Children push a bus in a street in Pyongyang, 20 Sept 2012 | Photo: Vincent Yu/AP
NK Leadership Watch on Kim Kyong-hui’s SPA no-show. It may be due to her ill-health or confidence on the part of KJU’s inner circle that his leadership is secure.
Daily NK: Due to growing food shortages and the effects of natural disasters in some NK regions, security forces reportedly have been unable to secure their full rations. This may lead to “problems in the system of internal controls” in the foreseeable future.
RFA: Since most of the salt pans located in western NK have been destroyed due to recent floods and typhoons, NK is bracing for a severe salt shortage and prices have already significantly increased.
NK grain imports from China were 16.3% lower for the first 8 months of 2012 compared to the same period last year (181,264 tons compared to 216,535 in 2011). This may be because of a rise in food aid from China and an increase in purchases from other markets.
The WFP are conducting a major food security assessment in NK. They will report preliminary findings to the international community based in PY on 8 Oct., and will publish the CFSAM report in November.
The Cross Mission, a US-based Korean group, has donated medical supplies to NK.
A new UN report, “Ageing in the Twenty-First Century, predicts that NK’s population aged 60 and over will double by 2050, taking it to a 23.2% share of the country’s total population.
Rising RMB exchange rates have made it difficult for NKoreans without access to foreign currency to procure the food necessary for the traditional Korean ‘ancestral rites’ table for Chuseok. The price of rice has reportedly reached an incredibly high 7,000 won/kg in Onsung, N. Hamgyeong Province.
Chosun Ilbo: NK agents have reportedly been ordered to extract 167 USD/month extra from NK migrant workers, on top of the cut the regime already takes. As migrant workers become a more significant source of foreign currency for the regime, state agencies are reportedly competing over the right to control migrant worker flows.
Hankyoreh: NK state agencies engaging in PR events to attract investment are attempting to show that NK has decided on a course of change for the sake of the economy and public welfare. However they have a job on their hands winning the trust of Chinese investors. Reuters quotes Li Guilian, chairwoman of Dalian-based clothing company Dayang Trands as saying: “Investors need first of all to consider the environment. If there’s a problem with the environment, then there’s no way people are going to commit money. We might go and have a look at Hwanggumphyong, but I don’t think we’ll invest.” Bing Zhigang, deputy governor of Liaoning province, was also quoted as saying “We are willing to share our 30 years of experience of reform and opening up with our North Korean comrades.”
According to a Chinese newspaper, Chinese RMB will become legal tender in NK SEZs at Rason, and Hwanggumpyong and Wihwa Islands. There are also reportedly plans for a joint venture bank, visa-free transit for foreigners, and the free movement of capital.
NK is reportedly planning on merging uncompetitive businesses with stronger ones so that the tenets of the ‘6.28 reforms’ could be more efficiently implemented.
Daily NK: Camp 22, a political prison camp at Hoiryeong, N. Hamgyong Province, was reportedly shut down after the defection of the warden. Inmates were reportedly transferred to other camps and none were believed to have been released. The camp is believed to have imprisoned 20,000-50,000 at its peak.
SK’s vice unification minister called for NK’s cooperation on family reunions. 81,800 SKoreans are registered with the ROKG as separated families. The ROKG is currently running an advertising campaign encouraging more families to register as separated.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
NK’s VFM Pak Kil-yon at the UNGA: “Since taking office, the current South Korean government has caused the worst situation in North-South relations by making all inter-Korean agreements null and void.” “Today, due to the continued US hostile policy towards the DPRK, the vicious cycle of confrontation and aggravation of tensions is an ongoing phenomenon on the Korean Peninsula, which has become the world’s most dangerous hot spot and where a spark of fire could set off a thermonuclear war.” Video here.
Senior officials from the SPT nations met in China for the first time since 2009. NK’s representative told Yonhap that she met informally with the USG’s representative on the sidelines of the conference.
NK state media blamed the south for continuing tensions along the disputed West Sea maritime border and threatened to retaliate if SK tries to preserve the “illegal” NLL.
A NK spy in Seoul police custody reportedly said he had been sent to kill Kim Jong-nam (KJU’s eldest brother).
The ROKG is stepping up efforts to be elected to a non-permanent seat at the UNSC.
The ROKG sent a third note to NK asking them to repay overdue food loans agreed during the Sunshine Policy.
Approximately 16,000-17,000 NKorean propaganda leaflets have been found around Gimpo and Paju, on the southern side of the DMZ. The leaflets criticize SK’s anti-Pyongyang education efforts.
Christian organizations from NK and SK issued a joint announcement condemning the recent revival of Japan’s “militarism”.
A Seoul National Univeristy poll showed that ⅔ of SKoreans are unhappy with LMB’s policy towards NK. In addition, 57% of respondents thought that reunification is “necessary” while the rest said it is unnecessary or unimportant.
SK presidential candidates visited border areas to outline their NK policy. Park Geun-hye: “Without firm national security, there is no economy, welfare, unification or future of the nation.” Moon Jae-in: “My policy on inter-Korean relations is based on the belief that peace serves as the foundation for economic prosperity.” Elsewhere, Ahn Cheol-soo suggested a third way: “We need to go up one level from the engagement policy of the Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun governments, and beyond the policy of the Lee Myung Bak administration.” However, he did not give any details.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
Ruediger Frank on signs of change in NK: “We should give the new leader due credit for having acted faster and more decisively than we had expected. The direction he is headed seems to point toward pragmatism and economic development. Meanwhile, the capital has turned even more into an object of admiration or envy for the rest of the country. The stage has been set; expectations have been created. Now comes the tough part: finding ways to deliver on the economic front while maintaining stability of the political system and managing the new diversity in DPRK society. Investment in education is not the worst idea in this context. However, to cure the disease without killing the patient won’t be easy.”
Gordon Flake on the elections in SK and the US, and likely challenges in the US-ROK alliance in 2013.
Hazel Smith NKIDP dossier on “Explaining North Korean Migration to China”.
Chris Green interview with Lord Alton, focusing on the need for a BBC World Service Korean channel. The real constraint seems to be money, but Lord Alton notes that alternative funding mechanisms could make it possible. “There is now provision for commercial sponsorship of BBC services. So, if there were Koreans with an interest in seeing the creation of a Korean service then there could be serious discussion about that.”
Japan Times editorial: “North Korea should realize that without a resolution to the abduction issue, Japanese economic assistance will not be forthcoming… Japan, for its part, should pay attention to the fact that North Korea attaches great importance to “settlement of the past,” including thorny historical issues such as Japan’s colonial rule over Korea… Japan has applied a series of economic sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, but they have not worked well.”