News compilation by A Socialist In Canada, August 7, 2017
The following reports are enclosed along with weblinks to additional, related readings:
- The Aug 5, 2017 vote of the UN Security Council to increase sanctions against North Korea
- U.S. peace delegation calls for immediate response to North Korea’s offer to freeze its nuclear program
- South Korean progressives launch new party to complete ‘Candlelight Revolution’: Interview with national assembly member Kim Jong-hoo
Western media is reporting as good coin the claim by the U.S. government that it is willing to negotiate reduction of arms and tensions with North Korea. This as the U.S. installs its new THAAD missile system on South Korean soil amidst strong condemnation by China and Russia and opposition by many South Koreans. The U.S. refuses to renounce the use of nuclear weapons in Korea.
The same Western media is reporting sympathetically about “activists” in Venzuela who stormed a military base on August 6 and called on the Venezuelan military to overthrow President Nicholas Maduro. A reported 20 paramilitaries attacked the army base near the city of Valencia, Carabobo state, located some 100 km west of Caracas. Two of the attackers were killed, eight arrested and ten escaped. A few of the attackers were members of the Venezuelan military.
North Korea sanctions: The many attempts to punish Pyongyang
The UN Security Council (UNSC) has once again attempted to pressure North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea–DPRK) over its nuclear and missile tests by approving a seventh round of sanctions in 11 years.
The UN’s previous six attempts have apparently failed to properly affect Pyongyang, which claimed to test-fire two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July. The UNSC has responded to those tests with fresh sanctions, which were unanimously adopted by the 15-member body on Saturday, August 5.
The new restrictions seem tougher than ever before, as they close the loopholes of the previous resolutions and target the North’s key revenue sources – the export of coal, iron, and iron ore among others. The UNSC resolution also imposes a full ban on the export of lead, lead ore, and seafood, prohibits increasing the total number of North Korean workers abroad and creating or investing in joint ventures with the North.
How sanctions can affect North Korea
Pyongyang is to lose around a third of its annual export revenues, which reportedly amount to $3 billion.
The ban on coal exports will apparently be the heftiest loss for the North Korean budget, causing up to $400 million in losses – that is the most North Korea was allowed to export to UN member states under the previous UNSC resolutions.
In 2015, the North exported $950 million worth of coal briquettes, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, and was still left with a negative trade balance of $640 million. One of the few significant unaffected exports left to Pyongyang is clothes, worth around $400 million, according to the Observatory.
It is hard to estimate the real economic impact of the sanctions, with North Korea’s reclusiveness and the lack of official reports on its economy. The country is considered very poor, but it “has enjoyed fairly stable economic growth in recent years,” according to a Russian specialist in Korean studies, Andrey Lankov. He also estimates that the North’s annual economic growth is between 1.5 per cent and 5 per cent.
Talks and punishments with little result
Despite imposing a new round of restrictive measures, the UN seeks to resume the ‘Six Party Talks’. The meetings between North Korea, the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan were aimed to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in 2003, after Pyongyang pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The talks managed to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table and even to halt its nuclear program for a while in exchange for fuel aid. However, in 2009, the North withdrew from the negotiations.
The talks did not stop the DPRK from carrying out its first nuclear test in 2006. The launch was followed by the UN’s first attempt to use sanctions against the North’s nuclear program.
Within 11 years, the UNSC came up with seven resolutions against North Korea, including the latest one. Here is a timeline of the previous rounds of sanctions.
Round 1: 2006. The DPRK conducts its first nuclear weapon test. The UN responds with an arms embargo and a ban on imports of luxury goods to the country.
Round 2: 2009. After the North’s second nuclear test, the sanctions are tightened to include more goods, people, and entities. There are calls to inspect and destroy any cargo on ships suspected of violating the arms embargo.
Round 3: January 2013. In response to a satellite launch, sanctions against Pyongyang are strengthened further and more people and entities are put on the black list.
