Archive for October, 2008

DPRK military technology

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

The North Korean children’s cartoon “Yon-pil-po-lan” (link here and below) is a great example of the role that sate-controlled media plays in the socialist system: regime enhancement.  In this cartoon, a young pioneer dreams of using his school supplies to fight off the “Mi-jae (Miguk jugukjui)”—or “American imperialist”. 

The cartoon itself made me laugh because I have a feeling that the actual state of the DPRK’s military technology is probably not far off from that shown in this cartoon!



Kaesong receives 100,000th tourist

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

According to Yonhap:

Hyundai Asan Corp., a unit of the South’s Hyundai Group in charge of businesses in North Korea, opened the tour to Kaesong in December last year. Everyday, about 370 people visit the North Korean city, about 70 kilometers north of the frontier separating the two Koreas.

The high number of tourists to Kaesong comes as the two Koreas are still bickering over responsibility in the July death of the South Korean tourist, who was fatally shot dead by a North Korean soldier while touring the North’s scenic mountain resort of Geumgang.

Since then tours to Mt. Geumgang, which began in 1998, have been indefinitely suspended.

In a ceremony to celebrate the 100,000th tourist, Hyundai Asan Chief Executive Officer Cho Kun-shik expressed hope that the two Koreas could amicably resolve the impasse over the shooting death.

According to the Associated Press (via the New Zealand Hearld):

Company officials said most of the tourists have been South Koreans but about 2,600 Americans, Japanese and other foreigners also have taken part in the programme.

Before the [Kumgangsan] shooting incident, about 10,000 people travelled to Kaesong every month, but the number of monthly visitors declined to about 7,450 in August and 5,770 in September, according to Hyundai Asan.


1. By May 2008, 40,090 tourists had visited Kaesong, and the daily quota was increased from 300 to 500.  

2. Last August, Hyundai announced it was sending $928,560 to North Korea for the Kaesong tours

3. According to Dr. Lankov, the price to customers is W180,000, W100,000 of which is paid to the DPRK.  Additionally, Hyundai pays for all infrastructure improvements.  If these numbers are correct, the DPRK has grossed (and probably netted) W10,000,000,000  since the project was launched (appx. US$9,800,000 using an average interbank exchange rate from January through today).

4.  Although Hyundai Asan asserts (above) that appx. 370 tourists visit Kaesong per day, the most recent monthly figures (5,770 in September) indicate a mere 192/day.  370 is the number derived by taking the total (100,000) and dividing it by the number of days the project has run (appx. 270 this year)…so the daily average trend by month is now well below the annualized daily average.

Read more here:
N. Korean city draws 100,000 tourists from South despite shooting impasse

North Korea: Border city draws 100,000 tourists
Associated Press (via the New Zealand Hearld)


Kim Jong Il’s Ten Principles: Restricting the People

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Daily NK
Namgung Min

The Chosun (North Korean) Workers’ Party controls and restricts all types of people: from party members to non-members, from the upper-class to the proletariat.

As the Party rules over the state, it coerces people to follow not the socialist constitution of the DPRK, but the party’s Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System (hereafter referred to as the Ten Principles).

The Ten Principles that the Party uses to restrict the people are something that everyone born in North Korea has to memorize and follow at home, work and school for their whole life.

The framework for the Ten Principles was laid by Kim Jong Il in his role as Party Secretary. Later he declared the principles throughout North Korea in February, 1974.

With the Ten Principles Kim Jong Il set standards for North Koreans’ daily lives and their daily activities.

Supervision and Restriction through Regular Party Evaluation Meetings

The Party’s regular evaluation meetings are the tools most typically utilized to monitor all affairs related to the work and personal lives of Party members.

According to Article 8, Section 5 of the Ten Principles, party members are required to “actively attend the Party’s regular evaluation meetings that are held every other day or every week in order to train oneself to become a revolutionary and to continuously rebuild oneself through criticism using the standards of the Leader’s teaching and the Party’s policies as a guide.”

