North Korea: Elections - Missile Tests - Family Reunions: "Same Procedure as Every Year?"

 

A Q&A with Friedrich Lohr, faculty member in the Master’s in Global Studies and International Affairs program and former German Ambassador to North Korea

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun urged the Depart­ment of Defense on Sunday to reverse its deci­sion to halt the pro­cessing of Mil­i­tary Tuition Assis­tance pro­gram appli­ca­tions in light of the gov­ern­ment shutdown.

Upon learning of this sit­u­a­tion, North­eastern took imme­diate action to con­tact its more than 100 active duty men and women cur­rently enrolled as stu­dents and assured them that the uni­ver­sity would pro­vide what­ever finan­cial assis­tance was needed to pre­vent a dis­rup­tion in their education.

Aoun, speaking on behalf of those active duty men and women, wrote a letter to Defense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel in which he expressed dismay over reports the uni­ver­sity heard late Friday evening from ser­vice mem­bers that some mil­i­tary branches have advised stu­dents not to enroll in classes begin­ning after Oct. 1, or to with­draw from their cur­rent programs.

Our active duty mil­i­tary, Reserve, and National Guard mem­bers who put their lives on the line to pro­tect us deserve far better from their country than to be pre­vented from accessing the higher edu­ca­tion ben­e­fits they were promised,” Aoun wrote. “Surely DoD has existing capacity during the gov­ern­ment shut­down to review, process, and approve on a con­tin­gent basis pending TA appli­ca­tions that meet cur­rent pro­gram guide­lines. This seems all the more likely in light of recent action by Con­gress to pay civilian employees retroactively—a mea­sure Pres­i­dent Obama has pledged to sign into law.”

National ser­vice, Aoun noted, is deeply embedded in Northeastern’s values, pointing to its long­standing sup­port for the Army ROTC program—one of the oldest and largest in New England—and its strong ongoing research col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Defense Depart­ment and the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity, among other fed­eral agen­cies. “We believe higher edu­ca­tion has an oblig­a­tion to con­tribute to the secu­rity of our nation, and to sup­port the women and men of the armed forces who serve and pro­tect us,” Aoun wrote.

I respect­fully urge you to instruct the ser­vices to con­tinue pro­cessing TA appli­ca­tions imme­di­ately and to con­sider any alter­nate mech­a­nisms avail­able to you to ensure that no active duty per­sonnel will have their studies dis­rupted,” Aoun added.

Last Monday evening, Con­gress failed to reach an agree­ment on a budget for the 2014 fiscal year, trig­gering the first fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down since 1996. How­ever, North­eastern does not expect the shut­down to affect the rest of its stu­dents’ fed­eral finan­cial aid assis­tance. Pell Grants and funds from the Direct Loan pro­gram will be dis­bursed on schedule, and the majority of the U.S. Depart­ment of Education’s cus­tomer ser­vice con­tact cen­ters will remain open during the shutdown.

If the shut­down lasts longer than one week, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will not make new dis­burse­ments of campus-​​​​based aid programs—including the Work-​​​​Study and Perkins Loan pro­grams as well as the Sup­ple­mental Edu­ca­tional Oppor­tu­nity Grant—but North­eastern will have the finan­cial flex­i­bility to manage the short­fall for the remainder of the fall semester at the least.

Aoun’s action con­tinues his national lead­er­ship in addressing issues crit­ical to higher edu­ca­tion. He recently com­pleted his one-​​year team as board chair of the Amer­ican Council on Edu­ca­tion, and he serves on an aca­d­emic advi­sory council reporting directly to the home­land secu­rity sec­re­tary that exam­ines how uni­ver­si­ties can con­tribute to America’s national secu­rity efforts. He has also coor­di­nated efforts with other col­lege pres­i­dents to sup­port crit­ical research funding in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity budget, to pre­serve fed­eral finan­cial aid funding for stu­dents, and to urge cau­tion on reg­u­la­tion of unpaid intern­ships at the fed­eral level.

