Eight out of every 10 North Korean families are suffering malnutrition with little access to protein foods, a U.S. media report said Tuesday.
In its survey of 87 North Korean families from January to March, the World Food Program (WFP) found that 80 percent of them were undernourished mainly due to a lack of protein intake, the Washington-based Voice of America (VOA) said.
About 38 percent of those surveyed were not able to eat high-protein foods during the one week before the survey, such as meat, fish, eggs or beans, said the report, monitored in Seoul.
Quoting the WFP report, the VOA said the North Korean families, on average, eat meat 1.3 days a week or beans 1.2 days per week.
The report also said about 14 percent of the 86 hospitalized North Korean children under age 5 whom its aid workers visited during the January-March period were in serious malnutrition conditions.
Meanwhile, AmeriCares, a U.S. non-profit aid group, is about to send 10.5 tons of drugs in humanitarian assistance to the North this week, another U.S. media report said.
The aid package, which includes antibiotics, stomach medicines and dermatology drugs, will be shipped later this week to six hospitals in Pyongyang and other areas, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia reported. The shipment will also include personal hygiene items like toothbrushes and soaps, it said.
The RFA said the latest aid has no political consideration and is solely for humanitarian purposes.
AmeriCares began its aid to the North in 1997 as the first American private group to do so. Last year, it sent US$7 million worth of medicine for flood victims in the impoverished country.
Read the full story here:
Eight out of 10 N. Korean families undernourished: report Yonhap
Taiwanese Father and Son Arrested for Allegedly Violating U.S. Laws to Prevent Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois
May 06, 2013 (312) 353-5300
CHICAGO—A resident of Taiwan whom the U.S. government has linked to the supply of weapons machinery to North Korea, and his son, who resides in suburban Chicago, are facing federal charges here for allegedly conspiring to violate U.S. laws designed to thwart the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, federal law enforcement officials announced today.
Hsien Tai Tsai, also known as “Alex Tsai,” who is believed to reside in Taiwan, was arrested last Wednesday in Tallinn, Estonia, while his son, Yueh-Hsun Tsai, also known as “Gary Tsai,” who is from Taiwan and is a legal permanent resident in the United States, was arrested the same day at his home in Glenview, Illinios.
Gary Tsai, 36, was ordered held in custody pending a detention hearing at 1:30 p.m. today before Magistrate Judge Susan Cox in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Alex Tsai, 67, remains in custody in Estonia pending proceedings to extradite him to the United States.
Both men were charged in federal court in Chicago with three identical offenses in separate complaints that were filed previously and unsealed following their arrests. Each was charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States in its enforcement of laws and regulations prohibiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by conspiring to evade the restrictions imposed on Alex Tsai and two of his companies by the U.S. Treasury Department, and one count of money laundering.
The arrests and charges were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Cory B. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI; Gary Hartwig, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago; and Ronald B. Orzel, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, Chicago Field Office. The Justice Department’s National Security Division and Office of International Affairs assisted with the investigation. U.S. officials thanked the Estonian Internal Security Service and the Estonian Prosecutor’s Office for their cooperation.
According to both complaint affidavits, agents have been investigating Alex and Gary Tsai, as well as Individual A (a Taiwanese associate of Alex Tsai) and a network of companies engaged in the export of U.S. origin goods and machinery that could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction. The investigation has revealed that Alex and Gary Tsai and Individual A are associated with at least three companies based in Taiwan—Global Interface Company Inc., Trans Merits Co. Ltd., and Trans Multi Mechanics Co. Ltd.—that have purchased and then exported, and attempted to purchase and then export, from the United States machinery used to fabricate metals and other materials with a high degree of precision.
On January 16, 2009, under Executive Order 13382, which sanctions proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Alex Tsai, Global Interface, and Trans Merits as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems and prohibiting any person or company in the United States from knowingly engaging in any transaction or dealing with Alex Tsai and the two Taiwanese companies.
In announcing the January 2009 OFAC order, the Treasury Department said that Alex Tsai was designated for providing, or attempting to provide, financial, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), which was designated as a proliferator by President George W. Bush in June 2005. The Treasury Department asserted that Alex Tsai “has been supplying goods with weapons production capabilities to KOMID and its subordinates since the late 1990s, and he has been involved in shipping items to North Korea that could be used to support North Korea’s advanced weapons program.” The Treasury Department further said that Global Interface was designated “for being owned or controlled by Tsai,” who is a shareholder of the company and acts as its president. Tsai is also the general manager of Trans Merits Co. Ltd., which was designated for being a subsidiary owned or controlled by Global Interface Company Inc.
After the OFAC designations, Alex and Gary Tsai and Individual A allegedly continued to conduct business together but attempted to hide Alex Tsai’s and Trans Merit’s involvement in those transactions by conducting business under different company names, including Trans Multi Mechanics. For example, by August 2009—approximately eight months after the OFAC designations—Alex and Gary Tsai, Individual A, and others allegedly began using Trans Multi Mechanics to purchase and export machinery on behalf of Trans Merits and Alex Tsai. Specifically, the charges allege that in September 2009, they purchased a Bryant center hole grinder from a U.S. company based in suburban Chicago and exported it to Taiwan using the company Trans Multi Mechanics. A Bryant center hole grinder is a machine tool used to grind a center hole, with precisely smooth sides, through the length of a material.
