Archive for August, 2007

The Forgotten Victims of the North Korean Crisis

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Japan Focus
Tessa Morris-Suzuki

As the slow and difficult negotiations on North Korean denuclearisation unfold, one small group of a hundred people or so in Japan are watching proceedings with a unique personal interest. Some are Japanese, others ethnic Koreans. All are survivors of one of the modern world’s most bizarre, tragic and utterly forgotten “humanitarian” projects.

Between 1959 and 1984, these few were among the 93,340 people who migrated from Japan to North Korea in search of a new and better life. There were several particularly ironic features of this migration. First, it took place precisely at the time of Japan’s “economic miracle”. Secondly, although it was described as a “repatriation”, almost all those who “returned” to North Korea originally came from the south of the Korean peninsula, and many had been born and lived all their lives in Japan. Third, the glowing images of life which tempted them to Kim Il Sung’s “worker’s paradise” came, not just from the North Korean propaganda machine but from the Japanese mainstream media, supported and encouraged by politicians including key members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

After decades in North Korea, around one hundred migrants have now escaped the harsh realities of life there, and made the perilous return journey back to Japan. Other survivors of the same project who managed to escape have settled in South Korea.

The story of their migration has been almost entirely unheard by the rest of the world. But it urgently needs to be heard, not least because it involves an injustice that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, and is still causing the deaths and untold suffering today. The history of this migration also reveals the complexity of postwar Japan’s connections with North Korea: and without understanding this, it is impossible fully to understand the impasse which their relations have now reached.

As secret documents from the Cold War era are declassified and testimony from survivors emerges, the true story of this mass movement is now starting to emerge for the first time. We now know that it was the product of a deliberate policy, very carefully designed and implemented at the height of the Cold War by the North Korean and Japanese governments often working in concert, and supported in various ways by the Soviet Union, the United States and the International Red Cross movement. It is a history that sheds important light on the complex background to Northeast Asia’s contemporary conflicts. It also evokes chilling echoes of other coerced or manipulated migrations, including the repatriation of Eastern Europeans to the Soviet Union and other Communist countries in the immediate post-war era.

The story starts in the mid-1950s at the height of the Cold War. Some 600,000 Koreans were living in Japan, most having migrated to Japan from the southern part of the Korean Peninsula during the colonial period (1910-1945). Having been unilaterally designated “foreigners” by the Japanese government, they had no legal right to permanent residence and faced continual discrimination, prejudice and poverty. South Korea was then an impoverished nation under the authoritarian rule of Yi Seung-Man (Syngman Rhee) and had no interest in taking them back.

The newly released records show that from 1955 onwards, some Japanese bureaucrats and politicians (notably members of the ruling party then and now) began to develop strategies to encourage Koreans in Japan to “return” instead to North Korea. Knowing that this was a politically explosive issue, they tried to keep their role in the scheme covert and to ensure that the exodus was carried out under the auspices of the neutral and humanitarian Red Cross. However, as a leading Japanese Red Cross official put it, his government’s real aim was “to rid itself of several tens of thousands of Koreans who are indigent and vaguely communist”.

Via their national Red Cross Societies, Japan made secret contact with North Korea in 1956 and 1957, urging its government to accept a substantial influx of Koreans from Japan. The Japanese government and Japan Red Cross officials placed intense pressure on the International Committee of the Red Cross to lend its name and support to a mass “repatriation”, thus enabling the scheme to be presented to the world as an apolitical, humanitarian venture. To this end, they provided the international body with some highly questionable information.

Meanwhile, the limited welfare payments available to Koreans in Japan were being drastically slashed – a measure that must surely have made the prospect of life in communist North Korea look more appealing. At the same time, the Japanese Red Cross was engaged in a secret search for ships to carry out the project.

At first, the North Korean response to the proposal was cool. It was happy to accept a small number of “true believers”, but it was having enough problems feeding its own people in the wake of the Korean-US War without accepting a mass inflow of immigrants. In 1958, however, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung dramatically changed course. Apparently seeing the scheme as a valuable source of skilled labor, and as an international propaganda coup which might damage Japan’s relations with South Korea and the US, he issued a public welcome to ethnic Koreans from Japan, promising them housing, jobs, education and welfare.

Immediately, propaganda campaigns began to sweep through Japan’s Korean community, orchestrated by a local pro-North Korean organization, but amplified by a flood of articles in the Japanese mass media. A special “Repatriation Cooperation Society”, involving politicians from across Japan’s political spectrum, was set up to distribute information encouraging Koreans to “return” to North Korea. Leading members included former Prime Minister Hatoyama Ichiro and prominent ruling-party politician Koizumi Junya (whose son Koizumi Junichiro was to become Prime Minister in 2001).

