Archive for January, 2007

U.S. to defer contributions pending UNDP audit

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Joong Ang Ilbo

Washington said Thursday it will withhold all contributions to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), an agency accused of mismanaging its North Korea activities that led to a large, steady influx of cash into a regime suspected of seeking nuclear weapons.

The United States would also consider proposing that the UN stop all programs in the North except those for humanitarian assistance, said Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, acting U.S. envoy to the United Nations. He said the U.S. was satisfied with UNDP’s announcement of steps to remedy the situation, including an audit and readjustment of its 2007-2009 North Korea program.

“In the meantime, until we get the results of that audit and the program is reviewed, we would defer approval of the new program for the DPRK.,” the envoy said. “The U.S. also withholds its contribution in part to UNDP to the DPRK program,” he said. DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

Japan went further, its envoy suggesting the UN stop all programs in North Korea except for direct humanitarian aid. Mr. Wolff said the Japanese argument “is quite compelling” and added the U.S. will consider the proposal.

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack denied that the UNDP probe is targeted at Pyongyang. “This is not a U.S.-North Korea issue,” Mr. McCormack told reporters. “This is not directed at North Korea. This is simply an issue of management and oversight of UN programs. The secretary-general and executive director of UNDP understand it as such.”

The UNDP has been accused by Washington of mismanaging its aid in North Korea, resulting in a massive cash flow into the Pyongyang regime through hard currency payments to the North Korean government and local employees and vendors.

Ban Ki-moon, the new UN leader, asked for an overall audit of all UN funds and programs, starting with the first report on North Korea to be completed within 90 days.

Pyongyang in a statement claimed strict conformity with UN regulations.


What North Korea Really Wants

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Washington Post
Robert Carlin and John W. Lewis

Those who think that dealing with North Korea is impossible are wrong. Unfortunately, those who think that it is, in fact, possible to deal with North Korea often are not much closer to the truth. The basic problem is that people of both views simply haven’t figured out what it is that the North really wants.

We tend to confuse North Korea’s short-term tactical goals with its broader strategic focus. We draw up list after list of things we think might appeal to Pyongyang on the assumption that these will constitute a “leveraged buyout,” finally achieving what we want: the total, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.

But this list of “carrots” (energy, food, the lifting of sanctions) does not include what the North thinks it must have. It can, of course, help keep the process on track and moving ahead, and it could help cement a final deal and hold it together through the inevitable political storms. But these things are not the ends that North Korea seeks.

North Korea feeds our misperceptions by bargaining so hard over details and raising its initial demands so high. For our part, we tend to be taken in by Western journalists’ repetition of stock phrases about it being “one of the poorest nations,” “one of the most isolated,” “living on handouts.” Accurate or not, these factors are irrelevant to Pyongyang’s strategic calculations.

Those who realize that North Korea does not have visions of grand rewards sometimes move the focus to political steps that many see as “key” to a solution. These include replacing the armistice with a peace treaty, giving the North security guarantees, discussing plans for an exchange of diplomats. But these, like the economic carrots, are only shimmering, imperfect reflections of what Pyongyang is after.

What is it, then, that North Korea wants? Above all, it wants, and has pursued steadily since 1991, a long-term, strategic relationship with the United States. This has nothing to do with ideology or political philosophy. It is a cold, hard calculation based on history and the realities of geopolitics as perceived in Pyongyang. The North Koreans believe in their gut that they must buffer the heavy influence their neighbors already have, or could soon gain, over their small, weak country.

This is hard for Americans to understand, having read or heard nothing from North Korea except its propaganda, which for years seems to have called for weakening, not maintaining, the U.S. presence on the Korean Peninsula. But in fact an American departure is the last thing the North wants. Because of their pride and fear of appearing weak, however, explicitly requesting that the United States stay is one of the most difficult things for the North Koreans to do.

If the United States has leverage, it is not in its ability to supply fuel oil or grain or paper promises of nonhostility. The leverage rests in Washington’s ability to convince Pyongyang of its commitment to coexist with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, accept its system and leadership, and make room for the DPRK in an American vision of the future of Northeast Asia. Quite simply, the North Koreans believe they could be useful to the United States in a longer, larger balance-of-power game against China and Japan. The Chinese know this and say so in private.

The fundamental problem for North Korea is that the six-party talks in which it has been engaged — and which may reconvene soon — are a microcosm of the strategic world it most fears. Three strategic foes — China, Japan and Russia — sit in judgment, apply pressure and (to Pyongyang’s mind) insist on the North’s permanent weakness.

