Archive for the ‘National Defense Commission’ Category

DPRK strengthens travel restrictions along Chinese border

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

…More signs of “forward to the past”?

Last week the Daily NK reported that the DPRK had been distributing enough rice to lower the price. It is still unclear if this practice will continue.  This week the Daily NK reports that the DPRK has stepped up travel restrictions along the Chinese border:

The North Korean authorities are operating enhanced controls on transit through the region of the country closest to China, including close checks on the documentation of travellers passing through in the direction of the Sino-North Korean border.

Part of the process means it has become more difficult to obtain travel permits. Although the issuance of such permits was recently resumed following months of combat mobilization and other activities that limited movement, the process of traveling through the border is making life difficulties.

A North Hamkyung Province source told Daily NK on the 26th, “The issuance of travel permits resumed on the 21st of last month, but the procedure when moving in the border region has gotten more demanding than ever. Travel permits need to be approved with not just the signature but also the seal of a person’s local PSM (Ministry of People’s Safety), relevant security agency and workplace, and if the trip is for a traditional ceremonial occasion such as a funeral then they must get a further confirmation letter saying so.”

“In the past, they did not ask for the confirmation letter, or the seal of the local security forces and NSA (National Security Agency, the state security organ) for that matter. But now they are asking for this and that certificate; it’s as if travellers are criminals,” the source said, recalling, “We used to be able to easily get travel permits by bribing people or having close associates in certain positions.”

Even for those with a permit there are still multiple layers of security and checks on the way to the border.

“Even after you get a travel permit by paying bribes, there are still the PSM agents on the trains and railway staff doing hourly checks,” the source said. “People say it is worse than the customs checks on the border.”

“Stations are being locked down by soldiers and then intensive body and baggage checks are taking place at Gomusan (the station before Musan and Hoiryeong on the Musan Line (train 9-10) and Sariwon-Rajin Line (train 113-114)) and at Huchang (the station before Rajin on the Pyongyang-Tumen River Line (train 7-8)),” the source noted. “They even have magnetic detectors for the body checks.”

Travellers ensnared by the checks are supposed to be detained locally until a security agent from his or her area of residence arrives to deal with the case. However, payments of 50,000 to 100,000 Won are apparently sufficient to attain release for those who simply don’t have the right transit permits. The only ones whose release cannot be obtained so easily are those caught with South Korean materials in their baggage; they face re-education or labor camp sentences, sources say.

Read the full story here:
Strain on the Border Trains
Daily NK
Choi Song Min
2013-4-29

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ROK arrests 25 DPRK spies in last five years

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

According to the Korea Herald (Yonhap):

More than two dozen North Korean spies have been arrested in the past five years of South Korea’s outgoing government of President Lee Myung-bak, officials said Sunday, a nearly 40 percent rise from the previous administration.

A total of 25 spies have been arrested in South Korea since the Lee government was launched in early 2008, officials said. That represented a 39 percent increase from 18 spies caught in the previous government of President Roh Moo-hyun.

By year, two of the 25 were caught in 2009, 10 in 2010, five in 2011, and eight between 2012 and January this year. In particular, 14 of the spies came to South Korea posing as defectors, officials said.

Last week, intelligence sources said they arrested an official of the Seoul city government for spying charges. The 33-year-old came to South Korea in 2004, disguising himself as a North Korean defector. In 2011, he was hired by the Seoul city government as a two-year contract official.

Yoo’s job at the city government was helping North Korean defectors, and he has been charged with passing to Pyongyang sensitive information about thousands of North Korean defectors living in Seoul.

Read the full story here:
25 N. Korean spies arrested in past 5 years
Korean Herald (Yonahp)
2013-1-27

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New Kim Jong-il statue at MSS/SSD headquarters

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

KCNA ran the following headline on 2012-10-2: “Statue of Generalissimo Kim Jong Il Erected at KPA Unit [10215]“.

