-sup, former three-star general who is Yoon’s nominee to be the next Minister of National Defense, tells his parliamentary confirmation hearing that South Korea could be a nuclear target for North Korea.

: Both the outgoing and soon-to-be ROK governments condemn the DPRK’s latest missile launch today, its 14th this year. The presidential National Security Council (NSC) calls on Pyongyang “to stop its actions that pose serious threats.” President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol’s transition team promises “more fundamental deterrence measures.”

: Lee Jong-sup, the former three-star general who is Yoon’s nominee to be minister of National Defense (MND), tells his parliamentary confirmation hearing that South Korea could be a nuclear target for North Korea. (See also May 8.)

: Family of Lee Dae-jun, the South Korean fisheries official shot and incinerated in Northern waters in September 2020, file suit in Seoul Central District Court against the DPRK government. They seek 200 million won ($159,000) in compensation for mental suffering caused to the deceased’s young son and daughter. MND and the Blue House are appealing a separate court order to disclose all information they possess to the family.

: Defector activist group FFNK claims that on April 25-26 it sent 20 large balloons, carrying around 1 million leaflets, across the DMZ into North Korea. Information therein included about Yoon Suk-yeol’s election. Such actions are now illegal; FFNK’s leader Park Sang-hak is on trial for two earlier launches (see Jan. 25 above). MOU says it is investigating, including whether this claimed flight actually happened.

: MOU responds to Kim Jong Un’s parade speech: “North Korea should stop all acts that heighten tensions, including the advancement of its nuclear capabilities, and…return to the negotiating table.”

: Moon urges his successor to work with the US to bring Kim Jong Un’s regime back to talks. Admitting that the North’s ICBM launch in March “crossed a red line” and “may be a sign that [Pyongyang] would end dialogue,” he adds: “I hope North Korea will make a rational choice.”

: Responding to North Korea’s parade, President-elect Yoon’s transition team says his administration will bolster deterrence and strengthen the US-ROK alliance “while simultaneously developing far-superior military technologies and weapons systems.”

: North Korea stages a nocturnal military parade in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un’s speech emphasizes the need “for further developing the nuclear forces of our state at the fastest possible speed,” including for a possible “unexpected second mission…at a time when a situation we are not desirous of at all is created on this land.” He does not elaborate.

: MOU says it has asked North Korea, via the inter-Korean liaison line, for further information on the previous day’s fire at the KIC.

: KCNA reveals that Moon Jae-in wrote Kim Jong Un a personal letter on April 20. Kim sent a reply on April 21, “appreciat[ing] the pains and effort taken by Moon Jae In for the great cause of the nation until the last days of his term of office.” After further pleasantries, KCNA concludes: “The exchange of the personal letters between the top leaders of the north and the south is an expression of their deep trust.” The Blue House confirms the exchange of letters and their warm tenor. Neither side published the letters in full.

: New MOU nominee Kwon Young-se says resuming Kumgangsan tours is not “a desirable idea in the current situation,” and “won’t be easy as it is subject to sanctions.” He adds that Seoul must “clearly” challenge Pyongyang’s dismantlement of some facilities there. But he also supports humanitarian aid, and opposes any blanket rejection of Moon’s policies.

: MOU reports a fire at a factory in the former Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), shut since 2016. Spotted around 1400 local time, the blaze is extinguished by 1450.

: Lee Sang-min, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), says North Korea might use tactical nuclear arms in a contingency to offset its conventional inferiority. However, US and ROK forces are overwhelmingly stronger.

: In written answers to lawmakers’ questions ahead of his parliamentary confirmation hearing, Yoon’s MND nominee Lee Jong-sup clarifies: “I am not of the position that the Sept. 19 South-North military agreement should be scrapped.” Rather, he plans to verify if the 2018 accord is being faithfully implemented. As to whether ROK defense white papers should characterize North Korea as a ‘main enemy’: “I will decide carefully.”

: MOU says North Korea remains unresponsive to the South’s enquiries about demolition at Mount Kumgang. Citing satellite imagery, Voice of America (VOA) reported that the seven-story floating Haegumgang Hotel has lost half its height, while a golf resort has eight buildings now minus their roofs and outer walls.

: Park Jin, four-term PPP lawmaker nominated to be Yoon’s foreign minister, declares that the new Yoon Suk-yeol administration “will pursue a balanced policy, based on common sense, toward North Korea.” He adds: “ [We] can’t prevent North Korea’s continued provocations only with conciliatory policy…[A] substantial policy change is needed.”

: On Kim Il Sung’s 110th birthday, the ROK government publishes a dossier on the two Koreas’ behind-the-scenes diplomacy prior to their becoming full UN members in 1991. 405,000 pages of diplomatic documents now 30 years old have been declassified.

: Asserting a linkage largely eschewed by Moon Jae-in, MOU nominee Kwon says inter-Korean normalization will be “difficult” as long as Pyongyang continues to build up its nuclear arsenal. He adds: “For sure, (we) will make a request for dialogue.” However, Seoul cannot incessantly dangle “carrots” while continually rebuffed.

: Lee Do-hoon, who served Moon Jae-in as special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs but switched allegiance to Yoon Suk-yeol, warns the incoming government to be cautious about pursuing sanctions relief: a key goal for Moon, though unachieved. He argues: “Once cash flows into the North, denuclearization will be off the table.” On May 9 Yoon appoints Lee as vice foreign minister.

: Yoon Suk-yeol nominates Kwon Young-se, a four-term lawmaker and former Ambassador to China, as his first unification minister. Having been confirmed by the National Assembly, Kwon is sworn in and begins work exactly a month later on May 13.

: In an unprecedented move for a president-elect, Yoon Suk-yeol flies by helicopter to Camp Humphreys, the huge USFK headquarters near Pyeongtaek south of Seoul. Sharing a canteen meal with US and ROK troops, he vows to strengthen deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

: Unification Minister Lee In-young warns that “April is a time laden with many factors that could lead to the escalation of inter-Korean military tensions.” In strong terms by his standards, he adds: “It is very unfortunate not only for the North but for the future of our nation if (sic) it has chosen nuke (sic) and missiles, disregarding dialogue.”

: In his last regular press conference as unification minister, Lee In-young urges the incoming administration to adopt a “forward-looking” approach to North Korea. A propos the DPRK’s breaking of its ICBM moratorium, and amid signs of preparations for a fresh nuclear test, Lee says: “We must put an end to this right here.”

: Kim Yo Jong repeats her earlier message, only at greater length and naming “So Uk” (Suh Wook), whom she accuses of “abrupt bluffing” and “an irretrievable very big mistake.” She warns: “In case south Korea opts for military confrontation with us, our nuclear combat force will have to inevitably carry out its duty.” Yet she also avers: “We will not fire even a single bullet or shell toward south Korea. It is because we do not regard it as match for our armed forces.” Also, “the north and the south of Korea are of the same nation who should not fight against each other.” She concludes: “I pray that such morbid symptom as feeling threat for no ground would be cured as early as possible.”

: After Kim Yo Jong’s verbal volleys, MOU “clearly points out that North Korea should not cause additional tension on the Korean Peninsula in any case.” It adds that routine daily inter-Korean phone calls are still taking place as normal.

: In her first public comment since Sept., published a day later, Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong castigates South Korea’s defense minister—a “confrontation maniac” and “senseless and scum-like guy”—for “reckless and intemperate rhetoric” about a “preemptive strike” on the DPRK. She concludes: “I will give a serious warning upon authorization. We will reconsider a lot of things concerning south Korea. South Korea should discipline itself if it wants to stave off disaster. I hope I don’t hear him blustering again.” (It is not clear that Suh actually used the word preemptive, though he certainly said strike; see April 1.)

: ROK Defense Minister Suh Wook stresses that South Korean missiles can “accurately and swiftly strike any targets in North Korea.” Earlier the same day, he vows to develop an “advanced, multilayered missile defense system that the North does not possess.”

: Briefing the ROK National Assembly, MND claims publicly that March 24’s ICBM test was indeed a Hwasong -15, not -17. (See March 27, above.)

: “Informed sources” claim that both the ROK and US military reckon the DPRK’s recent ICBM launch was not in fact a Hwasong-17, as officially touted, but rather the slightly smaller Hwasong-15, previously tested in 2017. They speculate that March 16’s failed test really was a Hwasong-17, and Pyongyang could not risk a second failure. On close inspection, KCTV’s video spliced footage from two launches, with different locations, time of day and weather. (That said, two earlier tests on Feb. 27 and March 5, announced as being satellite-related, are thought to have involved elements of the Hwasong-17 system.)

: Ending (as presaged on Jan. 20) its four-year moratorium on ICBM tests, North Korea stages what it celebrates as a successful first launch of the Hwasongpho-17: its largest missile, paraded but not yet known to have flown. Korean Central Television (KCTV) issues a highly untypical movie-style video of the launch.

: In tougher terms than usual, Moon “strongly condemns” the North’s ICBM test as “a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula and beyond,” and “a scrapping on its own (sic) of a moratorium on ICBM tests that…Kim Jong Un promised to the international community.” This is also “a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions.” Moon calls on Pyongyang to immediately stop actions that raise tensions and return to the dialogue table.

: South Korea responds to North’s ICBM launch with a live-fire missile exercise in the East Sea (Sea of Japan). The JCS warns that “(we) have the ability and posture to precisely strike the origin of the missile launch and command and support facilities at any time.”

: President-elect Yoon’s transition committee TC spokesperson says: “There will be no abolition of the unification ministry.” Rather, MOU will be restored to its “proper function” instead of just taking orders from the Blue House. The TC also denies that Yoon’s Nordpolitik will be hard-line.

: “Informed source” tells Yonhap that MOU has formed a 10-member panel to review secret documents on the first two decades of inter-Korean talks (1971-91), with a view to publishing them. (See also April 15, below.)

: Two days after the KPA fires four rounds from multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) into the West Sea, Yoon Suk-yeol calls this “a clear violation” of Sept. 2018’s inter-Korean military agreement. However ROK MND Suh Wook denies any breach, saying this took place “far north” of the border area covered by the accord. Yoon’s team shoot back that it violated the spirit of the agreement; they accuse Suh of “protecting” the North.

: ROK JCS says that a seeming DPRK missile launch from Sunan, near Pyongyang’s airport, appears to have failed. Eye-witnesses report a loud bang and seeing burning debris. North Korean media say nothing, now and subsequently.

: Belatedly reporting a poll last August by the Korea National Defense University (KNDU), PPP Rep. Kang Dae-sik says that 70.6% of South Koreans believe North Korea will never denuclearize completely. 61.3% regard the DPRK as hostile, while 22.1% consider it a partner for cooperation. Over 80% reckon China would take the North’s side in any crisis on the peninsula. A slightly earlier survey, by the state-run Korean Institute for National Unification (KINU), found 90.7% skeptical about Pyongyang’s will to denuclearize.

: Amid signs that North Korea has begun dismantling South Korean-built and owned facilities at long-shuttered Mount Kumgang resort, as Kim Jong Un first threatened to do in 2019, MOU says it has received no new word from Pyongyang. Its spokesperson adds: “There shouldn’t be unilateral measures by the North that infringe upon our companies’ property rights, and all…issues should be resolved through consultations between the South and the North.”

: North Korea’s Uriminzokkiri website, aimed at outside audiences, attacks as “paranoiac convulsion” South Korea’s (and the US’) claim that recent DPRK satellite-related test launches on Feb. 27 and March 5 actually involved ICBM development.

: In an item headlined “20th ‘presidential’ election held in south Korea,” the DPRK’s Voice of Korea says (this is the full report): “Yun Sok Yol, candidate of the ‘People’s Strength’ (sic), a conservative opposition party, was elected ‘President’ by a small majority at the 20th ‘presidential’ election held in south Korea on March 9.” (Scare quotes and capitalization in original). VOK is for external consumption, so North Koreans are not privy to this news.

: Yoon Suk-yeol narrowly wins South Korea’s presidential election for the PPP, defeating the DP’s Lee Jae-myung by just 0.73% (they poll 16,394,815 and 16,147,738 votes, respectively). Despite the tight margin, Lee swiftly concedes.

: MND says it has sent back a DPRK vessel and its crew of seven, seized yesterday after breaching the NLL. The intruders explained that they accidentally crossed the line due to fog while transporting materials between two islands, and refused to eat until they were repatriated. Alert for provocations around election time, Seoul accepts that this was just a “navigational error and mechanical glitch.”

: Amid reports of fresh activity at the DPRK’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, supposedly blown up in 2018, MOU urges Pyongyang to abide by international agreements.

: DPRK patrol boat breaches the Northern Limit Line (NLL, the de facto maritime border in the Yellow/West Sea), seemingly chasing a stray Northern vessel which has also crossed the line. It retreats aftyer an Southern warship fires three warning shots. The ROK Navy apprehends the other DPRK vessel (story continues on March 9).

: President Moon tells the Korea Army Academy that (in Yonhap’s summary): “Based on strong defense capabilities, South Korea has pushed for peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula and turned North Korea’s nuclear crisis into a mode of dialogue.” He adds that the ROK has the “biggest security burden” in the world: “For now, the top priority is to deter war between the South and North, but from a broader and long-term point of view, the geopolitical situation of the Korean Peninsula itself represents a grave security environment.”

: “Informed sources” tell Yonhapthat the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) today oversaw a successful test at Taean, 100 miles southwest of Seoul, of a long-range surface-to-air missile (L-SAM), being developed to counter DPRK missile threats.

: South Korea’s official Truth and Reconciliation Commission says that the (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA) killed “1,026 Christians and 119 Catholics” in a bid to “eliminate reactionary forces” during its retreat from the South after the allied Incheon landing in Sept. 1950 during the Korean War. (“Christians” here means Protestants; this usage is common in the ROK, which is the most Protestant country in Asia.)

: Song Young-gil, head of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party (DP) tells visiting UN special rapporteur on DPRK human rights, Tomas Ojea Quintana, that the KIC could reopen if there were conditional sanctions relief and wages were paid in kind. Quintana reportedly says he supports reopening. There is in fact no such prospect, and Pyongyang may have other plans. (Song is running as DP candidate for mayor of Seoul in elections on June 1.)

: Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) says it will increase its support for defectors, including free health checkups, online tutoring and more. 3.4 billion won ($2.85 million) has been budgeted, more than double last year’s 1.5 billion won. The avowed aim is to help defectors “gain complete independence and social integration, not only resettlement.”

: An online survey of 75,524 elementary, middle and high school students, jointly conducted in November-December by MOU and the Ministry of Education (MOE), finds that 25%—up from 19.4% in 2019 and 24.2% in 2020—consider that Korean unification is unnecessary. Reasons cited include the economic burden (29.8%), potential social problems after unification (25%) and political differences (17%).

: MND announces new plans for its Air Defense Missile Command (ADMC). Given North Korea’s escalating missile threat, from April ADMC will get more mid-range surface-to-air missiles (M-SAMs) and BM early-warning radars, and be renamed in English (name to be decided). April will also see the Army Missile Command relaunched (so to say) and expanded as the Army Missile Strategic Command.

: Incheon District Court hands double defector Yoo Tae-joon an 18-month jail sentence for trying to return to North Korea. Having first defected to South Korea in 1998, in 2000 Yoo returned to the North. He then redefected to the South (date not given), but in 2019 attempted to go North again, approaching the DPRK embassy in Hanoi. Rebuffed as a spy, he entered China where he was arrested—and presumably extradited to the ROK.

: FFNK’s Park Sang-hak seeks leave to file suit with the Constitutional Court to determine whether the anti-leafleting law under which he is charged is unconstitutional. Park claims it infringes the ROK’s identity, independence and national dignity. (See also Jan. 25.)

: In a “joint written interview” with Yonhap and seven other international news agencies, President Moon says he is ready for to meet Kim Jong Un again, in any format and without preconditions: “Whether…face-to-face or virtual (sic) does not matter. Whatever method North Korea wants will be acceptable.” But he admits that the imminent Presidential election may make a fresh summit “inappropriate.” Warning that if Pyongyang ends its ICBM testing moratorium the peninsula could return to a “touch-and-go-crisis” as in 2017, Moon mourns the failure of the 2019 Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi: a “small deal” would have been better than no deal. He says a Kim-Biden summit is “just a matter of time,” and reiterates his support for a “peace declaration” despite Pyongyang’s unresponsiveness.

: MOU says the ROK government will provide financial support totaling 57.4 billion won ($48 million) to companies hit by the suspension of North-South exchanges. A mixture of subsidies and loans, this applies to firms which invested in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and the Mount Kumgang tourist zone. Their actual losses are much larger.

: Ahead of a meeting in Honolulu with his US and Japanese counterparts, Noh Kyu-duk, ROK special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, says he hopes this “will be another opportunity for us to work toward engagement (with Pyongyang).”

: A survey of 2,465 North Korean defectors (rather a small sample) by MOU’s Korea Hana Foundation finds that in 2021 their average monthly wage was 2.27 million won ($1,920). This was 457,000 won below the national average, but the gap is narrowing: it was 599,000 won in 2019 and 520,000 won in 2020.

: ROK government launches a nine-member inter-agency team to help North Korean defectors “suffering from economic and psychological difficulties.” (See also Jan. 6.)

: After Pyongyang’s Jan. 20 warning that its ICBM test moratorium may end, and its launch on Jan. 31 of a Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile (IRBM), an unnamed military official tells Yonhap, South Korea’s quasi-official news agency, that “at this point there isn’t any notable change or activity” in the North suggesting an imminent ICBM test.

: Yonhap reports that on Jan. 26 the UN Security Council (UNSC)’s committee on DPRK sanctions gave the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Research Center, a South Korean NGO, a year-long waiver to send 20 thermal imaging cameras to North Korea. These will be used to help stave off COVID-29. This is the first such exemption granted this year.

: MOU says it has delivered Lunar New Year gifts of “daily necessities and other items” to young (aged 24 or under) North Korean defectors who are without families.

: Dismissing a suit brought by former operators of factories in the now defunct Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the ROK Constitutional Court rules that then-President Park Geun-hye’s suspension (in effect closure) of the KIC in February 2016, as a riposte to North Korean nuclear and missile tests, was constitutional. This did not violate the claimants’ property rights, even though “fair compensation has not been paid.”

: Seoul Central District Court sentences a businessman, named only as Kim, to four years in jail for violating the National Security Act (NSA). Formerly a member of a pro-North student group, Kim was indicted in 2018 for buying a DPRK-made facial recognition software program in 2007, which he sold in the ROK as his own company’s work. In return he sent Pyongyang $860,000, plus unspecified military secrets. Kim denied the charges, claiming he had Seoul’s permission for his contacts with the North.

: Briefing “dozens of foreign diplomats,” including from the US, China, Japan and Russia, Unification Minister Lee In-young emphasizes that, notwithstanding Pyongyang’s missile launches, “dialogue and cooperation are the only solution for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” and Moon will pursue peace “to the last.” Lee adds that time is on no one’s side.

: ROK prosecutors indict defector-activist Park Sang-hak, head of Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), for two launches of balloons carrying leaflets into North Korea last April. The charge is attempted violation of the revised Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act, as it is unconfirmed whether the balloons reached the DPRK. He also faces a separate indictment on charges of receiving illicit donations during 2015-19. (See also Feb. 15.)

: Yoon Suk-yeol promises, if elected, to normalize joint military exercises with the US. He adds: “North Korea has been upgrading its nuclear capabilities and is making blatant provocations…The [Moon] administration’s Korean Peninsula peace process has completely failed.”

: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reports that on Jan. 19 a Politburo meeting of the DPRK’s ruling WPK, after decrying US “hostility,” decided “to promptly examine the issue of restarting all temporarily-suspended activities.” This refers to the North’s moratorium since Nov. 2017 on nuclear and ICBM tests.

: Reacting to Pyongyang’s statement, South Korea’s NSC says it will “prepare for the possibility of further deterioration of the situation, while continuing efforts to stabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula and resume dialogue with North Korea.”

: MOU reports a further sharp drop last year in defector arrivals. Just 63 North Koreans—40 men and 23 women—reached the South in 2021, down from 229 in 2020 and 1,047 in 2019. The ministry attributes this to tightened DPRK-China border controls due to the coronavirus.

: After a further brace of DPRK missile tests, Yoon Suk-yeol doubles down on preemptive strike talk. Posting on Facebook, he writes: “I will secure a preemptive strike capability known as Kill-Chain and build the surveillance and reconnaissance capability needed to monitor all parts of North Korea…Only strong deterrence against the North can guarantee the Republic of Korea’s peace.”

: Shortly after the US sanctions six North Koreans and others involved in the DPRK’s WMD programs, MOU vows to continue to try to provide humanitarian aid to the North “regardless of the political or military situation.” (In the real world, since 2019 Pyongyang has spurned all such efforts by Seoul.)

: After North Korea’s second missile launch in under a week, Yoon Suk-yeol, presidential candidate for the conservative opposition People Power Party (PPP), causes a stir by endorsing a preemptive strike if the North fires a nuclear-armed missile toward Seoul. He accuses Moon of enabling the North to further advance its missile program, by accepting its peace overtures and calling for sanctions to be lifted. Moon’s NSC expresses “strong regret” at the DPRK’s Jan. 11 launch—and several which follow.

: MOU says it is monitoring any potential changes in how North Korea handles COVID-19, such as easing its current strict border controls, after Rodong Sinmun—the main DPRK daily, organ of the ruling Workers’ Party (WPK)—avers that “we need to move to a better advanced, people-oriented epidemic work from one that focused on control measures.”

: Refuting recently publicized research claiming that as many as 771 of the 33,800 North Korean defectors in the South have moved on to third countries as of 2019, MOU insists the true figure for the five years 2016-20 is only 20 (which seems implausibly low.) It confirms, however, that 31 have redefected to the North.

: MOU says it is monitoring potential changes in how North Korea handles COVID-19, such as easing current strict border controls, after Rodong Sinmun—the main DPRK daily, organ of the ruling Workers’ Party (WPK)—avers that “we need to move to a better advanced, people-oriented epidemic work from one that focused on control measures.”

: Refuting recently publicized research claiming that as many as 771 of the 33,800 North Korean defectors in the South have moved on to third countries as of 2019, MOU insists the true figure for the five years 2016-20 is only 20 (which seems implausibly low.) It confirms, however, that as many as 31 have redefected to the North.

: ROK government says that next month it will launch a new inter-agency team, including MOU and the police, to support vulnerable defectors from the North. Last year MOU’s biannual survey found that 1,582 defectors needed help additional to the basic support package that all ex-DPRK arrivals receive. Almost half (47%) spoke of having psychological problems.

: Korea Times profiles Tim Peters, a Seoul-based US activist whose NGO, Helping Hands Korea, has since 1996 helped over 1,000 North Koreans in China to safety in third countries. Despite the pandemic, in 2020 HHK enabled more such evacuations than ever before as hitherto hidden sub-groups, such as the elderly or disabled, came to light.

: ROK government says that next month it will launch a new inter-agency team, including MOU and the police, to support vulnerable defectors from the North. Last year MOU’s biannual survey found that 1,582 defectors needed help additional to the basic support package that all ex-DPRK arrivals receive. Almost half (47%) spoke of having psychological problems. The new team is duly inaugurated on Feb. 7; see below.

: Korea Times profiles Tim Peters, a Seoul-based US activist whose NGO, Helping Hands Korea, has since 1996 helped over 1,000 North Koreans in China to safety in third countries. Despite the pandemic, in 2020 HHK enabled more such evacuations than ever before as hitherto hidden sub-groups, such as the elderly or disabled, came to light.

: After investigating Jan. 1’s redefector border crossing, the ROK JCS report that the man crossed into North Korea despite being caught five times on military surveillance cameras. General Won In-choul, the JCS chairman, admits: “We failed to carry out given duties properly … I apologize for causing concerns to the people.”

: President Moon urges the ROK military to “have a special sense of alert and responsibility.” Calling the “failure of security operations … a grave problem that should not have happened,” he demands a special inspection of front-line units to ensure no repetition.

: ROK JCS reports that North Korea fired an apparent ballistic missile over the East Sea (Sea of Japan). South Korea ’s presidential National Security Council convenes, is briefed, and expresses concern. This is Pyongyang ’s first such launch in 2022; its last was an SLBM in October. Two more missile tests (so far) follow, on Jan. 12 and 14.

: Reacting to Pyongyang’s missile launch, President Moon voices “concerns that tensions could rise and a stalemate of inter-Korean relations could further deepen.” Yet South Korea should not give up on dialogue, and “North Korea also should make efforts in a more earnest manner.”

: After investigating Jan. 1’s redefector border crossing, the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) report that the man crossed into North Korea despite being caught five times on military surveillance cameras. Gen. Won In-choul, JCS chairman, admits: “We failed to carry out given duties properly…I apologize for causing concerns to the people.”

: President Moon urges the ROK military to “have a special sense of alert and responsibility.” Calling the “failure of security operations …a grave problem that should not have happened,” he demands a special inspection of front-line units to ensure no repetition.

: ROK JCS reports that North Korea fired an apparent ballistic missile over the East Sea (Sea of Japan). South Korea’s presidential National Security Council convenes, is briefed, and expresses concern. This is Pyongyang’s first such launch in 2022; its last was an SLBM in October. (Further missile tests follow, making January the most intensive month ever for DPRK missile launches.)

: Reacting to Pyongyang’s missile launch, President Moon voices “concerns that tensions could rise and a stalemate of inter-Korean relations could further deepen.” Yet South Korea should not give up on dialogue, and “North Korea also should make efforts in a more earnest manner.”

: Amid reports that last week’s presumed returnee defector was suffering financial problems in South Korea, MOU insists the man—who worked as a cleaner—had received due resettlement support from the ROK government.

: Amid reports that last week’s presumed returnee defector was suffering financial problems in South Korea, the Ministry of Unification (MOU) insists that the man—who worked as a cleaner—had received due resettlement support from the ROK government.

: In his final New Year’s speech as ROK President, Moon Jae-in says he will pursue an “irreversible path to peace” on the peninsula until his term ends in May: “I will not stop efforts to institutionalize sustainable peace … If we [the two Koreas] resume dialogue and cooperation, the international community will respond … I hope efforts for dialogue will continue in the next administration too.”

: South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) says it has had no response from North Korea to a message it sent on Jan. 2 via the western military communication line, urging the North to protect the border-crosser. Another report clarifies that while Pyongyang did acknowledge receipt of the message, sent twice, it made no comment on the protection request. MND also confirms the man’s identity as being the same person who had arrived by a similar route across the DMZ in November 2020.

: In his final New Year’s speech as South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in says he will pursue an “irreversible path to peace” on the peninsula until his term ends in May: “I will not stop efforts to institutionalize sustainable peace…If we [the two Koreas] resume dialogue and cooperation, the international community will respond…I hope efforts for dialogue will continue in the next administration too.”

: South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) says it has had no response from North Korea to a message it sent on Jan. 2 via the western military communication line, urging the North to protect the border-crosser. Another report clarifies that while Pyongyang did acknowledge receipt of the message, sent twice, it made no comment on the protection request. MND also confirms that this is the same person who arrived by a similar route across the DMZ in November 2020.

: First reports come in that a man has entered North Korea from the South by crossing the DMZ.

