Tag Archives: seoul

North Korea will face ‘overwhelming response’ if it uses nuclear weapons, warns US defence chief James Mattis

Kim Jong-un had warned in January that Pyongyang would carry out a long-range missile test in the near future.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned North Korea on Friday (3 February) that Pyongyang would face an “effective and overwhelming” response if it used its nuclear weapons.

Continue reading North Korea will face ‘overwhelming response’ if it uses nuclear weapons, warns US defence chief James Mattis


MVRDV To Transform Abandoned Highway Into The Seoul Skygarden

MVRDV to transform abandoned highway into the seoul skygarden

project info:

location: seoul, south korea
year: 2015+
client: seoul metropolitan government
program: transformation of 938 meter section of elevated highway (9.661 sqm) into public space
budget: undisclosed

team: winy maas, jacob van rijs and nathalie de vries with wenchian shi, kyosuk lee, kai wang, jaewoo lee, ángel sánchez navarro, antonio luca coco, matteo artico

MVRDV the seoul skygarden abandoned highway korea designboom

partners landscape designers: ben kuipers, delft, netherlands
industrial designers: studio makkink & bey, amsterdam, netherlands
local architect: DMP, seoul, korea
local landscape designer: KDI, seoul, korea
structure: saman and cross, seoul, korea
sustainability: EAN, seoul, korea
MEP: samsin, seoul, korea
traffic engineers: song hyun R&D, seoul, korea
lighting design: viabizzuno, milan, italy and nanam ald, seoul korea
app design: nhtv, breda, netherlands
cost engineers: myong gun, seoul, korea

Dutch studio MVRDV has been chosen to transform an abandoned section of highway in korea into an elevated public park. Named the ‘seoul skygarden’, the design populates the overpass with 254 different species of trees, shrubs and flowers to create an urban arboretum that can be enjoyed the entire city.

MVRDV the seoul skygarden abandoned highway korea designboom

Organized according to the korean alphabet, a library of plants makes legible the natural diversity of the city, allowing citizens to interact with, and discover new species.

The new overpass also serves to reduce the 25 minute walk around the neighboring railway station to just 11 minutes, while it is forecast to generate 1.83 times the cost of its renovation and maintenance in economic benefits.

The existing structure was built in the 1970s to provide a vehicular connection to and from the local namdaemun market, one of the region’s largest traditional points of trade.

MVRDV the seoul skygarden abandoned highway korea designboom

Following intensive safety inspections in 2006, the city of seoul deemed the 17-meter high structure unsafe and intended to demolish it, banning heavy vehicles’ access to the elevated roadway in 2009. Further consultation with residents and experts lead to the regeneration the overpass – which totals 9,661 square meters in area – into a pedestrian walkway and public space, with a design competition launched in 2015.

The contest-winning scheme from MVRDV makes the space as green as possible while introducing new leisure functions that require a modular and adaptable approach.

MVRDV the seoul skygarden abandoned highway korea designboom

In addition to circular plant pots of varying sizes, a series of customizable activators such as tea cafés, flower shops, street markets, libraries and greenhouses will provide a catalogue of elements designed to enliven the skygarden.

the seoul skywalk will change the daily lives of many people in seoul for the better,’ explains winy maas, principal architect and co-founder of MVRDV.

MVRDV the seoul skygarden abandoned highway korea designboom

‘they will have a pleasant shortcut through a green oasis in the midst of all the traffic and concrete. It is a walk through a park, a living dictionary of the natural heritage of korea, connecting the city dwellers with nature.

Part of the project is a nursery in which plants will be raised for the surrounding parks; in this way the skywalk will help to make green the entire city center.’

MVRDV the seoul skygarden abandoned highway korea designboom

Additional structures such as stairs, lifts and escalators as well as new satellite gardens, can connect to the skygarden, sprouting like branches from the existing structural piers. These extensions can help generate further additions to the area’s greenery and public spaces, as it continues to evolve over time.