According to Ken Gause, KPA Unit 10215 is the military cover designation of the 국가안전보위부 — the Ministry of State Security (MSS) [a.k.a. State Security Department (SSD), National Security Agency (NSA), State Political Security Department (SPSD)].

Checking the Google Earth imagery, we can in fact see the statue under construction at the MSS headquarters in front of the General Bureau Building.

Pictured above (Google Earth:  39.074311°, 125.767690°): Tarps covering the newly unveiled Kim Jong-il statue. Image date: 2012-6-20.

You can see a video of the unveiling on North Korean television below. This is the first time, of which I am aware, that the MSS headquarters has been shown on television:

(UPDATE) NK Leadership Watch also covered the unveiling and provides additional information.

In related news, the Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung statues on Mansu Hill have been covered up for renovations. In his latest at 38 North, Ruediger Frank also publishes a photo.

All images of the Kims are produced by the Mansudae Art Studio in Phyongchon District, Pyongyang.

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Taedonggang Fruit Processing Factory Railway Line

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Pictured above (Google Earth): The new Taedonggang Fruit Processing Factory Railway Line (in yellow). I previously blogged about this railway line here.

On August 31, KCNA announced “Railway line of Taedonggang Combined Fruit Processing Factory goes operational” and that the opening ceremony was attended by staff from the Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) and Korean People’s Internal Security Forces (KPISF). The KPISF is part of the MPS.

The presence of so many security personnel might seem odd for the opening of a railway line that is intended to provide fruit products to North Korean consumers. However, because this very same railway line connects the Kim family compound in Kangdong with the city of Phyongsong by rail (See above map), the heavy security presence seems understandable.  This railway line will be heavily watched.

The interesting (and speculative) takeaway is that it might be the case that security for the Kim family is now under the portfolio of the KPISF and not the State Security Department (SSD, Ministry of State Security, anjon-bowibu), KPA, or Military Security Command.

To learn more about the North Korean security services, check out: Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korean Police State by Ken E. Gause.

Below is the complete report featured in KCNA:

Railway Line of Taedonggang Combined Fruit Processing Factory Goes Operational

Pyongyang, August 31 (KCNA) — A new railway line branching into the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Processing Factory went operational with due ceremony on Friday.

The operation of the railway line helps satisfactorily carry fruits and processed goods produced by the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm and factories in this area and materials necessary for their management and operation.

Present at the ceremony were officials of the Ministry of People’s Security, servicepersons of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, officials concerned, builders and employees of the factory.

At the end of the ceremony the first train carrying fruits to be supplied to Pyongyang citizens left the factory.

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Coercion, control, surveillance, and punishment: An examination of the North Korean police state

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Today The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) is releasing “Coercion, Control, Surveillance, and Punishment: An Examination of the North Korean Police State” (PDF) by Ken Gause.

Here is the table of contents:

Part I: The Internal Security Agencies
–State Security Department (SSD)
–Ministry of People’s Security (MPS)
–Military Security Command (MSC)
–Neighborhood Watch Units (In-min-ban)
–Ad Hoc Social Monitoring Organizations
Part II: What the Internal Security Agencies Do
–Surveillance of North Korea’s Citizens
–Investigation and Detention
–The Role of Internal Security Agencies in Trials
–The Role of the Internal Security Agencies in Prisons
Part III: History of the Internal Security Apparatus
–Formative Years (1945 and 1950)
–Purging the Enemies of the State (1950s and 1960s)
–Kimilsungism and the Monolithic Guidance System (1970–1980)
–Kim Jong-il as Heir Apparent (1980–1994)
–Intrigue Following Kim Il-sung’s Death (1994–1998)
–Kim Jong-il Regime
–Laying the Groundwork for Kim Jong-un’s Succession
–Kim Jong-un Regime
Conclusion
–Appendix I: Biographies of Key Internal Security Officials
–Appendix II: An Example of a North Korean Ministry of People’s Security Decree.180
–Appendix III: An Example of a North Korean Arrest Warrant

Additional Information:
1. Here is coverage in Yonhap

2. Here is coverage in the AFP

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Fewer Japanese cars reported on DPRK roads

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

Japanese-made vehicles are disappearing from the streets of North Korea, six years after Kim Jong Il decreed that it should happen. Indeed, just two years ago it seemed that a majority of the vehicles on the streets were still those made by Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, but this is no longer the case.

