Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

US trade and aid to DPRK…

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

U.S. exports to North Korea jumped nearly 20-fold in February from a year earlier, a U.S. radio report said Tuesday.

The volume of trade between the two countries reached US$1.2 million in February, compared with $62,000 a year earlier, the Voice of America (VOA) reported, citing data compiled by the U.S. Commerce Department.

The VOA said that humanitarian assistance provided by U.S. private agencies accounted for 95 percent, or $1.13 million, of the total U.S. shipment to North Korea in February.

The rest of the U.S. exports to the North included poultry, footwear and plastic products, the radio report said.

The U.S., however, imported nothing from North Korea during the cited period, it said.

Read the full story here:
U.S. exports to N. Korea jumps nearly 20-fold in Feb
Yonhap
2014-4-8

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Wellspring assistance in drilling water wells

Friday, March 14th, 2014

According to Wellspring’s website:

Wellspring has had the privilege to partner with several Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) in our work in North Korea. Partnering with other groups allows Wellspring to work efficiently and effectively by focusing on our specialty – drilling water wells in North Korea. We have provided wells for our partners in several areas of the country and desire to work with new partners who are currently working in North Korea.

According to Yonhap:

Private agencies in the United States have provided North Korea with aid to help its people have access to clean water and medicine, media reports said Friday.

According to the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA), Wellspring, a non-governmental organization in the U.S., sent a large truck to the North earlier this week to support its groundwater development project.

The aid was provided at the request of the North’s underground water development research institute, and the lorry was purchased in China, according to the RFA.

Under the vision of “Bringing living water to the people of North Korea,” James Linton, who leads the organization, has visited the communist country every year since 2007 to provide training, equipment, and expertise in the field and has drilled some 200 wells across the country.

The Connecticut-based private agency AmeriCares also recently sent medicine, medical devices and food for children worth $370,000, according to the Voice of America.

They are expected to arrive in the North next month to be delivered to hospitals and local clinics in Pyongyang and North Hwanghae, it added.

North Korea has regularly suffered from acute food and medical shortages caused mainly by isolation and natural disasters.

Read the full story here:
U.S. NGOs offer humanitarian aid to N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-3-14

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DPRK envoy to UN replaced

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

According to the Korea Times:

North Korea’s United Nations (U.N.) Ambassador Sin Son-ho will reportedly be replaced by Ja Song-nam, a former North Korean ambassador to Britain.

“Sin will return home after being the North’s permanent representative to the U.N. for five years and six months,” a diplomatic source was quoted as saying by local dailies.

He added that Ja, who is familiar with U.S. representatives, is a leading candidate for the position.

Ja, who also worked for the North Korean mission to the U.N., was involved in the family reunions for Korean-Americans and other issues with the United States.

However, the swap is seen as a regular exchange of personnel, given that Sin has represented the Stalinist country since 2008.

Meanwhile, the new ambassador is raising expectations that the so-called “New York Channel” could be re-activated.

It has facilitated talks between Pyongyang and Washington on several occasions, but since Jang Il-hoon replaced Han Song-ryol as the deputy ambassador in July last year, the North’s U.S. diplomatic channel has seen its role diminishing.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s UN envoy to be replaced
Korea Times
Kang Seung-woo
2014-2-12

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North Korea at night (2014-1-30)

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

NASA has released another iconic photo of the Korean peninsula taken at night:

NASA-2014-1-30

Image date: 2014-1-30

Here is the source. Here is video.

Here is a NASA photo from 2012-9-24.

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World Vision to donate US$1m in assistance

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

 A U.S. private relief agency plans to provide aid worth US$1 million to North Korea this year to help support North Korean children and other vulnerable people, a news report said Thursday.

World Vision Inc. also plans to provide clean water to more than 8,000 North Koreans in provincial areas while providing nutritional assistance to children under the age of six, according to the report by the Washington-based Radio Free Asia.

The Christian organization plans to expand its humanitarian project in other rural areas, the report said.

Read the full story here:
U.S. relief agency to give aid worth US$1 mln to N. Korea
Yonhap
2014-1-16

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Dennis Rodman’s fourth trip to North Korea

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

UPDATE 9 (2014-1-18): Joseph Terwilliger gives an interview here.

UPDATE 8 (2014-1-18): The AP reports that Rodman has checked into rehab:

Dennis Rodman has checked into an undisclosed alcohol rehabilitation center to treat his long-time struggle with alcoholism, his agent says.

Darren Prince declined on Saturday to say which facility will treat Rodman and how long he will be there. Rodman recently returned to the United States from his latest trip to North Korea.

He later apologized for comments he made in North Korea about a detained American missionary, saying he had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized an exhibition game there. He also sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the start of the friendly game.

“What was potentially a historic and monumental event turned into a nightmare for everyone concerned,” Prince said. “Dennis Rodman came back from North Korea in pretty rough shape emotionally. The pressure that was put on him to be a combination `super human’ political figure and `fixer’ got the better of him.

“He is embarrassed, saddened and remorseful for the anger and hurt his words have caused.”

UPDATE 7 (2014-1-14): The apologies, via the Associated Press:

Former basketball star Dennis Rodman apologized on Monday for not being able to help an American missionary detained in North Korea while he played there to celebrate the birthday of his friend and leader Kim Jong Un.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything,” Rodman told media on his arrival at Beijing airport from a weeklong trip. “It’s not my fault. I’m sorry. I just want to do some good stuff, that’s all I want to do.”