Kim Kyok-sik, North Korean General Tied to Attacks, Dies at 77

A powerful North Korean general who Seoul believes was behind the sinking of a South Korean warship and the shelling of one of its islands in 2010 has died, state media said Monday.

Kim Kyok-Sik died on Sunday of respiratory failure while suffering from an unidentified type of cancer, according to Rodong Shinmun, the newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. He was 77.

“The comrade served in very important positions… in the military for a long time, making great contributions to firmly protect our socialist motherland,” it said.

Former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (C), accompanied by senior military personnel, including Korean People's Army (KPA) General Kim Kyok-Sik (3rd R), insp...

The four-star general was named by South Korea as being the operational commander behind the sinking of the Cheonan navy corvette in March 2010 and the shelling eight months later of the border island of Yeonpyeong.

A South Korean-led investigation involving a team of international experts concluded the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean submarine torpedo and Seoul cut trade and aid links to Pyongyang in response.

Pyongyang has always denied any involvement in the incident, in which 46 South Korean seamen died. The Cheonan was carrying 104 personnel when it sank near the disputed Yellow Sea maritime border between North and South Korea.

However, the North was unapologetic about the shelling in November 2010 of Yeonpyeong island, in which two South Korean civilians and two soldiers were killed, sparking brief fears of a full-scale conflict.

Kim Kyok-Sik was in charge of the 4th Corps in Hwanghae Province near the western part of the border with the South at the time.

He went on to serve as the North’s defence minister from 2012 to 2013 and later as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

In recent years, he was occasionally seen accompanying North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during his “field guidance” visits to military facilities.

mass studies reclines stocky bundle matrix: EG in seoul

mass studies reclines stocky bundle matrix: EG in seoul

shaped by the city’s strict planning regulations, mass studies has completed a residential and mixed-use complex located in seoul. ‘stocky bundle matrix: EG’ is seen as a typological evolution of the bundle matrix tower, a 165 meter structure also located in the south korean capital.

the design challenges perceptions of high-rise residential projects, and the regulations that such schemes face from local authorities. responding to local building codes, the reclining façades directly influence the configuration of the towers, with the black brick structure setback from the street by three meters on all sides. consequently space is provided for the main entrance as well as car parking allocation. the scheme is also shaped in accordance with ‘right to light’ regulations, ensuring that surrounding structures are not adversely effected by the highrise.mass-studies-stocky-bundle-matrix-EG-designboom-02

the building’s reclining façade is a response to the city’s strict planning regulations

internally, volumes are formed where the towers converge establishing a variety of internal and external public spaces, including a library, a café and meeting rooms. outdoor areas are also incorporated, bringing natural daylight inside the tower and providing constant ventilation. the basement level and ground floor and used to house neighborhood facilities, while ground floor residential units are located at the north and south edges of the site. each studio apartment follows the standard modular dimensions of 3.6 x 5.05 meters, with a floor height of 2.9 meters. in total, 99 units are made up of 17 different derivative unit types.mass-studies-stocky-bundle-matrix-EG-designboom-03

the structure is set back three meters from the street edge mass-studies-stocky-bundle-matrix-EG-designboom-04

the main entrance to the complexmass-studies-stocky-bundle-matrix-EG-designboom-05

parking is found at basement levelmass-studies-stocky-bundle-matrix-EG-designboom-06

the scheme’s reclining black brick façademass-studies-stocky-bundle-matrix-EG-designboom-07

external areas bring natural daylight inside the tower and provide constant ventilationmass-studies-stocky-bundle-matrix-EG-designboom-08


the structure in contextmass-studies-stocky-bundle-matrix-EG-designboom-10

‘stocky bundle matrix: EG’ as part of seoul’s urban fabric

South Korea’s Spy Agency: Kim Jong Un Had Ankle Surgery

Kim Jong Un

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s spy agency says it has an explanation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s mysterious 6-week-long public absence.

An aide for a South Korean lawmaker says the National Intelligence Agency told legislators on Tuesday that a foreign doctor operated on Kim in September or October to remove a cyst from his right ankle.

