North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Sep 2012 to Dec 2012

: KCNA swiftly if tersely reports that “The Saenuri Party candidate was elected after a close race in the South’s presidential election on Dec. 19.” It does not mention Park Geun-hye by name. (Normally Pyongyang waits 2-3 days; in 2007 it did not report Lee Myung-bak’s victory at all, according to Yonhap.)

: In South Korea’s presidential election, Park Geun-hye, daughter of the late dictator Park Chung-hee (1961-79) and candidate of the conservative ruling Saenuri Party, narrowly defeats Moon Jae-in of the liberal opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) to become modern Korea’s first woman leader. Her five-year term of office is due to begin on Feb. 25. Park and Moon polled 51.6 and 48 per cent of the votes cast, respectively.

: Sooner than expected, North Korea successfully launches its Unha-3 rocket and for the first time puts a satellite into orbit (which it claimed to have done twice before; those were undetectable, and this one soon ceases to function). South Korea and its allies condemn this as a de facto missile test in violation of UNSC resolutions.

: Seoul Central District Court sentences a former North Korean spy to five years in jail. The woman aged 46, who arrived as a refugee via Thailand a year ago, was found to have been a DPRK agent in China in 2001-06. She claimed the case was fabricated.

: South Korea opens a second resettlement facility for Northern defectors, called Hanawon (“house of unity”) like the original. Located at Hwacheon, 73 miles northeast of Seoul, the new facility cost $32 million and can house 500 defectors. Besides three months of compulsory basic adjustment training, it also offers professional development courses.

: Seoul Central District Court sentences a North Korean spy to four years in jail. The unnamed agent confessed to being sent to spy on defectors from the North. He claimed also to have been tasked with staging a traffic accident in China to injure Kim Jong Nam, the disinherited elder brother of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, and to have paid a taxi driver to do this in July 2010; the attempt failed because Kim Jong Nam did not enter China when expected.

: In an editorial titled “UPP a friend or foe?” the Joongang Ilbo, by no means the most right-wing of Seoul’s dailies, accuses the hard-left Unified Progressive Party (UPP) of being “a second battalion” of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). The party had claimed that the DPRK’s much-criticized imminent satellite launch is no different from the ROK’s space program, which has no military connections.

:   Secretariat of the DPRK Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea [CPRK] publishes a 7-point “open questionnaire” for Park Geun-hye, the ROK’s conservative candidate, calling on her to clarify her stance towards North Korea.

: DPRK’s Korean Committee for Space Technology announces “plans to launch another working satellite, second version of Kwangmyongsong-3, manufactured by its own efforts and with its own technology, true to the behests of leader Kim Jong Il.” The launch will take place from the Sohae Space Center between Dec. 10-22. South Korea and its allies immediately condemn this and urge Pyongyang to reconsider.

: Yonhap reports an anonymous ROK official as saying the DPRK has newly and unilaterally created a rule allowing it to confiscate the assets of Southern firms operating in the KIC that fail to comply with its equally unilateral new tax regulations.

: Seoul press reports that Pyonghwa Motors, an auto assembler in Nampo begun in 1999 as a 70:30 joint venture between the Unification Church (UC) and the DPRK government, is to close. Costing $55 million but with tiny volumes of 2,000 units a year built from imported kits, this was loss-making until 2009 when a $500,000 remittance became the first profit ever sent from North to South Korea.

: Two leading presidential candidates, Park Geun-hye of the ruling conservative Saenuri (New Frontier) Party and independent liberal Ahn Cheol-soo, each pledge to engage North Korea if elected. The third, Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United Party (DUP), has gone further, proposing an economic union with the North.

: Yonhap reports that far from budging on its one-sided new tax demands in the KIC, North Korea is pressing the ROK government to make investors in the zone comply.

: Activists launch propaganda balloons from Imjingak, amid scuffles with local residents and shopkeepers who accuse them of raising tensions with North Korea as well as harming business by deterring tourists from visiting the DMZ.

: Seoul daily Hankyoreh highlights the cases of three students hauled in for police questioning after “retweeting” the DPRK website Urimizokkiri, even though they were clearly making fun of it. Under the National Security Law (NSL) it remains illegal for South Koreans to access or reproduce North Korean websites and other media sources.

: ROK police block routes to Imjingak Pavilion at the DMZ, after an unusually direct and specific threat by the KPA to shell it if activists went ahead with launching helium balloon carrying propaganda into the North from there, as they often do. The activists elude the authorities and eventually manage to send their balloons from Kanghwa Island instead.

: MOU confirms that in August North Korea unilaterally imposed new taxes at the KIC, demanding a total of $160,000 from nine of the 123 Southern firms invested there. The new rules demand to see daily financial data, which firms regard as confidential, and reserve the right to judge proper pricing of inputs and outputs. Pyongyang suspects these are being respectively inflated and deflated so that companies can minimize their tax liabilities.

: ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin issues a public apology for the lax border security at the DMZ exposed by recent Northern military defections. Five generals and nine other officers in charge of the front will be disciplined.

