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Majority of South Koreans favor North Korea ‘friendship’

More than 60 percent of South Koreans believe President Moon should sit down with Kim Jong Un at a summit designed to improve bilateral relations and ease the military tensions that have dogged the region for many years. A poll conducted on February 15 showed that 61.5 percent of South Korean adults nationwide were in favor of Moon travelling to Pyongyang for face-to-face talks with Kim, while 31.2 percent disagreed and expressed the belief that additional pressure – such as international sanctions - is the best way to force North Korea to moderate its behavior. The poll was conducted half-way through the Winter Olympic Games, which are being held in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang, and the results underline the surge in friendly feelings that ordinary South Koreans have felt towards their neighbors on the other side of the Demilitarized Zone. Read more: Olympics chief Thomas Bach set to visit North Korea And that is a direct result of a combination of sense of fear and feeling of hope among many in the South. 'Bloody nose' attack The fear for them is that US President Donald Trump intends to carry out a "bloody nose" military strike against targets in the North in an attempt to demonstrate Washington's capabilities and its willingness to use force. And the other element of the equation is hope that North Korea is genuinely interested in building a more collaborative relationship with the South and that peace is finally possible, 65 years after the end of the Korean War. "Those numbers in this poll, and others, come as no surprise to me at all," said Ahn Yin-hay, a professor of international relations at Korea University in Seoul. "There have been lots of reports of Washington planning a 'bloody nose' attack on a missile site or a nuclear facility in the North, and that makes people very worried because Pyongyang can be expected to retaliate and it is likely to target South Korea," she told DW. "South Koreans believe that a strategy of talking to the North is better than a violent approach that threatens our safety," she said. "Talking has a far better likelihood of achieving peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula." Moon is widely seen as having worked extremely hard since he took over the government in Seoul in May last year to build bridges with the North. Those approaches – including offers of talks to reduce the military threat levels, a front-line military hotline and reunions for families separated since the end of the Korean War in 1953 - were initially ignored or rebuffed by Pyongyang. The gradual ratcheting up of international sanctions in the closing months of 2017, however, appear to have convinced Kim Jong Un to be more amenable to discussions, while the timing and location of the Winter Olympic Games have provided the perfect opportunity for détente to flourish. Yet Moon is clearly in a difficult position. He may want to push ahead with a summit that may turn out to be a turning point in the bilateral relationship. It may, however, equally be a ploy by the North Korean regime to drive a wedge between Seoul and its most important security partner, Washington, as part of Pyongyang's broader long-term aim of a united Korean Peninsula controlled by the government that presently occupies the North. Read more: North Korea leader Kim Jong Un invites South Korean president to summit Historic handshake marks Korean unity at Olympic Opening Ceremony Alienating the US Moon must be careful not to alienate the US – and its present unpredictable leader – as he still needs Washington's security guarantees. Underlining the tightrope that he is walking, Moon said on Saturday that a decision on a summit with Kim is too early. "There are many expectations, but I believe they might be a little too anxious," Moon told reporters when asked about the possibility of a summit. He reiterated that there needs to be progress on the question of North Korea getting rid of its nuclear weapons before real progress can be made. There are, however, a number of areas in which progress can take place and would arguably serve as confidence-building measures for the two sides, believes Ahn. These include discussions between military leaders at the border on easing tensions and reunions of families divided by the DMZ. "If progress can be made in these areas, then I am optimistic that we could see a summit in the late summer months," she said, suggesting a meeting that would coincide with the anniversary of the June 2000 summit between Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae-jung, the then South Korean leader. Another symbolic date that could appeal to both sides might be August 15, the Liberation Day national holiday marking the end of Imperial Japan's colonial rule over the peninsula. Yet others are less positive about the outlook on the peninsula. "Of course South Koreans are saying they want the summit to happen; they do not want a war and the North Korean 'charm offensive' during the Olympics has been a huge success," said Jun Okumura, a political analyst at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs. Read more: US wants North Korea to give up nuclear weapons as pre-condition of talks Kim Jong Un: North Korea has completed nuclear program, US will never attack Difficult situation "But Moon is in a very difficult position, stuck between the US, North Korea and even China as a major player in this situation," he said. "I do not see how Moon can square the South's relationship with the US with this meeting," he said. "And I believe that the issue of the joint US-South Korean military exercises could be the flash point." At the request of Pyongyang, the US and South Korea agreed to postpone military annual exercises that were due to be held during the Winter Olympics. North Korea is now demanding that the manoeuvers be cancelled entirely, warning that failure to do so would reverse all the positive developments in the bilateral relationship of recent weeks. Moon has a choice; one option is to bow to the North Korean demand and risk alienating the US entirely – and possibly encouraging Washington to take a unilateral approach to dealing with North Korea, which could involve the much-feared "bloody nose" approach. Alternatively, he can reschedule the exercises and face the wrath of Pyongyang. "I would say that everything hinges on these exercises and the situation is extremely dangerous at the moment," Okumura said. "A decision must be made in the next few weeks and, whatever that decision is, the ramifications will be felt this spring." Read more: Dialogue with North Korea must continue, says German President Steinmeier

