North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Jan 2014 to May 2014

: Rodong Sinmun warns the South that to seek unification without concessions in its political system would lead to war, which would “reduce South Korea to ashes and return it to the “stone age.”

: The KPA stages a live-fire drill in the West Sea. Again it pre-notifies South Korea, which does not fire back as none of the North’s 50-odd shells fall south of the NLL.

: KoRail’s head Choi Yeon-hye returns from the OSJD meeting in Pyongyang. No details or outcomes of her week-long sojourn in North Korea have yet been disclosed.

: DPRK media use unprecedentedly abusive language against President Park, calling her a “prostitute” and “comfort woman.”  On April 28 MOU condemns the North’s “vulgar expletives” as immoral.

: Hours before President Obama arrives in Seoul, two North Korean patrol boats intrude a mile south of the NLL. They retreat after verbal warnings and warning shots. The ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) says the intruders may have been monitoring numerous DPRK and Chinese fishing boats in these waters, as it is the peak crab season.

: Seoul allows the charity Medical Aid for Children to ship cold remedies and other medications worth 75 million won ($227,000) to a children’s hospital in Pyongyang. This brings total aid by ROK NGOs so far this year to 2 billion won.

: A week after the Sewol ferry tragedy, North Korea finally offers condolences in a telephone message from its Red Cross chief Kang Su Rin to his Southern counterpart Yoo Jung-keun. This is outweighed by other Northern media reports which, like most in the South too, view this disaster as showing up a range of flaws in South Korean procedures or society.

: Choi Yeon-hye, CEO of state-owned Korea Railroad Corp (KoRail), leaves for a meeting in Pyongyang of the Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD). OSJD mostly covers ex-communist countries, but the ROK gained associate membership in March. Choi tells reporters in Beijing en route that she will seek full membership. The same day she and her party board a Pyongyang-bound train in Beijing. This is thought to be the first time that senior ROK officials have entered the DPRK by rail.

: The US-ROK Foal Eagle combat field training joint exercise concludes.

: State-run Export-Import Bank of Korea (Eximbank), which operates the South’s inter-Korean cooperation fund, announces a new research center to study, and hopefully revive, North-South economic cooperation.

: MOU says a task force has inspected three sites near the border in preparing for President Park’s vaunted “peace park” inside the DMZ. 40.2 billion won ($38.4 million) is budgeted for this year.

: Seoul dismisses the North’s call for a joint UAV probe, calling it a “mean psychological tactic.” China’s Xinhua is among those carrying that quote. The Blue House  adds: “In no case would a suspect be allowed to investigate evidence of his own crime.”

: A propos detained missionary Kim Jong-uk, MOU says: “It is regrettable for the North not to meet our demand [to] grant him access to an attorney and his family, and release and repatriate him.” (See also Feb. 27.)

: DPRK NDC denies that drones found in ROK are from the North, calling this “a replica of the Cheonan warship sinking case.” NDC offers to send a joint investigation team.

: North’s NDC calls Park Geun-hye’s Dresden Declaration “a nonsensical statement made by an anti-reunification element who deceived the public with hypocrisy and deception as she offered no solution” and “irrelevant and indifferent to the improvement and development of inter-Korean relations.” Despite this, MOU says on April 14 that the South will push ahead with this plan, including “internal preparations.”

: ROK Unification Minister Ryoo tells the National Assembly that the South “is willing to lift” sanctions on the North if the latter takes some action. He does not say what.

: KCNA reports an outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza (AI, bird flu) in Pyongyang since March 21. Though tens of thousands of poultry “have either fallen dead or been culled … the disease shows … continues to spread.” South Korea has also had its first AI since 2011, with 10 million chickens culled.

: North’s SPA meets as scheduled, for a single day as usual. There are no developments directly bearing on or affecting ties with South Korea.

: MOU reports that 360 Northern defectors reached South Korea in the first quarter of 2014, a similar figure to the same period in 2012 and 2013. A total of 1,516 came in 2013, slightly up from 1,502 in 2012. The cumulative total of defectors is now 26,124.

: MOFA says Seoul will “positively consider” hosting a UN office on North Korea’s human rights violations, if formally asked. MOFA denies local media reports that it has rejected any such idea as inimical to inter-Korean relations.

: Hwang Joon-kook, named on April 3 as new ROK envoy to the Six-Party Talks, meets his US and Japanese counterparts in Washington to discuss how to handle the DPRK.