North Korea Kim Jong Un skitch

The aide to opposition lawmaker Shin Kyung-min said the spy agency disclosed the information in a closed-door briefing.

Kim’s lengthy absence from public view triggered speculation about his health. He reappeared in state media earlier this month hobbling with a cane.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the spy agency obtained the information. It has a spotty track record of analyzing developments in opaque North Korea.

Two Koreas ‘hold high-level military talks’

South Korean army soldiers patrol through the military wire fences with hanging South Korean national flags at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, South Korea, on 17 September 2014

Senior military officials from the two Koreas have held talks for the first time in seven years, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.

The news agency, citing an unnamed source, said the talks began at 10:00 (01:00GMT) at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone.

In recent weeks the two Koreas have exchange limited gun fire across both their land and sea borders.

South Korean ministry officials have not formally confirmed the talks.

Yonhap, citing its parliamentary source, said it was because the North did not want the talks made public.

An opposition lawmaker gave the same information to a party meeting, a statement from his party said.

The talks were widely expected to focus on reducing tensions after two small military incidents across the border that divides the two nations – which remain technically at war.

Last week, gun fire was exchanged after a North Korean patrol ship crossed the disputed western maritime border, South Korea said.

On Friday, there was also an exchange of fire across the land border, something that happens rarely.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing military officials, said the North fired towards balloons carrying propaganda leaflets that had been launched across the border by South Korean activists.

South Korea responded after some shots landed south of the border, its officials said.

The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Seoul says the immediate aim of the latest talks was to defuse a dangerous situation, but that there appears to be some desire on both sides to improve relations.

The two sides last held working-level military talks in February 2011 and general-level talks in December 2007, Yonhap said.

In February, Pyongyang and Seoul also had two rounds of high-level meetings in Panmunjom, without providing any details on how the talks went.

Wednesday’s unexpected border meeting follows an announcement earlier this month that both countries had agreed to resume high-level talks within weeks.

Map showing Yeonpyeong and the disputed border between North and South Korea

What’s Up With North Korea’s Kim? It’s a Mystery to CIA

If any of the speculation about Kim Jong Un being in ill health — or worse — proves to be true, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency wouldn’t be the first to know about it. No spy agency in the world would.

Theories about the young North Korean dictator’s prolonged absence from public view have underscored the impossibility of penetrating the totalitarian regime’s inner circles, according to former and current officials who have spied on the reclusive nation for the U.S. and South Korea.

Under the cult of personality that surrounds Kim’s family, those around him must demonstrate absolute loyalty, making it almost impossible for intelligence agencies to cultivate human assets for insight.

Information-gathering on the nuclear-armed regime instead relies on what can be gleaned from advanced satellite imagery or signals intelligence, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence sources and methods.

“Even if China, South Korea and the U.S. could penetrate with air, human and military intelligence assets, they are able to get only marginal information about the country,” David Maxwell, associate director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, said in a phone interview. “It’s very, very difficult for us to know what Kim Jong Un is thinking, what he’s doing, even where he is and even to gain insight into his intentions.”

Seen Limping

So far, the main public clues have been a report in the rigidly controlled state media that Kim has been suffering “discomfort,” and a video of him limping that produced speculation the rotund ruler might have gout or suffered broken ankles. Beyond that, there’s only the simple fact of his absence from public view for more than five weeks.

State media gave no indication as of 9 a.m. local time that Kim showed up for today’s anniversary celebration of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party. Kim Jong Un still appears to be in charge of the country, South Korea Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong Cheol said at a briefing in Seoul this morning. The ministry has not been able to confirm the state of Kim’s health, Lim said.

Mausoleum Visit

Kim probably didn’t visit a Pyongyang mausoleum where the bodies of his father and grandfather lie in state as he had done at midnight the previous two years, South Korea’s Yonhap News said, citing a lack of official reports from the North.

The U.S., South Korea and even China, which has been North Korea’s biggest benefactor, monitor unusual military activity in the country for indications of political instability such as a coup or an assassination. U.S. and South Korean defense officials say they haven’t seen abnormal or noticeable changes by the Korean People’s Army to back such scenarios.

