That’s right! “푸에블로호 사건을 잊지말라”! Wait! Why isn’t the US making a big fuss about this? On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo was captured by North Koreans, and her crew was tortured for nearly an entire year. They were released right before Christmas, December 23, 1968. So why are the North Koreans making a big fuss? To them, this is a prime example of the US trying to thwart North Korea. The idea is that the Americans are at it again, with their new round of sanctions. However, on the anniversary of this incident, it’s important to hear the stories of the crewmembers at their website: www.usspueblo.org
Mr. Haggard brings us interesting details behind North Korea’s involvement with Syria. How was this brought to light? Israel’s Mossad broke into the hotel room of a Syrian official in London and found photos of North Koreans with Syrians cooperating on nuclear technology. Also, when Syria wanted to bring their nuclear capabilities public, Iran and North Korea weren’t happy, and North Korea even threatened to pull out if Assad continued with its chemical weapons development.
Mr Haggard also had a good collection of links on the situation regarding North Korea’s reasons for hacking sony, its other hacking operations, and its possible capabilities. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
…So, did North Korea actually hack Sony Pictures? The FBI first denied it, then they immediately said with conviction that it was indeed them afterall. Now the NSA is coming out with details on how they tracked them down.
Speculate all you want, a fourth nuclear test doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon! 38North shows us images of the nuclear site at 풍계리 (豊溪里/PungGye-Ri) in 함경북도(咸鏡北道/North Hamkyung Province).
In light of the North Korean soldiers that crossed the border and killed 4 Chinese civilians, mentioned in Alpha Episode 19 and last week’s Alpha Episode 20, Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga lists out some other similar incidences, where local Chinese were robbed, beaten, or even killed just for food and money. Nathan argues that the US can use growing anti-North Korean sentiment to its advantage, and influence Chinese policy towards North Korea.
…Turns out the soldiers that crossed the border belonged to the 27th Regiment in 무산군 (茂山郡/Musan County). The Regiment Commander, Battalian Commander, Company Commander, and Platoon Commander were punished, and kicked out of the military, because of their subordinates’ actions. The soldiers returned through the 칠성교두(Chilsung Bridgehead) in 무산, where a customs house is located. This case is being investigated by the central authorities in 평양(平壤/Pyongyang). DailyNK also noted that the 27th Regiment is ultimately subordinate to the Security General Bureau (Unit 5454) based out of 평양 , which is in charge of the security along the two coasts, the DMZ, and the Northern border with China and Russia. The unit used to be under the 국가안전보위부 (國家安全保衛部/State Security Department, sometimes also called the “National Security Agency”), then was switched under the control of the 인민무력부 (人民武力部/Ministry of Peoples Armed Forces), then switched back in 2008.
North Korea is expanding its March 5th Youth Mine Production Facility, to produce non-ferrous metals called Molybdenum. It started in 2008, and in 2014, they started making the stuff. It’s a metal that requires a lot of post-production, and is used in their Weapons of Mass Destruction, and also exported to China, according to 38North. You can read the full details and the implications of mining such ores on their website.
More and more people are traveling to North Korea for whatever reason. The government has recognized it’s a good cash cow, and have partnered up with London-based Juche Travel Services (JTS) to get volunteers to teach tourism at a school set up specifically to teach about tourism. What this will do is enhance the presentation of the tours given to people willing to come to North Korea. However, paying for a “tour” where you volunteer your time teaching, seems to run counter to market forces, and has come under a bit of criticism. Just like North Korea!
Kevin Stahler shows us how the changing commodity prices have affected North Korean exports, particularly for iron ore, anthracite and coal. Over half of North Korea’s exports come from these commodities. Their major export country was to China, and demand has been waning. Meanwhile, prices have fallen worldwide. That, and commodity prices for things that North Korea needs is still on the rise.
…This might explain why 10,000 coal mine workers were laid off in 무산.
