ROK-U.S. News

Yonhap – U.S. expert voices skepticism over N.K. push for nuke sub

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) — North Korea appears to be “many, many years” away from developing a nuclear-powered submarine loaded with a ballistic missile, a U.S. rocket expert said Wednesday after leader Kim Jong-un unveiled the ambitious goal last week.

In a forum on the North’s recent ruling party congress, Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies also raised concerns over Pyongyang’s push for unmanned striking capabilities, referencing 2019 drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which the United States blamed on Iran.

During the eighth congress of the Workers’ Party earlier this month, the North showed its intent to keep advancing its nuclear capabilities and claimed that the study on the designing of a new nuclear-fueled submarine was “in the stage of final examination.”

The North also catalogued other military projects to develop tactical nuclear weapons, unmanned striking equipment and supersonic gliding flight warheads.

“These are very complex projects that take many, many years if not decades to create,” Elleman said during the virtual forum hosted by the think tanks Sejong Institute and Stimson Center.

“If you look at the history of China’s nuclear-powered submarine program and the missile that went into it, it extended over two to three decades and suffered many failures. I think this is more aspirational than anything else at this point,” he added.

The expert noted that to have submarine-launched missile capability, the North needs to have at least three submarines to have a “constant patrol.”

“So, I see this submarine-launched system is more of a longer-term goal, not something that’s already been accomplished,” he said.

The North’s pursuit of a submarine equipped with a nuclear-tipped missile has been a source of a major concern for Seoul and Washington, as the North can use the underwater platform for a stealthy retaliatory strike even after surviving a preemptive attack — so as to strengthen what it calls “nuclear war deterrent.”

Elleman also pointed to the North’s pursuit of drone capabilities and stressed the need for measures to counter the security challenge.

“We’ve seen what Iran has been able to do with its drones, precision guided drones. We saw what they did to Abqaiq facilities in Saudi Arabia … take out some very expensive infrastructure and do it quite easily,” he said.

“We all need to be thinking about how you want to counter it because you can’t be sending $10 million interceptor missile after drones that cost a few thousand dollars. It is not a sustainable thing,” he added.

Fears about potential unmanned attacks have lingered for years since South Korean military authorities discovered crashed North Korean drones in border areas, including the front-line island of Baengnyeong in 2014.

Meanwhile, Kim Byung-yeon, an economics professor at Seoul National University, cast Pyongyang’s goal of a self-reliant economy as a “mission impossible.”

“It is highly unlikely to fulfill. I think it is like a mission impossible. (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un is not Tom Cruise,” he said during the forum, stressing even Kim’s two late predecessors — grandfather Kim Il-sung and father Kim Jong-il — had never achieved the objective.

“It became much more difficult to fulfill this task in Kim Jong-un’s era because the economy is involved more heavily in foreign trade and foreign currency earnings,” he added.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) speaks during a fifth-day session of the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang on Jan. 9, 2021, in this image released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) speaks during a fifth-day session of the eighth congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on Jan. 9, 2021, in this image released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – Moon vows close cooperation with Biden for Korea peace process

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) — President Moon Jae-in pledged Thursday to maintain close partnerships with the new U.S. administration, chairing a rare plenary session of the National Security Council (NSC) hours after Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“The government will develop the South Korea-U.S. alliance as a more comprehensive and mutually beneficial one,” he said at the outset of the session held at Cheong Wa Dae, which was briefly open to pool reporters.

Moon also said his government will make utmost efforts to restart dialogue and cooperation with North Korea.

He stressed that the peace process is a must, not an option, and called on his national security team to do its best to end a longstanding stalemate in Washington-Pyongyang talks and inter-Korean dialogue at an early date.

President Moon Jae-in speaks during a National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in speaks during a National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

Moon regarded the Indo-Pacific region as entering a “rapid transition period” and stressed that it is time to strengthen the Seoul-Washington alliance and further develop cooperative ties with neighboring nations.

He noted that South Korea and its largest trading partner, China, will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 2022.

“We will have to build a foundation (for the two sides) to move toward a developed relationship,” he said.

On Japan, he said, Seoul and Tokyo should “not stay in the past” and need to push for forward-looking relations.

