Issue 52: January 9 - 23, 2019

Sejong Society Event

"Iran Deal and North Korea"
Featuring Matthew Kroenig

Hosted by the Sejong Society of Washington, D.C. and the GW Institute for Korean Studies
6:30 PM- 8:30 PM, February 15, 2019
Elliott School, The George Washington University, Room 505
1957 E St. NW, Suite 503,
Washington DC, DC 20052


Secretary of State Pompeo's Meeting with Kim Yong Chol
Amanda Wong

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Deputy Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Yong-chol, North Korea’s top negotiator, at a Washington hotel on Thursday. He then met with President Trump in the Oval Office for more than an hour and delivered a letter from North Korean leader, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission and Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un.

Deputy Chairman Kim had lunch with Secretary Pompeo following the Oval office meeting. Kim Yong Chol’s last visit to Washington was in June 2018, when he delivered a letter from Chairman Kim o President Trump that facilitated the first summit between the two leaders. This visit represents a resumption of contacts between the two countries following the cancellation of a meeting between Secretary Pompeo and Deputy Chairman Kim that was supposed to take place in November 2018 in New York.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of State said that the Secretary Pompeo and Deputy Chairman Kim, along with Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, “discussed efforts” to follow up on the commitments that were made at the 2018 Singapore summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim. The summit in Singapore produced a denuclearization agreement, but it was vague and there has been no progress since then.

Also, according to a statement by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, President Trump and Deputy Chairman Kim discussed denuclearization and a second summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un. The second summit isscheduled to be held near the end of February, although the location has yet to be determined.

During this second summit, there will be higher expectations of concrete progress given the vagueness of the agreement produced at the Singapore summit. Sanders also indicated that the U.S. will continue to maintain its current position on North Korea, which is to keep sanctions in place until there is verifiable progress on denuclearization. On the other hand, North Korea has stated that it will not make further concessions on its nuclear program unless international sanctions are lifted.

South Korea's #MeToo Movement in Sports
Andrew Jung

Recent events indicate that South Korea’s #MeToo movement is spreading to sports. On Jan 8, 2019, Shim Suk-hee, an Olympic gold medalist in short track speed skating claimed to have suffered sexual assault by her former coach, Cho Jae-bum since 2014.

Last year, Cho Jae-bum was imprisoned for physical assault of Shim Suk-hee and was appealing his sentence. Shim revealed the sexual assaults due to wishing to prevent future victims and her legal team filed the charges to argue for a harsher sentence on Cho. A week later on Jan 14, 2019, Shin Yu-yong a former judoka (judo practitioner) accused her former high school coach of sexual assault in the period of 2011-2015, originally revealing it in an interview with South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh.

Shin Yu-yong first made the allegations on a Facebook post last year that garnered little attention. She was also afraid to come forward due to fear of derailment of her career aspirations and also didn’t receive support in bringing her allegations against her coach. She also thanked Shim Suk-hee for inspiring her to speak up. In response, the Korea Judo Association plans to determine punishments for the coach. 

After the allegations, South Korea’s public opinion soured towards Korea Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC), South Korea’s national Olympics committee. Civic activists accused KSOC of being silent to chronic sexual assault in sports and of being complicit in cover-ups. They urged KSOC President Lee Kee-heung to resign. 

On Jan 15, 2019, Lee Kee-heung on behalf of KSOC made a public apology admitting that KSOC allowed individuals to obstruct investigating assault allegations. He vowed to change practices to prevent further abuse of power by sports authorities and ban any future perpetrators from future employment in sports. Lee Kee-heung announced several measures.

First, KSOC will ask external organizations to investigate sexual assault cases. Offenders would face further criminal probes by prosecution and their offenses and penalties will be announced publicly. KSOC will also establish an information-sharing network to prevent offenders from finding employment in coaching. KSOC will also hire a female deputy director and more female staff in the national training center, as well as create a human rights center to protect athletes. KSOC will also investigate the case of Shim Suk-hee vowing to punish other responsible actors. 

South Korea’s government also responded to the allegations. On Jan 16, 2019, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced harsher penalties for sex offenders. People convicted of “serious sexual abuse” will receive a lifetime ban from sports employment and will be blacklisted. The Ministry will collaborate with International Olympic Committee and other countries Olympic Committees on an employment ban so offenders won’t find employment in foreign countries. Earlier on Jan 14, 2019, President Moon Jae-in urged for action to “root out violence in the sports sector”. 

