Monthly Archives: April 2020

Former North Korean diplomat elected lawmaker in South Korea

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Thae Yong Ho, the second-highest ranking North Korean official to have defected to South Korea, made history becoming the first defector to be directly elected as a lawmaker in South Korea. His win in the affluent Gangnam district known for upscale luxury apartments and high-end fashion houses is also a light blow to the ruling party of South Korea.

“I risked my life and came to the Republic of Korea in search of freedom, democracy and market economy,” Thae told local press on live broadcast. He also emphasized that his election would “be an opportunity to publicize South Korea’s broad-mindedness and democracy to the world and especially to North Korea.”

Thae has drawn international attention four years ago, seeking asylum in South Korea while serving as North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom. He has since successfully settled in Seoul with his wife and two sons, making his career as an outspoken researcher, lecturer, a best-selling author and a YouTube influencer with 163K subscribers to his channel.

Another North Korean defector, Ji Seong Ho, secured a position through proportional representation for the same conservative opposition party. Ji is a high-profile human rights activist who had made a surprise appearance at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018.

“Kim Jong Un is the person who will be most unhappy when I become a lawmaker in South Korea.” Tae said during his campaign speech to Gangnam residents. He told ABC News that his participation in the National Assembly can signal hope and new possibilities for the people of North Korea, especially the ruling class. “It can be a new signal to North Korea’s elite and people that South Korea is [an] open and inclusive society, so that in the future, we can be one again.”

“Thae knows the communist regime to the bottom and also has experience working as a diplomat in a democratic country for a long time. I believe that will give him a more objective stance in handling diplomatic issues,” Choi Younghae, a 70-year-old business woman who worked at a foreign embassy in her 30s, told ABC News on Monday.

 [ABC News]

North Korea fires suspected cruise missiles

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North Korea launched back-to-back missiles off its east coast on the eve of North Korea’s late founder, Kim Il Sung’s 108th birthday, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un and parliamentary elections in the South.

North Korean troops in Munchonto fired what were presumed to be cruise missiles, according to a statement by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. They flew roughly 93 miles off the coast, per a South Korean defense official.

The use of that type of projectile is unusual considering the country reportedly possesses just two known cruise missiles purposed for anti-ship operations, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. If confirmed, it would be the North’s first cruise missile launch since June 2017, per the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Later on Tuesday, North Korea launched fighter jets which fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles towards the same waters, the official added. Military drills had previously been scaled back in the North due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Some experts believe the tests were used to improve its position against South Korea while others said they were devoted to increasing unity within the county amid U.S. led sanctions during the virus outbreak.

North Korea has repeatedly said there has been no coronavirus outbreak on its soil. But many foreign experts are skeptical of that claim and have warned that a coronavirus outbreak in the North could become a humanitarian disaster because of the country’s chronic lack of medical supplies and fragile health care infrastructure.


North Korea calls for stronger coronavirus measures

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North Korea has called for stricter and more thorough measures against the coronavirus at a meeting presided over by its leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported, without acknowledging whether the country had reported any infections.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Sunday that the virus had created obstacles to the country’s effort in its economic construction, describing the pandemic as “a great disaster threatening the whole mankind, regardless of borders and continents”. 

KCNA reassured North Korea “has been maintaining [a] very stable anti-epidemic situation” thanks to its “strict top-class emergency anti-epidemic measures … consistency and compulsoriness in the nationwide protective measures.”

Officials have previously insisted the North remains totally free of the virus. 

Experts have said North Korea is particularly vulnerable to the virus because of its weak healthcare system, and defectors have accused Pyongyang of covering up an outbreak.

A joint resolution was adopted “on more thoroughly taking national measures for protecting the life and safety of our people to cope with the worldwide epidemic disease”, it said. The resolution also included goals of “continuously intensifying the nationwide emergency anti-epidemic services and pushing ahead with the economic construction, increasing national defence capability and stabilizing the people’s livelihood this year”.

But photos released by North Korea’s state media showed that none of the committee members who attended the meeting including Kim Jong Un was wearing a mask nor sitting far apart from each other.

[Various News Agencies]