Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Pyongyang changes official narrative on South

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In a recent Korea Times article, Andrei Lankov (citing Brian Myers) highlights how the DPRK has changed the narrative of its raison d’être in response to the growing realization among its people that South Korea is not the poor, exploited US colony the propaganda portrays it to be. 

Quoting from the article:

Until some time a decade ago, the North Korean populace was expected and required to believe in a very simple world picture.

The North, led by the glorious dynasty of omniscient and benevolent rulers, was the best society on the face of the Earth, much envied and glorified by the less fortunate peoples of other countries.

The rest of the world was inferior, though people in the socialist countries admittedly fared better than the helpless inhabitants of the capitalist hell.

But worst of all was South Korea, the colony of the U.S. imperialists who exploited it with unparalleled brutality.

However, around 2000 the North Korean watchers (well, actually a handful of them with the time and ability to read the official press systematically) began to notice a new image of the South emerge.

Brian Myers, the ever observant reader of North Korean press and fiction first noticed the signs of this quiet transformation when it was only beginning.

Soon it became clear that he was right. A new propaganda line was being born. Interestingly, this time the new line was introduced not through newspapers, but in a more subtle way, through works of fiction, which also have to be approved by the supreme ideological authorities.

The new South Korea which emerged in these writings wasn’t so poor. Actually, it was not poor at all. The characters in recent North Korean novels, which deal with the imaginary life of the South, enjoy a lifestyle far superior to that of the average North Korean. They drive cars, dine out easily and live in expensive houses.

As Myers pointed out, the North Korean authors have poor ideas of how expensive Seoul real estate has become, so they sometimes overestimate South Korean’s income levels. In one novel, a young South Korean journalist buys a house in a very expensive neighborhood after merely a few years of work.

Does this mean that the new image of the South is positive? Of course not! South Korean society might be rich, the propaganda operators say, but it is still inferior to the North.

The South Koreans had to pay a terrible price for their success: they were deprived of their precious national identity.

The cultural uniqueness and racial purity of the great Korean nation has become endangered. Mixed marriages are mentioned frequently and in a way that makes readers believe they are between the same lusty Americans and young Korean women.

However, the propaganda insists, the South Koreans themselves are not happy about this situation. They dream about liberation and purification, and their hopes are pinned on Pyongyang and, above all, the Dear Leader himself. In recent years, North Korean propaganda has insisted that Kim Jong -il is worshipped in the South. Similar statements were made earlier as well.

According to this new logic, the North is a torchbearer, a proud protector of nationhood and racial purity. South Korean prosperity is tainted and hence should not be envied.

The North must fight for the ultimate salvation of the South, and such salvation can be achieved only through unification under the North Korean auspices, so all South Koreans will be able to enjoy the loving care of the Dear Leader. Only American troops and a handful of national traitors prevent this dream from coming true.

Lankov (and Myers) speculate that the North Korean government changed the narrative in response to unauthorized information permeating the country.  In a related note, the overt propaganda in many North Korean films has also been reduced in recent decades.

Most importantly, Lankov reminds us that nationalism is not a viable long-term political strategy—even in North Korea.  North Korean Juche was supposed to liberate the Korean people and deliver on material progress, but it has not succeeded.  From top to bottom, many North Koreans already know this.

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Little sunshine on this cloudy day

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Last week, North Korean Economy Watch reported Pyongyang’s irrational economic policy threats which could end the flow of millions of South Korean dollars into North Korean coffers.  I use the word “irrational” because government policies are typically designed to increase revenues to the treasury (or to coalition / constituent members), not scare them away.  Today, however, North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to closing the border with South Korea on December 1, though with some qualifications:

1. The North Koreans will end “the train to nowhere(c) NKeconWatch. This is puzzling because of all the inter-Korean projects, this one is the least “contaminating.” The South Korean government pays the North Korean government to send an empty train across the border each day.  Why jeopardize this easy money?

2. The North Koreans will end the Kaesong day tours.  This will not be good for Hyundai Asan (HA), which is already suffering losses from the idle Kumgangsan resort.  On the plus side for HA, since this project merely bussed people around Kaesong, they will not be leaving much fixed capital on the northern side of the DMZ.  Still, it is strange that the North Koreans would seek to end this program.  Although it is slightly “contaminating” in that hundreds of South Koreans are shuffled through Kaesong every day, the North’s citizens are generally isolated from their wealthy neighbors. Additionally, I estimate that this program has grossed the North Koreans nearly USD$10 million since it was launched nearly a year ago. This is not an insignificant amount of money to the DPRK.

