World View: North Korea Holds American, South Koreans as 'Hostages'

This morning's key headlines from

  • France's Hollande announces military cuts of 34,000 jobs
  • North Korea holds an American and 7 S. Koreans as 'hostages'

France's Hollande announces military cuts of 34,000 jobs

Francois Hollande sits in an armored vehicle in January tribute to armed forces (Reuters)
Francois Hollande sits in an armored vehicle in January tribute to armed forces (Reuters)

France's president, Francois Hollande, announced on Monday that France will cut 24,000 military jobs by 2019. This number is in addition to the 54,000 job cuts already announced by former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008. 

The cuts come at a time when Hollande's Socialist government is forced to reduce state spending by 60 billion euros over the next five years. France's military took part in the Libya intervention in 2011 and is still involved in the intervention in Mali to drive back Islamist rebels. 

At the same time, the operation highlighted its limitations in mid-air refueling, troop transportation, and intelligence gathering, much of which it relied on help from the United States. Reuters and AFP

North Korea holds an American and 7 S. Koreans as 'hostages'

North Korea's recent war threat circus seems to have died down, with no apparent action beyond the clownish rhetoric. Now, the child dictator Kim Jong-un seems to be pursuing a new policy: taking hostages. 

As we've described several times, Kaesong Industrial Complex was built in North Korea in 2004 as a joint venture between the North and South and was considered a symbol of peaceful cooperation until a few weeks ago, when the North Koreans suddenly withdrew their 53,000 workers from the project. 

Since the North refused to negotiate, the South finally withdrew its thousand or so employees, effectively shutting the complex down. However, North Korea is holding seven South Koreans from returning to the South, to "negotiate unpaid wages." 

This comes at a time when North Korea is putting on trial an American citizen named Kenneth Bae (Korean name Pae Jun-ho) who was mysteriously arrested six months ago while leading a tour group into the country. It's thought that Bae was arrested because he's a Christian who's affiliated with Christian groups who had sometimes aided North Korean defectors. 

One possibility is that the North Koreans are taking Bae and the seven South Koreans as hostages to gain negotiating leverage with the west. In 2009, former President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea to win the release of two American journalists who had been arrested. Former president Jimmy Carter made a similar trip to North Korea in the past. 

The North Koreans always portray these trips by high American officials as a major humiliation for America. We'll have to wait and see what demands the North Koreans will make in return for freeing these hostages. BBC and Business Insider

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, France, Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy, Mali, Libya, North Korea, Kaesong industrial complex, Kim Jong-un, Kenneth Bae, Pae Jun-ho, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter 

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