Another troubling aspect revealed by declassified documents is the United States attitude toward the scheme. The US State Department was at that time focussed on renegotiating its all-important security treaty with Japan, a process for which it relied on the enthusiastic cooperation of Japanese Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke (grandfather of the present Japanese Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo).

The US appears to have been unaware of the secret contacts between Japan and North Korea in 1956 and 1957. When it first became aware of the repatriation plan a couple of years later, the Eisenhower administration regarded it with concern. But once the Japanese and North Korean Red Cross Societies reached an agreement on a mass “return” in mid-1959, the Eisenhower administration did not take any practical steps to halt the unfolding tragedy.

US Ambassador in Tokyo Douglas MacArthur II (who played a key role on the US side) told his Australian counterpart in 1959 that the “American Embassy had checked Japanese opinion and found it was almost unanimously in favour of ‘getting rid of the Koreans'”. At this sensitive moment in US-Japan relations, the State Department was clearly cautious of intervening in a scheme that was an obvious vote-winner for the Kishi regime. Besides, MacArthur personally sympathised with the public emotion, commenting (as the Australian Ambassador at the time reported) that “he himself can scarcely criticize the Japanese for this as the Koreans left in Japan are a poor lot including many Communists and many criminals.”

In fact, although some were doubtless ideologically committed to the Kim Il Sung regime, those who “returned” to North Korea included tens of thousands of people whose only dream was a better future for themselves and their families: people who included entrepreneurs, technicians and university lecturers as well as the poor and unemployed. While most were ethnic Koreans, their number also included over 6,000 Japanese nationals (mostly spouses of Korean men). Many thousands, of course, were children.

The International Red Cross “confirmation of free will”, which was set in place to guarantee to the world that this was a voluntary migration, proved (despite the best intentions of some of those involved) to be little more than a public ritual, too poorly-staffed, lacking the necessary information, and carried out too late in the day to have its intended effect.

Testimony from the small number of former “returnees” who have recently slipped across the border out of North Korea recalls the shock they felt on first arriving and realising the desperate poverty of the country to which they had come. Their plight was made worse some years after the start of the “repatriation”, when the North Korean government began to regard “returnees” from Japan with growing suspicion and prejudice. Thousands were sent to labour camps. Of these, many were never heard from again.

Today in Japan, relatives of those who “returned” to North Korea in the Cold War years watch the difficult process of nuclear diplomacy quietly but with intense concern. The support they send through unreliable communications channels is often the only means of survival for family members left behind in North Korea. While the story of the Japanese kidnap victims of North Korea has dominated news headlines, this tragic story of the 93,340 who were “returned” remains little known, and hostility to North Korea (as well as fears for the fate of relatives in the North) makes it difficult for the small group of survivors now living in Japan to raise their voices. Fears of a mass “re-return” of the ethnic Koreans who left under the repatriation scheme is also a little-discussed factor at work in Japanese government calculations on its relationship with North Korea.

The slow process of dialogue that began at the Six Party Talks in Beijing holds out a faint ray of hope for the future of these divided families. In the meanwhile, it is surely time for their story finally to be told.

Video Here:

Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor of Japanese History and Convenor of the Division of Pacific and Asian History in the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University. Her book Exodus to North Korea: Shadows from Japan’s Cold War will be published next month at Rowman and Littlefield. Contact e-mail: [email protected].


N. Korean leader’s estranged son visits Pyongyang twice this year

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007


The oldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who is living abroad after reportedly falling out of favor with his father due to his wayward lifestyle, has visited Pyongyang twice this year, informed sources said Tuesday.

But they downplayed the possibility that Kim Jong-nam, 36, has started working for North Korea’s ruling party, an indication of vying for succession to the North Korean leader.

Jong-nam humiliated his father and the country when he was expelled from Japan in 2001 while trying to enter the country on a forged passport. The junior Kim at that time told Japanese police that he was trying to visit an amusement park outside Tokyo.

“We think that there is a slim chance that Kim Jong-nam is working for the ruling Workers’ Party after he returned to Pyongyang. As he is staying in China, he has visited Pyongyang several times a year since 2003,” an intelligence source said, asking to remain anonymous. The source added Kim visited Pyongyang in April and July this year.

Kim Jong-il is known to have three sons from two relationships.

