North Korea destroys liaison office on border with South in ‘terrific explosion’

North Korea destroys liaison office on border with South in 'terrific explosion'

South Korean soldiers walk down from their guard post near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, June 16, 2020.

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Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

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North Korea blew up an office set up to foster better ties with South Korea on Tuesday in a “terrific explosion” after it threatened to take action if North Korean defectors went ahead with a campaign to send propaganda leaflets into the North.

North Korea’s KCNA state news agency said the liaison office in the border town of Kaesong, which had been closed since January due to the coronavirus, was “completely ruined.”

A grainy surveillance video released by South Korea’s Ministry of Defense showed a large explosion that appeared to bring down the four-storey structure. The blast also appeared to cause a partial collapse of a neighboring 15-storey high-rise that had served as a residential facility for South Korean officials who staffed the liaison office.

A smoke rises from Kaesong Industrial Complex in this picture taken from the south in Paju, South Korea, June 16, 2020.

Credit:

Yonhap via Reuters

The office, when it was operating, effectively served as an embassy for the old rivals and its destruction represents a major setback to efforts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to coax the North into cooperation.

South Korea’s national security council convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday and said South Korea would sternly respond if North Korea continued to raise tensions.

The destruction of the office “broke the expectations of all people who hope for the development of inter-Korean relations and lasting peace on the peninsula,” deputy national security advisor Kim You-geun told a briefing.

“We’re making clear that the North is entirely responsible for all the consequences this might cause,” he said.

Reclusive North Korea, whose nuclear and missile programmes are the subject of stalled talks with the United States, and the democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Tension has been rising over recent days with the North threatening to cut ties with the South and retaliate over the propaganda leaflets, which carry messages critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, including on human rights.

The demolition was “unprecedented in inter-Korean relations” and a “nonsensical act that should have not happened,” South Korean vice unification minister Suh Ho, who co-headed the liaison office, told reporters.

KCNA said the office was blown up to force “human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes.”

North Korea refers to defectors as “human scum.”

‘Tragic scene’

A South Korean military source told Reuters that there had been signs North Korea was going ahead with the demolition earlier in the day, and South Korean military officials watched live surveillance imagery as the building was blown up.

The first diplomatic mission of its kind, the liaison office was established in 2018 as part of a series of projects aimed at reducing tensions between the two Koreas.

The building had originally been used as offices for managing operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint venture between the two Koreas that was suspended in 2016 amid disagreement over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

South Korea spent at least 9.78 billion won ($8.6 million) in 2018 to renovate the building, which stood as a gleaming blue glass structure in the otherwise drab industrial city.

When it was operating, South Koreans worked on the second floor and North Koreans on the fourth floor. The third floor held conference rooms for meetings between the two sides.

When the office was closed in January, South Korea said it had 58 personnel stationed there.

On Saturday, North Korean state media reported that Kim Yo Jong, the sister of the North Korean leader, who serves as a senior official of the ruling Workers’ Party, had ordered the department in charge of inter-Korean affairs to “decisively carry out the next action.”

“Before long, a tragic scene of the useless north-south joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen,” she was reported as saying.

Representatives for the White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Russia said on Tuesday it was concerned about the situation on the Korean peninsula and called for restraint from all sides, but so far had no plans for high-level diplomatic contacts.

Earlier on Tuesday, North Korean state media quoted the military as saying it had been studying an “action plan” to re-enter zones that had been demilitarized under the 2018 inter-Korean pact and “turn the front line into a fortress.”

South Korea’s defense ministry called for North Korea to abide by the 2018 agreement, under which both sides’ militaries vowed to cease “all hostile acts” and dismantled a number of structures along the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone between the two countries.

Several defector-led groups have regularly sent back flyers, together with food, $1 bills, mini radios and USB sticks containing South Korean dramas and news into North Korea, usually by balloon over the border or in bottles by river.  