Denuclearization, if still achievable, can come only when North Korea sees its strategic problem solved, and that, in its view, can happen only when relations with the United States improve. For Pyongyang, that is the essence of the joint statement out of the six-party talks on Sept. 19, 2005, which included this sentence: “The DPRK and the United States undertook to respect each other’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together, and take steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies.”

And that is why the North so doggedly seeks bilateral talks with Washington. It desires not “drive-by” encounters, not a meeting here and there, but serious, sustained talks in which ideas can be explored and solutions, at last, patiently developed.

Robert Carlin, a former State Department analyst, participated in most of the U.S.-North Korea negotiations between 1993 and 2000. John Lewis, professor emeritus at Stanford University, directs projects on Asia at the university’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Both have visited North Korea many times, most recently in November.


Number of Undernourished N. Koreans More Than Doubled

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Korea Times

The number of undernourished people in North Korea has more than doubled over the past decade with a diminishing dietary energy supply despite the country’s increased food production, the Yonhap News Agency said Friday citing a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

FAO said in its annual report in Rome on Wednesday that it estimated the number of undernourished in North Korea at 7.9 million for 2001-2003, more than twice as many as the 3.6 million recorded for 1990-1992.

The dietary energy supply, measured in daily calorie intake per person, dropped to 2,150 in 2001-2003 from 2,470 in 1990-1992, marking a 1.25 percent decrease, according to the report.

The proportion of undernourished subsequently grew from 18 percent of the total population to 35 percent, the report said.

North Korea’s per capita food production, however, was growing at an annual average of 1.9 percent during the 1996-2005 period, compared to a drop of 1.8 percent from 1986 to 1995.

Yonhap, a semiofficial South Korean news agency, quoted the report as saying that the North exported $22 million worth of agricultural products in 2002-2004, accounting for 2 percent of the country’s total exports.

The figures compare with $354 million in agricultural imports during the same years, representing 17.1 percent of North Korea’s total imports.

Plagued by repeated floods and droughts, North Korea subsisted on international food donations for nearly a decade from the mid-1990s. But the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), the main coordinator of the donations, was told to leave the country, which claimed it was producing a bumper crop and receiving aid outside of the U.N. relief agency.

The WFP curtailed much of its presence and activities in the North last year as a result.

Yonhap quoted FAO’s report as stating that North Korea has been the biggest recipient of food aid in recent years and still receives more than 1.1 million tons of grain equivalents per year on average. This equaled 31 percent of the country’s total cereal production in 2002 and 22 percent in 2003.

The report said the number of undernourished in South Korea stayed the same at 800,000 in 1990-1992 and 2001-2003, with the dietary energy supply increasing 0.12 percent between the two periods.


Analysis of North Korea’s ‘Market Economy’ 2

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Daily NK
Kim Min Se

The “first-runners” are first-tier wholesalers who connect Chinese manufacturers and North Korean market owners in large cities such as Sinuiju, Hyesan, Hamheung or Chongjin. The goods transported by the first-runners to metropolitan markets in NK are met by second-runners in smaller cities.

South Pyongan province’s Pyongsong, Sunchon and Nampo are the hub for those second-runners, who move imported commodities to further deep into countryside of North and South Pyongan provinces and Hwanghae province.

Moon, a 38-year old shopkeeper in a market in Sunchon, South Pyongan, said “As soon as we hear the news that first-runners brought goods, we go to them with money right away. Since they run a huge amount of money, ordinary buyers can’t even meet them.”

Moon said that for second-runners including herself it took about half million NK wons (180 US dollars) to buy goods for one time. She buys merchandise from first-runners and sells it back to local storeowners.

For second-runners, it is crucial to procure enough high-quality goods with low price. If one buys bad products, he or she loses money. Same rule applies to first-runners.

Second-runners also hand over raw materials to manufacturers. The diminutive North Korean industry relies partly on them.

Chinese sugar and flour turn to bread and candy, and imported clothing materials are manufactured in home factories. Most of the manufacturers who buy raw materials from second-runners are individual handicraftsmen.

Lee, a clothing producer in Hamheung, sells her homemade clothes in market. Lee has had good relationship a number of second-runners, who trade Chinese fabric, so she can even buy stuff on credit.

Throughout the March of Tribulation in late 90s, North Korean people had depended on home industry for their basic necessities. And now it is estimated that significant amount of industrial products in North Korean markets are home-produced.

Those with little capital or without a stand in local market go to the most remote regions in high mountains or countryside and sell their handicrafts via train. Although it is not North Korean business slang, such activity can be classified as “third-running.”

The so-called “third-runners” trade their home-manufactured goods with country people’s corn, bean or rice, since it is rare to own a lot of cash in rural area.

