Border Security Goes Back to NSA

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.

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5th session of the 12th Supreme Peoples’ Assembly

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…

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Kim Jong-un’s first public speech

April 15th, 2012

Pictured above: Kim Jong-un delivers his first public address in Kim Il-sung Square

You can watch the video of the entire speech on YouTube here. And just for fun, here is a link to Kim Jong-il’s only public address which I posted to Youtube last year. I also posted this video of Kim Jong-il speaking at a meeting with South Korean president Roh Roh Moo-hyun.

UPDATE 2 (2012-4-25): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) has posted some analysis of the speech:

Kim Jong-un’s first public speech: New direction for economic policy stressed
Institute For Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2012-4-25

Kim Jong Un, the first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, made his first speech during a military parade to commemorate the centenary of the birth of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, released an article on April 19 with the details of the speech.

In the article, Kim Jong Un emphasized, “songun is our autonomy, dignity and life” and pledged to uphold the songun politics to continue the teachings of his father, Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Un also underlined that the most important national agenda is becoming a powerful nation through improving the national economy, and resolving the food shortage problem. In addition, he stressed that strong knowledge-based economy must be built by way of new industrial revolution.

The economic policy Kim Jong Un set forth involved resolving the food crisis for the people, development of light industry, transition to a powerful knowledge-based economy, land management, and improvement of cultural and education projects. The Cabinet will be directing the new economic plan. The details of the plan are as follows:

First, in order to resolve the food issue, agricultural production should be improved through investment and technological assistance from the state level. Grain yields should be increased to reach the grain production goals to normalize food distribution for the people.

Second, light industry must be reinforced to resolve the shortages of daily necessities. Specific measures should be established to secure raw materials and to improve the quality to elevate the demand of North Korean products.

Third, housing, food, fuel and other issues related to livelihood must be given priority to improve the quality of life for the people.

Fourth, basic industrial sectors must be developed to build a strong foundation for economic development which can lead to advance production in all areas of the people’s economy.

Fifth, power, coal, metal, and railway system should lead the way to revitalize the people’s economy and stabilize the lives of the people. In particular, power production must be drastically increased and distributed in order to effectively improve the quality of life and monitoring and control must be reinforced.

Sixth, the nation must be established as a strong knowledge-based nation. It was acknowledged that the world is quickly transitioning to the informatization of the economy and North Korea must develop the national economy and build an economic structure that meets international demand. Science and technology should be the forerunner to incorporate science and technology with production and resolve all problems in the economic development process from the science and technology aspect.

UPDATE 1 (2012-4-18): Martyn Williams somehow managed to put up a full English translation of the talk.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-4-15): KCNA reports on the speech:

Kim Jong Un Speaks at Military Parade

Pyongyang, April 15 (KCNA) — The dear respected Kim Jong Un made a congratulatory speech at the military parade celebrating the centenary of the birth of Generalissimo Kim Il Sung.

In his speech Kim Jong Un said that the military parade is a great festival of victors which was provided according to the noble intention of leader Kim Jong Il and on his direct initiative to glorify forever the feats Kim Il Sung performed in the army building and demonstrate the might of the socialist power before the world.

Kim Il Sung, who directed primary efforts to strengthening the revolutionary armed forces in the whole period of his protracted revolutionary activities, worked such military miracle in the 20th century as defeating the most ferocious two imperialisms in one generation, trained the Korean People’s Army into a match-for-a hundred revolutionary army, put all the people under arms and turned the whole country into a fortress, providing a strong military guarantee for the sovereignty of the country and the eternal prosperity of the nation, he noted.

Kim Jong Il, who regarded it as his lifelong mission to carry forward and accomplish the Songun revolutionary cause of Juche pioneered by Kim Il Sung, ushered in the greatest heyday of the development of the Korean revolutionary armed forces with his extraordinary wisdom, outstanding commanding art and matchless grit, he said, and went on:

The Korean revolutionary armed forces have fully demonstrated the might of the powerful revolutionary army distinct in its revolutionary nature and strong in its militant spirit and might under the care of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

The military and technical superiority is no longer a monopoly of the imperialists and gone are the days when the enemies could threaten and blackmail against the DPRK with A bombs.

The far-reaching strategy and final victory of the Korean revolution lie in advancing straight along the road of independence, the road of Songun and the path of socialism indicated by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

It is the firm resolution of the Workers’ Party of Korea to enable our people, the best people in the world who have remained loyal to the party, overcoming all difficulties, to live, without tightening their belts any longer, and fully enjoy wealth and prosperity under socialism.