By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith/Reuters

North Korea stops answering daily calls with South; Past epidemics underscore importance of mental health

North Korea stops answering daily calls with South; Past epidemics underscore importance of mental health

By
The World staff

Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un attends a wreath-laying ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam, March 2019.

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Jorge Silva/Reuters/Pool/File Photo

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

North Korean officials did not answer a routine daily call to the liaison office with South Korea or calls on military hotlines this morning. The move is seen as a first step toward shutting down contact with Seoul. Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, threatened last week to close the office unless South Korean groups were stopped from sending pro-democracy leaflets into the North. In an effort to salvage ties, South Korean officials pledged to legislate a ban on the leaflets.

The daily calls between North and South Korea were established in 2018 to reduce tensions after peace talks. The two countries remain technically at war because the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

What The World is following

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he and US President Donald Trump agreed on “some issues” on the conflict in Libya during a phone call yesterday. Turkey and the US support the UN-backed government of Fayez al Sarraj. In recent weeks, Sarraj’s troops have pushed back an assault on the capital of Tripoli by renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Russia and US allies, France, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Today, mourners in Houston, Texas, bury George Floyd, a black man killed in police custody whose death has sparked global protests over systemic racism and police violence. In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a review of all statues in the city for ties to slavery.

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America’s BLM protests find solidarity in South Korea

Protesters in Seoul, South Korea, rallied in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement on June 6, 2020. 

Credit:

Jason Strother/The World 

Calls for racial justice in the US are compelling some South Koreans to point out xenophobia in their own country and reexamine decades-old tensions between black and Korean communities. Over the weekend, around 100 demonstrators walked through downtown Seoul in protest of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in what was perhaps the first public showing of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

Past epidemics underscore importance of mental health amid COVID-19

Women wearing masks to prevent contracting Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) ride a subway train in Seoul, South Korea, on June 12, 2015.

Credit:

Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji 

Calls for racial justice in the US are compelling some South Koreans to point out xenophobia in their own country and reexamine decades-old tensions between black and Korean communities. Over the weekend, around 100 demonstrators walked through downtown Seoul in protest of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in what was perhaps the first public showing of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

Discussion: Reporting on the 2020 Latino vote amid the pandemic

Young Latinos could swing the outcome of the election — if they cast their ballots. That’s because approximately every 30 seconds, a young Latino turns 18 and becomes eligible to vote. For the past four months, The World’s “Every 30 Seconds” project has been following the stories of eight young Latino voters in different corners of the US.

Join The World’s Daisy Contreras for a conversation with three of the eight Every 30 Seconds journalists — Naomi Prioleau of WUNC in Chapel Hill, Max Rivlin-Nadler of KPBS in San Diego and Martha Dalton of WABE in Atlanta — focusing on their experiences reaching out to young Latinos for a yearlong reporting project and the lessons they’ve learned on reporting during the pandemic.

You can watch the Facebook Live Q&A on The World’s Facebook page Wednesday, June 10 at 12pm ET. Ask your questions during the live event or email us at [email protected].

Morning Meme

Someone found it! Thousands have searched but after more than a decade, someone actually found Forest Fenn’s buried treasure — worth more than an estimated $1 million — somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

NEW: A bronze chest filled with gold, jewels, and other valuables worth more than $1 million and hidden a decade ago somewhere in the Rocky Mountain wilderness has finally been found. https://t.co/AzvKoMwjbd

— The Denver Post (@denverpost) June 7, 2020In case you missed itListen: Global protests against racial discrimination continue to spread

A man observes the base of the statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader in the 17th century, after protesters pulled it down and pushed into the docks, following the death of George Floyd, Bristol, Britain, June 8, 2020.

