North Korea has a policy of 선군, or “Military-First”, so we’re putting military-related stories first!
Aside from the execution of 현영철(玄永哲/Hyon, Yong-Chol), 5 other cadres in relation to his “insubordination” have also been executed supposedly.
…Or have they? 현영철‘s image still appears in North Korean media. Usually, if someone is physically wiped out, he’s also wiped out in all footages from the past, never to appear again. Continuing to show him in the media would be a break with past policies.
3 people were arrested, for attempting to assassinate 황장엽 (黃長燁/Hwang, jang-Yop).
Now that North Korea supposedly has a Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), their state media warned that if the “puppet government” (South Korea) and the “American Imperialist warmongerers” want to mess with them, then they would turn them into ashes.
…South Korea will take up the SLBM issue to the UN, for violating UN sanctions.
…However, the collaboration between 38North.org and ArmsControlWonk Blog have confirmed that the photos are doctored, and the launch did not actually occur.
Japan’s Kyodo News Agency says their sources in North Korea will soon launch a rocket into space carrying a satellite in October, in celebration of the 70th year of the founding of the 조선로동당 (朝鮮勞動黨/ Korean Workers Party [KWP]). However, South Korea’s 국방부 (國防部/Ministry of Defense) says they see no sign of a launch.
North Korea’s 국방위원회 (國防委員會/National Defence Commission) announced that they have long had the capability to miniaturize their nuclear weapons, and they are at their “highest stage of precision”. Long-time North-Korean analyst Daniel Pinkston said he’s thought they’ve had the capability for some time, but then they may not have the appropriate institutions to have a capable force that can consistently deliver the payload.
“How’s the view from Room 39?” The economic performance sure looks a lot different on the ground:
South Korea’s Federation of Korean Industries wants to set up a permanent office in 평양 (平壤/Pyongyang), possibly to facilitate inter-Korean business deals, that may pave way for eventual reunification, while the wage issue at the 개성공업지구 (開城工業地區/Kaesong Industrial Complex) has lagged on for months.
At a press conference for this year’s World Education Forum in 인천 (仁川/Incheon), the UN Secretary-General 반기문 (潘基文/Ban, Ki-Moon) told everyone that he planned on visiting the 개성공업지구, on May 21, and would have been accompanied by several officials from South Korea’s 통일부 (統一部/Unification Ministry).
…South Korean businessmen praised his decision to visit the complex.
…Unfortunately, North Korea reneged on the decision Wednesday, May 20th.
…Then, North Korea yelled at South Korea for not complying with their unilateral decision to raised wages, and said that THEY were holding back operations. The north insists it’s their sovereign right to designate laws in the region, but it would violate the 2004 agreement in setting up the zone.
…BUT after a recent visit by South Korean businessmen, and months of going back-and-forth, and ignoring each other, South Korea says that the North Koreans have capitulated, and they have agreed to come back to the table at a future date to discuss wage issues in the future. During this time out of fear, 50 of the 124 South Koreans firms acquiesced, and gave money at the higher amount. Nothing was mentioned if this money will be refunded, or discounted towards the upcoming month’s wages. They may be punished by the South Korean government for violating their mandate.
The infamous night satellite photo of the contrasting luminating South Korea versus North Korea with one bright light over 평양, usually is interpreted to show how poor and economically backwards North Korea is. However, did you ever think about what it means for wealth distribution? Lee Yong Suk, a Stanford Economist, took images from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, and then further looked at North Korea’s different sectors to compare their luminosity.
On Monday, May 18, US Secretary of State John Kerry was in 서울 (漢城한성/Seoul), to talk with South Korea and other nations in the area to further sanction North Korea.
…Before arriving in Korea, he was in China, discussing with their leadership on the matter, and they agreed to hold further talks in Washington in June on security matters.
Meanwhile, at the US Congress, Section 1092 has been added to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, and calls for the President to appoint “an existing federal officer to coordinate efforts to secure the release of U.S. citizens who are hostages of hostile groups or state sponsors of terrorism.” And once this bill is passed, has to be appointed within 60 days. After all the recent issues with Americans being held in North Korean prison. The bill also would put North Korea back on the State-Sponsor of Terrorism List.
Mr. Marcus Noland was at the The New School’s Center for Public Scholarship conference on international sanctions, and of course, talked about North Korea. At the conference, there was also comparisons made with Cuba and Burma, both nations where sanctions were lifted (or “temporarily suspended” with Cuba), once they opened up to the US and the international community, and promised to reform.
The US Government Accountability Office, has released its Report on North Korean Sanctions, to the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in the U.S. Senate. You can check out a copy, the link is in our shownotes.
A defect in the peoples’ socialist paradise? Say it ain’t so! In a rare case, 김정은(金正恩/Kim, Jong-Un), rather than praising something, actually criticised a place after one of his inspections. It was the Taedonggang Terrapin [turtle] farm. According to state media, the Leader said the workers “…who failed to bear deep in their minds his leadership exploits could hardly perform their role as masters in production,” and then criticised them for not being able to raise lobsters at the terrapin farm, even though they had sent baby lobsters to be raised. His report went on to “strongly criticized the shortcoming of its officials as a manifestation of incompetence, outmoded way of thinking and irresponsible work style,”, and warned that the farm “may bring such grave consequences as impairing the prestige of the party.”
