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Kim Jong-il’s Legacy
According to North Korean state media Kim Jong-il died on the morning of December 17th 2011, after seventeen years of rule. He leaves behind an impoverished country that is widely recognized as the most repressive on earth.
After two decades spent preparing for power, Kim Jong-il took over from his father Kim Il-sung in 1994 at a time of international and domestic turmoil. The recent collapse of the Soviet Union had removed an important military ally and vital sources of aid and trade, and North Korea was on the brink of a famine that would kill a million of its people. At the time, many thought that in this environment a succession to a leader lacking in the legitimacy of the nation’s ‘founding father’ Kim Il-sung might result in North Korea’s weakening and collapse. However Kim Jong-il and the North Korean ruling elite were able to use brutally effective systems of political control to repress the people and ensure the maintenance of the regime, while under the ‘Military First’ mantra North Korea developed and tested nuclear weapons and raised the status of the military even higher.
The collapse of the socialist economy in the early years of Kim Jong-il’s reign drastically transformed North Korean society. The famine caused immense human suffering and forced people to leave their factories and work units to try to find ways to provide themselves and others with the food and goods that the state could no longer provide. This led to a grass-roots marketization of the economy, and the market eventually replaced the state as the primary source of food and grew to encompass a broader range of goods and services, spreading the profit motive throughout North Korean society.
Grass-roots marketization also introduced avenues for information flows that were outside the regime’s control. Refugees that left the country over the past decade have also contributed to this by staying in contact with family members inside North Korea, sending in money that feeds the markets and information from the outside world that is helping to break increasing numbers of North Koreans free from the propaganda and isolation imposed on them for decades. During Kim Jong-il’s reign, the North Koreans who have made the greatest gains are those who have successfully engaged in market activities in defiance of the regime and North Korean socialist ideology.
Kim Jong-il and the regime used ruthlessly efficient repression and fear to rule out any political dissent, but they struggled to control the changes emerging in the economy and were never able to successfully roll back marketization. One of the last major economic policies under Kim Jong-il was the currency reform of late 2009, which was designed to destroy private wealth and regain state control over the economy. However it caused so much disruption and resentment that the regime had to make unprecedented apologies and backtrack on the policy.
In the days since Kim Jong-il’s death, North Korean state media has made sure to show the world images of North Koreans distraught at the loss of their leader, recalling scenes of the people mourning the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994. But this is an attempt to mask the transformation that has happened in North Korean society during Kim Jong-il’s reign. North Korean refugees say that while there was a lot of genuine sadness when Kim Il-sung died, the majority of North Koreans feel very differently towards the leadership now. For the vast majority of North Koreans life was very difficult under Kim Jong-il, and the people’s relationship with the state has been irreversibly changed. According to refugees, many of the outward displays of grief for Kim Jong-il are performed not out of genuine sadness but because of the very real fear that if the required emotion is not displayed then individuals could come under suspicion of being anti-regime and face severe repercussions.
What Next for North Korea and the North Korean People?
Kim Jong-un, the third and youngest son of Kim Jong-il, was marked out as the heir-apparent at a Workers’ Party Conference in September 2010. Since then he has gradually been elevated in the state media, and after Kim Jong-il’s death he was named as the ‘Great Successor’ by North Korean state media to ensure there was not any doubt.
Thought to be just 27 or 28 years old, Kim Jong-un is largely unknown to the North Korean people as well as to the outside world. Recent North Korean defectors tell us that there has not been a lot of propaganda about Kim Jong-un over the past year. What propaganda there has been has presented him as a military figure, as exemplified by his ‘promotion’ to four star general. By contrast, Kim Jong-il was much better known to the North Korean people when he came to power in 1994. The people are now uncertain and anxious for the future of their country, and recent defectors tell us that many North Koreans fear that the son will continue in just the same mold as the father, so that conditions will stay the same or even get worse.
Kim Jong-un has no accomplishments of his own and so his legitimacy depends entirely on his family lineage. This will constrain his ability to embark on new policy initiatives that would represent a break with his father and grandfather. He also still lacks a sufficient power-base of his own to overcome institutional resistance within the regime against bold policy moves. At this point it is still unclear who holds what kind of power behind the scenes in Pyongyang, but at least for the time being power is likely to be more diffuse and shared by a collective leadership, with Kim Jong-un as the figurehead. This new leadership is likely to prioritize unity and stability, again suggesting a continuation of current policies.
