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.
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!
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?
One major story that I haven’t put any focus on yet is the massive cyber attack on South Korea’s agricultural co-op bank, Nonghyup. On April 12th this year, a distributed denial of service attack crippled the bank’s systems for several days, affecting millions of customers. The attacks originated from a computer causing the same trouble in March 2010, which was at the time traced to be from North Korea. According to JoongAng:
Prosecutors initially suspected an inside job but now say that North Korea got lucky by randomly infecting a computer that happened to be hooked up to a major South Korean organization’s servers. They say the attack didn’t have a clear or obvious purpose except for causing trouble. Prosecutors said they found 81 malignant codes on the IBM worker’s laptop that had been encrypted to prevent discovery. The encryption method, prosecutors said, was very similar to that used in DDoS attacks last year and in 2009, which North Korea was believed to be behind. Seoul prosecutors said the IBM worker’s computer had been infected on Sept. 4, 2010, and subsequently manipulated from afar via the Internet to allow it to extract information. Kim Young-dae, a senior prosecutor from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, said, “1,073 A4 pages worth of information were taken during the past seven months.” Kim said a key-logging program had been installed, giving the perpetrators access to administrator passwords. However, the data extracted was not related to customer transactions, Kim said. The laptop was then commanded to cause destruction, and on April 12 it wreaked havoc on 273 of Nonghyup’s 587 servers in two attacks lasting 40 minutes. Hackers deleted the malicious programs from the laptop after the attacks, prosecutors said, which made tracking them “extremely difficult.” Kim said the perpetrators hadn’t targeted Nonghyup, but by chance managed to infect a computer linked to its servers.
North Korea released their response to these allegations, by way of state run news outlet KCNA:
A spokesman for the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces under the DPRK National Defence Commission issued a statement on Tuesday censuring the south Korean group of traitors for their bad habit of pulling up the DPRK.
The statement said:
South Korea reportedly met the "greatest banking computer disturbance ever in history", in which the banking computer network of the "National Agricultural Cooperative Federation" has been put at the worst paralysis since April 12.
This case caused a great loss and south Korea experienced a hot agony of shame in the eyes of the world.
What is at issue is the fact that the group of traitors let the puppet Intelligence Service and prosecution finally announce this case as "done by the north" after making "joint investigation" into it for nearly one month.
What the group claimed as evidence to link the case with the DPRK is that the IP used in attacking the said computer network was identical with the IP of the DPRK Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and the attack was based on the delicate and accurate way of remote control whereby its attacker was supposed to be a special cyber unit. It also asserted that such attack was hard to be carried out without mighty human and material resources and this was not an attack for "gaining specified interests" such as stealing fund and data but repeated attack aimed at "indiscriminate destruction."
Its assertions are just absurd argument based on unreasonable ground.
Even the members of the federation hard hit by what happened, in actuality, refuted the announcement that "the north was responsible for the cyber attack" as a "hasty conclusion" as it lacked scientific accuracy. Even the Defense Security Command of the puppet army known not to lag behind others in investigating cases officially declared that the incident cannot be branded as an "attack made by the north Korean military."
Moreover, experts cast doubt about the assertion that "it was done by the north," querying "Had the IPs used for the above-said attack belonged to U.S., Japan or south Korea, the U.S., Japan and south Korea should have been accountable for having created this confusion."
Last year the south Korean authorities asserted that the "Cheonan" sinking case was "linked with the north" as the propelling body of the torpedo they claimed sank it was inscribed with letters "No. 1." Different circles of south Korea are now widely jeering at them, putting up questions as to how many letters "No. 1" were attached to the IPs which were used for attacking the Federation’s banking computer network.
In the final analysis, the story about "the north’s involvement" spread by the group of traitors is creating fresh suspicion even in its own camp and it is, therefore, derided by people for being one more farce and charade. The above-said story floated by the group is aimed at saving its policy of confrontation with the north from shaking to its very foundation, weathering the crisis of its state administration fully disclosed in the closing years of its rule before and after the April 27 by-election and evade the responsibility for having stemmed the trend of national reconciliation, unity, peace and prosperity.
All the developments go to prove that the group of traitors’ rumor that "the north was responsible for what happened" is one more farce staged against the nation to realize its sinister attempt and an anti-DPRK charade as ridiculous as the "Cheonan" warship sinking case.
There are sayings that one should reflect on one’s deed before pulling up others and one had better mind one’s own business.
The group of traitors should boldly discard its bad habit of finding fault with others.
And it should immediately stop its reckless war exercises, waiting for someone’s "contingency" to take place, unaware of its situation where it is threatened with total collapse.
The group of traitors should bear in mind that the more anachronistic anti-DPRK farce and charade it orchestrates, the bitterer disgrace and fiasco it will face.