Jong-nam’s birth resulted from his father’s unofficial relationship with Sung Hae-rim, an actress who died in Moscow several years ago.

The leader is reported to have taken second son Jong-chul, 25, and third son Jong-un, 23, on a series of military inspections to ascertain who performed best. The mother of Jong-chol and Jong-un is Ko Yong-hi, who died of heart failure in 2004.

“Currently, there is no succession system in North Korea. His three sons, who have no official job titles, all have opportunities, but Ko’s two sons have an advantage as they accompany Kim to field inspections,” a North Korea expert said, asking to remain anonymous.

The North Korean leader, who turned 65 this year, succeeded the communist country’s founding leader Kim Il-sung in 1994 after the elder Kim died of heart failure, the first hereditary succession of power in a communist state. He was officially named the successor of Kim Il-sung in 1980 even though he had been known as the heir apparent since 1974.

He officially took over his father’s position in 1997 and since then has ruled the country under a military-first policy. Although there has been speculation about his possible health problems, including diabetes and kidney and liver problems, the North Korean leader has yet to name a successor, at least in public.

Some observers suggest that after Kim’s death, a collective leadership of military figures might take charge, ending the Kim family’s dynastic power over the impoverished communist state and paving the way for it to abandon its nuclear weapons program and open up to the rest of the world.


Chinese Firm to Open Plant in Gaesong

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Korea Times
Ryu Jin

A Chinese company is going to be the first foreign enterprise to do business in the inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong, according to the Korea Land Corporation (KLC) Tuesday.

KLC officials said that Dashing Diva, the South Korean branch of Chinese artificial nail manufacturer Tianjin Jci Cosmetic, signed a contract to purchase a 6,000-square-meter lot in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex.

It marks the first time that a foreign company has bought a site in the inter-Korean joint venture, where about 15,000 North Korean workers commute to factories owned and operated by South Koreans.

While the first-phase pilot site has so far been occupied only by South Korean firms, the KLC designated a portion of land in Gaeseong for foreign businesses to boost the industrial complex’s international image and put the lots on sale in June.

Despite the South Korean government’s efforts to lure foreign investment there, no firms had come from outside the country until recently. Multinational sanitary goods maker Kimberly-Clark has also visited the complex to discuss investment there.

Located just north of the border, the Gaeseong Industrial Complex is a flagship project signifying reconciliation between the two Koreas, which remain still technically at war after a fratricidal conflict more than half a century ago.

Despite potential risks stemming from political uncertainty, the special zone has an inescapable economic logic: cheap labor and land of the North combined with the capital and technology of the South.

Gaeseong upbeat with foreign entrants
Korea Herald
Kim Yoon-mi
The recent submissions of applications by two Chinese companies hoping to build factories in the Gaeseong industrial park in North Korea have further brightened the outlook on the joint economic project between the two Koreas, industry sources said yesterday.

South Korean government agency, The Korea Land Corp., said both a Chinese artificial fingernail manufacturer and a plywood producer submitted documents on July 30 in hopes of securing 6,000 square meters and 29,000 square meters of land, respectively, at the Gaeseong industrial park.

The Korea Land Corp. rents land in Gaeseong to individual South Korean or foreign companies under 50-year leases. The company had initially announced in late May that there were six applications available for foreign companies for 1,750,000 square meters of land in Gaeseong. No foreign applications were received until the two Chinese companies submitted their applications in July, according to an official at Korea Land Corp., who declined to be named.

“For foreign companies to build factories in Gaeseong, they should establish entities in South Korea. So, we are waiting for the two Chinese companies to finish that procedure first,” the official said.

The contract with the two companies is expected to be completed late this month, the official said.

Experts say Chinese manufacturers may have decided to move factories to North Korea because China’s rapid economic growth is raising wages and prices.

Currently, an average North Korean employed by any one of the 26 South Korean companies operating in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex earns $60.37 per month.

There have been unconfirmed news reports that the U.S. paper-based consumer product maker Kimberly-Clark Corp. may try to invest in the North Korean city.

Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Falk earlier hinted that the company would be interested in investing in Gaeseong, after he visited the North Korean city in late February.

“Gaeseong industrial part has the best environment (skilled labor) and facilities for South Korean SMEs to step forward…. Kimberly-Clark will be very interested in investment (in Gaeseong),” he was quoted as saying by the local daily, Maeil Business, on March 1.

The unnamed official from The Korea Land Corp. said he could not comment on the Kimberly-Clark proposition because he is not at liberty to discuss which foreign companies are in contact with his company.