The charges further allege that by at least September 2009, Gary Tsai had formed a machine tool company named Factory Direct Machine Tools in Glenview, Illinois, which was in the business of importing and exporting machine tools, parts, and other items to and from the United States. However, the charges allege that Alex Tsai and Trans Merits were active partners in Factory Direct Machine Tools, in some instances procuring the goods for import to the United States for Factory Direct Machine Tool customers.
Violating IEEPA carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine; money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine; and conspiracy to defraud the United States carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick Pope and Brian Hayes.
The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The United States has virtually stopped funding anti-North Korean civic groups in South Korea due to its financial downturn, sources here said Wednesday.
Organizations such as the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS) and the North Korea Reform Radio said in a seminar in Seoul that Washington’s financial assistance for groups that support liberty and human rights has all but dried up this year.
“At its peak, the U.S. provided US$5 million in support annually, but the general lack of similar support from the Seoul government may have played a role in the latest cutbacks,” said NKIS executive director Kim Heung-kwang.
He also speculated that current economic troubles in the U.S. and the implementation of across-the-board budget cuts are affecting overseas financial support.
Kim Seung-chul, head of the radio station, said that his organization had relied on assistance from the National Endowment for Democracy, which is controlled by the U.S. State Department.
“With the drying up of subsidies from other U.S. sources, there is a pressing need for the Seoul government to take action,” he said.
Read the full story here:
U.S. cuts off subsidies to anti-N. Korea groups in S. Korea Yonhap
Treasury Sanctions Bank and Official Linked to North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs 3/11/2013
WASHINGTON – To impede North Korea’s ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, the U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their supporters. Treasury is also designating Paek Se-Bong, the chairman of North Korea’s Second Economic Committee (SEC) under E.O. 13882.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile proliferation activities violate the UN Security Council regime, comprised of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), and 2094 (2013), destabilize the region, and undermine the global nonproliferation regime. The international community has condemned North Korea’s WMD proliferation activity, most recently in last week’s UN Security Council Resolution 2094. Today’s designations of FTB and a senior member of the North Korean government linked to the DPRK missile program, follow actions taken March 7, 2013 by the Treasury Department against China-based representatives of the Korea Mining Development Corporation (KOMID) and Tanchon Commercial Bank (TCB).
“North Korea uses FTB to facilitate transactions on behalf of actors linked to its proliferation network, which is under increasing pressure from recent international sanctions. The United States will take strong measures to protect its financial system from this type of illicit activity, and we urge financial institutions around the world to be particularly wary of the risks of doing business with FTB,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.
By designating FTB, the Treasury Department is targeting a key financial node in North Korea’s WMD apparatus, and cutting it off from the U.S. financial system. FTB is a state-owned bank established in 1959. FTB acts as North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank and has provided key financial support to the Korea Kwangson Banking Corporation (KKBC). KKBC was designated under E.O. 13382 in August 2009 for providing financial services in support of the previously designated entities TCB and the Korea Hyoksin Trading Corporation (Hyoksin). Hyoksin used its connections to KKBC to purchase dual-use equipment in 2008.
FTB has also facilitated millions of dollars in transactions that have benefited KOMID—North Korea’s premier arms dealer—and its financial arm, TCB. North Korea’s Second Economic Committee oversees the production of North Korea’s ballistic missiles and directs the activities of KOMID. TCB, KOMID and Hyoskin were designated by the UNSCR 1718 Committee in April 2009.
Paek Se-Bong is the chairman of the SEC. The SEC, which oversees the production of North Korea’s ballistic missiles and directs the activities of KOMID, was previously designated by the U.S. State Department in August 2010. Paek Se Bong is also an alternate member of the Central Committee of North Korea’s Workers Party and a member North Korea’s National Defense Commission.
This designation generally prohibits transactions between the designees and any U.S. person, and freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
Name: Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
AKA: North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank
Location: FTB Building, Jungsong-dong, Central District, Pyongyang, North Korea
SWIFT/BIC: FTBD KP PY
Name: Paek Se-Bong
AKA: Paek Se Pong
DOB: 21 March 1938
Title: Chairman, Second Economic Committee
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea)
Drug use may be rising within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), according to reports from DPRK refugees and travelers to North Korea. Chinese and South Korean press reports indicate that a substantial volume of methamphetamine continues to be produced within DPRK territory, mainly for transshipment to China. There are also reports of transactions between DPRK traffickers and large, organized criminal groups along the DPRK-China border, and of Chinese police enforcement targeting drugs entering China from the DPRK by way of enhanced patrols, periodic arrests, and drug seizures. However, the Chinese government rarely identifies the DPRK as the source of illicit drugs.
The proximity and availability of precursor chemicals in China likely contribute to the production of methamphetamine within North Korea. Reliable information is difficult to obtain regarding illicit activities within the DPRK territory, but drug production and other criminal activities, such as the counterfeiting of cigarettes, appear to have continued in 2012. There is insufficient current information, however, to confirm official DPRK state involvement in drug trafficking. There have been no confirmed reports of large-scale drug trafficking involving DPRK state entities since 2004. 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.
