Archive for November, 2010

Crack in Orwellian paradise

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Lankov writes in the Korea Times:

One of the most important peculiarities of North Korean life is the degree of isolation of North Koreans from entire world. The government does not want them to be aware of some facts which contradict the officially approved picture of the world and their own country. To make sure that propaganda has no competition, the North Korean authorities eliminate all possible sources of alternative information.

Few if any Communist countries were as efficient as North Korea in cutting their population off from the unwanted and unauthorized knowledge about the world beyond the nation’s boundaries.

Few North Koreans are ever allowed to leave their country. The only statistically large but non-privileged group of people with overseas experience was the Siberian loggers who were sent to the wilderness of Southern Siberia from the late 1960s onwards. However, that part of the world is not famous for a high density population, so their contact with the locals was kept at a bare minimum (and North Korean authorities saw to this).

All other groups of North Koreans who were allowed to travel overseas formed the upper crust of society and by definition were carefully chosen for their supposed political reliability. These privileged few were diplomats, crews of the North Korean ships and planes as well as a handful of the people who were allowed to participate in international exchanges, largely of academic nature. These people had a lot to lose, and they also knew that their families would pay a high price for any wrongdoing they committed, thus they seldom caused trouble. They are least likely to talk much about overseas life.

There were students, of course, but their numbers were very small ― perhaps, less than 10,000 North Koreans ever graduated from foreign universities (just for comparison: some 240,000 South Koreans are studying overseas right now).

The North Koreans cannot buy or read books published overseas ― no exception is made even for books from other Communist countries. All non-technical foreign publications are kept in special departments of libraries and one needs a security clearance to access them. In these departments the subversive material could be read only by the trustworthy people who obtained special permission from security police.

Of course, radio was the major source of worries for the Pyongyang leaders. So, North Korea is the only country which outlaws the use of the radio sets with free tuning. All radio sets are permanently fixed on the wavelength of the official Pyongyang broadcast, and police conduct random house checks to ensure that technically savvy owners have not re-modeled their sets.

In a clearly Orwellian twist, the government does its best to keep the populace cut off from the past as well. All periodicals and most books more than ten years old are to be sent to the same special departments with access being limited to the people with proper security clearance. Even speeches of the Great Leader are edited (rewritten) from time to time to meet the demands of the ever changing political situation.

Why did they do it? The answer seems to be obvious: the governments know that they have to hide the huge difference in economic performance between North Korean and its neighbors, and above all ― between North and South Korea. Currently, the ratio of per capita income between two Korean states is estimated to be at 1:15 at best and 1:50 at worst. This is the largest gap which exists worldwide between two countries which share a land border, and this gap is powerful proof of North Korea’s economic inefficiency. The government understands that once the populace learns about the gap, the situation might get out of control. To prevent it, they work hard to keep people ignorant about the outside world.

Until 2000 or so, they have been generally successful, even though some snippets of dangerous information found their way to North Korea. Things began to change in the late 1990s when North Koreans began to move across the porous border with China. Most of the refugees did not stay in China, but eventually returned to North Korea. They brought back stories of Chinese prosperity, DVDs with South Korean TV shows and small, easy-to-hide transistor radios with free tuning.

Since then, things began to change, and the information self-isolation system began to fall apart. However, it might be premature to believe that it has been damaged beyond repair. Yes, people in the borderland area are aware that they live in a poor and underdeveloped society. Many people in Pyongyang also came to realize this. But it seems that in more remote parts of the country the isolation still works reasonably well.

Sometimes I wonder how shocked North Koreans will be when exposed to the outside world for the very first time. We can be sure that their surprise will be huge ― and perhaps, their disappointment about their country’s past will be huge, too.

Read the full story here:
Crack in Orwellian paradise
Korea Times
Andrei Lankov


DPRK workers in Angola

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The Agostinho Neto Center of Culture is a massive national park that the Angolan government is building on 12,000 sq. m of land in the capital city Luanda in memory of its first president. On Oct. 24, the entrance was firmly shut with a black iron gate. Through barred windows, three or four Asian workers could be seen: they are staff of North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, which earns much-needed foreign currency for the regime from massive construction projects and monumental sculpture in the developing world.

