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18 April 2011 / SP

Weekly News Brief – 17 April 2011


  • The NK Govt organised various celebrations for KIS’s birthday, dubbed the “Day of the Sun” and described as “a joyous day for all humanity” by KCNA. NK reportedly spends 800,000 USD per year on preserving KIS’s body. KJI marked the day by donating nearly 2 million USD to pro-Pyongyang residents in Japan. KIS and KJI portraits are inspected in the run up to the holiday to ensure loyalty, but gifts distributed to children on the Day of the Sun are routinely sold on the market the same day. SK activists marked the day by sending anti-KJI leaflets to NK.
  • Report of four public executions in Pyongyang, including the execution of one person for stealing 20 USD worth of corn and selling it in the market. “After feeding the prisoner a glass of liquor, they put a gag in his or her mouth and carry out the execution.”
  • NK issued a decree earlier this month stating that citizens caught making phone calls to people in SK or China will be sent to a reeducation camp and their families will be exiled.
  • Signals intelligence suggests that KJU was made director of NK’s National Security Agency in late 2009.
  • A group of the offspring of senior leaders, known as Bonghwajo and analogous to China’s ‘princelings’, are reportedly generating funds through illicit activities such as drug trafficking and counterfeiting and using a substantial portion of that to bribe KJU and his brother Kim Jong-chul.
  • A series of promotions have elevated the sons of revolutionaries that fought with KIS against the Japanese, in moves seen as designed to secure the succession.
  • According to a NK refugee turned researcher, SKorean experts do not pay enough attention to NK’s civilian-based defense network. In the 1990s, KJI ordered each province to prepare itself independently because there were no front lines in modern warfare.
  • Chosun Ilbo on KJI’s lavish spending on pet dogs.
  • NASA image shows smoke from fires lit to clear land for farming. The fires clearly stop at the borders with SK and China, but they may also be forest fires exacerbated by one of the driest springs on record.
  • NK is providing ‘anti-radiation honey’ to workers exposed to radiation and workers at nuclear power plants.
  • Lankov urges skepticism when it comes to reports of executions of ex-ministers in NK.


  • UNICEF: “If no action is taken now, 88,400 children who are now moderately malnourished are in danger of becoming severely malnourished.” UNICEF requires 20.4 million USD to meet the urgent needs of women and children, but has received just 2% of that (Sweden and Italy have also pledged 2.2 million and 340,000 USD respectively).
  • Russia has pledged to provide 5 million USD worth of aid to NK through the WFP.
  • Haggard and Noland on ‘The Logic and Illogic of Food Aid’. Examines some of the debate around food aid resumption (recommended read).
  • The poor state of food security in the NK military has lead to a situation whereby soldiers can buy time off by providing their base with food. The number of soldiers suffering from malnutrition is reportedly increasing and soldiers are resorting to stealing from civilians, damaging their reputation with the people.
  • The US is set to make a decision on the resumption of food aid by the end of this month. If the decision is delayed any further, it will reduce the effectiveness of any aid provided.
  • Morton Abramowitz advocates for a speedy resumption of food aid (“starting now will already be too late”) and calls for the USG to split with the SK Govt if necessary. Selig Harrison also advocates for long-term food and energy aid linked to denuclearisation demands, and efforts to strengthen the position of moderates in Pyongyang. Jack Kim makes a broader argument for engagement based on a long-term road map with clear milestones and achievable objectives, drawn up with cooperation from NK, as part of multilateral cooperation on creating a soft-landing for NK.
  • Religious leaders from the five main religious groups in SK have advocated for a resumption of food aid. The SK Govt are still publicly stating that they are not currently considering providing food aid to NK.


  • NK has tightened security along its border with China, including by laying trip wires that send flares into the air to make it easier for border patrols to catch people trying to escape.
  • SK’s Ministry of Health and Welfare are launching services to help NK refugees with health problems, such as recovering from chronic malnutrition.
  • Seoul Police have arrested 2 female refugees and two ethnic Korean Chinese for forcing NKorean refugees into prostitution in China. Over a course of more than 2 years, 70-80 NKorean women were ‘acquired’, half of them through brokers for an average of 3,300 USD each. The women were lured with false promises of being sent to SK, and were then beaten for attempting escape or failing to attract enough customers.
  • NK refugees say that watching SKorean dramas and films and seeing SKoreans eating well and wearing different clothes helped them overcome their fear of life in a capitalist society and motivated them to escape NK.
  • NK is reportedly exploiting the growing NK refugee community in SK by extorting money from them, trying to turn them into spies with threats on their relatives remaining in NK, and are also collecting family members into camps to limit the spread of news from the south.
  • “The Journals of Musan” depicts the life of NK refugees in SK. Director Jung-bum Park was motivated to make the film because he was angry at the way a refugee friend was treated.


