Oleg Pak, the head of the FEF University in Vladivostok, Russia, has arranged a visit to Pyongyang in order to discuss exchanging medical teams with a medical center in NK.
Reports from NK state media show that the regime has promoted or reinstated four key technocrats who were involved in the 2002 economic reforms.
Daily NK: NK authorities are punishing transgressions which were previously ignored, such as absence from collective farms, as they attempt to increase social control before implementing some agricultural reform measures.
Fujimoto gives more details of his trip to NK: “He greeted Kim with the words “The traitor has returned”, to which Kim responded with the words ‘Never mind, never mind, all is forgotten. I cannot forget that we rode jet-skis, rollerbladed and played basketball together.’ Kim also declared his desire to see North Korea and Japan improve their bilateral relations.” Fujimoto plans to return to NK next month.
Daily NK: The RMB exchange rate has reached 1100 won in Hyesan, a record high. This has caused the price of rice to skyrocket to “6,000 won in Musan and 6,500 won in Onsung, alongside the 7,000 won recorded in Hyesan. This is twice the price recorded in mid June, when rice could be bought for little more than 3,000 won.”
Daily NK: NK banks have abandoned attempts to obtain foreign currency from citizens by providing rates marginally preferential to private money exchangers, and are instead exchanging rice for foreign currency, in a move which could be seen as both pragmatic and creative. The rice the banks are selling is of better quality and similar price compared to the markets, so they are having some success, and people are now calling the Foreign Exchange Office the ‘Rice Exchange Office’.
The WFP has extended its flood relief effort after receiving UN CERF funding, providing food for 25 days to 102,000 NKoreans as opposed to its original promise of only 14 days.
New (to us) blog dedicated to NK food aid issues by Yong Kwon of the Asia Times.
NYT profile of Kim Young-hwan, one of the more interesting NKHR activists in SK. Recommended read.
An ethnic Korean lady from China was granted refugee status by a Seoul court because she feared persecution in China for aiding NK refugees.
NK refugees are questioning discrimination which prevents them from serving in the SK military. The two-year military service can provide a pathway into mainstream SK society, is crucial for building social networks, and can affect employment prospects later in life.
NK refugees are to marry in a group ceremony in Toronto. Canada had 385 NK refugee claims in 2011, and the acceptance rate for finalized claims was 69%.
RFA: Heavy rains are causing the Yalu river to swell, endangering smuggler’s lives. Apparently 10 women have already died, and others have been caught and sent to jail due to the increased difficulty of crossing.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
A new scientific study by Korea Seismological Institute director Kim So-gu and the Geophysical Institute of Israel’s Yefim Gitterman concluded that the bubbles from the explosion that sank the Cheonan are more consistent with that of a mine than that of a NKorean torpedo. This is only the second major scientific study publihsed in an academic journal on the topic, and its findings contract the first.
Japanese customs has found banned NK goods on a ship bound from Dalian, China to Southeast Asian countries via Tokyo.
NK has asked that NK-Japan talks be working-level rather than at the level of director general, signalling that they don’t expect to make much progress on issues like the abductions.
KJU signs orders to counterattack if US-SK Ulchi Freedom Guardian military drills violate NK territory (video).
NK took the relatively positive step of warning the South about impending dam releases. Previous unexpected damn releases have caused floods and even deaths in SK.
Prospects for SK groups to deliver aid to NK have been improving, although NK cancelled some talks perhaps in response to the UFG military drills. The two govts are also discussing holding a joint ceremony to celebrate road repair completion at the KIC. NK, with one eye on the upcoming elections in SK, may be trying to prime the SK domestic audience for the possibilities of increased economic cooperation in the next administration.
Kim Yong-nam is attending the NAM summit in Tehran, where he is likely to meet UN SG Ban Ki-moon.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
Sino-NK’s Dossier No.3 compares relations at the end of KJI’s era to the beginning of KJU’s reign. Edited by Cathcart and Maddan and with a preface by Haggard, the authors conclude that “It now seems obvious that North Korea’s relations with China have only slowly returned to ‘normal’ after Kim Jong-il’s death – and still have a long way to go before reaching the frenetic pace established in 2011”.
Nam You-son on inter-Korean mail. “Until a few years ago all postal traffic was one-way, with South Koreans looking for relatives in the North. But now many North Koreans are seeking family members across the border through the brokers”.
UK ambo to SK’s blog post about a recent visit to NK. “In meetings, there was a strong and consistent focus on the priority being given to economic development. I was told that North Korea is interested in studying other countries’ experience.”