North Korea has a policy of 선군, or “Military-First”, so we’re putting military-related stories first!
Last week, right after the release of the podcast, this article came in. Reuters reports that the US tried to deploy a stuxnet-like virus upon North Korea, but it failed. It was designed to hit a computer using the Korean language, but due to the secrecy of the network, things didn’t go as planned. It was discovered by Kasperski Labs, and had some indirect confirmation that there were attempts to infect parts brought into North Korea via Russia, China, and Iran.
Monday, June 1st, South Korea and the US held combined anti-submarine (ASW) exercises, which went on until Wednesday.
Daily NK says that the military will be mobilized along with the students to fend off against the mosquito infestation that comes around this time of year.
They also report that a gag order has been put in place on service members, to refrain from talking about the execution of 현영철(玄永哲/Hyon, Yong-Chol).
South Korean and US forces within the USFK structure, have come together to set up principles on how to deal with the North Korean missile threat. Specifically, if the missiles are fired, how they should react, and what operations to conduct and measures to take.
…One of the things they are concentrating on, is South Korea’s inter-operability of its own missile-defense program with the US’ plans to field the THAAD, which means, how the US will supply the THAAD system, and how it will be used.
Jeffrey Lewis has a really good article on 38North which takes a crack at explaining why North Korea is building a new Space Command Center on the West Coast. While the East Coast facility is mainly a military site, the photo-ops there are heavily controlled, but the West Coast facility is tied to civilian space launches, and will get much more of the glamour. As such, they need to pretty things up.
In a rare turn of events, SOUTH Korea test-fired a missile, with a range that can reach all of North Korea, on Wednesday, June 3rd. President 박근혜 (朴槿惠/Park, Geun-Hye) was at the test launch.
…And for all the North Korean missiles that were fired off, and them defending it by saying they were merely testing them for defensive purposes, you’d think they’d be very understanding when South Korea does it just once, right? Not really. They condemned the South for doing the same thing.
38North.org has been at the forefront of analysis on North Korea’s SLBM program. For starters, the fact that the program is called the 북극성 (北極星/”Polaris”), which is the name of the US SLBM program. Guessing from the diameter, they say that it’s based on the Soviet Union’s R-27 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). They estimate anywhere from three to ten years, is what it’ll take to achieve an operational missile.
“How’s the view from Room 39?” The economic performance sure looks a lot different on the ground:
Mr. Marcus Noland reminds us that the numbers for North Korean export laborers are closer to around 48,000. Which means, some studies which estimates labor earnings at $1.5 to 2.3-billion USD would make it about $31,000/year per worker, which is even desirable for some developed nations workers. Thanks for looking out, and pointing that out to us!
UN authorities remind us with the warning of North Korea’s oncoming annual drought. However, unlike previous years, Reuters reports that it’s actually weathering through better this year than before, and yields are getting better. Farming practices have changed, and farmers are allowed to keep a greater share of what they reap.
Andrei Lankov is a very well-known North Korea analyst, and has been the most outspoken in his optimism for the economic reform measures known as the “May 30th measures”. However, in his latest article for NK News, he says that he’s noticed that some reforms have been scaled back, and is worried. Maybe since farming has been improving, he wonders if they think that they shouldn’t fix what’s not broken, and leave things as they are, or if it’s because of mounting pressure from those around him.
NK Today has put their own commentary on a YTN report on North Korean “luxury products” like handbags, and shoes –things that are normally on a sanctioned list– are now being made with ostrich leather. As you may know, North Korea is big on ostrich farms, and some ostrich meat has been used at some of their 옥류관 chains to make 불고기, which is normally made with pork instead.
On June 3rd, Wednesday, the South Korean government put out a stern statement against the corporations who did not comply with their demands to NOT pay the North Koreans the 5% they had requested illegally without consulting the South Korean government. Investigations have been in progress during this time, and we are awaiting a verdict.
North Korea is building two more electrical plants for the capital, to increase the electrical output, as a sign to show that its nation is prospering and getting better.
Reuters has a piece on the increasing consumerism in North Korea. Places to hang out, nice, flashy buildings… Until the electricity runs out. For instance, there are some “24-hour” coffeeshops, but they may turn you away, because there isn’t enough electricity to run their kitchens.
In the fourth quarter of last year, trade between North Korea and Russia was at $3-million USD, while it fell dramatically to $500,000 in the first quarter of this year, according to NK News. Most of North Korea’s imports from Russia were food imports.
요! Here’s the 411 on North Korea’s propaganda and information flow!
