The myth of Park Chung-hee and Korea’s economic development

Seo Jung-seok

Seo Jung-seok, professor emeritus at Sungkyunkwan University, during his interview with the Hankyoreh in Seoul on Dec. 31, 2019. (Kim Jung-hyo, staff photographer)

The eighth volume in the 20-volume “Seo Jung-seok’s Contemporary Korean History,” which has now been published in its entirety, has a rather pugnacious subtitle: “Crediting Economic Growth to Park Chung-hee is a Dangerous Misunderstanding.” Considering that even critics of Park’s long dictatorship and his suppression of democracy tend to give him credit for economic growth, what grounds could there be for such remarks by Seo Jung-seok, professor emeritus at Sungkyunkwan University and a leading authority on Korea’s modern and contemporary history? Seo waxes eloquent on this topic for nearly 20 minutes, explaining that people need to take into account all the domestic factors and international conditions that made Korea’s explosive growth possible.

“Germany and Japan enjoyed incredible economic growth, beginning in Germany in 1945 and in Japan shortly after the Korean War and lasting until the early 1970s. Taiwan underwent rapid growth from the early 1960s until the 1980s, and the economies of Western Europe, including France, and even Spain under the Franco dictatorship, began growing in the 1960s. This was a good time for the global economy. Oil prices were extremely low, under US$2 a barrel.”

The boom in the global economy lasted until oil prices spiked in 1973, effectively proving the point about positive conditions overseas. Next, Seo turns to domestic factors. “The motto of the administration led by Prime Minister Chang Myon [after the April 1960 revolution] was ‘the economy first.’ The economy was the first, second, and third priority. The five-year economic development plan drafted by the Chang administration was adopted without revision by Park Chung-hee. Koreans had an incredible desire for economic development at the time, and the educational fervor was intense as well. During the presidency of Syngman Rhee, the percentage of Koreans entering elementary school had already exceeded 90%, which was even higher than in Taiwan. That’s the foundation of economic development. But the Rhee administration’s obsession with winning elections prevented it from achieving economic development.”

Middle Eastern construction projects allowed chaebols to invest in heavy industry

According to Seo, therefore, the domestic factors were already mature enough. Another important factor for economic success was that Korea had implemented land reform (unlike countries in Central and South America), and removed the restrictions on mobility, which is a prerequisite for an industrial workforce. When advanced economies were rocked by the oil embargo, Koreans viewed it as an opportunity. Enriched by soaring oil prices, OPEC oil producers in the Middle East launched construction projects that were a perfect fit for Koreans’ temperament. Competitors couldn’t keep up with Koreans, given their knack for “building things in a flash to meet construction deadlines.”

“The Minister of Construction at the time was Kim Jae-gyu [who later assassinated Park Chung-hee], and we owe a lot to him. But Kim used to downplay his role and give credit to businesspeople. In reality, it was people like [Hyundai Group founder] Chung Ju-yung who made a huge impact. That had little to do with Park Chung-hee.”

Korea’s investment in heavy industry was also made possible by money flowing in from Middle East construction projects, Seo contends. Prior to that, no companies were willing to step up to the plate, despite benefits promised by the government. But once the chaebols, or family-run conglomerates, were flush with cash from the Middle East construction contracts, they eagerly jumped into heavy industry. Seo argues that the story of Park Chung-hee spearheading the country’s economic growth is no more than a myth. He marshaled numerous facts attesting to the economic mismanagement of the Park regime, including opposition parties’ victory in parliamentary elections on Dec. 12, 1978, despite the oppressive atmosphere created by Emergency Order No. 9, and the surge of popular opposition represented by democratic protests in Busan and Masan, which ultimately led to the downfall of Park’s Yushin regime.

“While Ludwig Erhard [who served as Germany’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Chancellor] played a big role in the ‘Miracle on the Rhine,’ people don’t say that the miracle was his doing. Nor do people say that Taiwan owes [its economic growth] to Chiang Kai-shek or his son Chiang Ching-guo. If anything, [the Chiangs] are criticized for being dictators. In Spain, there’s a stigma about Franco. I’m not saying that Park Chung-hee didn’t work hard. What I’m saying is that, if you take a close look at the domestic and international conditions, he didn’t accomplish everything on his own.”

That’s why it’s important to look back at the comparatively recent past through the study of contemporary history. There are still many “facts” once taken for granted that should be reexamined, to see if they’re historically accurate. The reason the Korean public is largely uninformed about the democratic protests in Busan and Masan, which were designated a national memorial day this year, is because of the rigid control of the press during the Yushin regime. The protests were only covered by newspapers after martial law was declared.

Park admitted to exaggerating N. Korean threat to tighten political control

Another good example is the Park regime’s anti-Communist campaign and all-out national security campaign, which it waged simultaneously, emphasizing North Korea’s ambition of invading the South. But during a meeting with foreign correspondents, Park reportedly expressed skepticism about whether the North would actually attack. Seo stumbled upon that remark in a collection of Park’s speeches. Park exaggerated the North Korean threat for the purposes of domestic control even while knowing full well there was little chance of war. In South Korea, Park played up tunnels that the North Koreans had dug under the DMZ as evidence of preparations for an invasion, but then told Japanese reporters that, practically speaking, the tunnels couldn’t be used for a full-scale war.

The series took nearly five years to be published, following the release of the first volume, titled “Liberation, Division, and Collaborators: The Joy and Junctures of Contemporary History,” in March 2015. It the series were to have a main character, it would obviously be Park Chung-hee. A full 16 of its 20 volumes deal with the Park era, from Volume 5 (“The 2nd Republic and the May 16 Coup d’?at: Why Did the US Stand By?”) to Volume 15 (“Collapse of the Yushin Regime: Was Kim Jae-gyu a Traitor?”). Since Park held power for 18 of the 42 years covered in the series, from Korea’s liberation on Aug. 15, 1945, to 1987, so much attention might seem inevitable. Another factor is that Seo has already published a lot of books about post-liberation Korea and about the presidency of Syngman Rhee, including “Research on the Nationalist Movement in Contemporary Korea,” “Cho Bong-am and the 1950s,” and “The Political Ideology of Syngman Rhee.” Debunking the lies about the Park Chung-hee has always been on Seo’s to-do list, and this series makes the relevant records easily accessible to the general public.

Unraveling the liars of South Korea’s democratization

The final three books in the series, now released, deal with the mass protests in June 1987 that led to Korea’s democratization: Volume 18 (“Background to the June Democracy Movement: Push for Constitutional Reform and Chun Doo-hwan’s Counterattack”), Volume 19 (“The June Democracy Movement Unfolds: Contemporary History Changed by Huge Simultaneous Demonstrations”), and Volume 20 (“The Wave of Democratization Runs High: Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo Surrender, and the Aftermath”). One of the strengths of the series is its eminent readability, organized in Q&A format. A generous assortment of photographs and newspaper articles keep the reader grounded, they don’t go adrift in a sea of facts.

“There’s been a marked decrease in our society’s interest in and excitement about our modern and contemporary history. It was just then that the New Right emerged and began working to distort history, taking the perspective of the collaborators. I don’t like the ‘history wars,’ but at the same time, I see it as my fate. There’s nothing that can teach us the value of democracy quite like contemporary Korean history. In that sense, I see this book as a textbook in democracy.”

By Lee Jae-sung, staff reporter

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Why Does Rage Define ‘Parasite’ and Other Popular East Asian Movies?

Thessaly La Force

Many thriller and horror films from Japan, China and South Korea reveal a complicated relationship between those societies and the ancient tenets of Confucianism.

THE CENTRAL OBJECT in the director Bong Joon Ho’s newest film, “Parasite,” which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a suseok, or an ornamental rock. Scholar’s rocks, as they are also called, represent the unity of humans and the cosmos as venerated in Confucianism. They are formed by nature into aesthetically pleasing shapes — and, as we soon learn in “Parasite,” are harbingers of good luck. The film opens with the Kim family, who live in a basement apartment on a dead-end street in Seoul. They are broke and unemployed, resorting to folding pizza boxes for a nearby restaurant to make money. By chance, the son of the family, Ki-woo, is visited by a former classmate, Min, who is quitting his gig as an English tutor to a wealthy schoolgirl to study abroad and wants Ki-woo to take over. Before leaving, Min gives the Kims a suseok that once belonged to his grandfather. Fortune is such an abstract idea to the struggling Kims that Ki-woo’s mother, Chung-sook, wonders why Min couldn’t have just brought them something to eat instead.

And yet, whether through coincidence or the rock’s ancient powers, the moment the suseok enters the Kims’ lives, their luck changes. Ki-woo arrives at the home of the Park family, a Modernist palace set in the upper-class Seongbuk-dong neighborhood situated high above the rest of the city. Going by the name Kevin, he shows the sweet and gullible Mrs. Park a doctored diploma, which she dismisses — personal recommendations matter more than paperwork. Her other child is a difficult and artistic little boy, and Ki-woo slyly suggests that Mrs. Park hire an art tutor he knows, Jessica, who is in fact his sister, Ki-jung. Soon, through a series of subtle deceptions and maneuvers, the Kims infiltrate every part of the Park household’s staff: Their father, Ki-taek, takes over as chauffeur after the Kims lead the Parks to believe that their previous driver is a sexual deviant; their mother replaces the housekeeper, Moon-gwang, after the Kims convince the Parks (falsely, of course) that Moon-gwang has tuberculosis.

In this way, the Kims turn the Parks into a financial life raft, and their scheme seems perfectly sound until they discover an even lower-class leech living among them: the former housekeeper’s husband, who, hunted by loan sharks, has been stashed away by his wife in a subbasement that even the Parks aren’t aware exists. The room is heavily symbolic — the poorer the person is in “Parasite,” the farther underground he dwells — and yet it is also a practicality: Rooms such as this, we are told, are a common amenity in wealthy homes, a safeguard against nuclear attack, perhaps, or a place to hide your worst secrets. This discovery throws the Kims’ plans into disarray and, like Chekhov’s gun, the suseok returns, not as a symbol of fortune but as a weapon, setting off an explosion of violence with a Shakespearean-level death toll.

If a desire for wealth propels “Parasite,” then class differences are the film’s foundation. Mrs. Park is “nice because she’s rich,” says Chung-sook, observing what money actually affords people. And yet the suseok is a metaphor for something more ancient — the Confucian philosophy that still influences South Korean society, a place where fundamental beliefs about obedience and respect have been manipulated to create a highly wealthy and functional economy, one in which women are not considered equal to men and where there is an ever-widening divide between rich and poor: the result of a relentless pursuit of rapid economic growth.

Like South Korean cinema, the staples of East Asian and some Southeast Asian cinema are steeped in florid personal vengeance narratives — from Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 “Throne of Blood,” an adaptation of Macbeth, to Kim Ki-young’s psychosexual 1960 thriller “The Housemaid” (and its equally disturbing 2010 remake by Im Sang-soo) to the vengeful ghosts of Japan’s 1998 horror film “Ringu” to the ultraviolence of Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy, which includes the acclaimed 2003 movie “Oldboy.” These films are among the most violent and gruesome in cinematic history: gothic spectacles of anger and obsession. They present families and relationships that seemingly obey the tenets of a harmonious society. But eventually, something goes wrong, harmony is disrupted and violence ensues. All of the films contain elements of exoticism: Submissive women are seduced; a man eats a live octopus. These details reveal, in part, why these movies surprise and delight American audiences. But below the surface is a deeper rupture. These movies both reinforce certain Confucian values and simultaneously combat stereotypes about Asians: that they are obedient, dutiful, loyal, timid and fearful. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Just as Alfred Hitchcock invented an entirely new genre of film by channeling European wartime anxiety, films such as “Parasite” challenge globalization and its effects. The Park family displays their wealth not just in their ability to afford a full-time staff but also in their embrace of Western culture. Mr. Park works for a multinational company; Mrs. Park casually drops English words into her speech. Yet what powers the story is the profound rage that runs beneath all the characters’ lives, an infection about to erupt.

CONFUCIANISM ORIGINATED IN ancient China with the scholar and philosopher Confucius, who was born in 551 B.C. After being formally adopted as a political ideology during the Han dynasty (from 206 B.C. to A.D. 220), a golden age of learning and law whose influence lasted for nearly two millenniums, it traveled east, first to Korea and then Japan, by means of its own popularity but also the dominance of the Chinese Empire. Confucianism proposes the idea that people are fundamentally good, that we are capable of improving ourselves through education and self-cultivation. It emphasizes loyalty, sacrificing one’s own goals and satisfaction in order to maintain traditional hierarchies and the status quo: A citizen is faithful to his country, the son to the father, the wife to her husband, the younger brother to his older brother. In more contemporary times, the philosophy has re-emerged as a political ideology: In 2013, President Xi Jinping of China made a pilgrimage to Qufu, Confucius’s hometown, and promised to make “the past serve the present.” But it has also occasionally been used — much in the way democratic ideals are employed to promote a neoliberal, Western agenda — to justify the larger mechanics of political maneuvering. On the one hand, it’s surprising that these East Asian societies that so value obedience should have perfected the revenge narrative in popular culture, though on the other, it isn’t at all: When the idea of obedience is used to justify authoritarian governments and socially rigid hierarchies, rebellion is never far-off.