- See more at: http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2013/10/military-tuition-assistance/#sthash.OwlJcoPe.dpuf

Among the most common New Year’s res­o­lu­tions is better stress man­age­ment. But that’s easier said than done. We asked Chieh Li , an asso­ciate pro­fessor in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences school psy­chology pro­gram , for a few pointers on how to suc­ceed in stamping out stress. Li has prac­ticed and researched school psy­chology for more than 30 years, but, as she put it, it’s not what she says that makes her an expert on stress management—it’s how she lives her life. She’s been med­i­tating daily for more than two decades and couldn’t care a smidge whether her purse has gone out of style. Why does that matter? Read on to find out.

  1. Take five (minutes that is)

One of the sim­plest things you can do to reduce stress in your life, Li said, is to take five min­utes out of your day to do absolutely nothing. For some this might mean sit­ting cross-​​legged in the Sacred Space chanting “om,” while others might find con­tent­ment in sit­ting qui­etly on the couch lis­tening to music. Have a hard time sit­ting still? No problem, any repet­i­tive activity—jogging, for example, or swimming—works, too. Just make sure to let your­self “zone out” for a few min­utes each day. “There’s a nat­ural healing mech­a­nism in the body,” Li said, “but modern life is so busy, we don’t give it a chance to do its healing.”

  1. Make a budget…for your time

This is a big one for stu­dents, Li said. Often the most stressful times of the year—midterms and finals, for instance—seem to creep up out of nowhere. But if you take a look at your syl­labi and sched­ules at the begin­ning of the semester rather than the end, you can start to budget your time right from the get-​​go. Pro­fes­sors can help with this, both for their stu­dents’ sake and their own, Li said: Spacing out assign­ments and exams not only gives stu­dents an advan­tage but also helps manage the work­load of those grading all that mate­rial. Doing this can also have a pos­i­tive impact on your health, Li said, since sleep and stress are directly linked to an impaired immune system. Ever wonder why you get the flu as soon as exams roll around? Talk about stress.

  1. …and one for the money, too

It’s no secret that finan­cial wor­ries are a major source of stress for the vast majority of humans with a heart­beat. But just as with time man­age­ment, a little plan­ning can go a long way. Sub­tract your expenses from your income and the remainder is the money you have to play with. Haven’t much left over? That’s okay. Having fun doesn’t have to cost a lot. And nei­ther does giving. One of the most mean­ingful gifts Li ever received came from a young stu­dent who didn’t have enough money to buy her a card. Instead he wrapped a col­orful, hand-​​written note saying “thank you” into a tiny package for Li to open and enjoy. Years later she still remem­bers it.

For more tips on money man­age­ment, see our Take 5 on finan­cial fit­ness from ear­lier this week.

  1. Be flexible

That hand­made note­card taught Li an impor­tant lesson: We have to be flex­ible in the way we view the world and what we expect from it, our­selves, and those around us. The pur­pose of giving a gift or a card isn’t to spend a lot of money, but rather to express our grat­i­tude, care, and love for another. It’s easy to get trapped in the images that tele­vi­sion and the media tell us are ideal, but there are mul­tiple ways of doing things, Li said. Being flex­ible allows us to see the heart of a matter and find those other oppor­tu­ni­ties. The same goes for many of the stressful rela­tion­ships we encounter on a daily basis. Col­lab­o­rating with a team member who sees things dif­fer­ently from you? Try to see things from his or her per­spec­tive and you’re likely to find the common pur­pose that unites you.

  1. Quit comparing

Although often neglected, Li said, this is per­haps the most impor­tant thing you can do to min­i­mize stress: stop com­paring your­self to everyone around you. Between all the new mobile devices, runway-​​worthy fashion trends, and even our own bodies, we are con­stantly com­paring what we have with what we want. The person next to you on the tread­mill is run­ning at a faster pace, your room­mate just landed a co-​​op at a For­tune 500 com­pany, and your best friend somehow received the newest iPhone before it was even released. But keeping up with the Joneses is only stressful if you care about the Joneses. “Often people neglect what they have, they’re so eager to get what they don’t have, and then live in dis­sat­is­fac­tion,” Li explained. Start paying atten­tion to what you do have—a healthy heart, a job at a fun-​​loving startup, and a best friend—and you can start to free your­self from the stress of striving, Li said. 

