North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from May 2018 to Aug 2018

: MND says it is requesting a budget of 46.7 trillion won ($42 billion) for 2019. If approved this will be an 8.2 per cent increase, the highest hike in a decade. The ROK defense budget is already larger than the DPRK’s entire national income.

: Reigniting a debate that has flared on and off since 1995, Yonhap claims that South Korea is again considering no longer calling North Korea its ‘main enemy’ in the next ROK defense white paper, due later this year.

: Amid many understandably emotional scenes, two rounds of reunions of separated families, the first such since Oct. 2015, are held at Mount Kumgang resort.

: While mainly competing separately, North and South Korea field combined teams in six events (mostly aquatic) at the Asian Games hosted by Jakarta and Pelambang, Indonesia. ‘Korea’ wins four medals, including gold in the women’s dragon boat.

: Fourth round of high-level talks is held at Panmunjom, in the Northern half. The two Koreas reaffirm the Panmunjom Declaration, and confirm that a third summit this year will be held in Pyongyang in September.

: A 64-strong team of DPRK trade unionists visits Seoul to play friendly soccer games against their ROK counterparts. This is the fourth such event; the first was in Pyongyang in 1999, then Changwon (ROK) in 2007, then Pyongyang again in 2015.

: In a series of articles on inter-Korean issues, the Korea Herald highlights the project to compile a comprehensive joint dictionary. Launched in 2005, this met 25 times in the ensuing decade but has been suspended since 2016. With this year’s thaw, the South side has faxed the North to try to arrange a meeting, but has yet to hear back.

: Two Koreas again hold high-level military talks at Panmunjom. No joint statement follows, but some media claim that “broad agreement” has been reached on areas such as disarming the Joint Security Area (JSA), and fewer guardposts in the DMZ.

: In its annual estimate of DPRK macroeconomic data (Pyongyang publishes no regular figures), the Bank of Korea, the ROK central bank, reports that North Korean GDP fell 3.5 percent in 2007, its worst result for 20 years. BoK attributes this to tighter sanctions.

: Media report that the two Koreas have fully restored their military hotline in the western sector.

: Kyodo reports that the UN Security Council permitted a sanctions exemption for South Korea to send 51 banned items – including fuel, optical cables, buses and trucks – to North Korea for use in restoring military hotlines.

: United Nations special rapporteur on North Korea, Tomás Ojea Quintana, whose usual beat is DPRK human rights abuses, calls for an investigation into how the ‘Ningbo 12’ came to South Korea, saying at least some were unwitting or unwilling.

: MOU announces that a 22-strong team of officials and workers will enter the North on July 9 to start repairing facilities at Mount Kumgang.

: Two Koreas meet at Panmunjom to discuss forestry cooperation. A four-point joint press release envisages working together in areas including modernization of tree nurseries, agroforestry, fighting forest fires, controlling erosion, and scientific exchanges. A site visit is planned for mid-July, and a working group will be set up to implement all of this.

: ROK Red Cross says the two Koreas have exchanged lists of candidates for August’s family reunions. The South sent 250 names, the North 200. The final 100 from each side will be chosen on July 25, based on their health and whether relatives have been located.

: 100 South Korean basketball players, officials and press, led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, fly to Pyongyang in two ROK military planes. On July 4-5 they play four friendlies (Kim Jong Un does not show up) and have talks on sporting cooperation. Cho also holds talks with Kim Yong Chol. The visitors fly home on July 6.

: South Korea’s MND says communications between the two Koreas’ navies have been restored for the first time since May 2008. At 9:00 an ROKN boat off Yeonpyeong Island (shelled by KPA artillery in 2010, among other clashes) contacted a nearby DPRK patrol vessel, which responded immediately.

: //;jsessionid=RJUJeE+Ys1lSwQsPV3soEzTG.unikorea11?boardId=bbs_0000000000000034&mode=view&cntId=54189&category=&pageIdx=">page erroneously gives the date as June 26]The two Koreas hold talks at Panmunjom on road cooperation. A detailed joint statement agrees to modernize both eastern (Donghae) and western (Gyeongui) corridors, from Goseong as far as Wonsan and from Kaesong to Pyongyang respectively. Joint research teams will be formed, and joint surveys will begin in early August.

: Two Koreas hold talks at Panmunjom on railway cooperation. The three-strong delegations are led by ROK Vice Transport Minister Kim Jeong-ryeol and DPRK Vice Railways Minister Kim Yun Hyok. They agree to conduct a joint study on modernizing cross-border railways; starting on July 24 with the northern section of the Seou-Sinuiju west coast line, and thereafter proceeding to the east coast Kumgangsan-Sinuiju line.

: ROK Premier Lee Nak-yon says that asking the DPRK to move its heavy artillery back from the DMZ is under discussion in Seoul, but is not yet a formal proposal.

: At their first working-level (between colonels) military talks since 2011, held in Paju, the two Koreas discuss restoration of military hotlines. In 2010 a forest fire in the North destroyed the line in the eastern sector; the western one is in better shape.

: Meeting at Mount Kumgang in the southeastern DPRK, the two Koreas’ Red Cross organizations agree to hold separated family reunions – the first such since Oct. 2015 – there on August 20-26. They will also hold further meetings to discuss humanitarian issues.

