From DC to Dandong: #Shigak no. 47

By | June 30, 2017 | No Comments

Bank of Dandong | Image: Matthew Bates/Sino-NK

On April 2, Sino-NK began a series of regular analyses looking at the South Korean presidential election through the lens of the Korean-language media, reviving a series that ran from February 2014 to October 2015. That revival continues post-election, as Moon embarks on the politically all-important first one hundred days in office. 

“Shigak” (시각), or “perspective” uses Twitter to curate sources on the key determinants of the election outcome. Each issue takes the most important tweets posted by Sino-NK analysts under the #시각 hashtag and augments them with essential annotations and a bite-size dollop of concentrated analysis. #Shigak is edited by Steven Denney and Christopher Green. Yongmin Lee is a regular contributor. Back issues can be found on the dedicated page. Importantly, users of Twitter are encouraged to adopt the hashtag and take part in the project

From DC to Dandong: #Shigak no. 47

by Sino-NK

This installment of #Shigak covers the much anticipated ROK-US summit and a notification issued by the US Department of the Treasury of its intention to sanction the Bank of Dandong (PRC) for its alleged role in laundering money for North Korea via US Banks. We also report the most frequently tweeted words by South Korea’s most read conservative and progressive dailies in what will become a regular feature in #Shigak.

As reported by Yonhap, President Moon Jae-in embarks on a five-day visit to the US that includes his and President Donald Trump’s first ROK-US summit. He met President Trump on June 29 for the first time and had a great handshake. On June 30, the two will have a one-on one meeting. It is not surprising that North Korea, THAAD, and the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement will be among the pending issues up for discussion.

This ROK-US summit will be the 63rd presidential summit between the two nations. Some leaders got along well with one another, and others did not. President Park Chung-hee and President Jimmy Carter did not get along well because of human rights issues. President Kim Dae-jung and President Bill Clinton were good friends, as were President Lee Myung-bak and President Barak Obama. Conversely, President Roh Moo-hyun and President George W. Bush clashed over North Korea. As shown by South Korean media’s reaction to Professor Moon Chung-in’s comments on the role of the ROK-US alliance, some are worried that the submit might not go very well.

There is reason to believe that things won’t go awry. The two leaders have a few things in common. Both rose to the highest office in their respective countries riding waves of popular discontent against the amorphous “political establishment.” In addition, President Trump wants to ease the dependence of US allies, including South Korea, on the US military. President Moon certainly wants to make the South Korean military more proactive by regaining operational control, constructing an indigenous missile defense system and improving deterrence against North Korea.

On June 29, the day after President Moon Jae-in arrived in Washington, DC in advance of his first US-ROK summit with President Donald Trump and as the two leaders were preparing for an evening feast of (among other things) bibimbap, the US Department of the Treasury issued a notification stating its intention under the USA PATRIOT Act to designate the Bank of Dandong a “financial institution of primary money laundering concern.”

According to the notification, the bank, a local commercial one serving the city of Dandong, “serves as a conduit for North Korea to access the U.S. and international financial systems, including by facilitating millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s [Weapons of Mass Destruction] and ballistic missile programs,” and is not merely one but the main bank in China through which North Korean entities use “bank accounts under false names and [conduct] financial transactions.” The US believes that the bank processed “$786m in transactions through correspondent banks in the US between May 2012 and May 2015,” of which at least 17 percent were illegal. If/when implemented, the designation will result in the Bank of Dandong losing access the US-led global financial system. According to Reuters, the bank has not commented. Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co Ltd. and two Chinese individuals were also fingered for helping Pyongyang do business.

The US government claims that the two events — the notification and the arrival of President Moon on US soil — are unrelated, pointing out that the date for the Bank of Dandong revelation was decided some time ago. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also denied that the notification is an attack on China, claiming only, “This is about North Korea and how serious we are taking this.” However, the Hankyoreh expressed skepticism of US motivations. Vis-a-vis China, the tweeted article points by way of precedent to the way Trump infamously revealed news of the US attack on Syria to President Xi Jinping over “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen” in early April. According to an anonymous Hankyoreh source, Beijing is the target: this was the last chance for the US to put the hammer down on China before the July 4th holiday, which is followed immediately by a meeting of the two leaders on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg on July 7-8.

Analysis of tweets since the election of President Moon Jae-in from the right-leaning Chosun Ilbo (@Chosun) and the left-leaning Hankyoreh (@hanitweet) shows the cross-political salience of ROK-US alliance-related issues. This is evidenced by the high frequency use of the Chinese characters for North Korea (“北”) and the US (“美”), in addition to the popularity of Moon Jae-in (“文” or “문재인”), Trump (“트럼프”), and THAAD (“사드”) in tweets from both sources. A few differences did appear, notably the Hankyoreh‘s use of Kang Kyung-hwa (“강경화”), the new Foreign Affairs minister whose appointment conservative lawmakers ardently opposed, and occupation/job (“일자리”).1)The interactive graphs were created in Google Sheets using data called from twitter in RStudio using the “twitteR” package. Unintelligible findings and redundancies were removed from the data.

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1. The interactive graphs were created in Google Sheets using data called from twitter in RStudio using the “twitteR” package. Unintelligible findings and redundancies were removed from the data.