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SEOUL, South Korea — He clapped and he smiled, even posing for a group photo with a K-pop band.

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North Korea v the US: how likely is war?

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  1. pose for — If you pose for a photograph or painting, you stay in a particular position so that someone can photograph you or paint you.

The government in South Korea's capital is introducing a new initiative to force its employees to leave work on time - by powering down all their computers at 20:00 on Fridays.

Hyundai Motor Co's (005380.KS) South Korean labor union has demanded higher pay and bonuses and more cuts to working hours, as the automaker heads into annual wage talks in June under the threat of industrial action.

Donald Trump has promised ‘fire and fury’; Kim Jong-un has threatened a missile strike on Guam. But experts say bluster might not lead to conflict

Kim Jeong-cheol wakes up every morning at 6 am to deliver packages to Seoul’s wealthier residents, and spends every night ferrying those same people home after a night out, ending his working day well past midnight. He also works at a cosmetics distribution company he runs from his home with his wife.

The appearance by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, on Sunday at a concert by South Korean musicians in Pyongyang was all the more unusual because his authoritarian government has been struggling to stave off what it sees as an infiltration of the South’s pop culture among his isolated people.


Any strike action in South Korea - which makes nearly 40 percent of Hyundai vehicles sold globally - could disrupt supply around the world as the company fights to reverse a fall in profits linked to the stronger won and competition from the likes of Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE).

The war of words between the US and North Korea has escalated, with Donald Trump warning any threats would be met with“fire and fury”and Pyongyang promptly announcing it was “carefully examining” a plan to attack an American military base in the western Pacific.


  1. appearance — When someone makes an appearance at a public event or in a broadcast, they take part in it.
    • 全句的主语应该是“The appearance by North Korea’s leader on Sunday at a concert”
  2. authoritarian [ɔːθɔ͟ːrɪte͟əriən] — If you describe a person or an organization as authoritarian, you are critical of them controlling everything rather than letting people decide things for themselves.
  3. stave n. — a stave is strong stiff, especially one that is used as a weapon.
    • stave off — If you stave off something bad, or if you stave it off, you succeed in stopping it happening for a while.

It says it is trying to stop a "culture of working overtime".

New union boss Lee Kyung-hoon is seen as a moderate but he has not ruled out industrial action, telling a union newspaper in February that he was "willing to risk waging an all-out war" to get a better deal for workers.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high since North Korea’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month and two nuclear bomb tests last year, which has lead to increased sanctions on the already isolated nation.

Kim is one of many in South Korea’s capital to have taken on extra jobs as part of the unintended consequence of a law aimed at capping working hours and giving people more free time.

But Mr. Kim shook the hands of members of South Korea’s most popular girl band, Red Velvet, which he and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, watched from a balcony.


Hyundai, the world's fifth-biggest automaker along with its affiliate Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS), has been hit by strikes in all but four of the union's 27-year history, leading to lost production worth 14.4 trillion won ($14.06 billion).

But despite two unpredictable nuclear-armed leaders trading barbs, most observers believe the possibility of conflict remains remote, with the North Korean leadership using its nuclear program as a bargaining chip rather than an offensive weapon.


  1. shake the hands of sb == shake hands with sb
  2. balcony — The balcony in a theatre or cinema is an area of seats above the main seating area.

South Korea has some of the longest working hours in the world.

Union delegates finalized their demands late Wednesday, including a 8.2 percent rise in the monthly basic wage and performance pay totaling 30 percent of the automaker's 2013 net profit distributed to workers.

Jean Lee, Wilson Center fellow, former AP Pyongyang bureau chief

On 1 July South Korea cut the maximum weekly work hours to 52, down from

After watching Red Velvet perform, Mr. Kim reportedly pronounced the event a “gift for Pyongyang citizens.”


The most contentious issue would be expanding the definition of the regular wage, which is the basis for calculating overtime and other payments to the firm's 47,000 workers in South Korea.

No one in the region, not even North Korea, wants another war. But Kim Jong-un is going to push it as far as he can to get what he wants: recognition from the United States that North Korea is a nuclear power, and legitimacy at home as a ruler who can defend his people against the big, bad US.

  1. But the new regulation intended to combat long hours in Seoul’s steel and glass office towers has backfired for many doing manual or irregular labour, with people flocking to poorly regulated industries and facing pay cuts.

