Archive for April, 2007

Koreas agree on railway test runs, rice aid

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007


South and North Korea on Sunday agreed to conduct test runs of cross-border railways next month and make efforts to ensure a military guarantee for their safe operations.

The South also agreed to provide 400,000 tons of rice to the impoverished North in late May, but the accord reached by the two sides did not include a commitment by North Korea to take steps toward dismantlement of its nuclear programs, said pool reports from Pyongyang, the venue of the talks.

The Koreas announced a 10-point agreement on test runs of cross-border railways, rice aid and expanded economic cooperation after they engaged in marathon talks. The four-day talks stretched into an extra day as the two sides failed to thrash out differences by the deadline.

“The two Koreas will hold working-level talks to discuss operations of cross-border railways in Kaesong on April 27-28,” the agreement said. They agreed to make efforts to secure a military security guarantee prior to conducting the test runs on May 17.

The security issue was a main sticking point as South Korean officials contended that the test runs will be “meaningless” if there is no safety guarantee on the part of the North Korean military.

In May 2006, North Korea abruptly called off the scheduled test runs under apparent pressure from its hard-line military.

The two sides were originally scheduled to issue a joint press statement at 2 p.m. on Saturday, but they held a series of overnight negotiations to settle remaining differences and work out the wording for a final draft of a joint statement.

On Thursday, the North Korean delegation stormed out of the conference room to protest the South’s call for the North’s quick implementation of a denuclearization agreement, but talks resumed later as scheduled.

“During the talks, we made clear that it will be difficult to provide rice unless North Korea acts to fulfill the Feb. 13 agreement,” Chin Dong-soo, chief of the South Korean delegation, said in a press briefing held in Pyongyang after the announcement of the agreement.

South Korea also agreed to provide raw materials to the North to help it produce clothing, footwear and soap in June in return for its natural resources. A South Korean delegation will visit envisioned development sites in the North that month. Working-level negotiations on this issue will be held in the North Korean border city of Kaesong on May 2-4.

Shortly after the North conducted missile tests in July, the South suspended food and fertilizer aid. But fertilizer aid was resumed in late March, a few weeks after the two sides agreed to repair their strained ties.

During the talks, the North called for receiving raw materials from the South in exchange for providing its natural resources “close to the time when railway test runs are conducted,” the pool reports said.

But the South made clear that it will provide the North with US$80 million worth of raw materials only after the two sides conduct the test runs.

The reconnection of severed train lines was one of the tangible inter-Korean rapprochement projects agreed upon following the historic summit between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

The tracks, one line cutting across the western section of the border and the other crossing the eastern side, were completed and set to undergo test runs. A set of parallel roads has been in use since 2005 for South Koreans traveling to the North.

In 2005, South Korea agreed to offer raw materials to the North to help it produce clothing, footwear and soap starting in 2006. In return, the North was to provide the South with minerals, such as zinc and magnesite, after mines were developed with South Korean investments guaranteed by Pyongyang.

But the economic accord was not implemented as North Korea cancelled the test runs of the railways last May.

The pool reports said the South pushed to include the use of overland transportation in a clause of the agreement, but the two sides failed to see eye-to-eye on the issue. They agreed to hold talks in Kaesong to discuss ways of advancing into third countries in the field of natural resource development.

The next economic cooperation meeting will be held in the South in July 2007, and the two Koreas agreed to reach an agreement on the prevention of flooding in shared areas near the Imjin River and implement it after exchanging a document in early May.

The latest inter-Korean agreement came just a week after the communist nation failed to meet the April 14 deadline to shut down and seal its nuclear facilities under a six-nation agreement signed in Beijing in February.

North Korea has said it would take the first steps toward nuclear dismantlement as soon as it confirms the release of its funds frozen in a Macau bank since September 2005.

Macau’s financial authorities unblocked the North’s US$25 million in Banco Delta Asia, but the deadline passed with no word from the North on whether it has confirmed the release of the funds or when it will start implementing the initial steps.

Under the Feb. 13 agreement, North Korea pledged to shut down its main nuclear reactor and allow U.N. inspectors back into the country within 60 days. In return, North Korea would receive aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from South Korea.

The U.S. promised to resolve the financial issue within 30 days, but failed to do so because of technical complications.


U.S. mulling people-to-people exchange programs with North Korea: envoy

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Lee Dong-min

The United States is considering starting exchange programs with North Korea, potentially including government officials, to broaden bilateral relations and help open up one of the most closed societies in the world, a White House envoy said Thursday.

Jay Lefkowitz, appointed by the U.S. president to deal with North Korean human rights issues, said the exchanges could be between athletes, musicians, artists and even government officials.

“This is something we are thinking about,” Lefkowitz said at a session hosted by the Heritage Foundation.