Typical North Korea bluster. As with last March’s Cheonan warship sinking, they are outright denying any involvement, which has been a prickly issue for the South Korean government who insist on apologies for the Cheonan attack and Yeonpyeong Island shelling before a return to Six Party Talks aimed at denuclearization can resume. South Korea’s investigation is still ongoing.
Kim Jong-Un doesn’t get a promotion at Supreme People’s Assembly
The Supreme People’s Assembly, constitutionally the most powerful entity in North Korea but in reality a rubber steam parliament for the Korean Worker’s Party under Kim Jong-Il, has convened its first meeting of 2011. Many Pyongyang watchers suspected the SPA would be used as on opportunity to bolster the rank of leader-to-be Kim Jong-Un. Neither Jong-Un or his father Kim Jong-Il were in attendance.
As countries around the world scramble to evacuate their citizens from the chaotic anti-regime uprisings in Libya, North Korea has sent a different message to its own people in the country: Stay there. Pyongyang via their Libyan embassy has ordered the 200+ North Koreans abroad in Libya, likely living there to earn foreign currency to send home, to “follow the measures of the Libyan [Gadhafi] government”. The North Koreans being denied permission to return home has led to speculation that the Kim regime is attempting to quell the spread of information back home regarding the revolutions and uprisings occurring in the Middle East.
The Mt. Kumgang resort, a joint tourism project between Seoul-based Hyundai Asan and the North Korean government, saw over a million South Korean tourists pass through since 1998. However, 2008 the shooting death of a South Korean tourist by a DPRK soldier has had the tours suspended since. Hyundai has paid for much of the facilities and infrastructure at the resort, but now the North has backed out of the agreement between the government and Hyundai Asan. Hyundai had an agreement forged in 2002 giving them land use rights in the majestic mountain region until 2052, but this appears to be a renege on the agreement. The move is seen as a possible ploy by the North to force Hyundai to resume tours (without the condition of allowing a murder investigation for the SK tourism), or encourage Chinese tourism to the resort.
On a side note, I’ll be on vacation for awhile, thus incommunicado and not updating this space. Will get right back to it in a couple of weeks, meanwhile I’ll be catching up on some reading on a sunny beach in Cayo Guillermo.
Permanent link to this article: http://www.openingupnorthkorea.com/archives/812
SK military plan for removing monuments to Kim dynasty
In 2008, the South Korean military drafted a plan for dealing with the thousands of monuments and idols to Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in the event of a regime collapse. I relish the day I can watch the giant statue of Kim Il-Sung get toppled to the ground on TV, but can’t help but cringe at the amount of mountain explosions that will be involved in removing the thousands of slogans engraved into North Korea’s mountainsides.
Kim Jong-Il admits to nightmares where citizens stone him
Chung Mong-joon, former (and future?) SK presidential candidate and billionaire controlling stakeholder of Hyundai Group, detailed an anecdote of a meeting between his father and Kim Jong-Il:
"My father met Kim Jong-il many times and had lengthy conversations with him over meals… Many people come to greet me wherever I go, but I know that they don’t like me. I have dreams of being stoned, and the first stones are thrown by Americans, followed by South Koreans, and the third by North Koreans.”
Interesting rare bit of insight from the despotic Dear Leader. Personally, I think the North Koreans should get first toss.
South Korea finally repatriated 27 of the 31 North Koreans who accidentally drifted to the South’s Yeonpyeong Island. Numerous delays were introduced first by a belligerent North Korea demanding all 31 be returned (4 requested asylum in the South) via Panmunjom border village. Later it was decided that the exchange would happen at sea, but weather and the seaworthiness of the North Korean vessel being returned caused further delays.
The exchange happened at the Northern Limit Line and was rather uneventful, however some observers are noting that North Korea’s behaviour during the exchange indicate the first instance since the Korean War that the DPRK has recognized the NLL.
Nine defectors aided by South Korean pastor over a 2 year period
Recently the South Korean Coast Guard picked up 9 North Korean defectors at sea, and we hadn’t gotten much detail until recently. Kim Sung-Eun, a Christian pastor in the South to a parish of mostly NK defectors came forward to state that he helped the defectors come to South Korea via China, and that the process took over 2 years to complete. Some of the defectors had family in the South who had previously defected, and a few waited in China for as long as 4 years before they could be reunited. On Monday, the defectors departed from China on a fishing boat, and transferred to a South Korean fishing vessel in international waters.
You might recall in early February the story of 31 North Koreans that accidentally drifted on their boat into South Korea (at contested border island Yeonpyeong), recently shelled by North Korea), at what was then presumed to be a defection attempt. The group was adamant that defection was not their intention, and that they had washed up by mistake. Now apparently, 4 of the group do wish to defect to South Korea, and their wishes are being honoured. South Korea will repatriate only 27 of the North Koreans, despite demands from the North that all 31 be delivered back immediately.
