Country Report: South Korea (September 2021)
With the end of his term drawing near, President Moon seemed to be in a race against the clock to revive the stalled Korea peace initiative. His August 15 Independence Day speech, urging North Korea to return to dialogue and make “great strides in denuclearization and peace,” was flatly rejected by Pyongyang, which avowed that there would be no more talks. This rebuff dealt a significant blow to Moon as it came just about two weeks after he agreed with the North Korean leader to restore the inter-Korean communication lines in order to rebuild trust and improve relations. Besides North Korea, the changing domestic and external environment does not appear to bode well for Moon. Domestically, as the primary elections unfold over the next few months, public attention will increasingly turn to presidential candidates and their foreign policy blueprints. Externally, the US became stretched thin by its defeat and departure in Afghanistan while China has shown an intention to revive its alliance with North Korea. Japan’s LDP, ahead of the general election, perhaps in September, found the feud with South Korea useful to appeal to its ultra-conservative voters. As the current situation stands, Moon’s case for improved ties to any of the four parties was extremely unlikely to make much headway.
ROK-US relations drew close scrutiny in two contexts. First, as usual, the North Korean context drove debate, especially between conservatives and progressives over military exercises. Second, the Afghanistan context entered the picture from mid-August, as many wondered how the US retreat and defeat there would impact ROK-US relations and if the ROK needed to commit to the US “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy to make the alliance less expendable. Relations with Japan and China likewise aroused concern, in both cases fueled by remarks from their officials. A Japanese official crudely insulted Moon, as talks collapsed for a summit at the Tokyo Olympics, and the Chinese ambassador brusquely interfered in politics, attacking a presidential candidate’s defense of the sovereign decision to deploy THAAD, while intimating that if Seoul does not take a zero-sum approach to ties to the US and China, it will pay. Relations with both Tokyo and Beijing were more troubled at summer’s end than before.
Postponing and/or downsizing ROK-US Combined Military Exercises
On July 5, it was revealed that South Korea and the US agreed to downsize the scale of their combined military exercises scheduled in August, holding table-top exercises (TTX) based on computer simulations. Noting that such a decision was expected given Moon’s earlier remarks that COVID-19 conditions would likely preclude holding large-scale military drills and President Biden’s open-ended diplomatic overture to the North for dialogue, the newspaper nevertheless expressed concern that holding command post exercises without field exercises at the battalion-level and below could not only weaken the combined defense posture against North Korean provocations but the raison d’etre of the ROK-US alliance. Conservative Segye Ilbo echoed the criticism noting that “repeated calls for postponing or downsizing the military exercises from the government and the ruling party were met with lewd remarks from the North.”1 It added that without a change in the North, such a decision would only weaken the combined defense posture of the allies. Conservative AsiaToday took issue with the July 5th announcement from the Ministry of Defense that the timing, scope, and manner of the scheduled military exercises are not determined. noting that the ministry’s ambiguous stance fuels the ongoing controversy on the issue.2
Restructuring of Military Command Structure
On July 6, conservative DongA Ilbo reported that the South Korean military had commenced a classified review on restructuring its future military command structure, the first such review in 10 years, in preparation for the planned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) from the US to South Korea.3 In 2019, South Korea and the US agreed that after the OPCON transfer, a four-star South Korean general, other than the chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), would take charge of the wartime OPCON as the commander of the Combined Forces Command (CFC). Under the current command structure, a US four-star general as the commander of the ROK-US CFC and the United Nations Command (UNC) exercises wartime operational control while his South Korean counterpart is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) peacetime operational control. According to a South Korean Ministry of Defense official, the focus of the review was on how to coordinate the functions and roles between the commander of the future CFC and the chairman of the Korean JCS and whether consolidating the divided commands under a single theater commander would allow the South Korean military to lead combined operations in the Korean theater.4 On July 7, DongA Ilbo editorialized that a more important task for the South Korean military at this point would be fulfilling the conditions for the OPCON transfer, metrics that measure whether it has adequate capabilities to lead the combined operations on the Korean Peninsula. The newspaper commented that the review should be closely coordinated with the US and transparently consulted with each branch of the military, ensuring a robust combined posture in the future.5
Return of US Military Bases
