Archive for May, 2007

Where is the nearest North Korean Embassy?

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

The Internet knows…


North Korean Soccer Sponsors

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

So, it looks like Hummel, a Danish sports apparel company is sponsoring the North Korean national soccer team.


Chondoism, National Religion

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007


Chondoism is the national religion of Korea. The Chondoists are enjoying their religious life to the full under the protection of the DPRK.

It was founded in 1860 with the idea “Man and God are one” as its principle, for the purpose of building an “earthly paradise” under the banner of “Poguk anmin” (defending the country and providing welfare for the people). From the outset, however, it had to undergo suppression of feudal ruling classes and foreign invaders.

Choe Je U, the founder of the religion who had been called the Most Venerable Suun, and the second leader of the religion were killed by the feudal state of Ri dynasty for their anti-feudal and anti-aggressive spirits. During the Kabo Peasant War (1894 – 1895) and the March First Popular Uprising against the Japanese imperialists, hundreds of thousands of believers were arrested, imprisoned and killed cold-bloodedly.

It was the early winter in Juche 25 (1936) that the religion met its true guardian.

President Kim Il Sung appreciated the patriotic nature of Chondoism and met Tojong (a title of a local leader of Chondoist religion) Pak In Jin. He called for firmly uniting under the banner of the national liberation, transcending differences in ideology, religious faith and political view and led a great number of believers to the sacred war against the Japanese imperialists. After national liberation, he aroused them to building of a new country.

Moved by the noble benevolence of the President who embraced and warmly looked after all the people of the country, the wife of Pak In Jin called him as “Heaven” when she was honored with his audience in 1992.

The Chondoists are also enjoying a happy life under the care of Kim Jong Il.

They are leading a free religious life with the building on a beautiful bank of the River Taedong. Chondoists who were elected deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly are taking part in the political affairs of the country and are doing a lot of good things for the DPRK.

Pak In Jin, Kang Je Ha, Pak U Chon, Ryo Pung Gu and others who contributed to the liberation, prosperity and development of the country were laid to rest in the Patriotic Martyrs’ Cemetery.


NKorea’s capitalist enclave seeks foreign support

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

AFP (Hat Tip DPRK Studies)
Simon Martin

The managers of this capitalist enclave in communist North Korea are appealing for the world’s support, saying their experiment in free markets can pave the way for regional peace.

Diplomats who toured the Kaesong Industrial Complex Tuesday were urged to set aside worries over the North’s nuclear programme and to invest in the complex adjacent to the world’s last and heavily fortified Cold War frontier.

“I know you are concerned about the political situation on the peninsula but I strongly believe inter-Korean projects can help reduce tension,” Kim Chul-Soon told lunch guests of diplomats and reporters who toasted the project with North Korean “Wild Flower” wine to the strains of Mozart.

Kim is executive vice-president of Hyundai Asan, the South Korean firm which since 1998 has invested 1.2 billion dollars in Kaesong and in the North Korean tourist resort of Mount Kumgang on the east coast.

Work began at Kaesong in 2005 and the complex now has 22 factories with five more under construction. The workforce totals some 12,100 North Koreans, including construction workers, and 700 from the South.

Ambitious plans, strongly backed by the South Korean government, call for some 2,000 companies employing 350,000 people by 2020.

A management committee of the two sides touts Kaesong as “the hope for the future” of the two Koreas, which had almost no economic exchanges until a groundbreaking summit in 2000.

Committee chairman Kim Dong-Kun noted that Kaesong was one of the battlegrounds of the 1950-53 war which cemented the peninsula’s division.

“I am confident it will pave the way for peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia but I realise this will only be through strong international support,” he told diplomats.

Visitors to Kaesong are greeted by a portrait of North Korea’s “Great Leader” Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994, as they pass through the heavily fortified frontier zone.

But the fenced-off complex, funded almost entirely by the South, is otherwise a propaganda-free zone. North Korean officials refer to “South Korea” rather than the “south side,” as official media terms its neighbouring nation.

Pictures of North Korea’s Kim dynasty are not in evidence, apart from on lapel badges, and presentations praise the private sector.

Managers say they want to emulate Shenzhen, the special economic zone bordering Hong Kong which kick-started China’s economic boom. But unlike in Shenzhen, North Korean workers — described as diligent, well-educated and eager to learn — cannot spend their wages as they wish.

Companies pay the basic wage, 57 dollars and 50 cents a month for a 48-hour working week, to North Korean officials.

The officials, on average, return 15-20 percent to the worker in North Korean won and the remainder in the form of food and other essentials.

