Archive for January, 2007

Who pays retail for DPRK media anymore?

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Well, if you are tired of paying all those middlemen for your treasured copies of The Great Leadership for the Victory of Building the Powerful State or The Great Leader Kim Jong Il Gives on-the-Spot Guidance to Various Sectors (Part 11), then would like to point out where you can get these and other fine publications right from the horses mouth: Korean Publications (their site is a little slow).


US Geological Survey of DPRK

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Everything you wanted to know about minerals in the DPRK and their export  can be found in these USGS reports (In PDF format):

 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 |


Interested in DPRK exports?

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Well it seemd that the DPRK embassy in Vienna, Austria, is doing its part to promote exports from the fatherland.  It has launched a web-based export business at:  Althought it looks like the site has not been updated since 2004, they are still offering sales on goods such as:

Calcium Carbonate, Artemisia Herb Oil, Eleutheorcocci Senticosi Extract & Powder,Perilla Herb Oil, Pine Needle Oil, Graphite Brush Plates and Powder, High-Powered Water Purifier, Beauty Appliance MN-63B, Printing Photo Images on Stone Tablets,  Tin-Free, Non-Toxic, Anti-Fouling, Anti-Corrosive, Inorganic Paint, Mechanical Seals, High-Strength Structure Adhesive, Sang-Hwang Mushrooms (Phellinus Linteus), Water-ring Screw Compressor, Technique for Greening of Sandy Soil, Pneumatic Transport Equipment, High-Powered Ultramicro Grinder

Commercial Section,
Embassy of the DPR. Korea in Austria
Schweglerstr. 21/3, A-1150 Vienna, Austria,  
Tel: +43-1-982-2082,  Fax: +43-1-982-2084,
[email protected]


North Korean minister sacked over Kim jibe: report

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

The Nation

North Korea’s energy minister has been fired because he suggested that the power supply to leader Kim Jong-Il’s guesthouse should be diverted for public use, a Japanese newspaper said Thursday.

Ju Tong-il, minister of power and coal industries, was fired late last year by the leaders of the impoverished Communist state, the evening edition of the Mainichi Shimbun daily said in a story from Beijing.

“Our country’s energy situation is extremely severe,” Ju told a meeting of energy-related officials last spring, according to the daily, quoting unnamed sources close to the North Korean government.

“Or better yet, why don’t we get back electricity fed to the guesthouses of our general?” Ju reportedly suggesting, referring to Kim.

Ju later excused his remarks, saying: “I just wanted to express the fact that our domestic electricity condition is paralyzed.”

But he came under fire from leaders of the ruling Workers Party and was then dismissed, the daily said.

Agence France Presse

Golden Villas, Let’s Share Electricity!
Daily NK
Yang Jung A

While North Korea’s electrical power supply worsens, North Korea’s Premier Park Bong Ju pushes for the expansion of energy supply and civil electrical support only to receive a personal punishment from authorities or in actual, his position changed.

“As a result of energy and other issues, Ju Dong Il, the Minister of the Electricity and Coal Industry was removed from his position” a Japanese newspaper “Mainichi” reported on the 18th, citing a source related to the North Korean government.

The Minister Ju was known for his proposal on energy made at a policy meeting early 2005 where a comment was made “The electricity situation in our country is seriously grave” and suggested “How about we redirect the electricity from our leader’s personal residence and use that.”

This proposal suggested that the electricity crisis be partly solved by redistributing some of the electricity supplying Kim Jong Il’s numerous personal villas throughout the nation, to much needed industries and homes.

As the Minister Ju realized his comments had set a predicament, he tried to justify himself stating “I simply wanted to express that the country’s electricity is in an immobilized state” but was known to have been reprimanded by the central authorities and his position changed. Since last October, the Ministry of the Electricity and Coal Industry had been separated to the Ministry of Electrical Industry and the Ministry of Coal Industry.

In the same month, Premier Park expressed his concerns on the export of coal to China at a trade conference saying “If this situation continues, our country will be faced with serious implications from the energy crisis. The people will be unable to use their central heating and industries will stop. It would be better to refrain from further exports.” The newspaper also mentioned that Premier Park had gone to the extent of submitting a proposal and that the ministry had even settled on the suspension of coal exports.

However, following the nuclear experiment, the National Defense Commission asserted that the acquirement of foreign currency was an absolute necessity in strengthening the military and strongly urged for the resumption of exports. In the end, the ministry’s decision was overturned and exports recommenced.