In particular, the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to take place later this year, could serve as a chance for improvement in Seoul-Tokyo ties and progress in efforts to promote peace in Northeast Asia, he added.

It was the first known NSC meeting chaired by Moon in nearly two years. He convened the previous one to discuss a strategy following the no-deal Hanoi summit between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea in late February 2019.

Moon also received a report from the foreign, defense and unification ministries on 2021 policy direction and goals.

The president took particular note of outgoing Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha’s service over the past 3 1/2 years.

As the first female and longest-serving minister of the current government, Kang has made lots of contributions to developments in the Korea peace process, including North Korea-U.S. and inter-Korean summits, Moon said, according to Cheong Wa Dae’s press release on the results of Thursday’s session.

The minister is also credited with playing a role in enhancing South Korea’s global stature in cooperation with other nations on the COVID-19 crisis, Moon added.

On Wednesday, Moon’s office announced a decision to replace Kang with Chung Eui-yong, former director of national security at the presidential office, in a partial Cabinet reshuffle. Chung is subject to the National Assembly’s confirmation hearing, the date of which has yet to be set.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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Yonhap – Biden’s speech signals better ties with Seoul, less drama with Pyongyang

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) — North Korea is and will continue to be a major challenge for the new U.S. administration, but not as great a challenge as other domestic issues such as the pandemic, at least for now, as evidenced by President Joe Biden’s inaugural address on Wednesday.

The new U.S. leader took office with a speech that mostly focused on the need for unity among Americans to fight off the deadly new coronavirus, but also other foes facing the U.S. that he said included “anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence.”

“I was not at all surprised that the Korean Peninsula did not come up in Biden’s address,” says Celeste Arrington, political science and international affairs professor at George Washington University.

“There was a lot of significant language about unity, tolerance even amid disagreements, respect, facing our national challenges (political and COVID) together, etc. Biden has to prioritize these tough domestic tasks,” she added in an email interview with Yonhap News Agency.

This AP photo shows U.S. President Joe Biden delivering his inaugural speech during the inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 20, 2021. (Yonhap)

This AP photo shows U.S. President Joe Biden delivering his inaugural speech during the inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 20, 2021. (Yonhap)

Few had anticipated Biden to directly address North Korea in his inaugural speech, with over 400,000 Americans losing their lives to the novel coronavirus so far.

Still, the experts worried the North may mistakenly choose to return to its old days of “fire and fury.”

“Part of Biden’s approach to governance will probably be to entrust more tasks to Cabinet members and agencies, more of a ‘normal’ approach to politics and foreign policy,” said Arrington.

“Unfortunately, this way of operating may give incentives for Pyongyang to engage in provocation to re-capture headlines and the president’s attention in visible ways,” she added.

Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. agreed the North will likely return to its old tactic of provocation, but argued it would be a mistake if it does.

“If the regime sees a lack of reference to North Korea in the inaugural address as an affront, then it has a very poor understanding of the U.S. inauguration and priorities,” he told Yonhap.

“Pyongyang should know that the Biden administration will undergo policy reviews as every administration has done. If the regime undertakes provocative actions prior to the policy review conclusion, then it will trigger a stronger U.S. policy than otherwise might have been the case,” added Klingner.

He said foreign issues will come up on Biden’s agenda, but “today was not the time to address them.”

Biden did, although very briefly, touch on foreign issues, saying he will seek to “repair” America’s alliances and global leadership.

“I think this message of repairing alliances bodes well for the ROK,” Arrington said, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

However, working with allies in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue may mean a return to working-level talks, instead of high-level summits.

“In other words, less bombastic, top-down, and arguably unpredictable US-DPRK relations and more sustained, lower-level, coordinated diplomatic efforts toward the DPRK,” said Arrington.

“Pyongyang may not like this approach as much, especially because it will probably be based on more consistent Seoul-Washington coordination and planning,” she added.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to fully denuclearize his country in his first bilateral summit with former U.S. President Donald Trump, held in Singapore in June 2018.

The denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the second Trump-Kim summit, held in February 2019, ended without a deal, but many argue Trump’s top-down approach may have been proven useful in dealing with the North.