It is highly unlikely that there will be any kind of bottom-up ‘Arab Spring’ type revolution in North Korea in the short to medium term, as the level of fear and repression is too high and a lack of civil society mechanisms makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for the people to organize against the regime. Early reports after Kim Jong-il’s death indicated that the regime had moved to restrict cross-border movement and market activity. Coming at a time of already rapidly rising food prices, these restrictions, along with the disruption caused by staged political events marking Kim Jong-il’s death and the succession, mean that life is likely to get even harder for the North Korean people in the short term. This underlines that even with a change in leadership, the regime is likely to continue prioritizing stability and control above all else.
LiNK’s Work Will Continue
While the death of the leader is a significant event, the regime has always been much bigger than one man. We unfortunately do not see any reason to believe that the lives of the North Korean people will improve in the near future because Kim Jong-il has died. It is important to remember that up to 200,000 North Koreans are still detained in political prison camps and 24 million North Koreans still suffer under the most repressive regime in existence today.
After the current news frenzy dies down, the harsh reality of life for the North Korean people will continue. We will maintain our dedication to the North Korean people and make sure that they are not ignored amongst all the concern over regional security issues and nuclear weapons. We will call on the international community to ensure that a focus on the North Korean people, and serious discussions on human rights and humanitarian issues, will be a central part of any engagement with North Korea under the new leadership. We will also continue to pursue strategies that will increase the human security of the North Korean people. We will do this because we believe that making progress towards the kind of North Korea that everybody wants to see depends on taking a long-term, people-focused approach.
Although Kim Jong-il’s death ushers in a period of increased uncertainty, opportunities to help the North Korean people do still exist. We will continue in our work, providing assistance to North Koreans where they can be reached, helping them to escape and find freedom, and pursuing an end to this crisis.
The sudden death of Kim Jong-il has triggered a deluge of early commentary and analysis on what this may mean for North Korea and the region. The North Koreans themselves are of course the people who will be affected most by this development, but the voice of the North Korean people has been severely lacking. While the regime has always been comprised of much more than one man, the death of the leader does usher in a new period of increased uncertainty for the North Korean people.
It is impossible to go inside North Korea to interview the people regarding their true feelings on the situation. However LiNK has spoken with refugees who have recently left the country. It should be noted that North Korean refugees cannot be considered to be necessarily representative of the general population, as the majority have come from border regions and therefore their views may be different from those living in Pyongyang or elsewhere.
LiNK works on the ground helping North Korean refugees who have escaped into China, bringing them out through a ‘modern-day underground railroad’ to its shelter in Southeast Asia where refugees can then seek safe resettlement in third nations. Prior to Kim Jong-il’s death, we had interviewed refugees who came through our shelter on their attitudes towards the succession. Some of the refugees had left North Korea as recently as November 2011. Over the past few hours we have contacted further refugees for their comments and thoughts upon hearing about Kim Jong-il’s death.
North Korean Refugees on the Succession:
“Some North Korean people believe that if Kim Jong-un takes over North Korean politics, he will be even worse than his father.”
“Kim Jong-un has been presented to us by the state media as a military figure.”
“Of course, people think badly of the succession. How could you think it is a good thing? The Government is not providing the people with any kind of standard of living.”
“The North Korean people just hope to live in freedom and to live well.”
North Korean refugees’ reaction to the death of Kim Jong-il:
“The North Korean people will currently be putting on feigned shows of sadness. This is very different to the death of Kim Il-sung. Kim Il-sung founded the country and the people think that he did a lot for them. Times have been hard during Kim Jong-il’s reign. People have woken up and are much more aware of the reality of the country and the leadership now. People will outwardly be showing sadness but inwardly they will feel very differently. The people fear that anything but the required show of sadness could get them killed… The most likely outcome of the succession is that Kim Jong-un will continue in the same mold as his father.”
– Shin Jong-wook, M, 20.*
“This is not a happy or a sad event for me. But it is a big moment. This will be a shocking moment for the North Korean people. But there will not be as much grief as when Kim Il-sung died. Of course, people will have to pretend to be sad, and people may get caught up in the atmosphere, but it is not true sadness.”
– Kim Moon-soo, M, 21.
“I worry about what this will mean for my relatives back inside and for the North Korean people. I fear that the relatives of defectors will be persecuted more. They are closing the markets and there are bound to be a lot of staged political events, so for the people that are already struggling things are going to get even harder.”