- See more at: http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2014/01/stress#sthash.8ogKR1uo.dpuf

Among the most common New Year’s res­o­lu­tions is better stress man­age­ment. But that’s easier said than done. We asked Chieh Li , an asso­ciate pro­fessor in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences school psy­chology pro­gram , for a few pointers on how to suc­ceed in stamping out stress. Li has prac­ticed and researched school psy­chology for more than 30 years, but, as she put it, it’s not what she says that makes her an expert on stress management—it’s how she lives her life. She’s been med­i­tating daily for more than two decades and couldn’t care a smidge whether her purse has gone out of style. Why does that matter? Read on to find out.

  1. Take five (minutes that is)

One of the sim­plest things you can do to reduce stress in your life, Li said, is to take five min­utes out of your day to do absolutely nothing. For some this might mean sit­ting cross-​​legged in the Sacred Space chanting “om,” while others might find con­tent­ment in sit­ting qui­etly on the couch lis­tening to music. Have a hard time sit­ting still? No problem, any repet­i­tive activity—jogging, for example, or swimming—works, too. Just make sure to let your­self “zone out” for a few min­utes each day. “There’s a nat­ural healing mech­a­nism in the body,” Li said, “but modern life is so busy, we don’t give it a chance to do its healing.”

  1. Make a budget…for your time

This is a big one for stu­dents, Li said. Often the most stressful times of the year—midterms and finals, for instance—seem to creep up out of nowhere. But if you take a look at your syl­labi and sched­ules at the begin­ning of the semester rather than the end, you can start to budget your time right from the get-​​go. Pro­fes­sors can help with this, both for their stu­dents’ sake and their own, Li said: Spacing out assign­ments and exams not only gives stu­dents an advan­tage but also helps manage the work­load of those grading all that mate­rial. Doing this can also have a pos­i­tive impact on your health, Li said, since sleep and stress are directly linked to an impaired immune system. Ever wonder why you get the flu as soon as exams roll around? Talk about stress.

  1. …and one for the money, too

It’s no secret that finan­cial wor­ries are a major source of stress for the vast majority of humans with a heart­beat. But just as with time man­age­ment, a little plan­ning can go a long way. Sub­tract your expenses from your income and the remainder is the money you have to play with. Haven’t much left over? That’s okay. Having fun doesn’t have to cost a lot. And nei­ther does giving. One of the most mean­ingful gifts Li ever received came from a young stu­dent who didn’t have enough money to buy her a card. Instead he wrapped a col­orful, hand-​​written note saying “thank you” into a tiny package for Li to open and enjoy. Years later she still remem­bers it.

For more tips on money man­age­ment, see our Take 5 on finan­cial fit­ness from ear­lier this week.

  1. Be flexible

That hand­made note­card taught Li an impor­tant lesson: We have to be flex­ible in the way we view the world and what we expect from it, our­selves, and those around us. The pur­pose of giving a gift or a card isn’t to spend a lot of money, but rather to express our grat­i­tude, care, and love for another. It’s easy to get trapped in the images that tele­vi­sion and the media tell us are ideal, but there are mul­tiple ways of doing things, Li said. Being flex­ible allows us to see the heart of a matter and find those other oppor­tu­ni­ties. The same goes for many of the stressful rela­tion­ships we encounter on a daily basis. Col­lab­o­rating with a team member who sees things dif­fer­ently from you? Try to see things from his or her per­spec­tive and you’re likely to find the common pur­pose that unites you.

  1. Quit comparing

Although often neglected, Li said, this is per­haps the most impor­tant thing you can do to min­i­mize stress: stop com­paring your­self to everyone around you. Between all the new mobile devices, runway-​​worthy fashion trends, and even our own bodies, we are con­stantly com­paring what we have with what we want. The person next to you on the tread­mill is run­ning at a faster pace, your room­mate just landed a co-​​op at a For­tune 500 com­pany, and your best friend somehow received the newest iPhone before it was even released. But keeping up with the Joneses is only stressful if you care about the Joneses. “Often people neglect what they have, they’re so eager to get what they don’t have, and then live in dis­sat­is­fac­tion,” Li explained. Start paying atten­tion to what you do have—a healthy heart, a job at a fun-​​loving startup, and a best friend—and you can start to free your­self from the stress of striving, Li said. 

