Search this Topic:
Dec 23 11 3:26 PM
North Koreans make a call of condolence for their deceased leader Kim Jong-il.
A North Korean flag is flown at half-mast at the propaganda village of Gijungdong.
The problem is China refuses to contemplate any unraveling of North Korea which has nuclear ambitions and is its long-term ally. Beijing has rebuffed such overtures from the United States, Japan and South Korea.
"Secret talks with China to plan for contingencies have long been overdue," said Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in a paper this week.
"Beijing has been reluctant to engage in this kind of dialogue, although Chinese thinkers have increasingly acknowledged privately the need for such an authoritative conversation."
Yet little evidence has emerged that such talks have taken place or are being planned, despite a flurry of discussions between the four countries in the aftermath of Kim's death last Saturday.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda travels to Beijing at the weekend, but it is unlikely that China would entertain anything more than platitudes. No contingency plan can be coordinated without China's agreement, since it borders North Korea and supplies much of its food and fuel.
Christopher Hill, a former envoy to the six-party talks on North Korea nuclear disarmament, said it was difficult to raise North Korean instability scenarios with China.
"The Chinese are always skittish about these things," he said, adding that the disclosure of secret U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks have made them especially wary of contingency planning.
Still, the transition of power in North Korea from the departed "Dear Leader," Kim Jong-il, to his son, the "Great Successor" Kim Jong-un, is going smoothly so far.
"We hope it stays that well," said Pentagon spokesman George Little. "We have not seen any unusual North Korean troop movements since the death of Kim Jong-il. That would be one indicator of a less than smooth transition."
The real worry is further down the road if a contest for power develops and piles stresses on a state that is already perilously close to economic collapse.
China, the United States and other regional powers around the peninsula may face a number of daunting scenarios if the transition goes badly over the medium term. These could include civil conflict, a mass exodus of refugees, military mutiny, lost control of the North's small nuclear arsenal or military attack.
A CHANGE IN CHINA?
China is however undergoing its own leadership transition in 2012 and down the line it's not impossible that there may be some changes in its steadfast refusal to work with the United States and its allies on contingency planning for North Korea.
In one Feb 22, 2010 cable by then U.S. ambassador to Seoul Kathleen Stephens, a top South Korean diplomat cited private conversations with two high-level Chinese officials who said China could live with a reunified Korea under the control of South Korea.
The then South Korean vice foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, who was also a delegate at the six-party talks, said the two Chinese officials told him privately that China "would clearly not welcome any U.S. military presence north of the Demilitarized Zone in the event of a collapse."
But the Chinese officials told him Beijing "would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the United States in a 'benign alliance' - as long as Korea was not hostile towards China."
The United States maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea and remains the Supreme Commander of unified American and South Korean troops in the event of a crisis with the North.
Chun, now the South Korean president's national security adviser, did not respond to a request for comment.
Chun also told the U.S. ambassador in that cable that China would not militarily intervene in the event of a North Korea collapse, and he expected that to happen within two to three years after the death of Kim Jong-il.
The alleged remarks from the two Chinese diplomats do not represent China's official position on North Korea. But China's ability to influence North Korea is sometimes over-estimated. In April 2009, He Yafei, then China's vice foreign minister, told a U.S. diplomat in Beijing that North Korea acted like a "spoiled child" to attract U.S. attention through steps such as firing a three-stage rocket over Japan.
The official line from Beijing, repeated during a visit by Kim Jong-il to China in May, is that the relationship remains "sealed in blood" of the allies that fought together in the Korean War.
"For China, the core imperative remains the avoidance of anything that might compromise North Korea's stability," said Sarah McDowall, an analyst at IHS Jane's.
"Occasionally, however, when North Korea commits particularly blatant provocations, this priority comes into conflict with another of China's over-riding diplomatic objectives - its desire to be seen as a responsible global player. China's behavior with regards to North Korea in recent years has been a struggle to balance these two objectives."
In another Wikileaks cable from Astana, Kazakhstan on June 8, 2009, Chinese ambassador Cheng Guoping told his U.S. counterpart Richard Hoagland that China opposes North Korea's nuclear tests and hopes for peaceful reunification of the peninsula over the long term.
Cheng said China's objectives in North Korea were to ensure their commitments on non-proliferation, maintain stability, and 'don't drive (Kim Jong-il) mad,'" Hoagland said in the cable.
John Park, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, used a medical analogy to describe the difference in the U.S. and Chinese approaches.
"The way contingency planning is framed by the U.S. is, 'Let us coordinate so that if the North Korean state does collapse we can harvest the organs, and we think they should be implanted in a unified Korea, and the more the U.S. and China coordinate on this, the more smooth and stable it will be.'
"Whereas China's view is, 'Why would you wait for until the patient dies? Why wouldn't you prevent the death of the regime.' So there the Chinese are adopting almost this preventive medicine approach."
Jia Qingguo, professor of international relations at Peking University, said prospects for political stability in North Korea were bleak and interested powers needed "to step up communications, especially now the risks of a crisis are quite high."
The loyalty of those around the "Great Successor" is difficult to ascertain, Jia said.
"Add to that all the many problems, domestic and external, confronting North Korea. In these circumstances, I think it's very difficult to say whether Kim Jong-un will be able to master the political apparatus."
Kim Jong-un, who is in his late 20s, has little experience. His father Kim Jong-il had 20 years to prepare for rule under the tutelage of his father, Kim Il-sung, the charismatic founding father of the North Korean state.
Analysts have said senior officers were replaced after young Kim was made a four-star general last year, though he had never served in the military.
Issues that need to be urgently addressed in contingency planning include how to provide aid in the face of a collapse or crisis, and how to ensure the safety of the North's nuclear materials, Jia said.
"I think from the viewpoint of China and the United States, it may be up to one of them to assume control of the nuclear weapons and avoid proliferation."
A former Japanese diplomat who dealt with North Korean issues, Hitoshi Tanaka, questioned whether any measures would be effective in the event of "internal domestic turmoil" in North Korea.
South Korea, China, Japan and the United States "are very busy collecting and exchanging information and comparing notes" about North Korea's future, but that information is "very, very limited."
"It is extremely important...to let China work in the most constructive way, because clearly, China is the last resort in the context of helping North Korea," he said.http://news.yahoo.com/ana...collapses-182812180.html
Dec 24 11 9:25 PM
by CLIFFORD COONAN
December 24, 2011
GENERATING MYTHS about North Korea’s leaders has been essential to underscoring the cult of personality in the secretive communist state.
It has also been a key factor in maintaining the Kim dynasty’s grip on power. The current succession from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, who died last week, to his son, Kim Jong-un, is no different.
So remarkable a figure was Kim Jong-il that the weather itself bowed down to his power. During his life, he “blocked the howling wind of history” and, when he died, the weather was freakishly cold and the seas were stormy. His death caused the waves to rise up to three metres.
This message of meteorological miracles came from KCNA, North Korea’s official news agency, which is no stranger to hyperbole but is really pulling out all the stops to mark the passing of the country’s “Dear Leader”.
The tools for making the myth were first employed by Kim Jong-il’s father, the “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung, and they are being used with haste following the death of Kim Jong-il.
When Kim Jong-il was born on the sacred Baekdu mountain, a star rose above the spot, a double rainbow appeared and spring broke out spontaneously. Did we mention that his nativity was foretold by a swallow?
According to KCNA, the good news is that once the dreadful days surrounding his death are past, a “spring of prosperity under socialism will surely come to the country thanks to the patriotic devotion of Kim Jong-il, who blocked the howling wind of history till the last moments of his life”.
The uncommonly bad weather prevailed over his last hours, KCNA reported. “In the morning of December 17th, when he was on the train to make a journey of field guidance for the people, the temperature was four to seven degrees centigrade lower than the average, scoring the lowest this winter.