But why is cinema, in particular, such a powerful tool for telling stories of rage and revenge? The contemporary literature of East and Southeast Asia also touches on these topics: The 2007 South Korean novel “The Vegetarian,” by Han Kang, tells of a wife’s revulsion to meat that upends her place in society; the short stories of the Japanese writer Taeko Kono, whose violent fantasies of disemboweling toddlers can be difficult to read, speak to a deep-seated rage of being an independent woman in 1960s Japan. But fear is more easily manufactured with movies, a visual medium that lends itself well to making the gruesome and ridiculous seem possible.

Movies are also easier to export. Martial arts films of the ’60s and ’70s required little in the way of dialogue — the plot was advanced by a well-choreographed fight. Similarly, these revenge films rely on a lexicon of violence: Nearly every culture understands the danger of a hidden gun, of looking into dark corners during the middle of the night. And as disparate as these films can be, they’ve also created visual tropes of their own: Eyeballs and ears are gouged with blunt objects, people are shot point blank, people fling themselves from buildings. Women — thin and unsparing, tough and uninterested in sex — often take center stage. Sex, incidentally, is rarely a focal point, but when it is, it is in service of character development or humor — “Buy me drugs,” Mrs. Park coos to her husband in “Parasite” in the middle of the act, in a scene that is as bizarre as it is pathetic. By contrast, in American horrors and thrillers, a woman who has been sexualized onscreen is usually the first to die.

THE REVENGE NARRATIVE of East Asian cinema is often rooted in the breaking of tradition. Jia Zhangke’s 2013 “A Touch of Sin” examines what happens when individuals choose to confront corruption and inequality. It tells four loosely intermingled stories of a group of ordinary Chinese citizens; the first centers on Dahai, a poor villager in Northern China’s Shanxi Province, who is angry that the village boss of the local coal mine hasn’t fairly distributed the profits from its sale. What follows is a classic sequence of violence, in which Dahai, rifle in hand, enacts bloody revenge against each person who has caused him distress — from the coal mine owner to the idiot farmer who savagely whips his horse. It’s hard not to cheer for Dahai, who represents a simple desire for equality, as he leaves a path of bodies behind him — here is someone who seems to be broadcasting his anguish beyond his private enemies and onto society as a whole.

Which is to say that the morality in “A Touch of Sin,” as in “Parasite,” is askew. This, too, has become one of the major emblems in today’s Asian cinema. Near the end of Chan-wook’s 2005 “Lady Vengeance,” a young woman named Lee Geum-ja, who has been wrongfully imprisoned for 13 years for the death of a 5-year-old boy, finally has the man actually responsible for the crime tied up before her. She offers the assembled group of parents whose children were also murdered by the man a choice: They can hand the case over to the detective (who is also present) or they can solve the problem themselves. They choose the latter, and the resulting scene is at once violent, cathartic, therapeutic, restorative but also utterly grotesque and horrifying.

It’s telling that most of these films, unlike most of Western cinema, rarely incorporate an authority figure such as the police or a judge — if they do appear, it is often as an accessory. The fight for justice nearly always happens on the individual level, but in the interest of a shared goal of vengeance, which is both a repudiation of Confucianism as well as an embrace of it. If Western films depict vigilantism as romantic, East Asian films embrace the idea that the individual is sometimes the best person to answer to his wrongs. Western horrors and thrillers operate with and against Puritanical values — evil is innate and must be purged, purity is often defiled and can never be recovered. But the Analects, an ancient text composed of ideas and sayings directly attributed to Confucius, espouses the transformative power of virtue. Nothing should be coerced, nothing forced. Confucius said: “Not to mend one’s ways when one has erred is to err indeed.” Justice is more complex when one has been wronged, and when morality becomes disconnected from a clear set of laws. In a Confucian society, where there is no distinct sense of heaven or hell, where a deity will not necessarily punish you for your sins and where citizens must ultimately manage one another, these movies suggest a different course of action. Violence is not necessarily immoral, if done for the right reasons. Just be aware of what such actions ultimately do to one’s self. As Confucius also said: “Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.”

THERE IS A Korean word, han, that has been used to describe the violence of Asian cinema. The word doesn’t have an English equivalent but encompasses feelings such as suffering, anger, resignation, grief, pain, longing and revenge. The term became popular in the 1970s, as Koreans advocated for a kind of cultural authenticity. But its origins are from the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 20th century, when the Japanese art critic Yanagi Soetsu described the artworks of Korea he admired as possessing a kind of “beauty of sorrow.” In the ’70s, the poet Kim Chi Ha likened han to a “people eating monster,” saying that “accumulated han is inherited and transmitted, boiling in the blood of the people.” “Han” may be a distinctly Korean term, but it is the one that best describes contemporary Asian cinema writ large as it attempts to reckon the present with its past — it stands for a collective trauma, a larger idea of suffering that can move through generations and settles into the bedrock of history. Today, the idea of loyalty, of obedience and self-improvement, can seem hopelessly outdated, as can the idea of achieving a collective harmony in the face of poverty and greed. Rage is a destructive emotion in this equation, but within art, it is also radical and, in rare moments, elucidating. The best of these films understand that the outcome of pitting people against one another can be violent, that it will invariably end badly. But they also understand that a repressive society can transform individuals into monsters.

In “Parasite,” none of the families involved are responsible for the inequality of the society that has made their situations so different, and neither are they necessarily best equipped to answer for it. These films appeal to a need to confront a deeply inflexible world. They’re not interested in showing the hero’s journey that results in both victory and a personal transformation. Which is why we cheer for our doomed protagonists even when we know that tragedy is inevitable. These films make us recognize that our desires and our impulses — our sense of what is wrong and right, but also what we irrationally want — are often rooted in a past that can be hard to see, like the edges of a riverbed from which a beautiful limestone rock was once lifted.

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Artist Zadie Xa on Art Night festival, sea animals and highlighting minority stories
Ben Luke – Evening Standard

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When I walk into a yard behind Zadie Xa’s East End studio, she’s in the middle of a fascinating process. With her husband, artist Benito Mayor Vallejo, she’s just revealed some unmistakable shapes from fibreglass moulds: the dorsal fins of orcas.

These cetacean curves are part of a rich, complex new performance and installation, Child of Magohalmi and the Echos of Creation, that Canadian-Korean Xa is developing for Art Night, the annual one-night-only visual arts extravaganza. This year it is happening in Walthamstow and Xa joins a great line-up, featuring established names like Barbara Kruger and Oscar Murillo alongside emerging artists such as Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings.

There’s a big buzz around Xa: in May, a performance by her was part of the Venice Biennale opening, and once Art Night is done, variations of the project travel to Yarat in Baku, before heading to Tramway in Glasgow, and then on to De La Warr in Bexhill-on-Sea.

For now, though, the orcas are headed for Walthamstow Library’s reading room. They will be part of a subaqueous world with conch shell sculptures which are speakers for a sound work, video projections, and performers donning masks and wearing clothes that Xa has designed and made.

The orcas were inspired partly by a recent filming trip to her native Vancouver. Killer whales were a staple of her childhood imagination and “a mythologised animal within local indigenous cultures”, she says. “Subconsciously, whenever I think about that animal, I think about my home.”

She’s particularly fascinated by a small, endangered pod off the west coast of the US and Canada. A “grandmother orca” in the pod, named Granny, was thought to be 105 years old before her death in 2016 and Xa is interested in orcas’ matrilineal family structures. “They all learn their survival and social skills through their mothers and grandmothers,” she explains.

She’s long been preoccupied with matriarchies, and the Magohalmi in her title is the central figure of an old Korean creation myth — Grandmother Mago, who created “geological formations, bridges, fortresses, lakes… out of her excrement and mud”. Her mother would tell her Korean folk tales as a child. “So for me it was a nostalgic entry point into feeling like I could [explore] aspects of historical Korea.”

She was inspired by the research of the academic Helen Hye-Sook Hwang. The story had been passed down orally and it was only in the Eighties that it was rediscovered.

“Throughout history [Magohalmi’s] name and her memory has been washed away or really caricatured,” Xa says, “because male scholars didn’t find this an interesting story.” She sees the parallels in “women’s stories or ‘minority’ stories being washed away or erased because they’re not deemed important”, she explains. “It was something I felt passionate about highlighting.”

She weaves these disparate elements together, linking not just Magohalmi with Granny, but the reverberations of cosmic music that gave birth to the goddess with the orcas’ use of echo-location. “The underpinning of my story for Art Night is thinking about the environment and specifically the plight of these whales,” she says.

The orcas have suffered terribly from what Xa calls “all these obnoxious things humans do” — overfishing, fish farming, chemical and noise pollution. But, influenced by Art Night curator Helen Nisbet’s quirky idea to take East 17’s song It’s Alright as inspiration — this is Walthamstow, after all — Xa says the work is not pessimistic.

“I can be really nihilistic and think everything’s going really terribly,” she says. Instead, she thought about the strength in familial love, “in my case with the women in my family” — Xa says she doesn’t have a relationship with her father’s family.

There’s hope in Xa’s story: Magohalmi was written out of history, but has returned. “She’s basically saying, ‘Let me tell you what happened: they tried to write me out, but it’s not happening, because I’m here.’” And though it’s not didactically expressed, Xa’s work is a call to bring the environment back from the brink. “How are we able to move forward?” she asks.

Aside from this urgent eco-feminist message, the project reflects Xa’s defiant exploration of her Korean diasporic identity. Her work is full of colour, playfulness and visual thrills, inspired by Korea and perceptions of it. “In some ways I feel embarrassed about how garish I am,” she says with a laugh.

Growing up in Vancouver, racism made her recede into the background, she says. Now 35, and living here in London, “I’ve flipped that and I want to be hyper-visible and aggressive with it. This is just the way I feel comfortable with it, and it’s in no way that I need to convince myself how great it is to be a person who’s Asian. But I’m really excited to be at a point in my life where I can finally celebrate it.”

Art Night 2019 is part of Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture and takes place across venues in Walthamstow & Kings Cross this Saturday, June 22 (

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Inside the hidden life of Kim Jong Un

June 14

Krys Lee is the author of the novels “Drifting House” and “How I Became a North Korean.”

The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un

By Anna Fifield

PublicAffairs. 308 pp. $28

Few heads of state inspire as many jokes as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. After nicknames like “Kim Fatty III ” and “Fatty Kim” went viral in China, Beijing cracked down on their use. In the United States, the presidentially bestowed nickname “Rocket Man” has a derogatory ring, partly because of the failure of multiple North Korean missile launches. Kim’s socializing with the NBA’s former enfant terrible Dennis Rodman also has set him up for ridicule. But in “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un,” Anna Fifield forcefully demonstrates that the North Korean leader is far more savvy, ambitious and ruthless than his ludicrous nicknames suggest.

Writing a biography of Kim is a notoriously difficult undertaking. False information abounds, and testimonies of North Korean escapees and refugees can be unreliable. To overcome these hurdles, Fifield has cross-checked a wealth of facts, relied on extensive primary and secondary sources, and engaged in old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting.

The infamously secretive nation goes to great lengths to protect the life story of its leader. When traveling abroad, for instance, Kim brings a private staff to “forensically clean” dishes, scrub hotel rooms and cart in portable toilets “so that he won’t leave any samples from which health information could be extracted.” And when a relative exposes family secrets to foreign media, as we now know, that person is assassinated.

Fifield, currently Beijing bureau chief for The Washington Post, has widely covered North Korea, and “The Great Successor” is a hard-earned, comprehensive portrait of Kim and his country’s uncertain future.

Hereditary succession began in North Korea under the direction of its first leader, Kim Il Sung, who ruled from 1948 until his death in 1994. Handing the leadership to his son, Kim Jong Il, was arguably North Korea’s biggest break from traditional communism and required decades of planning. Steps included removing from political dictionaries the definition of hereditary succession as “a reactionary custom of exploitive societies,” creating patriotic songs that incorporated the heir, and hanging portraits of father and son in public places throughout the nation.

The succession of the grandson, Kim Jong Un, looked more unlikely. His grandfather was a revered Korean war hero, while Kim Jong Un had no such illustrious background. He had two half siblings and two full siblings, but with the help of his determined mother, Ko Yong Hui, Kim Jong Un emerged as the favorite to lead the nation.

In 1996, at age 12, Kim Jong Un embarked on a relatively ordinary student life in Switzerland, under the alias Pak Un. Based on interviews with his friends and his aunt Kim Yong Suk and uncle Ri Gang, who raised him in his first few years in Bern, Fifield draws an intriguing composite portrait of a lonely teenager who studied democracy and the French Revolution and played basketball passionately. After he was summoned back to Pyongyang, as his father Kim Jong Il’s health deteriorated, Kim Jong Un’s private life became hazier.

