Tag Archives: North Korea

Kim Ki Jong

Prosecutors Investigates North Korean Ties with U.S. Envoy Knife Assailant

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

South Korean prosecutors are looking into whether the knife attack on U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert had a “mastermind” behind it, Korea Herald reports.

Kim Ki-jong, a 55-year-old leftist activist, faces charges of attempted murder, violence against a foreign envoy and obstruction of official duty, according to his arrest warrant. He has claimed he acted alone, but several top South Korean officials, including President Park Geun-hye, urged law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate the crime and determine whether or not someone else was pulling the strings. The attack is being considered as an act of terrorism by pro-North Korean forces.

Police uncovered materials that indicated Kim’s pro-North Korean views during raids of his home and office, and they are seeking a warrant to look through his phone records. They believe Kim had planned the crime some 10 days in advance.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office is leading a “special probe team” of nearly 100 police officers and prosecutors, many of whom are versed in anti-communism and anti-terrorism.

Kim has told authorities he had attacked Lippert on his own to protest the joint military drills between the U.S. and South Koreawithout the intent to kill him. Lippert is now recovering and in stable condition after undergoing emergency surgery.

Kim’s political activities are well-known: He had visited North Korea seven times between 1999 and 2007, touring Mt. Geungangsan once and visiting the border city of Gaeseong multiple times with a left-wing civic group, according to the Korea Herald. In December 2011, Kim attempted to set up an altar near Seoul City Hall in memory of Kim Jong-il’s death that year.


Featured image via Yonhap News

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North Korea Applauds Knife Attack on U.S. Ambassador

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

North Korea has applauded the South Korean assailant’s knife attack on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert, calling it a “deserved punishment” for America’s joint military drills with Seoul.

Lippert, 42, received 80 stitches to close a 4-inch gash on his cheek and sustained some nerve damage in his left hand. After a successful surgery, the U.S. ambassador tweeted that he was in “great spirits” and promised to return to his duties as soon as possible.

The attack occurred Thursday at 7:40 a.m. KST during a breakfast forum at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul, where Lippert was scheduled to deliver a speech.

Lippert was starting to eat the first course of his breakfast when Kim Ki-jong, a 55-year-old political extremist, screamed, “South and North Korea should be reunified” before slashing the ambassador’s face and wrist with a 10-inch blade. Kim was immediately pinned to the ground and arrested by the police.

Witnesses described the incident to unfold too quickly for security to prevent the knife attack in time, according to Reuters.

North Korea’s state-run media, the Korean Central News Agency, later crowed that Kim delivered “knife slashes of justice.” The agency added that the attack reflected the South Korean people’s protests against the U.S. for raising tensions in the Korean Peninsula through joint military drills with Seoul, according to Yonhap.

The U.S. State Department condemned the violent attack, while South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the incident an “attack on the Korea-U.S. alliance” and phoned Lippert in the hospital, wishing him a speedy recovery.

The Associated Press noted that Kim is a well-known among police and activists as an anti-U.S. and Japan extremist. In 1985, Kim participated along with other hard-core protesters in slashing and burning the American flag on the embassy grounds. He was also sentenced to prison for three years in 2010 after throwing a piece of concrete at the Japanese ambassador to Seoul. In addition, he visited North Korea with a civic group eight times between 2006 and 2007, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

After his arrest on Thursday, Kim told police that he had attacked Lippert to protest the joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea, claiming that it ruined efforts for reconciliation efforts between the two Koreas.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said it was the first time a foreign ambassador to South Korea had been injured in a violent attack.

Since his appointment last October, Lippert has proved himself to be a popular ambassador during his stay in Seoul, as he often posts updates on social media and regularly delivers speeches. His wife gave birth in the capital city, and the couple gave their son a Korean middle name.


Featured image via Yonhap/Reuters


Korean Canadian Pastor Reported Missing in North Korea

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

UPDATE (Thursday, March 5, 3 p.m. PST): Reverend Lim’s church and Canadian consular officials confirmed that he is being held by North Korean authorities, according to Wall Street Journal.

The Light Korean Presbyterian church said Lim’s family was notified by Canadian officials that the North Korean government had sent them a confirmation of his detainment.

A Korean Canadian pastor has lost contact with the Canadian government after visiting North Korea for humanitarian work, reports Reuters.

Reverend Hyeon-soo Lim, 60, has traveled to North Korea more than 100 times since 1997 to help oversee a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage in the Rajin region, said Lisa Pak, the spokeswoman for the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto.

Lim entered North Korea through China on Jan. 31, and has since lost contact with his church, family and friends. The pastor was expected return from his trip on Feb. 4, but church officials were not alarmed, believing that Lim was delayed by North Korea’s quarantine of foreign travelers who may have been exposed to Ebola.

“We didn’t want to cause unnecessary hysteria, just make sure he is OK. He’s very non-political; he just wants to help the people,” said Pak, according to Reuters.

North Korea ended the quarantine program on Monday, but there has been no sign of Lim. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has advised against all travel to North Korea.

