North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Oct 2010 to Dec 2010

: ROK 2010 Defense White Paper labels the DPRK an “enemy.” While harsher than the phrase “direct military threat” in the last White Paper, this is not as strong as “main enemy” which was used from 1995-2004, which some now wished to restore. Uriminzokkiri calls the new moniker a “declaration of war.”

: ROK Unification Minister Hyun In-taek says that in 2011 Seoul will “press North Korea to move toward denuclearization and peace …  open up rather than be isolated, and prioritize the living of its people over the songun (military-first) line.” He adds: “I am not saying North Korea should open up by all means possible. I believe it would be right if the North could develop by opening up through at least a Chinese-style model.” Further, the South “will continue to try to heighten the quality of life for North Koreans and allow them to enjoy basic rights.”

: Referring to recent US-ROK war games, Rodong Sinmun says the fact that “armed clashes have not occurred in the West Sea of Korea despite the dangerous collusion between the US and South Korean war-like forces [is] entirely thanks to the pluck, the self-restraint and steadfast will of the DPRK to preserve peace. But there is a limit to its patience, too.” It jeers that “the puppet regime of South Korea is so despicable and coward [sic] that it cannot maintain its power even a moment without the protection of its American master.”

: In his last biweekly radio address of 2010, ROK President Lee Myung-bak calls for unity at home and says that though he is eager to keep the peace, South Koreans should not fear war with North Korea: “If (we) are afraid of war, we can never prevent war.”

: Rodong Sinmun attacks recent comments by Lee Myung-bak as “the worst provocation” against the North. Next day the paper calls the South’s military exercise near Yeonpyeong Island a “grave infringement” on DPRK sovereignty, aimed at defending the “illegal” northern limit line.

: The National Defense Commission (NDC) and the WPK Central Military Commission (CMC) hold a banquet for the 19th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s inauguration as supreme commander of the KPA. Unlike in past years, Kim and his son Kim Jong Un attend.

: Pyongyang’s National Reconciliation Council (NRC) denounces Seoul’s plan to investigate abductions of its citizens by the North, while it occupied the South during the 1950-53 Korean War, as “another vicious political provocation and unpardonable racket for confrontation.” It warns that “such poor farce” may hamper future family reunions, adding: “There is nothing for the puppet gangsters to gain from the cowardly scheme.”

: The ROK Korea Customs Service (KCS) reports that despite tensions, North-South trade through the KIZ this year (Jan. – Nov.) rose 62 percent to $1.3 billion. Southern firms invested in the zone increased by 30 percent from 93 to 121. By contrast Seoul’s post-Cheonan ban meant that non-KIZ inter-Korean trade fell 30 percent to $464 million.

: Marking the 19th anniversary of Kim Jong Il becoming supreme commander of the KPA, Minister of People’s Armed Forces Kim Yong Chun threatens a “sacred war of justice of Korean style based on the nuclear deterrent at any time necessary to cope with the enemies’ actions deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war.”

: An unnamed Seoul official calls Pyongyang’s offer to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors “an old trick.” He insists that the DPRK must first return to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it quit in 2003.

: Rodong Sinmun calls on all North Koreans to unite “to oppose war and uphold peace”; saying this is “crucial to keeping alive the fate of the Korean nation and rooting out the deepening danger of war.”

: An emergency session of the UN Security Council (UNSC) fails to agree on a statement on defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. China reportedly threatens to veto any phrase condemning the DPRK for its Nov. 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong.

: South Korea conducts a 90-minute live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong, firing about 1,500 rounds. North does not respond. Later that day, the KPA Supreme Command explains they “did not feel any need to retaliate against every despicable military provocation like one taking revenge after facing a blow,” nor fall into the trap of “a cunning scenario to deliberately lead the military counteraction of the DPRK to driving the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a war and thus save the US Asia policy and strategy toward the DPRK from bankruptcy.”

: Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK), a defector group, launches balloons carrying 200,000 leaflets, 500 CDs, and a thousand $1 bills from Yeonpyeong. Messages include: “Let’s bring down the third-generation hereditary succession” and “Rise up, North Korean compatriots!”

: DPRK MFA calls US military observers and foreign journalists who will cover an upcoming ROK military drill on Yeonpyeong a “human shield,” adding: “There is a need to clarify beforehand who is responsible for the imminent second Yeonpyeong crisis.”

: KCNA warns that the KPA will strike back with “deadlier” firepower than on Nov. 23 if Seoul goes ahead with a planned live firing drill near Yeonpyeong on Dec. 18-21. The same day, Uriminzokkiri threatens that “if war breaks out, it will lead to nuclear warfare and will not be limited to the Korean Peninsula.”

: The DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) declares: “We support all proposals for dialogue … but we will never beg for dialogue.”

: KCNA reports Kim Jong Il’s first public visit to a military unit since before the Yeonpyeong shelling. His last was on Nov. 12. Kim Jong Un is also in attendance.

: ROK Army Chief of Staff Hwang Eui-don resigns over alleged real estate speculation. He is swiftly replaced by Gen. Kim Sang-ki, head of the Third Army Command.

: ROK Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan calls Siegfried Hecker’s assumption (Nov. 20) that the North has several UE facilities “a fair point.” He adds that Seoul has ideas on conditions for Six-Party Talks to resume, including UE disclosure; he does not elaborate.

: Beijing says Pyongyang has agreed to an emergency meeting of chief envoys to the Six-Party Talks. Seoul and its allies are less than keen, to put it mildly.

: MOU launches an official committee to probe the abduction of up to 100,000 South Koreans in 1950 during the Korean War. Unification Minister Hyun says that this “is no past issue. It is part of the reality of the inter-Korean relations.”

: The DPRK’s National Peace Committee (NPC) calls the recent meeting between the US and ROK joint chiefs of staffs “a declaration of war.”

: Yonhap notes that KCNA now offers news in Korean, seemingly aimed at South Koreans. Like all DPRK websites this is banned and blocked in the ROK, but can easily be accessed via an overseas proxy server.

: President Lee Myung-bak tells South Koreans living in Malaysia: “I feel that reunification is drawing near … We should prepare for reunification on the basis of bigger economic power.” He adds that Seoul has a responsibility to achieve reunification as early as possible, so that 23 million North Korean people may live with the right to happiness.

: The North’s CPRK again blames the US and ROK for provoking it into the Nov. 23 shelling, calling Washington the “wire-puller and chieftain” and Seoul its “puppet.”

: At a seminar in Seoul on unification, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek calls the Yeonpyeong shelling an “indelible atrocity” and the “worst choice” Pyongyang has ever made. He adds: “This year, our society has started looking squarely at the issue of North Korea beyond inter-Korean relations and seriously thinking about the future of the Korean Peninsula. This year will be a grand turning point in the Korean Peninsula issue.”

: North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS), a defector body in the South, claims that the DPRK has jailed over 1,200 people for illicitly watching ROK films and TV.

: Meeting in Washington, the US, ROK, and Japanese foreign ministers renew a pledge to not engage in dialogue with North Korea unless Pyongyang changes its behavior by ending provocations and showing a sincere commitment to denuclearization.

: The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague says that after receiving “communications alleging that North Korean forces committed war crimes in the territory of the Republic of Korea,” it has begun a preliminary examination as to whether its jurisdiction applies. This may take quite a while. The ROK has laid no official complaint with the ICC about the Cheonan or Yeonpyeong incidents, but South Korean citizens apparently did so.

: The ROK’s official National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) votes 6-2 to recommend that the government resume anti-North Korea propaganda. The troubled body, split between right and left, had failed to agree on a similar motion in June.

: Citing an unspecified “commissioned report,” KCNA warns against further planned US-ROK drills saying that ”The political situation on the Korean Peninsula is reaching an uncontrollable level due to provocative, frantic moves by the puppet group.”

