In a sign of the continuing decline in relations between North Korea and China, Pyongyang moved a number of tanks and armored vehicles away from South Korea to the Chinese border, according to The Chosun Ilbo, citing an anonymous source.
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.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has executed 70 officials since taking power in late 2011 in a “reign of terror” which far exceeds the bloodshed of his dictator father’s early rule, South Korean officials have said.
South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se, at a forum in Seoul, compared Kim Jong Un’s 70 executions with those of his late father, Kim Jong Il, who, he said, executed about 10 people during his first years in power.
An official from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service confirmed the spy agency believes the younger Kim has executed about 70 officials but would not reveal how it obtained the information.
Mr Yun also said the younger Kim’s “reign of terror affects significantly” North Koreans working overseas by inspiring them to defect to the South.
North Korea, an authoritarian nation ruled by the Kim family since 1948, is secretive about its government’s inner workings, and information, even that collected by South Korean intelligence officials, is often impossible to confirm.
Kim Jong Un has removed key members of the old guard through a series of purges since taking over after the death of Kim Jong Il.
The most spectacular purge to date was the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for alleged treason. Mr Jang was married to Kim Jong Il’s sister and was once considered the second most powerful man in North Korea.
South Korea’s spy agency told politicians in May that Kim ordered his then-defence chief, Hyon Yong Chol, to be executed with an anti-aircraft gun for complaining about the young ruler, talking back to him and sleeping during a meeting
The minister was reported to have been put to death on a firing range in front of a large crowd. Experts say Kim could be using fear to solidify his leadership, but those efforts could fail if he does not improve the country’s shattered economy.
The North regularly suffers from widespread food shortages and said last month it was facing its worse drought in a century.
Darkness lurks at the heart of every fairy tale–the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, the queen in Alice in Wonderland. Korean artist JeeYoung Lee continues the tradition, using inviting dreamworlds to confront her fears and traumas by impressively decorating a single, small room. The act is symbolic or her own feelings.
“There are times when I feel as if I am trapped inside a tight organization with little room to breath,” Lee writes through a translator via email. “South Korea has achieved incredible economic growth over the past half-century.
I think this resulted in a strong affinity towards power and success. There are strong ideas on what a ‘good life’ ought to be and social roles that need to be played out.”
Incorporating elements of design, sculpture, lighting and performance art, her collection of hallucinatory photos depict a hyperactive and overloaded society threatening to swallow a lone outsider, usually Lee or a surrogate model.
“Direct expression of pain and suffering [is] difficult to approach,” she says. “It could also bring out more pain in others. I like the ironic effect of fantastical aesthetics. I wanted my works to have poetic transcendence.”
The wide breadth of media in her work is the result of Lee’s time in design school, the commercial art world, and a graduate photography program. She comes from a conservative family, and her work mirrors her rejection of a traditional, career-driven life.
No one could accuse her of laziness, however. Each photos requires weeks of work. Sketches are made, color schemes selected, the walls of her cramped studio transformed into the backdrop of an unreal moment in time.
When props can’t be found, Lee makes them with styrofoam and cardboard. She works alone, losing herself, or finding solace, in the process.
To complete the scenes, Lee, or a surrogate, steps inside. She uses a 4×5 large format camera to maximize the resolution, despite the bulky camera’s limited angles. Her aesthetic is influenced by video games and CGI trickery, but Photoshop is used only to erase fishing wire and the like. After the photo shoot, everything is torn down. Lee finds the experience cathartic.
“Some of my work requires me to look back into traumatizing experiences over and over again. Other times I have to face my shortcomings,” she says. “When I abolish the set after a shoot I feel wistfulness along with a sort of catharsis, play the role of creator and destroyer. This process helps me put aside my experience and move on.”
Although the result of all this work is a stunning photograph, Lee doesn’t consider herself a photographer. Her nightmarish settings are demanding, mentally and physically, to create, requiring weeks of , say,weaving craft wire and mesh into a carpet of grass, or the twisting of hundreds of paper clips into shape.
“The final format of my work is photography but the set incorporates installations and performances,” says Lee. “These two elements are indispensable in deriving the final output.”
Making a living as an artist is tough. Her parents, at first unhappy with Lee’s career choice, help cover her expenses when necessary, and she takes odd jobs and enters contests to scrape up cash. Although her work has begun to receive widespread attention, she finds surviving on the merits of her talent and creativity daunting.
“In my opinion, Korea’s art scene does not enjoy a large audience,” she says. “The scope and stratum of those who have the financial means to purchase art is limited. It is a tough environment for an unknown artist.”