: First reports come in that a man has entered North Korea from the South—yes, that way round—by crossing the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

: Family of Lee Dae-jun, the ROK fisheries official killed by DPRK forces in Northern waters in September 2020 (see our earlier report here), apply for an injunction to stop whatever information the Blue House holds on this incident being designated as presidential records, meaning access would be restricted. They fear this is why the Blue House National Security Office (NSO) and the Coast Guard are appealing a court ruling last month, ordering them to share all data they have with the family.

: MOU says: “We hope North Korea will start the new year by opening the door for dialogue … and take a step forward for engagement and cooperation.”

: North Korea holds the 4th Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee at WPK headquarters in Pyongyang . This turns out to be heavily domestic-focused, especially on agriculture. At least as reported, nothing whatever is said about South Korea—nor the US, nor the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs.

: MOU Lee In-young warns that the peninsula’s geopolitics in 2022 will reach an “extremely critical juncture,” with uncertainties including the ROK presidential election. For the umpteenth time, Lee urges Pyongyang to talk: “We have finished preparations to start inter-Korean dialogue at any time, anywhere, regardless of agenda and form.”

: Two ROK experts claim the DPRK economy does not face imminent crisis, as imports of crude oil and fertilizer have continued despite sanctions and COVID-19 curbs.

: Heartbreaking data from MOU reveal that of 24,007 video letters produced by separated family members since 2005, only 20 have actually been sent to North Korea (in 2008).

: MOU claims that North Korea’s private sector has steadily grown during Kim Jong Un’s decade in power. Based on surveying successive cohorts of defectors, with a cut-off point in 2020, this contradicts or misses what most analysts regard as a significant and ongoing rollback of reform during the past two years.

: NIS warns that, ahead of next March’s presidential election, hackers may (in Yonhap’s summary) “beef up attempts to steal information on Seoul ‘s North Korea policy and other security issues.” It points no finger at who in particular might seek to do this.

: In Canberra, President Moon says that both Koreas, China, and the US have agreed “in principle” to declare a formal end to the Korean War. This makes headlines, even though Moon admits no talks are yet possible because Pyongyang objects to US “hostility.”

: Joongang Ilbo, Seoul ’s leading center-right daily, says it has been told by “a high-ranking Blue House official” that “we have continued to communicate with North Korea ” about an end-of-war declaration. This is the first confirmation that a top-level channel to Pyongyang exists. Its precise nature is not disclosed.

: MOU survey of 5,354 members of separated families—among a total of 47,004 persons registered as such—finds that the great majority (82%) have no data on the fate of their Northern kin. Of the lucky 18%, half said they obtained the information through private sources or NGOs: twice as many as the few who got this via the government. On background, MOU notes that this elderly cohort are dying at a rate of about ten per day, so time is running out for any more family reunions; the last was in 2018.

: MOU elaborates on the need “for a more systematic monitoring due to the frequent spread of false, fabricated information on North Korea on new media platforms which led to various negative consequences, including the distortion of policy environment.” Its website already has a section to scotch false media reports. Whether purveyors of untruth will be penalized is unclear.

: Despite frozen North-South ties, the National Assembly approves a 2% rise over 2021 in MOU’s budget next year, to 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion). The 1.27 trillion won for inter-Korean cooperation includes a new 31.1 billion heading for local governments’ cooperation with the North, and 200 million won to counter fake news. Support for defectors is cut by 2.7% to 95.2 billion won, as the numbers arriving have fallen sharply.

: Seoul Central District Court orders the ROK state to pay 26 million won ($22,000) to a defector couple—later divorced, and one now deceased—who on arrival in 2013 were detained at an NIS facility for almost twice the maximum legal limit of 90 days. They had sued for 210 million won, but the court rejected their allegations of harsh treatment.

: MOU says it has approved three applications by NGOs to send healthcare aid to North Korea. No further details are provided.

: A poll of 1,000 South Koreans by the Peaceful Unification Advisory Council finds that over half (53.9%) reckon an inter-Korean summit at the Beijing Winter Olympics is impossible. Surprisingly, 40.1% think this is possible.

: MND says the ROK military has competed excavations at White Horse Ridge, a Korean War battle site inside the DMZ. 37 bone fragments from 22 soldiers were recovered, plus 8,262 items including combat gear. Though meant to be a joint inter-Korean project, the South proceeded alone as the North pulled out before work started.

: Do Hee-youn, head of the Citizens’ Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, says he has submitted a formal application to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on behalf of the family of Lee Han-young, asking that his death be investigated. Lee, a nephew of Kim Jong Il’s former wife Song Hye-rim, defected in 1982. In 1997 he was shot dead in Seoul by suspected North Korean agents.

: MOU announces plans to construct a new database center on unification at Goyang, on Seoul’s northwestern outskirts. This will replace the Information Center on North Korea, founded in 1989 and currently housed in the National Library of Korea in southern Seoul (which is short of space). Costing an estimated 44.5 billion won ($37.6 million), the new building is due to be completed by end-2025.

: MOU Lee tells a forum in Seoul: “23 years ago today, the historic Mount Kumgang tourism project … got under way. As soon as the circumstances are met, we will have serious consultations with the North on creating a joint special tourism zone on the east coast.” In reality, Kim Jong Un has explicitly repudiated any such cooperation.

: MOU anticipates, wrongly, that in December North Korea will hold events to celebrate Kim Jong Un’s first decade in power, saying this is needed “to strengthen internal unity.” Instead, the DPRK solemnly marks the 10th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death.

: MOU Lee says the ROK will “comprehensively review” whether or not to co-sponsor the annual UN resolution on North Korean human rights, drafted by the European Union. Predictably, the Moon administration once again declines to do this.

: MOU Lee opines that inter-Korean medical co-operation is “inevitable.” North Korea appears to take a different view.

: Citing “legal sources,” Yonhap reports that prosecutors in Suwon indicted a defector, a woman in her 40s, as an DPRK agent tasked with persuading other defectors to return home. On Nov. 23, now identified as Song Chun-son, aka “Agent Chrysanthemum,” she is jailed for three years, despite insisting she acted under duress. (This New York Timesreport well portrays the dilemmas involved.)

: One day after KCNA reports an “artillery fire competition” involving “artillery sub-units under mechanized troops at all levels,” with top KPA generals present, MOU notes that the DPRK conducts various military drills. Seoul will monitor such moves “rather than prejudging North Korea’s intentions.”

: MOU reports that Unification Minister Lee In-young, who accompanied Moon to Europe, had meetings in Geneva to discuss DPRK humanitarian issues with the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and with representatives of the Red Cross. The impact of these endeavors is unclear, as North Korea continues to refuse aid—especially from South Korea.

: MOU urges the DPRK to respond to the Pope’s willingness to visit Pyongyang.

: In Glasgow, Scotland for the annual UN climate conference, Moon Jae-in says South Korea will seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions on the peninsula by jointly planting trees with the North. The Korea Herald questions the feasibility of this, since inter-Korean talks on forestry have been stalled (like everything else) since 2018.

: Yonhap notes that Pyongyang has yet to comment on the death on Oct. 26 of former ROK President Roh Tae-woo (in office 1988-93), a pioneer in improving North-South relations. Their silence is not broken subsequently. DPRK media references to Roh have been consistently hostile, focusing on his earlier role as a coup-maker in 1979-80.

: Not for the first time, nor the last, South Korea claims to detect signs that the North is preparing to reopen its border with China. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) tells lawmakers that the main Sinuiju-Dandong railway crossing could be running again by November. As of mid-January this has yet to happen.

: NIS chief Park Jie-won says it is “possible” North Korea may agree to talks on  a peace declaration without preconditions. That seems unlikely, since his agency also reports that Pyongyang’s demands before even discussing this include lifting sanctions and an end to joint US-ROK war games.

: In further comments, the NIS says Kim Jong Un has lost 20 kilos (44 pounds) in weight, but has no health issues. The DPRK is using the term “Kimjongunism” internally, while portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il no longer hang over official meetings.

: After North Korea tests a new type of SLBM, South Korea’s NSC reaffirms that stability is paramount, tensions must not be raised, and dialogue should resume.

: Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong tells the ROK National Assembly: “We should take some actions to prevent North Korea from further developing its nuclear and missile capabilities … Sanctions relief can be considered as part of efforts (sic), on condition that the North accepts the dialogue proposal.”

: North Korea fires a suspected SLBM. South Korea’s NSC expresses “deep regret.” The timing may be no accident:

: South Korea holds its largest ever arms fair, the biennial International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX). Unlike the North’s internally oriented DDE, this is internationally focused with attendees from 45 countries, including Russia but not China. President Moon arrives in style, in an air force jet fighter jet.

: Following a regular NSC meeting, the Blue House says, as Yonhap headlines it, that “S. Korea aims to swiftly reopen talks with N. Korea.” Three months later, that aim remains unachieved.

: Responding to Kim’s critique, Seoul calls for resumed dialogue to narrow differences. MOU comments that inter-Korean relations cannot be resolved just by one side issuing unilateral demands.

: Opening an unprecedented Defence Development Exhibition (DDE), Kim Jong Un waxes Freudian about the missiles on display: “The more we stroke them … the  greater dignity and pride we feel … they are ours.” Accusing Seoul of a “hypocritical and brigandish double-dealing attitude” for its own military build-up, Kim insists: “I want to reiterate that south Korea is not the target of our armed forces … Our arch-enemy is the war itself, not south Korea, the United States or any other specific state or forces.”

: Aboard an ROK navy ship to mark Armed Forces Day, Moon Jae-in declares: “I have pride in our solid security posture.” Hours earlier, the DPRK carried out its third missile launch in two weeks.

: Despite Kim Jong Un telling the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) on Sept. 29 that inter-Korean hotlines will be restored in early October, MOU reports that North Korea is still not answering the South’s twice-daily calls.

: Following another DPRK missile launch, after being briefed at an emergency session of the National Security Council (NSC) President Moon orders a “comprehensive and close analysis” of North Korea’s recent words and deeds to ascertain Pyongyang’s intentions.

: MOU calls Kim Yo Jong’s recent remarks “meaningful,” but insists that so as to resume dialogue, “inter-Korean communication lines should first be swiftly restored.”

: In her second “press statement” in as many days, and her third this month, Kim Yo Jong reiterates that in order to end the “deadlock” in inter-Korean relations, as both sides desire, the South “had better stop spouting an imprudent remark of ‘provocation’ against us.” She concludes: “I won’t predict here what there will come – a balmy breeze or a storm.”

: In more honeyed tones than on Sept. 15, Kim Yo Jong calls “President Moon Jae In’s” (she uses his official title) proposal of a “declaration of the termination of the war on the Korean Peninsula at the 76th UN General Assembly” “an interesting and an admirable idea.” However, the timing is not right as long as “double-dealing standards, prejudice and hostile policies toward the DPRK and speeches and acts antagonizing us persist.”

: MOU says it will provide 10 billion won ($8.5 million) to help civilian NGOs offer nutrition and health aid to North Korea, with up to 500 million won for each project. It admits this is hypothetical as long as Pyongyang remains unresponsive.

: Belatedly, ROK police reveal they are also holding another regretful DPRK defector, a woman in her 60s. At 0340 on Sept. 13 she approached a soldier at the heavily guarded Tongil Bridge in Paju, gateway to Dorasan Station (the border crossing to Kaesong), and said she wanted to go home.

: Pyongyang media publish a longish (1,200 words) semi-technical article by Jang Chang Ha, president of the DPRK Academy of National Defense. As per the headline “Clumsy SLBM Launch of South Korea,” this pooh-pooh’s Seoul’s Sept. 15 missile test as “just in the stage of elementary step” (sic) and “clearly not SLBM.”

: South Korean police say that on Sept. 17 they caught an unnamed defector, a man in his 30s who arrived in 2018, trying to return to the DPRK near Chorwon in the central sector of the DMZ. He had four mobile phones and “a cutting machine” (presumably wire-cutters).

: ROK successfully tests its own submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), becoming the seventh nation to have this capacity. President Moon, who watched, says the timing is unconnected to Pyongyang’s firing two BMs hours earlier. “However, our enhanced missile power can be a sure-fire deterrent to North Korea’s provocation.”

: In a rapid response, Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, calls Moon Jae-in’s use of the term “provocation from the north” earlier that day “an improper remark … slip of tongue … too stupid to be fit for the ‘president of a state’” and a “thoughtless utterance … which might be fitting for hack journalists.” The Blue House says it will not react.

: MOU says that henceforth all 243 ROK municipalities will be allowed to operate aid projects with the DPRK independently of central government. Hitherto only a dozen had permission, and before 2019 they had to have an NGO as a partner. All this is notional, as North Korea currently refuses any cooperation with the South.

: ESTsecurity, a South Korean cybersecurity firm, claims that hackers thought to be linked to Pyongyang have sent fake phishing emails to try to steal data from members of an expert panel advising the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND).

: A day after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspends the DPRK from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as punishment for its refusal to participate in this year’s Tokyo games, the Blue House insists it will continue to pursue inter-Korean sports diplomacy. There had been speculation that Moon Jae-in would try to use the Beijing games to reach out to Pyongyang.

: A day after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspends the DPRK from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as punishment for its refusal to participate in this year’s Tokyo games, the Blue House insists the ROK will continue to pursue inter-Korean sports diplomacy. There had been speculation that Moon Jae-in would try to use the Beijing games to reach out to Pyongyang.

: Lee In-young tells the National Assembly’s foreign affairs and unification committee that in January-July North Korea’s trade with China, its sole significant partner, fell 82% from the same period last year. It was 15 times higher before COVID-19.

: MOU Lee In-young tells the National Assembly foreign affairs and unification committee that in January-July North Korea’s trade with China, its sole significant partner, fell 82% from the same period last year. It had been 15 times higher before COVID-19.

: Speaking by videolink, MOU Lee puzzles a high-level Russian business conference in Vladivostok with lofty vistas of a special tourist zone on the east coast of both Koreas which could be expanded to Russia. None of this is in any official ROK plan, much less DPRK.

: ROK government sources say that almost 10,000 troops have been observed gathering at Pyongyang’s Mirim Parade Training Ground, suggesting rehearsals for a major parade. This is held, initially unannounced, in the small hours of Sept. 9: the 73rd anniversary of the DPRK’s founding. No new weapons are displayed.

: Despite an almost three-year freeze in North-South relations, MOU requests 1.27 trillion won ($1.1 billion) for the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund in 2022, up 1.9% from this year’s figure. 51%is earmarked for humanitarian aid, 46% for economic projects, and 3% for social and cultural exchanges. Despite the lack of activity currently, the ministry says it needs this budget “to brace for a possible change on the Korean peninsula.”

: Moon Jae-in invites local governments to adopt the seven puppies born in June to Gomi, one of two Pungsan hunting dogs given to him in 2018 by Kim Jong Un, and sired by another Pungsan belonging to Moon.

: Speaking by videolink, South Korea’s Minister of Unification (MOU), Lee In-young puzzles a high-level Russian business conference in Vladivostok with lofty vistas of a special tourist zone on the east coast of both Koreas which could be expanded to Russia. None of this is in any official ROK plan, much less the DPRK’s.

: ROK government sources say that almost 10,000 troops have been observed gathering at Pyongyang’s Mirim Parade Training Ground, suggesting rehearsals for a major parade. This is held, initially unannounced, in the small hours of Sept. 9:  73rd anniversary of the DPRK’s founding. No new weapons are displayed.

: Despite an almost three-year freeze in North-South relations, the ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) requests 1.27 trillion won ($1.1 billion) for the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund in 2022, up 1.9% from this year’s figure. 51% is earmarked for humanitarian aid, 46% for economic projects, and 3% for social and cultural exchanges. Notwithstanding the lack of activity currently, the ministry says it needs this budget “to brace for a possible change on the Korean Peninsula.”

: ROK President Moon Jae-in invites local governments to adopt the seven puppies born in June to Gomi, one of two Pungsan breed hunting dogs given to him in 2018 by Kim Jong Un, and sired by another Pungsan belonging to Moon.

: As US-ROK drills conclude, Urimizokiri calls them “a dangerous playing with fire.” Since Kim Yo Jong’s salvos, Pyongyang’s criticism has been relatively muted.

: MOU says seven new video conference facilities for virtual separated family reunions, additional to and more widely located than the 13 that already exist, will be ready by the end of this month.

: “Military sources” tell Yonhap that North Korea declared a no-sail zone off its east coast for Aug. 15-16. This usually precedes a missile launch (though Pyongyang often gives no such warning). South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) say that no such launch or other weapons test occurred.

: More downbeat than usual, MOU Lee urges North Korea to return to talks soon, since “it is highly likely that the momentum for the peace process on the Korean Peninsula will weaken” due to the impact of various external factors.

: In a Liberation Day speech, Moon Jae-in suggests that both Koreas would benefit from “institutionalizing peace” on the peninsula, to create a German-style trust-building system.

: Kim Yong Chol, head of the WPK’s United Front Department (UFD) which handles South Korea, lambasts Seoul for ignoring Kim Yo Jong’s warning and going ahead with “frantic military exercises” (which are desk-based). He warns: “We will make them realize by the minute what a dangerous choice they made and what a serious security crisis they will face because of their wrong choice.”

: After Yoon Seok-youl—ex-prosecutor-general, now a leading presidential contender for the conservative opposition PPP—asks publicly whether any secret deal lay behind reopening hotlines with North Korea, the Blue House says that is “untrue.”

: Kim Yo Jong issues another statement, blasting the “perfidious” South and the US for going ahead with “dangerous war exercises … designed to stifle our state by force, and an unwelcoming act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid.”

: Hours after “officials” assure Yonhap that inter-Korean hotlines are working normally, North Korea fails to answer the South’s 5 pm call—and all its calls thereafter.

: After heavy flooding in South Hamgyong province on the DPRK’s east coast, MOU says Seoul will explore every avenue for offering assistance. Pyongyang has steadfastly refused such help. The floods have not been discussed on the restored hotlines.

: Citing “sources,” Yonhap reports that South Korea has “tentatively” decided to go ahead with scaled-back US-ROK drills, without any field component. The computer-based Combined Command Post Training (CCPT) will run Aug. 16-26, after four days of crisis management staff training starting Aug. 10. Despite Pyongyang’s objections, the source says: “We are working to stage the exercise as planned, which is a regular one and necessary for a combined readiness posture.”

: Yonhap reports that calls to postpone this summer’s US-ROK military drills are gaining traction within the ruling Democratic Party (DP).

: At a rare Blue House meeting with ROK military top brass, Moon tells MND Suh Wook to hold “prudent consultations” with Washington on joint exercises.

: North Korea finally answers the South’s calls made by radio link on the international merchant marine network hotline. Seoul had been phoning for a week, but—unlike their fixed hotlines—Pyongyang had not yet responded on this channel.

: South Korean lawmakers, briefed by the NIS, say the spy agency told them it was Kim Jong Un who requested that inter-Korean communications lines be restored.

: MOU spokesperson Lee says the South will take a “wise and flexible” stance on US-ROK drills. Earlier, an anonymous ministry official called suspending the drills “desirable.” Lee adds that Pyongyang has not yet replied to Seoul’s offer of virtual talks. MND, however, says the allies are discussing when and how to hold the military exercises.

: “Government sources” tell Yonhap North Korea is using the reopened hotlines to fax details every morning “about foreign fishing boats operating illegally in the Yellow Sea, such as their number and exact locations.” South Korea sends the North its own assessments, which tend to tally. All this prevents accidental clashes. Some 20-30 Chinese vessels are typically found in Korean waters, near the inter-Korean maritime border.

: KCNA publishes statement by Kim Jon Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong, warning that if US-ROK war games go ahead, this will “becloud” prospects for improved inter-Korean relations: “Hope or despair? Choice is not made by us.”

: MOU says that starting today it will resume approving requests by NGOs to send aid to North Korea, suspended for 10 months since the killing of Lee Dae-jun.

: MOU says that, given the pandemic, it will use the restored hotlines to discuss holding virtual inter-Korean talks. Next day it faxes such a proposal to the North. As of now there are no plans to offer to help Pyongyang with facilities or equipment.

: Blue House says Seoul will push for virtual family reunions as an inter-Korean priority. There have been no reunions since the last in-person ones in August 2018.

: On the second day of restored inter-Korean communications, the Blue House denies a claim by Reuters that the two sides are planning a fourth Moon-Kim summit: “There have been no discussions on either face-to-face contact or virtual talks.” Earlier, Cheong Wa Dae also nixes reports that the ROK will send a special envoy to Pyongyang, citing COVID-19 constraints.

: MOU pledges to use newly restored communications with North Korea to raise the case of Lee Dae-jun, the ROK fisheries official killed last September at sea by the KPA in contested circumstances. Having met with MOU Lee, the victim’s brother urges Seoul to push for talks with Pyongyang and deliver his letter to Kim Jong Un.

: Blue House announces that by agreement of President Moon and Kim Jong Un, as of 10am the two Koreas have reopened hotlines that the North cut in June 2020. KCNA confirms the resumption, cites “the recent several exchanges of personal letters” and adds: “Now, the whole Korean nation desires to see the North-South relations recovered from setback and stagnation as early as possible.”

: MND confirms restoration of inter-Korean military hotlines: “Phone calls and faxing to exchange documents now operate normally.” The western line is fine, but the eastern one has technical problems.

: KINU reports that recent defector testimony suggests there are fewer public executions in the DPRK, and less mobilization of citizens than formerly. However, the regime has cracked down harder on mobile phones and other digital devices in border regions, in a bid to stop South Korean popular culture flowing in.

: Rebutting Lee, MOU says “the South Korean government does not support unification by absorption … It pursues peaceful unification through brisk exchanges and cooperation, and eventually inter-Korean agreement based on mutual respect of the other’s system.”

: In a TV debate Lee Jun-seok repeats his call to abolish MOU, adding that he favors “unification by peaceful absorption” of North Korea.

: Not very promptly and rather mildly, one DPRK media outlet comments on Lee Jun-seok’s quest to abolish the unification ministry. Tongil Voice radio, quoting ROK media, says critics have called this “foolish, irresponsible and absurd.”

: Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), the ROK’s main state think tank on the DPRK, publishes an opinion survey. Although over 90% of South Koreans polled think Pyongyang will not give up nuclear weapons, indifference toward the North (especially among the young) is growing—as is hostility to sending aid for COVID-19.

: DPRK media for external consumption attack Lee Jun-seok, the new young head of the ROK conservative opposition PPP, for advocating abolition of the gender equality ministry. Meari calls this a “reactionary view,” while Uriminzokkiri accuses Lee of “showing outright discrimination against women.” Unmentioned is the other ministry Lee also urged to be scrapped as purposeless or outmoded: MOU.

: Uriminzokkiri, a DPRK website for external audiences, warns South Korea not to go ahead with joint maneuvers with the US: “War games and schemes to strengthen armed forces will never stand hand in hand with peace.”

: ROK sends a written response to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, rebutting concerns voiced in April by the UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean human rights that South Korea’s anti-leafleting law violates freedom of speech.

: Briefing the ROK National Assembly’s intelligence committee, NIS confirms that KAERI was hacked, presumptively by North Korea (see June 18). It also reports that Kim Jong Un has lost 10-20 kg in weight but is healthy, and on other matters.

: Amid wild rumors in Seoul that Kim Jong Un is unconscious after a cerebral hemorrhage and his uncle Kim Pyong Il has staged a coup, the NIS seeks to steady the ship: “We determine that the speculation about Kim’s health is groundless … [he] presided over a politburo meeting all day long on June 29 and has carried out state affairs normally as head of state.”

: MOU spokesperson Lee Jong-joo says North Korea is facing greater volatility in prices and foreign exchange rates. The ROK government is “keeping an eye” on this.

: An unnamed MOU official tells Yonhap that a recent Politburo meeting of North Korea’s ruling Workers” Party (WPK), whose agenda included “an organizational issue,” appears to have seen a reshuffle of some senior officials. Other observers concur.

: An official at Hanawon, South Korea’s resettlement center for North Korean defectors, says they admitted just 57 in the first half of 2021: down 85% from the 380 who entered during the same period last year. Fresh arrivals in the ROK—who are questioned by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) before their three-month stay in Hanawon—fell from 31 in the first quarter to a record low of two in the second quarter.

: Meeting with Sung Kim, the new US Special Representative for North Korea, MOU Lee calls for “active and agile” US-ROK cooperation to bring Pyongyang back to talks.

: ROK opposition lawmaker Ha Tae-keung of the conservative People Power Party (PPP) says the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) was hacked on May 14. Some of the 13 external IP address intruders came from servers linked to North Korea’s “Kimsuky” network. Ha claims that KAERI denied the breach before admitting it, and accuses the government of reluctance to acknowledge DPRK cyber-attacks.

: Citing “government sources,” Yonhap says that on June 16 a South Korean man in his 40s stole a boat on Baengnyeong, an ROK island near the DPRK coast, and tried to defect to the North—but failed, as it ran out of fuel and drifted.

: On the 21st anniversary of the first North-South summit, both MOU Lee and his ministry urge North Korea to resume dialogue and restore communication channels. Lee opines that “quite good conditions” for dialogue now exist. He also postpones a plan to visit the US, citing uncertainties in inter-Korean relations.

: In Vienna (while on a state visit to Austria), Moon Jae-in says he will seek to cooperate with North Korea in providing COVID-19 vaccines, given South Korea’s bid to become a “global vaccine production hub.”

: International Olympic Committee (IOC) names Brisbane as the sole candidate city to host the 2032 summer Olympic Games. This means the always far-fetched joint bid by Seoul and Pyongyang to co-host in 2032 is officially dead.

: MOU declines to join in frenzied media speculation about Kim Jong Un’s apparent recent weight loss. While analyzing photographs of his public appearances, “we have nothing to say about his health issues, and it is not our place to openly comment on it.”

: MOU says it continues to call North Korea at 0900 every day, but no one picks up. The line at Panmunjom is not “cut,” as there is still a dial tone.

: MOU spokesperson Lee Jong-ju praises project by Gyeonggi province and the Korean Peasants League to create a “farmland for peace.” This would grow rice for North Korea near Gunnam dam, 62 km north of Seoul, built in 2010 on the Imjin river to cope with sudden water discharges by the DPRK upstream, after one such surge in 2009 killed six South Koreans. Despite a 2009 inter-Korean agreement to give notice in future, last year Pyongyang several times released water from its Hwanggang dam without notifying Seoul.

: Speaking on TV, MOU Lee calls for “maximum flexibility” in regard to joint military maneuvers with the US, due in August. These “should never work in a way that causes or further escalates tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

: MOU says it will spend 1.18 billion won ($1.06 million) to build seven video conference facilities for virtual family reunions. Sites include Uijeongbu, Gangneung, Wonju, Cheongju, and Hongseong. Thirteen such centers already exist, mostly in or near Seoul.

: Meeting with Hyundai Group chairperson Hyun Jeong-eun, MOU Lee states his “unwavering … commitment to push ahead with projects like allowing individual tours to Mount Kumgang as soon as the coronavirus situation improves.”

: In the first mention of the Moon-Biden summit in DPRK media, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) carries an article by Kim Myong Chol, a pro-North Korean resident in Japan, headlined: “What Is Aim of Termination of “Missile Guidelines.’” This attacks Moon’s enthusiasm for missile sovereignty as “disgusting” and “indecent.”