Once Kim Jong Un took power he needed to demonstrate his break from the miserable rule of his father and respond resourcefully to international sanctions. As a young, inexperienced leader hoping to extend his family’s reign, Kim presented to the people a combination of terror and hope. He cracked down on border crossings, the flow of information and religious practices. To demonstrate his willingness to terrorize the nation, he executed his uncle Jang Song Thaek in public and had his half brother Kim Jong Nam assassinated in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Fifield describes North Korea’s economic shifts: the development of numerous legalized markets and a rise in entrepreneurism. Where once travel permits were mandatory and cellphones banned, there is now widespread use of mobile phones, and a growing private transport industry has revolutionized the economy. State-run companies are increasingly managed according to market principles. Operations are driven by profits, and managers have the freedom to hire and fire workers.

But bribery is still a way of life. Much of the economy resides in a “gray zone” — trading operations may not be legal, but they’re not exactly illegal, either. State firms once focusing on specific products, such as the cigarette-maker My Hometown, now produce a range of goods to alleviate the pressure from sanctions. Power outages in prime real estate are common. Few beyond state-employed hackers can access the Internet. And many people have a vested interest in maintaining a system that benefits them.

Still, Kim has shown himself in some ways to be a new leader breaking with North Korea’s ingrained culture. His wife, Ri Sol Ju, appears regularly in public, unlike her predecessors. She is certainly the first to appear publicly arm in arm with her husband. “In a country where even the wives of top cadres wore the shapeless socialist outfits that made everyone equally drab,” Fifield writes, “Ri cut a strikingly modern figure.” She was seen in “a jacket with red polka dots — and often sported a pearl brooch instead of the mandatory Kim pin worn by everyone else.” She even “wore platform peep-toe pumps.”

Kim’s appearance is modeled on that of his revered grandfather, but he has been more forthright with the public. He has openly acknowledged the people’s economic hardship, has allowed once-forbidden images to air on TV and publicly said in 2012 that a launched satellite had failed to enter orbit, a rare admission for a North Korean leader.

In Pyongyang, Western food and fashion mingle with stodgy monuments. Plastic surgery is commonplace for the elite, and bikinis are fashion statements of modernity. Why long for New York when, as Fifield dubs it, you have “Pyonghattan”?

“The Great Successor” is essential reading for anyone seeking insight on one of the world’s least-understood leaders. Though he may be young, Kim has forced South Korea, China and the United States to take him seriously. The book makes a convincing argument that with Kim at the helm, North Korea is painfully forging its way toward a more prosperous, stable future, whether or not the West likes it.

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Kim Jong-un’s Image Shift: From Nuclear Madman to Skillful Leader

SEOUL, South Korea — He ordered his uncle executed and half brother assassinated. He spent millions developing and testing a hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles as his people suffered severe food shortages. He exchanged threats of nuclear annihilation with President Trump, calling the American leader a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

That was last year’s image.

In more recent months, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has achieved one of the most striking transformations in modern diplomacy.

The man described by critics as a murderous dictator and nuclear lunatic has held hands and had heart-to-heart talks with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, who has encouraged and abetted Mr. Kim’s makeover.

Mr. Kim has enticed South Korea and the United States into negotiations by dangling the possibility of denuclearizing his country. His popularity has surged in polls in South Korea as he prepares to become the first North Korean leader to meet a sitting American president.

With a dazzle of diplomatic initiatives in the run-up to his historic June 12 summit meeting with Mr. Trump in Singapore, Mr. Kim has effectively redefined himself. Some South Koreans now see him as more reliable than Mr. Trump despite the decades-long alliance between their country and the United States.

Mr. Kim’s enhanced standing among South Koreans was crystallized by recent images of him walking in the woods with Mr. Moon, and on a beach with President Xi Jinping of China discussing North Korea’s nuclear program.

The optics contrasted with what many South Koreans view as Mr. Trump’s scattershot diplomacy, in which he abruptly canceled the Singapore summit meeting, then reversed himself after Mr. Kim authorized a calm statement offering Mr. Trump “time and opportunity” to change his mind. (On Wednesday, one of the president’s lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said that Mr. Kim “got back on his hands and knees and begged” for the meeting to be rescheduled.)

Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea walking at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone in April

Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea walking at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone in April. Mr. Moon has eagerly promoted Mr. Kim’s new image.

Despite the image change, Mr. Kim is unlikely to surrender his nuclear weapons anytime soon, or ease the grip of his repressive regime. But he has proved to be a skilled — some might say beguiling — strategist, driving events on the Korean Peninsula and showing a willingness to recalibrate.

“Once Kim Jong-un decided to improve ties with South Korea and the United States, he knew he could not do so with his image as a repressive tyrant,” said Kang Dong-wan, an expert on North Korea’s “image politics” at Dong-A University in Busan, South Korea. “He is creating a new portrait of him abroad as the leader of a normal country.”

In the West, Mr. Kim, 34, has often been caricatured as a chubby child toying with nuclear missiles. Mr. Trump, more than twice his age, has called Mr. Kim “short and fat,” a “sick puppy” and a “little rocket man.”

But when Mr. Trump meets Mr. Kim, the American leader will be dealing with the ruler of a totalitarian regime adept at political theatrics to bolster Mr. Kim’s charisma at home and advance his agenda abroad.

“The reason the world pays attention to him is not just because he has a few nuclear weapons, but more because of his image as a leader with mystical power, his absolute control over a highly consolidated, regimented and disciplined country,” said Chung Byung-ho, an anthropologist at Hanyang University in South Korea, who examined the role of theatrics in North Korean politics in a book he wrote with another scholar.

Whatever his true personality, Mr. Kim has found an avid partner in advancing his new image: Mr. Moon.

Since taking office a year ago, Mr. Moon has exhorted Mr. Trump to test the idea that Mr. Kim was a reasonable leader ready to bargain away his nuclear weapons for the right incentives, such as normalized ties and security assurances from the United States. It seems to have worked: Mr. Trump has recently changed his public appraisals of the North Korean leader, calling him “smart and gracious” and “very honorable.”

Mr. Kim and President Xi Jinping

Mr. Kim and President Xi Jinping of China in Dalian, China, last month. It was Mr. Kim’s second meeting with Mr. Xi in two months. Credit: Korean Central News Agency/EPA, via Shutterstock

Mr. Kim started his image makeover this year by reaching out to South Korea, which was eager to play intermediary between North Korea and the United States after a year in which the countries appeared to verge on war. In a New Year’s Day speech, Mr. Kim offered to send athletes, cheerleaders and political emissaries to South Korea during its Winter Olympics.

Then, he whetted Washington’s appetite for negotiations by announcing a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, closing North Korea’s only known nuclear test site and releasing three American prisoners. He also appeared to have hedged his bets by meeting twice with Mr. Xi, mending frayed ties with an old ally whose protection he needed as he entered delicate negotiations with Washington.

The diplomatic outreach was a sharp departure from North Korea’s history of rhetorical bombast, chest-thumping theatrics, military parades and mass rallies, which have fed the country’s image as an international pariah.

Mr. Kim’s image reinvention was skillfully staged with the help of Mr. Moon’s government, which made sure every detail of the leaders’ April 27 summit meeting was steeped in potent symbols dear to both Koreas: respect, ethnic unity and eventual Korean reunification.

For the meeting held at the “truce village” of Panmunjom on the inter-Korean border, Mr. Moon’s government redecorated a conference building, installing paintings of famous mountains and waterfalls that reminded people in both Koreas of their shared heritage before their peninsula was divided by foreign powers at the end of World War II.

“We packed each piece of furniture and each painting with a story,” said Koh Min-jeong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Moon.

During a break from their talks, Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon ambled off for a walk through the woods of Panmunjom, with cameras broadcasting their outing live around the world.

A caricature of Mr. Kim in Seoul

A caricature of Mr. Kim in Seoul, South Korea, last month. Recent surveys show increasing numbers of South Koreans see Mr. Kim as trustworthy. Credit: Ahn Young-Joon/Associated Press

But nothing softened Mr. Kim’s image like the moment when he arrived at the border to meet with Mr. Moon. At Mr. Kim’s suggestion, Mr. Moon stepped across the border into the North for 10 seconds. Then Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon walked back across to the South for their meeting, holding hands, an encounter that transfixed television viewers in South Korea.

“That single gesture went beyond political language,” said Mr. Chung, the anthropologist. “The theatrics conveyed messages of trust that language alone could not.”

The summit meeting mainly rehashed old inter-Korean agreements that had never been kept, producing only a vaguely worded commitment to denuclearization and peace. But the images made the event a success, providing momentum for warmed ties between the two countries and redefining Mr. Kim in the eyes of many South Koreans.

The next morning, a South Korean newspaper filled its front and back pages with a photograph showing Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim crossing the border hand in hand. Mr. Kim, formerly vilified as the region’s most dangerous leader, was considered “trustworthy” by 77 percent of South Koreans following the meeting, according to a survey by the Korea Research Center.

“Chairman Kim’s popularity has risen rapidly among South Koreans, and so have the expectations,” Mr. Moon told Mr. Kim last month when they met for the second time at Panmunjom. He said the summit meeting especially strengthened Mr. Kim’s image among younger South Koreans, who have shaped their views of North Korea through the past decade of inter-Korean tensions and have become increasingly skeptical of reconciliation, much less reunification, with the North.

“That’s great to hear,” Mr. Kim responded, according to South Korean officials.

Critics warn of dashed expectations, reiterating their view that Mr. Kim will never completely abandon the nuclear weapons considered so dear to his regime’s survival and his legitimacy as leader of North Korea.

“It’s right to be skeptical,” said Ra Jong-yil, a political scientist and former deputy director of the South’s National Intelligence Service. “How can the leader of a nation change so quickly? We tend to see what we want to see in North Korea.”

Some expect that in his meeting with Mr. Trump, Mr. Kim will most likely commit to denuclearizing his country completely in order to weaken the rationale for sanctions, but insist on a “phased” denuclearization. They say Mr. Kim probably fears that whatever agreement he strikes with Mr. Trump may not survive, given Washington’s unpredictable politics.

“The whole world is being duped” by Mr. Kim, said Shim Jin-sup, a retired psychological warfare officer of the South Korean military and expert on North Korean propaganda.

Posted in Choe Sang-hun, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Locked and Loaded for the Lord

After the Rev. Moon died in 2012, his church split apart. Two of his sons established a new congregation. Their followers are eagerly awaiting the end times. And they are armed.

Story by Tom Dunkel Photos by Bryan Anselm

Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, leader of Sanctuary Church

Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, leader of Sanctuary Church, wears a crown of rifle shells and holds a gold-plated AR-15.

Sanctuary Church — whose proper name is World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, but which also goes by the more muscular-sounding Rod of Iron Ministries — stands inconspicuously on a country road that winds through the village of Newfoundland, Pa., 25 miles southeast of Scranton. The one-story, low-slung building used to be St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Before that, it was a community theater, which is why there are no pews, only a semicircle of tiered seats facing the old stage, now an altar.

On a Sunday morning in late February, 38-year-old Pastor Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, entered stage right wearing a white hoodie and cargo pants. He strapped on a leather headband and picked up a microphone. “Okay, take it away,” he said to the electric pianist and two female vocalists who function as the choir. They launched into the first of four songs: “O, light of grace, shining above / lighting my dim shadowed way …”

The 200-plus congregants packed into the room sang along with gusto. Pastor Sean stood by his front-row seat with his wife at his side, wringing his hands like an orchestra conductor. The song cycle ended and, after a brief prayer, he took center stage. “Look at all these crowns of sovereignty!” he exclaimed, gazing upon his audience. One tenet of the Sanctuary Church is that all people are independent kings and queens in God’s Kingdom — a kind of don’t-tread-on-me notion of personal sovereignty. Hence, symbolic gold and silver crowns bobbed on row after row of heads.

TOP: Attendants hold assault rifles during a sermon at Sanctuary Church in Pennsylvania. LEFT: Members during a blessing ceremony in February. RIGHT: The congregation during a sermon.

This crowd was about twice the usual size because this service was the warm-up for a renewal-of-marriage-vows ceremony scheduled for Wednesday morning. Scores of couples already had arrived from Japan and Korea. That ceremony — officially, the “Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing” — would cap a week of activities that thus far had included an arts festival, a survival skills contest and a goat-butchering demonstration.

The wedding-blessing event was generating nationwide attention — something new for Sanctuary Church, which, until now, hadn’t even registered on the radar of the Pocono Record, the local daily newspaper. A key pillar of Sanctuary dogma is the importance of owning a gun, particularly the lethal, lightweight AR-15 semiautomatic, which the National Rifle Association has proclaimed “the most popular rifle in America.” Last fall, Pastor Sean had studied the Book of Revelation. It makes multiple references to how Christ one day will rule his earthly kingdom “with a rod of iron.” Although Revelation was written long before the advent of firearms, Pastor Sean concluded that “rod of iron” was Bible-speak for the AR-15 and that Christ, not being a “tyrant,” will need armed sovereigns to help him keep the peace in his kingdom.

As a result, a recent Sanctuary Church news release had noted that “blessed couples are requested” to bring with them to the upcoming Book of Life ceremony an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle “or equivalents.” This was unfortunate timing for the Church: The next day a young man walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and killed 17 people with an AR-15. Shooters had used that same model rifle to carry out mass murders in Las Vegas; Orlando; San Bernardino, Calif.; and other cities.

