Monday, February 24, 2020

Media Appearance: North Korea Isn't Ready for Coronavirus Devastation on Foreign Policy

Rahm Emanuel was onto something when he said: "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. It's an opportunity to do things you could not do before." This applies to the nCoV crisis sweeping East Asia as well:
This makes it the right moment for the United States and its allies to extend a helping hand. The under-appreciated fact about sanctions is that they are effective only if they are eventually lifted. Never-ending sanctions and isolation achieve nothing; the point of imposing sanctions is to gradually lift them over time in exchange for a gradual change of behavior. This moment, when North Korea is more isolated than ever from its most important ally, offers the greatest opportunity for the United States to drive a wedge between Pyongyang and Beijing. The beauty of this is that helping North Korea in this situation requires no formal change in US policy at all. No sanctions need to be lifted, as medical and humanitarian assistance is not subject to sanctions. In addition to medical aid, US and South Korea may offer to open tourism for Americans and South Koreans to visit North Korea’s newly constructed resorts when the viral epidemic is over. Doing so would begin the process of weaning North Korea from its trade dependence to China, gradually pulling it toward the US sphere of influence.

Ultimately, denuclearization of North Korea can be achieved only after Washington and Seoul establish a peaceful relationship with Pyongyang. Establishing such “peace regime” is doubly beneficial, as it serves as a check against the increasingly illiberal and assertive China. Not even the most well-designed sanctions regime could have achieved the level of isolation that North Korea is currently experiencing. The United States should not miss this window of opportunity. 
North Korea Isn't Ready for Coronavirus Devastation [Foreign Policy]

Media Appearance: 'Parasite' Has a Hidden Backstory of Middle-Class Failure and Chicken Joints on Foreign Policy

More Parasite stuff! I wrote about how just a couple of phrases, "chicken place" and "king castella", Bong Joon-ho hinted at an entire backstory of the struggling Kim family:
With the 1997 Financial Crisis, this system of lifetime employment failed catastrophically. Even those who managed to keep their jobs could no longer expect a tenured employment, much less a pension. A common situation is for people in their 40s and 50s being pushed into a “voluntary” retirement with a lump sum severance pay. Suddenly without a job with a company that anchored their lives, these young retirees had to fend for their family by turning that severance pay into a steady cash flow.

Quick-serve restaurants, including fried chicken joints, offered an outlet for Koreans in such situation. They required a low amount of capital and little to no skill to start. Overhead could be kept low by enlisting the whole family as free labor. The low interest rate following the economic crisis made it easy to obtain a loan to add to the severance pay and form a seed money. The result is that as of late 2018, South Korea had 125 restaurants per 10,000 people, more than double the rate of Japan (59 per 10,000) and six times the rate of the United States (21 per 10,000). South Korea’s huge number of restaurants do not just reflect the fact that Koreans enjoy dining out; it also reflects the structure of the economy that pushes people into small, subsistence level businesses. 
'Parasite' Has a Hidden Backstory of Middle-Class Failure and Chicken Joints [Foreign Policy]

This article, as well as my op-ed on the nCoV epidemic in North Korea, were the top two most read articles on on February 23.

Media Appearance: How 'Parasite' Almost Never Saw the Light of Day on Washington Post

Parasite made history by becoming the first non-English language film to win the Best Picture in the Oscars. For the Washington Post, I wrote about how South Korea's conservative administration blacklisted its director Bong Joon-ho and lead actor Song Kang-ho:
But Bong’s career was jeopardized in the 2010s, after South Korea elected two conservative presidents with retrograde attitudes toward freedom: Lee Myung-bak, a former chief executive of Hyundai Group, and Park Geun-hye, daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee. Lee and Park Geun-hye turned Kim Dae-jung’s principle on pop culture on its head by using governmental support to interfere with pop culture. In the name of “balancing cultural power,” the Lee administration compiled a detailed list of left-leaning celebrities to cut off from public support and pressure away from major platforms.

