North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Jan 2010 to Mar 2010

: The KPA’s Panmunjom Mission says “south Korean military warmongers have been busy staging an anti-DPRK psychological warfare in the Demilitarized Zone.” It warns that this must stop.

: The ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff say the KPA has put its coastal military units on heightened alert and increased surveillance near the NLL, while Southern warships and helicopters search waters near Baengnyeong-do for dozens of missing sailors.
March 29, 2010: ROK Navy divers who hammered on the Cheonan’s hull report no signs of life. President Lee Myung-bak visits the site. Defense Minister Kim Tae-young rules out an ROK mine as the cause, saying all were removed from the area by 2008.

: Strong currents hamper divers looking for the Cheonan’s two broken halves. Theories as to what happened proliferate as relatives of those missing demand answers.

: In talks with Wang Jiarui, head of the international liaison department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Chung Mong-joon, chairman of the ROK’s ruling Grand National Party (GNP), calls on China to play a greater role in promoting dialogue between the divided Koreas, including acting as a mediator if the North misunderstands the South.

: Inspections continue at Mt Kumgang. 20 DPRK officials, including KPA officers, visit a hot spring facility, a duty free shop, and a cultural center.

: Reacting to reports of allied contingency planning for various scenarios on the peninsula, the KPA General Staff threatens “unprecedented nuclear strikes of [our] invincible army” against “the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet warmongers” if they seek to bring down the North’s regime.

: The 1,200 ton ROK Navy corvette Cheonan sinks off Baengnyeong – South Korea’s northwesternmost island, close to the Northern coast and near the NLL, which the DPRK disputes, soon after an unexplained explosion tore through its hull.

: ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan says that an expected visit to China by Kim Jong-il could lead to a resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

: Seoul issues travel permits for companies to visit Mt. Kumgang for the North’s inspections. While the ROK government is not directly represented, three officials of the state-run Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) make their own survey ahead of the North’s.

: Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) says it has failed to sell two nuclear light-water reactors originally meant for North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework.

: The North’s General Scenic Spots Development Guidance Bureau condemns South Korea for suspending tours, blaming the deceased tourist for her “carelessness,” it says that Southern authorities “failed to properly take care [of] and control the tourists.”

: North Korea’s APPC notifies MOU and tour operator Hyundai Asan that it will “conduct a survey of South Korean property in the Mt. Kumgang area from March 25 … All assets of those who fail to cooperate with the measure will be confiscated and they will be unable to visit Mount Kumgang again.”

: ROK Defense Minister Kim Tae-young says the DPRK is believed to have about 1,000 short and longer-range missiles – up from an estimated 800 as of 2008 – and is continuing to bulk up its military power without giving up its nuclear ambitions

: Southern sources say North Korea has put a top trade specialist, Ri Kwang-gun, in charge of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

: Rodong Sinmun says the servicepersons and people of the DPRK will clearly teach what “miserable end the US and south Korean bellicose forces will meet” if they dare provoke a second Korean War.

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri quotes the weekly Tongil Sinbo as saying Pyongyang’s March 4 warning on tourism “… is tantamount to an ultimatum.

: Officials in Seoul report that on Jan. 27 Pyongyang revised regulations at its Rason (Rajin-Sonbong) economic and trade zone, in the far northeast, to allow “compatriots living outside the DPRK” to invest there. This includes South Koreans among others.

: MOU says it has allowed no new inter-Korean economic ventures since last April’s DPRK long-range missile test. The last approval was on March 12, 2009.

: North Korea’s APPC again threatens “extreme measures” if Seoul does not allow tours to Mt. Kumgang to resume.

: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry says “The DPRK is fully ready for dialogue and war. It will continue bolstering up its nuclear deterrent as long as the US military threats and provocations go on.”

: ROK officials say they are watching closely DPRK moves to grant leases at Rajin to both Russia and China. They see this as a move toward opening, while remaining wary of any possible breach of UN sanctions.

: Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI), a state think-tank in Seoul, says that absent foreign aid North Korea will be 1.2 million tons short of its food needs this year.

