Archive for October, 2006

DPRK wins the wooden spoon

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans Frontieres) has once again published its annual rankings of countries by press freedom.  The DPRK came in last place again.  The ten worst on the list include:

10. Nepal
9. Ethiopia
8. Saudi Arabia
7. Iran
6. China
5. Burma
4. Cuba
3. Eritrea
2. Turkmenistan


Spread of Scarlet Fever in Ryanggang

Monday, October 30th, 2006

From the Daily NK
Kim Young Jin

A number of sources in North Korea told the Daily NK on Wednesday about an epidemic spread along the northern border area of NK including Hyesan, Bochun and Baek-am counties, all in Ryanggang Province. The area was closed and quarantined.

An anonymous former defector in Seoul reported, based on a telephone conversation on Wednesday with her family living in Hyesan, because of a spread of scarlet fever, transportation around the region was interrupted.

Break out of scarlet fever in that area was, reportedly, the first time since 1945.

And “residents of Hyesan do not possess any medical knowledge about the disease,” the informant continued.

North Korean health officials closed the border north to Hyesan and administrative body of the regional government stopped issuing travel permits.

In addition, Railroad Agency and People’s Security Agency (NK police organization) ordered operation of regional transportation system to be suspended. Merchants from other regions were prohibited to enter Hyesan and adjacent area. Also, transaction with Chinese people across the border was banned.

The family of the informant said the local government announced travel permits would not be reissued by Nov. 5.

Besides, due to the temporary travel ban rule, commodity prices in black market skyrocketed; exchange rate reached 100 Chinese yuan per 40,000 NK won and 1 kg of rice cost 1,500 NK won.

Another former defector analyzed that North Korea authorities were trying to regulate the residents after the nuclear test, preventing them from defecting to China.

“In the mid 90s,” the ex-defector continued, “inland residents mass-defected across the border, so the current control of border might be a preventive measure against possible wave of defection after the UN sanction.”


US accuses DPRK of selling missles

Monday, October 30th, 2006

From the Korea Times

North May Have Been Selling Missiles

North Korea was selling its missiles to the Near East as recently as 2003-2004, according to inferences made in the latest report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The annual report, titled “ Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations,” says 40 surface-to-surface missiles were sold to the Near East by “other suppliers” that exclude the United States, Russia, China, and European countries.

The New York Times, quoting Pentagon and other U.S. administration officials, said North Korea is the unnamed supplier.

CRS reports are written for congressmen and their aides.

Dated Oct. 20, the report tallies and analyzes general weapons transfers between 1998-2005. The missile sales figures were for 2001-2005.

The number of missiles sold by “other suppliers” is the same as that of the previous report that covered the period between 2001-2004, suggesting North Korea did not export more missiles in 2005.

But in a report for the 2000- 2003 period, the other suppliers were believed to have sold 20 surface-to-surface missiles to the Near East, indicating there were additional exports of the weapons to the region between 2003 and 2004.

The year 2004 was when the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) got under way to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction.


Switzerland “Not Sell Watches to N. Korea from 26th”

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

From the Daily NK
Yang Jung A

Swiss government started to impose a sanction on N. Korea from 26th, following the U.N resolution.

On the 25th, Othmar Wyss, Deputy head of Export Controls and Sanctions of Switzerland,in an interview with RFA(Radio of Free Asia) said that, “Luxury goods exported to N. Korea are just watches, which amounted for 16,000 dollars from January to September this year and amounted for 237,000 dollars last year.”

Compared to the amount of luxury goods exported to other countries, it was very small. But since the Swiss-made watches are for controlling important figures of Kim Jong Il, the sanction is expected to influence the Kim Jong Il regime.

‘Kim Il Sung’s commemorative watches’ that the names of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are carved have begun to be awarded to the Party officials who contributed to the regime and were convention participants since 1972. N. Korea demanded to carve date and name in Korean when it ordered Omega, Rolex and Lanco from Swiss. N. Korea had imported a significant number of watches even during the food crisis of the late of 90’s.