North Korea has maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing since November 2017 that many believe was partly aimed at fostering conditions for the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit held the following year.

Biden has criticized Trump’s meetings with Kim, insisting they have only given Kim what he had long desired — global recognition — while making no real progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Antony Blinken, Biden’s secretary of state nominee, on Tuesday said the new administration will have to “review the entire approach and policy” toward North Korea.

In that process, he said, the Biden administration will be looking at what “options” it has to bring North Korea to the negotiating table, “as well as what other diplomatic initiatives may be possible.”

Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest, argued a change in U.S. policy toward North Korea will likely lead to a change in North Korea’s behavior, possibly for the worse.

“North Korea will simply go back to the old playbook of the last thirty years — slowly build up pressure into a crisis that makes Washington take notice,” he said.

“If Biden had simply made a short statement in the last several months that he would abide by the Singapore Declaration and try to advance its goals, North Korea would have stood down and likely never showed off its new submarine launched missiles,” he added.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210121000600325?section=nk/nk

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Yonhap – Outgoing U.S. envoy says hope alone won’t resolve N.K. issue, calls for readiness

By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) — Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris said Tuesday that hope alone will not resolve the North Korea issue, highlighting the importance of combined exercises between Seoul and Washington amid the North’s threat to continue developing its nuclear capabilities.

Harris made the remark at a webinar in Seoul, one day after President Moon Jae-in said South and North Korea can discuss issues regarding the allies’ combined military exercises, if necessary, in response to the North’s repeated calls to halt the joint maneuvers.

“While we hope for diplomacy with North Korea to be successful, we all can recognize that hope alone is not a course of action,” the ambassador said, citing the North’s “unrelenting pursuit of nuclear weapons” and China’s “malign activities.”

Seoul and Washington have held large-scale military exercises twice a year, and their springtime one is supposed to take place around March. North Korea has long bristled at such drills, claiming that they are a rehearsal for invasion into the North.

During a rare party congress earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un demanded South Korea halt the combined exercise to improve the chilled cross-border ties between the two Koreas.

Harris said North Korea and China “will continuously test the resolve of our alliance and will seek ways to weaken our strong ties and sow doubt in order to divide us.”

“There are ample historical examples of what could transpire including what happened on that fateful day almost 71 years ago, if we’re not ready,” he said, apparently referring to the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim held three meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump, but denuclearization talks have made little progress since their no-deal summit in Hanoi in February 2019.

On the transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean troops from Washington to Seoul, the outgoing ambassador said it should not be rushed, acknowledging that the process is taking longer than some desire.

The current Moon Jae-in administration hopes to retake OPCON within his term that ends in May 2022, though the transition is not-time based but conditions-based.

“Our mutual security cannot be rushed. We want and need to take time to get this right,” he said.

Regarding the South Korea-Japan ties, the U.S. envoy stressed the importance of trilateral cooperation among the three countries amid growing concerns that the relations between Seoul and Tokyo could deteriorate following a recent court ruling on Japan’s wartime sexual slavery issue.

“Notwithstanding the current tensions between Seoul and Tokyo, the reality is that no important security or economic issue in the region can be addressed without both,” he said.

Moon said Monday that South Korea will seek dialogue with Japan to find a solution, referring to his two-track approach separating historical issues from efforts to forge “future-oriented” bilateral ties.

Tuesday’s webinar, co-hosted by the Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation and the Korea Defense Veterans Association, took place one day before Harris’ departure from the ambassadorial post which he assumed in July 2018.

“Going forward, you can rest assured that the Biden administration will continue the U.S. efforts to further strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance,” Harris said. ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

Rob Rapson, the deputy chief of mission, will serve as charge d’affaires ad interim until a new envoy arrives.

This image captured from a Zoom meeting on Jan. 19, 2021, shows outgoing U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This image captured from a Zoom meeting on Jan. 19, 2021, shows outgoing U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – S. Korea ready to talk any issues with N. Korea to ease tensions: defense ministry

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) — South Korea is ready to discuss any issues with North Korea via military channels to ease cross-border tensions, the defense ministry said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan made the remark a day after President Moon Jae-in said that the two Koreas can discuss joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington if necessary through a joint military committee as agreed upon in 2018.