It remains to be seen if more victims will speak out publicly as the sports industry was silent when the #MeToo movement started in South Korea. The cause of the perpetuation and cover-ups of the sexual assault allegations seem to be due to the sports culture in South Korea. The prestige that athletes like Shim Suk-hee brought to South Korea seemed to have encouraged authorities to hide the accusations, silencing athletes who come forward, and not punish the abusers.

According to a group, Solidarity for Young Skaters, there are other skaters who have suffered both sexual abuse and harassment from those in authority but fear retaliation. According to a KSOC report, there were 124 reports of physical violence and sexual assault against athletes although the figures may be higher.

South Korea Blanketed in Ultra Fine Dust
John Seymour

Last week,  South Korea’s air quality declined drastically as hazardous levels of ultrafine particles, a group one human carcinogen, covered most of the country, including its capital Seoul. The crisis reached its apex on Jan 14, 2019 as the particles hit a record daily-average quantity of 118 micrograms per cubic meter, far exceeding the South Korean government’s threshold of a “bad” amount of 35 micrograms.

Ultrafine dust is a category airborne particles of man-made origin produced primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. According to the Journal of Korean Medical Science, inhalation of these particles can cause a variety of health problems, including lung cancer, bronchial asthma, coronary heart disease, and birth defects, among others. Furthermore, ultrafine dust represents a particular challenge to governments and health organizations due to its transnational nature. The Ministry of Environment and the Seoul Institute have claimed that air pollution originating in China is over 50% responsible for the current crisis, but Chinese researchers have pushed back against these figures.

Regardless of the dust’s origin, the South Korean government has implemented some measures aimed at addressing the problem. Local governments in 10 cities limited usage of motor vehicles and lowered the output at certain thermal power facilities. Citizens themselves used masks when outside to prevent excessive inhalation of ultrafine dust.

Though air quality has since improved, signs point to another decline in the near future, and air quality has become a consistent problem for South Korea. Since January 2018, the Seoul government has had to implement anti-dust measures on consecutive days three times. With its negative health effects and potential to increase tension between South Korea and China, the dust issue will be important to monitor in 2019.

President Moon Jae In Renews Focus on the Economy
Jaemin Baek

Reflecting growing discontent on the current Moon administration’s handling of the economy, President Moon Jae-in’s New Year Address focused largely on pledges to reinvigorate the South Korean economy through new investments in innovative and strategic industries, job creation, and assistance for small and medium enterprises affected by the minimum wage hike. However, during the address, President Moon doubled down on his controversial income-led economic growth policies and promised that the positive impacts of the income-led economic growth policies would bear fruit in 2019. Specifically, President Moon stated that: 

“My administration is taking this economic situation very seriously. However, I want to emphasise that the hardships we are suffering now are even stronger proof of the need for the people-centred economy[.]”

Following up on his commitment to focus on the economy, President Moon hosted a town-hall style meeting with around 130 business leaders, including the heads of the country’s powerful chaebol, on Jan. 16, 2019. During the meeting, business leaders stressed the need for further deregulatory measures while President Moon asked conglomerates to focus on creating jobs. President Moon was quoted: “[c]reating good jobs is our economy’s biggest issue. While [conglomerates] have been doing well, I once again ask you to take an interest in job problems and lead in creating jobs[.]”

After the town hall meeting, the Blue House announced that it would create ajoint task force with the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) to identify key deregulatory measures and manage large-scale investment projects. 

This Week in History
year ago on Jan 22, 2018, South Korea’s tennis star Chung Hyeon became the first South Korean to reach the Grand Slam round of 16. He defeated six-time champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the 2018 Australian Open. 

ICAS Winter Symposium Prologue
Hosted by Institute for Corean-American Studies (ICAS)
1:30 PM- 4:30 PM. Thursday, January 24, 2019
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
1800 M Street, NW
South Tower
Washington, DC 20033

Geopolitical implications of diplomatic success with North Korea: Impact on China, Russia, and South Korea
10:00 AM- 4:00 PM, Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Woodrow Wilson Center
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20004-3027

Korea Club: North Korea's Mobile Telecommunications and Private Transportation Services in the Kim Jong-un Era
Hosted by Korea Economic Institute of America & The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
6:30 PM- 9:00 PM, Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Woo Lae Oak Korean Restaurant
8240 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182