South Korea said on Saturday it had received sanctions exemptions from the U.N. Security Council for a joint survey of inter-Korean railways, the first step towards reconnecting rail and road links cut during the 1950-53 Korean War.
In April, the leaders of the two Koreas agreed to adopt practical steps to reconnect railways and roads as part of efforts to improve bilateral relationships.
"The sanctions exemption has big implications given that the project has garnered recognition and support from the United States and the international society," South Korea's presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said.
He expressed hope of quick construction of the railways, which he said will take inter-Korean cooperation to a new level.
S.Korea's surviving 'comfort women' spend final years seeking atonement from Japan
When 17-year-old Lee Yong-soo returned home to South Korea in 1945 after years as a child sex slave for Japanese troops, her family, having given her up for dead, thought she was a ghost."When I returned, I had a deep wound," Lee told Reuters, holding a black and white photo of herself in a traditional Korean dress, taken in her first year back home.She still remembers the blue and purple fabric of that dress, but other memories from those years are more traumatic."I thought I was going to die," Lee said of the abuse and torture she endured in a brothel at an airfield in Taiwan used by Japanese kamikaze pilots in the final years of World War Two.South Korea risks ties by disbanding 'comfort women' fund: Japan PMNow 90 years old, Lee says she feels like a sincere apology from Japanese authorities for the wartime exploitation of so-called “comfort women” is no nearer now than when she returned home more than 70 years ago.Japan says the claims have been settled by past agreements and apologies, and that the continued controversy threatens relations between the two countries.Some historians estimate 30,000 to 200,000 Korean women were forced into sex slavery during Japan's occupation from 1910 to 1945, in some cases under the pretext of employment or to pay off a relative's debt.Now with only 27 registered South Korean survivors still alive, there is a sense of urgency behind efforts by the women to receive a formal apology as well as legal compensation from Japan while their voices can still be heard. Just days before Reuters interviewed Lee at her one-room apartment in the southern city of Daegu, a fellow victim had died, one of six so far in 2018.Another survivor, Kim Bok-dong, said she wanted to share her story, but suffering from cancer and expected to live only a few more months, she was unable to find time to speak."SINCERE APOLOGY"Under the 1965 treaty, Japan reached a deal with South Korea to provide an $800 million aid-and-loan package in exchange for Seoul considering all wartime compensation issues settled.A South Korean panel late last year concluded a separate 2015 deal between South Korea and Japan had failed to meet the needs of former "comfort women".Acting on that conclusion, the South Korean government this week shut down a fund created under the 2015 deal and vowed to pursue a more "victim-oriented" approach, a move Japan said threatened the two countries' relations.A sense of shame and secrecy meant most tales of abuse and coercion at the brothels for Japanese troops were never discussed publicly, until Kim Hak-sun, one of the South Korean victims, came forward in 1991.She and two other former comfort women joined a class action lawsuit against Japan, which prompted the Japanese government to acknowledge its role for the first time in 1993. The case was eventually dismissed by Japan's highest courts in 2004.Lee was one of the survivors emboldened by Kim's move, and has since worked to raise awareness, including meeting the Pope and travelling to North Korea to meet other victims."Since 1992, I had been asking Japan to make sincere apology, that is what I want," Lee said. "I have been doing this for 27 years, it doesn’t matter whether it was raining or snowing, or the weather was cold or hot."UNRESOLVED DISPUTEFrom 1995 to 2007, Japan created a fund from donations to make payments to women throughout Asia, budgeted money for their welfare support and sent letters of apology from successive premiers.While a number of survivors have accepted compensation over the years, many South Koreans see the issue as unresolved because of what they consider a lack of sincerity from the Japanese government.Despite apologies from Japan, for example, the first comfort women fund was criticised in South Korea for not being direct compensation from the state, and the 2015 deal was faulted for failing to include a clear statement of the Japanese government’s legal responsibility.Japan says South Korea had waived all claims in the 1965 pact, and that under the 2015 deal, Japan agreed to provide the funds to help the women heal "psychological wounds".Critics of South Korea have also accused it of ignoring the complicity of some Koreans in the sex trade at the time.Shutting the Japan-funded foundation is one of the most significant steps President Moon Jae-in's administration has taken as it revisits the comfort women controversy.In the past year, South Korea has also opened a new research centre aimed at consolidating academic study of comfort women, named the first Comfort Women Day and unveiled a new memorial in Cheonan, a city south of Seoul."We cannot ignore the truth just because it hurts," Moon said this week. "For the sake of sustainable and solid Korea-Japan relations, we must face up to the truth.”Lee said she thinks Moon is "trying his best," and in a statement released from her hospital bed this week, Kim said the move to close the foundation restored her trust in the South Korean president.Moon's efforts, however, have faced pushback from Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.Earlier this year, Japan formally complained after South Korea’s foreign minister raised the issue in a speech at the United Nations.Japanese officials have expressed frustration at what they see as the South Korean government's changing positions and efforts to revisit settled agreements.For survivors like Lee, Japan's protests ring hollow."The survivors of the heinous crimes the Japanese committed are dying day by day, and I bet Abe is dancing for joy," Lee said, becoming animated as she described her frustration. "They should apologise, tell the truth, and pay the legal compensation."