Outside the studio Lee lives the curiosity and play that define her work. She stays in bed until noon, tools around town and then hits the bars at night. Her newfound recognition could change a seemingly childish decision into a bold one.
“When I made up my mind to become an artist, I felt as if I was in a tunnel with no end,” says Lee. “I was constantly worried about my future. This made me a stronger person.”
North Korea has been hit by what it describes as its worst drought in a century, which could worsen chronic food shortages in a country where the United Nations says almost a third of children under five are stunted because of poor nutrition.
The country suffered a devastating famine in the 1990s and has relied on international food aid, but support has fallen sharply in recent years, because of its curbs on humanitarian workers and reluctance to allow monitoring of food distribution.
The North’s KCNA news agency said late on Tuesday that paddies around the country, including the main rice farming regions of Hwanghae and Phyongan provinces, were drying up for lack of rain. Rice must be partly submerged in order to grow.
“The worst drought in 100 years continues in the DPRK, causing great damage to its agricultural field,” KCNA said, using the short form of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles ties with the North, did not have a comment on Wednesday about the report.
North Korea’s farm production periodically suffers from droughts and floods in the summer, although the state has learned to cut damage by updating farming methods and switching to crops other than rice in recent years.
Thomas Lehman, Denmark’s ambassador to both North and South Korea, told Reuters that on a visit to the North late last month he could “clearly see” attempts to deal with the drought in its fields.
“The lack of water has created a lot of damage to the so-called spring crop, and the rice planting is extremely difficult without sufficient water,” said Lehman, who has spoken to U.N. officials about the drought, and visited drought-hit areas.
North Korea has mounted a campaign encouraging the public to help out on farms, and is using mobile water pumps run on diesel and longer pipes to draw water into fields.
“Farm managers reported receiving training in dry rice planting techniques and other measures that they were trying to conserve water,” said Linda Lewis of the American Friends Service Committee, a group that runs farm projects in the North.
The U.N. resident coordinator for North Korea, Ghulam Isaczai, warned in a Reuters interview last month of a looming crisis due to last year’s drought, caused by the lowest rainfall in 30 years.
At the time, Isaczai said he thought the food situation would not be as bad as in previous major droughts, since communities were now more resilient and might have reserves.
In April, the United Nations called for $111 million to fund crucial humanitarian needs this year in North Korea, which it said remains drastically under-funded.
Funding for U.N. agencies in North Korea fell to less than $50 million in 2014, from $300 million in 2004.
North Korea relies heavily on hydroelectric power and suffers from chronic electricity shortages, which can be exacerbated by periods of no rain.
South Korea has also received sharply lower rainfall, particularly in the northern regions, which have got about half the rain of an average year, the national weather agency says.
In early June, Pyongyang’s propaganda officials produced two new posters and slogans to spur the fight on drought.
“Let’s mobilise the masses and fight with all our strength against the drought,” read one poster that showed a smiling farmer gesturing towards a field of workers with red flags and spades.
location: seoul, south korea
client: seoul metropolitan government
program: transformation of 938 meter section of elevated highway (9.661 sqm) into public space
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.’
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.
A suicide note has ended the political career of South Korea’s prime minister, Lee Wan Koo, in a widening scandal that is making a mockery of the government’s supposed crackdown on corruption
Lee resigned about a week after his name was one of several on a handwritten note tucked into the pocket of business tycoon Sung Wan-Jong, who killed himself while under investigation for corruption.
Sung, a former construction company executive, claimed that he had paid Lee 30 million won (about $27,000) when Lee was campaigning for a parliamentary seat in 2013. Just last month, Lee declared “all out war” on corruption in the government.
It’s only the latest corruption scandal to hit South Korea, a country that has emerged as the fourth largest Asian economy but where bribes and personal favors are common currency in business and political circles.
Others may still get caught up in the dragnet that threatens to derail Park’s already embattled presidency. Seven other names, next to numbers indicating bribery sums, were also included on the list.
Several of them are current and former advisors to the president and people close to Park’s New Frontier party, including her chief of staff, Lee Byung Kee. Sung was getting ready to face questions by prosecutors over claims that he used company money to bribe government officials when he killed himself.
In March, South Korea’s legislature passed a bill that makes it easier to prosecute graft. Corrupt public officials now face up to three years in jail and fines of 30 million won, which is incidentally the same amount that Sung alleges he paid the ex-prime minister.
“I feel very sorry for causing a public anxiety.”Lee said in a statement. “But I believe the truth will be revealed certainly.”