NK NEWS BRIEF | October 10, 2012
Posted October 10, 2012
A truck, retrofitted to run on a barrel of burning wood, stops on a road in Hamhung. 11 Aug 2012 | AP Photo/David Guttenfelder
- Daily NK: An in-country source reported that the regime’s failure to roll out the 6.28 reform measures, which were expected at the start of this month, has caused confusion. Cadres reportedly suspect that the authorities are not yet ready, and may also be holding off because of hyperinflation in the markets due to a sky-high RMB exchange rate. However, it is considered unlikely that the policy has been cancelled altogether.
- On a recent visit to the National Security Agency, KJU said, “The NSA must engrave deep in the people’s hearts the point that even a hint of illusion or submission to the enemy is the shortest road to death and self-destruction. We must extend the fight against the enemy’s ideological and cultural infiltration and psychological scheming, and must ruthlessly crush those hostile elements with their childish dreams.” “The NSA must immediately put in place a strategy to destroy the enemy’s schemes; they are trying to divide the Party and the masses, standing in the way of the people’s hearts and their wish to follow the will of the Party.” A temporary heightening of efforts to block defection, phone calls to the outside world and incoming DVDs and other media is expected to follow.
- Chinese tourist numbers are increasing, which is accelerating the development of NKorean tour packages using air, land and sea links. On October 1st and 2nd, approximately 500 people enjoyed a tour by train to Sinuiju, according to KCNA. In the words of a Daily NK source from Dandong, “Many Chinese people just want to go to North Korea to see the primitive methods they still use; farming with oxen and that kind of thing.”
- NKNews reports adjustments in KIS Square: A solemn portrait of KIS has been removed and flags of the Workers’ Party of Korea have been replaced with DPRK flags. Portraits of Lenin and Marx were removed in April.
- KJI personality cult efforts: Another KJI statue has been unveiled in NK, on the grounds of the NSA. This is the first KJI statue standing alone – all other known such statues feature KJI alongside KIS. According to KCNA, under the direction of KJU, a police university was renamed after KJI. KCNA also ran pictures of a KJI patriotism art exhibition which has opened in PY.
- According to a NKorean defector from Pyongyang, selling grave sites in the outskirts of the capital, mostly to members of the pro-Pyongyang Korean community in Japan, is bringing in valuable foreign currency.
- KJU’s aunt Kim Kyung-hui resurfaced on Sunday after disappearing from the radar for more than a month amid speculation that she is in poor health and had received medical treatment in Singapore.
- Daily NK: NK’s educational reforms plan to divide the final 3 years of ‘middle school’ into two types based upon grades. NKorean children’s educational opportunities are primarily decided by songbun, and there is concern that the reforms may add a new layer of discrimination to an already highly discriminatory regimen. A sources also stated that authorities are trying to expand NK’s pool of teachers, and as part of the effort the level of qualification required to become a teacher has been reduced.
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
- Daily NK: The FAO reported that NK’s food situation worsened in its latest ‘Crop Prospects and Food Situation’ report, noting that “a recent dry spell and floods are expected to affect the main season food production. In addition economic constraints and lack of agricultural inputs continue to lead to inadequate food supplies.”
- Speaking at the G-77 meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA, NK VFM Pak Kil-yon said his country is continuously improving its economic structure and development methodology, and is actively encouraging international exchange and cooperation in this matter. Pak is also reported to have said, “The gap between North and South Korea in the arena of international economic relations is widening more and more. This requires the G-77 to pour more efforts into the facilitation of inter-Korean cooperation.”
- A NKorean business and trade delegation, comprised of university members, state export companies and the foreign trade ministry, visited Sweden to learn about its economy. The trip was at least partly funded by the Swedish government.
- Saenuri Party lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun claimed that based on customs statistics and other data, the quantity of luxury goods imported by NK authorities has risen by 70% since KJU was anointed the successor to KJI, reaching 585m USD worth of luxury products in 2011. The greatest increases allegedly occurred in luxury cars, watches, computers and electronic products and wine and liquor. It should be noted though that the trade in luxury goods is increasingly decentralized and does not necessarily go through the leadership.
- Eleven officials from the SKorean NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea, an association of 51 private aid groups, traveled to the border of NK to deliver and monitor the distribution of 500 tons of flour to flood victims.
- NK’s trade volume with China reached 3.54b USD for the first 7 months of the year, growing 14.5% on the same period last year, according to MOU statistics.