Given the North’s crumbling command economy and persistent food shortages, jobs at Kaesong are still apparently desirable.

“Because North and South Korea are working together, it feels great because unification will come sooner,” said one female worker at the ShinWon textile factory in a typical response.

Asked how much she earns, she told AFP through an interpreter that “we earn enough to make a living and keep our stomachs full.”

Kaesong’s supporters say it will narrow the huge economic gap between North and South but they seek foreign support. Apart from one Japan-invested joint venture, all factories at present are owned by South Korean companies which enjoy tax breaks to invest.

Six sites have been set aside for overseas firms in the first phase.

Goods are labelled “Made in Korea” and are covered by Seoul’s free trade deals with Southeast Asia. But the United States, which sealed an FTA with South Korea recently, agreed only to consider the Kaesong issue later.

The aim is also to revitalise South Korea’s small- and medium-size firms, especially textile companies which are struggling against competition from cheaper Chinese labour. Textiles account for almost half of Kaesong’s total production worth 115 million dollars since it opened.


More Help Needed to Improve NK’s Public Health

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Korea Times
Lee Jin-woo

A middle-aged American doctor who grew up in South Korea has stressed that it’s time to move on to helping North Korea with public health issues.

“North Korea’s food situation is at least better. We need to move on to public health issues including rebuilding the North’s nine provincial and 200 county hospitals,” John A. Linton of Yonsei University’s Severance Hospital in Seoul told The Korea Times in an interview on Monday. The 47-year-old doctor heads the hospital’s international health care center.

Linton, who is well-known for his Korean name Yin Yo-han and thick South Jeolla Province accent, proposed a three-stage medical support program for North Korea from the South Korean government.

“Number one, we need to help them with a vaccination program, which should be followed by supplies of diagnostic equipment,” he said. “The final stage should be an exchange of doctors between the two Koreas.”

He said North Korean doctors need basic diagnostic equipment _ ultrasound and x-ray machines, and clinical pathology supplies _ as well as more operating theaters.

“You have to have a healthy population in the North, for them to survive and become competitive enough to receive economic finance and business opportunities.”

He hoped that large-scale medical support to the North on a regular basis would be discussed during ministerial talks between the two Koreas in the near future.

“Nobody can argue with health care,” he said. “North Korea has been an enemy, but now at the same time they are brothers. Even if they are an enemy, you must help them.”

Linton, who visited the North 17 times between 1997 and 2003 to help eradicate tuberculosis in the Stalinist state, said it should be South Korea, not the United Nations or the World Health Organization (WHO), that needs to take the lead in helping the North.

“You have to be very, very careful with the U.N. and WHO. They treat the two Koreas as two separate countries differently,” he said. “Eventually policy should be looking towards unification. South Koreans should take the lead.”

Asked whether he is a big fan of South Korea’s engagement policy toward Pyongyang, dubbed the `Sunshine policy,’ he said he supports it wholeheartedly. Linton, however, emphasized the need to guarantee transparency in the process.

“We should not encourage some of the North Korean leadership as middle management is very corrupt. We should not reward corrupt people there. That’s not for us that’s for North Korea.”

His dedication toward helping the North was initiated by his mother, who worked to eradicate tuberculosis in Suncheon in South Jeolla Province for some 40 years. She decided to donate ambulances to North Korea in 1997.

“When we got there in Pyongyang, we suddenly received a special request from North Korea asking for assistance treating TB throughout the whole country,” he said. “We visited the entire country while helping them fight TB.”

In his autobiography published last year, Linton recalled his unforgettable experiences as an interpreter during the bloody Kwangju pro-democracy movement in May 1980.

He served as a translator to people who occupied the provincial capital against the then military regime led by former President Chun Doo-hwan.

“Immediately following this experience, I was labeled as an insurgent ,” he said. “The American embassy in Seoul asked me to leave Korea, just for translating for three to four hours for reporters.”

He said his experience in Kwangju changed his personal life and made him understand what injustice is and how dangerous newspapers are.

He said such a great sacrifice should never ever happen again on the Korean Peninsula.


N. Korea film hunts buyers at Cannes

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Korea Herald

North Korea’s first film bidding for buyers at the Cannes market provides a rare look at the fortress nation seen through teenage eyes, according to a news report.

“The Schoolgirl’s Diary,” one of only two films produced from Pyongyang last year, chronicles a girl’s life through her school years, grappling with peer pressure and family problems much the same as those the world over, AFP reported.

“It is not pure propaganda,” said James Velaise of Pretty Pictures, who snapped up distribution rights at the Pyongyang filmfest last September, a two-yearly event barred to US movie types but open to a handful of European and Communist nations.

