Issue 24: November 7 - 21, 2017


Xi-Moon Meeting China-South Korea Bilateral Ties

Jessie Chen

On Nov 11th, 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in Danang, Vietnam, on the sidelines of the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting. Both sides agreed to resume normal bilateral ties, which had been damaged by the deployment of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system. President Xi and President Moon also plan to hold a bilateral summit in Beijing next month. 

The Xi-Moon meeting was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dandang, Vietnam and took about 40 minutes. During the meeting, the two leaders talked about the arrangement of President Moon’s visit to China and President Xi’s return visit. Further, both sides exchanged views on the issue of the THAAD missile defense system and the North Korean nuclear issue.

China-South Korea relations have been deeply damaged since July 2016 , when the U.S. and South Korea began to initiate the deployment of THAAD. As the bilateral relations are back on track, flights between China and South Korea arefilling up again. South Korean department store Lotte’s online duty-free sales to Chinese customers also rose 12% in early November.

President Xi expressed his support for pursuing peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, through “relax tensions on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea resuming dialogue and contact with the North, and working toward reconciliation and cooperation.” He noted that this meeting was a “new beginning and a good start.”

President Moon also met with Chinese premier Li Keqiang on Nov 13th, 2017, revealing that the two sides aim to normalize cooperation quickly after a-year-and-four-month frozen diplomatic situation.

South Korea's Venture into Autonomous Vehicles

Andrew Jung

On Nov 6th, 2017, South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport announced the opening of K-City, a testing site for self-driving cars.K-City is a 320,000 square meter town in Hwaesong, Gyeonggi Province that has cost 11 billion won (9.77 million USD) to make. Only the highway section has been completed thus far. K-City will be completed by late 2018.

The highway section was completed first to help test Level 3 autonomous cars which can self-drive in certain situations with the driver ready to take control. (A manual car is Level 0, and a fully autonomous car that does not require a driver is Level 5.) The Korea Herald reported that K-City is designed to“simulate highways, downtown areas, city outskirts and communal environments and have 35 different driving conditions.” Such “driving conditions” include toll gates, tunnels, intersections, construction sites and train track crossings. In order to further test the cars, potholes and pedestrian crossings were also added to the streets. 

K-City stands at 88-acres and hoped to be the biggest testing site for autonomous vehicles. However, it was dwarfed by American company Alphabet’s autonomous car project, Waymo that built its 91-acres test site Castle at Attwater, California. Alphabet is the parent company of Google. A much larger site will be at the Willow Run site in Ypsilanti, Michigan and designed by University of Michigan. The site is reportedly 335-acres and will open in December 2017. 

K-City is expected to be used by several Korean companies, such as Samsung, Hyundai, and Kia to test autonomous cars. Hyundai has already introduced its self-driving car, Ioniq at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (See the article on the Ioniq here.) Samsung has received permission in May 2017 from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport to test its self-driving cars on public roads. Samsung has been using Hyundai vehicles to test its self-driving car technology similar to Apple’s pursuit of self-driving car technology. 

Earlier in October 2017, analysts said that Samsung and other Korean companies like LG Electronics needs to invest more in developing software for autonomous driving to catch up to Western companies like Google. Samsung and LG have been competing to edge ahead in self-driving car technology. According to industry analysts, in November 2017, Samsung and Softbankcollaborated to invest $73 million in Innoviz Technologies, an Israeli startup, that is developing lidar technology to sense surroundings. LG has been focusing on making components for autonomous vehicles and has also invested $11 million with 10 other companies in M-City, another autonomous vehicle testing site by University of Michigan. Analysts believe this could help strengthen LG’s exchange of self-driving car technologies by cooperating with huge auto companies, such as Ford. 

From Nov 16-18, 2017, South Korea also hosted the world’s first motor show for autonomous vehicles. The Pangyo Autonomous Motor Show was held in Pangyo Zero City in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. The show heldcompetitions between human car drivers and autonomous cars. Both South Korean and international companies also held an industrial exhibition to showcase the latest self-driving car technologies. The auto show also introduced Zero Shuttle, South Korea’s first autonomous shuttle that can carry 12 passengers and will begin test runs in December. Pangyo Zero City isscheduled to finish construction as a test bed for autonomous vehicles by end of 2019.

