Hall Healy, chairman of the Wisconsin-basedInternational Crane Foundation, has been engaged for years in the effort to protect the migratory cranes in North Korea and restore their habitats. Since 2008, the group has been raising money and coordinating efforts to help a farming community on the Anbyon Plain, roughly 60 miles north of the DMZ.
Through helping the Anbyon farmers, Healy said they are also helping the cranes. When there’s more food for the farmers, there’s also more rice left over in the fields for the cranes, Healy said. The birds also benefit from a pond that was recently built and stocked with fish.
“You have to work with the people,” Healy said. “And if the people have needs, and they always do, you have to help them first.”
Founded in 1973, the International Crane Foundation works in countries around the world to protect the 15 species of cranes in existence.
The North Korea project — which focuses on the red-crowned and white-naped cranes — has special meaning for Healy, who’s been closely involved since its inception. He’s traveled to the DMZ more than a dozen times, and to the Anbyon Plain twice — most recently in November 2011. He plans to return in the fall.
Anbyon was targeted as a priority area, out of concern that a large wetlands area south of the DMZ, near Seoul, could be developed soon, Healy said. If that development occurs, Anbyon would give cranes a reliable haven.
Over the past five years, the foundation has raised about $200,000, including in-kind services, for machinery, fertilizer, training and building supplies, Healy said. Partnering with other groups — including the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang, North Korea, the Anbyon farming cooperative, BirdLife International and the Germany-based Hanns Seidel Foundation — it has turned that relatively small amount of money into significant results, Healy said.
So far, it’s worked out well for the farmers. The primary crop in Anbyon is rice, Healy said, but the farmers are also now planting fruit trees and raising livestock. Organic fertilizer, new machinery and sustainable farming techniques have improved the crop yield and the health of the soil, he said.
On the crane side, it’s still a work in progress. Last winter, cranes circled but did not land in Anbyon. But they landed the two years previous, Healy said, and better results are expected this year.
Wildlife conservation that directly benefits people is becoming a more popular approach, said Jeff Walk, an ornithologist and director of science for the Nature Conservancy in Illinois. And cranes are an excellent focus, he said, because people are naturally drawn to them.
“It’s a good thing. You need that hook with people,” Walk said. “We call them ‘an umbrella species.’ You work to protect them and a whole other community benefits, too.”
Compared with working in other countries, Healy said communication with the North Korean farmers has been limited and indirect. Through the United Nations mission in New York, the International Crane Foundation communicates with the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang, instead of directly with the farming cooperative.
Healy worked previously as president of the DMZ Forum, a New York-based group focused on ecological preservation in the DMZ.
Seung-ho Lee, current president of the DMZ Forum, said conservation work in North Korea is inherently “a trust-building process” with people who have been largely cut off from the Western world. The Anbyon project is effective because it yields results without ideology or politics, he said.
“It’s a very useful approach,” Lee said. “To give them a sense of volunteerism and work, but to also give them a real product.”
This half-day symposium will feature panels on U.S. export control and sanctions laws and regulations pertaining to transactions with North Korea; the implications of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for organizations operating in North Korea; and North Korea’s legal system.
Adam Szubin, the Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of Treasury, will give the keynote address. Speakers will include James Min on North Korean laws; Susan Kramer and Parvin Huda of the U.S. Department of Commerce; George Kleinfeld from Clifford Chance on OFAC regulations; John H. Wood of Hughes, Hubbard and Reed on the FCPA; and Yuri A. Koshkin, Trident Group and Chris Ferguson, The Risk Advisory Group, will discuss due diligence.
This off-the-record symposium will cover many practical legal aspects of North Korean law, US export control and sanctions as well as anti-bribery laws as they pertain to operating in North Korea or with North Koreans. However, it is informational in nature and is not intended to provide you with specific legal advice, which should be sought independently.
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.
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U.S. visa issuance to N. Koreans drops last year Yonhap