More than 60 percent of South Koreans believe President Moon should sit down with Kim Jong Un at a summit designed to improve bilateral relations and ease the military tensions that have dogged the region for many years. A poll conducted on February 15 showed that 61.5 percent of South Korean adults nationwide were in favor of Moon travelling to ... Read More »

Do Korea talks put initiative back with Seoul and Pyongyang?

North and South Korea have held talks for the first time in over two years. DW spoke with Patrick Köllner from the GIGA Institute for Asia Studies about the outcome of the discussions and if any changes can be expected. DW: The fact that representatives from North and South Korea have sat together at a table and held talks could already be considered a successful step in relations. Now that the meeting is over, what outcomes did it bring? Patrick Köllner: First off, it was agreed at Tuesday's talks that North Korea will participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. This also guarantees that the games will be peaceful and quiet. This is of the utmost importance for the South Korean government. It is also expected that family reunions between the North and South will resume after being suspended for several years. Trust-building measures could also emerge in the form of talks between the two countries' militaries. Read more: North, South Korea agree to discuss military following Olympics talks Those are the tangible results - but what in your opinion is the most important message that can be read between the lines after the meeting in Panmunjom? One important message is that North and South Korea, the most important actors in the middle of this conflict, have actually managed to begin talking again. The initiative is once again with Seoul and Pyongyang. The last year was characterized overall by North Korea's armament efforts and the resulting reaction from the United States and the international community. It is crucial that the two Korean governments communicate because this conflict primarily affects 50 million Koreans. Do you think anything surprising happened during the meeting, or did the talks go as expected? The talks went positively in the sense that North Korea, after everything that we know, did not insist that planned military exercises between the US and South Korea be called off. The exercises, which were planned directly after the games, were postponed, but not cancelled. Requiring they be called off would most likely have led to the talks collapsing. Read more: What to expect from North and South Korea meeting ahead of Winter Olympics US wants North Korea to give up nuclear weapons as pre-condition of talks What were the goals and background agenda for each side during the talks? North Korea, of course, continues to follow the strategic aim of putting a wedge in the alliance between Washington and Seoul. But South Korea certainly knows this, and this alone doesn't exclude the possibility of reintroducing increased economic cooperation between the two Koreas. The drive to increase economic cooperation has been put on ice for the past few years because of North Korea's nuclear weapons testing. Even deliveries of humanitarian aid from South Korea were reduced. North Korea has an interest in once again promoting economic cooperation. South Korea has an interest in not letting important discussions about developments on the Korean Peninsula bypass Seoul. The positions of both sides seem incompatible. The North wants to keep its nuclear program and the South wants a nuclear weapon-free peninsula. How much maneuvering room do negotiators on each side have? Negotiations are complicated by the fact that possibilities for compromise are limited by the international sanctions regime hung on North Korea. Of course, South Korea cannot come out with its own measures that violate these sanctions. US interests in the background also complicate matters, and there is always the need to coordinate with Washington in addition to Seoul and Pyongyang. But trust-building measures could be possible, especially with the military. South Korean humanitarian aid could also be increased. These small steps could be the basis of talks on larger issues, which could also include the US and the question of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. Read more: North Korea reopens hotline to South to talk Olympics Interceptions cut off another source of North Korean fuel After today's talks, is it too early to hope for an overall relaxation of tensions? We need to keep in mind that the discussions did not change the fundamental constellation of issues. North Korea's weapons program continues and Kim Jong Un promised in his New Year's address to increase weapons production. Big challenges remain. But there are also positive takeaways – especially the fact that diplomacy is once again playing a role. We have spent the past year considering the possibility of military action. It is really a positive development to see examples of diplomacy. Professor Patrick Köllner is director of the GIGA Institute of Asian Studies in Hamburg. The interview was conducted by Esther Felden.