Despite the absence of reports of drug seizures linked directly to DPRK state institutions, the United States cannot entirely rule out the possibility of official DPRK state involvement in the manufacturing and trafficking of illicit drugs. A relatively large investment in precursor chemicals is necessary to produce the volume of methamphetamine trafficked from North Korea, and it is unclear how individual criminals could independently organize such activity within such a tightly-controlled state. It is likely that some official corruption on both sides of the DPRK-China border facilitates drug trafficking.
UPDATE 25 (2013-3-5): It appears Dennis Rodman was escorted from a New York hotel from rambling on about how great Kim Jong-un is. According to the New York Post:
Dennis Rodman, just back from visiting Kim Jong Un, was escorted out of the Time Hotel in Midtown on Sunday after spending hours at the restaurant bar loudly telling anyone who would listen what a great guy the North Korean dictator is.
“He was at the bar at Serafina for three hours,” says a spy. “He kept saying what a nice guy Kim is, and how Kim just wants to talk to President Obama about basketball. He was waving around a signed copy of the dictator’s huge manifesto, telling everyone they should read it.”
Added the witness, “Dennis was making a total jerk of himself. He wouldn’t leave, and he wouldn’t let anyone talk to him about shutting up, or what an oppressive country North Korea is. Eventually he had to leave the bar because the bartender was starting to get [bleep]ed-off.”
UPDATE 24 (2013-3-5): The Harlem Globetrotters were featured on the North Korean evening news again (March 4th). This time they visited the Grand People’s Study House and the Golden Lane Bowling Alley:
Here is coverage in KCNA:
Harlem Globetrotters Players Tour Various Places
Pyongyang, March 5 (KCNA) — American basketball players of Harlem Globetrotters and their party visited the International Friendship Exhibition House.
The guests paid tribute to the wax replica of President Kim Il Sung.
They looked round the gifts Kim Il Sung, leader Kim Jong Il and the dear respected Kim Jong Un received from party, state and government heads and personages of many countries.
At the end of the visit Jeffrey Raymond Munn made an entry in the visitor’s book.
He wrote that the exhibition house is the greatest collective of national treasures in the world and he was pleased to see them, excellent wealth for the Korean people.
The guests also toured the E-library and Indoor Swimming Pool of Kim Il Sung University, Grand People’s Study House, Pyongyang Gold Lane and other places.
Earlier, basketball players of Harlem Globetrotters conducted a joint training with players of the Hwaebul basketball team of Korean University of Physical Education.
The guests flew back home Tuesday.
UPDATE 23 (2013-3-4): The White House has dismissed the Rodman trip as “a ‘celebrity sporting event’ for an oppressive regime”. Read more here.
UPDATE 22 (2013-3-4): The North Korean evening (March 3) news featured the Harlem Globetrotters visiting the new electronic library and indoor swimming pool of Kim Il-Sung University:
UPDATE 18 (2013-3-1): Here is KCNA footage of Dennis Rodman leaving the DPRK:
Here is what KCNA had to say:
Pyongyang, March 1 (KCNA) — Ex-player of the NBA of the U.S. Dennis Rodman left here Friday. Seeing him off at the airport were Son Kwang Ho, vice-chairman of the DPRK Olympic Committee, and officials concerned.
The Harlem Globetrotters remain in the DPRK.
UPDATE 17 (2013-3-1): When Dennis Rodman left the DPRK, he complemented the Paektu blood line noting Kim Jong-un is an “awesome guy” and his father and grandfather were “great leaders”. According to the Associated Press:
At Pyongyang’s Sunan airport on his way to Beijing, Rodman said it was “amazing” that the North Koreans were “so honest.” He added that Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founder, “were great leaders.”
“He’s proud, his country likes him – not like him, love him, love him,” Rodman said of Kim Jong Un. “Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”
At Beijing’s airport, Rodman pushed past waiting journalists without saying anything.
Rodman’s agent, Darren Prince, sent a text message to The Associated Press saying Rodman will be in New York on Sunday “to do some major press interviews and talk about his trip in North Korea as well as discussing what’s accurate and inaccurate from the press the past few days.”
UPDATE 13 (2013-2-28): The game with Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman did not make the evening news tonight, but it did feature Rodman and the team visiting the Arch of Triumph and Juche Tower. They make an appearance at the 8:07 mark:
The video of the Rodman/Jong-un game/dinner will come to the USA tomorrow.
KCNA has published 15 photos from the game and dinner, but because their web page is so poorly designed, I cannot link to them. If you go to KCNA.kp, search for “American Players”. When the story appears, click on the camera icon to the left of the story. You should be able to see the photos.
In the event that this is too much work for you, Yonhap has released some screenshots from North Korean television of the game and dinner (which has not made its way through the usual outlets to viewers in the Western hemisphere): one, two, three, four (the bow), five (the toast), six, seven, eight (the hug), nine.
UPDATE 12 (2013-2-28): This evening we will see how much of the performance ended up on North Korean television. In the meantime, KCNA reports on Kim Jong-un’s attendance of the game with Rodman:
Kim Jong Un Enjoys Basketball Game of DPRK, American Players
Pyongyang, February 28 (KCNA) — A mixed basketball game of the visiting American basketball players of Harlem Globetrotters and Korean players belonging to the Hwaebul basketball team of Korean University of Physical Education took place at Ryugyong Jong Ju Yong Gymnasium on Thursday. Among the American players was ex-player of NBA Dennis Rodman.