In sum, once persecuted North Korean private markets are now reflecting every aspect of capitalist economy.


Seoul Seeks EU Investment in Kaesong

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Korea Times
Lee Jin-woo

Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung Friday told European businessmen active in South Korea that the government would try its best to guarantee stability and predictability at an inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea.

“Construction of the Kaesong industrial complex has fallen behind schedule but will proceed as planned,’’ Lee said at a luncheon meeting held by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK) at a Seoul hotel.

The speech was given in English. Lee, who gained his master’s degree from the University of Manitoba in Canada and his doctorate from the University of Trinity College in Toronto in 1988, enjoys delivering speeches in English.

The minister said a power grid with the capacity of transmitting 100,000 kilowatts of electricity will be established at the Kaesong site in the first half of this year. Seoul has discussed the construction of a communication center with Pyongyang to expand the communication network there.

“The South Korean government will foster the best environment to make the Kaesong an attractive investment site,’’ he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing many European enterprises join the upcoming expansion of the complex.’’

Lee said the flow of exchanges and cooperation between the two Koreas has continued and even expanded despite the North’s nuclear test on Oct. 9 last year.

“You may wondering why South Korea is focusing on economic cooperation with the North while putting aside many better investment chances,’’ Lee said. “That’s because we believe economic cooperation is a short cut to ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula.’’

EUCCK plans to carry out its second visit to the site in March. The chamber’s trip in 2005 was the first visit by foreign enterprises.

“Seeing is believing,’’ Lee said. “If you go and see the factories there, you’ll fully understand what I’ve told you today. I promise to assist your visit to the utmost to ensure that you have a memorable and rewarding experience.’’

On Wednesday, Lee, who took office on Dec. 11, made his first visit to the site.

About 11,200 North Korean men and women are working together with 800 South Koreans at the joint inter-Korean industrial complex. The total production in the complex last December alone was worth more than $10 million.

The complex plans to house 300 companies, which would hire as many as 70,000 workers, when power and water supply grids are completed in the first half of this year.

Currently, the EU accounts for more than half of foreign investment in South Korea and is the nation’s second-largest export market after China. It has provided humanitarian assistance worth about $430 million to North Korea since 1995.


3 Million NK Refugees Expected in Crisis: BOK

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Korea Times
Na Jeong-ju

If at least one member of a North Korean household moves to South Korea after reunification, more than 3 million from the North may head south if the two Koreas are reunited, the Bank of Korea (BOK) said Friday.

According to the BOK’s Institute of Finance and Economy, if such an exodus takes place in North Korea after reunification, the South may face serious economic consequences, the report said.

If Koreas adopt a German model, in which West Germany extended financial support to East Germany before and after reunification, South Korea would shoulder a total of $500-$900 billion in reunification costs. If the money is spent appropriately, it will take 22-39 years for North Korea to top $10,000 in gross national income, the report said.

The institute proposed South and North Korea try to reduce economic gap through economic cooperation programs. If the South supports the North through development programs, using its capital and the North’s cheap labor, it can reduce reunification costs considerably, it said.

“It is desirable for the two Koreas to designate special economic zones to reduce their economic gap and conduct programs to develop the North Korean economy,’’ the report said.

With the development programs, the South can spend much less than adopting the German model, the report said. The reunification costs will be cut to $300-500 billion, while the period for North Korea to see a GNI of $10,000 will be shortened to 13-22 years, it added.


UNDP to adjust North Korea program, bolster audit and monitoring

Thursday, January 25th, 2007


The U.N. Development Program (UNDP), recently accused of unmonitored activities in Pyongyang that led to a large, unintended influx of cash to the regime there, announced Thursday that it will adjust the North Korea program and delay its implementation until approved.

But the US$17.91 million resource allocation made in the original 2007-2009 program will be maintained, it said.


Korean Dramas Regulated, 109 Groups Dispatched

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Daily NK
Kwon Jeong Hyun

Since last year, North Korean authorities have been attempting to cut off all kinds of capitalist culture. Hence, another extensive hunt for Korean videos and radio broadcasts continues on.

North Korean authorities formed “109 Inspection Team” consisting of authority officials, inspectors from the National Safety Agency and Social Safety Agency, who have been focusing on regulating the major cities for watching and selling foreign VCDs. As of this year, the regions for inspection has extended to the provinces, an inside source informed. The regulations seem to have become an annual event.

The source from North Korea said “About 50 people who were caught watching foreign videos in the district of Woonsan, North Pyongan and now are being investigated” and “The preliminary hearing for about 10 people with no connections or who could not offer bribes, also the people found to be directly circulating the videos has ended and are now waiting a sentence.”

