North Korea has a policy of 선군, or “Military-First”, so we’re putting military-related stories first!
On Monday, April 27th., South Korea’s 국방부 (國防部/Ministry of Defense) announced it would coordinate with the 행정자치부 (行政自治部/Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs), to remove roughly 26.4km (16.4mi) of barbed wire along the East Coast. Residents in the area have wanted to remove the fence, saying that the fence ruins the natural view and affects the regional economy. The Defense Ministry will conduct site surveys to see where they can install security cameras, where the fences will be removed.
Also on Monday, North Korea threatened to attack the US with its nuclear arsenal. What exactly set this off? Pf… It’s North Korea, who knows? However, if they do have the capability to do so, then the risk is high. Firing a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KN-08 puts Alaska within range.
…Meanwhile, the US and South Korea are still talking amongst themselves to try to push North Korea to denuclearize. This, despite a similar deal made between Libya’s Ghadafi and the US under the Bush administration. Only later see Obama would come in with France and Britain to bomb Libya and take them out.
Joshua Stanton helped in writing a report arguing to put North Korea back on the State-sponsored Terrorism list. Kevin Stahler wrote a nice summary of the report, and what followed by counter arguments in the comments section by Mike Bassett. Check out the report, the summary, and all, the link is in our shownotes.
Last week, we talked about a military holiday-switcheroo. This week, DailyNK has some information on how it’s celebrated. Of course for military people, it’s a huge event, so they get to eat special meals, and go out to sing some karaoke. All of which, strangely are sad songs.
…NK Today, on Tuesday, came out swinging, and said the Daily NK article, was an error in reporting, and that other news outlets reporting on the event made no such changes, nor was there any note of changes to the name of the holiday on April 25th.
…DailyNK in another article, said that there were more calls for loyalty to the Royal Kim family from the military –nothing new here– but also said that the holiday switch still needs to be verified. Even then, 김정은(金正恩/Kim, Jong-Un) increased his military inspections and visits by 50% from this same time last year.
Mr. Stephen Haggard has revealed that the China Institute of International Studies, a Chinese Foreign Ministry’s think tank, was the group that said the North Koreans had 20 nuclear weapons.
Last Friday, April 24th, 3 Chinese citizens were supposedly killed in the city of 和龍 (화룡/HeLong). A fifty-five year-old man surnamed Chao, and his twenty-six year-old daughter, and a sixty-seven year-old man surnamed Sun. However, YTN is still trying to verify reports. China’s Foreign Ministry says it’s investigating the matter.
…municipal police have said they don’t know anything about it.
…China’s Defense Ministry is aiding the Public Security Ministry with the investigation on the matter.
North Korea says that they need to remove South Korea’s “Unification Preparation Committee”, and says it is actually a committee that seeks out the destruction of the DPRK.
North Korea is suspected to have tested a very low-yield nuclear detonation in spring 2010 at 풍계리 (豊溪里/PungGye-Ri) in 함경북도(咸鏡北道/North Hamkyung Province). 38 North takes a look at the evidence for and against. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
And, thanks to satellite photos, experts believe that a nuclear reactor at 녕변 (寧邊/YongByon) is up and running again.
“How’s the view from Room 39?” The economic performance sure looks a lot different on the ground:
Russia’s looking at making tourism to North Korea much easier, by removing the visa requirements. Free travel for all Russians! Meanwhile, North Koreans who wish to visit one town from the next, will still need some sort of approval from both municipal governments.
Roughly 140,000 tons of coal will arrive in South Korea via the North Korean port of 라진/선봉 (羅津/先鋒 — Rajin/Sonbong). It will get to the port from the Russian city of Khasan, by the newly renovated railway.
North Korea wants Russia to mine copper in its northern province. Russia gets the copper, and North Korea gets a portion of its profits. What could go wrong?
The number of North Koreans working in Russia has increased by 20%, totalling 47,364 laborers.
Turning away from Russia, Gary Tsai, a man who was involved with his father Alex Tsai, in smuggling items to North Korea, violating US federal sanctions against the country, received a lighter sentence than his father, a prison sentence of only 24-months.
