NK NEWS BRIEF | September 19, 2012
Posted September 19, 2012
- ROKG official: KJU’s military bodyguards have been replaced with party officials, suggesting a potential power shift and/or protection against a potential military coup.
- NK has enacted a set of laws aimed at better managing its nuclear facilities.
- Yonhap: NK is concentrating scarce resources on beefing up amusement facilities. This is seen by some as part of a focus by the new leadership on the younger generations. NK video footage of KJU’s visits to the amusement park and zoo.
- Daily NK: NK may be planning to reform its education system bringing in an eleven-year system of mandatory education involving five years of elementary school, three years of middle school, and three years of high school.
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
- Both NK and Chinese news outlets reported that construction at the Hwanggeumpyeong SEZ has begun in earnest. New enthusiasm is also being shown over the Rason SEZ.
- A Chinese govt source said that NK and China will develop 4 or 5 ports on NK’s east coast.
- NK declared it will fine companies operating in the KIC that avoid tax. Out of 123 companies, just four companies have paid tax, amounting to 160,000 USD over the past two years.
- Choco Pies are being distributed as an incentive to workers at the KIC. This has been going on for years, because pay is tightly controlled by the regime, so businesses have searched for creative ways to increase productivity.
- Choson Exchange on NK state media’s first ever positive mention of “entrepreneurs.”
- AP’s Tim Sullivan reporting on NK’s possible experimentation with change: An unidentified govt official told KCNA that expecting reform “is nothing but a foolish and silly dream,” but added that North Korea “is effecting new innovations and creations in order to make its people enjoy modern and a highly civilized life and live in luxury and comfort.”
- NK refused to accept SK’s offer of flood relief aid, saying “We do not need such aid.” Seoul had proposed providing 10,000 tons of flour, 3 million packs of instant noodles and medicine worth a total of 10b KRW (9m USD). NK is believed to want rice, cement and heavy equipment for reconstruction. Daily NK on the subversive effect of SK’s noodles aid.
- Two private SK aid groups will send flour to NK this week. The ROKG will also resume its provision of encephalitis vaccines to NK children this year after the program was suspended for two years due to poor N-S relations.
- Daily NK: A resolution on the torture of Kim Young-hwan which passed the National Assembly may be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council. However, fears over the safety of other human rights activists may stop the issue going that far. Choi Hong-jae, acting spokesperson for a committee established to pursue the torture allegation, stated, “Our primary goal, informing the international community about the torture of North Korean human rights activists in China, has been achieved. If submitting this resolution to the UN were going to endanger human rights activists in China then we would formally request that MOFAT put it on hold.”
- NK refugee numbers show signs of rebounding. MOU stats show the number of defectors arriving in SK is beginning to rise slightly, going from 90 in February to 116 in March, 107 in April, 137 in May, 141 in June and 164 in July.
- Daily NK: A group of 20 NK refugees crossed the Yalu on Sept 7 in the largest known group defection of the KJU era.
- Amid concerns of inefficiency, the ROKG Ministry of Strategy and Finance is reviewing gov’t support for defectors. The Board of Audit and Inspection has separately been looking into govt agencies managing defector-related programs. The MOU’s budget for defector-related programs is 124b KRW (111m USD), accounting for 58% of their total budget.
- According to a January survey (n=8,299), 30% had a monthly income of less than 1m KRW (900 USD), and the unemployment rate was 12.1% (three times higher than the national rate). The number of NKorean arrivals in SK has topped 24,000 (this figure is cumulative and doesn’t account for people who have since left SK or died).
- The ROKG plans to get feedback from NK refugees on their treatment at overseas missions following an embarrassing media report that described high-handed treatment of refugees by ROKG embassy staff in Southeast Asia.
- Fifteen North Korean refugee couples were married in a group ceremony in Toronto.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- KCNA called on Japan to abandon hostile policies and implement the 2002 Japan-NK Declaration, which sought to manage bilateral disputes and normalize diplomatic relations.
- KCNA reported on the deal with Russia to write off nearly all of the $11bn debt accrued by NK to the Soviet Union. This deal was also announced by the Russian finance ministry in June. Russia will “forgive” 90% of the debt and reinvest $1bn as part of a debt-for-aid plan to develop energy, healthcare and educational projects in NK. The deal comes as Moscow looks to boost its economic presence in Asia amid falling demand from the crisis-hit economies of the west. Analysts said infrastructure investments, including rail and electricity, would probably form the bulk of Russia’s re-investment in the country.
- The Sejong Institute’s Cheong Seong-chang challenged common concerns in Seoul by saying that in the case of NK instability, China will turn to diplomacy rather than military intervention. “Should an all-out war break out with damage inflicted on its regions near the border with the North, China could militarily intervene. But we need to be careful before drawing the conclusion that it would intervene in cases other than war.” Cheong also pointed to increasing economic interdependence and diplomacy between SK and China.
- KOTRA (ROKG) official: It has been confirmed that NK has agreed with Chinese border cities to dispatch 120,000 workers. The average wage for a NKorean is around 1500 RMB/month (235 USD), compared to 2,000-3,000 RMB for a Chinese factory worker. A majority of the money is taken by the NK regime, but even so it is more than they can earn back home so there is competition and a thorough selection process for NKorean migrant worker candidates.
- A SKorean company that was planning to open a factor near the Sino-NK border and employ NKorean workers has been unable to do so because of LMB’s May 24 sanctions. Many SKorean companies are calling for changes so they can use cheaper NK labor.
- The ROKG has agreed to a package of emergency funding for businesses engaged in N-S trade that have suffered under the May 24 sanctions.
- SK’s opposition lawmakers criticised the gov’t for failing to send flood aid requested by NK. They said sending food to the North would have been the perfect opportunity to start cross-border talks that have effectively been suspended under LMB.
- SK Presidential candidate Park Geun-hye said she would be willing to meet with KJU if it would result in improved N-S relations , and would also be prepared to discuss turning the disputed West Sea border area into a joint fishing area. Park met with KJI in PY in 2002.
- A U.S. opinion poll revealed that 82% of respondents (n=1800) support continued diplomatic efforts to suspend NK’s nuclear program, and 69% support the idea that U.S. leaders should be ready to meet and talk with NK leaders. The survey also suggested growing appreciation of SK as an important partner which shares “American values”. (Recommended read).
- U.S. defence secretary Leon Panetta said an agreement had been reached to install a second system aimed at protecting Japan from the threat of a missile attack from NK. Panetta also framed the U.S. military aspect of their ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific as being in response to “real threats” from NK (not China).
- LMB: Korean unification is “inevitable”.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Haggard with more on the Xiyang dispute between North Korea and a large Chinese company.
- Seo Yoon Hwan: Results from a Database for North Korean Human Rights survey of 1,486 defectors who entered SK in 2011 show that the most common methods of accessing outside information for people living in regional parts of NK are CDs and DVDs (37.2%), verbal communication (22.4%), foreign radio broadcasts (14.1%) and television (11.6%). Other responses included mobile phones, USB media and smuggled goods. Meanwhile, propaganda pamphlets was not common at only 5.9%, perhaps a sign that modern electronic devices are more effective. Asked what effect they believed outside information had on regional citizens, the highest response was ‘admiration for foreign societies’ at 44%, while 32.8% said that it gave people the desire to defect.
- A joint NK-European movie, “Comrade Kim Goes Flying,” will be shown Busan Int’l Film Festival next month. The film, shot in Pyongyang with a NKorean cast and crew, is the first Western-financed fiction feature made entirely in NK.
- Sue Mi Terry’s book review of Melanie Kirkpatrick’s Escape from North Korea.
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