He said he would return to North Korea next month, but gave no details.


Acknowledging the controversy surrounding the trip, one of the players, Charles D. Smith, said Rodman “opened the door and he did some missteps along the way.”

In an interview in Beijing, Smith said Rodman’s singing of “Happy Birthday” to Kim before the exhibition game at a Pyongyang stadium was something that he alone had decided to do. “I think that it might not have been the right thing to do, but he did it … if it was done in private it would be different, but when it’s done in the open like that, people are going to have opinions.”

During the trip, Rodman was also slammed for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, the missionary in poor health who has been detained for more than a year for “anti-state crimes.” Rodman apologized last week for comments he made in a CNN interview implying Bae was at fault, saying he had been drinking and was upset because some of his teammates were under pressure to leave.

Smith said the controversy surrounding Bae was a “bad situation” that “overshadowed some of the things that we were doing.”

“Dennis is not a member of the State Department, he is not a member of the U.N.,” Smith said. “For them to put the flag in his hands and say go and negotiate and talk about it, he probably would have made it worse, you know.”

He said North Korean officials had invited the team back “at any given time.”

On Monday, Rodman reiterated that his trip was one of goodwill.

“This is not a bad deal,” he said. “I want to show people that no matter what’s going on in the world, for one day, just one day, no politics, not all that stuff.

“I’m sorry for all the people and what’s going on, I’m sorry,” he continued. “I’m not the president, I’m not an ambassador, I’m just an individual that wants to show the world the fact that we can actually get along and be happy for one day.”

Rodman and Kim struck up a friendship when the basketball-player-turned-celebrity first traveled to the secretive state last year.

UPDATE 6 (2014-1-9): KCTV footage of the visit has been made public. The fist video shows Rodman’s delegation meeting with Kim Jong-un, presenting him with customized vodka bottles, singing “Happy Birthday” to Kim Jong-un, then offers game highlights.

The second video shows the game itself.

UPDATE 5 (2014-1-8): Dennis Rodman sings “Happy Birthday” to Kim Jong-un. Here is Simon Cockerell talking about the game via Skype.

UPDATE 4 (2014-1-8): According to the Daily NK, the DPRK is using the Rodman game to treat Chinese investors.

A source in China informed Daily NK on the 8th, “Some Chinese traders who have given a great deal to projects in Pyongyang, including the construction of department stores, shops and restaurants, have been invited to go and celebrate Kim Jong Eun’s birthday. All accommodation, food and travel while in the country is being covered by the Chosun side, and all other expenses are to be borne by the invitee.”

“Chosun [North Korea] has only invited a select group, and there will only be two or three officials from the Chinese side, so the total number of people won’t have exceeded 30. Their schedules for today are to attend the friendly basketball game and then inspect Pyongyang [Munsu] Water Park. Later there will be a tour of Kaesong and Panmunjom, and I hear that a number of banquets have been prepared,” the source went on.

By hosting the group in this way, Kim Jong Eun is following in the footsteps of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, both of whom invited foreign business people and dignitaries to partake of their birthday celebrations. The only difference is the small number of invitees, the lack of publicity outside the country thus far, and the fact that today is not actually a North Korean public holiday.

“Kim Jong Eun has not done much in terms of showing himself off as yet,” the source posited, “and since he has a great many things to worry about at home right now, such as the execution of Jang Song Taek, he cannot host a large spectacle for this birthday this year. Nevertheless, it does appear that they want to convey their gratitude to foreign investors, so he’s invited them to help him celebrate.”

Furthermore, “These invitations have been extended because there is a sense of urgency about attracting investment for special economic zones and other projects that call for capital. After creating a genial atmosphere via the tourist activities, they will actively work to encourage the invitees to invest in things like the construction of water parks in each major city.”

Meanwhile, a second source has revealed that the North Korean authorities have also summoned a select group of provincial cadres to Pyongyang for the birthday celebrations. The source from North Hamkyung Province reported to Daily NK, “Some provincial cadres have gone up to Pyongyang for the Marshal’s (Kim Jong Eun’s) birthday celebrations on January 8th. This has not been officially reported to the people, and cadres are the only ones being quietly called up.”

UPDATE 3 (2014-1-7): Dennis Rodman completely lost it during this live interview on CNN. Here is Andray Abrahamian’s response.

UPDATE 2 (2014-1-7): A traveler visiting the DPRK to see the Dennis Rodman game has introduced Bitcoin to the DPRK. Here is an instagram photo of the first Bitcoin transaction in the DPRK.

UPDATE 1 (2014-1-6): Apparently Paddy Power is still funding this trip despite publicly bowing out during Rodman’s last visit. According to the Irish Times:

Just before Christmas, Paddy Power withdrew sponsorship of Rodman’s event, saying this was as a result of general condemnation of Pyongyang. This followed the rare public purge of leader Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was executed last month.

The company said it “took a back seat” after those events but would still “honour all of its contractual obligations”.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-1-4): Rodman has made three trips to the DPRK. Here are links to the first, second and third trips. In a gesture towards his fourth trip he has named a slate of basketball players that will be joining him for an exhibition match in honor of Kim Jong-un’s birthday.