Round 4: March 2013. The North’s third nuclear test takes place. Attempts are made to exclude Pyongyang from international banking systems by hindering various money transfers, besides further expanding the list of materials covered by previous rounds.
Round 5: March 2016. North Korea conducts its fourth nuclear test and launches another satellite. UN member states are prohibited from hosting North Korean financial institutions and from opening such institutions and bank branches in North Korea.
Round 6: November 2016. After the fifth nuclear test by North Korea, the UN toughens previous sanctions even further, caps exports of coal from the North at a total of $400 million to all member states combined. It also bans exports of copper, nickel, silver and zinc.
How is this time different?
The latest two rounds of sanctions left a loophole for exports under “livelihood purposes.” With a closed country like North Korea, it is virtually impossible to make certain how the money from exports is spent, making this line exploitable by the North’s trade partners – such as China, considered Pyongyang’s main economic lifeline. Saturday’s seventh round cuts it off.
This should have a real impact on North Korea, but it is doubtful that it will make the North halts its nuclear program, according an expert from the UK-based Crisis Research Institute, Mark Almond, who spoke to RT.
“The North Koreans have defied the UN so often. If they were to back down now, it would be a very dangerous situation for the regime… On the other hand, what may be the case, with China and Russia on board the North Koreans can be persuaded to gradually lower the temper of the crisis,” Almond said.
Almond also noted that more missiles tests can still come from the North, as “Pyongyang may decide to defy all the members of the Security Council,” but if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is wise, he will refrain from more provocations [sic] for a while.
Meanwhile, the sanctions could even improve the life of North Koreans, as all those exports will be used for domestic needs, the expert believes.
Another expert RT spoke to, Gregory Elich, a member of the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute, believes not only will the sanctions not help common North Koreans, they won’t be effective at pushing the regime to dialogue, either.
“If you are thinking in terms of dialogue, it makes dialogue even less likely than before. But if you mean being effective as imposing a collective punishment on entire North Korean population and bringing about an economic collapse – that may be effective,” Elich told RT, adding the likelihood of a conflict and tensions will only increase.
North Korea says it needs nuclear missiles capable of striking heart of US mainland to prevent invasion, The Independent, Aug 7, 2017
U.S. bans travel to North Korea from September 1, says Americans should leave, Reuters, Aug 2, 2017
As part of its nuclear weapons escalation, U.S military eyes new ‘mini-nukes’ for 21st century deterrence, story by by Patrick Tucker, on Defense One, Aug 3, 2017
Chronology of U.S.-North Korean nuclear and missile diplomacy, by Arms Control Association (Washington), updated July 2017
U.S. peace delegation calls for immediate response to North Korea’s offer to freeze its nuclear program
A ‘U.S. Solidarity Peace Delegation’ visited South Korea from July 23 to 28, 2017. Its goal was to gather information and report to the world about the growing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The delegation voiced demands for immediate U.S. and South Korean measures to de-escalate tensions.
The delegation was composed of Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, Reece Chenault of U.S. Labor Against the War, Will Griffin of Veterans for Peace, and 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. Its visit was sponsored by The Channing and Popai Liem Education Foundation and the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific (STIK). The delegation issued the following statement on August 4:
The Korean Peninsula is rapidly approaching the boiling point. On the last day of our visit, July 28, North Korea conducted a missile test and the U.S.-South Korean governments launched another set of warning missiles. South Korean President Moon announced he would allow the United States to deploy four additional launchers to complete the controversial THAAD anti-missile system unit, reversing his previous position. In light of these escalations and the likelihood of more aggressive measures, urgent actions are needed in order to de-escalate tensions.
North Korea has repeatedly offered to suspend its nuclear weapons development in exchange for a freeze in U.S.-South Korean joint war exercises. It’s time for the U.S. and South Korea to respond to this offer as a jumping off point for definitive negotiations towards a peaceful, sovereign, nuclear-free Korean peninsula, free from the conflicts of competing global powers that have been so harmful to the region.
