North Korea has a policy of 선군, or “Military-First”, so we’re putting military-related stories first!
After last week’s firing of several KN-02 missiles, South Korea’s government said that there were no further signs of hostilities. North Korea has declared a no-sail zone in the East Sea, which means a missile launch was imminent. Although previous missile launches didn’t necessarily have pre-declared no-sail zones, the fact that one was being declared, means they were planning to launch something, and it was going to be BIG.
…And it was. On Tuesday, they fired off some Short-range ballistic missiles. Really? All this noise for short-range ballistic missiles? World media was getting a hard-on for the next North Korean missile launch expecting it to be a big one, and this is what North Korea delivered?
New Focus International had an article on bullet accountibility. One bullet goes missing, and everyone has to go searching for it. One defector says that after an exercise, they had to go around and search for a bullet. Turns out another guy had it in his hand, and admitted that he was planning on using it against someone else.
Hey, how will North Korea’s nuclear delivery system be? I’m not a nuclear rocket scientist, but you can check out a paper written by 38North.org that can tell you some good stuff. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
NK News says in recent inspections, 김정은 (金正恩/Kim, Jong-un) was accompanied by fewer people, and his visits mainly focused on two subjects: Military, and Fishing. This seems to fit his 병진 (竝進/ByungJin) stance of boasting up military capabilities, while simultaneously improving the economy.
“How’s the view from Room 39?” The economic performance sure looks a lot different on the ground:
Now, I could be wrong in my 병진 assessment, because DailyNK says that North Korea has been concentrating more on the economy than anything else. Government expenditures were raised 5.5%, but military expenditure percentage stayed the same from last year’s rate of 15.9% of overall government expenditures, while scientific and technological investments increased by 5% from last year. Other areas of concentration that received increases in comparison to last year, include: Forestry, Basic Construction, Fitness, Education, Culture, Basic and light Industries, Marine Fisheries, Agriculture, and Conservation.
New Focus International tells us about the public and private market for gas. It’s such a commodity, that most people carry their own gas tanks with them, just in case they run out. Most cars however, are owned by the government, and if you ride in one, you’re most likely using government resources, or you’re filthy rich. However, the supply of oil is interesting. How does it get to the military? Well, each unit has to procure their own, rather than having things handed to them from the top.
NK News has a report that 평양 (平壤/Pyongyang)Housing prices are on the rise. Hm… Have the Chinese nouveau riche finally invaded 평양, like they have in other places all over the world?
On April 4th, China had rejected anthracite shipped from North Korea. This is the second shipment rejected since a month prior. The reason, is because the mercury levels upon burning the anthracite exceed the Chinese government’s standards.
New Focus International says that on March 25, roughly 10,000 North Korean overseas laborers arrived in China. Most of these laborers are in their 20s-30s. However, this really contrasts with the images of overseas workers’ ages in Russia, and other countries. Keep in mind, these are actual laborers authorized by the government, with legitimate work visas. Those who sneak across the border to work are a whole different story.
…And an update on North Koreans citizens wishing to work in Russia from here on forth, will have to pass a language test, to prove they have the right level of Russian skills to function in the country. Whether or not workers already in the country have to take these tests, is still unknown.
Spring is when North Korean citizens are mobilized for all sorts of different projects. Right now, they’re most likely going to the mountain bases and chipping away at rocks. These rocks in turn, will be used for construction projects, like road paving.
The DPRK decided to deport an American aid worker, Sandrah Suh, for “committing anti-DPRK acts”, rather than put her in prison. Sandrah was working on behalf of Wheat Mission, an LA-based non-profit organization set up in 2005, to help ease the famine situation in North Korea.
…This comes after the head of the German NGO was kicked out of the country for no explanation. Mr. Stephen Haggard points out, this isn’t new, and stuff like this tends to happen when the North Korean authorities feel that their economy is doing well.
…Despite having kicked out head executives of NGOs, the UN is saying that their programs for crucial aid to North Korea are under-funded, and need $111-million.
North Korea’s Investment and Development Group, an overseas trade promotion agency, has shut down their 北京(북경/BeiJing) website 12 days ago, as of the release of this podcast. According to a YTN interview, the agency had already shut down a year ago, and all workers have already left.