North and South Korea have held talks for the first time in over two years. DW spoke with Patrick Köllner from the GIGA Institute for Asia Studies about the outcome of the discussions and if any changes can be expected. DW: The fact that representatives from North and South Korea have sat together at a table and held talks could ... Read More »

North, South Korea agree to discuss military following Olympics talks

The two Koreas have agreed to hold military talks after their first official talks in two years, where they discussed the upcoming Winter Olympics. They also agreed to reopen a military hotline linking the countries. North and South Korea have agreed to hold talks on reducing military tensions and "actively cooperate" in next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea, they said in a joint statement on Tuesday, South Korean media reported. The decision to hold the military talks comes after the two countries concluded their first talks in two years to discuss the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Read more: What to expect from North and South Korea meeting ahead of Winter Olympics But a discussion of North Korea's nuclear program and its weapons arsenal would negatively impact inter-Korean ties, a North Korean official said. "North Korea's weapons are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, China or Russia," said Ri Son Gwon, head of North Korea's delegation, adding that Pyongyang's nuclear program was not an issue between North and South Korea. A 'great step forward' North Korea offered to send athletes and a high-level delegation to the games, as well as journalists, a cheering squad, a team of performing artists and a taekwondo demonstration team, according to South Korean officials. The International Olympic Commitee said North Korea's participation was a "great step forward" for the Olympics. Delegations of five senior officials from each side met at the "peace house" on the South Korean side of the Panmunjom truce village as the two countries officially held talks for the first time in two years. South Korea proposed that the athletes from both countries march together at the opening and closing ceremonies, South Korea's Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters. He also said his country proposed resuming family reunions and military discussions to prevent "accidental clashes" in frontline areas. During the talks, North and South agreed to restore a military hotline, less than a week after an civilian cross-border phone link was reopened. The hotline is due to be fully operational by Wednesday. "Accordingly, our side decided to start using the military telephone line, starting 8 a.m. tomorrow," Hae-sung said. Read more: North Korea 'likely' to take part in Winter Olympics in South Korea 'A New Year's gift' Entering the talks, officials from both countries made positive statements about discussions concerning the Winter Olympics. "I think we should be engaged in these talks with an earnest, sincere manner to give a New Year's first gift — precious results to the Korean nation," Ri said. Cho Myoung-gyon, South Korea's Unification Minister, believed the Pyeongchang Olympics "will become a peace Olympics as most valuable guests from the North are going to join many others from around the world." Ri and Cho shook hands as they entered the peace house and again across the table where the talks took place. "The people have a strong desire to see the North and South move toward peace and reconciliation," Cho said. China, Russia, US welcome talks China said it welcomed the high-level talks between the North and South Korea representatives ahead of the Olympics. "We are very pleased that the high-level talks between the two Koreas could be held," said spokesman Lu Kang. "As a neighbour of the Korean peninsula, China welcomes and supports the recent positive actions taken by the two Koreas to ease their mutual relations." Russia also welcomed the conversation between the two. "This is exactly the kind of dialogue that we said was necessary," a Kremlin spokesman said on Tuesday. US President Donald Trump, who has taken repeated jabs at Kim on his Twitter account, had also called the talks "a good thing." But the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, later said the administration was not changing its conditions regarding US talks with North Korea, saying Kim would first need to stop weapons testing for a "significant amount of time." Tuesday's summit was arranged after North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, recently called for improved relations with South Korea. North Korea's push to develop nuclear weapons in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions had stoked tensions with the South.