: The launch of regular annual US-ROK military exercise Key Resolve and Foal Eagle brings the usual volley of threats from Pyongyang.

: Pyongyang warns that “if the South Korean government continues to block the travel routes [i.e. tourism to Mt. Kumgang] while making false accusations, we will be left with no choice but to take extreme measures.”

: Rodong Sinmun criticizes pressure from Seoul to discuss the North’s nuclear issue as “a ploy to whip up a wanton campaign against the DPRK … As we have made clear repeatedly, the nuclear issue has nothing to do with inter-Korean relations.”

: Rodong Sinmun criticizes South Korea for raising the “nonexistent” human rights issue in the DPRK.

: North-South military working-level talks are held at Kaesong, but make no progress. The South wants extended border crossing hours and permission to use mobile phones, the Internet, and electronic tags on goods. The North reiterates its demand for higher wages and equipment to help it ease border restrictions.

: KCNA reports that “a relevant institution of the DPRK recently detained four south Koreans who illegally entered it. They are now under investigation by the institution.”

: Citing “some conciliatory moves since the latter half of last year,” ROK Vice Unification Minister Hong Yang-ho says in a radio interview that Seoul’s tough approach toward the North has proven effective in pressing Pyongyang to open up for dialogue.

: The (South) Korea Customs Service (KCS) reports that inter-Korean trade fell 9 percent last year, from $1.82 billion in 2008 to $1.66 billion. The South’s trade deficit nearly quadrupled to $201 million, with DPRK exports of $933 million against ROK sales of

: The KPA General Staff attacks “the US imperialists and warmongers of the south Korean puppet army” for their (in fact routine) annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint exercises, due on March 8-18.

: South Korea sends 20 trucks carrying 200,000 liters of hand sanitizer worth $863,000 to Kaesong. The North thanks it for this, and for Tamiflu sent earlier on Dec. 12.

: Seoul says it will accept the North’s offer of military talks about cross-border transit issues on March 2, but insist that they be held at Panmunjom rather than in Kaesong.

: The ROK’s National Oceanographic Research Institute warns on its website that the DPRK has again unilaterally designated six “naval firing zones” for three days from Feb. 20. Four are on the west coast and two in the east. On two previous occasions in February similar warnings were given but no actual exercises were conducted.

: Yonhap cites an unspecified ROK defense report as saying the KPA has deployed dozens of multiple rocket launchers – seen as a special threat to Seoul – along the west coast border. The South is “prepared for 33 possible North Korean attack scenarios.”

: KCNA avers that “only fools will entertain the delusion that we will trade our nuclear deterrent for petty economic aid … We have tightened our belts, braved various difficulties and spent countless money to obtain a nuclear deterrent as a self-defense measure against U.S. nuclear threats … We never meant to seek ‘economic benefits’ from someone or threaten others.”

: Kim Jong-il’s birthday – officially his 68th, but maybe really his 69th – is celebrated as usual throughout the DPRK. Rodong Sinmun says: “We must follow and trust our General to the end of this world with the belief that we will triumph no matter what happens.”

: The ROK’s National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) says that while its overall budget has been cut by 5 percent to $4 million for fiscal 2010, the tiny portion it devotes to North Korea is unchanged from 2009 at $294,000 – even though it had asked for less than half that. NHRCK concludes that the government is keen on this area.

: In a meeting to mark Kim Jong-il’s birthday, titular head of state Kim Yong-nam says: “Steadfast is the stand of the DPRK to improve inter-Korean relations and pave the way for national reunification on the basis of the June 15 and October 4 declarations.”

: Park In-kook, ROK ambassador to the UN, says the Security Council is not ready to discuss a possible removal of sanctions on North Korea, and would only consider this after significant progress toward denuclearization.

: The ROK National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee approves a bill by the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) that would create a government body dedicated to North Korean human rights support for NGOs working in this area. The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) boycotts the vote, claiming this is an “anti-North Korean” bill that will backfire by “prolonging the chilled ties between the two Koreas while strengthening clampdowns in the North to consolidate the regime’s security.”

: MOU says the DPRK produced 4.1 million tons of grain in 2009, which is 200,000 tons less than in 2008. It predicts a worsening food crisis this year.

