After a recent trip to NK, Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt (ICG) commented that “In comparison with previous visits, the city of Pyongyang displayed greater signs of relative prosperity… However… the countryside remains desperately poor, with scant signs of improvement or investment.” | Photo: Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, via Business Insider
NYT: NK Strategic Information Center is reporting, from undisclosed sources in NK, that KJU has been removing the military’s export privileges. According to the sources, “the Workers’ Party in mid-June began transferring all the military’s foreign currency-earning operations to the cabinet or an independent committee”. This could be related to previously mentioned rumors that the purge of Ri Yong-ho was due to a struggle over the military’s economic role.
NK state media rebuked claims that the removal of Ri Yong-ho represented a struggle for power or a change in policy. “They fed the public with misinformation that there is serious power scrambles within the leadership in the DPRK and it has shifted its line from the military-first policy to the party-first policy emphasizing party’s control over the army.”
Daily NK reports that the 6.28 policy is sparking debate and giving some people hope for change and reform. A Daily NK source also says the regime has been “sketching out the nature of the reform policy and saying that we must accept and pursue Kim Jong Eun’s economic policy plan,” using the fixed line broadcast system that delivers propaganda messages directly into people’s homes.
KJI’s former Japanese sushi chef as reportedly visited PY after receiving an invitation. Fujimoto served the Kim family from 1989 to 2001, when he escaped during a trip to Japan to buy sushi materials. Since defecting, he has written four books on the Kim family and appeared (in disguise) on television. Fujimoto, who married a folk singer while in NK, remarked that he was eager to see his NKorean family.
Good Friends’ newsletter reports on tightened security along the Sino-NK border, food shortages in large NKorean companies, and a rise in crime.
The UK govt announced that it was giving one of its 25 Korean Chevening Scholarships to Hong Sung-Il, a NKorean refugee. The scholarship will support him for a one year master’s program at a university in the UK.
Daily NK: Jeon Young Cheol, the defector recently arrested in NK for attempting to destroy statues of KIS and KJI, was actually arrested in China for dealing methamphetamines. The source claimed that Cheol also dealt drugs in NK.
The Kim+3 group of activists detained in China, have returned to SK after being held without trial or representation for 114 days.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
The NK military has newly deployed dozens of attack helicopters (upgraded Mi-2, Mi-4, and Mi-8’s) 2-3 minutes from the DMZ.
The UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization has announced reforms of its “technical assistance programs” following criticism that it was violating sanctions on NK and Iran.
A British man described as an “established international arms dealer” has been arrested for attempting to buy arms from NK to sell to Azerbaijan.
The Korea Development Institute, a SKorean gov’t run think-tank, reports on growing Sino-NK trade. The Institute reported that Sino-NK trade during the first 5 months of this year has increased 27.9% over the same period last year, China accounts for 89.1 % of NK’s total trade volume, and anthracite accounted for 58% of total exports.
A military commentator has written in Bauhinia, a HK-based communist-owned journal, that the NKorean military may be developing an EMP bomb.
The Iranian deputy foreign minister visited Pyongyang this past week and announced that NK will participate in the upcoming Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran.
SK’s Korea Resources Corporation has revealed that SK and NK began joint work to develop rare earth metal deposits in NK just prior to the death of KJI. The discussions faltered in December, but KRC continues to investigate the resumption of the project.
WSJ Korea Real Time has translated NK related excerpts from potential SK presidential candidate Ahn Chul-soo’s recently published book.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
New HRNK report by Ken Gause Report on NK security apparatus: full report, Daily NK summary.
Haggard on personnel changes: “Our favored theory is that this is all about the succession. Any succession inevitably raises the issue of whether the new leadership can count on the generals and security apparatus. Better to have in place the people that you have appointed than the people that others have placed there.”
The NK women’s soccer team is staying out of sight ahead of the London Olympics. The team was a source of controversy last year when it was banned from the next World Cup after five team members tested positive for steroids.
NK table tennis officials preparing for the London Olympics reacted angrily to SKorean journalists attempting to take pictures of them during a team practice.
ICG NE Asia Project Director Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt’s photos of NK.