Friday 15 Nov 2019 | 15:27 | SYDNEY
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  • 15 Nov 2019 12:30

    Ayodhya verdict and unruly consequences

    India’s Supreme Court has delivered a ruling that will embolden the Hindu right and challenge the country’s secularism.

  • 15 Nov 2019 10:00

    Autocrats Anonymous

    A White House confessional reveals Donald Trump incapable of change – a kind of Marvel superhero, but less interesting.

  • 15 Nov 2019 06:00

    Book Review: The original corporate raiders

    Historian William Dalrymple looks at how a small trading company in London became a mighty army and conquered India.

South Korea

Why does North Korea keep dragging its feet?

The long-awaited US–North Korea working-level talks collapsed last week, as Washington and Pyongyang could not agree on the definition of “denuclearisation” and mutual concessions. This followed the recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by North Korea and insistence on

The pitfalls of North Korea’s summitry spectacle

The third meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un has come and gone, again without much substantial progress, but its symbolism has continued to dominate Korea watchers’ assessments of the event. Trump last month became the first sitting US president to set

Just why is the North Korean status quo so persistent?

Last month in The Interpreter, I argued that inter-Korean status quo is deeply persistent. US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have tried all sorts of tactics in the last 28 months to change things, yet nothing seems to work. In 2017, Trump reached to the limits of

The persistent status quo with North Korea

It is a commonplace in media treatments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) to view the previous two years as remarkable. This is often premised on the notion that the heavy American and South Korean (ROK, or Republic of Korea) engagement with the North since 2017

The limits of Moon Jae‑in’s shuttle diplomacy

Six weeks after the Hanoi summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is about to visit Washington in an effort to keep up the dialogue between the United States and North Korea. Moon’s 11 April trip will take place against a troubled backdrop, of North Korea’s threat to walk away from the

The K-Pop sex and drugs scandal sweeping South Korea

What started as a police investigation into a South Korean nightclub has since erupted into a national scandal, sweeping aside in the public mind at least all the international talk of North Korean denuclearisation and instead shining a light into the shady private lives of K-pop celebrities. The

Women of influence in South Korea

Today is International Women’s Day. In South Korea, women have owned the past year, regularly uniting in their tens of thousands to rally in the streets against gendered violence and injustice. The numbers were unprecedented, 70,000 attended one rally alone, including women of all ages and from

Kim and Trump, again: North Korea’s drives the wedge

Despite inflated pre-summit expectations that US President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un would sign a deal involving at least some sanctions relief, liaison offices, an end of war declaration, and agreement for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear facilities, the fact that Hanoi

The legacy of nationalism in Korea

South Korea has a national holiday on the first day of March to commemorate the start of the 1919 March First Movement. A century later, the legacy of the movement still resonates in both North and South Korea.  In South Korea, the constitution which had been established in 1919 by the

A blast from North Korean past

Appealing to South Korea with proposals of peaceful unification, while at the same time demonising foreigners occupying the Korean Peninsula, is one of the oldest pages in Pyongyang’s rhetorical playbook. Pyongyang is clearly painting a picture for Seoul that relations going forward could come

North Korea is eclipsing the Moon presidency

South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently shook up his cabinet. In particular, his controversial chief of staff, Im Jeong-seok, stepped down. The growing impression in South Korea is that Moon is more concerned with relations with North Korea than with domestic issues. Certainly, it appears that

North Korea’s “selective détente”

Almost two weeks have passed since Kim Jong-un delivered his 2019 New Year Address. He informed the world of his intention to capitalise on his diplomatic victories to enhance North Korea’s international status. He also expressed his willingness to continue the détente with South Korea and

Rap song sparks a gender conversation in South Korea

Sister, why mad? Blame system, not men. I am feminist. A song released recently by Korean rapper San E has touched a nerve in South Korea. The controversial song “Feminist” critiques Korea’s dating culture, beauty standards and the gender pay gap, which he calls a “f---ing fake fact”.

Why denuclearisation is less important for South Korea

One of the most commented upon elements of this year’s outreach effort toward North Korea is the possible drift in the US-South Korean alliance. It has been widely noted that the US is tightly focused on nuclear weapons and missiles, seeking a narrow arms control deal. The US would clearly be

North Korea’s emerging blackmail strategy

A recent New York Times article has drawn much criticism from the US intelligence community for depicting North Korea’s continued missile development as “a Great Deception.” Analysts have responded by proclaiming that North Korea has never agreed to cease its missile and nuclear

South Korea’s quandary: what to do about MIKTA?