He wasn’t sure whether North Korea would be receptive, the envoy said, “but exchange programs, I think, are ultimately a wonderful way to broaden relationships … they let real people interact with real people.”

It could be similar to the “ping pong diplomacy” initiated with China, he said, and the opportunity would be beneficial for both countries.

“It is highly likely that the people North Korea sends abroad will be chosen from the elites,” Lefkowitz said.  “Nonetheless, even the most pro-regime participant will undoubtedly have his assumptions jarred by seeing the outside world.”

U.S. relations with North Korea are heavily restricted by domestic laws. Pyongyang, denounced annually in human rights reports as one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, is also suspected of developing nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism.

The two countries held their first diplomatic normalization talks last month, a process begun when North Korea signed on to an agreement to eventually give up its nuclear weapons and programs.

Lefkowitz said human rights improvement in North Korea is a prerequisite to establishing formal relations.

“If the North Korean government ever wants to be seen as legitimate, it will have to make progress on human rights,” he said.

There is a glimmer of hope, the envoy said, quoting a Russian expert on North Korea who says a “quiet revolution” is under way in the communist nation and that the government there is gradually losing control over its people.

The phenomenon, Lefkowitz said, is very similar to what happened in the last days of the Soviet Union.

He criticized China for refusing to help North Korean refugees flowing into the country through their shared borders and said next year’s Beijing Olympics is a chance to highlight the situation.

“Does anyone seriously believe that a massive abuse (of) the refugee population will go unnoticed? I certainly hope not,” Lefkowitz said.

“This is an area where the international media can play a big role of exposing what’s going on.”

The envoy repeated his skepticism about the Kaesong industrial complex, an inter-Korean pilot economic project. Located just north of the border, the complex houses factories built with South Korean capital and run by North Korean labor.

Lefkowitz refuted argument that the project guarantees the same kind of success from China’s special economic zones.

In China, the companies operated under relatively free market conditions and accepted foreign investment and participation, he said.

For Kaesong, the “most troubling” is lack of overall transparency, he argued.

“This does not necessarily foretell liberalization,” he said. “Until there is transparency, other countries should not import goods made in Kaesong.”


Contract for fuel aid to N. Korea expires, costing S. Korea US$3 million

Friday, April 20th, 2007


South Korea sustained a loss of some US$3 million on Friday as its contract for fuel oil aid to North Korea expired, the Unification Ministry said.

South Korea had planned to send 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to the North unless the communist country missed last Saturday’s deadline for taking initial steps toward its nuclear dismantlement under a landmark deal signed in February.

“The contract between the procurement authorities and GS Caltex expired today. The exact amount of penalty money is not clear, but it will amount to some 3.6 billion won given the cost of loading and storage,” the ministry said in a statement.

On Feb. 13, North Korea pledged to shut down its main nuclear reactor and allow U.N. inspectors back into the country within 60 days. In return, North Korea would receive aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from South Korea.

North Korea could receive another 950,000 tons in fuel aid if it disables the reactor irreversibly and declares a list of all nuclear programs to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The cost of the aid will be equitably distributed among the other countries in the six-nation talks.

But the North failed to shut down and seal its nuclear facilities by last Saturday, saying it would take first steps toward nuclear dismantlement as soon as it confirms the release of its funds frozen in a Macau bank since September 2005.

Macau’s financial authorities unblocked the North’s US$25 million in Banco Delta Asia, but the North has neither withdrawn the funds nor said when it will start implementing the initial steps.

“The contract was signed with an eye on the Saturday deadline and the IAEA’s nuclear inspection, but the unexpected Banco Delta Asia issue delayed the implementation of the agreement, costing us the penalty,” a ministry official said, asking to remain anonymous.

The official added that a new contract for heavy fuel oil will be made in consideration of the progress in the six-nation talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.


DPRK Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea Appointed

Friday, April 20th, 2007


Kim Chun Bong was appointed as the DPRK ambassador e.p. to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, according to a decree of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly.


Kaesong Bill Endorsed

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Korea Times
Jung Sung-ki

A National Assembly panel Friday approved a bill to give full-fledged support to domestic firms operating in the inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong under South Korean law.

The Assembly’s Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee endorsed the bill under which South Korean companies in the Kaesong complex are to receive financial support from the government.

Under the bill, companies concerned will get government funds for infrastructure in the industrial zone and be subject to tax reduction in case of investment in the North.

South Korean insurance acts and other labor-related laws will cover employees under the bills.

The complex is a symbol of the South’s engagement policy toward the North and cross-border reconciliation, along with the South-led tourism program at Mt. Kumgang in North Korea.

About 20 South Korean firms are operating in the joint complex employing more than 13,000 North Korean workers.