: Pressed by opposition lawmakers after initially declining to comment, ROK Defense Minister Suh Wook tells the parliamentary National Defense Committee that Kim Myong Chol’s remarks about President Moon are “rude” and “highly inappropriate.”

: MOU reports to the National Assembly that it will seek to resume inter-Korean dialogue and restore communication links, since the recent Moon-Biden summit has created “sufficient conditions” for this. It will also pursue humanitarian cooperation, such as sending rice and fertilizer.

: An MOU official anonymously briefs reporters that Kim Jong Un’s public activities are on a “downward trend.” The DPRK leader was last seen on May 7. (He will reappear on June 4, after a 29-day absence.)

: Moon Chung-in, former adviser to Moon Jae-in, tells a US-ROK virtual forum that he expects Pyongyang to contact Seoul to get the lowdown on US policy: “It is very likely that North Korea will come. If … not to the United States directly, maybe it will come to South Korea.”

: Presidents Moon and Biden meet in Washington. Their joint statement is emollient regarding North Korea. Inter alia, the US lifts all limits on the range and payload of ROK missiles. Washington had set such ceilings ever since 1978.

: MOU Lee In-young calls for nonpartisan support for the National Assembly to ratify the Panmunjom Declaration, signed by Kim Jong Un and President Moon at their first summit in April 2018.  This would help replace “wasteful political disputes [with] more mature and constructive debate.”

: MOU releases new master plan for 2021-23 on supporting North Korean defectors. Its 24 tasks include strengthening psychological support programs, not least for those at risk of sexual violence or suicide. It notes that defectors’ employment rate fell 3.8% last year amid the pandemic to 54.4%. For ROK-born citizens the fall was only 1%, to 60.4%.

: ROK MOU calls the DPRK’s decision to pull out of World Cup soccer qualifiers due to take place in South Korea next month “disappointing.” Pyongyang cited coronavirus concerns.

: Seoul Western District Court nixes a bid by several conservative organizations to ban publication of Kim Il Sung’s memoirs. The court rules that the plaintiffs “cannot seek an injunction on behalf of other citizens.” An appeal is planned.

: South Korea’s Minister of Unification (MOU) urges North Korea to return to nuclear talks. Lee In-young says that the upcoming summit in Washington between ROK President Moon and US counterpart Joe Biden will be a “big turning point.” Lee makes several further comments in this vein, both before and after the summit; e.g. on May 21, 24.

: Contra a CNN report claiming that Pyongyang has rejected cooperation with the global COVID-19 vaccine distribution program, MOU says: “As far as we know, relevant negotiations are currently under way between the North and the COVAX side.”

: Yonhap, the semi-official ROK news agency, notes that a new DPRK album of Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic activities in 2018-19 omits any mention of his three summits with Moon Jae-in, though this might be because neither Korea officially treats inter-Korean relations as foreign.

: In an article on the brouhaha over publishing Kim Il Sung’s memoirs in South Korea, The Korea Times’ Nam Hyun-woo notes that, although a rightwing NGO is seeking an injunction to ban the work, the conservative main opposition party is more relaxed. PPP Deputy Spokesperson Park Ki-nyeong comments, “We should have faith in South Korea’s public awareness and superior system and leave this to the public judgment … No one in this country will sympathize with those who hail Kim Il-sung.”

: The Seoul Metropolitan Police raid Park San-Hak and FFNK’s offices.

: In an article on the brouhaha over publishing Kim Il Sung’s memoirs in South Korea, TheKorea Times’ Nam Hyun-woo notes that, although a rightwing NGO is seeking an injunction to ban the work, the conservative main opposition party is more relaxed. The PPP’s deputy spokesperson Park Ki-nyeong comments: “We should have faith in South Korea’s public awareness and superior system and leave this to the public judgment … No one in this country will sympathize with those who hail Kim Il Sung.” (See also April 21, 22 and 25 above and May 16 below.)

: Seoul Metropolitan Police raid Park San-hak and FFNK’s offices.

: Chosun Ilbo, a leading conservative Seoul daily, claims that most of the half a million propaganda flyers launched toward North Korea by Park Sang-hak of Fighters for a Free Korea (FFNK) on April 30 landed in the South, due to wind conditions at the time.

: Chosun Ilbo, a leading conservative Seoul daily, claims that most of the half a million propaganda flyers launched toward North Korea by Park Sang-hak on April 30 actually landed in South Korea, due to wind conditions.

: Three DPRK media outlets for external audiences—DPRK Today, Tongil Voice and Uriminzokkiriattack the April 21 dismissal by a Seoul court, on grounds of sovereign immunity, of a suit brought by former “comfort women” (victims of wartime sexual slavery) against the Japanese government.

: Three DPRK media outlets for external audiences—DPRK Today, Tongil Voice and Uriminzokkiri—attack the April 21 dismissal by a Seoul court of a suit brought by former “comfort women”—victims of Imperial Japan’s wartime sexual slavery—against the Japanese government.

: ROK Police Commissioner-General Kim Chang-yong orders a “swift and thorough investigation” to “strictly handle the sending of anti-North Korea leaflets.”

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri criticizes brouhaha in Seoul over publication of Kim Il Sung’s memoirs: “”It is dumbfounded [sic] to see such impure forces’ reckless act to make a fuss as if a huge disaster happened and try to block their publication and distribution in a wicked way.”

: ROK Korea Football Association (KFA) says its DPRK counterpart has informed the Asian Football Confederation that North Korea will not take part in the much-delayed second round of soccer World Cup qualifiers (Group H) which South Korea will host in June. The North reportedly cited fears of COVID-19. In the first round, held in Pyongyang in October 2019, the two Koreas’ ill-tempered match ended in a 0-0 draw.

: ROK Police Commissioner-General Kim Chang-yong orders a “swift and thorough investigation” to “strictly handle the sending of anti-North Korea leaflets.”

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri criticizes the controversy in Seoul over publication there of Kim Il Sung’s memoirs: “It is dumbfounded [sic] to see such impure forces’ reckless act to make a fuss as if a huge disaster happened and try to block their publication and distribution in a wicked way.” (See April 21, 22, and 25 in our previous issue, and May 6 and 16 below.)

: ROK’s Korea Football Association (KFA) says its DPRK counterpart has informed the Asian Football Confederation that North Korea will not take part in the much-delayed second round of soccer World Cup qualifiers (Group H) which South Korea will host in June. The North reportedly cited fears of COVID-19. In the first round, held in Pyongyang in October 2019, the two Koreas” ill-tempered match ended in a 0-0 draw.

: Kim Yo Jong issues a brief but terse statement condemning the latest leaflet launch. Accusing Seoul of “winking” at the leafleteers, she warns, “responsibility for the consequences thereof will entirely rest with the south Korean authorities who stopped short of holding proper control of the dirty human scum.”

: DPRK leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, issues a brief but terse statement condemning the latest leaflet launch across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) by defector activists in the ROK. Accusing Seoul of “winking” at the leafleteers, she warns: “[R]esponsibility for the consequences thereof will entirely rest with the south Korean authorities who stopped short of holding proper control of the dirty human scum.”

: Park Sang-hak, leader of Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), claims that during April 25-29 his group flew 10 balloons carrying some 500,000 leaflets, 500 booklets and 5,000 $1 bills into the North from border areas in Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces, despite such acts being illegal in the ROK since March 30.

: MOU Lee opines that the first half of 2021—only two months left—“will be a golden opportunity and the most optimal time for the South, the North and the US to move together toward the Korean Peninsula peace progress.” He adds that he has had his first COVID-19 vaccination, so as to be in a position to visit Washington. (The ROK has been relatively slow in rolling out vaccinations.)

: A day after DM Suh says the DPRK’s missiles test-fired on March 25 flew 600 kilometers, South Korea’s JCS explain why they initially underestimated this at 450 km. The missile performed a pull-up maneuver, and was launched eastward where the Earth’s curvature creates blindspots for ROK radar. But not to worry: “If (missiles) fly in our direction, we can detect them all.”

: MOU issues its annual Unification White Paper. This includes data on inter-Korean exchanges. Though dismayed that Pyongyang will not talk, it notes that tensions have been contained. In his preface MOU Lee writes, with rare sharpness, that “North Korea’s destruction of the inter-Korean liaison office in June and the lethal shooting of a South Korean citizen at the west sea in September were intolerable incidents that shocked South Koreans hoping for peace.” In 2020 Seoul spent a mere 3.6% of the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund’s billion-dollar budget, down from 6.7% in 2019.

: MOU tallies last year’s inter-Korean exchanges, such as they were. In 2020 613 South Koreans visited the North, mostly ROK staffers at the inter-Korean liaison office; down from 9,835 in 2019 and 6.689 in 2018. No North Koreans (defectors aside) came South, compared to 809 in 2018. Cross-border trade transactions, which numbered 699 in 2018 and 434 in 2019, fell to just 45: mostly supplies for the liaison office, and coronavirus-related aid – though the DPRK claims to have no cases of COVID-19—from ROK NGOs.

: Asked why MOU’s center for North Korean human rights records, set up in 2016 under a law passed that year, has yet to publish a report despite interviewing over 3,000 DPRK defectors to date, an unnamed official says they need more time, more data, and a way to check the “consistency (of testimonies) and verify their credibility.”

: On the third anniversary of the Panmunjom Summit, MOU Lee says: “We emphasize again that we are willing to talk with the North anytime, anywhere and on any issues regardless of the format … We hope North Korea will come out for talks at an early date in respect for the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration.” In Pyongyang, by contrast, the anniversary goes wholly unmentioned, as in 2020.

: Assistant Minister Kim Chang-hyun shows reporters a new videoconference room at MOU, specifically for talks with North Korea. It took two months to build and cost 400 million won ($360,000). Kim says the North has the necessary equipment too: “there is no problem at all in connecting the two Koreas.” (No technical problem, anyway.)

: Ahead of the third anniversary of the first summit between President Moon and Kim Jong Un at Panmunjom, MOU spokesperson Lee Jong-joo reiterates South Korea’s “firm determination” to implement inter-Korean accords: “It is necessary to restore all levels of dialogue between the South and the North at an early date, including summit talks.” The anniversary is celebrated unilaterally, with various low-key NGO-led events.

: At a tree-planting ceremony, MOU Lee calls for the two Koreas to cooperate on forestry issues, to reduce carbon omissions and mitigate the risk of landslides. In 2018 the two sides agreed to work together on such issues, but nothing concrete has ensued.

: Kyobo, South Korea’s largest bookstore chain, pulls Kim Il Sung’s memoirs from sale. It says this is “to protect customers” from potentially being charged under the National Security Act (NSA). Other ROK sellers online continue to offer the books.

: MOU says the local publisher of Kim Il Sung’s memoirs did not consult or seek permission in advance. It will look into this, taking action if necessary. Another firm that tried to bring out these memoirs in the ROK in the 1990s was investigated under the National Security Act (NSA).

: In a tougher tone than usual from the current ROK government, Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong demands compensation for last June’s blowing up of the inter-Korean joint liaison office. North Korea “must not only apologize … but also promise to make sure something like this would never happen again.”

: MOU says it is considering a system to pre-approve projects which local governments seek to pursue with North Korea. Currently they must first sign an agreement with Pyongyang. It is also mulling a budget for this within the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund. (This all seems hypothetical in current circumstances.)

: With the Century, the 8-volume memoirs of North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung issued in the early 1990s, goes on sale in South Korea for the first time. These “memoirs” mostly cover, and greatly embroider, Kim’s exploits as an anti-Japanese partisan.

: MOU says it seeks to revise the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act to require advance approval for South Koreans exchanging digital files of films or books with North Koreans. Currently, contacts with the North can be reported after they happen. It denies media reports that the aim is to restrict internet radio broadcasting into the DPRK.

: MOU reports that the number of Northern defectors reaching South Korea in the first quarter, having already fallen markedly in 2020 to 135, dropped further this year by 77% to just 31. The DPRK’s anti-coronavirus border closure is the main factor.

: MOU says that via “various channels” it continues to seek North Korea’s participation in a regional forum on public health, proposed by President Moon, launched in December. Other participants include China, Japan, Mongolia, and the US.

: Former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun, executive vice-chair of the presidential National Unification Advisory Council and a prominent advocate of engagement with Pyongyang, criticizes an upcoming hearing by a bipartisan US Congressional caucus on the ROK’s anti-leafleting law as “interference in internal affairs” with “impure intentions.”

: South Korea vows to keep trying with North Korea, despite the latter’s decision to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics, the first summer games it will miss since Seoul in 1988. The ROK had hoped, somehow, to use the Games to kickstart the peace process.

: In a rare case of DPRK plaintiffs suing under ROK jurisdiction, Seoul Central District Court rejects a claim for damages brought by two North Korean entities—and a South Korean acting for them—against four Southern companies, regarding zinc worth 5.3 billion won ($4.7 million) allegedly not paid for in 2010.

: MOU announces its third quinquennial survey of separated families. It will poll the 48,000 reunion applicants on its books to see if they are still alive and keen. It also plans to build 6-7 further video reunion facilities (13 exist), even though North Korea shows no responsiveness. The last reunions were held in 2018, after a three-year hiatus.

: MOU says that, amid signs that easing of DPRK-China border restrictions is growing likelier, it is considering letting South Korean NGOs resume aid to the North. This follows several supportive statements from Minister Lee.

: In her second diatribe in as many weeks, Kim Yo Jong calls Moon “a parrot raised by America,” among other barbs. She accuses him of double standards, in deploring North Korea’s missile tests while praising the South’s. The Blue House describes her comments as “regrettable.”

: Controversial amendment to the ROK’s Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act banning sending leaflets into the DPRK, passed in December, comes into effect. Violators face potential fines of 30 million won ($27,400) or up to three years in jail.

: MOU Lee, evidently unfazed by rockets, calls on Pyongyang to be “flexible” and accept Seoul’s offers of humanitarian cooperation. He says this at a seminar discussing the idea, far-fetched given current relations, of running joint trains to send cheering squads from both Koreas to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

: DPRK media confirm yesterday’s successful test of two “new-type tactical guided missiles,” with “irregular orbit features of low-altitude gliding leap type flight mode.” Using solid fuel and able to carry a 2.5-ton warhead, they flew 600 kilometers (Seoul had estimated 450; see also April 29 below). The test was supervised by Ri Pyong Chol, one of Kim Jong Un’s closest aides.

: In its first missile test in a year, North Korea fires two initially unidentified projectiles into the East Sea. The ROK National Security Council (NSC) holds an emergency meeting and expresses “deep concern.”

: MOU Lee reiterates that South Korea stands ready to provide a “sizable” amount of food and fertilizer aid to the North. The same day, his ministry says it is reviewing how best to send such aid—which Pyongyang continues to reject.

: An anonymous spokesperson says the ROK says it will not join the US, Japan, and EU member states in co-sponsoring this year’s resolution—the 19th in successive years—on DPRK human rights abuses at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, but will join the document’s adoption by consensus, the third year the Moon administration has taken that stance. The ROK used to be a co-sponsor.

: Joint CCPT US-ROK maneuvers conclude, having gone “without a hitch” according to an unnamed military source. The two allies’ defense ministers are quoted as concurring (US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is in Seoul for ‘2+2’ talks).

: In a poetically titled but otherwise unlyrical statement, “It Will Be Hard to See Again Spring Days Three Years Ago,” Kim Yo Jong blasts US-ROK military exercises. Unimpressed by their scaling down (“we are not taken in by their nonsense coating mad dog with sheepskin”), she threatens that the North may dissolve its organizations dealing with the South—or even abrogate the inter-Korean military accord. For good measure, she also warns the Biden administration to “refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”

: A propos Kim Yo Jong’s threats, ROK MND reiterates that “the Korea-US combined exercise is a command post exercise …conducted on a regular basis and … defensive in nature.” MND urges Pyongyang to be flexible, and to fully implement—rather than scrap—inter-Korean military accords.

: Four lawmakers of the conservative opposition PPP, including former DPRK diplomat Thae Yong-ho, meet MOU Lee at his ministry to protest delays in implementing the North Korean Human Rights Act passed in 2016. Thae says “the government must stop walking on eggshells not to upset the North Korean regime.”

: Unusually, MOU Lee accompanies DM Suh to the B-1 bunker, somewhere under Seoul, which would be a command center in case of war with North Korea. Their visit is “to encourage soldiers” during ongoing CCPT maneuvers.

: A propos the imminent leafleting ban, MOU vows the “utmost effort” to coordinate with the international community on DPRK human rights issues. As reported by Yonhap, the ministry denies that critical comments by the UN Special Rapporteur relate specifically to the new ban. But they do: his text is explicit and clear on this point (section 32; see also March 1).

: MOU announces finalized guidelines, ahead of a ban on sending leaflets into North Korea. The ministry clarifies that this only covers items sent from the South; it does not apply to anything dispatched to the DPRK from third countries, as activist groups had feared.

: The ROK and US begin regular spring military exercise. Scaled back due to COVID-19, which saw last year’s maneuvers cancelled, the Combined Command Post Training (CCPT) involves computer simulations—but no outdoor drills, as with all major joint exercises since 2019. MOU urges North Korea to “show a wise and flexible approach” about this. Pyongyang makes no immediate response (but see March 16 below).

: Maj. Gen. Pyo Chang-soo of the ROKA’s 22nd Infantry Division, which guards the eastern land and sea border, is dismissed over last month’s defector incident. Four other senior officers will also face disciplinary hearings. (See Feb. 16, 17 and 23 above.)

: Following publication of an interview with MOU Lee in the Financial Times on Feb. 26, his spokesperson clarifies that Lee did not mean to imply that global sanctions are the sole cause of North Korea’s humanitarian crisis; only that after five years it is time to review whether this is achieving the declared goal of denuclearization.

: In his latest wide-ranging report, issued ahead of the UN Human Rights Council meeting (see March 23), UN Special Rapporteur on DPRK human rights Tomas Ojea Quintana voices concern that the ROK’s upcoming ban on sending leaflets into the DPRK “limits many activities of escapees and civil society organizations, and such limits may not comply with international human rights law.” He recommends a review of the new legislation. (See also March 9, 11 and 30 below.)

: MOU Lee says the ROK will push for individual tourism to the DPRK once the pandemic ends, as this is “the best way to break boundaries” and help restore “national homogeneity.”

: Speaking at a seminar on inter-Korean cooperation in public health—not, alas, an inter-Korean seminar on cooperation in public health—MOU Lee renews his call to build a joint response system with North Korea against infectious diseases. The two Koreas agreed to do this in 2018, but like much else it was never implemented.

: Embarrassed JCS now admits that last week’s defector was caught 10 times on military CCTV. The first eight went unnoticed, despite alarm bells ringing (literally).

: MOUA hastily clarifies: “The Unification Ministry and its minister believe that the testimonies of defectors are valuable records that let our government and the international community know about the human rights situations in North Korea.”

: MOU Lee calls for work to resume soon on an inter-Korean dictionary. The “Gyeoreomal-keunsajeon” (겨러 말큰 사전) project began in 2005, was suspended in 2010, and resumed in 2014—only to halt again in 2016. At 307,000 words and after 25 meetings, the work is said to be 81% complete. (A later report suggests that ROK scholars may soon try to send a draft to their DPRK colleagues.)

: Four DPRK defectors say they will sue MOU Lee for defamation after he is quoted as querying whether defector testimonies on human rights abuses “reflect reality or are just a one-sided story.” They duly file a complaint of criminal defamation, but the case is deemed unlikely to proceed.

: Yonhap reports that the NGO Human Rights Watch has sent a formal opinion to MOU, criticizing the legal amendment to ban sending leaflets into North Korea as violating freedom of expression.

: MOU Lee claims that North Korea faces a food shortage of over 1.2 million tons this year: a chronic million ton shortfall, and the rest from 2020’s typhoon damage. Other estimates are more optimistic, or cautious.

: Ex-Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun suggests that foreign firms be included when seeking to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex. This would reassure North Korea, and make both sides hesitate before pulling out. He adds: “We have to come up with ideas that are appealing to North Korea. We need to explore ways to avoid UN sanctions.”

: JCS clarifies that yesterday’s defector arrived by sea, swimming for six hours in a diving suit and flippers. As with a similar case in November, this provokes concern about border security and military vigilance. Defense Minister Suh Wook apologises for the lapses (see also Feb. 23).

: The National Intelligence Service (NIS) tells ROK lawmakers that DPRK hackers tried to steal data on coronavirus vaccines and treatment technologies from Pfizer as well as South Korean pharmaceutical firms. No date or further details are given.

: ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) say a North Korean defector in his 20s came South early today “via the eastern border.” Detected on CCTV at 4.20 am, he was caught three hours later near Goseong. (See also Feb.17 and 23, and March 4, below.)

: At his parliamentary confirmation hearing, FM nominee Chung says US-ROK drills should be held “at a proper level”—but planning them must also consider inter-Korean ties and COVID-19. He takes up his post on Feb. 9.

: After media reports that the conservative main opposition PPP will push for the Inter-Korean Co-operation Fund to be tapped to help those affected by COVID-19, MOU says this is inappropriate “from a perspective of the principle of national finance.” The fund has a budget of 1.25 trillion won this year, but is little used given the freeze between the two Koreas.

: ROK MND publishes its biennial defense White Paper (so far only in Korean). Among much else, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Strategic Force Command now has 13 missile brigades, up from nine in 2018. The KPA has also upgraded its special forces. And yet, as in 2018, the DPRK is no longer termed an enemy as it always used to be. But this year, for the first time, Japan is no longer called a partner.

: MOU Lee weighs in: “I will say this clearly that we, as the unification ministry, have never discussed the issue of building nuclear plants in North Korea under any circumstances.” But the same day the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) publishes documents which show that this idea was indeed mooted, if only hypothetically.

: In his first interview since being outed, former DPRK diplomat Ryu tells CNN (among much else) that Kim Jong Un will not give up nuclear weapons, and calls for pressure over human rights issues. He says his main motive was a better future for his teenage daughter. The family defected via the ROK embassy in Kuwait.

: The People Power Party (PPP), South Korea’s conservative main opposition party, demands a probe into allegations that Moon Jae-in’s government had plans to offer to build a nuclear power plant in and for North Korea. The government vigorously denies this.

: The ROK Committee for the June 15 Joint Declaration, formed to support the first inter-Korean peace agreement (signed on that date in 2000), reports receiving “warm greetings of solidarity” from its DPRK counterpart. This is the first such message from the North in over a year. How the message was transmitted was not revealed.

: Park Sang-hak, a prominent DPRK defector who runs the activist group Fighters for a Free North Korea, flies to Washington to attend a proposed Congressional hearing on the ROK’s newly enacted ban on sending propaganda leaflets into the North.

: Sources in Seoul reveal that Ryu Hyun-woo (a variant Romanization is Ryu Hyon U), formerly the acting DPRK ambassador to Kuwait, defected in September 2019 and has since been living in South Korea. (See also Feb. 1 below.)

: MOU Lee expresses optimism for a “wise and flexible” solution to the issue of joint drills with the US.

: MOU publishes its Work Plan for 2021. Its professed goals are “to make progress toward denuclearization and establishing a peace regime by pursuing the peace process […]; form a community of life and safety on the Korean Peninsula for coexistence and peace; promote inter-Korean exchange and cooperation; transform the DMZ into an international peace zone and realize greater peace in border regions; and institutionalize inter-Korean relations and lay the foundation for implementing sustainable policy.”

: President Moon nominates Chung Eui-yong as foreign minister, replacing Kang Kyung-wha, who has held the post—the first woman to do so—throughout Moon’s term. No reason is given. In December, Kang incurred Kim Yo Jong’s wrath for doubting North Korea’s claim to be free of COVID-19. As director of the National Security Office in the Blue House during 2017-20, Chung played a key role as an emissary and go-between to Pyongyang and Washington.

: MOU reveals a sharp fall in the number of DPRK defectors reaching the ROK. 2020’s total was just 229, down from 1,047 in 2019 and 1,137 in 2018. Most (135) arrived in the first quarter, reflecting the impact of the DPRK’s border closure against the coronavirus. The cumulative total of former North Koreans in the South is a relatively modest 33,752.

: ROK Cabinet approves various revisions to the South-North Exchange and Cooperation Act. These include compensation for those affected if an inter-Korean project is suspended: seen as a belated response to the South’s abrupt closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) in 2016. Also, if MOU rejects an application to visit North Korea, it must henceforth state its reasons. The revision bill will go to the National Assembly.

: South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) reiterates its readiness to discuss any issues with the North. Spokesperson Boo Seung-chan denies that 2018’s accord has been all but nullified: “Since the pact was signed, the two Koreas have not taken hostile acts against each other at the agreed-upon buffer zones, and the military situation in border areas has been managed in a stable manner.”

: Insisting that ROK-US military exercises “are regular … and defensive in nature,” President Moon says that if Pyongyang has concerns, they can be discussed at the joint military committee. The two Koreas agreed to create this in 2018, but it has never met.

: With similar optimism, MOU’s analysis report also contrives to read the WPK Congress as signaling room for improvement in inter-Korean relations.

: DPRK media publish a statement by Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong, attacking speculation in Seoul about the North holding a military parade. She concludes: “The southerners are a truly weird group hard to understand. They are the idiot and top the world’s list in misbehavior as they are only keen on things provoking world laughter.”

:  DPRK media publish a statement by Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong, attacking speculation in Seoul about the North holding a military parade. She concludes: “The southerners are a truly weird group hard to understand. They are the idiot and top the world’s list in misbehavior as they are only keen on things provoking world laughter.”

: Despite harsh words from both brother and sister Kims, Yonhap, the quasi-official ROK news agency, quotes an upbeat assessment of the prospects for inter-Korean relations by an unnamed “top official” of MOU: “There were some strong words but their remarks seemed toned-down … The North appears to be leaving many possibilities open.”

: In his New Year address, Moon repeats call for the two Koreas to work together: “Our determination to meet at any time and any place and talk even in a contact-free manner remains unchanged. The two Koreas should jointly fulfill all the agreements made together to date.”

: In his New Year address, ROK President Moon Jae-in renews his call for the two Koreas to work together: “Our determination to meet at any time and any place and talk even in a contact-free manner remains unchanged. The two Koreas should jointly fulfill all the agreements made together to date.”

: Rodong Sinmun, the WPK daily, publishes a 13,500 word summary (not the full text) of Kim’s nine-hour speech to the Eighth Congress. This is hardline on all fronts, including toward South Korea.

: Reacting (if hardly responding) to Kim Jong Un’s diatribe, MOU reiterates South Korea’s commitment to implementing inter-Korean agreements.

: Rodong Sinmun, the WPK daily, publishes a 13,500 word summary (not the full text) of Kim’s nine hour speech to the Eighth Congress. This is hardline on all fronts, including South Korea. (See the previous issue of Comparative Connections, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp 89-104, for the full text [Appendix 1] and analysis of Kim’s comments on the South.)

: Reacting—if hardly responding—to Kim Jong Un’s strictures, the Unification Ministry (MOU) reiterates the ROK’s commitment to implementing inter-Korean agreements.

: Reuters reports that ROK prosecutors have indicted Kim Ryen Hi for violating the National Security Law (NSL). Kim, a North Korean woman aged 51 who claims she was tricked into defecting, has kept trying to be sent back to the DPRK, including turning herself in as a spy. Her lawyer comments: “It would invite international ridicule if you charge someone who is only fighting to go back home with threatening national security for sharing her daughter’s letters on Facebook.”