Initially, the Agostinho Neto Center was commissioned to a Brazilian construction company, but work came to a halt until the North Koreans took over at the end of 2007.

The North Korean workers are living together in temporary wooden accommodation in a corner of the construction site. There are reportedly 100 to 120 of them in Angola. North Korea supported independence movements and civil wars of some African countries, and has been involved in some large construction projects there based on the diplomatic ties built this way. The North provided military aid to the side currently in power during the Angolan civil war and is reportedly building other parks and peace monuments in Cabinda and Huambo, one or two hours away by plane from Luanda.

The Daily NK reported North Korea has earned at least US$160 million in construction projects in Africa since 2000. A South Korean resident in Angola said, “Although North Korean workers only get minimum living cost from their government, they make additional money by working on smaller-scale projects locally when they have some spare time waiting for equipment or materials to arrive.”

One North Korean worker said, “When we go to the site for work, we sometimes get Angolan traditional congee called Fungi. It’s delicious. We eat better here than in North Korea because we can get rice from Chinese construction firms.”

In a predominantly black residential area in Luanda, there is a pharmacy run by a North Korean doctor in a shabby one-story building. “I work at a national hospital in the morning, and run this pharmacy privately in the afternoon. This is the only way I can make the ends meet,” he said.

According to a local source, there are about 180 North Korean doctors across Angola, including about a dozen in Luanda. There are also North Korean doctors in Mozambique and Congo, and some practice oriental medicine. At the pharmacy, acupuncture costs $80 for the first treatment and $40 thereafter.

Read the full story here:
N.Koreans Struggle for Hard Currency in Africa
Choson Ilbo


DPRK scientists increase publications

Friday, November 19th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korean scientists wrote a record number of papers for international scientific journals this year. Their enthusiasm was apparently undimmed by a botched currency reform late last year, tight international sanctions and a worsening food situation.

According to information provider Thomson Reuters who regularly reviews the state of scientific research, North Korean scientists submitted 26 papers, all of them co-authored, to Science Citation Index journals until November.

Since 1976, North Korean scientists have written a total of 143 papers for international journals, or a mere four per year on average. Between 1977 and 1981 there were none and only a few until the 1990s. But the number has risen conspicuously since 2004, with 11, the first two-digit figure, in 2005, 17 in 2007 and 2008, and 19 in 2009.

The 26 papers written this year cover a range of topics from optics, nanotechnology, hydromechanics, material science, and bioengineering to medicine, cosmology and mathematics. Three papers on optics are all directly or indirectly related to laser research.

Five or six papers are about nanotechnology, the hottest research topic in the world of science today. As if to reflect the food shortage in the North, one paper focuses on a method to increase the corn harvest using insects.

None of this year’s papers were published in top-class journals such as Science or Nature, nor were any of them were written by North Korean scientists alone. Chinese scientists co-authored 14 papers, and scientists from Australia, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland and other countries 12.

Experts attribute the rapid increase to a new policy focus on science. Dr. Byun Sang-jung of the Institute for National Security Strategy said in a New Year’s message in 2000, the regime gave priority to three pillars — ideology, the military, and science and technology. Already in 1998 the North formulated a five-year plan for science and technology development, laying the stress on investment and scientific exchanges with foreign countries. Even scientists of the U.S. are conducting joint research with North Korean scientists in electronics.

But the North’s production of scientific papers could decline, some experts predict. Dr. Kim Jong-sun at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology said, “Most of the North’s scientific papers published this year must got started in 2007, the last full year of the Roh Mu-hyun administration” when aid and exchanges were still in full swing.

“The North will likely produce a smaller number of scientific papers from next year, because the regime’s science policy has reached limits now that inter-Korean exchanges are suspended,” he added.