The two-hour show at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater was part of a political détente between the neighboring countries as relations have thawed.
It was the first time a North Korean leader watched a South Korean musical performance in the North’s capital.

Government employees there work an average of 2,739 hours a year - about 1,000 hours more than workers in other developed countries.

The union is also calling for daily working hours to be trimmed by one hour to 16 from 2015, after the automaker scaled them back from 20 to 17 starting from March last year.

In some ways, Trump’s threats play into the North Korean calculus: Kim Jong-un wants his people to believe that the United States continues to threaten the very existence of North Korea. That fearmongering brings the North Korean people together, and justifies the regime’s diversion of precious resources into building nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.


  1. détente(detente) [deɪtɒ̱nt] — Detente is a state of friendly relations between two countries when previously there had been problems between them. [FORMAL]



What I’m concerned about is a miscalculation or mishap that could force troops in the region to take military action. Remember, we had a military confrontation between South Korea and North Korea at a frontline Korean island in 2010 that killed several South Korean civilians. And with test launches of ballistic missiles straying into Japanese territorial waters, Japan may feel forced to act.

Kim added his delivery job – for South Korea’s national post – after the new law meant more office workers went home early, reducing the number of driving jobs at night. Kim, who has three daughters to support through university, now works about 19 hours a day.

The performances by the South Korean troupe that flew in on Saturday with great fanfare to Pyongyang were done in the name of international diplomacy.

The shutdown initiative in the Seoul Metropolitan Government is set to roll out across three phases over the next three months.

E*Trade Korea auto analyst Kang Sang-min said Hyundai faced an "uphill battle" to reach an agreement with the union over tricky issues like the regular wage.

Andrei Lankov, professor at Kookmin University, Seoul, and director of NK News


  1. troupe — A troupe is a group of actors, singers, or dancers who work together and often travel around together, performing in different places.
  2. fanfare — If something happens with a fanfare, it happens or is announced with a lot of publicity.
  3. sth was done in the name of … — 某件事以……之名举行


"A potential disruption to output will dampen investor sentiment, already hurt by Hyundai's decelerating growth," he said.

We will be treated with fine examples of bellicose rhetoric by North Korean media. I’m just waiting for some colourful abusive description of President Trump, soon to be produced by the North Korean propagandists, and perhaps Trump will dispatch an aircraft carrier or two to cruise around the Korean peninsula.

Kim, whose income dropped 40% after the law came in, is not alone. A woman who would give only her surname, Park, began working in a convenience store after she lost about 500,000 won ($445) a month due to the cap on working hours. A builder? took a second job working as a type of unofficial bus service when hours were cut to comply with the law.

The show occurred just weeks before Mr. Kim is scheduled to meet with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, at a border village on April 27, and ahead of a planned summit meeting with President Trump in May.

The programme will begin on March 30, with all computers switched off by 20:00.

Hyundai, which was an outperformer during the 2009 global economic downturn, has posted lackluster earnings in the past couple of years. Its January-March net profit slipped to its lowest in five quarters, missing estimates.

Once North Korea finishes development and deployment of a nuclear force capable of hitting the continental US, they might be ready to talk about a nuclear and missile freeze. The US should accept this option.


They were the first South Korean singers to perform in North Korea in more than a decade. Their visit reciprocated a North Korean art troupe’s performances in South Korea during its Winter Olympics in February. Mr. Moon watched one of the North Korean performances.


The strengthening won and stiffer competition from rivals' refreshed models has seen Hyundai's U.S. market share drop from a record 5.1 percent in 2011 to 4.4 percent this year.

There is a very little probability of conflict. But North Koreans are not interested in diplomacy: they want to get the ability to wipe out Chicago from the map first, and then they will be interested in diplomatic solutions. They will get such capability within a couple of years.

The National Assembly estimated that 150,000 labourers would face an average pay cut of 410,000 won a month when the law was passed due to working less overtime. About a third of South Korea’s labour force works in jobs with irregular hours, such as construction, driving, cleaning or convenience store clerks, according to government statistics.

  1. reciprocate — If your feelings or actions towards someone are reciprocated, the other person feels or behaves in the same way towards you as you have felt or behaved towards them.

The second phase starts in April, with employees having their computers turned off by 19:30 on the second and fourth Friday that month.