Credit:

Matthew Childs/Reuters

Protests against racial discrimination and social injustice continue across the globe. At a rally last weekend in Bristol, England, activists pulled down the statue of a 17th-century slave trader and dumped it in the harbor. And, the notion of putting the US military into the streets to quell unrest is a bridge too far for many people, including many military leaders. Also, As East African countries such as Uganda begin easing lockdowns, borders remain a big concern. Truck drivers crossing borders between Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have contributed to the spread of COVID-19.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

America’s BLM protests find solidarity in South Korea

America’s BLM protests find solidarity in South Korea

On Saturday, around 100 demonstrators walked through downtown Seoul in protest of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in what was perhaps the first showing of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

By
Jason Strother

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Protesters in Seoul, South Korea, rallied in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement on June 6, 2020. 

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Jason Strother/The World 

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Calls for racial justice in the US are compelling some South Koreans to point out xenophobia in their own country and reexamine decades-old tensions between black and Korean communities.

On Saturday, around 100 demonstrators walked through downtown Seoul in protest of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in what was perhaps the first public showing of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the nation.

Marchers held signs in Korean and English with slogans denouncing racial discrimination while some of the event’s expat participants chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

Related: US may be violating international law in its response to protesters, UN expert says

Even though South Korea is largely ethnically homogenous, it has a growing and diverse immigrant community. And as that population increases, some worry that widely held suspicion toward foreigners could incite the kinds of abuse seen in other, more multicultural parts of the world.

“Racism happens here in Korea. Whether they are from China, black or other immigrant workers, they are mocked and looked down on.”

Shim Ji-hoon, protest organizer

“Racism happens here in Korea,” said Shim Ji-hoon, who organized the weekend protest. “Whether they are from China, black or other immigrant workers, they are mocked and looked down on.”

Speaking to the crowd over loudspeakers, Shim says he worries that if these concerns aren’t addressed soon, “what happened to George Floyd could happen here, too.”

Demonstrations across America, as well as in cities such as London, Paris and Sydney, have highlighted the injustice felt by many black or other minority communities in those countries. But for many South Koreans, the protests and reports of coinciding violence and vandalism echo previous unrest that put the African American community at odds with the Korean diaspora in the US.

Resentment held by some Koreans toward black Americans can be traced back to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which erupted following the police beating of Rodney King and the subsequent acquittal of the officers involved in the incident, some observers say.

Michael Hurt, who lectures on cultural theory at the Korea National University of Arts, says during that time, many South Koreans watched lopsided television news reports about the damage inflicted on Korean American business owners in LA without much discussion of the underlying causes of the riots.

“Back then, Korean media tended to be much more ethno-nationalist. The news tended to heavily lean on how does this affect Koreans who own businesses that were destroyed.”

Michael Hurt, Korea National University of  Arts

“Back then, Korean media tended to be much more ethno-nationalist,” he said. “The news tended to heavily lean on how does this affect Koreans who own businesses that were destroyed.”

Hurt explains Korean reporters omitted the views of African Americans in their coverage.

“You might want to interview a black person, but that didn’t happen in ’92,” he said.

A demonstration in Seoul called out racial injustice in the US and xenophobia in South Korea, June 6, 2020. 

Credit:

Jason Strother/The World 

South Korean media still report on how the present-day demonstrations impact Korean-owned businesses in the US.

But Hurt says, unlike coverage from nearly 30 years ago, journalists now are offering more context in their dispatches from US cities and doing an overall better job explaining the history of American racism for Korean audiences.

Related: Protesters worldwide face controversial police tactics

And because South Koreans now consume more media from around the world, Hurt says they’ve been made more aware of black culture and social justice issues.

“There’s a broader exposure and a more sympathetic view these days,” he said.

Despite these advancements, some watchdog agencies say more improvements are needed to reduce prejudice toward all minorities in South Korea.

A survey released earlier this year by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea found that seven out of 10 foreign residents say they have experienced some form of discrimination. And in a 2018 report, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns over the safety of asylum-seekers, marriage migrants and immigrant laborers living in South Korea.

Foreign athletes have also reportedly been victims of racist hate mail and death threats, including two US-born black basketball players.

Foreign nationals account for nearly 5% percent of South Korea’s total population of approximately 52 million, according to government data.

