NK NEWS BRIEF | May 24, 2012
Posted May 24, 2012 by Justin
- The popularity of SK culture in NK is reportedly continuing to grow, with SK dramas appearing on NK markets as little as three days after their original air dates, and ‘made in SK’ clothes being double the price of ‘made in China’ clothes due to high demand.
- Ri Seong-ho has been elevated to the head of the Ministry of Commerce following reports in February that the previous head, Kim Bong-cheol, had died in a helicopter crash.
- British energy company Aminex PLC has withdrawn from NK two years after signing an oil and gas deal, citing ‘”the volatile and unpredictable politics of the area.”
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- Food shortages in NK’s North and South Hwanghae Provinces are reportedly leading to starvation deaths, with a “significant percentage” of cooperative farm workers too malnourished to work leaving their farms to search for food. NKorean testimonies highlight flooding, govt celebrations, and market stagnation as major reasons for the famine.
- AusAID recently conducted a field mission to Wonsan, Hamhung, and Nampo, NK to monitor assistance provided through the WFP. An estimated 2.5m NK women and children have benefitted from AusAID contributions to WFP operation Emergency Assistance to Vulnerable Groups in DPRK.
- The U.S. House of Representatives approved the reauthorization of the U.S. North Korean Human Rights Act which will now move to the U.S. Senate for consideration. Bill Summary.
- Saenuri Party’s Ha Tae-keung, on his approach on NKHR as lawmaker: “My top priority, once the 19th parliamentary term kicks off, is to have the North Korean human rights bill passed and also to seek the international community’s cooperation on the issue.”
- China has allowed six NK refugees detained for months in SK consular offices in the country to leave for SK. There are now reportedly no more NK defectors in SK diplomatic missions in China.
- The SK National Police Agency has alerted NK refugees to the dangers of pyramid scams concerning investment in Chinese real estate in an effort to educate them after tens of refugees were deceived by a recent fraud.
- Lee Cheol Woo on ways to help NK refugees resettle into SK, suggesting the introduction of extended employment preparation programs, more frequent fund distributions, and additional trainings.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- NK seems to have resumed construction of a new experimental light water reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear facility following months of inactivity, and looks to be undertaking a major upgrade of the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground, but has indicated that it has no plans for an imminent nuclear test. Govt spokesman, “[W]e are restraining ourselves in real actions though we are no longer bound to the February 29 DPRK-U.S. agreement, taking the concerns voiced by the U.S. into consideration for the purpose of ensuring the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula necessary for focusing every effort on the peaceful development.”
- G-8 leaders jointly condemned NK’s recent rocket launch, urged the abandonment of missile and nuclear programs, and criticized the nation’s human rights record at the May 18-19 summit.
- A report submitted to the UN SC sanctions committee has highlighted the difficulty of enforcing sanctions on the sale of luxury goods to NK due to inconsistencies in the definition of “luxury good” among member states. Recent sanctions violations include sales of tobacco, alcohol, computers, and cars.
- Three Chinese fishing vessels and 28 or 29 sailors seized by a NK gunboat earlier this month have been released, reportedly without payment, despite NK demands for ransom. It is unclear whether the seizure was authorized by the NK govt or an action taken at the initiative of local officials in an act of “Somalia-style” piracy meant to earn money. Chinese netizens have been vociferous in their reactions to the incident following reports that the ships were looted and the sailors beaten. Further details here.
- SK activist, Kim Young Hwan, reportedly arrested in China with three others for making contact with NK refugees, was reportedly detained at the request of the NK NSA which is now urging Chinese authorities to transfer him into their custody. An advocacy group in support of Kim has voiced plans to take the issue of his detainment to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and enlist the help of NGOs to pursue his release. History of NK threats against Kim.
- The SK military has reportedly proposed to spend 2.1b USD over five years to improve missile capabilities to deal with NK aggression.
- NK denied recent accusations by SK of using jamming signals to disrupt aircraft and ship GPS systems
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Yonhap on NK efforts to portray KJU as benevolent, Baek Seung-joo suggests that such actions are an indication of currently weak public support for the young leader.
- Haggard reviewing reports of sanction breaking highlighted in a recent UN Panel of Experts Report and profiling three NK companies recently added to the UN sanctions list for their involvement with NK’s primary arms dealer, the Korea Mining Development and Trading Corporation.
- Lankov comparing NK and SK with East and West Germany, highlighting significant differences in levels of information exchanges and the disparity in living standards.
- Lankov on the role of NK organizations (KWP, Youth Union, Trade Union, Farmers Union, and Women’s Union) in monitoring and clamping down on dissent through political indoctrination and criticism sessions. Although still highly influential, it is suggested that the power of such organizations is weakening, particularly in the Women’s Union due to the involvement of housewives in the black market economy.
- Lankov on the phased unification of the Korean peninsula, calling it “impossible” given the necessity of the NK elite to isolate the NK people to maintain their positions in power.
- Jeong Eun-joon (Hankyoreh) with the story of SK businessman Kim Jung-tae and his obstructed ventures in NK. “The [SK] government is choking off what South Korean businesses spent twenty years cultivating, and China’s making off with everything for a song.”
- NK accordionists who gained YouTube fame after covering A-ha’s “Take on Me” have added the song “Hunting High and Low” to their repertoire.
- NK’s Korea Computer Center revealed a tablet PC they claim to have been made in NK at the recent Pyongyang International Trade Fair.
- Picture: SK students and volunteers paint a tank as part of the 2012 DMZ Festival of Peace, Culture and Life.
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