Freepressers

When world leaders talk about 'human rights' and when they do not

When world leaders talk about 'human rights' and when they do not

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com The spectacle of the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh did more to lay bare the problems, conflicts and paradoxes of relations among the region’s wildly different and widely scattered nations than to resolve them. The fact that at least three of the leaders at this year’s ASEAN summit won’t be around […]

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At confab on North Korea, not a single word about the hundreds of thousands in gulags

At confab on North Korea, not a single word about the hundreds of thousands in gulags

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com What are the experts thinking when they talk in learned tones, replete with facts and stats, about issues and conditions for North-South Korean reunification, the pitfalls and problems, but omit passing mention of one of the most awful obstacles? At a conference this week bearing the portentous title, “Unification and North […]

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Seoul food: From mad cows to mad N. Koreans who would kill for any kind of beef

Seoul food: From mad cows to mad N. Koreans who would kill for any kind of beef

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com SEOUL — The sequence is simple: One more sick American cow, and the government here is in big trouble. The government here gets into trouble, and the North Korean regime can exploit the differences and make good on its dire threats, eg, the one about “special actions” lasting “three or four […]

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N. Korea's propaganda achieves overkill; Lee Myung-Bak, watch your back

N. Korea's propaganda achieves overkill; Lee Myung-Bak, watch your back

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com SEOUL — The job of a journalist for the North Korean propaganda machine surely must be one of the more fun-filled gigs in the media business. Imagine the laughs the writers up there must be having as they dream up fresh turns of phrase with which to pillory South Korea’s President […]

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U.S.-North Korea 'food for nukes' deal means little, generates hot air in Seoul

U.S.-North Korea 'food for nukes' deal means little, generates hot air in Seoul

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com SEOUL — North Korea’s promise to give up or at least suspend its nuclear program clearly forces the end of the seemingly tough policies enunciated by South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak after he took office four years ago. No way can Lee appear as the strong leader who reversed a decade […]

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South Korea beset by historical tensions with Japan, real time friction with communist neighbors

South Korea beset by historical tensions with Japan, real time friction with communist neighbors

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com SEOUL — No matter which way South Korea looks, the government faces tough new/old issues with the two enormous powers that have subjected the Korean Peninsula to pain and suffering over the centuries. First, this week, the problem was with China after the skipper of a Chinese fishing boat stabbed to death […]

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U.S. policy 'breakthroughs' in Asia hit a series of reality walls

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com WASHINGTON — Call it a matter of conflicting — or colliding — messages. South Korean conservatives have forced a free-trade agreement with the United States through a fractious National Assembly. A U.S. Congress “supercommittee” has demonstrated the weakness of the American system of governance by abject, humiliating failure to come up […]

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FTA a dirty word for S. Korean leftists

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com WASHINGTON —The FTA (free-trade agreement) with the United States is an obscenity in the eyes of leftists in South Korea who believe their conservative government is foisting it on them. Hostility toward the KORUS FTA, as it is known, is such that the political and ideological foes of President Lee Myung-Bak […]

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Vietnam War scars fade as Seoul and Hanoi celebrate commercial, energy and strategic ties

Vietnam War scars fade as Seoul and Hanoi celebrate commercial, energy and strategic ties

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com The image of South Korea’s highly conservative, arch-capitalist President Lee Myung-Bak waving happily in a sea of little paper flags featuring a gold star in a red field was just another ceremonial photo for the Seoul media. The picture, Lee smiling as he and Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang and wife […]

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In break from the downbeat, U.S. and S. Korea finally open new trade era

In break from the downbeat, U.S. and S. Korea finally open new trade era

By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com SEOUL — The United States and South Korea stood on the brink of a brave new world on Friday with a triumphant state visit to Washington by South Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak marking the passage by both houses of the U.S. Congress of the much-delayed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Act. The final […]