In light of the ongoing racial justice protests, some South Koreans are reflecting on what they can do to make a difference.

Related: Former CIA analyst sees parallels between Trump protest response and social unrest abroad

Lee Sa-rang, who works for an education consultancy that helps college students enter US schools, says it’s time for Koreans “to take a stand.”

“I think Korea, because it’s so homogeneous, it’s easy to stick out if you’re different. Just calling out the elders in my family who make racist remarks” is one small way to fight racism.

Lee Sa-rang, who works for an education consultancy

“I think Korea, because it’s so homogeneous, it’s easy to stick out if you’re different,” the 32-year-old said, adding, “Just calling out the elders in my family who make racist remarks” is one small way she has found that she can fight racism.

Ko Na-eun, a 17-year-old high school student, says she and a friend plan to open a booth in Seoul to provide information about George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“If they [Koreans] are more aware of what’s happening in the US, I feel like it would help them reflect on what they’ve done in the past when they saw foreigners in Korea,” she said.

Ko, who returned to Korea this year after her Connecticut boarding school was closed due to the coronavirus, says some Koreans have prejudices too, and some don’t understand why they should care about the racism experienced by African Americans.

Related: Police killing of George Floyd strikes a chord in Kenya

But protesters in the US have found an unexpected ally in South Korea: K-pop superstars.

Bands like BTS have joined the Black Lives Matter movement, expressing messages of support on social media.

우리는 인종차별에 반대합니다.
우리는 폭력에 반대합니다.
나, 당신, 우리 모두는 존중받을 권리가 있습니다. 함께 하겠습니다.

We stand against racial discrimination.
We condemn violence.
You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together.#BlackLivesMatter

— 방탄소년단 (@BTS_twt) June 4, 2020

BTS has also donated $1 million to help BLM demonstrators and called on fans to match the group’s contribution.

There’s a cultural connection here, says Bernie Cho, who heads the DFSB Kollective, a music promotions agency in Seoul.

“With a lot of Korean music artists, there’s a deeper respect of the importance and impact that black culture has had on not only their personal but professional lives.” 

Bernie Cho, DFSB Kollective

“With a lot of Korean music artists, there’s a deeper respect of the importance and impact that black culture has had on not only their personal but professional lives,” Cho said.

K-pop fans from across the globe have also hijacked racist hashtags on Twitter by overwhelming these threads with videos of their favorite performers. 

Rianne, a 25-year-old protester who only wanted her first name used, joined Saturday’s demonstration in Seoul. She says that as a black woman from California, she has experienced similar forms of racism in Korea as she has in the US, such as people uninvitingly touching her hair.

But she says she gives Koreans a little more leeway for these kinds of acts than she would for people back home because of the two countries’ very different histories.

She says she was very happy to see so many people expressing concern for African Americans at the rally.

“I am so glad that people came together for this cause,” she said. “It’s not just an American issue; it’s global, and we need to fight together.” 

Denmark reopens schools as experts advise caution globally; IMF warns of second Great Depression; Racing to develop a drug to fight COVID-19

Denmark reopens schools as experts advise caution globally; IMF warns of second Great Depression; Racing to develop a drug to fight COVID-19

By
The World staff

Parents with their children stand in a line waiting to get inside Stengaard School following the coronavirus outbreak north of Copenhagen, Denmark, April 15, 2020.

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Credit: Ritzau Scanpix/Bo Amstrup/via Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Denmark’s youngsters are returning to schools this week. The country was among the first in Europe to set restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus and has been praised for its swift action. But critics warn that reopening schools is a risky strategy, and some parents refuse to let their children be “guinea pigs.” 

US President Donald Trump intends to announce plans Thursday to reopen the American economy. But public health officials and the business leaders the Trump administration haphazardly assembled into advisory groups say that testing in the US is nowhere near the capacity needed to allow people to safely return to work. 

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced some lockdown rollbacks, but urged “extreme caution.” Merkel, who has a doctorate in physics, was also able to clearly explain how the disease transmission works, highlighting the value of politicians who understand science when creating policy. 

