Yang Hyong-sop, vice-chairman of the SPA reportedly told the AP that KJU “is focusing on creating a knowledge-based economy, and is studying cases of economic reform in other countries, including China.” This would be the first time such a statement has been made by a high ranking official to a foreign media organization. However Yang also said that despite the loss of KJI they are not worried because KJU “is fully prepared to carry on the heritage created by the great Gen. Kim Jong Il.” The reference to learning from China may be a sop to them aimed at securing their continued support. The message may also be designed to stimulate Sunshine Policy/engagement proponents in Seoul ahead of the 2012 presidential elections in SK.
NK trade expanded 22.3% in 2010, according to Statistics Korea. Trade with China accounted for 57%, up from 53% in 2009. Production at the Kaesong Industrial Complex rose 14.4% in 2011, reaching 370m USD for January-November 2011.
The prices of Yuan and rice are increasing around the lunar new year holiday. Daily NK reports that people are cynical about official threats on the use of foreign currency, with one Musan source saying “People are saying that ‘If his dad couldn’t stop it, what is the young one going to do about it?’ and ‘As long as the Tumen River keeps flowing, they can’t stop the Yuan, the smuggling, or the defection.’”
The UNDP reportedly plans to take steps to reduce crop loss and promote food security in NK. Around 15% of crops harvested in NK are said to be damaged every year, while only 13% of the 150-thousand tons of seed produced meet international standards.
The Hankyoreh on difficulties faced by NK refugees who resettle in the U.S. including job insecurity, debt, language barriers, and discrimination.
Following a fact finding mission to Japan, UN SR Darusman has encouraged NK to use the succession of KJU as an opportunity to “engage the international community” and “improve the human rights situation,” suggesting the Myanmar model as a means of engagement.
Daily NK: NK authorities are stepping up security along the border with China by erecting barbed wire fences, continuing trends of clampdowns on cross-border movement.
NK has announced a special amnesty to prisoners to take place on Feb. 1st. The amnesty may be designed to show the regime’s confidence and benevolence to the people, and it also opens up opportunities for corruption.
The number of elderly SKoreans seeking to meet relatives in NK fell to less than 80,000 last year, a government database showed, highlighting the urgency of resuming reunions of family members separated by the Korean War.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
Campbell says the USG has “made clear [to NK] both through public channels and privately that we are prepared to start a new chapter to deal clearly with outstanding issues, nuclear matters and the like.” He also warned NK against any provocations as they could provoke a response from Seoul, and said that the USG has also asked Beijing to convey that message to Pyongyang.
The USG is pressuring SK to reduce oil imports from Iran. Robert Einhorn linked the efforts to increase pressure on Iran to efforts on the NK nuclear issue during a visit to Seoul.
U.S., SK, and Japanese diplomats said they are open to resuming the SPT with NK, likely in an effort to dissuade KJU from taking aggressive action to solidify his position in coming months.
NK released two recently detained Japanese men, a move taken by the Japanese Government as a positive sign.