Though Premier Park has not yet been replaced, under the orders of authorities, he is known to be spending his time in self-discipline as “for now, revision is necessary.” Though Premier Park’s name is listed on the roll of honors, he has not been seen in the presence of Kim Jong Il. 


Mobile Phone Detectors, Borders Blocked

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Daily NK
Han Young Jin

In order to block an “open hole,” North Korean authorities have been installing mobile phone detectors on the northern border to prevent further defectors from leaving the country.

In a phone conversation with family in Hoiryeong, Kim Man Sung (55, pseudonym) a defector residing in Yangchon, Seoul discovered on the 15th “In the neighborhood of Hoiryeong, 6 mobile phone detectors have been installed” and that “if a phone call is received, the detectors activate within a minute and trace your whereabouts.”

In the past, if a person was caught being in contact with South Korea, they would receive punishment from the labor training camps and the matter was over. However, now the National Security Agency are going around saying “if you are caught using a mobile phone, you and all your family will be expelled from your village,” informed Kim. In spite of this, no one knows the make of the detectors set up along the border, nor its performance quality.

For the past 3 years Kim has acted as an intermediary for South Korean families and defectors in search of their relatives on location at the border. He said “Particularly because of intensified border controls, we are experiencing many difficulties.”

He said “Lately, whenever the police (officers from the Safety Agency) board the trains they conduct ‘fastidious inspections’ on city dwellers” and added “The Safety Agency incessantly inspects lodging facilities and motels regulating citizens that may be roaming near the border in attempt to contact their family.” It seems that the ‘fastidious inspections’ are being strictly enforced.

Since mid-December, North Korean authorities have established 5 united forces with the aim of conducting extensive control. These groups, the Party, National Security Agency, Safety Agency, prosecutors and military security will enforce action and punish boarder guards who receive bribes and help defectors.

As inspections tighten, the expenses of defectors secretly crossing to China has also increased. In the region of Hoiryeong, Musan, defecting to China would cost 400~500 yuan per person but now the disbursements have exceeded 1,000 yuan and in Haesan the price has even reached 2,000~3,000 yuan.

Recently, rather than receiving bribes from individual defectors, boarder guards have been reluctant to receive bribes from families. Though there is a possibility that individuals may return it is rare that families return and hence the greater investment lies on individuals. Also, if a defector is caught by Chinese police and repatriated, there is a possibility that the escape route will be discovered. In that case, the border patrol in charge of that region will be punished.

More recently, the National Security Agency has reinforced their efforts to catch defectors in China themselves. Kim informed, that the workers of restaurants and hotels in Yanji and Longjing in China, are all staff from the National Security Agency and that more than 90% of visitors to China are connected with the Safety Agency acting as “spies” with orders to aid the abduction of defectors.


North Koreans given cause to beef

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Asia Times
Robert Neff

In a country infamous for famines, it is no wonder that cattle in North Korea are prized so highly and considered “national property”. According to government sources, North Korea had about 575,000 head of cattle in 2002, but considering the recent floods and food shortages this number may have dropped. In addition to the floods and food shortages, North Koreans must contend with the bovine diseases that cause health concerns not only to the cattle, but also for the people.

The most serious incident took place last summer. It began in the North Korean region of Yanggang. A horrible and mysterious disease that the frightened residents called “leprosy” for the impact on victims, causing them to break out in boils and oozing skin that progressed to the point that, as one North Korean defector described it, left its victims looking “like pieces of sliced meat”.

The story was first reported by the North Korea Daily (July 27, 2006), which described the disease as an epidemic, but no one knows just how many victims it has claimed. One defector living in South Korea told a newspaper reporter that he had spoken with some members of his family still in North Korea who informed him the “rotten flesh disease” was spreading throughout the northern provinces.

Many North Korean residents believed that the disease originated from contaminated beef sold in the Jangmadang markets. Apparently there was some truth to their suspicions. According to the North Korea Daily, the sale of beef and the movement of cattle in the region were banned or tightly controlled.

What was the disease? Several veterinarian experts contacted suggested that it was anthrax, a naturally occurring disease among cattle and other hoofed mammals. All agreed that if a person ate the flesh of an anthrax-diseased animal he had a high risk of dying.

But not all of the experts agreed that it was anthrax. Dr Martin Hugh-Jones of Louisiana State University conceded that the “oozing skin sores” might well be anthrax cutaneous lesions, but “while it is tempting to suggest ‘anthrax’, I know of no lesions involving peeling skin or people looking like ‘sliced meat’.”