The folks who follow Naenara, have actually copy and pasted an article written by DailyNK, about how certain shopping stores stayed open until 12am. What North Korean will still be shopping at 12am? Insomniacs, maybe. Don’t expect to find something like you would in your typical sleepless Asian city.
I’m mentioning this next piece, because I believe environmental activities directly and indirectly impact the economy. Regardless if it’s environmental destruction or restoration. These are either resources taken away or invested. On January 22, state media 로동신문 (勞動新聞/”Rodong” [Laborer’s] News), said that recent reforestation efforts have been met with corruption. This because desired results have not been met. During the 고난의 행군 (苦難的行軍/Arduous March), much of the hills laid bare, and forests disappeared. People were scavaging left and right for food, or other provisions they could trade for it. Now, the government has set quotas to replant trees and bring back the forests in places like 황해남도 (黃海南道/South Hwanghae Province)‘s 신원군 (新院郡/SinWon County), 평안북도 (平安北道/North Pyongan Province)‘s 박천군 (博川郡/Pakch’ŏn-gun), 량강도 (兩江道/Ryanggang Province)‘s 백암군 (白岩郡/Paegam County), and 함경북도 (咸鏡北道/North Hamkyong Province)‘s 청진시(清津市/Chongjin City)
For those who believe the Banco Delta Asia Financial Sanctions worked to deter North Korea, it hurt them financially, but it didn’t deter them from their ambitions of pursuing nuclear weapons. Why bring this old issue up again? It’s been 7 years! Well, Obama’s new executive order to impose new sanctions on North Korea, that’s why. Are they really going to be effective? Peter Lee, of the China Matters Blog doesn’t think so.
South Korea has realized that they are the only ones at stake with the 개성공업지구 (開城工業地區/ Kaesong Industrial Complex). They want to diversify the risk of having it shut down by bringing in other stakeholders, which may make North Korea think twice about closing it down again, as it did in the summer of 2013. Now, it’s asking the Chinese to come in and invest in the region. Sadly, this isn’t as effective of a move, as it would have been a couple of years ago. Since Russian and North Korean ties are much closer, South Korea needs to work more heavily with Russian investors to come into the region. Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction.
North Korea has changed its demands. Instead of asking for the US-ROK annual military exercises to stop, they’re now asking for the May 24 sanctions to be removed. South Korea’s Unification Ministry has said that it regrets the North linking reunion talks for wartorn divided families to the sanctions.
Rather than trying to rent a spot in the local markets, which have tons of restrictions, and the official markets take a big cut out of your profit, which is slightly better than the unofficial markets that face crackdowns and the bribe amount isn’t that much better; More people are turning to using their own homes as small shops. What they are doing is keeping their clientelle to a closed network of people (that don’t leak this out to authorities, minimizing the chances of crackdowns), and ensuring a steady flow of goods for their small base of returning customers.
Computer Security Firm Trend Micro has discovered that North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)’s website is serving up malware. Mainly inserting .dll files, so it affects Windows machines.
Korean Central Television (KCTV) now has HD programming! How many more years will it take them to get to 4k and 8k programs?
NOT brought to you by the “Kim, Jong-un Looks at Things” Tumblr blog for once, there is a picture of 김정은(金正恩/Kim, Jong-Un) laughing at some soccer shoes. Brought to you by James Pearson via Twitter.
…Or as state media puts it, he “provided field guidance to the Ryuwon Shoe Factory”
…He said that the facility needed to make upgrades, which means their shoes are so bad, they need some work.
…And he was smoking in the factory. Tisk, tisk!
On New Years Eve, StimmeKoreas caught a bit of North Korean propaganda showing 김정은 flying a plane. NKNews reports that the 원산 (元山/Wonsan) airport has been expanded. However, the size of the airfield is very small. If the propaganda video is any evidence, 김정은 may have taken to recreational flying.