The embargo items that Swiss government imposed a sanction on are caviar, wine, tobacco, luxury clothes, carpets and fur overcoats, electronic appliances, cars and watches. In addition, the items that are able to be used for producing both of the Weapons of Mass Destruction and of civil cannot be imported. Computer software and mechanical equipments amounted for around 400,000 dollars.

According to information received from ‘Swiss Watch Industry Association’, N. Korea had imported 24,000,000 dollars of watches from Swiss from 1995 to 2004.


US Agencies releases stats on Supernotes

Friday, October 27th, 2006

From the US Treasury, Federal Reserve and Secret Service:

From the report:  p. 66

Since 1989, the U.S. Secret Service has led a counterfeit investigation involving the trafficking and production of highly deceptive counterfeit notes known as supernotes. The supernote investigation has been an ongoing strategic case with national security implications for the U.S. Secret Service since the note’s first detection in 1989. The U.S. Secret Service has determined through investigative and forensic analysis that these highly deceptive counterfeit notes are linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and are produced and distributed with the full consent and control of the North Korean government.

In March 2005 and again in June 2006, Interpol issued an “Orange Alert” regarding the DPRK and its continued quest to obtain or purchase printing supplies that would facilitate the counterfeiting of U.S. currency. The U.S. Secret Service is working very closely with the intelligence community in analyzing supernote distribution activity and monitoring the broader illicit affairs of the DPRK. Over the course of this sixteen-year investigation, approximately $22 million in supernotes has been passed to the public (table 6.5), and approximately $50 million in supernotes has been seized by the U.S. Secret Service.


DPRK selling its uniqueness on TV

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Korea Times:
Kim Sue-young

South Korean broadcasting stations have paid North Korea up to $1 million since 2003 in return for permission to produce programs in the North, a lawmaker said yesterday.

Citing a report of the Ministry of Unification, Rep. Kwon Young-se of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) said that local broadcasters have been engaged in a price competition, as they pay a large amount of money to the North.

“A total of 10 inter-Korean broadcasting cooperation projects have been approved since 2003,” the lawmaker said. “The Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) and Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) paid Pyongyang $1 million for the production of a singing contest program in July 2003 and a performance by pop singer Cho Yong-pil in May last year, respectively.”

Those companies have also paid between $500,000 and $800,000 for other television programs on North Korean food or the remains of the Koguryo Kingdom (37 B.C.-A.D. 668), Kwon said.

A ranking official of the Korean People Artist Federation said last September that three major television broadcasters _ KBS, SBS, and Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) _ raised the level of the financial support, according to Kwon.

“Minor cable channels that cannot afford to pay the large amount of money don’t even contact North Korea,” the official was quoted as saying. “The government should regulate the soaring prices.”

The lawmaker also quoted an official of the Korea Development Institute complaining of Seoul’s difficulty negotiating with Pyongyang because of the large sum of money.

“Broadcasters gave North Korea a lot of money to attract events for their programs, which made North Korea indifferent to economic cooperation projects,” Kwon said.


How are new sanctions afftecting DPRK/PRC trade?

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Daily NK
Yang Jung A

Since the passing of the U.N. North Korea Resolution 1718, there has been an urgent focus on China’s measures on North Korea. Although China did not elucidate that it would adopt the sanctions, in reality, acquaintances of North Korea-China trade are saying that the sanctions are having effects on certain locations.

Even until now, the Chinese government has not revealed any measures to implement North Korea sanctions

Liu Jianchao spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “Although we may act compliantly to the Security Council’s resolution, China’s aim is not for sanctions. Countries related must not take this issue upon their own discretion and escalate this situation to make it worse.”

