NK has reportedly sacked its defense minister Kim Jong-gak in a “shake-up apparently aimed at bolstering loyalty to KJU among the military elite” after just seven months in the position, replacing him with Kim Kyok-shik, a general linked to the attacks on SK in 2010.
Daily NK: Due to the increasingly high demand for cell phones in NK, a market has developed where “middlemen in larger cities are getting multiple phones activated under random people’s names and then taking them to smaller cities to sell”.
NK’s propaganda website Uriminzokkiri announced that it would start “The Echo of Unification” broadcasts from Dec 1st.
NKorean authorities are reportedly tightening up internal security in the run-up to the first anniversary death of KJI, while also stepping up domestic propaganda drives.
Chosun Ilbo: NKorean authorities have reportedly spent over 100m USD building KJI’s personality cult.
As NK braces the winter, the price of coal in NK’s cities is rising again and the amount of coal being exported to the NE of China is increasing. “As coal prices rise and supplies diminish, many people living in traditional coal mining areas are reportedly risking life and limb to re-enter closed mine shafts and bring ordinarily uneconomical brown coal to market”.
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
Daily NK on new stall-sharing arrangements in Hyesan markets. “Defectors from the city and others with experience of trading directly in the market say the measure has far more to do with controlling traders working illegally on the city streets than improving the efficiency of the market itself. In fact, they say the measure is likely to have a deleterious effect on market operations.”
IFES on Mongolia-NK economic cooperation, including the possibility of landlocked Mongolia leasing port facilities at Rason.
Xinhua: NK has officially opened its new one-day winter tour from Tumen in Jilin Province China to Onsung County, North Hamkyung Province. The tour costs 480 RMB (80 USD) per person.
A SKorean aid group stated that it has sent 300m KRW worth of food and clothing to NK. The aid is expected to arrive in China and will be shipped off to Nampo Port, NK. The group is planning on sending additional aid in the following weeks.
Amnesty International: SK’s National Security Law “severely hinders SKoreans’ freedom of expression and association”. “A worrying trend is that authorities are increasingly targeting Internet users who are not sympathizing with the North but just curious about it,” a researcher for AI said, adding, “the abuse of the law is narrowing the space for public debate”.
Kim Young-hwan is to receive the Order of Civil Merit, 5th Class from the ROKG for his services to NK human rights.
Anderson Cooper interviewed Shin Dong-hyuk about his experiences in Camp 14 on CBS’s 60 Minutes.
A Chinese man who helped hundreds of NKoreans escape to Thailand was forced to escape China after being caught and imprisoned by state security. The man has been waiting for two years in Thailand for UNHCR to approve political asylum. The urgency of his case has increased due to China’s recent issuance of an arrest warrant for him ( video).
Five bodies were found in what is likely to be a NKorean boat off the western coast of Japan. There is speculation that the dead men were either trying to flee NK or had gotten lost on the open sea.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
Donga Ilbo: US officials paid a secret 4-day visit to PY in August. Diplomatic source: “There is a high possibility that the U.S. tried to prevent the North from making an armed provocation ahead of the November presidential election and made a proposal corresponding to it.”
PY announced that it will launch a long-range rocket carrying a “polar-working satellite” between 10th and 22nd December (KJI’s death anniversary is Dec 17th). In response, SK’s Foreign Ministry stated that Pyongyang would face ‘due consequences’ should it go ahead with the launch, as it would gravely breach UN Security resolutions. The US, SK and allies may be considering a set of tougher sanctions which include “adopting a U.N. Security Council statement containing stronger international denunciation; freezing North Korea’s financial assets deposited at foreign banks; and expanding an existing sanction to block the passage of North Korean ships carrying military exports”. China’s Foreign Ministry urged “all sides” to avoid any action that “worsens the problem” and stated that it believes “maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in NE Aisa accords with the interests of all sides and is the joint responsibility of all sides”. Russian MFA: “We urgently appeal to the government (of North Korea) to reconsider the decision to launch a rocket.”
UN SG Ban urged NK “to reconsider its decision and to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program” and called on NK to “re-establish its moratorium on missile launches, as required by the Security Council”.
Prior to the rocket-launch announcement, Senior Chinese official Li Jianguo briefed KJU on the 18th National People’s Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and was quoted saying, “the firm and unwavering policy of the Chinese party and government is to endlessly consolidate and develop the traditional China-[NK] relations of friendship and cooperation”.
After NK’s failed launch in April, the UN Security Council placed sanctions on organizations that were thought to be helping facilitate NK’s trade in and development of WMDs. However, experts expect any sanctions this time to also target a broader range of “entities with economic clout in the North”. Baek Seung-joo of Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said, “there needs to be measures to warn those countries who are not actively taking part in the sanctions”, one such country being China, “whose full cooperation is essential if the sanctions are to succeed”.
Japan’s Defense Minister has issued an order to “prepare to destroy the rocket if necessary” and PM Yoshihiko Noda also announced the postponement of high-level bilateral talks between Japan and NK.
Although NK’s KCNA news agency and other state media briefly announced the rocket launch plan to the international community, NKorean official newspapers and TV are reportedly keeping quiet domestically “perhaps because [NK] is wary of the disappointment another failure could bring”.
SK delayed for the second time its third attempt to fire off its own space rocket due to problems in the upper second-stage rocket.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
Scott Snyder provides a rundown of various country responses to NK’s rocket launch plan. The Economist’s response can also be viewed here and Mark McDonald of the NYTimes on the ‘Symbolism and Numerology in North Korean Rocketry’ can be viewed here.
Lakhvinder Singh talks about the relatively “long and healthy relationship” between NK and India, stating that “trade between the two countries has [grown] steadily and is said to be anywhere between $500 million to $1 billion annually. India has also been helping NK cope with its food crisis in the recent past by providing $1 million worth of food under WFP and an increasing number of NKoreans have been visiting India to receive scientific and computer training”. Despite such developments, Singh calls for India to recognize the strategic importance of peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Kirkpatrick talks with NPR‘s Neal Conan about the harrowing personal stories of North Korean defectors and their quest for freedom.
A bipartisan group of US senators has proposed a House resolution commemorating Korean War veterans and also calls for the war to be taught as part of the curriculum in US schools.
NKorean state media reported a propaganda piece on the discovery of the lair of a unicorn ridden by an ancient Korean king. Professor Lee Sung-yoon from Tufts University has said that most likely, NKoreans do not take the report literally but rather they “bring certain symbolic value to celebrating… identity, maybe even notions of cultural exceptionalism and superiority.” The report was also designed to support the notion of PY as being an ancient Korean capital.