According to Sports Illustrated:

Dennis Rodman has named a team of former NBA players to participate in an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Rodman leads a team that includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith are on the team, as well. They will play against a top North Korean Senior National team on Jan. 8, marking Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

and…

Rodman calls the game his version of “basketball diplomacy.”

“My previous travels have allowed me to feel the enthusiasm and warmth of fans,” Rodman said. “The positive memories and smiles on the faces of the children and families are a testament to the great efforts we have put into fulfilling our mission wherever we go voiding any politics. We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return.”

Here is some more infor on the players.

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US OFAC expands sanctions list

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

According to the Daily NK:

It is believed that representatives from Excellence Mineral Manufacturing Co., Ltd and Soe Min Htaeik Co. recently met with North Korean authorities to facilitate the import of military supplies for use in North Korea’s state-run weapons program.
A third company, Asia Metal Company Limited, is thought to have constructed factory facilities for use by the Myanmar Directorate of Defense Industries (DDI).  It is estimated that around thirty North Korean nationals are currently employed on the site.
Lt. Col. Kyaw Nyunt Oo of the DDI was the only individual added to the list.

Information on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) can be found here.

Here is a link to the SDN List Sorted by OFAC Sanctions Program (Search for DPRK)

Here is a link to the SDN List Sorted by Country (Search for Korea, North)

Read the full story here:
NK Weapons Suppliers Added to Sanctions List
Daily NK
Jin Dong Hyeok
2013-12-19

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Dennis Rodman’s third trip to DPRK

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

UPDATE 2 (2013-12-26): A couple of the individuals involved in getting Rodman into the DPRK for his second trip (post-Vice) have written an op-ed explaining their motivation. According to the article:

Sometimes private citizens can ease tensions between governments when public officials cannot.

Since we met NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman in May, we have been helping to coordinate his visits to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and organize an international basketball tournament sponsored by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power. Seeing as our government has branded the DPRK a “critical” national security threat, we find it reflects badly on Foggy Bottom that the three Americans best acquainted with its supreme leader are a retired NBA star, a mixed martial arts fighter and a tuba-playing human geneticist.

Mr. Rodman constantly reminds those around him to “just do one thing: Do your job.” Now it seems he is picking up some of the slack for the U.S. State Department.

Despite decades-old antagonisms, it was ultimately not confrontation but détente between the capitalist and communist blocs that brought the threat of global nuclear war to an end. Perhaps the most memorable episode of this process was President Richard M. Nixon’s visit to the People’s Republic of China and the period of Ping-Pong Diplomacy that laid the groundwork for it; USA/PRC relations were theretofore nonexistent. As Klaus Mehnert put it, the country “had been closed off so completely that there seemed to be about as many astronauts going to the moon as there were foreign observers getting into China.”

In 1967, presidential candidate Richard Nixon expressed his hope for détente with Peking, writing, “There is no place on this small planet for a billion of its potentially most able people to live in angry isolation.” On Christmas 1970, People’s Daily ran a front-page story with a photograph of Chairman Mao Tsetung and American journalist Edgar Snow standing side by side atop the Tien An Men rostrum; at the top of the page, the day’s Mao quote: “All the peoples of the world, including the American people, are our friends.” While Washington dismissed this gesture given Snow’s sympathy for Mao, in retrospect it seems it was intended as a subtle olive branch.

With spring came a chance meeting between American and Chinese ping-pong players concluding with an exchange of gifts. This simple act of humanity touched off a string of cultural and, later, diplomatic interactions.

Days later, the American team was invited to Peking. President Nixon took the opportunity to announce an easing of sanctions and his hope for normalized bilateral relations and “the ending of the isolation of Mainland China from the world community.”

Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to Peking that summer paved the way for “the Week that Changed the World.” Although Nixon and Mao certainly did not see eye to eye, their shared view that diplomacy is preferable to both isolation and war made normal relations between Washington and Peking possible.

The value of cultural exchanges consists in their power to erode misconceptions. For instance, Dr. Terwilliger spent a month this summer in Pyongyang teaching human evolutionary genetics to a class of very talented Korean undergraduates.

Aside from teaching scientific critical thinking, he took care to present his students with the best side of the American people, to demonstrate that we are a generous and friendly people rather than the “brigandish aggressors” of the familiar caricature. He was both surprised and encouraged by their interest in Mr. Rodman’s February visit.

They noted that hearing Mr. Rodman say nice things about their country made them rethink their stereotypes about Americans, for they had now seen one embracing their leader. Many had even read Mr. Rodman’s autobiography and remarked that they admired his frankness in describing the difficulties he faced in his early life.

Such reactions can only bode well. Hostility is inevitable when the common man on each side sees highlighted only the worst aspects of the other. Mutual understanding is where rapprochement starts.

While the first few timid steps may proceed slowly as trust is built, the example of Ping-Pong Diplomacy demonstrates that if the momentum is sustained it can offer governments new options with which to pursue peace and may even be developed into a full gallop (what the Koreans call “Chollima speed”) toward rapprochement. At the very least, track-two diplomacy can present unique opportunities for engagement between private citizens whose governments remain at odds.

Mr. Rodman would be the first to recognize that he is neither a politician nor a diplomat — and yet, that is precisely what makes him such a promising agent of reconciliation. As a cultural icon, Mr. Rodman has the power to project a relatable human face in a way a government functionary simply cannot: by doing down-to-earth things all people can enjoy.