The WPK and the DPRK government will join hands with anyone who truly wants the reunification of the country and the peace and prosperity of the nation and make responsible and patient efforts to accomplish the historic cause of national reunification.

The sun’s flag of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will fly forever before the ranks of the Korean revolution demonstrating victory and glory only and will always encourage us to win fresh victories, he concluded.

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Noland on the DPRK economy

April 12th, 2012

Marcus Noland writes for the East-West Centre:

With global attention focused on North Korea’s failed rocket launch today, it’s worth also taking a look at the other claim the Pyongyang regime has long made for the imminent April 15 birth centennial of its founding leader, Kim Il-sung: emergence into economic prosperity.

Originally, the regime had declared that the country would emerge as “a strong and prosperous nation” during this time, but with that aspiration far from attainment, the goal has been relaxed recently to marking the country’s “passage through the gate” to prosperity. In reality, the North Korean economy today is characterized by macroeconomic instability, widening inequality and growing corruption.

No one (including the North Korean government) knows with any true confidence the size or growth rate of the country’s economy, but the consensus among outside observers is that per capita income today is lower than it was 20 years ago, and by some reckonings is only now re-attaining the level it first achieved in the 1970s.

Price data indicate that since a disastrous currency reform in November 2009, inflation, including for basic goods such as rice and coal, has been running at well over 100 percent a year. The black market value of the currency has been falling at a similar rate, meaning that those with access to foreign exchange are insulated from the ravages of inflation while those reliant on the local currency have seen their buying power dwindle. Unlike in the past, when grain prices fell after the harvest – sometimes by quite substantial amounts – prices have continued to rise this year. Analyses by both the U.S. government and international groups indicate that there is not enough food to go around, and some families are going without.

Help was supposed to be on the way in the form of a resumption of U.S. aid, but the unraveling of the “Leap Day” food-for-weapons deal in the wake of North Korea’s announcement of its rocket launch means that conditions for the North’s chronically food-insecure population may not improve.

This picture stands in sharp contrast to numerous anecdotal reports of improved living standards, abundant cell phones, and even traffic jams in Pyongyang, though it is consistent with the less numerous reports of grim conditions in provincial cities. My colleague Stephan Haggard has dubbed this phenomenon “Pyongyang illusion” and believes that it may well go beyond typically observed urban- or capital-bias in governance, and represents an attempt by an insecure regime to forestall any Tahrir Square type activity in the capital city.

Macroeconomic imbalances and shortages have exacerbated the country’s problems with corruption, already assessed by Transparency International as the worst in the world. The situation not only represents a drag on growth, but could impair the regime’s capacity to govern, as the parochial interests of corrupt officials diverge from the policy preferences of Pyongyang. In the wake of the December death of leader Kim Jong-il, the state has responded with heightened control measures, including purging the security units who were supposed to pursue corrupt officials but who had evidently themselves been corrupted. But there are limits to the effectiveness of repression when the underlying problems remain unresolved.

In short, the country is beset with macro instability, deepening inequality, rising corruption, and a political leadership that appears to lack the vision or capacity to respond. Some current policies have allegedly been ascribed to Kim Jong-il’s “dying wish,” and it would not be surprising if the regime uses this rationale for some time. But at some point Kim Jong-un and the new leadership will have to take ownership of policy. That transition could well begin on the centennial of his revered grandfather’s birth.

Read the full article here:
Behind North Korea’s rocket launch, economic turmoil
East-West Centre
Marcus Noland
2012-4-12

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Unha 3 rocket launch compendium

April 12th, 2012

Below I have posted links and excerpts of stories related to the launch of the Unha-3 rocket in April 2012. Here is the Wikipedia page

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Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) The Sohae Satellite Launching Station (AKA Tongchang-ri launch facility) in Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province–site of the “Kwangmyongsong-3 launch”

UPDATE 48 (2012-5-2): The UNSC sanctions three additional DPRK organizations. See UNSC documents here, here, and here.

According to the AP (via Washington Post):

The U.N. Security Council ordered all countries Wednesday to freeze the assets of three North Korean state-owned companies to punish Pyongyang for its failed rocket launch last month.

The April 13 long-range launch, which Pyongyang called a failed attempt to put a satellite into space, violated earlier Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from engaging in nuclear and missile activity. The rocket broke into pieces shortly after liftoff.

The Security Council’s committee that monitors sanctions against North Korea approved the sanctions Wednesday and ordered all countries to freeze the assets of the three companies. The European Union, U.S., Japan and South Korea proposed additional entities for sanctions, but the committee acts by consensus and China, North Korea’s closest ally, only approved the three companies.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters the three companies are “very much involved in … illicit missile and nuclear programs.”