South Korea Postpones its National College Entrance Exam

Patrick Niceforo

South Korea’s Ministry of Education postponed the annual Collegiate Scholastic Ability Test, or Su-neung, to Nov 23th, 2017 due to a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in Pohang earlier this month. One ministry official cited aftershocks, damaged test sites, and the psychological stress on test-takers as reasons for the postponement. Students in South Korea take the Su-neung, the approximate equivalent to the U.S.’ SAT exams, in order to gain college admission.

Nearly 600,000 thousand students registered to take the Su-neung all over South Korea this year. The test-taking day is observed throughout the country, with businesses and churches opening later, planes delaying takeoff, and police officers offering late students rides to their test-taking location. There is even asuperstition that one should eat sticky foods like yut, a type of taffy, in order to better retain the material studied for the test.

Unlike the U.S. SAT, which takes four hours to complete, the Su-neung takeseight hours. The Su-neung includes sections on Korean language, Korean history, mathematics, English, and a range of science subjects such as chemistry and physics. It is common for high school students in South Korea to enroll in hagwon, colloquially known as “cram school,” to supplement their Su-neung studies.

In recent years, many people have criticized the Su-neung for ambiguous questions. Although difficult questions are often to be expected on exams,unanswerable questions may have been the difference between enrolling in a good school and enrolling in a great school for some unlucky students in 2014. Given the nature of the exam, students who are unsatisfied with their scores must wait an entire year to retake it.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged to reduce discrimination based on academic background by abolishing the requirement of including such information on resumes. He also stated his hope of eliminating school rankings by integrating state institutions, including Seoul National University, one of South Korea’s top schools. Whether he will have time to address education policy in the near future, however is unclear given the ongoing security situation with North Korea.

South Korean President Moon's Southeast Asia Tour

Leon Whyte

On Nov 8th, 2017, South Korean President Moon embarked on his firstSoutheast Asian tour. During this trip, President Moon unveiled South Korea’s “New Southern Policy,” which aims at strengthening ties with Southeast Asian countries and building new economic links.

President Moon kicked off his tour in Indonesia, where he was accompanied by a delegation of about 200 business leaders. During this visit, South Korea and Indonesia signed a series of deals worth $1.9 billion. This included signing a memorandum of understanding regarding the construction of a light rail system in Jakarta. In the aftermath of the trip, both President Moon and Indonesian President Widodo declared that the relationship has been redefined as a “Special Strategic Partnership.”

President Moon’s next stop was in Da Nang, Vietnam where he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. During his time in Vietnam, President Moon held a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi. During this bilateral meeting, the two leaders agreed on the need to manage the North Korean nuclear problem in a stable way. They also agreed to normalize bilateral exchanges after South Korean-Chinese tensions related to the basing of the U.S. anti-ballistic missile system THAAD in South Korea.

The last stop of the trip was the Philippines where he attended ASEAN meetings. During one of the ASEAN meetings, President Moon stated that “As ASEAN and Korea are both entering an era of new leaps in development, I believe it is the most appropriate time to upscale the level of bilateral cooperation.” 

Also during his time in the Philippines, President Moon had a bilateral meetingwith Philippine President Duterte. During the meeting, the two leaders discussed developing greater economic ties and President Moon expressed his delight that “the Korean wave (Korean pop culture) is popular in the Philippines.”

According to Korea expert Scott Snyder, President Moon’s trip and his “New Southern Policy” is designed to raise South Korea’s relations with Southeast Asian countries to the equivalent of relations with major powers like the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia. Snyder also stated that the policy is more focused on economic and people-to-people relations rather than security related issues.