- NK’s mineral exports have increased 33-fold over the past decade, reaching 1.65b USD in 2011, according to the (South) Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency. Last year NK exported 1.17b USD worth of anthracite coal and 405m USD worth of iron ore, with almost 100% going to China.
- NK’s accumulated income from the KIC is expected to top 300m USD by the end of the year.
- According to a ROKG source, early-stage discussions on the Russian gas pipeline project are hitting a snag because NK is demanding transit fees 2-3 times more than international rates.
- LiNK’s summary of the UN SR’s report on NKHR contains information on the freedom of information, food security, economy, public health, criminal code, Oh Kil-nam, refugee flows, and the argument for people fleeing NK to be classified as refugees.
- A Saenuri Party lawmaker has called for an overhaul of gov’t assistance for defectors. Rep. Shim quoted a report saying that of the 19,386 defectors currently receiving govt support, 9,045 were living among the citizens with “the lowest standard of living.” The report also said that 76.8% of defectors worked in low paying jobs such as in the service sector or factory work, while only 15.6% worked in highly-skilled areas such as medicine.
- A coalition of civic groups representing defectors plan to erect a statue of a girl in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul to protest the Chinese govt’s policy of forced repatriation.
- The ROK MOFAT reported that 295 NK refugees are currently being protected by ROK embassies and consulates – the majority of them are in Southeast Asia and are waiting for processing to transfer into SK. In general, the wait time is around one to two months.
- FSRN radio segment on the added challenges that disabled NK refugees face.
- A 50-year old NKorean man has been detained and indicted for violating the National Security Law by disguising himself as a defector. He is alleged to have received orders to assassinate KJI’s first son and to encourage defectors in SK to return to the North.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- A NKorean soldier who shot his platoon leader and company commander while on duty at a border guard post crossed the DMZ and declared his wish to defect, according to a SKorean official. The escapee is now being questioned. The military was criticized for failing to detect the defecting soldier even though he reportedly walked past guard posts, through barbed wire fences and up to an observation post. A senior military source revealed that two other NKorean soldiers have defected across the DMZ this year. Daily NK on the lack of morale and nutrition in the NK military.
- Under a new deal with the U.S., SK will develop ballistic missiles with a range of up to 800km, up from the current limit of 300km, within five years. The USG attempted to limit the impact of the deal on global non-proliferation efforts and address concerns from China and Japan by framing the development as a defensive response against NK’s missile capabilities. Chinese and Japanese media both nevertheless expressed unease. According to a diplomatic source, the Obama administration faced a tough choice to accept Seoul’s persistent request due to the importance of maintaining a robust bilateral alliance.
- NK responded by calling the move a preparation for invasion, and warned that SK, Japan, Guam and the U.S. mainland are all within range of NK missiles. Scott Snyder’s analysis here.
- A SKorean ruling party lawmaker stated that NKorean vessels have violated the western maritime border 338 times over the last 10 years. The SKorean Navy fired warning shots to intruding vessels 13 times during that same period.
- DongA: NK state media has mentioned SK’s presidential elections an average of 4.6 times per day since the April 11 general elections, and it widely using social networking services to target the younger generation in the south (whether they pay any attention is of course a different matter).
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- AP: Tim Sullivan on the increasingly evident polarization in NK, noting contrasts between Pyongyang and other cities, and the chasm between the elite and the daily struggles of ordinary NKorean people. (Recommended read, includes slideshow).
- Choson Exchange on the need for the regime to attract partners to invest in its urban technological infrastructure.
- Lord Alton on the political rhetoric of both international actors and NK authorities and the need for such actors to speak out more clearly on behalf of the NKorean people.
- Lankov on the unlikeliness, but potential, for dissention in NK, comparing it to the example of dissidents at the height of Stalinism in the Soviet Union.
- Lankov: NK media normally say nothing about economic reforms soon to be implemented.
- Hankyoreh interview with Professor Park Han-shik, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, who has visited NK approximately 50 times.
- Snyder examines four possible scenarious of NK provocations.
- Mosaic Films, the team behind the project to produce a feature-length animation based on Demick’s Nothing to Envy, have launched a kickstarter type campaign to get their funding off the ground.
- Event: HRNK-SWC-LiNK will host “North Korea’s Political Prisoner Camp System and the Plight of North Korean Refugees: A Call for Action” in Los Angeles, October 12th.
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