However, the official said many foreign companies have contacted the Korea Land Corp., inquiring about going into North Korea.

The entry of foreign companies into Gaeseong will clearly be a boon for Hyundai Asan, the South Korean operator of major business projects in North Korea, the company’s officials said. This good news comes in light of a second summit between the two Koreas, another upbeat announcement for the park, Hyundai Asan officials said.

Hyundai Asan is in charge of the construction of factories in Gaeseong industrial park and operates South Korea’s tour business to Mount Geumgang resort in North Korea.

The Gaeseong industrial park, near the border with South Korea, was established in 2000 following the first landmark summit between South Korea’s then-President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Chinese want some Kaesong action
Joong Ang Daily


Two small Chinese light-industry companies have applied to build factories in an industrial complex in North Korea where South Korean companies are invested, a South Korean state land developer said on Saturday.

The Korea Land Corp. said a Chinese cosmetics manufacturer and a plywood firm submitted documents on June 30 requesting 6,000 and 2,000 square meters of land respectively in the Kaesong Industrial Complex near Kaesong, a North Korean city close to the border with South Korea.

It is the first time that foreign companies have applied to build plants at the complex where 26 South Korean labor-intensive companies are currently operating with a North Korean workforce of 15,000.

By 2012, it’s anticipated the complex will have several hundred South Korean plants employing as many as 500,000 North Koreans. South Korea is responsible for water, electricity and other infrastructure at the complex which opened three years ago.

The complex is a much-vaunted achievement of the first-ever inter-Korean summit of leaders in 2000 in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. The second-ever summit of Korean leaders is scheduled to begin on Aug 28, also in Pyongyang.


Juche (Self-Reliance) on Translation

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Korea Times
Andrei Lankov

Many people know that the official North Korean ideology is called “juche.” But what exactly does this term mean? Furthermore, when and how did it develop?

If we look at a reference book, we will probably come across a statement like “juche or self-reliance, the official ideology of North Korea, was first promulgated by Kim Il-sung in 1955.” While not completely wrong, this definition needs a lot of qualifications.

Indeed, December 1955 was the first instance of Kim Il-sung mentioning the term “juche.” North Korean publications remain vague to this day in describing exactly who Kim Il-sung addressed with his “juche speech,” but contemporaneous Soviet materials seemingly indicate that this was not just a meeting of “Party propaganda workers”, but a gathering of the KWP high-level functionaries who came to listen to Kim’s denunciations of the country’s excessive dependence on the Soviet models in culture and ideology.

However, the “juche speech” can be seen as a starting point in the history of the term only with some major caveats. The 1955 speech remained secret for the next few years, but it was distributed among party cadres, including journalists. Having scrutinized the North Korean newspapers from that period in depth, and being acquainted with the text of the speech, I have seen a number of hidden quotations circa 1956. However, the word `juche’ did not feature prominently in these quotations. In fact, it was hardly mentioned at all. For the journalists and propagandists, the key words of Kim’s speech were `dogmatism’ and `formalism’ which hinted at the excessive use of foreign, that is to say Soviet and Chinese, methods. In 1956 or 1957 nobody, including probably Kim Il Sung himself, thought that juche was going to become the name of the country’s official secular faith.

And what does `juche’ mean? Contrary to the commonly repeated idea, it has nothing to do with `self-reliance’. Juche is a Sino-Korean word, a combination of two Chinese characters that are used in all languages of the region. It means `subject’ or `one’s own identity’. When it was first used in 1955, Kim Il Sung meant that Koreans must assert their identity more aggressively against foreign pressures.

If so, where did the descriptive pseudo-translation of `self-reliance’ come from? In the early 1960s juche began to be re-defined as North Korea’s (or Kim Il-sung’s) own ideology. This happened against the backdrop of the growing Sino-Soviet split. Facing two quarrelling giants, North Korean began to advance its own brand of Marxism-Leninism, one that was allegedly superior to both the Soviet “revisionist” and Chinese “dogmatist” interpretations. At this stage juche was still interpreted as a local form of Marxism, or as a “creative application of the eternal truth of Marxism-Leninism to the North Korean reality.” Thus, juche began to acquire new dimensions and meanings.

This process culminated in April 1965 when Kim Il Sung delivered a lengthy speech in Indonesia. This speech was the first attempt to present the juche idea as a coherent ideology of worldwide significance. At that stage, it mostly targeted Third World countries. Kim Il Sung stressed that juche implied “independence in politics, self-reliance in the economy, self-defence in the military.” Hence, it was from that broadened understanding that the now commonly used “translation” of juche as “self-reliance” probably originated.

