NK state media reported that KJU made a speech to the 8th Conference of the Ideological Officials of the WKP, saying “(We) failed to learn and root out the emergence of a modern-time faction within the party in advance” (in apparent reference to JST). “All efforts of the party’s ideological projects should be poured into the firm establishment of the monolithic control system … and to eradicate factionalism.” He also called for “proactive operations to prevent the toxin of capitalism from encroaching on us and to nullify their imperialistic ideological movements.”
Daily NK on Korean family reunions: North Korean participants are questioned by Party and security officials over the course of two weeks and items received from their SKorean relatives are thoroughly inspected. Further payments also have to be issued to the gatekeepers who gave them access to the event in the first place and the participants find it natural to pay the authorities. Many returned home in debt and with less than half the items they were given. In addition, according to defectors, agents from the NK State Security Dept bug the rooms and disguise themselves as staff during the reunions to monitor conversations. The participants are “educated” beforehand on what not to say and are pre-warned that they their conversations will be listened to.
RFA: Starting March, college entrance exams in NK are to be computerized. Students who were able to take the exams all on the same day in their local colleges now how to travel on separate dates to a single location. Admission still depends on the “networks and success” of one’s parents. Lankov: “Money buys entrance into schools, changes test scores, and even allows one to avoid being called out into the fields to work.”
Daily NK: The State Security Department seeks to improve surveillance and weed out prospective defectors and “impure elements.” Networked communications systems have been created through which the People’s Unit heads are able to share information amongst themselves and local agents, and report to the SSD. Source: “Almost everyone in the border region engages in some kind of illegal activity, whether it be smuggling, aiding defectors, remitting money or scrap metal trading. People’s Unit heads are openly critical of the orders, saying that if everyone is doing something illegal, who will report it? If there was a way to make money that wasn’t illegal then people would do that instead.”
Chosun Ilbo: Choe Ryong-hae, who appeared alongside KJU more than any other regime figure last year, is now in ‘third place’ behind Hwang Byong-so of the OGD and Army Chief Ri Yong-gil. Choe reportedly played the role of keeping Jang Song-taek in check “but since Jang’s execution new officials have begun to assist Kim Jong-un, making Choe another obstacle.”
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
PY appears to have reinstated two key officials in charge of economic projects with China. Chief and deputy chief of the NK’s State Economic Development Commission, Kim Ki-Sok and Kim Chol-Jin, had been sacked in connection with the execution of uncle Jang Song-thaek, but were reinstated as they were considered not too close to Jang and had received “ideology re-education.”
SKorean civic groups were approved by the ROKG to ship 26,000 cans of powdered milk (enough to feed 13,000 babies for a month) to NK.
NK state media reported the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) on Feb 19. SK proposed to discuss SK’s humanitarian assistance to NK and offered aid to help combat the disease. The disease is spreading due to the lack of vaccines, diagnostic means and disinfectants. The MOU claimed the aid proposal was decided purely on humanitarian basis, denying the link between the aid and the ongoing family reunions. Upon PY’s request, the UN FAO also plans to send a team to NK to assess the situation.
Defectors Park Sang Hak and Kang Chol Hwan hope to improve their information access programs for the NK people with the help of Silicon Valley companies and tech professionals, on a trip facilitated by the Human Rights Foundation. HRF’s Gladstein: “Watching a DVD is a small act of rebellion. A dictator’s tools of isolation and control are broken down. When you start questioning reality, change becomes inevitable.”
There are over thirty defectors who graduated from Kim Il Sung University who have resettled in SK. Despite their elite status in the North, the defectors often find it difficult getting accepted into SK society. KIS Uni graduate: “Just as SKoreans don’t trust defectors, we don’t trust SKoreans.” (Korean).
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
Gallup: NK overtook Iran as the “least favorable country” in Americans’ eyes, followed by Afghanistan and Syria. Coverage on last year’s nuclear threats and the unusual friendship between Rodman and KJU were thought to worsen NK’s image in the American public’s eyes.