The US had accidentally sent live anthrax to South Korea, and North Korean media last Tuesday, wasn’t happy, saying that they were trying to committ biological warfare on the Korean people. Luckily, they didn’t conflate that issue with the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) issue, where 2 South Koreans have already passed away.
Regarding the drought mentioned earlier, North Korea has released some propaganda posters about the subject.
Overseas North Korean laborers are technically under tight surveillance, and they are supposed to receive a lot of political education, to make sure they don’t become “corrupted” by outside ideals. However in reality, everybody’s watching South Korean and American TV programs and movies.
김여정 (金與正/Kim Yo-jong), the younger sister to 김정은(金正恩/Kim, Jong-Un), is believed to be the head of the Propoganda Department.
Do you know where the Supreme Leader might be? [(PAWStamp) “A CLUE! A CLUE!”]
And the only thing we have for this section is a link to the Kim, Jong-Un Looks at Things Tumblr Blog. This time, he’s looking at a flight instructor.
Now, we’ll get to North-South relations, reunification issues, life in North Korea, & refugee matters.
The three-day exposition on Unification issues at 광화문광장 (光化門廣場/GwanghwaMun Plaza) ended last Sunday. There was information on the Korean War, 개성공업지구 (開城工業地區/Kaesong Industrial Complex), and they heard personal accounts from some 이산 가족 (divided families of the Korean War).
NK Today has an interesting look into North Korean-run schools in Japan, and discusses their current situation even after the Japanese government’s crackdown on their overlying organization, “總聯” (총련/Chongryon).
It was announced on Monday, that Joint-Korean excavations will resume on a site called 만월대(滿月臺/ManWolDae “Full Moon Terrace”). It was a palace that was destroyed by a group called the 紅巾軍 (홍건군/Red Turbans).
Casper Van der Veen has a list of videos with defectors talking about their experiences and why they escaped North Korea. You can check out the raw details, the link is in our shownotes.
Two new high-rises built for scientists in 평양 (平壤/Pyongyang), are only seeing half occupancy in both 46-story buildings. The reason, is that even though the buildings are equipped with elevators, the failure rates and inconsistent electrical supplies mean people will still have to take the stairs. Living that high will just make life impractical.
North and South Korea have failed to come to an agreement on how to hold commemoration events for the historic 남북 공동선언(南北共同宣言/North-South Joint Declaration). The North said they didn’t like the South’s indifferent attitude, and setting “no political agendas” as preconditions. As such, South Korea has decided they should each hold their own commemoration events separately.
…South Korea says North Korea shouldn’t blame them for not coming to an agreement on how to hold joint events.
A South Korean pro-unification group is trying to re-invite US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert, to another pro-unification event. The Ambassador was slashed in the face in March, by 김기종.
Two South Koreans have been killed from the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and another thirty-five are being treated. Because of this, on Thursday, South Korea announced it plans to send MERS detectors to the North. I guess, North Korea could always bring back that travel ban, if it was really scared. So much for Kimchi being the cureall for any disease!
In February, we cited an NK News article on a group of doctors from North Korea and America, who meet every year, and kinda’ just talk, have some dialogue on medical care, and kinda’ learn from each other about what it means to be doctors in their respective countries. It was also featured in a magazine called Kore-Am. Mr. Stephen Haggard mentioned it in a post, and went on to list other non-government, civil-based organizations, promoting more interactions with North Korea on a private level.
New Focus International has an article that starts off like this: “You can tell how long a person has been in prison, by how many toes are missing on his feet.” You can read more gruesome details about North Korean prison life in their article. The link is in our shownotes.
Katherine S. Moon looks at the backgrounds of some of the women who took part in the Women Cross DMZ, and takes a look at what their intentions were in crossing the 38th parallel. In short, she did a good job at noting how this is a perfect example of how women tend to be excluded in a lot of discussions when it comes to foreign policy.
This is our final segment. A hodgepodge of stories we didn’t know where to put, like this one:
On June 1st, South Korean nuclear envoy 황준국 (Hwang Joon-kook), met with the Japanese representative on North Korean abductions issues, 伊原いはら 純一じゅんいち (Ihara Junichi), and former US ambassador to Korea Sung Kim (김성용/金成龍), where they discussed issues on how to put pressure on North Korea.
…This despite ROK-Japanese relations remaining low.
…US Assistant Secretary of State, Daniel Russel, in a seminar on Korea, said the latest round of US Sanctions and its coordination with Japan and South Korea are meant to put pressure on North Korea to give up its simultaneous pursuit of nuclear weapons development and economic improvement. Good luck on that one!