On July 29, South Korean and US representatives issued a statement after a Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) meeting in which they agreed to expedite the return of US military base sites, including 500,000 square meters of land in the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul by early 2022.6 A number of conservative newspapers described the pace of the return as too slow, calling for its acceleration. Conservative Hankook Ilbo said the land returned by the US forces still represented merely 27.6% of the total despite the opening of a new military base in Pyeongtaek, approximately 40 miles south of Seoul.7 Conservative Segye Ilbo editorialized that the return of 500,000 square meters of land was “welcoming yet disappointing” in that no specific timeline was given for completing the return and constructing a park in its place.8 Both newspapers also pointed out that the statement fell short of deciding on the apportionment of the environmental cleanup costs for the returned bases. Hankook Ilbo called on South Korea to persuade the US military with scientific evidence to share the burden of the costs, whereas Segye Ilbo asked Seoul to adopt a realistic and practical approach to prevent the recurrence of the cost-sharing disputes Washington and Seoul had during the Trump administration and cracks in the alliance. In contrast, progressive Kyunghyang Shinmun criticized Seoul’s negotiating strategy of prioritizing the early return of US military sites while pushing back detailed discussions on sharing environment cleanup costs; it argued that the US military had responsibility for cleaning up the contamination on the bases it used and called on Seoul to confidently and strategically persuade the US side to pay for the costs.9
ROK-US Annual Summertime Joint Military Exercises
On August 10, South Korea and the United States began preliminary joint military exercises as planned despite North Korea’s warning that the drills will cause a serious security threat to the allies. The preliminary training, called Crisis Management Staff Training (CMST), was aimed at checking the military’s readiness for a potential contingency. It was followed by the main, computer-simulated Combined Command Post Training (CCPT), scheduled for August 16-26.
Early in August, the inter-Korean communication hotlines had been restored, but Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, slammed Seoul and Washington for holding the joint military drills. As a result, whether or not to postpone the annual summertime military exercise became a major subject of controversy in South Korea.
On July 30, a high-level official in the Ministry of Unification called for delay in the South Korea-US military exercises and said it was the right time to engage with North Korea through South Korea-US cooperation. This was echoed by the director of the National Intelligence Service Park Jie-won. Before the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, he invoked the need to be “flexible” regarding the joint drills in order to maintain the momentum of dialogue and achieve denuclearization in North Korea.10 In contrast, Boo Seung-chan, spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defense, told reporters that when and how to stage the drills remained to be decided by both Seoul and Washington. He added that various factors, including the pandemic, a combined defense posture, the transfer of the OPCON, and efforts for denuclearization, will be taken into consideration.11
Despite the divergence between departments in the government on the subject of postponement of the South Korea-US joint military drills, both the ruling and opposition parties urged Seoul and Washington to proceed with the joint military drills as planned. Song Young-gil, the head of the ruling Democratic Party, underscored the importance of the joint military exercise as an unavoidable procedure for OPCON transfer in a meeting with the party’s supreme council members. In a radio interview with YTN, he explained that inter-Korean relations should be solved based on the ROK-US alliance and the trust between South Korea and the United States.12 The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) expressed concerns over the effectiveness of the scaled-down, computer-simulated joint military exercise. Shin Won-sik of the PPP pointed out that the number of reinforcements for the summertime military joint exercise decreased to 30% of the springtime joint military drills due to COVID-19.13
Conservative newspapers criticized the government for using the ROK-US joint military exercises as a leverage for resumption of dialogue with North Korea. Chosun Ilbo editorialized about the government’s decision to scale down the size of the joint military drills and criticized “politicization of national defense,” accusing the government of using North Korea for the presidential election scheduled for next March at the expense of national security.14 Joongang Ilbo pointed out that the Korean and US forces have not conducted any large-scale field training since 2018 and urged the government to separate the issue of the South Korea-US joint military exercises from dialogue with North Korea.15
On the other hand, Hankook Ilbo and Hankyoreh argued that the government should consider the postponement of the South Korea-US joint military exercises. Hankook Ilbo noted, considering the overwhelming strength of the ROK-US combined forces, the postponement of the joint military drills would not weaken defenses and urged the government to be flexible in responding to the worsening COVID-19 situation.16 Hankyoreh stressed the importance of the inter-Korean hotlines and argued the government should consider the military exercises as a policy tool to support peace on the Korean Peninsula.17
US Withdrawal from Afghanistan
On August 15, the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and its immediate aftermath gained worldwide attention, especially from US allies. In South Korea, it was interpreted as a sobering message that the presence of the United States Forces in Korea (USFK) should not be taken for granted.
