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16 May 2011 / SP

Weekly News Brief – 15 May 2011

NK INTERNAL

  • Analysts claim that satellite images show NK is increasing its production of heroin. Some estimates put NK earnings from drug exports as high as 1 billion USD per year.
  • Daily NK: Women in major NK cities are breaking with socialist traditions by getting more adventurous with their appearance, for instance by wearing big earrings and skinny jeans. Fashion regulations and inspections are also being relaxed, possibly under the influence of KJU. Cosmetic surgery is illegal, but young women in Pyongyang are reportedly paying surgeons and unqualified people to perform surgery. Just as in SK, double eyelid surgery is popular, and can cost as little as 2000 won (the price of 1kg of rice). The influence of SKorean dramas is said to be partly behind the change in NK fashions.
  • Daily NK: KJU has ordered a renewed crackdown on drug use. Sources say it is doomed to fail because drug use is so widespread, even amongst officials responsible for the crackdown.
  • ORNK: A source in Yanggang Province reported that a Hyesan-Pyongyang train derailed on 2 May, killing at least 10 and injuring many others. 
  • An increasing number of NKoreans are being sent to China to work as cheap labour. The NK Govt takes a cut of all salaries.

FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY

  • The debate about food aid continues, despite it being late in the day even if a decision were made to provide aid: AP, WSJ, Economist. Jeff Baron, a retired North Korea specialist at the State Dept said that in NK, where entire communities often pitched in to help deliver food aid, if the Govt diverted that aid “the anger of hungry people could have consequences.”
  • Nicholas Eberstadt of the conservative American Enterprise Institute heavily criticised the reliability of the WFP’s DPRK food needs assessment. Video of the Heritage Foundation’s panel discussion on NK food aid is available here.
  • Summary of USIPs panel discussion on food aid available here.
  • Scott Snyder: Food aid to NK should have minimal reliance on NK Govt’s Public Distribution System and should be market-based.
  • The UK’s Lord Alton argues for food aid in this interview.
  • The USG is still reportedly debating whether to send a team to NK to assess the food security situation, with USAID pushing the idea but State Dept and the White House resisting. Bosworth is in Seoul this week to discuss NK’s nuclear weapons programme as well as the resumption of food aid to NK.
  • The head of Christian aid organisation Samaritan’s Purse met with NK Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun in Pyongyang. Samaritan’s Purse has been warning of NK’s food shortages and calling for food aid for months.
  • Fox News’ ‘On the Hour’ reported live from NK on the food shortages. Video 1, Video 2. They have gone to town in releasing photos of NK they took from their van, a blog post about the airport, and a blog post about how well informed some of the NKorean interlocutors were about the US media (including knowing viewing figures and who is leaving which network).

REFUGEES

  • The number of NK refugees that have made it to SK topped 21,000 last month.
  • An increasing number of NK refugees that fail to settle in SK are moving to third countries in North America and Europe. Refugees in such third countries also report difficulties. Between 2006-2009 665 refugees applied for asylum in the UK and between 2000 and 2009 217 sought residence in Canada.
  • Daily NK: 75% of NK refugees that make it to SK are women. Over 50% of them have spouses or children still in NK. Stats for NK refugees in other countries such as China are thought to be similar. Many of those women had been the primary breadwinner in their household in NK. Men remaining in the north will often bribe officials to grant them a divorce so they can marry again, and sometimes children from the original marriage will be sent to live with their mother’s relatives.
  • Center for US-Korea Policy: US national experience of immigration and integration can be used in US-SK governmental and civil society cooperation to help ease the integration of the NK refugee population in SK.
  • Video testimonies by NK refugees in SK for NK Freedom Week 2011.
  • ‘Escaping North Korea’ author Mike Kim talks about his experiences including assisting NKorean refugees in China in this podcast.
  • Civic groups are calling for some NK refugees to become lawmakers in order to represent the NK refugee population and to prepare for reunification.
  • 330 NK refugees living in third countries will visit SK on a Govt sponsored trip aimed at cultivating overseas NKoreans as supporters of SK-led unification.

HUMAN RIGHTS

  • US NGO The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea released a report saying that 180,000 citizens from 12 countries may have been abducted by NK since the Korean War. This figure includes 82,000 SKoreans forced to move during the Korean War and 93,000 Korean-Japanese ‘lured’ into moving to NK in the ‘Homecoming Project’. The Japanese Govt officially lists 17 citizens as having been abducted. HRNK called on the USG to re-list NK as a state sponsor of terrorism. Full report here.
  • SK’s National Human Rights Commission has received only 5 submissions since opening in March, prompting them to mail 15,000 NK refugees in SK asking them to come forward to report human rigths violations they experienced in NK.
  • The Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights: Video interviews with female refugees describing human rights abuses.

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY

  • LMB said that a Jasmine Revolution-type movement could not be defied in NK, but nonetheless as NK is so closed and lacking in information the revolutions in the Middle East “will not have any impact, at least for the time being.”
  • LMB offered to invite KJI to next year’s nuclear security summit in Seoul if NK makes a firm commitment to denuclearise and apologise for the 2010 attacks. KJI did not go to Seoul even when invited during the Sunshine Policy, so there was zero expectation of KJI accepting the offer. NK duly dismissed the whole summit as ‘ridiculous’.
  • Cyber attacks earlier this year by NK on SK may have been designed to test SK’s defences to see how fast they could respond, rather than cause serious damage. The sophistication of the botnet compared to the damage it inflicted was likened to “bringing a Lamborghini to a go-kart race”. NK denies being behind the attacks.
  • US-PRC bilateral talks concluded with agreements on economic and military issues. Clinton said that the US and China discussed NK’s nuclear weapons and provocations at length, and they reiterated their previous statement calling for an improvement in N-S relations. Clinton also described China’s record on human rights as “deplorable,” while China said that it has made “historical progress” over the past few decades.
  • China and NK are speeding up construction of a bridge between Sinuiju and Dandong. They are also to jointly develop a NKorean island in the Yalu River as a free trade zone.
  • China was again charged with trying to block a UN report critical of NK. The report details cooperation between NK and Iran on ballistic missile technology in violation of UN sanctions.
  • A source in Beijing claims that China rejected a request from KJI for 30 fighter-bombers during his May 2010 trip. KJI cut that trip short and this Chinese rejection is said to be part of the reason. KJI returned in August 2010 and reportedly asked for oil and food.  
  • US-NK trade figures are unsurprisingly tiny.
  • The USG said that Eddie Jun, the US citizen being detained in NK, is being well cared for and has spoken with his family on the phone. They again called for his release on humanitarian grounds.
  • Video and transcript of Fox News interview with Henry Kissinger on US-DPRK relations. Kissinger discusses the nuclear issue and advocates for food aid.

MISC.

  • SK and Germany are to launch an advisory committee to help SK learn from Germany’s reunification experience.  
  • The Economist has three reviews of books on North Korea.
  • Hankyoreh interview with Donald Gregg – former Seoul CIA station chief and ambassador to Seoul – mostly discussing the rule of Park Chung-hee. “South Koreans were doing in the 1970s what North Koreans are doing today. That’s why I think that the North Koreans aren’t so different from South Koreans.”
  • NK and SK have been invited to field a joint table tennis team at an international tournament described as “an unprecedented sports event that will break political tensions and unite nations in a way that only table tennis can.” Seriously.
  • Photo: Sweeping the empty highway.
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