…Mr. Stephen Haggard was nice to point out, that lobster is one of the many items on those many UN sanctions against North Korea, which apparently, China is actually obliging with.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) conducted a survey on 800 South Koreans, to get their views on aid to North Korea. 86% approved, only 16% disapproved. Earlier on Tuesday, South Korea’s government approved ₩1-BillionKRW ($917,000USD) to assist the disabled in North Korea.
Andrei Lankov is relatively positive about the May 30th economic reforms, but Chris Green found some research that may temper some of that enthusiasm. Check it out, the link is in our shownotes.
The 김책공업종합대학 (金策工業綜合大學/KimChaek University of Technology) is developing MES. What is that? “Manufacturing Execution System”, which will attempt to schedule operations, monitor quality and measure overall performance of a plant.
Due to the random arrests of Americans, the ebola travel ban, and cancellation of the Mass Games, tourism for North Korean has dropped by 40%. The inconsistent policies on tourism reflect the internal debate North Korea has. While it does bring in some quick cash, some people are wary of the trouble and information it may bring.
NK Today features an article on the 18th Pyongyang Spring International Products Exposition on May 11th. This is where international vendors come in and showcase a series of products, and make busines deals. This year, they noticed more activity amongst businesses and producers, and had more Russian participation. This year, Chinese participation paled in comparison to the Russians.
DailyNK’s sources say that everyone within 평안남도 (平安南道/South PyongAn Province) have been mobilised, the youngest all the way down to 3rd graders. It’s time to kill those mosquitoes, and help out in the fields.
The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) has done some interviews with 20 North Korean overseas laborers, estimating anywhere from fifty to sixty-thousand exported workers, who will give around $1.2 to $2.3-billion USD in loyalty pay back to the regime. There are workers even in Africa, the Middle-East, and the E.U., but the majority of the workers are in China and Russia (estimated at 19,000 and 20,000 respectively). The report describes in detail, how these workers are isolated from everyone else, working in unimaginable conditions without safety standards or injury compensation.
요! Here’s the 411 on North Korea’s propaganda and information flow!
Japan-based North Korean mouthpiece 조선신보 (朝鮮新報/ちょうせん しんぽ/Choson Sinbo), has identified their food growing and producing area in 세포군 (洗浦郡/Sep’o County), as the 세포등판목장 (Sepho Plateau Ranch), and continue to trumpet the idea that it will end hunger in North Korea within three to four years.
The execution of 현영철(玄永哲/Hyon, Yong-Chol) received so much attention, that even 박근혜 (朴槿惠/Park, Geun-Hye) made some comments. Well, North Korea didn’t like it, and in their English version of KCNA said, “She would be well advised to bear in mind that such venomous tongue-wagging would only precipitate her tragic end,”
…But folks, we have a much more important announcement to make: Forget 현영철, he’s dead anyways! Mr. Adam Cathcart reminds us that 선우향희 (鮮于香姬/Sonu Hyang-Hui), the lead violinist for the 모란봉악단 (牡丹峰樂團/Moran-Bong Band [“‘Peony Peak’ Band”]) wasn’t at this last performance, which was supposedly 현영철‘s last public appearance! Where is she?! Is she alive and well, did she marry off some wealthy North Korean elite? Say it isn’t so!!!
May 18th, Monday, marked the 35th anniversary of the 광주 민주화 운동 (光州 民主化 運動/GwangJu Democratization Movement), where students protested the then military dictatorship of the South Korean government. Strangely enough, because of the politics at the time, it had the full support of the North Korean government. The South Korean government at the time definately tried to paint it as such. However, it’s surprising that to this day, North Korea is trying to paint the South Korean government as a military dictator supressing its own people.
NK News.org’s Leo Byrne has a good article in their KCNA Watch section, where they looked at verbage regarding North Korea’s controversial space program. Considering their new command center for NADA the space agency, it seems to confirm Kyodo news’ reporting that a satellite rocket-launch is imminent, it’s just a matter of time.
Do you know where the Supreme Leader might be? [(PAWStamp) “A CLUE! A CLUE!”]
Well, we couldn’t find you the Supreme Leader, but we managed to find clips of his older brother, 김정철 (金正哲/Kim, Jong-chul) at the latest Eric Clapton concert. He was spotted, and although wasn’t wearing flashy clothes, his entourage gave him away. They didn’t look like they were dressed for a concert, nor enjoying themselves all too much. They were nice enough to clap on cue though. It’s not the first time 김정철 was spotted at one of his concerts. He’s such a fan, why can’t Eric just call him up on stage for once?
Now, we’ll get to North-South relations, reunification matters, life in North Korea, refugees, & their lives in South Korea.