North and South Korea have lived in a perpetual wartime mobilization for decades, with the presence in the South of 83 U.S. bases and nearly 30,000 U.S. troops. Provocations are being made with increasing frequency by both North Korea and the United States. Each time North Korea conducts an additional nuclear or missile test, the potential severity of hostilities escalates, and the more difficult it becomes to defuse tensions and avert the outbreak of conflict on the Peninsula.
Given the proximity of North Korea to Seoul, a metropolitan area of 25 million people, any outbreak of hostilities would be devastating. In a North Korean attack with conventional weapons, it’s estimated that 64,000 South Koreans would be killed in the first day alone. Even a limited exchange using nuclear weapons risks causing “nuclear winter”, a disruption of the climate due to the reduction of sunlight from airborne dust and debris. This, in turn, could drastically reduce global agricultural production, leading to worldwide famine and hundreds of millions of deaths.
Since Seoul would be caught in the crossfire of any hostilities, it is essential that the conflict be handled through diplomacy. The sooner diplomatic action is launched, the more likely it will succeed.
Therefore, we call for immediate diplomatic action to reduce threats that push North Korea towards the development of nuclear weapons. Foremost among these threats are the U.S.-South Korean joint war exercises against North Korea, which include dropping mock nuclear bombs on North Korea. In addition, the United States has long held a “ nuclear first strike” policy towards North Korea. This frightening threat of a pre-emptive U.S. nuclear attack gives North Korea good reason to want a nuclear arsenal as the sole means for deterring such an attack.
Fortunately, tensions can be defused through actions that are diplomatic, strategic, just and long overdue. Specifically, the Peace Delegation calls for the following actions:
- Declare an end to the unethical and hyper-aggressive, nuclear first strike position held by the U.S. towards North Korea.
- Declare an immediate moratorium on U.S.-South Korean war games, including the dropping of mock nuclear bombs on North Korea. This would be a first step towards a formal agreement ending U.S.-South Korean war games in exchange for North Korea freezing its weapons and nuclear program. The U.S. government should respond to North Korea’s long-standing offer by inviting North Korea to begin serious negotiations for such an agreement now.
- Withdraw THAAD, the misnamed missile “defense” system recently installed by the U.S. in Seongju,South Korea despite vigorous and ongoing protests by local residents. THAAD is not actually capable of defending against incoming missiles under real world conditions with multiple missiles and decoys. Its powerful radar system is widely believed to have been deployed for the purpose of spying on China, provoking dangerous tensions in the region.
- Begin negotiating a peace treaty to finally bring closure to the Korean War. The Korean War, in which nearly 20% of North Korea’s population was killed, has never been formally ended with a peace treaty.
- The South Korean government should lift travel bans on peace activists, like the ban that prevented our Korean-American trip leader Juyeon Rhee from accompanying our tour.
Delegates also call for more peace delegations so that the U.S. peace movement can build stronger solidarity with their counterparts in the South, and learn firsthand about the negative consequences of U.S. military bases on Korean soil.
In the coming weeks, the coalition will help launch a campaign to mobilize citizen pressure for a peaceful resolution of the volatile conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Peace Delegation Members:
Jill Stein, Green Party 2016 presidential candidate
Reece Chenault, U.S. Labor Against War
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK
Will Griffin, Veterans for Peace
Negotiations, not war: Green Party’s Jill Stein warns about U.S. escalating tension with North Korea, interview with Jill Stein on Democracy Now!, broadcast on Aug 2, 2017 (nine minute interview)
South Korean progressives launch new party to complete ‘Candlelight Revolution’: Interview with national assembly member Kim Jong-hoo
Interview by Zoom In Korea, published on Aug 4, 2017
“The people who were at the forefront of the candlelight revolution that ousted Park Geun-hye need to be the driving force of South Korean politics, and for that reason, we need a new party,” said Kim Jong-hoon, an independent South Korean National Assembly member, in a recent interview with Zoom In Korea.