“Our military can discuss any issues with North Korea through military talks, including the inter-Korean military joint committee meeting, to ease military tensions between the two Koreas,” Boo said in a regular briefing.

“According to the Sept. 19 agreement, the two sides are supposed to discuss such issues as large-scale military exercises and arms buildup through the joint committee,” he added.

Military officials from South and North Korea and the U.N. Command (UNC) meet at the truce village of Panmunjom on Nov. 6, 2018, to discuss details on disarming the Joint Security Area. (Yonhap)

Military officials from South and North Korea and the U.N. Command (UNC) meet at the truce village of Panmunjom on Nov. 6, 2018, to discuss details on disarming the Joint Security Area. (Yonhap)

Under the pact named the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), the two Koreas agreed to form a joint military consultation body to discuss and oversee the implementation of a set of tension-reducing measures. The pact was signed in 2018 during an inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang.

But no discussions on the envisioned military committee have taken place amid a lack of progress in the denuclearization negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea and chilled inter-Korean ties.

Seoul and Washington have held combined military exercises on a regular basis, and the springtime one is supposed to be staged in around March.

North Korea has long demanded an end to such drills, and leader Kim Jong-un also repeated the call this month, citing it as a crucial matter to improve cross-border ties.

President Moon on Monday repeated the country’s stance that they are defensive in nature.

The spokesperson also countered some criticism that the agreement has almost been nullified.

“Since the pact was signed, the two Koreas have not taken hostile acts against each other at the agreed-upon buffer zones, and the military situation in border areas has been managed in a stable manner,” Boo said.

Under the pact, the two Koreas also agreed to set ground, air and maritime buffer zones near the border to reduce tensions and prevent accidental clashes.

Asked about inter-Korean military hotlines, the defense ministry said they have remained idle since June 2020, when North Korea vowed to sever all communication lines with the South in protest against Seoul’s failure to stop defectors from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the North.

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210119003600325?section=national/defense

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Yonhap – Seoul’s top nuke envoy holds phone talks with Biegun after N.K. party congress

SEOUL, Jan. 15 (Yonhap) — Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, spoke by phone with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun on Friday and discussed North Korea issues following a key party congress in the communist state, the foreign ministry said.

The North wrapped up its eight-day gathering of the Workers’ Party on Tuesday, in which it called the United States the North’s “foremost principal enemy” and pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal.

During a military parade that followed the party gathering, the North showed off its latest weapons, including a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

“The two sides shared assessments on the latest developments on the Korean Peninsula, including the North’s eighth party congress, and exchanged opinions on joint efforts to make progress toward the complete denuclearization and settlement of permanent peace on the peninsula,” the ministry said in a press release.

North Korea appears to aim at upping the ante ahead of next week’s inauguration of Joe Biden as new U.S. president amid uncertainty over the incoming administration’s policy direction on Pyongyang amid stalled denuclearization talks.

Noh was appointed as Seoul’s top nuclear envoy last month, as South Korea seeks to create fresh momentum and kick-start the stalled nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington under the Biden administration.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun talks to Lee Do-hoon (not pictured), special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, during their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul on Dec. 9, 2020. Biegun arrived in Seoul the previous day for a four-day trip. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun talks to Lee Do-hoon (not pictured), special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, during their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul on Dec. 9, 2020. Biegun arrived in Seoul the previous day for a four-day trip. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – N. Korea holds military parade, showcases new SLBM

By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, Jan. 15 (Yonhap) — North Korea staged a military parade Thursday evening in central Pyongyang, showing off its state-of-the-art weapons, including a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), state media reported Friday.

The parade, held in Kim Il-sung Square, came after Pyongyang wrapped up its eight-day congress of the ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday, at which leader Kim Jong-un pledged to bolster the country’s nuclear arsenal.

North Korea appears to be aiming to up the ante ahead of next week’s inauguration of Joe Biden as new president of the United States amid uncertainty over Washington’s policy direction on currently stalled denuclearization talks.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) acknowledges the crowd during a military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Jan. 14, 2021, to celebrate the recently-concluded eighth congress of the North's ruling Workers' Party, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) acknowledges the crowd during a military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Jan. 14, 2021, to celebrate the recently-concluded eighth congress of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Unveiled during the parade was a new type of SLBM.

