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4 March 2011 / SP

Weekly News Brief – 04 Mar 2011

NK INTERNAL

  • The UN FAO has sent a team to NK to inspect the FMD outbreak and help prevent its spread. There have been no reports of culling animals thus far. The SK Govt noted that NK has not requested assistance and the SK Govt has no plans to offer it.
  • Japanese media claims KJU is heading for China this month, and will meet with Hu Jintao and his successor Xi Jinping.
  • The NK Govt has launched a new surveillance bureau named 118 Sangmu, the latest bureau aimed at ‘eradicating anti-socialist elements’.
  • SK activists plan to send 200,000 propaganda leaflets into NK, with dollar bills and USB drives containing video of the Arab uprisings, urging NK citizens to rebel against their leaders. Park Sang-hak, leader of the group and himself a NK refugee, claims his group has sent 3 million leaflets into NK every year since 2004. Head of Free North Korea Radio Kim Sung-min, himself a defector, testified to the power of propaganda leaflets and radio broadcasts, and said that a “continuous delivery of outside news will provide momentum for change there some time in the future”.
  • Lankov plays down the likelihood of an uprising in NK. Despite the regime becoming more liberal in recent years, with some restrictions no longer enforced (partly because of corruption) and some policies quietly changed, NK’s isolation and control is still the world’s tightest. People rebel not when they are desperate, but when they see an alternative and believe there is a real prospect for change, which NKoreans do not have. The NK elite is united through fear that a crisis might cause regime collapse and reunification with the South, in which case they could all be persecuted. The current system, with information filtering in and fear diminishing, is unsustainable, but we may have to wait years or even decades to see a repeat of Tahrir Square in Kim Il-sung Square.
  • Daily NK reports that the Chosun Ilbo piece on protest in Sinuiju was highly exaggerated; it was in actuality an argument over stall fees between traders and market managers. The source said “commotions like this are common” and also reported that there was no evidence that phone lines had been cut to stop the flow of information about the Arab uprisings, as claimed in previous reports. Daily NK also documents anti-govt activities in NK.

FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY

  • US Assistant Secretary of State Campbell to Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: no decisions have been made on resumption of food aid to NK, NK military spending is not linked to receipt of food aid because NK will continue spending on nuclear/missile programmes even in the face of starvation of the people. Therefore the choice is whether to let NK people starve or not – a humanitarian, not political, issue. Any food aid would also be marked so that it was very clear that the aid came from the “benevolence of the American people”. Bosworth: monitoring of US food aid to NK in the past has been “very careful” and “quite effective”.
  • Sen. John Kerry suggested that “a broader humanitarian engagement might hold the most long-term promise” for progress on nuclear and security issues.
  • A govt source in Seoul said that the USG will likely take a while to make a decision on resuming food aid and will coordinate closely with SK. If they do decide to resume aid they would likely start where they left off in 2009 with deliveries of 330,000 tons of rice.
  • KCNA is reporting that heavy snow will affect crop sowing in NK, whilst also emphasising the international nature of the food shortages, with “many countries experiencing a food shortage… due to abnormal climatic conditions”.
  • SK’s FM Kim Sung-hwan briefed foreign diplomats that despite NK’s requests for food aid, NK actually increased food production last year. He said that mismanagement of the economy and military spending leave people going hungry, and that in the face of NK’s intransigence on their nuclear programme it is “imperative” to show unified opposition. Still no appetite for the resumption of food aid by the SK Govt then.
  • Aiden Foster-Carter makes the case for food aid.

REFUGEES

  • Bosworth: US urges China to adhere to int’l obligations on refugees and will consider NK refugees that approach US embassies/consulates or come through UNHCR for resettlement in the US.
  • Four of the 31 NKoreans that drifted into SK waters on a boat one month ago have decided to stay in SK, while the other 27 are expected to return to NK via Panmunjom this week. Initially all 31 had expressed a desire to return to the north but 4 seem to have changed their mind over recent days (why they were held for a whole month is perhaps open to question). NK accused SK of forcing the 4 to stay so they could use them ‘as hostages’.
  • A Blue House official has called for better political representation for NK refugees, and promoted the idea of a lawmaker coming from the NK refugee community.
  • NK refugees living in China told interviewers they would return to NK if it were more ‘open’. Driven into China through hunger, many plan to return to their families in NK after earning some money. A recent crackdown on refugees by the Chinese authorities has pushed many refugees further away from the border and deeper into China.
  • Sen. Richard Burr introduced the North Korean Refugee Adoption Act, which aims to develop a strategy to help American parents adopt NK orphans and stateless children.