Sports fans and other Pyongyang citizens packed the gymnasium to watch the game with great interest.
Among the audience were foreign diplomatic envoys, representatives of international bodies, military attaches and other foreign guests here with their families.
The dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un, together with his wife Ri Sol Ju, came to the gymnasium to watch the game.
The players and audience broke into thunderous cheers, greatly excited to see the game together with Kim Jong Un.
Dennis Rodman went up to the auditorium to bow to Kim Jong Un.
Warmly welcoming him, Kim Jong Un let him sit next to him.
Brett Dennis Meister and Jeffrey Raymond Munn also sat near him.
American basketball players first played a demonstration game amid great attention of the audience.
They showed a variety of special basketball skills to be highly acclaimed.
Then a mixed game of DPRK and American players took place amid elated atmosphere.
Divided into red and white teams, the players carried out fierce seesaw battle.
In the first and second rounds, the red team players won 60:47 with long-distance shooting, dunk shot and other skills.
The audience enthusiastically cheered the players as they showed amazing skills.
During breaks, women’s brass band presented glamorous rhythmic formations.
National dances by Korean women artistes and a demonstration performance of Taekwon-Do players added to the cheerful mood.
Korean basketball players played the game well with American players of their teams in a coordinated way by fully displaying their techniques. American players made a good job of the game to give good impressions to the audience.
The white team combined man-to-man defence and fast break. The game ended in a draw 110:110.
Kim Jong Un applauded both teams for their nice game.
Dennis Rodman expressed thanks to Kim Jong Un, saying over the mike with excitement that his impressive Pyongyang visit is quite satisfactory and it is a great privilege for him.
He said he was very pleased to mix with Pyongyang citizens, adding that it is regrettable that the relations between the U.S. and the DPRK are not good, but Korean people are his friends and in particular, he considers Marshal Kim Jong Un a close friend.
Kim Jong Un was presented with a uniform of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team as a gift by the American guests.
This evening Kim Jong Un was invited to a dinner hosted by the DPRK Olympic Committee in honour of Rodman and his party.
He met and conversed with them in an amicable atmosphere.
He was pleased they visited Pyongyang to provide young people of the DPRK who are fond of basketball with an opportunity of enjoying the nice game, he said.
He expressed his expectation that such sports exchange would be activated, contributing to promoting mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries.
He welcomed their visit to the DPRK, hoping that through the visit they would become familiar with the DPRK people, especially with basketball fans.
Rodman said that it was the greatest pleasure for him to meet with Kim Jong Un and his wife for the first time for Americans.
The American basketball star hoped the sports exchange would continue between the two countries.
He wished Kim Jong Un good health, heartily thanking him for warm hospitality.
The dinner proceeded in an amicable atmosphere.
Here is a satellite image of the school where the North Korean team studies:
A satellite image of the stadium can be seen below.
UPDATE 11 (2013-2-28): Some photo work:
A collegaue informs me that the individual outlined in green used to be one of Kim Jong-il’s top body guards. Maybe he has taken a new job with Kim Jong-un?
The individual outlined in yellow was Wolf Blitzer’s (CNN) interpreter and handler. It appears from footage on CNN that he is also Rodman’s interpreter.
There are a few other “suits” who appear to be security, but if anyone else can identify people in the crowd, please let me know.
Earlier today former Chicago Bulls superstar Dennis Rodman presided over a mixed-match basketball game in Pyongyang alongside Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. The teams consisted of VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy; Moose Weekes, Buckets Blakes, and Bull Bullard of the Harlem Globetrotters; and North Korea’s “Dream Team,” all of whom played their hearts out in what we have termed a “basketball diplomacy” mission. Following the game, Rodman gave a stirring speech that extended an olive branch to the Hermit Kingdom. The VICE crew is currently having a reception at the Supreme Leader’s house, and Duffy has invited Kim Jung-un to America and to tour the VICE offices. There isn’t much more to say other than that because our jaws are still on the floor. So while we pick them up and get more info from our team, enjoy these photos of the game. You can watch the highlights on VICE, our new HBO series that premieres April 5.
Alejandro Cao de Benos is jealous.
KCNA did report some of the American basketball player’s activities:
Ex-player of U.S. NBA Pay Respects to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il
Pyongyang, February 28 (KCNA) — Ex-player of the NBA of the U.S. Dennis Rodman and his party Thursday visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to pay respects to President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il.
They paid high tribute to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il before their statues.
They entered the halls where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state and paid homage to them.
They went round the halls where orders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il received are on display and the halls which house cars, an electric car, a boat and train coaches used by them during their field guidance and foreign trips till the last moments of their lives.
They made an entry in the visitor’s book.
UPDATE 8 (2013-2-28): No word yet in the North Korean media, but apparently Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un did meet, watched a basketball game, and conversed in English. Read more here: Washington Post, Associated Press, Xinhua.
Here is a satellite image of the facility (Google Earth: 39.040180°, 125.734745°):
On the evening of the 27th, the DPRK evening news contained no information on the Rodman/Vice visit.