The two Koreas have agreed to hold military talks after their first official talks in two years, where they discussed the upcoming Winter Olympics. They also agreed to reopen a military hotline linking the countries. North and South Korea have agreed to hold talks on reducing military tensions and “actively cooperate” in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, they ... Read More »

China calls for US restraint in Korean military drills after B-1B flyover

With the US sending a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber jet over the Korean peninsula, China has called for more delicate handling of the situation. North Korea has described Trump as "insane." In a tit-for-tat show of military might, South Korea and the United states have this week held air combat drills — a week after Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that it claims puts the US within its reach. Read more: South says North Korea's latest missile test is bigger threat Midway though the large-scale aerial exercises involving hundreds of warplanes, the US has flown a B-1B supersonic bomber over South Korea. The bomber flew from Guam and joined US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters in the military drills. North Korea has consistently described the B-1B as a "nuclear strategic bomber," although the plane was converted to carry conventional weaponry in the mid-1990s. The North Korean military issued a statement saying, "Through the drill, the South Korean and US air forces displayed the allies' strong intent and ability to punish North Korea when threatened by nuclear weapons and missiles." North Korean state media said on Tuesday that the military exercises were serving to escalate tensions, describing a heightened risk of nuclear war due to "US imperialist warmongers' extremely reckless war hysteria." It also labeled US President Donald Trump as "insane." Read more: Which countries have diplomatic relations with North Korea? China calls for restraint China has proposed that North Korea suspend missile and nuclear testing in exchange for a halt to US-South Korean military exercises. This suggestion has been repeatedly rejected by Washington. Read more: North Korea: UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman visits Pyongyang South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit China next week for talks on North Korea. Asked about the bomber's flight, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, "We hope relevant parties can maintain restraint and not do anything to add tensions on the Korean peninsula."

With the US sending a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber jet over the Korean peninsula, China has called for more delicate handling of the situation. North Korea has described Trump as “insane.” In a tit-for-tat show of military might, South Korea and the United states have this week held air combat drills — a week after Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic ... Read More »

North Korean soldier shot trying to defect to South

A North Korean soldier was shot and wounded as he made it to a South Korean controlled border post. It was a rare defection at the only point where soldiers from the two sides stand just meters from each other. A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea on Monday by bolting across the border truce village of Panmunjom, the only place along the heavily-militarized Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where the two sides stand face-to-face. The North Korean soldier was shot and wounded by his own side before reaching the section controlled by South Korea. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital. There was no exchange of gunfire between the two sides, but South Korea said its forces were put on alert. North Korean soldiers occasionally try to defect across the heavily-fortified DMZ, but it is rare for defections at Panmunjom. Read more: - North Korea: From war to nuclear weapons - North Korean defector pushes for diplomacy in US testimony - What is China's role in the North Korean crisis? Cold War relic Unlike the rest of the DMZ, the border post at Panmunjom has no mines or barbed wire and is only separated by a low concrete barrier. Soldiers from each side stand only a few meters (yards) away from each other. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said that soldiers at the border post are often chosen for their loyalty to avoid defections. More than 30,000 North Koreans have fled the hermit country since it was split 1948. Most attempts to flee are made through China before defectors go to South Korea. Separately on Monday, South Korean police arrested a 58-year-old American man from Louisiana in a restricted zone apparently trying to reach North Korea. Yonhap reported the American man wanted to cross to the North for "political purposes." He is being investigated by the army, intelligence services and police.