The three sanctioned companies — Green Pine Associated Corporation, the Amroggang Development Banking Corporation and The Korea Heungjin Trading Company — play a role in financing, exporting and procuring weapons, the U.S. Mission to the U.N. said in a statement.

Green Pine is responsible for about half of the arms and weapons exported by North Korea, the U.S. statement said. Amroggang Development Banking is managed by Tanchon Commercial Bank, which is “the main North Korean financial entity for sales of conventional arms, ballistic missiles and goods related to the assembly and manufacturer of such weapons,” the statement added. It described Korea Heungjin as a trading company that has been used to procure an advanced digital controller with applications in missile design.

Rice said the sanctions committee also approved additional items and technology that are prohibited for transfer to or from North Korea on two key lists dealing with missiles and nuclear-related material, and approved a new work plan for the committee’s panel of experts aimed at intensifying efforts to monitor and improve the implementation of sanctions.

The Missile Technology Control Regime, a group of 34 countries, monitors the transfer of missile equipment, material and related technologies that can be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction. The Nuclear Suppliers Group comprises countries that have established export rules to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Both list items banned for export; they were last updated in 2009.

“The committee’s package of new measures constitutes a serious and credible response to North Korea’s provocation,” Rice said in a statement. “These measures will increase North Korea’s isolation and make it harder for Pyongyang to move forward with its illicit programs.”

The Security Council unanimously approved a presidential statement on April 16 strongly condemning the failed rocket launch. The council gave the sanctions committee, which includes all 15 council members, 15 days to prepare new additions for the sanctions list.

The European Union proposed about 40 additions to the sanctions and the missile and nuclear lists, and the United States, Japan and South Korea also submitted lists, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks have been private.

China did not respond until just before the deadline Tuesday night, and approved sanctions against the three companies and updates to the two lists, the diplomats said.

It was third time in six years that the Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea. The council blacklisted eight entities — six trading companies, a bank and the General Bureau of Atomic Energy — and five individuals after North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

UPDATE 47 (2012-4-30): Reuters reports:

The United States, South Korea, Japan and European nations have submitted to the U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee lists of individuals and firms they want blacklisted after Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch, envoys said on Monday.

Earlier this month the 15-nation council strongly condemned North Korea’s April 13 rocket launch, called for adding new names to the list of those hit by existing U.N. sanctions and warned Pyongyang of further consequences if it carried out another missile launch or nuclear test.

“So far the United States, European council members, South Korea and Japan have proposed new designations ahead of tomorrow’s midnight deadline (to agree on new names),” a council diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately clear which firms and individuals the council would blacklist, assuming it reached agreement.

The Security Council imposed sanctions on Pyongyang in response to its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

China, North Korea’s protector on the Security Council and a permanent veto-wielding member, also backed the council’s “presidential statement” from two weeks ago, ensuring its unanimous adoption. The statement gave the council’s North Korea sanctions committee 15 days to propose new sanctions listings.

“That deadline might be extended for a few days to give China a little more time to think about the proposed designations,” another council diplomat said. The deadline for agreement is midnight EDT on Tuesday (0400 GMT on Wednesday).

“It looks as if China won’t stand in the way of an agreement (on expanding the sanctions list) though they won’t necessarily accept adding all the proposed individuals and entities,” he added. Several other Western diplomats said they also expected China would agree to an expansion of the U.N. blacklist.

Diplomats say that if the committee can agree on adding new names to the blacklist, it will be a further sign of Beijing’s irritation with its hermit neighbor over a satellite rocket launch North Korea had been widely urged not to carry out.

The North Korea sanctions committee includes all 15 council members. It works on the basis of consensus, which means any individual council member can block agreement.

The U.N. blacklist includes individuals facing international travel bans and asset freezes, companies whose assets are to be frozen and goods that North Korea is not allowed to export or import.

The current list includes eight companies and five individuals. Under two Security Council sanctions resolutions from 2006 and 2009, North Korea is barred from importing nuclear and ballistic-missile technology, as well as luxury goods.

UPDATE 46 (2012-4-20): Global Security reports “Panetta: China Assisted North Korea Missile Program”:

This week U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said China has provided some assistance to North Korea’s missile program, possibly violating U.N. sanctions on the country.

Beijing has denied the allegations, but Panetta says that China must do more to bring North Korea to the negotiating table.