Read the full story here:
Boom Time for N.Korean Scientists
Choson Ilbo


Kim Jong-un pushes CNC deployment

Friday, November 19th, 2010

If you are not sure what CNC is, read my previous post here.

According to the Joongang Daily:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s youngest son is making unofficial rounds to munitions factories in the communist state, encouraging the modernization of technology in the manufacture of weapons and following his father’s footsteps in songun, or “military-first,” politics, according to U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Wednesday.

Kim Jong-un wants all factories to implement computer numerical control (CNC), which enables the automation of machines with computer-assisted technology. CNC has been connected to the young leader-to-be since last year when he was tapped for succession. South Korean government officials have said that the technical term is being used in connection with Kim Jong-un because the technology is new in North Korea – suggesting the rise of a young new leader intent on modernizing military production.

“With news that Kim Jong-un will visit a munitions factory in Chongjin, North Hamgyong, the factory has been busy with movement. He is coming to inspect the CNC of the factory’s production line,” said a well-informed source cited by RFA. The factory, which is in an area of northeastern North Korea located about 50 miles from the Chinese border, is known to produce shells for multiple-launch artillery pieces. It was also mentioned in a recent broadcast by the state’s official television network for its implementation of CNC technology along with other machinery factories, “standing at the cutting-edge of machinery development,” KCTV said.

According to the source, Kim Jong-un is visiting production lines in North Hamgyong and Jagang, and munitions factories were the first to receive orders to implement CNC to “set an example” for the entire country.

The new technology is utilized to develop more weapons, which could easily attack Seoul and the metropolitan area and could put more pressure on the South Korean government.

North Korea has been urging talks with Seoul to resume cross-border tourism while simultaneously trying to hint that it wants to return to the six-party talks on denuclearization.

Kim Jong-un was also reported to have shown a friendly side to those who have cooperated with his CNC implementation plan. Factories that he visited are reportedly being given incentives, such as cooking oil for workers’ families. Kim Jong-un’s visits mirror those of his father’s past field guidance trips to various places in the communist state and indicate he is well on his way to becoming the next North Korean leader. The field guidance trips are usually touted by the North’s official media without exact dates of when the visits actually happened.

Read the full story here:
Kim Jong-un pushing ‘military-first’
JoongAng Daily
Christine Kim


DPRK defectors in China

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Andrei Lankov writes in the Korea Times:

Nowadays, there are between 20,000 and 30,000 North Koreans hiding in China, and roughly three quarters of them are women.

But what are they doing there? Of course, the major motivation behind their decision to flee was the disastrous economic situation in North Korea.

In the late 1990s, the refugees fled a very real threat of starving to death, while nowadays it is most likely that destitution and malnutrition drive them across the border. For men it is not so easy to move, since for them the stakes are higher. If caught, men are likely to face greater problems than women.

But there is another reason: large-scale trafficking of women (well, as will be explained later, the present author is somewhat wary about using the word “trafficking” to describe this phenomena).

Once a North Korean woman finds herself in China, she soon realizes that without ability to speak at least some Chinese, and with police constantly on alert against refugees, one of the best survival strategies available for her is to become a “live-in” partner of some local Chinese man.

The patterns differ greatly. In some cases, women are kidnapped or lured by false promises and then sold to Chinese husbands who might be very abusive and cruel. In some other cases, women make their own choice, often after spending years in China and acquiring a good command of the language as well as a good understanding of the situation.

The first is human trafficking, pure and simple. The second can hardly be described as anything but a normal marriage. But it seems that most cases lie somewhere between these two extremes.

When the border controls nearly collapsed in 1998-99, cross-border match-making services began to develop. The brides are in great demand in the poorer rural parts of northeast China. Similar problems are well-known in the South Korean countryside, too.

Single men cannot find wives since most girls go to cities and few of them would consider a farmer as a suitable husband anyway.

In the case of South Korea such a phenomenon recently produced an explosive growth in the number of the interracial marriages, with Korean farmers marrying Vietnamese and Chinese girls. In the case of China, the illegal migrants from the North are a substitute.

