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11 October 2011 / SP

Weekly News Brief – 11 October 2011


  • Defector Kim Kwang-jin on the KJI-created royal court economy (carved off from the people’s economy), and the role he himself played in scamming western reinsurance companies. As the dysfunctional NK economy cannot be reformed, Kim advocates a concerted international effort to bring down the royal court economy.
  • Reporters Without Borders report on censorship and information freedom in NK. Foreign radio stations continue to be the main source of independent information for the North Korean population, but the report also notes the growing availability of illegal DVDs, USB flash drives etc. KCNA has stepped up its criticism of external radio and television broadcasts. Foreign media is increasingly cited as a pull-factor for NK refugees.
  • Sunny Lee: NK’s power transition is near complete, with KJU having taken on significant responsibilities. He has been particularly active in accompanying his father on visits to military installations.  
  • Daily NK: The regime is stepping up KJU-related propaganda efforts aimed at the ‘Democratic League of Women’, a state organisation whose membership consists of women not tied to a work unit. This is taken to represent the leadership’s recognition of the importance of cultivating loyalty among women, who are the driving force behind the country’s marketisation.
  • Recommended: Daily NK interview with former NK market trader. Details the effects of the currency reform, foreign media consumption, perceptions of the leadership.
  • Daily NK on a succession-related purge of WPK cadres in North Pyongan Province (NW border region).
  • DongA Ilbo: NK women are increasingly turning to prostitution to earn living expenses or spending money, and one military officer was even reportedly caught producing pornographic videos.
  • Daily NK reports on the doomed attempts to crackdown on grasshopper (informal) market traders. In some areas they outnumber legitimate traders, and the ajoomas reportedly even defend each other from PSA agents’ interference.
  • Daily NK on attempts to crackdown on the use of illegal Chinese cell phones in border regions using new Russian listening devices. ORNK also reports a crackdown.
  • Haggard on the increase in luxury imports into NK. Underscores the growth of the nouveau-riche in Pyongyang and their demand for consumer products.
  • Haggard on the Coke in Pyongyang non-story.
  • Lankov: NK is no Stalinist country.


  • Video of malnourished NK children.
  • Valerie Amos, UN chief for humanitarian affairs will visit NK to discuss food aid. The UN’s 73m USD appeal has only been 34% funded this year.
  • KINU’s Young-yoon Kim argues SK should provide aid to NK, for the sake of good neighborliness, brotherhood, international obligations and prestige. Meanwhile the SK Govt has withdrawn its offer of flood aid after NK “failed to express the will to accept it”.  
  • At a USC event Amb. King said NK is not suffering from a famine, but that there are pockets of malnutrition. Aid would be resumed if the need was deemed severe enough and if they were able to design a delivery program that could effectively target those who need it most. He also said that any aid delivery would take into account of the marketisation of NK economy and would be designed not to disrupt the markets. Experts judge that the US is unlikely to provide food aid without the support of SK. SK’s Unification Minister said that NK’s food situation is ‘not serious’.


  •  A group of refugees, initially said to number around 35 but may be closer to 20, was arrested in the Shenyang area of NE China. The group included 2 guides who were originally from NK but now have SK citizenship. An additional SKorean national and NK refugee may have been arrested since then. One of the SKoreans has reportedly been released and sent back to SK. A SK lawmaker reported that 15 of the refguees may have already been repatriated. The SK Govt is pressuring the Chinese Govt to cooperate, and the Chinese Govt has asked for ‘patience’.
  • NK has demanded the repatriation of the latest boat defectors, two NKoreans who reached SK via the East Sea.
  • Chosun Ilbo on NK refugee Seung Sol-hyang, who decided the best way to adjust to life in the south was to make money, and now runs an online shopping mall whilst attending univers.
  • Seoul’s Mongolian Grill restaurant trains and employs NK refugees. The long term goal is that post-reunification they will return to the North and help rebuild the economy.
  • Only 20 NK refugees work as public servants in SK (rate of 1/1000 compared to 1/60 for SKoreans).


  •  NK once again threatened to fire on SK sites used for launching propaganda leaflets.
  • US and NK diplomats may hold another bilateral this month aimed at restarting the SPT.
  • Korea Herald on Japans’ decreasing role vis-a-vis NK. A tream of Japanese doctors are currently visiting NK to examine victims of the 1945 a-bomb attacks on Japan, in a trip that may help thaw the frozen ties between the countries.
  • Ahead of LMB’s state visit to the US, the nomination of Sung Kim as US ambo to SK is still embarrassingly being held up by Sen. John Kyl.
  • SK is seeking to raise public awareness on reunification with NK, revealing that the Govt is uneasy with SK public opinion becoming increasingly ambivalent about the prospect.
  • Three SK NIS officials have reportedly been arrested in Yanbian, China on charges of spying (on NK).
  • France is to open a cultural office in Pyongyang (France is one of only 2 EU countries not to have normalised relations with NK).
  • NK Econ Watch on the Russia-Korea gas pipeline.



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