North Korea has a policy of 선군, or “Military-First”, as such, we’re following this by putting military-related stories first!
General Vincent Brooks, Commander of the US Army’s component to US Pacific Command (PACOM), gives his views on how the US is dealing with China’s lack of transparency, and more for the purposes of this show, US posture on the Korean peninsula, and how they are talking with China in dealing with North Korea.
South Korea wasn’t happy with North Korea’s missile launches last week, so they protested to the UN’s North Korea sanctions committee (set up after UN resolution 1718).
South Korea says they have not discussed with the US whether or not they will purchase and install their Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system on the peninsula, which will be an integrated part of the larger US missile-defense program. Meaning that South Korea COULD domestically develop their own Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) instead. Except, what they’re really saying, is that they haven’t been approached by the US on such an issue, maintaining a level of ambiguity.
…Despite no final decision having been made, yesterday, the US announced that it will conduct site surveys to see where it could possibly to deploy their THAAD missile program on the peninsula.
Yesterday, North Korea fired off 7 short-ballistic missiles off their east coast from 함경남도 (咸鏡南道/South HamGyong Province), 정평군 (定平郡/JeongPyeong County), 선덕면 (宣德面/Sondok township). They fired off SA-2s, SA-3s, and introduced their new SA-5 (Surface-to-air) missiles, which can reach up to 260km. 선덕 has a military airfield nearby. 김정은(金正恩/Kim, Jong-Un) was in attendance of the launches.
…China has urged all sides to remain calm. ONCE AGAIN, 『干涉別國的內政』! Let’s see what China would have said, if North Korea decided to conduct their “regularly scheduled” yet NOT prior-announced missile testing and military drills off the West Coast instead?
Back at the end of January, we mentioned a DailyNK article on compulsory military service for women being started for this year. DailyNK has updated that, with insider sources on health inspections given to middle school and high school women graduates, to ensure they are healthy enough to serve.
38North ponders why despite everyone’s talks about a possible ICBM launch, it just hasn’t happened yet. In fact, aside from firing MRBMs and short-range missiles, they haven’t really tested out a long-range rocket since 2012, with the Unha, and even then, proper re-entry to make it into an actual ICBM, have not been tested. Some people say the missiles that were displayed during military parades might be fake. Well, John Schilling goes into the specs of the possible ICBM that might be made. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
This is the section where we talk about economic-related activities:
South Korea is still not happy with North Korea’s unilateral decision to raise wages of the workers at the 개성공업지구 (開城工業地區/ Kaesong Industrial Complex). South Korea has sent repeated messages to the North to come to the table and discuss the pay raise issue, and has urged South Korean businesses operating in the region to not comply with the pay raise. North Korea has decided to ignore them.
…On top of the wage issue, North Korea might also try to raise rents on the complex as well. The last time they proposed a rent hike was in 2009, but Seoul sternly refused, and the subject was dropped. South Korea says they can’t leave out the option of possibly pulling out their businesses from the region.
NK News goes into the history of North Korea’s illicit drug trade. Most of the drugs were developed in the Hungnam Pharmaceuticals lab. Hungnam used to be at the Scientific edge, ever since the colonial era, where the Japanese had propped it up as a major hub for science and technology. So they made drugs on the side, and sold them all over the world. Even had operations in China. But with the crackdowns over the years, they had to find new sources: Domestic buyers.
Last week, we brought to you, a message from the Swedish Embassy about lingering quarantine areas guarding against Ebola, despite the “lift” on the travel ban that was put in place. This week, Choson Exchange confirms the number of flights in and out of Pyongyang, are still not up to their normal number of flights. Supposedly, it WILL be by April 13th, however.
If you are lamenting over the fact of how inaccessible the Masikryong ski resort is to you, you’re in luck, there’s a new bus route open to the luxurious resort!
Yesterday, NK News just launched a new service: NK Consulting! Which plans to help government agencies, non-profits, and corporate businesses with doing business in North Korea. Good thing is, so far, they haven’t set up the paid wall, so I’ve been reading their stuff, and it’s pretty good. This one article shows how much of an investment Russia will have to put into rebuilding North Korea’s rail network. Frequent breakdowns, outdated signals… Really good read, check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
North Korea is building a hydroelectric plant over 청천강 (清川江/ChongChon River).
…If North Korea is aware of the environmental damages caused by hydro-electric dams, they are playing an interesting balance between environmentalism and economic development. Because March 2, was designated as “Tree-Planting Day”, to re-plant trees that have been lost. Various ministries are trying to come up with some sort of conccrete plan, settling responsibilities between ministries, as to how laws will be enforced.
Mr. Stephen Haggard gives us a short history about the UN Human Rights Council, and how over the years, more and more countries are placing special emphasis on them, as of recent.
This is the section that discusses what’s new in North Korea’s propaganda machine, and information flow.
The folks who have been pummeling the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) to provide a Korean-language service, has finally succeeded! The BBC will now be providing Korean-language coverage mainly targetted at North Koreans.
Here, we bring you the latest in this week’s leadership sightings and activities.
김정은(金正恩/Kim, Jong-Un) took a ride on “Air Force Un”, to visit Unit 1018, where he gave a speech stressing renewable energies of all things. Going from Air Force Blue to Environmental Green? It turns out some military bases are using solar panels. Aside from that, he said that the Air Force should take the lead in defending the country. That, and he woo’d the wives of the airmen, by giving them cosmetic products, in commemoration of International Women’s Day, on March 8.
