Tag Archives: North Korea

Defense Secretary Hagel Meets With Korean Defense Minister At Pentagon

U.S. to Indefinitely Maintain Wartime Control of South Korean Military

The United States agreed to delay returning its wartime control of the South Korean military until its ally is determined fully equipped to fight North Korea, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

During the Korean War in the early 1950s, the U.S. assumed control of South Korea’s military to fight North Korea and to stand opposed to communism. Although the U.S. returned the peacetime control to South Korea in 1994, it still holds obligations to control the South Korean military in the event of another war.

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Many South Koreans, mainly postwar generations, began protesting against the pledge, highlighting that allowing the U.S. wield such power is a slight to their national pride.

The opposition prompted the U.S. to initially accept South Korea’s request in 2007 to return its power by 2012. But in 2010, the handover of wartime control was postponed to 2015 after a South Korean warship was allegedly torpedoed by North Korea. South Korea requested another delay after North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket in 2012, followed by its third nuclear test earlier this year.

In Thursday’s meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and South Korean defense minister Han Min-koo agreed to take a “conditions-based approach” that will “focus on South Korea achieving critical defensive capabilities against an intensifying North Korean threat.” South Korean officials said the return of wartime control of the military is now expected to take place in the mid-2020s.

The new delay, which is essentially indefinite, will likely evoke heavy criticism from South Korea’s liberals. Many in South Korea have argued for years that further delaying the transition of wartime military control will be detrimental to inter-Korea relations.

Photo courtesy of AFP

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North Korea Bans Tourists Over Ebola Concerns

by STEVE HAN

North Korea announced that it will ban foreigners from entering the country as tourists due to worries over the Ebola virus, which has already killed at least 4,877 people around the world.

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A China-based travel agency, Koryo Tours, which arranges trips to North Korea for international tourists, confirmed that the hermit country has decided to close its border for tourism until Ebola concerns are eliminated. The agency initially had three tours scheduled for the remainder of 2014, according to Nick Bonner of Koryo Tours.

North Korea reportedly didn’t provide a timeline for the duration of its closure for foreign tourists.

The World Health Organization reported that at least 4,877 people died of Ebola, but the death toll could soon triple as nearly 10,000 cases have been recorded by Oct. 19. Last month, North Korea’s state-run media KCNA said that officials began running border quarantine and awareness campaigns to prevent the virus from entering their country.

Up to 6,000 tourists per year reportedly visit North Korea as the communist regime has been organizing efforts in recent years to boost tourism to generate revenue.

This isn’t the first time North Korea closed its borders to tourists over an epidemic. In 2003, the reclusive country placed a similar closure due to fears over the threat of SARS, a severe respiratory disease.

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North Korean Defector’s Tearful Speech Receives Standing Ovation

Somewhere along the line, many of us have become somewhat numb to the countless stories of North Korean defectors, all of whom escaped the repressive country by risking their lives. But a tearful, eight-minute speech by a 21-year-old North Korean defector, who witnessed a public execution of her friend’s mother for watching a Hollywood film and saw her own mother get raped by a Chinese broker after fleeing the country, is once again reminding the world of just how dire life is in the Hermit Kingdom’s brutal Stalinist regime.

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Park Yeon-mi, who escaped North Korea when she was just 13, recently spoke at the One Young World conference in Dublin, Ireland about her traumatizing experiences. She and her mother had no option but to escape by walking across the Gobi Desert and look for her older sister who fled the country earlier.

“North Korea is the only country in the world that executes people for making unauthorized international phone call,” Park said.

“When I was 9 years old, I saw my friend’s mother publicly executed. Her crime? Watching a Hollywood movie … I saw my mother raped. The rapist was a Chinese broker. I will never forget his face. The rapist had targeted me. I was only 13 years old.”

In her speech, Park also recalled how she had to secretly bury her father in China at 3 a.m. when she was 14 years old, afraid of being discovered and sent back to her home country.

“Death or dignity … We were prepared to kill ourselves if we were going to be sent back to North Korea. We wanted to live as humans.”

Park was among a group of defectors who attended the event to share their stories with the audience. Watch the video below to listen to the full speech that evoked a standing ovation in Dublin.

Image courtesy of Voice of America

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Jeffrey Fowle

North Korean Detainee Reunites With Family in Ohio 

Above: Jeffrey Fowle is greeted by family members upon his arrival, early Wednesday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and LARA JAKES, Associated Press

An American arrested and held for nearly six months in North Korea for leaving a Bible at a nightclub returned home to Ohio on Wednesday to tears of joy and hugs from his wife and surprised children.

A plane carrying Jeffrey Fowle landed Wednesday morning at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, where he was reunited with his family. Fowle was released with help from a retired diplomat and former Ohio congressman.

