Weekly News Brief – 18 July 2011
- KCNA: Torrential rainfall caused damage to farmland, mines, and transport infrastructure. In a sign that NK is trying to maximise sympathy and possible aid by highlighting the situation, AP determined a KCNA photo of flooding in Pyongyang to have been photoshopped.
- DongA Ilbo: Hardliners have reportedly purged 30 officials who participated in N-S bilateral dialogue through executions or staged traffic accidents.
- SK’s YTN claimed KFC is to open a store in Pyongyang with an official supply of Coca-Cola. A Coca-Cola representative denied the story and the President of NK’s Chosun Daepoong Group also dismissed it as ‘nonsense’. KFC has yet to make a response.
- Hot on the heels of the AP, Reuters signed an agreement to feed video from Pyongyang for distribution to its clients worldwide.
- Daily NK: Authorities are cracking down on SK products, reportedly causing resentment amongst market traders. ORNK: SKorean ‘chamisul’ soju is gaining popularity in NK.
- Interview with Jiro Ishimaru on citizen journalism in NK. Interview with Ha Tae-kyoung of ORNK: NK business people are keen to hear outside news that might affect their business, for instance international sanctions or food aid decisions. VOA commended the Korea Meteorological Administration’s work in helping to broadcast weather forecasts into NK.
- Shin Ramyun noodles, Choco-pie and SKorean coffee mix are becoming popular at the markets in Kaesong after leaking out of the KIC. There are currently 46,420 NKorean workers at the KIC making a minimum wage of 60.78 USD/month, although the majority goes to the NK authorities. Workers will get their annual 5% rise next month.
- A Rodong Sinmun oped calls on the NKorean people to have ‘faith’ in the revolution.
- RFA: The NK Govt is collecting money from the public to plug funding gaps in its project to build 100,000 homes in Pyongyang.
- NK authorities are mobilising students to collect medicinal herbs to sell abroad and earn foreign currency.
- Piece on the ‘Blogger of Pyongyang’, a Russian student at KIS University. Unlike tourists, foreign students can explore Pyongyang without a guide. Part 2.
- KCNA reports that the Tobacco Substitutes Exhibition in Pyongyang is helping NKoreans to quit smoking. Contrast with Marcus Noland’s piece on NK’s production and trade of drugs.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- Haggard and Noland provide a useful summary on the food aid situation. including USG considerations on the issue.
- Interview with four defectors inYanji: Reports of people eating grass and of deaths from starvation. The food crisis is partly blamed on the currency revaluation, from which the black markets have still not fully recovered. A female defector says people complain among their friends but are careful not to be heard by people with ‘political power’. Another defector says that the outside world should send aid to NK because although it will be sold on the market and the people will get very little, it will be enough to help the people survive.
- China and Sweden will donate 1m and 1.6m USD respectively in food aid through the WFP. WFP vignette on its work in NK. Sweden also plans to donate almost 3m USD in medical aid. Sweden has donated 7.36m USD in aid to NK so far this year.
- A NK radio broadcast carried a statement by a NK official saying that NK’s farmers will “serve to send more rice for our military, which will strike open the head of the traitor and enemy, Lee Myung-bak.” The comment was deleted from subsequent reports, possibly out of fear it could affect decisions on food aid to NK.
- SKorean NGOs hope to send 4b KRW (3.77m USD) worth of flour, food, medicine and blankets to NK in response to NK’s floods. JoongAng Ilbo interview with Lighthouse Foundation, a SKorean NGO providing aid to NK.
- Japanese lawmakers asked the USG not to provide food aid to NK, fearing it would ease the pressure on the abduction issue. The Japanese Govt has identified 17 citizens as having been abducted by NK, of whom 5 returned to Japan in 2002.
- Roberta Cohen calls on the USG to make a decision on food aid, calls on China to play its part in providing aid, and calls on all govts to develop uniform standards for monitoring aid in NK and to condition aid on the NK Govt undertaking economic reforms. Morton Abramowitz also calls on the USG to stop dithering and provide aid.
- Glyn Ford on the EU’s response to NK’s food shortages.
- World Vision’s Park Jong-sam also advocates for food aid, recalling his own experience of hunger and poverty after the Korean War.
- New ICG report on experiences of NKorean refugees in SK. Highlights the need to deal better with the physical and mental health problems suffered by refugees, the need for better cooperation between NGOs, religious groups and the Govt, the need for better research and evaluation of resettlement assistance programmes, and the need for policy to be insulated from political volatility.
- Haggard on NK refugee terminology.
- NK refugee Kim Gyu-min has directed a film called ‘Winter Butterfly’, which depicts the “reality of life in NK.”
- According to UNHCR data, 581 NK refugees have been granted asylum in the UK (does not include outstanding applications).
- ORNK reports that KJU has ordered a crackdown on defections.
- Testimony of prison camp survivor Kim Hye-sook: “I saw prisoners turned to honeycomb by the bullets.”
- Kang Kyung-hwa, UN Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights (and ROK national), has called on NK to cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms such as the Special Rapporteur.
- NK criticised SK’s 2011 White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea as a “politically-motivated unpardonable provocation against the inviolable system and dignity of the DPRK”.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- France, one of only two EU nations yet to normalise relations with NK (along with Estonia), is to open a liaison office in Pyongyang to handle cultural cooperation projects.
- There was another flurry of meetings between NKorean and Chinese officials to mark the 50th anniversary of the DPRK-PRC Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.
- US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mullen called on China to rein in NK to prevent further provocations, saying provocations “now are potentially more dangerous than they have been in the past.”
- After five meetings SK and NK officials failed to reach agreement on how to deal with SK assets at the Mount Kumgang resort.
- The SK Govt is working on the details of mechanisms to build up a unification fund of up to 50 trillion KRW (47b USD) over the next 10-15 years. Lankov on SKoreans’ changing (but not publicly expressed) attitudes towards unification. The executive VP of the National Advisory Council for Democratic Peaceful Unification said that one of the council’s main duties was to “form a national consensus over the essentiality of unification”.
- SK and US marines held their first joint drill around Baengnyeong Island, in the area of the disputed Yellow Sea maritime border. SK is also adding 10 more cutting-edge PKG-class vessels to boost the ROK Navy’s capabilities in the area.
- NK and Syrian officials met to discuss means of expanding bilateral cooperation in the areas of oil, agriculture, investment, and media.
- Canada is boycotting the UN’s Conference on Disarmament because NK is the current chair under the alphabetical order rotation system commonly used at the UN. The Conference on Disarmament has little significance so boycotting it is a bit of an empty gesture, possibly aimed at a domestic audience.
- SKorean prosecutors acting under the archaic National Security Law are investigating a 79 year old man for posting pro-NK articles on a blog. KCNA noted the blogger’s support.
- Five members of the NK women’s world cup team have tested positive for steroids. The NK team doctor claimed the result was caused by ‘musk deer gland’ given to players after they were struck by lightning. Deer oh deer.
- NK’s IOC representative reportedly responded positively to the suggestion of jointly hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in some way, but the IOC President threw cold water on the idea. A single Korean bobsleigh team may be in the offing.
- KCNA video of Pyongyang Department Store Number 1 (with amazing music).
- The art of Song Byeok.
- NPR podcast on NK’s economy.
- EU-SK trade has already increased since the FTA took effect two weeks ago.