Archive for February, 2007

Tourists will soon be able to visit inner Kumgang

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily
Seo Ji-eun

Hyundai Asan Co., an exclusive operator of tour packages between South and North Korea, said yesterday tourists will be allowed to travel to the inner part of scenic Mount Kumgang in the North, an area that has been off-limits, as early as April.

Assisted by the recent agreement on the North’s nuclear issue, Hyundai and North Korea discussed the further opening of the mountain last week.

“The two sides have the same opinion about allowing tourists into inner Mount Kumgang,” said a Hyundai Asan spokesman. “The tour will be possible around early April.”

After visiting the area to look into the feasibility of travel last May, Hyundai Asan forecast it would begin the new service last autumn, but its plans were derailed by the North’s missile and nuclear tests.

According to the Hyundai Asan spokesman, technicians from both Koreas will be gathering as early as possible to talk about constructing roads, developing tour courses and mending facilities.

The leisure arm of Hyundai Group aims to attract 400,000 tourists to Mount Kumgang this year. Although the firm set the same target last year, it ended up achieving 260,000, partly as a consequence of reduced tourism following the nuclear test.

To meet the goal this year, the firm plans to shorten travel times by operating planes that link Seoul’s Gimpo airport to Yangyang in Gangwon province, near Mount Kumgang. Also, a duty-free shop run by the Korea National Tourism Organization will be launched in March and a golf course and spa facilities are slated to open in October.


U.S. preacher plans to delay trip to North until summer

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily

A well-known U.S. pastor will delay his plan to preach in North Korea until this summer, the Voice of America reported, quoting the pastor’s aides.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, announced earlier that he would visit North Korea next month to preach in front of more than 15,000 people at a Pyongyang stadium. But Mr. Warren’s aides told the radio station he will visit the North Korean capital in the summer. They gave no reason for the change or other details.

Mr. Warren, known as a staunch supporter of President George W. Bush, is one of the most influential religious figures in the world. His announced plan to visit North Korea drew a lot of criticism from Christians and the general public, who argued that the visit would be for show because the country does not allow freedom of religion.


Key facts on relations between North and South Korea

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Reuters (Hat tip DPRK studies)

Senior officials from South and North Korea resume talks on Tuesday, seven months after dialogue broke down in acrimony over Pyongyang’s missile tests.

Following are key points in the ties between the two:


– An armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War dominates the relationship between the two Koreas. Nearly 1.2 million North Korean soldiers and South Korea’s 680,000 troops remain in a tense military standoff despite political and commercial ties that have warmed since 2000.

– The two have enough missiles and artillery pointed at each other to largely destroy major cities on both sides of the Korean peninsula.


– An industrial park in Kaesong just a few minutes’ drive from the heavily-fortified border is home to 21 companies employing about 12,000 North Korean workers.

– About 1.4 million South Koreans have visited the Mount Kumgang resort in the North just above the border on the east since the tours began in 1998. Roughly a quarter of a million made the visit in 2006 even as tension spiked following the North’s missile and nuclear tests.

– About 102,000 people crossed the border last year, not including Kumgang tourists and most of them South Koreans visiting the North for business. The total exchange of people was 269,336 as of the end of 2006.


– Cross-border trade was $1.35 billion in 2006 up from $1.05 billion a year ago, largely from the strength of the Kaesong industrial park.


– South Korea has supplied between 200,000-350,000 tonnes of fertiliser a year to the North since 2000.

– It has also shipped up to 500,000 tonnes of rice a year to the North in the form of low-interest, long-term loans. Food aid has been suspended since the North’s missile tests in last July.


– South Korea believes more than 1,000 of its people are still alive in the North either as civilian abductees or as prisoners captured during the Korean War.

– North Korea has said 10 South Korean POWs and 11 civilians were alive there.