UPDATE 6 (2013-2-27):Koryo Tours reminds us of the first US basketball team to visit the DPRK in June 2012:
According to the email newsletter:
“The team, Coaches International, conducted 2 training sessions for kids there – one at the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace and the second at the Kang Bang Sok [Kang Pang-sok] Middle School. This trip was just the beginning of an ongoing exchange and we’re pleased to announce that Coaches will come back to DPRK in 2013!”
UPDATE 5 (2013-2-27): A couple of colleagues have sent along this image from Japanese media which purports to show a young Kim Jong-un playing basketball in Switzerland. He is wearing Dennis Rodman’s number, 91. I have no idea if this is actually Kim Jong-un, but I thought the idea was interesting enough to post.
UPDATE 4 (2013-2-27): In a New York Times article, Shane Smith also speaks about how the plan came together:
“It’s weird because when you go there, it’s all very anti-American,” Smith said. “North Korean kids are fed anti-American propaganda from pretty much the day they are born. But it’s O.K. to like American basketball.”
So Smith hatched a plan to take some of those Bulls players to North Korea for one of the installments of a series Smith will host on HBO, called “Vice,” featuring news and footage from around the world, which will make its debut April 5. Smith did not go through the State Department but received permission through his previous contacts and the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations. Smith said he was sure that Kim Jong-un’s love of basketball was why the trip was approved.
He quickly found that [Michael] Jordan was not likely to be a willing ambassador. “But Dennis is up for anything and everything, ” Smith said. He then recruited the Globetrotters to round out a team, and they offered up Anthony Blakes, known as Buckets; Alex Weekes, known as Moose; and Will Bullard, known as Bull. Ryan Duffy, a Vice correspondent who is on the trip, will also join in on the games to fill out the team.
“The Harlem Globetrotters are known worldwide as the Ambassadors of Goodwill, and we are proud to continue our storied heritage of entertaining families and breaking down social barriers worldwide,” the Globetrotters’ chief executive, Kurt Schneider, said in a statement. “Our aim is to entertain and inspire children everywhere. Every child deserves that opportunity.”
According to the Globetrotters, team members have traveled to 122 countries in the team’s 87-year history. This one might be the oddest trip of all, given North Korea’s isolation.
“It is a bizarre place,” Smith said. “And this is a bizarre idea.”
It appears that after presenting the idea to “the New York Channel”, they were issued an invitation. According to Rodman:
“We got invited and we just came over to have some fun,” Rodman said. “Hopefully, everything will be O.K. and the kids will have a good time with the games.”
UPDATE 3 (2013-2-26): The Rodman/Vice/Globetrotter arrival did not make the evening news in Pyongyang (on February 26th), but the group did get a mention in the Workers’ Party News Paper, Rodong Sinmun (로동신문). See the report here in Korean.
UPDATE 2 (2013-2-26): According to Max Fisher at the Washington Post, Dennis Rodman’s agent claims he will be meeting with Kim Jong-un.
We readers are instructed to take that with a grain of salt.
UPDATE 1 (2013-2-26): Dennis Rodman has tweeted this blog post. I have to check, but I believe this is a first for NKeconWatch.
According to the data compiled by the U.S. State Department, a total of 87 visas were issued for North Koreans in the 2012 fiscal year running from October 2011 to September 2012. This represents a 22 percent decrease from a year earlier.
The drop is mainly attributed to the soured relations between Washington and Pyongyang after the communist country launched a long-range rocket last April in breach of an earlier agreement to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches.
North Koreans were issued more than 200 visas per year during 2003-2005, but the figure has been on a downward trend since then, with 148 cases in 2006, 150 in 2007, 137 in 2008, 76 in 2009 and 53 in 2010, according to the official data.
The notable falls in 2006 and 2009 show a correlation with Pyongyang’s first and second rounds of nuclear tests, experts say.
By type of visa issued in fiscal 2012, short-term business and travel visas of B1 or B2 took up the largest share with 50 cases, followed by 32 G-type visas for representatives of international organizations and their immediate family members. There were also three F-type visas for students and two C-type visas issued for short-stay visitors, the data showed.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government issued a total of 90,927 visas to South Koreans in fiscal 2012, down 15 percent, the data showed.
Read the full story here:
U.S. visa issuance to N. Koreans drops last year Yonhap
The head of inter-Korean automaker Pyeonghwa Motors said Tuesday that he was made an honorary citizen of Pyongyang late last year to reflect his contribution to North Korea’s development.
In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Park Sang-kwon said he received the citizenship at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in the North Korean capital on Dec. 18.
Park has led the carmaker that started off as a joint venture between South Korea’s Tongil Group, run by the Unification Church, and North Korea. Production began in 2002, with the company producing about 2,000 vehicles every year.
He said his citizenship has a serial number of 002 and has an inscription saying that the honor is being bestowed because of his contribution to the fatherland and the Korean people. He is the first foreign national to have received the honor under the communist country’s new leader Kim Jong-un.
Kim Chin-kyung, the Korean-American president of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology was the first to receive an honorary citizenship in Aug. 2011 by late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
“The reason why they gave me the citizenship reflects recognition for the trust I have shown them and may be a sign that they want me to more freely engage in business activities,” he said. Park claimed that the citizenship can be seen as a sign that the North will allow him to start a new business in the country.
