Issue 25: November 22 - December 6, 2017


South Korea's Debate on Abortion

Patrick Niceforo

On Nov 26, 2017, Cho Kuk, the Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs,issued a statement in response to a petition for abortion rights. The petition, originally posted on the South Korean President’s website at the end of September, had garnered over 230,000 signatures by the end of October. The Moon administration in South Korea has pledged to respond to petitions that receive at least 200,000 signatures within a month.

Abortion in South Korea is prohibited according to Sections 269 and 270 of the 1953 Criminal Code of the Republic of Korea. However, physicians may perform abortions if pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, if the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to jeopardize the mother’s health, or if the woman or her spouse suffers from a hereditary mental or physical disease. Married women must obtain their spouse’s permission before receiving an abortion and, any abortion, regardless of circumstance, is prohibited after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Women who receive abortions can receive up to a year of imprisonment while physicians who perform them can face up to two years.

Secretary Cho’s statement included a summary of the current legal status of abortion in South Korea and government plans to conduct a survey on abortion. South Korea’s Constitutional Court is also reviewing the country’s anti-abortion law. Regardless of abortion’s legal status in South Korea, those who seek it can find it either at illegal clinics or by going abroad. Some choose to take medication such as Mifegyne, an illegal abortion pill that has become widespread in South Korea. [Visit the Blue House’s website to see a discussion and live opinion poll on abortion’s legality.]

Bank of Korea Raises Interest Rate

Andrew Jung

On Nov 29, 2017, the Bank of Korea decided to raise its benchmark interest rate from 1.25% to 1.5%. It is the first time that the Bank has raised its interest rate since 2011. The Bank of Korea’s governor Lee Ju-yeol said the Bank decided to adjust to forecasts of increasing economic growth and prevent “financial imbalance.” 

The Bank’s Monetary Policy Board is optimistic that domestic economic growth will exceed its expectation of growth at 3% due to the recovering global economy, improving consumption, increase in exports, and improved trade conditions with China. However, the Board will also remain flexible in adjusting its stance depending on the impact of the rate hike. 

Analysts suggest that the Bank will assess the impact of the rate hike during the first two quarters of next year. Globally, analysts believe that the rate hike will lead to rate hikes in other Asian countries in 2019. Economic growth and increasing inflation will lead other Asian central banks to raise rates. 

The Bank decided to raise interest rates as South Korea’s economy continues to grow due to strong exports. The International Monetary Fund projected that trade will increase by 4.2% at the end of 2017, outpacing economic growth. South Korea’s manufacturing companies like Samsung Electronics are some of the biggest beneficiaries.

The Bank’s decision was also made in response to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s likelihood of increasing its interest rates next month that would cause capital outflows from South Korea. The decision for the rate hike was also aimed at slowing the increasing rate of household debt in South Korea. Household debt has increased by 31.2 trillion won to 1,419.1 trillion won ($1.3 trillion) in the third quarter of this year. The rate hike, however, also raises concerns that heavily indebted households could face more difficulty in repaying its loans.

North Korea's Third ICBM Launch

Leon Whyte

On Wednesday, Nov 29, North Korea successfully completed its third intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch. This launch traveled further into the atmosphere and had a longer flight time than the first two launches earlier this year, reaching a height of 2,800 miles and flying for 54 minutes. The missile landed within waters inside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, about 620 miles away from its launch site.

The missile was launched in a lofted trajectory, that is, almost straight up in the air. However, if the missile had been launched on a standard trajectory, it could have had a range up to 8,000 miles, potentially even reaching Washington, D.C.

North Korea has named the new type of missile that was launched theHwasong-15. The Hwasong-15 is taller and wider than the previous ICBMs, the Hwasong-14, that North Korea launched in July. North Korea claims that the Hwasong-15 is “capable of carrying a super-heavy nuclear warhead.” Nuclear experts suggest that this most recent ICBM test launch was conducted with a dummy warhead of a weight similar to an actual nuclear warhead.