Our government has repeatedly missed the basket, but at least this time Mr. Rodman is there to pick up the rebound. As he has said, “[Kim Jong Un] loves basketball. … Obama loves basketball. Let’s start there.”

An associate professor at Columbia University in New York City, Joseph D. Terwilliger was a member of Dennis Rodman’s September and December delegations to Pyongyang. John Doldo IV, a Watertown native who has also spent time in North Korea, has been working behind the scenes helping to coordinate many aspects of the project. Both authors worked on a strictly voluntary basis in order to avoid any financial conflict of interest.

UPDATE 1 (2013-12-24): According to NK News, the Irish gambling company Paddy Power has decided to end its sponsorship of Rodman’s trips to the DPRK. According to the article:

Irish betting company Paddy Power has ended its partnership with Dennis Rodman and his “basketball diplomacy” initiative.

“We have been reviewing the partnership on an ongoing basis, and with the benefit of hindsight, we probably got this one wrong,” company spokesman Paddy Power (and son of Paddy Power’s founder, Paddy Power) tells NK News.

“Circumstances have changed quite a lot in North Korea; there has been worldwide scrutiny of the North Korean regime, probably more in the past month than in the past couple of years.

“There has been almost total condemnation of North Korea worldwide, and we’re really responding to that.”

Though they won’t be involved, Rodman’s plan to bring 11 other former NBA players to Pyongyang is still a go, according to Power.

“We have spoken to Rodman’s people,” he says. “The event is apparently still happening, but we just won’t be a part of it.”

“Dennis is very appreciative of Paddy Power’s support up to this point for this historic game of basketball diplomacy taking place on Jan. 8th,” Rodman’s agent Darren Prince told the Associated Press.

Here is an article on the history of Rodman and Paddy Power.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-12-21): Dennis Rodman has made his third trip to the DPRK. Trip one post here. Trip two post here.

The organizer, Michael Spavor, has been tweeting the trip here. Based on his pics, here is the appx itinerary:

1. Arrive at night and drive to hotel (motorcade). 2013-12-19

2. Meeting with sports minister. Poto with sports minister. Meeting room. 2012-12-20

3. Dennis Rodman “leads” training for DPRK team. Game scheduled against an American team in January. Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4, Pic 5. 2012-12-20. Here is AP video of the training. Rodman is smoking a cigar.

4. Travel to Koryo Hotel for lunch. 2012-12-20

5. Travel to Korea Federation for the Protection of the Disabled. Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3. 2012-12-21

6. Travel to the Recuperation Center and pools at the newly renovated Munsu Water Park. Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4, Pic 5, Pic 6, Pic 7, Pic 7, Pic 8, Pic 9. 2012-12-21

7. Travel to Mirim Riding Club. Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4, Pic 5, Pic 6. 2012-12-21

Rodman and the group left the DPRK without meeting Kim Jong-un, however, I suspect that he will get together in the upcoming fourth trip slated to take place in January.

Journalists have asked Rodman about current events (Jang song-thaek, Kenneth Bae and human rights) in the DPRK, and he has responded. According to the Telegraph:

“It has nothing to do with me. I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever’s done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that,” Rodman said in Beijing. “I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years.

“I’m just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun,” he said.

Ahead of the trip, Seoul-based North Korean human rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk said in an open letter in the Washington Post that Rodman should talk to Kim about human rights abuses in North Korea.

Rodman said it was not his place to talk about such issues.

“People have been saying these things here and there. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not a politician. I’m not an ambassador,” he said.

“I’m just going over there to try and do something really cool for a lot of people, play some games and try to get the Korean kids to play,” he said.

“Everything else I have nothing to do with. If it happens that he wants to talk about it then great. If it doesn’t happen I just can’t bring it up because I don’t (want) him to think that I’m over here trying to be an ambassador and trying to use him as being his friend and all of a sudden I’m talking about politics. That’s not going to be that way,” Rodman said.

Rodman is expected to provide North Korea’s national basketball team with four days of training during the trip.

Here is a video interview with Rodman at the Koryo Hotel. Here is much of what he said in the video printed in an article.

He also intends to return to Pyongyang in January with a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to hold basketball games on Kim’s birthday.

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Merrill Newman saga (UPDATED)

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

UPDATE 9 (2013-12-9): Newman has issued a statement (Nelson Report):

Statement from Merrill Newman dated December 9, 2013

Over the past two days, I’ve been able to reunite with my wonderful family, rest, and try to recover from the difficult ordeal that began when I was prevented from leaving North Korea on October 26th. I can’t begin to tell you how good it is to be home, to be free, and to begin to resume my normal home life.

Let me repeat my thanks to the U.S. State Department for the amazing job they did in getting me out of North Korea and bringing me home safely. I want to thank Vice President Biden, who called me in Beijing to wish me well and even offered to give me a lift back to the United States on his plane. Thanks also to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang for their great work, especially their visit to me and their help in ensuring that I had the medicine I needed.

Let me also express deep appreciation to friends, family, members of the First Congregational Church, wonderful people of faith and from all walks of life, residents and staff of our home at Channing House, and Members of Congress for their prayers, vigils, hard work, and moral support on my behalf. I want to single out Evans Revere for his extraordinary help.