Wednesday, January 21, Reuters reported that North Korea’s leader 김정은 might go to Russia for the May 9 celebration of Russia’s victory over Germany in WWII. This will be 김정은‘s first foreign trip since taking power.
…China, recently taking on Obama’s “Wait and see” approach with North Korea, commented, saying that the visit would contribute to the overall stability of the region.
Last Friday, January 16, 김정은 visited a nano-technology factory in 강동군 (江東郡/Kangdong County), a suburb of 평양 (平壤/Pyongyang), and said that the factory should have modern technology!
And, we end this section with a link to the Kim, Jong-un Looks at Things Tumblr blogs, where 김정은 is looking at a bunk bed. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
We mentioned last week that Foreign Diplomat 리영호 (李英浩/Ri, Yong-Ho) met with his US counterparts, including Stephen Bosworth and Joseph DeTrani in Singapore, this past Sunday, to discuss the nuclear issue. On Thursday, January 22, while en route back home, he transferred at 北京 (북경/BeiJing)‘s airport. It was hoped that he would talk to his Chinese counterpart 武大偉 (무대위/Wu, Da-Wei), but that didn’t happen.
신동혁 (申東赫/Shin, Dong-Hyuk), the famous defector who was born from a North Korean prison camp, has admitted to giving “false statements” about the scenes he’d witnessed at these camps. North Korean media was swift to attack the UN Commission of Inquiry’s results, to which Shin had testified in, and even called him a criminal. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that his father, who was previously presumed to be dead, is still under North Korean custody, and the North Korean authorities had sent him a video letting him know that.
…The video of his father that was shown, with some allegations about Shin himself were analyzed by Curtis Melvin, and there are some unanswered questions. More importantly though, North Korea inadvertently admitted to Shin having been born in Camp 14, while “officially denying” such a thing took place.
…Despite 신동혁‘s 180-degree about-face, Michael Bassett is sympathetic to him, and recognizes what trauma can do to a person’s memory. However, Michael’s request of defectors to admit they have been used by larger organizations for ulterior purposes may not come to fruition.
Due to South Koreans’ and defectors’ negative reactions about leaked copies of “The Interview”, the movie that wasn’t able to get a full release due to hackers’ threats against American and Canadian theater chains, and also banned in South Korea due to its provacative nature regarding North-South relations; experts are now saying that balloon leaflet flyers who were planning on sending copies of the movies to the North may want to re-think their plans, as it may not be as affective as they believe.
…However, despite warnings from the government, activists continued to release their balloons on Tuesday, January 20th.
…So what emboldened the balloon flyers to release their balloons carrying the inflammatory movie? They were joined this time by the U.S.-based Human Rights Foundation. Seoul said they were unable to stop foreigners from continuing to carry out these actions, even though it angered the North Korean government.
It took a while to compile and translate into English, but New Focus International has a list of things that were trending in 2014. Slightly different than the list DailyNK had compiled. Fashion trends from South Korean 한류 have given way to side burns for men. North Korea’s first lady 리설주(李雪主/Ri, Sol-Ju) wearing knee-high skirts have also been trending as well.
Step aside, Six-Party Talks! Mongolia’s riding their horses, and trampling all over your parade! The six-party talks were originally China’s initiatives to bring the US and other Northeast Asian Nations together to discuss how they can deal with present-day issues ahem! *North Korea!* But those talks have been dead since 2008. Mongolia is the only country that is not engulfed in any nation’s hyper-nationalistic hyperbole, and has actually maintained good relations with all these nations. Check out the Brookings Institute article, the link is in our shownotes.