Kim is part of a new movement to re-consolidate progressive forces in South Korea to build a new progressive party tasked with following through on the demands for fundamental systemic change put forth by the candlelight revolution. The preparatory committee of the New People’s Party (Sae-minjung-jeong-dang)–a working title that may change after merging with other existing progressive parties–represents a broad united front of diverse sectors, most notably the Korean Peasants League and sections of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. It plans to launch the new party in late September.
Formerly a member of the Democratic Labor Party and the Unified Progressive Party, Kim currently serves in the National Assembly as an independent and is the standing representative of the new party. He represents the district of Ulsan, South Korea’s industrial powerhouse and home to the world’s largest automobile assembly plant operated by the Hyundai Motor Company and the world’s largest shipyard operated by Hyundai Heavy Industries. As a student activist, he participated in the series of militant labor strikes that later came to be known as the Great Workers’ Struggle of 1987, a milestone in the fight for democratic labor unions in South Korea.
Zoom In Korea asked Kim to discuss the impetus behind the formation of the new progressive party, as well as the role of South Korean progressives vis a vis the liberal Moon Jae-in administration and the intensifying war threats on the Korean peninsula.
Zoom In Korea: Congratulations on the formation of the new party. Please tell us about the new party. What forces are coming together to form this party? Why form this party at this particular moment?
Kim: The South Korean people have ousted the previous Park Geun-hye administration through people power and laid the groundwork for creating a new society. The people who were at the forefront of the candlelight revolution need to be the driving force of South Korean politics. For that to happen, we need a new party. All who share this belief–the Korean Peasants League (KPL), Korean Alliance of Progressive Movements (KAPM), and the Korean Youth Alliance, among others–came together on July 9 to launch the preparatory committee of the new party.
Zoom In Korea: How does this new progressive party distinguish itself from not only the liberal democratic party (The Minjoo Party) but also other progressive parties already in existence?
Kim: The existing political parties are solely focused on partisan politics based on their own party interests. The aim of the new party is to serve the broader interests of the people and create a new political force to fundamentally transform the political order of South Korean society. “Toward a society that respects workers” is our slogan, and as such, our goal is to liquidate inequality and fight for self-determination, peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula, the world’s only divided country under constant threat of war. We will demonstrate that the most competent political leaders are the people themselves.
Zoom In Korea: You had said in a previous interview elsewhere that you were deeply affected by the death of farmer Baek Nam-gi as you identified with his life and struggle. Tell us about your personal background and how you became involved in politics.
Kim: When Farmer Baek Nam-gi passed away, I went to his hospital bed every night even though it was in the middle of the national audit season. Baek was hit by a water cannon during a people power demonstration in 2015 and was in a coma for a year before finally passing. This seventy-year old man got up at the break of dawn and traveled all the way from Boseong, South Jeolla Province to Seoul to demand a raise in the price of rice. It broke my heart to think about what must have been going through his mind that day. A world where workers and farmers have to risk their lives just to survive — don’t you think it’s cruel?
It’s been thirty-odd years since I first vowed to work for a better world for workers and farmers. I attended university in Ulsan and became a student activist. I was imprisoned for supporting the 128-day labor strike at Hyundai Heavy Industries in 1989. When a worker I met through that struggle said to me, “Won’t your politics change after you graduate and become successful?” I said, “No, I will always fight on the side of workers.” My current political work is part of my effort to honor that pledge.
In 1990, I became the representative of a workers’ cultural organization in Ulsan Dong-gu. The following year, I became the cultural secretary of the Hyundai Group Labor Unions Alliance. In 2002 — after the formation of the Democratic Labor Party in 2000 — I was elected a member of the Ulsan City Council, and I became active in legislative politics for the first time. In 2011, I was elected the Commissioner of the Ulsan Dong-gu district, where I gained administrative experience. Then in the 2016 general election, I was elected into the National Assembly, where I currently fight for the rights of workers, the urban poor, and the socially-disenfranchised.
Zoom In Korea: You represent the district of Ulsan, where Hyundai Heavy Industries is based. Tell us about the history of labor and democracy movements in Ulsan. How is your personal story tied to this history?