The four defectors consist of two men, and two women. The remaining 9 men and 18 women will be returned to the DPRK by way of the Panmunjom DMZ border village. The wooden boat they arrived in, which departed from the North Korean port city of Nampo, will also be returned to North Korea. The transaction is supposed to occur this Friday.
Speculation is abound (when isn’t it?) that the North will react harshly to only some of the stranded North Koreans being returned. This comes during a time of escalated tensions, as the North threatens “all out war” in retaliation for annual war games and simulations run by the South Korean and American militaries. As of November 2010, 20,000 defectors reside in South Korea, most going through China to get there.
I’m going to share a somewhat longwinded rant that I posted on the news aggregation website Reddit. A number of popular posts were excitedly discussing the possibility of revolution in North Korea, while basing most of their claims on wild speculation and sometimes outright false information.
One of the top stories in /r/WorldNews, with over 1500 comments is the hype surrounding a certain article that citizens in North Korea are staging unprecedented public protests against the Kim Jong-Il regime. The original article is here: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/MB25Dg01.html
The Asia Times article cites most of its information from the Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s most popular newspaper. I can’t find the article they speak of, but there’s plenty of alternative stories on the English Chosun site. This SK professor makes some good points:
Discontent: It’s been a harsh winter, and North Koreans are once again very hungry. Rations aren’t being distributed properly, because the international food aid on which the country has been dependent for decades is all sparse. What does come through is coming from China, and is primarily reserved for the military and the elite.
Easier access to information: Word is getting out about just how deplorable the North Korean situation really is to its citizens. Cellphones are becoming more widespread, though strictly compartmentalized with no outside access. People close to the SK or Chinese borders are sometimes able to get a signal from those countries and communicate with the outside world. South Korean television shows and anti-regime propaganda videos are finding their way into peoples hands.
Chinese influence: Information is exchanged during trading sessions. I wouldn’t put too much stock in this information spreading quickly or very far.
First let me get into a little bit about how North Korean society is structured. Pyongyang, the capital, is where most of the elite and those most loyal to the party can live. It is considered a great reward to be moved from one of the provinces into the capital. They get first dibs on pretty much everything. A far cry from the luxuries we take for granted, but idyllic in the eyes of most North Koreans.
Flattery will get you everywhere in the DPRK. Young people aspire to serve in the military, for a 10 year period, just for the shot at getting a good job and becoming a party member. Anything you say against the regime will very likely put you into a labour camp. Once you’ve served time in the labour camp, you’ll either die or get shipped to one of the crummier provinces, never to rise in rank again. It really doesn’t take much for this to happen. Almost all military defectors in South Korea have done so because they realized their "careers" were in ruins for good. The Kim Jong-Il regime, like his father’s (Kim Il-Sung) before him, doesn’t take any shit.
I’m sure every Redditor has read George Orwell’s 1984. Kids ratting out their parents. Neighbours throwing neighbours under the bus for an offhand comment, or something trivial such as not dusting the portraits of the Great and Dear leaders in their households. Spies are literally everywhere in North Korea, and for the most part, people are absolutely terrified to speak out. So they put on a smile and continue worshipping the Kim personality cult. When you get in trouble, typically your entire family goes with you, effectively "purging the bad blood". Many North Koreans fear more for their families lives than their own, so behave accordingly. It is truly a dictatorship based on fear.
Still there is a fierce nationalism in the country. From birth, North Koreans are taught to hate the USA and Japan. To a lesser degree, South Koreans, but in that case mostly just the "puppet" capitalist government that they teach is the cause of the North’s repression. The North is a mountainous region with many natural resources, but difficulty growing their own crops. The South is plentiful in farmland and food, but imports most of their natural resources. Korean reunification has been the ultimate goal since the end of World War II, or so either side would have their citizens believe. They would be a powerhouse if they could reunite, and the American military is blamed for keeping them divided. China props up the DPRK because they too are resentful of the strategic military positions the Americans have on the Korea peninsula. This was Kim Il-Sung’s goal, and all of the shortfalls in North Korean history are said to be an ongoing battle in a long running revolution for Korean supremacy.
Here’s another article about one of the protests in Sinuju, a border town near China. The protests were sparked by police cracking down on markets, which are typically ignored but technically illegal in the country. Many count on these markets to survive, as they are not receiving food from the state as they’re supposed to. When the police crack down on these markets, and there are no alternatives to food, people get understandably angry. But the protests were quelled pretty quickly. People were probably killed and injured. Many others and their families probably trucked off to labour camps never to be heard from again.