: Inter-Korean talks in Kaesong fail to agree on restarting cross-border tourism. The North continues to refuse Southern demands for a joint probe into the fatal shooting of a female tourist at Mt. Kumgang in July 2008, which prompted Seoul to suspend tourism.

: In an unprecedented joint statement, the DPRK Ministry of People’s Security and Ministry of State Security claim North Korea has “a world-level ultra-modern striking force and means for protecting security which have neither yet been mentioned nor opened to the public in total.” They threaten “all-out strong measures to foil the treacherous, anti-reunification and anti-peace moves of the riff-raff to bring down the dignified socialist system.”

: North Korea-watchers in Seoul say last December’s currency reform seems to have failed, and the official who led it may have been fired. Pak Nam-gi, head of the WPK planning and finance department, was last seen on Jan. 9. Later reports allege that Pak was publicly executed as a traitor and saboteur.

: In a meeting on and in the Kaesong IZ, both sides agree that cross-border access issues raised by Seoul should be discussed in future military-to-military talks. The North continues to prioritize wage hikes, without specifying how much.

: The DPRK declares five further no-sail zones, this time including east coast waters, effective Feb. 5-9. Seoul fears the North may test missiles as well as artillery.

: At the World Economic Forum at Davos, President Lee Myung-bak tells the BBC that he is willing to meet Kim Jong-il at any time without preconditions.

: The KPA fires about 30 artillery rounds near, but on its side of, the NLL. The ROK Navy ripostes with about 100 warning shots. The US condemns the DPRK for raising tensions. Pyongyang says this is an annual drill, which will continue. It does, firing a total of about 350 rounds through Jan. 29.

: ROK Unification Minister Hyun In-taek sends a message to Kim Yang-gon, in his capacity as director of the Unification Front Department of the WPK, proposing talks on resuming tourism in Kaesong on Feb. 8.

: North Korea declares seas near the South’s northwesternmost islands of Baeknyeong and Daecheong in the West/Yellow Sea as no-sail zones until Jan. 29. The zones overlap the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto sea border.

: Share Together Society, an ROK NGO, says it will ship enough milk for 40,000 children north each month. The first shipment from Incheon reaches Nampo that day.

: The Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), Seoul’s leading official think-tank on North Korea, issues a report predicting that as Kim Jong-il may well leave the stage after 2012 due to death or incapacity, “the North will likely undergo upheavals, which may include regime change, a military coup, riot, massacre or mass defections.”

: In its first ever survey of North Korea, the South’s National Human Rights Commission says the DPRK has six prison camps nationwide with some 200,000 inmates, where severe violations such as public executions, sexual assault, and torture are routine.

: ROK Defense Minister Kim Tae-young tells a forum in Seoul that the South “would have to strike right away” if the North showed clear signs it was about to use nuclear weapons. On Jan. 24 the KPA General Staff says it considers this an “open declaration of war” and warns that it may take “stern military actions.”

: ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan says “North Korea has taken a stance that is hard to understand” on inter-Korean relations, making “unreasonable demands.”

: A meeting in the Kaesong Industrial Zone (KIZ) to discuss its future fails to reach accord. North Korea persists in demanding large wage increases, while the South is more concerned about easing cross-border access. They agree to meet again on Feb. 1.

: An ROK intelligence source says the KPA joint exercise observed by Kim Jong-il involved some 10 jet fighters, warships, and 240 mm multiple-launch missile systems. It was held in a western coastal area near Pyongyang.

: Reaffirming that it will not return to the Six-Party Talks unless UN sanctions are lifted, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry avers: “If the six-party talks are to take place again, it is necessary to seek whatever way of removing the factor of torpedoing them (sic).”

:  Kim Jong-il inspects a joint training exercise “to defend our socialist state from invaders.” As KCNA put it, “flying corps, warships and ground artillery pieces of various kinds showered merciless barrage at the ‘enemy group’ in close coordination, thus shattering the ‘enemy camp’ to pieces and turning it into a sea of flame.” This is the first report of Kim observing combined KPA maneuvers since becoming supreme commander in 1992.

