CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "South Korea"

The Japan-Korea Comfort Women Deal: Proper Implementation Is What Matters

by Scott A. Snyder
A statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military is seen during a weekly anti-Japan rally in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, December 30, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji) A statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military is seen during a weekly anti-Japan rally in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, December 30, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

This post was coauthored with Brad Glosserman, executive director at Pacific Forum CSIS.

The cycle of negativity surrounding Japan-South Korea relations since the Abe-Park era began in early 2013 has at times eclipsed North Korea as a source of angst among observers of Northeast Asia. Even the modest improvements that accompanied commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic normalization in June 2015 were tinged by frustration over the two governments’ failure to move forward on the comfort woman issue. The main problem involved the acknowledgement of Japanese responsibility for the coercion of girls and women to provide sexual services to the military in imperial Japan, and this disagreement spilled over into other issues in the two countries’ relationship. Read more »

THAAD: The Moment of Decision Has Arrived

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Reuters/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters) A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Reuters/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the author of The Korean Pivot and the Return of Great Power Politics in Northeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 22, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Bacha-Khan-protest Civil society members take part in protest against the attack on Bacha Khan University at a demonstration in Peshawar, Pakistan, January 21, 2016. (Khuram Parvez/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Terrorists kill twenty-one in attack on Pakistani university. On Wednesday, gunmen stormed Bacha Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Charsadda district, killing twenty-one people and injuring dozens more. Four attackers were killed in an hours-long gun battle with security guards, local police, and the army in the attempt to secure the campus. Read more »

North Korea’s H-Bomb and the Costs of American Indifference

by Scott A. Snyder
People watch a huge screen broadcasting the government's announcement in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo January 6, 2016. North Korea said it successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear bomb on Wednesday, claiming a significant advance in its strike capability and setting off alarm bells in Japan and South Korea. Mandatory credit (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo) People watch a huge screen broadcasting the government's announcement in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo January 6, 2016. North Korea said it successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear bomb on Wednesday, claiming a significant advance in its strike capability and setting off alarm bells in Japan and South Korea. Mandatory credit (Courtesy REUTERS/Kyodo)

The White House moved quickly to debunk North Korea’s exaggerated claim that a Jan. 5 “artificial earthquake” at the site where Pyongyang had conducted three previous nuclear tests was a breakthrough detonation of a hydrogen bomb. The size of the blast was similar to that of North Korea’s January 2013 test and had a yield thousands of times lower than the yield expected of a hydrogen blast. But in downplaying North Korea’s claim so as not to feed Kim Jong-un’s cravings for international attention, the Barack Obama administration risks underplaying the growing danger posed by North Korea’s unchecked efforts to develop nuclear and missile capabilities needed to threaten a nuclear strike on the United States. Read more »

North Korea’s Nuclear Theatricality: What Matters Little and What Matters A Lot

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji) Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the author of The Korean Pivot and the Return of Great Power Politics in Northeast Asia.
Read more »

North Korea’s Fourth Nuclear Test: How to Respond?

by Scott A. Snyder
Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji) Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

North Korea announced that it has conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6, 2016, following reports of a 5.1 magnitude artificial earthquake near the site of North Korea’s past nuclear tests. Regardless of whether or not the North’s claims to have conducted a test of a “hydrogen bomb” are true, the test occurs in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning North Korea for conducting three previous tests and despite repeated warnings by the leaders of the United States, South Korea, and China not to do so. South Korea’s foreign minister stated in April of 2014 that North Korea’s fourth nuclear test would be a “game changer,” but this will only be the case if the United States, South Korea, and China can lead a response that imposes real costs on Pyongyang. Read more »

Domestic Political Obstacles and the U.S. Role in Improving Japan-Korea Relations

by Scott A. Snyder
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye listen during the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines November 18, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Wally Santana/Pool) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye listen during the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines November 18, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Wally Santana/Pool)

Despite the resumption of high-level Japan-South Korea ties with the holding of a “cold summit” in Seoul last month between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, prospects for a breakthrough in Japan-South Korea relations remain distant on the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic normalization between Seoul and Tokyo. If anything, the gap between Park and Abe on how to address the issue of comfort women has grown deeper, despite a realization on the part of both governments that the issue must be managed as one part of a broader relationship rather than be allowed to block all forms of cooperation between the two sides. Read more »

Planning for Korean Unification

by Scott A. Snyder
Members of the North Korean soccer team run down the field after Jin
Pyol Hui (hidden) scored her team's 3rd goal against Nigeria during
second half action in their first round FIFA Women's World Cup game in
Philadelphia, September 20, 2003. North Korea defeated Nigeria 3-0.
After the goal, fans of the team unfurled a larged flag showing the
Korean peninsula. The fans held up signs during the game promoting a
unified Korea. (Courtesy REUTERS/Gary Hershorn) Members of the North Korean soccer team run down the field after Jin Pyol Hui (hidden) scored her team's 3rd goal against Nigeria during second half action in their first round FIFA Women's World Cup game in Philadelphia, September 20, 2003. North Korea defeated Nigeria 3-0. After the goal, fans of the team unfurled a larged flag showing the Korean peninsula. The fans held up signs during the game promoting a unified Korea. (Courtesy REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)

This post was coauthored with Sungtae “Jacky” Park, research associate for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Last week Kim Jong-un marked the fourth anniversary of his succession to leadership and his father’s death in North Korea. The leadership transition reignited discussion among North Korea watchers over how and whether the regime would be able to survive. Two years later, Kim had his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, executed for treason, sparking another round of speculation over whether the execution reflected a step toward consolidation of power under or was evidence of infighting that might lead to a leadership vacuum in Pyongyang. Because North Korea’s totalitarian system requires isolation to perpetuate political control yet is increasingly penetrated by markets and information, speculation about North Korea’s collapse will persist, and outside observers will judge that Kim is playing a losing hand. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of December 18, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Hyeon-Soo-Lim-gets-life-sentence-North-Korea - 12-18-15 South Korea–born Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim attends his trial at a North Korean court in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, December 16, 2015. (KCNA/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Canadian pastor sentenced by North Korea to life in prison with hard labor. Hyeon Soo Lim, a Canadian pastor, was sentenced to a life term of hard labor by the highest court in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. After a ninety-minute trial, Lim was convicted of crimes against the state that included running a human rights campaign against North Korea in cooperation with the United States and South Korea, as well as assisting defectors who wished to leave North Korea. Read more »

North Korea’s Band Came Home, and Inter-Korean Talks Broke Down: What Next?

by Scott A. Snyder
The Moranbong Band performs for participants of the Fifth Conference of Training Officers of the Korean People's Army at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang, in this April 27, 2015 photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 29, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/KCNA) The Moranbong Band performs for participants of the Fifth Conference of Training Officers of the Korean People's Army at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang, in this April 27, 2015 photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 29, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/KCNA)

Last week it seemed possible that North Korea was ready for the first time under Kim Jong-un to reach out in parallel to its closest neighbors, South Korea and China. Inter-Korean dialogue had resumed last Friday at the vice-minister level in Kaesong. At the same time, Pyongyang sent Kim Jong-un’s favorite all-female Moranbong band to Beijing as a signal of potential willingness to re-open normal relations between Pyongyang and Beijing. However, both initiatives appear to have foundered because of North Korea’s commitment to its nuclear weapons program, underscoring the country’s diplomatic isolation. Read more »