Issue 45: September 20 - October 3, 2018

Sejong Society Events

Save the Date!
U.S. - South Korea Alliance Restructuring
6:30 PM- 8:30 PM, Friday, October 12, 2018
Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E St. NW, Suite 505, 
Washington, DC 20052

Save the Date!
Sejong Society Fall Happy Hour
5:30PM- 7:00PM, Friday, October 19, 2018


President Moon's Activities at the 2018 UNGA

Michael Buckalew

Last week marked the beginning of high-level meetings at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). South Korean President Moon Jae-in focused his efforts at the UNGA in both promoting his efforts and encouraging international engagement with North Korea on denuclearization and taking steps to finalize the revised Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). Additionally, President Moon met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss the “comfort women foundation.”

At his speech to the UNGA on Sept 26th, President Moon emphasized the historic inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea summits and claimed significantprogress towards peace on the Korean Peninsula. President Moon, also saidduring his address,“I would like to thank and salute President Trump and Chairman Kim's courage and resolve as they usher in a new era on the Korean Peninsula as well as in U.S-North Korea relations.”

He also offered praise to Chairman Kim Jong-un for changing the direction of politics on the Korean Peninsula through his New Year’s address. This led to the Olympic Truce, which President Moon referred to as a “prelude to peace.” The last part of his address to the UNGA focused on asking the international community to engage with North Korea on a path to permanent peace.

Coinciding with the UNGA was the finalization of the revised KORUS-FTA. On Sept 24th, U.S. President Donald Trump and President Moon signed an update to the KORUS-FTA. The Trump Administration has been seen by some observers as “...need[ing] to declare a victory, to just do something and sell it as a win [on trade].” The updated KORUS FTA is the first completed trade dealsince President Trump took office. Additionally, it is anticipated that President Moon hopes the conclusion of the agreement will help to further build U.S.-South Korean cooperation in other areas.

The efforts to praise Kim Jong-un are intended to keep Trump and Kim “amenable to agreement”, which in Moon’s view is required for peace. The ultimate goal for President Moon is to formally and permanently end the Korean War.

Finally, during a meeting between President Moon and Prime Minister Abe, Moon called the “comfort women” foundation, “dysfunctional and suggested the two nations seek ways to close it.” However, details about the discussions are still vague, suggesting that this story will develop further over time. 

Current Disputes in the National Assembly

Andrew Jung

Recently, tensions and disagreements have been happening between the major opposition party, Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in’s administration. On September 28, 2018, the LKP announced it intended to file a complaint against the South Korean government over search-and-seizure of office of LKP lawmaker Shim Jae-cheol by public prosecutors. Shim Jae-cheol, at the time, was under investigation for accessing and leaking confidential government data on the government’s budget when his office was seized on September 21, 2018.

The Ministry of Economics and Finance pressed charges against Shim for violation of the communications network and electronic government act. Shimaccused the Ministry of false charges saying that the data was revealed due to a technical error. The LKP called the charges politically motivated and defended Shim Jae-cheol’s actions as routine in gathering information for a parliamentary audit. 

Shim Jae-cheol, whose aides accessed the data in question, had earlier claimed that the Moon Jae-in administration improperly spent 240 million won ($216,469) in operational expenses between May 2017 and February 2018. One allegation was that money was spent for nights and weekends outside business hours. The Moon Jae-in administration denied that the spending was improper. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) plans to ask the parliamentary ethics committee to decide on punishing Shim Jae-cheol for defamation and leaking false information.

Earlier on Sept 28, LKP floor leader Kim Sung-tae and other lawmakers visitedthe Supreme Prosecutor’s office to protest the actions against Shim Jae-cheol and vowed to investigate allegations of misuse of funds. The conflict is likely to derail further parliamentary sessions as the DKP and the Moon Jae-in administration are pushing for the ratification of the inter-Korean agreements from the recent inter-Korean summits between North Korea and South Korea.  

