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1 August 2011 / SP

Weekly News Brief – 1 August 2011

NK INTERNAL

  • Torrential rains lashed the Korean peninsula this past week, claiming 59 lives in SK. KCNA reported thousands of homes, schools and public buildings were destroyed in NK.  IFRC reported 6,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes. South Hamgyeong and North and South Hwanghae Provinces were reportedly heavily affected. Damage in NK is likely to be even worse than SK because of the lack of tree cover, weaker infrastructure and lower disaster response capabilities. The Govt has requested assistance and the IFRC, WHO and UNICEF have started releasing relief supplies. KCNA also reported that Hu Jintao expressed his sympathy and that the Chinese Red Cross will provide relief aid. The floods washed some NKorean landmines into the south and forced NK to scale down planned military exercises, apparently so they could mobilise troops on restoration work.
  • Lankov takes a look at the Rodong Shinmun.
  • KCNA: The results of recent local elections “demonstrated the might of the single-minded unity of the revolutionary ranks…” 28,116 deputies were elected, all apparently representing the Workers’ Party of Korea. Daily NK: Election posters were vandalised with LMB’s name daubed on them.
  • KCNA: Preparations for the Arirang performances have finished.
  • Daily NK: A beautification campaign preparing for the 2012 celebrations has angered residents in Yangkang Province, as it orders all fences over 2m in height to be destroyed. Residents say they need high fences to deter thieves.
  • KCNA report on Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in Pyongyang. And another report on KJI’s trip to a supposed LCD TV factory. KCNA omitted the fact that the world’s top two flat-screen makers are SK’s Samsung Electronics and LG Display.
  • Chosun Ilbo: The mobilisation of 100,000 students on construction projects will be wasted because there is a lack of money and materials, not manpower.
  • Daily NK: Residents of N. Hamgyeong Province are out in force catching leeches to sell to smugglers who sell them in China, where they are said to be increasingly used in traditional medicine.
  • Daily NK on the effects of SKorean media on NK society.
  • A report from Chosun Exchange suggests that NK is modelling its legal framework governing FDI on China’s example.
  • A NKorean refugee recounts vacations in NK.
  • Sydney Morning Herald piece on NK futures.

FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY

REFUGEES

  • Song Byeok, NKorean propagandist turned protest artist, recalls watching his father drown while trying to escape across the Tumen River into China.
  • Tim Peters says that the unrest in the Middle East has led China and NK to tighten their border controls.
  • Piece on Sam Han’s lobbying efforts to pass the NK Refugee Adoption Act of 2011 in the US.

HUMAN RIGHTS

  • A group of UK Parliamentarians wrote to their SKorean counterparts to urge them to pass the NKHR law, after advocacy from the head of ORNK while he was in the UK.
  • Release International collected 20,000 signatures from British Christians calling for religious freedom in NK, and presented the petition to the NKorean embassy in London.

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY

  • NK VFM Kim Kye-gwan met with Amb. Bosworth and other USG officials at the US Permanent Mission to the UN on Thursday and Friday. Amb. King, special envoy for NKHR issues, joined the meetings on Friday but may have only attended the luncheon. The US downplayed the meetings as “exploratory” talks aimed at determining whether NK is prepared to fulfil its commitments, but both sides described the talks as “constructive”. The US said they will consult SK and other SPT nations before deciding on next steps. SK officials downplayed expectations, emphasising that there would be no rush to restart the SPT. Japan may also seek bilateral talks with NK before the resumption of the SPT. Japan has already reportedly engaged in secret talks with NK. Haggard: We have a long, long way to goJohn S. Park: time to engage seriously is running out because SK and US presidential elections and China’s succession all occur in 2012.
  • KCNA called for the conclusion of a peace agreement, calling it the first step for settling the nuclear issue. Kim Myong-chol, NK’s unofficial spokesman, elaborates on NK’s view of the need for a peace treaty but also says it is too risky to trust the “fox-like Americans” and lose NK’s nuclear and long-range missile capabilities, pointing to the example of Libya. He also refers to the “Kim Jong-il/Kim Jong-eun administration”.
  • NK said a US missile shield in Europe would “spark a new nuclear arms race”.
  • SK and China held inaugural strategic defense talks. The two countries have agreed to hold joint search and rescue drills between their navies, a sign of political will on both sides to improve relations between their militaries.
  • NK announced it would start the ‘legal disposal’ of SKorean assets at the Mount Kumgang resort, but also invited SKorean businesses to NK to register under a new tourism law.
  • Joel Wit and Jenny Town advocate for concerted negotiation efforts to at least stop the expansion of NK’s nuclear arsenal.
  • Haggard: The difference between Chinese and SKorean economic engagement with NK is that, ironically, the SK Govt gets much more involved in trying to make business profitable for SKorean firms, while the Chinese tell their firms they are on their own.
  • Joshua Pollack: Once a significant cash crop for NK, missile related sales have declined as a result of western pressure on importers to cut ties with NK and the rise of alternative potential suppliers.  
  • Sunny Lee on China-NK relations: For the foreseeable future China will be status-quo oriented, will not pressure NK, and will shoulder outside criticism in defending NK if its national interests are at stake. Sungmin Cho also argues that pressure from the US and SK on NK forces China to hug NK even closer.

MISC.

  • Inside VOA’s Korean Service. NK’s attempts to jam the service are reportedly “only marginally effective” because it takes a lot of electrical power.
  • SK has announced a crackdown on abuses in its military after a spate of incidents drawing negative publicity including suicides and a shooting rampage in the Marine Corps. 82 members of the SK military took their own lives in 2010, compared to 48 killed by NK hostile action (average suicides per year over last 5 years = 79). In the last two years 940 marines have been hospitalised for injuries reportedly inflicted by their peers.
  • SK detained five SKoreans on charges of forming an anti-state organisation and spying for NK. SK’s intelligence officers are reportedly investigating several figures in academic and political circles, including opposition party figures.
  • A SKorean Govt official suggested that the NK Govt may be interfering in cases where NK citizens seek to inherit assets of relatives who died in SK. A new law seeks to prevent NKoreans from transferring assets out of SK, although it would grant ownership to them. Lankov warns that if it is not dealt with in good time, after the absorption of NK into the South claims on land in NK by descendants of former landowners could turn into a politically explosive issue.
  • The Korean Institute for National Unification (a Govt-funded think tank) released a study forecasting that real unification costs could be just 1/10th of current estimates, and that the marriage of SK capital and technology and NK labour and natural resources could produce an economic powerhouse, as well as bring regional benefits.  
  • Daily NK: The dynastic succession to KJU is unpopular with many members of Chongryon – the (pro-NK) Association of Korean Residents in Japan.
  • KCNA on Taekwondo diplomacy: Reports a demonstration where a young male NKorean taekwondo practitioner defends an American girl from three ‘gangsters’. “The demonstration tour showed the DPRK and the US people have great potentials of understanding and cooperation.”
  • And finally, this may be one of KJI’s daughters.

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