Archive for September, 2009

North Korea’s literary theory

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

From the Korea Times:

What is (or are) North Korea’s literary theory (or theories) which guide North Korean literary works?

The North Korean government continued to indoctrinate its people with socialism until the early 1960s. It justified its initiation of the Korean War, 1950-1953, as a national liberation struggle, mobilizing all resources toward building a socialist country. Under the direction of the Communist party, literature and art were used to propagate revolutionary socialism. From the mid-1960s, writers and artists were expected to advocate the Juche thought of Kim Il-sung. History was rewritten from the perspective of Kim’s Juche thought.

In the 1980s, North Korean literary critics started to discuss the “seed” theory, which originated from Kim Jong-il, the son of Kim Il-sung. In one of his speeches, Kim made the statement; “All great writers should have good seed in their literary works.” It is a commonsensical word, but it has stirred up North Korean poets and writers. They spent the first five years of the 1980s extensively discussing the meaning of the seed theory.

One critic said, “Seed theory is searching for a balance between ideology and aesthetic sense or artistic craftsmanship.” Another said, “it is the philosophic depth of literary works.” In order to settle the dispute, the North Korean Writers’ Association attempted to find the seeds in their so-called classic literary works “Blood Sea,” “Fate of a Militia Man,” “Flower-selling Maid,” “Traditional Worshipping Place,” and “Ahn Jung-geun shot Ito Hirobumi.” The seeds, in their classic works are class struggle, national liberation, permanent revolution, Kim Il-sung’s fight against the Japanese army and the U.S. army, and his victories.

In the mid-1980s, North Korean critics started to say that “literature is a study of man,” which originally appeared in Kim Jong-il’s book, “On Cinema,” reported in the February 1992 issue of Chosun Munhak. Kim said, “literature is a study of man. Literature should not come from an empty sky; it should come from real human life experiences.” He emphasized that Kim Il-sung was the man who fought the Japanese Manchurian Army and defeated it, who fought the mighty U.S. army and defeated it, and who reconstructed the North Korean economy from the ashes of the Korean War. His speeches were made on the occasion of publishing a series of novels on the life of Kim Il-sung, his father, under the name of “Never-perishing Literature” series. “Literature as a study of man” includes stories about a lovely young woman who married a disabled veteran from the Korean War; the humble man who enjoyed equality under Kim Il-sung’s leadership; a teacher who could not leave her countryside school for her fiance in a city; a worker who produced more than his assignments; a scientist who invented a new sophisticated technology in a steel mill; a prisoner of war; and an employee who produced his works ahead of schedule among many others. All these people are small Kim Il-sungs.

In 1991, the North Korean Writers’ Association advocated “Our Way of Making Creative works” modeled after the party line, “Let’s Maintain our Own Socialism.” They recognized the fact that the Cold War was gone, that the USSR was dismantled, and East European communist nations were converting to free market economies. Our own style of socialism never knows defeatism, it only knows victories.

In the first four years of the 1990s, North Korean literature pursued seemingly conflicting goals: xenophobic nationalism, worshipping Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jung-sook, the elder Kim’s first wife and the younger Kim’s mother; and anti-U.S. imperialism, scientific and technological advancements, economic development, food production by making land reclamation projects to expand farm land and crop diversification. North Korean literature reflected what North Korea lacked: internationalism, advanced science and technology, food, new leadership, and stability.

Read the full article here:
North Korea’s Literary Theory
Korea Times
Choi Yearn-hong


2009 bad year for Kaesong Zone

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

UPDATE 9/16/2009: Despite the downward trajectory that business in the Kaesong Zone seemed to be taking this year, things appear to have bottomed out.  According to Yonhap, the Koreas have signed a Kaesong wage increase.  According to the article:

South and North Korea agreed to a 5 percent wage hike at a joint industrial park on Wednesday, the Unification Ministry here said, in the latest sign of inter-Korean projects returning to normal.

North Korea earlier demanded a 400 percent raise in monthly wages for its workers at the South Korean-run park in Kaesong, just north of the border.