“Seeing his dedication, in tears the people would ask him to stop making any more journeys along snow-covered roads in cold weather and sitting up all night.”
Since his death, more than 100 poems have been written in his name, including Rise Up, People of The Great General, The Field Car Has Not Stopped and Soldiers! Do Not Forget the General.
Known in official media as the “Lodestar of the 21st Century”, Kim Jong-il had a photographic memory, his political writings and philosophy were reported and broadcast every day and he wrote scores of books telling “all the truths of the world”. He also wrote six operas in two years and hit 11 holes in one in the first round of golf he played.
In the West, the image of Kim Jong-il is of a gourmand with flying phobia who travelled everywhere in a specially fitted Japanese-built train with 21 carriages, lobster tanks and two armoured Mercedes cars. Inside the train, he would chow down on sushi and quaff vintage Bordeaux wine, which he took to drinking after doctors made him give up Hennessy cognac. Meanwhile, the citizens of his country were starving outside during the regular famines that blighted his reign.
The mythmaking is starting for Kim Jong-un, “born of heaven” and the latest in this celestial bloodline to ascend to the revolutionary throne. It works in his favour that he bears a startling resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, as a young man.
He was already being called “Young General”, and this week was elevated to “Great Successor”.http://www.irishtimes.com.../1224/1224309469908.html
Dec 25 11 3:08 AM
Jan 1 12 5:22 PM
North Korea said Saturday that Kim Jong Un has been officially named supreme commander of the military, further strengthening his authority after the death of his father.
Officials and state media have bestowed on Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s, a string of titles as North Korea's elite rally around him after Kim Jong Il's death in mid-December after 17 years in power.
But the title Supreme Commander — and its formal proclamation by the powerful Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party — is a clear sign that Kim Jong Un is fast consolidating power over North Korea. It's also the latest step in a burgeoning personality cult around him.
Kim Jong Un's age and inexperience have raised questions outside North Korea about his leadership of a nation engaged in delicate negotiations over its nuclear program and grappling with decades of economic hardship and chronic food shortages.
But the North has moved quickly to show the world a unified face.
"This is a historic event reflecting the unanimous will of the service persons and the people to defend the dignity of the country," the official Korean Central News Agency said.
It said Kim Jong Un's new title "provides sure guarantee for glorifying the great exploits performed by Kim Jong Il for army building and carrying forward the cause of the songun (military-first) revolution generation after generation."
The party said the country should unite around Kim Jong Un and strengthen "the monolithic leadership system of the dear respected Comrade Kim Jong Un throughout the party and society."
An unannounced Workers' Party meeting Friday proclaimed that the younger Kim "assumed supreme commandership of the Korean People's Army" according to a will made by Kim Jong Il on Oct. 8, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement early Saturday morning.
The meeting of the North's ruling party came one day after the official mourning period for Kim Jong Il ended and senior military and political officials publicly declared Kim Jong Un leader of the party, military and people at a massive memorial for his father.
Titles are an important part of North Korea's efforts to link Kim Jong Un to the myth-building surrounding the Kim family legacy.
Kim Il Sung, the country's first and only president, retains the title Eternal President even after his death.
Kim Jong Il held three main positions: chairman of the National Defense Commission, general secretary of the Workers' Party and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army. According to the constitution, his position as chairman of the National Defense Commission made him Supreme Leader of North Korea.
Kim Jong Un was made a four-star general last year and appointed a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party. Since his father's death, he has picked up major titles from officials and state media: Great Successor, Supreme Leader and Great Leader. And now he has officially been named Supreme Commander.
Analysts said the moves show the power transition has been smooth and faster than anticipated.
"The proclamation is something that has been expected, but it is notable that it happened so quickly," said Kim Yeon-su, a North Korea expert at Korea National Defense University. He said North Korea was showing the world that its system was stable and "the elite remain united."
He said that next for Kim Jong Un in 2012 would be for him to be nominated as chairman of the National Defense Commission and to rise to general secretary of the Workers' Party.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the succession was accelerating and stabilizing.
"It also shows the military-first rule will continue. The North was pressing ahead with steps for power transition regardless of the mourning period. That shows the country is united."
Choe Yong Nam, 48-year-old army officer, told The Associated Press in Pyongyang that he was confident with Kim Jong Un as supreme commander of the military. "As we were led by illustrious commanders of Mount Paektu, we have won only victories. I am sure that we will always emerge victorious as we have another great leader Kim Jong Un."
Paektu is the highest peak on the Korean peninsula and the North cites it in propaganda to signify the Kim dynasty. It is also Kim Jong Il's official birthplace.
An engineer with the 326 Electric Wire Factory, Kim Song Un, 54, said he did not expect any changes in the country's policies. "We will keep to our path of the socialist cause of juche (self reliance) true to the leadership of Kim Jong Un in the future, as we did under the leadership of Kim Jong Il."
Jan 4 12 5:35 AM
The control the North Korean government exerts over its people was more than evident at the extensive funeral service for the late Kim Jong-il. Scrutiny of the vast crowd of mourners revealed that many were not wearing gloves, hats or scarves though it was clearly snowing and temperatures were reported to be as low as minus nine Celsius (15 Fahrenheit). Agence France-Press (via Raw Story) reports that Daily NK, a South Korean-based newspaper written by defectors, said that it had received information about the “level of stage-management” involved in the December 28 ceremony from a source in Pyongyang. Because Kim Jong-il had chosen to escort the hearse carrying his father’s body bare-headed and gloveless, North Korean civilians were required to go without the same.
Videos of the crowds showed people blowing on their hands to warm them. Students were under orders to keep watch on the behavior of the mourners, who had been informed that “behind every line there will be people watching.”
Policy makers are watching the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, closely, to see if he will be able to consolidate his dynastic hold on power, or whether he will rely on regents and caretakers (including his powerful uncle) to run the country. On Saturday, Kim was made supreme commander of the 1.2 million-member Korean People’s Army; he made statements about the South Korean government as “national traitors” and vowed “punishment” and “revenge.”
In a New Year’s Day editorial published in the official newspapers of the Workers’ Party, the Korean People’s Army and the Socialist Youth League, North Korea acknowledged the country’s food crisis as a “burning issue” while saying that it will improve “the economy of the impoverished, authoritarian country and exhorted the people to revolutionize the farm industry, increase coal production and improve the performance of light industry.” Few details about how the North Korean government would conduct these economic improvements were noted, says the New York Times. The editorial was not short on proclamations such as North Korea being “at the epochal point of opening the gates of a thriving country” and calling the South Korean government in Pyongyang a “socialist fairyland.”
The editorial said that relations between the two Koreas will not improve under the current South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, said. It also demanded that Washington withdraw its 28,500 “imperialist invasion troops” from South Korea.
China’s President Hu Jintao officially endorsed Kim Jong-un on Saturday, saying that the ”friendly cooperation” between China and North Korea will certainly “strengthen.”
In his New Year’s speech the following day, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak said that the Korean peninsula is at a “turning point” and that there is “a new opportunity amid changes and uncertainty.” Peace and security are top priorities and South Korea will “respond strongly” to any provocations from the north. The two Koreas remain technically at war; Lee also said that, should North Korea end its nuclear activities, aid-for-disarmament talks could be resumed.
Jan 10 12 4:25 AM
Magpies and bears mourn North Korea's "Dear Leader"
SEOUL (Reuters) - The passing of North Korean strongman Kim Jong-il has been marked by plunging temperatures, mourning bears and now, according to North Korean state media, by flocks of magpies.
Kim, who died in December aged 69 years after 17 years running the world's most reclusive state, was reputed to be able to control the weather, as well as to have scored a miraculous 38 under par round of golf.
