Sejong Society Event
An Evening with Dr. Michael Green
Hosted by the Sejong Society and the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS
7:00 PM- 8:30 PM, Tuesday, March 13, 2018
SAIS Rome Auditorium
1619 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
Ex-President Park Could Face a 30-Year Sentence
Park Geun-hye was elected to become the 18th and first female President of South Korea on Feb 25, 2013. She was officially removed from office on March 10, 2017. A year from then, on Feb 27, 2018, the senior prosecutor in charge of investigating Park, Jeon Jun-cheol, recommended a sentence of 30 years and a fine of 118.5 billion won (109 million USD).
The impeachment process began in late 2016 after investigators discovered that former president Park Geun-hye was an accomplice to her long-time friend and cultist, Choi Soon-sil, in extorting tens of millions of dollars from businesses. In December 2016, 234 out of 300 members of South Korea’s National Assembly voted to impeachher.
As the daughter of former South Korean dictator and strongman, Park Chung-hee, Park Geun-hye’s presidency was controversial early on. In addition to her parentage, Park Geun-hye was criticized for censorship and invading online privacy, nationalizing history textbooks for middle and high schoolers, and responding poorly to national crises such as the 2014 sinking of the Sewol ferry.
Current South Korean President Moon Jae-in lost the 2013 election to Park Geun-hye, but managed to win the 2017 election two months after Park’s removal from office. Park’s final verdict will be delivered on April 6, 2018.
The Latest on the #MeToo Movement in South Korea
After a month into the #MeToo movement emerged in South Korea after female prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun’s revelations, more allegations of sexual harassment has shaken the corporate world in South Korea. More employees have come forward with stories of sexual misconduct in their workplace through a chat app, Blind, which has more than a million users in the country. Prominent figures in literature, entertainment, and even in South Korea’s Catholic Church have come forth with sexual harassment allegations.
Earlier in December, South Korean poet Choi Young-mi accused an unnamed well-known poet of sexual harassment and misconduct in a poem The Beast. Recently, the Korean media revealed that the accused poet is Ko Un, a former Buddhist monk and well-known literary figure who is a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature. In an interview, Choi Young-mi said that Ko Un and other older male literary editors would habitually make sexual advances toward aspiring writers and poets, then retaliated upon rejection. South Korea’s government has since removed 11 Ko Un’s poems from school textbooks, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government shut down the Manimbo Library, which features his literary works. Ko Un has denied the allegations and stepped down from his professor positions.
Other cultural figures have also stepped down from their positions due to recent sexual harassment allegations. The list includes prominent playwright Lee Youn-taek, South Korea’s leader in musical theater, Yoon Ho-jin, and Ha Yong-bu a traditional Korean dancer considered as a “human cultural asset” by the government. In South Korea, theater fans held rallies in support of the victims, wearing black masks and starting a #With_You movement.
In February, the #MeToo movement also caught fire in South Korea’s entertainment industry. Award-winning filmmaker Lee Hyun-ju announced her retirement after being convicted of sexual assault in December. The victim revealed the allegations on social media when the #MeToo movement started gaining traction in South Korea. Well-known actor Jo Min-ki was accused of sexual violence towards his students while teaching at Cheongju University. After his initial denial, he reversed his position and agreed to a police investigation. He pulled out of his upcoming TV series, “Children of God.” In music, Korean rapper Don Malik was accused of sexual harassment and was released from his record label.
The #MeToo movement also spread to the Catholic Church as a priest Han Man-sam was suspended for attempted rape. The incident happened in 2011, but the victim went public this February being inspired by the #MeToo movement. On Feb 27, 2018, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea made a public apology to the victim.
On Feb 26, 2018, President Moon Jae-in publicly expressed support for the #MeToo movement in a meeting with his advisers and said gender violence and sexual misconduct can only end if there is a change in both culture and attitude in the country. South Korea’s lawmakers are also pushing for revision of a controversial defamation law, Article 307 of the Criminal Acts that punishes a person for defamation against someone else via fine or jail even if the person is speaking the truth. Activists criticized the law for discouraging victims of sexual violence to come forward. The United Nations Human Rights Commission expressed concern that people can be prosecuted for criticizing the government. Options for revision are eitherdecriminalizing defamation or abolishing Article 307 while retaining defamation as a criminal offence. If defamation is a criminal offence, victims of sexual misconduct have to prove the truth of their allegations and can face a stressful trial.