– Park Yun-joo, F, 31.
“I didn’t feel anything in particular when I heard the news. But I am worried that my family in North Korea will suffer because of the change in leadership.”
– Lee Sunghee, F, 39.
“It was a big surprise. I don’t know what the next leadership will be like, so its a big worry. Some people will be sad because the leader of the country has died. That is normal. But some people will probably be glad that he has died.”
– Park Il-hyung, M, 37.
“I don’t care that Kim Jong-il is dead. In North Korea now, the norm dictates that everyone has to cry. But people don’t have any positive feelings towards Kim Jong-il. The majority of people will be faking their tears.”
– Nam Gum-sook, F, 19.
“If you don’t cry in North Korea after the leader dies, then you could come under suspicion as being against the Government. Then you have to live with that label and suspicion for the rest of your life.”
– Kang Bohee, F, 21.
*The names of refugees have been changed to protect their identities and ensure the security of relatives still inside North Korea.
- The NK Govt reportedly has banned 200 of its citizens in Libya from returning home. They’ll hear about Gadhafi’s death anyway.
- Rumourmill: KJU married?
- Recommended: Daily NK’s ‘NK People Speak, 2011” available in pdf here. And Haggard blogs about it.
- Daily NK: Its the Jangmadang, Stupid. “With the introduction of the market system to North Korea, as long as you have Yuan, Dollars etc, you can buy absolutely anything… while the market has been replacing the government’s role, the power of the government has been shrinking.”
- ORNK: SK dramas entertain bored Pyongyang housewives. Boring propaganda on state television is driving demand for foreign media, and people are gathering to watch the dramas in groups.
- Daily NK on the dark humour of NKoreans. As the male-dominated state socialist system flounders and women are active in the markets, women are referring to their ‘nam-pyeon’ (husband) as ‘bul-pyeon’ (inconvenience) and people who manage to get repaid money they are owed are called ‘war heroes’.
- DongA Ilbo with two pieces on smuggling networks working inside NK.
- NYT on NK’s economic strategy of seeking foreign cash while avoiding real reform.
- 38 North – NK: An up and coming IT outsourcing destination.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- The price of rice keeps on climbing.
- UN’s Valerie Amos: “6 million NKoreans urgently need food aid but the world is not giving enough.”
- Daily NK: NK NSA agents were involved in the sting operation that caught 20-35 refugees in Shenyang, China.
- CS Monitor piece on Tim Peters, underground railroad activist.
- LA Times on a defector sending warm socks into NK by balloon. He himself was motivated to defect after reading a SK leaflet he had found.
- Hanawon opened a new prep school for NK refugees.
- UNGA 66 (2011) SR report on NKHR.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
The Obama administration is deliberately avoiding going to the Hill with its new NK point-men in order to reduce public debate and political costs, because engagement, while deemed necessary, is unlikely to bring any big political wins. The USG has also quietly dropped the policy language of ‘strategic patience’ and may now be going for something like ‘management strategy’.
The US will resume searching for MIA remains in NK.
The defense chiefs of the US and SK joined rhetorical forces in Seoul to deter NK from provocations.
LMB will meet with Medvedev in Russia next week.
SK and NK historians will meet to discuss jointly excavating an ancient palace in NK.
Russian NK expert Vorontsov: Russia, wanting to be more integrated into regional cooperation processes in East Asia, has moved decisively closer to NK.
- Lewis, Hayes and Bruce on the slow motion SPT engagement.
- Lankov suggests Sunshine Policy mk.2 aimed at the junior cadres.
- Lafforgue: Old Kaesong, Kaesong housing, Kaesong Industrial complex from afar, the Choco Pie effect in action (red box stuck in tree). Red star human fresco. “Sex toy in a Buddhist temple – North Korea”. Selling in the street (and again). Mobile phone user, mobile phone mast.
- North Korean state media headline of the week: KCNA Slams U.S. Diplomatic Chief’s Rigmaroles about DPRK′s Human Rights Record
- KJI’s grandson, fed up of being hounded by the press in Bosnia, reached new heights of irony by lamenting his ‘guilt by association’ to the NK leader.
- PRI: SK youth not interested in reunification. Also, Ryu on SK’s unification education policy.
- FP: Pyongyang Rock City.
- PBS on getting news out of NK.
