Issue 48: November 7 - 20, 2018


Japanese TV Station Cancelled K-POP BTS Boyband's Performance Amid Controversy Over Atomic Bomb T-Shirt

Jessie Chen

TV Asahi, one of the biggest broadcast stations in Japan, cancelled BTS, a  KPOP boyband’s performance. This is due to a controversy where one of the group’s members wore a T-shirt with a picture of an atomic bomb explosion in Japan with the phrase “PATRIOTISM OUR HISTORY LIBERATION KOREA”. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain sensitive topics in Japan even to this day. The performance was originally scheduled on TV Asahi’s Music Station show on Nov 9, 2018. 

It is unclear when Jimin wore the T-shirt, but local news reports the photo isfrom 2013. The picture started circulating on social media in October 2018 when the controversy went public. The management company of boyband BTS, Big Hit Entertainment, officially apologized on Nov 13, 2018. It posted a lengthy statement in Korean on their Twitter and Facebook pages. BTS, a seven-member group, debuted in 2013 and has been popular since then. In Japan, they also have  a strong fanbase. 

According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, the shirt’s manufacturer has apologized for the design, saying that it "had no intention of stirring up anti-Japanese sentiment or using (the shirt's design) to retaliate against Japan." 

Japan and South Korea are hoping to hold a bilateral summit later this month. Yet, the cancellation of the performance further complicates Japan-South Korea relations, following the South Korean Constitutional Court’s ruling that the Japanese Nippon Steel & Sumimoto Metal needs to pay compensation to four South Koreans for forced wartime labor.

North Korean Ballistic Missile Program

John Seymour

New satellite imagery has identified 13 undeclared North Korean missile sites. Research by the Beyond Parallel program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC has located these bases, andtheir findings estimate a total of 20 undeclared sites in North Korea. 

Though North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced the end of North Korean nuclear tests in April, and the country has begun dismantling the Sohae satellite launch facility, these findings suggest that work on the ballistic missile program has continued.

The report outlines the Sakkanmol missile operating base, which lies 85 km from the Demilitarized Zone and 135 km from Seoul. According to their findings, Sakkanmol currently houses short-range ballistic missiles, but it can also hold medium-range weapons. Though the report states that missile operating bases are not launch facilities, it also says that bases like Sakkanmol can be used as such in emergencies. However, the report also notes that only “minor” infrastructure changes have been observed at the site since Kim Jong-un took office in 2011.

President Trump called the CSIS report and press coverage of it “inaccurate” in a tweet on Tuesday, Nov 13th. He stated that the report’s findings were “nothing new,” a sentiment shared in a statement from the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for South Korea’s Blue House, rejected claims of North Korean “deception” regarding these bases. Kim added that U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities possess “far more detailed” information than the sources provided to CSIS through commercial satellites.

The CSIS report followed news of the postponement of a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean diplomat Kim Yong-chol. On Friday, Nov. 16th, North Korea announced a test of an unspecified “ultramodern” weapon attended by Kim Jong-un. In the wake of the report from CSIS, news agencies worry that the North Korean ballistic missile program is alive and active.

Twins Cheating Scandal

Amanda Wong

Police have concluded an investigation into a teacher who helped his twin daughters to cheat on examinations at the prestigious Sookmyung Girls’ High School. The school is in the affluent Gangnam district of Seoul. The case has been forwarded to the state prosecutor's with a recommendation of criminal indictments.

The teacher was accused of having stolen exam papers five times since June 2018 and passing on the answers to his daughters. Doubts arose when thetwins’ school rankings rose sharply in a short period of time. This was inconsistent with their previous performance. The sense of betrayal on the part of other students and their parents prompted the latter to demand investigations, which were carried out by education authorities. Subsequently the police also raided the school for evidence

Answers to exam questions were found on the girls’ mobile phones, and they had also written them on the back of the exam papers. Both the teacher and his daughters continue to maintain their innocence.

The cheating incident has become a major controversy in South Korea, where high school exam grades greatly affect a student’s academic future. TheCollege Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT), or ‘Su-neung’, is the biggest determinant of whether students are able to go to top universities. This results in high pressure on students to do well on the day of the exam while also maintaining a good ranking in school. The emphasis on grades also creates a hyper-competitive academic environment where students, parents and teachers resort to drastic measures like cheating in order to try and guarantee academic success.

This Week in History: South Korea Ratifies KORUS FTA

On November 22, 2011, South Korea’s National Assembly that was dominated by the ruling conservative Grand National Party (GNP) under the Lee Myung-bak administration, which ratified the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). The trade deal was originally ratified earlier by U.S. Congress and then-U.S. President Barack Obama and was the biggest U.S. trade deal since 1994 NAFTA. In South Korea.

The GNP members pushed the bill through as it was facing bitter opposition from the opposing DPK. The bill was passed 151 to 7 amid reported physical scuffles and a tear gas attack by an opposition lawmaker. The trade deal wasexpected to boost South Korea’s GDP by 5.6 percent, though the farming sector was expected to suffer. The DPK also opposed concessions to U.S. carmakers and a dispute resolution mechanism that was perceived to not be in South Korea’s interest. 


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

The U.S.-Korea Joint Economic Forum: Next Steps in Economic Cooperation
Hosted by Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Korea Economic Institute
9:00 AM- 3:30 PM, Thursday, December 6, 2018
Mayflower Hotel, The Chinese Ballroom
1127 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036