Issue 47: October 25 - November 6, 2018

Reminder: The Sejong Society is Recruiting!

The Sejong Society of Washington, D.C., is actively seeking qualified and motivated individuals to serve as committee members on our Programming, Communications, Operations, and Research Committees.

  • The Programming Committee assists with all aspects of The Sejong Society's public events, in both creative and logistical aspects. Securing and preparing venues, and reaching out to potential speakers, etc., are all part of this Committee's portfolio. Long-term planning abilities and exceptional time-management skills are essential.

  • The Communications Committee assists with managing The Sejong Society's communications and social media, including its website, e-mail distribution, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and printed materials. Either proficiency in these platforms or the willingness to learn is necessary, as are an acute sense of timeliness and excellent English writing and editing skills.

  • The Operations Committee assists with supporting and facilitating The Sejong Society's internal processes, ordering catering, identifying and especially transcribing minutes at board meetings, maintaining and organizing internal documents, etc. Members must be highly organized, detail-oriented, and security-minded.

  • The Research Committee assists with The Sejong Society's publication efforts. Members are expected to keep abreast of Korea-related news, commentary, and analysis, as well as academic- and professional-development opportunities in the field of Korea affairs. Members should also have a strong desire to compose original analytical pieces on behalf of The Sejong Society.

 We invite all interested candidates to complete the application hereunder. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and chosen candidates will be invited to meet the Board of Directors. Apply here! We will accept applications through the weekend.


U.S.-South Korea Annual Defense Talks in DC

Michael Buckalew

This year’s annual U.S.-South Korean Defense talks, the 50th Security Consultative Meeting (SCM), were held between South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in Washington, D.C on Oct 31, 2018. The discussions focused on four areas: 1) continued stationing of U.S. troops in South Korea, 2) transfer of military Operational Control (OPCON) to the South Korean army, 3) the status of upcoming joint U.S.-South Korean military drills and 4) implementation of the September 2018 Inter-Korean agreement.

Defense Minister Jeong emphasized the meeting’s importance with the alliance partners having begun an “audacious journey toward denuclearization of and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.” The subsequent document signed by Minister Jeong  and Secretary Mattis ensured that U.S. soldiers will remain on the Korean Peninsula going forward.

Another topic of focus was OPCON of joint U.S.-South Korean forces. Since the establishment of the United Nations command, United States Forces Korea have been in command in the event of an outbreak of hostilities. However, the U.S. and South Korea will agree to “conditions-based” OPCON transfer. This would involve certification of South Korea’s capacity to lead initially, then full operational capabilities and finally, full mission capability. If successful, the Moon administration hopes that both sides can agree to full OPCON transfer by the early 2020s.

Discussions of joint military exercises also featured prominently in the SCM. The U.S. and South Korea agreed to suspend the Vigilant Air ace exercises, a large air drill. Military drills such as this are interpreted as hostile provocations by North Korea. 

However, concerns have been raised about the suspension of military drillsweakening the alliance and military readiness. Youkyung Lee, a reporter for Bloomberg argues that suspending military drills is a part of President Trump’s “America First Policy”. A review will be undertaken in Nov 2018 with a decision by Dec 1, 2018 on whether to cancel 2019 joint U.S.-South Korean military drills.

The final topic covered was enforcement of the September 2018 Inter-Korean agreement to avoid accidental clashes with North Korea. Annex 2 of the inter-Korean agreement involved the removal of landmines from the Demilitarized Zone and disarming military personnel in the Joint Security Area, which was agreed to by the U.S.

Latest Updates on Inter-Korean Relations

Andrew Jung

On November 1, 2018, the military agreement between North Korea and South Korea took effect after being signed on September 19, 2018. The agreement bans hostility in land, sea, and air. It also created buffer zones in border areas to prevent accidental clashes. Both countries are banned from live-fire artillery drills near the Military Demarcation Line and a no-fly zone was established along the Demilitarized Zone. 

Earlier on October 26, 2018, both North Korea and South Korea’s generals had talks to form the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee that would implement the military agreement. It has been agreed earlier that each country’s committee will consist of “one vice minister-level chairperson, one deputy chairperson, and five additional members from each side.”

Possible candidates to be North Korea’s chairperson include So Hong-chan and Kim Hyong-ryong who are vice ministers from North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Armed Forces. When South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense announced that the military agreement went in effect, it mentioned that North Korea agreed to thoroughly follow the agreement and already implemented suspensions, such as closing of the gun ports in the West Sea coastal artillery.