: New ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin calls the KPA’s asymmetrical forces – WMD, submarines, Special Forces, etc. – a “serious threat.” Nuclear weapons apart, the North has 200,000 Special Forces to the South’s 20,000.

: MND confirms it is considering reinstating a definition of North Korea as the South’s “main enemy” in its forthcoming 2010 Defense White Paper. The same day, new Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin says at his confirmation hearing: “It is clear that the North Korean military and its leader are our main enemies.”

: Supporting a WikiLeak claim that recent defectors include relatively high-ranking figures, a Seoul official confirms that a senior youth official came South last year. Chosun Ilbo names him as Sol Jong Sik, aged 40, who was head of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League for Ryanggang Province when he fled in June 2009.

: Rodong Sinmun reports that “the construction of a light-water reactor is actively underway … To guarantee fuel for it, a uranium enrichment factory is operating, equipped with thousands of centrifuges.” The paper says all this is for peaceful purposes, to generate electricity.

: In a televised address, ROK President Lee calls the shelling an “inhumane crime” and pledges strong retaliation to any future provocations. He says Seoul has given up hope that dialogue will make Pyongyang abandon brinkmanship and nuclear weapons. Lee also apologizes for “not having been able to protect the lives and property of the people” on Yeonpyeong.

: An ROK howitzer is fired by mistake, sending a shell 14km north toward – but fortunately not across – the DMZ. The South swiftly tells the North this was an accident.

: The US and ROK hold large-scale joint naval drills off the west coast of the peninsula, including the 97,000-ton aircraft carrier USS George Washington, in what Yonhap calls “an overt show of strength against North Korea.”

: KCNA declares that “the US was the arch criminal who deliberately planned the [shelling] incident and wire-pulled it behind the scene.”

: MOU says all applications by NGOs to send humanitarian aid to the North – currently suspended since Nov. 23’s shelling – will be strictly scrutinized henceforth.

: DPRK media keep up a barrage of verbal artillery; saying the KPA “will deal without hesitation the second and third strong physical retaliatory blow” if provoked. On Nov. 26 CPRK, belying its name, threatens “a shower of dreadful fire”; the Korean version of the CPRK statement adds that the North is “ready to annihilate the enemies’ stronghold”, and boasts that on Nov. 23 its forces “precisely targeted and struck” ROK military units. On Nov. 28 the National Peace Committee says that US-ROK war games are creating an “ultra-emergency.” On Nov. 30 Minju Joson warns of “all-out war” if Northern land or waters are violated. Despite such rhetoric, this and subsequent ROK maneuvers pass without incident.

: The US-led UN Command (UNC) in Korea reports that Pyongyang has rejected its proposal, made a day earlier, to hold general-level military talks on the shelling.

: Lee Myung-bak in effect sacks Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, abruptly accepting the resignation Kim had offered in May over the Cheonan. In a media shambles, his successor is at first reported to be presidential security advisor Lee Hee-won, but turns out in fact to be Kim Kwan-Jin, current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

: In retaliation for the shelling, Seoul raises its non-wartime security alert to its highest level, bans its nationals from going North, postpones indefinitely Red Cross talks set for Nov. 25, and suspends flood aid to the North (cement and medicines) as yet undelivered.

: DPRK Red Cross attacks Seoul for “ruining humanitarian programs, including family reunions” by cancelling the meeting planned for Nov. 25.

: The DPRK Foreign Ministry (MFA) again blames the South for the shelling: “The enemies, despite our repeated warnings, eventually committed extremely reckless military provocations of firing artillery shells into our maritime territory near Yeonpyeong Island beginning 1 p.m. Tuesday …The army of the DPRK took such a self-defensive measure as making a prompt powerful strike at the artillery positions from which the enemy fired the shells as it does not make an empty talk.”