…A person following North Korean media source NaeNara has put up a picture of him “inspecting” flight simulators for the unit.
North Korea and China will meet up, if conditions are correct, NK News reports, citing China’s Foreign Ministry’s press release on March 8.
리수용(李洙墉/Ri, Su-Yong), after having attended a conference in Geneva, is now back in Europe. This time visiting his Belarus counterpart, Uladzimer Makey on Tuesday. He left yesterday, March 12th.
And as usual, we end this section with a link to the Kim, Jong-un Looks at Things Tumblr blog. This time, there’s a picture of him looking at a bunch of bricks.
This section is where we talk about North-South relations, life in North Korea, refugees and captives, and life in South Korea for North Koreans.
Marzuki Darusman wants the UN to look into the decades of abductions North Korea has committed on Japanese and South Korean citizens.
The Swedish Embassy is partnering with a non-profit and a pharmaceutical company to create a clinic to help underserved women in North Korea.
North Korea and Japan may meet up some time this month to discuss the progress over the investigation on Japanese abductees.
South Korea has conducted an internal audit on their security coverage for the US ambassador, and said that it was sufficient –before the attack on US Ambassador Mark Lippert. They are looking at how 김기종, the man who slashed the Ambassador’s face with a knife got onto the allowed list of people to enter.
…Some people in the media are considering whether or not to call this incident a terrorist attack. North Korea, feeling that the fingers are pointed at them, did not like this label.
…Upon leaving the hospital after his recovery, Ambassador Lippert says that he prefers to maintain an open environment, and that the attack on him won’t change the way he does things. He was also greeted with cheering fans.
…Tom Coyner put out a very good analysis about how cultural elements and social dynamics have created such extreme people like 김기종. Mainly because of the very authoritarian education of the 1980s, mixed with the social dynamics which punish people from changing their views, prevents people from leaving a social group that carries extreme views, allowing them to fester and blow up into action, with incidences like this.
Lim, Hyeon-Soo, the ethnic Korean Canadian pastor, was detained last month in North Korea, because some of his activities MAY somehow be connected with the late 장성택 (張成澤/Jang, Sung-thaek), who was purged and executed. The church that Pastor Lim belongs to denies any connections.
…Daily NK asks, why is there a sudden uprise in mentions about 장성택? Recently, there were executions of party cadres for having given him bribes, and it was because of their ties with the man, that got them executed. Even if the issue really isn’t about the man, it’s a pretty good boogyman at consolidating power. Similar to what Xi, Jin-Ping is doing in China with his anti-corruption charges.
Previously, we had mentioned a Snow White performance in Paris and London. On top of that, there were other musical performances by the blind students for the event. NK Today, has a series of videos of the performance, which we have put into a playlist in our shownotes. Check out the videos, and read up on the NK Today article [in Korean], the link is on our shownotes.
On top of that, NK Today has a nice piece with pictures and details on what it’s like in the Pyongyang Sewing Factory, giving us details on how mechanization has affected the workers, factory safety conditions, and of course, propaganda posters galore! NK Today even went on to check out the living conditions (that are yes, provided by the factory), as well as the cafeteria area, and a little shop to buy little knick-knacks.
신동혁 (申東赫/Shin, Dong-Hyuk), the defector who was accused of lying about certain parts of his story, says that he did so, to protect his dad who was still in the country. North Korean state media blasted a few holes into Shin’s arguments, by an interview with his dad, whom we all had presumed was dead, according to Shin himself. Some of the inconsistancies that were revealed, were childhood photos of Shin, dressed in clothes that could have only been given out by central authorities for special commemorations. No prisoner would have worn those clothes. So it begs to question, did he continuously stay in those camps? Or did he not enter them until later than we had thought? There is also a possibility, that those photos were doctored –For young folk out there, yes, even before Photoshop that was possible to do. Check out the “#RareGlimpse” into North Korean courtship and weddings, with NK Today’s piece on the subject. The link is in our shownotes.
We’ve reached our final segment, which includes a hodgepodge of stories we didn’t know where to put. Like this one:
At the end of February, the Festival Internacional del Circ Ciutat de Figueres, took place in Spain. For those not in the know, it’s a series of acrobatic performances, and North Korea even won a couple of awards.
Programmers from North Korea made the top three spots in the Code Chef monthly challenge, for February. According to their website, CodeChef’s “…goal is to provide a platform for programmers everywhere to meet, compete, and have fun. CodeChef is a noncommercial organization operated by Directi, an Indian software company based in Mumbai.” Last April, they took the top 2 spots, and so far for this month, March, they have someone in the #2 spot. If you look at their profiles, you’ll find that some are supposedly students in India and some in France. Are these the kids of elites? Are these people actually from North Korea?
Guess what, everybody? Russia and North Korea have declared 2015 to be FRIENDSHIP YEAR! YAY!!!! Expect there to be more Russian investments into North Korea. Reminds me of a College Humor cartoon on DPRK-Russian relations.
With the growing relations between Russia and North Korea, and the ebola ban being lifted, Juche Travel services will reopen its tours soon, which means its Siberia-North Korea train ride will start up again. NK Today looks at the pricing plan. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.