NK NEWS BRIEF | November 14, 2012
Posted November 14, 2012
The soldier who defected across the DMZ last month was reportedly severly malnourished, being 180cm tall but weighing only 46kg. Many of the soldiers in this photo taken with KJU in August also appear to be suffering from poor nutrition. | Photo via Yonhap
- The NSA has reportedly launched a new pin badge with KJU’s face on it.
- Private NKorean seamstresses are reportedly seeking out SKorean fashion magazines so they can learn more about SKorean styles. They reportedly use the magazines to make copies of the clothes they see in them, and then “sell those clothes to people with money, like party officials and rich families”.
- NK has introduced a new electronic card payment system for holders of domestic currency. It’s assumed that authorities will eventually begin to deliver wages through the system, however, sources report that this payment system can only be used in larger stores and restaurants, and that the underlying intention of introducing such a system is to bring in westernized systems to emphasize KJU’s role “as a youthful, advanced leader with a keen interest in reform, even if he is not such a leader”.
- KCNA (NK state media) reports that progress has been made in rehabilitating NK’s flood-stricken Komdok area (South Hamgyong) where soldiers and inhabitants have “built houses for more than 1000 families and rebuilt roads extending scores of kilometers.”
- Daily NK on the growing popularity of SKorean skin care products among upwardly mobile young NKorean men. “South Korean media started coming in, leading women to prefer men with nice white skin; therefore, men who wanted to look good in front of women had to use those products that were recommended to them.”
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
- Japan-based pro-PY newspaper Choson Sinbo reports that the role of NK’s Cabinet in designing and running economic policies is increasing. The newspaper also referred to cabinet Premier Choe Yong-rim’s frequent visits to economic establishments, saying the cabinet is receiving support and encouragement to fully play its role from various levels of central and regional committees of its all-powerful WPK. “It is true that efforts to invigorate the economy are being stressed at a different level that is unprecedented.” The environment is being made for officials to successfully push for economic projects beneficial to North Koreans, it also noted.
- Daily NK on state media suggestions of new economic measures. Cho Bong-hyun of Industrial Bank of Korea’s research arm: “The phrase ‘new economic management method’ shows that the new economic management measures that they never officially revealed have already been implemented. If their confidence in the new economic system grows, they will doubtless begin to present them as the achievements of KJU.”
- A new Yalu (Amrok) River bridge is being constructed between Dandong, China and NK is projected to be finished in 2014 and is expected to increase Sino-NK trade. So far, trade between Dandong and NK accounts for 40 percent of total China-NK trade, and the volume of the cross-border cargo trade via Dandong port makes up 80 percent of the total Sino-NK trade volume. Since 2003, when the nation pushed forward a strategy to revitalize the old industrial bases in NE China, Dandong has vigorously developed its shipping and port-related industries due to its regional advantage as a port and border city. The city’s gross domestic product grew from nearly 19 billion yuan in 2002 to almost 89 billion yuan in 2011.
- NKorean economists in Sweden: Benny Olsson, who works as the director of marketing for a Swedish produce wholesaler, said, “They had millions of questions. They asked how much we earn, what the average salary is and many of the questions were about how involved the government is.”
- A new UN FAO/WFP report reveals that NK’s staple food production for the agricultural year 2011-12 rose by around 10% compared to the previous agricultural year which may be due to improved procurement prices to farmers in the form of a bonus offered by NKorean authorities. The report concludes that international support should focus on expanding and developing nutrition programs to vulnerable populations in NK. The WFP DPRK country director stated that although the new harvest figures were “good news”, the “lack of proteins and fats in the diet [was] alarming, and that WFP must double efforts… to provide a more balanced, healthy diet”. Mission highlights: “Assuming the official target of 300 000 tonnes of food imports, the Mission estimates an uncovered food deficit of 207 000 tonnes for the 2012/13 marketing year. This food gap is the narrowest in many years mainly due to the improved harvests. Household food consumption has improved but serious gaps remain between recommended and actual nutrient intake. The predominant share of the population remains food insecure and highly vulnerable to production shocks.” However some experts and defectors in Seoul are questioning whether the NK govt inflated the figures they reported to the UN in order to emphasize improvements under the KJU era.