South Korea’s management office in Kaesong “signed an agreement on a 5 percent wage increase” with its North Korean counterpart, ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a brief statement.

The North voluntarily withdrew its earlier demand last week in a striking shift from its unyielding attitude in four rounds of negotiations from April to July. The demand called for monthly wages be raised to US$300 from the average $70-80, apparently in retaliation against Seoul’s hard-line policy toward Pyongyang.

The Kaesong park opened in late 2004 as an outcome of the first inter-Korean summit four years earlier. It houses 114 mostly small-sized South Korean firms producing clothing, electronic equipment, kitchenware and other labor-intensive goods with about 40,000 North Korean workers.

The venture is seen as a much-needed source of dollar income for the North, which is currently under U.N. sanctions for its May nuclear test that bans cash flows to the country.

The 5 percent rate hike will increase the minimum wage to about $58 from the current $55.

Separately, North Korea was conducting a door-to-door survey on South Korean businesses at the joint park, said ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo.

North Korea asserted that the two-day survey that continues until Thursday was to examine the firms’ output and “listen to their complaints and difficulties regarding tax and accounting,” Lee said. Such on-site surveys have been done sporadically, she added.

Although tensions might have eased, it remains to be seen whether the business community can be coaxed into making serious capital investments in the DPRK.

Read previous Kaesong Industrial Zone news below:



ROK approves delegation to visit PUST opening

Monday, September 14th, 2009

UPDATE 4:  More on the Leadership of PUST from Houston Business Journal:

A Rice University professor has paved the way for a private university in North Korea.

Malcolm Gillis, the Ervin Kenneth Zingler professor of economics and professor of management, is part of a four-person committee that founded the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which will open next spring.

Members of the committee include founding President James Chin-Kyung Kim; Chan-Mo Park, former president of Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea; and Jung Bae Kim, former president of Korea University.

Gillis, who was president of Rice from 1993 to 2004, said the project goes back to 1997 when he met with the late Kim Dae Jung, then president-elect of South Korea, to engage in peace talks between North and South Korea.

PUST will offer programs for information technology, industry and management, and agriculture studies, with plans to open new schools for architecture, engineering and public health in the near future.

Rice University professor co-founds North Korean university
Houston Business Journal
UPDATE 3: According to Yonhap:

“North Korea is stumping for opening this university,” Kim Jin-kyung, co-president of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, said, returning from a three-day trip to the North Korean capital.

“There are many difficulties, but we are aiming to open the school within this year,” Kim said. He is also president of the Yanbian University of Science and Technology, run with South Korean non-governmental funding, in the Korean autonomous prefecture of Yanbian, northeastern China.

The school seeks to first accept 150 students in the fields of information and communications engineering; agricultural biotechnology and food engineering; and industrial management, he said.

All lectures will be in English, and students will be required to meet the paper-based TOEFL score of 550, Kim said. North Korea has already recruited prospective students among “carefully chosen elites” who studied at top North Korean schools like Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology, he added.

“North Korea asked us to get the school to have competent faculty members,” he said. “We expect the South Korean government to lend support in the larger context of inter-Korean reconciliation.”

Park Chan-mo, a science and technology advisor to President Lee Myung-bak who attended the completion ceremony with Kim, said Seoul is supportive.

“The fact that (the government) gave permission to the North Korea trip shows it has a will to lend support,” Park said.

The school will be reportedly co-headed by North Korea’s vice education minister, Jon Kuk-man. North Korean media reported the South Korean delegation’s departure earlier Thursday.

UPDATE 2: According to KCNA:

First-Phase Construction of University of Science and Technology Completed

Pyongyang, September 16 (KCNA) — A ceremony for the completion of the first-phase construction of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology was held Wednesday.

Present there were Jon Kuk Man, vice-minister of Education, officials concerned and members of a delegation led by Chin Kyung Kim, founding-president of the university.

Speeches were made there.

After a certificate on nominating the co-managerial president of the university was conveyed to the founding-president, the participants looked round the building of the university completed as the first-phase construction.

UPDATE 1:  CNN published an extensive article on PUST this afternoon.  Read the whole story here (Thanks to AFC).  According to the story:

James Kim, an American businessman turned educator, once sat in the very last place that anyone in the world would wish to be: a cold, dank prison cell in Pyongyang, the godforsaken capital of North Korea.

Kim, who had emigrated from South Korea to the United States in the 1970s, had been a frequent visitor to Pyongyang over the years in pursuit of what, to many, seemed at best a quixotic cause. He wanted to start an international university in Pyongyang, with courses in English, an international faculty, computers, and Internet connections for all the students.

Not only that — in the heart of the world’s most rigidly Communist country, Kim wanted his school to include that training ground for future capitalists: an MBA program.

During one of his trips to the capital in 1998, with North Korea in the midst of a famine that would eventually kill thousands, the state’s secret police arrested Kim.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il didn’t lock up the educator for being crazy. He got it in his head that the oddly persistent American — who at the time, among other things, was helping to feed starving North Koreans with deliveries of food aid from China — was a spy.

So for more than 40 days, Kim languished in a North Korean prison. An evangelical Christian, Kim wrote his last will and testament during those days, not knowing if he’d ever get out.

Which makes where he plans to be in mid-September all the more astonishing. Kim will lead a delegation of 200 dignitaries from around the world to North Korea for the dedication of the first privately funded university ever allowed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST).

The school will have an international faculty educating, eventually, around 600 graduate students. Kim dreams ultimately of hosting an industrial park around the PUST campus, drawing firms from around the world — a North Korean version, as bizarre as it sounds, of Palo Alto or Boston’s Route 128.

There will be Internet access for all, connecting the students to an outside world that they’ve heretofore been instructed is a hostile and dangerous place. And among the six departments will be a school of industrial management.

“We ended up not calling it an ‘MBA program,'” jokes David Kim (no relation to James), a former Bechtel and Pacific Gas & Electric executive who has relocated to Pyongyang to help set up PUST, “because they [the North Koreans] think it sounds vaguely imperialistic.”

That the North Koreans are permitting this to happen — that they have given James Kim the nod to create his university, just as he intended — is remarkable.

It’s hard for outsiders to understand just how backward, isolated, and impoverished North Korea is. Since the collapse of the Eastern bloc 20 years ago, fewer and fewer North Korean university students study abroad. Allowing PUST to proceed lets a gust of fresh air into a stilted, frightfully isolated environment.

The rest of the story is worth reading here.

ORIGINAL POST: Although the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) has yet to set an opening date, a South Korean delegation will be visiting the DPRK to commemorate the completion of the facility.  According to Yonhap:

South Korea permitted a delegation from a private foundation to visit North Korea this week to celebrate the completion of a science and technology university jointly built with the North, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Monday.

The ceremony for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is scheduled for Wednesday, according to ministry spokesperson Chun Hae-sung. He said the 20-member delegation will make a three-day trip to the North beginning Tuesday.

The delegation includes Kwak Seon-hee, head of the Seoul-based Northeast Asia Foundation for Education and Culture. The foundation was mostly responsible for organizing donations and fundings for the university, the first to be jointly-operated with an organization not based in the North.

The move marks the first time that the Seoul government has approved a non-humanitarian visit to the North since the communist state carried out its second nuclear test in May.

The date of the school’s opening and other administrative affairs, however, have yet to be decided and must be worked out between the North Korean authorities and the foundation.

Kim Jin-kyung, head of the Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China, will serve as president of the university until its official opening, according to ministry officials.

Further information:

1. Here are previous PUST posts.

2. Here is the location of PUST.

3. Here is the PUST Wikipedia page.

4.  There are two PUST web pages.  Here is the firstHere is the second. (Thanks to AFC)

Read the full story here:
Seoul approves N.K. trip to mark completion of tech university


Pyongyang International Trade Fair (’09)

Monday, September 14th, 2009

According to Yonhap:

The Pyongyang Autumn International Trade Fair, set for Sept. 21-24 at the Three Revolution Exhibition, will present machine tools, electric and electronic equipment, transport equipment, petrochemical and medical goods, food items and daily necessities, said the Korean Central News Agency.

