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2 May 2011 / SP

Weekly News Brief – 1 May 2011


  • The number of NKoreans officially visiting China reached 28,600 in the first 3 months of the year, up 35% on the first quarter of last year. Over half travelled to work in factories or restaurants, while 6,000 visited for conferences or businesses.
  • China has begun paving a 53km road to the Rason economic zone, scheduled to finish by the end of this year.
  • Daily NK on KIS’s Christian heritage and NK’s religious oppression.
  • ICG’s Pinkston on the bleak prospects for WMD disarmament and democratisation in NK.
  • KCNA video of Kaeson Youth Theme Park in Pyongyang.
  • NK has announced plans to independently establish a special tourism zone for Mt Gumgang. However they also reportedly signalled that such changes are temporary and will remain in place until SK resumes the tours.
  • Eric Lafforgue photo: Arirang mass games.


  • The WFP and UNICEF announced plans for emergency operations in NK to feed 3.5 million people. The one-year WFP operation will focus on providing aid to women and children at a cost of 200m USD. WFP staff (including Korean-speaking staff) will make over 400 visits each month to provincial markets and distribution points during the operation, at 24 hours’ notice. UNICEF has launched a 20m USD appeal for programmes targeting children and pregnant or lactating women in areas with the highest rates of malnutrition.
  • US NGO Samaritan’s Purse warned that food stocks will run out by mid-June and without urgent aid “people will suffer and people will die”.
  • Daily NK reported on an interview with a NKorean citizen claiming that NK authorities coached citizens how to answer questions asked by the UN needs assessment team in order to exaggerate food shortages.
  • Kang Chol-hwan advocates against unconditional humanitarian food aid.
  • NYT editorial advocates for food aid and dialogue on economic reforms.
  • Cheong Gwang-min argues that NK’s food aid drive is motivated by a genuine attempt to deal with food shortages as part of efforts towards economic development aimed at the ‘betterment of people’s lives’.
  • The USG has still not made a decision on providing food aid to NK.
  • Readers in the DC area might be interested in this USIP event on 5 May. It will also be webcast, starting at 2.30pm EST here.


  • China has given permission to 3 NK refugees who had been given asylum at the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang to leave for Japan. The three, a woman and a mother and son, are believed to be the last NK refugees to be given protection by Japanese diplomatic missions in China. On 2 April two NKorean sisters were allowed to leave after Japan said they would ‘take note’ of a Chinese demand that Japanese diplomatic missions in China stop granting NK refugees asylum.
  • NK has reportedly intensified its crackdown on defectors since KJU became heavily involved in internal security affairs after his designation as successor. KJU is thought to be behind the persistent calls for repatriation of the remaining 4 defectors from the drifter boat.
  • SK proposed holding Red Cross talks with NK to discuss ways to confirm the ‘free will’ of the 4 ‘drifters’ that stayed in SK and also SKorean POWs and citizens in the north.
  • Kim Hye-sook has published her memoir covering her time in Bukchang prison camp, where she lived for 28 years after first being imprisoned aged 13 because of her grandfather’s attempt to defect, her escape from NK and becoming a victim of human trafficking, and the ordeal of her capture and repatriation. She describes ‘hiding money in her uterus’ and concealing money by repeatedly swallowing it each time it passed through her system.
  • A second Chosun Ilbo documentary about the plight of NK refugees ‘On The Border 2’ is to be shown worldwide.


  • VOA editorial: methods of prison torture and abuse in NK reportedly include severe beatings, electric shocks, prolonged periods of exposure to the elements, humiliations such as public nakedness, confinement for up to several weeks in “punishment cells” in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down.
  • North Korean Human Rights Archives claimed NK operates 210 detention centers and 210 labor camps, 23 prisons, 5 indoctrination camps, 27 holding facilities, and 6 political prison camps. Holding facilities and indoctrination camps have been used to hold repatriated defectors without trial since the early 2000s.
  • Video of AEI event on NK human rights.


  • Jimmy Carter and 3 former European leaders had disappointing visits to Pyongyang and Seoul (video from KCNA). They did not meet with KJI, KJU or LMB, and did not secure the release of detained US citizen Jun Young-su (who is reportedly suffering health problems). Carter said that KJI expressed his willingness (in a written note) to meet with LMB at any time to discuss any subject, and that NK would only give up their nuclear weapons if they received security guarantees from the US (nothing new). Carter is clearly very frustrated with the SK and US govts for their refusal to engage with NK on dialogue or food aid, and even went as far as saying that to “deliberately withhold food aid to the North Korean people is a human rights violation”. He also stated his opinion that people on the outside cannot change human rights issues inside NK. Carter was criticised in both the US and SK and his trip was downplayed both before and after the event by both govts.
  • SK again called for NK to show ‘sincerity’ and ‘concrete actions’ to improve inter-Korean relations.
  • The USG again called on NK to improve ties with SK before there could be progress towards the SPT.
  • A NK patrol boat retreated when a SK naval vessel fired warning shots after the NK boat crossed the disputed NLL maritime border in the West Sea.
  • SK’s Ministry of Unification rejected a request by two umbrella trade unions to meet with their NK counterparts at Kaesong. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions held a rally to protest the decision saying the Govt had denied “the earnest request of workers from the South and North who long for peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
  • NK, China and Russia have commenced a trial tour project whereby citizens of the three countries can travel between the countries without a visa.
  • KNCA reported that Xi Jinping, China’s designated presidential successor, met with the NKorean ambassador in Beijing and expressed his hopes for improved PRC-DPRK relations and strengthened economic cooperation. The meeting could be part of preparations for KJU’s rumoured forthcoming trip to Beijing.
  • After the joint volcano research initiative comes an NKorean proposal for cooperation between NK and SK historians on the East Sea / Sea of Japan naming dispute.
  • NYT on propaganda leaflet balloons and the opposition shown to this practise on both sides of the DMZ.
  • Russia’s Voronstov advocates for negotiations instead of sanctions to make progress on denuclearisation.


  • Daily NK on working conditions of overseas NKorean labourers.
  • NK’s ambassador to the UK reportedly attended the wedding of a young couple in London.
  • Paper by Peter Hayes: N-S Korean Elements of National Power. Comparison between SK and NK on six elements of national power. SK has achieved overwhelming superiority in every dimension of national power, especially in conventional military power.
  • SKoreans voted against LMB’s Grand National Party in key by-elections, with the Democratic Party beating the GNP in their traditional stronghold of Bundang. The next presidential election will be at the end of next year.
  • The SK Govt pledged to provide 500 million USD in aid to Afghanistan.
  • New Yorker piece on Obama’s foreign policy machine, recommended read for IR geeks.
  • NK played the bad guy again in US media, this time in an episode of 30 Rock where ‘Avery’ was detained in NK and Condi Rice failed to free her. KJI was played by… Margaret Cho.
  • Choson Exchange is looking for bankers/entrepreneurs/ex-policy makers/consultants to volunteer to lead workshops in Pyongyang.

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