The Other Side of Korea

The Other Side of Korea

Your Friday author likes to avoid cynicism where possible, but the twists and turns in the North Korean “denuclearization” saga make for a formidable challenge.


For example, Kim Jong-un has made remarkable progress in recent months on improving relations with China and South Korea, North Korea’s most important sources of food, fuel, cash, and other forms of help. He has done this by smiling broadly and talking about peace with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump. Yet, we’re no closer to knowing how Kim defines “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and how long he’ll play this game before making new demands that infuriate Trump.

And yet…

This week, dozens of families from North and South Korea, separated by war, were reunited for the first time in more than 65 years. One hundred people from each side were chosen by lottery to attend, though some dropped out when informed the relatives they hoped to see were no longer alive. In the end, 89 South Koreans and 83 North Koreans took part.

A woman, 86, and a man, 75, met their 89 year-old sister for the first time in decades. Sisters, 72 and 71, wore traditional dress to see their 99 year-old mother. A woman, 92, saw her now-elderly son for the first time since he was four.

South Koreans, many of whom brought medicine, clothing, and food for their relatives, were allowed to remain in the North for three days, but only spent a total of 11 hours with family. Visits were supervised. There have been 20 such reunions involving different families during brief moments of improved relations over the past 18 years.

This is not denuclearization. It’s not a peace treaty. Very few people are able to participate. But this is the last time these people will see their sisters, brothers, parents, and children.

The bottom line: Cynicism aside, these reunions are a good reason to try to improve relations among governments.

"I think there are certain times where you have tectonic shifts and change always happens that way."

On the latest episode of 'That Made All the Difference,' Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy at Patagonia, shares his thoughts on the role we all have to play in bringing our communities and the environment back to health.

For many, Paul Rusesabagina became a household name after the release of the 2004 tear-jerker film Hotel Rwanda, which was set during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Rusesabagina, who used his influence as a hotel manager to save the lives of more than 1,000 Rwandans, has again made headlines in recent weeks after he was reportedly duped into boarding a flight to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, where he was promptly arrested on terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder charges. Rusesabagina's supporters say he is innocent and that the move is retaliation against the former "hero" for his public criticism of President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country with a strong hand since ending the civil war in the mid 1990s.

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One of the biggest threats to 21st century international peace is invisible. It recognizes no borders and knows no rules. It can penetrate everything from the secrets of your government to the settings of your appliances. This is, of course, the threat of cyberattacks and cyberwarfare.

During the coronavirus pandemic, cyberattacks have surged, according to watchdogs. This isn't just Zoom-bombing or scams. It's also a wave of schemes, likely by national intelligence agencies, meant to steal information about the development and production of vaccines. Attacks on the World Health Organization soared five-fold early in the pandemic.

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Malaysian political drama: Malaysia's (eternal) opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says he finally has enough votes in parliament to be appointed prime minister, seven months after the coalition that was going to support him collapsed amid an internal revolt that also forced out 95-year-old Mahathir Mohamed as head of the government. Two years ago, Mahathir — who governed Malaysia from 1980 to 2003 — shocked the country by running in the 2018 election and defeating his former party UMNO, which had dominated Malaysian politics since independence in 1956. After winning, Mahathir agreed to hand over power to Anwar — a former protégé with whom he had a falling out in the late 1990s — but Mahathir's government didn't last long enough to do the swap. Will Anwar now realize his lifelong dream of becoming Malaysia's prime minister? Stay tuned for the next parliamentary session in November.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:


Why can't Europe agree on Belarus sanctions?


I think they can agree but the problem is that Cyprus has blocked. There's a veto right inside the European Union and they have blocked everything. I mean, everyone agrees, all of other Member States agrees that we should have had those sanctions in place. But the Cypriots have their own views. And then they are blackmailing, they are saying you have to sanction Turkey as well, at the same time. And most other states say there's no connection between the two. So, we do have somewhat of a constitutional crisis over foreign affairs inside the European Union. Distinctly not a good situation.

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