It wasn’t until I got home on Saturday that I realized what a story I had become in the press here. During my detention I had no access to any outside news, and wondered whether anyone was even aware of my situation. I am sorry I caused so many people so many heartaches back home.

Looking at the television and newspaper reports, I’ve seen a lot of speculation about why I was detained. I’ve given considerable thought to this and have come to the conclusion that I just didn’t understand that, for the North Korean regime, the Korean War isn’t over and that even innocent remarks about the war can cause big problems if you are a foreigner.

I’m a Korean War veteran and I’m very proud of my military service, when I helped train Korean partisans. The North Koreans still harbor resentment about those partisans from the Mt Kuwol area and what other anti-Communist guerrillas did in North Korea before and during the war.

The shooting stopped sixty years ago, and the North Koreans have allowed other American veterans of the war to visit. Moreover, I did not hide my own military service from the tour company that organized my trip. Therefore, I did not think this history would be a problem. Indeed, in my application for a tourist visa, I specifically requested permission to visit the Mt. Kuwol area. That request was approved and was on the official itinerary when I arrived, although after I got to Pyongyang, I was told that the bridge had been washed out by a flood and it would not be possible to do so.

Before they told me this, I innocently asked my North Korean guides whether some of those who fought in the war in the Mt. Kuwol area might still be alive, and expressed an interest in possibly meeting them if they were. The North Koreans seem to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something more sinister. It is now clear to me the North Koreans still feel much more anger about the war than I realized. With the benefit of hindsight I should have been more sensitive to that.

I’ve also seen a lot of reports about the “confession” I made in North Korea. Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily. Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me “confess” to. To demonstrate that I was reading the document under some duress, I did my best to read the “confession” in a way that emphasized the bad grammar and strange language that the North Koreans had crafted for me to say. I hope that came across to all who saw the video.

Getting the “confession” and my “apology” were important to the North Koreans. Although the North Koreans treated me well during my detention (they looked after my health and fed me well), I was constantly under guard in my hotel and my interrogator made it clear that if I did not cooperate I could be sentenced to jail for espionage for 15 years. In fact, the North Korean interrogator repeatedly made the following statement to me: “If you do not tell the full truth, in detail, and apologize fully, you will not be able to return to your home country. If you do tell the full truth, in detail, and apologize fully, you will be able to return to your home country — someday.” Under these circumstances, I read the document with the language they insisted on because it seemed to be the only way I might get home.

In the coming days, as I recover my strength I plan to share more details about my experience in North Korea. I know there is a lot of interest in this and I’ll do my best to answer as many questions as I can. We also ask that you not forget that another American, Kenneth Bae is being held in the DPRK and we hope that he, too, will be allowed to rejoin his family. For now, let me finish by saying again how great it is to be back home, safe, and with my loved ones.

UPDATE 8 (2013-12-7): Newman back home. According to the Washington Post:

An elderly U.S. veteran of the Korean War arrived home Saturday after being released by North Korea, where he had traveled as a tourist and was held for six weeks as a prisoner.

“I’m delighted to be home,” Merrill Newman said at the San Francisco airport, where he was reunited with his wife and son, the Associated Press reported. “It’s been a great homecoming. I’m tired, but ready to be with my family.”

Vice President Biden, laying a wreath at a war memorial in Seoul, said he had spoken briefly with Newman by phone.

“There is a piece of good news. The DPRK today released someone they should never have had in the first place: Mr. Newman,” Biden said.

“I’m told we tried to get in contact with him [but] he’s on his way or in China right now. I offered him a ride home on Air Force Two, but as he pointed out, there’s a direct flight to San Francisco, his home. I don’t blame him. I’d be on that flight too. It’s a positive thing they’ve done.”

Biden said the United States would continue to demand the release of another American, Kenneth Bae, who has been held for more than a year. Including Newman, North Korea has detained at least seven Americans since 2009, six of whom have been released.

“At least there’s one ray of sunshine today. Mr. Newman will be reunited with his family,” he said.

UPDATE 7 (2013-12-7): KCNA reports that Mr. Newman has been deported.

U.S. Citizen Deported from DPRK

Pyongyang, December 7 (KCNA) — As already reported, a relevant institution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) detained and investigated U.S. citizen Merrill Edward Newman who entered the DPRK under the guise of a tourist to confirm the whereabouts of the spies and terrorists who had been trained and dispatched by him, an intelligence officer, during the last Korean War.

According to the investigation, Newman entered the DPRK with a wrong understanding of it and perpetrated a hostile act against it.

Taking into consideration his admittance of the act committed by him on the basis of his wrong understanding, apology made by him for it, his sincere repentance of it and his advanced age and health condition, the above-said institution deported him from the country from a humanitarian viewpoint.

UPDATE 6 (2013-12-1): Yonhap reports that Swedish diplomats have been allowed to meet with Mr. Newman.

News wire services such as AFP and CNN said a consul met Merrill Newman at a hotel in Pyongyang and delivered medication sent by his family.

The Scandinavian country’s mission in Pyongyang acts as the “protecting power” for Americans in North Korea, and its diplomats provide consular services.

The media outlets said Newman was in good health and reported he was being treated well by the North Koreans.

UPDATE 5 (2013-11-30): KCNA has published Mr. Newman’s “apology”:

Apology of U.S. Citizen for His Hostile Acts in DPRK

Pyongyang, November 30 (KCNA) — The following is an apology U.S. citizen Merrill Newman presented to a relevant institution after his detention in the DPRK:

I am Merrill Newman living in California, USA.