: Despite President Park’s call in her Dresden speech for inter-Korean economic cooperation, Seoul reaffirms its ban on investment and trade with Pyongyang.

: MND reports a third mystery drone, up a mountain on the east coast. A local resident found it last October but only reported it now. Discarding the Canon camera, which was wet, he removed the memory chip, erased it and reused it. A new order that all unmanned aircraft of whatever size must be registered provokes protests from model plane hobbyists.

: At Panmunjom South Korea hands over two bodies and three Northern sailors, rescued when a DPRK-crewed Mongolian-flagged cargo ship sank off Yeosu on the ROK’s southern coast on April 4. The ship was carrying 6,500 tons of steel from Chongjin to China. A further body is handed over on April 14 after the North confirms the man’s identity.

: MND announces the successful test of a new ballistic missile with a range of 310 miles (thus able to strike most of North Korea) and a 1-ton payload on March 23. On April 7 the North’s Academy of National Defense Science calls this a “grave provocation.”

: MOU says that on April 5, Arbor Day, 70 ROK officials will plant some 7,000 retusa fringe trees around the Kaesong IC.

: Seoul media report that a second unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) crash-landed on Baengnyong Island in the West/Yellow Sea on March 31. The first, found near Paju north of Seoul near the DMZ on March 24, had flown over and photographed the Blue House (the presidential residence and office). Both drones are suspected to have come from North Korea. ROK media criticize the authorities for lack of vigilance in face of this new security threat.

: Four hours after sending a rare fax notifying the ROK’s Second Navy Fleet Command (on the west coast) of an upcoming exercise affecting border waters, KPA artillery fire some 500 shells in seven areas near the), of which 100 fall south of the line. The South responds with a 300-shell howitzer barrage, all of which land in Northern waters. MND calls the North’s shelling a premeditated provocation.

: A ninth round of family reunions is held at Mt. Kumgang.

: In a major speech at Dresden Germany, President Park offers a range of proposals to North Korea including aid, people exchanges and joint economic projects. The North angrily rejects this outright, questioning Park’s motives and abusing her personally.

: Yonhap reports that some 30 members of women’s groups in both Koreas met in Shenyang, China to discuss the ‘comfort women’ issue. The last such joint meeting was held in Seoul in 2007.

: The largest ever Ssangyong – the third US-ROK military exercise this year, and the peninsula’s biggest joint amphibious landing drill – begins. It concludes April 5.

: ROK Navy arrests three DPRK fishermen whose boat had crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL) near Baenghyeong Island despite warning shots. It releases them six hours later. Next day the trio holds a televised press conference, claiming that they were “assaulted with iron bats and pressured to defect to the South.”

: On fourth anniversary of the sinking of the ROKN corvette Cheonan, North Korea test-fires two medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles. They fly some 650 km over the East Sea. Seoul condemns this as a provocative violation of UNSC resolutions.

: North’s inaptly named Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) threatens “merciless sledgehammer blows” on the South over anti-regime leaflets sent into the North by balloon. The South’s Defense Ministry (MND) clarifies that this as ever was a private action by activists, and insists that the government has not floated leaflets since the two Koreas agreed in 2004 to end cross-border propaganda activities.

: South Korea intensifies quarantine efforts in border provinces after the North belatedly reports a second FMD outbreak at a pig farm, two months after the event.

: MOU says the South’s state-owned Export-Import Bank has asked North Korea to pay $8.6 million: the first repayment on an $80 million loan made in 2007 for raw materials to produce clothing, footwear, and soap. This fell due on March 24. Pyongyang has also never repaid loans for past food aid, nor replied to Seoul’s messages on the subject.

: At Paju near the DMZ, Northern defectors and conservative activists launch 20 balloons carrying 600,000 leaflets into North Korea.

: MOU White Paper says that Seoul “plans to make consistent efforts to ensure that the tours to Mount Kumgang will be resumed by dispelling public concerns.”

: MOU says Seoul will not lift the May 24 [2010] measures, which ban trade with and investment in North Korea except the KIC in reprisal for the sinking of the Cheonan, unless Pyongyang “takes responsible measures” such as admitting responsibility.

: Military source tells Yonhap that North Korea is enhancing its infiltration capabilities by developing a new high-speed, wave piercing Very Slender Vessel (VSV) that can move special forces at over 100 kmph. This is seen as a threat to front-line islands.