: Citing unnamed ROKG sources, Yonhap  claims that at the recent military talks the South proposed that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) move its long-range artillery – thought to number over 14,000 pieces, including 5,500 multiple rocket launchers – back 30-40 km from the DMZ. It does not record the North’s reaction. MND later denies that Seoul made any such proposal (but see June 25).

: North and South Korea hold their first high-level military talks – originally set for May, but Pyongyang cancelled – in over a decade (since Dec. 2007) in the Northern sector of Panmunjom. KPA Lt. Gen. An Ik San quips that ROK Maj. Gen. Kim Do-gyun is the first South Korean in uniform ever to cross the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). They agree to fully restore all inter-Korean military hotlines, and discuss much else.

: Local elections in South Korea are a landslide for President Moon’s ruling liberal Democratic Party. On a 60 percent turnout, the highest ever, the DP wins the mayoral race in seven of eight major cities and the governorship in seven of nine provinces. The opposition LKP’s tally of these major posts is slashed from eight to just two.

: Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump meet in Singapore.

: A motion supporting the Panmunjom Declaration fails to pass in the ROK National Assembly. According to local media, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) agreed to postpone seeking formal parliamentary ratification, but the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) reneged on an earlier agreement that it would support a more limited resolution.

: Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un hold a surprise second summit a month after the first; again at Panmunjom but this time on the Northern side, and two days after President Trump ‘cancels’ his own upcoming summit with Kim. Its swift reinstatement suggests that Kim asked Moon to mediate, and that he did so successfully.

: After a lengthy trek by train and bus from Wonsan to the DPRK’s remote northeast, selected foreign journalists – but no experts – witness big explosions which their hosts claim constitute the destruction of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. (See also May 12.)

: Pyongyang abruptly cancels inter-Korean high-level talks due that very day, lambasting US-ROK Max Thunder military exercises as “provocative.” The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) cites “the prevailing seriously awful situation that a mad-cap north-targeted war and confrontation racket are being kicked up in south Korea.” Further cancellations and diatribes follow during the ensuing week or so, but then cease.

: Yonhap, South Korea’s quasi-official news agency, claims that North Korea halved the size of the Korean People’s Army (KPA)’s annual tank firing contest that was held last week. Kim Jong Un had attended in 2016 and 2017, but not this year.

: A press release from the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) invites journalists from China, Russia, the US, the UK, and “south Korea” (sic), in that order, to witness the dismantling of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site later this month. MFA explains that space precludes letting more countries attend. Japan is a notable omission. (See also May 24.)

: Defying the ROK government’s urging, a week after police and local residents blocked their previous attempt, the activist NGO Fighters for a Free North Korea launches helium balloons towards the DPRK, carrying anti-Kim tracts and with banners reading “Do not be fooled by Kim Jong Un’s fake dialogue offer.”

: MOU says it is trying to verify media reports that 12 North Korean waitresses – hereafter the ‘Ningbo 12’ – who arrived from China in 2016 may not all have defected voluntarily. Confirming what Pyongyang has long alleged, their manager claims he made a deal with the ROK’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS). (See also July 10.)

: A propos what it calls “Kim’s alarming trip” to meet Xi Jinping again, the center-right Seoul daily JoongAng Ilbo editorializes: “The denuclearization game on the Korean Peninsula is like treading on thin ice. Once you stumble, everything falls.” In the same issue, by contrast, the JoongAng’s influential owner, Hong Seok-hyun, a former ROK ambassador in Washington, has a column entitled: “My hopes for North Korea,” which inter alia commends Kim Jong Un for his confidence, dignity and courtesy to Moon Jae-in.

: Hyundai Group – rump of the former chaebol, no longer connected to the now much larger Hyundai Motor – announces a new task force, headed by its chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, to prepare for economic projects with North Korea – especially tourism to Mount Kumgang and Kaesong, suspended since 2008. Affiliate Hyundai Asan ran those businesses, but has struggled financially since their suspension.

: South Korea’s Foreign Ministry (MOFA) says the North is proposing a new international air route, connecting – albeit not directly – the flight information regions (FIR) of their major airports – Sunan near Pyongyang, and Incheon for Seoul.

: Seoul reveals that at their summit on April 27 Moon handed Kim a USB stick containing a detailed blueprint for how the South could help rebuild the Northern economy, including new power plants and much more.

: The Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, says Moon and Kim will at last use their new hotline once the date of Kim’s summit with Donald Trump is fixed. (So far as is publicly known, this does not happen; indeed, as of Sept. 9 the much-touted hotline has apparently yet to be used at all by the two leaders.)

: Seoul reveals that at the summit Moon handed Kim a USB stick containing a detailed blueprint for how the South could help rebuild the Northern economy, including new power plants and much more.

: At the world table tennis championships in Halmstad, Sweden, the two Koreas, due to face off in the women’s quarter finals, instead gain permission to form a joint team. Korea advances to the semi-finals, but is defeated by Japan to take the bronze.

: South Korean pollster Realmeter reports that in the week since the summit Moon Jae-In’s popularity surged eight points to 78.3 percent, a record for any ROK leader after almost a year in post. (Moon took office on May 10, 2017; he still has four more years.)

Date Range