NK NEWS BRIEF | November 7, 2012
Posted November 7, 2012
NKorean workers make soccer boots at a temporary factory in a village near Dandong, China | Photo: Reuters
- Daily NK: KCNA reported that the WPK Central Committee met in order to establish a State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission, to be chaired by Jang Song-taek. The decision to form the Commission and place Jang Sung Taek at its head indicates that sport is to be a key feature of state propaganda going forward.
- Daily NK: In a speech, KJU declared that “We do not need people who are not devoted to the Party and Suryeong [leader], no matter how militaristic their disposition or excellent their tactical ability.” In emphasizing the importance of loyalty, and the potential for disloyalty, in this way, Kim’s speech appears to lend credence to recent claims that reliability at all levels of the military is now a pressing issue for the regime.
- According to the UN Environment Program, the average level of air pollutants in Pyongyang are higher than that in Seoul. The pollution has been attributed to an increase in coal-fired plants in Pyongyang as well as the rising household use of coal.
- NK authorities are replacing their shortwave radio transmitters, in order to allow better broadcasts targeting SK and to stop outside broadcasts from mixing with their signals.
- According to WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2012, NK has the fourth highest TB infection rate in Asia. Despite external support to address the issue the system established to treat TB is reported by defectors to be inadequate and corrupt.
- German luxury-hotel manager Kempinski will operate the 105 story Ryugyong hotel in PY. “This pyramid monster hotel will monopolize all the business in the city,” Wittwer said. “I said to myself, we have to get this hotel if there is ever a chance, because this will become a money-printing machine if North Korea opens up.”
ECONOMY & FOOD SECURITY
- According to FAO data, NK’s annual grain production totaled 4.52 million tons in 2010 (similar to levels in the early 1970s) indicating that the amount of food available per person has dropped 40% from four decades ago.
- Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute, stated that NK may soon attempt to ban the use of foreign currencies. According to recent reports, rice prices shot to the highest level over the past six months while the value of the NK won continued to dive.
- Daily NK reports on poor potato stocks in NK. Source: “It rained too heavily in July and the beginning of August, so a lot of potato fields got immersed… If the potato tubers cannot develop properly from the start then the harvest also ends up bad… The winter will obviously be quite tough, but early next year is a bigger concern.” However rice prices appear to have recently stabilized since the end of autumn harvest has brought corn into the market. However this year’s corn crop has been below average, meaning the current improvement might not last.
- The October issue of DPRK Business Monthly is available. CanKor’s brief on this month’s business report with a note from the editor here.
- Workers at a SK-invested factory in China represent a small percentage of the estimated 60,000-70,000 NKoreans working overseas to earn hard currency for NK. In comparison with most of the poverty-stricken people in NK, the workers are reportedly better off, yet many of the workers in Russia, China and the Middle East are paid in vouchers rather than cash that “go straight into the coffers of the NKorean state” according to refugee groups in SK.
- Chico Harlan on the question of whether Camp 22 has been closed down. Ahn Myong-chol, former prison guard at Camp 22 said he spoke last week with a friend who lives just outside the Camp 22 gates, he said, and the friend told him that former guards were coming into town to sell off goods and produce — oil, corn and meat. The friend also said that “regular people” now go into the camp and farm or mine. “I suspect the camp was closed because it’s running out of coal. There’s a limit to how much you can dig out. Even when I was there in 1994, people were saying Camp 22 would run out of coal to mine in five years.” After reviewing satellite images, Ahn said “The detention center is gone and two interrogation facilities are gone… [The] guard building has disappeared as well. I couldn’t check if the guard posts along the fences are gone because the photo didn’t cover that part, but based on the findings I think Camp 22 is no longer operating as a prison… I feel sorry to find out the prison is closed because it doesn’t mean the prisoners are liberated. They’re moving to a different location and probably will have to go through more severe hardship.”
- RFA reports that NK authorities are trying to step up coal production at the former site of Camp 22 and plan to exploit a large copper mine at the former prison camp following the closure of the nearby Kungsim coal mine.
- UN SR Darusman urged NK to re-think its approach to the ‘military-first policy’ and re-allocate enough resources to improve people’s living standards. At the same time, he stressed the need for the international community to provide continued humanitarian support to the NK people without making the support contingent on any political conditions.
