NK NEWS BRIEF | October 17, 2012
Posted October 17, 2012
Farmers in NK expect a reduced harvest this year | Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP
- NYT on NK’s growing polarization: In two days of interviews with the North Koreans, a thinly concealed disgust over inequality that has risen in recent years — and a realization that the national credo of juche, or self-reliance, was a carefully constructed lie — was striking. (Recommended read).
- The LAT ran a piece using similar interviews: “People expect reform from [KJU] because he is so young,” said Park Jeong Suk, a 50-year-old woman from Chongjin, in the far northeast, who said she has been in China since August. “They talk all the time about North Korea needing to open up.”
- Daily NK provides context on the regime’s renewed focus on riverbed maintenance along the flood-prone Potong River in PY and it’s attribution of the efforts to KJU. It also notes that project-related events signal Cabinet oversight over the project even though it is being carried out by the military.
- KCNA reported that KJU stressed the need for education in ‘economic subjects’ as well as ‘scientific and technological knowledge’ in a letter to elite schools. Comment: This follows the emphasis on education reform in the recent SPA session, and continues a trend of publicising the leadership’s return to focusing on issues related to domestic policies that were relatively ignored under KJI.
- Daily NK: According to a Pyongyang source, ordinary NKorean people are being reminded through official lectures that they may not make unapproved contact with tourists, emphasizing that ‘foreigners are envious of [NKorean] ideology and will try to undermine it,’ and that ‘they could be enemy forces in disguise trying to attack socialist ways and spread bad ideas’.
- According to NKorean senior tourism officials, NK is improving its infrastructure to attempt to attract more Chinese tourists. Approximately 60,000-70,000 Chinese tourists are said to have visited the country last year.
- NK’s successful Olympic athletes were awarded the title “Labor Hero” and given medals.
- Asahi Shimbun reports that Kim Kyong-hui may have recently visited KJU’s elder brother Kim Jong-nam in Singapore.
- International media has picked up on Ri Sol-ju’s absence from official media for several weeks. Some have speculated that it is due to the conservatives’ unhappiness over her PR style, but it might just be that she is pregnant. Comment: The smart money is on pregnancy.
- According to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the number of NKoreans who died over the last over the last 10 years as a result of disasters is 77,747, compared to 1,401 in SK. In Asia, only Indonesia, Myanmar, China and Pakistan saw more deaths.
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
- Daily NK: NKorean sources reported that none of the experimental farms will be given 30% of their production this year because the 6.28 Policy had been put on hold until next year due to difficulties in meeting target productions.
- Daily NK: NKorean authorities launched their latest attempt to increase exports and attract investors with the opening of the ‘2012 Chosun-China Economic, Trade, Culture and Tourism Exhibition’ in Dandong. Most of the larger enterprises from China’s three northeastern provinces sent representatives to Dandong, but one representative from a company with a 10-year history of doing business with NK said, “We have seen countless examples of companies making contracts and then there being little contact between the partners thereafter. Unbelievably, one manager I tried some minerals business with last year just changed the name of the company and came back again this year.”
- Chosun Ilbo: After the NKorean side increased its prices by more than 20%, the Chinese partner has pulled out of NK’s Musan Mine, Asia’s largest open-air iron mine with an estimated reserve of 3 billion tons of ore.
- 4,000 NKoreans are reported to be working in construction jobs in the suburbs of Kuwait City. According to a SKorean diplomatic source, the workers earn up to 500 USD a month as carpenters, welders and other jobs, but all but 100 USD goes directly to the government. Meanwhile Air Koyro’s facebook page estimated that 10,000 NKoreans are working in Kuwait.
- The Chinese govt has announced a contribution of 1m USD to the WFP’s operation in NK. It will reportedly be used to buy around 1550 metric tons of maize, which will be the base ingredient for Super Cereal manufactured in NK and then distributed for one month to 400,000 children in hospitals, orphanages, and kindergartens. Pregnant and nursing mothers will also receive food rations. China contributed 20m USD to WFP operations in 2011.
