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Archive for South Korea

Newsline: Former North Korean diplomat to run in South’s elections

The highest-profile North Korean defector in the South declared himself a candidate for parliament Tuesday, in a move he said would demonstrate democratic freedoms in his new home. Thae Yong Ho, who fled his post as the North’s deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016, has since become a prominent and outspoken critic of Pyongyang and the engagement approach pursued by the South’s President Moon Jae-in. (https://news.yahoo.com/former-n-korea-diplomat-run-souths-elections-053712508.html) He had joined the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), he said, adding his victory would encourage Northerners. South Korean media reports cited LKP officials saying he would be recommended for a constituency in Seoul’s wealthy Gangnam district, a party stronghold, giving him a strong chance of success in the April 15 legislative election. “Once the North Korean people and elites see that Thae Yong Ho, who served as a North Korean diplomat, can be elected by South Koreans,” Thae said, “we will be a step closer to the real reunification that we hope for”.

Newsline: South Koreans are flipping out over US ambassador’s mustache

It might just be the most bizarre criticism of a US ambassador in recent memory. Harry Harris, Washington’s envoy to South Korea, has been subjected to heated vitriol on social media and by anonymous netizens for his mustache. That small piece of facial hair has, as Harris put it, “for some reason become a point of some fascination here in the media.” “If you watch social media it’s all out there,” Harris, the former head of US Pacific Forces, told reporters.(https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/17/asia/harry-harris-mustache-intl-hnk/index.html) On the surface, the critiques border on ridiculousness. It’s just a small patch of hair. But Harris’ ‘stache has sparked discussions on topics much bigger than the ambassador himself: the still-raw emotions among many Koreans about the legacy of Japanese occupation; the prevalence of racism in such a homogenous society; and cracks appearing in the future of the decades-old alliance between Seoul and Washington as the two sides attempt to reach a deal on how to cover the cost of US troops stationed in South Korea, amid reports that President Donald Trump demanded a 400% pay increase. The gist of the criticism is that with the mustache, Harris resembles the reviled Japanese leaders who ruled the Korean Peninsula with an iron fist during the Japanese occupation. Some of Japan’s most prominent wartime leaders — like Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister who was later executed by a postwar tribunal, and Emperor Hirohito — had mustaches. Under Japanese rule, many Koreans were brutalized, murdered and enslaved. It’s still living memory for elderly Koreans and remains a highly emotive subject in both North and South Korea.

Newsline: EU’s former ambassador to South Korea suspect in China spy probe

Gerhard Sabathil, the European Union’s former ambassador to South Korea, has been identified as the subject of a German probe into alleged spying activities for China’s Ministry of State Security, according to three European sources. (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3046484/eus-former-ambassador-south-korea-suspect-china-spy-probe) The investigation, which has sent shock waves through Beijing, Berlin and Brussels, came to light after German authorities raided the flats and offices of Sabathil and two other individuals. German police have made no arrests. Sabathil could not immediately be reached for comment. A dual citizen of Germany and Hungary, Sabathil left diplomacy in 2017 to join the European lobbying firm Eutop. Eutop’s lawyer, Christian Schertz, said in an emailed response to the South China Morning Post’s questions: “Given that the circumstances described by you do not concern the activities of our client, we see no reason for our client to comment.”

Newsline: South Korea president’s office reprimands U.S. ambassador for remarks

South Korea’s presidential Blue House rebuked U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris on Friday for making “inappropriate remarks” to Seoul’s foreign press pool regarding inter-Korea cooperation. In a meeting with local reporters, a Blue House official said Harris’ remarks on North-South projects, including Seoul’s proposal to allow South Koreans to travel individually to the North, are not suitable for the top U.S. envoy to Seoul, Seoul Shinmun reported. “For an ambassador to make a public comment on the host country’s president’s statement before the media is extremely inappropriate,” the Blue House representative said Friday. “The issue of inter-Korea cooperation is a decision for the Korean government.” (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2020/01/17/South-Korea-presidents-office-reprimands-US-ambassador-for-remarks/9131579220647/) On Thursday Harris had said South Korea’s North Korea initiatives “should be done in consultation with the United States.”

Newsline: U.S. State Department worker in Seoul accused of using embassy computer to sell counterfeit bags

A U.S. Department of State employee is accused of using his embassy computer in Seoul, Korea, to sell counterfeit Vera Bradley handbags to customers across the United States. Gene Leroy Thompson Jr., 53, and his wife Guojiao “Becky” Zhang, 39, were arrested, and made their first appearance in federal court in Seattle, according to federal prosecutors. (https://www.oregonlive.com/crime/2019/12/us-state-department-worker-in-seoul-accused-of-using-embassy-computer-to-sell-counterfeit-vera-bradley-bags-with-oregon-accomplice.html) The two worked with an alleged accomplice who stored and shipped the goods from a home in Nyssa, Oregon, according to an indictment. Thompson had previously lived in Nyssa, public records show.

Newsline: South Korean protesters destroy portraits of U.S. ambassador

Protesters angry over American demands that South Korea pay more for defense destroyed portraits of the U.S. ambassador stuck on blocks of tofu outside the U.S. embassy on Friday after police warned them against staging a more aggressive demonstration. U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris has become a political lightning rod for South Koreans angered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s push to get South Korea to pay billions of dollars more toward maintaining the 28,500 American troops stationed there. “Harris out! We are not a U.S. colony! We are not an ATM machine!” the demonstrators chanted outside the embassy, surrounded by phalanxes of police. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-usa/south-korean-protesters-destroy-portraits-of-u-s-ambassador-idUSKBN1YH16X) The left-leaning protesters from several youth groups cheered as two students smashed up blocks of tofu and acorn jelly adorned with paper portraits of Harris.

Newsline: South Koreans protesting U.S. troop presence break into U.S. ambassador’s residence

South Korean police detained 19 students after several climbed over the wall into the grounds of the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Seoul in protest against the U.S. troop presence in the country. The group, which identifies itself as a coalition of progressive university students, posted photos on its Facebook account in which several members used ladders to climb over a wall surrounding the home of Ambassador Harry Harris. In a separate video, apparently broadcast from inside the compound, they accused the United States of demanding a 500 percent increase in the cost of keeping some 28,500 troops in South Korea, holding a banner saying, “Leave this soil, Harris!” “Stop interfering with our domestic affairs!” they shouted, followed by “Get out!” and “We don’t need U.S. troops!” before being marched out of the residence by police. (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/10/19/asia-pacific/south-koreans-protesting-u-s-troop-presence-break-u-s-ambassadors-residence/#.XasfHI1RU8o) Approximately 20 South Koreans illegally entered the official residential compound of the ambassador and attempted to forcibly enter the residence itself, said embassy spokesman William Coleman in a statement on Saturday. This is the second instance of illegal entry into the ambassador’s residential compound in 14 months. South Korea’s foreign ministry said it had requested increased security for the U.S. Embassy and the ambassador’s residence.