- NK has celebrated the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army, with KJU overseeing military exercises to mark the occasion. Authorities reportedly called upon the citizenry to provide supplies for care packages given to military units as part of the festivities.
- KJU has reportedly issued an order to send additional NK workers abroad to earn foreign currency for the regime. The Economic Observer on “cheap, obedient” NK workers in China, reports that some NK state trading companies are sending NK workers to China illegally in order to make more money.
- Some NK authorities are reportedly denying that the recent rocket launch was a failure and have begun hunting down and detaining university students who speak of the mishap.
- Bad weather in Yangkang Province reportedly prompted some wealthy parents to pay to keep their children from being forced to perform in Arirang-like performances marking the 100th birthday of KIS. Of those unable to bow out, “it is about 10℃ in Yangkang Province, cold enough to be wearing padded clothes at midday. The students had to bring lunch, and those who did not practiced the whole day starving.”
- Two NK border guards that were reportedly on the run in China after killing six or seven NKoreans, perhaps guards from their own unit, are said to have been captured and repatriated.
- Op-ed by international legal experts Geoffrey Nice and William Schabas on UNSC inaction regarding NK human rights; voicing support for the efforts of the ICNK and backing the pursuit of progress through a UN commission of inquiry.
- A National Human Rights Commission of Korea casebook on human rights abuses including new NK reports will be released on May 3rd. The organization hopes it will help prosecute those responsible for human rights violations post-reunification.
- The number of NK refugees that arrived in SK in Q1 2012 is down 39% on the Q1 2011 figure. The decrease is explained by increased security on both sides of the PRC-DPRK border since the death of KJI. NKoreans now have greater fear of being caught and also fear more severe punishments if they are caught attempting to defect or are caught in China and are repatriated.
- Eight of forty NK loggers who fled their jobs in Russia nearly two years ago and took refuge in the ROK Moscow embassy have reportedly arrived in Seoul. Chung Min-uck on Russia’s “relatively cooperative” stance towards NK refugees.
- The National Human Rights Commission of Korea has released results from a survey of 800 NK refugees. Of 278 political prison camp escapees the most common reason for imprisonment was attempted defection.
- The Hankyoreh on a refugee whose story of defection was reportedly leaked by SK authorities and reported on by the Chosun Ilbo, seemingly leading to the disappearance of family members remaining in NK.
- Stories of NK refugees living in Canada, on their fear for their family’s safety, distrust of other defectors and society at large, and worries of being deported to SK.
- Demonstrations on behalf of NK refugees in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul have come to an end after 77 days of protesting following China’s detainment of a large group of defectors.
- RFA: The UNHCR’s Antonio Guterres told US congressional officials that a recent report by Yomiuri Shimbun claiming that China has suspended repatriation of the defectors was untrue.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- KWP International Secretary, Kim Yong Il, has reportedly stated that NK intends to continue developing nuclear weapons. “America says it will support us if we stop nuclear developments, but they have trampled over those nations which have abandoned their nuclear weapons so we will not repeat the same mistake again. This is North Korea’s position.”
- Various sources have suggested that a NK nuclear test will be conducted soon, possibly within the next two weeks. Recent satellite imagery seems to indicate that preparations for a test are proceeding but does not give a clear indication of when a test will take place.
- Obama has stated that any “provocative acts” undertaken by NK will only lead to further isolation.
- Analysis by German experts suggests that NK rockets revealed at a recent military parade were “mock-ups” incapable of actual use.
- The U.S., SK, Japan, EU and others asked the UNSC North Korea Sanctions Committee to freeze the assets of an additional 19 NK agencies and organizations following the recent rocket launch.
- The U.S. and SK agreed to expand their defense alliance at the Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue.
- The Chinese govt has approved the establishment of an international cooperative demonstration zone in Jilin province to boost cross-border cooperation with NK and Russia. A Chinese tourist train went into service offering trips between Jilin province, Tumen, and Chilbo Mountain, NK.
- Q1 2012 bilateral trade between NK and China reached an all-time high, totalling 1.37b USD, an increase of 40% from 2011.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Christopher Hill on NK/China relations: “If the North Korean problem is ever to be solved, it will be when China says that it has had enough. That day may be approaching, but… there are worrisome signs that China’s trade and investments in North Korea… could oddly make China dependent on the North.”
- AFP on luxury goods enjoyed by the NK elite despite heavy sanctions. “Pyongyang lacks for nothing.”
- NYT on Good Friends Chairman, Ven Pomnyun Sunim and his passion for NK. “World leaders and the media talked obsessively about Kim Jong-il and his nuclear weapons and missiles… But what about the North Korean people?”
- Bill Keller NYT op-ed: “What strikes you is how the shackles of totalitarianism are being corroded by bribery, barter and black-marketeering, including a thriving cross-border trade with China. It’s still a crushingly oppressive regime, arbitrary and brutal. But more often than you would imagine, need trumps fear.”
- Chad O’Carrol on recent NK rhetoric, making comparisons to previous harsh statements and predicting the subsequent fallout.
- The FT on the increasing use of cell phones in NK: “Rapid growth in the use of mobile telephones is aiding the flow of information, and creating severe challenges for North Korea’s rulers. Experts say it could gradually undermine both Kim Jong-eun’s police state and his propaganda machine.”
- A planned visit by the NK National Symphony Orchestra to the U.S. has been postponed following the recent rocket launch.
- Video: NK authorities have NKoreans of all ages destroy a lifelike effigy of LMB.
- KIS 100th birthday celebrations through the lens of skateboarders.
- Huff Post: Korea DMZ: Korean War Zone or Tourist Trap?
- Video: “Having Fun in Pyongyang (N. Korea) Zoo!” Signs explain that some animals are the descendants of animals given to KIS by friendly nations as far back as the 1950s.
- Levi Ammundsen from Prince George, B.C. is biking 11,000 km across North America on behalf of NKoreans and will donate proceeds to LiNK.
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