NK NEWS BRIEF | Mar 13, 2013
Posted March 13, 2013
KJU waves from a boat during his visit to the Wolnae Islet Defence detachment in the west of the country | Photo: KCNA/Reuters
- Daily NK on the NKorean reaction to the Rodman visit: “The news about a top group of U.S. basketball stars visiting NK spread like wildfire, but when they saw the team on TV, for many it was as if they were looking at some kind of ‘American mafia’! The people here, who are raised on a diet of propaganda about the U.S. being a ‘rotten culture’ populated by a ‘bunch of delinquents’, were asking each other ‘where did they find that group of goblins?’”
- Daily NK: “Province, municipal and county administrations have been moved underground and civilian exercises are being held daily, so tensions are at a high right now. There are some people selling possessions to buy rice and other emergency foods.” Another source states, “The atmosphere here is that we will soon be involved in a ‘defensive war’.” Many expect a state of quasi-war to be declared, similar to the situation in 1993, when NK withdrew from the non-proliferation treaty. “There have been orders to distribute all reserve supplies to the people. The emergency supplies stored in the No. 2 Depot have been sent out to public distribution locations. They are just waiting for the order to distribute it.”
- Yonhap: NK state media blackout of Chinese political events enters its fourth month.
- AP’s Jean Lee: NKoreans can’t access Facebook or Twitter, although they have primitive social networks – sort of like online bulletin boards – where users share thoughts about innocuous topics such as pop music. Everything NKoreans do online is tied to their identity, so it’s easy for the government to monitor users’ intranet behavior. Lee said she has spent a little time on the country’s limited web but hasn’t seen any evidence of people using underground networks to talk more freely.
- Yonhap: The number of NK front-line soldiers going AWOL has increased seven to eight times compared to the same period last year.
- PBS: NK is facing ecological disaster. Soil scientist: “The landscape is just basically dead. It’s a difficult condition to live in, to survive.”
- Yonhap: NK will resume cruise ship tours between its Rajin port and the Mount Kumgang resort.
- Yonhap: NK has had its coldest winter in 27 years.
FOOD SECURITY AND ECONOMY
- Yonhap: Traders in Hunchun reported that NKorean shellfish exports to China have been suspended, apparently after NK increased its belligerent rhetoric.
- Daily NK: “Life hasn’t been this hard at any point since the March of Tribulation at the end of the 90s. The crackdowns are worse than before [under KJI] and there are more suicides happening among the elderly and children without families.”
- NFI: The role of the “money makers” is becoming more prominent and entrenched in the NK economy.
- Yonhap: Without the government’s help, NKoreans are exporting illegal counterfeit cigarettes and narcotics to China.
- Seoul diplomatic source: NK slightly has increased its number of migrant workers to Africa and the Middle East.
- Daily NK: In an attempt to encourage redefectors, the NSA is holding lectures telling the people to convince their family members who have defected to return. “If people living abroad say they are going to return to the motherland, the state will provide the money to bring them back. He [NSA agent] did not use the word ‘defector’ in the lecture; he referred to them as ‘our brethren living abroad… He said that the state will invest in those who return so they can live safe and secure lives, including the right to live in Pyongyang and a modern home there.’”
- Yonhap: Increased border security has lead to even fewer defectors arriving in SK in the first two months of 2013 compared to 2012 (15.4% reduction).
- Yonhap: Around half of all adolescent defectors in SK live in single parent households.
- UNSR Darusman to the UN Human Rights Council: “I believe that many, if not, all of these nine patterns [of human rights violations], may amount to crimes against humanity, committed as part of systematic and/or widespread attacks against civilian population.”
- US Ambassador on the UN COI: “We are in effect ramping up international political pressure on this unparalleled, systemwide failure in respect to human rights. We’re hoping that even if it doesn’t crack the whole system that on some of these issues we might see some opening and some change because of this pressure.”
- Amnesty International: A newly built security perimeter around Camp 14 blurs the line between camps and surrounding civilians. “A network of what appeared to be guard posts enclosing a valley and a small town indicated not an expansion of the sprawling Camp 14, as originally thought, but authorities’ control of those living beyond the camp’s perimeter.”
