Daily NK: Multiple reports indicate how the military exercises within NK take their toll on ordinary NKorean people: Forced to focus on production of military goods, light industrial activities have been disrupted for about a month. The markets have been shut down, contributing to the increase in rice prices from 6000 to 7000 won in just a few days. Many soldiers have been stealing food and supplies from local populations, and have contributed to deforestation. The government distributed modest corn rations to some living in cities. A lack of driver training and poorly supplied equipment have caused numerous accidents.
In a major speech, KJU called for the building up of NK’s light industries. Daily NK: “The speech was partially noteworthy for the fact that Kim did point unequivocally, and publicly, to areas of concern…. This was in stark contrast to the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il eras, where results were inflated and reported as propaganda to the public alongside almost no public dialogue about problematic issues. However, the speech also focused primarily on passing the buck for the current absence of development in the sector onto the workers in it; it did not address the fundamental problems of North Korean light industry.”
IFES: NK state media is emphasizing the importance of science and technology in the agricultural sector. This emphasis is not new but seems to be increasing, and is in line with the successful launch of the long-range rocket launch last December, preferential atmosphere toward scientists, and promotion of science and technology in the economic sector.
KCNA: NK has produced a new computer designed for industrial use.
Choson Sinbo claims that more NKoreans are using tablet PCs to access the NK intranet.
Yonhap: NK’s forests have shrunk about 31% in the past 20 years.
NK is constructing a new luxury hotel “Yonggwang” in Pyongyang.
NK Tech: NK has begun digital TV broadcasting trials this year, which in the future may make it difficult to receive TV signals from SK or China.
NFI: Scarcity of materials and goods make scavenging trash quite useful in NK, and as a result the streets are largely litter free.
FOOD SECURITY AND ECONOMY
UN in DPRK: Although the overall humanitarian situation has improved slightly over the last 12 months, the structural causes of people’s vulnerability persist. Timely imports of food and provision of agricultural inputs have contributed to avoid a food crisis this year. However, while the food gap is the narrowest in many years (with a cereal deficit of MT 207,000), the majority of people (around 16 million) remain chronically food insecure and highly vulnerable to production shocks. Around 2.8 million people in the most food insecure provinces need regular nutritious food assistance. Serious gaps remain between recommended and actual nutrient intake. Lack of agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizer and plastic sheets) remains the main challenge for food production. UN agency projects for 2013 in NK are only 27.8% funded.
DPRK National Nutrition Survey 2012. Cavazos: “In terms of starvation, Ryanggang-do seems to have the worst problems with chronic malnutrition as around 12.1 % of children aged zero to five years of age suffer from severe chronic malnutrition (Report, p. 21). But even Pyongyang registered some significant levels of severe chronic malnutrition indicating every region and municipality in DPRK had experience of “belt-tightening”. However, when it comes to absolute numbers of cases, South Hamgyong Province is the unfortunate leader of the pack. Pyongyang, where the elites live, but where there is little room for growing food, has an estimated 10% of North Korea’s cases of severe acute malnutrition (Report, p. 66).”
A UNICEF effort to provide 14 villages in NK with safe drinking water is being held up by a lack of funding and logistics constraints.
RFA: Chinese authorities are cracking down on and denying re-entry to NK immigrant workers visiting on 1-month exit visas.
Yonhap: Chinese authorities are also carrying out unusually stringent investigations against NKorean restaurants in China.
The Chinese govt signed its first offshore processing agreement with NK.
A NK-Taiwan nuclear waste deal was called off due to inability to obtain an export permit.
Chosun Ilbo: SK’s NIS has reportedly learned from a NKorean agent who defected that NK has “ordered each diplomat to raise 300,000 USD” by KIS’s birthday on 4/15, and 200kg of drugs were sent to a NKorean embassy in Eastern Europe to be sold for cash.
FT: Koryo tours estimates that about 10,000 western tourists will visit NK this year. The number of Chinese visitors was more than 193,000 in 2011. That includes business and government travellers, but the flow of tourists has been steadily increasing each year, according to a Chinese tour agency.
NK News: NKorean defector: “I will always remember the South Korean drama, “Stairway to Heaven”. I was shocked by how the characters in the drama were about the same age as me, but lived a completely different lifestyle and enjoyed such freedom! For a long time, I was so obsessed with the drama that I would memorize the songs from it and sing them in secret. I envied their lives and the world outside of North Korea. I started to think, “I could live comfortably and happily if I just crossed the border”; “If I escaped North Korea, at least I could escape poverty.” Those thoughts only grew and grew. I felt terrible about leaving only goodbye note for my parents after all they did. But I was resolved to leave. And I began the difficult journey of escaping from North Korea.”
Hyeonseo Lee’s TED talk, “My escape from North Korea” is online. Hyeonseo has become the first NKorean defector to speak from the TED main stage.
The UN HRC is expected to approve a UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) into NK’s human rights violations on Thursday (Geneva time).
Saenuri party leader pushes for NK human rights bill.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
The Rodong Sinmun: “All the brakes by which war on this land can be stopped by the despicable American imperialists and their South Chosun puppets have been totally released. All Party and workers’ organizations are working in a wartime posture.”
Days later, SKorean broadcasters and banks were hit by a coordinated cyber attack, with early suspicion being placed on NK.
NK threatened Japan with a preemptive nuclear strike.
The US will add 14 interceptors in Alaska to counter potential NK missile threats.
During a trip to NE Asia, USG officials are discussing ways to impose “Iran-style” sanctions on NK.
NK congratulated China on the election of its new premier Li Keqiang.
KJU supervised a live artillery drill close to a disputed maritime border with SK. On the same day, the SKorean PM flew to Yeonpyeong island for inspections, just a few miles south of the drills.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
Lankov: “What we are seeing now is just another round of political manipulation by Pyongyang. The show of menacing bellicosity is a performance, aimed at both the foreign and domestic audience… Outside threats are the best way to explain away never-ending economic difficulties, and an air-raid drill or two does wonders when it comes to keeping people afraid and stopping them from having heretical thoughts. It also reminds North Koreans of the need to maintain discipline and unite around the current leader and his “glorious” family.”
Aaron Rhodes: “Exposure of North Korea’s human rights abuses, which likely qualify as crimes against humanity, will intensify with the appointment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry. Such scrutiny will likewise expose China’s inhumane and illegal treatment of refugees. With a UN examination of China’s own human rights record approaching in October 2013, now would be a good time for China to address problems that shame it before the world community.”
Noland: “In all likelihood, NK has run current account deficits for most of its history. That meant that the country was consuming more than it was producing, and the difference had to financed from abroad. However, on our calculation, largely on the back of expanding trade with China, the current account went into surplus in 2011. Our preliminary calculations suggest that the country probably also ran a surplus in 2012. This is bad news, both for North Korea and the rest of us.”
Part 2 of 3 on the story of Aliou Niane, a Guinean student who studied in NK during the 1980’s. “One of the Guinean students asked, ‘Can I have a Korean girlfriend?’ Mr. Lee answered, ‘No, we make only Koreans. We have pure blood. Koreans can only love Koreans.’ Mr. Lee even asserted that, “Not even Chinese can love Koreans.’”
Ask A Korean blog debunking an obviously fake voice-over layed over a NKorean propaganda video, revealing a hopeless lack of fact-checking by western media outlets that reported it as real.
NK News Brief acronyms.
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