- SKorean officials built on the UN SR’s report saying that he saw no improvement in human rights under KJU, and renewed SK’s calls at the UNGA for NK to improve its human rights situation. SK “welcomed a plan by [UN SR on NK’s human rights] to further review NK’s political prison camps and urged NK to implement his recommendations” at the UN meeting.
- NKorean delegation’s response at the UNGA: “We have nothing to hide. We have nothing to be afraid of. On the contrary, we are proud of our superior system of promoting and protecting human rights in our country, including free medical care and free education system… We will further develop and strengthen our social system that guarantees promotion and protection of human rights.”
- A NKorean family living in Sydney is calling on the Australian Immigration Minister to intervene and stop their deportation to SK where they say they are likely to be blackmailed by agents from the North.
- NK’s NSA reportedly dispatched a team of agents to track the growing number of people failing to return to NK on time at the end of legally sanctioned trips to see family in China. The team is comprised of 50 agents and is operating in places frequented by NKorean visitors such as restaurants and hostels.
- Daily NK: NK’s Defense Security Command has reportedly begun inspections of border guard units. A source said, “The inspection team is to crack down on those men who take money to facilitate smuggling, river crossings and defections, who neglect their duties or move drugs.” The inspection comes as defection numbers begin to climb once again after declining earlier in the year, in part as a result of the National Security Agency taking over border security.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- In response to IAEA’s annual report which outlined concerns regarding NKorean nuclear developments, NK’s deputy ambassador to the UN stated that the US had escalated its threats and blackmailed with increased hostilities toward the NK and that NK would not join the NPT or IAEA, adding that the SPT were almost “dead at this point”.
- SK’s MOU stated that a total of 10 people from two religious groups have been approved to visit NK to promote cooperation with their counterparts in the North.
- Civic group activists launched seven balloons carrying 50,000 leaflets criticizing KJU. However, some SKoreans are starting to question the effectiveness of the campaign since most of them reportedly fail to reach NKorean territory.
- KCNA reported that NK signed an agreement with Syria on trade and cooperation in technology and science during a recent Joint Economic Committee meeting.
- SK presidential candidate Park Geun-hye fleshed out her NK-policy platform. She said she will strive for an inter-Korean summit, and push for the creation of exchange and cooperation centers in Seoul and Pyongyang to fuel bilateral ties. Her 7-point plan is as follows: ▲ maintaining absolute sovereignty and security; ▲ engaging in a range of talks with North Korea to solve the nuclear problem while also maintaining deterrence; ▲ normalizing inter-Korean relations through a Korean Peninsula “trust process”; ▲ going from “small unification to big unification”; ▲ promoting East Asia peace and Eurasian cooperation; ▲ improving economic diplomacy and discovering new sources of growth; and ▲ opening a new era for diplomacy to improve Korea’s image.
- A foreign businessman stated that KJU’s top aide has mentioned the idea of reunification under a “Hong Kong-style one country, two systems” policy. Ri Su-yong, a former NKorean envoy to Switzerland, reportedly said reunification while allowing the North and South to maintain its political system can be one method that could address the differing economic gaps between the two countries.
- In response to NKorean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea’s call for an opposition victory in the SKorean election, SK’s Saenuri Party demanded NK to stop intervening in the South’s upcoming presidential election.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- NK’s economic dreams are ‘just dreams’ – analysis feature by Park Ju-min of Reuters.
- China’s next leaders are expected to maintain policy toward stability on the Korean Peninsula. A majority of analysts state that Xi Jinping’s govt will continue to pressure NK to refrain from provocative behavior, while promoting closer economic cooperation and trying to persuade NK toward economic reforms.
- Ruediger Frank on the inevitability of polarization in NK: “With his verbal and non-verbal announcements, KJU has created high expectations. This will now force him to act. Nobody knows whether Kim Jong Un wants to reform North Korea. But do his intentions matter? Having created the above mentioned facts, he will reform, because he has to improve the living conditions of his people to maintain his legitimacy. He will be careful not to annoy the top and lower ranking elite who form the basis for his power and could constitute the biggest threat to him. He will follow a policy of unbalanced growth as his resources are limited, meaning that certain groups in society, the major cities, and key industries will benefit first.”
- The ROKG has decided to offer public access to its digital maps of NK. The high resolution 1:25,000 scale maps are to be made available online, although the area immediately surrounding the DMZ is not part of the package. At such a scale, buildings, roads and other parts of the North Korean industrial and commercial infrastructure are clearly visible.
- The Guardian’s Datablog on the new NK Leadership Tracker, launched by NK News and KEI.
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