Last July, a North Korean merchant vessel, the 무두봉, ran aground, off the Mexican Gulf Coastline, where the ship, and her crew have been held since. On Wednosday, April 8, North Korea said it would do anything to get its ship and her crewmembers back, and said that the Mexican authorities were illegally holding them.
여보세요~! What’s the 411 on that propaganda and information flow? Task Force 114 Representin’!
Some editor had the bright idea to ask Mr. Andrei Lankov, to report on news relavent to things happening NOW in North Korea. Things like, a new launch of some missile that will ultimately fall into an ocean. Or, maybe some leaked document by the CIA, which was most likely deliberately leaked to a press that’s in bed with DC, which is about as useful as North Korean documentaries on 김정은. Mr. Andrei Lankov criticizes this approach, because only talking about “topic-relavent” stories, and ignoring the larger underlying trends going on in the country, is detrimental to actually understanding the country itself, which is something we all need to do.
North Korea apparently has a market demand for portable media devices. But because they can barely get their hands on an iPhone6 for various reasons, what are they using to consume their media? EVD devices. A what? Enhanced Versatile Disc, a rival format to DVDs. DVDs are based off of MPEG2 encoding, where high royalty fees for use go to a US company that licenses out the technology (MPEG-LA, LLC). EVD was supposed to be a cheaper alternative, but never took off in China. Funny enough, North Korea’s eating them up like there’s no tomorrow. I’m assuming this is because someone pitched the technical specs, as saying that EVD‘s VP6 encoding was unique, and would render smuggled movies useless, but in reality, most devices, that can render VP6 can also render MPEG2 as well. So maybe this was a failed attempt at information control? But I’m getting too technical here, and don’t think most people (let alone North Koreans) would take this into consideration. So who knows?
Despite many South Koreans and defectors hating the movie, “The Interview”, 이민복, a defector himself, has released balloons and leaflets, with copies of the DVD to be sent into North Korea. If he fails to see the suttleties of American comedy, what makes him think these DVDs will somehow awaken the North Korean people into action rather than offend them?
…Earlier today, in response to the balloon leaflets with the inflammatory DVDs, North Korea has said it would retaliate. Maybe the missiles aren’t so much a protest against the US Secretary of Defense’s visit to the region, and more to do with the balloon leaflet flyers?
Do you know where the Supreme Leader might be? [(PAWStamp) “A CLUE! A CLUE!”]
Yesterday, April 9th, was this year’s third session of the Supreme Peoples’ Assembly, but 김정은 was nowhere to be found. In contrast to last year, where he went to all four sessions, except for the one in September when he was undergoing surgery, this year, he’s only been to two. This is either a flagrant disrespect for existing laws on attendance to these assemblies, or a sign that their constitution has changed.
…His disappearance may however, be excused, if like last year he didn’t go because of his foot surgery, yesterday, DailyNK came out noting how 김정은 was shown in state media wearing gauze and bandages on his right wrist, while he was inspecting the 약전 Machine Factory in 평양 (平壤/Pyongyang). This is much different than pictures of him last reported on April 4th, where he was visiting Naval Unit 164, meaning the injury is fairly recent.
On April 19th-21st, in Jakarta, Indonesia, the World Economic Forum will be meeting. However, that doesn’t concern North Korea directly. BUT, the Asian African Conference for 2015 will be taking place simultaenously. North Korea’s 김영남, the man formerly involved with UNESCO, and money-laundering activities, also rumored to be soon replaced, will actually be going to this event. This harks back to the 1955 conference, where both 김일성(金日成/Kim, Il-Sung) and 김정일(金正日/Kim, Jong-Il) were in attendance, 60 years ago.
황병서 (黃炳瑞/Hwang, Pyong-So) 군 총정치국장 (軍 總政治局長/Military head of the Office Guidance Department), has now been appointed to the 중앙정치국 (中央政治局/Politburo). South Korea’s news network YTN speculates that this means, he has replaced 최룡해 (崔龍海/Choe, Ryong-hae) the 노동당 비서 (勞動黨秘書/Korean Workers’ Party Secretary), as the de facto No 2 man. Something tells me this rivalry between the two men isn’t over, BUT, does this really mean that Hwang is number 2? Does it really matter? Whomever was number two under 김정일 didn’t take over the reign. That role was obviously given to 김정은. Even if anything fatal were to happen to him, my guess is either his brother, or his sister would step up to maintain dynastic control.