That latest tragedy was freshly imprinted on millions of minds, among them Pastor Sean’s. He eased into his hour-long Sunday morning sermon by reminding everyone of what President Trump had pointed out after the Parkland shooting: “He said if the teachers were armed, they would have shot the hell out of that guy. This is the first time we’ve heard a president talk like that. This is God’s grace, folks.”

Virtually the entire congregation was coming back on Wednesday for the big blessing ceremony, so he reviewed some safety precautions, like securing rifle triggers with a zip tie: “Remember, folks, you can never take back a bullet.” That was not to say worshipers couldn’t pack heat. Anyone with a concealed-carry permit was welcome to bring their loaded pistol Wednesday (their “mini rod of iron”) in addition to their AR-15. You never know, “there may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing who tries to make trouble,” said Pastor Sean.

After delivering a few social announcements (parents seeking marriage partners for their adult children were meeting at 3 p.m.; tomorrow at 5 p.m. there would be an AR-15 “breakdown” tutorial on how to properly disassemble the rifle), Pastor Sean delivered the meat of his sermon. He plowed familiar ground at first, citing Bible passages where the “rod of iron” was used to smite evildoers. Pacing the altar, he then segued into a freewheeling, gunfire-and-brimstone diatribe.

“You must shed the slave mentality and adopt the royal mentality. … The Democratic Party has become the Communist Party funded by Nazi collaborator George Soros. … The fake ministers and fake priests are pushing a dictator-Christ.” He took potshots at some favorite targets: Hillary Clinton (“she was paying for the Russian dossier”), Pope Francis (“a socialist, communist devil”) and government that gets too big for its britches. “Jesus never centralized power. Jesus never created government,” he said. “The worst killer in all of humanity the last one hundred years is centralized government.”

He showed a video clip of younger Church members undergoing quasi paramilitary training as Sanctuary’s standby Peace Police/Peace Militia. They shoot rifles on the run in the woods. They wear camo for the Lord. They learn Filipino knife fighting. “It’s not about being a badass. It’s about practicing to be deadly because you love people,” Pastor Sean told his flock. “The way of the rod of iron is the way of love.”

In a few days, reporters, photographers and TV camera crews would swarm upon sleepy Newfoundland for the wedding-blessing ceremony — professional gawkers lured by the incongruous coupling of semiautomatic rifles and a house of worship. But the media circus also would quickly move on, without fully answering questions left dangling. Who, exactly, are these Sanctuarians? And, with their injection of guns into the country’s already divisive mix of politics and religion, what do they want?

When the Rev. Sun Myung Moon died of complications from pneumonia in 2012 at age 92, it set off a power struggle within his family. Sean, with backing from older brother Kook Jin “Justin” Moon, contends he was selected from among his 10 adult siblings to inherit the Unification Church mantle and be crowned the next-generation “Second King” — not a full-fledged messiah like his father purported to be, but nonetheless responsible for finishing the work of building God’s Kingdom. Meanwhile, their mother, Hak Ja Han, claims the Rev. Moon, her husband of 52 years, passed the baton to her.

The church they were fighting over has roots in both Korea and America. The Rev. Moon — born in 1920 in what is now North Korea but was then part of Japan — said Jesus appeared to him when he was 15 and asked him to take on the “special mission” of completing God’s Kingdom on earth, Cheon Il Guk in his native Korean. First, however, he went off to study electrical engineering in Japan and got arrested (and tortured) twice for his activity in the Korean independence movement. He returned home, married and after World War II moved to Pyongyang, where the communist government threw him in a labor camp for preaching Christianity. When that camp was liberated near the end of the Korean War, Moon headed south.

He established a church in Seoul in 1954, dubbing it the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. He codified his beliefs in a text titled “Divine Principle.” One core construct says Satan seduced Eve in the Garden of Eden. This caused “the fall” of humankind by contaminating the bloodlines she and Adam transmitted through Cain and Abel. God sent Jesus to serve as a Second Adam to find sin-free love and salvage the family of man. But Jesus didn’t live long enough to marry. It thus became Sun Myung Moon’s destiny to step in as a Third Adam and redeem the world.

His ministry put a premium on the sanctity of traditional marriage and condemned premarital sex, divorce and homosexuality. That conservative message found an audience in Seoul, though police arrested him twice — for suspicion of having religious sex orgies and ducking the draft. (Both charges ultimately were dropped.) By 1957, he’d built a network of 30 churches and was wired into the South Korean business community and government. The only glitch was that his own marriage proved imperfect, ending in divorce. However, Hak Ja Han soon entered his life. They married in 1960, and followers hailed them as God’s anointed “True Parents.”

A decade later the Rev. Moon came to the United States, a necessary foothold for uniting the planet under his Unification banner. Moon spun a web of foundations and interlocking companies, reportedly becoming South Korea’s first billionaire. His followers were untroubled by his wealth, but Congress investigated his empire, and then the Internal Revenue Service came after him. In the mid-1980s Moon served 13 months in prison for failure to declare $162,000 in taxable income. Ever the entrepreneur, he made arrangements in prison to start the conservative Washington Times, saying he did it “to fulfill God’s desperate desire to save this world.”

Unification Church membership figures have always been elastic, ranging from tens of thousands to several million. In 2009, the Washington Times cited 110,000 “adherents.” Whatever the correct number, it had peaked by the late 1990s. Yet the Rev. Moon pressed on. In 2003, a double-page ad in the Washington Times trumpeted this news: All 36 deceased American presidents acknowledged Sun Myung Moon’s greatness. What’s more, each one had written an endorsement letter from the Great Beyond. “People of America, rise again. Return to the nation’s founding spirit,” said Thomas Jefferson, once characterized as a “howling atheist” by political opponents. “Follow the teachings of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Messiah to all people.”

Jefferson was, of course, one of the architects of America’s system of government — which will become obsolete if the Rev. Moon’s vision of God’s Kingdom on earth comes to pass. Pastor Sean is convinced that will happen, and in preparation, he has taken it upon himself to write a Constitution of the United States of Cheon Il Guk, grounded in principles articulated by his father.

If all proceeds according to divine plan, the country will be ruled by monarchs drawn from his branch of the Moon family. If the Kingdom comes in Sean’s lifetime, he’ll take the reins as king of the United States. Brother Justin — who serves as Sanctuary Church’s de facto assistant pastor — is set to be inspector general, a super special prosecutor charged with rooting out government corruption. Don’t worry. It’s not a theocracy, Sean says: “We would refer to it as a libertarian Christian monarchy or maybe a libertarian republican democracy.”

LEFT: The Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s crown sits atop his robe. RIGHT: Moon’s son Sean Moon.

The Moons primarily raised their 13 children on an estate north of New York City owned by the Unification Church. The main house at East Garden had 12 bedrooms, seven bathrooms and Church minions catering to their every need. But life was far from idyllic. One son died in a car accident, another committed suicide and a third succumbed at a relatively young age to drinking and drugs.

Sean Moon wrote about the downside of their gilded childhoods in a 2005 memoir. “We grew up many times seeing Parents one or two weeks, combined over various visits, out of the year,” he recalled. “I many times felt scared, abandoned, and neglected. … We were surrounded, constantly, by [Church] members. … I sat and seethed in anger many nights, as I drifted off to sleep.”

Rev. Moon fancied himself an outdoorsman. There were guns around the mansion, and, at 14, Justin fired one. It was love at first recoil: By 18 he had a permit to carry. He went on to major in economics at Harvard and earn an MBA at the University of Miami, tinkering with gun designs in his spare time. After graduate school he opened Kahr Arms in office space across the Hudson River from East Garden, using a $5 million loan from his father. His immediate goal, he later told American Handgunner magazine, was to create “an ultracompact 9-millimeter pistol.” And he did.

Kahr introduced its palm-size K9 model in 1995; people and police departments gobbled it up. Justin’s success with the company caught his father’s eye. Kahr soon was absorbed into one of the Unification Church’s corporations. Justin moved to Korea to take on the added role of president of a sister subsidiary. By 1999, Kahr had enough cash to buy the company that produced the storied Thompson submachine gun once toted by gangsters such as Baby Face Nelson. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports Kahr sold 40,274 pistols and 9,086 rifles in 2016.

Justin Moon is a hyper defender of the Second Amendment. Private citizens, he says, should have unfettered access to any handheld weapon the U.S. military uses. “Were every woman in America to exercise their right to bear arms, America would basically eliminate its crime rate,” he told me one morning at Kahr Arms. “Nobody would be able to rape them or rob them.”

While Justin was climbing the Unification Church’s corporate ladder, Sean followed in his footsteps only as far as Harvard. He got a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and a master’s of theology, and spent eight years studying Buddhism in the United States, Korea and India.

He had a compelling reason to go off in search of himself. Sean was in college in October 1999 when his brother Young Jin “Phillip” Moon jumped out the 17th-floor window of a Las Vegas hotel. He was 21, a year older than Sean. They had been inseparable growing up. “For most of our lives we shared the same room, the same video games, and the same Doritos chips,” Sean wrote in his memoir.

In July 2007, the prodigal son returned to the fold of the Unification Church. Sean had telegraphed his intentions the previous fall by doing 12,000 prayer bows over six days; on one of those days he also made a poster-size calligraphy of the Korean character seong (“sincere”), using a paintbrush dipped in his blood, which had been extracted by a physician.

Sean’s initial job was pastor of a Unification Church in Seoul. Within 10 months, he was put in charge of international Church operations. On three ceremonial occasions, he says, his father named him “heir and successor.” However, he also sent conflicting signals to oldest brother Preston and to Hak Ja Han. A few days after her husband’s passing in 2012, Hak Ja Han summoned Sean to the magnificent Peace Palace the Moons had built in the mountains north of Seoul. According to Sean, she put him on notice that “I’m God. I’m Hananim.” To which he replied, “Mummy, please, you can’t say that. Father’s not going to be happy.”

He says she phased him out of Church activities and stopped taking his phone calls. In September 2013, on the first anniversary of his father’s death, Sean went to the palace in hopes of seeing his mother. In his version of events, she had security guards shoo him away.

Justin Moon sided with his younger brother. Coincidentally, around that time, the New York legislature passed several gun-control measures that irked him. He decided to extricate himself and Kahr Arms from the Unification Church and move Kahr headquarters elsewhere. Eastern Pennsylvania beckoned: reasonable cost of living, excellent schools for his seven children, and 900,000 NRA members within a 300-mile radius of the state capital, Harrisburg.

A member of the church holds her assault rifle during a blessing ceremony.

By spring 2013, both brothers’ families were ensconced in Pennsylvania. Sean began holding Sanctuary Church services in his living room (in a town appropriately named Lords Valley). When the congregation outgrew the space, he did his preaching in the banquet room at a Best Western. In May 2014 Sanctuary settled into the former Catholic church in Newfoundland. Members voluntarily have dug into their pockets, contributing $683,000 in 2015 and $491,000 for the first six months of 2016. A foundation Justin runs in brother Phillip’s name supports Sanctuary with grants (almost $380,000 combined in 2015 and 2016), plus it bought the church site. That revenue stream should keep the lights burning for the foreseeable future and Pastor Sean’s camouflage-colored Jeep Wrangler on the road.

In January 2015, Sean publicly renounced his mother for hijacking the Unification Church and rewriting and editing his father’s religious texts. He has since taken to calling her the “whore of Babylon.” Last September, Sanctuary Church shunted Hak Ja Han aside, and a posthumous wedding was thrown for the Rev. Moon. He (well, his spirit) married 90-year-old Hyun Shil Kang, supposedly the first person to join his ministry in the early 1950s. She moved to Pennsylvania to live with Sean and his family.

Hak Ja Han did not comment on specific allegations made by her son, but Ki Hoon Kim, continental chairman of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification USA, responded in an email: “I know with certainty that Dr. Moon has reached out to her son, Hyung Jin, numerous times since February 2013 asking him to come back to Korea to meet with her, but he has refused each request. … We can’t know exactly what took place in private discussions between mother and son, but it’s clear that he holds an escalating resentment towards her. … Even if Dr. Moon had made such a statement [that she is God], it is in line with our theological beliefs that she and her husband are one with God, just as Jesus said, ‘I and the Father are One.’ ”

In Jin Moon, second oldest of the surviving children, took an active role in the Unification Church until about eight years ago. She currently lives in New Jersey and has never before spoken out publicly about Sean and Justin. However, she says, “the language that’s coming out of Sanctuary Church is quite alarming,” so she feels obliged to raise her voice. She loves her brothers “ferociously” but says that the possibility their commingling of God and guns could inadvertently incite violence “is the great concern for the family.” And, yet, she thinks healing and reconciliation is possible. “I still believe in the unity of my family,” she says.

There seemingly is not much interest in reconciliation on the part of her brothers, however. Indeed, kicking Mom out of the family tree was not enough to satisfy Justin Moon. At a question-and-answer session with Church members in 2016, he explained that if a queen tries to usurp a king’s throne, the ultimate price must be paid: “It’s the king’s responsibility to arrest her and execute her.”