: Yonhap quotes an unnamed source as saying China’s border city of Tumen will lend Pyongyang $10 million to help upgrade the 170 km rail link to the DPRK port of Chongjin.

: The National Defense Commission (NDC), the DPRK’s top executive body, threatens “a sacred nationwide retaliatory battle to blow up the stronghold of the south Korean authorities including Chongwadae” (the presidential office). MOU regrets that Pyongyang should react thus “based on some unconfirmed media reports.”

: North Korea belatedly faxes its acceptance of 10,000 tons of corn aid offered by the South in October.

: Report by the ROK National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee says China has invested over $200 million in 20 North Korean mines, as against only three such investments by South Korea.

: KCNA warns that “our military will not tolerate even a bit” balloons carrying leaflets critical of the North’s leadership launched by activists across the DMZ, and calls on Seoul to punish those responsible. It says “hundreds of thousands” of leaflets were launched on Jan. 1. This is the first such warning by Pyongyang for 14 months.

: Rodong Sinmun says ROK “warmongers” have staged large-scale war maneuvers against the North since the outset of the year, raising cries of “infiltration” and “provocation.”

: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry (FM) proposes discussions on a peace treaty, either within the Six-Party Talks framework or at an independent meeting of signatories of the 1953 Armistice (i.e. China, the US and DPRK – but not the ROK). Washington and Seoul call for Pyongyang to first return to the 6PT and make progress there.

: Rodong Sinmun says, “We harbor worries that the South Korean authorities will race to the path of confrontation this year because they don’t want better inter-Korean relations.” On the same day Minju Joson, daily paper of the DPRK Cabinet, says it is North Korea’s firm stance that inter-Korean relations should be improved on the basis of the two joint declarations of June 15 (2000) and October 4 (2007).

: A source in the ROK Ministry of Strategy and Finance (MOSF) tells Yonhap that in October-November a research institute of state-run Seoul National University (SNU) ran a training program in Dalian, China, for 40 DPRK officials. The syllabus included stock markets, supply of consumer goods, international trade, and intellectual property rights.

: The Seoul press reports that the Kaesong IZ will get its first hotel when the 101-room, 5-story Hannuri Hotel opens in March. The hotel was completed last June but its opening has been delayed by poor inter-Korean relations.

: Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reports that Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) will finally open in April, seven years late, with some 200 undergraduate and 100 graduate students. Most classes will be taught in English by 13 professors from the ROK, US, and Europe.

: The (South) Korea Times reports that DPRK television showed 59 stills of a drill by the Korean People’s Army (KPA)’s 105th Armored Division, watched by Kim Jong-il. Four of the photos showed signs bearing names of ROK cities and highways, suggesting the exercise was based on an attack on South Korea.

: ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan says the DPRK began its covert second nuclear program, via uranium enrichment (UEP), “very early on”: no later than 1996.

: Seoul says it will repatriate two Northern fishermen rescued after their boat drifted into Southern waters in the East Sea on Jan. 3, since that is their wish. They are duly returned overland via Panmunjom on Jan. 6. This is the third such case in as many months.

: The ROK’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) says it will control arms sales more strictly and admits that a few years ago some ROK-made military truck tires found their way to the DPRK.

: Blue House spokesperson Kim Eun-hye reiterates that “the basic principle on [an inter-Korean] summit is that we won’t hold a meeting just for meeting’s sake … the principle of denuclearization remains firm.”

: Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that MOUs budget this year is $154 million, up 27 percent on 2009. This includes extra funds for resettling DPRK defectors.

: In his New Year address, President Lee proposes that the North and South open liaison offices in each other’s capitals for “standing dialogue.”

: President Lee proposes a joint project with the DPRK to repatriate the remains of tens of thousands of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

: South Korea’s Unification Ministry (MOU) reacts positively to the DPRK’s New Year editorial, noting its emphases on denuclearization through dialogue and on improving its people’s livelihood.

: The Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), a think-tank under the Defense Ministry (MND), says the ROK should seek “various contacts” with the DPRK, including a third inter-Korean summit, to move President Lee Myung-bak’s “grand bargain” plans forward.

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