During the Korean War, I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people as advisor of the Kuwol Unit of the UN Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command.

As I gave 300 people with barbarity gone to the South who had ill feelings toward the DPRK from Chodo military education and guerilla training they later did attack against the DPRK although the armistice was signed.

I also gave 200 soldiers under my command in Mt. Kuwol the task to harass the rear base such as collecting information on the movement and the arm equipment in KPA, attacking and destruction on the communication system, the rice storage, railroad and munitions train by dispatching the several elements to Hwanghae Province Area.

According to my order they collected information of the KPA and attacked the communication system and killed 3 innocent operators, delayed the munitions supply using explosives obtained from attacking the mine and they attacked the KPA and harassing operations of the rear base 10 times in the Hwanghae Province Area.

They killed about 50 soldiers in the process of the operation. In the process of following tasks given by me I believe they would kill more innocent people.

As I killed so many civilians and KPA soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the DPRK during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people.

Although 60 years have gone by, I came to DPRK on the excuse of the tour as a member of 33 Tour Group from U.S. on October 17, 2013.

Shamelessly I had a plan to meet any surviving soldiers and pray for the souls of the dead soldiers in Kuwol Mt. during the Korean war. Following the itinerary I asked my guide to help me look for the surviving soldiers and their families and descendents because it was too hard for me to do myself.

If I had the opportunity to visit Kuwol Mt. I was going to pray for the souls of dead soldiers. If I saw surviving soldiers in Mt. Kuwol, I was going to connect them with the members of the Kuwol Partisan Comrades-in-Arms Association which I had already connected with, anti-Communist strategic plot organization.

All the members of the Kuwol Partisan Comrades-in-Arms Association escaped from the DPRK to South Korea. So I asked the guide to help me to look for their families and relatives living in DPRK and I gave the document written with their address and e-mail address to the guide in the Yanggakdo Hotel.

I also brought the e-book criticizing the Socialist DPRK on this trip and criticizing DPRK.

Although I committed the indelible offensive acts against the Korean people in the period of the Korean War, I have been guilty of big crimes against the DPRK government and Korean People again.

I realize that I cannot be forgiven for my offensives but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologizing for my offensives sincerely toward the DPRK government and the Korean people and I want not punish me.

Please forgive me.

I will never commit the offensive act against the DPRK Government and the Korean People again.

On this trip I can understand that in US and western countries there is misleading information and propaganda about DPRK.

If I go back to USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading.

Merrill Newman

Nov 9, 2013

Here is the video.

According to the New York Times:

In the apology, Mr. Newman said he was an adviser for the Kuwol Unit of the United Nations Korea Sixth Partisan Regiment, which served with the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command.

A person familiar with Mr. Newman’s military record and his current situation in captivity in North Korea said that Mr. Newman served as an adviser in that unit in 1953 before the armistice. The unit operated behind the lines in North Korea, but Mr. Newman conducted his duties as an adviser on Chodo, an island off the west coast of what is now North Korea, the person said. In the beginning of the video, Mr. Newman mentioned Chodo as the place where he was stationed. The person speaking about Mr. Newman’s situation declined to be identified because of the delicacy of the case.

According to American military documents declassified in 1990, the United Nations partisan warfare mission organized in 1951 eventually mobilized about 23,000 guerrillas to fight against North Korea, overseen by about 200 American advisers.

Read more in Time.

UPDATE 4 (2013-11-30): KCNA publishes article acknowledging detention of Mr. Newman.

KCNA Report on Arrest of U.S. Citizen for Hostile Acts in DPRK

Pyongyang, November 30 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency released the following report on Saturday:

A relevant institution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently put in custody U.S. citizen Merrill Edward Newman who committed hostile acts against the DPRK after entering the country under the guise of a tourist.

After entering the DPRK as a member of tourists’ group in October he perpetrated acts of infringing upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and slandering its socialist system, quite contrary to the purpose of tour.

He also committed such crime as trying to look for spies and terrorists who conducted espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK in the area of Mt. Kuwol during the last Fatherland Liberation War as well as their families and descendants and connect them with the “Kuwol Partisan Comrades-in-Arms Association,” an anti-DPRK plot-breeding organization of south Korea.

According to the results of the investigation, he was active as adviser of “Kuwol Unit” of the UN Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Command of the U.S. Forces in the Far East since early in 1953. He is a criminal as he masterminded espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK and in this course he was involved in killings of service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and innocent civilians.

The investigation clearly proved Newman’s hostile acts against the DPRK and they were backed by evidence. He admitted all his crimes and made an apology for them.

UPDATE 3 (2013-11-23): According to NK News,  Merill traveled with Juche Travel Services. According to the article:

The agency, which only learned that it was involved in Newman’s case on Thursday, said that it currently had no information as to why the 85 year old Korean War veteran had been removed from a flight leaving Pyongyang on October 26.

“Mr. Newman had in place all necessary and valid travel documents to take his tour. We have no information concerning what has occurred to result in the current situation,” Thompson said in a statement emailed to NK News.

“Mr. Newman travelled with one other gentleman to the DPRK on a private tour booked via Juche Travel Services between 17th and 26th October 2013.”