Carnegie Nuclear Risks in Northeast Asia Conference
On Feb. 27, 2018, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC held an event on “Nuclear Risks in Northeast Asia.” The event consisted of two panel discussions: “Extended Deterrence in Northeast Asia” and “Security Risks of Civilian Plutonium Use in Northeast Asia.”
During the panel on extended deterrence, Dr. Jina Kim, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, described South Korea’s biggest four concerns about U.S. extended nuclear deterrence. The first concern Dr. Kim listed was the importance of the U.S. and South Korea having a shared view of the North Korean threat. According to Dr. Kim, currently the U.S. believes North Korea may use its new nuclear and missile capabilities in a crisis scenario. However, the South Korean government’s view of North Korea’s willingness to use force is more conservative and believes the evidence for the U.S. view is insufficient .
Secondly, Dr. Kim stressed the importance of South Korea and the U.S. having a variety of ways to deter North Korean aggression. Currently, the U.S.-South Korea alliance can deter North Korea from major attacks, but North Korea still feels free to engage in more limited provocations such as sinking a South Korean ship like the 2010 Cheonan attack.
Thirdly, Dr. Kim brought up the issue of the possible forward deployment of U.S. strategic assets to Northeast Asia. There have been debates in the South Korean National Assembly about the possibility of the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, but the Foreign Minister has stated that Seoul is not pursuing this currently. Lastly, Dr. Kim stressed the importance of maintaining and strengthening consultative mechanisms in the alliance to talk about deterrence issues.
In the second panel on civilian plutonium, Dr. Sharon Squassoni, a George Washington University professor, talked about the possibility of South Korea engaging inpyroprocessing, a method of separating plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.
Currently, South Korea is not allowed to separate plutonium under its nuclear sharing agreement, known as a “123 agreement,” with the U.S.. There are concerns about separated plutonium because it can be used to make nuclear weapons. However, South Korea has been researching the possibility of engaging in pyroprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The U.S. has also agreed to a joint 10-year study into whether the agreement should be revised to allow South Korea to use pyroprocessing to separate plutonium from spent fuel.
Dr. Squassoni stated that South Korea is interested in the technology as a way to reuse nuclear waste and solve issues involved in storing the waste materials. However, plutonium has nuclear security and proliferation risks that should be considered before revising the agreement.
U.S. Additional Sanctions on North Korea
On Feb 23, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the new sanctions against North Korea. President Trump also rejected to negotiations with North Korea andwarned of a “phase two” that could be “very, very unfortunate for the world” if the sanctions did not stop North Korea’s missile launches and the development of nuclear weapons.
The new sanctions target large numbers of shipping companies and vessels that are involved in exchange of North Korea’s coal for refined petroleum products. The sanctions are imposed against 27 entities and 28 vessels that are either registered or flagged in countries such as China, North Korea, and Singapore.
The targeted companies would be banned from transactions with U.S. corporations and individuals, and their assets in the U.S. will be frozen. Yet, the effect of the new sanctions is believed to be limited, as these shipping companies are less likely to conduct transactions within the U.S.
In response, the North Korean state media stated that U.S. sanctions would provoke confrontation on the Korean peninsula. It said the newly imposed economic sanctions would be “considered an act of war.” The new sanctions also target some of the Chinese companies, including Shandong, Weihai World-Shipping Freight and Shanghai, Shanghai Dongfeng Shipping Co. Ltd. and Hong Kong-based Shen Zhong International Shipping. China said on Feb 24, 2018, that the unilateral sanctions would deteriorate the situation on the Korean peninsula.
In light of the Trump administration’s firm stance against North Korea, Joseph Yun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy resigned. Yun’s retirement raises questions over the future direction of President Trump’s North Korea policy.
Book Review - Scott Snyder's South Korea at the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Era of Rival Powers
Scott Snyder, the Director of the Program on U.S.-South Korea Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines the factors that influence South Korea’s past and current foreign policy choices in his latest book South Korea at the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Era of Rival Powers. He analyzes South Korea’s modern presidents from 1948 through 2017.
