Yonhap: KJU’s aunt Kim Kyoung-hui has been edited out of a documentary, indicating her fall from power.
The Guardian on how NKoreans are losing faith in the regime. NKorean woman in China: “The biggest difference is that here they respect human rights. You can sell whatever you want and go to foreign countries and do whatever you want; everything is free here. There is no control.”
RFA: NK has increased the number of secondary schools for gifted students, reducing their value as a guaranteed shortcut to elite universities and a subsequent exemption from military service.
Guardian on NK’s healthcare system: Patients have to buy their own medicine; even some of the limited official supply is diverted to the markets. Most patients rely on smuggled Chinese products, sold with a substantial mark-up. NKorean source: “If you have a minor illness maybe it will be cheap, but the majority of people with a serious disease are not able to pay for the medicine.”
Daily NK: KIC workers ordinarily receive one pack of noodles and three to four Choco Pies per day. However, workers are now clubbing together to receive 5-7 packs of ramen and 15-20 Choco Pies at one time (but less frequently). These are generally then sold in the markets outside the KIC.
Daily NK on resentment against corrupt party cadres sent from PY to oversee the potato harvest in Yanggang Province. Source: “At a time when more and more people in the Okcheon Unit are running out of rice, the cadres can continue to live in their own world. People attack them, pointing out that workers starve while the ones ordering them around are living well. They can eat till their stomachs stick out… The only thing cadres do is pretend that work is being carried out well and that the state is worried about the people.”
Daily NK: Many NKorean travellers are now returning home after delaying their return to avoid the 4/15 KIS birthday celebrations, when they would have to pay extra “loyalty donations.” Source: “I know of woman from Pyongyang in her 40s who told me that she returned home from her first trip to China on the exact date stipulated. She hadn’t considered using the trip as a way to make money because her husband was a university professor, and later heard from others she was an ‘idiot’ for returning on the correct date.”
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
Daily NK: NK state media is forecasting dry weather in PY and areas of North and South Hwanghae until the end of April. No rain has fallen in PY since 6mm on March 29th.
Yonhap: NK informed the World Organization for Animal Health that H5N1 bird flu broke out at a chicken farm in PY and is spreading. NK sustained extensive damage due to bird flu last year.
Daily NK: Enforcement of a directive ordering people to exchange their holdings of foreign currency for domestic currency has faded as the state moves on to a trade footing. Source: “Because a greater number of people are seeking out US Dollars, 7300 won, which was the exchange rate in early March, has turned into 7700 won. If the current trend continues is likely to rise to 8000 won.”
Chosun Ilbo: A delegation led by SK’s KORAIL president Choi Yeon-hye is in PY to attend a meeting of the Organization for Co-operation between Railways. His participation is thought to be linked to long-term plans for a railway connecting Eurasia with SK through NK. Choi is the first head of a SKorean public body to visit PY since PGH was sworn in.
NK’s human rights situation was discussed in a UNSC Arria formula meeting for the first time. The meeting was co-sponsored by the US, France and Australia, and the Russian and Chinese delegations failed to attend. Kirby appealed to the UNSC to refer NK to the ICC. “In a week of many grave human rights matters occupying the attention of the members of this council, we dare say that the case of human rights in the [NK] exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror.” UNSC diplomat on the prospects of an ICC referral: “We’re not going to see any rapid progress on this.”
NK state media reacting to the UNSC Arria formula meeting: “[Kirby] is a disgusting old lecher with a 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality. He is now over seventy, but he is still anxious to get married to his homosexual partner. This practice can never be found in the DPRK boasting of the sound mentality and good morals, and homosexuality has become a target of public criticism even in Western countries, too. In fact, it is ridiculous for such gay to sponsor dealing with others’ human rights issue.”
USG’s Ambassador King told the American Society of International Law that there is no special remedy in resolving NK’s human rights problems. He that it cannot be addressed by just referring NK to the ICC or by having China persuade Pyongyang to resolve the issue but that the NK govt is responding sensitively to how the international community handles the issue, and that other human rights organizations should assist the UN in pressuring NK to address the issue.
Daily NK: NK authorities dispatched two groups of security personnel to Shenyang and Dandong to arrest and repatriate citizens who have overstayed their visas and are suspected of making contact with Christian groups.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
Korea Herald: PGH’s focus on unification has seen the Blue House gradually taking over the MOU’s traditional role and influence, meaning decision-making has been dominated by former military commanders in the presidential office. Govt source: “I think the Unification Ministry is arguably at one of its lowest ebbs since being founded. Compare now and 10 years ago. Back then it wielded formidable power at the core of the decision-making process regarding North Korea affairs.”
The ROK-US Foal Eagle military exercises have concluded. They mobilized 200,000 ROK forces and 7,500 American troops over a period of two months, and saw the navies and marine corps of the two countries stage their largest-ever landing drill.
Yonhap: PY criticised SK and the US over their largest-ever air exercise. Rodong Sinmun: The exercise “is a grave military provocation that further escalates tense situations on the Korean Peninsula and heightens crisis of a nuclear war.” NK also denounced Obama’s upcoming visit to SK. KCNA: “It is the policy stand of [NK] to redouble the efforts to bolster up justifiable deterrence for self-defense in every way to resolutely counter the U.S. hostile action.”
China’s MFA on US-PRC nuclear envoy talks on resuming the SPT: “The two sides have expanded consensus and narrowed differences.” Earlier, a diplomatic source revealed that SK, the U.S. and Japan have agreed to lower the bar on conditions to reopen the six-party talks to be in line with the terms of the 2012 Leap Day deal.
Yonhap: China’s MFA after SK warned of a potential “surprise nuclear test” by NK: “We call on all relevant parties to keep calm and exercise restraint under current circumstances.”
Yonhap: Despite renewed inter-Korean tensions, PGH proposed and started preparatory work for building an international peace park inside the DMZ. Seoul set aside 40 billion KRW (US$38 million) in this year’s budget for the outreach project to PY.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
NK News: Eleven defectors on “what do you miss most about NK?”.
Lankov: “For decades, military service was the major channel that allowed social mobility in the otherwise ossified NKorean society. This was the only chance for many ambitious individuals to overcome hereditary restrictions and make modest social advances. Nowadays, booming markets and the informal economy provide socially mobile youngsters with much more lucrative opportunities.”
NK Tech: Seoul-based NGO Open Radio for NK has reportedly ended broadcasts to NK after a grant from the USG that funded the transmissions apparently ended. USG data shows that ORNK received at least $300,000 in 2009 and $148,500 in 2011 in grants from the State Department.
Daily NK: NK criticized the ROKG for the slow and ineffective rescue efforts after the Sewol ferry sinking. Uriminzokkiri reported that many in SK are unhappy with the “incompetent response of the South Chosun authorities.”
The Guardian: New photos of KJU as a child have been released on KCTV.
The Guardian: ‘We need freedom to make things better’ (video).
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