Moments after Fowle, carrying two bags, stepped off a plane just after 6:30 a.m., his three children and wife ran from a nearby airplane hangar and shared hugs.

Base Col. John Devillier said Fowle had a tearful reunion, and that Fowle was happy and seemed thrilled to be back in the U.S.

“We had a great reunion for an American citizen coming home,” he said.

Devillier said Fowle’s family hadn’t told the children why they were being brought to the base and that it was a surprise for them to see their father walk off the plane.

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“The reaction from his children was priceless,” Devillier said. “They hadn’t seen their dad in some time. The expectation would be that they would get teary eyed and they did, and I did, too. It’s great to welcome him home.”

Tony Hall, a retired diplomat and congressman who used his connections with North Korean officials to discuss Fowle’s case, said he was excited about Fowle’s release.

A lot of people were involved, he said, but he declined to name any of the officials in Pyongyang to whom he reached out. He said he was never asked by either the U.S. or North Korea to go to Pyongyang on Fowle’s behalf.

The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, along with China and Japan and envoys from Mongolia, which has relations with North Korea, were also involved, Hall said.

Hall said he got involved at the request of Fowle’s family and attorney, as well as the State Department, which led the push for Fowle’s release.

“So I spent a lot of time communicating and trying to use some of the relations I’d built up over the years,” Hall told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Outside the family’s home in rural southwest Ohio, family attorney Timothy Tepe said Fowle had been treated well by the North Korean government and needed time to adjust to life at home.

“The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind for Jeff and his family. Jeff needs some time right now to get adjusted to his life at home,” Tepe said, flanked by Fowle, his wife, Tatyana, and their three children.

Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29 and was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at the nightclub, something Fowle acknowledged in interviews with the AP. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea.

He had been awaiting trial — the only one of three Americans held by Pyongyang who had not been convicted of charges.

The two others were each sentenced to years in North Korean prisons after court trials that lasted no more than 90 minutes. The three Americans entered North Korea separately.

The Fowle family, despite their joy, is mindful that two other Americans continue to be detained by North Korea and they understand the disappointment their families are experiencing, Tepe said.

United States North Korea

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There was no immediate explanation for the release of Fowle, who was whisked to the U.S. territory of Guam, where doctors declared him in good health, before heading back to Ohio.

A report released by the Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday said Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, took “a special measure” by releasing Fowle, who was referred to as a “U.S. criminal.” The report said Kim took “into consideration the repeated requests of U.S. President Barack Obama.”

In Berlin, Secretary of State John Kerry said “there was no quid pro quo” for the release of Fowle.

The government welcomed Fowle’s return.

“The release of all of these individuals is a top priority and something that the U.S. Government has long advocated for, both publicly and privately,” said National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell. “We have followed these cases closely in the White House.”

Some analysts believe that North Korea’s calculus in releasing Fowle may reflect several larger concerns, including the regime’s efforts to counter criticism of its human-rights situation following the release earlier this year of a groundbreaking U.N. report laying out the regime’s widespread abuses against its own citizens. The European Union and Japan have been pushing a U.N. resolution to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court, and Pyongyang doesn’t want the issue to even get to a vote.

Additionally, relations between Washington and Pyongyang are particularly bad, raising the possibility that the U.S. could strengthen its sanctions against the North or call on its allies to clamp down harder.

Fowle’s release could thus be seen as an attempt to feel out Washington and see if there is any possibility of broader talks.

Analysts say North Korea has previously used detained Americans as leverage, a contention that Pyongyang denies. Washington, too, has floated the possibility of a diplomatic opening should North Korea free the detainees.

U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf would not say whether any American officials had intervened directly with the North Koreans.

“We’ll let the North Koreans speak for themselves about why did they decide to do this,” Harf said. “But we are pleased that he was able to leave, and urge the immediate release of the other two.”

The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and strongly warns American citizens against traveling to the country.

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Jakes reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and Associated Press journalists Eric Talmadge and Maye-E Wong in Pyongyang, North Korea, and Jim Kuhnhenn, Deb Riechmann and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Jeffrey Fowle

American Jeffrey Fowle Released From North Korea

by LARA JAKES, AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released, the State Department said Tuesday.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was on his way home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. Fowle is from Miamisburg, Ohio. Harf said the U.S. is still trying to free Americans Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae.

Associated Press journalists in Pyongyang spotted the U.S. government plane at the capital’s international on Tuesday.

Washington has tried for months to send a high-level envoy to North Korea to seek release of the three men.

Analysts say North Korea has previously used detained Americans as leverage in its standoff with the U.S. over its nuclear and missile programs, a charge that Pyongyang denies.