Also on Monday, South Korean businessmen and North Korean officials continued to push for an extension on the wage deadline. Considering how the South Korean government can’t get through to the North Korean government on the issue, maybe they should just unilaterally say they won’t deal with the North Korean government at all, and that the South Korean businesses are on their own?
Now back to Russia: According to NK News, Russia’s Gazprom is looking into North Korea’s shores on both coasts, to explore natural gas deposits. Exploration will be carrried out by a company called Rosgeo.
South Korea’s 통일부 (統一部/Unification Ministry) put out figures, saying 2014 was a record profit-making year for the 개성공업지구 (開城工業地區/ Kaesong Industrial Complex). $2-billion dollars in profits for the year.
The Unification Ministry also said that while it will not use further government resources to send aid to North Korea, it will assist civilian organizations who wish to aid North Korea. This comes after Ace Gyeongnam has pledged to send 15tons of fertilizer to the country, earlier on Wednesday, April 28th.
개성 apparently has installed 700 solar panels in the city.
The South Korean government is still not happy about the wage raise issue at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and North Korea’s government isn’t willing to talk to them. South Korea is still trying to talk with the committee in charge of the region, that represents the North.
Sanctions, smchanctions! For those who believe there’s much change in relations between North Korea and China, one needs to look at the trade numbers, specifically tracking their luxury goods trade (which includes items banned by the UN). There’s what’s been reported by China, and then there are the other numbers that haven’t been reported. Which is why Japan and Australia have their own estimates. Both estimates show a slight curving at one point, but for the most part, it’s still on the rise.
NK News is trying to set up a tour package for North Korea. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
NK Econ Watch has some satellite photos that a new civilian airport is being constructed at 원산 (元山/Wonsan) to support that Wonsan-Kumgang International Tourist Zone.
여보세요~! What’s the 411 on that propaganda and information flow? Task Force 114 Representin’!
New Focus International tells us how news anchors like 리춘희 (李春姬/Ri, Chun-hee) are so despised, because they read the news with such praise and fervency, that it just gets on everyone’s nerves.
Stephen Haggard has a good review of 김수기’s book, “Without You, There Is No Us”, where she reveals what it was like to teach at the exclusive 평양과학기술대학 (平壤科學技術大學/PyongYang University of Science & Technology [PUST]). She describes her time having trouble of trying not to rehash propaganda and misperceptions about America, while teaching English, but felt very constrained. Michael Bassett also provided his nice contrasting views in the comments. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
Do you know where the Supreme Leader might be? [(PAWStamp) “A CLUE! A CLUE!”]
According to a South Korean intelligence briefing on Wednesday to the parliament, 김정은 was reported to have killed 15 people this year. A Vice Minister of Forestry was executed just for voicing his opinions on policies, which was seen as opposition to authority.
…More importantly, there’s satellite imagery that suggests people were executed by aerial strafing last year. Also, four members of the 은하수관현악단 (銀河水管絃樂團/Unhasu Orchestra) were allegedly executed by firing squad for espionage, of which 김정은‘s wife 리설주 (李雪主/Ri, Sol-Ju) was a former member.
… They also commented on his upcoming expected trip to Russia, and although he hasn’t booked a hotel room, the Embassy could also accomodate him. But then, yesterday, the Kremlin had announced that 김정은 was not going to Russia, and has decided to stay within his country, due to “internal issues within the country”.
…Also in the briefing, it’s expected that his younger sister 김여정 (金與正/Kim Yo-jong) may also give birth to her first child next month.
…Adam Cathcart, likes to remind us however, that there were previous execution rumors for the Unhasu Orchestra. More importantly however, as much as some people think confidently of his leadership skills, Mr. Cathcart also mentions how there is generally a lack of visits to specific areas within his country. So if he can’t freely visit his own country, how can he safely visit a foreign one?
…NK News asks some further questions on the issue. In short, it’ll be a while before we fully understand why the Russian trip was cancelled.
For today, May 1st, “International Workers’ Day”, State Media showed 김정은 at the Fifth 군 훈련대회 (軍 訓練大會/ Great Military Excercise Assembly). So rather than going on some economic/factory-related inspection, they showed him at a military event. In fact, the first three pages of the 로동신문 (勞動新聞/”Rodong Sinmun” [Laborer’s News]) was all about the event, while on the fourth page, there was a little quote about laborers from him.