Lankov on the NK leadership’s “technological fetishism”, a belief shared by Stalin and Mao that economic stagnation could and should be overcome by pursuing technological wonders rather than reform. This explains why the NK Govt promotes CNC technology, allows a rapidly growing mobile phone network, and even promotes ownership of personal computers, all despite the long term threat that such technologies may pose to the regime. Related: KCNA video showing off a DVD factory in NK, and a KCNA report on KJI visiting the “technologically updated Tudan Duck Farm”.
Orascom/koryolink is reportedly set to introduce an internet service to its 3G network, initially only for resident foreigners. Handsets reportedly currently sell at 50 EUR (69 USD).
- Daily NK: NSA officials are extorting bribes worth hundreds of dollars from families receiving remittances from relatives who have defected to SK.
- FT on the marketisation of NK’s economy. Also reports strong resistance by citizens against officials who wanted to demolish their balconies that were being used to grow vegetables. As the FT covers the revival of a capitalist market economy in NK, NK state media is reporting that capitalism is fading from history in the rest of the world.
- Daily NK: NK authorities are demanding 150,000 won from market traders in Hamheung to support construction projects in Pyongyang (photo). Daily taxes on market traders range from 300-500 won, so the 150,000 won ask is reportedly being met with incredulity. In Hyesan, Yangkang Province, traders are being asked for 100,000 won. However apart from these demands, official market controls are only being lightly implemented.
- Daily NK: 300 families in Yangkang Province and 150 families in N. Hamgyeong Province (both border provinces) will reportedly be sent into rural exile following a crackdown on the use of Chinese cell phones, drug production, watching SK media, smuggling and defections.
- Daily NK: The regime provided a ‘special distribution’ to Pyongyang citizens on the occasion of the 66th anniversary of the founding of the KWP, advertising it as coming from the benevolence of KJU.
- Daily NK interview with a farm worker. Covers the struggle to get enough food, knowledge of SK, perceptions of KJU, and religious freedom.
- Plaques commemorating on-site inspection visits from KJU are emerging alongside plaques for KIS and KJI.
- LA Times on recent reports of porn, prostitution and infidelity in NK.
- NYT on NK’s Rason SEZ. The NK Govt is trying to attract FDI into these zones, but they represent attempts raise funds under tight central control rather than real attempts to reform. Related: The SK Govt has asked China and Japan to refrain from investing in NK’s Mount Gumgang resort.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- Daily NK: Rice prices have risen to above 3,000 won/kilo in at least two provinces, the highest price since the Nov 2009 currency reform. The high price is blamed on a poor harvest due to bad weather and a depreciation of the won against the Chinese Yuan.
- The UN’s Valerie Amos is in NK to assess to food shortages.
- Eberstadt: The international community should provide humanitarian aid to NK conditional on a programme of intrusive monitoring and control over distribution.
- US NGOs have accused the USG of playing politics with food aid.
- Guardian: NK’s food crisis in pictures.
- The SK Govt is still talking with the Chinese Govt to try to stop it repatriating a group of NK refugees. One detainee with SK citizenship has reportedly been released. The issue has caused public protests in SK and the US.
- Chinese NK expert Zhu Feng on China’s policy towards NK refugees: “The problem is that if China refuses to repatriate that would signal that Beijing wants to bring down the North Korean regime… such repatriation is cold blooded, and it’s a big embarrassment… China’s policy implementation in this regard always keeps one eye open the other eye closed. Officially, we will repatriate, but in practice we keep the net quite loose.”
- A NK artist based in Egypt who had been making money for the NK Govt defected to SK via its embassy in Cairo after witnessing the fall of Mubarak, although he reportedly was already avoiding the surveillance of the NK embassy before that.
- It is reported that a Korean Workers’ Party secretary who defected in 2009 is now working for the SK National Intelligence Service.
- A SK lawmaker quoted NIS chief Won as saying that NK refugees frequently suffer from tooth decay, hepatitis, and TB (all associated with malnutrition) as well as sexually transmitted infections because women in border regions are engaged in prostitution or get trafficked.
- Daily NK on the story of Dr. Oh Gil-nam, whose wife and daughters ended up in Yodok political prison camp in NK. The story is finally gaining traction in SK, and is to be made into a film.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- LMB completed a state visit to the US. The nomination of Sung Kim as ambo to SK finally passed through the Senate. Congress also approved an FTA with SK, but it is yet to pass through SK’s National Assembly. The US-ROK relationship is at a historic high and LMB and Obama presented a united front on NK policy.