The Park administration vastly expanded this blacklist to include nearly 10,000 names. Internal papers from the Park administration on Bong’s movies reads as if Joseph McCarthy were a film critic. “Memories of Murder” was criticized for “injecting negative impressions of the police by depicting them as corrupt and incompetent”; “The Host” “highlights anti-Americanism and governmental incompetence, pushing the society leftward”; “Snowpiercer” “denies the legitimacy of market economy and provokes social resistance.”

Media Appearance: How Escalating Tensions Between the US and Iran Affect South Korea on Responsible Statecraft

I was very excited to make my debut on Responsible Statecraft, the blog for the newly founded Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. In this article (whose rejected headline was: "What happens in the Middle East affects Far East"), I discussed how the tensions following the killing of general Qassem Soleimani affects US alliance with South Korea:
Should the U.S.-Iran tensions boil over to a war, the South Korean military would be joining yet another U.S.-led war in the Middle East — which is not an appealing prospect for Moon Jae-in administration. When South Korea sent troops to Iraq in 2003, the liberal administration led by then-president Roh Moo-hyun took a significant hit in support as over 70 percent of the South Korean public opposed joining the Iraq War. That memory must be particularly vivid for Moon, who began his political career as Roh’s senior presidential staff. A recent poll indicates that 48 percent of South Koreans opposed sending troops to the Strait of Hormuz, with 40 percent in favor. The gap between the two will likely widen if the U.S.-Iran conflict turns even more kinetic. 

Media Appearance: South Korea's Groundhog Year on Foreign Policy

A review of South Korea's diplomacy in 2019:
In 2019, Moon Jae-in was fighting hard for a draw in all fronts. South Korea is not paying five times in defense contribution to the US, but it will continue to face the issue as long as Trump is the president. Japan is gradually reconsidering its trade war, but its export control against South Korea persists. South Korea’s air force repelled the incursion by Russian and Chinese air force, but one ferocious response is not changing the lopsided balance of power that South Korea faces against the two former communist superpowers. Most importantly, despite the deteriorating inter-Korean relations with no denuclearized North Korea in sight, the Korean Peninsula is not back in the days of “fire and fury” in 2017—at least, not yet.

That will likely change in 2020. North Korea has set a deadline of year end 2019 for talks, and there is no indication that any breakthrough is in store in the short remaining time of this year. The Trump administration, distracted with the ongoing impeachment that implicates many of its senior diplomats, is unlikely to make much progress in North Korean diplomacy. North Korea’s unwillingness to have a meaningful discussion in Stockholm in October indicates that the window for diplomacy may have already closed at any rate. Once diplomacy ends, in all likelihood we are headed back to the times of missiles and nuclear testing, raising once again the specter of a nuclear war.
South Korea's Groundhog Year [Foreign Policy]

Media Appearance: Qualcomm Loses Fine Appeal to Korean Court on Global Competition Review

A very belated roundup of my media appearances from late last year. Here is my comment on Qualcomm's big antitrust loss against KFTC in Korean court:
Nathan Park, of counsel at Kobre & Kim, said considering that the Supreme Court vacated the 2009 KFTC fine – even though it upheld most of Qualcomm’s legal liability – the Seoul High Court’s ruling today affirming the KFTC’s 2016 fine likely will not be the end of this story.

Park highlighted two key takeaways to the High Court’s decision: that the KFTC is solidifying its reputation as one of the world’s most active regulators of anticompetitive behaviours; and that competition enforcement has become increasingly globalised. “Given how well-connected the Korean economy is to the world, especially in areas of high tech industry, multinational corporations have to be cognisant of the regulatory risk posed by KFTC,” he said.

Park also noted that the High Court’s ruling, that KFTC’s corrective action to Qualcomm’s practice involving licensing agreements was unlawful, contrasts what the US federal court previously ruled on the same practice.
Qualcomm Loses Fine Appeal to Korean Court [Global Competition Review]

Media Appearance: Asset Recovery on Getting the Deal Through (2019)

Happy to report that I was a part of the joint effort between Bae, Kim & Lee LLC and Kobre & Kim LLP in contributing the South Korea chapter on Asset Recovery, edited by Getting the Deal Through. The chapter is available online here: