Issue 55: February 21 - March 8, 2019


Hanoi Summit Leaves Uncertain Future for United States and Korean Peninsula

John Seymour

The summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday, February 28, 2019 ended with no agreement reached between the two leaders. However, despite the lack of a deal, this meeting will have repercussions on both U.S.-South Korea and U.S.-North Korea relations.

Both the U.S. and North Korean sides came away from Hanoi with drastically different explanations for the failure to reach a deal. Trump claimed that North Korea demanded an end to all sanctions for partial denuclearization. However, North Korea disputes this account of the negotiations. Ri Yong-Ho, North Korea’s Foreign Minister, stated instead that they offered to close the Yongbyon nuclear center for only a partial lifting of sanctions. Ri also indicated that the failure to reach a compromise in Hanoi could dissuade Pyongyang from agreeing to further rounds of negotiations. Though U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the two sides made “real progress” in Hanoi, it appears that chances for a substantive deal between the two countries have declined.

Of course, any major development between the U.S. and North Korea is also felt south of the 38th parallel. For South Korean President Moon Jae-in, for whom engagement with Pyongyang has been a major focus, the outcome of the Hanoi meeting was a setback. In a speech after the summit, Moonemphasized the need for South Korea to act as a mediator between the U.S. and North Korea, saying he would help them reach a “complete settlement by any means.”

For now, it appears as though “any means” will entail presenting a less belligerent front to Pyongyang, with Washington and Seoul announcing scaled-back versions of their annual joint military exercises. Whether this pattern will persist post-Hanoi remains to be seen, but for now the top leaders of the U.S. and South Korea appear to agree on how to approach North Korea, regardless of Pyongyang’s willingness to meet them at the negotiating table.

What the Second Summit Means for Inter-Korean Relations

Amanda Wong

After the second summit in Hanoi between United States President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un failed to produce an agreement, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea called for the creation of a new regime on the Korean Peninsula that would lead a new order of peace and cooperation. The two leaders were unable to come to a compromise on the issue of economic sanctions. While the U.S. refused to fully lift sanctions until there was verifiable nuclear disarmament on the part of North Korea, Pyongyang disputed this, with Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho saying at a press conference that his country had only requested for a partial lifting of sanctions.

In addition to President Moon’s vision for the future of the Korean Peninsula, he has also pledged to continue playing a mediating role between the U.S. and North Korea. This suggests that inter-Korean relations are likely to continue on their current positive trajectory. As part of his role as a mediator, it is possible that President Moon will meet both Trump and Kim in order to facilitate further negotiations.

Meeting Kim would be a positive step forward for inter-Korean relations. At the same time, the breakdown in talks between President Trump and Chairman Kim may also hinder inter-Korean economic cooperation as a result of continued sanctions, therefore limiting further improvement in the ties between the Koreas. Moon’s vision for a new peace regime on the Korean peninsula also suggests that even though the summit has failed, Seoul will still continue to pursue deeper ties with North Korea so as to bring about normalization of North Korea’s ties with Japan and the U.S. and eventually, peace on the Korean peninsula.

China and Russia Satisfied that the Hanoi Summit Ended in No Major Change to the Status Quo

George Bradshaw

In recent history, China and Russia have called for multilateral engagement with North Korea over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They have used the failure to reach an agreement in Hanoi to reiterate their view that only international cooperation and coordination can break the deadlock with North Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang announced that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the ‘common denominator’ amongst concerned parties and that the UNSC should adjust sanctions with North Korea in accordance to ‘simultaneous reciprocity’. Likewise, Chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky said that the UNSC is the most suitable venue for the North Korean issue, alongside rebooting the six-party talks forum. Both countries have publicly condemned American unilateralism over the last two decades.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in Hanoi during the summit, has revealed that the United States asked for Moscow’s advice on how to negotiate with Kim Jong-Un, as well as how the summit may unfold. According to Lavrov, the Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov has been in frequent contact with his American counterpart. Lavrov stated that the American failure to offer Pyongyang any security guarantees ensured that the summit would fail. Additionally, Director of the Asian Strategy Center in the Russian Academy of Sciences Georgy Toloraya laid equal blame on the ‘maximalist demands’ of the North Koreans. The official Russian position on North Korea is incremental denuclearization with flexibility, concessions and small agreements.

China accounts for 90% of North Korea’s trade and therefore has a big stake in any rapprochement between the United States and North Korea. The failure in Hanoi will probably sit well with Beijing which desires a slow, manageable denuclearization process on the Peninsula. A meeting between Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un following the Hanoi summit is likely given that the leaders met one week after the Singapore summit. The two leaders met four times in 2018, after having not met once between 2012 and 2017.