이희호 (李姬鎬/Lee, Hee-Ho), Former first lady, and widow of the late South Korean President 김대중 (金大中/Kim, Dae-Jung), had proposed to go to North Korea last month, but doubts the trip will happen, as she has not received a response.
The group, Women Cross DMZ, departed 北京(북경/BeiJing) for 평양 on Tuesday, May 19. Despite the South Korean government’s suggestion to cross at 개성 (開城/Kaesong), they originally maintained their position to cross at 판문점 (板門店/Pan Mun Jom).
…South Korean journalists have been denied the opportunity to cover the event at 판문점, because the 국방부 has not authorized journalists into that region, which they control. Some suggest, by denying journalists into the region, that they were seeking to de-legitimize the event.
…Then, earlier today, they announced, they have instead accepted the South Korean government’s offer, and will cross at the 경의선(京義線/Gyongui Rail line).
…While in North Korea, Colleen Baik, one of the women in the group, paid for some 3G cell service, so she could upload her tweet with videos from some performances she saw.
…North Korean media didn’t spare a moment to use the event as a propoganda tool, and supposedly quoted one of the people in the group, on how 김일성(金日成/Kim, Il-Sung) “devoted his entire life to the freedom and emancipation of North Koreans”.
…Joshua Stanton is quick to point out that it’s ironic many women who stand for Womens’ Rights in the group, didn’t exactly live up to their expectations, when North Korea made a bunch of sexist remarks towards South Korean President 박근혜. Aside from the remarks made above, there were other sexist statements like, saying she “…obsequiously brown-nosing her master, America, in a way that a whore lifts up her skirt to lure strangers.” and other more lewd, sexist comments. You can check out the translation of the original Korean comments not put out in English, on his website. The South Korean government has requested that the north refrain from using such inflammatory language…
…and have condemned the remarks.
…Just for the note, some analysts believe that South Korea’s 국가정보원 (國家情報院/National Intelligence Service)‘s release of 현영철(玄永哲/Hyon, Yong-Chol)‘s execution was a way to scare the group from crossing.
Jean H Lee talked to The Korea Society about her time in North Korea as the AP’s Bureau Chief. Very interesting insights into North Korea, or as James Pearson might say, #RareGlimpse! But this time, there are actually some nice human touches and insights into North Korea.
Ever since 김정은 took power, border intensification measures, like putting up fences, and increasing border guards have made it riskier to smuggle people across. Over the years, the price to smuggle has increased drastically. Meanwhile, as horrible as the North Korean economy may be, it’s still at least improving enough, to dull another reason for defecting. These are the two big reasons, but of course, the police state’s monitoring of phone calls effectively catches these people before the act.
This is our final segment. A hodgepodge of stories we didn’t know where to put, like this one:
YTN reported that on May 15th, the 평양봄철국제상품전람회 (PyongYang Spring International Products Exposition) commenced, where they showcased a new North Korean tablet called the 묘향 (妙香/Myohyang).
The folks over at Choson Exchange were kind enough to write a post showcasing their Women In Business classes. More importantly, they touched upon the issue of gender bias.
Simon Fowler of DPRK Films has a good interview with Paul Fischer, the author of “A Kim, Jong-Il Production”, who wrote about North Korean films, and specifically, about the capture of 신상옥 (申相玉/Shin, Sang-Ok) & 최은희 (崔銀姬/Choi, Eun-Hee). This is a good follow-up to the “This American Life” episode that talked about the matter. Very interesting details about the two of them as well.
While the economic trade between the DPRK and PRC are down, it may not necessarily mean that relations are as icy as people think. However, 李進軍 (이진군/Li, Jin-Jun), the Chinese ambassador has yet to meet with 김정은. While this may not mean relations are THAT icy, it does show North Korea’s attempts to not be over-reliant on China, like they were under his father’s administration. Earlier this month, 李進軍 met with 리길송, the North Korean Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, telling him the two countries should “seek common ground while shelving differences.” which harks back to his earlier statement last month saying that they should “respect each others’ differences”. While the YTN report we pulled this from, said that “The comment by Li could be interpreted as Beijing’s desire to develop a normal relationship with the North” I beg to differ. As I pointed out at the time, the statement is normally used towards nations of different political systems, and has never been used with a country with a similar institution until North Korea, and is more out of tolerance than anything else.
장진성 (張振成/Jang, Jin-Sung) shared an article he wrote, about engagement. The old dilemma was that the only engagement most outsiders could provide, was engagement the government allowed (i.e. tourism), but it hasn’t necessarily yielded the change and usher of information we all want. So he talks about the details on the different groups of people he identifies we can target, and talks about things like BBC for Korea, which can potentially help introduce information into North Korea, while efforts like Choson Exchange teaches MBA skills, and modern market practice and theory to business people, are more effective forms of engagement.
South Korea will hold a unification exposition next week from May 29th to the 31st, at the 광화문광장 (光化門廣場/GwanghwaMun Plaza).