“We’ve made very clear to China that China has a responsibility here to make sure that North Korea — if they want to improve the situation with their people, if they want to become a part of the international family, if they, in fact, want to deal with the terrible issues that are confronting North Korea, there’s a way to do that,” he said. “And China ought to be urging them to engage in those kinds of diplomatic negotiations. We thought we were making some progress and suddenly we’re back at provocation.”

Beijing has long been Pyongyang’s most important backer, providing key economic support and acting as an international advocate during times when tension escalates between Pyongyang and other countries.

Mike Chinoy is a Senior Fellow at USC’s U.S.-China Institute and has traveled to North Korea 15 times. He says there are signs that despite the close ties between the two, China may be re-evaluating its relationship.

“I think Beijing has been taken aback by the North Korean decision to stage the satellite launch and by the generally tough and somewhat truculent tone that the North Koreans have adopted. It’s a problem for the Chinese, because they don’t really like what the North Koreans are doing,” Chinoy explained.

UPDATE 45 (2012-4-17):  KCNA publishes the DPRK’s denunciation of the UNSC presidential statement and announces the scrapping of the “leap day deal“. See the KCNA article here. South Korean Unification Minister, Yu Woo-ik, announced the ROK will continue humanitarian aid.

UPDATE 44 (2012-4-16): U.N. condemns North Korea rocket launch. According to the Associated Press:

The U.N.Security Council on Monday strongly condemned North Korea’s rocket launch, announced it will impose new sanctions, and warned that it will take further action if Pyongyang conducts another launch or a new nuclear test.

A presidential statement, approved by all 15 council members and read at a formal meeting, said Friday’s launch, “as well as any use of ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, is a serious violation of U.N. resolutions.”

The Security Council adopted a resolution imposing sanctions against North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006, and stepped up the sanctions after its second test in 2009.

The Security Council demanded Monday that North Korea halt any further launches and said Friday’s launch “has caused grave concerns in the region.”

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, the current council president, said the speedy adoption of the statement “shows that the international community is united” in sending a strong message to North Korea and said its companies dealing in nuclear technology would be added to the sanctions list.

The council said it asked the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea to prepare new additions for the sanctions list within 15 days, and said if it doesn’t the council itself would take action within five days to expand the sanctions list.

The council expressed “its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test,” the statement said, using the initials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

You can read the UNSC Presidential Statement here (PDF). You can also read it on the UNSC’ press release on the topic.

The New York Times also reports:

The rocket failure had raised conjecture that the North Korean leadership might embark on a purge to assign blame. But video footage from a large military parade on Sunday in Pyongyang showed that two party officials in charge of the North’s defense industries — Pak To-chun, party secretary for munitions industries, and Ju Kyu-chang, director of the party’s department for machinery industries — were present in their military uniforms.

Another important official connected to the North’s nuclear and missile programs, Paek Se-bong, head of the country’s Second Economic Commission, retained his seat on the country’s powerful National Defense Commission.

Also on Monday, Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan that often speaks for the North’s government, said North Korea would embark on developing a rocket much bigger than the Unha-3, the rocket that disintegrated Friday a few moments after liftoff.

The Unha-3 took off from a new launching pad near the western border with China. Experts who have examined the site through satellite imagery have said it was designed for bigger rockets than the Unha-3.

See previous posts below…
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Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) 4th Delegates’ Conference

April 11th, 2012

Pictured Above: Kim Jong-un’s official party photo.

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

UPDATE 19 (2012-4-19): Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman, and Jaesung Ryu on the Party conference.

UPDATE 18 (2012-4-11): In addition to honoring Kim Jong-il and promoting Kim Jong-un, KCNA also reported other party personnel changes:

Pyongyang, April 11 (KCNA) — Members of the party central guidance body were elected to fill vacancies, elected and appointed at the 4th Conference of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Choe Ryong Hae was elected member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee, Kim Jong Gak, Jang Song Thaek, Pak To Chun, Hyon Chol Hae, Kim Won Hong and Ri Myong Su members of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee, Kwak Pom Gi, O Kuk Ryol, Ro Tu Chol, Ri Pyong Sam and Jo Yon Jun alternate members of the Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee to fill vacancies.

Kim Kyong Hui and Kwak Pom Gi were elected secretaries of the Party Central Committee.

Choe Ryong Hae was elected vice-chairman of the Party Central Military Commission and Hyon Chol Hae, Ri Myong Su and Kim Rak Gyom were elected members of the Party Central Military Commission to fill vacancies.

Members and alternate members of the Party Central Committee were elected to fill vacancies.

Kim Yong Chun, Kwak Pom Gi and Pak Pong Ju were appointed as department directors of the Party Central Committee.

