NK NEWS BRIEF | June 27, 2012
Posted June 27, 2012
A North Korean worker pauses during a shift. Chinese managers have reported they prefer North Korean workers because they are “cheap and obedient.” | Photo: China Daily Mail
- Daily NK is reporting that the NK govt is allowing 50-70 ethnic chinese allowed to trade in Namyam. This is a considerable development because ordinary Chinese citizens have previously been barred from such trading activities. Chris Green in Sino-NK with more.
- The real value of the NK won continues to fall exponentially, however the effect of this is mitigated by the use of foreign currency inside the country, particularly RMB and USD.
- The declining value of the NK won has also affected an apparent shortage of fertilizer in NK. Since the 1990’s NK has imported almost all of its artificial fertilizer from China. In response, the NK govt has launched a campaign to stop communal fertilizer from being sold in markets. Emphasizing NK’s continued focus on this issue, the June 16th edition of the PT ran two separate articles on the successes of NK’s fertilizer production.
- A severe drought continues to affect much of the country. Because NK relies heavily on hydroelectric power, this is causing many in Pyongyang to go without electricity or running water.
- China will reportedly be allowing another 20,000 NK citizens to work in China. In addition to similar reports a few weeks ago, this would increase the number of NKoreans working legally in China from around 8,000 to 50,000. It appears that this may be only the first phase in a plan to expand the number of legal NK workers in China to an eventual total of 120,000. The regime currently reportedly taxes overseas NK workers at a rate of 80-90% of their pay.
- Chinese companies are to invest in a wig factory in Hyesan, creating 2500 jobs. This appears to be part of an effort to make Changbai County a SEZ.
- The Chinese govt is reconsidering investing in Hwanggeunpyeong island, which was designated as a SEZ last year.
- Melton on the NK regime’s lowering of military recruitment height requirements to just under 4’ 8”. The change was likely a necessity due to famine induced stunting.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- The severe drought in NK continues to threaten the food supply. Kwon Tae-Jin, an expert employed by the SK government, predicts that the drought could have destroyed “86,000 tonnes of food, some 17 percent of early-season crops”.
- The US Senate approved an amendment to the Food for Peace Act that would only allow food aid to NK with a presidential waiver. A competing bill that would have prohibited food aid altogether failed.
- UNICEF is to conduct their first survey of nutrition in NK since 2009.
- The DongA Ilbo reports that China provided NK with “100,000 tons of food, half a million tons of oil, and goods worth 20 million” (USD) last year.
- Mission East, a Danish NGO, has begun providing 20,000 NK children with food aid.
- US State Dep’t released its annual report on human trafficking, once again listing NK as one of the worst offenders. See the full report here.
- Noland on a recently released NK white paper documenting the “miserable fate of south Korean defectors,” remarking that concerning NK human rights abuses, the government line seems to be “the best defense is a good offense.”
- NK reportedly executed four refugees that were forcibly repatriated from China. Another 40 repatriated refugees were condemned to political prisons.
- The family of Kim Young-hwan and three other SK human rights activists submitted a plea for their release. Meanwhile, there are rumors that the activists may be released as soon as next week.
- The Vietnamese government has arrested a SK activist for helping NK refugees.
- Refugees testify for the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights on prison camps for NK citizens who have attempted to flee through China.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- The SK govt has added 351 names to the number of accepted cases of NK Korean War abductions, bringing the total to 743. The newly added contain a number of important figures including politicians, journalists, and judicial officials.
- SK former presidential chief of staff and aspiring presidential candidate, Im Tae-hee, has admitted that he made secret contact with NK officials in 2009 in an effort to make a deal regarding SK abductees.
- A recent survey of SK opinion has reported that 75% of SK citizens are deeply concerned by NK’s nuclear programs, with over half of all respondents supporting a SK military response in case of armed provocation.
- SK’s NIS recently sent a notice to overseas missions requesting that they discourage local Koreans and tourists from patronizing NK restaurants, resulting in criticism.
- A SK taxi driver is facing charges of violating the National Security Law for visiting NK related websites, posting comments commending KJU’s succession, and possessing pro-NK literature.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- Steven Denney examines opinions (including those of Church, Lankov, Myers, Joo Song-ha and Chris Green) on whether KJU is instituting real reform in NK.
- Noland and Haggard on the current food situation and the difficulties of accessing the effect of the current drought, and a related piece on whether the situation is more due to nature or the regime’s inefficiencies.
- There been much discussion on whether Myanmar’s opening holds any lessons for NK. Frank Ruediger’s thoughts after attending the World Economic Forum on East Asia.
- Kang Mi Jin on reports of KJU’s relaxed stance on markets and the raised expectations they have caused.
- Petrov on NK Wihwa and Hwanggumpyong SEZs.
- KEI Q&A with Lankov on the prospects for economic reform in NK and reunification.
- NYT’s Jane Perlez on why China continues to back NK, even though they may be getting increasingly frustrated.
- Experts including Senior Sejong Institute researcher, Cheong Seong Chang, believe that political change is happening in NK. “Kim Jong-un has revised six laws relating to foreign investment. This indicates Kim Jong-un’s positive disposition towards economic reform and opening.”
- Lankov on Yim Su-kyong, a pro-NK politician in the South, whose actions have inadvertedly harmed the regime.
- Lankov with a historical look at NK’s busy border. Recommended read.
- Shin Hyon-hee on NK’s changing media environment. Includes new comments on the topic from experts and defectors.
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