"At around 17:30 on December 19, 2011, hundreds of magpies appeared from nowhere and hovered over a statue of President Kim Il Sung on Changdok School campus in Mangyongdae District, clattering as if they were telling him the sad news," state news agency KCNA reported on Monday.
Kim's death was announced on December 19, although he was reported by official media to have died on December 17 on a train journey to give guidance to his subjects.
He has been succeeded by his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, who will become the third of his line to head the world's only hereditary totalitarian Stalinist state. Mythmaking is a key part of the personality cult that surrounds the family of founding father Kim Il-sung.
KCNA reported last week that a family of bears who usually hibernate through the fierce Korean winter had been seen lamenting Kim Jong-il's death.
"The bears, believed to be a mother and cubs, were staying on the road, crying woefully," it said.
Mythmaking for Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, has already started. He is portrayed as the spitting image of his grandfather and has been dubbed the "genius of geniuses" in military affairs despite having no known military experiencehttp://au.news.yahoo.com/...rth-korea-s-dear-leader/Sharon Says... hmmm pigeons hovering over a statue...how odd.... that any one would think it to be admiration..
Jan 13 12 4:39 PM
Jan. 12 2012 North Korea Prosecutes Mourners Who Cried 'Insincerely' After Kim Jong-il's Death
Kim Jong-il, 69, died December 2011, and as the country's official mourning period has come to an end, authorities have begun punishing those who did not display genuine sadness, according to Mail Online.
North Korea, also referred to as Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a single-party state led by the Korean Workers' Party and often receives criticism for what critics allege is complete social control over its citizens and a lack of human rights.
"North Korea is by far the most totalitarian and controlling state I’ve ever visited ... It is by far the most oppressive nation in the world," prominent New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently tweeted.
Although recent footage of North Korea has shown a sea of mourners after Kim Jong-il's death, authorities are concerned that some of its people were simply being insincere.
According to reports, officials have also targeted those who failed to attend their late leader's mourning services, those who tried to leave the country, and those who made phone calls.
Many are receiving unsympathetic sentences which includes a minimum of six months in labor camps, during what sources call authority "criticism sessions."
The Daily North Korea website confirms that, "The authorities are handing down at least six months in a labor-training camp to anybody who didn’t participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period, or who did participate but didn’t cry and didn't seem genuine."
The controversial state, which sensors all media communication and reportedly bans cell phones, has also been accused of bullying "exhausted" citizens into embracing new leader Kim Jong-un, the son of Kim Jong-il.
"Every day from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. they have vehicles for broadcast propaganda parked on busy roads full of people going to and from work, noisily working to proclaim Kim Jong-un’s greatness," a source told Daily North Korea.http://www.christianpost....im-jong-ils-death-67066/
Jan 17 12 3:35 PM
By Jonathan Levine
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gestures to several generals
Not too long ago, a communist despot dominating a closed, nuclear-armed country died. His death caused an outpouring of grief within his society, where his cult of personality was all-encompassing. This despot was replaced by his handpicked successor, who had little experience and was unknown to the outside world. The successor was acclaimed by the people and the party and rapidly assumed all of the top positions and titles.
I'm not referring to recent events in North Korea. The despot in question was Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The similarities between then and now, China and North Korea, are striking.
On September 9, 1976, the closing of an era came when Mao, who had ruled China since the 1949 revolution he led, succumbed to various illnesses. Mao had always resisted naming a successor for fear of being overshadowed while still alive. Candidates who did emerge such as Liu Shaoqi or Lin Biao met with grisly ends. Future paramount leader Deng Xiaoping spent four years exiled in remote Jiangxi Province as Mao constantly vacillated between the need for competent leadership after his death and his desire to keep down anyone who might outshine him.
Mao's solution came in the form of Hua Guofeng, a regional nabob from Hunan Province. Hua had neither international experience nor a power base in Beijing and posed no threat. After all, he would be completely reliant on Mao for his legitimacy. In 1973, Hua was hastily elevated to the Politburo and only became firmly established as Mao's successor mere months before the leader's death. Sound familiar?
The aura of Mao protected Hua's position for a few years. As party discipline required, Hua was acclaimed as leader and showered with praise and titles. Owing everything to Mao, Hua confidently proclaimed his "Two Whatevers" policy: "We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave." But the ground rapidly shifted beneath his feet as other Chinese leaders realized the colossal scale of Mao's failures. Despite retaining many of his titles, Hua was muscled out of real power by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and died in obscurity as China celebrated the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Deng would go on to usher in China's storied economic opening and transform the country.
Is Kim Jong-un the next Hua Guofeng? If so, could a North Korean Deng Xiaoping and subsequent reform be just around the corner?
The new Kim suffers from the same drawbacks that doomed Hua. He has no independent power base. His military support is not deep. And, unlike Hua, who was at least a competent party official before his elevation, Kim Jong-un has no political experience to speak of. Unless North Korea's generals have bought into the infallibility of the Kim brand, it is nothing short of fantastical to assume that this pudgy neophyte will be able to navigate the treacherous straits of Communist Party politics. The vigorous affirmations of the army, their pledges of loyalty, and the rush to titles are a sham and belie the fundamental weakness of Kim Jong Eun's true power position. Hua Guofeng had titles too. He was the only person in the history of the People's Republic to hold simultaneously the top three posts of party chairman, premier and chairman of the Central Military Commission. The experience of Hua should be instructive: titles matter only as much as the institutions they represent. In a nation like North Korea today or China in 1976 where institutions are immature, don't expect an ambitious general to show deference to any leader on the basis of titles alone.
Of course, Kim will remain physically unharmed throughout his undoing. Like Hua, his position as "the chosen one" will insulate him from the worst of Stalinist purging. Indeed, his bodily safety is especially critical since (in full Louis XIV fashion) he is the state. The cult of personality that envelopes him has inexorably fused the fate of the Kim family with that of North Korea. There could never be any form of public Khrushchev-style renunciation as it would undermine the very raison d'être of the state itself.
However, the absence of public friction should not lead us to believe that serious disagreements do not exist in private. If the Chinese model is any guide, the question of reforms has most likely been simmering for years, waiting for an opening like the one provided by Kim Jong-il's death.
A North Korean opening in the near future is probable for two reasons. First, it can be done. When Deng initiated his reforms in 1978, he was grasping in the dark. It wasn't known how market economics would affect the communist monopoly on power. In 2012, the verdict of history seems clear. China's three decades of economic growth and relative political stability have embarrassed more than a few Western Cassandras. If North Korea were to engage in a Chinese-style opening, it would have the entire Chinese experience as a road map, as well as an eager mentor and trading partner.
Second, Chinese pressure for an opening has increased powerfully in the last few years and likely will intensify with the new leadership. In his twilight, Kim Jong-il took numerous trips to China, and he wasn't just visiting the Great Wall. He was there to see the fruits of China's economic miracle. Beijing would stand to gain the most from a North Korean economic opening. Access to markets, cheap labor and investment opportunities are all tantalizingly within grasp just beyond the Yalu River. China would also benefit from the stability of having its neighbor not perennially on the brink of bankruptcy and famine.
Who could play the role of Deng? The most obvious candidates are those dubbed by The Economist "the troika of regents." They are Kim Jong Eun's aunt Kim Kyong-hui, her husband Jang Song-taek, and Army Chief of Staff General Ri Yong-ho. Their conspicuous presence behind the new king attests to their potential role in shaping the future. But there is room for skepticism.
At the time of Hua Guofeng's elevation to the top job, Deng Xiaoping had been stripped of all leadership posts within the party and had come within a hair's breadth of being expelled. Hua too had "guides," such as Marshal Ye Jianying and Wang Dongxing, Maoists who helped him solidify his position. Though Deng had previously been in positions of prominence, few could have predicted his Phoenix-like return to power in 1977. In assessing North Korea's future, we should be mindful of how little we know. If there is a North Korean reformer waiting in the wings, he may still be invisible to us now, like Deng was in 1976.