Members of the Party Central Auditing Commission were elected to fill vacancies.

Previous posts on the party conference below…

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15 Items on 4.15 Distribution List

April 11th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities have ordered Party cadres to ensure the distribution of at least fifteen specific products to the people to celebrate this weekend’s 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. Local cadres are trying everything to meet the target, having been made aware that success or failure will be taken as a measure of their Party loyalty.

According to a source from North Hamkyung Province, the fifteen compulsory items on the list are: glutinous rice (2kg), soybean oil (1kg), pork (2kg), sugar (1kg), soju (2 bottles), fish (1kg), snacks (1kg), candies (1kg), 10 eggs, fruit (1kg), seaweed or Chinese cabbage (2kg), bean sprouts (1kg), wild herbs, soap and toothpaste. The list stands in stark contrast with ordinary years, when distribution generally consists of two or three products, frequently including alcohol and soybean oil.

Moreover, there are plans to ensure that items including soap, towels, socks and shoes are available for purchase from state stores at low prices.

“Party secretaries in factories are totally lost; I mean, they have received the special instructions but haven’t been given any money,” a source from North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK last night. “Some are borrowing the money, while others are even collecting it from their workers to buy pork in the market. Bean sprouts are being cultivated privately by factories.”

However, the source also relayed news of trading organs that have been doing well in the run-up to the holiday period adding items to the distribution list, including Chinese DVD players worth more than $100 and Chinese-made bicycles worth up to $180.

The authorities have also reportedly mobilized the Union of Democratic Women to produce cabbage and spinach in vinyl greenhouses. Women have also been ordered to gather wild herbs from local mountainsides.

Read the full article here:
15 Items on 4.15 Distribution List
Daily NK
Choi Song Min
2012-4-11

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ROK intel official claims DPRK preparing for third nuke test

April 10th, 2012

According to Yonhap:

North Korea is believed to be gearing up for a nuclear test, an intelligence official said Sunday, a move certain to fuel the already high tensions over its planned long-range rocket launch.

Satellite images show the communist nation digging a new tunnel underground in the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country’s northeast, where it conducted two previous nuclear tests, first in 2006 and then in 2009.

The construction is believed to be in its final stage, the official said.

“North Korea is making clandestine preparations for a third nuclear test at Punggye-ri in North Hamkyong Province, where it conducted two nuclear tests in the past,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Commercial satellite imagery showed piles of earth and sand at the entrance of a tunnel in the Punggye-ri site. The soil is believed to have been brought to the site to plug the tunnel, one of final steps before carrying out a nuclear test blast.

A nuclear test following a long-range missile test fits the pattern of North Korean behavior.

The Daily NK also reported on the satellite images:

From the Daily NK:  Two satellite images of the Pungye-ri test site. The left image shows three test shafts (labeled ‘West’, ‘East’ and ‘South’), while the right focuses on the mound of excavated earth growing at the entrance to the ‘South Shaft’

“Evidence from recent satellite images has confirmed that apart from the existing two test shafts at the Pungye test site, North Korea is excavating a new shaft, and that this work is in the final stages of completion,” the source went on.

In the satellite images from U.S. commercial earth observation satellite ‘Quickbird’, a growing mound of dirt can be seen near the new tunnel entrance. It has been constantly growing since last month, according to analysts.

In the case of past tests, the completion of the test shaft represented almost the final stage of preparations for the test, suggesting that, as speculated, North Korea is planning to use the pretext of international pressure that is sure to follow its rocket launch to undertake such a test.

“They are implementing their original plan, which was to test their nuclear weapons and delivery systems,” Korea Institute for National Unification researcher Cheon Seong Whun asserted to Daily NK by phone. “It is unrelated to UN Security Council resolutions pursuant to the rocket launch and all of that. They will conduct a nuclear test after the missile launch.”

ISIS also provides some helpful analysis:

South Korean press has reported recently that North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear explosive test at the same site as its 2006 and 2009 tests. These reports cite recent satellite imagery showing an increase in the amount of dirt adjacent to a test shaft. ISIS has obtained commercial satellite imagery taken on April 1, 2012. This new imagery shows what appears to be an increase in the size of a pile of material at the test site (see figures 1 and 2), though it is unclear if such an increase is necessarily evidence of an impending nuclear test.

