Hot on the heels of the announcement that the Associated Press is expanding its facilities in Pyongyang, Reuters has now also announced that it will be setting up a satellite dish for video and text distribution overseas. From the Reuters press release:
The new agreement will provide Reuters access to news video from North Korea via satellite for timely distribution to broadcasters and publishers around the world. The Reuters News Agency will be the first international news organization to have a full time satellite dish in North Korea, delivering clean news video content in addition to the text and pictures covered by a previous agreement – a significant benefit to broadcasters across the globe.
“We know the world’s broadcasters are seeking more news from North Korea, and this agreement will ensure our clients have a regular supply of up to the minute video stories from Pyongyang and across the country,” said Chris Ahearn, president of Reuters Media.
The agreement with KCNA covers both breaking and feature news video, and marks a significant expansion by Reuters in delivering news from one of the world’s most important datelines. As part of the arrangement Reuters will also be providing editorial training and KCNA will facilitate regular visits to North Korea by senior Reuters journalists.
North Korea Tech blogger Martyn Williams notes that Reuters has already been broadcasting video from the state-run KCNA since July 7th of this year. While some may get excited at the prospect of North Korea opening up its news coverage to a larger international audience, and allowing foreign journalists to operate within Pyongyang, from the North’s perspective it is probably a great way to generate foreign currency and get its propaganda to the outside world. In the past year, Pyongyang has also launched a new media campaign involving Twitter, Youtube and several attempts at a Facebook page.
The Washington Post has an exclusive look at a letter from Jon Byong-Ho, the ranking NK official on weapons importing/exporting (till he was replaced due to old age this past April). The letter is addressed to A.Q. Khan, the infamous man behind Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme who is alleged to have provided nuke technology to North Korea, Libya, Iran and Iraq. The subject in general is a trade-off or bribe of money and jewels in exchange for nuclear technology, while also alluding to an assassination attempt on the North Korean liaison by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. A transcription of the letter in question:
SECRET BY HAND
Dr. A.Q.Khan Ref No. 1998/01
Project Director Date; July 15, 1998
I am hoping you and your family are fine.
Gen. Kang Tae Yun came back with the body of his wife. I am thanking
you for all your support to him. How kind of you to send Mr. Badrul and
Mr. Farooq and arrange the Airforce Boeing plane. I am certain that Gen.
Kang was the target and I have no doubt that the CIA, South Korean
intelligence agents and your ISI were involved. I have come to hear that the
murderer was set free by the ISI after just a short time. Since Gen. Kang's
life is in danger I am sending Mr. Yon in his place. Mr. Yon has served in
Iran, Egypt, Syria and Libya and is very competent.
Gen. Kang told me that the 3 millions dollars have already been paid to
Army Chief Gen. J. Karamat and half a million dollars and 3 diamond and
ruby sets have been given to Gen. Zulfiqar Khan. Please give the agreed
documents, components etc. to Mr. Yon to be flown back when our plane
returns after delivery of missile components.
Excellency, please be accepting our heartiest felicitations on the recent
success of your nuclear tests. It was only possible because of your hard
work and team effort.
Excellency, I am wishing you good health, long life and success in your
Secretary of the Workers Party of Korea,
D.P.R. of Korea
3.5 million dollars and a few fistfuls of gems for the nuclear technology the DPRK threatens other nations with regularly seems a pretty good deal for the military-focused Kim Jong-Il regime. It certainly exemplifies their priorities just past the peak of the North Korean famine of the 90s. All of the named Pakistani officials in the letter have vehemently denied that any bribes for technology were accepted (what else would they say?) but the US has stated that it seems pretty consistent with what they know. From The Washington Post:
Jehangir Karamat, a former Pakistani military chief named as the recipient of the $3 million payment, said the letter is untrue. In an e-mail from Lahore, Karamat said that Khan, as part of his defense against allegations of personal responsibility for illicit nuclear proliferation, had tried “to shift blame on others.” Karamat said the letter’s allegations were “malicious with no truth in them whatsoever.”
The other official named in the letter, retired Lt. Gen. Zulfiqar Khan, called it “a fabrication.”
The Pakistani Embassy in Washington declined to comment officially. But a senior Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity “to avoid offending” Khan’s supporters, said the letter “is clearly a fabrication. It is not on any official letterhead and bears no seal. . . . The reference to alleged payment and gifts to senior Pakistani military officers is ludicrous.”
There is, however, a Pakistani-Western divide on the letter, which was provided to The Post by former British journalist Simon Henderson, who The Post verified had obtained it from Khan. A U.S. intelligence official who tracks nuclear proliferation issues said it contains accurate details of sensitive matters known only to a handful of people in Pakistan, North Korea and the United States.
