Rice, a staple of the South Korean diet, is stirring up a bowlful of worry for Seoul. Under a promise to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the government has to make a tough choice on rice imports by June this year.
Old family bonds still seem to run deep in the South Korea of today. For evidence, one need only look at the yearning of the elderly to meet their long separated kin in North Korea during last month’s historic family reunions.
If the North Korea of the 1990s was seen as a starving nation that produced an exodus of hungry people, then the picture should be even gloomier now – six years after it stopped receiving South Korea’s generous aid. But it’s not. The nation of 24 million people, widely said to be the most secretive in the world and a nuclear threat, appears to have weathered the years well.
North Korea's communist government frowns upon women wearing pants, seeing it as a mark of ‘rotten bourgeois lifestyles.' Yet, wives, literally wearing pants, are selling goods in the local markets to supplement their husbands' meagre pay packets.
North Koreans have increasingly been crossing into the northern border cities of China, with women outnumbering men. "Women represent about 70 percent of some 200,000 North Koreans who fled from North Korea into China in the past few years," Kim Tae Jin, a North Korean defector who leads a nongovernment organisation to protect the human rights of fellow North Koreans tells IPS.
Young North Koreans who have defected to the South are determined to see their dream - a unified Korea - become reality, even if their counterparts in the South don't quite agree.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak warned leaders in North Korea on Sunday that it would be counterproductive for Pyongyang to pursue a path involving the development of missiles that threaten its neighbours.