North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Apr 2009 to Jul 2009

: Rodong Sinmun blasts South Korea’s readiness to carry out UN sanctions as – in KCNA’s words – “the worst grave anti-North provocation that has never (sic) existed in the history of inter-Korean relations.” It adds: “We’re ready for both sanctions and a war.”

: Meeting in Tokyo, President Lee and Japan’s Prime Minister Aso Taro call for strict implementation of UN sanctions against the DPRK, saying it must realize that its possession of nuclear weapons will never be tolerated.

:  Tongil Sinbo claims that Lee Myung-bak’s saying that his government will pursue reunification on the basis of a market economy is aimed at “breaking down the North’s ideology and system to achieve ‘reunification through absorption,’ and it is appalling.”

: Kim Hak-kwon, chief of plastics maker Jaeyoung Solutec and chairman of the Kaesong Industrial Council of ROK firms operating in the Kaesong zone, receives a letter from the Northern authorities which, unusually, mentions the detained engineer Yu Song-jin. It says his crimes are “grave” – but as ever gives no detail.

: Amnesty International (AI) urges its members worldwide to send appeals to Kim Jong-il to release the South Korean worker detained incommunicado in Kaesong.

: A poll by Hyundai Economic Research Institute (HERI) finds that 22.2 percent of South Koreans think North Korea is trustworthy: the lowest figure in a decade. The peak figure was 52.3 percent in 2000, after the first inter-Korean summit: it has fallen ever since. However, three-quarters (75.3 percent) say the KIC should continue.

: Rodong Sinmun calls June 16’s U.S.-ROK summit “a disgusting kiss between the master and his servant.” Claiming that U.S. nuclear protection for South Korea justifies the North’s nuclear program, it warns that any aggression “will only incur a ruthless situation in which the fiery showers of our nuclear protection will fall upon South Korea.”

: Both Koreas mark the anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. The North holds rallies and exhibitions to condemn U.S. aggression and vow revenge, while accusing Seoul of instigating anti-Pyongyang sentiment. The South thanks those who came to assist, as President Lee puts it, “a small, poor nation that they did not even know.”

: MOU reports that Southern aid (state and private) to the North during Jan.-May totaled $15.18 million, down 60 per cent from $26.33 million in Jan.-May 2008.

: Rodong Sinmun accuses Seoul of trying to incite a third inter-Korean naval clash in the Yellow Sea. It criticizes the ROK’s naming a new guided missile patrol boat after an officer killed in battle in 2002, Yun Yeong-ha, as anti-Pyongyang propaganda.

:  ROK President Lee tells a congress of ethnic Koreans from 65 countries that South Korea is interested in helping North Korea: “We keep telling North Korea to become a (responsible) member of the international community … Living by threatening when it is not getting any assistance is not truly living …North Korea can catch up with China [very fast] if we put in the necessary infrastructure, build factories there and train their workers … I believe North Korea will change once it learns South Korea’s sincere intentions.”

: In reaction to the Lee-Obama summit, the weekly Tongil Sinbo accuses President Lee of trying “to stifle the people of the DPRK through an alliance” with the U.S. and launch a nuclear war. KCNA reports that anti-government organizations in South Korea have issued statements denouncing Lee for his “servile” tour of the U.S.

: The (South) Korea Customs Service says that May’s inter-Korean trade total was $106.5 million, down 38 percent from $171.9 million in the same month last year.

: Working-level meeting is held in Kaesong to discuss revised contracts at the KIC but again make no progress. The North unexpectedly offers to lift cross-border restrictions.

: In Washington, President Lee vows to break with the old pattern of compensating the North following provocations by it. Barack Obama concurs.

: North Korea marks the ninth anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit by calling on South Koreans to rise against their current regime. South Korea holds no official ceremony, and the government does not participate in events organized by liberal NGOs.

: Rodong Sinmun denounces the ROK for “begging” the U.S. for nuclear protection, calling this “an unforgivable criminal act to make South Korea a nuclear powder keg that can explode at any moment.”

: 120 of the 611 ROK firms doing business with the DPRK outside Kaesong meet in Seoul to demand that the current crisis be resolved. Since the nuclear test the South has forbidden them to visit the North.

: ROK Unification Minister Hyun tells a parliamentary hearing that he believes North Korea has been pursuing uranium enrichment, which it had long denied until very recently, “for at least seven to eight years.”

: ROK firms in the KIC say they “cannot accept North Korea’s unilateral demands” to quadruple its workers’ wages. Complaining of “unbearable losses for a long time” due to heightened inter-Korean tensions, they call on Seoul to compensate them.