– More than 1,000 North Koreans each year have fled hunger and persecution in the North and sought refuge in the South. In the first six months of last year, 854 arrived in the South for a total of 8,541. (Source: South Korean Unification Ministry, Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee, Reuters)


North Korean animation

Monday, February 26th, 2007

(updated): Youtube is a great time killer…recently I found these North Korean cartoons that I recommend…

    squirrel.JPG                   ammunition pencil.JPG
   Squirrel & Hedgehog                    Ammunition Pencil   
     (Part 1), (Part 2)

    racoondogwolf.JPG                   frogguard.JPG
Racoon, Dog, and Wolf                   The Frog Guard
The Buzz of Bee Paradise
     (part 1), (part 2)


Imperialists’ Moves for “Globalization” under Fire

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Well, this is too bad…


The “globalization” much touted by the imperialists is nothing but a yoke of exploitation and plunder, domination and subjugation as it is intended to put other countries under their tight control and bleed the world people white to the maximum under the spurious signboard of “co-prosperity” and a neo- colonial system whereby to completely obliterate the Juche character and national identity of other countries and nations and turn the relations between the Western multi-national monopolies and the developing countries into those between the slave owner and slaves.

Rodong Sinmun Sunday says this in a signed article.

It goes on:

The imperialists’ moves for “globalization” involve various aspects of social life but it is mainly targeted on finance and trade.

It is one of the main goals of “globalization” to make breaches in different systems of national economies in many countries of the world through “liberalization” in the fields of finance and trade and make them spill over into other fields in a bid to convert the world economy into a uniform market economy.

The reactionary nature of the “globalization” pushed forward by the imperialists is to completely stonewall the appearance of a new fair international economic order, bind the developing countries to a neo- colonial domination order and turn their politics into Western-style one through the “integration” of the world economy.

The imperialists’ moves for “globalization” aimed at neo-colonizing the whole world are entailing evermore dangerous consequences.

The above-said “globalization” is driving society into chaos and triggering off evermore acute conflict and contradictions among different ethnic groups, religious sects and political forces. To make matters worse, this is leading to armed conflicts, causing bloodshed and making a great many people displaced.

The “globalization” in the financial field is turning the world into a world in the grip of utter disorder where financial speculators ride roughshod.

The “globalization” pushed forward by the imperialists is only widening the gap between the rich and the poor worldwide.


Wage payment to N. Korean workers in Kaesong complex surges 48% since missile tests

Sunday, February 25th, 2007


Wages paid for North Korean labor in an industrial complex in the North’s western border town of Kaesong surged nearly 50 percent in the second half of last year, despite the communist country’s missile and nuclear tests, government data showed Sunday.

According to a report submitted by the Unification Ministry to the National Assembly, North Korean employees’ wages in the Kaesong industrial complex amounted to US$4.23 million in the second half of last year, up 48 percent from the first half’s $2.87 million.

“Even after the North’s missile tests and nuclear test (in October), the hard currency, which the international community takes issue with, continues to end up in the hands of the communist regime while the payment for the Kaesong workers also is expanding,” said Chin Young, a lawmaker of the main opposition Grand National Party, who released the report.

The Kaesong industrial complex is one of two major cross-border projects along with a joint tourism project at the North’s scenic Mount Geumgang.

In the joint industrial complex, South Korean businesses use cheap North Korean labor to produce goods. More than 20 South Korean factories employ a total of 11,189 North Korean workers in Kaesong.

The North, meanwhile, conducted missile tests in July and its first nuclear test in October in defiance of opposition from the international community.

Those incidents prompted a setback in inter-Korean relations and raised concerns that the money paid to the North in the industrial park could be funneled to the communist regime, an allegation that Pyongyang denied.

The report showed wages paid to the North Korean workers have been on the increase in the past few years. In 2004, they stood at $390,000 but rose to $2.76 million in 2005 and $7.10 million in 2006.


N. Korean leader Kim considers ‘group leadership’ system: sources

Sunday, February 25th, 2007


North Korean leader Kim Jong-il might consider a “collective” leadership system after he leaves office, a move away from the long-anticipated father-to-son power transfer, diplomatic sources said Sunday.

According to the sources, Kim did designate his eldest son Jong-nam as heir apparent in the past, but changed his mind a few years ago to introduce the group-based leadership.

The sources said there is no cause for Kim to pursue a father-to-son transition particularly since he is afraid that the whole Kim family would be blamed if efforts to rebuild the economy fail.

Kim Jong-il himself was appointed successor to his late father Kim Il-sung when he was 32 years old. Outside media attention has been focused on who will be the next leader of the world’s most reclusive country.

“Kim did not make an official announcement on the plan, but it is known that the North Korean leader already embarked on the testing of a military-centered leadership system,” a source was quoted as saying.

The 36-year-old son Jong-nam had long been regarded as the favorite to succeed Kim, but he reportedly fell out of his father’s favor. The Swiss-educated Jong-nam exhibited a wayward lifestyle in order to show that he is not the successor to his father, according to the sources.