That being said, sometimes protests are allowed to happen. DPRK attempted a grand currency reform in late 2009 which screwed a great deal of the population out of any money they had in their savings accounts. Since Kim Jong-Il’s songun or military first politics are centered around strengthening their forces, the people can be convinced that the poor economic decision was the result of poor high level decision making outside of Kim’s scope. Demonstrations were held, citizens were not punished. The regime said "yes, this was a mistake, and now were are executing the people responsible", and that’s what happened.
When Kim Il-Sung had tapped his son to be successor, party members loyalties were put to the test. Many adored Kim Sr. but questioned the leadership capabilities of his reckless son. Thus, a lot of purging occurred where dissenting party members were executed or demoted, and key supporters were put in the vacant positions. Much of the leadership of North Korea are directly related to the Kim family, or to the original families that fought alongside Kim Il-Sung’s guerilla struggles against Japan (which he is largely lauded for achieving Korean independance, though history indicates his true impact was minimal). Kim Jong-Il is getting old and his health is questionable, and so in turn he is propping up his son, Kim Jong-Un for succession. This means a whole new round of purges, a tighter crackdown on defectors and malcontents, and more credit to Kim Jong-Un for anything nice that happens in North Korea. Jong-Un is allegedly to continue his father’s military-first policy, but is also being heralded as brining about the dawn of "CNC" or Computer Numerical Control– basically the automation of manufcaturing the improve the quality of lives of North Koreans. Part of this is the distribution of cellphones, computers and digital technology, though obviously cut off from the rest of the world.
South Korea’s just as in the dark about North Korea as the rest of the world. Yes, the SK government marked Kim Jong-Il’s birthday on the 14th by launching propaganda balloons filled with anti-regime pamphlets, shortwave radios, DVDs, etc. This is nothing new and will not bring about a revolution. South Korea has been launching these balloon propaganda campaigns for decades. It wouldn’t surprise me if North Koreans, seeing these balloons heading for their town don’t go into their houses and shut the doors. If you find a balloon, you must turn it over to the authourities. If you read the contents you will be punished. If you keep what’s in it, you’ll be punished. If you see someone else reading the material and don’t report them, you will be punished.
Here’s another article from the Korea Times about how Seoul has stated that there are no signs that the North Koreans are staging widescale protests. The protests are small, and localized, and have no chance of growing beyond that. People are not allowed to travel between provinces at will, and there are military checkpoints all over the country.
Sorry for this long-winded rant. In a nutshell, North Koreans can’t revolt because they lack the ability to organize. There are no mass communication tools available to them. There is a great fear of repression from the authourities. The only real opportunity for change in North Korea will be the death of Kim Jong-Il, and this must happen sooner rather than later, or Kim Jong-Un’s grip will become as strong as his father’s. The coup would happen at a high military level, and as I mentioned before, many of these people are family to the Kim dynasty. I’m going to stop now, I could probably go on for hours.
New digging activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in northeast North Korea seems to indicate that another possible test of a nuclear detonation may occur within months. Several tunnels are being excavated in the same area where previous tests in 2006 and 2009 occurred. Activity at this site was reported in October of last year as well.
North Korea is also nearing completion of a more sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missile launch facility. The new facility, in North Pyongan province, is alleged to be far superior in utility to its predecessor Musudan-ri. Capabilities include an underground fueling facility, and rail-track missile loading system for fast deployment of missiles without satellite surveillance from its opponents. Also unlike the eastern launch site, a US/SK airstrike on the facility would likely cause Chinese outrage, as the facility is just 70km from the North Korea/Chinese border.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has stated that the North Koreans could have long range ICBM capability within 5 years, which could theoretically mean a nuclear missile could be sent as far away at the United States. A third nuclear test could be just the provocation North Korea is seeking in order to bring about a resumption to Six Party Talks, and resume food and material aid that a starving and economically sanctioned North Korean population desperately needs in this particularly harsh winter.
The second day of preliminary talks broke down between North and South Korean officials at the border village of Panmunjom. The talks were designed to set the time and agenda for future higher level military discussions. However, as has happened in the past, North Korea walked out of the discussions when the South demanded an apology for the sinking of the Cheonan warship last March, and the artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November. When confronted with the demand, the North instead suggested agenda items for future talks in which the two military incidents would be discussed. South Korea viewed this as a strategy from the DPRK to postpone the apologies; a consistent precondition for a return to talks.
Where does that leave things? Agreements were made for the Red Cross organizations in either state to meet to plan more reunions of families seperated by the 1950-1953 Korean War, but talks between the two militaries have seemingly collapsed. One can only wonder what tactics an increasingly desperate North Korea might employ in order to resume vital food aid to the impoverished state.