During the regular evaluation meetings, first members within a certain period of time are to confess flaws and mistakes they or others made in their work or personal lives; what they said and did; and, one’s ways of thinking. Then they criticize themselves and one another.

These evaluation meetings are held weekly. There also are monthly and quarterly evaluation meetings, which vary in subject and scope.

If one tries to hide or minimize one’s mistakes during these evaluation meetings, then the level of criticism gets stronger.

“You can pass an evaluation meeting safely only when you seem to be repentant by showing tears and exaggerating even when the flaws are not that serious,” explained Mr. Kim, who defected in 2006.

The quarterly meetings sometimes last a half a day or a day.

Especially after reciprocal criticisms during the evaluation meetings, upper-level cadres of the Party submit the results to Kim Jong Il or the Guidance Department of the Central Committee of the Party for review. Later, the results of the evaluation are announced to the people involved.

The evaluations (similar to a South Korean court decision) can result in comparatively light sentences such as a warning, a severe warning or suspension of one’s qualifications. However, at times, severe punishments are given out such as mining work, farm labor without pay, suspension of one’s titles, banishment to remote regions, or referral to the National Security Agency. If charged and prosecuted, one may be sentenced to intensive labor or re-education camps.

Supervision through Various Forms of Guidance and Education

The Workers’ Party supervises and restricts the people by brainwashing them using various forms of instruction and lectures.

According to Article 4, Section 5 of the Ten Principles, everyone must “attend meetings, lectures and lessons without missing any to learn the Great Father Kim Il Sung’s revolutionary ideology and actively study the rules for more than two hours everyday.”

The mandatory Saturday meetings in particular are known to be the basic brainwashing tool; they are thoroughly prepared by the Propaganda and Agitation Department and involve lectures and documentary film lessons.

The brainwashing process that North Koreans have the hardest time with is the catechetical lessons.

The catechetical lessons take the form of a competition and include preliminary, semi-final and final rounds. During these lessons, all cadres, party members and residents have to memorize more than 100 pages of “catechetical lesson material” that have been prepared by the Propaganda and Agitation Department without getting one word wrong.

The catechetical lesson material includes Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s works, the Ten Principles for the Establishment of the One-Ideology System, Juche ideology and related philosophical issues, documents that praise the morals and majesty of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and various poems and songs praising the Kims.

The groups or individuals that win the competition get awards like a television and honor. But those who do not claim victory become the targets of criticism by the organizations to which they belong and the Party apparatus for slacking on studying ideology.

Restricting People Through Various Organizations

In North Korea, all people who are not part of the Workers’ Party must be mandatorily restricted by the Party’s quasi-governmental organizations.

Such organizations include the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, the General Federation of Trade Unions of North Korea, the Union of Agricultural Working People, the Union of Democratic Women the and Korean Children’s Union.

The Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League (the Youth League) is the biggest and most active political group, the only non-party member group for young people, and includes working youths, students, and military men.

The Youth League, by restricting the ideological culture and organized groups of all youths, monitors any changes in the society’s way of thinking that may happen with the change of generations. It also organizes all youths to be actively involved in production, construction and military service.

The Youth League plays the important role of restricting any form of opposition groups or actions among the youths of North Korea.

Youth League members who have reached the age of 30 but have not joined the Party must join the General Federation of Trade Unions, if one is a laborer or low-ranking manager, the Union of Agricultural Working People if one is a farmer, or the Union of Democratic Women if one is a housewife.

These workers’ organizations are managed by the work departments of the committees and the Central Committee of the Party.

Therefore, non-Party members in North Korea receive double supervision–from the organizations they belong to and from their workplace.

The Chosun Workers’ Party has been strictly restricting and supervising its people for 63 years, which is the period of disgrace of the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il dictatorships.


(UPDATED) US removes DPRK from state sponsors of terror list

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

UPDATE 2: Below are a list of materials from the US Department of State web site related to the DPRK’s list removal:

1. Existing Sanctions and Reporting Provisions Related to North Korea (thorough, but does not mention that the DPRK never obtained MFN or NTR status with the US, making it subject to the higher column 2, Smoot-Hawley, tarrifs.

