Countdown Clocks

Countdown Clocks

Tweets by @JGibsonDem
Posts tagged "South Korea"


North Korea, South Korea agree to family reunions 

BBC News: North Korea and South Korea set a date for reunions for families separated after the Korean War on Wednesday.

The countries scheduled the reunions to take place in late February. These would be the first reunions since 2010. The decision comes after North Korea cancelled a planned reunion in September, blaming hostility from the South. 

Follow updates at

Photo: Families meet briefly at the reunion events before returning to their respective homes. (AFP)


(via thepoliticalfreakshow)


A GOP congressman says talking to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is “like talking to the Republic of Korea.”

Then he really freaks out.

FYI, we think he meant North Korea.


Remember that post from this past weekend where we took a look at all the wonderful people who used the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash to let their racist flag fly?

Looks like one of them works for Bay Area news station KTVU!

That’s right. That did just happen. I’ll give you a second to catch your breathe…

But, seriously though:


"Sum Ting Wong." "Wi Tu Lo." "Ho Lee Fuk." "Bang Ding Ow."

The station has since apologized for the error stating an NTSB official confirmed these names to them but they were “not accurate.”

Tensions on the Korean peninsula are nothing new — historically, North Korea frequently rattles its saber for one reason for another. But the recent escalation in tensions between the North and South have experts worried that this time might be different, that the threat of the United States being drawn into a devastating war with the nuclear-armed North is real in a way that it might not normally be. At the very least, it’s worth paying special attention this time around.

The escalation of tensions began in mid-February, when North Korea conducted its third-ever nuclear test. While the North’s ability to strike the United States is limited at best, the Obama administration interpreted the test as a violation of international law, and pushed throughstricter, though still porous, sanctions on North Korean elites.

North Korea responded in turn by threatening to nullify the armistice that ended the original Korean War, reverting the North and South to a legal state of war. Two days ago, it shut off the last remaining line of communication between the two Korean militaries, warning that “Not words but only arms will work on the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces.”

Thursday night, the United States responded in kind, conducting a bombing drill with two B-2 bombers over South Korea. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel described the thinking behind the move: “The North Koreans have to understand that what they’re doing is very dangerous.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un got the message Friday morning. He ordered his country’s missile arsenal be readied to strike South Korea and the United States if necessary. While North Korean Unha-3 missiles could theoretically reach the West Coast, it’s not clear the missiles actually work. Moreover, North Korea lacks the technology to arm the missiles with nuclear warheads and to deliver them accurately even if they can get them in proper working order. 

So how is this different from the last 60-odd years of North Korean provocations? Many think it isn’t. Writing in the National Interest, Rajon Menon says the current Northern provocations are an example of the Hermit Kingdom’s “measured madness,” an attempt to wring more concessions out of an overcompensating international community.

But North Korea experts Victor Cha and David Kang disagree. They argue that Kim Jong Un’s inexperience (he’s only been running the country since December 2011), together with the South’s new President and more aggressive military stance, means there’s a greater risk (not certainty by any stretch, but risk) of escalation this time around:

So why worry? Two reasons. First, North Korea has a penchant for testing new South Korean presidents. A new one was just inaugurated in February, and since 1992, the North has welcomed these five new leaders by disturbing the peace. Whether in the form of missile launches, submarine incursions, or naval clashes, these North Korean provocations were met by each newly elected South Korean president with patience rather than pique. The difference today is that South Korea is no longer turning the other cheek…for half a century, neither side believed that the benefits of starting a major war outweighed the costs. The worry is that the new North Korean leader might not hold to the same logic, given his youth and inexperience.

So how do we know where this is going? The Washington Post’s Max Fisher suggests that you watch the joint North-South Kaesong Industrial Plant, which he believes the North would shut down in advance of any war.  Of course, states have gone to war with far less economic foresight, though there are other reasons to believe the North won’t go as far as war. It’s likely we’ll just have to wait and nervously see.

h/t: Zack Beauchamp at Think Progress Security

(CNN) — North Korea’s leader approved a plan to prepare standby rockets to hit U.S. targets, state media said Friday, after American stealth bombers carried out a practice mission over South Korea.

In a meeting with military leaders early Friday, Kim Jong Un, “said he has judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation,” the state-run KCNA news agency reported.

The rockets are aimed at at U.S. targets, including military bases in the Pacific and in South Korea, state media reported.

"If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, [we] should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea," KCNA reported.

Analysis: Just what is Kim Jong Un up to?

North Korean state media carried a photo of Kim meeting with military officials Friday. In the photo, the young leader is seated, leafing through documents with four uniformed officers standing around him.

On the wall behind them, a map entitled “Plan for the strategic forces to target mainland U.S.” appears to show straight lines stretching across to the Pacific to points on the continental United States.

South Korea and the United States are “monitoring any movements of North Korea’s short, middle and middle-to-long range missiles,” South Korean Defense Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok said Friday.