From The World: Madeleine Albright: ‘Globalization is not a four-letter word’

And: COVID-19: Making sense of all the numbers

IMF warns of second Great Depression

The International Monetary Fund warned the global economy could contract by 3% this year and $9 trillion in output could be lost over two years, according to the organization’s 2020 World Economic Outlook, issued this week. Some experts speculate it’s the end of the world economy as we know it

Economists estimate that China, the world’s second-largest economy, may have shrunk by 6% in the first quarter. It would be the first quarterly economic contraction for the country since records began. Manufacturers slowly reopening are going to extreme lengths to fend off a resurgence of the virus.   

And: California is giving 150,000 undocumented adults $500 each

Also: Japan’s Abe to give blanket cash handouts in coronavirus

Millions of South Korean voters head to the polls amid COVID-19 pandemic

After winning praise from across the globe for mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus, South Korea has held parliamentary elections despite concerns that rolling back distancing and quarantine measures could expose voters to the disease.

On Wednesday, at least 29 million South Koreans lined up at polling places to cast ballots for the 300-seat National Assembly — a vote that was widely seen as a measure of public support for the government’s response to the pandemic.

Every 30 Seconds: Young Latino voters in Seattle view November election through lens of pandemic

Racing to develop a drug to fight COVID-19

Doctors in China and the US have transfused antibodies from recovered patients directly into the blood of people with severe cases of COVID-19. Dr. Mario Ostrowski and his collaborators want to identify the genes that encode these antibodies and use them to mass produce lab-grown versions — to turn into a drug to treat the infection.

And: India hospital segregates Muslim and Hindu coronavirus patients

A history of the drug that conquered the world

With little evidence, US President Donald Trump has touted chloroquine’s potential for treating the novel coronavirus, and the clamor for the drug has alarmed leading scientists. But the race for chloroquine is far from new. This remedy and its natural derivative, the cinchona plant, have defined world powers and symbolized hope for cures to destructive diseases for centuries.

And: How an anti-malarial drug has become a tool of India’s diplomacy

In a new MoMA audio guide, security guards are the art experts

Museum of Modern Art security guards pose outside the museum with artist Chemi Rosado-Seijo, far right, creator of an audio guide where the guards explain their favorite works of art.

Credit:

Catalyst Program, The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Beatriz Meseguer/onwhitewall.com. © 2020 The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Museum visitors usually don’t acknowledge security guards. But they’re often incredibly knowledgable about the art they keep watch over — and may even be artists themselves. A new MoMA audio guide puts the guards front and center. In a series of 20 audio essays, the guards each choose a piece of art and speak about it.

You can listen online even though the museum is closed as part of countrywide stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Morning meme

Conservationists in Vietnam recently got some good news: A species feared extinct, the Vietnamese silver-backed mouse-deer, was documented for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The silver-backed chevrotain lives in the scrubby forests of Vietnam’s coast. These animals, also known as mouse-deer, are the world’s smallest ungulates, or hooved animals. This photo is the first documentation of its existence in nearly 30 years.

Credit:

Courtesy of SIE/GWC / Leibniz-IZW/NCNP

In case you missed it:Listen: Outcry over Trump’s WHO funding cut order

US President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, April 14, 2020.

Credit:

Leah Millis/Reuters

President‌ ‌Donald Trump‌ ‌says‌ ‌he’s‌ ‌halting‌ ‌funding‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌World‌ ‌Health‌ ‌Organization‌ ‌pending‌ ‌a‌ ‌review.‌ ‌How‌ would the funding ‌cut ‌affect‌ ‌the‌ ‌WHO’s‌ ‌work‌? And, there’s a global backlash against Trump’s WHO announcement, especially in places where the organization is vital like in Democratic Republic of Congo, where they are not only dealing with COVID-19 but also Ebola. Also, a priest in Vancouver, Canada, has a social distancing solution for confessionals for his congregation: a drive-through option.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.