The labor talks will be the first since Lee took the reins of South Korea's biggest union in December, stirring hope of steadier industrial relations after his predecessor called strikes in two consecutive years.

The US president is employing both rhetoric and tactics which for decades have been used only by the North Korean side of the conflict. On the North Korean side, it is business as usual, of course: they repeat their promise to transform Seoul into the “sea of fire” every few years.


Mr. Kim and Ms. Ri, a former singer, were among hundreds of North Koreans who filled the 1,500-seat theater to watch the South Korean singers, including older crooners, gelled rockers and K-pop starlets.


Lee led the union during a rare, strike-free period from 2009 to 2011, although a company spokesman said his previous record counted for nothing in the forthcoming negotiations.

美国与朝鲜发生战争的可能性有多大,下班还不走。North Koreans are not interested in diplomacy: they want to get the ability to wipe out Chicago from the map first

In the 1960s, the nation’s economy expanded rapidly, turning a country still reeling from the 1950-53 Korean war into the 12th largest economy in a generation. It has produced national champions like Samsung, Hyundai and LG, massive conglomerates that wield significant political influence, but that achievement has come at the expense of leisure time.

  1. crooner — A crooner is a male singer who sings sentimental songs, especially the love songs of the 1930s and 1940s.
  2. gelled — 啫头的重打击乐手

From May on, the programme will be in full-swing, with computers shut off by 19:00 every Friday.

"The current union leader is seen as a moderate, but he is still a unionist," the spokesman said.

Andrei Lankov


On Sunday evening, thunderous clapping erupted when Mr. Kim and his wife entered the concert hall and seated themselves in a second-floor balcony, according to pool reports from South Korean journalists and officials.


Kia Motors is also preparing separate annual wage talks with its South Korean union, while General Motors' South Korean unit kicked off annual wage negotiations in late April./

Jiyoung Song, senior lecturer in Korean studies, University of Melbourne

South Korean workers have some of the longest working weeks among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, behind only Mexico. Last year the average person worked 2,024 hours, or about 38.9 hours a week.?

  1. thunderous — If you describe a noise as thunderous, you mean that it is very loud and deep.
  2. erupt — 本来有“火山,暴力,战争,情感产生”的代表,但此处表示雷声般的掌声发生
  3. pool reports — 形形色色的报纸发表;来自“A press pool is a group of news gathering organizations that combine their resources in the collection of news.”

According to a SMG statement, all employees will be subjected to the shutdown, though exemptions may be provided in special circumstances.

They will exchange some harsh words for a while and until Washington talks, secretly or publicly, with Pyongyang. Kim Jong-un will keep test-firing.


Attention was focused on how Mr. Kim would react to the pop singers, particularly Red Velvet. The five-member girl group is typical of South Korean girl groups — known for their chirpy, bubble-gum harmonies and sexy choreography.


美国与朝鲜发生战争的可能性有多大,下班还不走。There is no military solution to the North Korean problem. North Korea wants to be recognised as a legitimate nuclear state by the US and establish diplomatic relations with the US. Constantly reminding the world and especially the US of their nuclear and missile capabilities is part of their regime survival calculations. All options are on the table for Pyongyang, and North Korea did propose peace talks with the US a number of times to end the 1953 armistice and replace it with a peace treaty.

This gruelling work environment has been blamed for a host of societal problems, from a low birth rate to plummeting productivity. Chung Hyun-back, the family and gender equality minister, has called working hours “inhumanely long” and said they have contributed to the South Korea’s rapidly ageing society.

  1. chirpy — If you describe a person or their behavior as chirpy, you mean they are very cheerful and lively. [INFORMAL]
  2. Bubblegum pop (also known as bubblegum music or simply bubblegum) is a genre of pop music with an upbeat sound contrived and marketed to appeal to pre-teens and teenagers,

However, not every government worker seems to be on-board - according to the SMG, 67.1% of government workers have asked to be exempt from the forced lights-out.

What North Korea is also trying to do is to break the South Korea-US alliance and undermine the new South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s initiatives for improved inter-Korean relations. He’s proposed numerous talks with North Korea and Pyongyang has deliberately ignored Seoul’s good gestures. Kim Jong-un wants to talk directly with Trump, undermining Moon, but the US is reluctant to talk with North Korea unless Kim denuclearises or at least freezes its nuclear programmes.