Participating businesses come from 16 countries or regions — China, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Britain, Australia, Austria, Italy, Indonesia, Vietnam, France, Finland, Poland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as the host, the report said.

The North began its fall trade fair in 2005 and the spring fair in 1998 with goals of promoting its homegrown goods and acquiring advanced technology from foreign countries. This year’s spring fair was held in May.

Here is the location of the Three Revolution Exhibition.

Here are previous posts about the PITF.


Italy Seizes Liquor Bound for DPRK

Monday, September 14th, 2009

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Italian customs recently confiscated 420 bottles of expensive liquor on their way to North Korea. Italian newspaper Vivere Ancona said customs in the eastern port city seized 150 bottles of brandy and 270 bottles of whisky in containers destined for North Korea at the end of last month.

The confiscation follows a UN Security Council ban on the export of arms, high technology and luxury goods to North Korea after the communist country’s nuclear test in May. The liquor is reportedly worth 12,000 euro, but the brands were not identified.

In July, Italian customs seized two luxury yachts worth W23 billion ordered by North Korea (US$1=W1,222). At the time, the order was disguised as coming from a Chinese company, but the investigation revealed it had actually been made by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Here is a post about the yachts.

Here is a post about DPRK weapons seized by UAE.

Read the full story here:
Italy Seizes Luxury Liquor Bound for N.Korea
The Choson Ilbo


Friday Fun: DPRK movies, KFA, and Air Koryo

Thursday, September 10th, 2009


Hero of the the Commoners


One Photo (Part 1)


One Photo (Part 2)


Shiny Morning (part 1)shinymorning.JPG Shiny Morning (Part 2)shinymorning.JPG

The Miraculous Sound of Love


Cartoon- A Kum Rangakumrang.JPG

Also, Alejandro Cao de Benos has published his own book in Thailand.  According to the KFA web page the book, Korea, the Songun Citadel, was recently published in Bangkok, Thailand. With 148 pages and first edition of 500 volumes.

I am not sure when volume 2 of 500 will be published.

And finally, Skytrax has ranked Air Koryo as the world’s only 1-star airline.


UAE Seizes North Korean Weapons Shipment to Iran

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

UPDATE: According to Yonhap, Chinese and Australian ships were shipping the arms:

North Korean cargo carrying arms exports to Iran left a western port five days after Pyongyang’s nuclear test in May and was transferred aboard Chinese and Australian freighters before being seized by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in July, according to an Italian company that handled the delivery.

Mario Carniglia, head of the international freight-forwarding firm Otim, said the containers, reportedly loaded with rocket launchers, detonators, and munitions, were shipped via the Chinese cities of Dalian and Shanghai and were transferred to an Australian vessel just after the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1874 which bans the North from engaging in arms trade.

“(The containers) left the Nampo Port on May 30,” he said in a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency in Rome on Wednesday. A North Korean ship carrying the 10 containers arrived in Dalian two days later and a Chinese cargo ship moved them to Shanghai on June 13, he said.

“The containers were placed on (the Australian freighter) ANL-Australia in Shanghai,” he said, flipping through related documents.

The cargo was on its scheduled course until the UAE intercepted the ANL-Australia on July 22. The U.S. Navy had been focusing on trailing another North Korean vessel, the Kangnam 1, which appeared to be headed to Myanmar also carrying weapons exports.

The seizure was the first made under Resolution 1874 that calls upon all states to inspect cargo to and from North Korea if they have “information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains” illicit weapons.

The Australian government said earlier, based on its own probe, that there were rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons in the seized containers, though Carniglia said his firm did not know the contents of the cargo.

He said North Korea provided documents identifying the content as “Oil Pumping Equipment.”

“We couldn’t see the contents as the containers were sealed when shipped from Nampo,” he said in the interview conducted in Italian. He refused to identify the exporter in North Korea, citing business ethics.

“All we were responsible for was handling the shipping from China to Iran,” Carniglia said.

He added that North Korea has not filed a complaint or asked for the return of the cargo, held at the UAE now for more than 50 days.

