Asan Korea Perspective

North Korea ICBM Launch

North Korea launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 on July 4th. Launched in Banghyon airfield in the North Pyeongan province, it reached an altitude of more than 2,802km (1,731miles) and flew 933km  (578miles)[1] before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced that the ICBM launch was successful and the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later confirmed the North Korean claim.

Seoul’s Response to the DPRK ICBM

Shortly after the launch, President Moon convened a National Security Council meeting and strongly condemned the act. Moon emphasized the need to demonstrate the allies’ resolve by ordering a joint military exercise targeting North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities.[2]

On Wednesday, the South Korean military released images of core strategic weapons that could be mobilized for a ‘decapitation strike’ against North Korea. It also released images of ballistic missile Hyunmoo-2C, air-launched cruise missile Taurus, Slam-ER, and US strategic bomber B-1B.[3]

At the same time, the Ministry of Reunification announced that no considerable changes would be made to the two-track policy of putting pressure and applying sanctions while keeping the door open to conversation.[4]

The ROK-US Summit

Observers in Seoul were relieved to see that the first Moon-Trump summit did not have the drama of the first meeting between the last conservative-progressive administrations in  Presidents George W. Bush and Roh Moo-hyun. The assessment, however, was mixed. Some observers noted that South Korea was mentioned in the joint statement as playing the “leading role” in Korean Peninsula affairs. [5] Others argued that this was nothing out of the ordinary given that the US has traditionally supported this position.[6] The Democratic Party hailed the summit as a success[7] while the opposition parties portrayed the first Moon-Trump summit as “a summit with no parti cular complications but without much progress.”[8] Some experts questioned what the “right circumstances” were to begin dialogues with North Korea in the future.[9] Trump’s repeated reference to the renegotiation of KORUS FTA was seen as a price tag for the achievement on security matters. [10]

People’s Party election misconduct scandal

The People’s Party (PP) Member Lee Yoo-mi was apprehended last Monday for leaking false information about Moon Joon-young, the son of President Moon Jae-in. Lee was accused of tampering ‘evidence’ and spreading false rumors about Moon and his son.

Lee testified initially that the misinformation campaign was ordered by the PP leadership but later claimed that she is solely responsible; however, new evidence consisting of text messages between Lee and former PP supreme council member (Lee Joon-seo) have renewed growing speculation about the PP leadership’s role in this scandal.[11]

According to a survey conducted by Gallup Korea during June 27-29, the PP’s approval rate is at 5%, which is 2%p lower than the previous week. Other polls also showed PP garnering less support in the Southern Jeolla region in comparison to the conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP).[12] There is a growing possibility that the PP could potentially split or even dissolve altogether. But it is unclear how the 38 PP seats would be reconstituted in the National Assembly.

Nuclear Plant Shutdown

Moon’s announcement to shutdown South Korea’s nuclear power plants ignited a discussion over South Korea’s energy security. Nuclear energy accounts for approximately 30% of South Korea’s power generation. The Moon administration has committed to bring this percentage down to 18% by 2030 and increase reliance on natural gas (up to 37%).[13]

As part of this plan, the administration has temporarily stopped the construction of Shingori Nos. 5 and 6. The project is 28.8% complete and the government has poured in approximately KRW 1.6 trillion.[14] There were debates over planning as there is no comparable design in scale and juxtaposed construction of nuclear power generation facilities in the world.[15]  Moon pledged to review the construction while the project is under temporary suspension. Public discussion committee will be formed in three months consisting of 10 members, to determine what to do next.[16] This committee excludes stakeholders in the construction and all energy sector personnel.  While the public is encouraged to participate, there are concerns as to whether expert voice can be effectively considered in the committee.[17]

More fundamentally, concerns are raised over weakening energy security. Less nuclear power generation means more dependence on imports and renewables.[18] South Korea has very limited capacity in renewable energy supply and has no supply networks with neighboring countries to deal with contingencies.[19] The decision has made the energy market less predictable and raised the suspicion of a possible rate hike on the future electricity bill.[20]

Special Prosecution

The special prosecution recommended stiff penalties for former presidential chief advisor Kim Gi-chun (7 years) and former Minister Cho Yun-sun (6 years). The reasoning hinged on the nature of the crime, which they claimed violated freedom of speech and deepened societal division.[21]





1 “北 “대형중량 핵탄두 장착 ICBM 제작, 대기권 재진입 및 단분리 기술 시험”, 중앙일보, 2017년 7월 5일.