- SKorean media picked up on the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report, where NK showed the highest GHI growth rate of 21% from 1990 and currently has a GHI of 19 points, higher than that of 1997 which was 15.7 points. The increase in NK’s GHI score would indicate that the food crisis had worsened since the 1990s. The IFPRI attributed this to NK’s weak economy, high military spending, weather-related crop failure and systemic problems in the agriculture sector. Comment: NK’s agricultural sector has had a particularly bad year and prices are also sky high because of the depreciation of the NK won and increased hoarding, and there may be deaths from starvation in some regions, but NK’s grassroots marketization means the population as a whole are much better placed to cope with food shortages than they were in the 1990s.
- In an attempt to stop both defections and crimes perpetrated by NK border guards and others, China is reportedly increasing the use of electrified barbed wire fences on its northeastern border with NK.
- Korea Herald: NKorean refugees are legally or illegally resettling in Europe or North America due to the unexpected challenges, competition and prejudice they may experience in SK. However, Pastor Moon Jung-im, who established a Christian church in LA to help NKorean defectors, said “due to language and cultural barriers, many found it about 10 times more difficult to get settled here in the US. They also have many conflicts in their children’s education due to cultural differences”.
- The British Embassy in Seoul is re-launching their “English for the Future” program which is intended to help NKorean defectors learn the language widely deemed in SK as one of the essential qualifications for success.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- SK looks set to win a non-permanent (2 year) seat at the UNSC on Thursday. SK previously sat on the council in 1996-1997.
- US State Dept spokeswoman Nuland expressed concern over NKorean people stricken with hunger, amid reports of a lack of improvement in their life under new leadership.
- SK will make its 3rd attempt to launch a homegrown space rocket at the end of this month. This comes at a time when NK has said that in the light of ROK-US agreements on SKorean missile development, they feel freer to test their own long-range missiles.
- A Chinese fisherman was killed by a rubber bullet fired by the SKorean coast guard. SKorean officials said that they has seized two Chinese ships fishing illegally in SKorean waters, but that the Chinese fishermen had fought back with knives and handsaws.
- A SKorean lieutenant general, two major generals and two brigadier generals are facing disciplinary action after admitting that a NKorean soldier had crossed the heavily patrolled border between NK-SK undetected as he sought to defect.
- SK is planning to spend about 150b KRW (135m USD) to install a “scientific guard system” along the SK-NK border by 2015 to better guard against possible infiltrations. The current border surveillance system had a series of malfunctions and breakdowns in a recent test.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Laura Ling Op-Ed in the LAT on the long-term challenge and constraints posed to the regime by NK’s people-driven changes including marketization, new information flows, and corruption.
- Leon Sigal on “the dog that hasn’t barked” – the widely anticipated third nuclear test which has not taken place. “Nuclear restraint… would suggest that North Korea still wants to improve relations with the United States, Japan and South Korea and is prepared to restrain its nuclear and missile programs in return.”
- Daily NK: The former Minister of Unification allegedly revealed that KJI told President Roh on his 2007 visit to PY that he had acknowledged and even apologized for the Japanese abductions issue, but that hardliners were viciously attacking him over it. However, when Daily NK asked for confirmation from Minister Lee, he claimed he was unable to recall if the matter was discussed.
- The Korea National Institute of Health released the ‘Healthcare Plan for Future Reunification’ report. It predicts that after a potential reunification of the two Koreas, “infections of TB, malaria and intestinal parasites will rapidly spread to South Korea as more North Koreans move south” and states that SK “need[s] to thoroughly prepare to protect public health”.
- NKNews has found pictures of a cute foreign child making herself at home in various scenes in Pyongyang.
- WashPo on tourism in NK.
- Alex Melton on Comrade Kim Goes Flying at the Busan International Film Festival (video).
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