“The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missile, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

Photos and recorded footage later released by state media showed the SLBMs displayed during the parade labeled as the Pukguksong-5ㅅ, which looks longer than the Pukguksong-4ㅅ SLBM, first unveiled during a military parade in October last year.

The North, however, appears to have not displayed its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Clad in a long black leather coat and wearing a big furry hat, leader Kim attended the event. He was seen saluting back to goosestepping soldiers with smiles on his face and sometimes giving a thumbs-up to the weapons rolling through the square.

He did not address the event. Instead, Defense Minister Kim Jong-gwan delivered a speech.

Columns of armored vehicles moved through the square, followed by state-of-the-art tactical missiles and other weaponry.

Fighter jets were seen flying in formation and drawing the number “eight” in the sky with fireworks in celebration of the eighth party congress.

Thousands of spectators were seen frantically waving flags and chanting “hurrah” to the leader, with some even shedding tears.

Marching soldiers participating in the parade appeared to be breathing heavily as the event took place at night in freezing cold weather. The participants, including leader Kim and other top officials, were not wearing face masks.

Kim’s powerful sister Kim Yo-jong was also spotted dressed in a long black leather coat, applauding as the military parade proceeded.

The parade was attended by other senior officials, including Choe Ryong-hae, the North’s No. 2 leader, and Jo Yong-won, a senior party official who is believed to have jumped to the country’s No. 3 position at the party congress.

Thursday’s parade came two days after the rare party congress which was held for more than a week until Tuesday.

During the congress, Kim unveiled a new five-year economic development scheme focusing on self-reliance in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and Washington-led global sanctions on his regime.

He defined the U.S. as the “foremost principal enemy,” saying that his country is developing new weapons systems, such as a nuclear-powered submarine, while pledging to bolster its nuclear arsenal.

Experts said the North appears to be sending a message to the U.S. by showcasing its new SLBM and others ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

“North Korea doesn’t need an SLBM. It is not for the South, it’s for the U.S. In that aspect, it sends a message aimed at pressuring the U.S. ahead of the incoming Biden administration,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said.

“But the North is not sending a message to the U.S. warning that it will take action. It is sending an unspoken message to force the incoming administration to prioritize North Korea in their policies and to withdraw hostile policy against the North,” he added.

Nuclear talks have remained stalled since a no-deal summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019 as they failed to find common ground on how to match Pyongyang’s denuclearization steps with Washington’s sanctions relief.

Kim has expressed frustration with a lack of progress in denuclearization talks and has called for self-reliance in military, economic development and many other areas.

The North last staged a massive nighttime military parade in October to mark the 75th founding anniversary of the Workers’ Party and showed off a new ICBM and an SLBM.

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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Yonhap – N.K. holds performance to celebrate party congress, no mention of military parade

SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has attended a mass art performance held to celebrate the recently concluded party congress, state media said Thursday.

The performance took place on Wednesday, a day after the North wrapped up the eighth congress of its ruling Workers’ Party, which was held for more than a week since its opening on Jan. 5, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“The grand art performance ‘We Sing of the Party’ took place with splendor in celebration of the 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on January 13,” KCNA said.

The event included mass gymnastics, an orchestra, a chorus and dance accompanied by “three dimension multimedia” and lighting, it added.

The performance was attended by Kim and other senior officials, including Choe Ryong-hae, the North’s No. 2 leader and president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly. Jo Yong-won, a senior party official who is believed to have jumped to the country’s No. 3 position at the party congress, also attended the performance.

KCNA did not mention whether it held a military parade after the congress.

On Tuesday, the North said it invited officials and others long involved in government affairs as special guests to “celebrations,” raising the possibility that North Korea might be preparing a military parade.