The fact is that despite the bombast, and unless there has been a miraculous turnaround among North Korea’s strategic forces, there is little to no chance that it could successfully land a missile on Guam, Hawaii or anywhere else outside the Korean Peninsula that U.S. forces may be stationed,” James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, wrote in an opinion column published Thursday on

North Korea’s latest threat Friday morning came after the United States said Thursday that it flew stealth bombers over South Korea in annual military exercises.

The mission by the B-2 Spirit bombers, which can carry conventional and nuclear weapons, “demonstrates the United States’ ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will,” a statement from U.S. Forces Korea said.

The North Korean state news agency described the mission as “an ultimatum that they (the United States) will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean Peninsula.”

The North has repeatedly claimed that the exercises are tantamount to threats of nuclear war against it.

But the U.S. military stressed that the bombers flew in exercises to preserve peace in the region.

"The United States is steadfast in its alliance commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea, to deterring aggression, and to ensuring peace and stability in the region," the statement from U.S. Forces Korea said, using South Korea’s official name. "The B-2 bomber is an important element of America’s enduring and robust extended deterrence capability in the Asia-Pacific region."

The disclosure of the B-2 flights comes a day after North Korea said it was cutting a key military hotline with South Korea, provoking fresh expressions of concern from U.S. officials about Pyongyang’s recent rhetoric.

Tensions escalated on the Korean Peninsula after the North carried out a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test last month, prompting the U.N. Security Council to step up sanctions on the secretive regime.

The deteriorating relations have killed hopes of reviving multilateral talks over North Korea’s nuclear program for the foreseeable future. Indeed, Pyongyang has declared that the subject is no longer up for discussion.

On Tuesday, the North said it planned to place military units tasked with targeting U.S. bases under combat-ready status.

Most observers say North Korea is still years away from having the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile, but it does have plenty of conventional military firepower, including medium-range ballistic missiles that can carry high explosives for hundreds of miles.

Little said Thursday that the United States was keeping a close eye on North Korea’s missile capabilities.


Pyongyang said its long-range missile and artillery units have entered combat posture and are targeting US military bases in Guam, Hawaii and mainland America.

"From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army will be putting in combat duty posture No. 1 all field artillery units including long-range artillery units strategic rocket units that will target all enemy object in US invasionary bases on its mainland, Hawaii and Guam," the North’s KCNA news agency said.

The North has previously threatened nuclear attacks on the US and its ally South Korea. Military experts believe the threats to be empty, since North Korea is several years from building a nuclear warhead or a missile capable of reaching the mainland US.

Pyongyang has made increasingly aggressive threats recently after the UN Security Council issued a new round of sanctions over North Korea’s third nuclear test in February. The isolated nation says it needs nuclear capabilities to protect its sovereignty from its southern neighbor and the US.

Pyongyang previously threatened to attack US bases in Guam and Okinawa, Japan, last week as the bases are used to launch nuclear-armed US B-52 bombers for the joint exercise.


Hong Kong (CNN) — The North Korean army has declared invalid the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953, the official newspaper of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party said Monday.

Since last week, North Korea had been threatening to scrap the armistice after the U.N. Security Council passed tougher sanctions against it in response to its February 12 nuclear test.

On Monday, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported that the Supreme Command of North Korea’s army had done so.

"The U.S. has reduced the armistice agreement to a dead paper," the newspaper said.

North Korea also cut off direct phone links with South Korea at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. The phone line was the emergency link for quick, two-way communication between the two sides.

The armistice agreement, signed in 1953, ended the three-year war between North and South Korea in a truce.

Since the two sides remain technically at war, it remains to be seen whether the invalidation means that either side can resume hostilities.

The Rodong Sinmun reported the Supreme Command saying that it can now make a “strike of justice at any target anytime, not bound to the armistice agreement and achieve the national reunification, the cherished desire of the Korean nation.”

However, the North has nullified the agreement on several occasions in the past. 

What is the armistice agreement?

It is the agreement that ended the war between North and South Korea. It is a truce, rather than a peace treaty.

Has the North ended the armistice before?

Yes. In 2003, Pyonyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced that it may have “no option” but to stop honoring the armistice because of the United State’s “persistent war moves.”

In 2009, North Korea said its military would no longer be bound by the agreement because South Korea was joining a U.S.-led anti-proliferation plan.

Part of the reason for the latest move are the joint exercises between the United States and South Korea. A bigger reason is tougher sanctions passed in the U.N. Security Council against North Korea in response to its nuclear test on February 12.

Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test, despite international condemnation.

What caused the division of Korea?

For most of the first half of the 20th century, Japan controlled the Korean peninsula as its colony. By the end of the World War II as Japan neared defeat, the allies agreed to an independent Korea. The United States and Soviet Union divided postwar occupation of Korea along the 38th parallel and the two sides were ideologically opposite.