Demonstrating another dispute between the DPK, LPK, and other opposition parties, on Sept 27, 2018 the LKP and minor opposition Bareunmirae Party arerefusing to confirm DKP lawmaker’s Yoon Eun-hae’s nomination as both Education Minister and deputy Prime Minister for social affairs. They claim that their opposition  is due to her lack of qualifications and alleged unethical conduct. The National Assembly was supposed to agree on a confirmation hearing report in order for Yoon Eun-hae’s nomination to advance. 

However, the LKP refused to approve the report stating that Yoon Eun-hae was unfit due to unethical acts. In her Sept 19 confirmation hearing, Yoon Eun-hae was grilled over corruption allegations, such as falsely registering her daughter’s home address to send her to a better school, hiring her husband’s company employee as her secretary, and opening an office in a foundation’s building and using it for her campaigns.

Under law, President Moon Jae-in can still have her confirmed as Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister without the hearing report. The National Assembly cannot reject a nomination and refusal to adopt the report is their right to express protest. However a confirmation without parliamentary approval can be politically burdensome.

President Moon and President Trump Updated the Trade Agreement

Jaemin Baek

On the sidelines of a bilateral meeting at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) plenary session, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and United States President Donald Trump officially signed the amendments to the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) on Sept. 24, 2018.

At the signing ceremony, President Trump stated that the FTA was “a historic milestone in trade” and that “[t]his is a brand new agreement. This is not an old one rewritten. ... I'm very excited about that for the United States, and I really believe it's good for both countries.” President Moon was quoted saying that the amended FTA was “significant, in the sense that it expands the ROK-U.S. alliance to the economic realm, as well.” 

In the amendments, Korea was able to secure key provisions such as minorrevisions to the investor-state-dispute-settlement provisions of the KORUS FTA while the United States received concessions related to reducing non-tariff barriers - particularly  the auto industry. Most notably, the United States’ tariff schedules for light trucks has been extended from phasing out in 2021 to 2041.

The amendments, before taking effect, will have to go through the domestic ratification procedures of both South Korea and the United States. In South Korea, this  means that the National Assembly will have to pass the relevant implementing legislation and then ratify the amendments according to South Korea’s Constitution.

In this regard, the Moon Jae-in administration is seeking to have the National Assembly ratify the amendments by the end of the year. However, this schedule may be altered if the United States does not decide to exempt South Korea from the Section 232 investigation into automobile imports. 

This Week in History: Remembering Korea's Joan of Arc

September 28, 1920 was the date that Yu Gwan-sun died in prison after being arrested and tortured for protesting Japan’s colonial rule over Korea and demanding Korea’s independence. She was 18 years old.

She was born on Dec 16, 1902 to Christian parents in Cheonan, South Korea and her family was involved in the independence movement. She was a student at Ewha Haktang, the first modernized school for Korean women that was established by American missionaries.

She became involved in the mass protests against Japan’s rule and oppression, especially the March 1, 1919 protest crying out “Mansei!” (“Long live Korean independence!”). She spread word of the March 1 Movement giving speeches and rallying other protestors.

At her hometown Cheonan, there was a protest on April 1 where her parents were killed and she was arrested and sent to Seodaemun prison in Seoul. She and her fellow prisoners organized protests at the prison demanding freedom in the first anniversary of the March 1 movement. Eventually she was transferred to an underground cell where she tortured until her death.

In 2015, she was honored by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when receiving an honorary doctorate by Ewha University, comparing her to Joan of Arc. Currently, there is a Korean history campaign headed by Sungshin Women’s University professor Seo Kyung-duk to commemorate Yu Gwan-sun’s death with the involvement of European TV personalities Alberto Mondi andDaniel Lindemann who are working in South Korea. 

Other Events

China's Alliances with North Korea and the Soviet Union
3:30 PM- 5:00 PM, Thursday, October 4, 2018
Woodrow Wilson Center
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004

Turning Nuclear Swords Into Plowshares in North Korea
8:30 AM- 12:15 PM, Friday, October 5, 2018
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036

Interface: A Cross-Genre Exploration Opening Reception
6:00 PM- 8:00 PM, Friday, October 5, 2018
Korean Cultural Center 
2370 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20008

North Korea: The Most Reclusive Human Target
4:30 PM- 5:30 PM, Monday, October 29, 2018
Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20036