December 19, 2014

Democracy in South Korea Regresses Further

The decision by South Korea's Constitutional Court to ban the United Progressive Party (UPP, the photo above shows its rally in recent election), the first such measure in South Korea's history, is another blow to South Korea's hard-earned democratic gains.  Without concrete evidence, the court yielded to the Park Geun-hye government's demand to dissolve the UPP, vaguely alluding that the UPP party platform calls for North Korea-style system in South Korea. In actuality, the UPP's platform resembles more of social democracy platforms of legitimate political parties in Western Europe and Latin America. This measure is in line with the Park government's attempts to label almost all opposition as being "pro-North Korea" and deemed to be prosecutable under the draconian Cold War vestige of the National Security Law.

In another development, a right-wing terror (small bomb thrown by a high school student) disrupted a talk show by Eun-Mi Shin, a Korean American housewife who were on a speaking tour to share her insights from visits to North Korea.

U.S. to Normalize Relations with Cuba -- What next?

With the surprise announcement that the U.S. will normalize relations with Cuba, the list of nations without diplomatic relations with the U.S. got shorter: Bhutan, Iran and North Korea. Bhutan does not have many foreign relations and Iran is at odds with Washington after the Iranian Revolution. That leaves North Korea as the sole nation not recognized by Washington due to the Cold War vestige. 

U.S. policymakers seem to have come to conclusion that 53 years of embargo on Cuba is anachronistic and did not work. The world will now see how Washington will approach relations with Pyongyang, with ongoing 66 years of non-recognition -- though tainted by the recent controversy over the film "The Interview." 

October 29, 2014

NAKA's 20th Anniversary Event

NAKA (The National Association of Korean Americans, Inc.) celebrated its twenty years of activities on October 25, 2014 at the Tysons Corner Marriott Hotel in Tysons Corner, Virginia. NAKA's dual purpose and activities on political empowerment of Korean Americans and promotion of peaceful settlement in the Korean Peninsula were highlighted and congratulated by distinguished guests, including Frank Jannuzi of the Mansfield Foundation and former South Korea's National Assembly member Lee Chang-Bok.

Major accomplishments of NAKA include the first-ever trilateral meeting (Korea Peace and Security Forum, July 20, 2004) of legislators from the U.S., South Korea and North Korea, at the U.S. Congress; and the New York Conference on Peace and Cooperation in Northeast Asia (March 7-9, 2012,  New York City), a Track II conference co-organized by NAKA, during  heightened tensions in the Korean Peninsula, with government and NGO representatives from the six-party talks nations – the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, North Korea -- plus Mongolia and Germany, where then-Senator John Kerry and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made remarks. 

Other activities include Asia Pacific Americans Candidates' Forum, voter registration drives and voter education; frequent Korea Peace Advocacy Day in the Congress; a part of Support 121 Coalition, promoting the passage of the US House Resolution 121 regarding the WW II "comfort women"/sexual slavery issue.

September 25, 2014

Mayor Park Won-Soon at the World Bank

Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon speaking at the World Bank workshop on innovations in urban management and service delivery on September 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mayor Park, former human rights lawyer, public policy watchdog leader, and citizen advocacy activist, has implemented new and fresh urban services to needy Seoul citizens using prompt and interactive social media outreach and communication. Mayor Park was in town to renew sister city relationship with Washington, DC.

September 22, 2014

The Controversy Over North Korean Flag at the Asian Games in South Korea

North Korea has sent its national team to Incheon, South Korea to participate in the 17th Asian Games.

South Korea is the host to this year’s event, but due to its domestic security laws regarding North Korea, controversies arose already. First, South Korean government has forbidden raising of the flags of participating nations of the games in order to singularly forbid North Korean flag from being seen outside the games’ official site – which is unprecedented measure and may go against the policies of the games. North Korean players may hoist their flag in the players’ housing area, but if South Koreans displayed the North Korean flag outside the site, they will be prosecuted under the draconian National Security Law. Second, North Korean journalists who accompanied the team were unable to send reports home because South Korean authorities block North Korean Internet sites.

 With these residues of inter-Korea confrontation aside, Koreans will likely cheer both teams, and hopefully conciliatory mood will prevail and help towards warming of inter-Korea relations.

In another incident, FIFA authorities banned the displaying of "One Korea" flag by the spectators at the U20 Women's World Cup games, despite the fact that the flag that contains the image of the Korean Peninsula, symbolizing the yearning for Korean reunification, has been displayed widely at international sports events involving both Korean teams, including the Olympics, and at official inter-Korea meetings and functions. FIFA even sanctioned the North Korean soccer federation regarding the display of the flag, even though Korean Canadian and Korean American fans displayed the flag at the games independently.

August 26, 2014

Call for Special Law to Investigate Sewol Ferry Tragedy Widens

Demand for a special law to investigate the Sewol Ferry Disaster has engulfed South Korea and overseas Koreans, symbolized by Kim Yeong-oh (photo above), a father of a student lost in the Sewol sinking, who is now on 44-day hunger strike for the enactment of the special law.

Despite demands by the Sewol victims' families (who are camping outside the presidential office until the demand is met), opposition party members, and concerned citizens calling for the special law, which would provide independent and impartial investigative and prosecutorial powers in pinpointing true causes of the incident, the Park Geun-hye government is not yielding to the demand, citing that no special law is needed.

Solidarity hunger strike has also spread, as Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate in the last election, is now in his 8-day hunger strike, and other Koreans are doing one-day relay hunger strikes all over the world.

Sewol ferry sank on April 16, 2014, off the southwestern coast of Korea, with death toll of 294 on-board, most of whom were students from a particular high school en route to a school field trip. The incident revealed gross negligence and unpreparedness of large emergencies by South Korean authorities, filled with corruption and negligence in safety inspections and following safety protocols, lack of emergency procedure trainings and executions, and inept responses by maritime police and rescue units that prolonged the rescue time.  

July 9, 2014

Scenes of Daily Life in Korea from the 1900s

See more rare photos of scenes of daily life in Korea, during the early period of Japanese colonial rule, taken by a Japanese photographer. Some Korean commentators say that Japanese colonialism helped bring about modernization and industrialization to Korea, but that is no excuse for the brutal colonial occupation and subsequent division of Korea due to foreign interventions.