Why did war break out?

On June 25, 1950, a surprise attack by North Korean soldiers who crossed the 38th parallel easily overwhelmed South Korean forces. The United States leapt to the defense of the South. As South Korean, U.S. and U.N. forces fought back and gained ground into North Korea, Chinese forces joined the war on the North’s side later that year. To this day, China remains a crucial ally of North Korea and the U.S. of South Korea. 

Without an armistice, what can happen?

The two sides can resume hostilities if they so choose.

What are the risks of a military clash?

A military clash could risk drawing in the United States, which has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as part of the security alliance between the two countries.


Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — Conservative candidate Park Geun-hye claimed victory Wednesday in South Korea’s presidential election, a result that will make her the country’s first woman president.

Addressing crowds in Seoul’s central Gwanghwamun Square, Park said her win was a victory for the people.

"I will be the president of the nation who keeps pledges," she said.

"This is considered a victory for people who want to overcome crisis and revive the economy. I will never forget the will of the people who believed in me wherever I went during the election campaign.

"I will start an era of happiness in the nation."

Her rival, liberal candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party, conceded victory, according to South Korean network YTN.

South Korea’s outgoing President Lee Myung-bak congratulated Park on her win, which comes at a time of rising economic anxiety for the nation.

The result has not yet been confirmed by the country’s National Election Commission.

But Park was leading with 51.66% of the vote, to 47.91% for her rival Moon, with more than 94% of the vote counted, election officials said.

U.S. President Barack Obama sent a message of congratulations to Park on Wednesday.

"I look forward to working closely with the Park Administration to further enhance our extensive cooperation with the Republic of Korea on a wide range of important bilateral, regional and global issues," he said. "The U.S.-ROK alliance serves as a lynchpin of peace and security in the Asia Pacific, and our two nations share a global partnership with deep economic, security, and people-to-people ties."

Obama also praised Lee for what he said the outgoing leader “has done to strengthen U.S.-ROK relations and promote a Global Korea.”

South Korea is also a strategic Western ally and the fourth-largest economy in Asia.

"I hope the next president can put what the people want and how the country can develop before the interests of their own party," said Yong Sung-hwa, who voted in the morning.

As in many other elections around the world, the economy is the No. 1 issue for South Korean voters. Though the Asian country has fared far better than other countries, including the United States, during the economic crisis, its export-led economy has still felt the pinch.

ee, the outgoing president, could not run for re-election, as it is prohibited by Korea’s constitution. He will leave office next year dogged by low approval ratings, an impasse with North Korea, and corruption scandals involving his family and inner circle. The Korean presidency has not enjoyed a sterling reputation.

Park and Moon also bring baggage from the past.

Park is the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, whose legacy left the Korean public divided. Some claim he was a dictator who ignored human rights and cracked down on dissent, while others credit him with bringing economic development to South Korea. Her father’s assassination in 1979 ended his 16 years of rule.

Moon is a former human rights activist who was imprisoned in the 1970s for protesting Park’s father’s regime. He is also a former special forces commando and holds a black belt in judo. Like Park, he carries divisive associations with the past. He was chief of staff for the late President Roh Moo-hyun, who was in office from 2003 to 2008. Roh committed suicide in 2009 amid an investigation into a bribery scandal.

Throughout the campaign, Moon portrayed himself as the down-to-earth choice, calling for welfare reform and economic democracy. Both candidates pledged reforms including engagement with North Korea, reining in the country’s big conglomerates — like Samsung and Hyundai — support for small and medium-sized businesses and more social spending, although their proposed methods differ.

Nowhere in the country is the gap between rich and poor more stark than Guryong village, part of the exclusive Gangnam district of Seoul, made famous by the viral “Gangnam Style” song by rapper PSY.


I just read a very interesting article on Busan Haps by Bobby McGill. It does a good job presenting the side of Psy that not many people care to bring up today: the guy who was dumping gasoline on the anti-American bonfire that raged following the tragic death of two school girls who were crushed by a U.S. military vehicle in 2002.

I was here in 2002, and it was intense. Restaurants were putting up signs that said, “No Americans.” Psy was just a kid at the time, and I am sure that he was caught up in the emotion. Still, Psy’s more risqué or controversial performances are becoming more and more well known, and all those kids listening to Gangnam style may not want to see the same guy singing something like, “Kill the yankees and their daughters, mothers, and fathers” on YouTube.

I do find it interesting that we have never seen a modern Korean artist of considerable fame do any anti-North Korean song or performance. After the bombings last year, there was barely a whimper let a lone a giant spectacle produced by Psy or anyone else to buoy the spirits of the families who were victims of the North Korean shelling.  At least I don’t recall such a thing. If there was, please let me know.


h/t: Korea Law Today

BBC Breaking News’s Twittter (@bbcbreaking):