2. Briefing on North Korea With Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks Ambassador Sung Kim, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Sean McCormack, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation Paula DeSutter, and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Patricia McNerney.

3. U.S.-DPRK Agreement on Denuclearization Verification Measures.

4. U.S.-North Korea Understandings on Verification

UPDATE 1: Since being removed from the list, it is now easier for the DPRK to obtain avian flu vaccinations from the US:

Yet deep inside an 86-page supplement to United States export regulations is a single sentence that bars U.S. exports of vaccines for avian bird flu and dozens of other viruses to five countries designated “state sponsors of terrorism.”

The reason: Fear that they will be used for biological warfare.

Under this little-known policy, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan may not get the vaccines unless they apply for special export licenses, which would be given or refused according to the discretion and timing of the U.S. Three of those nations – Iran, Cuba and Sudan – also are subject to a ban on all human pandemic influenza vaccines as part of a general U.S. embargo.

Under normal circumstances it would take at least six weeks to approve export licenses for any vaccine on the list, said Thomas Monath, who formerly headed a CIA advisory group on ways to counter biological attacks. All such decisions would follow negotiations at a “very high level” of government.

That could makes it harder to contain an outbreak of bird flu among chickens in, say, North Korea, which is in the region hardest hit by the virus. Sudan and Iran already have recorded cases of the virus in poultry and Syria is surrounded by affected countries. Cuba, like all nations, is vulnerable because the disease is delivered by migratory birds.(Associated Press)

As reported in the Associated Press Saturday morning:

North Korea has agreed to all U.S. nuclear inspection demands and the Bush administration responded Saturday by removing the communist country from a terrorism blacklist. The breakthrough is intended to salvage a faltering disarmament accord before President Bush leaves office in January.

“Every single element of verification that we sought going in is part of this package,” State Department Sean McCormack said at a a rare weekend briefing.

North Korea will allow atomic experts to take samples and conduct forensic tests at all of its declared nuclear facilities and undeclared sites on mutual consent. The North will permit experts to verify that it has told the truth about transfers of nuclear technology and an alleged uranium program.

Verifying North Korea’s nuclear proliferation will be a serious challenge. This is the most secret and opaque regime in the entire world,” said Patricia McNerney, assistant secretary for international security and nonprofileration.

Proponents of de-listing say it is an important step in accomplishing the goals of the six-party talks which are ultimately aimed at realizing a denuclearized Korean peninsula.  Critics of this agreement claim that it addresses only the DPRK’s plutonium program while ignoring nuclear proliferation and uranium enrichment.  

North Korea stepped up the pressure this week barring IAEA inspectors from the DPRK’s nuclear facilities at Yongbyon:

North Korea “today informed International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that effective immediately access to facilities at Yongbyon would no longer be permitted,” IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said today in an e-mail. The country “has informed the IAEA that our monitoring activities would no longer be appropriate.”

The demand that inspectors leave the whole complex, which is the source of the country’s weapons-grade plutonium, followed a Sept. 24 instruction that monitors quit the reprocessing plant. The new orders will prevent UN personnel from seeing whether North Korea is removing spent uranium fuel rods from cold-water holding tanks. Spent uranium can be turned into plutonium.

IAEA inspectors will remain in the town of Yongbyon until ordered to leave by North Korean authorities, the agency said. (Bloomberg)

UPDATE: According to Reuters, “North Korea said on Sunday it would resume taking apart its plutonium-producing nuclear plant and allow in inspectors in response to a U.S. decision to remove it from a terrorism blacklist and salvage a faltering nuclear deal.”

Despite these recent developments, or maybe because of them, the Bush administration quickly negotiated a de-listing agreement with Pyongyang and spent the last few days selling it to other governments involved in the six-party talks. Though South Korea supported the move, the Japanese government was divided.  Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa (a North Korea hard-liner) called the move “extremely regrettable” as Japan was using US terrorism de-listing as leverage to discover the whereabouts of kidnapped Japanese citizens.  This leverage is now gone since the next president of the US will not likely go through the effort of adding the DPRK to the list again.  Other members of the Japanese government, however, believe there will not be any resolution to this issue until the nuclear issue is resolved. 