Given China’s vested interest in North Korea, President Xi does not want bilateral relations between Trump and Kim to sideline or marginalize China, nor does he want the United States to take on a dominant leadership role. Despite China’s fears, in the press conference following his meeting with Kim, Trump affirmed the central role of China in negotiations. He claimed that China ‘can’t love having a nuclear state’ across its border and also noted that ‘China’s been a big help, bigger than people know’. However, at the same press conference,Trump drew parallels between his behavior in Hanoi and in trade negotiations with China. He said ‘I am always prepared to walk. I’m never afraid to walk from a deal, and I would do that with China, too’. 

Emphasizing the broader context of the Hanoi summit,  the South China Morning Post has claimed that significant pressure at home over the Mueller investigation, as well as blowback from the trade war with China, may have driven Trump to an all-or-nothing Hail Mary play with North Korea.

South Korea's Launch of 5G

Andrew Jung

Next month, South Korea is planning to be the first nation with a 5G mobile network. 5G is also known as the fifth generation of mobile communication networks—most consumers have 3G or 4G/LTE in their smartphones and other mobile devices. 5G is supposed to bring faster speed and shorter delays in data transfer, as well as increased connectivity among users. 5G is also supposed to build the foundation of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”  in smart and autonomous manufacturing. South Korea’s mobile carriers, KT, SK Telecom, and LG Uplus plan to begin 5G service for Samsung smartphones in late March.

Additionally, SK Telecom is exploring the use of 5G in holographic and virtual reality technology. KT is working with South Korean, American, Japanese, and European automakers in developing 5G telematics technology to strengthen safety of cars. In the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, KT, SK Telecom, and LG Uplus also showcased their 5G products in virtual reality, AR (augmented reality) glasses, and robotics. Samsung also displayed its 5G smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. On Feb 25, 2019, KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu touted the economic benefits of 5G, such as the use of “smart factories” to maximize efficiency and workers safety, achieving autonomous driving, and improving traffic systems to protect drivers. 

South Korea’s government hopes that investment in 5G technology will bring trillions of wons in new industries and economic benefits. By collaborating with the companies, South Korea hopes to increase its economic and technological competitiveness with companies from China, Japan, United States, and Europe.South Korea still faces challenges as it is behind Japan in faster fiber-optic communications and behind the United States in technical skills and technology in high-frequency waves that will deliver 5G. 

Despite competition, South Korea is also working with other countries’ telecommunications companies. For example, LG UPlus is working with China’s telecom equipment provider Huawei on establishing 5G. Huawei is LG’s biggest supplier of telecom equipments and used in about 95 percent of LG’s 15,000 5G base stations. Given the controversy over concerns of Huawei equipment being used for espionage and hacking by the Chinese government, both LG UPlus and Huawei are continuing their partnership with precautions.

On Feb 25, 2019, LG Uplus CEO Ha Hyun-hoi said that LG Uplus will maintain security checks on the equipments, as well as separating networks and setting firewalls to prevent security breaches. Last year, it requested an international cyber security agency in Spain to verify the security of Huawei’s equipments and its report is expected to be in the third quarter of this year. Huawei hasalready been banned in the United States, and South Korea’s SK Telecom stopped using Huawei as a vendor. Despite pressure by United States government on its allies to ban Huawei, South Korea’s government maintainedthat it is up to local telecom companies to decide on using Huawei. 

This Week in History: March 1st Movement (Sam-il Independence Movement)

March 1, 1919 marked the start of a series of demonstrations among approximately 2 million Koreans demanding national independence from Japan. The movement was started by a group of Korean cultural and religious leaders who wrote and signed their Proclamation of Independence and organized a demonstration hoping to bring international pressure on Japan. Although the movement failed, with Japan suppressing the demonstrations a year later, it drew international attention and contributed to the rise of both the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai and the Korean Communist Party. March 1 is celebrated as a national holiday in both North Korea and South Korea. 

2019 marked the historic centennial of the March 1st movement. Various celebrations took place all over South Korea. South Korea’s government also honored several figures in the independence movement. Notably, Yu Gwan-sunwas posthumously awarded the Republic of Korea Medal for her role in the demonstrations that resulted in her imprisonment and death. Read more about her here.

In her hometown of Cheonan, there was a commemoration ceremony and reenactment of the March 1st Movement. In the United States, New Yorkbecame the first state to introduce a resolution to honor Ryu Gwan-sun and establish March 1st as the official day to commemorate the March 1st Movement. Nassau County became the first New York municipal government to designate March 1st as March 1st Movement Day and establish the Yu Gwan-sun awards for high school girls who demonstrate leadership and human rights activism among the community.