Archive for October, 2009

Friday, October 30th, 2009

According to the article:

The U.N. expert panel set up to assist the implementation of sanctions on North Korea began formal operations Friday.

Six of seven panel members attended a meeting convened by the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee on North Korea.

The expert panel has been established under Resolution 1874, which the Security Council adopted on June 12 in response to North Korea’s second nuclear test on May 25.

The panel is to play an auxiliary role in implementing the penalties the sanctions committee worked out following the nuclear test.

Kyoto University graduate school professor Masahiko Asada, the panel member representing Japan, told reporters after the closed meeting that the participants had a ”good” discussion. He is an expert on arms trade control and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Asada and six other members were selected from the five permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Japan and South Korea.

Turkish Ambassador to the United Nations Ertugrul Apakan, who chairs the sanctions committee, described the meeting as ”useful.” But he declined to elaborate, citing the confidential nature of the proceedings.

A U.N. diplomatic source said the seven panel members have already begun work on an individual basis, aiming to compile their first report in mid-November.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon named the seven members in the summer and the panel was initially to have started work in September. But the Chinese representative quit and the selection of a new representative for the country took time, delaying the panel’s first meeting until Friday.

In mid-July, the sanctions committee worked out a new set of sanctions on North Korea, imposing a travel ban on five officials and asset freezes on five entities for their involvement in nuclear weapons and missile development programs. The entities were in addition to three the committee designated in April.

U.N. members are also reportedly considering expanding a list of individuals and entities subject to sanctions depending on new information from member states.

The expert panel is tasked with collecting information and analyzing the implementation of the sanctions. It can recommend that either the Security Council or the sanctions committee take action if it deems their efforts to punish North Korea insufficient.

The sanctions committee was set up after the Security Council adopted Resolution 1718 in October 2006 following Pyongyang’s first nuclear test.

Track this year’s US and UN sanctions activities starting here.

Read the full article here:
U.N. expert panel on N. Korean sanctions begins operation
Kyodo News


South Korea officially blames DPRK for DDoS attack

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

According to Reuters:

North Korea’s communications ministry was behind a series of cyber attacks against South Korean and U.S. websites in July, the South’s spy chief was quoted on Friday as saying.

Dozens of major U.S. and South Korean government and business sites were slowed or disabled with traffic generated by malicious software planted on personal computers unknown to their users.

South Korean officials said at the time that North Korea was a prime suspect.

“The attacks on Korean and U.S. Internet sites were traced back to circuits originating in China,” the South’s spy chief Won Sei-hoon was quoted as telling a closed-door parliamentary committee meeting by Yonhap news agency.

“North Korea’s communications ministry has been confirmed as leasing the line,” Won reportedly said.

Some South Korean government websites, including the Defence Ministry and National Intelligence Service, were affected in the wave of attacks that lasted several days but did not lead to a breach of sensitive material or damage to online infrastructure, the agencies said.

Read the full story here:
North Korea behind cyber attacks-South’s spy chief


Reconstruction of Ryongchon

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

UPDATE 3 (2014-4-4): Here is the Red Cross report on the Ryongchon explosion (PDF).

UPDATE 2 (2004-4-22): Apparently these buildings have not aged well.

UPDATE 1 (2009-11-6) : This post was picked up by Yonhap:

N. Korea’s Ryongchon blast site reborn with Soviet-era complexes
Sam Kim

ORIGINAL POST (2009-10-28): In 2004 much of the town of Ryongchon was tragically destroyed in a large explosion.  Here is the Wikipedia page on the disaster if you would like a quick reference.

I compiled a couple of images to construct this “before” picture of Ryongchon:

(Click image for larger version)

Notice that the center of town is composed largely of traditional houses.

Here is the first “after” image (which is the default image on Google Earth):

(Click image for larger version)

As you can see a large number of traditional houses were destroyed as well as a school.

Below I have compiled more recent images to show how the city was reconstructed.  Gone are the traditional homes.  They have been replaced by typical Soviet-style apartment blocks:

(Click image for larger version)


Sinuiju market upgrade

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Below is the Google Earth satellite image from an area south of Sinuiju:

(Click image for larger version)

The busy area at the top of the image is a local market (Jangmadang).

Below is a more recent image of the same area.

(Click image for larger version)

We can see that the initial market has been closed and relocated to a larger and more modern facility.  This one is closer to the main road and reminds me of the Tongil Market in Pyongyang in terms of size and prominence.  Most all of the other markets are hidden from the main roads.


South Korea helps North Korea modernize hot lines

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Associated Press

South Korea sent fiber-optic cables and other equipment to North Korea on Wednesday to help its communist neighbor modernize military hot lines with the South — the latest sign of improving relations.

The shipment of communication equipment and materials worth 850 million won ($712,000) comes days after the South offered to send the North 10,000 tons of corn in its first direct food aid to the impoverished nation in nearly two years.

The North cut off six of nine hot lines in May 2008, citing technical problems, amid high tensions between the sides.

The lines were restored in September, and Pyongyang recently asked Seoul to help modernize the lines.

