Weekly News Brief – 22 Jan 2011
- KCNA announced the govt has drawn up a new 10 year economic development plan and created a new agency named State General Bureau for Economic Development to oversee it. The plan “helps lay the foundation for the country to emerge as a thriving nation in 2012 and opens bright prospect for it to proudly rank among advanced countries in 2020.” This may reflect a recognition that NK is far too far from achieving its previous oft-repeated goal of becoming a ‘strong and prosperous’ nation by 2012, and a kicking of the can down the road to 2020. The plan involves injecting 100 billion USD into 12 strategic sectors, meaning NK is going to have to magic some money up from somewhere.
- In Sept 2010 NK revised the charter of the KWP, apparently to smooth the transition to KJU’s rule, giving him the authority to control the military and party (and therefore the country) in the case of KJI’s sudden death. VOA has obtained a copy of the new charter (Korean).
- NK is reportedly struggling to deal with outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, which has already resulted in the culling of 2 million animals in SK.
- Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un are reported to have beefed up their personal security.
- NK spends about a third of income on its military (8.77 billion USD), according to a SK state run think tank.
- DailyNK: Hundreds of VCDs containing criticisms of KJI and the succession were found in an alley in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung Province. RFA also reports that NK is cracking down on DVDs containing criticism of the succession.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- RFA reports the NK govt’s forced food collections from citizens to feed its military.
- The UN Central Emergency Fund (CERF) has allocated 5 million USD to DPRK projects for first half of 2011. This will likely be used to plug some of the gap in funding for WFP’s NK operations.
- Erich Weingartner brings 25 years of experience to bear on his discussion on effective assistance programme models in NK.
- The SK govt will not change their policy of not allowing NK refugees to join the military, despite enthusiasm from some NK refugees.
- International law journal article comparing the Chinese market for NK brides and the US market for foreign brides, notes ‘striking commonalities’.
- Account of Chinese woman who fled China out of fear she would be arrested for harbouring NK refugees.
- A candlelight vigil was held in Washington DC to greet Hu and protest against China’s policy of repatriating NK refugees.
- Story of Song Byeok, a former propagandist in NK who is now preparing to open an exhibition of anti-NK art.
- UN rapporteur on NK Human Rights Marzuki Darusman is to visit Japan.
- NK maintains 6 Political Prison Camps with about 154,000 inmates, according to a SK govt source. Normal estimates range between 150,000-200,000, but this estimate is unusually precise.
- No prizes for guessing who was named among the ‘worst of the worst’ for human rights conditions by Freedom House.
- SK’s National Human Rights Commission called for the introduction of legislation on NK human rights and an independent archive to investigate, collect and record human rights violations in the North. The NKHR bill is currently pending in the SK national assembly.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- SK agreed to a NK proposal for high level direct military talks. SK will ask for an apology or acknowledgement of Cheonanham sinking and Yeonpyeongdo attack in the talks. SK is also calling for high level bilateral talks on denuclearisation. NK media has said talks should be held within the first 10 days of February. It seems to accept that last year’s attacks will be on the agenda. The US welcomed the agreement to resume talks but State Dept said that they still think there is a way to go before resuming the SPT.
- Meanwhile SK’s National Security Adviser has opined that if NK does not yield to international pressure and denuclearise then it could collapse internally. Some analysts think that the next NK nuclear test is not a matter of if, but when.
- Hu and Obama both expressed concern over NK’s uranium enrichment plant and agreed that sincere inter-Korean dialogue is an essential step to reducing tensions. It is the first time China has acknowledged NK’s unranium enrichment programme. SK wants this issue to be discussed at the UNSC but it is still unclear whether this will happen despite Hu’s expression of concern. Kleine-Ahlbrandt of ICG warns that China’s NK policy has not changed.
- Obama warned Hu that if China did not step up pressure on NK, the US would redeploy forces in Asia to protect itself from a potential NK attack on US soil. Security concerns once again dominated US-China discussions on NK.
- SK is lobbying the US for permission to domestically produce missiles capable of hitting anywhere in NK. Elsewhere Joel Wit argues that the US should negotiate with NK to curb their ballistic missile programmes.
- According to a Japanese professor, China may have shut off oil supplies to NK after the Yeonpyeongdo attack to dissuade NK from reacting to SK military drills. They have a precedent of shutting off oil supplies to send a strong message to the NK leadership. If they had knowledge of this, it would explain USG statements in December praising China for using its leverage on NK at that critical time.
- SK daily Chosun Ilbo reported rumours that China was in discussions with NK to station troops in Rason to protect Chinese port facilities there, but this was later firmly denied by China, who said they would not station troops in NK (or other countries) without a UN mandate.
- NK plans to open another free trade zone on the west side of its border with China. More on the 2 billion USD Chinese investment into Rason. NK has also offered to send 2,000 workers to work in factories in China.
- Despite the deterioration in relations, overall SK trade with NK increased 13.9% and visits to NK increased 7.9% in 2010 compared to 2009, due to increased production at the Kaesong Industrial Complex. However, non-KIC related general trade decreased 54% and processing trade decreased 22.5% due to restrictions imposed after the Cheonanham sinking. Some NK products are now reportedly labelled as Chinese or Russian to get round the restrictions and be sold in SK.
- Interesting photos of better-off NKs.
- CNN goes inside NK’s amusement parks.
- Photo set from Korea Economic Institute – Pyongyang in Nov 2010. Other sets here. And more!
- Samsung Economic Research Institute has put out some new research on NK.
- A SK freighter was captured by Somali pirates last Saturday, but on Friday the SK navy stormed the ship, killing 8 pirates and capturing 5, and rescued the 21 hostages and ship. Cue pats on backs for the SK govt and navy, and perhaps a veiled threat to NK.
- Aiden Foster-Carter laments LMB’s abandonment of the Sunshine Policy. The legacy of the Sunshine Policy has taken a beating in light of NK’s actions over the last year, with growth in the sentiment that ‘aid money sent in those years has come back in the form of bullets’, and that the Sunshine Policy ‘propped up’ the NK regime. LMB has encouraged this sentiment because it fits in with his own hardline policy. The Sunshine Policy was not without its problems but the 2007 inter-Korean agreement demonstrated an unprecedented level of N-S cooperation, and 3 years after LMB scrapped this approach inter-Korean relations are at a historic low.