: The UNSC unanimously passes Resolution 1874, condemning the DPRK’s nuclear test and imposing a range of sanctions, including a ban on all arms exports.

: A spokesman for North Korea’s CPRF tells KCNA that South Korean news reports, claiming that fake U.S. dollars circulating in the South were proved to be from the North, are an anti-DPRK trick.

: At talks in Kaesong on the future of the KIC, the North demands a fourfold wage hike for its workers and a 30-fold increase in rent. They agree to meet again on June 19. MOU denies that the North is in effect telling the South to get out.

: KCNA says that at the latest inter-Korean meeting on the KIC, the North demanded early construction of a dormitory and childcare facilities as well as a new road for North Koreans working at the joint industrial complex.

: Hyundai Economic Research Institute predicts that North Korea will lose $1.5-3.7 billion if the U.N. enforces the sanctions.

: The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) calls Roh’s death “a politically motivated, premeditated and deliberate terror and murder orchestrated by the United States and the pro-American conservative forces of south Korea.”

: Minju Joson describes the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent, hitherto claimed to be defensive, as “a vehicle for merciless attacks on those who even slightly infringe upon our sovereignty.” Similarly blurring offense and defense, Rodong Sinmun declares that “our self-protective measure is to relentlessly crush invaders by striking them preemptively.”

: Skinnet, a leather apparel maker, becomes the first ROK firm to quit the KIC.

: The ROK Ministry of Strategy and Finance (MSF) names three DPRK firms as subject to UNSC-mandated sanctions. It bans South Korean companies from dealings with Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., Tanchon Commercial Bank or Ryongbong General Corp., all suspected of involvement in Pyongyang’s missile or nuclear programs.

: The (South) Korea Customs Service (KCS) reports that inter-Korean trade in the first four months fell by 24.8 percent (year-on-year), from $566.92 million $426.35 million.

: The (South) Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety (KINS) admits it has yet to find radioactive traces of xenon or krypton gases in air particles blowing from the North, which would confirm scientifically that North Korea did indeed conduct a nuclear test.

: In one of its clearest hints yet from Pyongyang that a successor to Kim Jong-il  has been chosen, Rodong Sinmun says that “One of the important issues concerning the fate of the nation’s revolution was shiningly resolved, which makes this year more meaningful than ever … A true war of will is one that succeeds generation after generation.”

: Rodong Sinmun says that “a written pledge by the U.S. to include South Korea under its nuclear umbrella [means] … the danger of nuclear war will increase.”

: Kang Hui-nam, an activist priest and honorary chairman of the ROK branch of the pro-North Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification (Pomminryon), takes his life at age 89. His suicide note denounces Seoul’s current policies towards Pyongyang. On June 10 the DPRK offers its condolences, but blames “Lee Myung-bak … who drove him to death.”

: North Korea unexpectedly proposes talks on the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). The South accepts, and they agree to meet on June 11 in the KIC.

: Rodong Sinmun says “the South Korean public unanimously contends that the unexpected and tragic death of the former ‘president’ [Roh Moo-hyun] is murder by Lee Myung-bak’s political retaliation.”

: ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan says the U.S. has agreed to guarantee in writing its nuclear umbrella for South Korea against any Northern attack, when President Lee meets U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on June 16.

: ROK Unification Minister Hyun cites Kim Jong-il’s “worsening health condition” as the reason why Kim “may have felt the necessity of accelerating the process of father-to-son succession of power.” Hyun reiterates MOU’s view that there is no solid evidence to confirm that Kim Jong-un is the chosen heir.

: An ROK official says the detained Hyundai Asan worker Yu Song-jin appears to have been moved from Kaesong to Pyongyang.

: At the first ASEAN-ROK summit, President Lee and the heads of all 10 ASEAN member states condemn North Korea’s recent nuclear test and missile launches. They also call for resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

: Sources in Seoul claim that on May 25, just after North Korea’s nuclear test, key DPRK institutions – WPK, KPA, the Presidium of the SPA and the Cabinet – were formally notified that Kim Jong-il has designated his third son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor.

: Intelligence sources in Seoul say the DPRK has banned shipping from more northerly parts of its West (Yellow) Sea waters for two months, until the end of July.

: DPRK website Uriminzokkiri brushes off criticism that its nuclear test was ill-timed in the wake of Roh Moo-hyun’s suicide. It accuses those who say this of “picking a fight with wicked intentions” instead of expressing gratitude for the North’s condolences.