2 “한-미, 북 지고부 타격 탄도미사일 합동훈련,” MBC News, 2017년 7월 5일.

3 “軍, ‘평양 김일성 광장 초토화’ 참수작전 영상 대거 공개로 ‘맞불’… 주석궁 김정은 집무실 타격할 ‘타우러스’ 영상도 첫 공개”, 조선일보, 2017년 7월 5일.

4 “文, 北 ICBM도발에도 핵교류 분리 의지 굳건… 北 호응할까”, 동아일보, 2017년 7월 5일.

5 “[뉴스분석] 한반도 주도권 얻고 ‘FTA 어음’ 끊었다,” 중앙일보, 2017년 7월 3일; “[한·미 정상회담 결산]한반도 문제 주도권 확보 ‘무난한 첫 단추’,” 경향신문, 2017년 7월 2일; “[사설] 문재인·트럼프 첫 정상회담 이후의 韓·美 관계,” 조선일보, 2017년 7월 1일.

6 “제재 공조, 올바른 여건… 트럼프 ‘南北대화의 전제조건’ 달았다,” 조선일보, 2017년 7월 3일; “[사설] 트럼프 지지 받은 대한민국의 ‘對北 주도적 역할’의 과제,” 한국일보, 2017년 7월 2일 ; “[사설]트럼프 “한국 주도적 역할 지지”… 역량부터 갖춰야,” 동아일보, 2017년 7월 3일.

7 “더민주 “한미정상회담, 기대 이상…더 이상 ‘굴욕 외교’없다”, 조선일보, 2017년 7월 1일.

8 “이혜훈 ”한미정상회담, 경제적 큰 숙제 안고돌아와”, Newsis, 2017년 7월 3일.

9 “제재 공조, 올바른 여건… 트럼프 ‘南北대화의 전제조건’ 달았다,” 조선일보, 2017년 7월 3일.

10 “[사설] 외교안보 받고 돈은 내준 회담 … 문제는 뒤처리다,” 중앙일보, 2017년 7월 3일; “[이슈분석]카메라만 보면 “FTA 재협상” 외친 트럼프,” 동아일보, 2017년 7월 3일.

11″민주당 ‘국민의당 대선공작 게이트’ 공격에 국민의당 ‘인위적 정계개편 시도’,” 중앙일보, 2017년 6월 30일; “국민의당, 이유미 단독범행 결론… 당 위기 벗어날 수 있을까,” 매일경제, 2017년 7월 3일.

12 “文 대통령 지지율 75.3%로 반등.. 국민의당 꼴찌 추락”[리얼미터], 연합뉴스, 2017년 7월 3일.

13 ‘에너지 자립’ 原電은 없애고, 전량 수입하는 LNG 늘리나,” 조선일보, 2017년 6월 30일.

14 “논란 불지핀 ‘신고리 5ㆍ6호기 일단 멈춤’,” 한국일보, 2017년 6월 27일.

15 “’원전건설 중단? 앞으로 어떻게 정부를 믿고 일하겠나’,” 한국일보, 2017년 6월 28일.

16 “1조6000억 투입해놓고 … 비전문가에게 국가 대계 물어,” 중앙일보, 2017년 6월 28일.

17 Ibid.

18 “[특파원 리포트] 독일의 脫원전에서 우리가 봐야 할 것들,” 조선일보, 2017년 6월 30일.

19 Ibid.

20 “6년前 원전 멈췄던 일본, 3년새 전기료 25% 올라,” 조선일보, 2017년 6월 30일.

21 “특검, 김기춘 7년ㆍ조윤선 6년 구형,” 한국일보, 2017년 7월 3일; “블랙리스트’ 김기춘 징역 7년·조윤선 6년 구형,” 한겨레, 2017년 7월 3일; “’블랙리스트’ 김기춘 징역 7년, 조윤선 징역 6년 구형,” 조선일보, 2017년 7월 3일.

22 Gallup Korea. Date: June 27-29; sample size 1,005; margin of error: +3.1 at the 95% confidence level.

23 Gallup Korea. Date: June 20-22; sample size 1,004; margin of error: +3.1 at the 95% confidence level.

24 Gallup Korea. Date: June 27-29; sample size 1,005; margin of error: +3.1 at the 95% confidence level.



Contributing Staff (in alphabetical order): Han Minjeong, Kim Seonkyung

Editor: J. James Kim