- A Seoul official reported that the teenage NKorean soldier who defected to SK after killing two superiors last month was suffering from serious malnutrition. He was 5’11 (180cm) but weighed only 101 pounds (46kg). “The defector stated that although his army unit was treated well relative to other units, soldiers were given only salted radishes as side dishes every day. Based on his statements, we’re judging that there is a shortage of food in the North Korean military and meals are not being provided properly.”
- SKorean police arrested a number of defectors on charges of smuggling meth into SK from Dandong, China.
- According to SK’s Institute of Criminology, the crime rate among defectors is rising, with the crime rate amongst defectors being twice as high as the country’s overall rate of 4.3%. The offenses reportedly range from real estate and insurance fraud to drug dealing and the sex trade, and the victims are often times other NKorean defectors.
- Daily NK: A re-defector couple, Kim Kwang-hyok and Ko Jong-nam, who gave a press conference in Pyongyang on November 8th is said to represent the fruits of the NSA’s efforts of luring defectors back to NK. “Defection brokers have to make regular calls to people in North Korea, and when they do the NSA works out where the source of the call is in China and reports it to another team. They head for the relevant area to trace the call and locate the whereabouts of the defectors. Then they use a mixture of conciliatory words and threats of violence to get the family to try and lure the defectors back.” The NSA has reportedly introduced electromagnetic radiation detector equipment to every significant border city and town in NK to listen in on cell phone calls.
- The director of SK’s NIS dismissed claims from SKorean media that Kim Jong-nam, the first son of KJI, had sought asylum in SK. However, the director did confirm that Kim Jong-nam is not currently residing in Macao.
- The ROKG will be opening a second resettlement education center next month for male NKorean defectors in Gangwon Province.
- Yonhap feature on NK defectors’ marriage options in SK. “Defectors have few choices when it comes to choosing a spouse because of a lack of family links and economic gaps. Many NKorean defectors want to marry people of the South in hopes of assimilating into the society, but they mostly end up with fellow defectors or ethnic Koreans from China.”
- Microsoft is to sign an agreement with the MOU to provide 100m KRW (92,000 USD) worth of IT equipment and programs to seven schools specializing in NKorean defector education over the next three years.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- ROK Marines are to open a memorial hall on Yeonpyeong Island next week to commemorate those who died in the shelling of the island in 2010.
- The ruling parties of NK, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba congratulated China on the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
- Satellite images suggest that NK may be testing rocket engines, indicating NK’s persistence in developing long-range ballistic missiles.
- Japan and NK have agreed to hold senior working-level talks on a “range of issues”. Tokyo is reportedly planning on using the talks to pressure NK to work toward resolving the abductions of Japanese nationals by its agents in the 1970s-80s.
- Pacific Forum Young Leaders has published their ‘Issues & Insights Vol. 12 – No. 12, Mistrust in the US-Japan-ROK TRiangle: Next Generation Solutions’.
- LMB became the first ROK president to visit Thailand in 31 years, in an effort to promote economic links and strengthen cooperation.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Yong Kwon on the lessons from Soviet economist Alexander Chayanov for NK agricultural reforms: “Pyongyang, instead of attempting to increase productivity by forcing rural labor to be invested in collective farms currently accounted for in the current state logistics (although making the units smaller and more autonomous would have been laudable first steps… had they been implemented), ought to expand the scope of its statistics to include the private plots and de jure legalize their cultivation… Furthermore, increased supply to urban areas and production need to be incentivized in more ways than tinkering with the percentage of the crop that the community is allowed to keep. Direct links must be established between food processors, distributors and the farmers themselves on a contractual basis that is as free as Pyongyang will allow it to be.”
- Kim Jae-young on the cultural differences between NK and SK, including on how language and food have diverged.
- Part 1 of WSJ’s interview with Brian Myers on SK’s influence over NK.
- Andy Glynne, director of Nothing to Envy (animated film based on the book), on “Can a film make any difference?”
- Pyongyang will host a table tennis tournament for people with disabilities.
- The Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies has launched the Institute for the Study of North Korean Life (INKL). “We are going to research how the NKorean economy and markets affect the NKorean people. It’s not the case that we plan to stop researching the important political signs and regime issues that we have been dealing with; simply, it is possible to assess the NKorean regime and system through its people.”
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