In some cases, a desperate bachelor pays mobsters or their intermediaries to get a wife whom he might eventually keep under house arrest, for fear that the kidnapped woman might escape.

However, more frequently families use the intricate network of inter-border connections to arrange a bride. Often the prospective wife is located on the other side of the border, but it is not a major obstacle as long as people have some cash to pay North Korean border guards.

Thus, many young Korean women enter the game willingly, even if their expectations about their future might be overly optimistic as they are often misled.

Frankly, I have serious problems with describing this particular type of arrangement as “human trafficking.” Our modern sensitivities might indeed be offended by an idea of a woman marrying somebody whom she has never seen, purely on assumption this is the surest way to guarantee her livelihood.

However, this is how nearly all marriages were concluded a century ago. The idea of romantic love union based on the mutual attraction is a novelty, invented in the 19th century Europe and still unusual in poorer parts of the world.

After all, many women get what they want: a stable life, free from hunger. They would never have such a life “under the fatherly care of the Dear Leader.”

However, these women are illegal immigrants and they have no way to protect themselves if the relationship turns abusive. If they escape, they are very likely to be caught by mobsters and sold again, or caught by police and extradited back to their home country (god knows what is worse).

However, it is also important and telling that a large number of such women, if they are indeed deported to the North to spend some time in jail there, use the first opportunity to come back to China in order to reunite with their husbands again.

Still, the North Korean authorities make sure that all women who are caught pregnant have abortions: perhaps, on the grounds of habitual racism, so common in the Kim Jong-il’s kingdom.

Many Chinese husbands try hard to do something about their Korean wives’ official standing. If the husbands are willing to contribute enough resources, sooner or later, the women acquire Chinese Resident Identity Card where they are registered as China-born ethnic Koreans.

Such an ID costs a lot in bribes to officials, but once it is secured the former hapless refugee becomes a proud citizen of the People’s Republic of China.

It is also important that children born out of such unions usually get the Chinese Resident Identity Card as well. This means that they will go to the Chinese schools and receive a standard education in Korean and/or Chinese.

However, apart from this cross-border movement of brides there is trafficking pure and simple. The Chinese sex industry is controlled and restricted, but exists, and North Korean girls form a large part of the sex workers in the cities of northeast China.

They are even more hapless than Chinese prostitutes, since they are probably more afraid of deportation than of their captors. But their sorry fate should probably become a topic of another story …

Read the full story here:
North Korean defectors
Korea Times
Andrei Lankov


US sanctions two more DPRK organizations

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

UPDATE 2: Here is the actual Treasury Department Press Release (11/18/2010):

Treasury Designates Key Nodes of the Illicit Financing Network of North Korea’s Office 39

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13551 for being owned or controlled by Office 39 of the Korean Workers’ Party.  Office 39 is a secretive branch of the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) that provides critical support to North Korean leadership in part through engaging in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds and generating revenues for the leadership. Office 39 was named in the Annex to E.O. 13551, issued by President Obama on August 30, 2010, in response to the U.S. government’s longstanding concerns regarding North Korea’s involvement in a range of illicit activities, many of which are conducted through government agencies and associated front companies. Korea Daesong Bank is involved in facilitating North Korea’s illicit financing projects, and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation is used to facilitate foreign transactions on behalf of Office 39.

“Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation are key components of Office 39’s financial network supporting North Korea’s illicit and dangerous activities,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.  “Treasury will continue to use its authorities to target and disrupt the financial networks of entities involved in North Korean proliferation and other illicit activities.”

E.O. 13551 targets for sanctions individuals and entities facilitating North Korean trafficking in arms and related materiel; procurement of luxury goods; and engagement in certain illicit economic activities, such as money laundering, the counterfeiting of goods and currency, bulk cash smuggling and narcotics trafficking. As a result of today’s action, any assets of the designated entities that are within U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and U.S. persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these entities.

UPDATE 1: Here is the US Treasury Department’s web page on North Korea.