Conservative lawmakers and newspapers drew a lesson from the current political turmoil in Afghanistan and noted that without military discipline and a strong alliance, there is always the possibility of USFK withdrawal. On August 17, Kang Min-kuk, the floor spokesperson of the main opposition PPP, argued that the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan is the result of the government’s incompetence, the incapacitated military, and the cold-hearted aspect of the international politics that gives priority to national interests.18 Joongang Ilbo said in its editorial that recent events in Afghanistan revealed the importance of the ROK-US alliance, especially with regard to the recent statements from Kim Yo-jong, which demanded the pullout of US troops from South Korea.19 Noting that Biden underscored the importance of American national interests in his remarks on Afghanistan, Chosun Ilbo said that the pressure from Washington for Seoul to participate in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) or to restrict semiconductor exports to China is likely to increase. Thus, it said, South Korea’s ambiguous position in the ROK-US alliance, focusing on the North Korean threat without a commitment to the US Indo-Pacific strategy, is not sustainable.20
On August 20, during the plenary session of the National Defense Committee, Minister of National Defense Suh Wook said it is difficult to agree with a simple comparison of the recent turmoil in Afghanistan to the ROK-US alliance.21 Hankook Ilbo noted that the role of the ROK-US alliance would rather be further expanded as one of the key means of the US Indo-Pacific strategy.22 Hankyoreh put more emphasis on the fundamental difference between Afghanistan and US allies like South Korea, as Biden insisted in an interview with ABC News.23 Acknowledging the inevitability of changes in diplomatic strategy focusing on the American national interest, Hankyoreh urged the South Korean government to expand its international role but avoid military tension and confrontation with China.24
In Nam-sik from the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security shed light on the instability of Afghanistan that is likely to spread beyond the Middle East. According to his analysis, as Afghanistan is no longer the “graveyard of empires” but “global challenges,”25 South Korea should consider stability in Afghanistan as a common good and cooperate with the international community concerning human rights, terrorism, and refugees.26
North Korean Cyberattacks on South Korean Defense Industry
On July 1, it was revealed that in June, North Korea hacked the internal systems of three key South Korea aerospace and defense companies and nuclear research institutes – Korea Aerospace Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd, and Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute –, possibly having accessed highly classified military information. The stolen information likely included the design of the KF-21 Boramae, the next-generation homegrown fighter jet, a vertical launching system for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and a small and modular nuclear reactor used in submarines.27 Chosun Ilbo editorialized that the latest cybersecurity incidents, which followed ones in April and June 2016 and in May 2021, laid bare the laxity and lack of adequate cybersecurity measures in the South Korean defense industry and national research institutes, saying that should the problems of underinvestment in cybersecurity and outsourcing cybersecurity tasks to reduce costs be left unaddressed, allies such as the US would not be willing to share advanced and sophisticated military technology and information with South Korea.28 JoongAng Ilbo called the incident “pathetic,” stating that North Korean cyberattacks, which have repeatedly resulted in the theft of a large amount of data including advanced military technology, classified military documents, and personal information, were virtually left unattended by the state.29 AsiaToday cautioned that given the significant threat posed by North Korean cyberattacks on military and basic infrastructure, the government should proactively review cybersecurity and put in place effective security countermeasures.30 Conservatives pounced on this lapse, as progressives did not find a reason to blame the Moon administration, which represented their cause.