However, juche is more than self-reliance. In fact, it has much greater connotations with nationalism, and in later years when economic self-reliance, once much trumpeted in Pyongyang, went out of fashion, the nationalistic essence of juche became even more visible.

In 1972, juche acquired formal standing as the country’s official ideology. Article 4 of the new Constitution mentioned it alongside Marxism-Leninism as the `guiding ideology’ of the DPRK. Marxism survived _ not least due to diplomatic considerations. An open demotion of Marxism-Leninism would definitely trigger serious friction with fellow Communist countries, and thus Marxism temporarily lived on as an appendix to the North Korean state. Only in 1992, after the demise of the Communist bloc, was the reference to Marxism dropped, and juche remained the sole ideological foundation of the DPRK.

Frankly, I am sceptical when my colleagues try to explain North Korea’s actual policies as reflections of juche ideas. The definition of juche has changed so many times that it has essentially become a meaningless label encompassing everything the Kims’ considered useful or praiseworthy at any given stage of the country’s history. Perhaps, only the nationalist component has remained unchanged. But that is another story altogether.


Great Review of ‘Famine in North Korea’

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

noland-haggard.jpgFor several months I have been meaning to post a review of Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland’s book, Famine in North Korea, but for thousands of reasons it was always pushed back.

Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland wrote the definitive book on the DPRK’s Arduous March, and it is required reading for any serious North Korea watcher.

Now…Joshua at One Free Korea has written the definitive review of the book, so I will just put links to his posts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.


GS Caltex to sell gas near Kaesong

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily
You Sang-won

GS Caltex Corp., South Korea’s second-biggest oil refiner, plans to open a gas station near the Kaesong Industrial Complex as its first North Korea project.

To that end, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with Jiudau, a South Korean firm that has received the right to use land in Kaesong from the North Korean government, Jiudau said.

According to Jiudau, a service company specializing in events for inter-Korean cultural and sports exchanges, GS Caltex will spend 17 billion won ($18 million) to build a gas station in the 6,611 square meter (71,160 square feet) site.

Jiudau said North Korea had approved the gas station plans. After approval from South Korea’s Unification Ministry set for next month, Jiudau and GS Caltex will begin construction and open the station in the first half of next year.

Kim Kwang-soo, managing director of GS Caltex, only said, “We are considering a gas station near the Kaesong Industrial Complex as our first North Korea business project.”

Jiudau said that once the Kaesong station is running well, GS Caltex will open stations in other North Korean cities, including Pyongyang.

Hyundai Oilbank, another South Korean oil refiner, is already operating a gas station in the Kaesong Industrial Complex and selling gasoline at $1 per liter.


S. Korea unable to recoup 2.2 trillion won in rice loan to N. Korea: lawmaker

Sunday, August 26th, 2007


South Korea will likely lose 2.2 trillion won (US$ 2 billion) in its food loan to North Korea, because the price was set by international market standards, an opposition lawmaker said Sunday.

Since 2002, South Korea has loaned 2.1 million tons of rice worth 2.86 trillion won to North Korea to help alleviate chronic food shortages in the impoverished communist country.

The loan was offered at international prices at the time of the shipments, although 2.1 million tons of the shipment were homegrown products, whose domestic price is four times higher than international prices, said Rep. Hong Moon-pyo of the Grand National Party.

Citing data from unification and agriculture ministries, Hong said the total monetary value of the South Korean food loaned to North Korea during the period comes to 2.86 trillion won.

North Korea is required to pay back the loan at international market prices, which currently stand at US$380 on the average, the lawmaker said.

“According to the terms of the contract, South Korea will not be able to recover about 2.2 trillion won, so the difference should be offset by taxpayers’ money,” Hong said, adding that the government should unveil the exact amount of the loan and its conditions.


Orchestras may visit North, U.S.

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily
Jin Se-keun

A U.S. orchestra may visit North Korea while Pyongyang sends its own orchestra to the United States, an official of a Hong Kong-based company said yesterday.

Bae Kyeong-hwan, vice president of Daepung Investment Group, told the JoongAng Ilbo that his company has been authorized by the North’s Culture Minister, Kang Neung-su, to schedule and plan the events.

“We contacted the New York Philharmonic orchestra first, but if its schedule does not permit, the Boston Philharmonic or the Philadelphia Philharmonic could be an option,” Bae said.

The New York Philharmonic earlier confirmed that it has been invited to visit North Korea, but has not yet made an official decision.