About 16 million immunized against measles in N. Korea

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Kyodo News

About 16 million children and adults have been immunized against measles in North Korea in one of the fastest responses to a major outbreak of the disease, it was revealed Friday.

The mass vaccination was organized by the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and North Korea after the government asked for help in February.

According to the international organizations, the immunization campaign was done in two phases, with 6 million children aged 6 months to 15 years vaccinated last month and 10 million people aged 16 to 45 years immunized earlier this month.

The campaign was arranged following the appearance of several cases of measles in North Korea last November. By February this year two adults and two children had died and more than 3,600 had been infected.

Measles had not been reported in North Korea before this outbreak since 1992, according to a joint press release from the international organizations involved, and many health workers in the country were unfamiliar with the disease.

“This was a remarkable example of good cooperation between different organizations,” said Jaap Timmer, the International Federation’s head of delegation in North Korea.

“The Red Cross mobilized more than 15,000 of its volunteers to visit families and explain the importance and benefits of the vaccination campaign.”

Measles is spread by contact with fluid from an infected person’s nose or mouth and is highly contagious. Symptoms include fever and a rash.

Sending vaccines and syringes to North Korea cost about $6 million, the press release said.


Flags that hide the dirty truth

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Asia Times
Robert Neff

Many small countries in the world have resorted to unorthodox methods of obtaining much-needed currency. Although these methods may be legal, they often assist unscrupulous individuals and governments in conducting illegal activities. One popular method of obtaining cash is through flags of convenience (FOC). Countries, even land-locked ones, register other nations’ ships under their flag for a price.

It is a profitable industry that has no shortage of customers. Shipowners choose to register their ships under a foreign flag for a number of reasons, including tax advantages, cheap non-union crews, the ships’ conditions fail to meet the standards of the owner’s country, political reasons, or to facilitate illegal activities.

Because many of these ships often exchange flags and even their names, it is difficult to trace them, thus providing the anonymity they need to conduct their illegal operations. According to a statement by David Cockroft, general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF): “Arms smuggling, the ability to conceal large sums of money, trafficking in goods and people and other illegal activities can also thrive in the unregulated havens which the flag of convenience system provides.”

Flying the Cambodian flag
One of the most notorious FOC countries was Cambodia. In 1994, Cambodia established its own ship registry – Cambodian Shipping Corporation (CSC), based in Singapore – and began immediately flagging ships of other nations.

Although its beginnings were modest (only 16 foreign ships registered with Cambodia during the first year) the CSC rapidly expanded. According to CSC, prior to its closing in 2002, the number of ships registered with the company was between 400 and 600, but according to US investigators and Cambodian officials the number was probably twice that.

CSC offered basically what many other FOC countries offered: registry for any ship, no questions asked, under its (Cambodia’s) flag for a low price. But, unlike other FOC countries, it offered to do the entire process online and within 24 hours. Despite Cambodia’s relative lag in Internet technology, its operation in Singapore enabled CSC to pioneer online registration.

As more and more foreign ships registered with CSC, it soon became apparent that a large number of the ships were involved in illegal activities. Cigarette smuggling operations were discovered near Crete and Albania; during the oil embargo of Iraq, oil was smuggled out of that country; human trafficking and prostitution operations were discovered near Japan and Crete, and, of course, drug trafficking.

All of these activities were cause for concern and drew condemnation, but there was one more criminal activity that concerned many nations even more: allegations that many of the ships were running arms. “Cambodia is one of the highest-risk flags. It is particularly murky and has got to be one of the first choices if you are running arms,” a spokesman for ITF said.

When asked about CSC’s alleged illegal operations, Ahamd Yahya of the Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transport was reported to have told Fairplay: “We don’t know or care who owns the ships or whether they’re doing ‘white’ or ‘black’ business … it is not our concern.” (Fairplay, October 12, 2000.)

Unsafe ships
In addition to illicit activities, the condition of the ships themselves was a concern. According to an article in the Guardian of London, by 2002 the company had about 450 registered ships, and out of this number 25 had suffered shipwrecks/strandings, 41 collisions, nine fires and 45 arrests. Nine  ś% ¬’n-registered ships were deemed severely hazardous and banned from entering European ports.

By the summer of 2002, many of the leading shipping organizations were calling for action to be taken against CSC. A spokesman for ITF condemned CSC and Lloyds shipping intelligence service wrote in an opinion piece: “The world should join us in demanding that Cambodia shut down this sleazy and pestilent offshore registration. How many more people have to die in incidents involving Cambodian-flagged vessels, or its ships detained for illegal activities, before something is actually done about it?”

The North Korean connection
American and South Korean interests in CSC were aroused when it was observed that a large number of North Korean ships, at least a dozen according to Michael Richardson, journalist and author of A Time Bomb for Global Trade, were registered with CSC and flying the Cambodian flag.