De-listing marks the end of the second of three phases agreed to in the six-party talks.  The third stage includes completely dismantling Yongbyon and ending atomic development on the Korean peninsula.  This is likely to be even more difficult than the previous stages. (Bloomberg)

De-listing, however, carries more political than economic significance.  According to the State Department web site (here) countries are added to the list for the following reasons:

Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act (which expred in August 2001), section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act (wikipedia), and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

Designation under the above-referenced authorities also implicates other sanctions laws that penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with state sponsors. Currently there are five countries designated under these authorities: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

As discussed before (here and here), the DPRK still faces a myriad of legal barriers which restrict it from accessing global trade and financial markets, including the US Column 2 tariffs (Smoot-Hawley Tariffs), US Treasury sanctions, bilateral Japanese sanctions (renewed on Friday), and recent UN resolutions 1695 and 1718.  In other words, the DPRK does not have much to gain financially from de-lisitng.

Here is the initial executive order to begin de-listing.  Now that the US terrorism list is one country shorter, who remains? Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan.

Read the full article here:
N Korea off US blacklist after nuke inspection deal
Associated Press (via Washington Post)
Matthew Lee

N. Korea Removed From U.S. List of Terror Sponsors
James Rowley and Viola Gienger


Seoul alters DPRK budget priorities

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

According to Yonhap:

Under the Unification Ministry’s budget plan for next year, the inter-Korean economic cooperation fund, aimed at promoting cross-border human exchanges and economic partnerships, will increase 8.6 percent to 1.5 trillion won from 1.3 trillion won this year.

The budget for humanitarian assistance accounts for 72 percent of the fund, a sharp rise from 43 percent this year, mainly attributable to hikes in rice and fertilizer prices, said the ministry in change of policy on North Korea.

“We plan to send 400,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer to North Korea if needed,” Vice Unification Minister Hong Yang-ho told reporters.

The ministry has allocated 352 billion won to send rice and 291 billion won for fertilizer aid, he added.

The budget for inter-Korean economic projects, however, has been halved to 300 billion won in accordance with the Lee administration’s policy of linking them with progress in efforts to denuclearize the North, economic feasibility, financial capacity, and public opinion.

Meanwhile, the ministry has created a separate account for denuclearization costs in the inter-Korean cooperation fund, a measure to take into effect on Friday, a day after the second anniversary of North Korea’s nuclear test.

South Korea has delivered fuel oil and energy-related materials to North Korea under an aid-for-denuclearization deal last year in the six-way nuclear talks. Related spending has been categorized as energy aid.

Read the full article here:
S. Korea budgets $460 million for rice, fertilizer aid to N. Korea


Know the Party before Getting to Know Kim Jong Il

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Daily NK
Namgung Min

As rumors regarding Kim Jong Il’s illness surfaced during North Korea’s 60th anniversary celebrations, opinion was divided on whether the military or the Party will rise in power post-Kim Jong Il.

It is true that the power of the military rose post-Kim Il Sung, according to the “military-first” political line. The National Defense Commission (NDC) began leading various agencies and councils, and came to hold greater power because Kim Jong Il was introduced as the National Defense Commission Chairman during North-South Summits.

Thus, the National Defense Commission under military-first politics began to appear to be North Korea’s sole power base, as news on general-level promotions was released publicly by the National Defense Commission.

However, despite military-first politics, it remains the Chosun (North Korea) Workers’ Party that fundamentally controls the North Korean regime. Therefore, in order to understand the North Korean regime, one must understand the Chosun Workers’ Party.

Upcoming October 10th is the founding anniversary of this most important of organizations. The eyes of the world are focused on whether Kim Jong Il will appear on this day or not.