A senior U.S. official said separately that government experts concluded after examining a copy of the letter that the signature appears authentic and that the substance is “consistent with our knowledge” now of the same events. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the allegation.
Olli Heinonen, a 27-year veteran of the International Atomic Energy Agency who led its investigation of Khan before moving to Harvard’s Kennedy School last year, said the letter is similar to other North Korean notes that he had seen or received. They typically lacked a letterhead, he said; moreover, he said he has previously heard similar accounts — originating from senior Pakistanis — of clandestine payments by North Korea to Pakistani military officials and government advisers.
The substance of the letter, Heinonen said, “makes a lot of sense,” given what is now known about the North Korean program.
Last week, a collection of smuggled clips of daily life in North Korea was released by Australian media outlet ABC. The footage was only available for 24 hours, but other mirrors exist such as the one embedded below.
Shot over several months by an undercover North Korean journalist, the harrowing footage shows images of filthy, homeless and orphaned children begging for food and soldiers demanding bribes. The footage also shows North Koreans labouring on a private railway track for the dictator’s son and heir near the capital Pyongyang. Strolling up to the site supervisor, the man with the hidden camera asks what is going on. "This rail line is a present from Kim Jong-il to comrade Kim Jong-un," he is told. The well-fed Kim Jong-un could soon be ruling over a nation of starving, impoverished serfs. The video shows young children caked in filth begging in markets, pleading for scraps from compatriots who have nothing to give. "I am eight," says one boy. "My father died and my mother left me. I sleep outdoors." … In the footage, a party official is demanding a stallholder make a donation of rice to the army. "My business is not good," complains the stallholder. "Shut up," replies the official. "Don’t offer excuses." It is clear that the all-powerful army – once quarantined from food shortages and famine – is starting to go hungry. "Everybody is weak," says one young North Korean soldier. "Within my troop of 100 comrades, half of them are malnourished," he said.
The source of these images is AsiaPress’ Rimjin-gang magazine. The project employs citizens journalists in North Korea who receive hardware like cellphones or digital cameras and training on how to use them, and smuggle the images captured back across the border.
The situation is perpetually bleak, but an international debate over how to, or even whether to, support North Korea with humanitarian food aid rages on.
The Christian Science Monitor echoes the sentiment from the US and South Korean leadership, which both agree that North Korea cannot adequately guarantee that food is going to the right places, and therefore should not receive said food aid. The South Korean government has also maintained its stance that it will not be providing its rival brother with aid.
China has been importing grain in greatly increased numbers in the past year, not as aid, but presumably at a greatly discounted rate. Chinese-DPRK relations are at a high right now, following a highly publicized meeting between Kim Jong-Il and Chinese President Hu Jintao, as well as the establishment of many new economic ventures between the neighbour countries.
The European Union has announced a 10 million Euro ($14.5 million USD) aid package as well. From the Associated Press:
"The purpose of this aid package is to save the lives of at least 650,000 people who could otherwise die from lack of food," Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement.
EU experts on a recent mission to the country determined that state-distributed rations, which provide food to two-thirds of North Koreans, have been cut by more than 60 percent, to about 400 calories, the EU said.
Even severely malnourished children in hospitals and nurseries are not getting any treatment and many citizens have grown so desperate that they are eating grass, the EU added.
A nice gesture, but the intention is for the aid to be “strictly monitored” by the existing unreliable methods employed by the WFP.
Can there ne any reasonable way to monitor the distribution of aid in North Korea? This is likely impossible with the current, long-standing regime, where anywhere and everywhere can be made to be off limits to foreign eyes. A destabilized North Korea is probably the first step required to see that the people most in need receive vital nutrition.
Back in March, Thomas Curley, the CEO of Associated Press news agency made a private trip to Pyongyang, presumably to secure permission to place a bureau in the capital city. Last month, a delegation led by state-run news outlet KCNA president Kim Pyong-Ho travelled to New York for a followup meeting. It appears the two news agencies have agreed to expand the very basic services currently in place since 2006. From the horse’s mouth:
The Associated Press and the North Korean state news agency have signed a series of agreements, including one for the opening of a comprehensive AP news bureau in Pyongyang, the organizations announced Wednesday.
A memorandum of understanding agreed by the AP and the Korean Central News Agency would expand the AP’s presence in North Korea to a level unmatched by any other Western news organization. It would build upon the AP’s existing video news bureau, which opened in Pyongyang in 2006, by allowing AP text and photo journalists to work in North Korea as well.