And of course, we end this section with a link to the Kim, Jong-Un Looks at Things Tumblr blog. This time, looking at a hospital patient.
…But before we go, The Kim, Jong-un Looks at Things Tumblr blog is now on Twitter as well! Check it out, the link is in our shownotes!
Now, we’ll get to North-South relations, life in North Korea, refugees, & their lives in South Korea.
On Tuesday, April 28, the Heritage Foundation held an event to focus on North Korea’s human rights violations, at the US capitol.
New Focus International has a piece on the significance of North Korea’s caste system known as “성분 (成分/Songbun)”, and marriages in today’s society. Normally divorce is looked down upon, and if the couples simply don’t like each other, it’s actually harder to get a divorce due to the social stigma that divorce brings. However, if one of the partners lied about their 성분 class status, then it becmes easy.
…Then, they go further, into explaining how men typically used the idea that they were of a higher 성분 to get women.
Andrei Lankov has a good piece on the evolution of a group called the 인민반. A group of neighborhood watchers, who make up the pantheon of North Korea’s surveillance on its own people. These people tip off suspicious activities to the police, and sometimes help with nightly inspections.
South Korea denies requests to two heads of labor unions in South Korea, to visit 개성 (開城/Kaesong), to meet with their North Korean counterparts to set up a soccer match. The South Korean government said the meeting was more political in nature, but did not rule out the possibility of a soccer match in the future.
…Earlier today, the Unification Ministry has announced plans to expand social and cultural communication between civil groups, while last week, it has removed restrictions on humanitarian aid organizations, while it will also increase their access to the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund. This plan is intended to promote inter-Korean communication, and comes in at the 70 years of liberation from Japan. All inter-Korean communications amongst civil groups were cut off since 2010, the year the ROKS CheonAn was sunk.
NK Today talks about the increasing cyber lectures and classes at univerisities across all of North Korea.
The AsiaN, an online magazine, has an article on a defector 전철우 who opened up a restaurant specializing in 냉면 (冷麵/cold noodles), and is now a CEO.
New Focus International has a somber piece on human rights abuses against women in the province of 강원 (江原/Gangwon). It’s a “frontilne” province, and as such, sees a lot of military people stationed there. So if anything bad happens, you can point your fingers at someone from the military. You can read the piece for specifics, the link is in our shownotes.
On a better note, they do have a more light-hearted piece, to balance it out, on how people show affection for each other in North Korea. They have to get creative, without publicly showing affection, lest they be seen as decadent capitalists with no morals. If however, they want to get to third base, because there are no love hotels like in Japan or South Korea, they find public spots where no one else is around, or occasionally ask married friends to borrow their place.
Then, to make a sh-t sandwich, they top it off with a story on divorce, and how North Korea’s concepts of divorce is still stuck in the 1950s. Thanks, New Focus International.
3 refugees under the pseudonyms 고미숙, 박정현, 김명성, each received a ₩900,000 scholarship ($9,000USD).
While officially, North Korea enforces cremation in lieu of burying the dead in the ground, for environmental reasons, people still take the bodies of the deceased up into the hills to be buried.
The Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Martin Chungong held discussions with the chairman of 최고 인민 회의 (最高人民會議/Supreme Peoples’ Assembly [SPA]) 최태복 (崔泰福/Choe, Tae-bok), on Tuesday.
Yesterday, North Korean ambassador to the UN 리송철, called defectors “traitors to their homeland”, while defectors were testifying against North Korea on Human Rights abuses. The disturbance came when Joseph Kim came up to testify. Joseph Kim had previously given a TEDTalk on the subject.
This is our final segment. A hodgepodge of stories we didn’t know where to put, like this one:
North Korea is building an energy factory, using outdated nuclear fusion technology.
North Korea didn’t like the fact that Japanese Prime Minister 安倍 晋三 (Shinzō Abe), at a speech at Harvard on Monday, didn’t outright apologize for its enslavement of women for sexual exploitation in World War II. While he did admit the tragedy of “human trafficking”, he stopped short on the topic of sexual enslavement itself.
The US and Japan revised their defense treaty, which hasn’t been done in 18 years. The revision gives Japan a greater role in the South China Seas. North Korea said that the US is reviving Japan’s old military revisionism.