- See more at: http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2014/01/stress#sthash.8ogKR1uo.dpuf

March 12, 2014

One year after a self-induced crisis over North Korea, less than one week after its latest missile test and less than three weeks after a long-awaited inter-Korean family reunion the new leadership of the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea” (DPRK) elected its parliament. Is there a logical sequence in these events?


Friedrich Lohr

According to the North Korean constitution, the "Supreme People's Assembly" is elected every five years.  The previous election was held on March 8, 2009, so it was due and its outcome predictable: 99.98% of the registered voters cast their vote on March 9, 2014 and 100% acclaimed leader Kim Jong Un. It is notable that six of the 687 assembly members represent the "General Association of Korean Residents in Japan," a shrinking group of Korean Japanese who feel loyal to North Korea. The assembly is a rubber-stamp parliament without influence, meeting only two or three times per year to tick off the budget and laws presented by the leadership. Membership in this assembly is thus rather honorific; all candidates are pre-selected by the Korean Workers' Party. Nevertheless, changes in the composition of the membership may reflect subtle acts of rebalancing among the secretive country's nomenklatura. The election itself took place in an "atmosphere of popular elation" - and besides that it was a discreet census that will allow the government to "unmask" defectors - lately more than 1,500 per year. Again, the regime succumbed to the symbolism of numbers: the deceased leader Kim Jong Il held constituency 333 while Kim Jong Un represents constituency 111, named after Mount Paektu, the sacred mountain of all Koreans. The staging of the election also shows that Kim Jong Un now feels safe enough in his position of power to stage the show of general popular acclamation.

And here the missile tests come in?

There is a difference between launches of short-range missiles usually fired as a sort of political message and the launch of ballistic missiles that breach the October 2006 U.N. sanctions which North Korea has chosen repeatedly to repudiate. In the present instance the tests were almost predictable provocations to signal North Korea's concern about the annual military exercises jointly held in February/March by United States and South Korean forces named Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.  Both exercises are used by the North Korean regime to instill fear in their population to rally them behind it.   This year's missile tests were much more restrained in size than those of early 2013. One year after Kim Jong Un's formal access to full power, North Korea staged a military crisis, partly as a consequence of new U.N. sanctions imposed by Security Council Resolution 2087. It held its third nuclear test, denounced the 1953 armistice agreement, shut down a joint industrial complex at Kaesong just north of the Demilitarized Zone on the border between the two Koreas and even threatened an all-out nuclear war against the U.S.  When the Obama administration called its bluff and refused concessions, North Korea declared victory, ended the crisis posture and aftersome face-saving time reopened Kaesong.  Further military provocations are to be expected whenever important events in North Korea or, more likely, in the south, furnish a pretext (Next possible venue: Kim Il Sung's birthday on April 15).


China, its government and its population, has shown increasing anger with its saber-rattling partner. North Korea's sole ally that famously used to see its closeness to North Korea like "lips and teeth" has grown increasingly impatient with the Kim regime. Chang Song Taek, Kim’s uncle executed on December 12, 2013, was, after all, a key liaison figure to China. The crossing of North Korea missile’s trajectory near a China Southern flight path last week made China’s foreign ministry publish the fact that it had voiced its "deep concern" to North Korea. But the Chinese government is in a quandary: It has invested heavily in the North Korean economy and sees the Kim regime as a counterweight to U.S. influence in Seoul whilst privately abhorring its inhuman and inefficient nature. It has drawn a red line though, stating that it will not tolerate a war near its borders - a warning signal to the North to not overdo things.

Inter-Korean relations seemed to have improved, though, given the recent family reunions between the North and the South?

For the first time in three years some 100 South Koreans were allowed to cross the border into North Korea on February 20, 2014 to meet close relatives they had not seen for decades, most of them not since the end of the Korean War. The resort in North Korea’s Diamond Mountains where the reunions take place have been fully financed by South Koreans. North Korea had given the green light possibly as a sign of acceptance of South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, who a year ago had been vilified by North Korea. Pyongyang made it clear though that there will be no more family reunions likely in the near future - a clear sign that North Korea wants to be paid off first for its humanitarian concession. And when South Korea will have provided food or energy supplies, the circle of provocation – threats, extortion, and humanitarian gestures – quite possibly may go on into another round.

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