NK NEWS BRIEF | Feb 20, 2013
Posted February 20, 2013
Ice sculpture in the newly opened exhibit in Samjiyon of the Changjon Street apartment complex in Pyongyang | Photo: KCTV, via NK Leadership Watch
- New Focus International: NK authorities have demanded 200kg of a substance known as “baked soil” from each individual. “Baked soil” is a type of fertilizer consisting of soil in which nutrients are supposedly released through heating. “In wintertime, there is not even enough fuel for cooking, yet the Party units are demanding baked soil from us. They say that we can bake soil on the stove every time we cook a meal, but getting a ﬁre going is expensive.” Some are supposedly mixing dyed unbaked soil with baked soil to fulﬁll the requirement.
- NFI: There are rumors that prisoners from Camp 16 were ordered to dig the nuclear testing site, then executed after its completion to erase the evidence.
- Daily NK: Workers and party cadres who work at the uranium mines have shorter lifespans due to prolonged radiation exposure. To offset the risk, pay and beneﬁts are much better in these areas; 20,000 won per month vs the average 3,000 won (after the 2009 currency reform), and access to some of the few remaining guaranteed rations from the state.
- Daily NK: Contrary to the official announcement that the nuclear test had been done “without negatively affecting the surrounding natural environment in any way”, quakes from the test reportedly damaged buildings in Hyesan. “Everyone was shaking in fear because the buildings were wobbling. Almost every apartment building in the city shook violently, and people had to evacuate… There was never any need to have buildings that could withstand earthquakes, so the cement isn’t up to it.”
- Daily NK: NK has returned to normal from a heightened state of emergency. “There hadn’t been any military exercises related to the ‘preparation for combat mobilization’ since the nuclear test happened last week, and they lifted the military mobilization order for Worker and Peasant Red Guards and other reserve forces at around the time of Kim Jong Il’s birthday.”
- Daily NK: Due to power shortages in NK, technicians have developed a popular DC charger for cellphones that connects to 12V household or car batteries.
- NK state media reported that “scientists, technicians, workers, soldier-builders and officials” who were involved with the nuclear test will visit Pyongyang, “enjoying the greatest privileges and preferential treatment” and “spend joyful and delightful time at the People’s Open-air Ice Rink, Skate Park and other places.”
FOOD SECURITY & ECONOMY
- The Economist covers the dynamics of trade and cross-border exchanges between North Korea and China, both legal and illegal.
- SK MOU’s 2013 report on NK says that the KJU regime’s attitude towards reform and opening is negative.
- Daily NK: The authorities have handed down a succession of contradictory orders on civilian use of private plots on hilly land and personal market gardens, confusing households and highlighting the incompetence of rural administration.
- Reuters: NK has utilized many different money laundering, sanction evasion, and counterfeiting methods to bring revenue in the country. Kim Kwang-jin, a former NK senior official who handled the regime’s money estimated NK’s “royal court” fund (money that was reserved for KJI and his inner circle) at around $4.5 billion, of which $2 billion was inside NK, $2 billion overseas and $500 million in the underground economy of various countries.
- N Korean defectors Jeong-ho Kim, and Cheol-jun Yang share their stories and perspectives at Duke University.
- The USG joins EU nations and Japan in signalling support for “the establishment of enhanced mechanisms of inquiry into the DPRK’s human rights violations at the U.N. Human Rights Council upcoming session.” There has been increasing willingness to address the issue partly due to China and Russia rotating out of the human rights council.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- Reuters: A source with “direct access” to top level government stated that NK informed China that additional nuclear tests are planned later this year. China urges calm, and denies that it was informed by NK about these matters.
- Small, unsanctioned protests have taken place in China against NK’s most recent nuclear test. Director for NK and SK studies, Yanbian University: “For the first time the Chinese government has felt the pressure of public opinion not to be too friendly with North Korea.”
- World Tribune on Iranian-NK ties in the recent nuclear test: “Just as N Korean officials indicated long before the first N Korean nuclear weapons demonstration on October 9th 2006 that the N Koreans had effectively tested its weapons and proven their design in the May 1998 ‘Chagai-I’ series of tests by Pakistan, so the N Korean tests, particularly the February 12th 2013 test, were to prove Iranian weapon design efficacy.”
- Ahmadinejad has nominated NK-educated, former Iranian military official Mohammad Hasan Nami for a key post in his government.
- Australia postponed a scheduled NK diplomat visit due to the nuclear test, but still intends to allow NK to reopen an embassy in Canberra. Foreign Minister: “We still adhere to the view that there’s value in having a North Korean diplomatic presence here, in particular so we can speak directly about these concerns for peace and security and stability in East Asia and second, so we can convey to them directly our concern about human rights in North Korea.”
- A SKorean diplomat stated that SK is pushing for a UN resolution that would allow military inspection of NK ships globally if the contents of the ship are suspected of carrying nuclear weapons or missile components.
- SK President Lee: “There is no hope of [NK] abandoning their nuclear weapons until the regime changes or collapses… Our government’s hope is this: although we have no hope for the North Korean regime, we are able to change the North Korean people. South Korea is going to keep trying to work with the U.S. and Japan to persuade China to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but the pace of change in the North Korean people can proceed faster than this.”
- SK President-elect Park: “No matter how many nuclear tests North Korea carries out and how much its ability improves, if they are left out in the international cold, casting their people into penury and in that way exhausting their national power, then they are on the self-inﬂicted road to collapse.”
- NK diplomat: “As the saying goes, a newborn puppy knows no fear of a tiger. South Korea’s erratic behavior would only herald its final destruction.”
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- John S. Park: “NK is doing all its transactions in cash via trading companies inside China, so even BDA-style sanctions will not be able to really harm them… There is almost nobody left in the United States who thinks this problem can be solved through dialogue. For the time being, there will be no attempt to start one.”
- Noland on research measuring inequality in NK based on defector surveys. The author of the study states: “if estimates are to be believed, one might consider North Korea as the country with the most unequal distribution in the world.” On a scale from 0 to 1, with 1 being the most unequal, results range from 0.63 in 1998 to 0.86 in 2002-03.
- Immigration expert Song Young-hoon speaks on NKorean defector integration in SK, and argues that in the event of sudden political change on the Korean peninsula, there would not be a mass exodus of NKoreans to SK.
- Daily NK source: “Most people’s opinion is that [the international community] won’t be able to stop Chosun from testing nuclear bombs or developing missiles no matter what sanctions are applied. If there is no Chinese participation [in sanctions], there will be no solution to the nuclear problem, and as long as Chinese support keeps coming they will not be able to force KJU to give in.” Commenting on China’s 500,000 tons of oil exports to NK annually, the source said, “Cadres are aware that ‘if China were to shut off the oil pipeline for just one year, that would be the end of Chosun.’” He also said that, “Military supplies, including for missiles, go from countries all over the world to China, and then into NK.”
- NK defectors in SK launched 200,000 anti-NK leaflets across the DMZ on KJI’s birthday.
- Phoenix Commercial Ventures, NK’s IT joint venture, has reacquired rights to the Sinji brand, a software development company started in 2005 as a 50/50 venture with the Korea Committee for the Promotion of External Economic Cooperation, a committee that reports directly to the Cabinet.
- Reddit AMA thread with recent defector Sang-hyun.
- New NK propaganda video depicts Obama and US soldiers on fire.
NK News Brief acronyms.
Sign up to receive the NK News Brief by email here.