Despite the technical advances of the Hwasong-15, it is still unlikely that North Korea can actually deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland. North Korea has yet to prove that it has mastered the technology necessary to fit a nuclear warhead into the missile and have it survive the extreme temperatures involved with reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

In response to the North Korean test, U.S. President Trump claimed that “it is a situation that we will handle.” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stated that the launch “went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” and that the launch was “a continued effort to build a threat — a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace, regional peace, and certainly, the United States.” 

North Korean Missile Lands in Sea West of Japan

Jessie Chen

On Nov 28, 2017, North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile that landed west of the northern end of Honshu, Japan’s largest island. The missile went longer and higher than the previous missiles, revealing the progress of North Korean missile development. At the time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held an emergency Cabinet meeting in Tokyo since the missile landed in waters within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Prime Minister Abe said “We will never yield to any provocative act. We will maximise our pressure.”

It is the first North Korean missile test since Sep 15, 2017, which flew over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. After the launch of the missile, U.S. President Donald Trump and Abe talked over the phone exchanging views. The two sides reaffirmed the commitments and agreed that North Korea’s increasing provocations undermined regional security.

Amid the North Korean Missile crisis, Fukuoka, Japanese Prefecture, conducteda drill for the J-Alert system on Dec 1, 2017. During the drill, the Japanese government sent warnings to mobile phones and temporarily stopped all of the city’s trains.

In addition to the North Korean missile launch, a North Korean boat carrying 10 men was discovered on a Japanese island. This is not the only North Korean boat that has drifted into the Japan Sea, more than 20 North Korean fishing boats drifted into the Japan Sea last month. The Japanese government hasstarted investigating the boats and the men.

This Week in History: U.S. President-elect Dwight Eisenhower Goes to Korea

On Nov 29, 1952, newly-elected U.S President Dwight Eisenhower fulfilled a campaign promise, visiting Korea to find solutions to end the Korean War. As a Republican presidential candidate, he has been critical of former-President Truman’s inability to end the Korean War. Eisenhower had promised to go to Korea, if elected, to get a good understanding of the situation. This promise boosted his popularity, and he won the presidential election against Democratic opponent Adlai Stevenson. In his visit to Korea, he met with U.S. troops and also inspected North Korean and Chinese defenses over the 38th Parallel. The visit convinced him that a military solution is costly and that a diplomatic solution by pressuring both sides to negotiate a truce would be best. After taking office, he adopted a tough policy to induce peace negotiations, threatening to arm the Nationalist Chinese in Taiwan against Communist China and using necessary force, even implying the use of nuclear weapons. Finally, both sides of the 38th Parallel agreed to an armistice in July 27, 1953, bringing an end to the conflict and creating the two Koreas.


DC Asia Policy Happy Hour - Dec 2017
5:30 PM- 9:00 PM, Friday, December 8, 2017
Mission- Dupont Circle
1606 20th St NW
Washington, District of Columbia

U.S.-Korea Defense Acquisition and Security Cooperation
9:00 AM- 12:30 PM, Monday, December 11, 2017
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

North Korea: The Land of Lousy Options
6:30 PM- 9:00 PM, Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Hosted by The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and The Korea Economic Institute
Woo Lae Oak Korean Restaurant
8240 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182

Film Screening: Spirits' Homecoming, Unfinished Story
Hosted by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues, Inc.
Ampitheater, Marvin Center
The George Washington University
800 21st Street, NW, 3rd Floor,
Washington DC 20052
5:00 PM-8:00 PM, Thursday, December 14, 2017 and

Auditorium, Building II
Universities at Shady Groves (USG)9630 Gudelsky Drive
Rockville, MD 20850
3:00 PM-5:00 PM, Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017 Multi-APA Collective Toy Drive*
6:30 PM- 9:00 PM, Monday, December 11, 2017
Hosted by NAAAP DC and DC Asian Pacific American Film
Penn Social
801 E St NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20004
*Sejong Society is proud to be a community supporter for the Multi-APA Collective Toy Drive