NK NEWS BRIEF | Jan 2, 2013
Posted January 2, 2013
Chinese police work on a fence along the border with NK near Tumen in Jilin province, in a photo taken on 8 Dec 2012 | Photo: Associated Press
- KJU once again emulated his grandfather’s PR style to verbally deliver NK’s New Year’s Day Address. He hit expected standard NK regime talking points and paid tribute to his grandfather and father’s legacy while again talking up the successful rocket launch, but was not particularly aggressive towards SK or the US. KJU again emphasized the need for making improvements in the economy and continued a relative decline in attention to military-first. Here’s just a small flavour: “All sectors of the national economy should make scrupulous arrangements for economic planning and guidance to boost production by tapping every possible reserve and potentiality, and work out in a scientific way the immediate plans and long-term strategies for stage-by-stage development and push ahead with them in a persistent manner. We should hold fast to the socialist economic system of our own style, steadily improve and perfect the methods of economic management on the principle of encouraging the working masses to fulfill their responsibility and role befitting the masters of production, and generalize on an extensive scale the good experiences gained at several units.” Haggard’s analysis here, Abrahamian’s here, Ramstad’s here, Jang Jin-sung (former NKorean poet laureate) here, and Chosun Ilbo here.
- China Daily: An association of sea cucumber farmers in Dalian, China have agreed on an initial intent of investment with the NK fisheries department, and about 20 companies have expressed their intention to join. However the deputy chairman of the Dalian Sea Cucumber Chamber said uncertainty and potential risks have deterred many companies from investing in NK.
- Daily NK with a report from a visitor to the former site of Camp 22: “All the political prisoners and management staff from No.22 Political Prison Camp in Hoiryeong-ri, Hoiryeong City have been withdrawn. There is not one person left, and the newly arrived farmers are busy preparing compost for next year farming.”
- AP’s Tom Sullivan on KJU’s “fight against ideological and cultural infiltration”: “Over the past year, Kim has intensified a border crackdown that has attempted to seal the once-porous 1,420-kilometer (880-mile) frontier with China, smugglers and analysts say, trying to hold back the onslaught [of new information flows]… Today, changing technologies, ambitious smugglers and well-funded critics of Pyongyang mean that everything from DVD melodramas to illegal Chinese cellphones to Korean-language radio news broadcasts funded by the U.S. government make their way into North Korea. Their presence exposes an ever-growing number of North Koreans to the outside world and threatens the underpinnings of the Kim regime.” (Recommended read).
- AP’s Tom Sullivan again on how NK’s songbun “political caste” system is quietly fraying, weakened by the growing power of the markets and private wealth.
- NPR’s Louisa Lim on NK’s social change and growing economic role of women. Mrs Kim, an NK traveller (someone visiting China on a visa): “I don’t know if you can call it power, but women do what men can’t do, so we can speak louder now. In the past, we obeyed our husbands. But now they can’t make money. Women have to make money and feed them. Women have become the heads of the family. They make the money and buy the food. Men cannot say what they want.” She admits her friends mockingly call their husbands “puppies” or “pets” because they have to be fed, yet they do nothing. The economics are telling: Mrs. Kim earns about 3,000 won a day at the market — the equivalent of less than 50 cents — at black market rates. That’s double what her husband would earn in an entire month, were he to get paid.
- SK’s MOU revealed that 1,508 NKorean refugees arrived in SK in 2012, a 44.3% decrease on the number of arrivals in 2011 (2,706). It was the first year that under 2,000 NKorean refugees have arrived in SK since 2005. The reduction has been caused by NKorean and Chinese security authorities increasing surveillance and security measures on both sides of the border to unprecedented levels in 2012. A total of 24,613 NKorean refugees have resettled in SK since 1998.
- The US Congress has approved the North Korean Child Welfare Act of 2012 (full name: An Act to develop a strategy for assisting stateless children from North Korea, and for other purposes) meaning it waits only President Obama’s signature. The bill, which was revised by the Senate since being initially passed by the House in September, calls for the Secretary of State to “advocate for the best interests of [NKorean children or children of one NKorean parent], including, when possible, facilitating immediate protection for those living outside North Korea through family reunification or, if appropriate and eligible in individual cases, domestic or international adoption.”
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- A report from the ROKG’s Statistics Korea said that NK’s trade with China accounted for 70.1% of NK’s total trade in 2011, up from 57% of NK trade the previous year. NK’s trade with SK fell to 21.3% of their total trade in 2011 from 31.4% in 2010.
- SK will expand fishing areas near the disputed NLL inter-Korean maritime border.
- A new US congressional report on China’s position with regards to Korean unification warns that China might try to impede or manage potential reunification scenarios including through protracted UN processes in order to protect their economic interests in NK. The report calls for a painstaking review of how the US will respond to different Korean unification scenarios.
- Returning Japanese PM Abe expressed his determination to resolve the issue of abductions by NK.
- SK began their two-year term as an elected member of the UN Security Council. “Earnest talks” on the UNSC response to NK’s recent rocket launch may resume next week.
- Google CEO Eric Schmidt is due to visit NK on a private humanitarian mission led by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
- The six NKorean professors who were studying at the University of British Columbia have returned home after their 6-month academic exchange program finished. The professors, from three NKorean institutions, underwent a study program of English, international trade, finance and economics, enrolling in standard undergraduate and graduate-level courses. The group also went on field trips to Vancouver and Toronto to meet with bank managers, corporate directors etc.
- Chosun Ilbo: An unnamed source claims that KJI died in a fit of rage after being briefed about problems in the construction of Huichon hydroelectric power plant.
- NK has created an international “Kim Jong-il Award” to be given to prominent politicians, public leaders, academics and business leaders who have “made outstanding contributions in their country’s struggle for national independence, world peace and development of human culture.”
- Independent: The USG is encouraging the UK Foreign Office to back plans to establish a BBC World Service Korean channel to serve the NKorean people and help further open up the media environment inside the country. Although the World Service broadcasts in 27 languages (not including English), they have never had a Korean service.
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