He then said that the reason why Tongil decided to turn over management of the carmaker last November was so it could focus on a wholly-owned business operation in the country. Last year, the business group created by late Rev. Moon Sun-myung also agreed to hand over control of the Pothonggang Hotel in Pyongyang.
The executive said he had asked the North to approve such a step.
“Pyeonghwa Motors has been generating profit for the past five years,” Park said. The businessman said that in the future, he wants to engage in the distribution of household necessities in North Korea, and in particular to Pyongyang.
He said there is a need to show that a wholly-owned (outside-invested) company that is not tied to a joint venture project with a North Korean partner can succeed in the country, which can act as an incentive for other foreign companies to invest.
He pointed out that Chinese companies that invested in the North are generally those that have not done well at home. He said that successful South Korean, Japanese and U.S. companies need to engage in business activities in the North.
“If 200 competitive South Korean companies operate in the North, there would be no reason for inter-Korean tensions, and it can actually help push forward the unification process,” he said.
Park, meanwhile, said the North is looking into the option of developing a ski resort near the 768 meter high Masik pass near the city of Wonsan on the east coast.
He said that United Front Department of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea mentioned the development plan in December and claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave the order personally. Kim has been running the country since the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il in Dec. 2011.
“The North seems to want to develop a small ski resort first and build this up depending on demand,” he said.
The businessman added that Pyongyang wanted to transform Wonsan into a special tourist zone and is interested in using a military airfield near the city to accept civilian flights carrying tourists. Wonsan is famous for its beaches and if a ski resort is opened on Masik pass, it could attract tourists year round.
Park claimed Kim Jong-un has gained confidence in managing the country in the last year and may move to increase investments into the tourism sector.
UPDATE 18 (2013-5-15): Kenneth Bae has been transferred to a prison. According to KCNA:
American Citizen Begins His Life at “Special Prison”
Pyongyang, May 15 (KCNA) — Pae Jun Ho, an American citizen, started his life at a “special prison” on Tuesday.
Pae was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor for his anti-DPRK crime, an attempt to topple the DPRK, at the trial held on April 30, according to Section 60 (an attempt at state subversion) of the DPRK Criminal Law.
DPRK Supreme Court Spokesman Exposes Crimes of American Pae Jun Ho
Pyongyang, May 9 (KCNA) — A spokesman for the Supreme Court of the DPRK gave the following answer to a question raised by KCNA Thursday as regards the assertion made by the U.S. government and media about the alleged unreasonable legal action taken against American Pae Jun Ho who committed crimes against the DPRK, claiming that he was not tried in a transparent manner and it was trying to use this issue as a political bargaining chip:
Pae set up plot-breeding bases in different places of China for the purpose of toppling the DPRK government from 2006 to October 2012 out of distrust and enmity toward the DPRK. He committed such hostile acts as egging citizens of the DPRK overseas and foreigners on to perpetrate hostile acts to bring down its government while conducting a malignant smear campaign against it. He was caught red handed and prosecuted while entering Rason City of the DPRK, bringing with him anti-DPRK literature on Nov. 3 last year.
Pae visited different churches of the U.S. and south Korea to preach the necessity and urgency to bring down the DPRK government. He was dispatched to China as a missionary of the Youth With A Mission in April, 2006. After setting up plot-breeding bases disguised with diverse signboards in different parts of China for the past six years, avoiding the eyes of its security organs, he brought together more than 1 500 citizens of the DPRK, China and foreigners before whom he gave anti-DPRK lectures. He invited even south Korean pastors hell-bent on the moves to escalate confrontation with compatriots to give lectures for malignantly slandering the Juche idea of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the socialist system in the DPRK and instigating them to the acts to bring down its government.
He planned the so-called “Jericho operation” to bring down the DPRK through his anti-DPRK religious activities from December 2010 to March 2012. In order to carry out the plan he infiltrated at least 250 students who had been educated at the plot-breeding bases operated by him into Rason City under the guise of tourists. He failed to set up an anti-DPRK base at Rajin Hotel in Rason City.
He collected and produced several anti-DPRK videos to make the false propaganda sound plausible and showed them many people in a bid to egg them onto activities to bring down the DPRK government. He bribed Song Je Suk and other citizens of the DPRK on foreign tours in an effort to get them involved in activities to topple the DPRK government. He dared commit such hideous crime as hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK.
The DPRK Supreme Court held a trial of Pae at its court behind closed doors on Apr. 30, 2013 at his request in accordance with Section 270 of the DPRK Criminal Procedure Law.
As he refused pleading, the court did not allow the presence of a counsel, pursuant to Section 275 of the above-said law.
In the course of hearing Pae admitted all his crimes and they were clearly proved in an objective manner by evidence and testimonies made by witnesses.
The court sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor in consideration of candid confession of his crimes though they are liable to face death penalty or life imprisonment for an attempt at state subversion according to Section 60 of the DPRK Criminal Code.
Pae will be fully guaranteed the right as a prisoner according to the DPRK law while in jail.
Pyongyang, May 2 (KCNA) — A trial of Pae Jun Ho, an American citizen, took place held at the Supreme Court of the DPRK on April 30. He was arrested while committing hostile acts against the DPRK after entering Rason City as a tourist on Nov. 3 last year.