With the signing, the agencies agreed to begin work immediately on detailed planning needed to set up and operate the new bureau as quickly as possible. It would be the first permanent text and photo bureau operated by a Western news organization in the North Korean capital.
In addition, the agencies signed a contract designating the AP as the exclusive international distributor of contemporary and historic video from KCNA’s archive. The agencies also plan a joint photo exhibition in New York next year. They already had an agreement between them to distribute KCNA photo archives to the global market, signed earlier this year.
"This agreement between AP and KCNA is historic and significant," AP President and CEO Tom Curley said. "AP is once again being trusted to open a door to better understanding between a nation and the world. We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to providing coverage for AP’s global audience in our usually reliable and insightful way."
Kim Pyong Ho, president of KCNA, said after a signing ceremony late Tuesday: "I hope this agreement contributes not only to the strengthening of relations between our two news agencies but also to the better understanding between the peoples of our two countries and the improvement of the DPRK-U.S. relations." DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name of the state.
The AP in recent years has been talking with North Korean officials on various topics including how to set up broader access for AP print and photo journalists to Pyongyang. As the contacts progressed, KCNA hosted Curley in Pyongyang in March.
AP Seoul Bureau Chief Jean H. Lee and Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder have made several extensive reporting trips to North Korea in the past several months as part of unprecedented coverage of the country and its people.
What will this mean for journalism in North Korea? In the short term, probably nothing. In the long term (this is the cynic in me speaking)… probably nothing. But it is a notable step, and one we will surely be keeping an eye on.
Yesterday, the US and DPRK Women’s World Cup football teams played a hard fought match in Dresden, Gemany that resulted in a 2-0 victory for the US. After the match, the North Korean manager, Kwang Min Kim had an intriguing thought into why the North lost:
North Korea’s coach blamed his side’s 2-0 loss to the United States on his players getting struck by lightning in the build up to the Women’s World Cup. Kwang Min Kim claimed that some of them were hospitalised with electrocution after a training match on 8 June. Tournament favourites United States recovered from a slow start to to take maximum points in their Group C opener. … North Korea – the youngest team in the tournament by average age – started well in Dresden, but eventually conceded when Lauren Cheney completed a swift move with a well-timed header before Rachel Buehler converted with 14 minutes remaining. "When we stayed in Pyongyang during training our players were hit by lightning, and more than five of them were hospitalised," said coach Kim, without naming the affected players specifically. "Some stayed in hospital and then came to Germany later than the rest of us. The goalkeeper and the four defenders were most affected, and some midfielders as well. The physicians said the players were not capable of participating in the tournament. "But World Cup football is the most important and significant event for a footballer, so they don’t want to think about anything but football. "The fact that they played could be called abnormal, the result of very strong will."
A portion of the team were struck by lightning weeks prior to playing… well that’s certainly a unique excuse. Hope it works back home for the athletes, if their losses continue! North Korea next plays against Sweden on July 2nd at 8:00AM EST.
How quickly times gets away from you.. the labourious process of buying, packing up and getting ready to move into a new house has consumed much of my free time that might otherwise be spent maintaining this website. But I digress… here’s a small selection of what’s been going on over the past few weeks.
Pyongyang undergoing massive renovations in time for 2012, university students put to work until April 2012
2012 is an important year for North Korea for many reasons. Mainly, it is to celebrate the 100th birthday of the DPRK’s perpetual despot Kim Il-Sung, which could very well be the biggest birthday bash the Great Leader has ever had thrown on his behalf. There is also a great burden on grandson Kim Jong-Un, who is allegedly involved in many of the preparations and tasked to help forge the "strong and prosperous nation" by 2012. One massive undertaking is the renovation of the famous Mansudae area of Pyongyang, home to the giant bronze statue of Kim Il-Sung and numerous landmarks. Huffington Post has a summary:
"The central part of Pyongyang will be refurbished according to the requirements of this new century and the demand of modern times by 2012," Yun Sok Chon, head of the Institute of Pyongyang City Design, told APTN.
The building project in Pyongyang’s Mansudae area will include a new theater, apartment blocks, restaurants, shops and a 10-hectare (25-acre) park area, the Korean Central News Agency reported earlier this month. KCNA said the project "will change the appearance of the capital city beyond recognition."
In the past two years, three other high-profile apartment projects have been completed in Pyongyang.
Authorities have not made public the cost of the Mansudae project, exact statistics of its scale or the resources involved. But it is part of the biggest construction work in Pyongyang since the development of a new town area called Tongil Street in the 1990s.