3. The ultimate fate of the Kaesong Industrial Zone remains uncertain.  Although the North Koreans have threatened to “selectively expel” up to half of the South Koreans in the facility, some managers remain optimistic:

“(The North) never said it would halt production or expel staff related to the production process. So even in the worst case of operating with only half of the staff, we think there won’t be any problem in production,” said Lee Eun-suk, an official at Shinwon Corp, which has clothing factories at Kaesong. (Reuters, via the Washington Post)

Unless North Korea’s policy makers are terminating the flow of economic rents into the country to curb the power of some particular official or interest group, there are not many instances where these actions could be considered shrewd.  Adding to the confusion, most analysts presume that the majority of the South’s construction and wage fees are distributed to the small cohort of high-ranking North Korean policy makers who ostensibly signed off on the projects in the first place.  So why would they now decide to end their own direct funding?

These policy decisions, moreover, will likely affect the North Koreans in ways they do not yet seem to anticipate, particularly when it comes to attracting private foreign direct investment (which is desperately needed).  Private investors will not be attracted to a business environment where the rules of the game are prone to changing every few months.  Investment entrepreneurs will not risk the appropriation of large scale fixed assets.  International aid and official foreign direct investment will probably go on as usual as these tasks have more to do with political decisions than economic.

So what is going on?  That is the million dollar question, and speculation in this case is not worth all that much.  The Daily NK, however, claims to have interviewed an “official” from Pyongyang who discussed recent developments in the Kaesong Industrial Zone.  His claim is that the North Koreans made the decision to close the Kaesong Zone for internal political reasons:

Q. What is the reason that North Korea is trying to suspend the business in the Kaesong Industrial Complex?

A. In fact, the story about the suspension of the Kaesong Complex has emanated from Pyongyang since this fall, but it had been decided as an instruction of the Party in Pyongyang late last year.

It is hard to say conclusively what is happening in Kaesong, because there are so many complicated things at work. People from the Party in Pyongyang say that the Kaesong Complex and tourism should fall into disuse and the Mt. Geumgang tourism site should be left alone. Whether or not the Kaesong Complex is thrown away is only up to our economy condition and also the General (Kim Jong Il)’s decision.

Q. Do you mean that instructions on the Kaesong Complex have already been decided internally by the Party?

A.Yes, you can say that. This was because at the beginning, they started it on in the precondition of switching workers once a year, but now they know that switching workers every year is impossible.

Additionally, rumors on South Chosun have been constantly circulating among workers and their families, so illusion of the South have now become uncontrollable among the people. The authorities cannot overlook this situation.

From the Party’s view, each worker in Mt. Geumgang and Kaesong is like a poster advertising capitalism. Due to them, our socialist system could be cracked.

As I know, at least 20 affiliates with Kaesong Complex came into questioning for advertising South Chosun and capitalism.

There was a thorough reshuffling in the Party last year. There is nobody who talks about Kaesong or Mt. Geumgang.

Q. Can North Korea ignore the abundant dollars from Kaesong in practice?

A. Frankly speaking, we have relied on it due to money. Even right now, if South Korea treats things like the Mt. Geumgang shooting accident flexibly and starts the tours again, everything is okay. The money we want does not need to come only from South Korea. There are Yuan, Rubles and dollars as well. They are all the same.

Although our economy is so terrible, we will not establish the national vision only targeted on making money. You should bear this point in mind.

Thoughts and opinions apprecaited. 

Read more here:
There Is an Internal Reason for the Bluff on Kaesong
Daily NK
Jung Kwon Ho
11/16/2008

Kaesong Staff to Be Expelled
Daily NK
Kim So Yeol
11/24/2008

Kaesong Tour and Trains are Suspended
Daily NK
Jeong Jae Sung
11/24/2008

North Korea to Halt Cross-Border Rail Service, Tours
Bloomberg
Heejin Koo
11/24/2008

North Korea prepares to shut border with South
Reuters (via Washington Post)
Jonathan Thatcher
11/24/2008

N. Korea Stiffens Diplomatic Stance
New York Times
Choe Sang-hun
11/24/2008

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The DPRK’s “tallest flagpole in the world”

Monday, August 18th, 2008

dprk-flagpole.jpgVisitors to either side of Korea’s DMZ will be familiar with the DPRK’s 160 meter (525 ft) flagpole in Kijong-dong. Wikipedia, citing a CNN report, claims the flag pole is the tallest in the world.  I was pretty sure of this fact as well, but according to Guinness, I was wrong.