For a decade, South Korea was one of the biggest donors to the North, which has faced chronic food shortages since flooding and mismanagement destroyed its economy in the mid-1990s.


Campaign to sell Kaesong goods in Pyongyang

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-10-26-1

Companies in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) are pushing for permission to transport goods manufactured within the complex along the railway running from Kaesong to Sinuiju and the highways connecting Kaesong, Pyongyang, Sinuiju and the Chinese city of Dandong.

Currently, the majority of goods exported from the KIC flow through the South Korean port of Incheon. They are then distributed elsewhere after arriving at the Chinese port of Dalian. This route is expensive and slow. Shipping by sea costs 1,900 USD per container and takes as many as 10 days, while if the railway infrastructure was built up between Kaesong and Sinuiju, both the cost and the time could be significantly reduced.

Seventeen percent of Kaesong goods are exported not only to China, but to Europe, the Middle East and Russia. In the mid- to long-term, Kaesong needs to be connected with Rajin-Sunbong, so that goods can be distributed throughout Russia and Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railway. In order to make this happen, companies within the KIC are seeking to attract foreign joint-ventures and investments while at the same time lobbying North Korean authorities in an effort to convince them of the need for such land transportation infrastructure.

These companies are also pushing for improvements in the highway spanning the 160 km between the KIC and Pyongyang and the injection of KIC goods into the Pyongyang markets, where they could compete with Chinese imports. One part of this effort is promoting the attachment of ‘Made In DPRK’ labels to goods produced in these factories.

It appears that North Korean authorities have been receptive to these ideas, but questions still remain on the logistics of the project. One source has said that the North Korean Central Special Direct General Bureau has shown interest recently in the idea of including KIC goods in the annual Pyongyang International Trade Fair.

On the one hand, the number of North Korean workers in the KIC has now topped 40,000; but on the other hand, given the number and size of the factories in the complex, the factories are about 26,000 workers short of full capacity. The effort to find suitable workers means that now people from Sariwon, Pyongyang and Hamheung have been brought in. Companies in the KIC are adamant that construction of dormitories in the complex needs to be sped up. At the same time, North Korean authorities are demanding that workers be paid according to their level of education, job description, and experience.

For the first time in 13 months, trade between the two Koreas began to rise again. In September 2009, inter-Korean trade amounted to 173.17 million USD, a 2.6 percent rise over the 166.86 million USD recorded in 2008. The economy has shown signs of recovery since last July, and as inter-Korean relations have inched toward improvement, trade has also risen.


North Korea expecting smaller grain harvest due to increasing temperatures

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-10-19-2

As concerns over lean harvests and food shortages grow, North Koreans are growing more worried as rumors over worsening conditions next year make their way through North Korean communities. Temperatures in North Korea dropped sharply in July, leading to freezing that impacted the agricultural sector. From September 8-12, the temperature dropped so drastically that areas of North Korea frosted over. Mid-September temperatures then suddenly rose to levels well above average, leading fruits and vegetables to sprout new flowers.

Especially in the northern areas of the country, the strange weather patterns have led to widespread rumors of food shortages by the end of the year and beyond. While the North recorded average harvests this year, avoiding mass famine, the recently ended ‘150-day Battle’, market restrictions, and other controls have led to rampant concerns of starvation, flood, and other threats.

North Korean Central Broadcasting reported on September 25 that Russia had provided rice aid, and again on September 28 that Vietnam had sent food aid. It appears that the food crisis has reached such proportions that the government is no longer attempting to cover it up. With the majority of people believing that they will face widespread food shortages this year, many rumors are circulating that the North Korean authorities have decided to accept food aid from abroad. As fall has already arrived, there is talk of a ‘second arduous march’ having begun, and there are reports of rice traders travelling around the country and buying up all the supplies.

On October 11, prices in the Yanggang Province city of Hyesan were continuing to rise, despite it being autumn. Chinese rice was being sold for 2,500 won per kilogram, and North Korean rice was going for 2,700 won. After the first ‘arduous march’ (mid to late 1990s), North Korean authorities supplied some limited rations after the fall harvest in order to ease food shortages. However, this year, not even these rations are available, and authorities are calling on people to provide for themselves.

This year’s rice and corn harvests were smaller than previous years, and last month, the UN FAO predicted that the North would need 1.7-1.8 million tons of food aid from abroad. Kim Soon-kwon, director and founder of the International Corn Foundation, reported after a recent visit to North Korea that the country’s food supplies would fall one million tons short this year. The South Korean Ministry of Unification predicted earlier in the year that without outside aid, North Korea would be 1.17 million tons short of food. North Korean citizens need 5.48 million tons of food, and as previous harvests have been around 4.31 tons, the shortage is obvious.


Inter-Korean exchange down over 20% in 2009

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 09-10-19-1

Trade between North and South Korea has fallen more than 20 percent during the first eight months of 2009. Between January and September, exchanges between the two amounted to 929.7 million dollars, 24.1 percent less than the 1.2243 billion dollars recorded during the same period in 2008.