North Korea isn't likely to collapse anytime soon. Too many actors, foreign and domestic, have vested interests in preventing that. Nor will North Korea face an internal rebellion such as those presently convulsing the Middle East. North Korea's communication and transport systems are too primitive for effective mass mobilization. Democratic reform will also remain an "End of History" liberal pipe dream. The Chinese economic model should serve as abundant evidence that economic reform and political reform do not necessarily go hand in hand. Yet despite these factors, which would seem to favor stagnancy, change could be afoot. If history does indeed repeat itself, North Korea could be moving toward a new era.http://www.theatlantic.co...na-style-opening/251493/
Mar 17 12 9:31 AM
AP - In this April 5, 2009 image, a rocket is lifted off from its launch pad in Musudan-ri, North Korea. North Korea announced Friday it plans to launch a long-range rocket mounted with a satellite next month.
SEOUL — The United States and other countries condemned North Korea on Friday after it announced that it intends to use a rocket to blast a satellite into space, seemingly violating Pyongyang’s recent promise to halt weapons tests in exchange for food.
U.S. officials called the planned launch a “direct violation” of international commitments that could bring to a halt almost every aspect of a deal hammered out two weeks ago that included food aid for the impoverished and isolated country. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the rocket test was a “grave provocative act against peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.”
Although the move follows decades of broken promises by the reclusive North Korean government, it surprised leaders in Washington, Tokyo and Seoul because of the progress in recent weeks after years of stalled talks. The United States was finalizing details for 240,000 metric tons of food North Korea had desperately sought for more than a year.
The deal was also seen as a tentative first step toward better relations with new leader Kim Jong Eun and, possibly, toward a resumption of long-stalled multilateral talks over North Korea’s nuclear program.
North Korea described the launch as both scientific and celebratory, and said it would take place between April 12 and 16 to mark the centennial of founder Kim Il Sung’s birth. The North, which has signed an international space treaty, argues that it has every right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes. In a statement carried by its state-run news agency, the government promised “maximum transparency” and said the launch would encourage the “building of a thriving nation.”
But U.S. and South Korean officials have characterized North Korea’s satellite program as a cover for long-range missile tests, because similar technology is used to launch both. The key difference is a matter of payload: Satellites are designed for communication and observation; missiles are for destruction.
After a similar purported satellite launch in April 2009, the United Nations tightened sanctions against the North, adding a measure to ban Pyongyang from any future launches using “ballistic missile technology.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said a launch would “pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches.”
North Korea has refined its ability to launch but has been flummoxed by the sophistication required for the survivability and accuracy of long-distance projectiles. “What they’re trying to do is perfect their reentry heat shield for a ballistic missile,” said Victor Cha, a former White House director of Asian affairs who is now a senior adviser at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Although the Obama administration has been reluctant to link food aid to negotiations on North Korea’s missile program, North Korean leaders see the two as inexorably connected, U.S. officials say. For that reason, the food deal would probably die if Pyongyang goes ahead with the launch.
Within hours of the announcement, the U.S. chief negotiator, Glyn Davies, was on the phone with six other countries that have participated in talks with North Korea to discuss how to proceed.
“They have not actually had that launch, so we all need to encourage them to change course,” Nuland said.
According to North Korea’s official statement, the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 will be launched from a station in the northwestern corner of the country, near the border with China, and directed to the south — unlike a launch three years ago that traveled over northern Japan.
“A safe flight orbit has been chosen so that carrier rocket debris to be generated during the flight would not have any impact on neighboring countries,” the North’s news agency said.
Previous North Korean launches have been more successful in sparking international ire than in showing off indigenous technology. The North said its previous long-range rocket launch, on April 5, 2009, placed into orbit a satellite that broadcast patriotic songs. But outside analysts say the launch ended in failure, with no object of any kind entering orbit.
Angry about global condemnation of that launch, North Korea expelled international nuclear inspectors from the country and walked out of the six-party talks on its weapons program.
One month later, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test.
Analysts said that participants in the six-party talks — which include the United States, South Korea, Russia, China and Japan — could see a similar breakdown in relations this time around.
“I’m pretty sure the Chinese are upset over this. They worked fairly hard in the recent months to obtain the food-for-nukes deal, only for this to happen,” said Christopher R. Hill, former U.S. negotiator in the six-party talks and assistant secretary of state for Asia during the George W. Bush administration.
South Korea is to host the Nuclear Security Summit this month, which will bring together some 50 world leaders, including President Obama.
The North’s announcement on Friday, some analysts in Seoul said, felt more like evidence of a divide within Pyongyang’s leadership since the death of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, rather than a well-orchestrated strategy to gain leverage.
“It suggests there’s not quite the unity of command, that the people doing the negotiating on food aid are not the same as those in charge of the missile launches,” Hill said.
For years, the North has promised its people a nationwide celebration in mid-April this year, pledging to become a “strong and prosperous” nation with something akin to first-world status. A satellite or missile test at that time, some experts said, could be sold domestically as evidence of North Korea’s strength.
“For now, it is unclear what is behind this decision,” said Ryoo Kihl-jae, at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies. “But even if North Korea is to go on launching its missile or satellite, there aren’t any more measures for the international community to take. . . . All possible sanctions have already been imposed.”
As recently as last week, North Korean officials were expressing a desire to rebuild the country’s relationship with the United States. Now U.S. officials are scrambling to figure out how to respond.
“The main option now,” Cha said, “is probably to go to the U.N. Security Council and argue that this is a violation of security resolutions on North Korea. But you may see resistance from China and possibly Russia on that.”
Wan reported from Washington. Special correspondent Yoonjung Seo in Seoul contributed to this report.
Aug 12 12 11:37 PM
Runga Theme Park in Pyongyang opened with much fanfare and what must have been a tremendous amount of synchronized effort, not to mention mystery funding. The park's highly trained dolphins- which perform daily acrobatic shows—had to be imported, though how that happened remains unclear in light of importing sanctions against the country. In addition to the dolphins, the park boasts golf courses, basketball courts, a water park, and roller coasters, reports NKNews.
More: North Korea's Circus of Human Rights Violations
Still, even with his great shows of luxury, Kim Jong Un requested help from the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) which is sending emergency aid for those hardest hit by the floods. UN representatives who visited the country characterized the need for assistance as "dire." Almost 50,000 homes have been swamped, in addition to about 1,400 schools, factories, and hospitals.
The need for North Korea to maintain an air of opulence and extravagence in the face of epic natural disaster is par for the course in this unrelenting dictatorship. Brazen shows of egotism are the norm for a country where human rights violations are a part of the cultural fabric. But these dancing dolphins are powerful slap in the face to citizens struggling to find food and shelter.
Related Stories on TakePart:
• Live from North Korea: Mickey and Winney The Pooh
• North Korea to Hillary Clinton: Mind Your Own Business
• North Korea Agrees to Quit Nuclear Arms
Kim Jong-Un assumed power after the …
Last month, secretive North Korea revealed …
North Korean soldiers applaud as North …
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un talks …
Sep 11 12 1:08 AM
SEOUL - Impoverished North Korea has accepted an offer of aid from rival South Korea after devastating summer floods, the South said on Monday, the first time the new leadership in Pyongyang has accepted aid from Seoul.
In an unusually grim assessment of the North's grain harvest this year, South Korea said last week that crop production for the year probably dropped by more than 10 percent due to flooding and a drought.
The South's aid offer comes after the U.N. World Food Programme said last month it would send a first batch of emergency food aid to the isolated state.
North Korea's state media has reported at least 200 people have been killed this summer due to flooding and a typhoon, and more than 200,000 left homeless. Tens of thousands of hectares of crops have been destroyed.