  1. choreography — Choreography is the inventing of steps and movements for ballets and other dances.


It’s wishful thinking that Kim will give up his nuclear power. Neither [Russian president Vladimir] Putin nor Xi [Jinping, the Chinese president] would want another war in the Korean peninsula, and Kim Jong-un has no friends in international relations. He developed a very dangerous weapon that’s threatening everyone, especially those in South Korea. If Trump doesn’t want Kim to further develop his nuclear ambition, he has to sit down and talk with Kim.

There is a strong case for tackling the culture of long hours. Working more than 50 hours a week causes a drop in productivity, according to researchers at Stanford University, and there was little different in output for employees who worked between 56 and 70 hours.

Their tunes are so infectious that the South Korean military has broadcast them across the border in a psychological war against North Korean soldiers. The North used to threaten to direct its artillery at the loudspeakers, warning of an “all-out war” if the South didn’t turn them off.

Earlier this month, South Korea's national assembly passed a law to cut down the maximum weekly working hours to 52, down from 68.



  1. infectious — 感染力;If a feeling is infectious, it spreads to other people.
  2. psychological war — 心理战
  3. artillery — 大炮(曾出现在”Paper Elephant”一文中)
  4. all-out — using all one's strength or resources


What are North Korea's nuclear capabilities?

Despite hardships faced by workers paid by the hour, office workers have rejoiced at the new law. Some have long complained of a culture that expected employees to stay late despite a lack of work. Others say bosses would routinely assign extra tasks outside normal hours, leading many employees to procrastinate all day since they knew they had to stay late regardless of workload.

How things have changed.

Robert Kelly, associate professor, Pusan National University


  1. 只是世易时移

There are two ways to think about what Trump said. The optimistic way – if you’re a Trump supporter – is that he’s trying to be unpredictable. What this is really intended to do is pressure the Chinese, to signal to them that strategic patience is over.

But working-class people have largely mocked the new law for forcing them to take second or third jobs, saying: “Instead of a life with dinner, there’s a new life where you have to skip dinner.”

South Korean officials said the North did not attempt to reject any of the South Korean song lineup or change the pop stars’ lyrics or risqué dance moves.

The less optimistic, and probably more accurate, reading is that this is Trump shooting his mouth off. There’s rhetoric on both sides – it’s like two bullies in the playground yelling at each other.


  1. any of the S. Korean song lineup — 任何南朝鲜歌曲安插
  2. risqué — If you describe something as risqué, you mean that it is slightly rude because it refers to sex.

The North Koreans are not going to offensively strike an American base or the American homeland unilaterally without any provocation – to do that would bring crushing American retaliation. The North Koreans aren’t stupid. Their nuclear weapons are intended for defence, not offence.

About 20,000 people have flocked to become on-demand chauffeurs since the new law passed, according to Kim Jong-yong, head of the Korean Association of Relief Drivers. Companies have lowered fares amid the influx of new workers.

(But apparently, even North Korea had a limit to how far it would go in accepting K-pop. South Korean officials said the North had rejected their suggestion that the global star Psy, the singer famous for his “Gangnam Style” hit, be included in the visit.)

The North Koreans are worried about what happened to Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, they’re worried about the Americans leveraging change and they know that nuclear weapons are guaranteed to prevent that from happening. That’s what this is really all about.The Guam thing is another empty threat.


“Please tell President Moon how good this kind of exchange is. I know there has been attention to whether I will come and see Red Velvet,” Mr. Kim was quoted as telling South Korean officials. “I thank you for bringing this gift to Pyongyang citizens.”

But the North Koreans are not going to back down. They’ll continue with the missile testing and make sure that the warhead has been miniaturised. They also need to make sure that the vehicles don’t break up when they re-enter the atmosphere. In the meantime, they’ll respond to American bluster with their own bluster.

"The 52-hour law was meant to benefit all workers, however it’s only positively affecting people working in stable, high-paying jobs such as civil servants and people working in corporate companies,” he said. “Taking a second job is the only thing keeping these people off the streets, it’s a last resort.

Kim Yerim, a Red Velvet member who is known as Yeri, was quoted as saying, “The audience clapped loudly and even sang along.”
The South Korean culture minister, Do Jong-hwan, told reporters in Pyongyang after the show that Mr. Kim “showed much interest during the show and asked questions about the songs and lyrics.”