It is no secret that the Cambodian royal family had, and still maintains, a close relationship with the North Korean regime. King Norodom Sihamoni has often spoken of the Kim regime in a favorable manner. Kim Il-sung provided him with asylum during the turbulent years of Cambodia’s past and even built him an extensive 60-room palace outside Pyongyang. When the royal family returned to Cambodia it was accompanied by North Korean diplomats and bodyguards.

North Korea’s involvement in Cambodia’s flag of convenience operation was suspected after an investigation revealed that one of the primary partners in CSC was Lim In-yong, a senior North Korean diplomat who had served in Cambodia for many years. His role with CSC was described as being that of “a private citizen, [and] not as a representative of the North Korean government”. Whether his role was purely that of an individual or of a more sinister nature is unclear. But the United States and several other countries became increasingly suspicious of North Korea and the company’s motives.

Among several charges of illegal operations by North Korean ships, one was drug smuggling. When it was suggested in the media that Cambodian-registered North Korean ships may have been involved in drug smuggling, CSC denied any knowledge.

Incidents of drug smuggling involving ships from other nations flagged by the company were apparent. In 2002, the Greek-owned, but Cambodian-registered Winner was seized by French forces and discovered to be smuggling a large amount of cocaine. Interestingly enough, Hun Sen, the prime minister of Cambodia, gave his permission to the French government to board the ship – an indication that he did not support CSC. A short time later he revoked CSC’s authority to grant registry to foreign ships.

Perhaps the most infamous North Korean drug smuggling operation took place in 2003. The North Korean freighter Pong-su began its journey from North Korea under its own flag, but on arriving in Singapore changed its registration and reflagged under Tuvulu. It then proceeded to Australia where it was discovered trying to smuggle in a large amount of heroin, and was eventually seized after it tried to resist Australian authorities. Although this incident did not involve a Cambodian-flagged ship, it does give some credence to speculation that North Korea had smuggled drugs using CSC-flagged ships.

Weapons smuggling
While North Korea’s attempts to gain badly needed hard currency by smuggling drugs and tobacco were of some concern to the United States, more important were allegations that North Korea was smuggling and selling advanced weapons technology to other nations.

“Of most concern to the US and indeed to South Korea was the clear evidence that North Korean freighters flying the Cambodian flag or on the Cambodian register were moving ballistic missiles to clients in the Middle East and Africa,” noted journalist Richardson.

Perhaps the best-known of these Cambodian-registered North Korean ships was the Song Sang. In November 2002, a freighter believed to be carrying weapons departed a North Korean port and was tracked by American satellites and American naval ships. In December, as it made its way through the Indian Ocean, it was stopped by American and Spanish naval forces and inspected.

The United States justified its actions by claiming that it was flying no flag and thus was considered a pirate ship. According to Richard Boucher, the State Department’s spokesman, “At first we couldn’t verify the nationality of the ship because the ship’s name and the indications on the hull and the funnel were obscured. It was flying no flag.”

On investigation it was found that the ship was the So San, which claimed to have Cambodian registry. The So San’s manifest stated it was transporting cement to Yemen, but an examination revealed 15 Scud missiles with 15 conventional warheads, 23 tanks of nitric acid rocket propellant and 85 drums of unidentified chemicals all hidden beneath the bags of cement.

It is believed that the North Koreans tried to disguise the ship (Song Sang) by painting over the last two letters in the first name and the final letter in the second name (So San) to help prevent identification. The ship was eventually allowed to continue on its course after it was determined that it had broken no laws.

World criticism
Following the World Trade Center and other terrorist attacks, world opinion began to force the Cambodian government to reconsider its policy of allowing CSC to flag ships at will. The Cambodian government felt compelled to take action before one of the ships under its flag was found guilty of terrorist activity.

“We are victims because the company recklessly allows ships to use the Cambodian flag without proper inspection or control,” said Hor Namhong, the foreign minister, adding: “The company will be audited by the government.”

In July 2002, bowing to international criticism over concern for “Cambodia’s maritime safety record”, the Cambodian government revoked CSC’s authority to grant registrations, giving that authority to the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation. Ironically, it was this ministry that had just two years earlier declared disinterest into the alleged illegal activities of ships registered under its flag.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation was only in control of the registry for about six months before the Cambodian government granted the authority to register and flag ships to a new company, International Ship Registry of Cambodia, and its representatives in Busan, South Korea. According to e-mail correspondence from the company’s managing director, Charles Bach, to New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher, there are no longer any North Korean ships registered under the Cambodian flag.

But Marcus Hand, the Asian editor for Lloyd’s List, explained how difficult it is to know for certain who owns what ship because so many of them are owned by different companies registered throughout the world and only the North Koreans themselves know how many ships they own and what flag they fly.