The UAE is reportedly in consultation with the U.N. sanctions committee on how to handle the seized shipment.

In a related move, the U.N. committee demanded an explanation from North Korea last month for the apparent arms export attempt.

The head of the North’s mission to the U.N., Sin Son-ho, sent a reply letter reiterating his country’s position that it is not bound by any U.N. resolution.

Sin also said that North Korea’s experimental uranium enrichment program is in a “completion phase,” claiming the country has made advancements in mastering an alternative route to producing nuclear weapons apart from its plutonium-based program.

ORIGINAL POST: According to Bloomberg:

The United Arab Emirates has seized a ship carrying North Korean-manufactured munitions, detonators, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades bound for Iran in violation of United Nations sanctions, diplomats said.

The UAE two weeks ago notified the UN Security Council of the seizure, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition they aren’t named because the communication hasn’t been made public. They said the ship, owned by an Australian subsidiary of a French company and sailing under a Bahamian flag, was carrying 10 containers of arms disguised as oil equipment.

The council committee that monitors enforcement of UN sanctions against North Korea wrote letters to Iran and the government in Pyongyang asking for explanations of the violation, and one to the UAE expressing appreciation for the cooperation, the envoys said. No response has been received and the UAE has unloaded the cargo, they said.

he Security Council voted on June 12 to adopt a resolution that punishes North Korea for its recent nuclear-bomb test and missile launches through cargo inspections and enforcement of restrictions on financial transactions. The measure calls for the interdiction at seaports, airports or in international waters of any cargo suspected of containing arms or nuclear or missile-related materials going to or from North Korea.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

According to the Security Council diplomat, the weapons were carried on an Australian vessel, the ANL-Australia, which was flying under a Bahamian flag. According to an Aug. 14 letter sent to the U.N. sanctions committee, the exporting company was an Italian shipper, Otim, which exported the items from its Shanghai office.

“The cargo manifest said the shipment contained oil-boring machines, but then you opened it up and there were these items,” the diplomat said. ANL and Otim officials couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian government is aware of the incident and is investigating to determine whether any Australian laws may have been broken.

The seizure could also raise fresh questions about North Korea’s intentions. After taking an aggressive stance against the West earlier this year, Pyongyang appears to have softened its rhetoric, releasing two captive American journalists and sending a delegation to meet with South Korea’s president.

Read more here:
UAE Seizes North Korean Weapons Shipment to Iran
Bill Varner

Cargo of North Korea Matériel Is Seized en Route to Iran
Wall Street Journal
Peter Spiegel and Chip Cummins


Chinese police report finding bodies of 56 North Korean would-be refugees in Yalu river

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

UPDATE: This story was picked up by Yonhap, the Korea Herald, and the Choson Ilbo  (twice).–probably because of Joshua.

By Michael Rank

Chinese police have reported how the bodies of 56 North Koreans attempting to flee to China, including seven children, were found floating in the Yalu river in 2003.

An official notice issued by police in the border town of  Baishan in Jilin province describes how 53 corpses were discovered by local people on the morning of October 3, 2003, followed by three more at 5 a.m. the following day.

“An examination found that the dead were all citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Postmortems showed that the 56 bodies had all been shot. The evidence suggests that they had been shot by Korean armed border guards when attempting to cross illicitly into China,” says the document, dated October 7, 2003.

The dead consisted of 36 males and 20 females, including five boys and two girls.

The bodies were cremated locally on October 6, and township officials are “awaiting instructions from higher authority” on what to do with the ashes and with possessions found on the bodies. The document was issued by Badaogou police station in Baishan, a town in Changbai Korean Autonomous County which covers a large area on the North Korean border.

I am grateful to “treasuresthouhast” who posted the document here. He took it from an unnamed Chinese blog which apparently reposted it from


US sanctions more DPRK organizations

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

According to Reuters (via the New York Times):

The United States moved on Tuesday to freeze the assets of two North Korean entities believed to be involved in atomic and missile programs, raising pressure on Pyongyang to resume disarmament talks.