In 2010, satellite imagery showed evidence of excavation work in the form of a growing pile of earth or other material at the site and led to speculation that a test could follow. However, a test did not occur. This same pile of material is now growing again, as seen in the April 1, 2012 imagery. A recent report from South Korean intelligence reportedly assesses that the “…dirt believed to have been brought from other areas is piled at the tunnel entrance…” It assesses that this dirt would be used to “plug” the tunnel before conducting a test. In other words, South Korean intelligence reportedly assesses that the growth in the pile of material seen in the newest satellite imagery is not evidence of tunneling activity for a test shaft but rather evidence of bringing in material from elsewhere. According to these reports, North Korea would use this material to plug a shaft in advance of a nuclear explosive test, which by implication could happen soon. However, it is possible that the increase in material seen in the April 1, 2012 image is resulting from further excavation of a test shaft, and not evidence of an intention to plug the shaft before a test. Moreover, even if the South Korean report is correct, the test may not be imminent.

ISIS will continue to collect and assess satellite imagery of the test site.

ABOVE:  An October 16, 2010 commercial satellite image of the same site.  The pile of material appears smaller in this image.

ABOVE: An April 1, 2012 commercial satellite image of the nuclear test site in North Korea.  A pile of material adjacent to a reported test shaft entrance appears to have grown, compared to an October 16, 2010 satellite image of the same site.  It is not clear, however, if this is necessarily evidence of an impending nuclear explosive test.

I have posted links to previous articles hinting at a third nuclear test below:
1. 2010-11-23: Nuke test number three?

2. 2011-2-21: Drilling at Punggye-ri continues

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Paekham County and potatoes

April 9th, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Paekam County (백암군) in Ryanggang Province

According to the Daily NK:

One of the agriculture projects in which Kim Jong Il took a particular interest was potato farming in Baekam County, part of Yangkang Province. However, such high-level patronage has not been enough to save Baekam from disaster, people from the area say, since more than half the discharged soldiers dispatched by the state to work there subsequently disappeared without a trace.

Yangkang Province, a place where “potato farming is the only thing left to do,” first began receiving attention in 1998. When North Korea’s famine was at its peak in October that year, Kim Jong Il visited nearby Daehongdan County and declared, “Potatoes are the same as white rice.” However, there was no labor available to produce the potatoes Kim wanted. So, by way of a solution, the authorities decided to dispatch discharged soldiers en masse to work the potato farms.

Defectors from the region have testified that around 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers were settled in Daehongdan County. To keep these men happy, the Party even settled hundreds of women in the district to marry them. Kim Jong Il suggested they should name sons ‘Daehong’ and daughters ‘Hongdan’.

Then, in December of 2009, Kim Jong Il ordered the establishment of a potato farm in Baekam County as well. In the following May, according to Chosun Central News Agency, Kim visited, and while there he reportedly commented, “I believe it to be highly significant that we turn Baekam County into a potato producer.”

Again according to Chosun Central News Agency, in August of that same year the mass dispatch of discharged soldiers to Baekam County was completed. All the soldiers were given medals and an awarding ceremony was held in Pyongyang; the whole event was broadcast on North Korean TV.

However, now the situation is different. In 1998, a soldier might have accepted the Party’s decision on the sensible premise that “at least I will not starve.” However, young soldiers living in capitalist North Korea today are not being presented with the same incentives. Indeed, people say that handing ‘farming’ down to one’s children as an occupation is like a death sentence. Now, working hard can lead to a life that a cadre in Pyongyang would not look down upon. Living in the countryside and eating little other than potatoes can no longer satisfy.

The result was predictable. In October, 2010 the discharged soldiers were given a one month break to visit their hometowns. It was advertized as a gift for men who had not been able to return home after their discharge from the military. However, in reality it was a holiday given because the men could not be given their rations. They needed to go home to obtain money and necessities.

Regardless of which, a year and six months have now passed since the day when they were meant to return, but 50% of the 3,000 men have not been seen since, sources say.

Read the full story here:
Potatoes at the End of the Earth
Daily NK
Kim So Yeol
2012-4-9

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DPRK declares Huichon Power Stations operational

April 6th, 2012

 huichon-power-station-2012-3-19

Pictured above: Satellite images of the construction of the Huichon Power Station No. 2. Left: Bing (Date unknown). Right: Google Earth (2012-3-19)

UPDATE 2 (2012-10-11): The New Huichon Power Station providing electricity to Pyongyang (IFES):

Completed in April, Huichon Power Station is confirmed to be supplying electricity to the capital of Pyongyang. The No. 1 and No.2 hydro powerplants of Huichon are located on the upper reaches of Chongchon River with power generation capacity amounting to 300,000 kilowatts.

According to Choson Sinbo, Japan’s pro-North Korean news agency, Huichon Power Plant will be the main supplier of power to Pyongyang. Prior to its construction, Pyongyang Thermal Power Plant, East Pyongyang Thermal Power Plant, and Bukchang Thermal Power Plants provided electricity to the capital.