As for the succession prospects, Jong-nam recently told his acquaintances in Beijing that “he is not interested” in the issue, expressing concerns that upper-level officials could be held accountable for an economic failure, the sources said.


Rebuilding a Church in North Korea

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

CBN News (Hat Tip DPRK Studies)

The Christian cross stands on a mountain high above the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

The Bongsoo Church – currently under renovation – is one of two official Protestant churches in North Korea. It has become a point of connection for North and South Korean Christians.

That’s because they’re working to rebuild it together.

Last fall, a delegation of 90 Christians from South Korea came to the church to celebrate completion of the first phase of renovation.

The Presbyterian Church of Korea in the South is partnering with the Christian Association in North Korea to rebuild Bongsoo Church. The church’s pastor says he hopes this partnership will help bring the two Koreas together after more than 50 years of separation.

“I surely believe the renovation and completion of Bongsoo Church is part of God’s will,” said Kang Young Seob of the Christian Association in North Korea. “I also believe that all the Christians who come to the church will have their hearts filled with love for their brothers, their neighbors, and for all Korean people.”

One South Korean church elder says the project is a gift from God.

“The construction of Bongsoo Church is a special privilege and a special mission that God granted the South Korean church and the North Korean church members,” Choi Ho Chul, a South Korean Christian leader.

South Korea’s Christians know that state-sanctioned churches in North Korea are mostly for show. They open only periodically, usually to show visiting dignitaries the regime’s religious tolerance. They know that North Korean church leaders – and even the congregants – are hand-picked by the government.

But as one South Korean Christian in the U.S. told Christian World News, they believe that working with North Korea’s state-sanctioned church is better than doing nothing at all.

They believe that raising a church – and the Cross – high above Pyongyang might have an impact beyond what natural eyes can see.

“We still have hope of the salvation as long as we have the cross that reflects it and the church of God,” said Kim Tae Beom, a South Korean pastor.


Even Pyongyang Citizens Selling to Live

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Daily NK
Kang Jae Hyok

Although North Korea tried to create a festive atmosphere in celebration of Kim Jong Il’s 65th birthday, the voices of Pyongyang citizens express hardship and exhaustion.

Recently, Lee Myung Sup (pseudonym, 69) who lives in Pyongyang went to Namyang-district, Onsung, North Hamkyung province, in search of his brother who resides in China to get help.

In a telephone conversation with the DailyNK on the 21st, he said “Nowadays, it is even hard for people in Pyongyang to live. Although rations are given, it is not enough to live on.”

Lee informed “Compared to the country, rules and regulations are even stricter in Pyongyang to the point all men must go to work. Alternatively, the majority of housewives utilize the markets and trains to travel to the rural districts selling goods.”

“Even the people in Pyongyang must engage in trade, otherwise they have nothing to eat but rice porridge. While the elite are living lives more privileged than the times of the ‘march of suffering,’ the common worker in Pyongyang is indifferent to the citizens in the country” he said.

According to Lee, a month’s worth of rations given to the citizens in Pyongyang always fall short of a week’s amount of food. This is because a week’s worth of rations in North Korea is removed and redirected as distributions for the military.

Coal and stones used to solve the heating problem

The average monthly wage for a worker in Pyongyang is 4,000~5,000 (approx. US$1.2~1.6) won. At the markets, 1kg of rice is 1,100 won and hence this wage is equivalent to 4kg of rice. While all necessities including food, vegetables, daily needs and medicine can be purchased at the market, Lee says that at least 10,000 won (approx. US$3.2) is needed per month.

He said “It has already been 10 years since heating rations for were suspended” and added “Large stones placed under the floor are heated up to warm the home and coal is also used to cook rice and further heat the room, even in apartments.” He said that during the winter, each household required at least 2,000kg of coal

Already, many average North Korean citizens find it hard to live if they do not trade, however the situation has now arisen where the “revolutionary city” of Pyongyang and its citizens are experiencing the same conditions.

Even during the food crisis in the `90’s, many people in Pyongyang found pride in the fact that they lived in the revolutionary city. However, 10 years on, the privileges of a Pyongyang citizen has but merely disappeared and the adversities of the people increasing as they find their own way to survive.

The people of Pyongyang who once faced the period of their honorable father, Kim Jong Il have now become common citizens.