: North Korea’s Minju Joson claims that “any minor accidental clash [on the Peninsula] may spread into a nuclear war.” Rodong Sinmun declares: “It is the fixed will of the army and the people of the DPRK to wipe out the warmongers with a barrage of fire of the Songun (military-first) army.”

: Reacting to Seoul’s decision to fully join the PSI, the Panmunjom office of the KPA declares the 1953 Armistice “nullified” by this “declaration of war against us.” It threatens a military strike if South Korea tries to interdict any of its ships, and warns it can no longer guarantee the safety of U.S. and ROK military or private vessels in waters west of the Peninsula.

: MOU says traffic across the DMZ is normal despite the North’s nuclear test. Some 400 South Koreans cross into the Kaesong IC in the morning; a similar number return in the evening. Five DPRK merchant ships pass through ROK waters, while “dozens” of South Korean vessels are in Northern waters despite Pyongyang’s threat.

: Choson Sinbo, the daily paper of pro-North Koreans in Japan, insists that the DPRK remains committed to the KIC project despite growing political tensions.

: ROK formally communicates its decision to become a full member of the PSI.

: Kim Jong-il expresses his condolences to the late Roh Moo-hyun’s family. MOU comments that at least this will not impact negatively on North-South relations.

: North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test near Kilju in the northeast. ROK President Lee calls this “truly disappointing.” South Korea bans its citizens from visiting the North, other than to the Kaesong and Mount Kumgang zones.

: Former ROK President Roh Moo-hyun jumps to his death from a cliff near his rural home. He had been questioned by prosecutors on allegations of corruption.

: Yoo Chang-geun, a representative of ROK firms operating in the KIC, warns that they risk bankruptcy as orders plunge while tension rises.

: ROK Unification Minister Hyun says that despite the “crisis” over the KIC, Seoul is not contemplating closing it.

: CPRF denounces the ROK MOFAT as “frantic about its anti-DPRK confrontational scheme” and “one of the most anti-national groups among the south Korean government ministries and agencies.”

: Sources in Seoul claim that Choe Sung-chol, who as vice chairman of the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (APPC) had pushed for reconciliation with the South, was executed last year.

: Minju Joson, daily paper of the DPRK Cabinet, says North Korea will never again attend the Six-Party Talks unless the U.S. and South Korea give up their “hostile policy.”

: North Korea unilaterally “declare[s] null and void the rules and contracts on land rent, wages and all sorts of taxes” at the KIC.

: Yonhap says North Korea is stepping up military training at its western sea border. It quotes an ROK Marines source as saying the KPA has held 19 live-fire exercises, twice as many as last year. Aircraft sorties are up six-fold from the same period in 2008.

: ROK military sources say two major DPRK covert agencies have recently been transferred from party to military control. Room 35 collects intelligence, while the Operations Unit trains and dispatches secret agents as well as exporting arms and engaging in drug trafficking and counterfeiting.

: Intelligence sources in Seoul say the KPA has a 100-strong cyber-warfare unit that seeks to disrupt ROK and U.S. military networks.

: Rodong Sinmun says that “traitor Lee Myung-bak’s talk about full participation in the PSI brought to light once again his true colors as a war maniac bereft of reason as he does not rule out even a war against the DPRK, standing in confrontation with it to the last.”

: The ROK reports that the destroyer Munmu the Great, operating in the Gulf of Aden, escorted a DPRK vessel to safety after is that was attacked by Somali pirates. The vessel thanked its rescuers while Pyongyang was silent.

: MOU announces a restructuring that will close its Humanitarian Cooperation Bureau, established in 1996. Its three functions – sending aid, arranging family reunions, and resettling defectors – will be absorbed into other departments, while a new bureau will be created to analyze politics in Pyongyang. The Cabinet approves the changes on May 12.

: KCNA reports that on Buddha’s birthday temples across the DPRK hold services to pray for unification. Speakers warn that inter-Korean relations are at “the brink of a war owing to the persistent sycophancy toward the U.S. and the moves for confrontation … [by] the present conservative ruling forces of south Korea.” They call on all Buddhists “to unite in Dharma-minded concord and foil the Lee Myung-bak group’s moves for a war.”

: North Korea’s Central Special Zone Development Guidance General Bureau says it is deepening its probe of the Kaesong worker, Yu Song-jin.

: Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry says that unless the UNSC apologizes for its criticisms of the DPRK, it will conduct further nuclear and missile tests, start building a light-water reactor, and produce nuclear fuel. South Korea comments that this “directly challenges a unified and concerted decision by the international community.”

: At a consolation event for separated families held at Paju north of Seoul near the border, Unification Minister Hyun urges the North to resume family reunions.”