The informal grouping of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Australia, known as MIKTA, was once called a new dynamic in diplomacy ­– a new form of middle power activism and the newest acronym in global governance. But at five years old, it’s less dynamic and less active, and no longer

Fawning and flummery winning over love-sick Donald

In the last six months, US President Donald Trump has “fallen in love” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He has also been persuaded that Kim respects him, likely because he called him “your excellency” in his “beautiful letters”. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has claimed Trump

The human side of Moon and Kim’s agreement

The past two years have been full of unexpected twists and stalled promises in the relationship between North Korea and South Korea, as well as their ties with the United States. Yet Wednesday seemed to mark a major breakthrough in inter-Korean relations, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Kim

Korean peninsula and the Moon-shot

The 12 June Singapore Summit has aged badly, as the declaration signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un has proven as useless as most analysts imagined. Consequently, the current US-North Korea diplomatic process is disintegrating under the weight of the parties’ misaligned

The third Moon-Kim summit: uncertainties abound

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for three days of talks with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un, with denuclearisation and the establishment of a permanent peace regime on the agenda. What is striking about this third Moon-

Debating South Korea’s mandatory military service

By now, most people in South Korea know the national team’s victory over Japan in the Asian Games football tournament secured not just the gold medal, but also an exemption from military service for Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min. The win also brought global attention to a simmering

South Korea’s demographic deficit

South Korea’s transformation from a war ravaged, poor and undeveloped country to be now ranked by the World Bank as the 12th largest economy globally has been accompanied by extraordinary social change at home. The greatest challenge is the decline of the national

Moon deepens civilian control in South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has initiated a major overhaul of the Defense Security Command, a military intelligence unit, in the wake of revelations about its politicisation during the impeachment process last year of former president Park Geun-Hye. This scandal has roiled

The struggle to conclude peace in Korea

The border separating North and South Korea remains one of the most heavily armed in the world. Surrounded by thickets of barbed wire, Korea’s misleadingly named Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) stretches about 250 kilometres across the peninsula. It is monitored ceaselessly, a stark reminder of the

The discord in the Korean peace process

Last week, the South Korean Blue House announced preparations for another  summit – what will be the third – between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un in the northern autumn. Both Seoul and Pyongyang have sent ministers to discuss topics

The women taking on spycams in South Korea

One recent Saturday in August, in the middle of a heatwave with the temperature hitting 35 degrees, 70,000 women gathered in the streets of Seoul. The numbers were unprecedented, but the action wasn’t. They have been staging regular rallies since May, in what has been called the biggest recorded

Idols in South Korea and Japan

The music industries in Japan and South Korea are entwining. K-pop idols can successfully sell albums in Japan, and Japanese singers can join K-pop groups. However, in a reflection of national rivalries, there will always be friction between the two competing industries. K-pop has enjoyed a boom

South Korea’s first “human rights president”

Moon Jae-In has been president of South Korea for fifteen months so far. On the whole, he is a marked improvement on his predecessor, Park Geun-Hye. President Park was, of course, impeached and removed. For that alone she will go down in the history books as a poor president. Bizarrely, Park

Détente divergence: the US-South Korean split

Reactions in the US and South Korea have differed sharply since US President Donald Trump met North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un last month in Singapore. (The president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo call Kim “chairman”, because he governs as the chairman of the State Affairs

Reunification out of reach

The Trump–Kim summit in Singapore was the first step towards persuading North Korea to join the few countries that have relinquished nuclear weapons. It also presents the best chance since the Clinton administration’s breakthroughs in 2000 to normalise relations.  But

It’s all up to Moon now

The Trump–Kim summit last week in Singapore was a nothingburger – not good or bad, just nothing new really at all. After months of hype, including grossly inflated talk of CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament) and a Nobel prize, US President Donald Trump’s meeting with North

Trump–Kim summit: Moon’s conflicted achievement

North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un scored a huge diplomatic victory on Tuesday when he finally got the chance to hold a summit with US President Donald Trump, a feat his grandfather and father never achieved. In addition to the credit Kim and Trump received for their courageous acts, South

Talking North Korea in Australia

This month, I was in Australia for events hosted by the Lowy Institute and Sydney Writers’ Festival respectively. The questions were excellent, and I would like to take advantage of this space to expand on some of the topics brought up. Generally speaking, the questions at

Deciphering symbols at the inter-Korean summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s charm offensive continues with his first meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Demilitarized Zone on Friday. At the end of the third Inter-Korean summit, the two leaders inked the Panmunjom Declaration to show their commitment to the

Why definitions will be crucial for North-South talks 

In just over a week, President of South Korea Moon Jae-in will sit with his northern counterpart, Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un, at Panmunjom, the historic site of the 1953 armistice, for the third instalment of the inter-Korean summit (to be broadcast live). The summit will occur

The peril of North Korea’s charm offensive

Since the first days of 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has undertaken a series of diplomatic activities whose scope and significance are rivalled only by his missile and nuclear tests. The fact that Kim made his first overseas trip to China, attended a K-pop performance in Pyongyang,

Watching on: Australia and the Korean Peninsula talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are scheduled to meet for the first time on 27 April at Panmunjom, the “truce” village on the border of the two countries. The rapidly changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula has reached a critical juncture.

An agenda for the Moon–Kim summit

Later this month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This is the third inter-Korean summit since the days of the Sunshine Policy – an approach of open dialogue with North Korea from 1998 to 2008. That effort earned a Nobel Peace Prize, but previous

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