Any second thoughts about Hak Ja Han having committed a capital offense? Sitting at his office desk one morning, sporting his ever-present Kahr Arms baseball hat, Justin told me he stands by his earlier remarks: “It’s a comment on the record. I’m not going to walk it back.” All he was willing to do was change the analogy: “I love my mother,” he said, but what if she attempted to overthrow the U.S. government? “She should probably be tried for treason.”

A year and a half ago, Sanctuary Church bought a larger house for Pastor Sean, his wife and their five children. Heaven’s Palace is perched on a hill overlooking Matamoras, the easternmost town in Pennsylvania, hard by the Delaware River. Sean has a brown belt in Brazilian jujitsu and several nights a week teaches a class inside his converted garage. The students are Church members, most in their 20s, and most of them active in the so-called Peace Police/Police Militia.

On a Wednesday in late March, eight women and five men paired up for a practice session, trading positions as Moon guided them through a series of jujitsu holds and mini bouts. Dressed in a salmon-colored kimono top and loosefitting black pants, he sat yoga-style on his knees facing the class. “Work it! There you go! That’s definitely burning it into your muscle memory, your hippocampus.”

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Church members do outdoor circuit training. Some members are part of the church’s Peace Police/Peace Militia. Members during a martial arts class taught by Moon in a converted garage at his home in Matamoras, Pa. Moon holds a brown belt in Brazilian jujitsu.

A burst of action. A pause for sips of water and a few push-ups. Repeat, repeat. More guidance. Using his son as a prop, Sean stopped at one point to demonstrate the kimura hold, a double-wrist lock you can put on an opponent’s shoulder and upper arm. “Once we have the kimura position, we’re going to capture the shoulder with chest pressure,” he said while tying his son in a knot. “Basically, you’re sitting on the head so it doesn’t move.”

“He explains things well,” said Doug Williams, a retired police officer and Sanctuarian who lives next door and studied judo in his younger days. “He’s strict, but he’s inspiring at the same time. The kids know that.”

They obediently ground each other’s faces into the mat for two hours. Everyone then knelt and recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison. Sean lifted his arms and murmured, “All glory to God.” Class dismissed.

Sean Moon never raises his voice teaching jujitsu in the garage. Inside the house, however, he regularly unleashes the higher-octane side of his personality. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 5 to 8 a.m., Pastor Sean records a live webcast, called “The King’s Report,” in a room next to the kitchen. He sits at a desk with an AR-15 rifle prominently displayed next to his microphone, always decked out in a shirt and tie, the camouflage suit jacket he bought on eBay, and a crown made of polished rifle shells. He’ll interview an occasional guest and show clips from the NRA’s digital TV channel. But mostly he discusses the latest stories being featured by his conservative-media holy trinity — the Drudge Report, Breitbart News and Alex Jones’s paranoia-pushing Infowars — and riffs at length about current events, from Oprah Winfrey’s potential presidential bid (“She worships Satan. She promotes the New Age Christian view of God, which is a relevant God, which is, of course, Satan”) to gun-control advocates (“They are complete demons. … They want to make you completely vulnerable to the predations of the wicked”).

While the Rev. Moon seldom indulged in personal attacks, Sean and Justin regularly toss verbal grenades. They’re also more enamored with guns than their father — and more overtly political. “No question about it,” Sean told me one afternoon as we chatted in the orchestra section of the theater-turned-sanctuary: God’s hand was at work in the 2016 presidential campaign. A week before Election Day, Justin spoke to a group of Japanese Sanctuarians who were visiting Pennsylvania and described in biblical terms what was at stake: Hillary Clinton, he said, was the “Fallen Eve” who would start a war (possibly nuclear) with Russia. Donald Trump was the “Adam-type figure” who wanted to attack and “bring judgment on the government, on the archangel.” Depending on the outcome, he added, “the nature of God’s judgment on this world will be dramatically different.”

Both Moons shoot straight on and off the firing range. Sean on Al Gore: “A fricking nutbag.” Sean on 9/11: “False flag.” Sean on Hollywood liberals: “The most despicable, thieving, conniving, manipulating, evil, wicked, iniquitous demons on the planet.” Justin on the United Nations: “Satanic.” Justin on welfare recipients: “Parasites.” Justin on Democrats: “There are a lot of pedophiles in the Democratic Party. They realize that Trump is coming to get them. Literally. Round them up and put them in prison and execute them.”

Their straight talk caught up with them three weeks before the blessing ceremony. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremists, issued a “Hate Watch” on Sanctuary Church — ironically, further raising its profile. SPLC took issue with a “cult leader” urging followers to carry guns and with comments Sean made about public school children “getting indoctrinated into the homosexual political agenda” and “the transgender agenda.” Sean responded by posting an alert of his own on Facebook: “Southern Poverty Law Center is well known as an extreme left hate group.”

Moon records “The King’s Report,” his live webcast, in his home studio.

In December 2013, Justin Moon paid $2 million in cash for a 620-acre industrial site north of Newfoundland. On Aug. 30, 2016, he held the grand opening of Kahr Arms’ Tommy Gun Warehouse showroom-store, the place to go for rifles, pistols, knives and the Brooklyn Smasher steel baseball bat that in an emergency can be used to club an intruder or a deer to death. The grand-opening guest of honor was Eric Trump. “That came about because God made it happen,” Justin told me. Somebody from the Trump campaign had called him out of the blue and said, “Eric wants to come.”

So Eric came, and Sean introduced him by saying: “It’s my opinion that we must elect a president that will protect and expand the right to bear arms. … I hope we can all agree that Hillary Clinton should never be the president of the United States. … God bless the U.S.A., and please buy some guns and ammo!”

Eric, in an open-collar shirt and dark sports jacket, stood in front of a wall of rifles and next to a U.S. flag. “This election for every gun owner is a huge thing. It will be the difference between adding to our Second Amendment freedoms or not adding to our Second Amendment freedoms,” he said, then switched to the topic of America hemorrhaging jobs. “We don’t make anything here anymore. That’s why Justin deserves a tremendous, tremendous round of applause. … Our government does not make it easy on you, either from a shooting perspective or from a manufacturing perspective.”

A year and a half later — on a Saturday night before the renewal-of-vows ceremony — Rod of Iron Ministries and Kahr Arms hosted a “President Trump Thank You” dinner at the Best Western in Matamoras. This time the only Trump in attendance was a life-size cardboard cutout of the president.

The event doubled as a fundraiser for Gun Owners of America, an organization Executive Director Emeritus Larry Pratt said takes “a more robust position” on guns than the NRA. Pratt lives in Northern Virginia and served one term in the House of Delegates in the early 1980s. His dinner speech not only denounced any restrictions on gun sales and possession, it went a giant step further by asserting “the feds should have nothing to do with law enforcement anywhere.”

Sean Moon echoed that ultra-libertarian theme. “Government is becoming a totalitarian crime syndicate,” he warned, on its way to creating “a dystopian, Christ-hating hell on earth.” Justin alluded to his father, saying, “without our property and our guns, we’re nothing but laborers in a communist death camp.”

The dinner opened with a moment of silence for the Parkland shooting victims, followed by a prayer led by Sanctuarian Ted O’Grady, who gave thanks for Trump: “This room knows that this is only the beginning … that you will be the president that ushers in God’s Kingdom on earth.”

It ended with Hyun Shil Kang, Mrs. Moon No. 3, selecting the winning raffle ticket for the door prize: an AR-15 rifle donated by Kahr Arms. The winner was a middle-aged woman whose reaction was surprisingly muted; it turned out she already owns an AR-15.

A few days later, on Wednesday morning, about 20 demonstrators gathered outside Sanctuary Church armed with only signs. “Father Forgive Them.” “Pickles for Peace, No More Absurd than Guns for God.” As a precaution, all students at the elementary school a half-mile away had been bussed to other classrooms for the day. But no wolves in sheep’s clothing tried to make trouble.

Moon, left, and wife Yeon Ah Lee Moon, right, lead prayers at church. Moon holds a crown to be placed next to Hyun Shil Kang, seated, to whom his father was posthumously married.

John Hind, a lifelong Newfoundlander, soaked in the scene from his front porch across the street. “They’re good neighbors,” he said of the Sanctuarians. “They haven’t bothered nobody.”

“But they’re weird,” snorted his friend Carol Wood, puffing a cigarillo. “And blessing their guns? It’s confusing and it’s irritating.”

Inside the church, Timothy Elder, acting as master of ceremonies, informed the overflow congregation and some 50 reporters and cameramen lining the walls (plus about a hundred people watching a video feed in the adjacent community room) that “this is not a blessing of inanimate firearms.” It was strictly a recommitment of sacred wedding vows — for people bearing firearms.

Just before 10:30, Elder asked everyone to remove their AR-15s from their cases, “being careful to point the muzzle up and remove your finger from the trigger.” Camera shutters clicked crazily. Attendants in pink-and-white vestments led a procession into the sanctuary, followed by a three-man, armed color guard dressed in combat fatigues. Next came Pastor Sean, the “Second King,” and his wife, Yeon Ah Lee Moon, the “Queen,” both clad in white. Justin Moon was on their heels, his dark suit topped off by his baseball hat. Mother Kang took a seat in a white-and-gold chair on the altar. A crown was placed on the chair next to her, representing the absent Rev. Moon.

Pastor Sean carried a bound copy of the Constitution of the United States of Cheon Il Guk, which he carefully laid on a table on the altar. His wife cradled a gold-plated AR-15. “The King and Queen will now place the Rod of Iron on its ceremonial stand where it will guard the Constitution,” Elder explained.

The brides and grooms in attendance, some 500 total, jointly sipped from tiny cups of wine. They took their vows (“Do you promise an eternal bond as husband and wife?”). The King said an extended prayer, acknowledging their “right to sovereignty, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to inherit the earth and protect it from socialism, communism and political Satanism.” Husbands and wives then exchanged rings. The sanctuary filled with applause, then cheers.

A group of protesters outside Sanctuary Church.

Outside a polite battle of words raged. On the front lawn, a contingent of Korean Sanctuarians unfurled a 20-foot-long banner referencing their divided country: “Thank you USA. We will never forget America’s grace. Trump chosen by God, relocate the tactical nucleus to the 38th line.” A chest-high rail fence runs along the property line, hugging the road. The Sanctuarians occupied one side, the protesters commanded the other.

Two adversaries faced off in gentlemanly mouth-to-mouth combat. Gideon Raucci is a second-generation Unificationist in his late 20s who switched allegiance to Sanctuary Church. He’s active in Sean’s Peace Police. Teddy Hose, 39, is a writer-graphic artist who flew in from San Francisco. He was part of a film crew shooting a documentary on cults. He’s also a second-generation Unificationist who grew up near East Garden in close contact with the Moon family. Hose left the Church years ago.

“It can take just one bullet to change everything,” he told Raucci.

“I totally hear you about being responsible with guns,” Raucci replied.

“What I feel is not coming across to the rest of the community around you, this is scaring people …”

“This might open up something beautiful where people understand where we’re coming from,” Raucci said. “Your focus is on loving your neighbor, I’m totally down with that. … We’re taught to never be the initiators of violence.”

“David Koresh and Charles Manson both used the Book of Revelations,” Hose reminded him, “because it’s a very extreme part of the Bible.”

It went back and forth like that for about 10 minutes. Then they reached over the fence, and hugged.

LEFT: Kook Jin “Justin” Moon, Sean’s older brother and owner of Kahr Arms’ Tommy Gun Warehouse. Justin Moon is Sanctuary Church’s de facto assistant pastor. RIGHT: Taxidermied animals shot by Justin Moon on safari in Tanzania are on display at the warehouse.

The day after the blessing ceremony Regis Hanna, a Georgetown University graduate in his late 60s who recently moved to Pennsylvania to join the Sanctuary Church congregation, walked into Kahr Arms’ Tommy Gun Warehouse showroom with his wife, Nancy. Right inside the door stands a taxidermy triptych: a lion and a leopard attacking an antelope, all three animals shot by Justin Moon on safari in Tanzania. “Infowars” was playing on the big-screen TV. Posters of beautiful women in spiked heels, flashing slit skirts and Kahr pistols, adorn two walls. Hanna was thinking of buying a handgun. He moved here from Panama, where gun laws are strict and where he spent 21 years doing missionary work for the Unification Church. He and Nancy did a lot of family counseling with unwed couples. Theirs was one of the early American marriages arranged by the Rev. Moon. They’ve been together 43 years and have seven children.

After the Unification Church rupture, the Hannas chose to cast their lot with Pastor Sean. Regis, a round-faced man of mellow temperament, is now part of Sanctuary’s paid staff, and today it was his job to field any post-ceremony calls. The Church’s main number had been forwarded to his cellphone, which rang shortly after he entered the showroom. It was a New Jersey area code. He put the call on speaker phone.

“Are you f—ing insane! You don’t know the meaning of religion! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”

A minute later, another call came in. Oklahoma area code: “I was wondering if you’re accepting more people into your group.” Hanna told the man he could catch Sanctuary services on YouTube.