: Reuters reports that ROK prosecutors have indicted Kim Ryen Hi for violating the National Security Act (NSA). Kim, a North Korean woman aged 51 who claims she was tricked into defecting, has kept trying to be sent back to the DPRK, including turning herself in as a spy. Her lawyer comments: “It would invite international ridicule if you charge someone who is only fighting to go back home with threatening national security for sharing her daughter’s letters on Facebook.”

: Congress continues. Kim Jong Un concludes his report.

: Congress continues. Kim Jong Un finally concludes his report.

: Congress continues, and so does Kim Jong Un’s report.

: Congress continues, and so does Kim Jong Un’s report.

: Eighth WPK Congress opens in Pyongyang, unannounced; this is not reported till Jan. 6. Kim makes an opening speech. He also commences a marathon report, which will last nine hours and take two days. Few details are initially provided.

: Eighth Congress of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) opens in Pyongyang, unannounced; this is not reported until Jan. 6. Kim Jong Un makes an opening speech. He also commences a marathon report, which will last nine hours and take two days. Few details are initially provided.

: In his New Year address, MOU Lee says Seoul is expecting a “positive message of dialogue and cooperation” from Pyongyang in the near future.

: Osaka-based media NGO Asiapress publishes what it claims is a secret document from September in which Kim Jong Un launches a campaign to extirpate ROK linguistic usages as part of a “policy for inciting hatred among the domestic population towards South Korea.” Asiapress says it has more DPRK documents in this vein.

: In his New Year address, South Korea’s Minister of Unification (MOU) Lee In-young says Seoul is expecting a “positive message of dialogue and cooperation” from Pyongyang in the near future. (As of May he is still waiting.)

: Osaka-based media NGO Asiapress publishes what it claims is a secret document from September in which Kim Jong Un launches a campaign to extirpate ROK linguistic usages, as part of a “policy for inciting hatred among the domestic population towards South Korea.” Asiapress says it has more DPRK documents in this vein.

: Instead of Kim Jong Un’s customary substantial New Year address, DPRK media carry a very short handwritten letter. Kim offers greetings, thanks people for their trust in “difficult times,” and promises to “work hard to bring earlier the new era in which the ideals and desires of our people will come true.”

: Although North Korea cut all inter-Korean communication links in June, the United Nations Command (UNC) confirms that its direct telephone line at Panmunjom to the KPA remains operational. It delivered 86 messages in 2020, plus line checks twice daily.

: Instead of Kim Jong Un’s customary substantial New Year address, DPRK media carry a very short hand-written letter from the leader. Kim offers greetings, thanks people for their trust in “difficult times,” and promises to “work hard to bring earlier the new era in which the ideals and desires of our people will come true.”

: Although North Korea cut all inter-Korean communication links in June, the United Nations Command (UNC) confirms that its direct telephone line at Panmunjom to the KPA remains operational. It delivered 86 messages in 2020, plus line checks twice daily.

: A joint survey of 414 defectors by two organizations, the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) and NK Social Research (NKSR), finds that 26.6% of them sent money to North Korea this year. Remittances averaged 1.51 million won ($1,390), with on average 1.8 transactions in 2020. A larger number, 38.6%, said they maintained contact with family in the North, nearly all (91.6%) by phone.  Over one in seven (14.8%) said they had considered returning to North Korea.

: MOU says that from Jan. 4 it will increase support for NGOs aiding North Korea. Henceforth they can apply three times a year, rather than once, and need cover only 30% of financing themselves, down from 50%. Whether Pyongyang will accept such assistance is another matter.

: Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls on South Korea to “rectify” its ban on sending leaflets into North Korea: “I cannot help but feel miserable that our country is facing criticism from home and abroad due to the human rights issue.”

: A Politburo meeting—the 22nd session of the Political Bureau of the Seventh Central Committee of the WPK—reviews preparations for the upcoming Eighth Congress, set for “early in January” (still no exact date). Interestingly, this is chaired not by Kim Jong Un (though he attends) but former Premier Kim Jae Ryong, under KJU’s “guidance.”

: DPRK’s Voice of Korea reports: “Delegates to the Eighth Party Congress arrived in Pyongyang in late December.”

: The Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a private think-tank in Seoul, predicts that North Korea may greet President Biden with a missile test: “the North will consider playing the card of an ICBM launch in a desperate measure to break the deadlock.”

: Almost 30 South Korean human-rights organizations file a constitutional challenge to the new anti-leafleting law.

: Launching the Northeast Asia Conference on Health Security, an initiative of Moon’s, FM Kang expresses hope that North Korea might join. The inaugural virtual meeting comprises South Korea, the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and Mongolia.

: Statistics Korea, South Korea’s official statistical agency, publishes a raft of economic data and estimates on the North Korean economy in 2019. This includes a number of inter-Korean comparisons.

: The Sejong Institute, a private think-tank in Seoul, reports that Kim Jong Un made 51 public appearances this year: the fewest ever in his nine-year reign, down from 85 in 2019 and 212 in 2013. Fourteen were economy-related, 12 military, and 25 political. Eight were on-site inspections, mostly related to natural disasters or health issues. The Institute speculates that COVID-19 is the main reason for Kim’s relative invisibility of late.

: MOU says it is drafting guidelines on the new ban on sending leaflets into North Korea, to clarify its scope of application.

: MOU expresses regret that Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the DPRK, has called on Seoul to reconsider the leaflet ban.

: South Korea says it is developing ground vibration sensors to better detect movement near the DMZ, after a defector jumped over fences without raising alarms.

: One of the most high-profile (and controversial) balloon-launching activists, Park San-hang of Fighters for a Free North Korea, says he is contemplating a constitutional challenge to the ban on sending leaflets.

: By 187 votes to 0, ROK National Assembly approves a revision to the National Intelligence Service Korea Act. The spy agency can no longer investigate alleged pro-North activities by South Koreans: this power, abused in the past, now passes to the police. The conservative opposition PPP boycotts the vote after its filibuster the day before is overruled—as the ruling Democratic Party (DP) can do after 24 hours, having over 180 seats.

: By the same 187-0 margin, the National Assembly passes a revision to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act, to ban sending leaflets into North Korea.  Maximum penalties are three years jail or a fine of 30 million won ($27,000). Again the PPP boycotts the vote after its filibuster is overruled.

: In her first reported statement since June, Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong calls ROK foreign minister “impudent” and “reckless” for her comments: “We will never forget her words and she might have to pay dearly for it.” FM Kang repeats her skepticism on Dec. 17.

: Ji Seong-ho, one of two DPRK defectors elected in April as a lawmaker for the ROK conservative opposition (named the People Power Party, or PPP), says that seeking nuclear talks with North Korea without addressing its human rights issue is “quite a hollow thing, such as a sand castle.”

: Ever optimistic, Unification Minister Lee detects a “U-turn” toward a thaw since June’s tensions. He says North Korea may respond to the South’s offers of cooperation on COVID-29 after its upcoming Party Congress.

: At the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa says it is hard to believe the DPRK’s claim to be free of COVID-19: “All signs are that [they are] very intensely focused on controlling the disease that they say they don’t have.” This is not part of her prepared remarks.

: In a saga going back to June 2019, MOU says it is in talks with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to get back $11.6 million it had sent to supply 50,000 tons of rice to North Korea. Pyongyang rejected Seoul’s offer. (See also Sept. 3.)

: MOU Lee says South Korea should send the North food and fertilizer next spring, when it faces a risk of “extreme famine.” And yet …

: Park Sang-hak, leader of Fighters for a Free North Korea, is charged with assaulting a broadcasting team who visited his home (uninvited) to interview him about his leafleting campaign. He allegedly beat and threw bricks at the journalists, and fired a tear gas gun at police. Park counter-claimed that the journalists were housebreaking.

: Korea Herald reports that on Nov. 4, a DPRK defector in his 20s arrived undetected across the DMZ near the east coast. A former gymnast, the man said he vaulted over fences 3 meters (10 feet) high. ROK authorities make him jump twice to prove it.

: On the 10th anniversary of North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong island, which killed four, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook pays tribute to the fallen and vows a strong defense posture: “True peace needs to be supported by strong power.” The same day, MOU Lee tells officials of major chaebol (conglomerates) including Samsung, Hyundai Motor, SK and LG, whose heads accompanied President Moon to Pyongyang in 2018, to be prepared: an inter-Korean breakthrough “may come sooner than expected.”

: MOU Lee reiterates call for the two Koreas to cooperate on COVID-19: “When vaccines and treatment … are developed … in the near future, a new environment will be created in the Korean Peninsula in which people and goods can come and go.”

: With winter coming, MND says it will wrap up this year’s work excavating remains at Arrowhead Ridge, a Korean War battlefield. This was meant to be a joint effort, but North Korea remains unresponsive. The South will resume work in the spring.

: MOU Lee says South Korea should share coronavirus vaccines with the North. This prompts domestic criticism, since the ROK has yet to secure its own vaccine supplies—a fact which in December will become a major public issue.

: ROK provincial authorities in Gangwon—the only Korean province bisected by the DMZ—reveal that in August they sent a letter inviting DPRK counterparts to co-host the 2024 Winter Youth Olympics. They live in hope, though no reply has been received.

: Following the US presidential election, MOU Lee urges North Korea to “take a discreet, wise, and flexible approach” during the transition and refrain from provocations.

: In a 1,000 word KCNA commentary clearly meant to draw a line, Pyongyang again expresses “regret” at “the inglorious incident”—but blames Seoul for not controlling its citizen, and slams Southern conservatives for “working with bloodshot eyes to slander their fellow countrymen in the north.” The piece is headlined: “Sustained Confrontational Frenzy of S. Korean Conservative Forces May Invite Greater Misfortune.”

: At a forum in Cheorwon near the DMZ, MOU Lee calls the two Koreas “a single community of life and security.” He avers: “Once the South and the North join hands, the DMZ could be turned into [an] experimental space of coexistence where the possibility of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula can be tested in advance.”

: Without naming him, KCNA attacks ROK national security adviser Suh Hoon for acting “so sordidly” on “his recent secret junket” to Washington. Suh’s saying that inter-Korean ties also require consultation with other countries, such as the US, shows “the south Korean authorities’ wanton denial, perfidy to and an open mockery of” all past North-South agreements, which put national independence above all. Calling Suh “an American poodle,” KCNA adds: “We can not but doubt his sanity.”

: MOU says it will conduct an ecological survey of the Han River estuary next month. In 2018 the two Koreas carried out a joint survey, but this time the ROK will stick to the South side of the river only.

: Shin Hee-young, newish head of the ROK Red Cross, suggests that instead of one-sided aid which hurts the DPRK’s pride, the two Koreas conduct joint medical research.

: MOU reports that just 48 North Korean defectors—23 men and 25 women—reached South Korea in the third quarter: well down from the 226 who arrived in Q3 of 2019.  Travel restrictions due to COVID-19 are driving a sharp fall: there were 135 in Q1 and a mere 12 in Q2.

: Restating familiar themes, MOU Lee In-young tells a forum in Seoul: “We are faced with the task of moving the US-North Korea nuclear talks forward through inter-Korean trust, allowing individuals to travel to North Korea and reconnecting and modernizing railways and roads as agreed upon by the leaders of the two Koreas … That is the way to go no matter what and the responsibility that cannot be neglected.”

: ROK opposition lawmaker says MOU slashed its 2021 budget for the now demolished North-South liaison office to 310 million won ($270,000), from 6.41 billion won in 2020.

: ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) say that Hoguk, an interservice defensive drill held annually since 1996, will kick off next week. It begins Oct. 19 and ends Oct. 30. North Korea usually criticizes these maneuvers, but is silent this year.

: In his latest report on DPRK human rights, UN special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana denounces Lee Dae-jun’s killing as a “violation of international human rights law” and demands that Pyongyang punish those responsible.

: MND assures South Koreans that the ROK can “immediately respond to and incapacitate” DPRK short-range missiles and multiple rocket launchers (MLRs) displayed at the North’s Oct. 10 parade.

: After Kim’s “warm wish,” MOU voices hope for improved inter-Korean ties, but says conditions are not yet right to make specific proposals.

: Saying it is reviewing Kim’s speech, the Blue House reaffirms that inter-Korean accords should be honored “and war should be kept at any cost” (sic).

: North Korea marks 75th anniversary of the founding of ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) with a big military parade: its first in two years, held unusually at midnight. Hardware rolled out includes a huge new ICBM, the world’s largest of its kind, on an 11-axle transporter erector launcher (TEL). Kim Jong Un’s emotional speech includes a “warm wish …to our dear fellow countrymen in the south, and hope … the day would come when the north and south take each other’s hand again.”

: In a video address to the Korea Society in New York, President Moon suggests that the US and ROK work jointly toward a declaration formally ending the Korean War. He says trust will be built by “keeping our ears, mind and heart open toward” North Korea. Although “talks have now stalled, and we are catching our breath … we can neither allow any backtracking on hard-earned progress nor change our destination.”

: MOU data, requested by an opposition lawmaker, show that in quantitative terms North Korean media criticism of South Korea soared six-fold in 2019 (981 stories) compared to 2018 (152). Three outlets were surveyed: the party daily Rodong Sinmun, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), and Uriminzokkiri, a propaganda website for external consumption. The 2020 total exceeds 600 items so far, with 239 in June alone but fewer than 10 per month subsequently (see Appendix 2 in our last issue).

: “Parliamentary sources” in Seoul, evidently after intelligence briefings, say  the ROK military wiretapped KPA internal communications with and about the MOF official in real time throughout his ordeal. The captain on the spot talked of rescuing him, but was overruled from above. The intel confirms that he was trying to defect.

: After its own investigation, ROK Coast Guard concludes that the man was seeking to defect.

: MOU admits it okayed an NGO plan to send medical aid to North Korea just after news of the fatal shooting. It has told all six aid organizations granted such approval in September to suspend deliveries for now.

: MND says North Korea has not responded to the South’s call to restore the inter-Korean military hotline and discuss Seoul’s proposal for a joint investigation. ROK Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun urges Pyongyang to do this.

: Blue House calls for a joint probe with North Korea, and for the inter-Korean military hotline to be reopened to discuss this. Pyongyang makes no response, but its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)—rather than the navy or government—warns Seoul against intruding into Northern waters. KCNA adds that the North is “about” to organize its own search, and will “even consider … ways of handing over any tide-brought corpse to the south side conventionally in case we find it.”

: Mobilizing 39 vessels and six aircraft, ROK Navy and Coast Guard continue their search for the official’s body, despite the DPRK’s warning against intrusion. They clarify that they are staying strictly south of the NLL.

: In a most unusual message from the WPK’s United Front Department (UFD), Kim Jong Un apologizes for this “unsavory” case. The North’s explanation of why it shot the man strains credulity. Blue House also reveals that Moon and Kim exchanged fulsome letters early in May, and publishes their texts (unofficial translation here).

: ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) “strongly condemns” what it calls “an act of brutality … According to our military’s thorough analysis of diverse intelligence,” North Korean troops found the missing official in its waters, shot him, and burnt his body. In sharp tones, MND urges Pyongyang to explain and punish those responsible. It adds that the man had financial and other problems, and was probably seeking to defect.

: The Blue House (Cheongwadae, the ROK presidential office and residence) condemns this “inhumane” shooting of a South Korean “who had no weapon and no intention to resist,” as an “act against international norms and humanitarianism.” President Moon, calling the incident “shocking” and intolerable, orders South Korea’s military to further strengthen its security posture. MOU weighs in similarly, adding that it has no way to communicate with the North since the latter cut all inter-Korean communication lines in June.

: ROK Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) says that on Sept. 21 one of its officials went missing—leaving only his shoes—from an inspection boat patrolling waters off Yeonpyeong island, near the Northern Limit Line (NLL, the de facto inter-Korean maritime border). An intensive search fails to find him. MOF adds that “according to our military intelligence, he was found in North Korean waters late Tuesday [Sept. 22]).

: “Sources” in the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the ROK spy agency, say the as-yet unnamed 47-year old was shot and “cremated” by KPA soldiers while trying to defect. They are probing his motives, and say there is “no evidence that any senior official is involved in this case.”

: South Korean police reveal that on Sept. 17 they caught a defector trying to go back to North Korea across the DMZ. Arrested in a military area in Chorwon in central Korea, the unnamed man in his 30s, who had come South in 2018, was found with cutters and four mobile phones.

: Moon marks summit anniversary with a Facebook post: “Together with Chairman Kim Jong-un, I declared denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.” Since then “internal and external restraints” have stopped the peace clock, but a “seed sown in history” is sure to bear fruit. The ROK holds no official commemoration of the anniversary, which passes wholly unmentioned in DPRK media.

: The day before the second anniversary of his third summit with Kim Jong Un, Moon tells Buddhist leaders: “If (we) don’t give up hope for meetings and dialogue, we will surely move on to the path of peace and unification.”

: MOU Lee tells DMZ Forum 2020 that the two Koreas should “set up a joint disaster control system in the DMZ” to tackle inter alia “flooding, damage from blight and harmful insects [and] forest fires.” This could “also bring in people to slow-developing border regions and get the peace engine up and running if roads and railways are connected.”

: JCS nominee Won In-choul (currently Air Force chief of staff), also replying to questions from lawmakers, opines that the North “could launch an SLBM by using catapulting devices.” It is unclear if this difference denotes a changed military assessment, or confusion. No launch occurs.

: On his first visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) as Unification minister, Lee calls on North Korea to implement 2018’s inter-Korean accords, reopen cut communication lines, and resume “open-minded” dialogue. At Panmunjom Lee waves to DPRK soldiers. It is not shown, or stated, whether the Korean People’s Army (KPA) waved back.

: Responding to lawmakers’ questions ahead of his confirmation hearing, Gen. Suh Wook—nominated by President Moon as Minister of National Defense (MND); hitherto he was chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS)—says that “no signs indicating imminent firings of an SLBM [submarine-launched ballistic missile] have been detected.” There is speculation that the DPRK might mark the 75th founding anniversary of its ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) on Oct. 10 with a launch of a new missile.

: Typhoon Haishen, the tenth this season, batters the eastern ROK and Japan’s Kyushu region. Landing at Ulsan, it temporarily knocks out power to Hyundai’s main auto plant. It then passes along the DPRK’s east coast, already hard-hit by Typhoon Maysak.

: Typhoon Haishen, the 10th this season, batters the eastern ROK and Japan’s Kyushu region. Landing at Ulsan, it temporarily knocks out power to Hyundai’s main auto plant. It then passes along the DPRK’s east coast, already hard-hit by Typhoon Maysak.

: MOU Lee tells a forum in Seoul that better inter-Korean ties—for instance, cooperation in public health—can move denuclearization forward and “open the era of complete, verifiable and irreversible peace, with the two Koreas taking the lead in cooperation with the international community … We hope that the North will respond to this new start.”

: ROK Red Cross says MOU has commissioned it to create virtual reality (VR) content featuring the Northern hometowns of divided families: “As the separated families are aging rapidly and there are not enough opportunities for reunions, we decided to push ahead with this project using cutting-edge technology to offer them consolation.”

: Pyongyang vows “severe punishment” for officials in Wonsan, accusing them of failing to prepare for Typhoon Maysak which struck the east coast of both Koreas on Sept. 2. An unspecified incident in the port city caused dozens of casualties.

: Pyongyang vows “severe punishment” for officials in Wonsan, accusing them of failing to prepare for Typhoon Maysak which struck the east coast of both Koreas on Sept. 2. An unspecified incident in the port city caused dozens of casualties.

: NK News reports that in late August a court in Incheon acquitted a lawyer who had brought back North Korean books and newspapers after attending a business forum in Pyongyang in November 2018. The judge ruled that since MOU had approved his trip, the defendant could legally possess such items – otherwise banned under the National Security Law (NSL)—for personal research use.

: NK News reports that in late August a court in Incheon acquitted a lawyer who had brought back North Korean books and newspapers after attending a business forum held in Pyongyang in November 2018. The judge ruled that since MOU had approved his trip, the defendant could legally possess such items—otherwise banned under the National Security Law (NSL) —for personal research use.

: Meeting Shin Hee-yong, the new head of the ROK Red Cross, MOU Lee says he hopes the two Koreas “can kick off video reunions over the Chuseok holiday” (the Korean harvest festival, this year falling on Oct. 1). This seems optimistic: North Korea has never accepted video equipment which Seoul paid for, and obtained a UN sanctions waiver as long ago as March 2019.

: MOU says it may redeem funds from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) if there is no progress by end-2020. In June 2019 Seoul announced plans to send 50,000 tons of rice aid, and gave WFP $11.6 million to cover costs—but Pyongyang rejected the offer.

: At the annual Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD), ex-USFK commander Gen. Vincent Brooks predicts that North Korea will hold off re-engaging with the South until 2021, when the election campaign for Moon Jae-in’s successor may give it more leverage.

: Meeting Shin Hee-yong, new head of the ROK Red Cross, MOU Lee says he hopes the two Koreas “can kick off video reunions over the Chuseok holiday” (the Korean harvest festival, this year falling on Oct. 1). This seems optimistic, as North Korea has never even accepted the video equipment which Seoul paid for—obtaining a UN sanctions waiver as long ago as March 2019. In the event, no reunions are held.

: A propos another stalled project, MOU says it may redeem funds from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) if there is no progress by end-2020. In June 2019 Seoul had announced plans to send 50,000 tons of rice aid, and gave WFP $11.6 million to cover costs—but Pyongyang rejected the offer. (See also Nov. 30.)

: At the annual Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD), ex-USFK commander Gen. Vincent Brooks predicts that North Korea will hold off re-engaging with the South until 2021, when the election campaign for Moon Jae-in’s successor may give it more leverage.

: National Security Adviser Suh Hoon ‘clarifies’ that the ROK-US working group forum on North Korea is “basically … useful,” and critics are misinformed. Seoul and Washington are consulting on how to improve it, by “adjusting the aspects of it being misunderstood and excessively functioning” (sic).

: ROK National Security Adviser Suh Hoon “clarifies” that the ROK-US working group forum on North Korea is “basically … useful,” and its critics are misinformed. Seoul and Washington are consulting on how to improve it, by “adjusting the aspects of it being misunderstood and excessively functioning” (sic). (See Aug. 21 in the previous issue.)

: Meeting with Japan’s Ambassador in Seoul, Koji Tomita, MOU Lee asks Tokyo to support efforts to improve inter-Korean ties, as this will be “very beneficial for Japan as well.”

: MOU says it has requested a 3.5% increase in its budget for inter-Korean co-operation next year, to 1.24 trillion won ($1.05 billion). Even though relations are stalled, the plan is to earmark more for hypothetical joint action against disease and natural disasters.

: Meeting Japan’s ambassador in Seoul, Koji Tomita, South Korea’s Unification Minister (MOU) Lee In-young asks Tokyo to support efforts to improve inter-Korean ties, claiming that this will be “very beneficial for Japan as well.”

: ROK Unification Ministry (MOU) says it has requested a greater than 3% increase in its budget for inter-Korean cooperation next year, to 1.24 trillion won ($1.05 billion). Even though relations are stalled, the plan is to earmark more for hypothetical joint action against disease and natural disasters.

: In a report to lawmakers, MOU says a “triple whammy” – sanctions, COVID-19, and floods – is slowing the DPRK economy, jeopardizing targets set for October’s 75th Party founding anniversary. The Ministry vowed to keep pushing for humanitarian inter-Korea cooperation, and to seek opportunities for “small-scale trading”.

: ROK Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo tells lawmakers that Kim Yo Jong, though formally a WPK CC first vice departmental director, appears to be overseeing North Korea’s strategy toward South Korea and the US.

: ROK lawmakers inform media that the barter deal will not go ahead, saying Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho told the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee that one of the DPRK partners is under sanctions. MOU, however, denies that the project has been scrapped.

: MOU Lee calls for inter-Korean cooperation against “disasters and catastrophes that have no boundaries,” also pledging “concrete plans … in three areas: health, prevention of infections and climate.” In a separate meeting, he tells firms invested in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) that he will “actively seek ways to resume” its operations.

: MOU reveals that Seoul has approved plans by two unnamed NGOs to send coronavirus-related items, such as masks and protective clothing, to North Korea. The consignments are worth 180 and 300 million won (respectively $151,000 and $253,000).

: National Intelligence Service (NIS) tells lawmakers that Kim Jong Un, though still absolute leader, has partially delegated authority to his sister Kim Yo Jong, whom it calls the “de facto No. 2,” and two pairs of senior economic and military figures. One aim, it suggests, is to “relieve stress … and avert culpability in the event of policy failure.”

: North Korea unexpectedly announces that the “Eighth Congress of the WPK will be convened in January, Juche 110(2021).” It was not due until May, a milder season.

: Joint US-ROK military drills, scaled down and largely computer-based this year, kick off two days late after a Korean participant tested positive for COVID-19. They end on Aug. 28.

: Meeting with US Ambassador Harry Harris, Unification Minister Lee calls for upgrading the allies’ joint forum on North Korea policy to “Working Group Version 2.0.” Critics suggest this is actually a downgrade, since the goal is more autonomy for Seoul to follow its own path with Pyongyang – regardless of Washington.

: Yonhap weighs pros and cons of proposed barter deal (Aug. 5, and Aug. 24). It could put North-South ties back on track – or fall foul of international sanctions and US disapproval.

: Yonhap reports that the UN has granted a sanctions waiver for the ROK’s Gyeonggi provincial government to provide a greenhouse system and related materials, worth $368,000, for a nutrition project in the DPRK’s Nampo city and South Pyongan province. It is not stated whether Pyongyang will accept this aid.

: MOU launches a rare inspection of 25 NGOs registered with it, with more to follow. 13 are run by North Korean defectors. The same day, Seoul Administrative Court accepts a plea by Keunsaem, one of two groups whose operating license the ministry revoked in July, to suspend that decision. Legal proceedings will continue.

: ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) say that amid heavy rainfall, floodgates of North Korea’s Hwanggang Dam on the Imjin river remain partly open. Four times recently the North has discharged water from the dam without warning, contravening a 2009 accord reached after a similar incident caused flash floods which drowned six South Korean campers. On Aug. 5 Seoul urged Pyongyang to give due notice, to no response.

: After heavy rains, MND says it is looking out for North Korean mines which might have been swept out of the DMZ into South Korea. Some just look like wooden boxes.

: MOU is reportedly reviewing a proposed inter-Korean barter deal. Unification Nonghyup, an ROK farmers’ group, signed a 150 million won ($126,710) deal in June with two DPRK companies to swap 167 tons of Southern sugar for Northern liquors, candies, teas et al. Unification Minister Lee had voiced support for such small-scale barter.

: MOU denies that its upcoming audit of civic groups affiliated to it targets defectors, insisting that its criteria are strictly performance-based.

: UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, Tomas Ojea Quintana, tells MOU that its planned inspection of defector activist groups should not undermine efforts to improve the DPRK rights situation.

: Park Jie-won starts work as South Korea’s new spy chief, a day after his National Assembly confirmation hearing. He was grilled about his role in transferring $450 million to North Korea around the June 2000 summit, for which he was later jailed.