South Korea's Unification Ministry said the North's acceptance of its aid offer means discussions will take place to work out how much and what kind of relief materials will be sent.
Past discussions have been fraught with complications, highlighting the politically sensitive nature of the rivals' ties in recent years.
South Korea's offer of help last year was pulled when the North asked for building materials and equipment instead of food and medicine worth nearly $5 million as offered.
Since the death of the North's iron ruler Kim Jong-il last December, the country's new leadership under his youngest son Kim Jong-un has increased its verbal attacks against the South, and relations have gone back into a deep freeze.
North Korea, which has been accused of channeling much of its scarce resources to running its military and its arms program, has trouble feeding its population of 24 million even in years of good harvest.
Conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak ended a decade of lucrative large-scale aid to the North when he came to office in 2008 demanding Pyongyang stop its nuclear arms program and initiate economic reforms first.http://news.yahoo.com/nor...val-south-103202856.html
Sep 18 12 12:38 AM
PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Deep in the North Korean countryside, in remote villages that outsiders seldom reach, farmers are now said to be given nearly one-third of their harvests to sell at market prices. Collective farms are reportedly being reorganized into something closer to family farms. State propagandists are expounding the glories of change under the country's new young leader.
In the rigidly planned economy of this Stalinist state, could this be the first flicker of reform?
A string of long-doubtful observers have become increasingly convinced that economic change is afoot, akin to China's first flirtations with market reforms 30 years ago.
But, they also warn, exactly what is happening remains a mystery.
No outsiders are known to have been to the villages, in Ryanggang province, since the new policies reportedly went into effect. No outsiders have seen the details of the June 28 government order -- "On the Establishing of a New Economic Management System in Our Own Style" -- that supposedly launched the program. Other reported reforms, from shifts in investment laws to new industrial profit-sharing regulations, are even more opaque.
Still, there are undeniable signs that the world's most closed-off society may be toying with change, from a carefully scripted campaign to soften the image of the country's young leader, Kim Jong Un, to the apparent purging of a hardline general and a series of often-cryptic official statements hinting that Pyongyang is serious about liberalizing its economy.
"My gut sense is that something is changing," said Marcus Noland of the Washington, D.C.-based Peterson Institute for International Economics and a leading scholar on the North Korean economy. Kim Jong Un "is trying to do something new."
"Whether that succeeds or not is a completely different issue," he added.
Like many other analysts, Noland remains pessimistic. The economic reforms appear to be very limited, he noted, and could quickly be abandoned if Kim changes his mind or faces opposition from his core supporters.
North Korea has flirted with radical economic shifts before. The 17-year rule of Kim Jong Il -- whose December death paved the way for his son, Kim Jong Un, to take power -- included market experiments in 2002 and a devastating currency devaluation in 2009 that stripped millions of people of their savings. Nearly all the changes were rolled back amid internal disputes, and fears among the ruling elite that they could lead to demands for change that could spiral beyond the state's control.
Some change did quietly occur. Faced with an economy on the verge of collapse, the elder Kim's regime eventually allowed small-time markets to take root. After reportedly suffering a stroke in 2009 and picking his youngest son as his heir, Kim Jong Il announced a renewed focus on the economy and made a push to draw foreign investment and trade, particularly from China, North Korea's closest ally.
If the latest reform reports are true, they would almost certainly be driven in part by China. Beijing has long pressed Pyongyang to enact reforms similar to its own first steps toward a market economy.
For years, "the Chinese have been touting their system and their accomplishments, and the North Koreans have been politely nodding their heads and effectively doing nothing," said Evans Revere, a former U.S. diplomat with extensive contacts in the Koreas and China.
But with Pyongyang facing a series of major challenges -- dire economic straits, international isolation and a transition to the third generation of Kim family rule -- Beijing officials now believe North Korea is serious about change, he said.
What is not clear, Revere added, is whether Kim Jong Un is simply telling the Chinese what they want to hear, or if they truly intend to follow through.
And Kim himself? Since coming to power, he and his inner circle have crafted an image that carefully differentiates the new leader from his father, a distant man who turned North Korea into a nuclear power and a pariah state as its citizens sank into desperate poverty.
The younger Kim has appeared on television with his young wife and had his photograph taken on amusement park rides. His haircut and clothing mimic that of his grandfather, the country's still-revered founder, Kim Il Sung. He has visited the homes of everyday North Koreans, and slapped the backs of young soldiers.
He has also vaguely alluded to the country's economic problems, saying in his first speech, in April, that North Koreans should never have to "tighten their belts again."
But when the reports began leaking out in recent weeks about the agricultural reforms, the government response made few things clear.
An unidentified government official told the state news agency KCNA that expecting reform "is nothing but a foolish and silly dream," but added that North Korea "is effecting new innovations and creations in order to make its people enjoy modern and a highly civilized life and live in luxury and comfort."
Some of the contradiction may simply be semantics, with North Korea objecting to the word "reform" because it could look like a rejection of the policies of Kim Jong Un's father and grandfather, both of whom are officially worshipped as near-deities.
But the reported agricultural reforms, detailed mostly by South Korean news outlets and based on anonymous sources inside North Korea, are the clearest sign that significant economic change could be at hand.
Agriculture is the fragile backbone of the North Korean economy. Though less than 20 percent of the mountainous country is arable, nearly every patch of land that can be farmed -- including some parts of the capital -- is planted with rice, corn, potatoes, cabbage and more. Tractors and the fuel to operate them remain a luxury, so most work is done by hand and with the help of oxen.
On a typical collective farm, hundreds of families occupy small, identical cottages with courtyards where each family maintains a garden. On country roads across the nation, farmers can be seen hauling their crops to market, some on the back of ox-pulled carts, others on the backs of bicycles.
The reports say communal farmers in selected villages are now being given 30 percent of their harvests to sell on the open market -- tripling the amount they had earlier been allowed.
In addition, the farms' so-called work units have reportedly been reduced in size, with the labor teams cut from 10-25 people to as few as four.
If that seems like a regulatory technicality, analysts say the combination of those two changes could have immense impact, dramatically driving up agricultural production by effectively giving individual families control over sections of communal farms, and creating a profit incentive for them to produce as much as possible.
Political reform, though, is something few observers see.
North Korea is still a police state where contact with foreigners is forbidden without official permission and where rights group say well over 100,000 political prisoners are sealed off in sprawling camps.
And amid the public relations campaign for the new leader and the rumors of economic reform, rights group have noted one other change: Since Kim Jong Un took power last year, they say North Korea has dramatically ramped up security along the Chinese border. As a result, the number of North Koreans able to flee to China has dropped by nearly one-half compared to the year before.http://www.heraldextra.co...experimenting-with-change/article_790ef308-8787-5b90-af6c-f717760553d2.html#.UFfDJ0XWIgY.facebook
Oct 15 12 2:01 AM
By Adam Clark Estes10-14-2012
Despite Kim Jong Un's triumphant calls for prosperity and reports of progress from diplomats in Pyongyang, everyday North Koreans still say that every day is a struggle. In fact, if the vignettes offered up in a just published New York Times exposée are at all representative of the life of your average North Korean, things are downright miserable. There's a terrible food shortage -- as usual -- and electricity flickers on and off with not apparent regularity. The government offers little tolerance for criticism or alternative ways of life, like Christianity. The best any of them can hope for is to escape to China on a temporary visa and, if they're really lucky, find work in a factory there. There's some evidence that suggests North Koreans are more cognizant of their impoverished situation because they're more conscious of what's going on outside their country's borders. Just last week, Laura Ling, the former Current TV reporter who found herself imprisoned for months in North Korea, wrote a column for The Los Angeles Times about how the shiny veneer that Kim Jong Un has been showcasing to the world is flimsier than ever. "Despite the culture of fear that permeates North Korean society, food shortages and the Gulag-style prison camps that hold an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 political prisoners, there are signs that the government is losing its iron grip," she writes. "Some televisions in the border region, for example, are now able to pick up programming from neighboring China, providing some North Koreans access to news from outside the country." If we know anything in these first six months of Kim Jong Un's rule, it's that change needs time. The country's income discrepancy is a natural part of economic development, experts say, and even though it's a bummer that the folks reading the Bible in North Korea think the government will kill them if they find out, progress takes patience. "People leapt to very sweeping conclusions about reform, but it’s not a switch that happens in a day," Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert with the International Crisis Group, told The Times. "On the other hand, the privileged few who have a monopoly on certain sectors are making out like bandits." http://news.yahoo.com/lif...-horrible-021119146.html
Mar 17 13 3:12 PM
by John J. Metzler
UNITED NATIONS — When the Security Council passed a package of uncharacteristically tough sanctions on North Korea over the communist regime’s nuclear weapons tests and missile proliferation, the Pyongyang leadership went rhetorically ballistic.
