Issue 34: April 4 - April 18, 2018


The Upcoming Inter-Korean Summit

Patrick Niceforo

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un areslated to meet Apr 27, 2018, the first meeting between the leaders of both countries since 2007. At the 2007 meeting, then South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed to formally end the Korean War and to further joint economic development.

The two Korean leaders are scheduled to meet at Peace House, a South Korean building in Panmunjom. It is likely that Kim’s objective is to revitalize the North Korean economy, especially given the international community’s sanctions on North Korea. The United Nations has even stated that sanctions are beginning to affect its ability to provide humanitarian aid to the North Korean people.

South Korea and the U.S. are closely coordinating on their upcoming summitswith North Korea. U.S. national security advisor John Bolton and his South Korean counterpart Chung Eui-yong met earlier this month. The South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Cho Yoon-je and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Susan Thornton will begin to hold weekly meetings.

The Moon administration has called for phased and comprehensive denuclearization for North Korea. U.S. President Trump and Kim Jong-un are expected to hold their own summit in May or early June. One potential challenge for all parties is establishing a mutually agreed upon timeline and definition for North Korea’s denuclearization.

South Korea's Unemployment Highest in 17 Years

Andrew Jung

On Apr 11, 2018, Statistics Korea published data that South Korea’s unemployment is at its highest in 17 years. The unemployment rate is now 4.5 percent with 1.26 million people unemployed, “above 1 million for the third consecutive month.”  Industries with declining jobs are in construction, wholesale, retail, and education.

Wholesale and retail dropped by 96,000 jobs. The shutdown of GM Korea’s plant and shutting down of some colleges (due to insufficient enrollment of students) contributed to these figures. Restaurants and hotels cut 20,000 jobs due to the minimum wage hike.Youth unemployment is at 11.6% and 24%, if including those preparing to look for jobs. 

Despite the recent unemployment statistics, the Bank of Korea (BOK), along with the South Korean government and the IMF, still expect the South Korean economy to grow by 3% this year. BOK Governor Lee Ju-yeol expects private consumption to increase, inflation to remain low, and considers the belief that  the minimum wage hike directly increased unemployment as premature. 

Critics are questioning President Moon Jae-min’s policy of income-led growth through government spending. They point out that private consumption and employment are still slumping and that the minimum wage hike places a burden on businesses. 

While there is data that household income is increasing, the increase in prices of consumer goods and agricultural and fishery products may offset this increase. Experts point out that although the Moon Jae-min administration injected 24.8 trillion won into the economy last year, “number of the employed increased by only 112,000 in March, which is unusual considering that the average year-on-year increase was 316,000 last year.”

Some statistics show small businesses decreasing employment in anticipation of the minimum wage hike. Choo Kwang-ho of the Korea Economic Research Institute said government’s job creation plan like the bill introduced to fight youth unemployment can be a burden to taxpayers and other solutions should be considered like deregulation.

South Korea and the "Fourth Industrial Revolution"

Michael Buckalew

In South Korea, two recent events kicked off a wave of focus on artificial intelligence (AI). First, Kalus Schwab coined the term the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR) at Davos in Jan 2016 to denote “the synthesis of cyber and physical systems” through AI, robotics and drones. Second, the epic match between human Go master Se-dol Lee and Google’s AlphaGo in the popular game of “Go” catapulted “AI” to the public’s attention.

Although largely symbolic, these events stimulated a surge of interest in AI among both South Koreans. South Korea has the third most patents on AI after the U.S. and Japan. Moreover, South Korean companies are expanding investment in AI. One example is Naver, which is investing in AI and blockchain technology through their Clova Platform.

President Moon emphasized 4IR in his presidential campaign and pledged to make it “people-centered.” The Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution of Korea was formally launched on Oct 11, 2017. The Moon administration created it under a task force called the Intelligent Information Society Bureau under the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. The purpose of the task force is to study the application and effects of AI across a wide range of economic sectors, including the smart city and mobile health care sectors

The government has also taken additional steps to both invest in research and develop legal frameworks for regulating AI. SK Corporation, a telecommunications giant completed their “Internet of Things” network six months early. LG U+, a competitor to SK, has announced a “Smart City” projectin Goyang City. Concurrently, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy said it would boost R&D funding for AI from 134.3 billion KRW (about $125million USD) in 2017 to around 200 billion KRW by 2020 under its 4IR plan.

On the legal front, the government passed a new law in 2016 allowing self-driving vehicles on a limited number of highways. More stringent regulations on data privacy and standards for drones may be on its way. The government may establish a broader Charter of Ethics for AI by 2018. This suggests a wide range future AI development should be expected from South Korea.