ORIGINAL POST: According to Reuters:

The United States sanctioned on Thursday two North Korean companies linked to a group it accuses of drug smuggling and other “illicit” activities to support the nation’s secretive leadership.

U.S. sanctions against North Korea aim in part to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs, which the United States views as a threat to its allies South Korea and Japan. The North tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.

The Treasury Department’s moves against Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation will freeze any assets belonging to them that fall within U.S. jurisdiction as well as bar U.S. companies from dealing with them.

Their main aim is not to block North Korean assets in U.S. banks — analysts say there are unlikely to be any — but to discourage other banks from dealing with North Korea, thereby cutting off its access to foreign currency and luxury imports.

Perks and luxuries such as jewelry, fancy cars and yachts derived from North Korea’s shadowy network of overseas interests are believed to be one of the main tools Pyongyang uses to ensure loyalty among top military and party leaders to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The Treasury described the two entities as “key nodes of the illicit financing network” of Office 39 of the Korean Workers’ Party, which it accuses of producing and smuggling narcotics to earn foreign exchange for the government.

“Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation are key components of Office 39’s financial network supporting North Korea’s illicit and dangerous activities,” Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey said in a statement.

Heroin Production?
The Treasury designated the two under a recent executive order that targets entities that support North Korea’s arms trafficking, facilitate its luxury goods purchases and engage in illicit economic activities such as money laundering, drug and bulk cash smuggling and counterfeiting goods and currency.

President Barack Obama signed the executive order on August 30 allowing the Treasury to block the U.S. assets of North Korean entities that trade in arms or luxury goods, counterfeit currency or engage in money laundering, drug smuggling or other “illicit” activity to support the government or its leaders.

When that executive order was announced, the Treasury accused Office 39 of producing opium and heroin and of smuggling narcotics such as methamphetamine.

U.S.-North Korean relations have deteriorated since Obama took office, with his aides deeply unhappy about Pyongyang’s decision to conduct nuclear and missile tests last year as well as the March 26 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan.

Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed in the incident, which the United States, South Korea and other nations blame squarely on North Korea. Pyongyang denies responsibility.

In the August 30 executive order, Obama cited the Cheonan’s sinking as well as 2009 nuclear and missile tests by North Korea as evidence it poses “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security, foreign policy and economy.

The Obama administration has been skeptical about returning to so-called six-party negotiations with the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia under which Pyongyang committed in 2005 to abandon its nuclear programs.

U.S. officials say they do not want to talk for the sake of talking and North Korea must show some commitment to abandoning its nuclear programs.
Read the full story here:
U.S. sanctions two North Korean entities
Arshad Mohammed


RoK ends Sunshine Policy

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

According to Voice of America:

The South Korean Unification Ministry’s annual report calls the Sunshine Policy of peaceful engagement with North Korea a failure.

The ministry’s white paper, issued Thursday, contends a decade of cooperation, cross-border exchanges and billions of dollars in aid did not change Pyongyang’s behavior or improve the lives of North Korean citizens.

Lee Jong-joo, a ministry spokeswoman, says South Korea’s goal is to see North Korea prosper, but Seoul must respond appropriately to any provocations from Pyongyang.

Compared with the previous two administrations here, North-South relations have significantly cooled under President Lee Myung-bak.

Mr. Lee, since taking office in 2008, has insisted North Korea give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons if it wants badly needed food and other aid from Seoul.

His conservative government points to North Korea’s continued nuclear programs and this year’s sinking of a South Korean warship as examples of deception by Pyongyang.

The white paper’s publication was delayed six months to include information on the sinking of the Cheonan navy ship in March.

Pyongyang denies responsibility for the sinking. An international investigation concluded the ship was hit by a North Korean torpedo.

Park Young-Ho is a senior research fellow at the government-funded Korea Institute for National Unification. He says Mr. Lee’s administration is trying to establish a relationship based on rules with the North.

Park says this is a shift, in response to four decades of Pyongyang’s questionable attitude towards inter-Korean engagement.

