North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Jan 2015 to May 2015

: MOU’s 2015 white paper on unification reports that inter-Korean trade more than doubled year-on-year in 2014 to reach a record $2.343 billion. (2013 saw a slump due to the lengthy closure of the Kaesong IC, which accounts for almost 100 percent of trade.)

: A convoy of Ace Gyeongam trucks drives North to deliver aid materials. The ROK government says it is not planning to resume large-scale food or fertilizer assistance.

: MOU approves the first fertilizer aid to North Korea since 2010, a modest 15 tons, as part of a greenhouse project in Sariwon by Ace Gyeongam (see also April 28).

: This year’s Foal Eagle joint US-ROK military maneuvers are concluded.

: After meeting with Northern officials in the KIC, a representative of South Korean businesses invested there says the North has extended its deadline for payment of March’s wages from today until April 24. None of the firms has yet paid.

: MND says it will raise defense spending during the 2016-20 quinquennium by 8.7 trillion won ($8.03 billion) more than it had planned. The extra will go on enhancing pre-emptive strike and air defense capabilities, based on an assessment that North Korea has made significant progress in its ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit atop missiles.

: MOU says that on April 16-17 a second consignment of Russian bituminous coal, 140,000 tons in all, will travel by rail across the border from Khasan in Russia to North Korea’s Rajin port city, and be shipped thence to three west coast ports in South Korea. The buyers are steelmaker Posco and power generator Kepco. Full delivery is expected by May 9. The first such consignment of 40,500 tons arrived in Ulsan last November.

: Kim Yoon-suk, secretary general of the Gwangju Universiade Organizing Committee (GUOC), says there will be no unified Korean team at the games.

: Referring to the April 20 deadline set by North Korea, MOU says it will not be restrained by any specific timetable in seeking to resolve the Kaesong wages row.

: A four-strong delegation headed by Jang Jong-nam, vice president of the DPRK National University Sports Federation, flies into Seoul via Beijing to take part in the Heads of Delegation (HoD) meeting and draw for the 2015 Summer Universiade (world student games) to be held in Gwangju, ROK in July (3-14). The Northern delegates fly home on April 14.

: Uriminzokkiri, a DPRK website based in China, threatens to “bombard (South Korea) with blows of fire” if leaflet launches continue: “Our patience is wearing thin.”

: ROK police prevent activist Park Hang-sak from launching balloons across the DMZ carrying copies of the film The Interview.

: The South’s Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo vows to “work harder to open a channel of dialogue” with the North. He also calls for more joint projects.

: Officials from both Koreas hold their first direct meeting about the Kaesong pay dispute at the eponymous industrial complex (KIC). Despite talk of “positive signs,” no concrete progress is made.

: Blue House says Brig. Gen. Shin In-seop, former deputy commander of the ROK military cybercommand, will take up the new post of Presidential secretary for cybersecurity, created principally to combat North Korean cyber-attacks.

: MOU says it will formally instruct ROK firms invested in the Kaesong IC not to pay the wage increase imposed by the DPRK.

: A year after President Park’s Dresden Declaration, South Korea says it still hopes the North will respond in some form to the proposals therein.

: On the fifth anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan, President Park says she “hopes North Korea abandons its reckless provocations and belief that nuclear weapons can protect the country,” but does not directly accuse Pyongyang of responsibility. Ignoring that nuance, on March 29 the North accuses Park of inciting North-South confrontation.

: Puncturing the party line in both Seoul and Washington, Kim Moo-sung – chairman of the South’s ruling Saenuri Party and a likely presidential contender in 2017 – tells students in Busan that after three tests North Korea should be viewed as a nuclear power.

: In Hanoi, ROK parliamentary speaker Chung Ui-hwa urges President Truong Tan Sang to invite Kim Jong Un to Vietnam “at the earliest date possible” so he can learn from Vietnam’s Doi Moi reforms. Sang replies that DPRK titular head of state Kim Yong Nam visited in 2012, and “listened attentively” when briefed on the reform program.

: Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries says the (South) Korea Maritime Institute will soon sign an agreement with the FAO for a joint study on pisciculture in North Korea. FAO plans to raise $26.5 million to build new fish farms there.

: US-ROK Key Resolve computer-based exercise concludes.

: ROK National Assembly confirms Hong Yong-pyo as the new Minister of Unification. He was previously Blue House senior secretary with the same portfolio.

: Seoul press reports quote Chung Chong-wook, vice chairman of the ROK’s Presidential Committee for Unification Preparation (PCUP), as telling a forum that PCUP has “a team dedicated to non-consensual unification” of Korea, implying a regime change agenda. Two days later Chung denies that any such team exists and says he was misunderstood.

: A pro-North activist, Kim Ki-jong, slashes US Ambassador Mark Lippert at a forum in Seoul, wounding him bloodily in the face and arm. Serious injury is narrowly avoided. DPRK media applaud the attack as a “knife shower of justice.”

: ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) report that North Korea launched two presumed short-range ballistic missiles from Nampo on its west coast into the East Sea (Sea of Japan); meaning they overflew the DPRK from coast to coast.

: Combined Forces Command (CFC) announces the schedule for this spring’s two regular US-ROK joint military maneuvers. Both will begin on March 2. The computer-based Key Resolve ends on March 13, while the far larger and longer field training exercise Foal Eagle, which mobilizes 200,000 South Korean and 3,700 US forces, will continue until April 24.