The top 4 “unsupported” flag poles are: 1. Turkmenistan: 436 feet 2. Aqaba, Jordan: 431 feet 3. Amman, Jordan: 416 feet (126 meters) 4. United Arab Emirates: 404 feet (123.1 meters). The DPRK’s omission from this list is due to the fact that its flag pole technically sits on top of a tower, making it a “supported” structure—the equivalent of building a small flagpole on a tall building.

The DPRK might scoff at this subtlety, but even if one was to give them the benefit of the doubt, the victory would be short-lived.  According to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, David Chambers of Trident Support Corporation is erecting a 532 foot flag pole, a full 7 feet taller than the DPRK’s, in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.

(Hat tip to Daniel Rothschild)

To learn more, read the very interesting and humorous article below:
Flagpole Builder Hits New Heights In Central Asia
Wall Street Journal, Page A1
Chip Cummins
8/16/2008

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Download glitch fixed: North Korea Google Earth (version 11)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
Download it here

This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the eleventh version.

Additions include: Mt. Paegun’s Ryonghung Temple and resort homes, Pyongyang’s Chongryu Restaurant, Swiss Development Agency (former UNDP office), Iranian Embassy, White Tiger Art Studio, KITC Store, Kumgangsan Store, Pyongyang Fried Chicken Restaurant, Kilju’s Pulp Factory (Paper), Kim Chaek Steel Mill, Chongjin Munitions Factory, Poogin Coal Mine, Ryongwun-ri cooperative farm, Thonggun Pavilion (Uiju), Chinju Temple (Yongbyon), Kim il Sung Revolutionary Museum (Pyongsong), Hamhung Zoo, Rajin electrified perimeter fence, Pyongsong market (North Korea’s largest), Sakju Recreation Center, Hoeryong Maternity Hospital, Sariwon Suwon reservoir (alleged site of US massacre), Sinpyong Resting Place, 700 Ridges Pavilion, Academy of Science, Hamhung Museum of the Revolutionary Activities of Comrade Kim Il Sung, South Hamgyong House of Culture, Hamhung Royal Villa, Pork Chop Hill, and Pyongyang’s Olympic torch route. Additional thanks go to Martyn Williams for expanding the electricity grid, particularly in Samjiyon, and various others who have contributed time improving this project since its launch.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.  Additionally, this file is getting large and may take some time to load.

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2008 Olympics visit Pyongyang

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Olympic torch ‘going to N Korea’
BBC
12/16/2007

olympic_route_map.gifNorth Korea will host a leg of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games torch relay, state media has reported.

The flame, which is due to pass through 22 cities in the four months before the Games, is expected to reach North Korean capital Pyongyang on 28 April.

Chinese and North Korean officials made the agreement in Pyongyang, said the official Korean Central News Agency.

A day earlier the torch is scheduled to pass through the South Korean capital of Seoul on its way north, say reports.

The torch, which will be lit at Olympia in Greece on 25 March, is due to cover five continents before the event begins on 8 August.

The planned 137,000-km (85,000-mile) relay route will include a trip to the top of Mount Everest.

The two Koreas have agreed to send a joint team of officials to the Beijing Olympics by train, as part of reconciliation efforts after their 1950-1953 civil war.

Coca-cola And Samsung Billboards to Appear in Pyongyang
Daily NK

Park Hyun Min
12/17/2007

Coca-cola and Samsung billboards, viewed by the North Korean regime as symbols of “American capitalism” and “Imperialistic culture,” will soon be visible in downtown Pyongyang just on April 28, 2008.

The China-based Huanqiu Times reported that the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG), the Chosun (North Korea) Olympic Committee, and the Pyongyang People’s Committee signed an agreement to cooperate during the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay.

Samsung, Coca-cola, and Lenovo (a Chinese IT company), three of the main companies sponsoring the Beijing Olympics, will be allowed to advertise their products by cars when the Olympic Torch Relay passes through Pyongyang on April 28.