  • SK’s Unification Ministry released guidelines on education on NK HR issues for SKorean students, criticising the third generation power succession and NK’s political prison camps.
  • SK university students are organising exhibitions on NK HR to encourage SK lawmakers to pass the NK Human Rights Act.
  • Balbina Hwang calls for stronger US-ROK cooperation on NK HR.


  • China has again called for SPT resumption and proposed a three-stage route to restart the SPT, with inter-Korean talks followed by US-DPRK talks and then SPT resumption. SK and the US agreed that inter-Korean talks on denuclearisation should precede the SPT, but the SK Govt still insists on an apology for the 2010 attacks. SK also feels that NK does not treat it as a serious partner in denuclearisation talks, and the Chinese proposal would help remedy this.
  • Eberstadt: NK regards the resumption of the SPT as an avenue for achieving recognition of its status as a nuclear weapons state and for getting concessions from the US. To NK, “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” would require intrusive inspections in SK to verify the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons, the end of US nuclear umbrella protection for SK, and the end of the US-ROK and US-Japan military alliances. In other words denuclearisation is out of the question.
  • Commander of US Forces in Korea Gen. Walter Sharp publicly stated that he does not think KJI will ever give up his nuclear capability.
  • US Amb to SK said that efforts are being made for a sincere dialogue with NK and they expect a positive situation within 1-2 months.
  • LMB claimed that his approach to NK has made the NKoreans show more respect in their dealings with SK – at the start of his presidency they would send a meeting proposal with no information on who would attend or the reason for the meeting, but now they send proposals including agenda items they want to discuss.
  • State Dept revealed that a US citizen is being detained in NK but declined to give details. KCNA confirmed the report, naming him as Jeon Young-su and saying that he admitted to committing a “crime against the DPRK after entering it” and that they plan to indict him. The individual is reportedly a Korean-American businessman in his 60s from Orange County, California. He was in NK on a business visa, reportedly operating a noodle and bread factory in the Rason economic zone, but was caught engaging in missionary work in November (just after the Yeonpyeong Island attack) and detained. The USG has called for his release on humanitarian grounds. By coincidence(?), President Carter is due in Pyongyang in 2 weeks time, although the primary reason for that trip is to engage in track II (or 1.5) diplomacy.
  • Diplomatic sources in Seoul claim that Beijing asked KJU to fly to China instead of taking the train like his father. Security is much easier to handle when leaders arrive by plane, and it would also make it harder for the US and SK to detect preparations for visits. KJU is expected to visit China soon and may meet with China’s next President Xi Jinping.
  • SK’s opposition Democratic Party criticised the SK Govt’s policy towards NK, saying it was partly to blame for NK’s contract dispute with Hyundai Asan.
  • IFES: PRC-DPRK trade volume and economic cooperation is increasing. There are 200 Chinese companies in NK, over 70% of them located around Rason. NK recently took the significant step of handing over major management rights to Chinese investors, and are taking other steps to improve the business environment for investors.
  • John Park: the US and China share the goal of peaceful denuclearisation of NK, but pursue it in opposite ways: China is trying to entice NK to implement the 2005 SPT Joint Statement, whereas the US is averse to offering incentives and is instead applying sanctions in an attempt to bring about implementation of the same 2005 Joint Statement.


  • NK has released a new website for its external state media, Voice of Korea, to mark KIS’s birthday. The website is available in 9 languages. They have also snazzed up the KCNA website (and changed URLs).
  • Daily NK interview with cartoonist Gregory Pence, who is collaborating with former NK propaganda artist Song Byeok to ‘give a voice to NKoreans who cannot speak out’. Pence’s website.
  • Bizarre story about a conman that fooled football manager Sven Göran-Eriksson, former head of UK Defence Intelligence Sir John Walker and the NK Govt.
  • The Korean War – photos and verbal accounts of the effects of the war on ordinary people.
  • Photo set – Feng Li captures life in Pyongyang.
  • NK tourism options.
  • NKorean kids and SKorean kids are both quite good on the guitar.

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