In the article, Kim, Myung-chul, DPRK official from the Ministry of Electric Power Industry stated, “Huichon Power Plant is helping the power supply of Pyongyang to a considerable extent. It is offering quality supply of electricity to the citizens.”

He also added, “In the past, power supply was unsatisfactory compared to the demand. Now, through a newly installed transmission lines, power can be supplied to the residents of Pyongyang with stable frequency and voltage.”

In recent years, the number of new apartments and other commercial and cultural facilities has drastically increased in Pyongyang and consequently, there is a growing demand for stable power supply. The news reported, ten additional small-to-medium power stations are expected to be constructed on the banks of Chongchon River.

Construction of Huichon Power Plant started in March 2009 as an initiative of Kim Jong Il, to solve the power shortage problem in Pyongyang. The plant originally began construction in 2001 but, Kim Jong Il pushed for swift completion by 2012, in time for the celebration of a strong and prosperous nation by 2012.

Kim Jong Il visited the construction site of Huichon over eight times from 2009 to 2011, and inspected Huichon as his first official activity of 2010, revealing the significance attached to the power plant.

North Koreans are branding the Huichon Power Station as a “monumental creation” and even included in the highly regarded, Arirang Mass Games program this year.

North Korea suffered from a widespread lack of electricity and has turned to hydoelectric power to supplement diminishing supplies of coal. The hydro powerplant of Huichon is expected not only solve the electricity shortage but also protect the farms and cities nearby from frequent flooding.

UPDATE 1 (2012-4-6): According to KCNA the plant is operational:

Huichon Power Station Goes Operational

Pyongyang, April 6 (KCNA) — The construction of the Huichon Power Station has been completed in the DPRK.

The completion makes it possible to more satisfactorily settle the shortage of electricity in Pyongyang, protect cultivated land and residential areas along the River Chongchon from flood and ensure an ample supply of industrial water to the industrial establishments in Huichon and Namhung areas.

The builders finished the construction of the power station in a matter of three years though it would have taken more than a decade at normal pace.

Inaugural ceremonies were held at Huichon Power Station Nos. 1 and 2 on Thursday.

Present there were Kim Yong Nam, Choe Yong Rim, Kim Yong Chun, Choe Thae Bok, Thae Jong Su and others.

A joint congratulatory message sent by the Central Committee and Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea to the soldier-builders, members of the shock brigades, officials and helpers who distinguished themselves in the construction of the power station was conveyed there.

The message said that the builders, who devotedly carried out the behests of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il and demonstrated before the whole world that Korea does what it is determined to do, are true descendants of the President, soldiers and disciples faithful to Kim Jong Il and heroes of the times and patriots to be respected by the whole country.

The Party will always remember the heroic feats performed by the builders who erected a gigantic structure for the country’s prosperity and its people’s happiness, it noted.

It highly praised them for successfully building a giant power base in Huichon in a short span of time and thereby making a great contribution to settling the shortage of electricity in the country and instilling conviction of sure victory and hope into all people.

Choe Yong Rim, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee and premier of the Cabinet, made addresses at the ceremonies.

He said that the Huichon Power Station is a monumental structure built in the Songun era thanks to the wise leadership provided by Kim Jong Il to build a thriving socialist nation on this land.

Referring to the achievements made in the construction, Choe noted these are the brilliant fruition of the wise guidance and meticulous care of Kim Jong Il and the dear respected Kim Jong Un who unrolled a grandiose plan for the building of the power station and energetically led the drive for its completion.

Speeches were made there.

The participants looked round Power Station Nos. 1 and 2.

The Daily NK reports the following:

Yesterday, Kim Young Nam, the head of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Choi Yong Rim, North Korea’s Prime Minister, were among the regime elite figures present at a ceremony at Heechon Power Plant in Jagang Province.

Built to provide power to downtown Pyongyang, the hydroelectric facility is meant to be one of North Korea’s marquee engineering projects slated to go into operation in 2012, and as such was the site of four of Kim Jong Il’s trademark onsite guidance inspections in 2010 alone and five in total.

“Thanks to the struggle of construction workers including military personnel, the prospect of finishing this project before 2012 has opened up. Before the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Supreme Leader, the entire Party, military and the people should battle to get this power plant construction finished,” Kim reportedly said on his fourth such visit in December, 2010.

