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9 May 2011 / SP

Weekly News Brief – 8 May 2011

NK INTERNAL

  • NK authorities plan to complete the forced relocation of defectors’ relatives from the border town of Hoeryong by 10 May.
  • NKIS: NK authorities in North Hamgyeong and Ryangkang Provinces, on the border with China, have started a drive to confiscate mobile phones smuggled in from China in order to stem the flow of information from the outside world.
  • Impressions of a Chinese journalist in NK.
  • Daily NK on NK’s social classes.
  • Lankov speculates on the psychology of NKoreans in a post Seoul-led reunification scenario. He notes that in many ex-communist countries there is significant nostalgia for the communist era, and predicts that the personality cult of KIS will persist to some extent. NKoreans will quickly get used to their relative prosperity and will be discouraged by their unfavourable income and social standing compared to the southerners that they will be ill-prepared to compete with. NKoreans may even come to resent southerners as ‘greedy and arrogant’. Again points to the need for learning from the NK refugee experience in SK in order to prepare for unification.
  • Lankov on the popularity of SKorean, US, and even Bollywood films in NK. “A majority of North Koreans have most likely watched South Korean movies over the past five to 10 years.”
  • Hankyoreh: NK-PRC cooperation on the Rason economic zone could be part of a NKorean plan to use Rason as a test case for adopting of the Chinese model, with heavy involvement from both central govts. Sources report that Rason has seen new factories built and old ones upgraded, as well as apartments and road construction.
  • 100,000 Chinese tourists visited Sinuiju over the last year after the CCP lifted a four-year ban on group tours from Dandong, which is across the river on the Chinese side.
  • RFA – NK’s exports of mineral resources reached 860m USD last year, compared to 50m USD in 2002. Mineral exports accounted for 63% of exports to China.  

FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY

  • KCNA reports that KJI has called for more production of fertiliser. The current lack of fertiliser is one of the key underlying reasons for the food shortages.  
  • Carter Center: Annual foreign aid per person for NKorea is only $9.40, compared to $63 for Sudan and $165 for Afghanistan.
  • IFRC report on NK (2010). Provision of essential drugs to 2,030 clinics nationwide remains the largest component of support. Ongoing construction of 19 water and sanitation systems will bring the total number of people supplied with clean drinking water in the past ten years to over 600,000. Community-based disaster risk reduction includes tree planting as a long-term mitigation measure. Road safety is becoming increasingly important with the rapidly growing number of cars, especially in Pyongyang. Overall expenditure over the year was 8.5m USD. Due to the tense political situation some pledged funding was withdrawn in the middle of 2010.
  • WFP plans to maintain 59 officials in NK for its current operation, up from 10 previously. 12 are fluent Korean speakers. Up to 60% will be tasked with monitoring aid.
  • US politician Bill Richardson advocates for the provision of food aid, adding that humanitarian assistance could improve the atmosphere for diplomatic engagement.  
  • The chairman of SK NGO Good Friends reported that the current food shortage is worse than the last major food shortages in 2008.
  • Rev. Franklin Graham of US NGO Samaritan’s Purse discussing NK food aid on Fox News (video).
  • The SK Govt approved 770,000 USD worth of food and medical aid from 5 NGOs. The SK Govt also approved a trip by a delegation from a SK Buddhist group to NK to deliver 100,000 tablets of intestinal parasite medicine.
  • The Heritage Foundation will host a panel discussion on NK food aid on Weds 11 May.

REFUGEES

  • The Thai Govt rejected a SK proposal to build a coordination centre to deal with NK refugees entering Thailand, apparently out of concern it would encourage an influx of too many NK refugees. The SK Govt had reportedly offered to pay for the care of NK refugees but the Thai Govt rejected this, saying they would instead accept SK assistance to improve the existing Immigration Bureau Detention Centre used to process illegal immigrants from all countries. Thai official statistics show NK refugees increased from 46 in 2004 to 2,482 in 2010.
  • Daily NK: A decree by KJU has called for a crackdown on illegal border crossing and smuggling.
  • Young NK refugees in SK dream of reunification, but their SKorean peers too often do not share those ideas.  

HUMAN RIGHTS

  • Amnesty International report: satellite images indicate a significant increase in the scale of North Korea’s political prison camps. Also includes testimonies from defectors that have escaped from the camps. AI media briefing with further information here. AI petition here. The report was picked up by several western media outlets including CNN, NYT, BBC. Reuters video here.
  • Lankov: The ratio of the political prison camp inmates to the total population in NK is roughly similar to that of Stalin’s Russia.
  • The Beeb also has an interview with Kang Chol-hwan about the prison camp he escaped from.
  • KCNA on NK Freedom Week: “the puppet group invited riffraffs of the U.S. and Japan to Seoul to stage a noisy campaign from April 24 to May 1 to seriously hurt the dignity and system of the DPRK…”
  • Guess who came in last for Freedom of the Press in 2011?

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY

  • A senior SK official said that inter-Korean talks on denuclearisation could go ahead without an apology for the 2010 attacks. Another SK official said that recognition of the illegality of NK’s uranium enrichment programme by the UNSC is a crucial step on the path towards the resumption of the SPT. China is blocking such a move.
  • SKorean prosecuters blamed NK’s intelligence agency for a cyber attack that paralyzed a SK bank, affecting millions of customers. Some internet security experts expressed doubts over the certainty of the conclusions.
  • SK conducted artillery exercises from Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong Islands in the disputed West Sea waters. NK did not respond.  
  • LMB reshuffled his cabinet but left Unification Minister Hyun In-taek in place, making him Lee’s longest serving minister (SK cabinet ministers have a very fast turnover rate), in a sign that LMB will stay the course with his NK policy.
  • A daily average of around 650 SKorean workers are currently staying at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, up from the 500-level of the past few months. The number was cut to 200 following the Yeonpyeong Island attack last November but a reduction in military tension and lobbying by SK companies operating in the KIC has pushed the number up.
  • A SK Govt official said that the cut-off of inter-Korean trade since the March 2010 Cheonan sinking is costing the NK Govt 300m USD per year.
  • SK responded favourably to NK’s proposal for N-S cooperation on the East Sea / Sea of Japan naming dispute.
  • Jimmy Carter’s Korean Peninsula Trip Report: Describes goals of the trip, interlocutors met and field trips made, observations etc. Meeting with Kim Yong-nam (titular head of state) was “surprisingly negative and confrontational, filled with his condemnation of historical U.S. policy toward NK with my finally interrupting him and pointing out that he was concentrating exclusively on a negative and distorted picture of the past…” SK diplomatic sources reported that Secretary of State Clinton refused to meet with Jimmy Carter following his trip to NK.
  • Also, a report from Mary Robinson describes her frustration at a lack of open and frank dialogue with senior NK officials on human rights issues, and also discusses the food security situation, etc.
  • The USG and CCP will discuss NK among other issues this week in meetings in Washington, DC.
  • 38 North: Burma-NK military cooperation.

MISC.

  • Eric Lafforgue photo: Wood burning truck broken down on the highway, NK.
  • James Church: Inspector O and the Tea Party.
  • Opportunity for experienced UK passport holding ESL teacher to work for the British Council in Pyongyang.  
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