Ambitious project. Given a constant shortfall of construction supplies, at least they seemed to have solved a labour shortage. UK news outlet The Telegraph reports that students are being conscripted to work construction sites in major cities and deal with agricultural problems as well:
Pyongyang has told the North Korean people that the nation will have achieved its aim of becoming "a great, prosperous and powerful nation" in 2012, which marks the 100th anniversary of the founder of the reclusive state, Kim Il-sung. In addition, Kim Jong-il will turn 70 in February and the "Dear Leader" hopes to be able to transfer his power and an economically stronger nation to his son and heir-apparent, Kim Jong-Un. Reports in South Korea indicated that the government in Pyongyang on Monday ordered all universities to cancel classes until April of next year. The only exemptions are for students who will be graduating in the next few months and foreign students. The reports suggested that the students will be put to work on construction projects in major cities while there are also indications that repair work may be needed in agricultural regions that were affected by a major typhoon recently. Analysts in Japan claim there may be other reasons behind the decision to disperse the students across the country. "One reason is that there is a possibility of demonstrations at university campuses," said Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and author of a number of books on the North Korean leadership. "The leadership has seen the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in Africa and it is very frightened that the same thing could happen in North Korea," he said. "They fear it could start in the universities." Professor Shigemura also said that North Korea has purchased anti-riot equipment from China in recent months, including tear gas and batons, while there has been an increased police presence at key points in Pyongyang in recent months.
China has since denied supplying North Korea with riot gear to deal with potential domestic protests, a la the revolutions in the Middle East. It’s not uncommon for the DPRK to draft its students into labour when times are tough. However, the DailyNK and other North Korean observers believe the project is doomed to failure, and all except for Kim Jong-Un will be punished as a result.
Groundbreaking ceremonies and construction of Special Economic Zones between North Korea and China
This project has been mentioned a few times, the most recent being unexplained delays in the groundbreaking ceremonies for new Special Economic Zones designed to encourage trade between North Korea and China and possible economic reforms for the hermit kingdom. From Yonhap:
North Korea and China on Wednesday broke ground on a border island to develop it into an economic zone, spurring speculation that Pyongyang may embrace Chinese-style economic development to try to revive its faltering economy. The groundbreaking ceremony came on the heels of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s weeklong trip to China in May to study the neighboring country’s spectacular economic development, his third trip to China in just over a year. Beijing has been trying to lure its impoverished ally to embrace the reform that lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing’s rise to becoming the world’s second-largest economy. On Wednesday, some 1,000 people from North Korea and China, including Kim’s brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, and Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming, attended the ceremony on Hwanggumphyong Island in the Yalu River that separates the two countries. Several dozen giant advertising balloons were floating in the air as a military brass band played festive songs, and hundreds of doves were released at the ceremony. The messages on the balloons read "North Korea-China friendship and joint development" in a symbolic gesture for their commitment to the project. The two sides also reportedly signed a deal on the joint development project, including lease terms on Hwanggumphyong. No details were immediately available. The massive ceremony came two days after Pyongyang said it will turn the Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa islands into the economic zone to boost friendly ties with China and expand and develop external economic relations. The North’s parliament said Monday that the development of the zone will start from the Hwanggumphyong district.
Check the Korea Herald link below for more technical detail on the projects. Hopefully these economic zones don’t have the same underwhelming results as similar SEZ projects in the past.
Speculation, then cancellation, of a Kim Jong-Il summit with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev
Speculation was rampant throughout the month of June that Kim Jong-Il would again be leaving North Korea via his private train to meet Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The meeting was rumoured to occur on either June 30th or July 1st in the Russian city of Vladivostok, just 130km from the North Korean border. From Reuters:
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) – Russian authorities are preparing for a possible visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, a local official in Russia’s Far East said on condition of anonymity on Monday.
"We are making preparations," said the local official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The official declined to give any details about the trip other than that Kim was expected to travel to Russia’s Far East, which borders North Korea, in an armored train.
When asked if Kim was due to visit, the governor of Russia’s Far Eastern region of Primorye, Sergei Darkin, told reporters in Moscow: "I cannot comment on what presidents of other countries plan to do. You will soon find out."
A couple of days later, according to Japanese news outlet Kyodo
North Korea has called off a plan for its leader Kim Jong Il to hold a summit with Russian Dmitry Medvedev in this Russian Far East city on Thursday, multiple Russian government officials told Kyodo News on Wednesday.
Among the reasons given by the North Korean side for canceling the trip, in which he was expected to cross the border by rail Thursday and arrive in Vladivostok within the day, was that Kim’s health was not in the best condition to travel, they said.