Not only does North Korea purchase flags of convenience, it also sells them for nearly three times the normal asking price. According to ITF in 2006, out of 408 North Korean-flagged ships, only 187 of them were actually owned by North Korea; the rest were owned by other nations including Cambodia, Tonga, Comoros and Sao Tome and Principe – nations that are infamous for their own flags of convenience.

Prior to the United Nations Security Council’s resolution following North Korea’s nuclear test in October 2006, some of the ships registered to North Korea may have done so to avoid inspection while they carried out illegal activities.

There is some question as to the number of ships that were owned by United States-based companies and registered and flagged under North Korea. According to the American Central Intelligence Agency’s Fact Book, there were three, but Bill Gertz, in an article published with The Washington Times (June 8, 2006), listed nine ships owned by foreign companies, such as Egypt and Syria, based in Delaware, United States. One of these ships was discovered in March 2006 engaged in smuggling migrants off the coast of Europe. Under sanctions that went into effect in May 2006, the companies were required to cancel their registrations with North Korea and seek new registrations with other countries.

The new threat
With the CSC no longer able to grant registrations and Cambodia and South Korea’s progressively warmer relationship, North Korea has been forced to look elsewhere to register its ships. According to The Straits Times, at least 40 nations in the world engage in flags of convenience; many of them willing to flag North Korean ships for a price. North Korea does business with several of them, but a surprising replacement for Cambodia has apparently been found – Mongolia, a land-locked nation.

However, following North Korea’s nuclear test in October of last year, Mongolia’s Ship Registry has urged ships under its flag to abide by the United Nations resolution against North Korea. It is unclear what effect this has had on North Korean ships registered with Mongolia.

In addition to the North Korean threat of nuclear weapons, it has been speculated that North Korea may have the ability to launch modified missiles from its submarines and cargo ships. North Korean-flagged ships would be more susceptible to being stopped and searched by United Nations forces, but ships under FOC might pass unnoticed through surveillance and pose a significant threat to the enemies of the Pyongyang government and to the reputations of the governments which flagged them.


North Korea Does Not Have a Sex Problem?

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Daily NK
Yang Jung A

North Korea does not have a sex problem = North Korea, until 1980s, was not open about sex. A conservative aspect remained in their consciousness and under the socialist setup that emphasized rules, the problem of sex was not an important topic in everyday life. But recently, with exposure to much information from the outside world, a freer atmosphere regarding the issue of sex has been forming. However, North Korean women cannot be free in the midst of sex-related violence.

Ahn Mi Ran said women who go around the provinces alone for trade become targets of men’s sex crimes as well.


Kim Young Soon (23)—defected in 2003, withdrew from Pyongyang High-Tech University
Ahn Mi Ran (43) – defected in 2003, born in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung, escaped organ sales
Che Kyung Ja (35)—defected in 1997, born in Hamheung, South Hamkyung, married Korean-Chinese husband
Lee Eun Hee (39)-defected in 2000, born in Shinuiju North Pyongan, worked as a “runner” (broker)
Kang Soon Nhuh (40) – defected in 2002, born in Hyesan Yangkang, escaped organ sales

”One woman I knew worked as a runner from Pyongyang to Hamheung. According to her, women who ride trains experience a lot of incidents. Trains stop often and become delayed, so women frequently stay on the trains until the middle of the night, but there are no electric lights. So men come up to women who are around 50 years old and grope their bodies. When this became chronic, women just accepted this as how things were. When she told her husband, he told her to stop immediately, but there was no way to live if she did not trade, so she still runs. Women who run have to prepare themselves for such incidents.”

Particularly, if these problems become publicly known, it impacts the women’s entrance to the Labor Party. Kang Soon Nyuh explained, “If women become admitted, they can become big leaders, so there are a lot of women who want to enter. If women stay at home, they get entangled with the Union of Democratic Women, which is exhausting. But they do not touch women who are admitted to the party for the most part.”

”But women, upon entrance, have to submit their bodies to the leaders. If women are admitted, it automatically means these women have undergone such incidences. After returning from the Army, they become automatically admitted. This is standard. It has become such a prevalent incidence, that anybody will acknowledge this.”

In North Korea, sex trade is prohibited in principle, but after the severe food shortage in mid-1990s, this practice has seriously spread, centering on stations in big cities. Prostitution can be the utmost survival method that women can select.

Lee Eun Hee said, “If you go to the Pyongyang station, old women will approach men and ask if they will not take up standby lodging. Standby lodging, in one word, means
homestay. Men, if they are interested, will point to a woman standing on the platform and inform, “this one for 10,000 won and that one for 25,000 won. Women are not gathered in one place, but stand scattered between people. The price is based on appearance and age, in that order. If the man selects a woman, they go together.”

