On September 24, 2012, NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite captured this updated nighttime view of the Korean Peninsula | Image: NASA
On Dec 17th, NK held a mass rally in Pyongyang to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of KJI. KJU, along with his visibly pregnant wife Ri Sol-ju, attended the ceremony along with other top officials. During the service, the president of the Presidium of the SPA praised the accomplishments of the late leader stating that “[KJI] led the unprecedented standoff with imperialism and the U.S. to one victory after another and made [NK] a world-level military power and legitimate nuclear weapons state”.
According to a source from North Hamkyung Province, approximately 30 NKorean squid fishing vessels from ports in the provinces of North and South Hamkyung have been lost at sea this year, causing more than 120 casualties.
NKorean students living in China have reportedly been ordered to observe previously outlined prohibitions during the mourning period for KJI. However, they have not been ordered to return to NK to attend official events which may be due to recent instructions from Pyongyang urging such students to join Chinese trade firms to learn how to do business from them directly, rather than returning straight to NK following the completion of their studies.
Many people have reportedly created a festive holiday atmosphere after the successful launch of the satellite. “The success came as a pleasant shock to almost everybody…the celebrations were a bit over the top under the circumstances”. In addition, NK have started public lectures for enterprise and factory workers and other citizens to explain the successful launch – a “great result achieved under the direct command of KJU”.
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
The Atlantic: In 1997, Springs started Global Resource Services, an American NGO in NK. “Springs said that given [NK's] mistrust of the United States, the first time GRS goes into a new community the local people are suspicious. ‘There is always fear about working with us. They won’t talk to us. We have to overcome that… It takes a couple of years, but we ultimately develop working relationships and friendships with the people we work with. And North Korean officials, from the central and local governments, help us develop relationships in the community.’ Some experts on the DPRK commend NGOs such as GRS for the help they’ve provided individuals and communities, but question whether those efforts could be a significant factor in changing the U.S.-DPRK relationship”.
UNICEF DPRK national nutrition survey: Stunting has decreased from 32.3% to 27.9% since 2009, while acute malnutrition is down from 5.2% to 4% and the incidence of underweight children is down from 18.8% to 15.5%. UNICEF’s representative in NK, Desiree Jongsma: “The slight gains in children’s nutrition in the country are very encouraging and they show that it is possible to improve the lives of children in DPRK. But more than one in every four children remains stunted, hostage to life-long ill-health and reduced educational and career prospects as a result of a lack of much needed proteins, fruits, vegetables and fats, as well as frequent infections due to a lack of both essential medicines and clean water, as well as poor hygiene. It will take strong involvement from government, donors and international agencies to provide these children with a chance on a healthier future.”
A SKorean pastor was released on bail after being detained for five months in Eastern China for allegedly helping NKorean refugees.
Sharp decline in NKorean defector numbers alarms human rights advocates. A roughly 50% decrease dropped defection rates to a seven-year low.
NK News: Tom Farrell reports from outside the NKorean embassy in London where defectors often protest KJU’s regime.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
Park Geun-hye, the conservative candidate, won an absolute majority to become the next president of SK.
According to Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the launched NKorean satellite appears to be dead as no signal can be detected. In addition, he stated that the satellite was fluctuating in brightness meaning that the sun is shining at different angles and the satellite is not pointing down at the Earth as it should. Brian Weeden’s scientific breakdown of the satellite launch is here.
In light of recent speculations that China is at an awkward predicament protecting its ally, NK, KCNA has publicized a telegram from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China which states, “It is the inviolable policy of the Chinese party and government to steadily develop the Sino-DPRK relations of friendship and cooperation… We will, together with the DPRK side, further consolidate, build and develop the traditional friendship between the two parties and the two countries and thus make positive contributions to promoting the welfare of the two peoples and defending peace and stability in the region.”
According to four UN diplomats, China is resisting US-led pressure to expand UN sanctions on NK since they’ve taken the view that NK’s actions don’t threaten regional stability. A fresh push is expected to come in January when SK joins the UNSC.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
Lefkowitz: “In humanizing the plight of [NKoreans], Harden and Kirkpatrick have made clear in their excellent books that the phrase ‘[NK] human rights’ is today an oxymoron. Both authors make a powerful case that as a moral imperative, the US should seek to use its influence and power to help the people of [NK]. But the best way to do that is not to make human rights either an end in itself or an unrelated component of our foreign policy, relegated to ineffectual statements.”
Roberta Cohen: “In the face of continuing persecution of [NKoreans] who are forcibly returned to their country of origin by China, the international community needs to reconsider how it might better work towards securing protection for [NKoreans]. Some may be political refugees, others ‘refugees sur place’; they may not have been refugees when they left their country but become refugees because they have a valid fear of persecution upon return.”
Andray Abrahamian: “Until North Koreans see significant material changes, however, the government has to lean on the “strong” part of “strong and prosperous” for both legitimacy and inspiration. With the admitted failure of April’s launch, the pressure would have been on to try again and succeed, both from a propaganda and military imperative.”
Chosun Ilbo on SK’s lagging space program: “Experts believe SK is 7-10 years behind NK in rocket technology… [although] as of 2010, SK’s GDP [was] 39 times bigger than NK’s and its per capita income 19 times greater”.
Stephan Haggard and Luke Herman use the NK Leadership Tracker to review one year of political life in NK – “Is the succession under stress?”