The North Korean government has a strict policy against proselytizing, as religion is seen as a threat to the ruling Kim family. Over the years, many Christian missionaries have been detained in the hermit kingdom.

Kenneth Bae, a missionary who entered North Korea in late 2012, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for alleged anti-government activities. After being detained for two years, Bae was released last November, along with fellow U.S. detainee Matthew Miller, who was formerly sentenced to prison for six years for alleged espionage.

Born in South Korea, Lim immigrated to Canada in 1986. He has a wife and an adult son.


Featured image via The Telegraph

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N.Korea Encourages Citizens to Play Sports to “Strengthen National Defense”

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

Amid young leader Kim Jong-un’s incessant passion for basketball, North Korea is amping up efforts to ingrain sports into the daily lives of its citizens in the hermit kingdom.

A recent Yonhap News Agency report cited a North Korean official who said that the country is encouraging the citizens to play sports, such as basketball and soccer to “boost industrial output” and “strengthen national defense.” North Korea’s communist regime has even launched a new sports-exclusive government ministry, called the National Sports Guidance Committee, to promote sports among its people.

The ministry’s role is to set up to support the practice of playing sports at workplaces in various cities and counties within North Korea, according to Ri Chi-ung, vice director of the country’s Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports. Ri added that sports could help develop the impoverished country’s halting economy.

“People find themselves [to] do their work better amidst the sporting zeal,” Ri reportedly said. “And it gives full play to collectivism, and the love for their working places and home villages is going up remarkably.”

He added, “They feel more pleasant at their jobs and the spirit of helping and leading one another forward is prevailing in the factory. All this gives great energy to the effort to fulfill the national economic plan.”

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is known to have picked up his  love for basketball while he was studying in Switzerland during his teens. A fan of Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the mid-90s, he even held an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang last year with former NBA star Dennis Rodman.


Featured image via Quazoo.com: North Korea national under-20 soccer team

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‘Hidden Treasures’ Features Artworks by North Korean Painters

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

There’s more to North Korean art than propaganda images of political leaders and rosy-cheeked farmers.

On Jan. 29, the Springtime Art Foundation launched their “Hidden Treasures of North Korea Revealed” exhibition at the Korea International Exhibition Center (KINTEX) in the city of Goyang, just north of Seoul. “Hidden Treasures” is a rare exhibit of North Korean art in South Korea, where most of the North’s cultural works are banned, since the two countries remain technically in a state of war.

BN-GR233_0128ic_J_20150128144014“Untitled” by Gong Chong-kwon (Springtime Art Foundation)

The exhibition features 150 paintings of 70 North Korean contemporary artists, including international award-winning painters such as Lim Ryol, Gong Chong-kwon, Choe Ha-taek, Jong Hwa, Shin Cheol-woong and Kim Il-soo. All of the paintings are nonpolitical and focus mainly on landscapes, portraits, still lifes and animals. According to the Wall Street Journal, many artworks seem to be painted with foreign buyers in mind, with brush strokes similar to Impressionist paintings.

One painting, for example, shows a woman in a bright red bikini, a stark contrast to the military garb or conservative dresses women are often depicted wearing in photographs.

la-et-cm-south-korea-hidden-treasures-of-north-005Painting by Kim Yong-chol (Springtime Art Foundation)

Koen De Cuester, an expert on North Korean art at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told Agence-France Presse that the painting was most likely “exclusively painted for the foreign market” and was probably not exhibited in North Korea.

“Just because a painting hails from North Korea, does not make it representative of North Korean art,” De Cuester said in a phone interview. “They produce a lot that caters explicitly to foreign tastes — or what they perceive foreign tastes to be — and the artistic merit of those works is questionable, no matter how well executed.”

Springtime Art Foundation’s art collector Frans Broersen, 63, and his partners have made several visits to North Korea since 2005 to buy paintings in bulk. Their collection has about 2,500 works, most of which came from Pyongyang’s Mansudae Art Studio, where the country’s top artists mostly churn out propaganda artworks that glorify the ruling Kim family.

“We saw North Korea as a place to acquire some very high standard works at low prices, and we’re now hoping for a return on that investment,” Broersen said, according to the LA Times.

The foundation has already held exhibitions of North Korean art in Latvia and Lithuania, the latter drawing 50,000 visitors from more than 10 countries.

“Hidden Treasures” will remain open at KINTEX until March 6.


Images via Springtime Art Foundation/Wall Street Journal

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North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il  speaks

Kim Jong-il Demanded $10 Billion for Summit with South Korea

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

When former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung met with the late Kim Jong-il on North Korean soil in 2000, it was seen as a landmark event and a huge step towards possible reunification. Whatever optimism the meeting inspired, however, was quashed when it was revealed the South Korean administration secretly paid hundreds of millions of dollars to make the summit happen.

According to former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, Pyongyang set even steeper demands for a summit when Lee began his own term, which ran from 2008-2013. In his memoir The Times of the President, which is set to be published next week, Lee writes that Pyongyang demanded $10 billion in cash and half a million tons of food as part of a deal for Lee to meet Kim Jong-il.