A North Korean soldier was shot and wounded as he made it to a South Korean controlled border post. It was a rare defection at the only point where soldiers from the two sides stand just meters from each other. A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea on Monday by bolting across the border truce village of Panmunjom, the ... Read More »

US-South Korea military drills – an unnecessary provocation?

Amid serious tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the US and South Korea have begun their joint military exercises. For Pyongyang, the drills are a prelude to invading North Korea. Fabian Kretschmer reports from Seoul. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their much-anticipated joint military exercises. The maneuvers, named theUlchi Freedom Guardian, largely consist of computer simulations inside a bunker facility located south of Seoul. According to the South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo, the following scenario, among others, is being tested during the exercise: In a potential military operation, how to carry out a preventive strike against the North Korean leadership. As expected, Pyongyang responded harshly to the drills. The Sunday edition of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the US-South Korea military exercises were a step towards nuclear war, and that they were similar to pouring "gasoline on fire." For the regime led by Kim Jong Un, the "defense exercises" are a preparation for invasion. History tells us that North Korea reacts harshly to US-South Korean exercises. Last year in August, after joint maneuvers, the North Korean military launched a missile from a submarine. A little later, the communist country conducted its fifth nuclear test. - Eyeing North Korea, US and Japan to boost military ties - Where did North Korea get its missile technology? Tense times The 11-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill involves 50,000 South Korean and 17,500 US troops. The question remains whether the US will deploy long-range nuclear bombers or atomic submarines to the Korean Peninsula during the drills. The military exercises always take place at the end of August, therefore they could be seen as a routine affair. But this time around the situation on the Korean Peninsula is extremely tense. In July, North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), after which US President Donald Trump threatened the North with dire consequences. Kim's threat to attack the US Pacific island of Guam further escalated the situation. But Daniel Pinkston, a military expert who teaches at Troy University in Seoul, says the US-South Korea drills will not push the region to a war. On the contrary, Pinkston believes the more prepared US and South Korean troops are the lower will be the threat from North Korea. "Most US troops in South Korea are stationed for only one year. It requires regular exercises to study the communication processes," he told DW. De-escalation calls In recent times, however, calls have been growing for the US and South Korea to suspend their military drills. In exchange for their suspension, China has suggested that North Korea should freeze its nuclear program. Pyongyang has already indicated its willingness to implement such a deal. Read: What is China's role in the North Korean crisis? Even a high-ranking US official has for the first time expressed views in favor of at least reducing the scale and scope of the military drills. According to Edward Markey, a Democrat Senator from Massachusetts, it was President Trump who provoked North Korea through his aggressive rhetoric. Now Trump should refrain from using war rhetoric while US troops conduct exercises with their South Korean counterparts, Markey added. German-Korean filmmaker, Cho Sung-hyun, also points to what she considers a double standard. "If the US engages in drills simulating an invasion of North Korea, it is not considered a provocation, but if North Korea reacts with missile tests and verbal attacks, it is deemed a threat to the whole world," Cho told DW.

Amid serious tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the US and South Korea have begun their joint military exercises. For Pyongyang, the drills are a prelude to invading North Korea. Fabian Kretschmer reports from Seoul. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their much-anticipated joint military exercises. The maneuvers, named theUlchi Freedom Guardian, largely consist of computer simulations inside a ... Read More »