: At an enlarged meeting of the WPK Central Military Commission (CMC), Kim Jong Un inter alia “clarifie[s] the methods of fighting a war with the US imperialists.”

:   DPRK media report Kim Jong Un as guiding artillery units of the KPA in a “drill for striking and seizing island” (sic). This appears based of the shelling of the ROK’s Yeonpyeong in November 2010, which killed four. There is a specific warning against firing towards the North Korean littoral, no doubt with an eye to upcoming US-ROK war games.

: Kim Jong Un presides over an enlarged meeting of the Politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). Several speeches warn against “shortcomings,” including “abuse of power, bureaucratism, irregularities and corruption.” Official mention of the last is thought to be unprecedented, though the reality is widespread in today’s North Korea

: A survey reports South Koreans as divided by age over the KIC’s shutdown. Younger citizens mostly oppose this, whereas their elders tend to approve.

: Rodong Sinmun savages Lee Myung-bak over his recent memoir: “No wonder … the lying bastard is so forgetful, his brain capacity is known to be less than 2 megabytes”. (This reprises an old pun: Lee MB also means 2 megabytes, i.e., not much processing power.)

: South Korea’s Red Cross (KNRC) says the North refused its offer to provide 25 tons of powdered milk for infants. A 20 ton aid package was sent in 2009.

: Lee Myung-bak publishes President’s Time, an 800 page memoir about his presidency (2008-13). Much trailed ahead of publication, it reveals several secret dealings with North Korea. Critics fear this will harm future diplomacy and inter-Korean relations.

: MOU says the ROK will give $3.1 million to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) to finance its next census of the DPRK, in 2018 – a decade after the 2008 census, which South Korea also funded to the tune of $2.3 million. It will also spend $2.9 million to support a jointly produced North-South “Big Dictionary of the Korean People’s Language.”

: Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of the ruling Workers Party (WPK), repeats a demand by the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) that South Korea must scrap its “May 24 measures” (sanctions) as a precondition for dialogue.

: MOU announces a 90 million won ($83,000) grant from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund to resume support for training DPRK doctors in Germany. The ROK had funded this program in 2007 and 2008, but withdrew support under Lee Myung-bak.

: Famed North Korean defector Shin Dong-hyuk, subject of the book Escape From Camp 14, apologizes for several inaccuracies in his account of his tribulations.

: Lee Min-bok (see Jan. 6 above) says that in response to a government request “we’re not going to excessively spread anti-North Korea leaflets for the time being.”

: Following the Uijeongbu court ruling (see Jan. 6), both South Korea’s two main parties call on the government to review its stand on cross-border leaflet launches. The liberal opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD)’s Heo Young-il says these should be “actively restrained”; the conservative ruling Saenuri party’s Kim Young-woo says: “The state has a duty to protect the lives and property of its people … The government should make a careful and suitable judgment.”

: North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) castigates the latest leaflet balloon launch as a “reckless act” and a “blatant challenge,” out of step with the North’s “goodwill and generosity.” It again demands that Seoul prevent such activities.

: ROK Defense Ministry (MND)’s biennial defense White Paper claims inter alia that the KPA has grown by 10,000, and its cyber-forces (mainly targeting the South) have doubled to 6,000. It retains the designation of North Korea as main enemy, reintroduced in 2012, and also formally acknowledges the North’s nuclear weapons for the first time.

: MOU says it will release funds from the official Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund (IKCF) for private aid to North Korea. 13 NGOs will share some 3 billion won ($2.7 million) for 17 health, farming, and livestock projects in the North. This is the first such aid Seoul has allowed since imposing sanctions in May 2010 after the sinking of the Cheonan.

: South Korean daily JoongAng Daily reports a claim that the key DPRK leader Hwang Pyong So is of South Korean origin. His father Hwang Pil-gu was a communist who went North, returned as a spy, was arrested in 1959, killed himself in jail in 1985, and is buried in his home area Gochang in North Jeolla. Interviews with South Korean relatives appear to confirm the family tree, although other sources are skeptical of any connection.

: Campaign for Helping North Korea in Direct Way (sic), a group led by defector Lee Min-bok, launches 20 balloons across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). They carry 600,000 leaflets that denounce the DPRK regime for causing extreme poverty. MOU says it has no power to prevent this. However, the same day a district court at Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, rules that the government may legally restrain leaflet launches if these put the lives of ROK citizens at risk. It thus dismisses Lee’s suit claiming that official attempts to restrain him had caused him psychological damage.

: South Korea’s Unification Ministry (MOU) says it allowed a private aid group to send 20 tons of sweet potatoes for children in Sinuiju, DPRK, the first unprocessed crop sent since Park Geun-hye took office. The ROK government fears that raw crops might be diverted to the Korean People’s Army (KPA).

: President Park tells a meeting of top officials that “unification is not idealism or a dream,” and says her government “will try its utmost on practical preparations needed for tangible and real [unification] to be realized.” ROK officials cautiously assess the DPRK’s offer as positive.

: President Park tells a meeting of top officials that “unification is not idealism or a dream”; she says her government “will try its utmost on practical preparations needed for tangible and real [unification] to be realized.” ROK officials cautiously assess the DPRK’s offer as positive.

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