NK NEWS BRIEF | Feb 13, 2013
Posted February 13, 2013
- Choi Ryong-hae, previously thought to be demoted to KPA general, appears to have been restored to his original position of KPA Vice Marshal.
- RFA source: In addition to many other revised textbooks, NK will publish its first official textbook on KJU titled “Childhood of Beloved and Venerated Leader”. The book will cover the childhood of KJU and is targeted toward elementary school students. A previous textbook distributed to elite high school students titled, “Kim Jong Un’s Childhood”, was withdrawn following criticism that it “distorted and exaggerated” the leader’s youth. Since the 90s famine, the education system remains in disarray, with shortages of heating fuel, adequate food rations, and school supplies, though new legislation prioritizes classrooms and teachers.
- New Focus International on decentralization within the capital, along with fraying of government power within Pyongyang due to changes brought about by the collapse of the PDS.
- Strict sentences ranging from ten years to six months of reeducation through forced labor have been handed to eighteen people for fraud and drug related crimes at a public trial in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung Province. NK often uses public trials to instill fear in the population or decrease crime rates in certain sectors.
- New Focus International documents the rise of computer access in NK, and the youths’ interest in hacking as a potential platform for social mobility.
FOOD SECURITY & ECONOMY
- New Focus International: In an increasing trend, N Koreans are using man-made coal instead of traditional fuel. Source: “The coals can be made from materials relatively easy to obtain: soybean shells, dry corn stalks and roots, sawdust, leaves and other dried vegetation can all be finely chopped and mixed with earth to produce the man-made coals. In addition, they are also being used as substitute fertilizer on acid soil and are perceived as an extremely useful product.” These substitute fuels are said to be popular around the Ryanggang, Jagang, and South Hamgyong provinces.
- Defectors and human rights activists expressed frustrations over the allocation of resources to the nuclear program that could have been used to curb the food crisis. The MOU estimates that NK spent 1.3b USD on its rocket program in 2012 alone, equivalent to 4.6 million tons of corn, which could have fed North Koreans for “four to five years.” The opinion of defector Jang Se-yul is that the regime was attempting to assuage the anger and fears of the NKorean people, who he said no longer trust their government because of the high price of food and other goods. A source within NK stated that the test served the purpose of appeasing the military following discontent from earlier purges. Current China-NK trade is estimated to be 5.64b USD; Chinese traders have said that the test was likely to have adverse consequences on their ability to run business, compounded by the fact that the test took place during Chinese New Years.
- IsraAid, an Israeli-based international relief group, announced that it would partner with Yonsei University to train local aid workers in techniques for treating PTSD for refugees. IsraAid professionals will provide post-trauma training to local nongovernmental and nonprofit Korean aid agencies that work directly with the North Korean refugee population in the country.
- NK defectors spoke at UNC, urging students to shift their attention from the nation’s political woes to recognize one thing people tend to overlook — the human experience.
- Lankov with the story of “Miss Kim”, an NK defector from a relatively successful family in NK, and has also been successful in her resettlement.
- NK political prison camp survivors Shin Dong-hyuk and Kang Chol-hwan, will headline the 5th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy next week.
- Details have been revealed about the expansion of Camp 25, including an increased parameter with additional guard posts, as well as new buildings and renovations. The changes have been said to have taken place between August 2006 and May 2012, though the exact purpose is unclear.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- The US geological survey confirmed a 4.9 magnitude earthquake on Feb 12th, 11:57am KST. Three hours later KCNA confirmed that NK had successfully detonated a nuclear device. KCNA: “It was confirmed that the nuclear test, that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturised and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously, did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment.”
- PY informed the governments of the US, China and Russia of the test the evening before (local time). China and the US then informed Seoul.
- The Chinese government firmly opposed the test, while maintaining a moderate response. Chinese Foreign Minister: “The Chinese government calls on all parties to respond calmly, solve the problem of denuclearization of the peninsula through dialogue and consultation in the framework of the six-party talks.”
- A Chinese analyst with a state-run think tank in Beijing: “Look. How many of China’s neighboring countries have nuclear weapons? India has them. Pakistan has them. Russia has them too. So, China doesn’t give too much attention to whether North Korea is a nuclear state or not.”
- Chinese netizens react.
- KCNA, in response to SK plans to step up inspections of goods entering the KIC: “We hope the KIC will continue operating in the spirit of the June 15th era of reunification, but if anyone makes any form of provocation against the KIC, we will consider it a vicious ‘sanction’ against us and take such resolute counter-action as withdrawing all privileges for the KIC and restoring the area to a military zone.”
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Cathcart with an overview of PRC-DPRK relations for the past year, detailing possible issues and fractures between the two countries.
- Lee Tae-hwang: “It is very unlikely that China’s recent firm stance towards North Korea will lead to fundamental changes in Chinese policy. China is trying to distance itself from North Korea and manage them. The recent stance is only a change in means, not in ends.”
- The Economist released two articles detailing NK’s bottom-up changes, from the role of grassroots capitalism, to the rise of a privately wealthy class, to the consumption of foreign media. “In such endeavours, experts say, information on other ways of life is more valuable than political indoctrination. Mr Lee, the defector, believes that information should be as high a priority as food aid. “It is only when people can tell the difference between truth and lies that their curiosity is stimulated,” he says. Curiosity may be what this obsessively secret regime most has to fear.”
- Nosotek, a foreign-North Korean software programming joint venture, has been hacked. Excerpt from the hacked homepage: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea believes in an Atheist system of Communism, and promotes only the worship of its leaders. Why then, does Iran choose to work with them while claiming to be an Islamic state?” A tag on the page indicated it was the work of “Syndicat de Boucher-Leblanc”, with a linked website to “Global Clandestine Operations Network”.
- James Dresnok, an American who defected to NK during the Cold War may have a twitter account.
- A Seoul court has sentenced a pro-NK activist to four years in prison for illegally visiting NK last year to honor KJI 100 days after his death.
- Solar street lamps were featured on NK state television.
- Three N Korean doctors who were a part of a medical program between the Yobe and NK governments were found dead in their Nigerian home; one was beheaded and the other two had lacerations that appeared to be inflicted by machetes. The murderers were believed to be from Islamic extremist sect Boko Haram. The doctors lived and traveled with minimal security arrangements.
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