Restoration of Inter-Korean Communication Channels
On July 27, Park Soo-Hyun, spokesperson of the presidential Cheong Wa Dae, announced that the leaders of South and North Korea agreed to restore the suspended communication channels. According Park, the leaders made the decision, after having exchanged personal letters, as a first step to restore trust and improve relations.31 The reaction from members of the National Assembly was mixed; the liberal ruling Democratic Party welcomed it without qualification while the conservative opposition People Power Party reacted with caution. Lee So-Young, spokesperson of the ruling Democratic Party said that her party genuinely welcomed the reopening of cross-border communication lines, hoping that it would become a turning point in making peace in Korea and ending the confrontation between the South and the North.32 Yang Jun-woo, spokesperson of the People Power Party, said that it would hopefully lead to “two-way communication, not one-way courting of the North by the South,” adding that Seoul should, above all, seek explanations from the North on its atrocious acts including a South Korean fishery official shot to death in the West Sea, cyberhacking, and a ballistic missile launch in March.
Conservative newspapers reacted with caution, saying that Seoul, the end of its term slated for next spring, should moderate its ambitions in dealing with the North and focus on building the basis of cooperation rather than summitry and showcase diplomatic events. Hankook Ilbo called the news “encouraging,” hoping that it would be followed by measures to reduce tensions and expand cooperation. Seoul Shinmun called the development “the rare mood of reconciliation,” calling on the government to coordinate between Washington and Pyongyang to set the conditions for bilateral talks. Both newspapers nevertheless cautioned that the government should be focused on laying the institutional foundations for inter-Korean peace rather than on summitry with much fanfare. JoongAng Ilbo likewise said that the development is a positive change that Seoul should use to improve the relationship with the North, adding that the prerequisites for further engagement with the North should be a clear explanation for its demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in June 2020 and the killing of a South Korean fishery official in September 2020.33
Progressive newspapers instead called on the government to scale down the planned military exercises with the US to maintain the positive momentum. Kyunghyang Shinmun said that the development was all the more meaningful as it came on the 68th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement, highlighting the need for the government to scale down the size of ROK-US military exercises to create a mood for peace. In a separate editorial commentary, it further argued that suspending the planned ROK-US combined military exercises would induce the North to return to the negotiating table.34 Hankyoreh called the restored communication channels as “a springboard for improving relations,” urging Pyongyang to restrain from armed provocations and at the same time Washington and Seoul to adjust the scope of the combined military exercises and peacefully manage the political situation on the peninsula.35
North Korea Food Crisis amid COVID-19 crisis
On July 14, North Korea, for the first time, made public its voluntary national report (VNR) on the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report, submitted to the UN, noted that in 2018, the country’s cereal production had dropped to a 10-year low of 4.95 million tons due to “natural disasters, weak resilience, insufficient farming materials and low level of mechanization,” adding that its target of producing 7 million tons of cereal was unmet.36 Hankook Ilbo editorialized that the ongoing food shortage coupled with COVID-19 pandemic could push Pyongyang to pursue closer alignment with Beijing, which would give Beijing an edge over Washington and Seoul on the Korean Peninsula, an outcome it said Seoul should prevent by promoting cooperation on public health and providing humanitarian aid.37
North Korea’s Reaction to the South Korea-US Joint Military Exercises
Not long after the restoration of the cross-border communication hotline, North Korea issued a series of statements condemning Seoul and Washington for proceeding with the annual summertime joint military exercises. As Pyongyang once again cut off the communication channel on the first day of the preliminary drills, its willingness to engage in dialogue remained unclear.