: South Korea acknowledges that a defector did swim back into North Korea around July 18 from Ganghwa island, as claimed by North Korea. It adds that there is no evidence he has COVID-19. Other reports name him as Kim, aged 24, and claim he was facing charges of raping a fellow defector.

: An emergency enlarged meeting of the WPK CC Politburo is called, after a “runaway” (defector) who illicitly returned home to Kaesong on July 18 is suspected of having “the vicious virus.” KJU orders a lockdown of Kaesong and other measures, to avert “a deadly and destructive disaster.” The lockdown is lifted three weeks later.

: Lee faces lively and robust confirmation hearing. Ex-DPRK diplomat Thae Yong-ho presses him on whether he was pro-Pyongyang in his youth. Lee is confirmed as the new MOU, taking up his post on July 27.

: MOU nominee Lee suggests that “humanitarian areas related to eating, suffering and things that people want to see before they die” (i.e. family reunions and visits) are fit matters for inter-Korean cooperation without any need to consult Washington.

: Both MOU and the nominee to head it, Lee In-young, aver that suing North Korea for blowing up the joint liaison office is not a viable way to proceed.

: An aide to Im Jong-seok (see July 3) says Im is keen to promote cooperation between cities in North and South Korea, via a nonprofit foundation he heads.

: MOU says it has approved 16 projects by NGOs to aid in the first half of this year. Two are coronavirus-related. It does not name the organizations involved.

: Jeong Se-hyun, former Unification Minister and current executive vice chair of the presidential National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC), calls on the next MOU to dissolve the joint US-ROK working group that coordinates policies on North Korea: “Why on earth did such a thing as the explosion of the joint liaison office take place? It’s because the working group held back inter-Korean relations every single step of the way.”

: Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), an ROK state think tank, says Kim Jong Un made only 19 public appearances in the first half of 2020. During 2017-19 he averaged 40-50 in the equivalent period. KINU attributes this to COVID-related caution.

: In another largely symbolic case, South Korean lawyer files suit against Kim Yo Jong and Gen. Pak Jong Chon, CGS of the KPA, over last month’s office demolition. Prosecutors duly open an enquiry on July 16. Plaintiff Lee Kyung-jae notes that under DPRK criminal law, intentional destruction of state property can be punished with life imprisonment.

: Two elderly former POWs whom the DPRK did not repatriate in 1953—they only escaped half a century later—win a landmark, if symbolic, legal case. Seoul Central District Court orders North Korea and Kim Jong Un to pay each man 21 million won ($17,550) for 33 months of forced labor during 1953-56. This is the first time an ROK court has acknowledged its formal jurisdiction over North Korea and issued a compensation order.

: Moon reshuffles several senior security and diplomatic positions. Lee In-young, parliamentary leader of the ruling Democrats (DP), becomes Unification Minister. Park Jie-won, another politician, will lead the National Intelligence Service. Suh Hoon moves from heading the NIS to be Moon’s National Security Advisor. The previous NSA, Chung Eui-yong, becomes a special adviser, as does Im Jong-seok, Moon’s former chief of staff. All four new appointees are well connected in Pyongyang.

: Because of COVID-19, the number of North Korean defectors reaching the South in the second quarter was a record low, according to MOU. Just 12 arrived, compared to 135 in the first quarter and 320 in Q2 last year. The annual flow has steadily declined in the Kim Jong Un era, from 2,400 in 2010 to 1,407 in 2019.

: In rare criticism, Moon Chung-in, one of President Moon’s most dovish and influential long-time advisers, calls on Pyongyang to explain its demolition of the liaison office. Built with 17 billion won ($14.2 million) of ROK taxpayers’ money, this was “a symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation and peace,” so “it is hard for our people to accept that the North unilaterally blew it up like a show.”

: Speaking at Seoul Air Base on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, President Moon urges North Korea to “boldly embark on an endeavor to end the most sorrowful war in world history”—while warning that “our military has strength to ward off any threat.” Saying that inter-Korean competition is over, Moon notes that South Korea’s GDP is over 50 times the North’s and its trade is 400 times larger.

: MOU calls Kim’s suspension of military plans “positive behavior.” It adds that DPRK media have “withdrawn articles critical of South Korea en masse” (this seems to mean they added no new ones; the old ones remain up). ROK military sources say the North has begun removing propaganda loudspeakers it installed just days before near the DMZ.

: At what KCNA calls “a preliminary meeting of the Fifth Session of the Seventh Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea,” chaired by Kim Jong Un, the CMC suspends the KPA General Staff’s “plans of military action toward the south”. North Korea’s campaign thus ends as suddenly as it began.

: Park Sang-hak, leader of Fighters for a Free North Korea, claims his group defied tight police surveillance to fly leaflets into the North. ROK authorities doubt that any got there, given wind conditions. MOU warns Park he will face “strict measures.” On June 26 police search his office; he refuses them entry to his house.

: North Korea keeps sending small groups of troops to border sentry posts for bush clearance and road maintenance, according to anonymous official source quoted by Yonhap. It adds, there is no sign of military preparations, which would require at least platoon-level movements.

: Pyongyang threatens to send “leaflets of punishment” south, launched by students: “The south Korean authorities will face really horrible time.” It reiterates this threat on June 21 and 22, claiming to have printed 12 million leaflets—images show Moon Jae-in’s face in an ash-tray, smeared with fag-ends and dirt—and that 3,000 balloons are ready. In the event nothing happens.

: MOU responds: “It is very regrettable that North Korea unveiled via a media outlet its plan to send massive anti-South Korea leaflets (sic), and we demand its immediate halt.”

: Blue House announces that Moon has accepted Kim Yeon-chul’s resignation as Minister of Unification, offered two days earlier.

: A propos defector activists, MOU vows: “In close cooperation with the police and local authorities, the government will beef up its crackdown, including the response on the ground.” One such group, Keunsaem, says it is temporarily suspending plans to send plastic bottles containing rice to North Korea from Gangwha island on June 21.

: KPA General Staff says troops will reoccupy Kaesong and Kumgang former joint venture zones. “Civil police posts” withdrawn from the DMZ will be “set up again,” front line artillery units will be reinforced, and “all kinds of regular military exercises in the areas close to the boundary” will resume.

: Pyongyang reveals and spurns a secret Southern offer on June 15 to send special envoys North. Kim Yo Jong “flatly reject[s] the tactless and sinister proposal.”

: In her longest (almost 2,000 words) and rudest—even she calls it “a bomb of words” —diatribe yet, headlined “Honeyed Words of Impudent Man Are Disgusting,” Kim Yo Jong flays Moon’s June 15 speeches as “a string of shameless and impudent words full of incoherence”, and calls it “sickening” to hear this “spate of flunkeyist jargon.”

: UFD’s Jang Kum Chol weighs in: “We have no idea to sit together with the authorities of the south side who evoke only disgust and nasty feelings. [There] will be neither exchange nor cooperation with the [South] in the future. And there will be no word to be exchanged. It is our stand that we had better regard everything that happened between the north and the south as an empty dream. … [The] enemy is the enemy, after all.”

: Blue House calls Kim Yo Jong’s attack “rude” and “senseless”: “We won’t tolerate any more of North Korea’s indiscreet rhetoric and act.” It also condemns the North’s disclosure of its special envoy proposal as a breach of “basic etiquette.”

: Under headline “Our Army Is Fully Ready to Go into Action: KPA General Staff,” KCNA reports that North Korea’s military is, inter alia, “studying an action plan for taking measures to make the army advance again into the zones that had been demilitarized under the north-south agreement.”

: North Korea destroys joint liaison office in Kaesong with “a terrific explosion,” citing “the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes.” An adjacent building, once the management office for the Kaesong Industrial Complex, also appears seriously damaged.

: In two speeches on the 20th anniversary of the first North-South summit, President Moon regrets that “inter-Korean relations have not progressed in a straight line” and urges Pyongyang “not to close the window on talks.” Still, “We will usher in an era, without fail, when South and North Korea band together and cooperate for peace and prosperity.”

: Kwon Jong Gun, director-general of the Department of US Affairs in the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), warns South Koreans not to “poke their noses into” US-North Korea relations or the nuclear issue. Among other colorful images, he calls the South “long forsaken like a good-for-nothing cucumber stalk thrown into swill”, and “preemies [sic] … burping after drinking a still water.” More analytically: “We are not what we were two years ago.”

: Kim Yo Jong issues statement. Extracts: “I feel it is high time to surely break with the south Korean authorities. We will soon take a next action … Before long, a tragic scene of the useless north-south joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen … Rubbish must be thrown into dustbin.”

: Jang Kum Chol, director of the UFD of the WPK CC, warns that, in KCNA’s headline, “North-South Ties Have Reached Uncontrollable Phase.” Jang concludes: “From now, time will be, indeed, regretful and painful for the south Korean authorities.”

: Blue House warns that it will “thoroughly crack down” on cross-border leafleteering, saying this violates both domestic ROK law and inter-Korean agreements. The same day, MOU files criminal charges against two leaflet-sending groups.

: KCNA reports that, following a Party review decreeing that “work towards the south should thoroughly turn into the one against enemy,” as a first step all North-South communication lines will be severed at noon that day. It itemizes these as “ … the north-south joint liaison office, the East and West Seas communication lines between the militaries of the north and the south, the inter-Korean trial communication line and the hotline between the office building of the Central Committee of the WPK and the Chongwadae [Blue House]”.

: South Korea confirms that the North is no longer picking up the phone on both civilian and military hotlines. Test calls are normally scheduled for 9 am and 4 pm daily.

: DPRK media – domestic and external– launch blitzkrieg of attacks echoing and amplifying Kim Yo Jong’s. Dozens of such articles appear over the next fortnight. Typical headlines include “Unpardonable Hostile Act” and “No mercy for the filthy scum.”

: Unnamed “spokesman of the United Front Department of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea” (UFD, CC, WPK) warns, among other threats and insults, that “we are about to start the work that can hurt the south side soon.”

: In a sharply worded statement, her second aimed at Seoul this year, Kim Yo Jong attacks “human scum” who send leaflets by balloon into North Korea, warning that “the south Korean authorities will be forced to pay a dear price if they let this situation go on.”

: Responding within hours, MOU does not criticize Kim Yo Jong’s diatribe but says it is working on plans to legislate a ban on cross-border leafleteering. Such activity, it adds, causes tensions, creates litter and endangers residents in border areas.

: An optimistic MOU says that in hopes the North will respond, it will prepare for inter-Korean relations in the post-coronavirus age, citing the east coast rail project.

: MOU says it wants to revise the South-North Exchange and Cooperation Act to make it easier for North Korean firms to do business in the South.

: Citing coronavirus concerns and chilly relations, MOU says South Korea will mark next month’s 20th anniversary of the first North-South summit on its own, without North Korea. This is not new; there has been no joint celebration since 2009.

: MOU says South Korea will give $4.9 million over five years to a project by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). The goal is “improving North Korean people’s understanding of international principles on statistics and usability of data as part of efforts to enhance the country’s sustainable development capacity.”

: MOU says it wants to revise the South-North Exchange and Cooperation Law, enacted in 1990, to make cooperation easier. Ideas include allowing municipalities to have their own dealings with the North, and loosening reporting and permission rules for a range of inter-Korean contacts.

: ROK Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) announces a year-long comprehensive survey, the first, of the DMZ; presumably on the Southern side only, below the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). A 55-person panel will look for archaeological relics, flora, and fauna at 40 sites. No North Korean involvement is mentioned.

: Kim reappears. KCNA reports that he guided “the Fourth Enlarged Meeting of the Seventh Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)” —presumably a day earlier, on May 23. Topics discussed included “new policies for further increasing … nuclear war deterrence.”

: With KJU unseen for three weeks since his re-emergence on May Day, MOU says: “The relevant authorities are keeping a close watch”—while noting that such absences are not unusual.

: Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul says the May 24 measures will remain in force.

: Yonhap reports that MOU has launched a “Fake News Response” page on its website, the first ROK ministry to do so, a result of worries that rumor and speculation “could cause confusion and instability in society and financial markets.” Two early targets are YouTube videos, claiming that facemasks are abundant in North Korea though scarce in the South, and that a Southern factory is sending the North a million masks a day.

: Approaching the tenth anniversary of the “May 24 measures”—a ban on most North-South trade imposed by Seoul in 2010, in reprisal for the sinking of the Cheonan that March—MOU says these have “virtually lost … effect” and pose no obstacle to inter-Korean exchanges. It reiterates this next day, claiming past administrations had eroded the sanctions through exemptions; but declines comment on whether they might be lifted entirely.

: MOU says it expects North Korea to face an overall grain shortage of 860,000 tons this year.

: MND denies and deplores media claims that protests by Pyongyang prompted cancellation of a biannual inter-service maritime live fire drill, due to be held this week off Uljin on the east coast. The ministry insists that adverse weather was the real reason.

: ROK JCS says it now has “decisive” evidence (which it does not reveal) that May 3 cross-border firing by the DPRK was accidental.

: Yonhap reports that MOU’s latest annual who’s who in North Korea lists, among other changes, a new chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), the DPRK’s military intelligence agency. Rim Kwang Il, an army general, replaced Jang Kil Song last December. MOU notes high turnover rates during the past year: almost 80% for the WPK Politburo, and 82% for the State Affairs Commission (SAC).

: Blue House spokesman insists it is too early to rule out a fresh inter-Korean summit this year, even though “truly, it seems difficult at the moment.”

: In a “special address” on the third anniversary of his inauguration, President Moon suggests quarantine cooperation as a way to revive inter-Korean relations, as this would not breach international sanctions. He admits that “North Korea is not responding”—but blames this on “difficulties” due to COVID-19.

: Maj. Gen. Kim Do-gyun, MND’s point man on inter-Korean affairs, is promoted to three stars – and taken off the case. He becomes chief of the Capital Defense Command. The report does not state who will replace him on the North Korea beat at MND.

: US-led United Nations Command (UNC) says it is conducting “a full investigation” into May 3 border shooting incident. It was reportedly unable to enter the Northern side of the DMZ. Pyongyang has still offered no explanation, much less apology.

: South Korea’s Minister of Unification (MOU) visits the DMZ. Kim Yeon-chul’s trip to Panmunjom is to assess preparations for the planned resumption of tourism, suspended since last year’s outbreak of African swine fever.

: ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) says Pyongyang has not yet offered any explanation for yesterday’s gunfire incident at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

: Yonhap says that the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), an ROK state think-tank, is proposing that South Korea sign a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with North Korea, “to accelerate reform … and to help it integrate into the international market.” (KIEP’s homepage lists a report with this date, but in fact published last December—so it is unclear what exactly is new here.)

: South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) report that at about 0741 Northern gunfire struck a guardpost at Cheorwon in the central part of the peninsula, leaving four bullet holes. Following procedure, the ROKA reacted with broadcast warnings, followed by two bursts of return fire (10 rounds each). Though a clear breach of 2018’s inter-Korean military agreement, Seoul reckons the North did not intend a provocation. The JCS noted that “it was quite foggy and the North Korean soldiers usually rotate shifts around that time,”

: Yonhap, South Korea’s quasi-official news agency, cites an unnamed Blue House official as denying that Kim Jong Un has undergone any kind of medical procedure.

: Kim Jong Un reappears. Flanked by most of the top DPRK leadership, he cuts a ribbon to open the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory, some 50 miles north of Pyongyang. NKNews notes a new mark on his wrist, which could indicate a minor cardiac procedure.

: Reiterating the ROK’s consistent stance, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul denounces reports that Kim Jong Un is gravely ill as “fake news,” and deplores what he calls an “infodemic” of speculation on the subject.

: MOU releases mid-term plan for developing inter-Korean relations. Ideas include a joint event in June to mark the 20th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit. There is no sign that Pyongyang is interested.

: South Korea designates a planned 111-km railway, running north from the east coast port city Gangneung to Jejin near the DMZ, as an inter-Korean project. This means reconstruction can proceed without the normal feasibility study.

: MOU approves an unnamed NGO’s plan to send 20,000 items of protective clothing worth $162,000 to help North Korea combat COVID-19. No more details are given.

: Daily NK, a Seoul-based online journal run by activists and defectors with sources inside North Korea, alleges that Kim Jong Un is recovering after heart surgery. It later modifies that to “a cardiovascular procedure.” (Unlike other media, Daily NK does not claim that Kim is gravely ill, much less dead.) This report intensifies worldwide media speculation.

: Various South Korean government sources insist that all is normal in the North. Seoul firmly maintains that line, damping down speculation about Kim’s health.

: MOU reports that the number of North Koreans visiting the South fell from 809 in 2018 to zero in 2019 as relations chilled. 9,835 South Koreans visited the North. If commuting by ROK staff at the joint liaison office in Kaesong is excluded, the figure drops to 576: sharply down from 4,612 in 2018.

: Reiterating its determination to facilitate individual tourism to North Korea, MOU adds that this is subject to progress in tackling the coronavirus.

: Customary celebrations of “Sun’s Day”—Kim Il Sung’s birthday—in Pyongyang are scaled down, presumably due to COVID-19 concerns. Unprecedentedly, Kim Jong Un is not present.

: Four-yearly parliamentary elections in South Korea see a swing to Moon’s ruling Democratic Party (DP), giving it an overall majority in the National Assembly for the first time. Two North Korean defectors win seats for the conservative opposition, including former diplomat Thae Yong-ho (now Tae Ku-min), who is elected in Gangnam.

: DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), North Korea’s rubber-stamp Parliament, holds its annual spring session—two days late, without explanation. The agenda includes the usual economic and budget reports, as always with no hard numbers. Kim Jong Un, who is no longer an SPA deputy, does not attend this year.

: Kim Jong Un chairs Politburo meeting of the Central Committee (CC) of the ruling Workers’ Party (WP). Thereafter Kim is unseen until May 1, which sparks external speculation about his health and whereabouts.

: MOU predicts—correctly, it turns out, suggesting good intelligence sources in Pyongyang—that coronavirus concerns may prompt North Korea to streamline its upcoming parliamentary meeting (see April 12) by having deputies register on the day—rather than the usual 1-2 days in advance, followed by paying homage at the Kims’ mausoleum and the like.

: MOU says it will give aid worth $5.73 million to the DPRK via international agencies this year. This comprises $4 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) for women and children, announced in December, and $1.73 million through the Red Cross to help typhoon recovery efforts. Seoul’s contribution is much the largest within the global total of $9.43 million in aid to North Korea pledged this year. MOU also okays an unnamed NGO’s plan to supply hand sanitizers worth $81,000 to North Korea to help fend off COVID-19, the first such private aid this year.

: Despite Pyongyang’s threat a day earlier to stop negotiating with the US, MOU reiterates Seoul’s readiness to assist a resumption of long-stalled denuclearization talks.

: ROK’s Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council (IKECPC) approves spending 688 million won ($565,000) to create a digital archive of relics unearthed when, for a decade starting in 2007, the two Koreas jointly excavated Manwoldae palace near Kaesong, which was Korea’s capital during the Koryo dynasty (918-1392).

:  North Korea fires what appear to be two short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea.

: At a memorial ceremony at the ROK Navy’s 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek on the 10th anniversary of the sinking of the frigate Cheonan, with 46 lives lost, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo says, “We should protect the Northern Limit Line (NLL, the de facto inter-Korean maritime border) all the more tightly to make sure past sorrows such as the Cheonan attack never are repeated, and establish North Korea’s denuclearization and the Korean Peninsula’s lasting peace.” Pyongyang has always denied responsibility.

: Seoul says South Korean NGOs can get government financial support for coronavirus-related aid projects in North Korea if they have an agreement with Pyongyang. Two days later, though, MOU nixes a bid by the local administration in Gyeonggi province (which surrounds Seoul) to send masks and test kits worth 1.2 billion won ($980,000), saying that this “failed to meet the requirements.”

: A day after Kim Yo Jong reveals that Trump offered to assist Pyongyang in combating the coronavirus, Seoul repeats its call for the two Koreas to work together on this: “from the perspective of humanitarian and mutually beneficial cooperation … closely related to the right to health and survival of the people of both countries.”

: Seoul renews its call for the two Koreas to cooperate in fighting COVID-19.

:  North Korea fires two projectiles presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea.

: MOU licenses two border cities, Paju and Goyang, to operate independent humanitarian aid projects in North Korea. Four other local governments—Seoul and Incheon cities, and South Chungcheong and Gyeonggi provinces (but see March 24 below)—already have such permission. This is all somewhat notional, given Pyongyang’s non-cooperation.

: In two statements on successive days, MOU pours cold water on calls for the KIC to be reopened to produce face masks, in short supply in the South. The ministry notes that, among other obstacles, North Korea has completely closed its borders as an anti-coronavirus measure.

: North Korea again test-fires projectiles (three, this time) into the East Sea. South Korea again remonstrates. Two further tests follow on March 20 and 28—making this the DPRK’s busiest ever month for missile launches, with a total of nine projectiles fired.

: Conservative daily Chosun Ilbo claims that Kim’s letter to Moon asked for help fighting the coronavirus, and that Moon responded positively. MOU denies this, insisting that the North has not requested any such assistance.

: The Inter-Korean Unification Party (IKUP), the first political party formed by North Korean defectors in the South, is officially launched in Seoul. Its program is to liberate the North from autocracy and promote defector rights in the South. It goes on to gain a paltry 10,833 votes in April 15’s elections. (See also February 18 above.)

: After an ROK TV channel aired footage of a DPRK medical worker wearing a dental mask with the logo of a Southern brand, Seoul denies that South Korea has provided any facemasks to North Korea.

: Blue House says Kim Jong Un has sent Moon a personal letter, delivered the previous day. Expressing “quiet support” for South Korea’s fight against the coronavirus, and solicitude for Moon’s health, Kim assures Moon of “his constant friendship and trust.” Kim also gives his “frank” thoughts about the situation on the peninsula; these are not revealed.

: Spokesman says the Blue House is “prudently” analyzing Kim Yo Jong’s diatribe, and does not plan to respond formally. MOU calls for “mutual respect” between the two Koreas.

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri attacks ROK movies and dramas for “anti-republic” fabrications. No names are mentioned. Ironically, the TV drama “Crash Landing on You,” all the rage, is widely seen in the South as giving a favorable portrayal of the North—and criticized on that count by some conservatives.

: In her first ever statement published in her name, Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong lambastes Seoul’s criticism of the North’s strike drills as (among much else) shocking, senseless, imbecile, and like a frightened dog: “Such incoherent assertion and actions made by Chongwadae only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the south side as a whole.”

: MOU says South Korea will prepare to expand cooperation with the North in health and related fields. A day later the ministry notes that inter-Korean cooperation on healthcare is a key focus of its annual policy plan, recently delivered to the Blue House. Other goals—easier said than done—include a push for individual tourism to North Korea, and transform the DMZ into a peace zone.

: North Korea test-fires two short-range projectiles, for the first time this year. After holding an emergency videoconference of security chiefs, the Blue House expresses “strong concern” and, in notably mild terms, urges the North to halt acts that are “not helpful to efforts to ease military tensions on the Korean peninsula.”

: On the 101st anniversary of an historic uprising against Japanese occupation, and with coronavirus cases rising fast, Moon calls for international cooperation to fight the virus, including with North Korea and Japan: “The March 1 Independence Movement once again reminds us that we can prevail over anything as long as we stand together.”

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri scorns Moon’s outreach to Japan, accusing him of “begging for more frequent meetings” with Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

: Reacting to news that North Korea’s former diplomat Thae Yong-ho will stand for the conservative United Future Party (UFP) in South Korea’s parliamentary election on April 15, the DPRK website Meari renews allegations against Thae (first made in 2016) of embezzlement and rape. It adds: “Driving these scums (sic) to the forefront of confrontation between the two Koreas is an intolerable challenge to our nation’s desire for unification.”

: A poll of 3,000 Northern defectors (almost 10% of the total, 33,523) by Hana, a state foundation which aids their resettlement, finds that 17.2% experienced discrimination last year: slightly less than the 2018 figure of 20.2%.

: The magazine DPRK Today attacks ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha for what it calls the “spineless act” of discussing North Korean denuclearization with US and Japanese counterparts at the recent Munich Security Conference: “There are still fools asking for subservience and humiliation … oblivious to the bitter lesson history has taught us.”

: With coronavirus cases spiking in South Korea, MOU says it will postpone the resumption of tourism to Panmunjom, scheduled to begin on February 26-28.

: In a rare if backhanded compliment, Choson Sinbo, the newspaper of pro-DPRK ethnic North Koreans in Japan, praises the Oscar-winning ROK film Parasite as a “masterpiece” for laying bare the problem of class warfare, and “clearly revealing the reality in which a small number of the wealthy dominates the absolute majority.” This is the movie’s first mention in any DPRK-related media.

: Seoul says the ROK will consider any requests from international agencies to help Pyongyang fight COVID-19, provided it is formally asked to assist.

: Meeting in Seoul, some 200 North Korean defectors launch a preparatory committee to establish their first-ever political party. (See also March 6, below.)

: MOU says Pyongyang has made no response to calls for the KIC to reopen.

: North Korea finally mentions South Korea’s push for individual tourism to the North—but not favorably. DPRK Today attacks Seoul for seeking US approval for this plan.

: The DPRK website Uriminzokkiri denounces the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), the main ROK conservative opposition party, for recruiting two prominent defectors from North Korea to run as its candidates in forthcoming parliamentary elections in April.

: MOU insists that individual tourism to North Korea by South Koreans is not a matter for consultation with Washington, as this is not banned under UN sanctions.

: Four years after South Korea’s then President Park Geun-hye abruptly closed the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the last inter-Korean joint venture, business persons with investments there hold a rally in Seoul. Urging that the zone be reopened, they ask the government to deliver a letter asking North Korea to let them visit and prepare for reopening. Separately, MOU reiterates its own (more abstract) view that the KIC should reopen when conditions are right.

: At a forum in Pyeongchang, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul reaffirms the need to push for inter-Korean cooperation in railways, roads and tourism.

: MND clarifies that despite otherwise stalled relations, inter-Korean military hotlines are working normally. The two sides communicate twice daily, at 0900 and 1600, plus additionally as circumstances require. MND reiterates this message on April 27.

: MOU says that in weighing the possibility of individual tourism to North Korea, it is “taking the issue of the new coronavirus into consideration.”

: ROK defense ministry (MND) insists that, contra assertions in local media, the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement signed in September 2018 does not bar or restrict joint US-ROK military exercises, including near the DMZ.

: Via the new inter-Korean phone line (see Jan. 30), Pyongyang notifies Seoul that, because of coronavirus concerns, it is suspending plans to remove South Korean-built facilities at the Mount Kumgang resort on its east coast.

: In a rare meeting at the now largely idle joint liaison office at Kaesong, North and South Korea agree to temporarily close the facility, due to concerns about the new Wuhan coronavirus strain. All 58 South Koreans working there—17 officials and 41 support staff—return home across the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) the same day. MOU says the two Koreas will set up new telephone and fax lines to maintain contact during the suspension.

: MOU says that 1,048 North Korean defectors arrived in the South in 2019, the lowest figure in 18 years. As usual, females (845) outnumbered males (202). After peaking at 2,904 in 2009, since Kim Jong Un took power in 2011 numbers have fallen to below 1,500 annually.

