Posts tagged ‘Seoul’


‘Spice-Girl Diplomacy:’ North Korean Girl Band’s Beijing Shows Abruptly Cancelled – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The Moranbong band’s shows at China’s National Center for the Performing Arts have been cancelled “due to some reasons,” an employee at the venue told China Real Time Saturday night.

A person who had a ticket to one of the band’s invitation-only shows confirmed that he received a cancellation notice late Saturday afternoon. Short hair, glittery miniskirts, electronic pop music and perhaps even the theme song from the 1976 Hollywood hit “Rocky” were expected to grace the stage of Beijing’s top music hall Saturday night as the Moranbong band was set to kick off three days of shows in the Chinese capital.

The group — which was accompanied by an army orchestra, the State Merited Chorus – arrived in Beijing on Thursday and was expected to stay until next Tuesday on what the North Korean official news agency KCNA described as a “friendship visit” to China.

Zuma Press China’s state-run media lit up with news reports on the group’s visit in recent days, with the official Xinhua News Agency publishing a slideshow showing the women arriving in Beijing dressed in military-style frocks and fur hats. It was unclear Saturday evening whether the band was still in Beijing.

Japan’s Kyodo News Service reported that band members were seen at Beijing’s Capital International Airport and had flown back to Pyongyang late Saturday afternoon. But no updates were forthcoming from Xinhua and other Chinese state-run media. The visit was to have been the group’s first overseas tour — although no one, it seemed, knew how to obtain a ticket.

Neither the concert venue nor China’s foreign ministry was able to provide instructions on buying a ticket when asked by China Real Time this week. A ticket agent at the National Centre for the Performing Arts said before Saturday’s cancellations that the performances were being treated as a national-level foreign affairs activity and that the concert hall was responsible only for providing the venue. “We don’t have a single ticket on hand; we even don’t know yet which room will be offered for the performance,” the ticket agent said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday that she had no details on the show or its audience — and had not been invited herself. ”This performance is not organized by the foreign ministry so I have no more information to offer,” she said at a regular briefing. “As for where to buy the tickets, I have no information. I myself have no ticket to the performance.”

Some speculated that the tour was being organized by another official organ, the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. Neither that department nor the North Korean Embassy responded to requests for comment. China has long been North Korea’s economic and diplomatic lifeline. Yet the traditional alliance between the two has come under strain in recent years, particularly after Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in 2013 and North Korean forces seized a Chinese fishing boat later that year.

Even so, both countries have played up their ties again since this fall when senior Chinese official Liu Yunshan stood alongside Mr. Kim at a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party. Mr. Liu, who is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, also passed along to Mr. Kim a letter from Xi Jinping in which the Chinese president called for closer relations.

Whether Moranbong’s short-lived visit to Beijing was intended to show a further warming of ties between China and North Korea — also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK — remains open to debate. Asked Friday about the group, Ms. Hua called the tour “a major event showing the friendship between the DPRK and China.” “We believe it contributes to our mutual understanding and the sound and sustainable development of bilateral ties,” she added.

Zhang Yushan, a researcher at the Jilin Social Science Academy who studies North and South Korea, cautioned against reading too much into the visit. “This spice-girl diplomacy doesn’t really mean China and North Korea’s relations really will become warmer,” he said. This week, a top United Nations official called for the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court over “gross human rights violations.” China called a vote to stop the meeting, although it failed to halt it. “North Korea was seeking help from China”, Mr. Zhang of the move. “We are both very practical.”

Members of the Moranbong Band are believed to have been selected by Kim Jong Un himself. The group has become the most well-known girl band in North Korea since its debut in 2012. In addition to anthems urging listeners to “support our supreme commander with arms,” Moranbong’s repertoire also includes a surprising number of foreign pieces, including the “Rocky” theme song

Source: ‘Spice-Girl Diplomacy:’ North Korean Girl Band’s Beijing Shows Abruptly Cancelled – China Real Time Report – WSJ


Narendra Modi arrives in South Korea on final leg of tri-nation tour – The Hindu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Seoul on Monday on the last leg of his three-nation visit during which he will hold talks with the South Korean leadership aiming to give a fillip to economic and trade cooperation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Seoul National Cemetery. Photo: PIB

A slew of agreements are expected to be signed during the visit including one on Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, cooperation in shipping and logistics, audiovisual co-production, transport, highways and electric power development in new energy industries.

The Prime Minister, who flew in from Mongolia after his three-day visit to China, will hold talks on the entire gamut of bilateral, regional and global issues with President Park Geun-hye and explore ways to upgrade cooperation in diversified areas.

He will have a hectic schedule that will start with a wreath—laying ceremony at the Seoul National Cemetery.

Mr. Modi will address a community reception where about 1,500 members of the Indian community are expected to attend before getting into talks with the Korean President.

Mr. Modi, who is keen to woo Korean investments in India, will address India—Republic of Korea CEOs Forum, which would also be attended by the Korean President.