On August 1, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported a statement from Kim Yo-jong, warning that the joint military drills between Seoul and Washington will be an “uninteresting prelude” that seriously undermines the two Korean leaders’ will to restore trust again.38 As it was the first hostile message from Pyongyang since the reopening of the inter-Korean hotlines, South Korea’s responses were divided on whether or not to postpone the joint military training for future engagement with North Korea. While conservative lawmakers and newspapers implacably opposed delay in the training, 74 lawmakers from different parties, including the ruling Democratic Party, the Justice Party, and the Open Democratic Party, signed a petition for a postponement of the joint military drills to resume inter-Korean dialogue.39
On the first day of the preliminary joint training between South Korea and the United States, Kim Yo-jong once again expressed regret over Seoul’s “perfidious behavior” to stage the drills and accused Washington of “vivid expression” of its hostile policy toward North Korea. In addition, she insisted the US withdraw its troops deployed in South Korea and said that North Korea will increase its deterrent of absolute capacity to “cope with the ever-growing military threats from the US.”40 Without further comments, an official of the Ministry of Unification said that this statement is a reaffirmation of North Korea’s existing position.41 Following Kim Yo-jong’s remarks, Kim Yong-chol, head of the United Front Department, issued a warning that Seoul’s wrong decisions will lead to a serious security crisis and strongly denounced South Korea for answering the North’s “good faith” with hostilities.42
Both conservative and progressive media outlets noted that North Korea’s insistence on halting this year’s computer-simulated joint military exercises, which had been constantly scaled-down, is hardly persuasive. DongA Ilbo said that the reopening of the inter-Korean communication hotlines was “bait” to induce suspension of the joint military training.43 Chosun Ilbo criticized the South Korean government for giving North Korea the false impression that delay of the regular joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States is open to negotiation.44 Joongang Ilbo underlined the significance of Pyongyang’s insistence on the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea and urged the government to establish a clear principle that distinguishes what can and cannot be conceded with regard to humanitarian aid to North Korea and military training with the US.45
In an interview with Asia Kyungjae, Lee Ho-ryoung argued that among three major elements of communication—information, influence, and persuasion—Kim Yo-jong’s statements offer nothing but influence. Lee said, despite the rapidly changing internal and external environment, North Korea’s strategic goal toward South Korea remained unchanged and its recent statements only reinforced the perception that North Korea did not and will not change.46 Hankyoreh pointed out that Pyongyang’s aggressive statements only had the side effect of causing public anger and narrowing the scope of Seoul’s maneuver.47 Kyunghyang Shinmun noted that to close off the possibility of unnecessary conflict, the South should fully explain the defensive nature of the joint military drills to the North and the North should refrain from raising tensions.48
Scrapping a ROK-Japan Summit at the Tokyo Olympics and Controversy over Japanese Diplomat’s Lewd Remark
On July 6, the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported that Seoul and Tokyo were in discussion on the prospect of Moon’s attendance at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23 and a summit meeting with Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide.49 The South Korean press largely welcomed the news, expressing hope that the first summit between the two leaders could help mend strained relations due to the ongoing row over history and territorial claims. Moderate Kookmin Ilbo ran an editorial commentary urging the Suga to restrain from using the feud with South Korea to appeal to his ultra-conservative supporters at home and to engage in a conversation with Moon.50 Hankyoreh echoed the view, stating that South Korea and Japan need to look for common ground through dialogue. AsiaToday also editorialized that nothing would be more welcome than holding a summit between the two leaders.
Despite the initial hope for a summit, on July 19, Cheong Wa Dae announced that Moon had decided not to visit Tokyo “given the expectation of an insufficient outcome of the summit and other circumstances.”51 Seoul’s decision to scrap the visit came about a week after a senior Japanese diplomat allegedly made a lewd remark that President Moon’s Japan policy was “masturbatory.”