: The KPA fires some 170 artillery shells at the ROK’s Yeonpyeong Island, close to the DPRK west coast. ROK forces fire about 80 rounds back. The KPA claims Seoul started this, by firing shells into its territorial waters despite being warned not to. President Lee calls the North’s act “an invasion of South Korean territory.”

: Hours after the Yeonpyeong shelling, KCNA reports Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un as touring a soy sauce factory and a medical school in Pyongyang. Similar reports of such guidance visits continue almost daily, despite rising tensions.

: Amb. Stephen Bosworth, US special representative for North Korea policy, hastily dispatched to Asia in the wake of Hecker’s UE revelations, says in Seoul that this news is disappointing and provocative, but “not a crisis. We’re not surprised by this.”

: The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) accuses the South of “desperately preventing” its NGOs from making cross-border contacts.

: The ROK begins its annual large-scale Hoguk military exercise.

: Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un, and senior KPA figures visit the DPRK’s southwest coast, ostensibly to inspect fish farms.

: The New York Times reports that earlier this month Siegried Hecker, the former head of Los Alamos National Laboratory, was shown a hitherto unsuspected ultra-modern uranium enrichment (UE) facility containing some 2,000 centrifuges at Yongbyon.  On Nov. 22 Hecker publishes a full report of his visit. He adds on Nov. 23 that Pyongyang may well also have other such facilities elsewhere.

: South Korea again co-sponsors the annual UN General Assembly resolution criticizing North Korea’s human rights record. As usual Pyongyang fiercely rejects this.

: In what seems a hopeful sign, MOU says that the North has “proposed that government officials join the Nov. 25 Red Cross talks to discuss resuming Mt. Kumgang tours and that the matter of real estate and seizure also be discussed and resolved.”

: The North’s office of the Pan-national Alliance for Korea’s Reunification (Pomminryon), a DPRK front, holds an event to mark to 20th anniversary of its formation.

: Seoul announces that the cumulative total of Northern defectors reaching the South passed 20,000 on Nov. 11, when a Mrs Kim (aged 41) arrived with her two sons.

: Citing two recent US visitors, Siegfried Hecker and Jack Pritchard, press reports suggest that North Korea is constructing a new experimental light-water nuclear reactor (LWR) at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, north of Pyongyang.

: The North’s General Guidance Bureau for the Development of Scenic Spots telephones MOU to urge Seoul to agree to talks on resuming tourism to Mt. Kumgang.

: Yonhap notes that the CIA’s latest World Factbook 2010 puts North Korean average life expectancy at 61.5 for men and 66.9 for women – seven years less than in its 2008 edition. The decline, or revision, goes unexplained. The respective figures for South Korea are 75.6 for men and 82.3 for women.

: In reponse to Pyongyang’s proposal to hold talks on Nov. 19 about resuming Southern tourism to Mt. Kumgang, Seoul demands that the North first rescind its freeze and seizure in April of ROK-owned assets at the resort.

: Rodong Sinmun attacks Seoul’s joining the Operational Experts Group (OEG) of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) on Nov. 1 as pushing regional tensions into “the extreme phase of confrontation.”

: Vice-Marshal Jo Myong Rok, who in 2000 took tea in the White House with President Clinton, dies aged 82 – of “an inveterate heart disease” according to KCNA. On Jo’s funeral committee Kim Jong Un is listed second, after his father Kim Jong-il.

: Rodong Sinmun calls for a “revitalization” of North-South dialogue. It repeats this plea on Nov. 8, and again on Dec. 1 despite tensions over the Yeonpyeong shelling.

: ROK Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-sik renews Seoul’s call for regular reunions of separated families, saying this would be “conducive to creating public sentiment for aid provision to the North.”

: The National Defense Commission (NDC), the highest DPRK executive body, issues a lengthy, detailed, and vitriolic rebuttal of the charge that it sank the Cheonan.

: Defense Minister Kim Tae-young tells ROK lawmakers: “We believe North Korea owns 40kg of plutonium and continues attempts to miniaturize atomic weapons.” He adds: “I think it’s quite possible for North Korea [also] to build nuclear weapons through its uranium enrichment program.”