But according to the officials, the cancellation came after the two sides failed to narrow differences over the summit agenda.
Kim was looking better than he has in years during his China visit (see video at the bottom of this article), but perhaps he’s taken a turn for the worse? Perhaps this will get rescheduled soon.
A new resettlement facility for North Korean defectors in South Korea, the third of its kind
In November last year, South Korea announced it had taken in its 20,000th defector from North Korea. This number has been steadily increasing since, now up to 21,700 in total, and putting pressure on the educational facilities that aim to integrate North Koreans into the unfamiliar capitalist way of life. Yonhap says:
The move is the latest reminder that the flow of North Korean defectors isn’t letting up despite Pyongyang’s harsh crackdown on escapees. Seoul is now home to more than 21,700 North Koreans. South Korea has already been running two other resettlement centers, known as Hanawon near Seoul to help the defectors better adjust to life in the capitalist South. Still, the government will break ground for another resettlement center in Hwacheon on July 7 as the two current facilities are running at full capacity, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told reporters. The area is about 118 kilometers northeast of Seoul. She also said the government is planning to offer re-education for former North Korean teachers, doctors and other experts in the new resettlement center to be built by the end of 2012. The announcement comes amid the latest dispute between the two Koreas over nine North Koreans who defected to the South earlier this month. Seoul has indicated it will not return the North Korean defectors despite the North’s request for repatriation. The North usually claims South Korea kidnaps its citizens, charges that Seoul denies.
A temporary solution to hopefully a temporary problem… 21,700 down, 23,978,300 to go!
“Secret” meetings between South and North Korea for a proposed summit revealed
This is already old news, but reveals the tumultuousness and communication breakdowns that occur regularly in inter-Korean politics. On June 1st, North Korea’s state run media outlet KCNA loudly announced that South Korea was secretly attempting to bribe North Korea to a summit meeting in April:
It is a sheer lie that at the Beijing secret contact the south side briefed the DPRK side on the "real intention" reflected in the "Berlin proposal" made by traitor Lee. Now that the Lee group let the spokesman for Chongwadae open to public the above-mentioned secret contact first on the basis of fabrications and is busy floating nonsensical stories, the DPRK side has no option but to clarify it as it happened. Finding it hard to evade the responsibility for having driven the inter-Korean relations to catastrophe, the Lee group was aware that the crisis in the closing period of its rule might further deepen due to the situation. Hence, entering April the group made repeated requests to "hold a secret contact for the ‘summit talks,’ saying it would no more talk about ‘Cheonan’ warship sinking case and Yonphyong Island shelling case." And it made poor excuses that what matters is that Lee’s "policy towards the north" is "misunderstood" by the north and the south, in fact, stands for the improvement of the north-south relations. Kim Chon Sik, chief of the policy room of the puppet ministry of unification, Hong Chang Hwa, director of the intelligence service, and Kim Thae Hyo, senior presidential secretary for foreign strategy of secretariat of Chongwadae, and others came out to the venue of the secret contact that started on May 9. They, however, began playing jugglery to wrest apology from the DPRK side, asserting that the above-said cases were "mountains to be crossed with wisdom" for the improvement of the south-north relations. This was a breach of the promise made to the DPRK side earlier. When it declared that it was preposterous to say the word "apology" over the cases with which it had nothing to do and just measures for self-defence, they asked it to put forth "a compromise proposal" to be declared before the world, the proposal which cannot be interpreted as apology, when viewed by the north side but as apology when viewed by the south side. They implored the north to "make a little concession". When the DPRK side told them to go back to Seoul at once, saying it is not necessary to discuss the issue of the summit talks in which unreasonable "apology" raised as a pre-condition, they tried hard to keep the contact going on at any cost, saying that it would not be long before Lee Myung Bak’s tenure of office would end, the present authorities are hard pressed for time and it is more favorable to push forward the inter-Korean relations by joining hands with the conservative forces, in stead of doing so with the progressive forces. Noting that a program for all events for the opening of the "summit talks" has already been worked out, they said that depending on the settlement of the issues of the two cases, they expected to open ministerial talks for the "summit talks" late in May to announce agreed points, hold the first round of the "summit talks” in Panmunjom late in June, the second one in Pyongyang two months later and the third round of the "summit talks" during the summit for nuclear security slated to take place in March next year. They earnestly begged the DPRK side to take this embarrassing situation into consideration.