The Supreme Court sentenced him to 15 years of compulsory labor for this crime.
Pyongyang, April 27 (KCNA) — The preliminary inquiry into crimes committed by American citizen Pae Jun Ho closed. He entered Rason City of the DPRK on Nov. 3 last year for the purpose of tour and was arrested for committing crimes against the DPRK.
In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it. His crimes were proved by evidence.
He will soon be taken to the Supreme Court of the DPRK to face judgment.
UPDATE 11 (2013-1-28): In the Korea Herald, Namkung refers to serious charges leveled against Mr. Bae:
“My understanding is that he has been accused of serious crimes including plotting to overthrow the regime and assassinating the leadership,” Namkung said in an email interview.
“Richardson’s hope was to see the detainee, Kenneth Bae, and if possible, bring him home. However, North Korea was not cooperative in this regard.”
For weeks, North Korea has refused to allow the United States government to contact a Korean-American man detained in the communist nation, the State Department said Friday.
“As we said about three or four weeks ago, we had contact through our Swedish protecting power. We have not been able to have another contact since then. We continue to ask,” department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.
She was responding to a question on Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American tour operator who was arrested by North Korea’s security authorities in early November.
UPDATE 9 (2013-1-11):Retuers reports that Richardson delivered a letter for Bae:
Richardson was unable meet with Korean-American Kenneth Bae, a 44-year-old tourist who was detained in North Korea late last year, but he said he was able to give a letter from Bae’s son to authorities.
“I delivered the letter to North Korean officials,” Richardson told Reuters on Friday. “They said they would provide that to him.”
UPDATE 8 (2013-1-10): KCNA reports that the Richardson delegation has left the DPRK:
Delegation of Google Inc. of U.S. Flies Back
Pyongyang, January 10 (KCNA) — The delegation of the Google Inc. of the U.S. headed by Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico State, left here on Thursday.
No reports of any meetings were reported while the delegation visited the DPRK.
The delegation did hold a press conference at Beijing Capital Airport. Bloomberg reports:
“As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world,” Schmidt told reporters today at the Beijing airport after the visit to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. “The government has to do something — they have to make it possible for people to use the Internet, which the government in North Korea has not yet done. It is time now for them to start or they will remain behind.”
Schmidt said that North Korea’s existing mobile-phone network, operated in a joint venture with Orascom Telecom Media & Technology Holding SAE, could be retooled to offer Internet access. There are about 1 million phones on the network, Schmidt said.
“It would be very easy for them to turn that on,” Schmidt said.
Mr. Richardson said he told North Korea’s top vice minister for nuclear negotiations that Pyongyang should temper its nuclear-development efforts. “We need dialogue on the peninsula, not confrontation,” he told reporters. He also said he pushed Pyongyang for a moratorium on ballistic-missile tests, and that officials responded by insisting that the recent satellite launch was for peaceful reasons.
“I must say I personally disagree,” he said.
Mr. Richardson also said he pressed North Korean officials about an American who is being detained there, and was encouraged by their statements that judicial proceedings will begin soon and that the detainee’s health is good. It wasn’t clear whether Mr. Richardson’s delegation met with the detainee, 44-year-old Kenneth Bae, held since late last year on unspecified charges.
UPDATE 7 (2013-1-9): The Richardson delegation visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun. There are no photos or videos of this trip. No doubt Gov. Richardson would be nervous about pictures of him paying homage to the memories of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
UPDATE 6 (2013-1-9): KCNA reports that the Richardson delegation is touring Pyongyang:
Delegation of Google Inc. of U.S. Tours Pyongyang
Pyongyang, January 9 (KCNA) — A delegation of the Google Inc. of the U.S. headed by Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico State, Wednesday visited the Grand People’s Study House here.
The guests went round several reading rooms and lecture rooms, being briefed on the fact that people and students acquire knowledge about modern science and technology and improve their cultural attainments at the study house.
They also visited the E-library of Kim Il Sung University, Korean Computer Center, etc.
The visit to Kim Il-sung University was featured on the 1-8 evening news. See it here.
The visit to the Grand Peoples Study house was featured on the 1-9 evening news. See it here.
Schmidt and Cohen chatted with students working on HP desktop computers at an “e-library” at the university named after North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. One student showed Schmidt how he accesses reading materials from Cornell University online on a computer with a red tag denoting it as a gift from Kim Jong Il.
“He’s actually going to a Cornell site,” Schmidt told Richardson after peering at the URL.
Cohen asked a student how he searches for information online. The student clicked on Google — “That’s where I work!” Cohen said — and then asked to be able to type in his own search: “New York City.” Cohen clicked on a Wikipedia page for the city, pointing at a photo and telling the student, “That’s where I live.”
Kim Su Hyang, a librarian, said students at Kim Il Sung University have had Internet access since the laboratory opened in April 2010. School officials said the library is open from 8 a.m. to midnight, even when school is not in session, like Tuesday.
While university students at Kim Chaek University of Science and Technology and the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology also have carefully monitored Internet access — and are under strict instructions to access only educational materials — most North Koreans have never surfed the Web.