Designed to generate 300,000kw, the plant now becomes the largest of all North Korea’s ‘operational’ hydroelectric dams. According to the propaganda that accompanied the construction every step of the way, the electricity generated by Heechon is supposed to make big inroads into the country’s power generation shortfall.

However, according to one inside source, the determination to declare the project complete by April 2012 hides a less impressive reality. In truth, the electricity transmission facilities are apparently incomplete, while problems gathering enough water behind the dam mean that the production of electricity for civilian consumption is still some way off.

One inside source explained, “They already had a ceremony for Heechon last September, but electricity has still not been produced yet because of the transmission facilities. And even when that is finished, they cannot fill up the reservoir behind the dam so generation will still be very difficult.”

“Experts in North Korea say that getting enough water for the dam is harder than building the thing,” the source went on. “Gathering enough water to spin the turbines at Heechon looks like it will take a while.”

KCNA posted this video of the dams.

Here is coverage in NK Leadership Watch.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-1-23):  Huichon Power Station on Google Earth

The Huichon Power Stations 1 & 2 (희천1호발전소, 희천2호발전소) are too new to appear on Google Earth satellite imagery. I have, however, mapped them out by hand on the old imagery to give a better idea of their locations. I have also tagged them on Wikimapia.

In the picture above you can see that the Huichon Power Station’s headwaters begin in Ryongrim County (룡림군) where the newly-built Ryongrim Dam holds back a large reservoir. This reservoir drains through a tunnel [in orange in the image above] approximately 30 km long (18.5 miles) and empties through the Huichon Power Station No. 1 in Tongsin County into the Chongchon River. The river flows south where it crosses into Huichon County and builds up behind a second reservoir.  From this second reservoir the water drains out directly through the Huichon Power Station No. 2.

The construction of the Ryongrim Dam has resulted in the destruction of at least two villages, Toyang-ri (도양리) and Sinchang-ri (신창리).  Toyang-ri was destroyed for the dam itself. Sinchang-ri was flooded by the reservoir.  A third village, Kuryong-ri (구룡리), was also likely flooded or relocated—although this cannot be confirmed with current satellite imagery. The destroyed villages were probably relocated to Ryongrim Town itself. On several recent occasions North Korean television has highlighted improvements in housing and leisure facilities within the town.

 

When Kim Jong-il gave guidance visits to this site he often stood on the eastern side of the dam which offers the view captured in the image above (R).

The Huichon Power Station No. 1 itself is located in Tongsin County aproximately 30km due south from the Ryongrim Dam (40.273568°, 126.526565°).

 

In the satellite image above I have drawn the physical location of the power plant.  Next to and below it I have posted images from KCTV dated 2011-3-10.

The Huichon Power Station No. 2 lies on the Chongchon River just south of the border with Tongsin.

 

This project might have resulted in the destruction of one village, Kyonghung-ri (경흥리), in Tongsin County, but this is impossible to confirm without better satellite imagery.

So where will the electricity produced at these new power stations be consumed? On January 21, 2012, Rodong Sinmun reported the answer:

Like the warm hands of leader Kim Jong Il, the transmission lines from the Huichon Power Station are now almost stretching out for the capital city of Pyongyang.

To meet the great expectations of Kim Jong Il who entrusted them to such a gigantic work, the builders of the power station have gained great successes.

They have erected big dams, cut waterway tunnels and carried out other bulky tasks that were said to take ten years and more; and in the wake of trial operation of generating equipment at the Huichon Power Station No. 1, they successfully assembled the hulks of generators at the Huichon Power Station No. 2.

These successes had an immediate chain reaction on the scaffold workers laying transmission cables from the power station to the capital city.

They have already laid transmission cables in scores of kilometer long section, while preceding the construction of pylons in two months.

By their heroic labor, the excavation work to lay the foundation for the pylons have been wound up, too.

Now, their job is concrete tamping of the pylons’ foundations. By introducing new work methods they are hastening their work of erecting pylons as firm as would stand for many hundred years.

Now that power lines have been lain in major sections, they have buckled down to laying the power lines in the remaining sections and erecting transformer substations to reach the capital city as early as possible.

It won’t be long before we can see the power lines reach Pyongyang amid the cheers of the citizens.

Since I have mapped out a significant portion of the North Korean electricity grid on Google Earth, I can point out an area where I believe these power cables are being constructed. In the image below, dated 2010-9-14, I have connected the power cable tower construction sites with a yellow line:

In the image above there are approximately 146 power cable towers under construction between Pakchon (North Pyongan-top of image) and Sunan (Pyongyang-bottom of image). Of course, to be certain that these are the specific lines connecting Huichon and Pyongyang,  I will need more imagery.

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