UPDATE 2 (2013-11-21): Everything we know about Merrill Newman (Washington Post):

Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old American who lives in California, has been detained in North Korea since Oct. 26, multiple news reports now confirm. Several hundred Americans are thought to visit North Korea every year as tourists, typically safely. Newman’s arrest is highly unusual and remains shrouded in mystery. Here is the publicly available information on Newman so far, taken from accounts in NKNews.org, the San Jose Mercury News, New York Times and Associated Press [link broken].

The nine facts listed here only deepen the mystery; there is a total absence of any hint of a reason why he would have been arrested.

1. Newman was visiting North Korea on a nine-day tourist visa, traveling with a friend from his retirement community named Bob Hamrdla and two tour guides. Such guides also function as government minders.

2. He was arrested while sitting on an airplane at Pyongyang’s international airport, waiting to depart the country. A single uniformed officer boarded the plane and walked Newman off.

3. Authorities have held him for more than three weeks, but North Korean state media have not mentioned the case.

4. A Korean War veteran, Newman with his wife lives in a Palo Alto retirement community called Channing House. He is Caucasian, which is significant given that North Korea has tended in the past to arrest only Westerners of Korean or other Asian descent. Korean War veterans sometimes travel to North Korea, usually without incident. A group went in July to repatriate the remains of an American who’d died there during the war. They say the trip went fine.

5. Newman does not appear to be overtly political or to have a known record of human rights activism or religious evangelizing, the two practices that have gotten Americans detained by North Korean authorities. He is a retired technology executive with a master’s degree in education from Stanford. He’d reportedly taken Korean-language lessons to prepare for the trip.

6. It’s not clear which travel agency he was traveling with. A growing number of Beijing-based agencies have been cropping up that take Americans into North Korea.

7. Newman’s son said his father had a “difficult” discussion with his government minders about the Korean War. While political statements are obviously frowned upon by North Korea, the country has been hosting thousands of Western tourists for years. Newman would be far from the first Western visitor to raise sensitive political issues with his minders.

8. His son says he has a heart condition and a bad back. North Korea expert David Straub told NKNews.org, “The basic fact of the matter is that this gentleman is 84-85 yrs old, an elderly man, presumably not a threat in any way to North Korea, so this is, even by North Korean standards, an extraordinary thing.”

9. The State Department issued a blanket warning Monday against all travel to North Korea, the first of this level of severity since Americans began traveling there in 1995. A State Department spokesperson emphasized that the official warning cites a “chronic” threat to Americans of arbitrary detention. Two other Americans have been arrested in recent years, both of Korean descent and accused of conducting illegal Christian missionary work.

UPDATE 1 (2013-11-20): The New York Times provides a name and some additional information:

The veteran, Merrill Newman of Palo Alto, Calif., was taken from an Air Koryo flight on which he was to leave the country on Oct. 26, his son, Jeff Newman, the chief financial officer of a real estate company, said in a telephone interview from California.

“He was on a nine-day tour with a friend and two tour guides. He went through the normal visa process,” the younger Mr. Newman said. “Everything was going very well. They day before they were due to leave he had a meeting with his tour guide and without his companion.”

At that meeting, where at least one other North Korean aside from the tour guide was present, the Korean War was discussed, his son said. “That was the only hiccup,” he said. Mr. Newman’s traveling companion, Bob Hamrdla, who is not a Korean War veteran and lives in the same retirement village as Mr. Newman, assumed there must have been some misunderstanding from that meeting, Jeff Newman said.

 There has been no word of the whereabouts of Mr. Newman, who has a heart condition and a bad back, since he was escorted from the plane, his son said.

“All we would like is for whatever misunderstanding to be put aside and, on a humanitarian basis, he be able to leave the country and come home and be with his two grandchildren,” Mr. Newman said in the interview.

Mr. Newman’s detention has not been reported in the North Korean state-run news media.

In reaction to Mr. Newman’s detention, the State Department further tightened the United States travel warning to North Korea, making it clear that travel to North Korea was highly dangerous for American citizens who were likely left vulnerable to arbitrary arrest.

The updated warning, released on Tuesday, noted that “U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention.”

Mr. Newman, a retired technology executive, served as an infantry officer during the Korean War, and later earned a master’s degree in education from Stanford. He lives at Channing House, a retirement community, with his wife, his son added.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-11-20): Reuters reports that the DPRK may have detained another American tourist. According to the article:

North Korea may have detained an elderly U.S. man last month who entered the country on a tourist visa, Kyodo News Service said on Wednesday, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.

Kyodo, in a report from Beijing, said the possible detention could become another diplomatic bargaining chip for North Korea, which has held Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary, since November 2012. Bae has been sentenced by the Pyongyang regime to 15 years of hard labour.

The U.S. State Department echoed U.S. embassy officials in Beijing and Seoul who said they were aware of the reports but could not confirm them.

North Korea claims the man, who apparently is not of Korean descent, has broken the law, according to Kyodo. The man entered North Korea for sightseeing last month with a valid visa, Kyodo quoted the diplomatic source as saying.

Nolan Barkhouse, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Beijing, said: “We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea, but we have no additional information to share at this time.”

I have been archiving information on Kenneth Bae here.