Therefore, it is time to closely examine what the Chosun Workers’ Party does and how it controls the North Korean regime.

The Korean Workers’ Party claims to be the direct heir to the North Korean Branch of the Chosun Communist Party that was established during “The Chosun Communist Party Convention of Leaders and Devotees of the 5 Northwest Provincial Party Committees” held on October 10th, 1945. Hence the founding date is October 10th. In April, 1946 the name was changed to the North Chosun Communist Party, which then became the Chosun (North Korean) Workers’ Party after being merged with Chosun New People’s Party in August of the same year.

North Korea is operated under the leadership of the Chosun Workers’ Party, as previously seen in other socialist countries; the nation’s power is concentrated in the Party. This implies that as the Party controls the country, the country is evolving into a socialist society and from there into a communist society.

The Workers’ Party, venerable as it is, not only holds the highest position of authority in North Korea but thus stands above other national agencies, organizations or the military.

I. The positions and roles of the Chosun Workers’ Party

The positions and roles of the Workers’ Party are described in detail in the “Rules and Regulations of the KWP,” “Ten Principals for the Party’s Unique Ideological System” and the “Socialist Constitution of North Korea.”

It is written in Article 11 of the Socialist Constitution, amended in 1998, that “The DPRK shall conduct all activities under the leadership of the Workers’ Party.” Furthermore, the Workers’ Party is stated to be an organ that controls other agencies and organizations as the highest revolutionary organization leading all other working organs.

However, the socialist constitution and the rules of the Party are only for the purpose of propagating the notion of the rationality and legitimacy of North Korea abroad while concealing a dictatorship. The reality within North Korea is completely different from the actual contents of the constitution.

In actuality, the socialist constitution and the rules and regulations of the Party defines that all sectors such as government, military, administration, judiciary, and even public prosecutor’s office are led by the Party, while being utilized as the apparatus for Kim Jong Il’s Stalinist dictatorship. That is, the regulations recognize the Party’s leadership of the country and simultaneously state that the Party can only be operated and led by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

The Workers’ Party in legal terms is an organ that guides North Koreans, but in reality it is only an organ under the iron command of the supreme Leader. Therefore, the Leader stands in the highest position, above the Party, nation and sovereign organs.

II. The structure and functions of the Chosun Workers’ Party

The utmost decision-making organ of the Workers’ Party is the National Party Congress.

According to the rules and regulations of the Party, all decision making of the Party regarding policies, strategies, and tactics should be passed through the National Party Congress. However, in actuality the Party Congress only rubber stamps the decisions that were already made by the Central Committee of the Party.

It is theoretically a ground rule that the Party Congress meets once every 5 years. The first congressional meeting was held in August 1946, the Congress met for the 6th time in October 1980, but has failed to meet since; 28 years. The fact that the Congress is not meeting regularly signifies that the regime system is not operating according to accepted principles of socialist states in the past.

If the Congress fails to meet, the Central Committee of the Party functions as the highest decision-making organ. The Central Committee should meet and discuss issues once every 6 months.

During these meetings, the General Secretary, committee members and the Presidium of the Politburo and committee members of the Central Committee of the Party should be elected. The Central Committee also has the authority to organize the Secretariat and the Central Military Commission.

However, even these twice annual meetings have not been held since the 21st meeting of the 6th cohort in 1993. When the meetings are not held, then the Politburo needs to take authority. However, the Secretariat of the Central Committee, whose General Secretary is currently Kim Jong Il, currently does so.

The highest organ in a communist society is officially the Presidium of the Politburo. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il is the only left in the presidium after the deaths of Kim Il Sung and Oh Jin Woo. This is why North Korea is sometimes called a totalitarian state. In the Chinese government, the Politburo presidium is properly functioning and decisions are made here. From a “democratic” perspective, the Chinese Communist Party and the Chosun Workers’ Party are completely different.

In any case, within the Secretariat of the Central Committee there are specialty departments such as the Guidance Department, Propaganda and Agitation Departments, and the United Front Department, and it also includes departments that supply secret funding to Kim Jong Il such as the 38th and 39th Departments.