Computers at Pyongyang’s main library at the Grand People’s Study house are linked to a domestic Intranet service that allows them to read state-run media online and access a trove of reading materials culled by North Korean officials. North Koreans with computers at home can also sign up for the Intranet service.
But access to the World Wide Web is extremely rare and often is limited to those with clearance to get on the Internet.
At Kim Chaek University, instructors and students wishing to use the Internet must register first for permission and submit an application with their requests for research online, Ryu Sun Ryol, head of the e-library, said.
But he said it is only a matter of time before Internet use becomes widespread.
“We will start having access to the Internet soon,” he said in an interview last month. He said North Korea is in the midst of a major push to expand computer use in every classroom and workplace.
UPDATE 5 (2013-1-7): Even though this delegation is run by Bill Richardson for “humanitarian” purposes, KCNA is emphasizing the business angle. Here is the KCNA report of the delegation’s arrival:
Delegation of Google Inc. of U.S. Arrives
Pyongyang, January 7 (KCNA) — A delegation of the Google Inc. of the U.S. headed by Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico State, arrived here on Monday by air.
Here is KCNA video that has been ripped and uploaded to You Tube:
UPDATE 4 (2012-1-5):Wired published a statement from Richardson’s office which details who is in the delegation:
Governor Bill Richardson will travel to North Korea next week on a private humanitarian mission. The delegation will consist of former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Dr. KA Namkung, Director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen; as well as some staff members.
Since no media is accompanying the delegation, Gov. Richardson will have a press availability at the Beijing Airport on Thursday, January 10th.
UPDATE 3 (2013-1-3): According to Reuters, the US Department of State has criticized the Richardson delegation to the DPRK. According to the article:
The State Department said on Thursday the time was not right for Google Inc Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and former diplomat Bill Richardson to visit North Korea, which drew international criticism for a rocket launch last month.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Schmidt and Richardson would be traveling as private citizens, not representatives of the U.S. government.
“Frankly, we don’t think the timing of this is particularly helpful,” Nuland told reporters, citing North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket in December. “They are well aware of our views.”
“We are obviously aware of the trip that has been announced,” [Nuland] said, later correcting herself to say that the department was aware of media reports about the trip.
“They are private citizens. They are traveling in an unofficial capacity,” she said. “They are not going to be accompanied by any U.S. officials. They are not carrying any messages from us. They are private citizens and they are making their own decisions.”
On Wednesday, Google did not respond directly to a question about whether Schmidt was going to North Korea, although a spokeswoman’s response suggested a visit would not be for company business.
UPDATE 2 (2013-1-2): According to the Associated Press, Bill Richardson is reportedly headed to the DPRK. Though the article does not mention it, he will likely be working for the release of Mr. Bae. The news of Mr. Richardson’s visit is overshadowed by his travel companion, Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt. According to the article:
Eric Schmidt will be traveling to North Korea on a private, humanitarian mission led by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that could take place as early as this month, according to two people familiar with the group’s plans who asked not to be named because the visit had not been made public.
The trip would be the first by a top executive from U.S.-based Google, the world’s largest Internet search provider, to a country considered to have the most restrictive Internet policies on the planet.
UPDATE 1 (2012-12-21): The DPRK announces it has arrested another American. According to KCNA:
American Arrested in DPRK for Committing Crime
Pyongyang, December 21 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency released the following report on Friday:
American citizen Pae Jun Ho who entered Rason City of the DPRK on Nov. 3 for the purpose of tour committed a crime against the DPRK. He was put into custody by a relevant institution.
In the process of investigation evidence proving that he committed a crime against the DPRK was revealed. He admitted his crime.
Consular officials of the Swedish embassy, which look after interests of the U.S. in the DPRK, visited him Friday.
Legal actions are being taken against Pae in line with the criminal procedure law of the DPRK.
Original Post (2012-12-13): The DPRK is allegedly holding another American citizen. According to the New York Times:
A 44-year-old American citizen has been held in North Korea for a month, a human rights activist in Seoul said Thursday, addressing unconfirmed reports that had circulated in the South Korean news media for several days.
The American, Kenneth Bae, runs a travel company that specializes in taking tourists and prospective investors to North Korea. He had visited the North several times without incident before being detained in early November, according to the activist, Do Hee-youn, who heads the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of North Korean Refugees, based in Seoul. Mr. Do said he had learned of Mr. Bae’s detention through a mutual friend in China.
South Korean news reports on Thursday said that Mr. Bae, a naturalized United States citizen born in South Korea, was detained after escorting five European tourists into North Korea through the city of Rajin on Nov. 3. The Europeans were allowed to leave the country, the reports said. North Korea operates a free-trade zone in Rajin, which is near the Russian border, but it has had difficulty attracting foreign investors.
Mr. Do said he had few details about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Bae’s reported arrest. The South Korean daily newspaper Kookmin Ilbo cited an unnamed source as saying that Mr. Bae was detained after North Korean security officials found a computer hard disk in his possession that they believed contained delicate information about the country. Mr. Bae was later transferred to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, for further investigation, according to that report.
Mr. Do said that Mr. Bae was interested in helping orphans who beg for food in North Korean markets. “The most plausible scenario I can think of is that he took some pictures of the orphans, and the North Korean authorities considered that an act of anti-North Korean propaganda,” he said.