China’s Foreign Ministry rejected the UN COI’s criticism of China for possibly “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by calling it “unreasonable criticism.” “We believe that taking human rights issues to the International Criminal Court is not helpful to improving a country’s human rights situation.” However the MFA spokeswoman would not answer what she said was a “hypothetical question” on whether China would use its veto if the issue was raised at the UNSC. The NK govt also “categorically and totally” rejected the 372-page COI report calling it a concoction by the United States, the European Union and Japan.
NK’s Rodong Sinmun said all Koreans hope the latest family reunions will spark efforts to improve inter-Korean relations, stressing it is important to maintain the positive momentum to create an atmosphere of reconciliation.
ROK MOD announced that a 420 metric-ton vessel strayed into SK waters. Seoul doesn’t usually reveal encounters with NK’s military to the public but the Defense Ministry said the incursion was announced due to increased public interest in inter-Korean affairs.
PGH announced plans for a committee to prepare for reunification with the North. PGH, who thinks reunification will be an economic “bonanza” (대박), said the committee will expand dialogue and private exchanges with PY.
Chinese expert Wang Junsheng: “Both Seoul and Pyongyang are testing each other through the latest round of exchanges. After all, the suspicions between them are so deep that they can not be removed immediately. Wariness in Seoul is still high because its security concerns will not be addressed until Pyongyang gives up its nuclear program. However, Pyongyang will obviously not easily abandon its nuclear policy.”
Xinhua: Botswana has decided to sever ties with DPRK because of “human rights violations” in the country and further emphasized that severing diplomatic relations is not targeted at the NKorean people in any way.
US and SK commenced joint military drills that involve 12,700 US troops and will last until April 18. No aircraft carriers or strategic bombers will be involved.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
Economist: “The [COI] report is also remarkable for the fierceness of its condemnation. It describes a totalitarian state that is without parallel in the contemporary world. Mr Kirby told journalists it was comparable to Nazi Germany. It urges the UN to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. In a letter sent directly to Kim Jong Un, the North’s dictator, the commission warned that he could be held accountable for crimes against humanity.”
Clive Crook: “On the face of it, Kim Jong Il’s pudgy offspring has similar comic potential. However, even recognizing that incompetence at sufficient scale can cause enormous suffering, the elaborate cruelty documented in the UN’s catalog of horrors belongs in a different category. One that forbids satire. You don’t make jokes about concentration camps and you don’t make jokes about torture, I thought as I read the report. It was a memorable cover, but there’s nothing funny about North Korea.”
Foster-Carter: “Pyongyang always tries to play off its interlocutors against one another. Conceivably, the mercurial Mr Kim might suddenly try to ditch China and re-embrace South Korea. But Beijing will not let him and the cautious Ms Park would not have him. Uncle Jang’s men may have fallen from favour but the trade ties he built will last. Seoul blew its chance. North Korea’s future now lies with China.”
Snyder: “Giving Kim Jong-un face is probably the most precious form of usable leverage China has. And so it makes sense that Chinese leaders would want to ensure that that leverage is used as effectively as possible to block North Korea from pursuing the types of provocations that run contrary to China’s own national interests. So it would suggest to me that the price of a visit to Beijing by Kim should be a firm commitment by the DPRK to rejoin the path of denuclearization.”
SINO-NK: The Tumen Triangle Documentation Project, Issue Two.
New CRS report on US-ROK relations.
Photos of the Korean family reunions.
In PGH’s first 12 months in office, SK police arrested 119 people on suspicion of violating the National Security Law and 22 were subsequently charged, representing a 19% year-on-year rise in arrests and 37.5% more being charged. Police also blocked 27 “pro-NK sites” operated from abroad and shut down 338 “pro-NK” social media accounts.
An Australian missionary, John Short, was detained for attempting to spread religious materials while in Pyongyang as a tourist.
NK News Brief acronyms.
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