The country’s system, devised by state founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, and perfected by his son and successor Kim Jong Il, is “designed to prevent conspiracy, designed to prevent coups,” said Maxwell, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel who served in Korea, Japan and the Philippines. “And the personal loyalty aspect of it is what prevents outsiders from getting in.”

Most attempts at such insight on North Korea are made by defectors or nongovernmental rights organizations that maintain contact with North Koreans through illegal mobile phones or USB drives that are smuggled in and out across the Chinese border.

Kim’s Wife

Such hit-or-miss information only fans speculation that can’t be confirmed. When Kim Jong Un’s wife Ri Sol Ju was absent from public view for almost two months in 2012, poorly sourced reports flooded social media claiming she’d fallen out of Kim’s favor because of something unsavory in her past.

Kim Jung Bong, who served in South Korea’s National Intelligence Service and now teaches political science at Hanzhong University, call the constant rumors “a real headache” for intelligence officers seeking credible evidence. He cited a rumor last month that a coup led by North Korean military officer Jo Myong Rok had toppled Kim. Jo died in 2010.

The diplomats, spies and human-rights activists who lament such poorly sourced and vetted information are also the biggest consumers of it.

Defectors have broken some of the most important news about North Korea in recent decades, such as the great famine in the 1990s that killed an estimated 2 million people or the botched 2009 currency overhaul that sent the North Korean won plunging 96 percent.

Fiction Industry

South Korean intelligence officials, who can’t be identified due to policy, often joke bitterly that they’re in the fiction industry, in which everyone will believe anything about North Korea. One senior official once lauded the country for its ability to reduce the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies to interpreting state propaganda videos and official statements.

The starkest evidence of North Korea’s opacity was the December 2011 death of Kim’s father Kim Jong Il, whose fatal heart attack was hidden from the world for two days before state media announced the news.

At least there was a line of succession then. After suffering a debilitating stroke in October 2008, Kim Jong Il had three years to prepare a hereditary succession and had three sons and two daughters from which to choose.

Should young Kim suffer a sudden death, the stakes are higher because there is no clear path of succession. There’s been no mention in state media of the young Kim and his wife Ri having children.

Purges, Execution

That raises the prospect of powerful figures in the military taking over and struggling to claim the divine right of leadership that the Kim dynasty had cultivated.

The young Kim consolidated his grip on power by purging senior officials, including the removal in July 2012 of Chief of the General Staff Ri Yong Ho, who guided him in the succession process. In December, Kim removed his uncle and de facto deputy, Jang Song Thaek, on charges of factionalism and graft, and then had him executed.

“With all of the purges of hundreds of officials in the last several years, really there is no sense as to who the next leader would be if there is a sudden departure by Kim,” said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based policy research group.

“No one knows who would get the golden ring of power,” said Klingner, a former head of the CIA’s Korea branch. “There would be concerns over factional fighting, loss of control of nuclear weapons, and perhaps North Korea lashing out at its neighbors. So even though it doesn’t look like North Korea’s on the edge of a political overthrow now, in a way it’s one bullet or one heart attack away from a crisis.”

Contingency Plans

The U.S. and South Korea have military contingency plans for possible scenarios in North Korea, including regime collapse, an invasion of South Korea and provocations short of all-out war.

Operations Plan 1527 maps a course of action for U.S. and South Korean troops in response to a military invasion. Concept Plan 5029 outlines six to 10 “less serious” scenarios, including regime collapse. In addition to these plans, which are rehearsed and updated yearly, the U.S. and South Korea installed a combined response plan to counter any provocations from the North.

“It’s not that we’re not prepared,” said Maxwell of Georgetown University. “The alliance has been preparing for some time. If there’s a sudden change in the regime, then the question is one, will we know it; two, when will we know it; and then of course what actions will we take?”

While the world would be better off without the Kim regime, Klingner of the Heritage Foundation said, “there is concern about the ramifications if there is a sudden collapse.”

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