Weekly News Brief – 27 Mar 2011
- Daily NK reports on the growing popularity of SK entertainment shows such as the high-energy ‘1 Night 2 Days’ and ‘Infinity Challenge’. The games featured in those shows are being copied by children in Pyongyang schools, and people report enjoying being able to see the SKorean scenery. People in Pyongyang rent, rather than purchase, the DVDs and CDs that are smuggled in from the border with China, where the shows are also popular among the Korean-Chinese population. An interview with a Korean-Chinese trader also reveals how SK dramas affect NK fashion.
- Daily NK reports that anti-regime flyers and booklets have been distributed in South Pyongan Province, and information is spreading through the markets. Anti-socialism inspections began this month, intent on cracking down on drug trafficking, smuggling and wholesaling by car.
- NK’s population increased to 24.19m in 2010, up from 24.06m the previous year. Statistics Korea reports that NK fetility rate is 2.0 compared to 1.2 in SK, and male life expectancy in 64.1 compared to 76.5 in SK.
- The UN FAO said NK needs 1 million USD worth of vaccines and equipment to deal with its foot and mouth disease outbreak that has affected 8 provinces. The FMD outbreak is causing an increase in the price of pork, and meat from infected animals is being sold on the quiet.
- NK Intellectuals Solidarity claims that the NK Govt has began a massive resettlement of citizens with relatives in SK and relatives of defectors to remote areas.
- Sunny Lee examines KJI’s leadership. ‘Contrary to the common view that Kim has run the country alone, analysts say the dictator has had to negotiate with different factions to keep power; eg. military hardliners / economic reformists.’ The son of the late founder of Hyundai claimed that KJI revealed to his father that he knows the NK people don’t like him and that he had nightmares of being stoned by his own people.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- UN WFP/FAO/UNICEF: 6.1 million NKoreans (25% of popn) are in urgent need of international food assistance. NK’s public distribution system is expected to run out of food at the beginning of the lean season (May-July). The recent needs assessment found that the worst affected include children, women and the elderly, and recommended providing 430,000 metric tons of food aid. The UN agencies visited 40 counties in 9 provinces. At one hospital visited by investigators, 136 children were being treated for malnutrition and 11 were in the most severe stage of hunger, able only to take intravenous fluids and eat high-nutrition biscuits, none of which were available.
- Sen. Kerry said the results were ‘dire’ and called for a resumption of food aid if it could be properly monitored. “It is tempting to withhold food assistance until North Korea abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons or adopts economic reforms. But the North demonstrated during the famine in the mid-to-late 1990s, in which an estimated 5-10 percent of ordinary North Koreans died, that it is willing to allow its people to suffer enormously.” The US and NK are said to be meeting next month to discuss the conditions for a resumption of food aid.
- WFP officials, including one who was on the recent trip to NK, will visit SK next week, amid signs that the international community may move to resume food aid to NK.
- The SK Govt will allow private groups to send humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable members of NK society, starting with aid designed for use only by children in April and may be in the form of perishable food that cannot be stockpiled (the new buzzword being ‘smart aid’). These groups are partly supported with 3.1m USD from a Govt fund for inter-Korean economic cooperation. Aid had been shut off since the Yeonpyeong Island attack in November, but the SK Govt has been under pressure from religious groups and NGOs calling on the Govt to allow humanitarian aid to be sent, and the USG and other govts are increasingly looking like resuming food aid after the current WFP/FAO needs assessment. SK Govt aid, however, is contingent on the restart of Red Cross talks.
- India will donate 1 million USD in food aid to NK through the WFP.
- SK police are investigating the reasons behind double-defections of NK refugees (claiming asylum in a 3rd country after already being resettled in SK). Currently 8 NKorean defectors from Busan are seeking asylum in the UK.
- 6 NK refugees arrived in SK after travelling by boat from China.
- SK returned 27 of the 31 NKoreans that drifted to SK on a boat. Four defectors stayed in SK.
- Description of Hanawon in USA Today.
- The UN HRC adopted a resolution to express concerns about NK’s grave human rights violations. 30/47 countries voted for the resolution.
- An exhibition was held to raise awareness of NK HR at Cheongyecheon, a popular stream in Seoul.
- KCNA, with no sense of irony, reported on the SK Govt’s repressive rule and suppression of democratisation under the pretence of security. The NK Govt pointing their finger at SK on HR is of course outrageous, but this is another reason the SK Govt has to ensure it is whiter than white on HR, which unfortunately it is not.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- Four Elders: Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Gro Brundtland, and Mary Robinson may go to NK next month. Carter went last year to pick up a detained US citizen, but did not meet KJI on that trip. The Elders delegation would certainly look to meet KJI and may even be introduced to KJU.
- A security forum in Germany may provide a chance for a high-level NK diplomat to meet with former US Govt officials.
- KCNA: NK denounced the US for interfering in Libya’s internal affairs, sparking a civil war, cooking up a deceptive UNSCR and commiting a crime against humanity. Libya’s nuclear disarmament “was much touted by the US” but “turned out to be a mode of aggression”. Libya was “coaxed… with sweet words such as “guarantee of security” and “improvement of relations” to disarm itself and then [the US] swallowed it up by force”. The case of Libya definitely makes it even easier for NK military hardliners to argue against making any real concessions on denuclearisation or other security issues, and makes it more likely NK will continue to pursue a strategy of deterrence through military build-up.
- Experts have warned that a third nuclear test is possible if progress is not made in dialogue.
- Some more details about the DMZ party – NK accused US troops of coming within 20 metres of the DMZ, bringing girls, taking photos, boozing and throwing bottles at the north. NK threatened the south that if they continued to encourage such ‘reckless provocations by the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces’, it shall bear the responsibility for the consequences ‘including casualties’. NK also again threatened to attack sites used to launch propaganda leaflet balloons into NK.
- China denied claims that the UNSC has discussed NK’s uranium enrichment programme.
- SK accepted NK’s initiative to discuss Mt Baekdu, and proposed talks between civilian experts at a border village on 29 March. Mt Baekdu’s symbolic significance in Korea is underlined by it being mentioned in the first line of the SK national anthem and also being the supposed birthplace of KJI, according to official NK records.
- KCNA reported that Choe Tae-bok, chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly, is leading a NK delegation on a trip to the UK, via Beijing. UK amb. to Seoul Martin Uden also blogged about a recent trip to Pyongyang. He reports seeing an increase in quantity and spec of electronic goods in the market compared to 2008 – flash drives, cameras, phone accessories etc.
- NK’s exports to the EU doubled in 2010, to over 100 million EUR (140 million USD). Korea International Trade Association: Inter-Korean trade in 2010 rose 14% on 2009, but was still just half of NK-PRC trade.
- Eric Lafforgue has some great photos from NK again.
- HBO will cast James Gandolfini as a Jersey Restaurateur who got himself involved in track II diplomacy with NK (based on a true story).
- 12 NK Govt officials in charge of economic affairs arrived in California to study American-style capitalism for 1 week.
- NK head of state Kim Yong-nam sent condolences to pro-NK residents in Japan, while KJI sent 500,000 USD to help them recover (suggesting his slush funds are not that low).
- Propaganda posters for the Spring farming season.
- NK is on the look-out for English teachers to teach in NK.
- Economist article about the debate (or lack thereof) between humanitarian military intervention versus foreign aid.