(LinkAsia: December 21, 2012) Yul Kwon: After months of preparation and weeks of campaigning, South Korea has a new president. Park Geun-hye defeated her opponent Moon Jae-in on Wednesday to become South Korea's first female president. Here's a report from Japanese public broadcaster NHK on what Park's win means for South Korea.
NHK World NEWSLINE Airdate: December 20, 2012
Reporter: Experts say the high voter turnout helped Park win more than 50 percent of the ballots. Some initially thought it would favor opposition candidate Moon Jae-in who has widespread support among young people. In past presidential elections, voters in their thirties or younger outnumbered those in their fifties or older. But this time around, the reverse happened. Perhaps because the society is aging, and birthrates are declining. The 50-plus set accounted for more than 40 percent of all voters. And they propelled Park into the top job. Park visited the national cemetery the day after her election win as all president- elects do. Then she outlined the plans.
Park Geun-hye: My dream and hope is to make use of all the hidden potential of the South Korean people. We can create a Republic of Korea in which everyone will be guaranteed the rights to pursue happiness. I'll make it possible for all the people to share the fruits of our economic growth.
Voter: I expect the new president to revive the economy and keep her promise to improve our lives.
Voter: I hope the new government will do a lot to boost employment since it's been a tough time for young people. I want Park to keep her promises.
Reporter: Some South Koreans want to be tough with the North. Others favor reconciliation. Park says it's her mission to ease tensions and maintain security. She refers to last week's launch, which North Korean officials said use the rocket to send a satellite into orbit, and other nations called a ballistic missile test.
Park Geun-hye: North Korea's missile launch was a symbolic act that showed us how serious our security situation is. We will begin a new era for our country with a strong security system and a trusted foreign policy. I will keep my promise to the people.
Reporter: Park spent part of this day exchanging views with ambassadors from Japan, the US, China, and Russia. She has already started moving to form her government. She'll meet with members of President Lee Myung-bak's outgoing administration to go over issues. A transfer commission will finalize her policies. Then in February she officially becomes the first woman in South Korea to be president.
(LinkAsia: December 14, 2012) Yul Kwon: So, perhaps the North Korean missile is more of a long-term threat than an imminent one. But, will it have a political effect? South Koreans go to the polls on December 19th to elect a new president. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK has this report on how the rocket might affect voters.
NHK World NEWSLINE Airdate: December 12, 2012
Reporter: I'm standing at the unification observatory only two kilometers from the North Korean border. From here we have not detected any unusual activity on the other side that might be related to the missile launch. However, on this side, the presidential race is entering its final phase. The launch has definitely raised concerns about security. People in Seoul are expressing dismay and anger.
Seoul Resident: A missile launch is totally unacceptable. We belong to the same race, but I never understand what they are trying to achieve through such an act.
Seoul Resident: I was shocked they did this just before South Korea's presidential election. We need to beef up our national security.
Reporter: South Korea's foreign minister Kim Song-hun condemned the North's decision to push forward with what it called a provocative act. He said the launch is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. President Lee Myung-bak has maintained a hard-line policy against the North. During his five year term, Pyongyang has carried out three long-range missile launches and one nuclear experiment. There have been other military provocations. The North shelled Yongpyang Island and is said to have sunk a South Korean naval patrol ship in the Yellow Sea. And the presidential election next week, the two main contenders stressing the need to improve North-South relations, but people are taking a realistic view. Recent polls show many citizens feel that they don't support hard-line policies against the North. Nor do they believe in appeasement. The North missile launch is expected to influence voters' decisions.
(LinkAsia: April 27, 2012) Yul Kwon: South Korean authorities have a warning for their neighbor to the north, "Don't do it." They suspect that North Korea is planning to test a nuclear device. Seoul says that Pyongyang will pay a heavy economic price if it moves ahead with the test. Here's the story from NHK.
NHK World NEWSLINE Airdate: April 25, 2012
South Korean Defense Ministry Spokesperson: The north has made significant preparations to conduct the test. All that remains now is its political decision.
Reporter: South Korean intelligence authorities confirmed this month that workers in the north have been digging a new tunnel in the region of Punggye-ri. They believe that will be a test site. A senior government official says North Korean leaders will further isolate their country if they carry out another nuclear test. The official points out it will also make it harder for them to develop their failed economy. The North Korean government made a rare public admission recently. State media reported an attempt to launch a satellite into space failed. Many nations consider it a long-range missile test. Still, South Korean officials say this admission could signal a change in political style under new leader Kim Jong-un.
Yul Kwon: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said that North Korea should be feeding its people, not testing weapons. Those words, along with South Korea's own cruise missile test a few days ago, got North Korea's Central News Agency breathing fire. Now the KCNA often uses violent language, but the specific nature of the threats this time caught the attention of observers. In a dispatch, the agency said that North Korea's special forces were readying to strike: "Their targets are the Lee Myung-bak group of traitors, the arch criminals, and the group of rat-like elements including conservative media destroying the mainstay of the fair public opinion." The last line of the KCNA piece read: "Our revolutionary armed forces do not make empty talk." So who exactly are these "rat-like" media named by the North Koreans? Well, the news agency called out the following: the popular newspaper, Dong-A Ilbo; South Korea's national broadcaster, KBS; and LinkAsia's broadcast partner, MBC; as well as six other media organizations.
(LinkAsia: April 27, 2012) Yul Kwon: Meanwhile, South Korean activists are making provocations of their own. They're continuing to release weather balloons carrying food and pamphlets denouncing Kim Jong-un. Here's NHK with more.
NHK World NEWSLINE Airdate: April 25, 2012
Reporter: Here is Gangwha Island, near the North Korean border. The NGO members are now preparing for launching balloons with leaflets and chocolate to North Korea.
The NGO is composed of citizens who fled North Korea. They released 10 huge balloons carrying 2,000 packages. The leaflets explain the budget for the missile launch equals the cost of feeding 19 million people for two years.
Kim Seong-min, NGO Leader: We're sending these chocolate cakes with our prayers for the happiness of the North Korean people.
Reporter: North Korean authorities have responded with harsh criticism, saying that the balloons are an insult against their leader Kim Jong-un. South Korea's armed forces have deployed vehicles to track the balloons by satellite to observe any retaliation by North Korea. The group says this action is meant to support the Northern civilian population in the wake of the recent leadership transition.
Another group is preparing to launch more balloons next weekend. This time, they will be loaded with pamphlets and radios capable of receiving broadcasts from South Korea.
Yul Kwon: Activists in South Korea have sent all kinds of stuff in these balloons, including socks. Apparently you can trade one pair of socks for 10 kilograms of corn in North Korea, enough to feed a person for an entire month.