Tradesman ‘A’ met on the 25th in Liaoning, Dandong China said that little had changed in trade operations around the North Korean border. However, inspection at customs has tightened drastically, and whether or not new investments into North Korea has rapidly decreased or that banks are experiencing turmoil, warning signals are on the rise. The biggest threat amongst tradesmen is the increased feeling of insecurity.

‘A’ said, “The (Chinese) government has advised that investments in North Korea should not exceed $300,000,” and that “Conditions in North Korea are risky, so investments should be made with this in mind. Isn’t this basically saying, don’t make investments?”

He said, “There are rumors spreading in North Korea that the Chinese government will dismantle the customs house in 40 days. Although there are not many people who believe this rumor, we only hear these rumors because people are feeling insecure.”

Tradesman ‘B’ said, “Though remittances to North Korea can be made much the same as before, it has become very strict and difficult to create new accounts. Rather than being a directive from the government, it seems that banks are independently taking measures for their own protection.”

In the past, when a Chinese bank made transactions with North Korea, they would have to work in collaboration with the North Korean Gwang Sung Bank. A Chinese businessman would deposit funds into the Chinese bank and the North Korean businessman would collect the money through North Korea Gwang Sung Bank. This system has not been completely stopped. In ‘B’s’ opinion, transaction details and procedures have merely become more strict.

As deposit transactions between North Korea and China become inconvenient, more and more tradesmen are turning to cash transactions. Various media have reported that 4 banks in Dandong have begun to make restrictions on foreign transactions with people or corporations of North Korean origin.

Though China’s North Korea sanction is rough on independent private-sectors, this is an indication that the Chinese government is taking action in response. to the Security Council’s resolution.



Perilous Journeys:

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

The Plight of North Koreans in China and Beyond
International Crisis Group

PDF Here: Perilous Journeys.pdf

Executive Summary

Scores of thousands of North Koreans have been risking their lives to escape their country’s hardships in search of a better life, contributing to a humanitarian challenge that is playing out almost invisibly as the world focuses on North Korea’s nuclear program. Only a little over 9,000 have made it to safety, mostly in South Korea but also in Japan, Europe and the U.S. Many more live in hiding from crackdowns and forcible repatriations by China and neighbouring countries, vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. If repatriated to the North, they face harsh punishment, possibly execution. China and South Korea have held back, even during the Security Council debate over post-test sanctions, from applying as much pressure as they might to persuade Pyongyang to reverse its dangerous nuclear policy, in part because they fear that the steady stream of North Koreans flowing into China and beyond would become a torrent if the North’s economy were to collapse under the weight of tough measures. While there is marginally more hope Beijing will change its ways than Pyongyang, concerned governments can and must do far more to improve the situation of the border crossers.

Even without a strong response to the 9 October 2006 nuclear test that targets the North’s economy, the internal situation could soon get much worse. The perfect storm may be brewing for a return to famine in the North. Last year, Pyongyang reintroduced the same public distribution system for food that collapsed in the 1990s and rejected international humanitarian assistance, demanding instead unmonitored development help. Funding for remaining aid programs is difficult to secure, and summer floods have damaged crops and infrastructure.

Hunger and the lack of economic opportunity, rather than political oppression, are the most important factors in shaping a North Korean’s decision to leave “the worker’s paradise”. A lack of information, the fear of being caught by Chinese or North Korean security agents and financial limitations are more significant barriers than any actual wall or tight security at the border. China compensates for the virtual absence of border guards with a relentless search for North Koreans in hiding. In

October 2006, Chinese authorities began to build a fence along the frontier and conduct neighbourhood sweeps to find and arrest the border crossers. Despite these formidable obstacles, the willingness among North Koreans to risk their lives to escape is growing stronger, and arrivals in the South are likely to hit a record this year. The most important pull factor shaping the decision to leave is the presence of family members in China and, increasingly, South Korea. The nearly 9,000 defectors in the South are able to send cash and information to help their loved ones escape. To a lesser but significant extent, information is beginning to spread in the North through smuggled South Korean videos, American and South Korean radio broadcasts, and word of mouth – all exposing North Koreans to new ideas and aspirations.