It is almost inconceivable that people would willingly eat the flesh of a possibly diseased animal, but it has happened several times in North Korea. In fact, many North Korean people believe that contaminated meat can be eaten if it is boiled at 100 degrees Celsius or higher.

Last January, farmers in the Tuman River region began to lose cattle to a disease they simply called the “cow disease”. The cattle all displayed the same symptoms: hooves splitting, heavy drooling, and sores in their mouths and on their tongues. Local health officials were called in. They determined that the disease had traveled across the Tuman River from China.

In December 2005, China reported several outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in the interior provinces, but it was suspected that the disease had also spread to Heilongjang province, one of China’s key cattle raising areas located along the North Korean border, and possibly into neighboring Russia.

Dr Peter Roeder of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Dr Hugh-Jones agree that the symptoms appear to be indicative of foot-and-mouth disease. Roeder stated, “I did not have information that it had got into North Korea but I am not surprised.”

At least one region was quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease. Cattle that displayed any of the symptoms were quickly killed and buried in deep pits in a further effort to prevent the spread of the disease. Despite the North Korean officials’ precautions to ensure that the cattle carcasses were buried, it was soon discovered that two of the infected cows were missing. Someone had dug them up.

The local officials warned the people that eating the contaminated meat could kill children under the age of five. Roeder insisted that foot-and-mouth disease did not affect humans, and Hugh-Jones supported him by adding, “Eating such a carcass should not of itself be dangerous other than the usual dangers from eating meat from sick and moribund animals.”

Did contaminated meat cause the strange leprosy-like disease that allegedly plagued Yanggang? Were diseased cattle carcasses dug up from pits, butchered, sold and eaten by hungry or greedy residents? Both doctors agreed that North Korea is a black hole for disease information and that in such countries nasty diseases will be politically unattractive and therefore official reports will be played down and minimal.

Both doctors were again in agreement when they observed that defectors and refugees have a poor record of reliability in what they say and write. Exaggeration is the commonest characteristic, they said.

But not all possibly contaminated meat originated in North Korea.

In 2001, during the height of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad-cow disease) scare in Europe, many countries slaughtered hundreds of thousands of head of cattle in an effort to check the disease. Famine-stricken North Korea agreed to accept some of the possibly contaminated beef from Germany and Switzerland (see German meat may be North Korean poison, Asia Times Online, February 23, 2001).

As retired veterinarian Patricia Doyle noted, “It is a very nasty stunt to pass on infected cattle to any people, regardless of their ideology. It is the government who may have political differences not the people.”

But if a government would be desperate enough to feed its citizens meat possibly contaminated with a fatal disease, how far are starving people willing to go to satisfy, if only for a short time, the hunger in their bellies? Further, it seems, than most of us would like to acknowledge.


Drug Smuggling Caught on Tape

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Daily NK
Yang Jung A

On the 9th, a Japanese broadcast “tv asahi” exposed footages of drug smuggling at a boarder station between North Korea and China.

The footage caught a North Korean dealer crossing the Tumen River via a tube. On meeting a female Chinese dealer, the North Korean dealer unraveled a pink package which contained an envelope written “Opium powder” in red.

The drug seems to have been manufactured at “Ranam pharmaceutical factory.” This factory is known for its manufacture of mediocre drugs. Although opium is normally supposed to be packaged as medication, it is common that the drug falls into the hands of smugglers.

The moment the Chinese dealer gets hold of the package, she confirms the quality of the drug and hands over Chinese currency. The North Korean dealer counts the money and scurries back over to North Korea. It was agreed that additional dealings would be made via the telephone.

The transaction that was made on this day was 8~9 bags, each containing 100g of opium. 

As the international community continues to enforce its regulations against drugs and counterfeit dollars, drugs dealings have taken effect in North Korea with increasing illegal trades occurring between China and North Korea, the broadcast claimed. In addition, the number of drug addicts in North Korea is also on the rise.

The footage also captured the North Korean drug dealers sniffing the drugs as well as the dealers talking about the transaction. Of the dealers, one person was a worker managing the level of humidity at a manufacturing factory and seemingly the intermediary supplier who obtained the drugs.

It seems that the 3~4 people sitting in a circle are personally testing the quality of the drugs before purchase. Although the dealer’s child has entered the room, the buyers continue to inhale the drugs.