Another call. British Columbia. “I love what you guys are doing. I love Sean.”

“Thank you, brother,” said Hanna.

Hak Ja Han’s ascension to the head of the Unification Church had ripple effects, and many hundreds of people faced the same decision the Hannas did. Friendships got torn apart, marriages blew up and families were divided as Church members declared different loyalties. Most Unificationists stayed with the parent church; some went with Pastor Sean; a few followed oldest brother Preston Moon, who established a secular Global Peace Foundation in Seattle. Others quit the movement altogether.

Kyle Toffey, 65, was a longtime Unificationist who lived in Korea for 10 years. He admitted to me that “at first it did sound a little bit off the wall” when Pastor Sean added an AR-15 twist to the blessing ceremony, but he and his wife participated. He has learned to “reserve my skepticism” and trust Sean’s judgment. Plus, he has grown to appreciate the responsibility and self-confidence that comes with being armed: “In the morning when you strap on a pistol, you feel like the sheriff of the town.”

Dan Fefferman used to worship with Regis Hanna at a Unification Church in Washington. He and his wife were married in the same group ceremony as the Hannas. They live in Bowie, Md., now and stayed with the Unification Church, but Fefferman visited Sean Moon’s congregation several times.

“A lot of us went to check it out,” Fefferman said in a phone interview, “hoping we could talk sense into him.” In his opinion, the Moon brothers “attract the more unbalanced members” that can be found in any religious sect. He considered Rod of Iron a “far-right group with a paramilitary aspect to it.” Not a hate group per se, “but I certainly hope and expect the FBI is watching them closely.”

For second-generation Church members, these choices are more emotionally complex. The Unification Church is the only anchor they’ve known. Andrew Stewart’s parents raised him in the Church. He spent several college summers as an intern on a nondenominational farm near Newfoundland, where he got exposed to Sanctuary Church. He helped with some minor building renovations and attended Sunday services. The vibe grew progressively darker, he said. Although personally fond of many people he met, it struck him as odd that, theologically, “the Church thrives off the ability to make people angry.” He gradually drifted away from Sanctuary and this spring left the Unification Church, too.

Somiya Chapman Gabb — whose father was part of the Unification Church support staff at East Garden — was so offended by Hak Ja Han’s revising of Rev. Moon’s religious texts that she jumped to Sanctuary in early 2015. She and her husband were then living in Yonkers, N.Y., a three-hour round-trip drive. But she and her family felt increasingly out of tune with Sanctuary’s often “scathing” sermons. Also, a member of the congregation told her that another Sanctuarian had pulled a loaded gun on him. By the end of 2017, the Gabbs stopped making that long Sunday drive to Pennsylvania. They read the Bible and pray at home now. Gabb thinks “there’s still hope” that Sanctuary Church can right itself but said Sean Moon “is one word away from a violent situation and he may not even know it.”

Sharon Barnett of Florida holds an AR-15 and bows her head in prayer during a blessing ceremony at Sanctuary Church.

Individually, Sanctuary Church members come across as honest, reasonable, upright folk, the stuff of good neighbors. Collectively, the dynamic changes. So much of the Church discourse can’t abide contrasting opinions and worldviews. You don’t hear much talk about, or empathy for, the poor, the infirm, the weak. Most enervating, though, is the steady drumbeat of dystopia. To be a devout Sanctuarian requires almost superhuman faith in the cleansing waters of catastrophe. It’s like standing on the deck of the Titanic and rooting for the icebergs.

Justin Moon told me we’ve entered “that End of Times time frame” prophesied in the Book of Revelation, when God and “his champions” will “take the political power in the earth” away from Satan. Viewed through that lens, the 2016 election was “very different.” Actually, hugely different. “I believe God is using Donald Trump,” he said, a sentiment his brother shares. “He is an imperfect person, a sinner, but God has chosen to use him. Just like King David was an imperfect person.”

The apocalyptic events predicted in the Bible began unspooling, Justin explained, during his father’s lifetime: World War II, the Cold War, famines, disease epidemics and “the continuing confusion we see today.” Biblical timelines are unpredictable, but he is confident the End of Times and the corresponding advent of Cheon Il Guk will come in his son’s lifetime, if not his own. His father, the Rev. Moon, said so.

Sean Moon’s Constitution of the United States of Cheon Il Guk is a powerful document. It throws the country in reverse and then steps on the gas. Consider just these few provisions: The House of Representatives will elect the president. The king will pick Supreme Court justices. Congress cannot levy income taxes or property taxes; nor can it fund health care, education, Social Security or Medicare. The constitution specifically states there will be no Central Bank, Environmental Protection Agency or national police force.

Oh, and there will be no standing military of any kind. Justin Moon says the United States will follow the “Swiss model” of national defense. For example, he says, the Swiss Air Force has a small number of paid managers who schedule airplane maintenance and design training regimens, but citizen volunteers take care of all the planes and fly them, too. He says the Swiss defense system has kept Switzerland safe and secure for a long time. This is true, though being a neutral country may have a little something to do with that.

President Trump was doing a fine job implementing God’s plan, the way Pastor Sean saw it — that is, until he signed the omnibus spending bill that added another trillion dollars to the national debt. Then came the April airstrikes on Syria. A few days later Sean Moon addressed these developments in a “King’s Report” webcast: “This is very, very disturbing for the actual Trump supporters who got him elected. We don’t want war. We’re sick of foreign entanglements. … He’s completely doing a 180. He’s becoming frickin’ Hillary Clinton. … If he continues down this road, America is dead, folks. … He’s a man with many flaws, many sins, and now he’s capitulating to the most evil wickedness on the planet.”

That wickedness kept getting worse. The day he recorded this particular “King’s Report,” news broke that the judge overseeing the court case of the president’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had officiated at the 2013 wedding of George Soros (“the Antichrist; he has his Rothschild fingers in everything,” Pastor Sean moaned) and Nancy Pelosi was a guest. The fix is in, he said. One way or another, the “deep state” is going to take Trump down.

Then again, for Pastor Sean, the good news is that all this bad news is actually great news. He perceived a hidden hand at work, puzzling it out live on “The King’s Report.” The quicker the country goes down the toilet, the quicker Americans will come to their senses and embrace the Rod of Iron and Cheon Il Guk. It now appears to him that God is using Trump to run America into the ground, not make it great again. “We didn’t know exactly how it would unfold,” Pastor Sean told his fellow Sanctuarians, YouTube watchers and the world, “but we knew that in the end times, it gets worse before it gets better.”

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The 1,500-Year-Old Love Story Between a Persian Prince and a Korean Princess that Could Rewrite History

More than a thousand years before the first European explorer reached Korea’s shores, the Persian Empire was writing love stories about Korean princesses.

It’s a little-known story that could change the way we see our history. Recently, historians took a second look an old Persian epic written around 500 AD and realized that, at the center of the tale, was the unusual story of a Persian prince marrying a Korean princess.

It’s an incredible discovery. Up until recently, we weren’t sure that the Persians of that time even knew Korea existed. This new revelation shows Persia didn’t just make contact with Korea – these countries were intimately connected. And it might just call for a total rewrite of history.

The Kushnameh: A 1,500-Year-Old Persian Epic About Korea

The story is called the Kushnameh, and, in itself, it’s hardly a new discovery. It’s one of the most popular stories to come out of the Persian Empire, one that’s been told and retold countless times in the 1,500 years since it was written.

The Kushmaneh is a massive, epic poem about an evil creature with elephant tusks named Kus who terrorizes a Persian family throughout the generations. The whole story spans across hundreds of years and thousands of lines of poetry – but the really interesting part is somewhere around the middle. There, the author sat down and dedicated an incredible 1,000 lines of poetic verse to describing life in Korea during the Silla dynasty.

King and Queen of Silla. South Korea, Seoul National Folk Museum - Traditional Korean Costumes of Silla Kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

King and Queen of Silla. South Korea, Seoul National Folk Museum – Traditional Korean Costumes of Silla Kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD) ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

A Love Letter to Korea

Korea comes into play when the story starts to focus on a young, noble prince of Persia named Abtin. For his whole life, Abtin has been forced to live in the woods, hiding from the evil Kus the Tusked. He has only one thing to keep him safe: a magic book that tells him his future.

It’s almost like breaking the fourth wall – Abtin has a copy of the book we’re reading, and he’s not above flipping ahead a few pages to see how it all ends. In fact, that’s just what he does. He reads the next chapter and finds out that he’s supposed to go to the Silla kingdom of Korea, and – after briefly getting confused and going to China – he winds up being welcomed with open arms by the king of Silla.

From here, the story is just page after page of lavish descriptions of how beautiful Korea is. Admittedly, some of it seems a little over-the-top. It says, for example, that Korea is so overflowing with gold that even the dogs are kept on golden leashes. But on the whole, the description is so accurate that modern historians are sure the author must have visited it himself .

Abtin is mesmerized by the beauty of the country, and, soon after, by the beauty of its princess Frarang. He falls madly in love with Korean princess, begs the king for her hand in marriage, and she soon becomes his wife and the mother of his firstborn son.

Marriage of Abtin and Frarang. (Image: Daum)

Marriage of Abtin and Frarang. (Image: Daum)

The Story of a Korean Hero

It’s unlikely that any of this really happened, of course. For one thing, there’s limited evidence that Persia spent 1,500 years being terrorized by an immortal monster with elephant tusks, and even less that any early Persian princes had magic books that could tell them the future.

But the symbolism of having a Persian prince take refuge in Korea and fall in love with a Korean princess is undeniable. This is hard proof that Persians didn’t just know about Korea 1,500 years ago; they had a deep, profound admiration for their nation.

What happens next, though, is what makes it a really big deal. Frarang’s son isn’t just a minor character. His birth is a turning point in the whole story.

The fully Persian prince spends his whole life in hiding and, when he finally returns to his homeland, ends up getting killed by Kus’s men. But it’s his half-Korean son who turns things around.

Frarang and Abtin’s son ends up raising up an army and leading the revolt against Kus. For centuries, in this story, Persia gets tormented by an evil, tusked monster. It’s only under the command of a half-Korean boy and his mother that Persia finally wins its freedom.

This 14th-century Persian painting portrays a scene from the Kushnameh in what scholars believe could be the betrothal of prince Abtin (kneeling) and Silla princess Frarang (sitting). (Hanyang University Museum)

This 14th-century Persian painting portrays a scene from the Kushnameh in what scholars believe could be the betrothal of prince Abtin (kneeling) and Silla princess Frarang (sitting). (Hanyang University Museum)

A Secret Hidden in Plain Sight

For 1,500 years, people have been reading this story without any idea what they were looking at. For a long time, we assumed that the story was just about China.

In the story, the Korean Silla kingdom is referred to as “Chin”, a name that could refer to either China or Korea. It’s even a plot point in the story, in fact. At first, Abtin, like most historians, misreads the “Chin” in his magic future-telling book and thinks he’s supposed to go to China. And, just like modern historians, it takes him years before he realizes that it’s actually talking about China.

Recently, though, historians have taken a look at those descriptions again and realized just how perfectly they really do match up with Korea . The descriptions in this book don’t sound anything like China, but they’re a perfect, vivid description of 6 th-century Korea – a place where, believe it or not, they really did keep their dogs on leashes of pure gold.

A Total Rewrite of History

This really might completely change the way we see history. For a long time, Korea has seemed an isolated, distant place from the Western world; but this story suggests that the east and west may not have been so disconnected after all.

It took until 1653 before the first European explorer reached Korea. That’s more than 1,100 years after Kushnama was written.

We’ve always known that Persia had some kind of contact with Korea. They were both a part of the Silk Road, and we’ve known for some time that Persian goods somehow ended up in Korea. Generally, though, it was assumed that they were just part of a bigger trade network.

In this story, though, Korea isn’t a trade partner. They’re a trusted ally, and they’re so important to the Persians that they literally can’t overcome evil until they trust the leadership of a half-Korean, half-Persian prince. It’s an incredibly symbolic marriage of cultures.

It puts other relics under a new light, as well. In an ancient tomb in Gyeong-Ju, for example, there is an old monument to a Korean war hero who looks an awful lot more like a Persian soldier than a Korean one. Now, some people are starting to wonder if this might really be the monument to a forgotten Persian hero who fought for Korea.

There’s no telling how far this could go. It could change everything about how we see the history of these countries. After all, this is far more than a love story between two people. It’s a love story between two nations.