She added, “Among these women, vagabonds are included. In the starvation period, there were news that female college students would go out to the streets to sell themselves.”

Additionally, secondary problems resulting from improper teaching of sex education is not insignificant. North Korean teenagers are hardly receiving what can be called, “sex education.” Female students are taught in applied subjects about women’s hygiene, health, and raising a baby, but male-female relationships are not taught.

Kim Young Soon heard a college friend’s petition one day, “Comrade, can you help me get rid of a baby?” In a North Korean college, if the pregnancy is revealed, the student is kicked out of school. But Ms. Kim did not know what to do because she had not yet received such an education.

“Chosun women have not received education even once since their birth. There are no contraceptives and they have not even heard of a condom. I went to the neighborhood clinic and gave the doctor the value of a cigarette and pleaded. Finally, I was referred to an obstetrician at the district’s hospital. But even there, you have to give money under the table to the doctor. Hospitals do not even give food, so we had to bring rice ourselves. After paying 30,000 won, my friend was able to safely undergo the surgery.”

“The doctor said many women receive such surgeries. But some women do not even have money and are ashamed, so they do not go the hospital but damage their bodies while using folk remedies. Chosun women do not have such an education, so they hear from their mothers to drink eggs diluted in vinegar or to fall from a precipice to abort the baby. The doctor said never to try such means, because of the damage to the body. But even at the hospital, you have to give adequate money to receive comfortable treatment.”


“Discrimination Based on Money is Worse Than Gender Discrimination”

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Daily NK
Yang Jung A

Daily NK, through in-depth interviews with five female defectors residing in China, got a glimpse of the lives of North Korean women. These are women who defected as early as 10 years ago and as late as the end of last year.

From 1997 to 2006, a 10-year range, these women who crossed the Tumen River testified that “in Chosun (North Korea), women’s lives have been completely broken down.”

Despite the fact that women lead the significant economic role of overseeing over 90 percent of the family’s livelihood, they have to suffer unfair treatment in the family. But since year 2000, women’s lives have undergone many partial changes.


– Kim Young Soon (23)—defected in 2003, withdrew from Pyongyang High-Tech University
– Ahn Mi Ran (43) – defected in 2003, born in Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung, escaped organ sales
– Che Kyung Ja (35)—defected in 1997, born in Hamheung, South Hamkyung, married Korean-Chinese husband
– Lee Eun Hee (39)-defected in 2000, born in Shinuiju North Pyongan, worked as a “runner” (broker)
– Kang Soon Nhuh (40) – defected in 2002, born in Hyesan Yangkang, escaped organ sales

◆ Money decides the lives of North Korean women = The standard that classifies the quality of women’s lives in North Korea is of course money. Even though North Korea is a figurehead “socialist country,” the widening income gap between each citizen strips away such an appearance.

If the Party and the high-ranked military leaders who receive a generous provision from the North Korean administration or the up and coming wealthy people, who were able to increase their money through trade, belonged to the upper class, a majority of citizens who depend on provisions or small-scale jangmadang (market) sales are in a situation of having to be content with three meals.

Kim Young Soon, who was exposed to many friends with upper-class parents at Pyongyang High-Tech University, said, “There was a daughter of the Party’s high-ranked leader in our class who, before coming to our school, was isolated from regular people and did not know the reality of North Korea very well. She thought most people lived like her.”

The daily life of North Korea’s high-ranked, which Ms. Kim relayed, is entirely different from the reality we know. She inserted, “On one hand, I was angry, but amazed, too. In North Korea, the difference between standards of living is bigger than gender discrimination. I cried a lot during my college years.”

”That friend thought everything was according to what she knew, so she would say whatever she wanted to say without reservation. When she went home, she mixed honey, milk powder, and egg yolk to massage her face. She told us stories which were hard for me to understand, such as daily applying a face whitening cream which cost 6,000 won each.”

”Every Sunday, she would go to a private house with her mother and receive facial massage, a rubdown, and a straight perm. She said that she would eat strawberries in the middle of winter and keep ice cream bought from the foreign market in the refrigerator so she could eat it whenever she wanted. She also told us to eat pig feet to soften the skin. (Laughter) From umbrellas to boots to clothes, she used all foreign goods. She bragged that her mother bought a Korea-made mixer. Before, Japanese-made products were used a lot, but now, they use a lot of Korean-made goods, too.”

The standard of living of North Korean upper-class female students, which she relayed, was an extent even shocking to the reporter. “The children of the leaders even get double eye-lid surgery and nose jobs and braces for their teeth. They use all Korea-made make-up. They do not tell us where they got these goods, but I heard in passing that they purchase them illegally. If you use good make-up, your face definitely becomes prettier. Among these students, there was even the unwritten law that they not use products below a certain price.”