Mike Pompeo Discusses His Views On North Korea at Confirmation Hearing

Leon Whyte

On Apr 12, 2018, Secretary of State Nominee Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing was held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As expected, a key concern of many senators was Pompeo’s views about North Korea.

One worry was Pompeo’s previous comments as the head of the CIA that implied he favored North Korean regime change. In answer to Senator Cardin’s questioning, Pompeo responded that “I have never advocated for regime change,” and “I am not advocating for regime change.”

Another topic of discussion was Pompeo’s views of the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit. Pompeo played down expectations of a “comprehensive agreement coming out of a single meeting. However, he noted that he did expect the meeting to “set out the conditions that would be acceptable to each side for the two leaders that will ultimately make the decision about whether such an agreement can be achieved and then set in place.”

Pompeo also expressed his belief that in past negotiations with North Korea, the U.S. had relaxed sanctions too early. Because of this, North Korea should not expect any rewards until it has completed steps to irreversibly dismantle its nuclear program. On the likelihood of a successful deal, Pompeo said, “It is a tall order, but I am hopeful that President Trump can achieve that through sound diplomacy.”

When asked about the goal of the Summit, Pompeo was clear: “to develop an agreement with the North Korean leadership such that the North Korean leadership will step away from its efforts to hold America at risk with nuclear weapons, completely and verifiably.” When questioned about additional goals by Sen. Cory Gardner, Pompeo added the following caveat: “We need to ensure that we continue to provide a strategic deterrence framework for our allies in the region: the South Koreans, the Japanese and others as well. But the purpose of the meeting is to address the threat to the United States.”

Japan Foreign Minister Visits South Korea

Jessie Chen

Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono arrived on Apr 10, 2018 in Seoul for a two-day visit. The visit was planned before the U.S.-North Korea summit and Inter-Korea summit. Concerned that Japan could be left out of talks on the Korean Peninsula, Minister Kono visited South Korea to reaffirm Japan’s close cooperation with South Korea about the denuclearization of North Korea. 

The Japanese Foreign Minister visited the Korean National Cemetery and was the first one to do so. Minister Kono met with the South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at the National Cemetery. Minister Kang said that the following few months with the planned U.S.-North Korea summit and Inter-Korea summit are crucial times for the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asian region to pursue peace and stability. 

During the visit, Minister Kono said Japan hopes that South Korea could raise the issue of Japanese abductees in North Korea and bring Japan’s opinions on the North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs during the Inter-Korea summit. 

A trilateral South Korea-China-Japan summit is expected to be held in Tokyo around May 9.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi plans to visit Japan in mid-April officially and meet with Foreign Minister Kono.

This Week in History: April Revolution

On Apr. 19, 1960 also known as “Sa-il-gu,” students led mass protests against the Rhee Syng-man administration for its oppressiveness and corruption. Before the demonstrations, Rhee Syngman, the first president of South Korea,won re-election to a fourth term on March 15 and faced allegations of electoral fraud. Massive protests took place and escalated after a student’s body was found with a tear gas grenade stuck in his eye from a riot in Masan. On Apr. 19, over 100,000 university and high school students participated in the protests.The police opened fire and 180 students were shot dead. The public unanimously joined with the students and on Apr, 26, Rhee stepped down as president ending 12 years of his rule and of his Liberal Party. 


Understanding North Korea’s Outreach in 2018
12:00 PM- 1:30 PM, Thursday, April 19, 2018
Korea Economic Institute of America
1800 K Street, NW Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006

GW Institute for Korean Studies 2018 Signature Conference: The Evolution of Rights in Korea
8:30 AM- 6:00 PM, Friday, April 20, 2018
8:30 AM- 11:30 AM, Saturday, April 21, 2018
Lindner Family Commons, Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street NW, Room 602
Washington, DC 20052

DC Asia Policy Happy Hour - April 2018
5:30 PM- 9:00 PM, Friday, April 20, 2018
Prequel DC
919 19th St NW
Washington, DC 20006

Advocacy for South Korea’s International Development
Hosted by GW Institute for Korean Studies
3:00 PM- 5:00 PM, Monday, April 23, 2018
The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E St. NW, Suite 505
Washington, DC 20052

Economic Engagement with North Korea – Opportunities and Challenges
Hosted by GW Institute for Korean Studies
12:00 PM- 2:00 PM, April 27, 2018
The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E St. NW, Suite 503
Washington, DC 20052

Spring Summitry on the Korean Peninsula: Peace Breaking Out or Last Gasp Diplomacy?
9:00 AM- 11:30 AM, Monday May 7, 2018
Center for Strategic and International Studies
1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036