Despite a recent charm offensive by North Korea, the State Department moved against its General Bureau of Atomic Energy, which oversees the nuclear program, and Korea Tangun Trading Corp, believed to support its missile programs.

Both were targeted under a presidential executive order that allows the White House to freeze the U.S. assets of people and entities suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction or the means to deliver them, including missiles.

“These designations continue U.S. efforts to prevent North Korean entities of proliferation concern from accessing financial and commercial markets that could aid the regime’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles capable of delivering them,” the State Department said in a statement.

The action requires U.S. individuals, banks and other institutions to block the assets of the North Korean entities.

It was unclear whether either actually had any assets under U.S. jurisdiction but American officials said Washington hoped the move would discourage other countries from doing business with North Korea.

“Are we hoping for a spillover effect? Of course,” said one U.S. official.

These two organizations were targeted by the UNSC earlier this year.

Here is information and (links to information) taken by the US and UN in 2009.

Read the full story here:
U.S. Acts to Freeze Assets Of Two N.Korean Entities
Reuters (via New York Times)


The Hwanggang Dam incident (2009)

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

UPDATE 3 (2009-9-17): South Korea rules out “water attack”.  According to AFP:

South Korea’s new defence chief said Thursday there was no evidence that the sudden discharge of water from a North Korean dam which killed six southerners was a deliberate attack.

“We have no solid information to say the discharge was for a water attack,” Kim Tae-Young, appointed defence minister on September 3, said in a report to parliament.

He said the dam’s floodgates were opened after it was full of water.

The report tallies with accounts by the North, which said a sudden surge in the dam’s water level prompted an “emergency” release. Seoul officials had previously questioned the explanation of the incident which has strained cross-border relations.

In a related development Thursday, North Korea accepted a protest letter sent by South Korea’s parliament speaker Kim Hyong-O to his northern counterpart, Choe Thae-Bok, calling for a “sincere” apology from its neighbour and a full explanation.

He also suggested that Pyongyang should allow South Korean lawmakers to visit the site for an investigation. There was no immediate response from the communist country.

UPDATE 2 (2009-9-12): North Korean soldiers scouted the Imjin area before the water release.  According to the AFP:

North Korean soldiers scouted the inter-Korean border a day before the North released millions of tonnes of water from a dam, killing six South Koreans, news reports said on Saturday.

Military officials have told legislators that about 10 North Korean soldiers left their observation post and came south close to the military demarcation line dividing the two countries, Yonhap news agency said.

“They reconnoitred the area for about two hours before they returned to the North,” a lawmaker told Yonhap.

UPDATE 1 (2009-9-10): According to Yonhap, South Korean  Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said the incident appears to have been deliberate, although it was still not clear whether it was a “water attack.”  South Korea said Thursday that it will soon decide whether to take legal action against North Korea for its unleashing of water from the dam.

ORIGINAL POST (2009-9-8): Several innocent North and South Koreans were tragically drowned this week along the banks of the Imjin River when the DPRK released approximately 40 million tons of water from its Hwanggang Dam.

According to Yonhap:

The Hwanggang Dam, some 40km north of the border, was reportedly completed in 2007 and can hold up to 400 million tons of water. More than 340mm of rain fell on the region in late August, according to the North’s state television.

The victims were about 25km south of the border when the floodwaters came.

South Korea’s alert system was also faulted. The military detected rising water levels but failed to notify the local government, leaving the campers unattended. Flood alert equipment along the riverside also failed to operate.

The Koreas have no formal accord on controlling the floodgates. Seoul has asked for pre-notification at inter-Korean talks in recent years but the two sides have not been able to settle on technical procedures.

There have been no consultations on the matter since the conservative Lee Myung-bak government came to power in Seoul last year.

If Yonhap and the BBC are correct, this is the Hwanggang Dam’s location (Google Maps). The satellite imagery is old.  More interestingly, there is another dam on the Imjin River just above the DMZ.  It is here. This adds an interesting wrinkle to the story. This means that either the second dam down river from the Hwanggang Dam was either overrun or it was also opened.