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Associated Press reporters Eric Talmadge and Maye-E Wong contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of Wong Maye-E/AP. 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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South Korea: Anti-North Korea Protest in Paju

SKorean Activists Vow to Send More Leaflets Across Border

by HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean activists vowed Thursday to launch balloons next week carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border into North Korea, days after their campaign triggered gunfire between the rival Koreas.

North Korea considers leaflets an attack on its government and has long demanded that South Korea ban activists from sending them. South Korea refuses, saying the activists are exercising freedom of speech.

Last Friday, North Korea opened fire after propaganda balloons were floated from the South. South Korean soldiers returned fire, but there were no reports of casualties. North Korea has warned it would take unspecified stronger measures if leafleting continues.

South Korean activist Choi Woo-won said Thursday his group won’t yield to the North’s threats and plans to send about 50,000 leaflets on Oct. 25.

“Our government and people must not be fazed even though North Korea, the criminal organization, is blackmailing us,” said Choi, a university professor.

He said his leaflets will urge a military rebellion against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “The leaflets will tell North Korean soldiers to level their guns at Kim Jong Un, launch strikes at him and kill him,” Choi said.

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Another activist Lee Min-bok said he was also ready to fly millions of leaflets, which describe South Korea’seconomic prosperity and urges North Koreans to flee, as soon as weather conditions such as wind direction are favorable.

“No one can block my rights [to send leaflets],” said Lee, whose leafleting Friday from a South Korean border village was believed to have directly caused North Korea to start firing.

The leafleting was high on the agenda when military generals from the two Koreas met in a border village on Wednesday in the countries’ first military talks since early 2011. During the meeting, North Korea requested again that South Korea prevent leafleting, but South Korea said it could not comply, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.

Friday’s shootout came three days after navy ships of the two Koreas exchanged gunfire near their disputed western sea boundary, the scene of several bloody naval skirmishes between the countries in recent years.

South Korean military officials earlier described the Oct. 7 shootout as an exchange of warning shots. But they later revealed at least one of three South Korean navy ships involved aimed to destroy a North Korean ship but failed because of a mechanical problem in its artillery guns.

The shootout happened because the North Korean ship violated the sea boundary and opened fire in response to warning shots fired by the South Korean ship, according to officials at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The North Korean quickly turned back to its waters after the South Korean ship began firing, they said.

Earlier, hopes for better relations were given impetus after a group of high-level North Korean officials made a rare visit to South Korea earlier this month and agreed to resume senior-level talks.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

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Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of Lee Young-Ho/Sipa USA.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Alleged North Korean Spy Sentenced to Three Years In Jail

by STEVE HAN

A female North Korean spy, who allegedly disguised herself as a defector, was sentenced to three years in prison by the South Korean Supreme Court on Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

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South Korean prosecutors said that the 39-year-old spy, identified only by her last name Lee, used a special drug distributed by North Korea’s security department to “erase her memory and cheat the lie detector” during the intensive questioning by the South Korean spy agency, which puts all defectors through rigorous interrogation to prevent spying from North Korea.

According to the prosecution, North Korea sent Lee to monitor a defector carrying out anti-North Korean activities.

Lee initially confessed her spy activities in a lower court trial, but filed an appeal later to revise her testimony, claiming that she was forced to give her confession by the South Korean National Intelligence Service.

Lee’s lawyer, Park Joon-young, condemned the Supreme Court’s verdict, saying the ruling disregarded the truth.

“There’s no drug that erases one’s memory anywhere in the world,” Park reportedly said. “It’s disappointing that the ruling was based on false confessions.”

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rodong sinmun

Kim Jong-un Reappears in Public for the First Time in 40 Days

by REERA YOO

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made his first public appearance in about 40 days, giving a “field guidance” to a newly built residential district, according to state news agency KCNA on Tuesday.

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KCNA reported that Kim visited the Wisong Scientists Residential District and the Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy, adding that the leader had a photo session with scientists. However, the news agency did not publish these photos or any videos of his visit. KCNA also did not specify when Kim made his visit, although it’s presumed that the visit occurred on Monday.

According to Reuters, there were also several pictures of Kim walking with a cane published on the front page of Tuesday’s edition of North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

However, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrall said he could not confirm the KCNA report at this time.

“We have seen these breaking reports but have nothing for you on their authenticity at this time,” he said.

Kim has not been seen in public since his attendance at a musical concert with his wife on Sept. 3. His disappearance has spurred peculations and rumors ranging from gout to a military coup, despite the U.S. debunking rumors of a coup as “false.”

Earlier this month when senior officials of the North Korean delegation met with South Korean representatives, South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae asked Kim Yang Gon, secretary of North Korea’s ruling Worker’s Party, about rumors of Kim Jong-un’s ill health. The secretary at the time responded that there were “no problems at all.”

Photo courtesy of Rodong Sinmun and BBC

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