Pyongyang’s pro forma rants and raves towards South Korea and the United States were notched up to include scrapping the 1953 armistice which ended the Korean war. For good measure, North Korea threatened to nuke the USA with its new found but happily not yet deliverable nuclear bombs.
Dennis Rodman hugs “awesome guy” Kim Jong Un.
Significantly the latest Security Council resolution was unanimously passed and thus included support from the People’s Republic of China, the longtime but increasingly wary political mentor of the quaintly titled “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”
The resolution stated the obvious; “reaffirming that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitute a threat to international peace and security.”
The lengthy ten page document equally “reaffirms its decision that the DPRK shall abandon all other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.” Specifically the resolution calls for tougher financial sanctions to the point of barring suitcases of bulk cash for various weapons deals.
On a lighter note part of the resolution’s Annex includes barring the import of jewelry, yachts and racing cars. This is seen as a method to stifle favors for the small clique around the dictator Kim Jong-Un. Even if the sanctions are selectively enforced by regional states such as Mainland China, the fact remains that the latest Security Council resolution underscores the unmistakable trend that the world community, even neighboring China and Russia, are weary and especially wary of North Korea upsetting East Asia’s equilibrium. Japan is genuinely frightened, while prosperous South Korea has kept a stoic calm.
South Korea’s new President Park Geun-Hye has stated clearly, “We must deal strongly with a North Korean provocation.”
Before the latest sanctions squeeze, in a strange bid of sports diplomacy, former American basketball star Dennis Rodman visited Pyongyang to meet with Kim Jung-Un, an improbable basketball fan. Rodman’s ill-timed trip while bringing a whiff of levity to the DPRK’s dour atmosphere, was ultimately aimed at opening a dialogue between the self-isolated Kim and President Barack Obama, also a basketball fan.
As this column has consistently stressed, the North Korean communist dictatorship has chosen neutrons for nuclear weapons over nutrition for their own people. So ironically we see a contradictory situation where the UN Security Council slaps tough sanctions on the North, while at the same time United Nations humanitarian agencies are the major source of food and humanitarian assistance for at least a third of the North’s population.
Though Kim Jong-Un continues political tantrums in his fortified Pyongyang playpen, the reality remains that the land he rules stands as a neo-Stalinist totalitarian hell save for the occasional sporting jesters the dictator brings into town to amuse him.
In its latest Report on the “Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” documents “grave, systematic and widespread” human rights violations in North Korea. Interestingly this is the 22nd such report since 2003 and reflects 16 resolutions already passed on the DPRK dictatorship.
As in the past, the report outlines a terrifying totalitarian balance sheet where human rights and basic freedoms are stifled by a regime which would make Big Brother wince. The DPRK’s communist rulers use widespread torture, gender discrimination and intimidation to control the populace. Those who have fallen afoul of the regime are part of what the UN human rights Rapporteur cites as many as 200,000 people in labor camps.
Triggering Pyongyang’s latest tirade was the joint annual South Korean/U.S. military exercises. The force numbers include a laughably small troop contingent of 13, 000. Given that nearly one million troops of both sides facing across the DMZ dividing the peninsula, this is simply an excuse for heightened tensions.
One of the classic North Korean political propaganda nostrums focuses on the DPRK being taken seriously as a sovereign state. Yet, part of Pyongyang’s outreach program includes threats to devastate neighboring South Korea and to nuke the USA. And Kim Jong-Un wonders why they he’s not popular?
Remember how critics laughed when former U.S. President George W. Bush rightly labeled North Korea, along with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Saddam’s Iraq as part of an Axis of Evil? Well?http://www.worldtribune.com/2013/03/15/pyongyangs-communist-prince-plays-with-fire-while-his-people-endure-a-totalitarian-hell/
Mar 28 13 2:57 PM
Growing Risk of Another North Korean Attackby Bruce Klingner and Amy Payne
March 28, 2013North Korea never stops threatening its enemies.
The belligerent dictatorship routinely threatens to turn Seoul, the capital of South Korea, into a “sea of fire.” Recent videos have threatened America with nuclear annihilation.
Of course, after countless threats aren’t followed with action, the world wonders when to believe it.
The young leader Kim Jong-un is presiding over an administration, however, that shows a dangerous pattern.
Over the years, North Korea has repeatedly attacked allied military and civilian targets, including assassination attempts against the South Korean president, blowing up a civilian airliner, shooting down a U.S. Air Force plane, and seizing a U.S. Navy ship. This month, North Korea nullified the armistice ending the Korean War, moved artillery closer to the demilitarized zone, and warned South Koreans on border islands to evacuate.
All this suggests greater potential for another attack—perhaps imminent—on South Korean military and civilian targets. North Korea announced on Tuesday that it had put all of its artillery and rocket forces on the highest state of wartime alert, including those units “assigned to strike U.S. imperialist aggressor bases on the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific, as well as all enemy targets in South Korea.”
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has vowed to respond forcefully to the next North Korean attack—and Seoul should counter-strike the next time North Korea attacks. If there are no consequences, the north will continue its attacks.
Of course, a stronger response from South Korea could mean escalation, and the U.S. must be prepared to join its ally. In fact, we are committed. On March 22, Washington and Seoul signed a Combined Counter-Provocation Plan to counter North Korean tactical-level attacks. The plan provides for a “strong and decisive combined South Korean and U.S. response.”
But friends—and enemies—are questioning U.S. ability to deliver on its security promises.
North Korea’s threats prompted the Obama Administration to reverse some of its reductions in missile defense recently, but that is not nearly enough. The Administration’s reassurances that America can defend itself and its allies actually contradict the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who warned that sequestration would have devastating effects on U.S. defenses in the Pacific.
The Obama Administration’s much-heralded “pivot to Asia” has been rhetoric without resources. Claims of the U.S. being “back in Asia” were undermined by a budget-driven defense strategy that left the military shortchanged and U.S. credibility and resolve in doubt.
Defense needs should drive the defense budget. More of the defense cuts need to be reversed to ensure that American forces are capable of whatever is demanded of them.
North Korea may be blustering again, but we can’t take that chance. We have to be prepared for the day that it attacks.http://blog.heritage.org/2013/03/28/morning-bell-growing-risk-of-another-north-korean-attack/
May 30 13 8:50 AM
North Korea is in the news again for the same old reason — nuclear tests. The United Nations Security Council was right to pass a resolution; the world is right to be deeply concerned.
North Korea is ruled by the only dictatorship that is both a dynasty and, in its own mind, a deity. An estimated 200,000 people are in dire condition in North Korea’s prison camps, or kwan-li-so. Extreme torture, sexual violence, slave labor, starvation and execution are commonplace.
Abuses are so widespread and severe that the former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn, described the country as “sui generis — in a category of its own.” He called on the United Nations to take up the case “at the pinnacle of the system” and urged the international community to “mobilize the totality of the U.N. to ... support processes which concretize responsibility and an end to impunity.” Until very recently, his calls fell on deaf ears.