- NFI: “Of the 120 prisoners at Camp 55, 88% are classified as ‘defectors’ – those who have tried to leave their country, which ordinary NKoreans are forbidden from doing. The remaining 12% are ‘regular criminals’. Even if it may be considered appropriate for these 12% to be punished, however, the majority or Camp 55 prisoners are driven to near-death conditions for the sole reason of attempting to set foot outside of their country.”
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) called for US policy makers to “pay closer attention to the nonmilitary aspects of deterrence, including efforts to weaken and debilitate the North Korean regime. In particular, we ought to do more to expose the North’s brutality towards its own citizens as a means to influence the Kim regime.”
- The UNSC imposed harsher sanctions on NK, with China’s Ambassador saying that Beijing wants to see “full implementation”. However, Chinese FM spokesperson: “China maintains that sanctions shall not be the objective, and we urge relevant parties to stick to dialogues and explore effective ways of attaining lasting peace and stability in the region under the framework of the six-party talks.”
- NK cancelled the 1953 armistice and severed the Panmunjom communication hotline to SK. NK general: “If the U.S. imperialists wield nukes, we will turn not only Seoul but also Washington into a sea of flames with varied Korean-style accurate nuclear strike methods unlike those of bygone years.”
- SK military response to NK threats: “If North Korea attacks South Korea with nuclear weapons then by the will of South Korea and all humanity the Kim Jong Eun regime will perish from this earth.”
- USG: “North Korea’s claims may be hyperbolic – but as to the policy of the United States, there should be no doubt. We will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against, and to respond to, the threat posed to us and to our allies by North Korea.”
- After current US-ROK joint exercises end, American vessels armed with nuclear weapons will stay in Korean waters in case of an NK provocation.
- Susan Rice: “China is definitely increasingly frustrated with North Korea, angry at this latest nuclear test, but there still are very real limitations on how far it’s prepared to go on a national and bilateral basis to squeeze the regime. We continue to talk to the Chinese and make the point, which I think they’re increasingly understanding, that the erratic behavior of the leadership in North Korea is bad for China and is destabilizing a region in which we both have a very significant stake.
- The Kaesong Industrial Complex remains unaffected by the heightened tensions.
- Chosun Ilbo: SK and US authorities have reportedly found dozens of bank accounts presumed to belong to KJU in China, containing hundreds of millions of USD. However they were excluded from financial sanctions under UNSCR 2098. ROKG sources: “NK’s economy is divided into its official economy, military economy and an imperial economy involving the Kim dynasty.” “The slush funds are also emergency cash reserves in case of a regime collapse or other crisis.”
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Noland: “The expansion of legitimate trade in recent years has made NK less dependent on criminal activities and less vulnerable to their disruption.”
- Haggard: “We have some pretty credible evidence that the Chinese are knowingly limiting financial sanctions that could have more marked effect on North Korean behavior.” Noland: “UNSC 2094 is unlikely to have a great effect.”
- AP: Sanctions may actually serve to strengthen the NK regime, and play into its propaganda.
- Sokeel Park: “This is the real NK… a country where millions have not only coped with life under the most repressive regime in the world but also begun driving grassroots change with which the leadership will eventually have to contend. What’s truly “awesome” about NK is the people’s resilience and strength in the face of such brutality. American media coverage of this deeply troubled country should pay less attention to addled celebrities and more to one of the greatest human struggles of our time.”
- Sejong Institute Director: “There is the possibility that they [NK] could conduct a provocation completely different to those of the past. Of course there is the chance of a mid- or short-range missile launch, but they might also do another attack using a submarine, a terrorist act in an urban area, one to bring down infrastructure during a holiday period, or an act of cyber-terror.”
- Foster-Carter: “A world more puzzled than scared (though vigilance is essential) could and should ask KJU, who may or may not be a Spice Girls fan: so, tell me what you want, what you really really want? Amid, despite or because of all the shrieking, the answer to that remains totally obscure.”
- AP: “Nearly two decades ago, SKoreans cleared store shelves after a NKorean threat to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” raised war panic. On Saturday, SKoreans expressed some fear but mostly apathy and restraint after a week of warlike rhetoric from the North, including another “sea of fire” vow.”
- NKorean websites are inaccessible for now.
- Roger Shepherd’s photographs of the Baekdu Daegan mountain range.
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