This image of KJU visiting a family went viral after being posted to Reddit on Monday, due to the contrast in facial expressions (the family were of course emotional at meeting the leader rather than being upset to see him, as some netizens worried). | Photo: KCNA
The 2012 Rason International Trade Exhibition opened. The NK govt hopes the event will “contribute to bringing about economic development and common prosperity of different countries of the world.” Read more or watch english language KCNA coverage of the exhibition.
A Daily NK source says that the govt is attempting to bring privately farmed land in and around houses under control of the state. In the process, the govt is razing and reorganizing the houses of farmers. Apparently this is in preparation for the 6.28 reforms.
Sources inside NK are reporting that Public Distribution Centers have begun to sell some corn. Officially, the only legal buyers are workers in “self-sustaining” enterprises, who under the 6.28 reforms got a pay raise but no longer have access to food rations. However, in practice anyone can purchase the corn, which is of low quality, but costs 200-300 won less that its equivalent in the black market.
NK’s quarterly magazine Economy Research: “Socialism’s labor wage system can only become effective when wages are (high) enough to guarantee citizens’ materialistic living standards and the prices of goods and services are regulated to the level (high) enough to push up the quality of the components (of the goods and services).” This is interpreted as another sign that a series of wage increases will be a part of the 6.28 reforms.
Daily NK sources in NK report that a slew of new policies are being implemented by authorities. Changes include: a crackdown on viewing foreign media and chinese cell phones, efforts to curtail bribes in the health sector, and calls for educators to research new methods from overseas. One source noted that “Ever since the policy on new economic management came out [the ‘6.28th Policy’], other policies have been appearing one after another. The authorities are getting things ready, I suppose.”
A recent interview with Park Chan-mo revealed that the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology has only one IP address (keep in mind that this doesn’t mean it has only one computer connected to the internet).
According to the MOU, output at the KIC was “US$236.08 million during the January-June period”, representing a 23 percent increase over the same period last year.
FOOD & FOOD SECURITY
FAO predicts that NK rice production will fall by 7% this year. Similarly, a quarterly report by the Korean Rural Economic Institute predicts that the spring drought in NK may have reduced this year’s harvest by 700,000 tons.
The Chosun Ilbo is reporting that five or six NKorean workers in China have defected, and are being hunted by the authorities. Meanwhile, two or three NKorean students in Eastern Europe have also defected recently.
The SKorean Ministry of Employment and Labor announced that it will launch a new program to provide work training for NKorean refugees. “The ministry will provide four courses for defectors based on their previous work experience. They will include standard South Korean language, understanding a capitalist society, how to behave in the workplace, basic computer skills, and foreign languages.”
The revision of the SKorean National Public Service Law passed on August 20th allows NK refugees and other naturalized citizens to compete with SKorean for general government posts. The SK govt hopes this will increase public employment of NKorean refugees.
Melanie Kirkpatrick on how human traffickers are cashing in on the Chinese market for NK women, and how some of the women are able to escape.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
YTV is reporting that NK has signed a contract with Dajunghwa International Group, a Hong Kong Investment company, to revive the Shinuiju SAR. JST supposedly explained the details of the deal in Beijing, but no public Chinese money is involved.
Satellite images have shown that a dome has been placed on top of the Yongbyon complex, a key step in process of building a light-water reactor. Experts caution that it may be several more years before the reactor is actually operational.
Asia News Network is reporting that the Japanese govt is reassessing its relationship with NK, and has been making secret overtures since KJU came to power. Preliminary governmental talks are scheduled to be held August 29 in Beijing. The Japanese govt has also briefed SK on the forthcoming talks. Meanwhile, Japan-SK relations continue to deteriorate.
SKorean MOD radio broadcasts into NK now seems to be broadcasting in more frequencies, perhaps in an effort to get around NKorean attempts to block it.
Park Geun-hye became SK’s first female presidential candidate, winning the Saenuri Party primaries by a landslide. The next day, she visited the graves of former presidents including KDJ and NMH, as part of her attempts to cross the political divide and campaign as a leader who could transcend historic and regional political divisions. Opponents see her cold image and the links to her father’s dictatorial rule as her main weaknesses.
Joongang Daily: Continued Sino-NK disagreement on the nature of NKorean SEZ. Specifically, “Beijing is insisting private ownership be guaranteed in the entire zone, but Pyongyang wants to allow it in only part of the region. While Beijing tries to attract private companies to the zone, Pyongyang wants more state-run Chinese companies to come.”
The Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a US-SK military drill, has begun and will continue until August 31st. NKorean media responded predictably, and KJU visited the front-line unit which shelled Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.
Without warning, NKorea authorities released water from dam, endangering SKoreans further downstream. The MOU rebuked the NKorean govt for this, as well as warning that future discharges of water are likely in the near future as NK deals with recent flooding.
NK delegations will visited Russia, potentially to discuss economic cooperation including agricultural cooperation.
An unconfirmed local media report claimed that KJU will visit Tehran for the NAM summit August 26 to 31. However it is more likely to be titular head of state Kim Yong-nam who attends.
Cha in Foreign Policy: “North Korea is at a dead end. New leadership exercising a more rigid ideology seeks greater control over an increasingly independently-minded society and disgruntled elements of the military. This is not sustainable. With true reform, North Korea would open itself up to foreign influences and create an immediate spiral of expectations in its society that it could not control. Which is exactly why, with apologies to Mickey Mouse and Christian Dior, it’s just not going to happen.”
Klinger: “To date, Kim Jong Eun has shown a change in style but not policies from his predecessors. It would be naïve to think that Jong Eun’s embrace of some western cultural icons supersedes long-standing North Korean resistance to capitalism, democracy, and a non-threatening foreign policy.”
Check out this video of NKorean soldiers doing martial arts training. Includes footage of NK soldiers pretending to beat up assailants wearing civilian clothes and weidling what look like farm tools…