Momentum is now gathering pace, however, for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in North Korea. For the first time, factors favorable to achieving this have come together, providing a window of opportunity. But that window is narrow.
The current composition of the U.N. Human Rights Council means that such a proposal, at the approaching session in March, stands a good chance of being passed. So it is now a matter of leadership and initiative. A government, or a group of governments, most likely from Europe but with strong backing from Japan, South Korea and the United States, needs to respond to the challenge and put forward a recommendation.
Governments that choose to act can be confident that they have some very credible support. The current rapporteur, Marzuki Darusman, has called explicitly for an investigation into “egregious” violations. Earlier this month, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said that one year after Kim Jong-un took over there is “almost no sign of improvement,” and argued that “an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst — but least understood and reported — human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue.”
The international legal expert William Schabas and the former chief prosecutor of Slobodan Milosevic, Geoffrey Nice, support an investigation. In his Senate confirmation hearing, John Kerry, the nominee to be the next secretary of state, said the Obama administration should be more vocal on behalf of North Korean political prisoners.
Late last year, 179 North Korean escapees wrote to foreign ministers of many countries, urging them to establish a commission of inquiry. Over 40 human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have backed the idea. Legislators around the world have spoken out in favor. Most recently, Japan and Australia have joined calls for an inquiry. It is no longer a fringe issue.
Yet what would such an inquiry achieve? It is likely that North Korea would not cooperate, and very unlikely that if an inquiry recommended a referral to the International Criminal Court, the Security Council would take that step.
Even if it did, the fact that Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir still roams free despite a warrant for his arrest hardly instills confidence that action could be taken to hold Kim Jong-un to account.
Nevertheless, these are not arguments for inertia. Even if, as is likely, Pyongyang won’t play ball, there are thousands of escapees from North Korea who would give evidence. Investigators, who would be respected world experts acting with the full authority, credibility and resources of the U.N., could assemble and assess evidence.
Simply attaching the tag “crimes against humanity” — if that was the conclusion — might put pressure on Pyongyang to temper its behavior. A commission of inquiry would make recommendations for what the U.N. and the international community should do.
Some may argue that an investigation would threaten any lingering hope of dialogue. I disagree. I have long advocated critical engagement, rather than isolation, because our objective should be to prise open the world’s most closed nation, not turn the key in the lock. In 2010 I traveled with two British legislators to Pyongyang to talk to the regime about human rights.
But central to that dialogue must be concern for human rights. Just as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan put concern for Soviet dissidents firmly on the table, the world today needs to look North Korea in the eye and challenge Pyongyang over its gulags. Critical engagement, investigation, information, and accountability go hand in hand.
A commission of inquiry would put North Korea’s horrific human rights record where it belongs — at the center of the international agenda.
It is time to shine a light on one of the darkest corners of the earth. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/opinion/north-korea-in-the-dark.html?_r=1&
Aug 30 13 2:03 AM
TOKYO â Kim Jong-unâs former girlfriend was among a dozen well-known North Korean performers who were executed by machinegun, it was claimed Thursday.
Hyon Song-wol, a singer, rumoured to be a former lover of the North Korean leader, is said to have been arrested In North Korea on August 17 with 11 others for supposedly violating laws against pornography, according to reports in South Koreaâs Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
All 12 were executed by machinegun three days later, with other members of North Koreaâs most famous pop groups and their immediate families forced to watch. The onlookers were then sent to prison camps, victims of the regimeâs assumption of guilt by association, the reports stated.
âThey were executed with machineguns while the key members of the Unhasu Orchestra, Wangjaesan Light Band and Moranbong Band, as well as the families of the victims, looked on,â a Chinese source told the newspaper.
The 12 executed were singers, musicians or dancers with Hyonâs band, the Unhasu Orchestra, or the Wangjaesan Light Music Band and were accused of making videos of themselves performing sex acts and then selling the recordings.
The reports stated that both groups have been disbanded as a result of the scandal.
Some of the musicians were also found to have Bibles when they were detained and all were treated as political dissidents.
Kim Jong-un, who became leader of North Korea after the death of his father in December 2011, is believed to have met Hyon about 10 years ago and struck up a relationship.
His father, Kim Jong-il, did not approve of the relationship and ordered him to break it off.
Hyon subsequently married an officer in the North Korean military and reportedly had a baby, although there are suggestions that Hyon continued to see Kim after her marriage.
Kimâs wife, Ri Sol-ju, was also a member of the Unhasu Orchestra before marriage and one theory is that Ri objected to the continuing high profile of her husbandâs former girlfriend.
North Koreaâs communist dictator reportedly purged his own stepmother, Kim Ok, from her post as a senior official in the Workersâ Party Finance and Accounting Department as he sought to tighten his grip on power within the country. She was luckier than Kim Chol, a vice-minister of the army, who was executed with a mortar round in October 2012. He was reportedly guilty of drinking and carousing during the official mourning period after Kim Jong-ilâs death. On the explicit orders of Kim Jong-un to leave âno trace of him behind, down to his hairâ, according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and âobliteratedâ.
An expert on North Korean affairs believes that Hyon was executed for âpolitical reasonsâ. Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyoâs Waseda University and an authority on North Korean affairs, said: âIf these people had only made pornographic videos, then it is simply not believable that their punishment was execution. They could have been made to disappear into the prison system there instead.â
He suggested that the groups may have been leaning towards a rival faction in Pyongyangâs shadowy political world.
âOr, as Kimâs wife once belonged to the same group, it is possible that these executions are more about Kimâs wife,â he added.
Hyonâs band was responsible for a string of patriotic hits in North Korea, including Footsteps of Soldiers, I Love Pyongyang, She is a Discharged Soldier and We are Troops of the Party.
Her popularity reportedly peaked in 2005 with the song Excellent Horse-Like Lady. In that same year, she starred in the video for her hit A Girl In The Saddle Of A Steed.
Oct 6 13 9:36 PM
Every week we ask a North Korean your questions, giving you the chance to learn more about the country we know so little about.
This week Michael S. in Cambodia asks:
Do North Koreans believe in ghosts, spirits, or hauntings?
North Korea’s ruling principles are based on Juche ideology, which is itself based on Marxist materialism. As you may know, Karl Marx was a sharp critic of organized religion, saying it was “the opium of the people”. In essence then, the basic principles of North Korean socialism are strongly opposed to and incompatible with religious beliefs.
Even though the North Korean constitution officially states that it allows the freedom of religion, this freedom simply does not exist in the North. As such, I had to learn continuously about the negative effects and harms of a religion while growing up in North Korea. This environment therefore makes many North Koreans agnostic, but some of course conduct religious activities behind closed doors, often however with serious consequences.
So, given the worship of a God is very difficult in North Korea, does this mean we don’t believe in spirits, ghosts and the after-life too?
Although Christianity is almost non-existent in North Korea, you might be surprised to learn that we actually do have very strong concepts of ghosts or spirits in the DPRK. And in fact Shamanism, or human communication with the spirit world, is something that is very popular in North Korea, where it crops up most often in the form of fortune-telling.
Like anywhere in the world, when things get too much and life gets unbearably hard, people like to know what is ahead of their future. Spiritual beings can help in this regard, and as a result, many North Koreans invest their money in fortune-telling. North Koreans, you see, would rather trust the spirits than the party or nation.
“Many North Korean defectors speak to fortune-tellers in advance to ask them for advice on the best dates to bring their remaining families across the border to South Korea”
Some North Koreans are so engrossed with folk religion and the spirit world that they even ask fortune-tellers to advise them on the best dates to move house or to get married. And many North Korean defectors speak to fortune-tellers in advance to ask them for advice on the best dates to bring their remaining families across the border to South Korea.