On June 9th, KCNA had more to say regarding alleged bribes to encourage North Korea to the summit:
When the contact was on the verge of a rupture, Hong Chang Hwa took out enveloped money from a suitcase at the order of Kim Thae Hyo, who was going to give it to us. We rejected it at once, and Kim blushed and got irritated. Hong hurriedly put the money into the suitcase in an awkward movement and left without exchanging proper parting words with our delegates.
At first the group of traitors asserted that there was no case of enveloped money. But now it distorts the fact by claiming that the money was for expenses to be paid traditionally by the sponsor of contact rather than "reward" for leading the contact to "summit talks".
If it is usage for a party sponsoring any talks to pay necessary expenses as asserted by the south side, why didn’t the south side present the enveloped money at the time of the two preceding rounds of contact?
The south side was well aware that the DPRK embassy provided lodging and boarding and vehicles. Then, was it going to pay the embassy the said enveloped money for living expenses during its stay? Its far-fetched assertion has gone far.
Of course, South Korea has an opposing view of how these discussions went down. From Yonhap:
South Korea’s point man on North Korea said Wednesday that Pyongyang first proposed a secret meeting that has become the latest hurdle in inter-Korean relations.
The two Koreas have accused each other of distorting the facts of their secret meeting in Beijing in May after Pyongyang revealed details of the meeting earlier this month.
The North claimed Seoul negotiators had "begged" for three inter-Korean summits and offered an envelope of cash as an inducement, allegations dismissed by Seoul.
South Korea said the meeting was designed to get North Korea to apologize for its two deadly attacks on the South last year, as part of Seoul’s efforts to break the current impasse and put inter-Korean ties back on track.
"It was North Korea that made the offer for the unannounced contact," Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said in a parliamentary session.
He said the North’s disclosure of the meeting was aimed at getting Seoul into trouble and splitting public opinion in the South.
Many Pyongyang observers point out that the North has possibly decided to simply wait out Lee Myung-bak’s term in office, as his term is nearing an end and a shift in North Korean policy may be imminent with a new government.
A nice write-up from Martyn Williams about North Korea’s IP addresses
The amazing (and pleasantly niche) blog North Korea Tech has an interesting piece detailing North Korea’s IP address blocks managed in Thailand and China. A good place to start if you suspect the North Koreans of invading your PC!
Korean-American businessman “Eddie” Jun Yong-Su was taken prisoner in North Korea in November 2010. Though the charges against him were never formally announced, it is believed that while doing business in the North, he performed underground missionary work, a dire crime in the oppressive DPRK. His captivity was not publicized until March 2011, and many expected former US President Jimmy Carter (on a diplomacy mission on behalf of The Elders) to return to the US with Jun, but this did not happen.
Ambassador Robert King, the US human rights envoy for North Korea, was able to secure Jun’s release during a visit to Pyongyang to discuss chronic food shortages. State run media outlet KCNA released an image (pictured) and a statement that Jun was being released on “humanitarian grounds”. Jun parted ways in Beijing, heading home to Seoul while King returned to the US. From Korea JoongAng Daily:
Upon arrival in Beijing, King confirmed the release of Korean-American Jun Young-su by North Korea. Although the two were on the same flight out of North Korea, Jun was not seen at Beijing Airport’s arrival gate. Later, he showed up in Seoul. Jun’s release came a day after North Korea said it decided to set him free on “humanitarian grounds.” Jun was arrested in November for committing an “unspecified crime” against the North, according to North Korean media reports.
Jun was met at Incheon International Airport by U.S. Embassy and South Korean officials and headed to a hospital for a medical checkup. Dressed in a black jacket and casual trousers, he appeared relatively healthy.
“I have to go to hospital. Let me talk later,” Jun briefly told reporters.
Earlier in Beijing, King, the U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights, told reporters, “We are very happy to report that Mr. Jun, the American citizen being held in Pyongyang, has been released. We are also delighted that in a day or two he will be back with his wife and family.”
Jun is the fifth American taken prisoner and then released (often to a prolific American political figure) in 3 years. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were captured and held for nearly 5 months in 2009 for trespassing over the border while shooting a documentary about North Korean defectors in China. They were brought back to the US by former US President Bill Clinton. Robert Park crossed the frozen Yalu River border on Christmas Day 2009 on a mission to spread Christianity in the North, and was later sent back to America in February 2010. Before Park’s release, his colleague Aijalon Gomes also crossed the border and was arrested – he was brought back in August 2010 by former US President Jimmy Carter.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee both authored books about their experiences, and Laura Ling went on the talk show circuit to describe her experiences. The male prisoners, however, seem to return with great mental trauma and rarely speak publicly. Robert Park has done a few interviews in between stays at a mental hospital. Aijalon Gomes has been quiet since his return. Jun’s only quote refers to needing to go to the hospital though looking in good health otherwise, so it remains to be seen whether we will hear about his treatment in North Korea. And then there’s the story of Evan Hunziker, who in 1996 was arrested while swimming nude in Yalu River. Governor Bill Richardson was able to secure his release, but Hunziker commit suicide just one month after returning to the US.