HUMAN RIGHTS

  • Ass. Secretary of State Campbell and Amb. Bosworth: HR is a top US priority and long-term improvement in US-DPRK relations will be contingent on NK making a serious effort to address HR issues. Amb. King, US Special Envoy for NK Human Rights Issues was present but did not address the committee. King has reported that NK’s HR and humanitarian situation continues to worsen.
  • This report of the UN Special Rapporteur on NK HR is the first report of new SR Darusman, and the language is softer than that of previous SR Muntarbhorn. It reports: the August 2010 floods affected 6/12 provinces, causing complete or partial damage to 316 school buildings leaving 28,000 school children with no classroom; economic difficulties following the currency reform are causing a ‘rampant’ rate of college dropouts in Kangwon Province (SE of country); dismal state of press freedom, access to information etc., and the dire condition of prisons eg. Kaechun Kyohwaso – built for 600 inmates at 20 people/cell, currently holding 6,000 inc. 2,000 females. The SR calls, inter alia, for NK to reform the law allowing capital punishment for many ordinary criminal offences, noting that public execution is never justified (NK govt claims executions are carried out publicly at the request of family members). The SR calls on the int’l community to provide humanitarian aid and calls for the resumption of the SPT. The SR also notes that the ICC’s examination of NK attacks on SK opens questions of accountability for other crimes such as abduction.
  • The National Human Rights Commission of Korea will launch a center to document HR violations in NK, the first time a SK Govt body has done so (NGOs have done this in the past). Information will be collected from refugees and families of abductees, analysed and presented to the UN.

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY

  • The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations discussed NK policy. Sen. John Kerry expressed impatience with the lack of progress and urged the USG to seize the initiative and negotiate with NK bilaterally as a way to resume the SPT, criticising the view that merely engaging with NK is ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. Sen. Dick Lugar questioned whether the USG has a strategy that can dismantle NK’s nuclear weapons programme, and whether more could be done with China on the issue. Amb. Bosworth replied that the USG is open to constructive dialogue but that NK needs to show its seriousness first. He also emphasised that US policy is not regime change but a change in the regime’s behaviour. Kurt Campbell and Amb. Bosworth reiterated that N-S dialogue is an important initial step toward the SPT. Bosworth also admitted that the USG does not know that much about how decisions are made in NK or who makes them.
  • The USG is not considering redeployment of nuclear weapons to SK, despite calls from some conservative SK lawmakers.
  • SK and US began their joint military exercises involving 12,800 US and 200,000 SK personnel. A US aircraft carrier will also take part. NK rolled out their familiar threat to turn Seoul into a ‘sea of fire’. SK is on alert for possible NK terrorist attacks in Seoul. The SK Defense Minister told his front line troops to respond immediately to NK provocations instead of waiting for orders from higher up the chain of command. At the same time, LMB called for direct talks with NK.
  • SK and US are pushing for a UNSC Presidential Statement to state that NK’s uranium enrichment programme is in violation of SC resolutions and the 2005 SPT joint statement.
  • NK has threatened to fire on SK sites that are used to launch propaganda leaflets aiming to inform NKoreans of the Arab uprisings, calling it a plot to “shake up our socialism and break the trust of our military and people” (sounds pretty accurate for once). The SK Govt has no plans to intervene to stop NGOs sending leaflets into the north, but will neither confirm nor deny whether the ROK military is also engaged. It was leaked that the Blue House berated the military for leaking information about its propaganda campaign.
  • The Chinese presence at Rason is growing. China plans to supply electricity to the special economic zone in NK, and Chinese pressure to reduce restrictions and improve the business environment reportedly has worked. Rason could become China’s Kaesong. NK state media is trying to attract FDI by reassuring investors and made a special reference to Rason.

MISC.

  • UNSCR 1970 on Libya was significant for several reasons. It marked the first time that the SC has voted unanimously for referral to the ICC; it was a relatively swift and decisive action by the SC on an internal situation of “gross and systematic violation of human rights”; the Responsibility to Protect doctrine received a clear boost; overwhelming international public opinion seems to have been important in pushing all members to get on board. NB also the HRC resolution mandating an independent international commission of inquiry into violations of international human rights law. Of course diplomacy is not over-troubled by the value of consistency and this doesn’t mean the UNSC will deal with other situations in a similar way, but this resolution is an important precedent and a step in the right direction.
  • Survey: 58% of SK businessmen agree that the benefits of reunifying with NK outweigh the costs, and 41% said they would set up a business in NK after reunification. However the vast majority believe that SK is not well prepared for reunification. SK analysis of the costs of reunification often focus on calculations of the cost of equalising wealth levels across the peninsula, but this does not do justice to the NKoreans’ potential to create value and win-win scenarios emerging from the development of the north.
  • A SK artist and NK refugees have created a satirical video on ‘how to make pizza’ (a spoof of this official NK video) in an expression of opposition to NK’s cultural isolation and rigid class system. 500 DVDs containing the video were distributed through black markets in Pyongyang. There were also videos of ‘how to buy CDs of SK pop songs’, and ‘how to celebrate Christmas’, and the artist says he has received feedback from people in NK through smugglers.
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