156-year-old map may reignite Japan-South Korea island dispute

South Korea occupies the rocky and remote islands of Dokdo, but Japan calls them Takeshima and claims they are an integral part of its territory. And as neither side is backing down, relations continue to deteriorate. The discovery of a map drawn in 1861 may reignite a simmering territorial row between South Korea and Japan, and further damage bilateral relations that are already strained. The map was drawn by Korean cartographer and geologist Kim Jeong-ho and clearly marks the rocky islets that are known in South Korea today as Dokdo as being part of the kingdom of Korea. The map covers the Korean Peninsula and has Dokdo close to the island of Ulleung, off the east coast. Japan, however, has long disputed South Korean control over the inhospitable islands and insists they are an integral part of the Japanese archipelago. Tokyo says the islands should be known as Takeshima. Ironically, the map was in the collection of a Japanese national and had previously been in a library in Pyongyang. Serial numbers on the map show the date that it was obtained - August 30, 1932, when Japan was the colonial master of the peninsula - but little is known about its whereabouts in the intervening years. Hailed as more proof The discovery has been reported in South Korean media and hailed as yet another piece of evidence that Dokdo - which have a detachment of armed police permanently stationed on them - are sovereign Korean territory. "All Koreans know that the islands are Korean and we are committed to protecting them," said Song Young-chae, a professor in the Center for Global Creation and Collaboration at Seoul's Sangmyung University. "There have been songs written about Dokdo and they have appeared on postage stamps, so they are constantly in our minds as being Korean," he told DW. "The Japanese claims to the islands have no basis in historic fact and we find it stunning that they continue to claim the islands as theirs," he added. According to Seoul's position on Dokdo, they only came under the control of Tokyo when Imperial Japan invaded the Korean Peninsula in 1910. The islands were then ceded to Shimane Prefecture, the closest part of mainland Japan, until Japan was defeated in World War II and surrendered in August 1945. The fine print of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 now becomes important in the dispute. South Korea says that early drafts of the agreement included Dokdo among the thousands of islands and parcels of territory that had been seized by Japan and were to be returned to their historic owners across Asia. By the sixth draft of the agreement, however, all the place names had become so cumbersome that for the sake of convenience only three major Korean islands were identified by name. And Seoul believes if the islands were being returned to their historic owners, then they are clearly Korean. Seeking settlement Supporting South Korea's claims are ancient descriptions of the islands being part of the Silla Dynasty in 512 AD as well as maps and documents - Korean, Japanese and those made by Western explorers - amassed by the Seoul-based Northeast Asian History Foundation. Arguably the most persuasive piece of evidence is a map produced as late as 1877 by Japan's Department of the Interior and which is held at the National Archives in Tokyo. The document shows that in a reply to a letter from the department to Japan's Great Council of State in March of that year, the council made it clear that Japan had no relationship with Dokdo. But in Tokyo, the government now brushes aside Seoul's claims and insists that the islands are an inherent part of Japanese territory, based entirely on historical facts and international law. An extensive section on the website of the Japanese foreign ministry states, "The Republic of Korea has been occupying Takeshima with no basis in international law. Any measures the Republic of Korea takes regarding Takeshima based on such illegal occupation have no legal justification. "Japan will continue to seek the settlement of the dispute over territorial sovereignty over Takeshima on the basis of international law in a calm and peaceful manner," it adds. To support its claim, Japan has proposed that the dispute be taken to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and that both sides be given the chance to stake their claims to the islands. Seoul has so far refused. Demands that South Korea return the islands to Japanese control are most vociferous in Shimane Prefecture, which is 211 kilometers to the south. Takeshima Day On February 22 every year, the prefecture marks Takeshima Day with a series of events that invariably attract nationalist politicians from Tokyo and, equally inevitably, attract criticism from South Korea. Hiromichi Moteki, acting chairman of the rightwing Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, says the growing animosity toward Japan demonstrated by the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in is "not a normal human attitude." "I am not an expert on maps and I believe that careful analysis needs to be carried out to determine the accuracy of this newly discovered map," he said, but added that there has been a concerted campaign against Japan by the South Korean leadership that threatens to further harm the bilateral relationship. One of the biggest areas of contention is the agreement signed in 2015 by the leaders of Japan that was designed to draw a final line under the issue of "comfort women," the women in occupied countries forced to work in brothels for Japanese troops. Since his election in May, Moon has overseen the creation of a panel to look into scrapping the agreement. "I would say that at present, this is the worst two-way relationship between Japan and South Korea that I have ever experienced," said Moteki. "And this map could make things even worse. I hope things will improve, but I fear that they will only get worse."