She said that upper-class students are not content with their current wealth and fervently hunt for a husband in order to participate in an even higher economic rank.

“Men who pursued them were sons of foreign exchange stores or university chancellors. They showed me the presents that these men gave, such as leather-bound books and dolls. I asked, “you must be so happy,” to which she replied, “I want to live with a man who is better-off than me.” I asked further, “is this not sufficient to marry him?” and she said, “at this level, I am bound to envy those who are wealthier. I came to college so that I can marry better with my diploma. I want to live abroad.”

Compared to that, school life for Ms. Kim, whose parents farmed in the countryside, were tear-filled. She told us, “My parents would send 40,000 won each time from the village, but after paying for books and school fees and meals, I would run out of money. College students cannot think about earning money, because they are restrained by a fixed schedule. However I ended up splitting the money that my parents sent, I could not help but spend it.”

”In college, it was most difficult because of socks. Female students had to wear skirts, but each pair of stocking cost 2,000 won. Even if there are holes, I could not conceive buying a new one, so I wore it stitched up or turned inside out. For shoes, I wore pitiful ones from China and even recycled that. I like ice-cream, but because expensive ice-cream is sweet and makes you want to eat it over and over, I would buy 50 won ones that had saccharine added to ice when I had a craving.”

Of these factors, the thing that was most unbearable for her was not ability or performance but the climate of North Korean colleges that one can only earn recognition with money and power. “When exam period came, I studied to death to earn a perfect score. But the daughter of a Party’s leader had a mediocre result on the test, but would receive a perfect score after offering a bribe worth a pack of cigarettes. I could not stand it,” she expressed with vexation.

On one hand, Lee Eun Hee, who said she visited Pyongyang many times to do business, explained, “Pyongyang does not just have well-to-do people. The wealthiness of the Party area where party leaders live is a well-known fact, but in the neighborhoods of Sunkyogu or Daesunggu which are made up of single-story houses, most people get by from what they make daily.”

Ms. Lee equivocated, “In one of the families I knew, the husband was not working while trying to find a job and the wife was in charge of the home. They could not even receive provisions, so they tried to sustain their livelihoods through jangmadang sales, but it was difficult to even earn 3000 won per day. They had one rice meal a day and the rest, noodles. In that neighborhood, everyone’s situation was about the same, so not even a single family had color TV. Our youngest daughter was in the 3rd grade in high school and always chanted words of hunger. Her father cooked the remainder of the dog meat that the next door neighbor left behind and when I saw them devouring that…”

Kim Young Soon, who went to help out at a farm in the Yellow Sea region during college, gave all her clothes upon seeing the miserable situation in the country. “They lived in dilapidated shacks eating corn soup. I closed my eyes seeing people live this way in a region that is famous for being the production center for rice. After farming, all provisions would run out after a month or two due to material costs and military rations. They could not even go to trade anywhere and had to live in starvation.”

Because it is such an extremely poor environment, women’s lives cannot even be talked about. “People in the countryside do not even know the word shampoo. When we washed our hair, they would ask us what it is. Because soap is expensive, they would pour lye into sardine oil to make their own soap. When you do laundry with that, your entire clothes smell like sardines. They wash their face with that kind of soap.”

Ms. Kim said regretfully, “On the other hand, friends who live well use shampoo-and- conditioner-in-one which is made in Japan. Nowadays, they say they usually use Korean shampoo. If they wash hair with that, the scent lasts long…” (continued)


Inter-Korean economic talks get off to shaky start

Thursday, April 19th, 2007


South and North Korea on Thursday discussed a range of economic issues, including food aid, at a belated session of talks after the North withdrew preconditions for the formal opening, pool reports said.

But the plenary session, which took place about eight hours later than scheduled, did not appear to go smoothly as Chu Dong-chan, chief of the North Korean delegation, left the conference room, slamming the door shut behind him, just half an hour after the start of the meeting.

“Both sides delivered their position to each other during the meeting. We have to be engaged in further discussion, but the situation is not that good,” Chin Dong-soo, chief of the South Korean delegation, was quoted as saying by reports from Pyongyang, the venue of the talks.

The session was supposed to be held at 10 a.m., but failed to materialize because the North abruptly demanded to exchange keynote speech texts prior to the meeting.

The North also called for seeing a draft of a written agreement on the South’s provision of rice aid, as well as a draft of the joint press statement to be issued at the end of the four-day talks.

But the South rejected all of the requests, calling them “unprecedented” and “unproductive.”

Instead, they started the closed-door plenary session at 5:30 p.m., and the keynote speech texts were exchanged just before the session in the same manner as in previous meetings, a South Korean delegate was quoted as saying.

“Let’s work hard together and come up with good results for the Korean people,” Chu said in his opening remarks.