South Korea requested an exemption for deliveries of fuel and other equipment needed to conduct the railway survey in the North, Yonhap News Agency said.
Pyongyang is under wide-ranging U.N. sanctions for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
In October, the two Koreas agreed to carry out joint field studies on transport plans, with a ground-breaking ceremony in late November and early December.
But the plan was delayed amid stalled talks between Washington and Pyongyang following an unprecedented summit in June at which the two sides agreed to work toward nuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula.
Negotiations have since made little headway, with Pyongyang upset by Washington’s insistence that international sanctions must remain until it gives up its nuclear weapons.
The United States has told its ally South Korea it should not improve ties with North Korea faster than Pyongyang takes steps to give up its nuclear weapons.
South, North Korea connect border road through DMZ
The two Koreas on Thursday connected a three-kilometer road inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the countries, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.The unpaved road will be used to transport personnel and equipment for excavation of 60-year-old battle remains. Of the three-km road, 1.7 km belongs to the South, and 1.3 km to the North.Under a military pact signed this September by the defense ministers of South and North Korea following a summit, the move aims to support a joint project to excavate Korean War remains at the site of a fierce battle.“The road was built in Cheorwon, which lies at the very center of the peninsula, for the first time since the Armistice Agreement was signed (to halt the 1950-53 Cold War conflict)," said Seoul’s Defense Ministry in a statement."It is also meaningful historically as it paves the way for efforts to practically push for the joint excavation project aimed at healing the scars of war through this road, that was built at the center of one of the fiercest battles."On Tuesday, South Korean sources reported that North Korea has taken down 10 guard posts in the DMZ.Prior to the September summit -- the third in a series -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met on April 27, followed by the signing of the historic Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula, which has become a formal foundation for further denuclearization of North Korea and a peace deal between the two countries.The two leaders met again on May 26 and discussed lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korean still working at main nuclear site, IAEA says
North Korea appears to be still expanding operations at its main nuclear site, the U.N. atomic watchdog indicated on Thursday.The statement by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is a further sign that North Korea is pressing ahead with its atomic activities despite pressure from the United States for it to scrap its nuclear weapons programme.At a leaders' summit in June both sides pledged to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.Since then, few concrete steps have been made towards the full and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear arms programme that Washington has called for.South Korea risks ties by disbanding 'comfort women' fund: Japan PMAt Yongbyon, North Korea's main nuclear facility which is widely believed to have provided fissile material for its bombs, components appear to have been brought into a light-water reactor being built there, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said."At the light water reactor, the agency also observed activities consistent with the fabrication of reactor components and the possible transfer of these components into the reactor building," Amano said in a statement to the IAEA's Board of Governors, reporting on the period since August.The IAEA has not had access to North Korea since 2009 and mainly monitors activities there through satellite imagery, meaning it cannot confirm its observations.North Korea destroys 10 border guard postsNorth Korea also appeared to have continued work at the nearby Kuryong River that it dammed last year to increase the supply of water available for cooling the planned reactor or the existing experimental one, which has an output capacity of 5 Megawatts."Further activities were observed near the Kuryong River. These may be related to changes to the cooling infrastructure for the 5MW(e) reactor and the light water reactor," Amano said, adding that the experimental reactor was likely shut down while some of those unspecified activities were carried out.Amano referred to a meeting between North and South Korea in September at which the North expressed its readiness to take measures including a permanent dismantlement of its main nuclear facilities in Yongbyon should there be unspecified corresponding action from the United States.Apart from an annual report on developments in North Korea, the IAEA does not normally comment on what it sees there, suggesting that Amano's comments were aimed at illustrating the continued activity at Yongbyon. N.Korea's new 'tactical' weapon test highlights military modernization