: News emerges in Seoul of a cross-DMZ military defection on Oct. 2. This KPA soldier scaled three flood-lit barbed-wire fences unnoticed, and had to knock twice on ROK barracks doors to announce his presence and turn himself in before anyone realized he was there.

: ROK lawmaker Jun Byung-hun of the liberal opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) claims that Seoul’s suspension since mid-2008 of tours to Mount Kumgang has caused losses totaling 2.3 trillion won ($2.18 billion) to tour operator Hyundai Asan, other Southern firms, and local governments in the adjoining border areas.

: DUP rebuts as electioneering claims by ruling party lawmakers that former President Roh Moo-hyun, during his 2007 summit with Kim Jong Il, was ready to yield on the Northern Limit Line (NLL) as the de facto marine border in the West/Yellow Sea.

: An 18 year old Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldier from a border unit runs across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to defect, after reportedly shooting dead two of his officers. He is later said to be 160 cm tall but to weigh only 50 kg (110 pounds).

:   Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery, an ROK civic group supporting former “comfort women,” says it will formally protest a 500,000 won ($447) fine levied on it last month by MOU for issuing an unauthorized joint statement with a similar group in the DPRK, denouncing Japan. The ROK group says it had notified MOU of its plans, but the ministry refused to accept the notice.

: Choson Sinbo, daily paper of pro-North Koreans in Japan, says that South Korea’s upcoming presidential election in December “can become an opportunity to end the catastrophic North-South relations.”

: 65.7 percent of South Koreans, 6 percent more than a year ago, are unhappy with Lee Myung-bak’s hardline policies on North Korea, according to a poll by the Institute for Peace and Unification at Seoul National University. 57 percent support reunification, while 54 percent favor increased cooperation and exchanges. 69 percent fear that the North could attack again.

: The North’s SPA holds an unusual second session. The main business is to announce an extension of compulsory schooling from 11 years to 12.

: An official (presumably ROK) at the KIC says that the previous day a letter signed by most of the 123 Southern firms invested there was submitted to the DPRK authorities, protesting tax changes unilaterally imposed in August. These include a fine for accounting fraud of up to 200 times the sum involved.

: Sources in Seoul tell Yonhap News Agency that the ROK government is considering taking over the assets of small investors in the shuttered Mount Kumgang resort, worth a total of 133 billion won ($118 million).

: Unification Ministry (MOU) says ROK government will pay out 7.5 billion won ($6.7 million) to compensate Southern firms hit by Seoul’s ban since May 2010 on trade with the North (the KIC is exempt). Hitherto only loans had been offered, on a more generous scale; 253 companies have been lent a total of 56.9 billion won.

: ROK businesses in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) tell the Korea Times that Choco Pies, a popular South Korean snack, are being used in the KIC as an incentive to boost productivity. Workers reportedly resell them at a premium in Northern markets.

: Left-leaning Seoul daily Hankyoreh reports that some ROK firms in northeast China are closing down because Seoul forbids them to hire DPRK workers, who are increasingly available in the area and much cheaper than their Chinese counterparts.

: Two ROK firms, steelmaker Posco and Hyundai Group, break ground for a 1.5 sq km $177 million distribution center in Hunchun city in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, China. This is just upstream of the DPRK’s Rason Special Economic Zone, which it is clearly intended to serve.

: Two ROK firms, steelmaker Posco and Hyundai Group, break ground for a 1.5 sq km $177 million distribution center in Hunchun city in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, China.

: Seoul High Court upholds a 4-year jail term for a defector named only as Ahn, who came to the South 17 years ago, for plotting to kill Park Sang-hak, a fellow defector and prominent anti-DPRK activist, with a poisoned needle.

: Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office files for an arrest warrant for a 50 year old North Korean spy named only as Kim. Arriving in June as a refugee, he confessed to being an agent of the DPRK Ministry of State Security so that he could “form a normal family” with a woman who came from China with him and who is also being investigated.

: ROK Minister of Strategy and Finance (MOSF) Bahk Jae-wan tells a special committee on long-term fiscal policy that “the unification of South and North Korea is a future that is not very far off, which makes the assumption that the countries will not be unified within the next 30 to 40 years seem absurd.” No reasons for his views are reported.

: The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, announces that an unusual second SPA session this year will be held on on Sept. 25. There is speculation that economic reforms will be announced.

: Kim Jong Un sends condolences to the family of Unification Church founder Moon Sun-myung, who died on Sept. 3 aged 92. Though anti-communist, the Northern-born Moon met Kim Il Sung and his companies invested in a hotel and auto plant in North Korea.

: The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, announces that an unusual second SPA session this year will be held on on Sept. 25, prompting speculation that economic reforms will be announced.

: Kim Jong Un sends condolences to the family of Unification Church founder Moon Sun-myung, who died on Sept. 3. Though seen as staunchly anti-communist, and originally expelled from North Korea where he was born, later in life Moon met with Kim Il Sung, and church companies invested in a hotel and auto plant in North Korea.

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