Snyder raises two main questions. First, should South Korea continue to rely primarily on the U.S. for economic and security goods or side with a rising China? He sees five options for South Korea: 1) accommodate China, 2) balance against China with the U.S., 3) defer (or avoid) choosing sides between the U.S. and China; 4) promote common interests, or 5) attempt to capitalize on the Sino-U.S. rivalry (p. 218). The second question is whether or not South Korea has sufficient capabilities to protect itself without external aid. Snyder argues that while South Korea is currently capable of making its own alliance choices, it is too early for them to pursue options outside of the alliance with the U.S. (p. 264).
The factors that currently influence South Korea’s strategic choices, according to Snyder, include the balance of power and degree of competition in Northeast Asia, South Korea’s relative economic and military capacity in vis-à-vis their neighbors, and domestic politics (p. 11-13). Some of these factors are further affected by the balance of power between China and the U.S. and prospects for Korean unification (p. 267-269).
Snyder delves into how the U.S. has been a constant force that has shaped Korea’s foreign policy. Until the 1980s, Snyder explains that South Korea’s foreign policy was defined almost entirely by its alliance with the U.S. That changed beginning with Roh Tae-woo, South Korea’s first democratically elected president who entered office in 1988. He promoted a larger role internationally for South Korea’s through the 1988 Seoul Olympics and admission of South Korea into the UN in 1991. He and his successors promoted South Korea’s growing role in the world while maintaining the U.S.-alliance. The most notable exception to this was President Roh Moo-hyun from the progressive party in the mid-2000s. President Roh came closer than any other South Korean leader to ending the alliance. However, seeing the necessity of maintaining strong ties with the U.S., Roh chose to send soldiers to assist with the U.S. rebuilding Iraq. He negotiated the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement with U.S. President Bush.
One area the book could have elaborated further on is the increased importance of domestic politics on South Korea’s foreign policy. Park Geun-hye’s presidency was undeniably influenced by her father, President Park Chung-hee, who served in the Japanese military during World War II and normalized South Korea’s relations with Japan in 1965. On the domestic front, Park Geun-hye was careful to avoid looking soft on Japan following her election in 2012. Consequently, South Korean relations with Japan focused largely on “history issues” and a settlement of the “Comfort Women” issue. The 2015 agreement sought to resolve issues of Japanese state responsibility and financial compensation to surviving victims of sexual slavery. Snyder touched on this, stating that it achieved a more harmonious relationship with Japan (p. 172). Arguably, the agreement spent the last of Park’s domestic capital and strengthened her domestic opposition, contributing to her removal from office.
Finally, as interesting as it would have been, Snyder did not address the “Trump effect” on U.S.-South Korean relations President Trump took office in January 2017. Overall, South Korea at the Crossroads is for anyone--for both those who already have an interest in South Korea foreign affairs and those who would like to learn.
This Week in History: March 1st Movement (Sam-il Independence Movement)
On March 1, 1919, after 10 years of Japanese rule, demonstrations spread in Korea demanding for independence. 33 prominent Koreans drew up the “Proclamation of Independence.” The Proclamation demanded independence from Japan in the interest of Korea and the right of self-determination. The Korean writers of the Proclamation were hoping to organize a mass demonstration and elicit support from the international community and add pressure on Japan. More than 1,500 mass demonstrations occurred [across the peninsula on March 1] with 2 million Koreans participating. The Japanese military and police violently suppressed the demonstrations causing 7,000 deaths and 46,000 arrests. Although the movement failed to bring about independence, it caused global attention and the formation of a Korean Provisional government in China, and strengthened national unity. March 1 is a national holiday in both North and South Korea.
Asan Special Forum 2018
Thursday, March 8, 2018 & Friday, March 23, 2018
The Asan Institute for Policy Studies
1211 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
North Korea and Iran: Nuclear Challenges for the United States
12:00 PM- 1:30 PM, Thursday, March 8, 2018
Korea Economic Institute of America
1800 K St NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006
International Women's Day Panel on North Korean Women
Hosted by GW Institute for Korean Studies & GW Truth and Human Rights in North Korea (THiNK)
7:00 PM- 9:00 PM, Thursday, March 8, 2018
Marvin Center Betts Theatre
800 21st Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20052
Thinking the Unthinkable: War on the Korean Peninsula
9:00 AM- 12:00 PM, Tuesday, March 13, 2018
The Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium,
1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW,
Washington, DC 20036
The Dynamics of Democracy in Asia: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives
9:30 AM- 3:00 PM, Thursday, March 15, 2018
1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 400
Washington, DC 20004