The provincial organs of the Party consist of party committees of provinces, cities and counties that even include the most basic low-level party committees such as elementary party committees and sector party committees.

The structure of the Workers’ Party can also be divided into permanent party organs and temporary collective leadership groups. The permanent party organs include all members who work in any specialty departments, from the Central Committee down to low-level provincial party organs. Temporary collective leadership groups signify councils of high-level or low-level leaders of the central and provincial organs, made to implant permanent authority within the society through various meetings.

There are approximately 4,000,000 members of the Workers’ Party, including Kim Jong Il, high-level officials to low-level members, and figures from the legislature, judiciary, and the administration.

III. Main Departments and Their Roles

The main government complex of the Central Committee of the Worker’s Party is located in Changkwang-dong, Joong-district of Pyongyang. There are many buildings in the complex which include Kim Jong Il’s personal office and most of the Central Committee departments.

The second government complex is located in Junseung-dong, Moranbong-district of Pyongyang. The Social Culture Department, United Front Department and Operations Department are included in this complex.

The Workers’ Party has placed all specialty departments under the authority of the Secretariat, to function as restriction and guidance on all areas of the party members, citizens and North Korea. There is a Guidance Department that observes party members then there are other departments that exercise political functions.

The Guidance Department actualizes party guidance and restraint within communities. The department functions as Kim Jong Il’s right hand and as the core department by restraining the lives of all officials, members and citizens within the party.

The Guidance Department sub-divides into the inspection department, official department, party-member registration department, administration department and a communication department that allows direct reports regarding any incident or accident. The Guidance Department also manages the judiciary and the public prosecutor’s office.

The inspection department is responsible for inspecting any anti-party, non-party, undisciplined or unreasonable activities that develop within the regime or leadership of the Party and report to Kim Jong Il. The Guidance Department inspection section is strictly separated from other departments and North Korean party members or officials are all fearful of it.

There are approximately 20 specialty departments such as the Propaganda and Agility Department, the 38th and 39th Departments to supply fund to Kim Jong Il, the United Front Department dealing with South Korea, the International Department, the Science Education Department, and the Operations Department that carry out political activities.

Currently the Korean Workers’ Party is in the middle of the process of replacing 1st or 2nd generation leaders with 3rd or 4th generation, often more practical, personnel.


DPRK external debt approaches 100% of estimated GDP

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

According to Yonhap:

North Korea owes a total of $18 billion to 30 different countries, including Russia and China, said Kwon Young-se of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP), citing estimates from the Unification Ministry.

The amount is almost equal to North Korea’s gross domestic product (GDP) for last year, which totaled 24.7 trillion won ($18.4 billion).

South Korea has loaned roughly 1.19 trillion won to the North, equivalent to nearly five percent of Pyongyang ‘s total foreign debt.

“North Korea’s foreign debt is the result of the accumulation of unpaid trade bills and loans that it received from socialist states in the 1950s and 60s and from the Western world in the 70s to develop its economy,” Kwon said.

“The volume of foreign debt is expected to continue to rise due to the interest added to unpaid debts, although that can fluctuate depending on the result of negotiations with foreign creditors,” he added. (Yonhap)

According to the CIA world factbook, however, North Korea’s total external debt was estimated at $12.5 billion in 2001.  If I put aside the fact that the South Korean Ministry of Unification and the US CIA are probably reporting dollar figures using different basis years, North Korea’s external debt has increased increased nearly 47% in the last seven years.  I do not think this drastic increase could be attributed to the accumulation of interest arrears dating back to the 1950s.


DPRK expecting bumper crop this fall

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-10-7-1

It appears that many in North Korea are expecting an exceptionally large increase in this years’ harvest. According to a report issued on September 30 by Daily NK, a South Korean organization working for North Korean human rights, rice and corn market traders and those involved in food distribution are saying that grain harvests this year are significantly larger than last year, that by the end of the harvest season in November, North Korea’s food shortage crisis will be considerably eased, and that the price of rice will stabilize as well.