Earlier, Seoul’s military officials said signs were detected that the North carried out a military parade in central Pyongyang on Sunday night, but state media did not report on such an event, spawning speculation that it might have been a rehearsal.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attends the sixth day of the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang on Jan. 10, 2021, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency the next day. During the congress, North Korea endorsed Kim as the party's general secretary, following its revision of party rules to reinstate the secretariat system that was scrapped in the previous party congress in 2016. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attends the sixth day of the eighth congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on Jan. 10, 2021, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency the next day. During the congress, North Korea endorsed Kim as the party’s general secretary, following its revision of party rules to reinstate the secretariat system that was scrapped in the previous party congress in 2016. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210114000351325?section=nk/nk

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Yonhap – S. Korea to spend 800 mln won to conduct surveys on separated families

SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) — The South Korean government decided Thursday to spend 800 million won (US$728,000) to conduct surveys on families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in a bid to check the state of surviving families and hear their needs.

On Thursday, a civilian-government committee on inter-Korean exchanges made the decision to conduct surveys on around 50,000 members of separated families living in the country from April to October.

Through the survey, the third of its kind since 2011, the ministry will update information on the separated families and check their demands and opinions on inter-Korean reunions.

Tens of thousands of people remain separated from their long-lost families in the North since the Korean War, which ended in a truce.

The two Koreas held their last reunion of war-separated families in August 2018 at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North’s east coast but no reunions have since been held amid strained ties.

The committee has also decided to spend 4.77 billion won to transform the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), separating South and North Korea, into a cultural zone. The two-year project aims to utilize facilities in the inter-Korean transit office near the border village and Dorasan Station, the northernmost train stop in the country, to remodel them for cross-border cultural exchanges.

The ministry will also spend 3.34 billion won for an ongoing project on the publication of a common Korean-language dictionary that began in 2005 as part of efforts to overcome language barriers between the two Koreas.

The committee has approved spending on other projects, including 1.92 billion won to cover the operating costs of a tourism support center at the truce village of Panmunjom and 3.75 billion won for the Center for Unified Korean Future, a state-run institution on unification-related education.

Ryang Cha-ok (L), 82, of North Korea meets with her South Korean sisters at a hotel at North Korea's Kumgang Mountain resort on the east coast as part of inter-Korean family reunions on Aug. 24, 2018. The inter-Korean reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War was the first of its kind in nearly three years. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Ryang Cha-ok (L), 82, of North Korea meets with her South Korean sisters at a hotel at North Korea’s Kumgang Mountain resort on the east coast as part of inter-Korean family reunions on Aug. 24, 2018. The inter-Korean reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War was the first of its kind in nearly three years. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – N.K. leader’s sister slams S. Korea over closely tracking military parade

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) — The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un harshly criticized South Korea’s military for closely tracking its military parade believed to have taken place in Pyongyang to celebrate a rare party congress.

On Monday, Seoul’s military officials said signs were detected that the North carried out a military parade in central Pyongyang Sunday night in time for the eighth congress of the ruling Workers’ Party, which has been under way since its opening last week.

“What is weird is that the joint chiefs of staff of South Korea made a senseless statement that they captured the north opening a military parade at midnight on Jan. 10 and they are in the middle of making precision tracking,” Kim Yo-jong was quoted as saying in a statement released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday.

“They are the idiot and top the world’s list in misbehavior as they are only keen on things provoking world laughter,” she added.

Kim added that the North is only holding a military parade in the capital city and not conducting any military exercises “targeting anybody nor launch of anything.”

“Do they really have nothing else to do but let their military body make ‘precision tracking’ of the celebrations in the North?” she said.

She warned the South Korean authorities, saying “all these things must surely be reckoned up in the future.”

Given how she was referred to in the statement, Kim appears to have been demoted to “vice department director” of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party from her previous position as first vice department director.

But the latest statement released under her name indicates she still remains powerful and is likely to handle inter-Korean affairs.

In an earlier session of the party congress, she was also not listed as a member nor as an alternate member of the party’s politburo, sparking speculation of her possible demotion.

Kim last released a statement last month slamming South Korea’s foreign minister over her remarks doubting the North’s claims to be coronavirus-free. Kim said the minister will “pay dearly” and warned that the already frozen inter-Korean relations could get worse.

A file photo of Kim Yo-jong, younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)

A file photo of Kim Yo-jong, younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Yonhap)

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