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North Korean meth ring uncovered

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

UPDATE 3 (2013-11-24): NPR offers more details:

In Pyongyang, a spokesman for North Korean’s foreign ministry responded last week with a sharply worded statement saying the country strictly forbids drug manufacturing drug smuggling. It called the case “another politically motivated puerile charade” spread by “the Western reptile media.”

Read the full story here.

UPDATE 2 (2013-11-21): Yonhap reports the men plead not-guilty. According to the article:

The five men all entered not-guilty pleas in federal court in Manhattan Wednesday [2013-11-20]. If convicted, they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in jail and the possibility of life in prison.

UPDATE 1 (2013-11-20): The New York Times offers additional details:

Five men have been charged with conspiracy to import 100 kilograms of nearly pure North Korean-produced methamphetamine into the United States, and federal officials said the case illustrates the emergence of North Korea as a player in the global drug trade.

The men were part of a sprawling international drug trafficking ring led by a former American soldier, Joseph Manuel Hunter, who has separately been charged with conspiring to murder a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and with importing cocaine into the United States, federal officials said.

“These guys worked for and with Joseph Hunter in a transnational criminal organization that involved drugs, weapons, chemicals, murder and a close involvement with rogue nations,” said a senior federal law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

The five men — including British, Chinese and Philippine nationals — were arrested in Phuket, Thailand, in September and were extradited to the United States on Tuesday night. They appeared in federal court in New York on Wednesday.

In January, the group agreed to provide 100 kilos of meth to a man they thought was a narcotics trafficker but was, in fact, a confidential source who was working with the DEA.

One of the defendants, Ye Tiong Tan Lim, 53, from China, bragged that his Hong Kong-based criminal group was the only organization that was able to produce meth in North Korea because of a crackdown there on the drug trade, according to a criminal indictment filed in federal court.

Lim told the DEA source that the North Korean government “already burned all the labs. Only our labs are not closed. . . . To show Americans that they are not selling it anymore, they burned it,” Lim said.

The meth was first sent to the Philippines, and the men agreed to deliver the narcotics in Thailand, where they were told it would be shipped to the United States by boat.

One of the defendants said that his organization had stockpiled one ton of North Korean methamphetamine in the Philippines because “we already anticipated this thing would happen. . . . [whereby] we cannot bring out our goods right now.”

The group arranged for a “dry run” and sent a shipping container of tea leaves from the Philippines to Thailand to test the delivery channel that would later be used to ship the meth.

The drugs were later seized by law enforcement officials in Thailand and in the Philippines. The North Korean meth tested at more than 99 percent pure, DEA officials said.

“Like many international criminal networks, these drug traffickers have no respect for borders and no regard for either the rule of law or who they harm as a result of their criminal endeavors,” DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said.

The five men could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and the possibility of life in prison.

“Methamphetamine is a dangerous, potentially deadly drug, whatever its origin,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. “If it ends up in our neighborhoods, the threat it poses to public health is grave whether it is produced in New York, elsewhere in the U.S., or in North Korea.”

Hunter, 48, the alleged leader of the ring, was arrested in September in Thailand and sent to the United States.

Nicknamed “Rambo,” Hunter had served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. When he left the service in 2004, he began a new life as a contract killer, according to senior law enforcement officials. In May, Hunter and two other former U.S. soldiers allegedly planned to kill a DEA agent and one of the agency’s informants for $800,000.

“My guys will handle it,” Hunter wrote in a May 30 e-mail when asked if he could execute the killings, according to an indictment. The drug traffickers who said they wanted to hire Hunter were part of an undercover sting operation.

Four other men have been arrested in the case, including another former U.S. Army sergeant, as well as German and Polish nationals.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-11-20): According to CNN:

U.S. drug agents in Thailand took custody of five men wanted in the United States on allegations of being part of a drug ring that sought to traffic in North Korean methamphetamine and other drugs, CNN has learned.

The men, who have British, Filipino, Taiwanese and Slovak citizenship, were being flown to New York to face charges, according to a source.

Thai authorities announced the arrests after the men were turned over to U.S. authorities. A U.S. law enforcement official said the charges would be made public soon.

The men are part of a broader investigation that federal prosecutors made public in September, filing charges against a group of former U.S. and European ex-military men in a murder-for-hire and drug-importation plot.

The Drug Enforcement Administration concocted a sting operation and arrested Joseph Hunter, a former U.S. Army sniper trainer nicknamed Rambo, and four others in the sting case.

The five more recently arrested were expelled by Thai authorities and put on a DEA plane to New York.

Additional details of the charges couldn’t be learned because they remain under seal.

Drug trafficking from North Korea has occurred for decades with at least 50 documented incidents. In previous years, North Korea had been linked to shipments of heroin and methamphetamine, according to the CIA World Factbook.

In 2003, a North Korean ship, Pong Su which was carrying nearly 300 pounds of heroin, was seized along the eastern coast of Australia after a four-day chase.

There isn’t enough information to determine whether the North Korean government is currently involved in drug trafficking, according to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report issued by the U.S. State Department

“There have been no confirmed reports of large-scale drug trafficking involving DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) state entities since 2004,” it stated. “This suggests that state-sponsored drug trafficking may have ceased or been sharply reduced, or that the DPRK regime has become more adept at concealing state-sponsored trafficking of illicit drugs.”

Information on the case against Joseph Hunter can be found here and here.

Read the full story here:
5 men extradited to U.S. in North Korean meth case
CNN
Evan Perez
2013-11-20

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