Weekly News Brief – 09 Nov 2010
- Analysts are speculating that KJU is unlikely to reform. KJU’s legitimacy is based on him being the torch-bearer of ‘Kim Il-Sung-ism’, and he needs to maintain that legacy, so attempting major policy shifts will be very hard. He is expected to focus on consolidating his own power, and even after this is achieved NK’s economic and political situation could be too fragile for broad reforms, as the elite fear that major changes could bring about the collapse of the system.
- Jo Myong Rok, first vice chairman of the National Defence Commission died aged 82. Along with the recent death of Hwang Jang-Yop, who died aged 87 after 13 years in SK, this reminds us that the largely octogenarian leadership in NK will all die off in the next few years. The succession process is very opaque and they will be replaced with a new generation of leaders that lack revolution or Korean War-based credentials.
- The number of mobile phone users in NK has more than quadrupled in a year – from 69,261 in September 2009 to 301,199 2010. 75% of the NK population lives in the signal area of the 3G network. These are official figures and do not count illicit mobile phones used in regions close to the border with China.
- NK is pushing its unlikely plan of turning the city of Rajin-Sonbong in North Hamgyong Province into an international freight brokerage, export processing and finance hub. A 3D video revealing the plan was made soon after leader Kim Jong-il visited China in May.
Food Aid and Food Security
- Josette Sheeran, head of the UN’s WFP, returned from a visit to Pyongyang and lamented the food security situation in NK: “I saw a lot of children already losing the battle against malnutrition… Their bodies and minds are stunted and so we really feel the need there… We want to make sure we reach the most vulnerable children… We are most concerned because our programme is only 20 percent funded. We are having pipeline breaks in the supply”.
- The WFP’s current operation aims to provide assistance to 2.5 million, over 80 percent of them women and children.
- Sheeran’s call for help to reduce the NK food aid funding shortfall echoes UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s recent call for humanitarian aid not to be restricted “on the basis of political and security concerns.”
- An SK official suggested that holding regular family reunions would create the right atmosphere for the provision of more aid to NK.
- The EU introduced their draft resolution on the HR situation in the DPRK to the UNGA Third Committee (A/C.3/65/L.47). The draft text notes positive steps such as the collaboration established between NK and UNICEF, WHO, UNDP, but expresses concern of NKs use of torture, inhuman conditions of detention, public executions, absence of due process and the rule of law, large numbers of prison camps, the use of forced labour, and restrictions on repatriated citizens, as well as urging the NK govt to grant access to the Special Rapporteur.
- The NK govt had refused to participate in discussions on the draft. NKs representative rejected the EU’s draft resolution as an anti-DPRK resolution, containing politically motivated and fabricated allegations aiming to create an atmosphere of international pressure to overthrow the socialist system. The resolution is likely to be passed, as with previous similar resolutions.
- The latest UN SG’s report on NK HR is here.
- Nam Sung Wook, director of the Institute for National Security Strategy, has urged the forcing through of SK’s North Korea Human Rigths Law which is currently stalled in the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee. The proposed law has support in the ruling GNP but the opposition Democratic Party’s favoured approach is to encourage NK to change through exchanges and dialogue.
International Politics and Security
- The US midterm election results are not expected to affect the Obama administration’s NK policy.
- Charles (Jack) Pritchard, former Bush administration special envoy to NK, visited Pyongyang to engage in track II diplomacy, a sign that the USG is considering restarting more substantive engagement, probably through the SPT.
- SK is delinking the Cheonan sinking and the NK nuclear issue, a prerequisite for the resumption of SPT.
- The SK navy fired warning shots at a NK fishing vessel that strayed across the sea border. The NK boat retreated.
- The US and SK are aiming to conclude a free-trade agreement as a take-home for Obama from the G20 Summit. Leaders say the FTA will deepen US-ROK ties and offset China’s rising regional power.
- A UN report suggesting NK may have supplied Syria, Iran and Myanmar with banned nuclear and missile technology is finally heading to the UN Security Council after being held up for nearly 6 months by Chinese objections.
- George W. Bush recounts in his memoirs his interactions with Chinese leaders regarding NK.
- NK experts David Kang and Victor Cha have a brilliant rivalry.
- The Onion – Kim Jong-Un Privately Doubting He’s Crazy Enough To Run North Korea.
- This video apparently shows KJU banging a little drum during his school days in Switzerland.
- A South Korean has been jailed for two years under the National Security Law for storing 14 MP3 music files with titles praising NK on a USB storage device. That such an archaic law still exists in SK in 2010 is frankly outrageous. In a democracy any fool should be able to listen to any kind of awful music they like.