NK NEWS BRIEF | August 15, 2012
Posted August 15, 2012
- UN Situation Report on NK’s floods. The number of affected people is reported to be over 200,000. The UN’s who, what, and where of flood relief in NK. SK govt officials expressed skepticism of NK’s revised estimates.
- Bourgie Ri Sol-ju’s handbag is worth about the same as the NK average annual salary.
- Sino-NK trade for H1 2012 was up 25% on the same period last year, according to the Chinese General Administration of Customs. Iron ore was North Korea’s leading export item, while China exported to North Korea crude oil and construction machinery.
- RFA reported that internal lectures have introduced a new economic management system, reducing the role of central planning in industry and agriculture. The MOU and others were skeptical of the more extreme conclusions from this report. There is also skepticism both inside and outside of the country that the 6.28 reforms will be a repeat of the 2002 “botched” reforms.
- A joint NK-China venture will develop three mines in NK. The agreement was reached in June. NK and China agreed to a deal in June to jointly develop three mines in NK.
- Daily NK reports on rich traders investing in construction projects in Chongjin. As the regime is broke, injections of capital from essentially private investors is the only way such projects are viable.
- Daily NK on NKoreans in the border regions taking a keen interest in the SK Olympics football games: “Two days ago people watched the South Chosun against Brazil match, and when I went to my workplace the following day everybody knew the score. Seems like anybody with electricity or a battery and transformer had seen it.”
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- The price of rice (in NK won) continues to rise, as the NK won continues to drop against the RMB and USD.
- Several NGOs aim to make September “NKHR month”, with many events planned in Seoul.
- SK Political Parties have called for an investigation into the Kim +3 torture case.
- UN SG Ban Ki-moon said he would “continue to take an interest in the issue and keep pushing” for a solution to the Daughter of Tongyeong case (Oh Kil-nam family).
- Report on Google’s Illicit Networks Summit, which had 10 NK defector participants.
- Inter-Korean Red Cross talks to resume family reunions failed before they started after NK demanded SK lift the May 24th sanctions and resume tourism to Mt Gumgang.
- Jang Song-taek is in China, reportedly with a huge delegation numbering around 50 officials. KCNA reported that he will “discuss the joint development and joint management of Rason Economic Trade Zone and Hwanggumphyong and Wihwado Economic Zone.” China’s commerce minister and JST signed agreements, with China’s commerce ministry statement saying that Hwanggumphyong and Wihwado will “gradually become an intelligence-intensive emerging economic zone of North Korea.” The Rason zone, meanwhile, will “gradually develop into an advanced manufacturing base for North Korea and an international logistics centre and regional tourist centre for Northeast Asia.”
- Meanwhile, a Chinese mining company launched an attack on their NK partners, accusing them of tearing up a multi-million-dollar deal, intimidating its staff, imposing outrageous extra charges and cutting off its power and water, as well as of corruption and demanding prostitutes whenever their North Korean counterparts visited China.
- Japan-NK relations continue to show signs of a possible thaw. Respective Red Cross meetings reached an agreement on the repatriation from NK of the remains of Japanese citizens lost during WW2. NK women’s under-20 soccer team have been granted visas to go to Japan for a tournament, the largest NK delegation to visit Tokyo since 2006.
- LMB’s somewhat surprising visit to Dokdo and comments that Japan’s emperor should apologize if he ever wants to visit SK continue have caused a stir in Japan-SK relations. Even various NK agencies found various creative ways to bash him on it. LMB also used his Aug 15 liberation day speech to call on the Japanese govt to resolve their wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- 38 North interview with Dr. Yoon Deok-Ryong of the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy on NK’s economy.
- Lankov: “Recent news from Pyongyang seemingly indicates that for the first time the start of a reform process is a real possibility… Reforms have clearly not begun in earnest as yet, nonetheless early signs are relatively unambiguous: the young leader certainly wants to change ― if not reform ― his country.”
- The Economist: “… there is every reason to remain suspicious. But by encouraging trade and teaching North Koreans the very basics of a market economy, what is there to lose? A few cronies will get richer. But other North Koreans will be a little less impoverished, and that bit better prepared for the day when the vile Kim dynasty goes.”
- Nick Miller (KEI) on Sino-NK relations and foreign policy decision making in China.
- Sigal argues that the US missed opportunities in denuclearization talks, and challenges the view that NK engages in simple extortion of international community.
- Lankov on the cost of and attitudes towards reunification.
- NK Olympic gold winner Kim Un-guk (weightlifting) was reportedly supported by an IOC scholarship of $1,500 per month from September 2010 to August 2012.
- Gleason and Draudt on female NK defectors’ struggle to blend in to SK society, and their use of fashion as a tool to do so.
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