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28 December 2010 / SP

Biweekly News Brief – 28 Dec 2010

NK Internal

  • Defectors report the growing popularity of US TV shows and action movies in NK, distributed on DVDs and USB sticks.
  • Daily NK report on Radio Free Chosun’s efforts to bring outside news and views to NK.
  • Inter-Korean trade is down about 30% on last year, to 464 million USD for the period Jan-Nov, mostly due to SK cutting business ties after the Cheonanham sinking. NB these figures do not include the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which has shown a 62% increase in trade on last year, to over 1.3 billion USD. Around 45,000 NKs work at the KIC today.
  • NYT piece on glimpses of NK during Gov Bill Richardson’s trip there.
  • Daily NK quotes sources reporting improved food production due to imported Chinese fertiliser, but decreased public distribution of food.

Refugees

  • RFA reports that the price of crossing into China has doubled to 3,500 USD due to increased NK security efforts after the Yeonpyeong Island attack. NK Intellectuals Solidarity also reports a crackdown on border security.
  • 8-9 out of 10 NK women experience human rights abuses, ranging from sexual abuse to human trafficking, when escaping North Korea.
  • The NK govt is reportedly clamping down on the families of defectors in order to prevent communication with the outside world.
  • Six NK refugees have been arrested for smuggling NK-made methamphetamine into SK.

Human Rights

  • The UNGA resolution on NK HR passed by a vote of 106-21 with 55 abstentions.
  • Unsurprisingly, nearly 100% of defectors report a lack of religious freedom in NK.

International Politics and Security

  • US unofficial envoy Gov. Bill Richardson reported that NK agreed to let international monitors back in to inspect its nuclear site at Yongbyon and to negotiate the transfer of 12,000 spent fuel rods. China also urged NK to allow staff from the IAEA back in. SK was unmoved by this development and said NK must return to the NPT before accepting inspectors. The US welcomed NKs suggestion it could reengage with the IAEA, but warned that words will not be enough and action will have to be taken and conditions met before the SPT can resume. The ‘New York channel’ of communication between US and NK diplomats at their missions to the UN has been restored.
  • Russia called for a UNSC meeting on Korea on Saturday 18 Dec, but was pushed back by the US (UNSC presidency holder this month). SK was not interested in diplomacy and were determined to carry out their planned exercises, and US was keen to give SK free reign to do so, despite the very real danger of NK following through on warnings of retaliation and escalation. The SC met on Sunday but were unable to come to consensus after a reported split between Russia and China wanting to urge restraint, and US, UK, France and others wanting to blame NK – although it is possible that at one point China did agree to ‘condemn’, but the US did not take the opportunity to seal the agreement.
  • SK conducted its live-fire artillery drills from Yeonpyeong Island, to no immediate response from NK, with its state media saying “We felt it was not worth reacting one-by-one to military provocations.” NK may have shown restraint because they have already fulfilled their objectives and/or are now genuinely seeking the resumption of dialogue. They may have also exercised caution because of the presence of 20 US military personnel on YPD, indeed they lashed out at the US’s use of ‘human shields’. China may have also pressured NK to refrain, something some US officials were keen to give China credit for (NB. US-China summit coming up in mid-Jan). A Chinese diplomat said the two Koreas had “come close to fighting a war”.
  • Lankov believes that NK is just biding its time before it inevitably strikes again.
  • SK held further military drills in the East Sea from Wednesday to Friday, and further large-scale live-fire air and land exercises 20km from the border on Thursday. The US was not involved. Both Koreas are talking tough.
  • SK also removed a total ban on SKs travelling to the Kaesong Industrial Complex that had been imposed at the height of the tensions.
  • SK govt policy may be shifting towards a more aggressive emphasis on reunification. The SK govt has created an index aimed at revealing the internal stability of NK.
  • NK criticised SK for allowing anti-NK leaflets to be sent across the border by activists. The leaflet-carrying balloons often also carry DVDs, dollar bills, and radios. SK has also allowed giant Christmas tree topped with a cross to be erected at the border with NK.

Misc.

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