The woman who seems to be buying the drugs in this footage, scrupulously inhales the drug as if her body was very accustomed to it.

The woman showed signs of drug addiction murmuring “I’m so used to it (taking drugs). My hardest moment was when I was in custody. If I can’t sniff any drugs, my nose is runny and my head spins.”

Also, she suggested that drug addiction had spread throughout North Korea “It has spread from the top, right to the bottom.”

As the dealers need to give bribes to the border guards, a deposit is first received then the balance paid after the goods given.

Comments were also made on the distribution of the latest drugs. The latest drug, blue in color is made naturally and is much more effective than the original, so is very popular amongst the rich.

Of the people there, one man was acting as the link to the boarder patrol, whereas the remaining people examined the issue of reliable Chinese buyers.

The first footage exclusive of North Koreans communally taking drugs was exposed in Korea by the DailyNK in October 2005.



Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

(This site is under construction)

In October 2006 I visited Turkmenistan with Koryo Tours.  After visiting North Korea  the previous two years, I was eager to compare the legendary personality cults of Kim Il Sung/Kim Jong Il to Turkmenbashi the Great, Saparmurat Niazov.  Additionally, I knew nothing of Central Asia, an increasingly strategic region of the globe, particularly in terms of the escalating competition for energy resources between Russia/Europe, China, and the US. I flew to Ashgabat from London Heathrow.  Most of the passengers on the flight were continuing on to India, so the in flight reading was pretty limited.  A photo of Turkmenbashi stared directly at me from the panel in front of my face.  A nice warm smile,”gangster gold ring,” and that blue suit kept me company as I struggled to sleep on the overnight flight.  I was not able to sleep well on the flight, so I arrived at Ashgabat Turkmenbashi the Great International Airport somewhat delirious. As I deplaned, I pulled out my camera and snapped a shot of the plane.  The security official on the tarmack did not like this and ordered me to hand over my film.  What a great start to thrip.  I was not even into the airport and already my film was being confiscated!  I convinced him that I was just taking apicture of the plane for tourist reasons and he eventually relented.  1.JPG 2.JPG bashi pose.JPG 3.JPG 4.JPG  turkmenistan airways.JPG ashair.JPG Looking at Ashgabat from Google Earth you can’t enjoy the full ambiance of soviet architecture.  From the sky the airport looks like a modern marvel built from the largess of natural gas exports. Guess, what…it is a dump.  It looked as though it was constructed in the 1970s and not a thing had been touched since then.  I also think the metal detectors screwed up my film! Clearing the airport itself took HOURS.  We all first had to purchase our visas and obtain the proper entry forms, which were more complicated than the old Soviet procedures.  I signed a total of at least twelve signatures and was given duplicate copies of numerous forms to keep with me throughout my visit.  The price of the visa fluctuated by $10 throughout the whole process. Next we had to retain our luggage.  this could have been quick but the security agents in charge of the luggage room made sure that all of the baggs owners had the proper sticker with matching serial numbers so the owners could be properly identified.  Next we had to clear customs.  Customs agents checked the papers and bags of every single passenger to get off the plane.  As best I could tell there was no difference between the “declare” and “nothing to declare” line, except the nothing to declare line was longer. Several hours later, we emerge in Turkmenistan.  Ashgabat Lenin Statue The Turkmen are not Russians.  They consider themselves Central Asians not Middle Easterners (even though they share a border with Iran). Nor do they consider themselves Europeans, despite the heavy influence of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin.  This Lenin statue was interesting precisely for its attempt to give Lenin an indeginious flavor.
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Around Ashgabat The currency in T-stan is the Manat.  There were approximately 25,000 of them for each US$.  The highest valued note, however, was only US$.50–So if you changed $50 into Manat, you got a big pile of cash.  How fun.  Architecturally, the city is a combination of Soviet-era communist apartment and office buildings mixed with new Niazov inspired marble-domed buildings.  Blocks and elephants. propaganda 1.JPG  monument buiding.JPG  university buiding across street from Nisa.JPG drama theater.JPG  cash-USD50.JPG new style homes.JPG russia style homes.JPG  People.JPG  family.JPG health walk.JPG ashgabat.JPG  ashgabat 1.JPG ashgabat 2.JPG  ashgabat 3.JPG  ashgabat 4.JPG  ashgabat 5.JPG berk beer.JPG british pub.JPG british pub 2.JPG ashgabat 6.JPG  ashgabat 7.JPG 