A source involved in China-North Korea trade at a company in Shenyang was quoted on the 30th as saying, “[North Korean] rice traders are expecting this year’s food production to be considerably improved compared to last year,” and, “This year, with no large natural disasters, rice paddies and crop fields are doing well, and crop production will probably be much greater than last year.”

In a related matter, one North Korean insider reported, “With the [North Korean] food situation, no one is doing as well as the wholesalers,” and, “As the fall harvest season has come, traders have come by farms in each province and reported that rice and corn harvests are very good.”

The source went on to say, “This year, farming was not difficult, so as autumn passes, the market price of rice looks likely to fall. The price of corn will fall even faster, hitting the 1000 won per kilogram level by mid October.” In fact, by the end of this year’s fall harvest, the price of food is expected to return to pre-shock levels. Currently, rice is selling for 2200 won and corn for 1300 won per kilogram in North Korean markets.

The reason harvests are expected to be more abundant this year is that the North has not suffered from flooding, as it had for the past several years in a row. Therefore, the government has called on the people to take care not to let any grain go to waste as harvesting is already in full swing in Hwanghae and South Pyungan provinces.

North Korean food wholesalers have become the suppliers of rice for markets since the government ceased to ration foodstuffs. They now contract with farms, paying in advance of harvest seasons so that the farms can use the funds to purchase fuel and other supplies necessary for preparing and transporting the food.

Because these traders personally visit the farms to predict harvests and set prices, the information is considered to be relatively accurate. These traders were also the first to predict the jump in prices earlier this year, warning of shortages even before last year’s fall harvest.


Elderly Women Should Stop Complaining and Start Participating

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin

An inside source from North Korea reported on the 6th that the North Korean authorities have ordered that any woman under the age of 70 who is able to hear, see, and move should participate in the activities of the “Chosun (Korean) Democratic Women’s Union.”

According to the source, “The Central Committee of the Women’s Union Chairwoman Kim Soon Hee decreed that the elderly who are able to move must participate in Union activities, rather than uselessly sitting around and complaining about society.”

After the worsening food situation, the source said that the elderly often sit around and pour forth their complaints about society, saying that “We did not live like this before… If we worked, at least we received wages and provisions, but what kind of a situation is this nowadays?” and blaming the inadequate governance of officials.

Since the food crisis, there have been many instances of the elderly selling goods in alleyways or at street-stands. In particular, after the implementation of the regulation of December 2007 which prevents women less than 40 years of age doing business in the market, the elderly increasingly sell products at stands which are managed by young women from behind the scenes.

Elderly women who do business in the jangmadang (market) have been accordingly playing the role of circulators of all kinds of rumors and complaints, such as saying, “How many more years are left in our lives? At least our children must live well, but there is no sign of that and it is much worse than the Japanese colonial period; how can we not blame the world?”

The recent measure can be seen as another ploy to control the citizens by the North Korean authorities. However, involving elderly women in organizational activities to prevent the worsening of civilian sentiment has been protested against by constituents as well as the elderly.

The elderly who heard the recent news have complained, “It is difficult enough just to live until our 60s, how can they tell us to participate in the Women’s Union activities as well?”

Also, the source relayed elderly concerns over their livelihoods, “Members participate in study sessions twice a week and have to carry out tasks distributed by the Union, so they do not have time to sell in the market. In their free time during the difficult period, they have been doing business and helping their families get by. The changed regulation is a death sentence for these families.”

Currently, the total number of members in the Korean Democratic Women’s Union, which started out as the “North Chosun Democratic Women’s Union” on November 18, 1945, is around 200,000. Until now, the targeted entrants have been women over 31 and below 55 who do not belong in other organizations or working places. The main activities of the Women’s Union are studying political ideology regarding women and rolling out various projects.


KCNA reports Kim Jong il appearance

Monday, October 6th, 2008

According to KCNA, Kim Jong il made his first public appearance this weekend since going “off-line” August 14, 2008.  Kim’s failure to preside over the September 9 celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of DPRK’s founding unleashed a flood of speculation in the Western media that Kim is in bad health—prompting a rare public denial from North Korean government officials.