South Korea occupies the rocky and remote islands of Dokdo, but Japan calls them Takeshima and claims they are an integral part of its territory. And as neither side is backing down, relations continue to deteriorate. The discovery of a map drawn in 1861 may reignite a simmering territorial row between South Korea and Japan, and further damage bilateral relations ... Read More »

How North Korea hype helped South Korea’s pro-peace Moon

South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, cannot rely on his resounding election victory for long. Analyst Sven Schwersensky tells DW that Moon has to deliver on difficult issues, both domestically and regionally. DW: It wasn't a surprise that Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party won the South Korean presidential election, but the margin with which he defeated other candidates was quite big. Did you expect the outcome? Sven Schwersensky: The final result was pretty much what the polls had predicted, but what came as a surprise was that the second in race from former President Park Geun-hye's party, Hong Joon Pyo, lost by a significant margin. This was not expected by many in South Korea. One noticeable thing in the election was that about 30 percent of voters cast a blank ballot. This, in my opinion, was a protest by a large number of conservative voters who showed their mistrust to all presidential candidates. It also shows that Moon now has a very important task to perform, most importantly to work for social cohesion to overcome deep divisions and polarization in the country. This is going to be a huge but essential task. An important step in this regard will be constitutional reforms, which Moon said he would strive for and make a preliminary decision on it next year. South Korea is facing a number of crises. The unemployment is growing, the income gap is expanding, corruption is on the rise, and then there is a worsening conflict with North Korea. How can Moon deal with so many issues? Unlike his predecessors, Moon was sworn in immediately after the polls. He has already taken some steps to address the issues. He has ordered the setting up of a job creation committee. Moon promised during his election campaign that he would create 170,000 new jobs in the public sector alone and a total of more than 800,000 jobs over the five years of his presidential term. How difficult will it be for the new president to regain public confidence in the government? Moon needs to establish a different form of political communication, both with parliament and the people. After his victory, he held meetings with the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament and offered them his cooperation. These were short meetings but they show that the new president wants to work together with everyone. Moon says he wants to start a dialogue with North Korea, building on the approach of his mentor and former President Roh. He also said he was willing to visit Pyongyang under favorable conditions. How do you expect Moon to deal with the crisis unfolding on the Korean Peninsula? With the appointments of the secretary of the union and the prime minister, Moon has signaled that he wants to proceed very quickly on his election promises regarding North Korea. At the same time, however, Moon has made it clear that he is aware of the fact that the stringent international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang are necessary. I think the new South Korean president would like to resume talks on the reopening of Kaesong and, perhaps he will initiate other joint economic projects with the North. It will be beneficial for South Korea's economy. To what extent has the conflict with North Korea affected the election result? It is always the case that the conservative camp plays up the fear of a possible North Korean attack and the liberal bloc advocates peace and tries to convince the people that the conflict with Pyongyang cannot be resolved through military means. This time too, the same question dominated the election campaign. Moon, however, has apparently benefited from the North Korea issue, because the conservatives, as well as the United States, overstated the topic. In his election campaign, Moon hinted that he wanted South Korea to rely less on the United States. What will it mean for the US-South Korea relations and, significantly for the future of the US' deployment of the THAAD missile defense system? I think Moon would want a more self-assertive role for South Korea in its dealing with the US. The missile defense system was an important topic in the last phase of the election campaign when US President Donald Trump and his security adviser pointed that Seoul must fund THAAD completely or at least jointly, like other security measures. The Moon administration will also focus on improving ties with China. Nevertheless, whether it will get South Korea any concessions on the missile defense system is unclear. Sven Schwersensky is the country representative for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Seoul. The interview was conducted by Esther Felden.