The ministry’s report complains about the lack of progress on other critical issues, including reuniting separated families and the release or information about South Korean prisoners of war, as well as citizens abducted by the North’s agents.

Referring to huge payments Seoul secretly made to Pyongyang to bring about a 2000 summit of the countries’ leaders, the Unification Ministry says any future engagement must be done transparently.

The policy document does stress the importance of dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang.

On Thursday, Pyongyang sent a message to Seoul saying it is prepared to discuss the status of a jointly run resort in the North when their Red Cross societies hold talks next week.

South Korea’s government has asked Pyongyang to release assets it seized in Seoul’s portion of the Mount Kumgang resort.

Tours to the resort were a rare source of hard currency for the impoverished North. Seoul suspended the program in 2008 when a North Korean guard shot and killed a South Korean tourist near the resort.

Read the full story here:
South Korea Formally Declares End to Sunshine Policy
Voice of America


N.Korea faces 542,000 t grain deficit in 2010/11

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Acording to Reuters:

North Korea is facing a grain deficit of 542,000 tonnes in the 2010/11 marketing year after the government only partially provided for grain import cover, the United Nations’ food agencies said on Tuesday.

North Korea’s cereal import requirement in 2010/11 is estimated at 867,000 tonnes, while the government plans to import commercially only about 325,000 tonnes, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme said .

“The mission recommended to provide some 305,000 tonnes of international food assistance to the most vulnerable population,” the FAO and WFP said in a report after a joint mission to the country.

According to the New York Times:

Despite a relatively good autumn harvest in North Korea, the reclusive communist nation remains in dire need of food aid, especially for its youngest children, pregnant women and the elderly, according to two United Nations agencies.

In a new joint report, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization said that North Korea, even after substantial imports, would have a shortfall in staple crops — mostly rice, grains and soybeans — of more than half a million tons.

The 2010 harvest was 3 percent higher than last year, the agencies said, despite an unusually harsh winter and alternating drought and flood conditions over the summer.

But even in the best of years North Korea is unable to feed itself. Government food distribution provides only half the necessary daily calories, the report said. People are thus left to fend for themselves with small hillside plots, kitchen gardens and the buying of or bartering for food on the black market.

Aid officials have estimated that the food aid program for North Korea was 80 percent underfunded and that nearly half the country’s children are malnourished.

“I saw a lot of children already losing the battle against malnutrition,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, after a visit to North Korea earlier this month.

“Their bodies and minds are stunted, and so we really feel the need there,” she said. , Agriculture is “the main contributor to the national income” in the North, the agencies said, although its percentage of gross domestic product has declined in the past decade to 21 percent from 30 percent. A lack of foreign currency and credit, made worse by international sanctions against the regime, prevented significant imports of fertilizer and pesticides as well as tires and spare parts for farm trucks and tractors.

In remarks before the Group of 20 summit meeting in Seoul last week, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he had “very serious concerns about the humanitarian situation” in North Korea, “especially for the very young children.”

Mr. Ban said the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, had pledged to him that the South would provide humanitarian assistance to the North’s children.

The two U.N. agencies said their report, which was released Tuesday, was produced by teams that went to most of North Korea’s principal agricultural regions.

As the teams traveled around, the report said, “it was evident that there were no cereals in stock in the warehouses visited.”

Additional Information:
1. Here is a link to stories about South Korean aid provided this year

2. The DPRK has recently expressed skepticism over the motivations of foreign aid agencies.

3. Here is a PDF of the UN Special Report.  It is full of data and has been added to my Economic Statistics Page.

4. Here is a link to the UN report which you can read on line.

Read the full sotries here:
N.Korea faces 542,000 t grain deficit in 2010/11-UN

U.N. Urges Food Aid for North Korea
New York Times
Mark McDonald and Kevin Drew


DPRK signals strengthening central government

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

The North Korean regime is enacting sweeping changes to the law to bolster state control. A source familiar with North Korean affairs on Tuesday said four North Korean laws covering economic planning were revised in April and laws governing management of Pyongyang were revised in March.