: A day after US Ambassador to the ROK Harry Harris says Seoul should consult Washington on any plans to engage Pyongyang, MOU retorts that “Our policy with regard to North Korea comes under our sovereignty.”

: Citing unspecified ROK government sources, Yonhap says North Korea has again demanded that the South remove its facilities at Mount Kumgang. (But see January 31.)

: Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul affirms that Seoul will look at ways to improve relations with Pyongyang without waiting for progress in US-DPRK talks. The same day his ministry says it is looking at “various formats” to allow South Koreans to visit Mount Kumgang. A day later MOU adds: “We are making a list of what we can do on our own [in terms of joint projects with North Korea] with regard to inter-Korean relations”

: Moon at his New Year’s press conference insists that it is premature “to be pessimistic about South-North dialogue and North Korea-US dialogue.” Despite admitting that now is “not a stage to be optimistic” either, Moon says he will keep pushing to expand inter-Korean cooperation with an “optimistic prospect.” He adds that such cooperation could help build momentum for easing sanctions against Pyongyang.

: In a thinly veiled criticism of Moon’s push for individual tourism to Mount Kumgang, the US State Department insists that Washington and Seoul are committed to a unified approach toward Pyongyang.

: Reacting to the above, North Korea’s ex-nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan, now an adviser to DPRK foreign ministry, chides “the excited south Korean authorities” for their “lingering hope for playing the role of ‘mediator’ in the DPRK-US relations,” which he calls “presumptuous … meddling.” He warns Seoul it “had better not dream a fabulous dream that we would return to the dialogue with thankful feelings for the birthday greetings.”

: NK News reports MOU as saying that Seoul is considering how to make it easier for South Koreans to visit the North—including, potentially, being issued DPRK visas. The spokesperson added: “It is our consistent stance that sanctions against North Korea [do] not apply to independent tours.” He added that North and South are “in discussions” on the resumption of tourism, while admitting “differences in stance” and continued concerns.

: Fresh back from Washington DC, where he briefly met President Trump, Chung Eui-yong, head of the Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae) national security office, says that the US president asked President Moon to wish Kim Jong Un a happy birthday on his behalf. (The DPRK leader turned 36—probably—on Jan. 8.) Chung adds that the birthday greeting was duly delivered, but does not reveal how it was transmitted.

: MOU tells NK News that, despite the impasse in inter-Korean ties, it approved 612 contacts with North Korea last year, down 15% from 707 in 2018. A larger fall might have been expected, but these data are only for applications by South Koreans to meet, phone, fax, or email the North. They do not necessarily imply that such contact actually took place.

: President Moon Jae-in delivers his New Year’s Address. Unlike Kim, Moon has much to say about inter-Korean relations. Regretting the current impasse, but not blaming the North, he reiterates his commitment to cooperation across the board, and also to realizing Kim’s long-promised visit to South Korea. He does not mention the nuclear issue.

: Seoul announces what it calls a major restructuring of MOU. This will create a new division within the ministry’s Office of Exchange and Cooperation to handle border cooperation issues, such as turning the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into a “global peace zone.” The ROK Cabinet duly approves the reorganization on February 4.

: The Wall Street Journal reports that US diplomats intervened with Vietnamese authorities in December to prevent 13 North Korean refugees—two of whom had attempted suicide—from being repatriated to Pyongyang. The ROK government denies allegations that it had been reluctant to assist. The 13 are said now to be safe in an undisclosed location.

: Yonhap, the quasi-official ROK news agency, quotes the Unification Ministry (MOU) as saying that, given Kim’s silence about South Korea in his recent speech, Seoul is “closely watching” whether Pyongyang plans to issue a separate message about inter-Korean relations. This stance of watching and waiting is reiterated on January 7. The South waits in vain: no message is forthcoming from the North.

: Official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and other DPRK media publish reports on the just-concluded WPK CC Plenary. From these lengthy summaries (circa 3,000 words), it seems that Kim Jong Un, unprecedentedly, made no mention of South Korea or inter-Korean relations. (This is usually the topic of a substantial section of his New Year address; see past issues of Comparative Connections.)

: South Korea urges the North not to carry out Kim Jong Un’s threat to test a “new strategic weapon,” as this “would not help denuclearization negotiations and efforts to build peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

:  MOU says that with official North-South ties deadlocked, it will encourage members of separated families to pursue private contacts with their Northern kin. This includes offering government financial support for meetings in third countries.Aug. 27, 2019: MOU admits that while “it would be great to hold joint events”, South Korea will mark the first anniversary on Sept. 19 of the Pyongyang inter-Korean summit without North Korea’s participation. Nor has the North been notified of the South’s planned events.

:  MOU says that with official North-South ties deadlocked, it will encourage members of separated families to pursue private contacts with their Northern kin. This includes offering government financial support for meetings in third countries.Aug. 27, 2019: MOU admits that while “it would be great to hold joint events”, South Korea will mark the first anniversary on Sept. 19 of the Pyongyang inter-Korean summit without North Korea’s participation. Nor has the North been notified of the South’s planned events.

:  MOU says that with official North-South ties deadlocked, it will encourage members of separated families to pursue private contacts with their Northern kin. This includes offering government financial support for meetings in third countries.

:  North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) holds a major meeting: the 5th Plenary of the 7th Central Committee (CC). Kim Jong Un gives a wide-ranging and hard-line speech, lasting seven hours. (In view of this, Kim does not deliver his customary New Year address.) Personnel changes are announced, while others apparently go unannounced.

:  North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) holds a major meeting: the 5th Plenary of the 7th Central Committee (CC). Kim Jong Un gives a wide-ranging and hard-line speech, lasting seven hours. (In view of this, Kim does not deliver his customary New Year address.) Personnel changes are announced, while others apparently go unannounced.

:  North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) holds a major meeting: the 5th Plenary of the 7th Central Committee (CC). Kim Jong Un gives a wide-ranging and hard-line speech, lasting seven hours. (In view of this, Kim does not deliver his customary New Year address.) Personnel changes are announced, while others apparently go unannounced.

: North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party (WPK) holds a major meeting: the 5th Plenary of the 7th Central Committee (CC). Kim Jong Un gives a wideranging and hardline speech, lasting seven hours. (In view of this, Kim does not deliver his customary New Year address.) Personnel changes are announced, while others apparently go unannounced.

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul calls on the US and DPRK to first pursue “an interim deal as a stepping stone to a final agreement,” in order to keep nuclear dialogue alive.

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul calls on the US and DPRK to first pursue “an interim deal as a stepping stone to a final agreement,” in order to keep nuclear dialogue alive.

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul calls on the US and DPRK to first pursue “an interim deal as a stepping stone to a final agreement,” in order to keep nuclear dialogue alive.

:  In melancholy Christmas news, Yonhap tallies statistics on South Koreans who registered with MOU and the ROK Red Cross in the hope of meeting their relatives in North Korea. Of 133,365 who signed up since 1988, only 52,997 were still alive at end-November. With 63.4 percent of the survivors aged 80 or more, this attrition by mortality will continue.

:  An online poll by Seoul Metropolitan Government finds that 74.2 percent of residents of the ROK capital (in a sample of 2,000) believe that the two Koreas should be reunified. That percentage is the same as last year. But 17 percent also reckon reunification is impossible; whereas 25.6 percent anticipate it in 20 years, while 20.2 percent say 30 years. On inter-Korean ties, a perhaps surprising 39.5 percent expect relations to improve in the next five years; 12.4 percent say they will worsen, while most (48.2 percent) expect no change.

:  In melancholy Christmas news, Yonhap tallies statistics on South Koreans who registered with MOU and the ROK Red Cross in the hope of meeting their relatives in North Korea. Of 133,365 who signed up since 1988, only 52,997 were still alive at end-November. With 63.4 percent of the survivors aged 80 or more, this attrition by mortality will continue.

:  An online poll by Seoul Metropolitan Government finds that 74.2 percent of residents of the ROK capital (in a sample of 2,000) believe that the two Koreas should be reunified. That percentage is the same as last year. But 17 percent also reckon reunification is impossible; whereas 25.6 percent anticipate it in 20 years, while 20.2 percent say 30 years. On inter-Korean ties, a perhaps surprising 39.5 percent expect relations to improve in the next five years; 12.4 percent say they will worsen, while most (48.2 percent) expect no change.

:  In melancholy Christmas news, Yonhap tallies statistics on South Koreans who registered with MOU and the ROK Red Cross in the hope of meeting their relatives in North Korea. Of 133,365 who signed up since 1988, only 52,997 were still alive at end-November. With 63.4 percent of the survivors aged 80 or more, this attrition by mortality will continue.

:  An online poll by Seoul Metropolitan Government finds that 74.2 percent of residents of the ROK capital (in a sample of 2,000) believe that the two Koreas should be reunified. That percentage is the same as last year. But 17 percent also reckon reunification is impossible; whereas 25.6 percent anticipate it in 20 years, while 20.2 percent say 30 years. On inter-Korean ties, a perhaps surprising 39.5 percent expect relations to improve in the next five years; 12.4 percent say they will worsen, while most (48.2 percent) expect no change.

:  South Korea’s inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council (IKECPC) approves aid worth 2 billion won ($1.72 million), to be sent via the Red Cross to assist North Korean villages hit by typhoons earlier this year. Yonhap admits it is unclear whether or not Pyongyang will accept Seoul’s assistance.

:  South Korea’s inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council (IKECPC) approves aid worth 2 billion won ($1.72 million), to be sent via the Red Cross to assist North Korean villages hit by typhoons earlier this year. Yonhap admits it is unclear whether or not Pyongyang will accept Seoul’s assistance.

:  South Korea’s inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council (IKECPC) approves aid worth 2 billion won ($1.72 million), to be sent via the Red Cross to assist North Korean villages hit by typhoons earlier this year. Yonhap admits it is unclear whether or not Pyongyang will accept Seoul’s assistance.

:  MOU rejects as “fake news” claims by a defector body in Seoul that the two Northern fishermen repatriated last month (see Nov. 7) were not murderers, as the ROK government claimed, but brokers who tried to help their 16 fellow crew members defect.

:  MOU rejects as “fake news” claims by a defector body in Seoul that the two Northern fishermen repatriated last month (see Nov. 7) were not murderers, as the ROK government claimed, but brokers who tried to help their 16 fellow crew members defect.

:  MOU rejects as “fake news” claims by a defector body in Seoul that the two Northern fishermen repatriated last month (see Nov. 7) were not murderers, as the ROK government claimed, but brokers who tried to help their 16 fellow crew members defect.

:  ROK Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho visits the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, to be briefed on the past year’s work and plans for 2020. That will not have taken long, for the office is practically idle. Suh has not met with his DPRK counterpart and co-head since the US-DPRK summit in Hanoi collapsed in February.

:  ROK Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho visits the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, to be briefed on the past year’s work and plans for 2020. That will not have taken long, for the office is practically idle. Suh has not met with his DPRK counterpart and co-head since the US-DPRK summit in Hanoi collapsed in February.

:  ROK Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho visits the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, to be briefed on the past year’s work and plans for 2020. That will not have taken long, for the office is practically idle. Suh has not met with his DPRK counterpart and co-head since the US-DPRK summit in Hanoi collapsed in February.

:  A propos moves to ease some sanctions on North Korea (see Dec. 16 above), MOU emphasises that “the inter-Korean railway connection project is … a non-commercial public infrastructure project.” However, Seoul does not formally endorse the proposal by Beijing and Seoul as such.

:  A propos moves to ease some sanctions on North Korea (see Dec. 16 above), MOU emphasises that “the inter-Korean railway connection project is … a non-commercial public infrastructure project.” However, Seoul does not formally endorse the proposal by Beijing and Seoul as such.

:  A propos moves to ease some sanctions on North Korea (see Dec. 16 above), MOU emphasises that “the inter-Korean railway connection project is … a non-commercial public infrastructure project.” However, Seoul does not formally endorse the proposal by Beijing and Seoul as such.

:  MOU says the ROK will continue to try to give the DPRK 50,000 tons of rice via the UN World Food Program (WFP), despite Pyongyang’s repeated rejection of this plan (first mooted in June). The budget for this, almost $35 million, will be rolled over to 2020.

:  MOU says the ROK will continue to try to give the DPRK 50,000 tons of rice via the UN World Food Program (WFP), despite Pyongyang’s repeated rejection of this plan (first mooted in June). The budget for this, almost $35 million, will be rolled over to 2020.

:  MOU says the ROK will continue to try to give the DPRK 50,000 tons of rice via the UN World Food Program (WFP), despite Pyongyang’s repeated rejection of this plan (first mooted in June). The budget for this, almost $35 million, will be rolled over to 2020.

:  Human Rights Watch (HRW) publishes a letter to President Moon Jae-in from 67 human rights-related NGOs, criticising the ROK for “increasing disengagement with (sic) ongoing human rights violations by the…DPRK.” This cites the Nov. 7 repatriation of two would-be defectors, as well as Seoul’s “baffl[ing]” decision a week later not to sponsor the annual UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on North Korea’s human rights situation. The letter is also signed by ten individuals, including both the current UN Special Rapporteur on DPRK human rights, Tomás Ojea Quintana, and his predecessor Marzuki Darusman.

:  Reuters reports that China and Russia have circulated a joint draft resolution to the UN Security Council (UNSC) proposing relaxation of a range of sanctions against the DPRK, including exemptions for inter-Korean rail and road co-operation projects.

:  Human Rights Watch (HRW) publishes a letter to President Moon Jae-in from 67 human rights-related NGOs, criticising the ROK for “increasing disengagement with (sic) ongoing human rights violations by the…DPRK.” This cites the Nov. 7 repatriation of two would-be defectors, as well as Seoul’s “baffl[ing]” decision a week later not to sponsor the annual UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on North Korea’s human rights situation. The letter is also signed by ten individuals, including both the current UN Special Rapporteur on DPRK human rights, Tomás Ojea Quintana, and his predecessor Marzuki Darusman.

:  Reuters reports that China and Russia have circulated a joint draft resolution to the UN Security Council (UNSC) proposing relaxation of a range of sanctions against the DPRK, including exemptions for inter-Korean rail and road co-operation projects.

:  Human Rights Watch (HRW) publishes a letter to President Moon Jae-in from 67 human rights-related NGOs, criticising the ROK for “increasing disengagement with (sic) ongoing human rights violations by the…DPRK.” This cites the Nov. 7 repatriation of two would-be defectors, as well as Seoul’s “baffl[ing]” decision a week later not to sponsor the annual UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on North Korea’s human rights situation. The letter is also signed by ten individuals, including both the current UN Special Rapporteur on DPRK human rights, Tomás Ojea Quintana, and his predecessor Marzuki Darusman.

:  Reuters reports that China and Russia have circulated a joint draft resolution to the UN Security Council (UNSC) proposing relaxation of a range of sanctions against the DPRK, including exemptions for inter-Korean rail and road co-operation projects.

:  Citing “government sources,” Yonhap reports that Seoul is preparing to assist the North in fighting swine fever—despite the North’s non-reply to its several offers of help. MOU’s preparations include calling a meeting with civilian experts and NGOs.

:  Hours before the deadline, the KFA says it is withdrawing its bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in soccer. Urged on by FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino, the two Koreas had planned a joint bid, but the freeze in North-South ties has thwarted this.

:  Citing “government sources,” Yonhap reports that Seoul is preparing to assist the North in fighting swine fever—despite the North’s non-reply to its several offers of help. MOU’s preparations include calling a meeting with civilian experts and NGOs.

:  Hours before the deadline, the KFA says it is withdrawing its bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in soccer. Urged on by FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino, the two Koreas had planned a joint bid, but the freeze in North-South ties has thwarted this.

:  Citing “government sources,” Yonhap reports that Seoul is preparing to assist the North in fighting swine fever—despite the North’s non-reply to its several offers of help. MOU’s preparations include calling a meeting with civilian experts and NGOs.

:  Hours before the deadline, the KFA says it is withdrawing its bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in soccer. Urged on by FIFA’s President, Gianni Infantino, the two Koreas had planned a joint bid, but the freeze in North-South ties has thwarted this.

:  MOU announces that despite the current North-South stalemate, the budget of its Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund (IKCF) will increase by 9 percent next year to 1.2 billion won ($1 billion). That includes 489 billion won for economic projects and 127.5 billion won for co-operation in forestry. The ministry says this allocation reflects “our will to improve relations”: a quasi-admission that these funds may not actually get spent any time soon.

:  MOU announces that despite the current North-South stalemate, the budget of its Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund (IKCF) will increase by 9 percent next year to 1.2 billion won ($1 billion). That includes 489 billion won for economic projects and 127.5 billion won for co-operation in forestry. The ministry says this allocation reflects “our will to improve relations”: a quasi-admission that these funds may not actually get spent any time soon.

:  MOU announces that despite the current North-South stalemate, the budget of its Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund (IKCF) will increase by 9 percent next year to 1.2 billion won ($1 billion). That includes 489 billion won for economic projects and 127.5 billion won for co-operation in forestry. The ministry says this allocation reflects “our will to improve relations”: a quasi-admission that these funds may not actually get spent any time soon.

:  MOU says it expects WHO to launch an ROK-aided program in the DPRK (see Dec. 6 above) as early as this year.

:  MOU says it expects WHO to launch an ROK-aided program in the DPRK (see Dec. 6 above) as early as this year.

:  MOU says it expects WHO to launch an ROK-aided program in the DPRK (see Dec. 6 above) as early as this year.

:  MOU announces that South Korea will donate $5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO), to improve healthcare for mothers and babies in North Korea. Seoul had supported this project until 2014, when it was suspended as inter-Korean ties worsened.

:  MOU announces that South Korea will donate $5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO), to improve healthcare for mothers and babies in North Korea. Seoul had supported this project until 2014, when it was suspended as inter-Korean ties worsened.

:  MOU announces that South Korea will donate $5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO), to improve healthcare for mothers and babies in North Korea. Seoul had supported this project until 2014, when it was suspended as inter-Korean ties worsened.

:  Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul and a political ally of Moon Jae-in, tells the inaugural Seoul Peace Conference that “the most important task in establishing reconciliation and integration in Northeast Asia is to realize a ‘peace community,’ and the Seoul-Pyongyang co-hosting of the 2032 Olympics will provide a precious opportunity to accomplish the goal.” Meanwhile in the real world, North Korea is refusing to discuss fielding some joint teams—as it had earlier agreed to do—with the South at the Tokyo Olympics, now just months away.

:  Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul and a political ally of Moon Jae-in, tells the inaugural Seoul Peace Conference that “the most important task in establishing reconciliation and integration in Northeast Asia is to realize a ‘peace community,’ and the Seoul-Pyongyang co-hosting of the 2032 Olympics will provide a precious opportunity to accomplish the goal.” Meanwhile in the real world, North Korea is refusing to discuss fielding some joint teams—as it had earlier agreed to do—with the South at the Tokyo Olympics, now just months away.

:  Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul and a political ally of Moon Jae-in, tells the inaugural Seoul Peace Conference that “the most important task in establishing reconciliation and integration in Northeast Asia is to realize a ‘peace community,’ and the Seoul-Pyongyang co-hosting of the 2032 Olympics will provide a precious opportunity to accomplish the goal.” Meanwhile in the real world, North Korea is refusing to discuss fielding some joint teams—as it had earlier agreed to do—with the South at the Tokyo Olympics, now just months away.

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul admits that some facilities at Mount Kumgang need repair, and that about 340 containers lie abandoned there. He neither confirms nor denies a media report that Seoul has accepted Pyongyang’s demand to remove such items.

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul admits that some facilities at Mount Kumgang need repair, and that about 340 containers lie abandoned there. He neither confirms nor denies a media report that Seoul has accepted Pyongyang’s demand to remove such items.

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul admits that some facilities at Mount Kumgang need repair, and that about 340 containers lie abandoned there. He neither confirms nor denies a media report that Seoul has accepted Pyongyang’s demand to remove such items.

: ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) says it will build a memorial for the fallen near Arrowhead Ridge in the DMZ—the site of a major Korea War battle—in Cheorwon, 90 km northeast of Seoul. South Korea recently completed an eight-month dig in the area, retrieving 2,030 pieces of bones from 260 soldiers on both sides. They also removed over 450 land mines, some 5,700 unexploded shells and 35 tons of scrap iron. This was meant to be a joint endeavor, but North Korea pulled out.

: ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) says it will build a memorial for the fallen near Arrowhead Ridge in the DMZ—the site of a major Korea War battle—in Cheorwon, 90 km northeast of Seoul. South Korea recently completed an eight-month dig in the area, retrieving 2,030 pieces of bones from 260 soldiers on both sides. They also removed over 450 land mines, some 5,700 unexploded shells and 35 tons of scrap iron. This was meant to be a joint endeavor, but North Korea pulled out.

: ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) says it will build a memorial for the fallen near Arrowhead Ridge in the DMZ—the site of a major Korea War battle—in Cheorwon, 90 km northeast of Seoul. South Korea recently completed an eight-month dig in the area, retrieving 2,030 pieces of bones from 260 soldiers on both sides. They also removed over 450 land mines, some 5,700 unexploded shells and 35 tons of scrap iron. This was meant to be a joint endeavor, but North Korea pulled out.

:  A propos Kumgangsan, the DPRK propaganda website Uriminzokkiri says “It is our unwavering will to remove all the South’s unpleasant-looking facilities that have been spoiling the landscape of this famous mountain and turn it into a … modern international cultural, tourist zone.” Other DPRK media carry similar articles.

:  MOU says South Korea is closely watching developments at Jangjon on the DPRK’s east coast. Previously a military port, from 1998 it became the main harbor used by ROK ships bringing tourists to Mt. Kumgang. A Seoul newspaper claims it is now reverting to a naval base. That would dash hopes of resuming Kumgangsan tourism as a joint venture.

:  A propos Kumgangsan, the DPRK propaganda website Uriminzokkiri says “It is our unwavering will to remove all the South’s unpleasant-looking facilities that have been spoiling the landscape of this famous mountain and turn it into a … modern international cultural, tourist zone.” Other DPRK media carry similar articles.

:  MOU says South Korea is closely watching developments at Jangjon on the DPRK’s east coast. Previously a military port, from 1998 it became the main harbor used by ROK ships bringing tourists to Mt. Kumgang. A Seoul newspaper claims it is now reverting to a naval base. That would dash hopes of resuming Kumgangsan tourism as a joint venture.

:  A propos Kumgangsan, the DPRK propaganda website Uriminzokkiri says “It is our unwavering will to remove all the South’s unpleasant-looking facilities that have been spoiling the landscape of this famous mountain and turn it into a … modern international cultural, tourist zone.” Other DPRK media carry similar articles.

:  MOU says South Korea is closely watching developments at Jangjon on the DPRK’s east coast. Previously a military port, from 1998 it became the main harbor used by ROK ships bringing tourists to Mt. Kumgang. A Seoul newspaper claims it is now reverting to a naval base. That would dash hopes of resuming Kumgangsan tourism as a joint venture.

:  The ROK uses the inter-Korean military hotline to make a “strong complaint” about the KPA’s recent coastal artillery drill, whose date it now gives as Nov. 23, the ninth anniversary of the DPRK’s shelling of nearby Yeonpyeong, which killed four South Koreans.

:  MOU says the two Koreas remain “far apart” on the Mt. Kumgang issue.

:  The ROK uses the inter-Korean military hotline to make a “strong complaint” about the KPA’s recent coastal artillery drill, whose date it now gives as Nov. 23, the ninth anniversary of the DPRK’s shelling of nearby Yeonpyeong, which killed four South Koreans.

:  MOU says the two Koreas remain “far apart” on the Mt. Kumgang issue.

:  The ROK uses the inter-Korean military hotline to make a “strong complaint” about the KPA’s recent coastal artillery drill, whose date it now gives as Nov. 23, the ninth anniversary of the DPRK’s shelling of nearby Yeonpyeong, which killed four South Koreans.

:  MOU says the two Koreas remain “far apart” on the Mt. Kumgang issue.

:  MND says that North Korea conducted artillery firing drills on Changrin, an islet just north of the NLL, in violation of 2018s inter-Korean military agreement. The same day KCNA reports an inspection visit to Changrin by Kim, including an order to fire. Contra some press reports, neither side states exactly when this happened (but see next item).

:  MND says that North Korea conducted artillery firing drills on Changrin, an islet just north of the NLL, in violation of 2018s inter-Korean military agreement. The same day KCNA reports an inspection visit to Changrin by Kim, including an order to fire. Contra some press reports, neither side states exactly when this happened (but see next item).

:  MND says that North Korea conducted artillery firing drills on Changrin, an islet just north of the NLL, in violation of 2018s inter-Korean military agreement. The same day KCNA reports an inspection visit to Changrin by Kim, including an order to fire. Contra some press reports, neither side states exactly when this happened (but see next item).

:  Pyongyang politely, if also sarcastically, declines Moon Jae-in’s invitation for Kim to attend the upcoming ROK-ASEAN summit in Busan. A KCNA commentary says that such a visit would be inappropriate, giving several cogent reasons.

:  Pyongyang politely, if also sarcastically, declines Moon Jae-in’s invitation for Kim to attend the upcoming ROK-ASEAN summit in Busan. A KCNA commentary says that such a visit would be inappropriate, giving several cogent reasons.

:  Pyongyang politely, if also sarcastically, declines Moon Jae-in’s invitation for Kim to attend the upcoming ROK-ASEAN summit in Busan. A KCNA commentary says that such a visit would be inappropriate, giving several cogent reasons.

:  21 years to the day after Hyundai Asan launched South Korean tourism to Mt. Kumgang, Seoul urges Pyongyang to come to the table and hold talks on the future of the resort, rather than issue ultimatums while insisting on communicating only via documents.

:  21 years to the day after Hyundai Asan launched South Korean tourism to Mt. Kumgang, Seoul urges Pyongyang to come to the table and hold talks on the future of the resort, rather than issue ultimatums while insisting on communicating only via documents.

:  21 years to the day after Hyundai Asan launched South Korean tourism to Mt. Kumgang, Seoul urges Pyongyang to come to the table and hold talks on the future of the resort, rather than issue ultimatums while insisting on communicating only via documents.

:  KCNA and other DPRK media carry an article headlined: “Mt. Kumgang Is Not Common Property of North and South.” Uncompromising in content and sneering in tone, it reiterates the threat “to demolish without trace the south side’s facilities that sprawled out only to mar the beautiful scenery.” It concludes: “There is no room for south Korea to find its place there [at Kumgangsan].”

: Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says it is in touch with the ROK government regarding the Nov. 7 repatriation of two DPRK would-be defectors. OHCHR clarifies that this is not a formal investigation. The same day, MOU insists there is no doubt that the two deportees were murderers. Each separately admitted their crimes, while DPRK authorities corroborated the broad picture.

:  KCNA and other DPRK media carry an article headlined: “Mt. Kumgang Is Not Common Property of North and South.” Uncompromising in content and sneering in tone, it reiterates the threat “to demolish without trace the south side’s facilities that sprawled out only to mar the beautiful scenery.” It concludes: “There is no room for south Korea to find its place there [at Kumgangsan].”

: Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says it is in touch with the ROK government regarding the Nov. 7 repatriation of two DPRK would-be defectors. OHCHR clarifies that this is not a formal investigation. The same day, MOU insists there is no doubt that the two deportees were murderers. Each separately admitted their crimes, while DPRK authorities corroborated the broad picture.

