Weekly News Brief – 03 April 2011
- The NK Govt is requiring every personal electronic device (mobile phones, computers, MP3s, USBs) to be registered with the Govt in an effort to crack down on outside information. The crackdown began early this year and has led to the confiscation of a number of devices.
- KCNA is putting the hard sell on its Rason economic and trade zone in an attempt to attract foreign businesses and investment.
- Confirming reports from NKIS from last week, Daily NK reports that the NK Govt is forcibly relocating families of defectors in Yangkang Province to remote rural areas. The source said that rumours of the resettlement have ‘spread like wildfire’ to other cities, so other families of defectors are worried. Daily NK also reports rumours that a camp ‘like Yodok’ has been built for the families.
- The number of pimps is increasing in Sinuiju and corrupt security agents are taking a growing slice of the profits. Prostitutes are therefore seeking clients more secretively in order to keep more of the fee for themselves, using codes such as selling a small number of eggs or flowers. A lack of food has led university students to join the women selling sex, and prices reportedly range between 20 to 130 USD.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- The WFP is in the process of finalising a proposal for international assistance to NK and Kenro Oshidari, WFP’s regional director for Asia, pledged to demand “maximum monitoring”. Oshidari reported that the recent UN assessment mission had a level of flexible access never before seen in 15 years of presence in NK. Oshidari also said SK officials were not enthusiastic about resuming food aid and that it is unlikely SK will resume large-scale food aid. Full WFP assessment report available here.
- Aid agencies working in NK (UK’s Save the Children, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Ireland’s Concern Worldwide, Belgium’s Handicap International and France’s Triangle Generation Humanitaire) have also issued a joint appeal for increased donations, saying that a combination of bad weather, livestock disease, and high global food and fuel prices have left millions of vulnerable citizens ‘on a knife edge’. PBS video – interview with David Austin of Mercy Corps, describing the food shortages in NK.
- The SK Govt approved a request by the NGO ‘Korean Sharing Movement’ to deliver a 27,000 USD aid shipment of bread, soy milk powder and candies for children in North Hamgyeong Province. The Unification Ministry also approved delivery of 305,000 USD worth of tuberculosis medicine from the Eugene Bell Foundation, which will be delivered to six clinics in Pyongyang and Pyongan Province. A coalition of 54 SKorean NGOs are expected to meet with NK officials in China to discuss ways of sending aid.
- Choe Thae-bok, chairman of NK’s Supreme People’s Assembly, requested food aid for his country during a visit to the UK. According to Lord Alton, Choe told British officials that the upcoming two months would be the most serious for NK.
- The US is still reviewing whether to resume food aid to NK, and they may send a fact-finding team to NK to examine the food security situation first hand before making a decision.
- France donated 210,000 USD to its charity group Premier Urgence to feed the most vulnerable in NK, including orphans and disabled people.
- Victor Hsu advocates for food aid to NK. As does Erich Weingartner. Former US ambassador to SK Donald Gregg also calls on the US and SK to quickly resume food aid.
- Noland argues that providing food aid to NK does free up the state’s budget for use on other purposes, including some military spending, but that it is still the right thing to do.
- KCNA reports that the Workers’ Party of Korea intends to develop agricultural science and technology to breed high-yield crop strains.
- China is stepping up its border security by building higher fences and new patrol posts along the Yalu River between the cities of Dandong (PRC) and Sinuiju (DPRK), a popular crossing point for NKorean refugees.
- China has allowed 2 NK refugees who had been seeking asylum in the Japanese consulate in Shenyang for 2 years 8 months to leave for Japan. China had been demanding that Japan promise to stop providing NK refugees sanctuary in its diplomatic missions in China in return for allowing their passage, but reportedly allowed the two sisters out of the country after Japan submitted a document saying they would ‘take note of’ the Chinese demand. There are thought to be 3 more refugees inside the consulate.
- NK may be replacing border guards that are married because they are thought to be more prone to take bribes than unmarried ones.