Additionally, other inter-Korean talks are on the way. In the area of sports diplomacy, South Korea’s World Taekwondo (WT) led by Choue Chung-won visited North Korea on October 31, 2018 and met with North Korea’s International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). The WT team gave a performance in Pyongyang. Choue Chung-won met with ITF’s head Ri Yong-son to discuss integrating North Korean taekwondo athletes into the Olympics. They also discussed working together to have taekwondo listed in UNESCO cultural heritage as well as doing a joint performance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

On November 2, 2018, South Korea’s Vice Sports Minister and his delegation visited North Korea to discuss forming a unified team for the 2020 Olympics, as well as a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. It is the first inter-Korean sports talk since July when North Korea agreed to send athletes to participate in table-tennis matches in South Korea.

President Moon Jae-in's Budget Speech

Jaemin Baek

As the National Assembly of Korea prepares a budget for 2019, on Nov 1, 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered a speech outlining his government’s proposed record 470 trillion won budget. The proposed budget is a 9.7% increase from the previous year. 

In particular, the President Moon defended the increase stating that an expansionary budget was required for stimulating job growth, continuing the government’s policy of income-led growth. The budget proposal increases spending on job creation by 22% which aims to create more than 900,000 jobs. Separately, the Moon administration proposed an increase in the inter-Korean cooperation fund by 14.3%, a nod towards the government’s aim to deepen inter-Korean cooperation.

The opposition Liberty Korea Party and the Bareun Future Party, however,criticized the proposed budget noting that the income-led growth policy was not bearing fruit and that the government was too bullish on the future of inter-Korean cooperation. Both parties also noted that they would look to cut the proposed budget as they called for new economic policy direction. Looking into the future, the National Assembly is scheduled to hold a vote on the budget on November 30.

South Korean Supreme Court Ordering Nippon Steel to Compensate WWII Forced Workers 

Jessie Chen

On October 30, 2018, South Korean Supreme Court reaffirmed a 2013 ruling that ordered Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to compensate four forced South Korean labors during World War Two. Some South Korean officials and experts worried that the court’s ruling and decision could damage ties.

During Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula, Japan forced many Koreans to work in its wartime brothels. The case was initiated in 2005 by four steel workers, asking for compensation and unpaid wages. The 2013 order ruled Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp to pay $87,700 (100 million won) to each of the four workers. The Supreme Court ruled that four steel workers’ right was not closed by a 1965 treaty, which normalized bilateral diplomatic ties. It refused Japan’s government and court’s position. 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the decision was “impossible in light of international law,” and Japan will respond “resolutely” to the decision. Japan’s Foreign Ministry claimed that the issue on forced labor compensation was completely and finally settled by the 1965 deal. Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp said it is "deeply regrettable" for this decision. It said that it would, considering the Japan’s government response, review the Supreme Court’s decision carefully.

Currently, there are 14 similar cases pending in court, suing Japanese firms including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd and Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co Ltd.

This Week in History: South Korea's First Woman on Currency

On November 5, 2007, the Bank of Korea chose Shin Saimdang a Joseon-era artist as the first woman to be featured on South Korea’s currency, the 50,000 won. She was also the mother of famed Confucian scholar, Yi I, and nicknamed “the wise mother”. The Bank of Korea said it chose her to promote gender equality and South Korea’s government chose her due to being seen as the model of motherhood in Korean history. However feminist groups protested the decision as Shin Saimdang is seen more as an example of motherhood and wished for other female candidates that rose through the ranks of power in male-dominated fields.


A New Path Forward: Charting a Roadmap to Peace on the Korean Peninsula
Hosted by Hyundai-Motor Korea Foundation Center
9:30 AM- 3:30 PM, Thursday, November 15, 2018
Wilson Center
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20004

American Musicological Society Lecture “From World War to Cold War: Music in America’s Radio Propaganda in Korea”
7:00 PM- 9:00 PM, Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
6th Floor - James Madison Building
Washington, DC 20540

50 Years of Propaganda: A Glimpse into North Korean Domestic Initiatives
5:30 PM- 8:00 PM, Tuesday, December 4, 2018
The Stimson Center
1211 Connecticut Ave, NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20036


Program Officer - Korea & Mongolia
International Republican Institute

Program Assistant, Asia Security Initiative
Atlantic Council