: After four elderly ex-soldiers, listed in Seoul as killed in action in the 1950-53 Korean War, appeared for family reunions with their Southern relatives, the ROK Defense Ministry (MND) says it will make a new study of such POWs still held by Pyongyang.

: Reunions of separated families are held at Mt. Kumgang.

: MND says it sent a message rejecting North Korea’s proposal to resume military talks – last held on Sept. 30 – unless Pyongyang admits and apologizes for sinking the Cheonan. KCNA calls this refusal “an act of treachery.”

: The ROK Foreign Ministry (MOFAT) welcomes Canada’s new sanctions on the DPRK over the Cheonan. Trade, financial transactions, fresh investment, and technology transfer are all now to be banned, as are most bilateral exchanges.

: In Seoul en route to Pyongyang, the head of the UN World Food Program (WFP), Josette Sheeran, appeals for support for the agency’s work in North Korea.

: The Director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Won Sei-hoon, says the KPA has almost 1,000 computer hackers, adding: “North Korea’s cyber ability is remarkable.”

: The two Koreas fail to agree on further family reunions beyond the one due on Oct. 30. The North demands resumption of the former supply of half a million tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer aid yearly.

: A ship carrying 5,000 tons leaves the ROK port of Gunsan on Oct. 26, bound for Dandong in China and then to the adjacent DPRK city of Sinuiju, hit by severe flooding in August. Another ship sails from Incheon to Dandong with 3 million packets of instant noodles. Southern Red Cross officials fly to Dandong to supervise delivery across the Yalu river to Sinuiju. The rice is in 5kg packs, each marked “Donation from the Republic of Korea.”

: North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) says that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un recently visited KPA Unit 10215, the DPRK’s top anti-espionage agency.

: ROK Unification Minister Hyun tells a parliamentary audit that the DPRK has an estimated 150,000-200,000 political prisoners.

: Unification Minister Hyun tells a forum in Seoul that “rather than lashing out at us, North Korea should show a way for the future of the peninsula … The first step is to show a willingness to account for the attack on the Cheonan. Another is to make a political determination toward denuclearization. That will be the starting point for the normalization of inter-Korean relations.”

: North’s Committee for the Implementation of the June 15 Declaration – the accord reached at the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000 – faxes its Southern counterpart suggesting they “make contact at an appropriate time” to consider how to honor the agreement.

: Rodong Sinmun criticizes Seoul for saying it needs more time to think about holding talks on resuming tourism to Mt. Kumgang, calling this an “absurd pretext” and “a sleight of hand revealing their shallow trick.” Pyongyang had demanded talks on Oct. 15.

: MOU reports that the two Koreas have reopened their aviation hotline, which was cut off in May in reprisal for the South’s sanctions against it over the sinking in March of the corvette Cheonan.

: Meeting briefly at a checkpoint in the DPRK border city of Kaesong, the two Koreas’ Red Crosses exchange lists of family members to be reunited at the end of October.

: A report by the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) claims that the DPRK has violated the Northern Limit Line (NLL) 211 times since 2006. Such trespass has increased, with 88 violations so far this year compared to 50 in all of 2009.

: Gen. Han Min-koo, chairman of the ROK JCS, tells an annual international Chiefs of Defense Conference held in Seoul that the DPRK’s “nuclear program, as well as its weapons of mass destruction, is the biggest threat” to the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

: Rodong Sinmun attacks Seoul for taking part in Eastern Endeavor 10, a four-nation drill (including Japan and Australia) held on Oct. 13-14 in the ROK’s southern seas under the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

: The head of the KPA’s delegation to inter-Korean military-level talks warns that “if the South does not stop anti-Pyongyang psychological broadcasts and dissemination of leaflets, it will be met with our military’s strikes on those sites.” The South has not in fact engaged in such activities for some years, but keeps threatening to do so.