We’re not used to unpredictability and anxiety coming from the American side of this relationship. That’s why people are so unnerved – we’re not used to Potus talking like this.


Mr. Kim’s acceptance of Red Velvet and South Korean pop culture was striking because his government has stepped up a crackdown on DVDs and computer thumb drives containing South Korean pop songs, movies and TV dramas smuggled from China, calling for establishing “mosquito nets” to keep out “decadent capitalist influence.”


"Their struggles are a reflection of how Korean society treats and values working-class people.”

  1. crackdown — 打击
    • crackdown on sth
  2. computer thumb drivers — U盘
  3. decadent [de̱kədənt] — If you say that a person or society is decadent, you think that they have low moral standards and are interested mainly in pleasure.

Why is North Korea threatening Guam?


Defectors from the North have said that those who were caught selling or watching South Korean K-pop music videos could be sent to prison camps.

John Delury, North Korea expert, Yonsei University, Seoul

  1. defector — A defector is someone who leaves their country, political party, or other group, and joins an opposing country, party, or group.

For all the bluster, there is no rational case for war and sanctions9159com金沙网站, have proved their inefficacy. So, if we want any progress, we are left with diplomacy.

Mr. Kim, who studied in Switzerland as a teenager, has tried of late to present himself as more flexible, at least among the loyal elite citizens living in Pyongyang. North Korea’s Moranbong Band, often said to be Mr. Kim’s favorite girl group, has performed in short skirts and high heels, featuring theme songs from Hollywood films.

The US message to Pyongyang should be: “We want you to prosper and maybe after you have prospered you’ll be able to let go of the nukes because you are feeling more confident and you are integrating into the region and you want to be like the rest of east Asia.”

  1. of late == recently,
  2. Moranbong Band — 谷雨花峰乐团

But some people don’t want progress. For example, if you are focused on non-proliferation, then there is a good argument that you just want to beat up North Korea every day and isolate them and keep them down so that every other country that is considering going nuclear says to themselves: “Well, I sure don’t want to be North Korea.” There is a rationale for that.

The South Korean singers now in the North will hold a joint concert with North Korean performers on Tuesday at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang.
South Koreans will see a recorded version of the concert later this week, according to local news media. It’s unclear if, or when, ordinary North Koreans will be allowed to see it.

The North Koreans love the verbal hostilities. They will do this ad nauseam. They are happy to do daily threat battles with the White House. That is actually quite wonderful for them. They like the attention and it all underlines their point that they are under siege by the Americans.

But an outbreak of military conflict is not impossible. It is hard to get the balance. I do think there are real things to be concerned about. I think South Koreans are insufficiently concerned and not watching the situation enough. I think the South Korean government is being too quiet about this.

Professor Andrew O’Neil, ballistic missile testing expert, Griffith University

Much will depend on North Korea’s actions with respect to missile testing. If NK tests a nuclear device (they tested two in 2016) after two watershed ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] testing in July, this will be highly provocative and place intense pressure on the US and its allies, as well as China, to come up with additional measures to pressure Pyongyang.

The problem here is that: a) security council sanctions haven’t worked in restraining North Korea; and b) there is no appetite for carrying out military strikes against North Korean WMD installations for fear of triggering a wide conflict in north-east Asia. President Trump’s “fire and fury” comments, however, could be a game-changer in the sense that he may feel compelled to use military force to uphold US credibility internationally. If he doesn’t act in the face of a major North Korean provocation, his own credibility will take a big hit, which may in itself move him closer to military action.

The cycle historically has been that both sides have become more risk-averse as conflict becomes more likely. The possibility this time around is that Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump may have too much confidence in their capacity to manage a crisis and de-escalate before a spiral gains traction.

It’s important to appreciate that Kim Jong-un’s domestic circumstances also play a role. Turnover at senior levels of the regime is frequent and brutal, and Kim’s position is not necessarily secure. He would be anxious about the potential for a Chinese-sponsored coup and his own power base. Standing up to the enemy that is the foundation for NK’s historical and contemporary threat narratives (ie the US) plays well with Kim’s domestic base and probably helps to reinforce his control over the regime, the military and the party.