The year 2016 has been characterized by major crises throughout the entire Korean peninsula. The decline in popularity of South Korean president Park Geun-hye further deteriorated after the election for the National Assembly in April, which gave the majority to the opposition parties. The serious scandal in November that involved Park and one of her closest confidants and friends, Choi Soon-sil, brought her approval rating to a historical low and forced her to withdraw after an impeachment vote in the National Assembly. In North Korea, the most important event in terms of domestic policy was the seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, in May, which can be regarded as the culmination of Kim Jong Un’s consolidation of power. Another major crisis on the peninsula erupted in January, when North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, and worsened in September with an additional nuclear test. For the first time in its history, Pyongyang completed two nuclear tests in the same year. The reaction of the international community has been one of condemnation, with Seoul, Tokyo and Washington asking for a new set of comprehensive sanctions against North Korea. UNSC Resolutions 2270 and 2321 were designed to curb North Korea’s nuclear programme, affecting the influx of hard currency and limiting its export of natural resources. Nevertheless, the ambiguous posture of China in relation to the implementation of the sanctions, and some loopholes, gave Pyongyang the opportunity to continue its exports. In respect of the foreign relations of the two Koreas, the nuclear tests had relevant effects. The first consequence has been that of strengthening the alliance between Seoul and Washington, with the decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) system on the peninsula. Also, the growing threat from Pyongyang has led to a rapprochement between South Korea and Japan, which culminated with the signing of the agreement on the sharing of intelligence information (GSOMIA). This realignment of Seoul towards the traditional Southern Alliance has undermined its relationship with Beijing, especially as a consequence of the decision to deploy THAAD. In this perspective, the main beneficiary of the new situation has been North Korea, which, despite its isolation, has throughout the year improved its relationship with China. As for the economy, South Korea faced another year of slowing growth, troubled also by a series of crises that involved some of the biggest industrial conglomerates; in North Korea, despite the new sanctions, the economic outlook remained fairly stable.

Korean Peninsula 2016: The never-ending crisis

Marco Milani
2017

Abstract

The year 2016 has been characterized by major crises throughout the entire Korean peninsula. The decline in popularity of South Korean president Park Geun-hye further deteriorated after the election for the National Assembly in April, which gave the majority to the opposition parties. The serious scandal in November that involved Park and one of her closest confidants and friends, Choi Soon-sil, brought her approval rating to a historical low and forced her to withdraw after an impeachment vote in the National Assembly. In North Korea, the most important event in terms of domestic policy was the seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, in May, which can be regarded as the culmination of Kim Jong Un’s consolidation of power. Another major crisis on the peninsula erupted in January, when North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, and worsened in September with an additional nuclear test. For the first time in its history, Pyongyang completed two nuclear tests in the same year. The reaction of the international community has been one of condemnation, with Seoul, Tokyo and Washington asking for a new set of comprehensive sanctions against North Korea. UNSC Resolutions 2270 and 2321 were designed to curb North Korea’s nuclear programme, affecting the influx of hard currency and limiting its export of natural resources. Nevertheless, the ambiguous posture of China in relation to the implementation of the sanctions, and some loopholes, gave Pyongyang the opportunity to continue its exports. In respect of the foreign relations of the two Koreas, the nuclear tests had relevant effects. The first consequence has been that of strengthening the alliance between Seoul and Washington, with the decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) system on the peninsula. Also, the growing threat from Pyongyang has led to a rapprochement between South Korea and Japan, which culminated with the signing of the agreement on the sharing of intelligence information (GSOMIA). This realignment of Seoul towards the traditional Southern Alliance has undermined its relationship with Beijing, especially as a consequence of the decision to deploy THAAD. In this perspective, the main beneficiary of the new situation has been North Korea, which, despite its isolation, has throughout the year improved its relationship with China. As for the economy, South Korea faced another year of slowing growth, troubled also by a series of crises that involved some of the biggest industrial conglomerates; in North Korea, despite the new sanctions, the economic outlook remained fairly stable.
Marco Milani
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/776352
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