:  KCNA and other DPRK media carry an article headlined: “Mt. Kumgang Is Not Common Property of North and South.” Uncompromising in content and sneering in tone, it reiterates the threat “to demolish without trace the south side’s facilities that sprawled out only to mar the beautiful scenery.” It concludes: “There is no room for south Korea to find its place there [at Kumgangsan].”

: Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says it is in touch with the ROK government regarding the Nov. 7 repatriation of two DPRK would-be defectors. OHCHR clarifies that this is not a formal investigation. The same day, MOU insists there is no doubt that the two deportees were murderers. Each separately admitted their crimes, while DPRK authorities corroborated the broad picture.

:  For the first time in a decade, the ROK is not among some 40 states that

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul meets Hyun Jeong-un, chairperson of Hyundai Group. They discuss how to resolve the Mt. Kumgang issue.

:  For the first time in a decade, the ROK is not among some 40 states that

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul meets Hyun Jeong-un, chairperson of Hyundai Group. They discuss how to resolve the Mt. Kumgang issue.

:  For the first time in a decade, the ROK is not among some 40 states that

:  ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul meets Hyun Jeong-un, chairperson of Hyundai Group. They discuss how to resolve the Mt. Kumgang issue.

:  The New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch condemns the ROK’s Nov. 7 deportations as “illegal under international law.”

:  Seoul Metropolitan Government becomes the first local authority permitted (by South Korea) to independently pursue aid projects in North Korea. Whether the DPRK will allow this is another question. On Nov. 21, MOU extends the same permission to Incheon city and Gyeonggi province, which abut and surround Seoul respectively.

:  The New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch condemns the ROK’s Nov. 7 deportations as “illegal under international law.”

:  Seoul Metropolitan Government becomes the first local authority permitted (by South Korea) to independently pursue aid projects in North Korea. Whether the DPRK will allow this is another question. On Nov. 21, MOU extends the same permission to Incheon city and Gyeonggi province, which abut and surround Seoul respectively.

:  The New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch condemns the ROK’s Nov. 7 deportations as “illegal under international law.”

:  Seoul Metropolitan Government becomes the first local authority permitted (by South Korea) to independently pursue aid projects in North Korea. Whether the DPRK will allow this is another question. On Nov. 21, MOU extends the same permission to Incheon city and Gyeonggi province, which abut and surround Seoul respectively.

:  Twenty ROK human rights groups condemn the Nov. 7 deportations, calling it a “shameful decision” that violated due process and the suspects’ right to justice. MOU refutes such criticisms. It does not comment on media reports that the decision to deport came from the Blue House National Security Office, without consulting either the NIS or MOU.

:  DPRK media lambast the US and ROK over their burden-sharing talks. Washington wants to quintuple the amount Seoul pays to host US forces in Korea (USFK). DPRK Today calls the US “a shameless robber group bent on extorting an astronomical amount of taxpayers’ money from south Korea … It is stupid that South Korean authorities are ready to give all it has, while lauding such a robber as a savior and blood ally.”

:  Though not publicized until Nov. 15, Pyongyang sends Seoul an ultimatum (their word) threatening to “unilaterally

down” Southern facilities at Mt. Kumgang unless the South removes them on the North’s terms.

:  Twenty ROK human rights groups condemn the Nov. 7 deportations, calling it a “shameful decision” that violated due process and the suspects’ right to justice. MOU refutes such criticisms. It does not comment on media reports that the decision to deport came from the Blue House National Security Office, without consulting either the NIS or MOU.

:  DPRK media lambast the US and ROK over their burden-sharing talks. Washington wants to quintuple the amount Seoul pays to host US forces in Korea (USFK). DPRK Today calls the US “a shameless robber group bent on extorting an astronomical amount of taxpayers’ money from south Korea … It is stupid that South Korean authorities are ready to give all it has, while lauding such a robber as a savior and blood ally.”

:  Though not publicized until Nov. 15, Pyongyang sends Seoul an ultimatum (their word) threatening to “unilaterally

down” Southern facilities at Mt. Kumgang unless the South removes them on the North’s terms.

:  Twenty ROK human rights groups condemn the Nov. 7 deportations, calling it a “shameful decision” that violated due process and the suspects’ right to justice. MOU refutes such criticisms. It does not comment on media reports that the decision to deport came from the Blue House National Security Office, without consulting either the NIS or MOU.

:  DPRK media lambast the US and ROK over their burden-sharing talks. Washington wants to quintuple the amount Seoul pays to host US forces in Korea (USFK). DPRK Today calls the US “a shameless robber group bent on extorting an astronomical amount of taxpayers’ money from south Korea … It is stupid that South Korean authorities are ready to give all it has, while lauding such a robber as a savior and blood ally.”

:  Though not publicized until Nov. 15, Pyongyang sends Seoul an ultimatum (their word) threatening to “unilaterally

down” Southern facilities at Mt. Kumgang unless the South removes them on the North’s terms.

:  After yesterday’s deportations, South Korea also returns their fishing boat to North Korea. The 15-meter, 20-ton vessel was handed over at the East Sea maritime border.

:  After yesterday’s deportations, South Korea also returns their fishing boat to North Korea. The 15-meter, 20-ton vessel was handed over at the East Sea maritime border.

:  After yesterday’s deportations, South Korea also returns their fishing boat to North Korea. The 15-meter, 20-ton vessel was handed over at the East Sea maritime border.

:  MOU admits that for the first time, South Korea repatriated would-be Northern defectors against their will. Two squid fishermen in their 20s were handed over at Panmunjom, five days after the ROK Navy seized their boat in the East Sea following a two-day chase. On Seoul’s account, both men confessed in separate interrogations to killing their captain and 15 crew members. The ROK therefore treated them as “heinous criminals” fleeing justice. It had no plan to disclose any of this; only a journalist’s vigilance brought it to light.

:  MOU admits that for the first time, South Korea repatriated would-be Northern defectors against their will. Two squid fishermen in their 20s were handed over at Panmunjom, five days after the ROK Navy seized their boat in the East Sea following a two-day chase. On Seoul’s account, both men confessed in separate interrogations to killing their captain and 15 crew members. The ROK therefore treated them as “heinous criminals” fleeing justice. It had no plan to disclose any of this; only a journalist’s vigilance brought it to light.

:  MOU admits that for the first time, South Korea repatriated would-be Northern defectors against their will. Two squid fishermen in their 20s were handed over at Panmunjom, five days after the ROK Navy seized their boat in the East Sea following a two-day chase. On Seoul’s account, both men confessed in separate interrogations to killing their captain and 15 crew members. The ROK therefore treated them as “heinous criminals” fleeing justice. It had no plan to disclose any of this; only a journalist’s vigilance brought it to light.

:  MOU discloses that 828 North Koreans defected to the South in 2019 so far (January-October), suggesting the full-year figure will be close to 2018’s 1,137. Numbers have fallen since Kim Jong Un took power. The cumulative total is not large, around 32,000.

:  MOU discloses that 828 North Koreans defected to the South in 2019 so far (January-October), suggesting the full-year figure will be close to 2018’s 1,137. Numbers have fallen since Kim Jong Un took power. The cumulative total is not large, around 32,000.

:  MOU discloses that 828 North Koreans defected to the South in 2019 so far (January-October), suggesting the full-year figure will be close to 2018’s 1,137. Numbers have fallen since Kim Jong Un took power. The cumulative total is not large, around 32,000.

:  The Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae, the ROK presidential office cum residence) announces that Kim Jong Un sent condolences for the death on Oct. 29 of President Moon Jae-in’s 92 year old mother, Kang Han-ok, who fled North Korea during the Korean War. Kim’s message was delivered via Panmunjom.

:  The Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae, the ROK presidential office cum residence) announces that Kim Jong Un sent condolences for the death on Oct. 29 of President Moon Jae-in’s 92 year old mother, Kang Han-ok, who fled North Korea during the Korean War. Kim’s message was delivered via Panmunjom.

:  The Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae, the ROK presidential office cum residence) announces that Kim Jong Un sent condolences for the death on Oct. 29 of President Moon Jae-in’s 92 year old mother, Kang Han-ok, who fled North Korea during the Korean War. Kim’s message was delivered via Panmunjom.

:  MOU reiterates that a face to face meeting is needed to discuss Kumgangsan.

:  MOU reiterates that a face to face meeting is needed to discuss Kumgangsan.

:  MOU reiterates that a face to face meeting is needed to discuss Kumgangsan.

:  South Korea adds that it is prepared to discuss the safety of individual tourists to Mount Kumgang with the North. (This is an olive branch: individual, as opposed to group tourism would not breach sanctions). Rebuffing Seoul’s offer of talks, Pyongyang perversely insists that the issue be dealt with by exchanging documents rather than meeting face to face.

:  South Korea adds that it is prepared to discuss the safety of individual tourists to Mount Kumgang with the North. (This is an olive branch: individual, as opposed to group tourism would not breach sanctions). Rebuffing Seoul’s offer of talks, Pyongyang perversely insists that the issue be dealt with by exchanging documents rather than meeting face to face.

:  South Korea adds that it is prepared to discuss the safety of individual tourists to Mount Kumgang with the North. (This is an olive branch: individual, as opposed to group tourism would not breach sanctions). Rebuffing Seoul’s offer of talks, Pyongyang perversely insists that the issue be dealt with by exchanging documents rather than meeting face to face.

:  Following North Korea’s demand that the South remove all its facilities from the Mount Kumgang resort, Seoul offers to hold talks about the future of tourism there.

:  Following North Korea’s demand that the South remove all its facilities from the Mount Kumgang resort, Seoul offers to hold talks about the future of tourism there.

:  Following North Korea’s demand that the South remove all its facilities from the Mount Kumgang resort, Seoul offers to hold talks about the future of tourism there.

:  Jeju provincial government announces another inter-Korean soccer match. The two Koreas have been drawn in the same group, with Vietnam and Myanmar, for the third round of the Asian qualifiers for women’s soccer for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. All matches will take place on the ROK island during Feb. 3-9, 2020.

:  Jeju provincial government announces another inter-Korean soccer match. The two Koreas have been drawn in the same group, with Vietnam and Myanmar, for the third round of the Asian qualifiers for women’s soccer for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. All matches will take place on the ROK island during Feb. 3-9, 2020.

:  Jeju provincial government announces another inter-Korean soccer match. The two Koreas have been drawn in the same group, with Vietnam and Myanmar, for the third round of the Asian qualifiers for women’s soccer for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. All matches will take place on the ROK island during Feb. 3-9, 2020.

:  After hearing nothing for two days, MOU says North Korea has notified it of Kim’s order on Mt. Kumgang, and proposes to discuss this by exchanging documents.

:  After hearing nothing for two days, MOU says North Korea has notified it of Kim’s order on Mt. Kumgang, and proposes to discuss this by exchanging documents.

:  After hearing nothing for two days, MOU says North Korea has notified it of Kim’s order on Mt. Kumgang, and proposes to discuss this by exchanging documents.

:  KCNA reports that Kim Jong Un has inspected Mount Kumgang: presumably on Oct. 22. This is his first known visit. Criticising the mothballed resort’s South Korean-built facilities as shabby and unpleasant-looking, he orders their removal, by “agreement with the relevant unit of the south side.” In a major policy U-turn, he insists that Kumgangsan is “our [the DPRK’s] famous mountain” rather than “a common property of the north and the south.”

:  KCNA reports that Kim Jong Un has inspected Mount Kumgang: presumably on Oct. 22. This is his first known visit. Criticising the mothballed resort’s South Korean-built facilities as shabby and unpleasant-looking, he orders their removal, by “agreement with the relevant unit of the south side.” In a major policy U-turn, he insists that Kumgangsan is “our [the DPRK’s] famous mountain” rather than “a common property of the north and the south.”

:  KCNA reports that Kim Jong Un has inspected Mount Kumgang: presumably on Oct. 22. This is his first known visit. Criticising the mothballed resort’s South Korean-built facilities as shabby and unpleasant-looking, he orders their removal, by “agreement with the relevant unit of the south side.” In a major policy U-turn, he insists that Kumgangsan is “our [the DPRK’s] famous mountain” rather than “a common property of the north and the south.”

:  MOU says it will permit South Korean municipal authorities to pursue their own aid projects with the North, rather than them having to partner with NGOs as currently.

:  Two North Korean websites, Meari and Uriminzokkiri, attack various South Korean plans to conduct missile tests and develop new weapons: “Reckless military schemes will not go unnoticed. (We) will make them regret to the backbone” (sic).

:  Yonhap reports that according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) data, South Korea is North Korea’s largest aid donor this year, giving $9 million to WFP. This is almost 30 percent of the total donations of $30.55 million.

:  MOU says it will permit South Korean municipal authorities to pursue their own aid projects with the North, rather than them having to partner with NGOs as currently.

:  Two North Korean websites, Meari and Uriminzokkiri, attack various South Korean plans to conduct missile tests and develop new weapons: “Reckless military schemes will not go unnoticed. (We) will make them regret to the backbone” (sic).

:  Yonhap reports that according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) data, South Korea is North Korea’s largest aid donor this year, giving $9 million to WFP. This is almost 30 percent of the total donations of $30.55 million.

:  MOU says it will permit South Korean municipal authorities to pursue their own aid projects with the North, rather than them having to partner with NGOs as currently.

:  Two North Korean websites, Meari and Uriminzokkiri, attack various South Korean plans to conduct missile tests and develop new weapons: “Reckless military schemes will not go unnoticed. (We) will make them regret to the backbone” (sic).

:  Yonhap reports that according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) data, South Korea is North Korea’s largest aid donor this year, giving $9 million to WFP. This is almost 30 percent of the total donations of $30.55 million.

:  The militant defector group Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK) says it sent 500,000 leaflets across the DMZ by balloon on Oct. 20, criticising the DPRK for holding the inter-Korean soccer match behind closed doors. The cargo also included 2,000 one-dollar bills, 1,000 USB drives and 500 booklets. The Moon government disapproves of such antics.

:  North Korea denies still holding South Koreans from an aircraft hijacking in 1969, calling this charge a “stereotyped anti-DPRK political plot pursued by hostile forces.” Pyongyang insists that the 11 (out of 50) who were not returned chose to stay in the North. It further claims that nobody in North Korea has been “forcibly detained against his or her will.”

:  The militant defector group Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK) says it sent 500,000 leaflets across the DMZ by balloon on Oct. 20, criticising the DPRK for holding the inter-Korean soccer match behind closed doors. The cargo also included 2,000 one-dollar bills, 1,000 USB drives and 500 booklets. The Moon government disapproves of such antics.

:  North Korea denies still holding South Koreans from an aircraft hijacking in 1969, calling this charge a “stereotyped anti-DPRK political plot pursued by hostile forces.” Pyongyang insists that the 11 (out of 50) who were not returned chose to stay in the North. It further claims that nobody in North Korea has been “forcibly detained against his or her will.”

:  The militant defector group Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK) says it sent 500,000 leaflets across the DMZ by balloon on Oct. 20, criticising the DPRK for holding the inter-Korean soccer match behind closed doors. The cargo also included 2,000 one-dollar bills, 1,000 USB drives and 500 booklets. The Moon government disapproves of such antics.

:  North Korea denies still holding South Koreans from an aircraft hijacking in 1969, calling this charge a “stereotyped anti-DPRK political plot pursued by hostile forces.” Pyongyang insists that the 11 (out of 50) who were not returned chose to stay in the North. It further claims that nobody in North Korea has been “forcibly detained against his or her will.”

:  The ROK’s Korea Football Association (KFA) says it has asked the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to consider punishing North Korea for its uncooperativeness, in breach of AFC rules, regarding arrangements for Oct.16’s inter-Korean soccer match.

:  The ROK’s Korea Football Association (KFA) says it has asked the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to consider punishing North Korea for its uncooperativeness, in breach of AFC rules, regarding arrangements for Oct.16’s inter-Korean soccer match.

:  The ROK’s Korea Football Association (KFA) says it has asked the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to consider punishing North Korea for its uncooperativeness, in breach of AFC rules, regarding arrangements for Oct.16’s inter-Korean soccer match.

:  The inter-Korean Group H World Cup qualifier takes place in a virtually empty Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang. North Korea, which refused to admit South Korean fans, gave no advance warning that there would be no spectators at all. Headlined as a “chippy” game by Yonhap—four yellow cards, two each—this ends in a scoreless draw. In the absence of live broadcasting, the Swedish Ambassador provides glimpses and commentary on Twitter.

:  MOU says North Korea has promised to provide a DVD of the inter-Korean soccer match before the Southern team leaves tomorrow. It duly does so, but the video quality is so poor that KBS decides not to air it.

:  MOU says the DPRK has officially invited the ROK to the 2019 Asian Youth & Junior Weightlifting Championships, an Olympic qualifying event upcoming in Pyongyang on Oct. 20-27. The 65-strong South Korean contingent will include two journalists.

:  The inter-Korean Group H World Cup qualifier takes place in a virtually empty Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang. North Korea, which refused to admit South Korean fans, gave no advance warning that there would be no spectators at all. Headlined as a “chippy” game by Yonhap—four yellow cards, two each—this ends in a scoreless draw. In the absence of live broadcasting, the Swedish Ambassador provides glimpses and commentary on Twitter.

:  MOU says North Korea has promised to provide a DVD of the inter-Korean soccer match before the Southern team leaves tomorrow. It duly does so, but the video quality is so poor that KBS decides not to air it.

:  MOU says the DPRK has officially invited the ROK to the 2019 Asian Youth & Junior Weightlifting Championships, an Olympic qualifying event upcoming in Pyongyang on Oct. 20-27. The 65-strong South Korean contingent will include two journalists.

:  The inter-Korean Group H World Cup qualifier takes place in a virtually empty Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang. North Korea, which refused to admit South Korean fans, gave no advance warning that there would be no spectators at all. Headlined as a “chippy” game by Yonhap—four yellow cards, two each—this ends in a scoreless draw. In the absence of live broadcasting, the Swedish Ambassador provides glimpses and commentary on Twitter.

:  MOU says North Korea has promised to provide a DVD of the inter-Korean soccer match before the Southern team leaves tomorrow. It duly does so, but the video quality is so poor that KBS decides not to air it.

:  MOU says the DPRK has officially invited the ROK to the 2019 Asian Youth & Junior Weightlifting Championships, an Olympic qualifying event upcoming in Pyongyang on Oct. 20-27. The 65-strong South Korean contingent will include two journalists.

:  South Korea’s three major terrestrial TV networks—KBS, MBC and SBS—say that tomorrow’s inter-Korean soccer match will not be broadcast live, as arrangements “fell apart.” North Korea has still not replied to the South’s request to send a cheering squad, tantamount to refusal.

:  South Korea’s three major terrestrial TV networks—KBS, MBC and SBS—say that tomorrow’s inter-Korean soccer match will not be broadcast live, as arrangements “fell apart.” North Korea has still not replied to the South’s request to send a cheering squad, tantamount to refusal.

:  South Korea’s three major terrestrial TV networks—KBS, MBC and SBS—say that tomorrow’s inter-Korean soccer match will not be broadcast live, as arrangements “fell apart.” North Korea has still not replied to the South’s request to send a cheering squad, tantamount to refusal.

:  MOU calls it “disappointing” that North Korea is still blanking the South’s urgent and repeated requests to discuss issues like sending fans and live broadcasting of the inter-Korean soccer match, now imminent. Some might have used stronger language.

:  ROK military helicopters spray disinfectant over the DMZ, after a wild boar infected by ASF was found dead there. Seoul first duly consulted the UN Command and also notified Pyongyang, which still refuses to co-operate in combating this shared epidemic.

:  MOU calls it “disappointing” that North Korea is still blanking the South’s urgent and repeated requests to discuss issues like sending fans and live broadcasting of the inter-Korean soccer match, now imminent. Some might have used stronger language.

:  ROK military helicopters spray disinfectant over the DMZ, after a wild boar infected by ASF was found dead there. Seoul first duly consulted the UN Command and also notified Pyongyang, which still refuses to co-operate in combating this shared epidemic.

:  MOU calls it “disappointing” that North Korea is still blanking the South’s urgent and repeated requests to discuss issues like sending fans and live broadcasting of the inter-Korean soccer match, now imminent. Some might have used stronger language.

:  ROK military helicopters spray disinfectant over the DMZ, after a wild boar infected by ASF was found dead there. Seoul first duly consulted the UN Command and also notified Pyongyang, which still refuses to co-operate in combating this shared epidemic.

:  The DPRK website Uriminzokkiri attacks “south Korea’s leader on a US tour” (it does not name Moon Jae-in) for “behav[ing] indecently in a servile attitude” by yielding to Washington’s “coercion” to buy more US-made arms.

:  The DPRK website Uriminzokkiri attacks “south Korea’s leader on a US tour” (it does not name Moon Jae-in) for “behav[ing] indecently in a servile attitude” by yielding to Washington’s “coercion” to buy more US-made arms.

:  The DPRK website Uriminzokkiri attacks “south Korea’s leader on a US tour” (it does not name Moon Jae-in) for “behav[ing] indecently in a servile attitude” by yielding to Washington’s “coercion” to buy more US-made arms.

:  With the inter-Korean soccer derby in Pyongyang barely a week away, and North Korea still refusing to discuss whether Southern fans can attend, MOU admits that the prospects for this happening “appear to be not easy from a physical perspective.”

:  With the inter-Korean soccer derby in Pyongyang barely a week away, and North Korea still refusing to discuss whether Southern fans can attend, MOU admits that the prospects for this happening “appear to be not easy from a physical perspective.”

:  With the inter-Korean soccer derby in Pyongyang barely a week away, and North Korea still refusing to discuss whether Southern fans can attend, MOU admits that the prospects for this happening “appear to be not easy from a physical perspective.”

:  Rodong Sinmun, the DPRK’s leading paper and organ of its ruling Workers’ Party (WPK), says: “The South Korean authorities have been passing the buck for the current stalemate in the North-South relations.” It accuses Seoul of “betrayal behaviors” and “very impure words and actions that reverse black and white.”

:  Rodong Sinmun, the DPRK’s leading paper and organ of its ruling Workers’ Party (WPK), says: “The South Korean authorities have been passing the buck for the current stalemate in the North-South relations.” It accuses Seoul of “betrayal behaviors” and “very impure words and actions that reverse black and white.”

:  Rodong Sinmun, the DPRK’s leading paper and organ of its ruling Workers’ Party (WPK), says: “The South Korean authorities have been passing the buck for the current stalemate in the North-South relations.” It accuses Seoul of “betrayal behaviors” and “very impure words and actions that reverse black and white.”

:  MOU says it expects the ROK flag (Taegukgi) to fly in Pyongyang on Oct. 15 as international norms dictate, when the two Koreas play a FIFA World Cup soccer qualifying match. North Korea is still ignoring the South’s efforts to make concrete arrangements, including its request to send a cheering squad.

:  MOU says it expects the ROK flag (Taegukgi) to fly in Pyongyang on Oct. 15 as international norms dictate, when the two Koreas play a FIFA World Cup soccer qualifying match. North Korea is still ignoring the South’s efforts to make concrete arrangements, including its request to send a cheering squad.

:  MOU says it expects the ROK flag (Taegukgi) to fly in Pyongyang on Oct. 15 as international norms dictate, when the two Koreas play a FIFA World Cup soccer qualifying match. North Korea is still ignoring the South’s efforts to make concrete arrangements, including its request to send a cheering squad.

:  MOU says it is “reviewing a comprehensive plan on the peaceful use of the DMZ.” This will include President Moon’s idea, put to the UN General Assembly yesterday, to transform it into a peace zone by opening international offices there, including the UN’s. However the ministry says it is too early to discuss such schemes with North Korea.

:  Pyongyang’s propaganda website Meari slams Seoul for expressing the hope that a US-DPRK meeting would improve inter-Korean relations, calling this “an abominable behavior of subordination to an outside force.”

:  MOU says it is “reviewing a comprehensive plan on the peaceful use of the DMZ.” This will include President Moon’s idea, put to the UN General Assembly yesterday, to transform it into a peace zone by opening international offices there, including the UN’s. However the ministry says it is too early to discuss such schemes with North Korea.

:  Pyongyang’s propaganda website Meari slams Seoul for expressing the hope that a US-DPRK meeting would improve inter-Korean relations, calling this “an abominable behavior of subordination to an outside force.”

:  MOU says it is “reviewing a comprehensive plan on the peaceful use of the DMZ.” This will include President Moon’s idea, put to the UN General Assembly yesterday, to transform it into a peace zone by opening international offices there, including the UN’s. However the ministry says it is too early to discuss such schemes with North Korea.

:  Pyongyang’s propaganda website Meari slams Seoul for expressing the hope that a US-DPRK meeting would improve inter-Korean relations, calling this “an abominable behavior of subordination to an outside force.”

:  Meari, a Korean-language DPRK website for external audiences, renews the demand that 12 former restaurant workers in China who defected in 2016 be repatriated. It cites the recent findings of the IADL enquiry (see Sept. 4 and Sept. 10, above).

:  MOU says South Korea has notified North Korea of two more confirmed cases of African swine fever (ASF) at farms near the DMZ, stressing the need for quarantine co-operation, Pyongyang, which reported its own first ASF case in May, has not replied.

:  Contra media claims that North Korea has deployed MLRs or other weapons systems on Hambak—an islet in the West (Yellow) Sea only 20 km from South Korea’s much larger Ganghwa island—the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) insists that “not a single attack weapon exists on the island.” Some ROK maps erroneously give Hambak as ROK territory; MND says this will be corrected.

:  Meari, a Korean-language DPRK website for external audiences, renews the demand that 12 former restaurant workers in China who defected in 2016 be repatriated. It cites the recent findings of the IADL enquiry (see Sept. 4 and Sept. 10, above).

:  MOU says South Korea has notified North Korea of two more confirmed cases of African swine fever (ASF) at farms near the DMZ, stressing the need for quarantine co-operation, Pyongyang, which reported its own first ASF case in May, has not replied.

:  Contra media claims that North Korea has deployed MLRs or other weapons systems on Hambak—an islet in the West (Yellow) Sea only 20 km from South Korea’s much larger Ganghwa island—the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) insists that “not a single attack weapon exists on the island.” Some ROK maps erroneously give Hambak as ROK territory; MND says this will be corrected.

:  Meari, a Korean-language DPRK website for external audiences, renews the demand that 12 former restaurant workers in China who defected in 2016 be repatriated. It cites the recent findings of the IADL enquiry (see Sept. 4 and Sept. 10, above).

:  MOU says South Korea has notified North Korea of two more confirmed cases of African swine fever (ASF) at farms near the DMZ, stressing the need for quarantine co-operation, Pyongyang, which reported its own first ASF case in May, has not replied.

:  Contra media claims that North Korea has deployed MLRs or other weapons systems on Hambak—an islet in the West (Yellow) Sea only 20 km from South Korea’s much larger Ganghwa island—the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) insists that “not a single attack weapon exists on the island.” Some ROK maps erroneously give Hambak as ROK territory; MND says this will be corrected.