Hankook Ilbo blamed the Japanese government for the breakdown, denouncing its insincere acts and lewd remark about the South Korean leader.52 In an editorial commentary, Hankyoreh questioned whether the Japanese government was willing to repair strained ties with South Korea, charging it with deliberately distorting the conversations with Seoul and leaking them to the press.53 AsiaToday editorialized that Japan should feel a sense of responsibility for failing, at the last minute, to host the summit due to its rather arrogant stance towards Seoul.54 Segye Ilbo stated that Japan would not be able to absolve itself of full responsibility for failing to improve relations, a prerequisite to strengthening trilateral cooperation among the US, South Korea, and Japan on many issues including the North Korean nuclear crisis.55
Centenary of Chinese Communist Party
On July 1, China celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Observing the week-long anniversary, much of the South Korean press reacted negatively. JoongAng Ilbo editorialized that despite its rise to the second largest economy, China’s illiberalism, including removal of term limits for its leader, repression of the Uyghurs and Hong Kong, and “wolf warrior” diplomacy, would invite international anger and urged the country to embrace inclusiveness and universalism.56 Hankyoreh joined the criticism, noting that China’s repressive policies on Hong Kong, particularly its National Security Law, indicated disregard for human rights and democracy, urging the country to heed the concerns of the international community and uphold universal values and an inclusive attitude.57 Noting China’s glorification of its participation in the Korean War as the “War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea” as part of a gala show commemorating the 100th anniversary, conservative Seoul Kyungjae editorialized that Seoul’s habit of walking on eggshells toward China shrank South Korea’s standing vis-à-vis China, urging it to strengthen its alliance with the US based on shared values and openly expressing its views to China.58
Controversy over Chinese Ambassador’s Opinion Article
On July 16, a controversy arose over an op-ed by Xing Haiming, the Chinese ambassador to Seoul. The article was in response to Yoon Seok-youl, a front-running presidential candidate who, in a July 15 interview with the local press, claimed that South Korea’s decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense batteries clearly fell within its area of sovereignty and that China should first withdraw its long-range radar near the Korean Peninsula if it wants to insist on the THAAD withdrawal.59 Stating that the deployment harmed Beijing’s security interests while Seoul’s ambivalent actions and words impaired strategic mutual trust, the ambassador implicitly warned Seoul to defer to China’s rising economic power.60
The article drew heavy criticism from many quarters in South Korea. Park Jin, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee at the National Assembly, wrote on Facebook that by challenging a South Korean presidential candidate’ stance on foreign policy, the ambassador not only violated South Korean sovereignty, but also raised the suspicion that China was trying to interfere in its presidential election.61 Foreign-policy experts echoed this view. Yoon Duk-min, former chancellor of Korea National Diplomacy Academy, said the ambassador’s zero-sum view of South Korea’s relations with the US and China was undesirable and that it would be inappropriate for China to continuously take issue with the THAAD deployment intended as a minimum deterrent against North Korean threats.62 Choi Kang, vice President of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said the ambassador’s article violateddiplomatic courtesy and might cause misunderstanding that China considered South Korea “an easy target to manipulate.”63 Conservative Maeil Kyungjae editorialized that it was diplomatically disrespectful for an ambassador to criticize a presidential candidate of a host country, saying that the South Korea’s Foreign Ministry should stand up to China and voice its concern.64 Hankook Ilbo and Seoul Kyungjae joined the criticism, stating that the ministry’s self-restraint to avoid angering Beijing would only make China more haughty and assertive.65
South Korea Classified as Developed Country by UNCTAD
On July 2, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in its 68th Board Meeting unanimously decided to reclassify South Korea as a developed economy, moving the country from Group A (Asian and African Countries) to Group B (Developed Economies), the first such decision since the body’s establishment in 1964. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in its statement that the decision “not only affirmed that the international community acknowledged the standing of South Korea as a developed economy” it “attested that South Korea is an exemplary case of developing through trade and investment and can serve as a bridge between developed and developing countries”66
Hankyoreh noted that South Korea by many measures is already an advanced economy: in 2020, the tenth-largest economy ($1.63 trillion); seventh-largest exporter (goods exports totaled $512 billion; and ranked twenty-sixth in terms of GDP per capita ($31,497). Further noting South Korea’s participation as a guest country at the G7 Summit held in Cornwall, UK and its 2019 renouncement of receiving special treatment for a developing country in the future WTO negotiations, the newspaper argued that it is a moot point that South Korea is an advanced economy to be asked to shoulder more duties and responsibilities by the international community and called upon the government to improve the quality of life of citizens, particularly their economic and social conditions.
Other newspapers including AsiaToday and Hankook Ilbo noted that the developed country status necessarily comes with increasing calls for playing a larger role and assuming greater responsibilities in the international community and urged the government to play a visible role in the realms of international peace and security, human rights, environment, climate change, and development assistance commensurate with its improved status.67 AsiaToday further noted that South Korea should at the same time make efforts to avoid certain problems suffered by developed countries such as aging demographics and bloated social welfare programs and lead development of innovative sectors for sustained economic growth.