The revised laws, which the source claims to have seen, “show the central regime’s intention to control everything, from the economy to the daily lives of the people.” North Korea has changed or enacted at least 17 different laws since November last year, just before a botched currency reform.

The revised economic planning law deletes a phrase in Article 17, which stipulated that the economy is planned “in line with methods that are presented from lower levels.” According to the source, the regime inserted the phrase when it announced timid economic reforms in July 2001 in order to give more authority over production to individual factories and businesses. “The deletion of the phrase demonstrates the intention to retrieve that authority,” the source said.

Instead, the terms “provisional figures” and “control figures” were revived after their omission in 2001. “The term ‘provisional figures’ refers to the potential output each factory sets, while ‘control figures’ represent the actual output amount assessed by the central government,” the source said. “So the terms strengthen the centralized economic planning regulations of the past.”

In Article 27, a new clause was inserted which reads, “The planning of the people’s economy is a legal task.” The source said, “This means that the partial freedom given to individual factories over production has now been taken away completely.”

The law on the management of Pyongyang, which was revised on March 30, also stresses the role of the state. Originally, maintenance and management of the capital were up to the Pyongyang City People’s Committee. But under the revision it falls into the hands of the State Planning Committee and the Cabinet. Also, all Pyongyang residents over the age of 17 have been ordered to carry their resident identification cards at all times.

Also added were articles that bind the central government to guarantee housing and the supply of necessities for the residents of Pyongyang. This shows the clear intention of the regime to take charge of housing and goods supply. “Labor and commercial laws also contain clear intentions to bolster government control,” the source said.

Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University, said as conditions worsened after the failed currency reform and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s son has been lined up to succeed his father, “the regime seems to feel that tighter internal control is better than aggressive reform. Even if North Korea is looking to partially open up through economic cooperation with China, this will be difficult to achieve with such a conservative approach.”

The Donga Ilbo also covered the story.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea Reverts to Hardline State Control
Choson Ilbo


Report of Kim Jong-un’s domestic purges

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity has reported that Kim Jong-un is carrying out a purge of local officials to cement his ascention to power.  According to the AFP:

North Korea’s young heir apparent has launched a purge of senior party and military officials in an apparent attempt to cement his grip on power, a North Korean defectors’ group said Wednesday.

Pyongyang this month began a crackdown on senior officials suspected of corruption, starting in Musan county in the northeastern province of North Hamkyong, said the Seoul-based North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity.

A spokesman said the information came from North Korean sources whom he described as senior party officials closely connected with the investigation.

“About 15 heavyweight officials, many of them military, are being investigated for turning a blind eye to people fleeing the country and being involved in smuggling activities,” the spokesman told AFP.

He said the investigation was being led by Kim Jong-Un, youngest son and chosen successor to leader Kim Jong-Il.

The crackdown, which would be expanded into a nationwide campaign, was a “politically-motivated purge” aimed at replacing longstanding military members with younger officials more loyal to Jong-Un, said the spokesman.

“This is a purge for generational change… senior officials are trembling with fear because they don’t know where heads are going to roll,” he said.

Seoul’s intelligence agency declined to comment on the report.

The Kim dynasty, which has ruled the communist country with an iron fist for more than six decades, has long used purges to maintain its grip on power.

Founding president Kim Il-Sung reportedly executed hundreds of dissidents during the early years of his leadership and often persecuted senior officials showing signs of rebelliousness.

Kim Jong-Il, after taking over from his father, is known to have executed several hundred soldiers for showing “suspicious movements”, Wednesday’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

Jong-Un, believed to be aged 27, was made a general and given powerful party posts at the country’s largest political gathering for 30 years in September.

Kim Jong-Il, 68, is believed to be accelerating preparations for another hereditary power transfer due to worsening health after he suffered a stroke in 2008.

Additional Information
1. The Korea Times also reported this story.

2. Previously the Daily NK reported a reorganization of the DPRK’s external patronage networks.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea heir apparent purges officials: defectors