Kim Jong-un poses with construction workers from the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces. He praised their devotion to “the prosperity the country.” | Photo: Rodong Shinmun, via NK Leadership Watch.
- KCNA announced that NK army chief Ri Yong-ho has been stripped of all of responsibilities and titles, ostensibly for health reasons but probably as a political move. The relatively unknown general, Hyon Yong-chol, has been promoted to take his spot. In the space of two days, KJU was promoted to ‘marshal’, signalling his ‘complete’ control over the military. His position had been elevated to supreme commander with the death of KJI, but his rank had remained only “general” (thus some officials technically outranked him).
- According to a Daily NK source, “the authorities have tried to ban more than 500 North Korean movie theme songs that are either of South Korean origin or influence.”
- The NK govt received its first income tax from four SKorean companies operating in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The companies paid a total of $153,000 to the NKorean govt.
- YTN is reporting that a mystery woman appearing next to KJU in recent photographs is indeed his wife. According to their source inside NK, the woman is from Cheongjin, went to KIS University, married KJU in 2009, and had a child with him in 2010. Daily NK is reporting similar rumors from inside NK. Appearing with a stylish ‘first lady’ will boost KJU’s image of being modern and will also go some way to answer detractors who doubt his ability to lead because of his young age.
- Yomiuri is reporting from an unnamed source that Jang Song-taek warned Kim Jong-nam not to criticize the succession during his recent trip to NK.
- NK launched a multi-purpose vaccine program with the aid of international organizations including UNICEF. The SK govt donated over $5.65 million (USD) to UNICEF with $900,000 earmarked for vaccine programs.
- KJU reportedly made an unannounced visit to Sunan airport in Pyongyang to check on a construction project there. (Note- Both KIS and KJI were said to have made similar unannounced visits during their time in charge).
- KIS University alumni account for 35.5% of key regime positions, while KIS Military University alumni account for 17.7%. (Note- If that seems high, consider that SNU alumni account for about 60% of ROK government ministers).
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- NK state media is reporting that in regions unaffected by the recent drought, heavy rains are damaging this year’s potato crop.
- Good Friends’ newsletter comments on food and medicine shortages.
- RFA: Some units in the military are struggling to feed themselves following a new policy tasking them with raising their own animals and growing their own crops.
- “The Fact”, a free NK human rights photo exhibition opened in Insadong, Seoul.
- A group of more than 150 SK university students is set to begin biking along the DMZ. Their trip is financed by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, and organized by the Youth and Students Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea and Youth Future Forum.
- Potential left-wing SK presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo visited NK human rights protests in Seoul.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- The ASEAN Regional Forum concluded with a few pertinent statements concerning NKorea. NKorean representatives asserted that its pursuit of nuclear weapons was justifiable due to the danger of a U.S. nuclear attack, and renewed its claim of the right to send long-range rockets into space. They also expressed their willingness to resume Six Party Talks.
- Also at the ARF, Chinese representatives reportedly demanded Pyongyang promise it will not detonate a third atomic device as a prior condition to any trip by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to Beijing.
- US, SK, and Japan announced the formation of a three way security consultative body based in Washington D.C., named the Steering Group.
- The first Sino-NK coproduced film, Meet in Pyongyang (AKA Promise in Pyongyang) is to premiere on August 3rd in China. Trailer here.
- The NK govt claims to have arrested former defectors that the American and SKorean intelligence agencies sent back into NK in an attempt to destroy statues and monuments.
- The Japanese government has decided to grant visas to a NKorean soccer team, allowing them to compete in the under-20 Women’s World Cup.
- HSBC apologised for conducting transactions that violated US sanctions on NK.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Experts have been trying to make sense of the purge of Ri Yong-ho and promotion of Hyon Yong-chol. Chris Green says no one really knows what these events mean. On the other hand, the Joongang Daily is citing an anonymous SKorean government official who believes that the purge is the result of a high level contest to control the NKorean economy.
- A new study by Moon Sung-min and Yoo Byung-hak finds that a “one country, two systems” (utilizing Special Administrative Regions) would be best for the economy of a unified Korea.
- Haggard and Herman on the changing composition of policy makers in NK. This is especially relevant considering the recent purging of Ri Yong-ho and promotion of Hyon Yong-chol.
- Ruediger Frank on interpreting NKorean economic data.
- Chris Green on why “failure is as likely as success” for the recently announced agricultural reform, and the personal risk taken by those officials in charge of the reform.
- Haggard summarizes two exhaustive reports relevant to NK. The first by, South Africa’s Center for Development and Enterprise, examines what it takes for SEZ’s to work. The second, by Darren Zook, explores NKorea Law.
- Lankov on NK’s culture of bribery: Corruption “may have saved many lives in recent times” but it is so entrenched that it could remain as part of the culture after NK collapse.
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