“It’s the first time North Korea has been shown on the market,” Velaise told AFP. The film, which reportedly saw eight million admissions at home last year, or roughly one out of three North Koreans,will be released in France at the end of the year.

The movie, described by trade magazine Variety as “well-lensed,” debuts unexpectedly with schoolgirls in uniform carrying Mickey Mouse bags.


Diplomatic Ease

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Korea Times
Andrei Lankov

It’s tough to serve in a foreign mission in Pyongyang. One has to survive difficult conditions, the boredom of long official gatherings, the near absence of a social life. And police surveillance, of course!

The major assumptions on which the North Korean authorities act in their dealings with diplomats and foreign officials is simple: all diplomats are spies, sent to Pyongyang to inflict harm (to a slightly lesser extent, this is applicable to all foreigners). Thus, they should be isolated from any interaction with locals, constantly monitored and fed only with the (dis)information their hosts find suitable.

Such an approach began to develop a long time ago: as early as the mid-1950s the embassies of the supposedly friendly Communist countries complained about restrictions and harassment. Initially, the victims were the likes of Hungarians and Poles, but from the late 1950s, even the Chinese and Soviet Embassies, representatives of Pyongyang’s powerful sponsors, found themselves under constant surveillance.

Every veteran of diplomatic Pyongyang is able to produce his share of anecdotes and stories _ and I think about collecting them one day. For example, Erik Cornel, a Swedish ambassador to the North, related how some diplomats discovered that the newly built embassy buildings were equipped with a network of underground tunnels which would allow the North Korean operatives to get into any compound unnoticed and unopposed. A wife of the Indonesian ambassador noted how she discovered a face staring at her from a hatch in their residence. Obviously, somebody on a covert patrol in the tunnel network lost his way…

This is a rather typical North Korean approach: to compensate for the shortage of expensive high technology with some low-tech ingenuity and resourcefulness!

Indeed, technology is often in short supply. Another story by Erik Cornel is probably worth quoting in full: “The cleaner [of the Swedish embassy] was a youngish, reserved but agreeable lady, who was treated with great respect by others. The gardener once came with a dirty lamp globe which needed cleaning. When he realized that it was she _ and not one of the foreign women _ that he had to ask for help, he crouched down and respectfully lifted up the globe towards her. She also served tables when we gave formal dinner parties and wore the traditional, wide Korean dress of beautiful silk cloth. On one of the first occasions, as ill-luck would have it, a sudden cracking noise emanated from under her skirts as she served dinner _ it sounded like someone was trying to tune into a station on an old-fashioned radio. She abruptly stopped serving and rushed back into the kitchen _ evidently, the tape recorder was malfunctioning.’’

The diplomats had to hire all their own maids, drivers, secretaries, and other local personnel via a special government agency whose main task was to plant as many police agents as possible in these not-so-numerous nests of foreign subversion. Major embassies, like those of Russia and China, avoided the problems by avoiding the local personnel altogether: every single person in the embassy, from the gardener or janitor up, was an ex-pat. This makes sense, especially because the major embassies are probably the only ones that really have secrets to keep (it’s hard to imagine what sort of apocryphal secrets might be kept in the missions of, say, Romania or Austria).

All telephone conversations are intercepted. Pyongyang does not try to deny this _ officials sometimes cite records of intercepted phone talks while dealing with foreigners. Recently, most foreign missions have come with a separate network, which allows their staff to talk to other missions, but restricts their ability to make calls to the North Korean institutions, let alone to private citizens.

On their rare outings, diplomats are frequently followed by plain-clothes police. These guys’ job is not too difficult, since foreigners are highly visible in the Pyongyang crowd.

No diplomat has ever been allowed to meet North Koreans in private. All interactions take place at official receptions, where only a handful of trusted and screened Northerners are allowed to attend.

The attempts to get any meaningful statistics or other data are frustrated by the government, which has not published any hard statistics for four decades. One of my favourite responses explaining this phenomenon is the answer given to the wife of a Cuban ambassador. When she tried to inquire about North Korean burial customs, her counterpart answered: “You know, here, in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, people do not die that much!’’ In the late 1980s North Korean diplomats briefly acquired the habit of answering potentially troublesome questions by reading in full the relevant clippings from Nodong Sinmun. If one was unreasonable enough to ask about the expected harvest, he had to spend a long time listening to a reading of a Nodong Sinmun editorial on the flourishing of Korean agriculture under the wise leadership of the “Great Leader.’’

However, some old Pyongyang hands developed techniques which helped them make sense of very subtle hints to be found in the changes of their hosts’ behaviour, or in between the lines of the seemingly meaningless grumbling of the official press.