The North Korean people, however, have been kept in the dark about Kim’s absense from the 60th anniversary festivities.  The average North Korean knows almost nothing about Kim Jong il or his family, and most are probably too busy trying to make ends meet to pay much attenention to his health.  In Pyongyang, though, his absesnce at the celebrations was very visible.  No doubt the Pyongyang rumor mill went into effect shortly after the second parade participant set foot in Kim il Sung Square.  

So this weekend, KCNA issued the following report—no doubt intended to assure the DPRK citizenry that their leader is just fine:

Kim Jong Il Enjoys Student Football Match
Pyongyang, October 4 (KCNA) — General Secretary Kim Jong Il enjoyed a student football match on the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of Kim Il Sung University, the highest institution of Juche-based education and science.

There was the football match between teams of Kim Il Sung University and Pyongyang University of Railways that day, at which the former beat the latter 4-1.

After watching the match, Kim Jong Il congratulated the players on their good results, saying that the revolutionary and militant students in our country are good at art and sporting activities while devoting all their wisdom and enthusiasm to the study of science for the country and the people.

He noted with great satisfaction that the above-said universities have produced a large number of able cadres and technical personnel for the nation who play a leading role in the revolution and construction, thus positively contributing to the cause of building a great prosperous and powerful nation, and highly praised the achievements made by them over the past years.

It is of weighty significance in accomplishing the revolutionary cause of Juche and building a rich and powerful nation to train the students who will shoulder the destiny of the country in the future to be able talents with ample knowledge and good physique, he said, advancing highly important tasks that should be regarded as guidelines in developing the intellectual and ideological education and sports at universities.

Accompanying him were First Vice Department Director Ri Jae Il and other leading officials of the C.C., the Workers’ Party of Korea and officials concerned.

Skepticism in the western media appeared moments after this report hit the internet (here and here). 

This morning, I did a quick search of KCNA reports (using the STALIN search engine) and it turns out that KCNA has never reported (in English) that Kim Jong il has attended a football match (though records only go back to 1996).  If the KCNA report is true, this would be the first football match Kim has attended in over 12 years!

The Daily NK offers a summery of Kim’s activities this year right up until he went dormant:

According to the analysis of North Korean media released on September 17th by the South Korean Ministry of Unification, Kim Jong Il had been involved in 75 public appearances this year, up until August 14th.

He participated in 42 military related activities, 5 diplomatic affairs and various other events. He viewed at least one or two artistic performances, but not once did he observe a sports game.

From August 1st to 14th, when the National Intelligence Service made public the claim that Kim Jong Il had had a stroke, he had appeared publicly 13 times. 11 were military inspections, one time was an economic inspection and one was an artistic performance.

Since Kim Il Sung’s death, this has been the third-longest term of sequestered life, around 50 days. Each time, he finally released news of his wellbeing through the press.

The longest one was after his father’s death, on September 8th, 1994; he disappeared from the North Korean media for 87 days. At the time, North Korean media reported that he was spending 100 days mourning for his father.

Second, at the time, around January 10, 2003, when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and March 20, when the Iraq war broke out, Kim Jong Il was not seen for a total of 49 days. The withdrawal from the NPT triggered the start of a crisis; after participating in a banquet for a Russian delegation on February 12, Kim disappeared from the public sphere. After 49 days, a report was released that Kim had taken part in an onsite inspection at Kim Hyong Jik College, a military medical college.

Read other stories here:
North Korea Says Kim Jong Il May Be `Tired,’ Yonhap Reports
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Playing the Game of Spot North Korea’s Kim Jong Il
Rosett Report
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Doubts Arise Over N. Korean Leader’s Appearance
Donga Ilbo

North Korea Reports First Kim Jong Il Appearance
Heejin Koo

One for Sports among Kim Jong Il’s Public Activities
Daily NK
Yang Jung A