Chin echoed his view, saying, “Let’s pool efforts to make the talks benefit us mutually and become a stepping-stone on the path of joint prosperity.” The South is scheduled to hold a press briefing in Pyongyang to explain what they discussed during the meeting later Thursday.

South Korea was to call upon North Korea to fulfill its promise to shut down its main nuclear reactor at the earliest possible time.

According to South Korea’s keynote speech text obtained by pool reporters, Vice Finance Minister Chin was to call for the North’s immediate action on the denuclearization process.

“The quick implementation of the Feb. 13 agreement is a shortcut to draw firm international support for inter-Korean economic cooperation,” the text said.

South Korea was also to propose to conduct test runs of reconnected cross-border railways sometime in May, according to the reports. The two sides are scheduled to hold a series of negotiations until Saturday, the last day of the four-day meeting.

“The overland transportation of economic cooperation goods will be offered in consideration of the high cost of logistics from maritime transportation,” a South Korean delegate said, asking to remain anonymous.

The two Koreas will also address the North’s request for 400,000 tons of rice in the form of a loan. South Korea is likely to accept the request unless the situation surrounding the North’s nuclear reactor shutdown gets worse.

Shortly after the North conducted missile tests in July, the South suspended food and fertilizer aid. But fertilizer aid was resumed in late March, a few weeks after the two sides agreed to repair their strained ties.

The inter-Korean dialogue came just days after the communist nation failed to meet a Saturday deadline to shut down and seal its nuclear facilities under a landmark six-nation agreement signed in Beijing in February.

Last Friday, North Korea said it would take first steps toward nuclear dismantlement as soon as it confirms the release of its funds frozen in a Macau bank since September 2005.

Macau’s financial authorities unblocked the North’s US$25 million in the Banco Delta Asia, but the deadline passed with no word from the North on whether it has confirmed the release of the funds or when it will start implementing the initial steps.

In the February accord, North Korea pledged to shut down its main nuclear reactor and allow U.N. inspectors back into the country within 60 days. In return, North Korea would receive aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from South Korea.

The U.S. promised to resolve the financial issue within 30 days, but it failed to do so because of technical complications.

Meanwhile, during a luncheon meeting with South Korean delegates, Chu flatly denied that North Korea is considering sending back the USS Pueblo to the United States.

“Return? Why do we return such an important thing?” Chu said when asked about press reports on the possible repatriation of the warship.

The USS Pueblo, docked on the bank of the Taedong River in Pyongyang, is used to stoke anti-American feeling among the North Korean public. It was seized on an intelligence-gathering mission off North Korea’s east coast in 1968.

On Wednesday, U.S. Republican Sen. Wayne Allard introduced a resolution demanding that North Korea return the Pueblo in exchange for a Korean battle flag captured in the 19th century and now on display at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland.

South and North Korea had already expressed their commitment to carry out what they had already agreed upon at the latest ministerial meeting held in March. The Koreas agreed to discuss food aid and schedules for test runs of cross-border trains as part of efforts to expand economic cooperation for the sake of joint prosperity.

“Let’s implement already agreed-upon issues, overcome barriers bravely and advance grandly as united people,” Kwon Ho-ung, chief councilor of the North Korean cabinet, said in a welcoming speech during the reception for the South Korean delegation Wednesday evening.

In response, Chin stressed that the two sides should upgrade their economic ties. “I expect that the meeting will actualize and develop economic cooperation,” he said.

The six-member South Korean delegation arrived in Pyongyang Wednesday afternoon on a direct flight from Gimpo Airport. The delegates attended a banquet hosted by Kwon, following a brief meeting with their North Korean counterparts.

Also high on the agenda are test runs of the cross-border railways in the first half of this year, and the implementation of an economic accord in which South Korea was supposed to provide raw materials in exchange for the North’s natural resources.

North Korea abruptly called off scheduled test runs of the railways in May under apparent pressure from its hard-line military. The cancellation also led to the mothballing of the economic accord. North Korea’s subsequent missile and nuclear weapons tests further clouded hopes of implementing the agreement.

The tracks, one line cutting across the western section of the border and the other crossing through the eastern side, were completed and set to undergo test runs. A set of parallel roads has been in use since 2005 for South Koreans traveling to the North.

South Korea has repeatedly called on North Korea to provide a security guarantee for the operation of the railways, but the North has yet to respond on the issue.

The reconnection of the severed train lines was one of the tangible inter-Korean rapprochement projects agreed upon following the historic summit between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

In 2005, South Korea agreed to provide the North with $80 million worth of raw materials to help it produce clothing, footwear and soap starting in 2006. In return, the North was to provide the South with minerals, such as zinc and magnesite, after mines were developed with South Korean investments guaranteed by Pyongyang.