- Obama also said, in response to a question at the joint press conference, that he would not predict when NK would collapse “on itself”, but that “what we’ve seen also is that human spirit eventually will defeat repressive governments.” KCNA seized on the comments to say that the US is dreaming of NK collapse, validating NK’s Songun policy and nuclear deterrent.
- PBS video: Cha and Carlin on the nuclear negotiations and the Obama administration’s approach to NK. More from Cha here. Snyder on US-ROK relations and NK policy.
- The USG and NK Govt will reportedly hold talks in Geneva next week aimed at restarting the SPT. Career diplomat Glyn Davies will reportedly replace Bosworth as pointman on NK, and will take on the role full time (whereas Bosworth maintained a career in academia during his term).
- US and NK officials also began talks in Bangkok on resuming efforts to recover war remains, after a 6 year break. Joint recovery of war remains is seen as a confidence building measure.
- Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang will visit NK and SK in quick succession to try to add to the momentum towards restarting the SPT.
- The SK Govt will allow companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex to resume construction projects that had been on hold since the 2010 attacks. NK workers at Kaesong are now reportedly asking to be given cash or instant noodles instead of Choco Pies. This could be because of pressure from the regime, or it could be because they are sick of eating Choco Pies.
- NK has agreed to send players to compete in a table tennis tournament alongside SK players.
- KCNA denounced SK Unification Ministry’s “anti-DPRK broadcasting”.
- SK spy chief Won Sei-hoon reportedly told lawmakers that SK has arrested several NK agents for plotting to assassinate anti-Pyongyang activists. Won is also concerned about the shoddy and rushed construction of high-rise buildings in Pyongyang.
- Lankov on Russia-NK trade, Russia’s use of cheap NK labour within its borders and the gas pipeline.
- Japanese PM Noda cited China’s military expansion and NK’s repeated military provocations in his calls for Japan’s Self Defense Forces to stand ready for future national emergencies.
- NK’s uranium enrichment program may bigger than previously thought. Jeffrey Lewis on NK nuclear tests. NK was observed moving missiles and fighter jets closer to the border with SK in the tense West Coast area, however the NK air force has reportedly been shown to be in a state of disarray. SK’s Defence Minister said that SK fighter jets could cross the border in the event of a NK provocation.
- The USG is engaging the Burmese Govt amidst their reforms and discussing with them the need for transparency in their relationships with other countries, particularly NK. If Burma’s rapprochement with the US and others continues, the Burmese may be ready to jettison their relationship with NK.
- Korea Times on the SK Govt’s unification awareness campaign.
- Lafforgue: Construction in Pyongyang. Girl in KIS square. Mercedes and luxury apartments. Sexy dancers during Arirang.
- Blog post by a teacher at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).
- Text of a lecture given at PUST by Lord Alton on ‘educating for good science and ethics, educating for virtue’. Touches on the danger of absolute power in corrupting people and the benefits of the internet.
- The Independent on NKorean workers based in Mongolia producing clothes for UK clothing brands. BBC Newsnight video here. By western standards the workers are exploited, but the conditions and pay still represent an attractive option for many NKorean workers.
- SK is to become the number 1 destination for Chinese tourists.
- Defector Kim Kwang-jin on the KJI-created royal court economy (carved off from the people’s economy), and the role he himself played in scamming western reinsurance companies. As the dysfunctional NK economy cannot be reformed, Kim advocates a concerted international effort to bring down the royal court economy.
- Reporters Without Borders report on censorship and information freedom in NK. Foreign radio stations continue to be the main source of independent information for the North Korean population, but the report also notes the growing availability of illegal DVDs, USB flash drives etc. KCNA has stepped up its criticism of external radio and television broadcasts. Foreign media is increasingly cited as a pull-factor for NK refugees.
- Sunny Lee: NK’s power transition is near complete, with KJU having taken on significant responsibilities. He has been particularly active in accompanying his father on visits to military installations.
- Daily NK: The regime is stepping up KJU-related propaganda efforts aimed at the ‘Democratic League of Women’, a state organisation whose membership consists of women not tied to a work unit. This is taken to represent the leadership’s recognition of the importance of cultivating loyalty among women, who are the driving force behind the country’s marketisation.