Kim: In 1987, from July to September, South Korean workers, demanding the right to organize democratic labor unions and improvements in wages and working conditions, carried out a militant mass struggle for democracy — now known as the Great Workers’ Struggle of 1987.
The first sparks of the Great Workers’ Struggle started at the Hyundai Group Labor Union Alliance, then spread like wildfire throughout Masan and the huge industrial plants in Changwon, as well as Busan and Geoje. On August 17-18, 30,000 workers of the Hyundai Group Labor Union Alliance in Ulsan took to the streets and turned the entire city into a liberated zone. My heart still pounds when I think back on the militant spirit of the workers, who chanted, “Let us live with dignity,” and the sight of endless rows of workers as they marched over Nammok Hill in Dong-gu and headed towards Ulsan City Hall. This year, on July 5, we held a commemoration to mark the 30th anniversary of the Great Workers’ Struggle of 1987 in Ulsan. That was also the day that workers at Hyundai Engine formed their union thirty years ago.
Zoom In Korea: What are the living/working conditions of working-class people in your district today? Tell us about your efforts to improve their conditions.
Kim: The primary demands of the workers during the Great Workers’ Struggle of 1987 were: an 8-hour work day, revision of unjust labor laws, guarantee of basic labor rights, right to freely organize labor unions, elimination of blacklists, and improvement of working conditions and wages. Thirty years later, these are still the basic demands of workers. We have a long way to go to achieve democratization of the economy and the workplace.
I represent Ulsan Dong-gu, where workers are struggling due to the massive restructuring of the shipbuilding industry by the previous Park Geun-hye administration. Shifting the burden of poor corporate management by the primary contractor to workers has caused serious problems, such as mass layoffs and back wages.
Therefore, I have called on the Ministry of Employment and Labor as well as the Fair Trade Commission to make systemic changes to root out unfair contracts and practices in the subcontracting system, and I continue to support the workers at Hyundai Heavy Industries in their struggle to defend their jobs.
I am also fighting to increase the national minimum wage to 10,000 won, abolish unjust labor laws and make systemic changes to create a society that respects the dignity of workers. As a member of the Trade, Industry and Energy Committee of the National Assembly, I also advocate worker-centered industrial policies.
Zoom In Korea: The South Korean people recently ousted the former president through people power. What lessons do you draw from the mass candlelight protests and how will the new party build on that movement?
Kim: The main lesson of the candlelight revolution is that people demand direct democracy. Through direct action, the people, who are the true sovereigns of this nation, challenged a system in which electoral democracy is actually distorting and constraining true democracy. The candlelight revolution demonstrated that Article 1 of the South Korean constitution, which states, ”All state authority shall emanate from the people,” should be reinterpreted as, “All state authority shall emanate from the struggling people.”
The new party will carry forward the spirit of the candlelight revolution to advance direct and participatory democracy. Through people power, we can uproot corruption and follow through on the systemic change that was demanded by the candlelight revolution. And this will be the main task of the new party.
Zoom In Korea: It has been thirty years since the pro-democracy uprising of 1987, which marked the end of decades-old military dictatorship in South Korea and the entry of progressives in the political arena. The historic formation of the Democratic Labor Party in 2000 was a milestone that brought together progressives in a united front for political power. That era came to an end with the forced dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party by former President Park Geun-hye. What lessons do you draw from this experience, and how will this inform the politics/practice of the new party?
Kim: The Democratic Labor Party stood for national sovereignty, democracy, peaceful reunification and a world based on equality determined by the people. The experience of the past thirty years of progressive participation in the political arena confirmed that workers, farmers, and the urban poor are the main forces for social progress and should be the main protagonists in South Korea’s politics. What we learned, more than anything, is that there can be no democracy without sovereignty, and the party cannot progress without progress in mass organization.
The new party will be a party that advocates sovereignty and equality and is led by the people–workers, farmers, and the urban poor. Our aim is nothing less than the fundamental transformation of South Korean society.