Top image: This 14th-century Persian painting portrays a scene from the Kushnameh in what scholars believe could be the betrothal of prince Abtin (kneeling) and Silla princess Frarang (sitting). (Hanyang University Museum)

By Mark Oliver


Akbarzadeh, Daryoosh. “Alexander’s Tale or a Collection of Symbols According to the Kush-Nameh”. Research Institute of Ichto . October, 2015. Available at:

Hee Soo Lee. “1,500 Years of Contact Between Korea and the Middle East”. Middle East Institute. 7 June, 2014. Available at:

Iglauer, Philip. “Scholars Reveal Ancient Korean-Iranian Diplomatic Ties”. The Korea Herald. 3 February, 2013. Available at:

Kim Young Deok. “Silla, Oasis of the East.” 25 September, 2017, Available at:

Encyclopedia Iranica . “Kus-Nama”. 15 December, 2008. Available at:

“Recent Acquisitions of the British Museum.” The Athenæum , 31 May 1884, Available at:

Zegeling, Mark. “Dutch Marco Polo ‘Discovered’ Korea.” Kingdom by the Sea . 2018, Available at:

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UN Security Council Resolution 2397 on North Korea

December 22, 2017

In response to the November 29, 2017 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch by North Korea, United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2397 imposes strong new sanctions on North Korea’s energy, export, and import sectors with new maritime authorities to help shut down North Korea’s illicit smuggling activities. UNSCR 2397 builds on UNSCR 2375 (2017), which included the strongest sanctions ever imposed on North Korea, and prior resolutions. This resolution imposes the following measures:

1. Refined Petroleum Products (OP5): Reduces UNSCR 2375 annual cap on refined petroleum exports by 75% to allow a maximum of 500,000 barrels/year to North Korea.

  • In 2016, North Korea imported 4.5 million barrels/year of refined petroleum.
  • After the September nuclear test, the Security Council capped refined petroleum exports to North Korea at 2 million barrels.
  • By reducing this cap to 500,000 barrels, North Korea’s import of gasoline, diesel, and other refined products will be cut by a total of 89% from summer 2017.

2. Crude Oil (OP4): Strengthens UNSCR 2375 freeze on crude oil by establishing a 4 million barrels/year or 525,000 tons/year annual limit. Increases transparency of crude oil provided to North Korea by requiring supplying member states to provide quarterly reports to the 1718 Sanctions Committee on amounts of crude oil provided to North Korea.

3. Commitment to Future Oil Reductions (OP27): Commits the Security Council to reduce further petroleum exports to North Korea following another nuclear test or an ICBM launch, sending a strong new political signal to North Korea about future Security Council responses.

4. Countering Maritime Smuggling (OPs 9-15): Provides additional tools to crack down on smuggling and sanctions evasion, including a new requirement for countries to seize and impound ships caught smuggling illicit items including oil and coal.

5. North Korean Overseas Workers (OP8): Requires countries to expel all North Korean laborers earning income abroad immediately but no later than 24 months later (end of 2019).

  • The North Korean regime is believed to be earning over $500 million each year from heavily taxing the nearly 100,000 overseas North Korean workers, with as many as 80,000 working in China (about 50,000) and Russia (about 30,000) alone.
  • Exempts the repatriation of North Korean defectors, refugees, asylum seekers, and trafficking victims who will face persecution and torture when repatriated by the North Korean regime.

6. Ban DPRK Exports (OP6): Bans all remaining categories of major DPRK exports.

  • Previous Security Council resolutions banned North Korea’s export sectors covering around 90% of its export revenue (e.g., coal, textiles, seafood, iron).
  • Banning the remaining major export sectors – including food, agricultural products, minerals machinery, electrical equipment – will cut off $200 million or more of annual export revenues.
  • Revenues from these exports in 2016 constituted nearly 10% of total exports or $264 million.

7. Ban DPRK Imports (OP7): Bans North Korea from importing heavy machinery, industrial equipment, and transportation vehicles, which constituted about 30% of North Korea’s 2016 imports worth nearly $1.2 billion. Exempts the provision of spare parts for civilian passenger aircraft for air safety reasons.

8. Protects Humanitarian and Diplomatic Activities in North Korea: Imposes new measures aimed at the North Korean regime and the elite by targeting industrial and other major economic activities while preventing North Korea from exporting food and agricultural products. Provides a number of exemptions aimed at protecting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people and not impeding the work of diplomatic and consular missions operating in North Korea.

9. Sanctions Designations (Annexes): Adds 16 new individuals and 1 entity connected to the financing and development of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs to the UN’s sanctions list.


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I Grew Up Around Korean Beauty Products. Americans, You’ve Been Had.

By Euny Hong

I admit it: I use Korean snail slime face serum. It’s purported to contain anti-aging properties. I have no opinion as to whether snails are particularly young-looking, but my experience is that their excretions do work on humans. That aside, as someone who grew up among Korean beauty products, I find the world’s sudden fascination with Korean skin care, and its now-famous 12-step regimen, to be comical.

Dozens of articles in the Western press claim that Korean beauty innovation is 10 years ahead of the rest of the world. So … in beauty terms, South Korea is in the year 2027?

It gets better: “K-beauty,” as it is often called, is not just futuristic; it’s ancient as well. According to at least three English-language beauty websites, Korean skin care rituals date back to some purported document from 700 B.C. If Koreans have had a 12-step skin care program for 2,700 years, I’m not sure why they decided to sit on it until the 1990s. But no matter.

In the last six years, Korean cosmetics in the United States have gone from nonexistent to almost mainstream. According to data from Kotra, Korea’s trade promotion agency, K-beauty exports to the United States more than doubled from 2014 to 2016. The global cosmetics chain Sephora started carrying K-beauty products in 2011. Other retail chains followed suit, including Urban Outfitters, Ulta and the drugstore chain CVS, all of them touting products with ingredients like chrysanthemum and ginseng. How did Americans come to view South Korea as this beautiful-skinned Eden, when, until a few decades ago, it was impoverished and chokingly polluted.

I lived in Seoul from ages 12 to 18. South Korea was still a developing country when I arrived in 1985, when its inflation-adjusted per capita G.D.P. was about one-fourth of what it is today. Its growing pains showed in the country’s dodgy goods.

These days, K-beauty products come in sculptured packaging and smell like an upscale spa. But when I was growing up, Korean skin creams were all the same shade of toilet-paper pink, and they smelled like Glade PlugIns. Any Korean with means used French and American cosmetics (and the Japanese brand Shiseido). No one had ever heard of such a thing as a 12-step regime.

That all changed in the early 1990s. South Korea became wealthy; the quality of everything from cars to CD players improved. Then, in 1998, spurred by the Asian financial crisis, the Korean government altered its economic strategy, branching out from heavy industry and electronics-focused conglomerates into pop culture businesses. Korea was rebranded a “cool” country.

Most of this new “coolness” took the form of mass-produced and exported cinema, television and pop music. But all Korean industries benefited. The popular Korean beauty chains Innisfree and the Face Shop both opened in the early 2000s — around the same time that we first started hearing about the Korean triple cleanse.

Until very recently, K-beauty’s presence in the West was largely a matter of prestige, not money. It was the Asian market that really mattered, especially China. It still does: In 2016, China bought about 38 percent of K-beauty exports and Hong Kong 30 percent, according to Kotra.

But geopolitics may be forcing the K-beauty industry to pivot westward. South Korea has been rethinking the precariousness of an export strategy that is too dependent on China, a country that is not only allied with North Korea, but is also becoming a direct competitor in manufacturing and of late, pop culture and television dramas.

Korean industry got a glimpse of the perils of mixing politics and trade in July 2016, when South Korea announced that it would deploy the American-made Thaad missile defense system. China perceived the move as hostileand threatened sanctions; in March, Chinese tourism in South Korea was down 40 percent from the same month in 2016, resulting in an estimated loss of $6.5 billion in revenue.

South Korea put the Thaad project on hold this June, and the two nations appear to be on better terms now. Still, the backlash gave Korean business a fright and an impetus to seek out new markets. It’s no coincidence that South Korea’s top boy band, BTS, chose this year to make a splashy American debut, while the Korean bakery chain Paris Baguette announced recently that it was planning to open at least 300 more stores in the United States by 2020.

And K-beauty, too, has moved aggressively. Innisfree, which offers products from the volcanic Korean island of Jeju, opened a Manhattan branch in September. AmorePacific, one of South Korea’s oldest beauty companies, plans to open 100 American branches of its retail chain Aritaum, a sort of Korean Sephora, within the next three years.

It’s clear what the K-beauty industry wants from the West: a market that isn’t fraught with messy geopolitics. But what explains why K-beauty has been embraced in the West with such gusto? Has the old Orientalist belief in ancient Asian beauty secrets struck again? There are certainly echoes of this in the marketing. Sulwhasoo, part of the AmorePacific family, advertises its products as containing “Korean herbal medicine drawn from Asian wisdom.”

Or is it because Korean women themselves, with their glowing complexions, are serving as walking advertisements for the power of K-beauty? If so, America, you’ve been had: ginseng and Jeju volcano water are not the whole story behind that flawless skin.

For the past several years, beauty-obsessed South Korea has been among the world’s capitals of cosmetic surgery. Some 20 percent of Korean women have had some form of work done.

Then, there’s Botox. Several Korean news outlets this year reported a studyfinding that 42 percent of Korean women ages 21 to 55 have had either Botox or filler injections.

Many wrinkle creams worldwide contain retinol, a vitamin A derivative that is harmless in small doses but not large ones. Some Korean cosmetics contain concentrations of retinol as high as 3.8 percent — about twice that of their highest-concentrated American counterparts.

Ancient beauty secrets, or Accutane? Korean doctors prescribe isotretinoin-based acne medicine “indiscriminately,” to quote the Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo, despite the risk of serious side effects.

If there are such things as “Korean beauty secrets” they seem to amount to this: Put a lot of time, money and energy into your skin, and you’ll probably see results (just don’t export too much to China).

But what do I know? I’m the one putting snail slime on my face.


Euny Hong is the author of “The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture.”

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Security Council Imposes Fresh Sanctions on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Including Bans on Natural Gas Sales, Work Authorization for Its Nationals

Resolution 2375 (2017)

Adopted by the Security Council at its 8042nd meeting, on 11 September 2017

The Security Council,

Recalling its previous relevant resolutions, including resolution 825 (1993), resolution 1695 (2006), resolution 1718 (2006), resolution 1874 (2009), resolution 1887 (2009), resolution 2087 (2013), resolution 2094 (2013), resolution 2270 (2016), resolution 2321 (2016), resolution 2356 (2017), resolution 2371 (2017) as well as the statements of its President of 6 October 2006 (S/PRST/2006/41), 13 April 2009 (S/PRST/2009/7), 16 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/13), and 29 August 2017 (S/PRST/2017/16),

Reaffirming that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

Expressing its gravest concern at the nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“the DPRK”) on September 2, 2017 in violation of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), and 2371 (2017) and at the challenge such a test constitutes to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (“the NPT”) and to international efforts aimed at strengthening the global regime of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the danger it poses to peace and stability in the region and beyond,

Underlining once again the importance that the DPRK respond to other security and humanitarian concerns of the international community and expressing great concern that the DPRK continues to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by diverting critically needed resources away from the people in the DPRK who have great unmet needs,

Expressing its gravest concern that the DPRK’s ongoing nuclear- and ballistic missile-related activities have destabilized the region and beyond, and determining that there continues to exist a clear threat to international peace and security,

Underscoring its concern that developments on the Korean Peninsula could have dangerous, large-scale regional security implications,

Underscoring its commitment to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of all States in accordance with the Charter, and recalling the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Expressing also its desire for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the situation, and reiterating its welcoming of efforts by Council members as well as other Member States to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue,

Underlining the need to ensure international peace and security, and ensure lasting stability in north-east Asia at large and to resolve the situation through peaceful, diplomatic and political means,

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, and taking measures under its Article 41,

  1. Condemns in the strongest terms the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK on September 2 of 2017 in violation and flagrant disregard of the Security Council’s resolutions;
  2. Reaffirms its decisions that the DPRK shall not conduct any further launches that use ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests, or any other provocation; shall immediately suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on all missile launches; shall immediately abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, and immediately cease all related activities; and shall abandon any other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner;


  1. Decides that the measures specified in paragraph 8 (d) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall apply also to the individual and entities listed in Annex I and II of this resolution and to any individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, and to entities owned or controlled by them, including through illicit means, and decides further that the measures specified in paragraph 8 (e) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall also apply to the individual listed in Annex I of this resolution and to individuals acting on their behalf or at their direction;
  2. Decides to adjust the measures imposed by paragraph 8 of resolution 1718 (2006) through the designation of additional WMD-related dual-use items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology, directs the Committee to undertake its tasks to this effect and to report to the Security Council within fifteen days of adoption of this resolution, and further decides that, if the Committee has not acted, then the Security Council will complete action to adjust the measures within seven days of receiving that report, and directs the Committee to regularly update this list every twelve months;
  3. Decides to adjust the measures imposed by paragraph 8 (a), 8 (b) and 8 (c) of resolution 1718 (2006) through the designation of additional conventional arms-related items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology, directs the Committee to undertake its tasks to this effect and to report to the Security Council within fifteen days of adoption of this resolution, and further decides that, if the Committee has not acted, then the Security Council will complete action to adjust the measures within seven days of receiving that report, and directs the Committee to regularly update this list every twelve months;
  4. Decides to apply the measures imposed by paragraph 6 of resolution 2371 (2016) on vessels transporting prohibited items from the DPRK, directs the Committee to designate these vessels and to report to the Security Council within fifteen days of adoption of this resolution, further decides that, if the Committee has not acted, then the Security Council will complete action to adjust the measures within seven days of receiving that report, and directs the Committee to regularly update this list when it is informed of additional violations;