Roh wants more cash for Kaesong

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Joong Ang Daily

President Roh Moo-hyun said yesterday that his government will accelerate investment in North Korea’s Kaesong industrial park, regarding it as part of South Korea’s “unification expenses.”

“My government has not sped up the pace of its investment in the Kaesong industrial complex due to political risks. I now regret that,” the president said in an interview with the Maeil Economic Daily and its cable news affiliate MBN.

“Uncertainties surrounding investment in Kaesong will prove to be far less than expected, as the North Korean nuclear problem is certain to be settled through dialogue and confidence-building measures. Economic benefits from the Kaesong project are immeasurable.”

The president stressed that smooth operations of the industrial park will help South Korea’s external economic credibility and small businesses struggling with rising labor costs.

“The most important factor [involving Kaesong] is unification expenses. One of the surest ways to reduce the expense of unification is to make the Kaesong project successful. We have to expand our investment in Kaesong as soon as the North Korean nuclear problem is settled,” said Roh.

The industrial park is one of two flagship projects South Korea operates to promote reconciliation with North Korea, along with tours of the North’s scenic Mount Kumgang. Over 13,000 North Korean workers are now employed in Kaesong by 23 South Korean firms.

But opposition parties and other conservatives in the South are accusing the Roh government of having blindly offered excessive aid to the Kaesong complex and other inter-Korean cooperation projects.

Roh also reiterated his determination to pursue an FTA with China.

“A free trade deal with China is inevitable. But we’ll conclude it after completing the restructuring of our agricultural sector through the FTA with the U.S.”

Commenting on South Korea’s economic growth potential, Roh said the nation’s economic growth rate will soon rise again to the 7 percent level from under 5 percent due to positive effects from FTA deals and massive planned investments in the construction of new administrative, business and public corporation towns across the nation, which are estimated to reach 54 trillion won by 2010.


N.K. to send delegation to ASEAN regional forum

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Korea Herald

North Korea will send two diplomats to a Southeast Asian regional forum opening later this week in Manila, where a senior U.S. official will also be present, according to press reports Monday.

A Filipino official, speaking on condition of anonymity, was quoted as saying that North Korea is expected to send Jong Song-il and Ri Tong-il from the foreign ministry to the senior officials’ meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum opening in Manila on Friday.

The session is a prelude to the ARF conference in August. Christopher Hill, top U.S. envoy to six-nation denuclearization talks, is also scheduled to participate in the meetings, raising the possibility of contact between Pyongyang and Washington amid a stalemate in the talks.

Jong was a member of North Korea-U.S. bilateral nuclear negotiations in 1993 and 1994 but has not been a part of the six-party talks, which involve South and North Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan. He participated in ARF in 2004 and 2006, according to Yonhap News Agency.


Experts Differ Over N.Korea’s Economic Openness

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007


A lawmaker of the pro-government Uri Party has said the North Korean economy has taken a step toward economic openness.

But North Korea watchers still remained suspicious as to whether the Pyongyang regime has the genuine determination to carry out market-oriented economic reform.

“I got the strong impression that the North is striving toward economic reform during my visit to Pyongyang,” said Rep. Choi Sung of the Uri Party in a telephone interview with The Korea Times Monday.

Choi visited the North from May 14 to 18 with 130 South Korean business leaders to participate in fairs to attract external investment.

The Stalinist country is unlikely to follow in the footsteps the former Soviet Union took in the post-Cold War era, and therefore, its growth model will take a different form, Choi said.

“The North is seeking a tailored growth model by introducing an incentive-based system while maintaining its communist regime,” said the lawmaker who has visited the North 20 times.

He said the library of one of the elite universities in the North displayed a wide array of information technology related publications, and citizens were anxious to learn English.

“Clerks working at shops selling souvenirs looked very business-oriented and tried to sell as many products as possible to their customers,” he said.

Asked if he had a chance to talk to any North Korean officials if they share his view, Rep. Choi said he had not.

He said it was very evident the North was moving toward economic openness.

His view, however, is at odds with what most North Korea watchers have expressed through media reports.

The Yonhap News Agency reported on May 18 that former North Korean Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju was removed and made manager of a chemical complex because his capitalism-oriented stance fueled objections from senior North Korea officials.

Pak was named manger of the synthetic fiber complex in South Pyongan Province, the report said.

Citing unidentified sources, the report said the former premier had called on the North to introduce an incentive-based system into its economy.

The conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper supported the observation in an article published on May 19, saying that key officials calling for introducing an incentive-based system in the North have been demoted since the 1990s.