Are the Chinese protecting North Korea? Or is this a calculated move to avoid backlash for allowing illegal shipments through their country? AP reports:
China blocked the release Friday of a report by U.N. experts accusing North Korea of violating U.N. sanctions that ban the export and import of ballistic missile and nuclear-related items as well as conventional arms and luxury goods.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the Security Council to discuss implementation of two rounds of sanctions against the North that Beijing is "still studying that report."
The report by the seven independent experts appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to monitor implementation of sanctions was sent to the 15 Security Council members for their approval by Tuesday morning. Diplomats said China was the only country that objected to its immediate release.
Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador Philip Parham said there was "pretty broad support" for the report in the council but China had problems with it.
The panel’s first report, in May 2010, was also held up by China, which has close ties to North Korea. It was finally released in November after Beijing dropped its objections.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a faxed statement that "China is earnest and responsible in implementing Security Council resolutions." She said the panel’s report "does not represent the Security Council’s position" nor the position of the council committee that monitors sanctions against North Korea.
The report, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, said North Korea remains "actively engaged" in exporting ballistic missiles, components and technology to numerous customers in the Middle East and South Asia in violation of U.N. sanctions.
The panel said prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between North Korea and Iran on regularly scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air, with trans-shipment through a third country that diplomats identified as China.
It also said North Korea has completed — or is about to complete — construction of a second launch site for long-range rockets on its west coast close to Tongchangdong which could be used for ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. sanctions. It said the installations appear "bigger and more sophisticated" than the original site on the east coast used for the 1998, 2006 and 2009 Taepodong missile launches.
The Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and stepped up sanctions after its second test in 2009 to try to derail the country’s rogue nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The second round strengthened an arms embargo, authorized ship searches on the high seas for suspected banned items, and ordered an asset freeze and travel ban on companies and individuals involved in the country’s nuclear and weapons programs.
While U.N. sanctions haven’t stopped the North’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs or its arms trading, the panel said, "they have made it more difficult and expensive for the country to pursue these."
But North Korea has exploited loopholes and other vulnerabilities in shipping and transportation practices and has become increasingly sophisticated in establishing shell and front companies and offshore financial agents, and in using multiple affiliates and aliases to mask individuals and companies subject to sanctions, it said.
As an example, the panel said information has recently come to light that Union Top Management, the shell company registered in Hong Kong that chartered an aircraft impounded in Bangkok last December with 35 tons of arms, planned five different fights. The Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane flying from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, with the arms was the first flight, it said.
Portugal’s U.N. Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral, who chairs the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea, told reporters he believes the allegations in the report "are indeed serious."
He said he expects the committee to informally discuss the panel’s findings and recommendations.
According to the panel, North Korea announced several major escalations in its nuclear program during the past year: the weaponization of separated plutonium, revelation of a uranium enrichment program, construction of a light water reactor, and announcement of a program to develop nuclear fusion technology to obtain "safe and environment-friendly new energy."
The panel made 24 recommendations on improving monitoring of sanctions and oversight of their implementation and strengthening measures to prevent the export and import of banned items including enhanced cargo inspections and customs vigilance.
The panel said North Korea should be "compelled" to abandon its uranium enrichment program, saying it believes the government’s aim in starting it was primarily for military purposes. North Korea should also abandon construction of a new light water reactor, which it is using as justification for the uranium enrichment program, it said.
Nothing really new here, aside from the allegations that China has turned a blind eye to the weapon sales between Iran and the DPRK. North Korea has been frequently suspected of, and I would imagine guilty of, selling weapons to Iran, Libya, and Burma. Could an increased round of sanctions from the UN really help in any meaningful way?
Some compelling stats on the increasing number of North Koreans defecting in Thailand courtesy of the Bangkok Post:
Thai authorities have rejected South Korea’s proposal to build a coordination centre to deal with North Koreans illegally entering the country over concerns that it might encourage more inflows of migrants from the communist nation.
South Korea reportedly asked the government early this year to build the centre in Chiang Rai province, a popular entry point for illegal North Korean immigrants into Thailand.
