Tuesday, October 05, 2004

South Korea Prepared for Possible Govt Collapse in North

VOA News October 5, 2004 - A South Korean newspaper reports that Seoul has prepared secret plans to deal with the possible collapse of North Korea's government.

The JoongAng Ilbo said the plans, discussed at a South Korean parliamentary hearing Monday, call for South Korea's Unification Minister to take over as ruler of a post-collapse North Korea.

The report says South Korea's military has set up 10 refugee camps for North Korean defectors near the inter-Korean border, while Seoul has designated public facilities nationwide to house more than 200,000 North Koreans.

The plans, made public by an opposition lawmaker after a parliamentary hearing, were said to have been first drawn up around the time of the death of North Korea's founder, Kim il-sung.

South Korea has declined comment on the newspaper report.


Seoul: North Koreans Train for Cyberwar

VOA News October 4, 2004: South Korea's Defense Ministry says North Korea has trained hundreds of computer hackers to wage cyberwar against other countries.

In a report to the National Assembly's National Defense Committee, the ministry said North Korean hackers are among the best in the world.

The report said 500 to 600 military hackers in North Korea have been put through a five-year university course training them to penetrate the computer systems of South Korea, the United States and Japan. Officials say the North Koreans are able to launch cyberattacks to gather intelligence information.

Earlier this year, hackers broke into 211 computers at 10 government agencies in South Korea, including those at defense- and security-related agencies.

South Korea's National Intelligence Services said in July that the attacks were launched from China, but it could not be determined whether the hackers were Chinese or nationals from a third country using China-based computers.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Seoul on Alert After al-Qaida Calls for Attacks

Here is a copy of a report by staff writer Song-wu Park at hankooki.com online October 2, 2004:

Seoul went on high alert for possible terrorist attacks over the weekend after a close associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden purportedly called for attacks on the United States and its allies, including South Korea.

The Defense Ministry on Sunday ordered the whole army, including the 2,800 troops dispatched to Iraq, to step up anti-terrorism readiness, following government measures on Saturday to enhance security measures at foreign embassies in Seoul and certain key facilities, including government offices, airports and seaports.

South Korean soldiers stationed in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil are keeping a low-key posture so as not to provoke Islamic rebels, the Defense Ministry said.

The Arabic language TV news network Al Jazeera aired Friday what it claimed was a new audiotape of bin Laden's top lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri urging ``young men of Islam'' to resist the U.S.' allies by saying, ``The interests of America, Britain, Australia, France, Norway, Poland, South Korea and Japan are everywhere.''

CNN quoted a CIA official as saying it had "high confidence'' that the tape was of al-Zawahiri, the second in command of al-Qaida.

It is not clear when the tape was made. The main purpose of the audiotape appears to be to encourage Muslims to help Palestine. "In Palestine we don't face the Jews only, but also the anti-Muslim world coalition led by America,'' al-Zawahiri said at the beginning of the statement.

In response to the audiotape, some lawmakers said the Seoul government does not need to overreact to the inclusion of South Korea on the al-Qaida list of more than 10 U.S. allies, although the government should guard against terrorist attacks.

"He didn't point to South Korea alone as a target for attacks,'' Rep. Park Jin of the opposition Grand National Party said. "We don't need to act excessively in response to such a strategy of psychological warfare. But we need to be fully ready for any terrorist attacks because it could turn into a real threat sometime later.''

A defense minister-turned lawmaker also echoed Park's remarks, saying: "It's not new for South Korea to receive such warnings on terrorism.''

Rep. Cho Seong-tae of the ruling Uri Party, who served as defense minister from 1999 to 2001, said Seoul received warnings against South Korean supertankers in July this year and even suffered the death of Kim Sun-il, an Arabic interpreter who was captured and decapitated by Islamic insurgents in Iraq in June.

"Their aim is to attack what they think are `anti-Arab' countries like the United States,'' Cho said. "We didn't need to worry about such animosity-driven attacks from Arab terrorists when I was working as defense minister. But now we have dispatched troops to Iraq, we have every reason to be on high alert.''

Following an emergency meeting of the National Security Council on Saturday, the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry ordered diplomatic missions overseas to strengthen security.

The Justice Ministry directed airport authorities to tighten immigration procedures to prevent the entry of suspected terrorists. The ministry also increased checks on illegal foreign workers in South Korea due to concerns that they might collaborate with international terrorist networks.

South Korea is relatively unfamiliar with Islamic terrorism, most of its defense capabilities being directed against the communist North Korea.

South Korea deployed 2,800 troops to Iraq last month and will add 800 more once the brigade has expanded its base in Irbil. The unit, which needs its mandate renewed by the National Assembly to stay beyond December, is the third-largest foreign force in the Middle Eastern country, after the contingents from the U.S. and Britain.


American professor Tom Plate's report in Korea Times: Smell of a Pre-war Countdown

Tom Plate is a Professor at Univesity of California, Los Angeles and Director of Asia Pacific Media Network. Below is a copy of his report, published at Korea Times online October 2004, entitled Smell of a Pre-war Countdown.

LOS ANGELES - You know what’s even more pertinent than a tension-filled American presidential debate? It’s the prospect of war between China and Taiwan. And, unlike our so-called “debates,” it’s real. What’s more, folks, the possibility of war is looming, getting less and less unlikely.