부총내각(副總內閣/Vice Minister) 로두철(盧斗哲/Ro, Tu-Chol), and 인민무력부장 (人民武力部長/Defense Minister) 현영철(玄永哲/Hyon, Yong-Chol), and a couple other officials will be in Russia next week.
And of course, we bring you a link to the Kim, Jong-Un Looks at Things Tumblr blog, where this time, 김정은 is looking at shellfish.
BUT, with a bonus picture of him also looking at a runway, in his plane. You can check out both links, in our shownotes.
Now, we’ll get to North-South relations, life in North Korea, refugees, & their lives in South Korea.
Choson Exchange has a feature on 평양 (平壤/Pyongyang)‘s new 은정 (恩情/UnJong) district, showing the various playgrounds and childrens’ facilities that were set up.
Despite the deportations of NGOs involved with hunger issues in North Korea, they don’t seem to have issues with international players in offering up monetary donations for the care and education to their orphans. NK Today has a story on how much of the orphanages are actually getting financial support from outside the country, which of course, that money first goes to the North Korean government, where it is then given to the orphanages.
Are you a North Korean nouveau riche 돈주, who has tons of money, but doesn’t want to throw it all away to defect to South Korea? Would you like to live in North Korea’s capitol and raise your kids in the wonderful 은정 district we just mentioned above, and use the capitol’s top-notch medical facilities? Money is the key to open all doors folks, and you can achieve these two things, by bribing military officers! Yes, if you too have the money, you can use military logistics and administrative protection to move your family to 평양, and for some extra money to medical corps officers, you can even get military-grade medical care!
Trees! Normally, April is when weather starts to warm up. So this would be the month to start planting trees for Arbor Day, right? No! Not for North Korea! Because they set it one month earlier, to mark something that 김정일 had said many years ago on the month of March, while he was climbing some mountain, and said something about forest preservation. So, in order to commemorate that, they set the date earlier. So now, people have to use pickaxes, to break through the icy soil, to make a hole, where they can plant seeds and saplings, and hope they don’t die.
Previous joint Korean attempts at figuring out details of when the dormant volcano 백두산 (白頭山/Mt Paektu [White Head]), will explode, and what that explosion might mean, haven’t yielded much results. However, an ROK-PRC cooperation on the matter, is gaining more traction, and they’re hoping to involve Japanese vocanologists, and get their expertise. The mountain shares a border between North Korea and China, and has a significant meaning for all Koreans.
A group in 광주 (光州/GwangJu) City, have proposed to hold a Joint Korean soccer match amongst laborers, on May 1st, in celebration of Labor Day.
South Korea has approved of the North Korean sports committee to travel into their country. Afterall, what are they going to say? “NO WE’RE NOT GOING TO LET YOU COMMIES!!!” I mean, that would be a clear sign of returning to the Cold War era.
“In North Korea, the best brides are teachers” says New Focus International. Does that mean North Korean men have a fetish for teachers? Not quite. There are many economic benefits to marrying teachers, and private tutors. Usually, in traditional Confucian countries, it’s customary for teachers to receive a gift from the students. Or, extra money from parents hoping the instructor can pay extra attention to their children. Plus, with the education she already has, she’ll definately teach her own kids as well, and you don’t have to pay another tutor.
This is our final segment. A hodgepodge of stories we didn’t know where to put, like this one:
The folks at PyongYang Traffic Girls.com have noticed that these women stand on metal plates, to make sure they make their military-sharp movements in place.
李進軍 (이진군/Li, Jin-Jun), the man appointed as the PRC’s latest ambassador to the DPRK, this past Sunday, paid his respects to 毛澤東 (모택동/Mao, Ze-Dong)‘s son, 毛岸英 (모안영/Mao, An-Ying), who died in the Korean War, and is buried at the Cemetery for the Heroes of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army in 평양.
At the beginning of this year, we mentioned how four Chinese civilians were killed, as they were taken hostage by a KPA soldier trying to defect. The North Korean government offered a condolence package, but the relatives were furious at the low amount, and are formally asking their government for higher compensation.