Sometimes fortune-tellers tell horror stories or stories about life after death, and those being told of their future tend to spread these stories on. You see, North Koreans who weren’t taught about Marxist theory tend to find these stories particularly captivating – and they want to believe them, for numerous reasons. So while Marx’s theory of materialism says that there is no afterlife, the spiritual world simultaneously talks about reincarnation – something which many North Koreans find to be comforting. And like anywhere else, North Korean people are of course most afraid about death, so these tales are popular in many circles
As you might expect, the North Korean government tends to get insecure about Shamanism and fortune-telling. Officially they try to discourage people from paying a visit to fortune-tellers through special propaganda campaigns from time to time. But fortune-telling is so engrained in society that it is too late for this propaganda to have any impact: even government officials feel skeptical about the propaganda, for a story about ghosts or souls is no longer a strange story to them.
“One fortune-teller I used to know in Pyongyang once told me that Kim Jong Il used to get the fortune tellers to pick the dates he would go out and make his visits!”
But despite the official line, North Korea’s top elites are known to invite famous fortune-tellers to Pyongyang with warm hospitality, often in order to find out more about their future. What’s more: even the very top of the leadership is said to consult with fortune-tellers! Obviously, I can’t guarantee that this is true, but one fortune-teller I used to know in Pyongyang once told me that Kim Jong Il used to get the fortune tellers to pick the dates he would go out and make his visits!
Personally, I paid numerous visits to fortune tellers when I lived in Pyongyang. One of the most famous fortune tellers I remember was called the “baby fortune teller”. He was a grey-haired old man and every night in his dream a spirit appeared who would tell him who would visit him the next day – also informing him of their entire past and future.
Because he became so famous, some people travelled for days to see him from rural areas far away. Sometimes he would go missing. But when he returned, he would often come back in an expensive car with lots of gifts. According to him, he was visited by the wives of all top elites.
In a way, North Korea became one big religious nation – but it also became a grave full of lies. That’s because North Korean propaganda is like its own religion. The propaganda suggests that immortality is possible through its endorsement of Kim Il Sung’s ideology. The propaganda says that while your body will perish after death, the political life is immortal. Such beliefs made Kim Il Sung the only God in North Korea — and a belief system that would sometimes demand people’s lives.
So while North Korea refuted Marxist materialism – its official ideology made Kim Il Sung a God – and in a way, it left its people to be captivated by folk religion.
The North Korean shipping company embroiled in a recent attempt to illicitly smuggle weapons through the Panama Canal appears to be operating normally in Chinese waters, according to an NK Newsanalysis of shipping data.
Out of 14 operating vessels, 10 have broadcast location data since June – indicating that they are still operating in Chinese ports. This is despite UN resolution 2094, which should allow for member states to freeze the assets of sanctioned entities.
“UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2094 requires China and all other member states to freeze OMM’s assets, to apply ‘enhanced monitoring’ to OMM’s activities, and arguably, to inspect all cargo on OMM-brokered vessels,” Joshua Stanton, an attorney and author of the One Free Korea blog told NK News.
But analysis of ship inspection records shows that the frequency of inspection on OMM linked ships has not increased, indicating that Chinese inspection authorities have not upped the scrutiny on the company’s vessels despite recent resolutions.
The ships currently operating in China even include the Chong Chon Gang, the vessel caught illegally moving Soviet munitions through the Panama Canal from Cuba in July 2013.
The Chong Chon Gang’s last route and position on October 13. Image credit: Marine Traffic
According to former head of the UN Panel of Experts (PoE), Martin Uden, the Chong Chon Gang’s activities were an “in fragrante delicto” breach of UN sanctions and was the precursor to both the UN and U.S. Treasury Department’s blacklisting.
Though it is likely that the Chong Chon Gang has been downgraded from gunrunner to moving bulk cargoes of coal between China and the DPRK, any interaction with the ship would presumably be difficult were China to freeze OMM’s assets.
The remaining ten vessels are all operating around Chinese ports, with the exception of the Mu Du Bong, a freighter currently in the Mexican port of Tuxpan. The North Korean ship is currently awaiting an inspection from members of the UN PoE.
The Chon Chong Gang’s destination in China. Image credit: Google maps
Although 10 vessels have broadcast some positional data in the six weeks since the U.S. and UN sanctions, the amount of AIS information transmitted overall appears to have taken a steep downturn over the same period.
While OMM’s vessels have historically had little issue with breaking maritime law by switching off AIS transmitters – often going dark for months at a time – currently only two of the 14 ships have broadcast any AIS data within the last two weeks.
This contrasts quite sharply with global and local AIS patterns where it is unusual for ships to stop broadcasting their positions at all. The figure is even poor in comparison the rest of the North Korean fleet.
OMM’s fleet behaviour in the last two weeks of May, one month before the blacklisting, was also markedly different, with nine of OMM’s ships transmitting their locations for periods of four or five days.
RENAMED BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Further muddying the waters, OMM appears to have already begun the process of renaming and re-assigning vessels to different owners or managers. Since the beginning of August, two fleet members have been renamed and transferred to Pyongyang-based management companies.
Ownership changes for the Chol Ryong. Image credit: Equasis
This has historically been a successful tactic for North Korea to sidestep blacklists as it transfers ownership and management duties to an non-sanctioned front company.
How useful the method will be in this instance is unclear, as pointed out by Stephen Haggard on the Witness to Transformation blog, the UN attempted to close this loophole in last year’s UNSCR 2094.
The updated resolution requests that member states “communicate to the Committee any information available on transfers of DPRK aircraft or vessels to other companies … including renaming or re-registering of aircraft, vessels or ship”.
The U.S. Treasury Department also showed awareness of North Korea’s renaming tactics by including the vessels’ IMO numbers in their sanction. IMOs are a unique identifier that remain constant throughout a vessel’s lifetime, making them a better way to keep track of sanctioned ships.
The recent name change (from Ryong Gun Bong). Image credit: Equasis
Not all of the Treasury Department’s actions were so effective however.
Treasury also sanctioned three vessels that are listed as broken up and decommissioned/lost in two maritime databases, indicating that these three ships are no longer seaworthy, have sunk, or have been scrapped.
The Dok Chon has been listed as “broken up” in the Equasis shipping database since November 2013, with the other two ships also being listed as no longer sailing since at least June 10, three weeks before the Treasury Department’s sanctions. Nor have any of the three vessels broadcast any location data to Marine Traffic within the last six months.
Despite the attempts to circumvent the rules, the updated UNSCR resolution 2094 gives OMM less leeway than the North Korean company had previously.
“[OMM’s] conduct … sounds very much like how Iran attempted (ultimately, unsuccessfully) to evade Treasury’s implementation of Iran sanctions law. If previous patterns hold up, the North Korean captains will turn off their transponders, and rename and reflag the vessels,” Stanton told NK News.
The continued use of China’s ports by OMM linked vessels would indicate that so far the Chinese authorities have been slow on the uptake. As a UN member state, resolution 2094 gives China the power to make life difficult for the North Korean company in Chinese waters.
“The Chinese will pretend to be fooled by [OMM’s tactics], fail to inspect OMM’s ships, and will thereby fail to enforce UN Security Council sanctions,” Stanton continued.
Historically, the bulk off OMM’s vessels have ferried cargo between China and the DPRK. Analysis of ship inspection records shows that some of the ships used to make regularly frequent trips to India, South America and occasionally South Africa, though these numbers have dipped in recent years.
The Mu Du Bong’s recent inspections in Mexico and Cuba were the first on an OMM ship outside of Chinese or Russian waters since 2011, indicating that the company’s options may have been curtailed.
The most recent resolutions should tighten the net even further, though without China’s co-operation, it might be business as usual for Ocean Maritime Management and its ageing fleet.
© 2014 Yuku. All rights reserved.