The three companies will be able to distribute pamphlets to North Korean citizens, but the extent of the content of these pamphlets will limited to the history of the respective companies’ sponsorship of the Olympic Games. Outdoor billboards will not be permitted along the relay path.

Additionally, with the exception of Shanghai-Volkswagen (the official car company of the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay), car companies will not be allowed to reveal their logos during the event.

The upcoming Torch Relay marks the first time in Olympic history that the Torch will pass through Pyongyang. Fifty-seven members of the Chosun Olympic Committee, six representatives from the three sponsorship companies, one member of the International Olympic Committee, and four Chinese diplomats will act as torchbearers in the event.

The relay will begin at the Tower of Juche Idea. Sights along the route will include the May Day Stadium, Kim Il Sung University, the Chosun-China Friendship Tower, the April 25 House of Culture, the National Liberation War Memorial Hall, Pot’ong Gate, the People’s Palace of Culture, the Pyongyang Gymnasium, Kim Il Sung Plaza, the Chollima Statue, the Arch of Triumph, and the Kim Il Sung Gymnasium. The total distance will be 20 kilometers.

The Pyongyang leg of the relay will begin after the South Korean leg is complete. The Torch will cross the DMZ by airplane and will be run through downtown Pyongyang from 2p.m. to 8 p.m. on the 28th of April.

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Google Earth North Korea (version 6)

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
North Korea Uncovered: Version 6
Download it here

kissquare.JPGThis map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the sixth version.

Additions to the newest version of North Korea Uncovered include: Alleged Syrian nuclear site (before and after bombing), Majon beach resort, electricity grid expansion, Runga Island in Pyongyang, Mt. Ryongak, Yongbyon historical fort walls, Suyang Fort walls and waterfall in Haeju, Kaechon-Lake Taesong water project, Paekma-Cholsan waterway, Yachts (3), and Hyesan Youth Copper Mine.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.

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Police agency abolishes rewards for turning in N. Korean propaganda leaflets

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Yonhap
10/30/2007

Police said Tuesday they have abolished rewards for those who turn in North Korean propaganda leaflets discovered in South Korean territory, as almost none have been found over the past few years amid thawing inter-Korean relations.

“In recent years, the number of North Korean leaflets that have been reported to us is close to zero,” said a spokesman for the National Police Agency, adding that the reward policy is already useless.

Leaflet dissemination was a key element of propaganda warfare between the archrival countries during the Cold War. The two Koreas, which are technically in a state of war, attempted to secretly distribute the leaflets in each other’s territory ever since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice.

However, the number plummeted in recent years amid a thaw in two-way ties, especially after the first summit between the leaders of the two Koreas in Pyongyang in 2000. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il held the second inter-Korean summit in the North Korean capital early this month.

The North attempted to disseminate millions of propaganda leaflets in the South every year until the 2000 summit.

The North Korean leaflets, often found in the countryside or on university campuses, were allegedly distributed by South Korean sympathizers or sent by balloon from the communist state.

The leaflets contained messages or pictures aimed at enticing South Koreans to defect to the North or criticizing the Seoul government.

Police had previously urged citizens to be aware of the leaflets in April and August, as strong northwestern winds enabled more balloons carrying the propaganda to reach the South.

Police used to grant medals to adults who collected a large number of the leaflets, while children were rewarded with new pencils and notebooks.

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North Korea on Google Earth

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Version 5: Download it here (on Google Earth) 

This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the fifth version.

Additions to the latest version of “North Korea Uncovered” include updates to new Google Earth overlays of Sinchon, UNESCO sites, Railroads, canals, and the DMZ, in addition to Kim Jong Suk college of eduation (Hyesan), a huge expansion of the electricity grid (with a little help from Martyn Williams) plus a few more parks, antiaircraft sites, dams, mines, canals, etc.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.

I hope this map will increase interest in North Korea. There is still plenty more to learn, and I look forward to receiving your additions to this project.

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More DPRK market (jangmadang) footage

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

shoes.JPGAgain, while trapsing through the jungle of YouTube videos on North Korea, I stumbled on this clip shown on Japanese television which was secretly recorded in a North Korean market.  Since my Japanese ranges from rusty to nonexistent, I do not know where it is.

