Weekly News Brief – 30 May 2011
- The NK Govt says it is putting attracting foreign investment at the heart of its 10 year State Strategy Plan for Economic Development. Cynics say that they have been talking about opening up for years but have failed to implement it properly. The Indonesian FM recently said Indonesia will help NK learn how to secure more foreign investment.
- Notebook computers are now status symbols amongst wealthy NKoreans. NK may even be making their own laptops these days. Clothes made in SK are also seen as a status symbol and are reportedly increasing in popularity in the unofficial markets.
- Daily NK reports on an official initiative to crack down on ‘anti-socialist phenomena’ that started in September 2010. The ‘phenomena’ include private trading to earn money, individualism, and circulation of foreign information.
- The NK Govt is trying to stem the flow of female defectors by restricting women’s movement near the border with China.
- Daily NK: News of KJI’s China trip spread by word of mouth in NK, but most people were just interested in what he would bring back with him.
- NK refugee and prison camp survivor Kang Chol-hwan claims that even NK Govt officials call KJI crazy these days.
- NK state media apparently released a happiness index that put China in first place followed by NK, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela. SK came in at 152 while the US unsurprisingly came in at 203 (last place).
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- A US delegation led by Amb. King went to NK (video) for discussions and to examine food needs. KCNA subtly changed King’s job title from ‘Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues’ to ‘Special Envoy for Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues’. King left on Saturday and reported having “very serious and thoughtful talks with the foreign ministry” but had not made any agreements, saying any decision would be made in Washington.
- Senators Lieberman, McCain, Webb and Kyl wrote a letter to Hilary Clinton urging caution on NK food aid.
- Noland discusses aid monitoring issues.
- The EU plans to send a food needs assessment team to NK. EU officials plan to stay for about two weeks and visit provincial regions to examine the food security situation.
- The UK Amb. to NK said that there are food shortages but no serious famine.
- SK regional govts sent humanitarian aid, in the form of anti-malarial supplies, to NK for the first time since the 2010 Yeonpyeong Island shelling.
- Thirty leaders of SK religious and civic groups have called on the SK Govt to resume food aid, and pledged to send 5,000 tonnes of flour to NK. Representatives from SK NGOs travelled to NK, with permission from the Govt, to discuss humanitarian aid.
- The UN Central Emergency Response Fund will provide nearly 10m USD for UN agencies operating inside NK. CERF money is often used by the UN when there is a significant funding shortfall from govt donors.
- The SK Govt is introducing regulations on money transfers made by refugees to family members in the north. The Unification Ministry said it is aimed at legalising transfers and increasing transparency. Refugees fear that this could needlessly complicate the process of sending money to relatives that depend on the remittances to survive. The proposed law would also regulate money transfers made by SKorean businesses trading with NK.
- NK refugee Jeong Yu-mi left NK aged 11 and spent 9 years in the underground in China before arriving in SK.
- Interview with Joanna Hosaniak, Polish activist working with Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights.
- Account of workshops run by Justice for North Korea, including refugee testimony.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- KJI returned from his 7 day trip to China. He was accompanied by his 4th wife and visited Jilin, Jiangsu and Heilongjang Provinces as well as Beijing and met with Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Dai Bingguo and other key politburo members. He visited a farm, a car factory, a solar technology company, an electronics company, and was briefed on technological developments including e-books and LCD technology. The itinerary emphasised development in China’s economy and society. Xinhua reported that KJI said “the CPC’s reform and opening-up policy has been proven correct” and also that NK is “concentrating now on economic construction, and needs secure surroundings.” KJI also reportedly called for an early resumption of the SPT. According to KCNA, Hu Jintao “supported the Party, government and people of the DPRK firmly preserving socialism and exploring the road of development suited to its reality…” While KJI said “both the DPRK and China need to learn from each other and exchange experience in many aspects…”
- China accounts for an ever growing share of NK’s international trade, and the CCP hopes the NK Govt will implement economic reforms in return for increased cooperation and investment, but KJI has played this game before.
- KJI appeared to show disappointment over the results of talks on economic projects by taking just three officials to a meeting with Hu Jintao and nine Chinese officials. Diplomatic protocol dictates that both sides should have a similar amount of ‘meat in the room’. In a possibly related development, two scheduled groundbreaking ceremonies for China-NK economic cooperation projects have reportedly been cancelled.
- The NK Govt have released detained US citizen Eddie Jun (Jun Young-su) as a ‘conciliatory gesture’ to the US (video). Jun is currently in SK and will return to the US soon.
- SKoreans that used to do business with NKorea have been forced to shut down because of restrictions the SK Govt put in place last year, and many have been replaced by Chinese operations. General trade in 2010 roughly halved from 2009 levels to 118m USD. Chosun Ilbo suggests that collaborating with China on economic projects in NK could increase leverage and encourage NK to reform and open up. However, the Kaesong Industrial Complex saw a raise in volume from 941m USD in 2009 to 1.44b USD in 2010. Meanwhile SK assistance dropped from 77.5b to 30.1b USD, with direct govt assistance dropping from 10.4b to 8b in 2010.
- Daily NK interview with the UK’s Lord Alton on his ‘constructive but critical engagement’ with NK.
- The nominee for US Amb. to China Gary Locke said that China should put more pressure on NK to denuclearise. CFR interview on US-China ties.
- Lankov on the Rise of China and Korean Unification.
- A couple more pics of NK from GretaWire of Fox.
- Photo of a guide at Mount Baekdu. And another good one of a NKorean kid.
- Sophia Michelen, who spent her 23rd birthday in NK, has written a travelogue.
- The Economist Film Project / PBS Newshour on Kimjongilia.