President Trump's Speech to National Assembly and the Moon-Trump Summit

Michael Buckalew

On Nov 7th, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump address the South Korean parliament. His visit and summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in touched on several key policy areas, including 1) the threat posed by North Korea, 2) South Korean achievements since the Korean War and, 3) the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Overall, both the speech and the bilateral summit provided some reassurance to South Koreans across the political spectrum, lessening fears of “Korea Passing”— that is, of South Korea being diplomatically sidelined. This was more than a year after Trump as a presidential candidate suggested that Japan and South Korea should go nuclear to ensure their national security.

Compared to prior speeches, President Trump modestly toned down his prior threatening rhetoric against North Korean provocations. This suggests that the U.S. President may be more open to negotiations with North Korea. However, President Trump also asserted that North Korea has interpreted Americanrestraint as weakness, suggesting a veiled threat against North Korea if they continue to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. This view was bolstered by South Korean conservatives, chiding progressives to “shak[e] off any fantas[ies]” they might have about the North.

Another dominant theme of the speech was South Korean economic, political, and social achievements. President Trump referred to the division of the Korean peninsula as “a tragic experiment in a laboratory of history.” He noted that South Korea built a prosperous nation and a thriving democracy, overcoming setbacks such as the 1997 Asian financial crisis, while North Korea remained a totalitarian prison state. President Trump also gave a shout out to several South Korean golfers as “some of the best on earth.”

The Moon-Trump summit focused on efforts by both leaders to bridge the real and perceived distance between them. President Trump emphasized his “great friendship” with President Moon, and President Moon framed President Trump’s more strident statements as “role-sharing” to wield in North Korea. In that vein, President Trump emphasized that the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement should be revised rather than the U.S. withdrawing from the agreement.The South Korean government further emphasized increased “burden-sharing” within the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, picking up 92% of the cost for the new Camp Humphries.

The speech and summit were not without drama and controversy. There were contingents of pro and anti-Trump protestors in Seoul. Also, during a state banquet, the South Korean government indirectly raised contentious issues with Japan. First, one of the surviving “comfort women” was invited to attend and the menu included shrimp caught near Dokdo/Takeshima, a disputed maritime territory between Japan and South Korea. The South Korean government saw the U.S. response as a diplomatic victory and the reaffirmation of their alliance.

This Week in History: South Korea Requests $20 Billion Aid from the International Monetary Fund

On Nov 21st, 1997, South Korea announced that it will seek $20 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). South Korea’s economy took a hit in the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, which first originated in Southeast Asia and spread globally, causing South Korea’s currency to decrease in value by over a 1,000 won to a dollar. South Korea’s President Kim Young-sam made a televised address asking for the public’s support for the bailout package and faced criticism as this will allow IMF to dictate economic policies for South Korea. The IMF only grants loans as long as the country agrees to follow its conditions, such as large-scale economic and financial reforms. On Dec 4th, 1997, South Korea and the IMF agreed to a $55 billion loan package, to which the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the United States, and several other nations also contributed. In return, South Korea had to cut public spending, take steps to attract more foreign investment, limit expansion of chaebols, and implement other reforms of financial institutions. 

External Events

2017 Giving Tuesday Pie Smash Happy Hour
6:00 PM- 9:00 PM, Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Hosted by Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL)
Sauf Haus Bier Hall & Garden
1216 18 St NW, 
Washington, DC 20036

King of Spies: The Dark Reign of America’s Spymaster in Korea
3:30 PM- 5:00 PM, Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004-3027

A Joint Conference on Russia and North Korean Nuclear Weapons
9:00 AM- 12:00 PM, Thursday, November 30, 2017
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004-3027

GTI Holiday Happy Hour
5:30 PM- 6:30 PM, Thursday, November 30, 2017
Global Taiwan Institute
1836 Jefferson Place Northwest
Washington, DC 20036

2017 End of Year Reception
Hosted by Korea Foundation and GW Institute for Korean Studies
6:30 PM- 8:30 PM, Thursday, December 7, 2017
The George Washington University
Elliott School of International Affairs Building, City View Room
1957 E St. NW 7th Floor, 
Washington, DC 20052


Program Assistant, Asia
Center for International Private Enterprise

APAICS Congressional Fellowship Program
Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS)