Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

A.Q. Kahn claims Pakistan military sold nuclear technology to the DPRK

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011


According to the Washington Post:

The founder of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program asserts that the government of North Korea bribed top military officials in Islamabad to obtain access to sensitive nuclear technology in the late 1990s.

Abdul Qadeer Khan has made available documents that he says support his claim that he personally transferred more than $3 million in payments by North Korea to senior officers in the Pakistani military, which he says subsequently approved his sharing of technical know-how and equipment with North Korean scientists.

Khan also has released what he says is a copy of a North Korean official’s 1998 letter to him, written in English, that spells out details of the clandestine deal.

Some Western intelligence officials and other experts have said that they think the letter is authentic and that it offers confirmation of a transaction they have long suspected but could never prove. Pakistani officials, including those named as recipients of the cash, have called the letter a fake. Khan, whom some in his country have hailed as a national hero, is at odds with many Pakistani officials, who have said he acted alone in selling nuclear secrets.

Nevertheless, if the letter is genuine, it would reveal a remarkable instance of corruption related to nuclear weapons. U.S. officials have worried for decades about the potential involvement of elements of Pakistan’s military in illicit nuclear proliferation, partly because terrorist groups in the region and governments of other countries are eager to acquire an atomic bomb or the capacity to build one.

Because the transactions in this episode would be directly known only to the participants, the assertions by Khan and the details in the letter could not be independently verified by The Washington Post. A previously undisclosed U.S. investigation of the corruption at the heart of the allegations — conducted before the letter became available — ended inconclusively six years ago, in part because the Pakistani government has barred official Western contact with Khan, U.S. officials said.

By all accounts, Pakistan’s confirmed shipments of centrifuges and sophisticated drawings helped North Korea develop the capacity to undertake a uranium-based route to making the bomb, in addition to its existing plutonium weapons. Late last year, North Korea let a group of U.S. experts see a uranium-enrichment facility and said it was operational.

The letter Khan released, which U.S. officials said they had not seen previously, is dated July 15, 1998, and marked “Secret.” “The 3 millions dollars have already been paid” to one Pakistani military official and “half a million dollars” and some jewelry had been given to a second official, says the letter, which carries the apparent signature of North Korean Workers’ Party Secretary Jon Byong Ho. The text also says: “Please give the agreed documents, components, etc. to . . . [a North Korean Embassy official in Pakistan] to be flown back when our plane returns after delivery of missile components.”

The North Korean government did not respond to requests for comment about the letter.

Jehangir Karamat, a former Pakistani military chief named as the recipient of the $3 million payment, said the letter is untrue. In an e-mail from Lahore, Karamat said that Khan, as part of his defense against allegations of personal responsibility for illicit nuclear proliferation, had tried “to shift blame on others.” Karamat said the letter’s allegations were “malicious with no truth in them whatsoever.”

The other official named in the letter, retired Lt. Gen. Zulfiqar Khan, called it “a fabrication.”

The Pakistani Embassy in Washington declined to comment officially. But a senior Pakistani official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity “to avoid offending” Khan’s supporters, said the letter “is clearly a fabrication. It is not on any official letterhead and bears no seal. . . . The reference to alleged payment and gifts to senior Pakistani military officers is ludicrous.”

There is, however, a Pakistani-Western divide on the letter, which was provided to The Post by former British journalist Simon Henderson, who The Post verified had obtained it from Khan. A U.S. intelligence official who tracks nuclear proliferation issues said it contains accurate details of sensitive matters known only to a handful of people in Pakistan, North Korea and the United States.

A senior U.S. official said separately that government experts concluded after examining a copy of the letter that the signature appears authentic and that the substance is “consistent with our knowledge” now of the same events. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the allegation.

Olli Heinonen, a 27-year vet­eran of the International Atomic Energy Agency who led its investigation of Khan before moving to Harvard’s Kennedy School last year, said the letter is similar to other North Korean notes that he had seen or received. They typically lacked a letterhead, he said; moreover, he said he has previously heard similar accounts — originating from senior Pakistanis — of clandestine payments by North Korea to Pakistani military officials and government advisers.

The substance of the letter, Heinonen said, “makes a lot of sense,” given what is now known about the North Korean program.

Jon, now 84, the North Korean official whose signature appears on the letter, has long been a powerful member of North Korea’s national defense commission, in charge of military procurement. In August, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on his department for its ballistic missile work.

According to Khan, in the 1990s, Jon met then-Pakistani President Farooq Leghari, toured the country’s nuclear laboratory and arranged for dozens of North Korean technicians to work there. Khan detailed the payments Jon allegedly arranged in written statements that Henderson, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, shared with The Post. Henderson said he acquired the letter and the statements from Khan in the years after his 2004 arrest by Pakistani authorities.

Henderson, who has written extensively about Khan, said he provided the letter to The Post because he lacked the resources to authenticate it himself.

He said the letter and the statements constitute new evidence that Khan’s proliferation involved more-senior Pakistani officials than Khan himself. Khan has been freed from home detention but remains under round-the-clock surveillance in a suburb of Islamabad, where the government has recently threatened him with new sanctions for illicit communications.

Some of Khan’s past statements have been called into question. Pakistani officials have publicly accused Khan — who is still highly regarded by many in his country — of exaggerating the extent of official approval he received for his nuclear-related exports to North Korea, Libya and Iran. In 2006, then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf accused Khan of profiting directly from nuclear-related commerce.

Although Khan “was not the only one who profited from the sale of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons technology and components . . . by Pakistani standards, his standard of living was lavish,” and the disclosure of his private bank account in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates — with millions of dollars in it — was highly suspicious, said Mark Fitzpatrick, an acting deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation during the George W. Bush administration.

Khan says the bank account was used by associates and a charity he founded, and the Pakistani government never asked him to return any money. He said that in 2007 — six years after his formal retirement and complaints of financial hardship — Musharraf arranged for a lump-sum payment equivalent to $50,000 and a monthly pension of roughly $2,500, which Khan says “belied all those accusations and claims.”

Although U.S. officials disagreed for years about North Korea’s uranium-enrichment capability, the dispute was settled in November when the Pyongyang government invited Siegfried Hecker — a metallurgist who formerly directed a U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory — to see a newly renovated building at Yongbyon that housed more than 1,000 enrichment centrifuges.

Hecker said in an interview that although the government did not disclose their origins, their size, shape and stated efficiency were close to a centrifuge model, known as the P2, that Khan obtained illicitly from Europe. Khan has said that he helped give North Korea four such devices.

“The combination of the Pakistani design, the Pakistani training and the major [Pakistani] procurement network they had access to” allowed North Korea to “put the pieces together to make it work,” Hecker said.

According to Khan’s written account, the swap of North Korean cash for sensitive Pakistani technology arose during a squabble in 1996 over delays in Pakistan’s payment to North Korea for some medium-range missiles. U.S. officials said they had heard of this dispute.

In the letter, Jon first thanks Khan for his assistance to North Korea’s then-representative to Islamabad, Gen. Kang Tae Yun, in the aftermath of a bizarre shooting incident in which an assailant supposedly gunning for Kang accidentally killed his wife. But the heart of the letter concerns two key transactions: the provision of a kickback to speed the overdue Pakistani missile-related payments and additional payments for the nuclear-related materials.

Khan, in his written statements — including an 11-page narrative he prepared for Pakistani investigators while under house arrest in 2004 that was obtained by The Post — said the idea for the kickback came from a Pakistani military officer.

Khan said Kang responded by delivering a half-million dollars in cash in a suitcase to a top Pakistani general, who declined it. Khan said Karamat, a more senior officer at the time, then said: “I should arrange with Gen. Kang to pay this money to him for some secret [Pakistani] army funds. He would then sanction the payment of their outstanding charges.”

“I talked to Gen. Kang, and he gave me the $0.5 million in cash, which I personally delivered” to Karamat, Khan wrote. He says this payment only whetted the army’s appetite, however: Karamat, who had just become chief of the army staff, “said to me that he needed more money for the same secret funds and that I should talk to Gen. Kang.”

Kang then started bargaining, saying that his superiors “were willing to provide another $2.5 million, provided we helped them with the enrichment technology,” Khan wrote.

Once the details of that assistance were worked out, Khan wrote, “I personally gave the remaining $2.5 million to Gen. Karamat in cash at the Army House to make up the whole amount.” Khan said he transferred all the funds on two occasions in a small canvas bag and three cartons, in one case at the chief of army staff’s official residence.

On the top of one carton was some fruit, and below it was $500,000 in cash, Khan wrote in a narrative for Henderson. Inside the bag was $500,000, and each of the other two cartons held $1 million, Khan wrote.

If the account is correct, the ultimate destination of the funds in any event remains unclear. Pakistani officials said in interviews that they found no trace of the money in Karamat’s accounts after an investigation. But the military is known to have used secret accounts for various purposes, including clandestine operations against neighboring India in the disputed Kashmir region.

Karamat said that such a delivery would have been impossible and that he “was not in the loop to delay, withhold or sanction payments” to North Korea. He called the letter “quite mind-boggling.”

The letter also states that Zulfiqar Khan, Karamat’s colleague, received “half a million dollars and 3 diamond and ruby sets” to pave the way for nuclear-weapons-related transfers. Zulfiqar Khan, who later became the head of Pakistan’s national water and power company, was among those who had witnessed the country’s nuclear weapons test six weeks before the letter was written.

Asked to respond, he said in an e-mail that he considered the entire episode “a fabrication and figment of imagination,” and he noted that he had not been accused of “any sort of dishonesty or irregularity” during 37 years as a military officer. He denied having any connection to North Korean contracts.

The senior Pakistani official said that Karamat and Zulfiqar Khan were “amongst the first to initiate accountability” for Abdul Qadeer Khan and his colleagues, and that implicating them in illegal proliferation “can only be deemed as the vengeful reaction of a discredited individual.”

In the letter, Jon requests that “the agreed documents, components” be placed aboard a North Korean plane. He goes on to congratulate Khan on Pakistan’s successful nuclear test that year and wish him “good health, long life and success in your important work.”

The Pakistani intelligence service interrogated Karamat in 2004 about Khan’s allegations, according to a Pakistani government official, but made no public statement about what it learned. Musharraf, who oversaw that probe, appointed Karamat as ambassador to Washington 10 months later, prompting further scrutiny by the U.S. intelligence community of reports that Karamat had arranged the sale of nuclear gear for cash.

Those inquiries, several U.S. officials said, ended inconclusively at the time because of Karamat’s denial and Washington’s inability to question Khan.

The letter can be found here.

For those of you who are interested, here is the biography of Jon Byong-ho from the Yonhap  North Korea Handbook (p. 796):

Jeon Byeong-ho
Current Posts: secretary (in charge of munitions), Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee (wpK CC)
Educ.: Anju Middle School, Pyeongyang; Ural Engineering College, USSR
Born: March 1926 (Musan, North Harngyeong Province)
security staff, Anju Security Guards, South Pyeongan Province, Aug. 1945
security squad for Kim II-sung’s House, Aug. 1945
studied at Ural Engineering College, USSR, just before the Korean War, 1950
engineer, chief engineer, manager, Ganggye Tractor Factory (Military Logistics Factory), Jagang Province, End of 1951
vicedirector, Machine Industry Dept. (originally Military Logistics Dept.), Oct. 1970
alternate member, WPK CC, Nov. 1970
director general, General Bureau of Second Economic Committee, 1972
member, WPK CC, Oct. 1980-
delegate, Seventh SPA, Feb. 1982
chairman, Second Economic Committee, March 1982
awarded Order of Kim II-sung, Apr. 1982
alternate member, Politburo, WPK CC, Aug. 1982
delegate, Eighth SPA, Nov. 1986
secretary (in charge of munitions), WPK CC, Dec. 1986
member, Politburo, WPK CC, Nov. 1988-
delegate (Geumbit, South Hamgyeong Province), Ninth Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), Apr. 1990
member, Military Committee; director, Military Industry Policy Inspection Dept., May 1990-
director, Economic Policy Supervisory Dept., March 1994
member (11th), Kim Il-sung Funeral Committee, July 1994
awarded title of Labor Hero, Feb. 1998
member, Tenth SPA (254th electoral district), July 1998
member, Military Committee, Sept. 1998

He has since taken a post at the National Defense Commission and “been put out to pasture” (see here also).  According to another Washington Post article: “U.S. officials confirm that he long directed North Korea’s defense procurement and nuclear weapons efforts, putting him in a position to know about the events the letter depicts.”

The Guardian and Arms Control Wonk also covered this story.

Read the full story here:
Pakistan’s nuclear-bomb maker says North Korea paid bribes for know-how
Washington Post
R. Jeffrey Smith


DPRK stepping up investigations of border patrol

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

According ot the DailyNK:

The North Korean authorities are conducting an extensive investigation into the actions of soldiers attached to border guard units, based on the presumption that such guards are frequently guilty of aiding and abetting defection. Those found to have done so are being arrested and severely punished.

A source from Yangkang Province explained the news yesterday, “For the third time they are conducting an investigation along the border in Kim Jong Eun’s name, but this time it is focused on the soldiers.”

“The decree says to arrest and severely punish soldiers who have aided and abetted in defection, to pull out the roots; so the investigation has been harsh from the very beginning.”

The two previous investigations into defection from the border region, both said to have been launched in the name of the successor, happened in February and April this year, as reported by The Daily NK. However, this is the first time that attention has turned away from defectors themselves and towards those soldiers who help facilitate a lot of the escapes.

“There are two members of an investigation team from Defense Security Command going to every guard post, and they are questioning the soldiers one by one,” the source said.

It is well known both within and without North Korea that border guards are commonly bribed to turn a blind eye to defection. Through very serious questioning and the threat of severe punishment, the authorities are presumably hoping to kill two birds with one stone; both hindering further defections and re-instilling military discipline.

However, the new investigation has already inspired at least two guards from one post to desert instead of face censure, according to the source.

“Two men from a guard post in the Hyesin-dong area of Hyesan took their weapons and deserted, so now they are in the middle of a house-to-house investigation,” the source explained, adding, however, “People are saying, ‘They’ve already fled to China, why the hell would they still be in the country?’”

Although nobody knows why the two men chose to desert, the source said he had heard that they were indeed involved in defections, and feared punishment.

Across the Tumen River in Changbai, China, meanwhile, there is also an unusually intense investigation going on, according to sources there. It is suspected that the two events are related.

A source explained, “Public security officers and soldiers are stopping and investigating cars one by one. I heard that soldiers from North Korea deserted with their guns, so maybe it is because of that.”

Of course, the investigation is hurting small traders, too.

“Big-time smugglers are not having problems,” the Yangkang Province source explained. “But day-to-day small scale smugglers are complaining about the investigation. Border guards are telling them to put up with it just a little more.”

Read the full story here:
Border Investigators Turned on Soldiers
Daily NK
Lee Seok-young


No. 91 Office

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Pictured above (Google Maps): No. 91 Office

According to the Daily NK:

No. 91 Office, as it is known, is allegedly run under the auspices of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance.

A defector with substantial experience of conditions there offered information on the situation as far back as 2006 at the NKnet-organized “2011 North Korean Cyber Terror Seminar.”

The defector was unable to attend the seminar in person due to fears for his safety, but via pre-produced materials he explained how No. 91 Office is located in a set of two two-storey buildings in the Dangsang-dong of Mankyungdae-district, and how he entered the buildings on a number of occasions thanks to his relations with traders and cadres affiliated to it.

Additionally, satellite images were used to show the location of the office, just 300m from Ansan Bridge across the Botong River.

The defector also detailed the staff of No. 91 Office; the head, in 2006 a PhD-holding colonel in his 40s, a Party secretary ranked lieutenant-colonel, a similarly-ranked National Security Agency agent and around 80 staff, all in their 20s and 30s.

The 80 staff, all excellent minds selected from Kim Il Sung University, Chosun Computer University, Kim Chaek University of Technology and other elite schools, often spoke of ‘business trips’ to Shenyang and Dandong in China, the source explained.

The No. 91 Office-affiliated trade arm had five workers at the time, and is known as the ‘May 18th Trading Company, he added. Through it, the No. 91 Office allegedly obtains the equipment to do its work and provides hackers and other staff with daily necessities.

The unit has a 35-seater bus and two cars with number plates starting with ‘33’ or ‘34’, officially denoting vehicles belonging to the Mining Industry Department of the Cabinet.

Here and here are previous post on the Reconnaissance Bureau.

Here is a post on similar cyber warfare units in the DPRK: Mirim College and Moranbong University

Read the full story here:
No. 91 ‘Hackers HQ’ Revealed
Daily NK
Kim So Yeol


Some new Google Earth discoveries for HRNK…

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Last Thursday the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) issued a new report on the DPRK’s history of abducting foreign nationals.  Marcus Noland, who is on the HRNK board, has posted a PDF of the report at his blog here.

Some time ago, HRNK approached me to locate some facilities in the DPRK for this report.  I was sent a hand drawn map that was published in Megumi Yao‘s memoirs as well as two maps from Ahn Myong Jin‘s memoirs.  I used these maps to locate the following facilities in the DPRK:

Kim Jong-il Political Military University (39.138379°, 125.749988°)

Housing for abducted Koreans and Japanese (39.161151°, 125.780365°)

Japanese Revolution Town — Old home of the Japanese Red Army (39.078108°, 125.942814°)

You can read more about these places in the HRNK report.

I had thought I was doing (mostly) original work, but we discovered last week that a Japanese researcher named Osamu Eya located these places (and more) several years ago using these maps.  We both, however, independently identified the same locations.


DPRK accused in DDoS attack

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

According to Bloomberg:

North Korea was responsible for paralyzing the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation’s computer network in April in a second online attack in two months linked to the Kim Jong Il regime, South Korean prosecutors said.

Hackers used similar techniques employed in cyber assaults that targeted websites in South Korea and the U.S. earlier this year and in 2009, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said in an e-mailed statement today. The Unification Ministry criticized the “provocation” and urged North Korea to stop such attacks immediately.

The network of the bank better known in Korean as Nonghyup was shut down on April 12, keeping its almost 20 million clients from using automated teller machines and online banking services. In all of the three bouts of online attacks, a method called “distributed denial service” was used, according to the statement.

Under the DDoS tactic, malicious codes infect computers to trigger mass attacks against targeted websites, according to Ahnlab Inc. (053800), South Korea’s largest maker of antivirus software.

Nonghyup will spend 510 billion won ($477.2 million) by 2015 to boost network security, the bank said in an e-mailed statement. The company received 1,385 claims for compensation related to the network disruption as of May 2, and 1,361 of them have been settled, according to the statement.

North Korea’s postal ministry was responsible for the 2009 attacks, Won Sei Hoon, head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, told lawmakers in October that year.

Attacks in March this year targeted 40 South Korean websites, including at the presidential office, the National Intelligence Service, and Ministry of National Defense. They were traced to the same Internet Protocol addresses used in the 2009 episodes, South Korean police said last month.

The hackers prepared for the April 12 attack on Nonghyup for more than seven months, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said today.

According the Hankyoreh:

Prosecutors stated that a notebook computer belonging to an employee of the company managing the Nonghyup server became a so-called “zombie PC” after being infected in September 2010 by malicious code distributed by the North Korean Reconnaissance General Bureau, and that North Korea subsequently operated the notebook remotely to attack the Nonghyup computer network.

North Korea did not initially target Nonghyup, but the bank was exposed as a result, prosecutors explained.

As bases for this conclusion, prosecutors cited the fact that one of the IP addresses for the server ordering the attack was confirmed to be administered by the North Korean Reconnaissance General Bureau, along with the strong similarity between the malicious code and distribution methods with previous DDoS attacks concluded to be North Korea’s doing.

Some experts at security companies reacted with skepticism to the prosecutors’ contentions. One expert questioned the explanation that the parties behind the attack used the same overseas command server employed by hackers in the DDoS attacks for operating zombie PCs, noting that its IP address was blocked through the Korea Internet Security Agency.

A computer systems design expert said, “The back door program on the notebook used in the attack could not function if linked with Nonghyup’s internal network, which is cut off from the Internet.”

The argument is that it would have been effectively impossible for an outside party to precisely determine and attack Nonghyup’s computer system structure and work currents and those notebooks authorized for top access without assistance from an inside party.

When questioned about their evidence of North Korea’s direct involvement, prosecutors reiterated that they could not disclose the information because it was related to national security.

The story was also covered by the Daily NK and the AFP.

The Choson Ilbo reports that 200 additional infected computers have been discovered.

Authorities have discovered 200 more so-called zombie computers that have been infected with viruses North Korean hackers planted in September last year. They came across them in the process of investigating the laptop computer of an IBM employee that was used to paralyze the computer network of agricultural cooperative lender Nonghyup.

Prosecutors said Monday that the National Intelligence Service identified 201 port numbers that have been infected with viruses so that they can serve as zombie computers, and the IBM employee’s laptop is one of them. This means not only Nonghyup but any state agency could be the target of a North Korean cyber attack.

Growing Sophistication

South Korean authorities and computer experts say the Nonghyup incident demonstrates the increasing sophistication of North Korea’s cyber warfare capabilities. During a so-called distributed denial-of-service attack on July 7, 2009, North Korean hackers used 435 servers in 61 different countries to spread just one type of virus. During a DDoS attack in March this year, 746 servers in 70 countries were used to plant more than three different types of viruses. The cyber attack against Nonghyup involved a different virus which directly infiltrates the computer network of a bank and deletes not just data but its own tracks as well.

Authorities say finding the 200 zombie computers is as difficult as locating a mole planted by North Korean intelligence. As long as the zombie PCs remain dormant, it is impossible to trace them.

The Korea Herald raises points of skepticism:

Despite prosecutors’ announcement pinpointing North Korea as the culprit for the April 12 cyber attack, security experts say that it is difficult to identify its instigator given the complicated nature of the hacking process.

On Tuesday, investigators at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the North’s premier intelligence body, orchestrated the “unprecedented cyber terror” that paralyzed the banking system of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, or Nonghyup, for several weeks.

They said that the conclusion came as the methods used in the previous two cyber attacks on a number of key South Korean government and business websites in July 2009 and in March last year were similar to the ones used in last month’s attack.

They also stressed that one of the Internet Protocol addresses used in the attack on the cooperative was identical to that used in last year’s attack.

Experts, however, said that evidence of North Korea’s involvement in the worst-ever cyber attack was too “weak” and only based on “circumstantial assumptions” and that the case could remain unaddressed forever given that identifying the hackers is extremely difficult.

First of all, experts pointed out that hackers usually change IP addresses frequently or use someone else’s address to disguise their identity. Thus, an IP address cannot serve as credible evidence to identify the culprit.

“It appears that prosecutors believe the owner of an empty house with a certain address is the thief who broke into the house while the owner is away,” said a security expert in a media interview on condition of anonymity.

Prosecutors also presented a Media Access Control address which was found on a laptop computer used by the North to launch the attack as evidence. But experts say that the address cannot be reliable as it kept changing on the Internet.

The hacking methods similar to the previous North Korean attacks cannot be clear evidence, either, to hold the North responsible, experts added. They said hackers tend to copy effective methods used by others.

During the announcement, investigative authorities stressed that they could not reveal all pieces of “critical” evidence to the public, citing security concerns. However, their concerns fail to ease doubts over whether the weeks-long result of the prosecutorial investigation is credible.

The North has long focused on cyber warfare. It is known to have established many college-level institutions to produce hackers and stationed cyber warfare personnel in China. The North has used cyber attacks to spy on South Korean government bodies or glean crucial intelligence.

Read more about the DPRK organizations thought to be responsible here.


DPRK’s largest communications center

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

UPDATE 1 (2011-4-29): Martyn Williams claims to have identified the name and purpose of the large communications center I identified on satellite imagery of North Korea:

If you’ve ever listened to The Voice of Korea on shortwave, you’ve probably heard broadcasts from this transmitter site. Kujang is one of the largest transmitter locations in the DPRK with, according to official records, 5 shortwave transmitters each capable of delivering a 200kW signal. That’s powerful enough to reach most corners of the world, given a clear frequency and good conditions.

I am not convinced that the site posted below is actually the Kujang short-wave transmitter. First of all, the towers are not located in the right county (Hyangsan, not Kuajng) and there are many more than five transmission towers.

I will post more as I uncover it.

ORIGINAL POST (2010-2-11): In Myohyangsan County ( 40.078134°, 126.111790°) is the largest collection of communications towers I have found in the DPRK…more than 20 towers clustered together.


You can click on the image to see a larger version.

Hat tip to a reader.


Some more changes in Wonsan…

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Pictured above is the Wonsan Revolutionary Museum (source here). Under the Japanese colonial government this site was the home of the Wonsan Customs Office.  A visitor posted some very helpful information:

Former Wonsan Customs Office, built in 1907 by the Japanese. This is a reconstruction – the original building was destroyed during the Korean War. It houses an exhibition about the “triumphal return” of Kim Il Sung to Korea on September 19th, 1945.

In the early 1970s, when the personality cult around the “Great Leader” reached a peak, the sites of his “triumphal return” were refurbished as “revolutionary sites”. Unfortunately, most of them had been destroyed during the Korean War or the postwar reconstruction, so the propaganda department had to put up replications. Thus, Wonsan Customs Office, the former railway station, an inn and a Japanese residence were carefully reconstructed following the original design. It is a certain irony of history that all these buildings (which had been designed and used by the Japanese) now serve as silent witnesses of Korea’s colonial past to the knowledgeable observer.

Below is a satellite picture of the facility on Google Earth taken on December 23, 2007 (39.168226°, 127.439217°):

The museum was an important part of the narrative of Kim Il-sung’s triumphant return to Korea after World War II.  It sits right next to Pier No. 2 where Kim Il Sung disembarked on September 19th, 1945.  A new monument to this pier was apparently installed in September 2008,  however, according to new satellite imagery, both the museum and the monument vanished sometime in 2009.

The above satellite picture is dated 2009-10-3.  Neither the museum nor the monument remain.

KCNA only mentions the museum once.  Here is the article dated 2002-7-15:

The Wonsan revolutionary site is the first stop in President Kim Il Sung’s triumphal return home after the country’s liberation. Located in Wonsan city, Kangwon Province, the revolutionary site consists of the Wonsan Revolutionary Museum, lodgings and former Wonsan railway station and Tongyang (Orient) Hotel, etc. In the museum there are historical materials and relics and a room where the president presided over the first meeting to carry out the three tasks of building the party, the state and the army.

At that conference room, he had a historic talk with political workers to be dispatched to local areas about the building of new Korea in September 1945.

A monument to his revolutionary activities was built at Wonsan railway station where a train used by him is preserved in the original state. There is also a monument of a poem that tells about his revolutionary exploits and noble virtues.

It will be interesting to see what they do with the space.

Wonsan military elite compound updated: (39.188339°, 127.478190°)

The picture on the left is dated 2002-11-11. The picture on the right is dated 2009-10-3.

Additionally, some of the housing units bordering the Wonsan AFB runway have been upgraded.

In a previous post I pointed out the growth of Wonsan’s markets.


What military unit is most desired by DPRK soldiers?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

Which military unit is the most popular for North Korean soldiers about to serve their ten-year term in the army?

In the end, the answer is undoubtedly the Escort Bureau.

Although all North Korean middle school students submit an application, in which they write which unit they want to serve in to their city or county’s Military Mobilization Department before they graduate, the Escort Bureau is literally the only corps they “want.” Placement in the bureau, however, depends entirely on the applicant’s family background.

Only those students who have passed the military physical exam and have a good family background are allowed to participate in the two-month educational training sessions that are offered when students graduate from middle school around the age of seventeen. These sessions are offered to recruits at the training center of each unit or division and differ according to the branch of the military that the recruit will be serving in. However, the branches have in common the fact that if a recruit comes from a family of good political or economic standing or has a strong family background, he will be able to serve in a favorable unit.

Once soldiers serve in the Escort Bureau, they can live in Pyongyang and, if lucky, be allowed to remain in the capital after their discharge from the military. Additionally, they may receive a recommendation for college due to Kim Jong Il’s especial consideration for discharged soldiers from the Escort Bureau.

In addition, since it is a well-known fact that discharged soldiers from the Escort Bureau have good family backgrounds in politics and the economy, they become sought after by women as desirable bridegrooms.

The military attire of the Escort Bureau, including its hat, uniform, shoes, and belt, for even regular privates are furthermore special on a level similar to that of generals’ attire.

When they are discharged from the army, these soldiers must pledge not to expose what they have seen, listened to, and felt to the rest of society.

Lee Young Kuk recalls the time when he was being discharged from the army in his book I Was Kim Jong Il’s Bodyguard (Zeitgeist 2004), “When bodyguards are discharged from the army, they have to attend a debriefing lecture and sign a written pledge with their thumb, avowing that they will never disclose the secrets they know about Kim Jong Il .”

The border guard units dispatched to Shinuiju, North Hamkyung Province, Yangkang, North Hamkyung Provinces, and other border areas have also emerged recently as units popular with incoming recruits. The head officers of the border guard even come directly to the Military Mobilization Department of each area to select recruits for themselves.

Parents tend to do their best to have their children serve in border guard units through the use of human networking as well as bribes. The reason for this is that soldiers in border guard units are able to earn enough money to afford a wedding after their discharge from the military through the taking of bribes from traders and smugglers.

Choi Cheol Ho, who served in a border unit stationed in Manpo, Jagang Province, and defected in 2007, stated that, “Parents try to send their children to border units even if it means they must give up all of their property because they believe that the cost will be worth it for their children after just three years in the border unit.”

He added that he also offered a substantial bribe in order to enter the unit.

The next most popular areas of the military are the air force and navy. In order to serve in both the air force and navy, applicants must have a good family background and be in good health. If any of their relatives have crossed over to South Korea, they are automatically disqualified from serving in the air force and navy.

On the other hand, if a suspected criminal has relatives serving in air force or navy, they may be able to escape punishment.

Kim Dong Il, who defected to the South from Hamheung, South Hamkyung Province, in 2009, testified to this situation, “A friend of mine, Cheol Nam, went through a preliminary trial on suspicion of selling ‘Bingdu’ (methamphetamines) and was sentenced to a few months in a labor-training camp, which is like a detention center, while his accomplice was sentenced to three years in a reeducation camp, which is tantamount to being sentenced to time in a regular prison in most countries. The reason for the leniency Cheol Nam was shown was that his brother was a pilot in the air force.”

Some applicants attempt to serve in the Civilian Affairs Administrative Police Unit, which is located in the Panmunjom area and along the border with South Korea, out of curiosity.

The Civilian Affairs Administrative Police Unit and light infantry are special branches, so life for these soldiers is tough. However, soldiers discharged from these units are often able to receive a recommendation to enter a university after their military service.

“While I was serving in the Civilian Affairs Administrative Police Unit, I was able to listen to South Korean broadcasts. Therefore, we had to sit through ideology lectures every day,” Park Cheol, a defector who came to South Korea in 2009, recalled about his military service.

He added, “After they discharge soldiers from these units, the authorities send them to local universities. If they want to enter a university in Pyongyang, their family background must be superior to that of others. Entering even a regular university is quite advantageous because most discharged soldiers are sent to mines or other rural areas.”

Those who are rich but have been deprived of the chance to send their children to popular and advantageous military units because cadres’ children have taken all of the spots in these units tend to choose a different route, which is to have their children enter an infantry unit in Pyongyang. To achieve this, they need to offer bribes to the Military Mobilization Department. Units in Pyongyang have better food provisions than those in the provinces, and parents also have the chance to see the capital when they visit their children.

Read the full story here:
What Military Unit Is Most Sought After by North Korean Soldiers?
Daily NK
Lee Seok Young


Two new DPRK publications

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

First: Joe Bermudez has published the latest version of KPA Journal (Vol. 2, No. 2, March 2011).

Articles in this issue include: KPN Deploys New Version of sang-o Class Coastal Submarine, The Korean People’s Air Force in 1953, The Hydrometeorological Service, Han-gang Bridges.

Download the latest issue here (PDF).


Second: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2009
Final Report December 2010

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR Korea) Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) was carried out in 2009 by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in collaboration with the Institute of Children’s Nutrition. Financial and technical support was provided by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

MICS is an international household survey programme developed by UNICEF. The DPR Korea MICS was conducted as part of the fourth global round of MICS (MICS4). MICS provides up-to-date information on the situation of children and women and measures key indicators that allow countries to monitor progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally agreed-upon commitments. Additional information on the global MICS project may be obtained from

DPR Korea Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2009, Final Report, CBS, Pyongyang, DPR Korea, 2010.

Download the report here (PDF). It has been added to my “Economic Statistics Page“.


KPA soldiers reportedly buying time off

Friday, April 15th, 2011

According to the Daily NK:

It has been revealed that if a Chosun People’s Army soldier is able to provide his military base with a fixed quantity of food, he is able to obtain an extended vacation.

A source from Pyongyang explained to the situation to The Daily NK on the 14th, “There has been this system since October last year; soldiers can get a 15-day vacation by offering 100kg of corn to their military base.”

“Now all soldiers from wealthy households can do their military service at home,” he added.

According to the source, military commanders see the policy as killing three birds with one stone, because not only is the base provided with food, but also when a soldier goes home the base can save the amount of food he would have been given during that period, and when he comes back to base after the vacation he is likely to bring some money with him. Higher military authorities apparently know what is going on, but do not try to stop it.

Another source from North Hamkyung Province has confirmed at least one case of the policy in action, reporting to The Daily NK, “My nephew was doing his military service in Hwanghae Province but then got surgery during a fifteen-day break. But he needed one month more vacation, so he offered 200kg of corn to the base.”

He added, “On the base where my nephew serves, each solder gets 550g of corn everyday and the military almost always tells them to go off-base to solve the problem of lunch for themselves, at neighboring farms or wherever.”

Although it was not previously so systematic, it is not actually new for rich households to provide food to the military in exchange for time off.

One defector, Choi, who served in the headquarters of an anti-aircraft machine gun corps in Pyongyang before coming to Seoul in 2010, told The Daily NK, “In 2007 I went home for three months after my father offered 500kg of corn to my base. It was possible because he was the Propaganda Secretary of a collective farm. Other soldiers’ families were not in such good condition, and they couldn’t even imagine spending that much time at home.”

Meanwhile, the current situation in the military is driving other soldiers to thievery. The same source explained that soldiers now openly say that they have to take care of themselves even if that means stealing, since they have no money and therefore cannot get a vacation.

The Pyongyang source also explained that even Pyongyang bases now only feed soldiers corn, and revealed that as a result, “The number of soldiers getting swollen faces from malnutrition and deserting is increasing.”

He added, “They tend to steal things from civilians’ homes and are not reluctant to assault civilians who refuse to accept their demands.” Therefore, the source said, “General people call them not ‘the People’s Army,’ but ‘Thief Army’ or ‘Bandits.’”

The source also explained, meanwhile, “Rich parents get their sons out via discharges due to illness, something which is done with large bribes.”

Given the dire military food situation, there are also many cases of parents offering bribes to military cadres in order to put their sons in charge of food storage, according to the source. Manager of food storage is the best position on the base, and therefore fiercely competitive.

Read the full story here:
Offer 100kg Corn, Get 15-Day Vacation
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong and Lee Seok Young