The Prime Minister will follow this up with meetings with some of the heads of Korean companies that are willing to invest in India or have already invested in India.

He will also visit the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in the backdrop of shipbuilding emerging as an important area of cooperation between the two countries.

via Narendra Modi arrives in South Korea on final leg of tri-nation tour – The Hindu.


Top South Korea, Japan, China envoys agree to work for a summit soon | Reuters

The foreign ministers of South Korea, Japan and China agreed on Saturday that a summit meeting of their leaders, on hold for nearly three years because of tensions over history and territory, should be held soon to mend the countries’ ties.

(L-R) Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi make a toast during a banquet at the South Korean Foreign Minister's residence in Seoul March 21, 2015. REUTERS-Kim Hong-Ji

The ministers were meeting, also for the first time in three years, in a bid to restore what had been a regular forum to discuss cooperation until it collapsed over what Seoul and Beijing saw as Japan’s reluctance to own up to its wartime past.

“Based on the accomplishments achieved through this meeting, the three ministers decided to continue their efforts to hold the trilateral summit at the earliest convenient time for the three countries,” a joint statement after the meeting said.

via Top South Korea, Japan, China envoys agree to work for a summit soon | Reuters.


Pan-Asian history textbooks struggle to find common language –

For decades, disagreements over regional history have been a blight on diplomacy between Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul.

Now, South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has revived a proposal aimed at soothing the long-running row over the region’s history: a shared syllabus of northeast Asian history, to be used as the basis for teaching in all three countries.

Yet while academics view the idea as desirable in principle, most also dismiss it as unfeasible for the foreseeable future – reflecting a continuing deterioration in regional relations, with festering historical grudges at the core.

Japanese school history books have long been seen by South Korean and Chinese critics as emblematic of efforts to downplay atrocities during Japan’s imperial expansion. Politicians in Seoul complain of a failure to address the wartime sexual enslavement of thousands of Korean women, while Beijing has railed at suggestions that Japan occupied Manchuria in response to Chinese provocations.

The historical grievances have intensified since the election last year of the nationalist prime minister Shinzo Abe, whose provocative remarks have included questioning the notion that Japan truly “invaded” Asian countries such as China and Korea.

In her proposal for a shared history syllabus, unveiled at a conference last week in Seoul, Ms Park cited precedents set by Germany, France and Poland. “We may see the removal of the wall of historical problems, which is the seed of conflict and distrust,” she said.

Japanese education minister Hakubun Shimomura – widely seen as one of Mr Abe’s more rightwing cabinet members – said he “openly welcomed” the suggestion. He added that he hoped it could serve as a catalyst for high-level talks between the three governments, something Mr Abe’s administration has been seeking with little success. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman was more cautious, stressing the need for Japan to “adjust its attitude and gain the trust of its Asian neighbours”.

Ms Park’s spokeswoman presents the proposal as part of her drive for a “northeast Asian peace and co-operation initiative” – but in fact politicians and scholars from the three countries have been toying with this idea for years.

In 1997, Seoul and Tokyo agreed to set up a joint committee of historians whose research could form the basis for educational texts – but the body’s work over the ensuing years “just confirmed how deep are the differences between the historical views of the two peoples”, says Lee Gil-sang, a professor at the Academy of Korean Studies in Seoul.

After four years of work, a 2010 report by a similar Sino-Japanese body exposed a rift over Japan’s historical claim to the Okinawa island group – a debate with implications for the countries’ fierce dispute over the Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in China.

“It is urgent and necessary to have [a joint history] book considering the growing territorial disputes,” says Su Zhiliang, a professor at Shanghai Normal University who edits Chinese history textbooks.

While officially sponsored efforts have made limited headway, private initiatives have borne more fruit. A group of Chinese, Japanese and South Korean historians jointly produced a history book in 2007, and a second such project was published in all three countries last year. Yet neither text was embraced by any of the three countries’ school authorities.

“The main focus of history teaching in this region is to promote patriotism,” says Mr Lee.

via Pan-Asian history textbooks struggle to find common language –


* A shift in Chinese strategy on North Korea?

Wonder if North Korea is finally getting the message, that if it does not change its ways, its only friend, China, will be forced to abandon it.

China Daily Mail

There seems to have been a shift in Chinese-North Korean relations as the Bank of China has stopped its business with a North Korean bank:

Bank of China Ltd. said it cut off dealings with North Korea’s primary foreign-exchange bank in the first publicly announced move by a Chinese state-owned company to distance itself from Pyongyang and its young leader Kim Jong Eun.

The Obama administration quickly praised Bank of China’s action Tuesday as an important step in attempting to contain North Korea’s growing nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs.

The U.S. has accused the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, which performs many functions of a central bank, of facilitating millions of dollars of transactions on behalf of North Korean arms companies and entities involved in …

Chinese and North Korean relations have been strained ever since the testing of missiles and the rhetoric from North Korean Kim Jong…

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