- Recommended: Daily NK interview with former NK market trader. Details the effects of the currency reform, foreign media consumption, perceptions of the leadership.
- Daily NK on a succession-related purge of WPK cadres in North Pyongan Province (NW border region).
- DongA Ilbo: NK women are increasingly turning to prostitution to earn living expenses or spending money, and one military officer was even reportedly caught producing pornographic videos.
- Daily NK reports on the doomed attempts to crackdown on grasshopper (informal) market traders. In some areas they outnumber legitimate traders, and the ajoomas reportedly even defend each other from PSA agents’ interference.
- Daily NK on attempts to crackdown on the use of illegal Chinese cell phones in border regions using new Russian listening devices. ORNK also reports a crackdown.
- Haggard on the increase in luxury imports into NK. Underscores the growth of the nouveau-riche in Pyongyang and their demand for consumer products.
- Haggard on the Coke in Pyongyang non-story.
- Lankov: NK is no Stalinist country.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- Video of malnourished NK children.
- Valerie Amos, UN chief for humanitarian affairs will visit NK to discuss food aid. The UN’s 73m USD appeal has only been 34% funded this year.
- KINU’s Young-yoon Kim argues SK should provide aid to NK, for the sake of good neighborliness, brotherhood, international obligations and prestige. Meanwhile the SK Govt has withdrawn its offer of flood aid after NK “failed to express the will to accept it”.
- At a USC event Amb. King said NK is not suffering from a famine, but that there are pockets of malnutrition. Aid would be resumed if the need was deemed severe enough and if they were able to design a delivery program that could effectively target those who need it most. He also said that any aid delivery would take into account of the marketisation of NK economy and would be designed not to disrupt the markets. Experts judge that the US is unlikely to provide food aid without the support of SK. SK’s Unification Minister said that NK’s food situation is ‘not serious’.
- A group of refugees, initially said to number around 35 but may be closer to 20, was arrested in the Shenyang area of NE China. The group included 2 guides who were originally from NK but now have SK citizenship. An additional SKorean national and NK refugee may have been arrested since then. One of the SKoreans has reportedly been released and sent back to SK. A SK lawmaker reported that 15 of the refguees may have already been repatriated. The SK Govt is pressuring the Chinese Govt to cooperate, and the Chinese Govt has asked for ‘patience’.
- NK has demanded the repatriation of the latest boat defectors, two NKoreans who reached SK via the East Sea.
- Chosun Ilbo on NK refugee Seung Sol-hyang, who decided the best way to adjust to life in the south was to make money, and now runs an online shopping mall whilst attending univers.
- Seoul’s Mongolian Grill restaurant trains and employs NK refugees. The long term goal is that post-reunification they will return to the North and help rebuild the economy.
- Only 20 NK refugees work as public servants in SK (rate of 1/1000 compared to 1/60 for SKoreans).
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- NK once again threatened to fire on SK sites used for launching propaganda leaflets.
- US and NK diplomats may hold another bilateral this month aimed at restarting the SPT.
- Korea Herald on Japans’ decreasing role vis-a-vis NK. A tream of Japanese doctors are currently visiting NK to examine victims of the 1945 a-bomb attacks on Japan, in a trip that may help thaw the frozen ties between the countries.
- Ahead of LMB’s state visit to the US, the nomination of Sung Kim as US ambo to SK is still embarrassingly being held up by Sen. John Kyl.
- SK is seeking to raise public awareness on reunification with NK, revealing that the Govt is uneasy with SK public opinion becoming increasingly ambivalent about the prospect.
- Three SK NIS officials have reportedly been arrested in Yanbian, China on charges of spying (on NK).
- France is to open a cultural office in Pyongyang (France is one of only 2 EU countries not to have normalised relations with NK).
- NK Econ Watch on the Russia-Korea gas pipeline.
- LA Times on NK involvement in poison-needle attacks on activists helping NK refugees and engaging in anti-Pyongyang activities. Joongang Ilbo on the ‘double agent’ ordered to kill an activist in Seoul.
- One of many recent pieces on KJI’s grandson.
- NK state media is enjoying reporting on the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. They are also seizing on the news of US GI’s sexual assaults on SKorean women.
- On Hangul day, NK’s propaganda website carried a piece criticising SK’s use of borrow words, saying it would do huge damage in the process of unification. Comment: One of the challenges NK refugees face in resettling in SK actually is the widespread use and importance attached to English.