: ROK Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae confirms Seoul’s official view that “the timing isn’t ripe to send fertilizer to the North.” He adds that economic cooperation with Pyongyang will be limited unless the North’s nuclear issue is first addressed.

: An unnamed ROK diplomat says Seoul will seek China’s support for a UN resolution on DPRK human rights violations. On March 19 President Park urges Beijing not to veto the resolution.

: MOU spokesman Kim Eui-do says anyone thinking of sending fertilizer to North Korea should consult the authorities. He confirms that government has no such plans. During the “Sunshine era” (1999-2007) Seoul sent 2.55 million tons of fertilizer to Pyongyang.

: ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff report that the KPA fired 25 short-range rockets in a day into the East Sea: its largest volley yet of several recently (see Feb. 21).

: Yonhap cites an unspecified official as saying North Korea is demanding a 10 percent hike in basic pay for its 53,000 workers at Kaesong. The usual annual raise is 5 percent. He adds that this is unacceptable, since the KIC was shut for five months in 2013. On March 21 MOU says that KIC firms will hold wage talks in July, the normal time for this.

: The South’s Hyundai Research Institute (HRI) claims that North Korean per capita income rose 4.8 per cent last year, thanks to better harvests and increased facilities investment. At an estimated $834, the North’s figure is still dwarfed by the South’s $23,838.

: Blue House Senior Secretary Ju Chul-ki says President Park will personally chair her proposed unification preparatory committee, which will meet quarterly. Its 50-odd members will be drawn from government, civilian experts, and the private sector.

: DPRK Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) demands an apology for remarks on March 11 by the head of a think-tank affiliated to the ROK’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). Yoo Seong-ok reportedly told lawmakers that Kim Jong Un is instituting a reign of terror, described the Northern leader as “[stepping] harder on the gas pedal of a car with no brakes,” and suggested that a coup, uprising and collapse were all possible.

: A joint panel on dispute arbitration at the Kaesong complex holds its first meeting. MOU calls this a positive step, though it is unclear what exactly it accomplished.

: The (South) Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC), a coalition of NGOs, abruptly cancels the grand launch ceremony for its planned campaign to send a million 20-kg bags of fertilizer to North Korea. Official pressure is suspected.

: North Korea warns that persistent Southern “slander” – by ministers, media, and defectors (“human scum”) who send leaflets by balloon – will jeopardize future relations. Seoul says the government is not being slanderous, and it cannot control others’ free speech.

: Hyundai Research Institute (HRI), think-tank of the eponymous business group, claims that if the two Koreas reunite within the next year, by 2050 Korea will have the eighth largest economy in the world with per capita income larger than Japan’s, thanks to new growth engines and an enlarged domestic market.

: North Korea holds its parliamentary election. On March 11, the Central Election Committee claims, as usual, that 99.97 percent of registered electors have voted (i.e. everyone except those unable to because they are overseas or out at sea); and that fully 100 percent have cast their ballot for the single approved candidate in each of 687 constituencies.

: MOU reports that by end-2013 production at the Kaesong complex had almost recovered to pre-shutdown levels. Output in Dec. 2013 was worth $35.29 million, compared to $36.42 million a year earlier. [Yonhap actually says 352.9 and 364.2 million, but this is an obvious decimal point error.] Inter-Korean trade this January reached $168.87 million, 94 percent of Jan. 2013’s figure. DPRK employees at end-2013 numbered 52,000, compared to 53,000 in March. All 123 ROK firms except one are working normally.

: MOU spokesman Kim Eui-do says: “We are not considering aid [to North Korea], either through the government or international organizations.”

: MOU clarifies that any resumption of regular tourism to Mount Kumgang would not be subject to UNSC sanctions which ban couriering bulk cash into North Korea. However on March 10 it seemingly reverses its view.

: US-ROK Key Resolve command post exercise concludes.

: At a passing-out parade for new military graduates at the Gyeryongdae tri-services headquarters south of Seoul, President Park reiterates that “the decisive obstacle to economic cooperation between the South and the North is North Korea’s nuclear program.”

: South Korea’s Red Cross proposes talks on March 12 about holding regular family reunions. Next day the North rejects this, saying the atmosphere is not right.

: ROK Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae says the DPRK’s Rason zone may be open to South Korean goods by next year “if things go smoothly.” He calls this “a small but meaningful outcome.” Ryoo adds that if North-South relations improve, humanitarian aid is also possible: “However, we are not in that stage yet.”