: Pyongyang says it has resumed extracting plutonium from spent fuel rods at its reopened Yongbyon nuclear site.

: KCNA accuses the ROK military of arbitrarily moving a marker (number 0768) in the eastern sector of the MDL, calling this a “serious military provocation” in violation of the 1953 Armistice. The South denies having moved the marker.

: The two Koreas hold their first official civilian meeting in over a year at the KIC. This lasts just 22 minutes, after procedural disputes delay the start for over 12 hours.

: MOFAT says the ROK embassy in Vienna is seeking clarification whether comments the previous day by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, that the DPRK is a nuclear weapon state as “a matter of fact,” represent the UN agency’s official position.

: ROK Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee warns of possible DPRK provocations, adding that “our military is ready to immediately retaliate under the combined readiness with the United States.”

: Seoul says it “regrets” the latest Northern threats, and insists that PSI is not specifically targeting Pyongyang.

: On the 49th anniversary of the student uprising that toppled the ROK’s first president, Syngman Rhee, in 1960, Rodong Sinmun claims the South “is going back to the dark era of fascist dictatorship” and calls on South Koreans to “wage unflinching struggle.”

: ROK says it will postpone announcing a decision on joining the PSI until after inter-Korean talks. KCNA carries a statement by the KPA General Staff, warning the DPRK would regard South Korea’s full participation in the PSI as a declaration of war.

: The secretariat of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland (CPRF) says that a nuclear war on the peninsula is only a matter of time, “due to the war chariot of the ‘South Korea-U.S. military alliance’.”

: Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), accuses Seoul of banning Southern civilian aid groups from visiting Pyongyang on alleged safety grounds since the April 5 rocket launch.

: Thirty Southern NGOs demand the release of the ROK worker held in Kaesong, saying this “clearly violates … inter-Korean accords” and is “tantamount to kidnapping.”

: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the DPRK has asked its inspectors to leave the country “at the earliest possible time.”

: In reaction to what it calls the “brigandish” UNSC statement, the Foreign Ministry says the DPRK will “never” again attend the Six-Party Talks, and will restore its nuclear facilities to strengthen its deterrent. South Korea expresses “deep regret” at this.

: An ROK Foreign Ministry (MOFAT) official says South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have agreed a draft list of some 10 DPRK companies which could face UN sanctions.

: An ROK source says nine DPRK merchant vessels could be searched in international waters under the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

: ROK Unification Ministry (MOU) describes the detention of Yu Song-jin at the KIC as a “serious situation,” “very unjust,” and “inhumane.”

: UNSC issues a President’s Statement unanimously condemning North Korea’s rocket launch of April 5.

: North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) meets for a single day. Kim Jong-il is present, but looks ill. Decisions made include the removal from the DPRK Cabinet of an inter-Korean cooperation committee created in 2004. Kim’s brother-in-law, Jang Song-taek, is appointed to an expanded National Defense Commission (NDC).

: An ROK military source says a DPRK MiG-23 jet fighter crashed into the sea near Musudan-ri on April 4, a day before the rocket launch.

: Unification Minister Hyun In-taek says that an additional resettlement center for DPRK defectors is planned. The existing Hanawon facility, whose capacity was doubled from 300 to 700 last year, is “not insufficient … at present, but we have to prepare for the future.”

: President Lee calls for a South Korean held in the KIC since March 30 to be released. Unnamed at this stage, the detainee is later identified as Yu Song-jin.

: An opinion poll for the ROK government finds that 51.8 percent of South Koreans want Seoul to address the DPRK rocket issue through international cooperation, while 33.6 percent favor direct inter-Korean talks. Asked with whom the ROK should cooperate for its national security, 60 percent say the U.S., 15.7 percent North Korea, and 10.4 percent China.

: South Korea rebuffs Northern charges that its soccer players lost their recent match in Seoul through deliberate poisoning after being given out-of-date food.

: The DPRK launches its long-expected three-stage rocket from the Musudan-ri site in the northeast. The ROK, with many other states, criticizes the launch.

: The DPRK finally launches its long-expected three-stage rocket. It claims a successful satellite launch, but the U.S. and South Korea dispute this. The ROK, with many other states, criticizes Pyongyang’s act as provocative and calls for punishment.

: An ROK Air Force officer says the Korean People’s Army (KPA) has deployed a fleet of MiG-23 fighters to protect its impending rocket launch.

: ROK President Lee Myung-bak says at the G20 summit in London that he is considering the possibility of sending a special envoy to the North to help ease strained ties.

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