After a performance in Pyongyang, the U.S. orchestra may return via South Korea, crossing the inter-Korean border at Panmunjeom Village, Bae said.

The North’s National Symphony Orchestra will then return the visit by going to the United States for a performance, according to Bae.

He claimed that negotiations for these reciprocal visits have been worked out by Christopher Hill, Washington’s chief negotiator to the six-party talks, and his North Korean counterpart Kim Gye-gwan.  

North invites the New York Philharmonic
Joong Ang Daily
Brian Lee

It’s up to the New York Philharmonic orchestra to decide whether it will accept an invitation to perform in North Korea, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Tuesday.

“We’ll consider it,” Eric Latzky, the orchestra’s director of public relations, told Agence France Press. “We received an invitation to perform in Pyongyang through an independent representative on behalf of the ministry of culture of North Korea.”

Latzky said the request, which had just been received, was “unusual” and that the orchestra would consult with Washington before making any decision. Furthermore, Latzky said, any such visit would come as part of a tour in the region.

The Philharmonic is scheduled to play in China in February 2008.

When asked whether such a visit was feasible, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “I think it’d be fully up to them whether or not they accept such an invitation. As for the details of being able to go there and whether there’s any compensation, that sort of thing, those are probably technical details.”

Financial sanctions and restrictions regarding arms, missile and nuclear technology are in place under a United Nations resolution adopted last year in the aftermath of a nuclear test by the North, but there are no restrictions on travel to the North by ordinary U.S. citizens.

But despite the symbolic meaning the orchestra’s visit could have, McCormack said he suspected it would only play for Pyongyang’s elite. “Whether or not your average North Korean gets an invitation if the New York Philharmonic’s in Pyongyang, I have my doubts about that.”

North Korea interested in inviting New York Philharmonic
Korea Herald


North Korea has shown interest in inviting the New York Philharmonic to perform in its capital, Pyongyang, apparently as part of its efforts to improve ties with the United States, sources here said Sunday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

During a meeting of six-party nuclear disarmament talks in Beijing in July, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill met his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, and proposed that the two countries start civilian exchanges as part of confidence-building measures, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kim responded positively, saying that his government has already thought about such exchanges and would be interested in inviting the New York Philharmonic, according to the sources.

Eric Latzky, spokesman for the New York-based philharmonic, told Yonhap News Agency that he was unaware of any invitation by the North but said discussions were under way with South Korea for a performance tour there.


Chicken farmers look North for cheap labor

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily

Maniker Co., South Korea’s second-largest poultry processor, plans to build chicken farms in North Korea to take advantage of cheaper labor in the communist nation.

Maniker officials will be traveling to the North in the middle of next month to finalize details on building several farms near the border of the two countries, the company said in a statement yesterday. The project will help Maniker lower costs while giving North Korean workers opportunities for increased income and high-protein food, the statement said.

North Korea has shown “a positive reaction” to Maniker’s plan, which has been under discussion since 2002, it added.

During the visit, Maniker executives and North Korean officials will choose the location of the chicken farms between Sariwon, south of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, and Samilpo, near Mount Geumgang on the east coast, the company said.

Maniker, which trails Halim Co. in the domestic poultry market, plans to initially sell the chickens in South Korea and may eventually sell them in North Korea as well.

The company reported a net loss of 3.4 billion won ($3.6 million) for the three months ended June 30, compared with a profit of 237 million won a year earlier.


N. Korea building fences along border with China: sources

Saturday, August 25th, 2007


North Korea has started building fences along its border with China in an apparent attempt to forestall defections of its hard-pressed citizens, local residents said Sunday.

The move comes amid growing international criticism of China which sends back home North Korean border trespassers under an agreement with Pyongyang.

Some human rights activists have been pressuring Beijing not to repatriate North Korean refugees, threatening to launch a campaign to boycott the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

About a month ago, North Korean workers were spotted erecting wire fences along a 10-kilometer area near a narrow tributary of the Yalu River, a major border-crossing point, local residents said.

China already built fences along its side of the border late last year.

“North Korea started building a dike early this year and building posts about a month ago,” one resident said.

An increasing number of North Koreans are fleeing their impoverished communist homeland, hoping to defect mostly to South Korea. Some of them travel as far as Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries via China for safe passage to South Korea.

More than 10,000 North Korean defectors have so far arrived in South Korea amid reports that up to 300,000 North Korean refugees are roaming in China on their way to South Korea and other countries away from their impoverished homeland.