Ashgabat’s Propaganda In the last days of the Niazov regime (it was brought to an end by a heart attack just a few weeks after my visit), his vision of Turkmenistan’s future was promoted through the education system, the political system, and through public propaganda.  Some aspects were less subtle, such as public billboards, and others were more ostentatious-like the gold statue of Turkmenbashi that rotates so it always faces the sun (Pictured below with the Arch of Neutrality)! 

propaganda 2.JPG  propaganda 3.JPG  propaganda 4.JPG ash.JPG  ash 2.JPG  ash 3.JPG  

Ashgabat Russian Market (North West of the Arch of Neutrality) Although the market has another formal name, everyone calls it the Russian Market.  It is very colorful and all manner of foods are temptingly displayed.  When in Ashgabat, I ate here at least once a day.  Kebabs, bread, lamb, yogurt, fresh fruit, meat pastries, alcohol, and tobacco were all readily available.  Outside the central part of the market, you can purchase clothes, school supplies, books, etc.  There is a store near the market that exclusively sells volumes 1 and 2 of the Rukhnama.  These books did not appear in any of the market stalls, which gives you a signal of the book’s actual demand.  One beggar did approach me in the market.  He was Russian and tried to explain to me in English about his mother’s large hospital bill.  I said “Sprechen sie Deutsch?”–and he switched over immediately to German.  I rolled my eyes, laughed, and moved on.

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Presidential Square This first photo of the presidential palace is actually illegal.  Luckily I took it when no other security agents were around.  Others I was traveling with tried this as well and had to delete the pictures from their camera.

 square.jpg Propaganda.JPG ruhnama 2.JPG ash square.JPG

Arch of Neutrality My guide, Ata, was a nice guy and very helpful.  We had elections in the US a couple of days earlier, so I gave him my “I Voted” sticker to wear.  I figured it would be a while before he got one himself.  Check out the gold statue of Turkmenbashi! arch of neutrality.JPG  arch of neutrality 2.JPG  Arch of Neutrality 3.JPG  arch of neutrality 4.JPG Arch of neutrality 5.JPG  Ata.JPG  Arch.JPG  

Earthquake Monument  

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Ertogrul Gazy Mosque Turkmen are not very religious.  Of course, they self identify as sunnis, but people do not bother to go to mosque very often, and I never once heard a call to prayer.  The Soviets took different strategies in dealing with Catholocism in the Baltics and Islam in Central Asia.  Is the Baltics, they faught it and made it into the premier organization for resisting communism.  In central Asia, the mosques were all brought under state control and the Imams made party members and put on the state payroll.  Fast forward a few generations and most people do no care about being that religious.  Still, I heard a couple of Turkmen express anger at the Rukhnama (Turkmenbashi’s book on all things Turkmen) being elevated to the status of a holy book in Islam. Ertogrul Gazy Mosque.JPG  Ertogrul Gazy Mosque 1.JPG  Ertogrul Gazy Mosque 2.JPG  Ertogrul Gazy Mosque 3.JPG Ertogrul Gazy Mosque1.JPG Ertogrul Gazy.JPGErtogrul Gazy Mosque 21.JPG   

Independence Tower

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Ashgabat Puppet Theater (No puppets in performance)

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Underground Lake

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Tolkuchka Bazar

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Desert Village

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Trip to Mary

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Konye Urgench

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Kony Urgench 2

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North Korea’s Kim wants to cancel handshakes

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

NKeconWatch: I actually agree with Kim Jong Il with this one.  Call me neurotic, but after shaking many peoples’ hands, I head straight for the sink at the first opportunity!


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has urged his countrymen to abstain from shaking hands and greet people with a traditional Korean slight head bow.

The Rodon Sinmun newspaper published Kim’s article where he wrote in particular, “it is necessary to great each other Korean style. Handshake is a European custom and it is no good hygienically.”

However, a day after the publication many North Koreans, especially males, continued to shake hands as they used to do this before, a Tass correspondent reported from the capital of North Korea Tuesday.


N. Korea’s Kang becomes acting minister after Paek’s death

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Yahoo News

North Korea’s state media said Wednesday that First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju congratulated the appointment of Nicaragua’s new foreign minister, a sign that Kang has become North Korea’s acting foreign minister after Paek Nam Sun’s death earlier in the month.

Kang “sent a congratulatory message to Samuel Santos Lopez upon his appointment as foreign minister of Nicaragua,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

Paek died Jan. 2. No announcement has been made regarding his successor.