Maritime Interdiction of Cargo Vessels

  1. Calls upon all Member States to inspect vessels with the consent of the flag State, on the high seas, if they have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo of such vessels contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017) or this resolution, for the purpose of ensuring strict implementation of those provisions;
  2. Calls upon all States to cooperate with inspections pursuant to paragraph 7 above, and, if the flag State does not consent to inspection on the high seas, decides that the flag State shall direct the vessel to proceed to an appropriate and convenient port for the required inspection by the local authorities pursuant to paragraph 18 of resolution 2270 (2016), and decides further that, if a flag State neither consents to inspection on the high seas nor directs the vessel to proceed to an appropriate and convenient port for the required inspection, or if the vessel refuses to comply with flag State direction to permit inspection on the high seas or to proceed to such a port, then the Committee shall consider designating the vessel for the measures imposed in paragraph 8 (d) of resolution 1718 (2006) and paragraph 12 of resolution 2321 (2016) and the flag State shall immediately deregister that vessel provided that such designation has been made by the Committee;
  3. Requires any Member State, when it does not receive the cooperation of a flag State of a vessel pursuant to paragraph 8 above, to submit promptly to the Committee a report containing relevant details regarding the incident, the vessel and the flag State, and requests the Committee to release on a regular basis information regarding these vessels and flag States involved;
  4. Affirms that paragraph 7 contemplates only inspections carried out by warships and other ships or aircraft clearly marked and identifiable as being on government service and authorized to that effect, and underscores that it does not apply with respect to inspection of vessels entitled to sovereign immunity under international law;
  5. Decides that all Member States shall prohibit their nationals, persons subject to their jurisdiction, entities incorporated in their territory or subject to their jurisdiction, and vessels flying their flag, from facilitating or engaging in ship-to-ship transfers to or from DPRK-flagged vessels of any goods or items that are being supplied, sold, or transferred to or from the DPRK;
  6. Affirms that paragraphs 7, 8 and 9 apply only with respect to the situation in the DPRK and shall not affect the rights, obligations, or responsibilities of Member States under international law, including any rights or obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982, with respect to any other situation and underscores in particular that this resolution shall not be considered as establishing customary international law;


  1. Decides that all Member States shall prohibit the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of all condensates and natural gas liquids, and decides that the DPRK shall not procure such materials;
  2. Decides that all Member States shall prohibit the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of all refined petroleum products, decides that the DPRK shall not procure such products, decides that this provision shall not apply with respect to procurement by the DPRK or the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of refined petroleum products in the amount of up to 500,000 barrels during an initial period of three months beginning on 1 October 2017 and ending on 31 December 2017, and refined petroleum products in the amount of up to 2,000,000 barrels per year during a period of twelve months beginning on 1 January 2018 and annually thereafter, provided that (a) the Member State notifies the Committee every thirty days of the amount of such supply, sale, or transfer to the DPRK of refined petroleum products along with information about all the parties to the transaction, (b) the supply, sale, or transfer of refined petroleum products involve no individuals or entities that are associated with the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017) or this resolution, including designated individuals or entities, or individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, or entities owned or controlled by them, directly or indirectly, or individuals or entities assisting in the evasion of sanctions, and (c) the supply, sale, or transfer of refined petroleum products are exclusively for livelihood purposes of DPRK nationals and unrelated to generating revenue for the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017) or this resolution, directs the Committee Secretary to notify all Member States when an aggregate amount of refined petroleum products sold, supplied, or transferred to the DPRK of 75 per cent of the aggregate amount for the period between 1 October 2017 and 31 December 2017 has been reached, and again notify all Member States when 90 percent and 95 percent of such aggregate amount has been reached, directs the Committee Secretary beginning on 1 January 2018 to notify all Member States when an aggregate amount of refined petroleum products sold, supplied, or transferred to the DPRK of 75 per cent of the aggregate yearly amounts have been reached, also directs the Committee Secretary beginning on 1 January 2018 to notify all Member States when an aggregate amount of refined petroleum products sold, supplied, or transferred to the DPRK of 90 per cent of the aggregate yearly amounts have been reached, and further directs the Committee Secretary beginning on 1 January 2018 to notify all Member States when an aggregate amount of refined petroleum products sold, supplied, or transferred to the DPRK of 95 per cent of the aggregate yearly amounts have been reached and to inform them that they must immediately cease selling, supplying, or transferring refined petroleum products to the DPRK for the remainder of the year, directs the Committee to make publicly available on its website the total amount of refined petroleum products sold, supplied, or transferred to the DPRK by month and by source country, directs the Committee to update this information on a real-time basis as it receives notifications from Member States, calls upon all Member States to regularly review this website to comply with the annual limits for refined petroleum products established by this provision, directs the Panel of Experts to closely monitor the implementation efforts of all Member States to provide assistance and ensure full and global compliance, and requests the Secretary-General to make the necessary arrangements to this effect and provide additional resources in this regard;
  3. Decides that all Member States shall not supply, sell, or transfer to the DPRK in any period of twelve months after the date of adoption of this resolution an amount of crude oil that is in excess of the amount that the Member State supplied, sold or transferred in the period of twelve months prior to adoption of this resolution, unless the Committee approves in advance on a case-by-case basis a shipment of crude oil is exclusively for livelihood purposes of DPRK nationals and unrelated to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017) or this resolution;
  4. Decides that the DPRK shall not supply, sell or transfer, directly or indirectly, from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft, textiles (including but not limited to fabrics and partially or fully completed apparel products), and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from the DPRK by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, whether or not originating in the territory of the DPRK, unless the Committee approves on a case-by-case basis in advance, and further decides that for such sales, supplies, and transfers of textiles (including but not limited to fabrics and partially or fully completed apparel products) for which written contracts have been finalized prior to the adoption of this resolution, all States may allow those shipments to be imported into their territories up to 90 days from the date of adoption of this resolution with notification provided to the Committee containing details on those imports by no later than 135 days after the date of adoption of this resolution;
  5. Decides that all Member States shall not provide work authorizations for DPRK nationals in their jurisdictions in connection with admission to their territories unless the Committee determines on a case-by-case basis in advance that employment of DPRK nationals in a member state’s jurisdiction is required for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, denuclearization or any other purpose consistent with the objectives of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017), or this resolution, and decides that this provision shall not apply with respect to work authorizations for which written contracts have been finalized prior to the adoption of this resolution;

Joint Ventures

  1. Decides that States shall prohibit, by their nationals or in their territories, the opening, maintenance, and operation of all joint ventures or cooperative entities, new and existing, with DPRK entities or individuals, whether or not acting for or on behalf of the government of the DPRK, unless such joint ventures or cooperative entities, in particular those that are non-commercial, public utility infrastructure projects not generating profit, have been approved by the Committee in advance on a case-by-case basis, further decides that States shall close any such existing joint venture or cooperative entity within 120 days of the adoption of this resolution if such joint venture or cooperative entity has not been approved by the Committee on a case-by-case basis, and States shall close any such existing joint venture or cooperative entity within 120 days after the Committee has denied a request for approval, and decides that this provision shall not apply with respect to existing China-DPRK hydroelectric power infrastructure projects and the Russia-DPRK Rajin-Khasan port and rail project solely to export Russia-origin coal as permitted by paragraph 8 of resolution 2371 (2017);

Sanctions Implementation

  1. Decides that Member States shall report to the Security Council within ninety days of the adoption of this resolution, and thereafter upon request by the Committee, on concrete measures they have taken in order to implement effectively the provisions of this resolution, requests the Panel of Experts, in cooperation with other UN sanctions monitoring groups, to continue its efforts to assist Member States in preparing and submitting such reports in a timely manner;
  2. Calls upon all Member States to redouble efforts to implement in full the measures in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017), and this resolution and to cooperate with each other in doing so, particularly with respect to inspecting, detecting and seizing items the transfer of which is prohibited by these resolutions;
  3. Decides that the mandate of the Committee, as set out in paragraph 12 of resolution 1718 (2006), shall apply with respect to the measures imposed in this resolution and further decides that the mandate of the Panel of Experts, as specified in paragraph 26 of resolution 1874 (2009) and modified in paragraph 1 of resolution 2345 (2017), shall also apply with respect to the measures imposed in this resolution;
  4. Decides to authorize all Member States to, and that all Member States shall, seize and dispose (such as through destruction, rendering inoperable or unusable, storage, or transferring to a State other than the originating or destination States for disposal) of items the supply, sale, transfer, or export of which is prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017), or this resolution that are identified in inspections, in a manner that is not inconsistent with their obligations under applicable Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1540 (2004), as well as any obligations of parties to the NPT, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Development of 29 April 1997, and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction of 10 April 1972;
  5. Emphasizes the importance of all States, including the DPRK, taking the necessary measures to ensure that no claim shall lie at the instance of the DPRK, or of any person or entity in the DPRK, or of persons or entities designated for measures set forth in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017), or this resolution, or any person claiming through or for the benefit of any such person or entity, in connection with any contract or other transaction where its performance was prevented by reason of the measures imposed by this resolution or previous resolutions;


  1. Reiterates its deep concern at the grave hardship that the people in the DPRK are subjected to, condemns the DPRK for pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles instead of the welfare of its people while people in the DPRK have great unmet needs, and emphasizes the necessity of the DPRK respecting and ensuring the welfare and inherent dignity of people in the DPRK;
  2. Regrets the DPRK’s massive diversion of its scarce resources toward its development of nuclear weapons and a number of expensive ballistic missile programs, notes the findings of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance that well over half of the people in the DPRK suffer from major insecurities in food and medical care, including a very large number of pregnant and lactating women and under-five children who are at risk of malnutrition and nearly a quarter of its total population suffering from chronic malnutrition, and, in this context, expresses deep concern at the grave hardship to which the people in the DPRK are subjected;
  3. Reaffirms that the measures imposed by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017) and this resolution are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of the DPRK or to affect negatively or restrict those activities, including economic activities and cooperation, food aid and humanitarian assistance, that are not prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), 2321 (2016), 2356 (2017), 2371 (2017) and this resolution, and the work of international and non-governmental organizations carrying out assistance and relief activities in the DPRK for the benefit of the civilian population of the DPRK and decides that the Committee may, on a case-by-case basis, exempt any activity from the measures imposed by these resolutions if the committee determines that such an exemption is necessary to facilitate the work of such organizations in the DPRK or for any other purpose consistent with the objectives of these resolutions;
  4. Emphasizes that all Member States should comply with the provisions of paragraphs 8 (a) (iii) and 8 (d) of resolution 1718 (2006) without prejudice to the activities of the diplomatic missions in the DPRK pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations;
  5. Reaffirms its support for the Six Party Talks, calls for their resumption, and reiterates its support for the commitments set forth in the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005 issued by China, the DPRK, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States, including that the goal of the Six-Party Talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, that the United States and the DPRK undertook to respect each other’s sovereignty and exist peacefully together, that the Six Parties undertook to promote economic cooperation, and all other relevant commitments;
  6. Reiterates the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in north-east Asia at large, expresses its commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic, and political solution to the situation, and welcomes efforts by the Council members as well as other States to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue and stresses the importance of working to reduce tensions in the Korean Peninsula and beyond;
  7. Urges further work to reduce tensions so as to advance the prospects for a comprehensive settlement;
  8. Underscores the imperative of achieving the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner;
  9. Affirms that it shall keep the DPRK’s actions under continuous review and is prepared to strengthen, modify, suspend or lift the measures as may be needed in light of the DPRK’s compliance, and, in this regard, expresses its determination to take further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK nuclear test or launch;
  10. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Annex I

Travel Ban/Asset Freeze (Individuals)

    1. Description: Pak Yong Sik is a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Military Commission, which is responsible for the development and implementation of the Workers’ Party of Korea military policies, commands and controls the DPRK’s military, and helps direct the country’s military defense industries.
    2. AKA: n/a
    3. Identifiers: YOB: 1950; Nationality: DPRK

Annex II

Asset Freeze (Entities)

    1. Description: The Central Military Commission is responsible for the development and implementation of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s military policies, commands and controls the DPRK’s military, and directs the country’s military defense industries in coordination with the State Affairs Commission.
    2. AKA: n/a
    3. Location: Pyongyang, DPRK
    1. Description: The Organization and Guidance Department is a very powerful body of the Worker’s Party of Korea. It directs key personnel appointments for the Workers’ Party of Korea, the DPRK’s military, and the DPRK’s government administration. It also purports to control the political affairs of all of the DPRK and is instrumental in implementing the DPRK’s censorship policies.
    2. AKA: n/a
    3. Location: DPRK
    1. Description: The Propaganda and Agitation Department has full control over the media, which it uses as a tool to control the public on behalf of the DPRK leadership. The Propaganda and Agitation Department also engages in or is responsible for censorship by the Government of the DPRK, including newspaper and broadcast censorship.
    2. AKA: n/a
    3. Location: Pyongyang, DPRK
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