Most North Koreans do not arrive in China with the intention of seeking official asylum, but because Beijing is making it ever more difficult for them to stay, a growing number are forced to travel thousands of kilometres and undertake dangerous border crossings in search of refuge in Mongolia or South East Asia. The mass arrests of 175 asylum seekers in Bangkok in August 2006 and a further 86 on 24 October provide vivid examples of host country hospitality being stretched to the limits.

The vast majority of North Koreans who have made it to safety resettle in South Korea. In most instances, this is a choice motivated by language, culture and the promise of being reunited with family members. In a growing number of cases, the overly burdensome procedures for being granted asylum anywhere else is the deciding factor. With the exception of Germany, the governments that have pressed most vigorously for improving North Korean human rights, namely the U.S., the European Union member states and Japan, have taken in only a handful of asylum seekers.

A loose network of makeshift shelters focused on humanitarian aid has evolved into a politically-charged but fragile underground railroad on which some North Koreans can buy safe passage to Seoul in a matter of days, while others suffer years of violence and exploitation. If they are to minimise the exploitation of the most vulnerable and enhance the much-needed aid this network delivers, concerned governments must commit to a sustainable solution.

None of the policies proposed in this report would create unmanageable burdens for any government. Unless North Korea’s economy collapses completely, the numbers of its citizens crossing international borders will continue to be restricted by many factors, not least Pyongyang’s tight controls on internal movement and the financial cost of securing an escape route. However, it is time to back up strong words and resolutions about the plight of North Koreans with actions, both because humanity demands it and because if the international community cannot quickly get a handle on this situation, it will find it harder to forge an operational consensus on the nuclear issue.


Firms trading in North Korea face uncertainty

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

From Joong ang Daily 
Rah Hyun-cheol

The tour program to Mount Kumgang and the Kaesong Industrial Complex are certain to be affected by the crisis over North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

But they’re not the only ones ― South Korea has hundreds of smaller companies that have business deals with the North, with some actually operating inside the country.

And they were at a loss when the South Korean government announced it would “proceed with economic cooperation projects, but private companies are to decide on their own about their future investment plans in the North.”

According to the Ministry of Unification and the Korea International Trade Association, companies with records of trade with North Korea totaled 515 as of last year. That figure includes 379 trading firms and 136 companies that process imported materials, trading $420 million worth of products with the North. That amount accounted for 40 percent of South Korean trade with the North for the year, compared with 16.7 percent from the Kaesong Industrial Complex and 8.2 percent from the tour program to Mount Kumgang. Over the first eight months of this year, 395 companies have participated in trade with the North.

“It’s hard to predict what North Korea will come up with, and the South Korean government seems to be lost in its policy decision-making. Besides, the United States and China display different opinions. It’s nearly impossible to foresee the future,” said a head from one of those companies, who declined to be named. “I tried to grasp the real situation in the North by visiting on my own but had to give up the trip as China Southern Airlines shut down the route linking Beijing and Pyongyang.”

What the businesses fear the most is the possibility that trade with North Korea will be abruptly suspended if the North conducts additional nuke tests or economic sanctions against the country intensify.

A senior executive from, a firm in charge of dispatching North Korean workers in information and technology to Korean software companies in Dandong, China, said, “The recent nuclear test by North Korea has not dealt a serious blow yet to my company. However, it has become difficult to send cash to North Korean business partners after some Chinese banks restricted money transfers to the North.”


North Selling Relief Goods: Report

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006


A North Korean government-sponsored company has reportedly been selling products to North Korean citizens using the nonprofit aid products received from the international community, including South Korea during the Yongchon disaster of April 2004.

Members of a North Korean aid organization located in Dandong City, Liaoning, China stated that 70 to 80 percent of relief products including blankets and medical tools were not sent to the citizens of Yongchon.