: President Park tells her government to start talks with North Korea on letting separated families exchange letters and hold video reunions. She also calls for reunions for at least 6,000 such persons annually, since “many families do not have time to wait any longer.”

: MND calls North Korea’s firing of four Scud missiles (its first Scud test since 2009) into the East Sea the previous day “a kind of provocation.” For their part, Pyongyang media proclaim daily that joint US-ROK war games are a provocation.

: Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se says South Korea will step up efforts to gain the international community’s cooperation in its push to reunify Korea, and predicts that “the coming four years will mark a watershed in building peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

: Kim Jong-uk, a South Korean missionary arrested in the North on Oct. 8, tells a press conference in Pyongyang he was sent by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to create a dissident underground church network that would eventually topple the Kim regime, and asks for mercy. The NIS denies any knowledge of him. The same day Seoul calls for his release, but the North refuses. (See also April 15, below.)

: Radio Free Asia reports that on Feb. 24 North Korea asked the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for help in containing its FMD outbreak. Pyongyang remains silent, however, on Seoul’s swift offer of assistance in that area.

: MND says that last night a KPA patrol boat crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL, the de facto west coast sea border) west of Baengnyong Island. It stayed for three hours in Southern waters, only returning North after ten warnings from ROK military broadcasts.

: On the first anniversary of her inauguration, President Park says she will set up a “preparatory committee for unification” as part of a wider economic revitalization plan.

: At a rare lunch with ROK journalists covering the family reunions, DPRK officials and reporters say the North will compete in all events at this year’s Asian Games, to be held in the South’s Incheon city in September.

: MOU says Seoul has offered to help Pyongyang contain its FMD outbreak, also proposing wider talks on humanitarian aid. North Korea makes no reply, now or later.

: The annual US-ROK Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills kick off as scheduled.

: Seoul’s Korea International Trade Association (KITA) says that last year North-South trade fell by 42 per cent from $1.98 to $1.15 billion, its lowest level for 8 years, due to the 5 month closure of the KI, which is now the only inter-Korean trade that Seoul permits. China-DPRK trade by contrast rose 10.4 percent to a record $6.54 billion.

: KCNA belatedly confirms an FMD outbreak, the DPRK’s first since 2011, on a pig farm near Pyongyang. Since this began on Jan. 8 some 3,260 pigs have been “butchered, causing lots of economic damage.” However, “the disease continues spreading due to the shortages of FMD vaccines, diagnostic means and disinfection medicines.”

: Meeting China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, who unusually has just come directly to Seoul after four days in Pyongyang, ROK Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se calls on Beijing to persuade the DPRK to take concrete steps toward denuclearization.

: North Korea fires four ballistic missiles with an approximate range of 150 km. Another four Scuds are fired on Feb. 27, this time with a 220 km range. Two 50-km rockets follow on March 3, and seven more of unknown range on March 4.

: South Korea’s Agriculture Ministry (MAFRA) says the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) informed it of an ongoing outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in North Korea. OIE itself was only just notified by Pyongyang, over a month after the event.

: Blue House announces that its preferred English translation for daebak is now “bonanza” rather than “jackpot.” Secretary of State Kerry is credited with suggesting this.

: Back from Rajin (see Feb. 9), three ROK companies strike a cautious note. A spokesman stresses that their Feb. 11-13 site visit was merely “a visual inspection” and that “the consortium can conduct a detailed business feasibility study only after more inspections.”

: Reunions of separated families, the first such since 2010, are held without a hitch at Mount Kumgang after much clearing of heavy snow.

: Eighty-two elderly South Koreans and 56 relatives gather at Sokcho for medical checks and briefings ahead of one-off reunions with their long-lost Northern kin.

: MOU clarifies that Seoul’s backing for the COI does not breach the Koreas’ agreement not to slander each other, since human rights are about universal values.

: MOFA launches the Korean Peninsula Club, a consultative body comprising the 21 foreign diplomatic missions in Seoul which are also accredited to the DPRK. It is also contemplating a second body for the 24 states that have embassies in both Korean capitals.

: The UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) publishes its report on DPRK human rights violations. The ROK Foreign Ministry (MOFA) hails the COI’s “proactive efforts” as raising the global community’s awareness of this grave situation. The DPRK for its part “categorically and totally rejects” the report, labelling the COI a “marionette” of the US.