Inter-Korean trade has grown steadily over the past several years, marking 1.056 billion USD in 2005, 1.35 billion USD in 2005, 1.8 billion USD in 2007 and 1.82 billion USD last year. 2009 was the first year in which inter-Korean trade numbers have fallen. According to customs officials, inter-Korean trade in August, at 136.62 million USD, only registered 84 percent of that seen a year prior.

Trade numbers have continued to fall over the last 12 months. During that time, 3,399 items were exported, with a net worth of 53.81 million dollars, while 3,005 goods were imported, worth 82.8 million USD. A trade deficit of 28.99 million USD for South Korea is likely to continue through December. Sixty-four percent of goods exported from North Korea were light industrial products, the large majority being textiles. Fishery exports also made up 14 percent, or 1.24 million USD, of the North’s products sent to South Korea.

The South’s trade deficit, hitting 1.8 million USD, has been ongoing for the last 11 months. Overall, however, trade has been declining, largely due to the international financial difficulties and North Korea’s most recent nuclear test. South Korea, in accordance with UN resolution 1874, has restricted the export to North Korea of 13 different luxury goods in response to the North’s second nuclear test. Seoul has agreed to ban the export of thirteen different luxury goods, including wine, liquor, cosmetics, leather goods, furs, rugs, pearls and other jewelry, electronic goods, cars, boats, optics, clocks, musical instruments, art supplies and collectibles.

That said, as the South Korean economy recovers from the current global financial woes, it also appears that inter-Korean relations may improve. With the recent reunion of separated families and other North Korean moves to reengage Seoul, it may be possible for inter-Korean exchanges to again grow.


Why do North Korean’s like crude jokes?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

According to the Daily NK the answer is simple: they won’t get the joke teller in trouble.  For as the article states, “A short tongue can lose a long neck.”

For many years I have been on the lookout for North Korean jokes.  Economic theory tells us that if the penalties are high, then only hysterical jokes will circulate.  The higher the “tax” on jokes, the higher their “quality”.  Kind of like the effects of prohibition on alcohol or drug use.

In the past, I have posted some North Korean humor.  Here is the equivalent of a North Korean stand-up routine (which no South Korean has been able to translate for me yet).  Here are a bunch of jokes that supposedly circulate in the DPRK, though most of them were also told throughout the socialist world.

I know there is humor in the DPRK; I have seen it first-hand.  Every time I have asked a North Korean for examples, however (defectors and those still on the inside), I get nothing. If any North Koreans or friends of North Koreans are reading, please send in some North Korean jokes.


South Korea stiffens import rules on N. Korean products

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

UPDATE: Contrary to earlier reports (below) that South Korea was set to begin importing sand from the DPRK, it turns out that they are tightening import restrictions on goods from the DPRK.  According to Yonhap:

The government has tightened rules on imports of sand, pine mushrooms and anthracite from North Korea, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday, in an apparent move to keep a close eye on cash flows into Pyongyang.

The three items have been allowed into South Korea only with a declaration to the customs office, but the toughened rules now require their importers to receive approval from the unification minister, said ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo.

“Inter-Korean trade volumes of pine mushrooms, sand and anthracite have rapidly increased recently,” Lee said in a press briefing, without specifying the hike rates.

“This revision was prepared in consideration of two things — transparency of inter-Korean trade and keeping the import volume at a proper level,” she added.

Seoul has so far required approval from the unification minister, only when excessive imports of a certain item are feared to harm local producers. Those three items are not considered to fall into that category.

North Korean sand has been rumored to be linked to the country’s military. The concerns prompted Seoul to ban local sand importers from traveling to North Korea after it launched a long-range rocket in April, and such trips are not still allowed.

Last year, US$73.35 million worth of sand, $14,93 million of pine mushrooms and $25.1 million of anthracite were imported from North Korea. Sand was the largest imported item, while anthracite was 9th and pine mushrooms 18th.

With the tightened entry rules, the government can “make a judgment on the site about whether each business is appropriate and get sufficient information about them, thereby enhancing the transparency of inter-Korean trade and its soundness,” the spokeswoman said.

Read the full Story here:
South Korea stiffens import rules on N. Korean products

ORIGINAL POST: RoK looking to import sand from DPRK (again)
According to Yonhap:

South Korea has suspended sand imports from North Korea since April, when the North test-fired a long-range rocket. Seoul had banned sand importers from traveling to the North.

South Korea first brought in North Korean sand for use at local construction sites in late 2002, as part of an inter-Korean accord signed by leaders of the two Koreas in 2000.

“The government is reviewing the resumption of imports of the North’s sand, given strong requests from businesses and the overall state of current inter-Korean relations,” an informed government official said, requesting to be unnamed.

The South Korean government is expected to decide soon whether to lift the travel ban on sand importers as well, according to officials.

Seoul reportedly placed the travel restriction on sand importers due to suspicions that payments for sand shipments were pocketed by military authorities in the North.

Read other stories about the sand trade here.

Read the full story below:
Seoul mulls resuming sand imports from N. Korea: sources
Tony Chang