Hankook Kyungjae noted that among several factors, it is undeniable that South Korean business played the most important role in industrialization of the country and claimed that anti-corporate sentiment accusing business of lust and avarice would erode the foundation of South Korea’s industrial growth.68 Seoul Shinmun noted that South Koreans can be proud of their country given their history of achieving democratization and industrialization in s short span of time and urged the government and citizens to further upgrade their social system and develop global and mature consciousness.69 Conservative Financial News recalled the famous remarks by General Douglas MacArthur that it will take 100 years to recover from the devastation in the aftermath of the Korean War and reaffirmed the significance of the fast growth of South Korea dubbed the “miracle on the Han River.”70 The newspaper urged the South Korean government not to be self-indulgent in these achievements and to continue to address outstanding issues of aggravated polarization and unemployment for youth and the elderly.71
1. “한·미훈련 축소, 연합방위태세 약화만 초래할 뿐이다,” Segye Ilbo, July 5, 2021, https://m.segye.com/view/20210705514096.
2. “한·미 훈련 또 축소, 안보 빈틈 안 된다,” AsiaToday, July 5, 2021, https://www.asiatoday.co.kr/view.php?key=20210705010002537.
3. “軍, 전작권 전환 대비 지휘구조 바꾼다,” DongA Ilbo, July 6, 2021, https://www.donga.com/news/Politics/article/all/20210706/107804794/1.
5. “전작권 대비 지휘구조 개편, 연합방위 강화에 초점 둬야,” DongA Ilbo, July 7, 2021,https://www.donga.com/news/Opinion/article/all/20210706/107824224/1.
6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea, “The US-ROK Status of Forces Agreement Joint Committee,” July 29, 2021.
7. “용산미군기지 또 찔끔 반환… 한미 속도 내야,” Hankook Ilbo, July 30, 2021, https://www.hankookilbo.com/News/Read/A2021072916500002384.
8. “평택기지 완공된 게 언제인데… 용산기지 반환 속도내야,” Segye Ilbo, July 29, 2021, https://m.segye.com/view/20210729516376.
9. “내년 초 25% 돌려받는 용산기지, 정화비용 협상 속도 내야,” Kyunghyang Shinmum, July 29, 2021, https://m.khan.co.kr/opinion/editorial/article/202107292041015#c2b.
10. “김여정 ‘한미 훈련 중단’ 요구에 국정원 맞장구, 무슨 정치 이벤트 있나,” Chosun Ilbo, August 4, 2021, https://www.chosun.com/opinion/editorial/2021/08/04/24YTC67QMFDA5ANP5S3WY7VQXA/.
11. “국방부 “한미, 연합훈련 협의중”…’김여정 담화’엔 노코멘트,” Yonhap News, August 2, 2021, https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20210802061000504.
12. “송영길 ‘한미연합훈련 불가피’, 범여권 의원 74명 연기촉구 성명,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, August 5, 2021, https://www.khan.co.kr/politics/politics-general/article/202108051102001.
13. “한미연합훈련 韓증원병력, 전반기의 30% 수준,” DongA Ilbo, August 10, 2021, https://www.donga.com/news/Politics/article/all/20210810/108471368/1.
14. “일상이 된 ‘국방의 정치화’ 北 손짓 한 번에 한미 훈련 축소,” Chosun Ilbo, August 2, 2021, https://www.chosun.com/opinion/editorial/2021/08/02/BIGTOWHPOVG3XOOCZZQYPCU7JQ/.
15. “남북대화와 한·미 연합훈련은 별개다,” Joongang Ilbo, August 2, 2021, https://news.joins.com/article/24118925.
16. “한미 연합훈련 코로나 감안 유연하게 접근해야,” Hankook Ilbo, August 2, 2021, https://www.hankookilbo.com/News/Read/A2021080115590003982.
17. “한-미, 8월 연합군사훈련 연기하는 게 옳다,” Hankyoreh, August 1, 2021, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/1006042.html.
18. “野 ‘아프간 사태, 한미동맹 강화·강군 유지 교훈 줘’,” Yonhap News, August 17, 2021, https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20210817149500001.
19. “아프간 사태가 한·미 동맹 중요성 보여줬다,” Joongang Ilbo, August 17, 2021, https://www.joongang.co.kr/article/24129025#home.
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