NK NEWS BRIEF | July 4, 2012
Posted July 4, 2012
The recent severe drought has withered crops in the western part of the country, and may have already contributed to the deaths of North Koreans. | Photo: China.org.cn
- The Center for Cultural Unification Studies released a new report on foreign media in NK. After surveying 100 refugees from diverse backgrounds, the study found that 32% of men and 13% of women had experience of watching some kind of South Korean media, and that people with higher socioeconomic status were more likely to have had access to foreign media.
- Kim Jong-nam (KJI’s eldest son) reportedly visited NK last week and held talks with Jang Song-taek. There is speculation that KJN could play a role in attracting foreign investment in NK.
- Workers are scrambling to be granted one of the 40,000 recently allocated Chinese work visas. The competition appears intense enough to spur an increase in the number of marriages in Pyongyang (single workers are ineligible). Demick writes in the LAT that the influx of NK workers is unlikely to be popular in China, with public sentiment increasingly questioning their government’s relationship with the NK regime and because the new NK workers will be competing with local youth for jobs.
- NK refugees tell of a new product available in NK. The Samjiyon is a tablet computer with games, ebooks, and map service, but no internet access.
- Daily NK: A group of 20 NK govt officials and academics are currently receiving education in China on the workinds of SEZs.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- In light of the recent severe drought, the NK govt has deployed the military to help water crops.
- The Tokyo Shimbun is reporting that the drought may have already killed 20,000 NKoreans since April.
- A Daily NK source is reporting that the recent drought has caused widespread food shortages in rural areas.
- A Catholic group from Rome delivered food aid to NK in May after NK diplomats requested it. The group is planning another delivery before the end of the year.
- Check out this excellent interview about NK propaganda with Kim Joo-il, a former military officer in NK.
- Park In-sook, a NK refugee who had been living in SK, has returned to NK in an apparent effort to save her son from punishment for her defection. Park asserts that a SK intelligence agent tricked her into defecting, and that her life was “miserable” in SK. DongA’s Joo Song-ha reports that Park’s interview was screened on state television for 1 hour 13 minutes, in order to “break the spirit of NKoreans who wish to defect.” However, a Daily NK source noted that the NK populace are viewing her claims with skepticism. The source comments that, “people who knew her are shocked that [since her time in SK] she has gained weight and her complexion has improved”.
- The Ministry of Unification has announced that NK refugee arrivals for the first five months of the year have fallen 42.6% from same period last year, a result of concerted crackdowns on both sides of the Sino-NK border.
- The Chinese govt has passed a law setting new punishments that will target employers, defection brokers, and those who give aid of any kind to NK refugees. The new law will take effect on July 1st, 2013.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- The North Korea International Documentation Project has released a series of secret documents offering insight into the NK regime’s strategy during the inter-Korean dialogue in the mid 1970’s.
- The SK govt postponed the signing of a military intelligence sharing treaty with Japan after they badly miscalculated the strength of public sentiment on the issue. FM Kim apologized for failing to seek the “people’s understanding and support for the pact”. For two different perspectives on the issue, see this op-ed in the Hankyoreh and this recent piece by Stephen Haggard.
- Japan’s Supreme Court has upheld previous rulings that allow for the seizure of the General Association for North Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) HQ as collateral for $790 million in unpaid debts. The headquarter acts as a de-facto NK embassy in Japan.
- A new Chinese tourist cruise to NK launched on July 1st.
- The first “Sino-DPRK Economy and Trade Cultural Tourism Expo” will be held in October in Dandong, China.
- Ro Su-hui, a “pro-NK activist”, is set to return from NK via Panmunjom. He is expected to be arrested and could be jailed in SK for up to 10 years for violation of the NSL, which makes it illegal for SKoreans to visit the NK without govt approval.
- CNN report on Park Jung-geun, a photographer facing 7 years in prison under the NSL for retweeting NK regime tweets that he found “funny,” and declining press freedom under LMB.
- The SK govt named Chung Eun-chan, a female defector, as professor in a state-run institution that educates SKoreans on unification issues.
- The SK govt has arrested an alleged NK spy who circulated $570,000 worth of counterfeit US bills in Beijing and Shanghai. The authorities arrested the individual when she arrived in SK claiming to be a refugee.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- James Carthwright, former Vice-Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls for US to let SK and China tackle the NK issue.
- Last month’s leaking of a propaganda film meant for only top officials continues to have repercussions. Daily NK suggests that KJU is looking for a scapegoat for leaking the film. In addition, the film continues to influence the general population. As one recent refugee warns, “this film is going to make people in North Korea wonder when the General (Kim Jong Il) got married, where was her hometown and who was her family.”
- 38 North on plans for the Hwanggumpyong Island SEZ. Speculation has been rife over the future of the SEZ following rumors that Chinese officials were reconsidering the deal. Adam Cathcart analyzes the politics surrounding the SEZ, and notes that KCNA moved extremely quickly to publish a Chinese MFA statement denying that any agreements had been suspended.
- Lankov describes what he believes to be a typical Pyongyang apartment.
- Check out his interview with Kim Jin Chul (75). He was a young boy when he and his family traveled to Pyongyang in 1950 to help his sick grandmother. It would take him 64 years to return to the south.
- A defector, who once wrote propaganda poems for the regime, is in London to compete in an international poetry competition.
- SK’s SBS has retained the rights to broadcast the Olympics for the entire Korean peninsula. There have apparently been no decisions made on whether to provide a video feed to NK.
- Al Jazeera video report of a former NK judo athlete who defected and is now training his sons so they can beat NK judo athletes at the Olympics.
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