Zoom In Korea: How will the new party coordinate/delegate its resources between electoral/parliamentary politics and mass movement-building?
Kim: The new party will be a party that connects the picket line and the public square with the halls of the National Assembly. Even when 1.7 million citizens raised their candles to call for systemic reforms and the elimination of corruption, not one piece of reform legislation passed in the National Assembly. Workers literally put their lives on the line to fight for their livelihoods, but it takes forever to fix the system through the legislative process to meet their needs. The new party aims to put an end to this.
We envision a new type of political practice — one where the voices of the picket lines come together in the public square, and the indignant spirit of the public square floods the halls of the National Assembly, i.e. a politics based on the strength of people power.
Zoom In Korea: You have stressed the importance of working class people participating in direct democracy. Why is this important and what does that look like?
Kim: “Building a society that respects workers” has become a popular slogan, but the lives of workers and ordinary people have not changed qualitatively. The existing political parties spout charming pledges during campaign seasons, but we can’t sit around and wait for them to make good on their promises. That’s because they are not, by nature, parties that will serve the interests of workers and farmers. And that’s why we propose direct participation in politics in which workers, farmers, and the urban poor themselves can forge a path for a better future.
Workers, farmers, and the urban poor have the power to create a better society when they come together, so we propose to combine our strengths for political power. We are also working to introduce measures that enable direct political participation, such as people’s referendums and citizens assemblies.
Zoom In Korea: What will be the party’s relationship to organized labor? How will the party forge a “strategic alliance” with labor?
Kim: Strategic alliance means the party and organized labor work together based on a shared plan that will mutually strengthen the capacity of both the party and the union. In the past, the party’s practice was to go to the union and say, “Please help us in the next election,” or “Please join our party,” or “Please pay your dues.” We need to do away with this ‘politics by proxy’ and stop turning to unions solely for cash and headcounts. Our party will work side by side with organized labor, especially in times of hardship, to strengthen the capacity of unions
In the past, mass organizations were expected to pledge exclusive support to the party. We aim to create a party that provides exclusive support to mass organizations. If we can build mutual trust and strengthen our organizations in this way, that will become the source power for the party, i.e. our collective political power. Our goal is to hear people say, “Thanks to the party, the labor movement is stronger.” In our party, there are many capable organizers and people who have devoted themselves to serving the people for decades. If we all demonstrate our abilities to the fullest, I’m sure we can create a strategic and mutually-beneficial alliance between the party and organized labor.
Zoom In Korea: What will be the party’s relationship with other progressive parties?
Kim: The new party aims to achieve victory for the people through the grand unity of all progressive forces. The preparatory committee regards serving the interests of the people as its highest guiding principle, and its formation is the first step toward creating a bigger and stronger unified force with all political forces that seek to unite. To this end, we have proposed the formation of a grand unified party with the People’s United Party, as well as the Justice Party and the Labor Party. Unfortunately, the newly-elected leadership of the Justice Party has said although it will work with the new progressive party around specific policy initiatives, it will not consider unifying with other parties in a grand alliance. We will work together with all forces that agree on the need for the grand unity of all progressive forces to launch the new progressive party before the end of September.
Zoom In Korea: Reactionary forces were quick to respond to the formation of the new party by characterizing it as a revival of the outlawed Unified Progressive Party. How will the new party defend against political repression/reactionary attacks?
Kim: Progressives in South Korea are perhaps fated to be condemned as ‘pro-North’ or as ‘communist sympathizers.’ That’s because of the continued presence of the reactionary forces that parasitically thrive off of the system of national division. They only talk of ‘national security.’ No matter how outstanding our politics and practice, we will always be branded and attacked as ‘pro-North’ forces as long as we fail to resolve the division of the Korean peninsula. That’s why we will concentrate our forces to resolve the problem of national division, which is fundamental to the major problems of our society. Eradicating the deep-rooted ills that stem from national division is critical to the class struggle in South Korea and efforts to improve the lives of workers and ordinary people.