One way you know for sure that something big is up is that even Singapore is caught in the teeth of the imbroglio. Sharp-as-a-nail Singapore is to the diplomatic misstep what Balanchine was to amateur ballet.

And what an improbable imbroglio it is: For no less than George Yeo, Singapore’s internationally respected diplomat, who was recently elevated to the position of foreign minister, had the temerity to suggest to Taiwan, in a major U.N. speech, that pulling the China cat’s tail was a good way to suck Asia into a big-time regional war.

By George! He meant only to be helpful, but the remark drove nervous Taiwan absolutely ballistic, despite decades of friendship between the city-state and the wanna-be-independent-state of Taiwan. Indeed, the latter’s foreign minister responded to Yeo as if his public plaint were some kind of cheap low blow, adding insult to vitriolic injury by charging that little Singapore was just sucking up to giant China.

Well, that’s probably true; in fact, just about everyone in Asia (with the possible exception of North Korea, alas) has been sucking up to China lately. And why not? It is better positioned than any other country to become the first Asian superpower since imperial Japan. So who in his right mind _ besides the current Democratic Progressive Party government in Taiwan _ would want to pick a fight with the geopolitical heavyweight champion of Asia?

In fact, the question people are starting to ask, predictably, is whether the government of Taiwan is in its right mind. Having recently returned from a reporting trip there, I suspect it knows exactly what it is doing. Ordinarily, I am the first to admit that it’s hard to understand this bizarre cross-strait relationship. My Chinese-American friends, those who frequently visit the mainland on family or commercial business, counsel me to take all the nasty cross-strait insults with the proverbial grain of salt.

As a director of a Southern California bank that does business in Asia recently put it to me, “You have to figure that each side has taken the measure of the other, knows how much it can get away with, and is playing a highly sophisticated game at a level of diplomatic nuance well beyond our normal decoding.”

His observation reminded me of a similar one made by a high-level Taipei-based international lawyer at a World Economic Forum conference in Beijing a few years ago. He was seated at the same table as a prominent mainland industrialist, and the two of them went at it with the delicious pleasure of old friends at a college reunion. When I expressed surprise at the obvious depth of their mutual respect, my lawyer friend later explained to me that tension across the strait was more artificial than real, whipped up by politicians who are eager to take people’s minds off such concrete issues as prices, jobs, housing shortages and so on.

I have tried to keep this measured perspective in mind ever since, especially in recent months as the cross-strait temperature has risen. If, as my friend suggests, politicians on both sides are just playing their usual games, perhaps the American media’s virtual indifference to this story will in retrospect prove to be inspired news judgment.

But sometimes game-playing can go too far, and things get out of control. The mainland game is: the civil war that ended in 1949 isn’t over, because we’ve still not settled the Taiwan secession issue. The Taiwan game is: we’re a proud democracy and until that’s what the mainland becomes, all talk of unity is foolish, even immoral.

But when the premier of Taiwan suggests, as he recently did, that the island of 23 million people needs to target missiles at Shanghai, the most populous metropolis in a country of 1.3 billion, alarm bells should go off. It has the smell of a pre-war countdown.

This is where statesmanship comes in. And this is where Foreign Minister Yeo tried to come in with his U.N. comment. But as his reward, Taiwan tried to bite off his nose. Say whatever you want about Singapore _ make all the caning and chewing-gum jokes you want. But one thing you can’t say is that it’s a stupid country. And stupid is quite far from the first word that comes to mind when you think about a brain like Yeo.

Korea Planning to Nurture 10 Nobel Prize Candidates

Here is a copy of a report publishined online at Korea Times in October 2004:

South Korea plans to shell out big bucks to foster a number of candidates capable of garnering the prestigious Nobel Prize, according to a senior official in Chong Wa Dae Sunday.

Park Ky-young, presidential adviser for science and technology, reported the grandiose scheme to president Roh Moo-hyun in August and it will be fully operational next year.

Under the plan, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) will handpick around 10 promising scientists, who grab international attention with epoch-making expertise or research, and financially support their studies.

The MOST looks to provide at least several million dollars to scientists who have the potential to bring in the nation's first bona fide Nobel Prize.

"We want to support basic scientists who retain global competitiveness rather than spending money on applied scientists," Park said.

Former president Kim Dae-jung snatched the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula, as well as in promoting democracy and human rights here.

But aside from Kim's award, the nation has yet to gain a Nobel Prize especially in the fields of science or medicine.

Seoul National University professor Hwang Woo-suk could be the first candidate for the plan.

The nation earmarked a total of 26.5 billion won to support his attention-grabbing biotechnological breakthroughs.

Hwang stole the show twice over the past year when he created mad cow disease-resistant calves last December and cloned the world's first human embryos earlier this year.

The bio-scientist also plans to take the wraps off his study on gnotobiotic (sterilized) pigs soon.

Together with the mad cow disease-resistant calves last December, Hwang developed six gnotobiotic miniature pigs, whose organs can be transplanted into humans.

The pigs all failed to survive more than two days at the time but with the development of technology, some pigs are currently older than six months according to an inside researcher.

He added Hwang's team gained about five gnotobiotic pigs this month alone and now holds more than 10 pigs.