: Lee Seok-ki, a lawmaker of the South’s far-left Unified Progressive Party (UPP), is jailed for 12 years for plotting a campaign of pro-North sabotage in the event of a crisis on the peninsula. Several associates are also sentenced. The UPP, itself facing a possible ban as an anti-state body, calls this “a medieval witch-hunt.”

: Resumed high-level talks reach a 3-point accord: to end slander, promote trust and meet again. Family reunions are confirmed, though Seoul gives no ground on war games.

: First high-level North-South talks for seven years are held at Panmunjom. Despite starting at 10:00 and continuing through midnight, no progress is made.

: Pyongyang calls for the start of military exercises to be postponed until after family reunions. Seoul again rejects any such linkage.

: The two Koreas exchange delegation lists for Feb. 12 high-level talks. The South’s team is led not by Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae but Kim Kyou-hyun, the newly appointed secretary general of the ROK’s revamped National Security Council (NSC). The North’s chief delegate is Won Tong Yon, vice director of the WPK United Front Department and a veteran negotiator with the South since the 1990s. No agenda is tabled in advance.

: ROK Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae tells the National Assembly that the Rajin rail project is allowed as a “special case.” Seoul’s ban on investment and trade with the North, except at the Kaesong IC, will continue until Pyongyang takes meaningful steps and shows remorse for sinking the Cheonan in 2010 (for which the DPRK denies responsibility).

: MOU announces that an 18-strong team from three firms – steelmaker Posco, shipper Hyundai Merchant Marine and state-owned KoRail – will inspect the DPRK’s Rajin port on Feb. 11-13. No ROK officials will accompany them. Russian Railways has invited this consortium to invest in its cross-border rail and port development JV with North Korea.

: North Korea unexpectedly and confidentially proposes open-ended high-level talks. The South swiftly agrees to meet on Feb. 12. All this is only announced on Feb. 11.

: The two Koreas agree that the KIC will at last get internet access, by June. This will start with a connected business center. Later, all 100-odd factories will have the service.

: A 64-strong ROK team of Red Cross and Hyundai Asan workers drives across the eastern border to Mount Kumgang, where they will check the condition of facilities for family reunions. The Hyundai-built resort has been largely mothballed since 2008.

: President Park urges North Korea not to “leave a large wound in the hearts of the separated families again” by cancelling family reunions, which she hopes will help “move toward a new Korean Peninsula of peace and joint development.”

: A day after agreeing to family reunions, Pyongyang threatens to cancel them. In a long screed which also lambastes ROK media over Kim Jong Un’s shoes, the NDC says “war exercises and racket for confrontation are incompatible with dialogue and reconciliation.” Seoul rejects this, and reconfirms that the annual joint US-ROK military drills will go ahead.

: In its annual policy report MOU says it will cooperate with North Korea on the Rajin-Khasan railway, and to try to build a peace park in the DMZ by 2016. President Park adds that “this year’s policy deals more with setting the groundwork framework for internal stability and setting straight various abnormal practices in the North-South relationship.” Also “we need a thorough defense posture to deal with any provocation by North Korea.”

: ROK media scold Kim Jong Un and his entourage for not taking off their shoes on a visit to a Pyongyang nursery, as pictured in Feb. 4 Rodong Sinmun. Traditionally in Korea it is a serious breach of etiquette and gross bad manners to wear outdoor shoes indoors.

: Red Cross talks at Panmunjom agree to hold family reunions, last held in Oct. 2010, at the North’s Mount Kumgang resort on February 20-25. DPRK chief delegate Pak Yong Il calls this “a very important starting point for improving the North-South relations.” The South says that if the reunions go well, other issues can be discussed with the North.

: Kim Ki-mun, chairman of the (South) Korea Federation of Small and Medium-sized Businesses, says that KFSMB will seek to build a second complex like the KIC in the North. Rejecting Rason (Rajin-Sonbong) special zone in the DPRK’s northeast as logistically unsuitable and short of electricity, Kim hopes for the southwestern port cities of Nampo or Haeju; each less than two hours from the border “if a road is built.” He says ROK SMEs are “very satisfied” with the KIC, and some 2,000 are on a waiting list for any new such zone.

: After a week’s silence during which Seoul’s suggested date for Red Cross talks on reunions has passed, Pyongyang responds and offers Feb. 5 or 6. They settle on the former.

: Trials of the RFID entry system begin at the KIC. (See Jan. 13.)

: Yonhap reports that for the past fortnight North Korea has stopped sending its usual balloon-borne propaganda leaflets into the South.