- 18 members from 7 families from Yangkang Province were caught trying to escape across the Yalu River in mid-March and are now under investigation. Surveillance of local residents and border security have been toughened since the incident.
- The North Korean Defector Medical Center, run by the NGO ‘The Organization for One Korea’ in Seoul, treats 30-40 patients per day, using counselors from the NK refugee community.
- NK demanded Red Cross talks to discuss arrangements for the repatriation of 4 defectors that decided to stay in SK out of the group of 31 drifters. SK rejected the request.
- Canadian MP Barry Devolin (in cooperation with HanVoice) plans to introduce a motion calling on the Canadian Govt to express its concern at the NK refugee situation and to encourage China to work with the international community and UNHCR to uphold the rights of NK citizens. The Canadian FM awarded the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award to SKorean NGO Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.
- Story of NK refugee Jinhae Jo, who attempted several escape attempts but finally made it to the US. Only 3 of 7 family members survived the attempts to escape.
- The UK FCO published its 2010 Human Rights and Democracy Report, section on DPRK available here. It reports that in November an EU delegation visiting Pyongyang called for a resumption of the EU – DPRK human rights dialogue terminated by NK in 2003, noting that the NKoreans gave positive signals of its willingness to re-engage with the EU on HR issues.
- US and SK NGOs plan to hold a NK Human Rights week from 24 April – 1 May. The NGOs will advocate for the passage of a NK HR act which is stalled in the SK National Assembly.
- KCNA responded to the HRC resolution passed on NK HR saying that it is based on falsity, politicisation and hostility, and promised that NK would pursue its military-first policy in response.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- SK held live-fire artillery drills on Yeonpyeong Island and Baengyeong Island in the disputed West Sea waters, the same drills that provoked the attack on Yeonpyeong Island attack last November. Air Force jets were on stand-by, but NK did not react this time.
- SK academic Moon Chung-in says there is little hope for improved inter-Korean relations while LMB is in power.
- Scientists from NK and SK held talks on research cooperation on Mount Baekdu, and may meet again this week.
- A 12-member NKorean delegation of officials from the ministries of trade, agriculture, finance and industry finished a 16 day tour to California and New York. The delegation had classes and field trips to learn about the market economy, multilateral economic cooperation, law, trade infrastructure, the US food industry, etc. They visited Google, Home Depot, Citigroup, Bloomberg, Bloomingdale’s department store and Universal Studios. One member said “we’re an economic delegation. We’re here to discuss and look for the possibility of economic cooperation between us and the United States.” Let’s hope what happens on tour doesn’t stay on tour.
- Ri Gun, director general of the NKorean MFA’s North American Affairs Bureau, held talks in Berlin with former US officials including Tom Pickering.
- The USG emphasised that despite various the various unofficial dialogues taking place, progress in official dialogue remains contingent on an improvement in N-S relations. LMB continues to insist that NK apologises for the attacks of last year.
- Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is drafting a bill that aims to redesignate NK as a state sponsor of terrorism.
- NKorean weapons have been found in Libya, including rockets in boxes labelled ‘parts of bulldozer’ in order to evade detection by international inspections authorised by UNSCR 1874.
- An FTA between the US and SK will not allow the import of goods made in NK, for instance those made in the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
- Russia and NK have created a commission to implement a deal on the use of NKorean labour in Russia. Last year around 32,000 NKoreans worked in Russia, many in timber camps, and the NK Govt hopes to increase this number.
- NK Studies departments at universities in SK are struggling through a lack of demand, possibly due to the poor job prospects of graduates.
- WSJ blog on ‘Ryanggangdo Chilren’, a film about NK by a defector.
- North American teenager Max Jones is making a documentary about NK refugees.
- The SK military has a contingency plan in place to destroy personality cult statues and calligraphy engraved onto mountains in NK in the event of regime collapse. There are an estimated 35,000 statues and 40,000 pieces of calligraffiti.
- The NK and German football associations signed a MOU on cooperation in coaching, refereeing and youth teams. German journalists and politicians were also included in the delegation visiting NK.