:  MOU says Seoul is trying to talk to Pyongyang about two upcoming sports fixtures upcoming there: a soccer World Cup qualifier on Oct. 15—the two Koreas have been drawn against each other—and an international junior weightlifting event (Oct. 20-27). North Korea has not yet invited the South to the latter, and has not replied regarding the former.

:  Speaking at a seminar in Seoul for the first anniversary of the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), and days after North Korea’s latest missile test (see Sept. 11), Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo insists that the CMA in no way renders South Korea vulnerable. On the contrary, “the Sept. 19 agreement can be successfully implemented only based upon our military’s strong power and water-tight readiness posture.”

:  MOU says Seoul is trying to talk to Pyongyang about two upcoming sports fixtures upcoming there: a soccer World Cup qualifier on Oct. 15—the two Koreas have been drawn against each other—and an international junior weightlifting event (Oct. 20-27). North Korea has not yet invited the South to the latter, and has not replied regarding the former.

:  Speaking at a seminar in Seoul for the first anniversary of the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), and days after North Korea’s latest missile test (see Sept. 11), Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo insists that the CMA in no way renders South Korea vulnerable. On the contrary, “the Sept. 19 agreement can be successfully implemented only based upon our military’s strong power and water-tight readiness posture.”

:  MOU says Seoul is trying to talk to Pyongyang about two upcoming sports fixtures upcoming there: a soccer World Cup qualifier on Oct. 15—the two Koreas have been drawn against each other—and an international junior weightlifting event (Oct. 20-27). North Korea has not yet invited the South to the latter, and has not replied regarding the former.

:  Speaking at a seminar in Seoul for the first anniversary of the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), and days after North Korea’s latest missile test (see Sept. 11), Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo insists that the CMA in no way renders South Korea vulnerable. On the contrary, “the Sept. 19 agreement can be successfully implemented only based upon our military’s strong power and water-tight readiness posture.”

:  ROK President Moon Jae-in—himself born to Northern parents—says that he regrets “slow progress” in implementing last year’s agreement to hold regular inter-Korean family reunions. Yet he is oddly even-handed: “It’s wrong that governments in both the South and North have not given them even a chance for such a long time.” In fact only one of the two Korean governments—not the one he heads—is currently blocking such contacts.

:  The same day, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul tells a group of families with relatives in the North that family reunions will be Seoul’s top priority if inter-Korean dialogue resumes. The group has met annually for Chuseok at Imjingak, a park close to the DMZ, since 1970. A year ago the two Koreas agreed to set up a permanent family reunion center, promote video reunions and allow the exchange of letters. None of this has happened.

:  ROK President Moon Jae-in—himself born to Northern parents—says that he regrets “slow progress” in implementing last year’s agreement to hold regular inter-Korean family reunions. Yet he is oddly even-handed: “It’s wrong that governments in both the South and North have not given them even a chance for such a long time.” In fact only one of the two Korean governments—not the one he heads—is currently blocking such contacts.

:  The same day, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul tells a group of families with relatives in the North that family reunions will be Seoul’s top priority if inter-Korean dialogue resumes. The group has met annually for Chuseok at Imjingak, a park close to the DMZ, since 1970. A year ago the two Koreas agreed to set up a permanent family reunion center, promote video reunions and allow the exchange of letters. None of this has happened.

:  ROK President Moon Jae-in—himself born to Northern parents—says that he regrets “slow progress” in implementing last year’s agreement to hold regular inter-Korean family reunions. Yet he is oddly even-handed: “It’s wrong that governments in both the South and North have not given them even a chance for such a long time.” In fact only one of the two Korean governments—not the one he heads—is currently blocking such contacts.

:  The same day, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul tells a group of families with relatives in the North that family reunions will be Seoul’s top priority if inter-Korean dialogue resumes. The group has met annually for Chuseok at Imjingak, a park close to the DMZ, since 1970. A year ago the two Koreas agreed to set up a permanent family reunion center, promote video reunions and allow the exchange of letters. None of this has happened.

:  In a pep talk to ROK army frontline troops just before the Chuseok (harvest festival) holiday, Minister of National Defense (MND) Jeong Kyeong-doo calls for “vigilance and intense drills to keep peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

:  In a pep talk to ROK army frontline troops just before the Chuseok (harvest festival) holiday, Minister of National Defense (MND) Jeong Kyeong-doo calls for “vigilance and intense drills to keep peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

:  In a pep talk to ROK army frontline troops just before the Chuseok (harvest festival) holiday, Minister of National Defense (MND) Jeong Kyeong-doo calls for “vigilance and intense drills to keep peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

:  KCNA describes the weapons system tested yesterday as being a “super-large multiple rocket launcher.” Kim Jong Un again oversees the launch, as he did the first time on Aug. 24, and says its capabilities have been “finally verified in terms of combat operation.”

:  KCNA describes the weapons system tested yesterday as being a “super-large multiple rocket launcher.” Kim Jong Un again oversees the launch, as he did the first time on Aug. 24, and says its capabilities have been “finally verified in terms of combat operation.”

:  KCNA describes the weapons system tested yesterday as being a “super-large multiple rocket launcher.” Kim Jong Un again oversees the launch, as he did the first time on Aug. 24, and says its capabilities have been “finally verified in terms of combat operation.”

:  Hours after First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui expressed readiness to resume denuclearization talks with the US, North Korea test-fires what South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) call two “short-range projectiles.” Launched from Kaechon, 80 km north of Pyongyang, these fly east for 330 km across the peninsula at a maximum altitude of 50-60 km, presumably landing in the East Sea. This is the tenth such launch this year. In response, the ROK holds an emergency National Security Council (NSC) meeting.

:  Reuters reports that the ROK National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) found no foul play in the 2016 defection of 12 DPRK waitresses, contrary to claims that they were abducted (see Sept. 4). The agency was shown relevant NHRC documents, but was told that the full report is unlikely to be published.

:  Hours after First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui expressed readiness to resume denuclearization talks with the US, North Korea test-fires what South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) call two “short-range projectiles.” Launched from Kaechon, 80 km north of Pyongyang, these fly east for 330 km across the peninsula at a maximum altitude of 50-60 km, presumably landing in the East Sea. This is the tenth such launch this year. In response, the ROK holds an emergency National Security Council (NSC) meeting.

:  Reuters reports that the ROK National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) found no foul play in the 2016 defection of 12 DPRK waitresses, contrary to claims that they were abducted (see

:  Hours after First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui expressed readiness to resume denuclearization talks with the US, North Korea test-fires what South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) call two “short-range projectiles.” Launched from Kaechon, 80 km north of Pyongyang, these fly east for 330 km across the peninsula at a maximum altitude of 50-60 km, presumably landing in the East Sea. This is the tenth such launch this year. In response, the ROK holds an emergency National Security Council (NSC) meeting.

:  Reuters reports that the ROK National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) found no foul play in the 2016 defection of 12 DPRK waitresses, contrary to claims that they were abducted (see Sept. 4). The agency was shown relevant NHRC documents, but was told that the full report is unlikely to be published.

:  Under the headline “KCNA Commentary Urges S. [sic] Korean Military Warmongers to Behave Themselves,” the official DPRK news agency savages the ROK’s deployment of two further F-35A fighter jets as allegedly part of a military build-up for a pre-emptive attack. It adds: “They generate a handshake of peace in public but behind the scene, grind a sword for confrontation and war. This is an unpardonable act of perfidy.”

:  MOU now says that the 50,000 tons of rice which South Korea offered in June as food aid to the North via the UN World Food Program (WFP) is unlikely to be delivered this month as planned, since it remains unclear whether Pyongyang will accept it. (See also Aug. 23 in the previous issue of Comparative Connections, and below.)

:  Under the headline “KCNA Commentary Urges S. [sic] Korean Military Warmongers to Behave Themselves,” the official DPRK news agency savages the ROK’s deployment of two further F-35A fighter jets as allegedly part of a military build-up for a pre-emptive attack. It adds: “They generate a handshake of peace in public but behind the scene, grind a sword for confrontation and war. This is an unpardonable act of perfidy.”

:  MOU now says that the 50,000 tons of rice which South Korea offered in June as food aid to the North via the UN World Food Program (WFP) is unlikely to be delivered this month as planned, since it remains unclear whether Pyongyang will accept it. (See also Aug. 23 in the previous issue of Comparative Connections, and below.)

:  Under the headline “KCNA Commentary Urges S. [sic] Korean Military Warmongers to Behave Themselves,” the official DPRK news agency savages the ROK’s deployment of two further F-35A fighter jets as allegedly part of a military build-up for a pre-emptive attack. It adds: “They generate a handshake of peace in public but behind the scene, grind a sword for confrontation and war. This is an unpardonable act of perfidy.”

:  MOU now says that the 50,000 tons of rice which South Korea offered in June as food aid to the North via the UN World Food Program (WFP) is unlikely to be delivered this month as planned, since it remains unclear whether Pyongyang will accept it. (See also Aug. 23 in the previous issue of Comparative Connections, and below.)

: In Vladivostok to attend the 5th Eastern Economic Forum, DPRK Vice-Premier Ri Yong Nam urges Seoul to “implement issues specified in the [Pyongyang] joint declaration and Panmunjom declaration.” Otherwise, “how can [inter-Korean talks] happen?”

:  Ahead of the first anniversary of the opening of a permanent inter-Korean liaison office at Kaesong on Sept. 14, the ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) confirms that once again the two sides’ co-heads will skip their supposedly weekly meeting. They have not met since the second US-DPRK summit in Hanoi in February.

:  In Vladivostok to attend the 5th Eastern Economic Forum, DPRK Vice-Premier Ri Yong Nam urges Seoul to “implement issues specified in the [Pyongyang] joint declaration and Panmunjom declaration.” Otherwise, “how can [inter-Korean talks] happen?”

: In Vladivostok to attend the 5th Eastern Economic Forum, DPRK Vice-Premier Ri Yong Nam urges Seoul to “implement issues specified in the [Pyongyang] joint declaration and Panmunjom declaration.” Otherwise, “how can [inter-Korean talks] happen?”

:  Ahead of the first anniversary of the opening of a permanent inter-Korean liaison office at Kaesong on Sept. 14, the ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) confirms that once again the two sides’ co-heads will skip their supposedly weekly meeting. They have not met since the second US-DPRK summit in Hanoi in February.

:  In Vladivostok to attend the 5th Eastern Economic Forum, DPRK Vice-Premier Ri Yong Nam urges Seoul to “implement issues specified in the [Pyongyang] joint declaration and Panmunjom declaration.” Otherwise, “how can [inter-Korean talks] happen?”

:  Ahead of the first anniversary of the opening of a permanent inter-Korean liaison office at Kaesong on Sept. 14, the ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) confirms that once again the two sides’ co-heads will skip their supposedly weekly meeting. They have not met since the second US-DPRK summit in Hanoi in February.

:  In Vladivostok to attend the 5th Eastern Economic Forum, DPRK Vice-Premier Ri Yong Nam urges Seoul to “implement issues specified in the [Pyongyang] joint declaration and Panmunjom declaration.” Otherwise, “how can [inter-Korean talks] happen?”

:  The left-leaning International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADLclaims that 12 North Korean waitresses who defected en masse to the South from China in 2016 were in effect abducted. Visiting both Koreas, the IADL’s investigative team received full assistance from the DPRK; but ROK authorities refused co-operation, so they did not actually meet the women. IADL’s full report is later published on Sept. 30.

:  The left-leaning International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADLclaims that 12 North Korean waitresses who defected en masse to the South from China in 2016 were in effect abducted. Visiting both Koreas, the IADL’s investigative team received full assistance from the DPRK; but ROK authorities refused co-operation, so they did not actually meet the women. IADL’s full report is later published on Sept. 30.

:  The left-leaning International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADLclaims that 12 North Korean waitresses who defected en masse to the South from China in 2016 were in effect abducted. Visiting both Koreas, the IADL’s investigative team received full assistance from the DPRK; but ROK authorities refused co-operation, so they did not actually meet the women. IADL’s full report is later published on Sept. 30.

: DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) holds a rare second session. Belying expectations in Seoul of fresh policy announcements (see Aug. 26), this is mainly devoted to constitutional changes further cementing Kim Jong Un’s position as chief of the executive branch, as well as head of everything else.

: DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) holds a rare second session. Belying expectations in Seoul of fresh policy announcements (see Aug. 26), this is mainly devoted to constitutional changes further cementing Kim Jong Un’s position as chief of the executive branch, as well as head of everything else.

: MOU admits that while “it would be great to hold joint events”, South Korea will mark the first anniversary on Sept. 19 of the Pyongyang inter-Korean summit without North Korea’s participation. Nor has the North been notified of the South’s planned events.

: MOU says Pyongyang has not replied to its offer to return the body of a presumed North Korean, found in the Imjin river at Paju near the DMZ in Aug. 14.

: Ahead of the DPRK parliament’s rare second session this year, MOU calls that “a good opportunity for it to announce inside and out its policy direction or an evaluation on the businesses it has carried out.” This turns out to be quite mistaken (see Aug. 29).

: North Korea test-fires what the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) presume to be two more SRBMs, this time from Sondok, south of Hamhung on the east coast. They travel some 235 miles, in the seventh such test in less than a month. A day later, DPRK media report this as being a “newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher” system (MRLS), once again under Kim Jong Un’s personal guidance.

: MOU says it still hopes to send 50,000 tons of rice to North Korea via the UN World Food Programme (WFP) by end-September, despite Pyongyang’s reported refusal to accept aid from the South.

: Quoting an unnamed official, Yonhap says South Korea is mulling whether to invite North Korea to the 8th vice-minister level Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD), to be held on Sept. 4-6. In the event it decides not to.

: KCNA weighs in on the US-ROK negotiations over cost-sharing for USFK. It attacks Washington as “greedy” and “gangster-like,” and also Seoul for being “servile.”

: Rodong Sinmun lambastes the joint US-ROK exercises as “an open hostility to and unpardonable military provocation against the DPRK” and “a saber-rattling for making a preemptive attack on the DPRK from A to Z.”

: Minister of Unification Kim Yeon-chul restates the Moon administration’s commitment to building a ‘peace economy’ on the peninsula, despite Pyongyang scorning this notion as “remarks that make the boiled head of a cow provoke a side-splitting laughter.”

: DPRK media insult Park Jie-won, a veteran ROK politician heavily involved in the late Kim Dae-jung’s ‘Sunshine’ policy, as “a tramp and dirty man” who “wagged his ill-smelling tongue.” Park had criticized the North’s Aug. 16 missile launch as (inter alia) irreverent to the memory of the late Chung Ju-yung, founder of the Hyundai conglomerate and a major funder of ‘Sunshine,’ who was born near Tongchon.

: North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) reacts to Moon’s Aug. 15 speech with derision and insults. Calling “the south Korean chief executive” “an impudent guy rare to be found,” the CPRC says: “[W]e have nothing to talk any more with the south Korean authorities nor have any idea to sit with them again.”

: Calling Pyongyang’s insults against President Moon (see above) “a rude act” that “crossed the line”, MOU says, rather mildly: “We express deep regret over North Korea’s slander made one day after Liberation Day, the nation’s biggest celebratory day.”

: North Korea launches two SRBMs from Tongchon in Kangwon province, the closest site yet this year to the DMZ and South Korea. Once again Kim Jong Un presides; As KCNA puts it, “Juche shells were fired in the presence of the Supreme Leader.”

: In a speech on Liberation Day (from Japan in 1945: a public holiday in both Koreas), President Moon renews his call to North Korea to build shared prosperity on the peninsula. But he also refers to “worrying actions,” and adds: “If there is dissatisfaction, it too should be raised and discussed at the negotiating table.

: Yonhap cites an unnamed “government source” as confirming that the two Koreas’ spy chiefs met secretly in April. National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director Suh Hoon met Jang Kum Chol, who Seoul says replaced Kim Yong Chol as head of the WPK United Front Department (UFD) after the failure of the second US-DPRK summit.

: Seoul police reveal that the bodies of a North Korean defector mother and son were found in their apartment on July 31. They may have starved to death two months earlier. This prompts an outpouring of concern as to how no safety net prevented such a tragedy.

: Citing a leaked text of the latest report of the UN Panel of Experts set up to monitor implementation of sanctions on the DPRK, AP reports that the ROK was the main victim (ten cases) of 35 DPRK cyberattacks, thought to have netted Pyongyang up to $2 billion in total. (The report is officially published on Sept. 5; see section 57, page 26.)

: Refuting Pyongyang’s criticisms of the US-ROK exercise, MOU says this is “not a field training aimed at the North, but a joint command post drill intended to prepare for the transfer of wartime operational control (from Washington to Seoul) … It is not a violation of North-South military agreements.” The North’s comments do “not help advance inter-Korean relations at all.”

: A director general at the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs mocks and insults “the south Korean authorities” for changing the name of US-ROK joint exercises, using startlingly undiplomatic language: “Shit, though hard and dry, still stinks even if it is wrapped in a flowered cloth.”

: Radio Free Asia (RFA) again claims North Korea is selling products pilfered from South Korean companies that invested in Kaesong, citing a large batch of rice cookers sent to China. (See also May 24.)

: US-ROK joint military exercises commence. Scaled down and renamed from the former Ulchi Freedom Guardian summer maneuvers (cancelled in 2018), these comprise four days of “crisis management staff training” (Aug. 5-8), followed by a 10-day “Combined Command Post Training” (Aug. 11-20).” Both are largely computer simulations, rather than mobilization of actual troops and equipment.

: As ROK relations with Japan deteriorate after Tokyo imposes trade sanctions, President Moon tells his Cabinet that “the Korean economy can catch up with Japan’s quickly if a peace economy is achieved on the peninsula through inter-Korean economic cooperation.”

:   MOU says that on July 24 South Korea proposed working-level talks with the North about forming unified teams for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in four sports, as agreed in February. Its spokesman adds that “discussions are under way”, but inter-Korean sports exchanges “have shown little progress due to the North’s passive attitude.” Separately, the ministry says that the North has rejected a proposal by a South Korean civic group to hold a joint Liberation Day event on Aug. 15, to mark the end of Japanese occupation in 1945.

: (South) Korea Football Association (KFA) says its Northern counterpart has told the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) it will host an inter-Korean soccer match in  Pyongyang on Oct. 15.

: Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldier crosses the DMZ by swimming in the Imjin river near Paju to defect to South Korea.

: Seoul announces that the third and last new hiking trail along the southern side of the DMZ, starting from Paju and including a demolished guardpost, will open on Aug. 10.)

: ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) report that the DPRK has launched two SRBMs, seemingly of a new type, from a presumed mobile launcher on Hodo Peninsula near Wonsan. They flew for some 690 and 430 km. Seoul expresses “strong concerns.”

: MOU reveals that North Korea is refusing to accept the South’s offer (made via the UN WFP) of 50,000 tons of rice, citing upcoming joint US-ROK military exercises.

: FFNK does it again (see June 25). The defector activist group reveals that on July 20 it launched 20 balloons carrying 500,000 leaflets, 2,000 dollar bills, 1,000 USB drives and 500 booklets across the DMZ from Yeoncheon, north of Seoul.

: Opening what Yonhap calls “an exposition on the seas around North Korea,”  Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul calls for progress in stalled inter-Korean maritime cooperation, such as a joint fishing area: “If we can seize this opportunity and connect the seas of the South and North, the destiny of the Korean Peninsula will dramatically change.”

: Apologizing again for the Samcheok boat incident, ROK Defense Minister Jeong says he has asked President Moon to decide whether to fire him. He keeps his job.

: MOU rebuffs as “absolutely not true” a claim by the Chosun Ilbo that government support for civic groups’ projects to help Northern defectors’ settlement has been halved. On the contrary, it “has been rather steadily on the rise”: from 383 million won ($324,300) in 2015 to 430 million won in 2017, 500 million won in 2018 and 522 million won in 2019.

: MOU says North Korea has not responded to an invitation to participate in the world’s largest swimming event: the biennial International Swimming Federation (FINA, in French), this year hosted by Gwangju and Yeosu cities in southwestern South Korea, which runs July 12-28.

: More than a month after Seoul agreed to let its investors visit the KIC (see May 17, above), MOU says that “North Korea is a little passive on this in the current situation.” Pressed further, the ministry clarifies that Pyongyang has not replied at all.

: President Moon’s approval rating reaches 52.4%, a seven-month high.

: Ministry of National Defense (MND) says it has sacked the commander of the ROK Army’s 8th Corps, referred two other senior military commanders to a disciplinary committee, and issued a warning to the JCS Chairman over the Samcheok boat incident.

: President Moon tells his Cabinet that the Kim-Trump meeting at Panmunjom on June 30 was a “de facto declaration of an end to hostile relations and the beginning of a full-fledged peace era,” even though no new accord was signed.

: Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un meet for the first time since September 2018, at Panmunjom. They shake hands and speak briefly as Moon escorts Donald Trump to his slightly longer (50 minutes) third meeting with Kim, in which Moon does not participate.

: In the same group interview, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul suggests that the KIC and the Mount Kumgang resort could be reopened even before sanctions relief, so as to advance denuclearization.

: In a joint written interview with Yonhap and six foreign news agencies, Moon Jae-in anticipates the two Koreas exchanging military information and observing each other’s exercises – if existing confidence-building accords are fully implemented.

: Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), a group of defectors and their supporters, says it marked the 69th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War by launching 20 propaganda balloons across the DMZ from Incheon, west of Seoul.

:   ROK Coast Guard and Navy see off a small DPRK fishing boat that had entered Southern waters northeast of Dokdo. The North Korean Navy had requested its rescue via a military hotline, but the crew insisted their engine was working.

: ROK Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo apologizes, after the embarrassing truth emerges of military failure and cover-up. The small DPRK boat (see above) had neither drifted South nor been apprehended at sea. Actually it crossed the maritime border, spent three days in Southern waters, then entered and tied up in the South’s Samcheok port, where its crew hailed a passing civilian – all of this entirely undetected and unchallenged.

: In a wide-ranging interview, Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho says: “I think we need to find an exquisite procedure (sic) with regard to resumption of the Kaesong complex and Mount Kumgang tours in the process of denuclearization.”

: MOU says two of the four DPRK boat people, who wanted to go home, were returned via Panmunjom today. The other two expressed a wish to defect. In further details, it is now revealed that the tiny (1.8 ton) wooden boat was first spotted by a civilian, “quite close to a seawall” near the ROK port of Samcheok. But it is still claimed to have been adrift.

: Yonhap says, the Blue House “publicly tone[s] down its expectations for an early inter-Korean summit.” With China’s Xi Jinping now headed for Pyongyang, this is an admission that President Moon’s professed hopes last week (see June 12) are unrealistic.

: Seoul’s military vows to tighten vigilance, amid criticism that a DPRK fishing boat had entered ROK waters undetected (see June 15). Still claiming the vessel was “found adrift”, the JCS says that while overall coastal and maritime defense operations had proceeded “normally”, its radar operation system has “elements that need to be complemented.”

: DPRK media use the 19th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit (which is not being celebrated jointly) to praise that event. They also laud 2018’s Kim-Moon summits as “milestones for peace, prosperity and unification.”

: Yonhap reports that a North Korean fishing boat with four crew was “found adrift in South Korean waters off the east coast,” having “drifted [South] due to an engine problem”. This account later turns out to be falsified. See also June 17, 18 and 20 below.

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri denounces Ulchi Taegeuk – the ROK’s new scaled-down civilian-military drill, held from May 27-30 – as “a provocative military exercise explicitly targeting us as the main enemy.”

: Suh Ho, who in May replaced Chun Hae-sung as vice unification minister, pays his first visit to the inter-Korean liaison office at Kaesong (he is its co-head ex officio). He meets ROK staff there, but not his DPRK counterpart Jon Jong Su, since Pyongyang once again cancels the supposedly weekly meeting of co-heads; none has been held since February.

: At Panmunjom, Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong delivers a wreath and letter of condolence from the DPRK leader over the death of Kim Dae-jung’s widow, Lee Hee-ho, who died on June 10 aged 96. There is no message for Moon Jae-in. DPRK media publicize all this, which some in Seoul see as encouraging.

: Speaking in Oslo, President Moon says: “I think it’s desirable (for me) to meet Chairman Kim Jong Un, if possible” before US President Donald Trump visits Seoul at the end of June. He adds: “I am calling for an early meeting between Chairman Kim and President Trump.”

: Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) report that the ROK Navy towed a DPRK fishing boat, found drifting with engine trouble in Southern waters in the East Sea, back into Northern waters, having ascertained that all six crew wished to go home. Pyongyang used the inter-Korean military hotline to request their rescue and repatriation.

: Choson Sinbo, a newspaper published by pro-DPRK Koreans in Japan, urges Seoul to “make a courageous decision to take practical action, not just words, in tackling the current stalemate in lockstep with North Korean compatriots.” If it does this, “there will be an answer from the North.”

: Minju Joson, daily paper of the DPRK Cabinet, calls the recent meeting in Seoul between ROK Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan a “clear manifestation of the ambition [to] militarily crush” North Korea.

: ROK sends the $8 million it pledged for aid to the DPRK (see May 17) to two UN agencies. WFP receives $4.5 million and UNICEF $3.5 million.

: Speaking in Helsinki at the start of a visit to three Nordic nations, President Moon sounds upbeat: “I believe that we will be able to resume ….dialogue between the two Koreas and between the US and North Korea in the near future.”

: MOU says Pyongyang has not replied to its offer to jointly fight African swine fever. Nor has it even officially informed Seoul of its new outbreak, despite an inter-Korean agreement in November to share information on contagious diseases.

: A propos an outbreak of highly contagious African swine fever in the northern DPRK, MOU says: “We will soon launch discussions with North Korea through the joint liaison office.”

: Yonhap quotes DPRK Vice Sports Minister Won Kil U as reaffirming, in a Chinese TV interview (date and channel unspecified), the North’s readiness to form a joint team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: “We have a willingness to do (it), holding hands with South Korea.” That would need planning; but Pyongyang is not replying to Seoul’s messages.

: The DPRK website Uriminzokkiri denounces South Korea’s plan to buy SM-2 Block IIIB ship-to-air missiles and related equipment from the US, adding: “There is actually no end if we are to list all the sneaky acts done by the south Korean military that destroy the peace mood on the peninsula and heighten tensions.”

: Citing “multiple” ROK government sources, the conservative Seoul daily Dong-A Ilbo claims that in January Seoul offered rice and other aid for Pyongyang to reopen the KIC and Mount Kumgang tourist resort. The North refused, demanding cash instead – which would breach UN sanctions. The South then offered twice as much rice (amount unspecified), but was again rebuffed. MOU denies this story, calling it “not true at all.”

: In apparent reaction to the ROK’s latest offer of aid (see May 17), though without citing that specifically, two second-tier DPRK websites, Tongil Sinbo and DPRK Today, reiterate Pyongyang’s position (see May 12) that humanitarian issues are “non-core and secondary.” They accuse Seoul of wanting to “show off … and manipulate public opinion rather than improving inter-Korean relations.”

: Rebutting a report by Radio Free Asia (RFA) that North Korea has sold off equipment belonging to South Korean companies at the KIC, Yonhap quotes an unnamed official of one such investor as saying that ROK officials who visited Kaesong last year to set up the inter-Korean liaison office there found factory buildings locked and sealed. (But see also Aug. 9, below.)

: South Korea submits on the deadline its roster alone for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Women’s Hockey Series F