A North Korean teenager using the pseudonym Han Song, is running into some issues with seeking asylum in Sweden. Even though he arrived to the country, the authorities insist he is Chinese. We mentioned this story before on Alpha Episode 14, and it was broken by Rob York at the DailyNK. This time, SIMON JOHNSON, JAMES PEARSON AND JU-MIN PARK helped out with updates on the Reuters story. He is still facing deportation from Swedish authorities. But, since they insist he is Chinese, despite not speaking a lick, the Swedish authorities need to prove his “Chinese identity”, and if they fail that, after 4 years, they’re forced to keep him in the country on humanitarian grounds. Also, the South Korean government has been pushing to have him sent to South Korea if the Swedish government deports him. You can head over to http://skiftet.org/kampanj/radda-kim to tell the Swedish government that they need to grant him asylum, the link is also in our shownotes.
The leadership is definately pushing for the STEM field. After building apartments for Scientists, now they’re even building a Science and Technology Hall on an islet that sits in the middle of the 대동강 (大同江/Taedong River), which runs along the capital. The islet is known as the 썩 islet.
The Wilson Center featured a Top Secret North Korean Intelligence dossier, that was seized during the days right after WWII. It was on Chinese (Note: KMT) Forces. Showing the entire makeup, commanding officers, logistics, and other information on their troops, and also who they believed were in different factions within the KMT.
Jean H. Lee., recently quit her position as the AP’s bureau chief in Pyongyang, and has now joined the Wilson Center in Washington DC. Congratulations!
Obama, in his State of the Union Address on January 20th, said he wants new legislation against cyber attacks from foreign nations (read: China and North Korea), and to protect “our childrens” information. Ironically 5 days prior to the Address, the EFF had released information that the government-run website Healthcare.gov was actually leaking your information to advertising agencies. This would mean your childrens, too.
The Slam Dance Film Festival will show a short documentary about Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea, and how it’s actually brought him so much flack from the public. He even breaks down in one scene. Poor Dennis!
Randall Park, the man who played 김정은 in the movie we have been mentioning constantly recently, when asked about the balloon leaflet flyers and how they were carrying DVDs of that movie we keep mentioning, he said, “I don’t know enough about the politics there to know what that means for the people, you know, but I do hope that whatever is best for the people will happen,” at a news conference on January 21, at the National Press Building in Washington. If I was Randall, I’d put in a bunch of shameless promotion for that new TV series “Fresh off the Boat” in those balloons, as a way for Koreans to better understand life in America from an Asian-American perspective.
Recently, two Japanese citizens were beheaded by the group ISIS. In China, this hasn’t made much news, but the only North Korean connection we have, is that some Chinese netizens took to photoshop, and changed a photo where 김정은 was inspecting a missile site with some officials looking at a TV screen. Originally, the screen showed a launch of their missiles, which itself has been said to possibly be photoshopped as well. The Chinese netizens had changed it to screen captures of the beheading. Aside from simple screen captures making light of a tragic situation, you would normally expect news of beheaded Japanese to incite the nationalistic fervor in mainland Chinese. The difference here, is that ISIS is a religious-based armed organization, much like ETIM. The Chinese cannot have their two models of demonization (Japanese and Muslims) going at each other, because it may cause Chinese citizens to start thinking of one or the other group in a more positive light, and break away at their carefully crafted propaganda.
South Korean News media outlet, Chosun Daily, has come out with an article on 김치 (Kimchi), and rehashes the myth that it prevented SARS. Not that I hate 김치, but can anyone use some logic for once? 김치 is a dish specific to ethnic Koreans. In other words, both South AND North Korea, and all Koreans living abroad. YET, North Korea was pretty hard-hit with SARS, and even when the epidemic wasn’t running around the news elsewhere, there were reports that it was present in North Korea! THAT, and a lot of 김치 is exported from South Korea to the rest of Asia, especially China and Hong Kong, the places that were hit hardest by the epidemic. So shitheads, why don’t you thank South Korean Health authorities who maintained some good measures to work hard in preventing the epidemic, and also thank the doctors and nurses elsewhere who lost their lives fighting against this epidemic? Fucking idiots! [Take a deep breath and sigh…] Now, is 김치 healthy? Yes, so don’t forget to Eat your Kimchi, but it doesn’t prevent SARS!