- SK prosecutors have vowed to crackdown on pro-NK internet postings. Absurdity all round.
- NYT photos of NK.
- Photos of a middle-elite NKorean family’s apartment in Pyongyang.
- Lafforgue Photos: Kid dancing in the street, Pyongyang. Woman with cell phone. Mickey mouse stickers on phone. PRC-DPRK friendship at Arirang.
- Chinese photos of the NK countryside.
- Daily NK and AsiaPress on the growth of private transit companies and free movement of labour between privately run coal mines.
- KJI on the market: ideological aversion mixed with pragmatic acceptance if the markets can be kept under control (2008). KJI’s sister Kim Kyung-hui on the same topic.
- NK opened an international trade show in N. Hamgyeong Province.
- IFRC: The floods have killed at least 57 and left over 24,720 homeless. One DPRK Red Cross volunteer gave up his life attempting to rescue two children. Breakdown of the flood damage and IFRC’s emergency appeal. The NK Red Cross has launched an international appeal for flood relief.
- RFA: SKorean music videos are so popular among young people in Pyongyang that a dance instructor has reportedly started offering clandestine dance classes teaching them k-pop dance moves.
- Daily NK: With a lack of popular support, the succession to KJU is marked by increased repression. For instance: The current border-region crackdown by a ‘storm trooper unit’ to root out smuggling, use of Chinese cell phones and defections has reportedly resulted in the exile of 50 families.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- Daily NK: The price of rice is rising rapidly in the NK markets. This could be linked to a rise in the value of RMB, the floods affecting production, crackdowns on smugglers, and an expectation of shortages in the near future.
- The USG is to provide 900,000 USD worth of flood relief aid to to Kangwon and North and South Hwanghae provinces through US NGOs. The US still has no plans to provide food.
- Russia began delivering 50,000 tons of wheat to NK.
- JoongAng Ilbo: During his May trip to China, KJI secured free fertiliser and discounted food.
- NK has allowed video monitoring of food aid distribution by SKorean civic groups.
- WFP: July’s daily rations were 200g per person, an increase on 150g given in June. However a healthy adult requires 700g per day.
- 45m USD in food aid was sent to NK in the first 6 months of this year.
- Piece on Mr. Seok, a popular oriental medicine doctor who learnt his trade in the north.
- NK refugee and pianist Kim Cheol-woong performed together with other top Korean pianists at a peace concert.
- US State Dept 2010 Human Rights Report – DPRK.
- KINU: Over 60 public executions took place in 2010, partly to maintain control following the unpopular currency reform in late 2009.
- SK’s GNP has drafted a new NKHR bill which includes calls for humanitarian aid to NK.
- Several hundred citizens demonstrated against NK’s prison camps in Seoul. A larger demonstration supporting progressive causes such as free school lunches attempted to use the same space, creating a tense atmosphere.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- KJI began a trip to Russia and is set to meet Medvedev on Tuesday. Russia is pushing for a gas pipeline and railway to be built from Russia to SK, via NK. The visit was confirmed by NK state media earlier than usual. The NK leadership is reaching out to Russia partly because they are wary of being too dependent on China. Russia and NK may also make steps to resume military collaboration.
- NKorean labourers in Russia – estimated 3,000 in Vladivostok mostly working on construction sites. Seven NKoreans were reportedly recently sent back to NK after watching SKorean DVDs.
- NK said it would begin auctioning off SKorean assets at the Mount Kumgang resort.
- SK’s FM indicated that LMB’s administration has softened its stance on resuming dialogue with NK.
- SK presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs saying that SK should rebuild trust with NK while maintaining an unyielding stance on national security.
- NK threatened to bolster their nuclear deterrent in response to US-ROK joint military exercises.
- Biden: NK and Iran’s nuclear and missile development programmes are a threat to stability in the US and China.
- NK and the US agreed to resume searching for the remains of US soldiers in NK.
- Snyder’s six step formula for resuming the SPT.
- Daily NK is looking for volunteers to translate the words of NKoreans in China.
- NYT review of The Journals of Musan.
- Six NKorean professors are studying economics and other subjects at the University of British Columbia in Canada.
- SK police charged four people with smuggling over 1,000 pieces of NKorean art into China and SK. Some of the profit was thought to be going back to the NK Govt.
- Lankov on KIS’s life story: “KIS managed to out-Stalin Stalin”.