According to a Chongjin source who spoke with Daily NK yesterday, “In accordance with a 2010 National Defense Commission order saying that all Japanese cars had to be off the streets by last December, now you can hardly see any Japanese private cars or vans in the entire country.”

The NDC order reportedly pertained to private cars and vans of 1.5T or less, although the source said that trucks of Japanese origin are also meant to be phased out over the next couple of years as well.

The move is said to relate to a decree issued by Kim Jong Il in 2006 in which he demanded that all Japanese cars had to be gotten rid of. He apparently issued it after watching unhappily as a Japanese car overtook his own on the Pyongyang-Wonsan highway.

Another case is instructive in showing the degree of official dislike. In 2008, Namkang Trading Co. had already been importing second hand Japanese cars through Rasun for some time. However, a provincial Party secretary received a report on the removal of Japanese cars, and as a result more than 300 such cars were gathered in a local stadium and turned into scrap metal using fork cranes as cadres watched on.

But it was not really until four years after Kim’s original decree that implementation hit its stride, because it took some time to secure sufficient replacement vehicles. Pyongyang municipal, Party, state and security organs were the first to lose theirs in 2010, followed in 2011 by factories, enterprises and foreign currency earning units.

According to the source, “At the time, there were more than 100 perfectly good vehicles taken from North Hamkyung Provincial Party Committee alone.” The transportation head in the province apparently commented that “tens of thousands of perfectly sound vehicles have been gotten rid of nationwide.”

However, in October, 2010, Kim Jong Il delivered cars as gifts to key individuals and organizations. There were nationwide events held to celebrate receipt of the vehicles. Cadres at provincial Party departmental head and above received Chinese vehicles, while local Party secretaries and people’s committee chairmen received Russian ones. Factories and enterprises were subsequently ordered to purchase vehicles produced domestically in Nampo by ‘Pyeonghwa Motors’, a joint venture with the Seoul-based Unification Church, but this didn’t always happen.

The relative popularity of Japanese vehicles in North Korea stems in part from their build quality, which allows them to traverse the often sketchy North Korean roads, and in part from the fact that they used to represent a good trading opportunity in the 1980s and 90s. At that time, such vehicles could be imported from Japan and sold on to Chinese businesses at a profit margin of up to 400%. Domestic popularity was one of the inevitable side-effects of this trade.

Previous posts on this topic here (2007-7-11) and here (2007-7-27).

Read the full story here:
Japanese Cars Crashing Out
Daily NK
Choi Song Min
2012-5-31

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Border Security Goes Back to NSA

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

Information from inside North Korea suggests that jurisdiction over border security has been moved from the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces to the National Security Agency(NSA), in a special order given by new leader Kim Jong Eun which has seen border security units undergoing an administrative switch to the NSA on April 16.

Read more below:

(more…)

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5th session of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Below I have posted a summary of stories from the Fifth session of the 12th SPA. The stories cover the lead up to the SPA, the completion of Kim Jong-un’s succession (inheriting the title “First Chairman” of the National Defense Commission), and KCNA reports of the official DPRK state budget.

UPDATE 20 (2012-4-21): 38 North has posted three articles on the Party Conference and SPA meeting in Pyongyang.  Read the articles by James Church, Aidan Foster-Carter, and Bruce Klinger.

UPDATE 19 (2012-4-20): Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman, and Jaesyung Ryu on the SPA meeting

UPDATE 18 (2012-4-19): Kim Jong-un calls for new industrial revolution at the Supreme People’s Assembly (Institute for Far Eastern Studies):

Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) made his first public speech in front of thousands of people gathered to commemorate the centenary of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of songun or military-first politics, construction of a powerful economy, and the need for a new industrial revolution in the military.

The fifth session on the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly was held on April 13. Premier Choe Yong Rim told the legislators the nation’s top priority is to build up the light and agricultural industries to become an economically powerful nation.

According to the KCNA, Premier Choe also reported on the results of last year’s accomplishments while presenting this year’s goals. He elaborated, “The total industrial production rose by 102 percent against last year (2011) and production of hydroelectric power, iron ore, zinc, generators, fertilizers, and magnesia clinker has significantly increased.”

Other achievements of 2011 were announced, completion of Huichon Power Station, technological improvements in three major chemical factories (Hungnam Fertilizer Complex, 2.8 Vinalon Complex, and Namhung Youth Chemical Complex), and construction of high-rise apartments in the Mansudae area in Pyongyang.

It also stressed that the development and joint venture of special economic zones (SEZ) will be strengthened to promote economic and technological cooperation with foreign countries.

Finance Minister Choe Kwang Jin reported on the state budget, stating that last year’s revenue was 101.1 percent, while local government budget reached 112.8 percent. The national budget expenditure was 99.8 percent. For this year’s national budget, revenue was set higher at 108.7 percent and expenditure at 110.1 percent.

Out of the targeted state budget revenue of 108.7 percent, the detailed for budget revenue increase is as follows: transaction revenue (107.5 percent), national corporation profit (110.7 percent), cooperative organization profit (105.3 percent), real estate usage revenue (101.9 percent), and social insurance (101.7 percent).

As for the aimed 110.1 percent increase for this year’s national budget expenditure, the breakdown of the increase is as follows: light and agriculture industries (109.4 percent); power, coal, metal, railroad industries (112.1 percent); basic construction (112.2 percent); science and technology development (110.9 percent); education (109.2 percent); health (108.9 percent); social insurance and welfare (107 percent); sports (106.9 percent) and culture (106.8 percent).

From the total budget expenditure, 15.8 percent will be allocated to national defense and special scholarships and aid will continue to be provided to ethnic Korean children in Japan.

More below…

(more…)

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Aidan Foster-Carter on the DPRK’s 2012

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Aidan Foster-Carter wrties in the Asia Times:

The first quarter of 2012 is almost over. Where did it go, so fast? And for those parts of the world where the calendar is marked by four distinct seasons – which doesn’t apply to much of Asia, but very much includes the Korean peninsula – spring has begun to arrive. Welcome warmth and relief, after the rigors of chilly winter: an especially harsh one in North Korea.

(more…)

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Choson Exchange with a JVIC update

Monday, February 13th, 2012

According to Choson Exchange:

As we mentioned recently, Ri Chol, the broker of the Orascom deal, has moved on from JVIC. Where he has gone is not yet certain, but the choice for his replacement is interesting.

Ri Gwang Gun is the new head of JVIC and was introduced as such to the CEO of Orascom last week. Ri Gwang Gun has held various positions related to trade, including executive positions at state owned enterprises and as Minister of Foreign Trade. He apparently reports to Kim Yang Gon.

He was (is?) a Daepung Investment Group man. We’ve speculated that the existence of both Daepung and JVIC reflected a kind of “competition at the top” for influence in attracting and managing investments. They were both formed around the same time in 2009/2010 and have similar charges. Therefore, Ri Gwang Gun’s promotion could indicate a potential harmonizing of this competition.

Of course, the contours of this are difficult to see. Daepung, with stronger ties to the NDC, could be construed as taking over the JVIC from the top; perhaps the military has been able to exert itself to make sure that in the new leadership era, it does not get shut out of the investment game. (JVIC has become the more active and influential of the two groups.)

It could also be seen as a victory for JVIC, with Daepung being left to crumble and the top talent from that group being brought across. It remains to be seen if there will be some kind of exodus from either group.

Perhaps, also, it is some kind of compromise and a merger of sorts, with competing groups of elites ‘buying in’ to a unified system of investment management under the JVIC brand. They may see this as a way to increase effectiveness, avoid the negative outcomes of unfettered intra-elite competition and therefore encourage stability overall.

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