The Ordinary Abductions

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Korea Times
Andrei Lankov

North Korean spy agencies love kidnappings. Of course, their colleagues worldwide also would not mind abducting a person or two, but in most cases there are some urgent reasons for taking such drastic measures _ the victims are prominent opposition leaders, or wanted criminals who cannot be extradited through normal channels, or people who are unlucky to know something way too important. North Korean abductions are different: They are often surprisingly random and target people of no significance. The very randomness of most of their abductions once was often cited by sceptics who tried to refute these accusations as “Seoul-inspired falsities.’’ Indeed, why should the secret services of a Stalinist state spend so much time and money only to kidnap a Japanese noodle chef, or a tennis-loving teenager? Nonetheless, in 2002 Kim Jong-il himself confirmed that these seemingly meaningless abductions of ordinary Japanese citizens did take place.

Of course, North Koreans spies did not limit themselves to Japanese only. Quite a number of South Korean citizens have disappeared into the Northern maw as well: it is known that at least 486 South Koreans have been forcibly taken to the North and have never returned.

A vast majority of them are fishermen who were imprudent to come too close to the North Korean coast, but this figure also includes a number of known victims of covert operations. Currently they number 17, but there are few doubts that the actual number is much higher. If the abduction is planned and conducted well, its victim simply disappears and is eventually presumed dead.

A good example is the case of the five South Korean high school students who disappeared from the island beaches in 1977 and 1978. They all were believed dead for two decades, but in the late 1990s it was discovered that the youngsters were working in North Korea as instructors, teaching the basics of South Korean lifestyle to would-be undercover Northern operatives.

Eventually, one of those former students was even allowed to briefly meet his family at the Kumgang resort. Kim Yong-nam disappeared from a beach in North Cholla Province in 1978. Later he was identified as the husband of an abducted Japanese woman, so North Korean authorities grudgingly admitted that Kim Yong-nam was indeed in the North, and staged a meeting with his family. Unsurprisingly, during this meeting and press conference, he insisted that he was not kidnapped but saved from the sea by North Korean sailors. Far more surprisingly, he sort of admitted that his job was related to spying.

It is remarkable that the kidnappings of the South Korean teenagers roughly coincided with similar abductions in Japan. In both cases the abductors obviously targeted randomly selected teenagers who were unlucky enough to be on a lonely beach. Another commonality was that the abductees were later used to train espionage agents. Perhaps, teenagers were seen as ideal would-be instructors for the spies _ still susceptible to indoctrination but with enough knowledge of local realities to be useful.

In April, 1979, a young South Korean walked into the North Korean Embassy in Oslo, Norway. His name was Ko Sang-mun, and he was a schoolteacher back home. Why and how he came to arrive at that embassy is not clear. As was usually the case, the North Korean side insisted that Ko Sang-mu defected, while the South Koreans alleged that the young teacher was the a victim of a taxi driver’s mistake: He took the taxi to a “Korean embassy’’ and the driver delivered him to the embassy of the wrong Korea.

It is impossible to say now whether this highly publicised case was abduction, defection, or something in-between. However, in 1994 it became known that Ko Sang-mun was in a labour camp. A small propaganda war ensued. Ko was made to appear in a North Korean broadcast assuring everybody that he was free, happily married, and full of righteous hatred for the US imperialists and their Seoul puppets (most of his speech consisted of customary anti-American rhetoric). We do not know where he went after delivering this speech _ to an apartment in Pyongyang or to a dugout in a prison camp. Meanwhile, Ko’s widow in the South committed suicide, unable to cope with the stress of the situation.

There were also more “normal’’ instances of abductions. The North Koreans kidnapped people who possessed important intelligence. In 1971 Yu Sang-mun, a South Korean diplomat stationed in West Germany was kidnapped in West Berlin, together with his family _ wife and two children. Perhaps, the few other South Korean officials who went missing in Europe in the 1970s were also abducted by North Korean agents, but presently only Yu’s case is certain.

In the 1990s most abductions of this sort took place in China, and their victims were political activists, missionaries, and real or suspected South Korean spies. All these abductions occurred in the Chinese North-East, near the borders of North Korea.

The abduction of North Korean dissenters, or suspected would-be defectors, from Soviet territory has been quite routine for decades. Sometimes these abductions sparked a crisis in relations between Moscow and Pyongyang, but in most cases the Soviets simply turned a blind eye to such acts.