Issue 46: October 4 - October 24, 2018

Sejong Society Recruitment

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 SejongSociety'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 SejongSociety'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 TheSejong 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!


Recurrent Issues Over Comfort Women Threaten 2015 Agreement

Michael Buckalew

Over the past few weeks tensions between South Korea and Japan over the “comfort women” have gained international attention. The tensions threaten to undermine or even negate the Dec 2015 agreement on the issue. The agreement reached between then-South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s governments on the issue was called“final and irreversible” at the time.

The most recent disagreement is regarding the management and what to do with funds provided from Japan. There have been allegations of mismanaged funds for the “The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation” and irregularities in those selected to receive funds. In July 2018, the South Korean cabinet approved a budget to “freeze” funds provided by Japan and creating its own fund to support surviving “comfort women.” Subsequently, the money was replaced by a fund from the South Korean Ministry of Gender Equality.

At the United Nations General Assembly in late September, President Moon hinted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the “The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation” might be scrapped due to public opposition in South Korea. President Moon also stated that the fund should be brought to a “judicious conclusion”, leaving ambiguity on the timeline and mechanisms for doing so.President Moon’s spokesman stated “…the president said he will neither abandon, nor demand its renegotiation.” This leaves the status of the overall agreement’s longevity in doubt.

Further complicating this is the fact that the South Korean constitutional court is expected to rule on lawsuit against Japanese companies by forcibly conscripted workers during World War II. The recent flare up in tensions over these issues makes it more challenging to have Japanese policy on North Korean coordinated with the U.S. and South Korea.

As a result of the increased tensions over the “comfort women” issue, the Osaka terminated sister-city ties with San Francisco over a statue built there. Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura made the declaration after the San Francisco city government recognized the privately built statues as public property. The two cities’ relationship is expected to be formally severed by the end of 2018

South Korean Taxi Drivers Strike Over Kakao's Ridesharing App

Andrew Jung

On Oct 18, 2018, approximately 60,000 taxi drivers went on strike in Seoul. The strike started at 4:00AM on Thursday for 24 hours and there was an afternoon rally in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul. The purpose of the strike was to protest against Kakao Mobility’s plan for a ridesharing app called Kakao T Carpool. Kakao has started recruiting drivers that are already registered on Luxi.

Luxi was a carpool startup that Kakao bought in February 2018. The taxi drivers are opposed to Kakao’s move due to fear of losing business. They also rely on Kakao T Taxi, another app that connects taxis to customers. Kakao T Taxi has nearly 17 million users and taxi drivers using the app earn a monthly average of 960,000 wons ($849USD).

The strike reportedly had little impact on the traffic in Seoul. Some commuterswere actually able to hail a taxi through the Kakao T Taxi app despite difficulties in the morning. Other commuters relied on the bus or subway. In other areas of South Korea outside Seoul, there were varying participation of taxi drivers on strike so there was little impact on commuters, except for Incheon and Gyeonggi province where commuters experienced delays in hailing taxis.

Kakao maintained that Kakao T Carpool will only be used for morning and evening rush hours in response to public complaints over unavailability of taxis during peak hours. It pointed out its Sept 20 data of 205,000 callers on the Kakao app between 8:00AM- 9:00AM but only 37,000 taxis available.

However South Korea’s taxi drivers still distrust the move and consider ridesharing apps as an “unlicensed threat”. The app is yet to be launchedpending South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport’s announcement on ridesharing policy. Under Article 81 of South Korea’s Passenger Transport Act, personal cars cannot be used for business purposes, which makes it illegal for international ridesharing apps like Uber to operate.

However carpooling companies were able to use a loophole that allows carpooling during commuting hours which is vague in interpretation. Somestartups were able to work around the law like VCNU that launched a app Tada that provides passenger vans between Seoul and Incheon, because the law allows vans that has 11-15 seats.

Kakao believes its plan will help to balance the supply and demand issue of hailing taxis during peak times and will be in dialogue with the taxi industry. It also needs South Korea’s government to ease the regulations but the government could face opposition from interest groups for taxi drivers.

South Korea Jumps to Rank 15 in the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Index

Jaemin Baek

On October 17, 2018 the World Economic Forum (“WEF”) Global Competitiveness Report revealed that South Korea’s ranking rose by two places. In the rankings, South Korea rose from 17th to 15th. The WEF noted that the rise in rankings, however, were negatively affected by Korea’s labor market as well as structural, economic issues.

In particular, the WEF report noted that the lack of domestic competition reduced the competitiveness within the product market while the labor market rigidity and underemployment of human capital were major weaknesses. 

This Week in History: U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Makes Historic Visit to North Korea

On Oct 23, 2000, Madeleine Albright became the first United States Secretary State to visit North Korea. She met North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il to lay the groundworks for U.S. President Bill Clinton’s potential visit to North Korea. The three-day visit was also expected to raise the issues of North Korea’s missile program and its sale of missiles to Iran and Syria.

According to Albright’s memoir Madam Secretary, in the first day, Albright and Kim Jong-il discussed the sale of missiles, which Kim Jong-il claimed that it is needed to gain foreign currency. In the evening, he took Albright to a cultural performance at May Day stadium that included a Taepodong missile launch, which he said was the first and last.

In the second day, Kim was amenable to the United States proposal on a ban on missile exports. Albright also tried to encourage Kim to open North Korea’s economy to the world. He rejected the Western and Chinese model but liked the Thai model that retained the monarchy and also has a market economy. Albright believed in her memoir that Kim was more interested in Thailand preserving the monarchy. 

Other Events

Thinking Strategically About Human Rights Challenges in Negotiations with North Korea
10:00 AM- 11:00 AM, Monday, October 29, 2018
The Heritage Foundation
Allison Auditorium
214 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002

Health Security and North Korea: Advance Film Screening and Discussion
2:00 PM- 4:00 PM, Monday, October 29, 2018
Center for Strategic and International Studies
1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

SoriN Corp presents 1st Annual Korean Culture Show
Hosted by SoriN Corp, in partnership with Sorichung Enterprise
3:30 PM- 5:00 PM, Thursday, October 30, 2018
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 
2700 F Street, NW 
Washington, DC 20566

North Korea’s Overseas Workers: Human Rights and Proliferation Concerns
Hosted by CRDF Global
9:00 AM- 11:00 AM, Thursday, November 1, 2018
National Press Club, Fourth Estate Room
529 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20045

What's Next? Korea Defense Veterans Association Seminar & Reception
Hosted by Korea Defense Veterans Association
9:00 AM- 6:00 PM, Thursday, November 8, 2018
Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel
900 South Orme Street
Arlington, VA 22204

The 26th Annual Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium in the Korean Humanities
Hosted by GW Institute for Korean Studies
8:20 AM – 5:00 PM, Friday, November 9, 2018
Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E St. NW, City View Room, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20052