:  Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) says on Jan. 28 that “north-south relations can never be improved by the efforts of [only] one side … Now all Koreans wait for a good news that an epochal phase of improved north-south relations will be open.” Article on Jan. 27 regrets that “the nation is killing time through mud-slinging and reckless military showdown which bring nothing good. The Korean nation really suffers big from division and wastes away precious time by escalating confrontation.”

: NDC repeats its offer, insisting it is sincere: “We’ve already been walking down the path on our own to completely cease provocations or slander of the other side.”

: In a telephone message to the head of the South’s Red Cross, North Korea suggests holding family reunions after the Lunar New Year holiday. Replying on Jan. 27, Seoul proposes reunions on Feb. 17-22 at Mount Kumgang, and talks on Jan. 29 to arrange these.

: National Defense Commission (NDC: the topmost DPRK executive body, above the Cabinet) makes three “principled crucial proposals”, including no provocation or slander and no hostile military acts. The latter includes cancelling US-ROK war games.

: MOU says that it used barely a quarter (27 percent) of the Won 1.09 trillion ($1.029 billion) earmarked in 2013 for its inter-Korean cooperation fund. Low as it is, this is the highest proportion disbursed for six years, i.e. since the end of the former “Sunshine Policy.” Most of it (Won 177.7 billion out of Won 296.4 billion) went not to North Korea, but as compensation to Southern SMEs invested in Kaesong for the zone’s five-month closure.

: ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) says the new radio frequency identification (RFID) electronic tagging system will be ready this week and up and running later this month. This will allow Southern staff at the joint venture Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) to cross the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ, the de facto North-South border) at any time on permitted days, rather than being limited to strict time windows booked in advance as hitherto.

: MOU says that 1,516 North Koreans settled in the South last year; slightly up on 2012’s figure of 1,502, but still down from 2006-11 when annual flows were in the 2,000-3,000 range. 76 percent were female. The cumulative total of arrivals now stands at 26,124.

: Court officials in Seoul say that a 65-year old man, one of six South Koreans returned by the North in October, had murdered his wife (whose body was also returned) as he thought she was having an affair with a DPRK security official after they entered the North from China in 2011. The husband claimed she died in a botched suicide pact.

: Following Pyongyang’s rejection of its proposal, South Korea urges the North to “show a sincere attitude toward our offer” of renewed family reunions.

: The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) rejects the South’s proposal for reunions of separated families as untimely on various grounds, but holds open the possibility that at some point “both sides can sit together in a good season.”

: The USFK-ROK Combined Forces Command (CFC) confirms that the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint exercises will be held as usual, starting in late February. North Korea had cited these as one of the impediments to holding family reunions.

: KCNA reports that the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA, the North’s rubber-stamp parliament) “decided to hold an election of deputies to the 13th SPA on March 9, Juche 103 (2014), according to Article 90 of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK.” This is on schedule: the 12th SPA was chosen in 2009. Kim Jong Un is not yet an SPA member, having not been unveiled to his people or the world until September 2010.

: Yonhap, the ROK’s quasi-official news agency, says that since Kim Jong Un’s call for an end to mutual slander DPRK media have softened their tone. So far this year they have not directly criticized President Park, who in December alone had suffered over 70 separate personal attacks from the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

: In her first press conference since taking office last Feb. 25 President Park calls on North Korea to hold the family reunions it postponed in September at end-January. In questions she calls Korean reunification “a jackpot.” Though some fear its costs, she believes this “would be a chance for the economy to make a huge leap.”

: In her first ever press conference since taking office last Feb. 25, South Korean  President Park Geun-hye calls on North Korea to agree to hold the family reunions which it postponed in September at end-January, around the lunar new year holiday (Seollal) which this year falls on Jan. 31. In questions she causes a stir by calling Korean reunification “a jackpot.” (daebak in Korean). Although some fear the cost, she believes this “would be a chance for the economy to make a huge leap.”

: South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se urges “extra caution” in dealing with the North, in view of “growing uncertainty and vicissitudes in North Korean politics.”

: South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se urges “extra caution” in dealing with the North, in view of “growing uncertainty and vicissitudes in North Korean politics.”

: The Chinese news agency Xinhua says that a high speed rail link to the North Korean border, under construction since 2010, will open in August 2015. This will cut the time of the 207 km journey from Shenyang to Dandong, across the Yalu River from Sinuiju in the DPRK, from 3.5 hours to just an hour. (For the inter-Korean connection, see Dec. 11.)

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