Connect to share and comment

"200,000 political prisoners" in North Korea

The proposed administrative capital, Sejong City, will now be built as an education and science hub. Pyongyang signals that its ready to come back to the peace treaty negotiating table. The South says it will attack preemptively if there is a nuclear threat from the North. The government offers tax breaks to those who create jobs. Universal Studios to build a mega-theme park. And the National Human Rights Commission announces that roughly 200,000 people are being held prisoner in the North.

Top News: The government unveiled its plans for building an education and science hub in the central region of the country, called  Sejong City, which was previously designated as the second administrative capital after Seoul.  

If the revised plan wins support in the National Assembly, the government said it will complete the project by 2020 to create a city of 500,000 which will produce 246,000 new jobs. Conglomerates such as Samsung, Lotte and Hanhwa will take part in the 16.5 trillion won project.

Pyongyang signaled that it is willing to return to the six-party talks by announcing, through state media, that negotiations for signing a peace treaty can be held at the multilateral talks that have stalled since late 2008. North and South Korea signed an armistice, not a peace treaty, after the Korean War and are still technically at war.

The North has so far contended that it will only return to the negotiating table after it holds separate peace talks with the U.S., which was one of the parties that signed the armistice, saying the lack of a peace agreement is the “root cause of hostile relations between North Korea and the United States.” Washington, however, reaffirmed that involved parties will only prepare to discuss the matter once Pyongyang makes significant progress on the issue of denuclearization.

South Korea will launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea if there is a clear sign of a nuclear attack, the country’s defense minister announced. A nuclear attack, he said, would cause too much damage for the South to launch a counter-attack.

The remarks came after the North Korea’s National Defense Commission said it would conduct a holy war to blow away the South in response to unverified reports saying Seoul had developed plans for a potential regime collapse in the North.  

The two Koreas agreed to hold  working-level talks at the joint-Kaesong industrial complex on Feb. 1, but have yet to agree upon the agenda, despite hours of preparatory talks held between both sides. The South proposed that the talks deal with facilitating inter-border travel and communication, while the North argued that the two sides should discuss wages for the North Korean workers.

Money: The Lee Myung-bak administration has proposed to increase its target number for  job creation this year to 250,000 from the previous 200,000. The government said it will offer tax and financial support for local governments and businesses that take part in job creation. In this year’s budget, the government earmarked $3.17 billion for job creation and said it will announce an additional employment support package at the end of next month.

Universal studios signed a $2.7 billion deal to construct its third and largest theme park in Asia after stalling the deal for two years due to lack in funding. The company secured financing from South Korea’s Lotte Group and major steel maker POSCO. Construction will begin in 2011 and the park is expected to open in 2014 while generating 100,000 jobs. The theme park will include a movie theme park, a water park and a resort and is expected to attract 15 million visitors a year.

Elsewhere: In the first report of its kind, South Korea’s National Human Rights Commission announced that roughly 200,000 prisoners are being held in  political prison camps in North Korea. The state-run agency said that out of the 13 camps running in the 1970s, only six are still operating. According to the commission, the punishment of the prisoners has become more severe over the years. Information was gathered from ex-prisoners and defectors who had experienced repatriation to the North.