On August 5, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 2371 calling for new sanctions against North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s two test-launches of an intercontinental ballistic missile. In line with the U.N. resolution, China has placed a total ban on imports of some of North Korean products, including coal, iron ore, and seafood. On August 17, a lawyers’ committee in North Korea said that the U.N. sanctions should be nullified, calling them an act of infringing on North Korea’s right to live. The new sanctions are expected to deal a serious economic blow to North Korea. Here’s Professor Lim Eul-chul from the Institute for Far East Studies at Kyungnam University to explain the sanctions’ potential impact on the North.

On August 21, the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times claimed that the new U.N. sanctions are rather ineffective in blocking North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, while causing much damage to Chinese companies. Why is China questioning the usefulness of the sanctions?

The Global Times’ skepticism about the new U.N. sanctions is based on the economic growth rate of North Korea last year. According to the Bank of Korea, the North Korean economy grew at its fastest pace in 17 years in 2016, when the nation’s gross domestic product rose 3.9 percent from the previous year.

Meanwhile, Russia’s oil exports to North Korea doubled in the first half of this year from the same period of last year, despite strong international economic pressure on the North. According to Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper on August 21, Russian oil shipments to North Korea in the first six months of the year amounted to 4,305 tons and were worth about 2.4 million US dollars. Again, it raises the question whether the sanctions on North Korea are effective. Russia has been opposed to the international move to increase the level of economic sanctions against Pyongyang. When the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 2371 early this month, Russia strongly objected to oil-related sanctions on the North.

On August 22, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on 10 entities and six individuals, mainly from China and Russia, for their alleged connection with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. This is the fourth time this year alone that the U.S. has decided to slap its own sanctions in regards to the North Korean nuclear issue. The latest sanctions are focused on entities and individuals suspected of assisting Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The Chinese Embassy in Washington has strongly opposed the move. Professor Lim talks about the future prospects for international sanctions on North Korea.

International sanctions on North Korea have only become stronger and stricter, in line with the nation’s nuclear and missile provocations. It’s also up to North Korea whether future sanctions are even tougher or not.

[Interview] Book Introduces and Compares Folk Stories in Two Koreas

The Institute of Humanities for Unification at Konkuk University has published a book titled “Old Stories that the South and the North Read Together.” Let’s hear from Kim Jong-gun, professor at the institute, talking about the purpose of the book.

The Institute of Humanities for Unification approaches the issues of Korea’s unification from the perspectives of humanities. With this purpose in mind, the institute has developed various educational programs and cultural content over the last ten years.

Ten specialists in literature, philosophy and cultural content jointly wrote the new book for more than a year. Each chapter contains North Korean folklores. They are compared to stories published in South Korea so their similarities and differences are analyzed. Under three different themes, the book introduces ten folk stories. In the South Korean version of a folktale titled “The Brother and the Sister Who Became the Sun and the Moon,” a poor mother with two children works at a rich house and receives rice cakes in return. But she is eaten by a tiger on her way back home. The tiger comes to her house to eat the children as well. The brother and sister manage to escape from the tiger when a rope miraculously comes down from heaven. As the children ascend into heaven, they turn into the sun and the moon, respectively. The North Korean version is slightly different, though.

It’s time to recognize differences. People in Gyeongsang and Jeolla Provinces have different cultures and it can be difficult to understand the Jeju Island dialect. It is only natural that the two Koreas have evolved differently as people on the two sides have not been allowed to travel across the border and have been unable to communicate with one another for the last 72 years. The folk stories in South and North Korea have the same roots, but some of them have changed under certain circumstances. While recognizing the differences, we can still interpret the stories in the same context. That’s why we titled the book “Old Stories that the South and the North Read Together.” What we want to say is that the two Koreas share the same culture. Many people talk about restoring “homogeneity,” but we want to approach unification by recognizing differences first and restoring “commonness.”

Young North Korean defectors in their 20s say that they played old-fashioned games that middle-aged South Koreans in their 50s had played when they were little, like hopscotch and hitting stone slabs. We have tentatively named the project “The South and the North Meet through Traditional Games.” The old games remind people of their childhood. They reminisce about happy and unhappy moments associated with the games. They recall how and why they fought with their friends and made up again. I imagine that North Korean newcomers have similar memories from the old games. Basically, we’ll introduce the culture of folk games. But we’ll also compare the memories cherished by South and North Koreans and make sure that the emotions they feel are not any different. That is, we want to talk about communication.