What does this clip teach us?  That some North Koreans are becomming more sophisticated shoppers/ consumers–looking to the outside world to get a sense of what’s fashionable.  Chinese entrepreneurs are hard at work building brand loyalty for western companies that are not yet aiming for the DPRK market.  Chinese knockoffs of Nike, the North Face (mislabeled “the Nice Face”), and fake designer apparel are all on display.  I imagine no North Korean citizen expects to ever see these goods in the local Public Distribution Office. 

Japanese narration highlights (thanks, Tony):

  • Are the North Koreans familiar with these western brands? Some are familiar and others are not so sophisticated.
  • These items sell really fast.  You can buy a Rolex Watch (knock off) for 800 Yen (appx. $8 or appx 2,400 North Korean Won).
  • The narrator contrasts lifestyles.  He compares shoppers that can afford these market goods with others in the same village who cannot.
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North Koreans Demand Cease to Scattering of Flyers: Provides Proof of Their Effectiveness

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Daily NK
Kim Song A
8/2/2007

“In order to transform North Korea, outside news has to enter.”

North Korea, through the North-South Korea Military working-level talks held on the 10th, proposed the cease of scattering of flyers by private organizations. This is the 16th time that North Korea has made such a request.

The North Korean authorities, through the North-South General Officers Talks held in 2004, protested that South Korean private organizations are scattering defamatory flyers, despite the fact that North and South Korea agreed to stop advertisement activities, broadcasting, or public announcements in the Military Demarcation Line region.

Related to this, Lee Min Bok, Christian Defectors Association’s representative, evaluated in a phone interview with DailyNK on the 26th, “The reason why North Korea is reacting sensitively is because many North Koreans are exposed to materials distributed by ‘leaflet balloons’ and are being influenced.”

Mr. Lee revealed his intention to continue to carry out this work, “All North Koreans, with the exception of Kim Jong Il, probably appreciate the information distribution even though they cannot outwardly express it. We will continue to carry out this work with the single-hearted purpose of relaying outside news.”

Lee, who entered South Korea in `95 via Russia and China after defecting from North Korea in `90 is well-known as “the first refugee from North Korea defined by UN.” Presently, he graduated from seminary in South Korea and is involved in spreading Christianity in North Korea.

Through the balloon, his strategy is to transform North Korea while disseminating outside news such as evangelism flyers to North Korea. The members of defector and missionary organizations sent 207 large-size balloons (as of July 18th) to North Korea this year alone.

A total of 597,816 leaflets were sent to North Korea through these balloons. Six radios and medicine such as aspirin were included as well. He who has been continuing this activity since 2002 emphasized that disseminating outside news was more important than any other work.

“In East Germany and the former Soviet Union, outside news caused the fall of Communism. East Germany’s last prime minister Lothar de Maiziere said at the time of Germany’s reunification, “West Germany tried to relay news of the outside world to East Germany. Russian-born North Korean expert, Professor Andrei Lankov said, “Soviet Union was toppled because of the radio.”

“As when Romanian citizens executed dictator Ceaucescu, the potential power of North Korean citizens will be great if North Korea collapses,” confirmed Lee of the enormous impact dissemination of flyers and radio broadcasting has had on North Korean citizens.

He said, “Failure to support or back such activity might actually ignore the latent energy of North Korean citizens. When I was in North Korea, I learned a lot from the flyers from South Korea. What I saw then is significantly helping me produce flyers to be distributed to North Korea now.”

He recalled his experience then and has produced flyers which are considerate of North Korean citizens by expressing terminology or inscriptions which may not be understood in a more North Korean way.

Regarding the content of the flyers, he explained, “It focuses on North Korean society’s devotion towards Kim Jong Il and helping them realize the areas of propagandistic lies about South Korea.”

He added, “I have lived in North Korean society, so I know what to capture to reveal the true nature of North Korea’s political power. From such intent, the defectors have to become owners of this work and must actively step forward.”

Sending one large-sized balloon to North Korea costs around 140 dollars. The cost adds up if the one counts the failed balloons due to the weak north wind. The support money from defector or missionary organizations and civilian organizations have been appropriated for this work.

Lee, who believes that a single flyer he sends can change the North Korean people, emphatically said, “There is no one who significantly recognizes our work, but in order to open and reform North Korea, I do not think there is any other way. Until North Korea democratizes and becomes reunified, I will continue this work.”

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An affiliate of 38 North