During the 80’s, video tapes were controlled by intercepting with electricity and any family found with videos in their video players were individually restrained. However, many families with video players also had chargers and so this method was ineffective. Now inspector groups consisting of 10~20 people have search warrants to thoroughly check all parts of the home.

The source said “The people sentenced will probably get sent to the labor training corps but of these repeaters if any person has issues with ideologies or are condemned as responsible for selling the videos, then they will be sentenced to jail.” The source added “People who are sentenced to jail because of videos are normally imprisoned for 4~5 years, but many are released after 2~3 years on special occasions like Feb 16th (Kim Jong Il’s birthday) or April 15th (Kim Il Sung’s birthday).”

On a different note, the latest issue of Democratic Chosun (issued on January 13), the government paper, obtained on the 20th stated “Imperial activists are sticking to us from within until death in order to sow the seeds of capitalist” and ordered a firm response “We must stick to them (capitalists) and austerely cut them off.”


Analysis of North Korea’s “Market Economy” I.

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Daily NK
Kim Min Se

Since 2002’s 7.1. economic reform measures, North Korea’s markets have become most vital part of peoples life. North Korean market system operates from ‘general market’ with huge process chain to small local ‘yard market’ in the remote countryside. And, in between, there are always some brokers.

An importer buys goods from China and transports them through cargo trains or trucks to large cities in North Korea, such as Hamheung, Chongjin, Pyongsung or Nampo. Wholesale traders take those products and resell to local businesspeople. In North Korean jargon, such process is called “running.”

Usually imported goods from China or North Korean domestic ones take three steps of circulation; one or two laps of ‘run’ is added in case of mountain area.

Wholesale is mostly carried out by cars. Since oil and vehicles are not enough, sometimes wholesalers rent cars by themselves.

A forty one-year old trader working in Dandong, China, Kim, said that he purchases goods from Chinese factories firsthand. If the amount of import is huge, Kim uses freight. If not, a few trucks are fine for him. At maximum, Kim bought 60 tons of texture from China at once and resold it to North Korean wholesaler in one month.

In Hyesan, Yangkang province, 38-year old Choi, a broker of mainly Chinese cloths and shoes, sells his stuff to nearby Chongjin. Choi told the Daily NK “There are two types of so-called running; first run and second run. “Running” requires a lot of capital like money for vehicles. So the person must be patient and cautious when buying and selling something.”

According to the interview with Kim, using vehicle in wholesale business takes from 3.5 million NK wons (roughly 1,000 US dollars) to 35 million wons. The money includes not only car rental but also “transportation permit” application fee. Transportation permit is required when vehicle and personnel move inter-province, and costs relatively large amount of cash.

Kim keeps about twenty percent of total sales as his profit. The other 80% is comprised of original price of goods, car tax, gasoline and multifarious types of ‘extra expenses,’ or bribe.

The “first run” business is apportioned to a few with privilege in North Korea. Those who can earn cooperation from Security Agency and police are able to do the first run. Without bribery, it is impossible to obtain various permits that are essential for any businessperson.

In addition, to trade with overseas Chinese merchants, one must possess enough wealth and credit. Credit enables North Korean businessmen to buy goods in China with comparatively low price. Those first runners are, in most cases, wealthy North Koreans with ten thousand US dollars cash on their hand at any moment.


North Korea denies U.S. allegations it misused U.N. development funds

Thursday, January 25th, 2007


North Korea on Thursday rejected a U.S. allegation that it misused funds from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), accusing Washington of conducting a smear campaign to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

The United Nations announced this week that an audit will be conducted of the UNDP operations in North Korea after Washington alleged it had funneled immense cash payments to Pyongyang.

The UNDP aid projects in North Korea “have been carried out strictly in conformity with the U.N. regulations and in a transparent way,” a spokesman for Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in an answer to a question by the Korean Central News Agency, the North’s official media outlet.

U.S. deputy ambassador Mark Wallace alleged last week that the UNDP’s operation in the North had been run “in blatant violation of U.N. rules” for years and that millions of dollars ended up in the hands of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. The UNDP denied the U.S. allegation, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, announced an external audit of U.N. programs on Monday.

“Nevertheless, the United States is kicking up another anti-DPRK racket over not much aid funds of the UNDP from the outset of the year to meet its dirty political aims,” the spokesman said.

North Korea said it will continue to develop its cooperative relations with the UNDP.

“However, it will not allow any attempt to politicize the aid project nor accept conditional or unjust aid at all. The U.S. will be wholly accountable for all consequences to be entailed by its ongoing reckless campaign against the DPRK,” the unidentified spokesman said.