Zoom In Korea: How do you foresee the party supporting the struggle against the THAAD deployment?
Kim: The THAAD deployment issue boils down to a question of how we will create a peace system on the Korean peninsula. Conducting a proper environmental impact assessment and calculating the economic costs China’s retaliation are important, but they are not the fundamental issue. If the Moon Jae-in government participates in U.S. sanctions against North Korea and maintains South Korea’s subservience to the United States, it cannot ultimately reverse the THAAD deployment. The Moon administration needs to have faith in the people, correctly assess the changing geo-political conditions on the Korean peninsula, and work to create a new order in Northeast Asia.
By standing resolutely in solidarity with the Seongju residents for the past year, we have gained their trust. The Seongju/Gimcheon residents and the Won Buddhists have emerged strong as the main driving force in this fight. The South Korean people who raised their candles to oust Park Geun-hye demand peace on the Korean peninsula and oppose the THAAD deployment. We will continue to fight alongside the people to make sure the candles that burned for Park’s impeachment will reignite as flames for sovereignty.
Zoom In Korea: What role does this new progressive party play in the movement for peace and reunification moving forward?
Kim: The Trump administration has abandoned Obama’s ‘strategic patience’ and has introduced a new North Korea policy called ‘maximum press and engagement.’ This is apparently a strategy to use through threats and pressure to coerce North Korea to negotiate for denuclearization — which is not much different from the policy of the previous administration.
In order to resolve the U.S.-North Korea crisis, one must first recognize North Korea as a partner for dialogue. It’s contradictory to say it wants to talk with North Korea while at the same time pursuing a policy of hostility. Genuine talks to normalize U.S.-North Korea relations will only be possible through a simultaneous freeze of the U.S.-South Korean war games and the North Korean nuclear and missiles tests.
In terms of North-South relations, the interests of the Korean people should be the primary determinant, and we need to restore trust and prepare for unification. The Moon administration needs to make the practical choice and the resolute decision to pave the way for national unity and co-prosperity. The new party will devote our resources to realizing a Peace Treaty on the Korean peninsula and self-reliant reunification.
Zoom In Korea: The Trump administration has said it wants to renegotiate the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA). As a member of the Trade, Industry and Energy Committee of the National Assembly, what is your view of the FTA and the proposal for renegotiation?
Kim: The standard for assessing the Korea-U.S. FTA needs to be whether or not it helped the country to improve the lives of ordinary people and overcome class polarization. What beneficial impact the Korea-U.S. FTA has had on the lives of people is a big question mark. But the South Korean government is not producing an accurate assessment of the impact of the FTA.
As a standing committee member of the Trade, Industry and Energy Committee of the National Assembly, I have repeatedly requested the government conduct an accurate impact assessment of the Korea-U.S. FTA. The government points to the increase in trade and surplus in the trade balance, as well as the U.S.’ eagerness to renegotiate, to paint the Korea-U.S. FTA as a successful agreement, but this is a very shallow assessment.
During his election campaign, Trump pledged to scrap or renegotiate free trade agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has already been scrapped, and the United States wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is in this context that Trump is talking about re-negotiating the Korea-U.S. FTA. South Korea needs to respond assertively and confidently to the U.S. proposal for renegotiation. As a matter of priority, we need to abolish toxic provisions, such as the investor-state dispute (ISD) clause. Most importantly, we need to begin at once the project of meticulously examining the impact of the Korea-U.S. FTA on the lives of ordinary people. If the findings reveal that the Korea-U.S. FTA does not help the lives of ordinary people and only exacerbates class polarization, we need to be bold and be willing to reconsider the FTA in its entirety. We must not regard the Korea-U.S. FTA as an object of idol worship.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in seeks U.S. approval to boost its missile arsenal, by news agencies, on Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 30, 2017
Trump intel chief: North Korea learned from Libya war to ‘never’ give up nukes, by Jon Schwarz, The Intercept, July 29, 2017
North Korea’s deterrent and Trump’s options, by Tim Beal, Zoom In Korea, July 26, 2017