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, cannot rely on his resounding election victory for long. Analyst Sven Schwersensky tells DW that Moon has to deliver on difficult issues, both domestically and regionally. DW: It wasn’t a surprise that Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party won the South Korean presidential election, but the margin with which he defeated other candidates was ... Read More »

Head of retail powerhouse Lotte indicted in South Korea corruption scandal

The chairman of retail giant Lotte has been charged over the graft scandal that brought down the country's leader. Ousted President Park Geun-hye has also been formally indicted. Shin Dong-bin, the head of South Korea's retail powerhouse Lotte, was charged with bribery on Monday after he allegedly offered 7 billion won (5.79 million euros, $6.15 million) to a sports foundation linked to a close aide of former President Park Geun-hye. Sixty-two-year-old Shin was indicted in Seoul without being detained by prosecutors. Scandal widens The retail giant denied allegations that it made improper deals with Park, or those linked to her, for favors. Lotte, which owns hotels, stores and food products, becomes the second conglomerate mired in the political scandal after Jay Y. Lee, the chief of Samsung Group, was arrested in February. Former President Park was also charged on Monday with taking bribes worth about 29.8 billion won from Samsung in exchange for supporting Lee's succession, according to a statement from prosecutors. "We have formally charged Park ... with multiple offences including abuse of power, coercion, bribery and leaking state secrets." they said. Park still in jail Park has been behind bars at a detention center in the outskirts of Seoul since her arrest last month. She was impeached by parliament in December after months of public protests. The decision was upheld by the country's Supreme Court last month. The sixty-five-year-old has been accused of colluding with her confidante Choi Soon-sil to receive bribes from Lotte and Samsung. Choi, who is currently on trial over the scandal, now faces an additional charge of bribery involving Shin. She allegedly used her links to the president to force local firms to "donate" nearly 66 million euros to organizations, and allegedly used the cash for personal gain.

The chairman of retail giant Lotte has been charged over the graft scandal that brought down the country’s leader. Ousted President Park Geun-hye has also been formally indicted. Shin Dong-bin, the head of South Korea’s retail powerhouse Lotte, was charged with bribery on Monday after he allegedly offered 7 billion won (5.79 million euros, $6.15 million) to a sports foundation ... Read More »

Pence visits DMZ border zone day after North Korea missile test

The US vice president has made a trip to an American base in South Korea close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. He said the US "era of strategic patience" with Pyongyang was over. US Vice President Mike Pence continued his 10-day trip to Pacific nations Monday by visiting an American military base in South Korea just a few hundred meters south of the tense border with North Korea (DMZ). This is Pence's first trip to the Korean Peninsula since assuming office in January. Pence said it was "particularly humbling" to be at Camp Bonifas, a US-led UN command post, mentioning his father's military service during the Korean War. Pence emphasized the relationship between the US and South Korea. "The alliance between the United States Forces Korea and the forces of the Republic of Korea is historic," said Pence. "It is a testament to the unshakable bond between our people." "All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country," Pence remarked. In regard to North Korea, Pence said: "There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over." Pence's visit comes amid high tension between the US and North Korea. Pence called North Korea's failed ballistic missile test a "provocation" before gathered US military personnel. The missile test occurred following a parade that celebrated the 105th birthday of the late first Korean President Kim Il Sung. "This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world," said Pence. Pence is scheduled to visit the gateway to the DMZ and acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn on Monday. After South Korea, Pence is scheduled to travel to Japan, Indonesia and Australia during his 10-day trip. Trump, US allies on North Korea North Korea has launched short- and mid-range missiles in recent months. The country has also conducted five nuclear tests, including two in the previous year. North Korea's conducting nuclear tests is in defiance of UN resolutions on the country. US President Donald Trump has previously stated that if allies surrounding North Korea do not act to end North Korea's military program, the US will do it alone. China, North Korea's northern neighbor and sole political ally, previously spoke out against the missile tests. China banned the import of North Korean coal, Pyongyang's most important export, on February 26. Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, said China recognizes the severity of the situation, telling US media outlet ABC on Sunday "this situation just can't continue." Shinzo Abe, prime minister of fellow US ally Japan, demanded North Korea comply with UN resolutions and abandon developing nuclear missiles. "Japan will closely cooperate with the US and South Korea over North Korea and will call for China to take a bigger role," Abe told parliament.

The US vice president has made a trip to an American base in South Korea close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. He said the US “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang was over. US Vice President Mike Pence continued his 10-day trip to Pacific nations Monday by visiting an American military base in South Korea just a ... Read More »

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