Most of the immigrants have escaped economic hardship in North Korea and travelled to Thailand for temporary refuge in the hope of being able to resettle in third countries, usually South Korea, a source at the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) said.
From October last year until April this year, 899 North Koreans were arrested for illegal entry, said Isoc spokesman Maj Gen Dithaporn Sasamit. The source said South Korea had offered to pay to take care of the illegal migrants. However, the government had turned down the proposal because it had no policy to open a new refugee centre.
The South Korean government has played an important role in helping North Koreans by allowing them to resettle in its country.
Pol Maj Gen Phansak Kasemasanta, deputy chief of the Immigration Bureau, said that North Koreans illegally entering Thailand would be arrested.
After being tried in court, the immigrants would be detained at the Immigration Bureau while awaiting deportation.
The immigrants normally protest at being sent back to North Korea, allowing South Korean officials to step in and help, Pol Maj Gen Phansak said.
He added that instead of building a new centre for the North Korean migrants, South Korea could help improve the present detention centre at the Immigration Bureau.
North Koreans could stay there along with other illegal immigrants from other nations, he said.
According to the Isoc and the Immigration Bureau, North Koreans are normally helped by human trafficking gangs to travel to China.
They are then put on board Chinese cargo boats to Laos before boarding smaller boats or travelling on foot to Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong districts.
"The trips are arranged by gangs made up of North Korean, Chinese and Thai nationals," said Maj Gen Thawip Bunma, a senior Isoc official.
The Isoc and the Immigration Bureau have been tracking down people involved in the human trafficking gangs.
However, Pol Maj Gen Phansak said police still have no evidence to confirm that Thais were involved.North Korean migrants who have been arrested have told officials that they had to pay at least 100,000 baht to the gangs to help arrange their trips to Thailand.
Most of the migrants were willing to turn themselves in to Thai authorities, seeing it as the first step for them to travel on to the third countries they ultimately wish to settle in.
Here’s the table demonstrating the increasing numbers over the past few years. Are the number of defections increasing, or is Thailand cracking down more? Maybe both.
# of arrested NK defectors
2011 (til April)
2010s total is 54 times the 2004 total! What a difference 6 years can make.
In a somewhat related story, the USA’s Office of Immigration Statistics released the number of North Koreans living in the States:
The United States has received 101 North Korean refugees in the past few years under legislation to help improve human rights conditions in the reclusive state, statistics showed Saturday.
The total breaks down to nine for 2006, 22 for 2007, 37 for 2008, 25 for 2009 and eight for 2010, according to figures released Saturday by the Office of Immigration Statistics at the Department of Homeland Security.
The North Korean refugees were admitted into the U.S. under the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, which calls for the provision of financial aid to help improve North Korea’s human rights and accept North Korean defectors into the U.S.
In 2008, Congress approved the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act for another four years, calling for “activities to support human rights and democracy and freedom of information in North Korea,” as well as “assistance to North Koreans who are outside North Korea,” and 12-hour daily broadcasting to North Korea.
The 201[sic] Office of Immigration Statistics Annual Flow Report also showed that 73,293 people were admitted to the U.S. as refugees in 2010.
The leading countries of nationality were Iraq (18,016), Burma (16,693) and Bhutan (12,363).
Would be very interesting to here some of their stories of the circumstances that brought them to US soil.
Franklin Graham, the son of famous American evangelist Billy Graham, is in Pyongyang and meeting with foreign minister Pak Ui-Chun. AFP reports:
The preacher heads Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian aid organisation that was one of five US groups to send representatives on a visit to the isolated communist state in February.
Samaritan’s Purse said in April that parts of North Korea were expected to run out of food in less than two months due to a poor harvest even if foreign donors agreed to provide assistance.
It said that a harsh winter had reduced crop yield by up to half and that some people were already eating grass, leaves and tree bark.
The United States and South Korea have been cautious over reports of dire food shortages in the North, with some officials suspecting that the communist state is exaggerating the problem to win assistance.
North Korea must be loving all the humanitarian aid attention they’ve been receiving lately. Former president Carter last week, Graham this week… The UN’s World Food Programme has kicked off an emergency campaign to send aid, and probably many other NGOs are rushing to help as well. If only the aid could actually reach the starving masses it is intended for…
Note: My break from updating is over and I’ve come back with a few ideas for running this blog a little more efficiently… which means more posts, better posts, more consistent formatting, as well as streamlining posts concurrently with Twitter (and I may just venture into Facebook territory as well). I also plan to spend some more time updating the Movies/Books pages as well as a Downloads page that I’ll be putting up soon (mmm… DPRK mp3s and Red Star Linux isos!)
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