“The document looked like some sort of standardized ‘summit bill’ with its list of assistance we had to provide and the schedule written up,” Lee writes, according to excerpts obtained by Reuters.

The “conditions for a summit” included 400,000 tons of rice, 100,000 tons of corn and 300,000 tons of fertilizer. The $10 billion would go towards setting up a development bank.

Lee flat out refused. “We shouldn’t be haggling for a summit,” he wrote.

Lee’s predecessor, President Roh Moo-hyun, traveled to Pyongyang in 2007 and met with Kim Jong-il as a follow up to the 2000 summit. However, the conservative Lee brought a more hardline approach when dealing with North Korea, and he left office without ever meeting Kim Jong-il or Kim Jong-un. Along with pushing the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Lee refused a meeting because Kim Jong-il denied any North Korean involvement in the 2010 torpedo attack on the Cheonan naval vessel.

Current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Park Geun-hye have both brought up the idea of a possible meeting this year, but they’re still working on it. On Friday, North Korea demanded that South Korea lift sanctions imposed by Lee’s government following the Cheonan sinking as a condition for getting talks started again.


Photo courtesy of Time

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North Korea Reactor

North Korea May Be Restarting Nuke Plant: U.S. Institute

by FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea may be attempting to restart its main nuclear bomb fuel reactor after a five-month shutdown, a U.S. research institute said Thursday.

If true, the finding, which is based on recent commercial satellite imagery, will be an added worry for the United States and the North’s neighbors at a time of increasing animosity over recent U.S. sanctions against the North and Pyongyang’s fury about a U.N. push to punish its alleged human rights abuses.

Activity at the 5-megawatt Nyongbyon reactor is closely watched because North Korea is thought to have a handful of crude nuclear bombs, part of its efforts to build an arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles that could one day hit America’s mainland. Nyongbyon, which has produced plutonium used for past nuclear test explosions, restarted in 2013 after being shuttered under a 2007 disarmament agreement. It has been offline since August.

Possible signs in satellite imagery from Dec. 24 through Jan. 11 that the reactor is in the early stages of being restarted include hot water drainage from a pipe at a turbine building that indicates steam from the reactor and growing snow-melt on the roofs of the reactor and turbine buildings.

The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, however, said that since the recent observation period was only about two weeks, it’s too soon to reach a definitive conclusion about what’s happening and more monitoring is needed. The institute’s website, 38 North, published the findings.

Nyongybon can likely produce about one bomb’s worth of plutonium per year. A uranium enrichment facility there could also give it a second method to produce fissile material for bombs. It is not clear if North Korea has yet mastered the technology needed to make warheads small enough to be mounted on missiles, but each nuclear test presumably moves its scientists closer toward that goal.

North Korea has said it is willing to rejoin international nuclear disarmament talks last held in 2008, but Washington demands that it first take concrete steps to show it remains committed to past nuclear pledges.

The United States also rejected a recent North Korean offer to impose a temporary moratorium on its nuclear tests if Washington scraps its annual military drills with Seoul; Pyongyang claims those drills are invasion preparation. The U.S. called the linking of the military drills, which it says are defensive and routine, with a possible nuclear test “an implicit threat.”

Always rocky ties between Pyongyang and Washington dipped lower because of a recent Hollywood movie depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The U.S. blames the North for crippling hacking attacks on the movie’s producer, Sony, and subsequently imposed new sanctions on the country, inviting an angry response from Pyongyang, which has denied responsibility for the cyberattacks.


 Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Airbus Defense and Space, Spot Image, Pleiades – CNES via 38 North.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a New Year's address

North Korea Demands Sanctions to Be Lifted for Family Reunions

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

North Korea urged South Korea on Friday to lift its sanctions as a condition for resuming dialogue on reunions of families separated during the Korean War, reports Reuters.

“If the South Korean government is sincerely interested in humanitarian issues, it should first remove the ban that was imposed for the purpose of confrontation,” the North Korean Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) told KCNA, the North’s state-run news agency.

This is the first official response from Pyongyang to South Korea’s weeks-long offer to hold high-level talks. Last week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye renewed the call for dialogue and stressed the importance to staging an inter-Korean family reunion for Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on Feb. 19.

South Korea imposed the sanctions on the North after a torpedo attack on its navy ship, Cheonan, in 2010. The attack killed 46 South Korean sailors, and the sanctions froze trades and investment with the North. However, North Korea has denied responsibility for the attack.

“It is regrettable that North Korea has linked the purely humanitarian issue of separated families to the May 24 measure, which is completely irrelevant,” the South Korean Unification Ministry said of the sanctions, according to Reuters.

Earlier this week, a South Korean activist group threatened to drop 100,000 DVD copies of The Interview if North Korea fails to respond to the South’s call for resuming dialogue.

Despite this, Lim Byeong-cheol, the South’s Unification Ministry spokesman, said there is no set deadline for Pyongyang to respond to family reunion talks.

“If enough time is secured for preparing a reunion, the reunion event could take place at any time,” Lim said.


Photo courtesy of Reuters/KCNA

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