: Minju Joson attacks ROK Unification Minister Hyun In-taek for expressing the hope that Korea may achieve a reunification similar to that of Germany 20 years earlier.

: South Korea hosts a Proliferation Security exercise near Busan named Eastern Endeavor 10.

: South Korea’s Unification Ministry (MOU) reports that the military has plans to set up camps for refugees in case of instability in the North.

: In his second major public appearance, and the first sighting of him by about 80 invited foreign journalists, Kim Jong Un joins his father (and a senior Chinese delegation) on the saluting stand for a large-scale military parade marking the WPK’s 65th anniversary.

: ROK Defense Ministry (MND) report says the North’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) is now thought to have 200,000 special warfare troops; 11 percent more than in 2008, and up from 120,000 in 2006. Other KPA assets include some 1,000 ballistic missiles, about 2,500-5,000 tons of chemical weapons agents, and around 600-700 computer hacking specialists.

: Hwang Jang-yop, the most senior DPRK defector of modern times – a former WPK secretary, he fled in 1997 and in exile became a fierce critic of Kim Jong Il – is found dead at home in Seoul of a suspected heart attack at age 87.

: Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA, the DPRK’s rubbber-stamp parliament), confirms Kim Jong Un’s status as successor in an interview with Associated Press Television News.

: Kim Sung-hwan – a career diplomat, previously senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security – takes as office as ROK foreign minister.

: After the annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) with US Secretary of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, ROK Defense Minister Kim Tae-young says that both allies are fully ready for “all situations that could occur … If Kim Jong Il’s health worsens further or economic difficulties deteriorate, we can’t rule out … instability in North Korea.”

: The two Koreas exchange lists of names of 200 separated families each, who will be briefly reunited at the upcoming family reunions.

: Unification Minister Hyun tells lawmakers that about 100,000 North Koreans are hiding in China. Most estimates are lower than this. DPRK defector numbers reaching the ROK are on the increase: 2,018 in 2006, 2,544 in 2007, 2,809 in 2008 and 2,927 in 2009. The cumulative total will surpass 20,000 this year.

: Kim Tae-hyo, ROK presidential secretary for national strategy, tells a forum in Seoul that the North’s “nuclear program is evolving even now at a very fast pace.”

: ROK Defense Minister Kim Tae-young tells a National Assembly audit that the North’s ability to jam GPS signals is a new threat, and that Pyongyang has imported mobile equipment from Russia to do this.

: In his first reported outing since Sept. 28’s WPK conference, the North’s heir-apparent Kim Jong Un watches a live-fire drill with his father, DPRK leader Kim Jong Il.

: In Germany for the 20th anniversary of reunifcation, ROK Unification Minister Hyun In-taek says North Korea must change its stance on the Cheonan if it wants the South to consider resuming cross-border tourism.

: A parliamentary report by the ROK Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) shows the Kaesong Industrial Zone almost unaffected by the Cheonan incident. Output at the zone in July was worth $26.4 million, only slightly down from $26.5 million in June and $28.1 million in April.

: A survey by MOU shows that North Korean defectors in the South earn on average barely half as much as South Korean workers.

: Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) says that: “Significant uncertainties remain from a possible succession in the near future in North Korea … We continue to view [such] instability as an important constraint on the creditworthiness of South Korea.”

: An editorial in Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), urges implementation of the agreements reached at the second inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang three years to the day earlier, on Oct. 4, 2007.

: Unification Minister Hyun In-taek says North Korea must change its stance on the Cheonan if it wants the South to consider resuming cross-border tourism.

: An unnamed ROK official tells the daily JoongAng Ilbo that in 2007 a senior DPRK diplomat, Ri Gun, inadvertently admitted North Korea’s responsibility for the 1987 bombing of KAL 858, with 115 deaths.

: North Korea proposes working-level talks on Oct. 15 to discuss ways to restart regular tourism to Mt. Kumgang.

: North Korea proposes working-level talks on Oct. 15 to discuss ways to restart regular tourism to Mt. Kumgang.

Date Range