Archive for February, 2010

Recent CRS Reports on the DPRK

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I have added the following CRS reports to my “DPRK CRS Reports” page:

1. North Korea: Terrorism List Removal

2. North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Development and Diplomacy

3. North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues

4. North Korea: Economic Leverage and Policy Analysis

Hat tip to a consistently helpful reader. 


Bermudez publishes KPA Journal Vol. 1, No. 2

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

This year Joseph Bermudez, a military analyst for Jane’s Intelligence Review and author of The Armed Forces of North Korea, launched a journal dedicated to the discussion of the DPRK military: KPA Journal. 

Volume 1, No. 2 contains articles on the 1st Engineer River Crossing Regiment and the KN-02 SRBM (Short Range Ballistic Missile).  You can download it here.

You can download the inaugural issue here.  Both have been added to my burgeoning “DPRK Military Resources” page.


The DPRK’s 2008 census: results and analysis

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Thanks to a responsive employee at the UNFPA, I obtained a summary of the DPRK’s census findings.  You can download the summary here.

Thanks to a reader I was able to obtain a copy of the entire census data set.  You can download it here.

Both documents have been added to the “DPRK Economic Statistics Page“. Happy reading.


UPDATE 1: The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Ramstad published some analysis of the DPRK’s 2008 census data.  According to the article:

North Korea is getting bigger, older and less healthy, according to data from the country’s latest census, and its fabled million-man army might have fewer than 700,000 people.

The authoritarian government in December released results of the census conducted in 2008, saying its population had climbed to 24 million people from 21.2 million in the previous census in 1993.

More details have been published by the United Nations Population Fund, which helped North Korea conduct the census and sent five teams of observers to monitor it.

Even so, it’s difficult for outsiders, with so little access to the country, to be certain of the precision of North Korea’s data. For decades, the government has cut off the dissemination of most information about the country. The new census numbers provide a rare glimpse of official statistics.

The census reported that North Korea’s population grew at an annual average rate of 0.85% for the 15-year period, a time that included a devastating multiyear famine that analysts and foreign aid agencies estimate killed between one million and two million people.

A separate U.N. report published last year found that North Korea’s population has grown more slowly since 2005, at an annual rate of 0.4%. The global population has grown 1.2% annually since 2005, the U.N. report said.

North Korea’s census said the country’s population has proportionately fewer children and more middle-aged people than it did in 1993.

It also reported that people are less healthy.

Babies are more likely to die: The infant mortality rate climbed to 19.3 per 1,000 children in 2008 from 14.1 in 1993, though North Korea’s rate is still well below the world average, which a 2009 report by the U.N. agency put at 46 per 1,000 children.

North Koreans are living shorter lives—average life expectancy has fallen to 69.3 years from 72.7 in 1993.

As in many places, women live longer than men, with a gap of about seven years, compared with the world average of 4.4 years.

North Korea has 5.9 million households, with an average of 3.9 people in each, according to the census.

The typical home is 50 to 75 square meters in size (540 to 800 square feet). About 85% of homes have access to running water and about 55% have a flush toilet.

The census provided only a glimpse of the country’s economic structure, but even that produced some surprises. The occupation that provides the most employment—farming—has more women, 1.9 million, than men, 1.5 million.

The second-biggest occupation, working for the government or the military, employs 699,000 people. The census doesn’t break that group down further, but the figure suggests North Korea’s military isn’t as large as had been thought.

The military is often portrayed by outside military analysts and media as a force of one million people, mostly conscripts who are required to serve 10 years.

The third-largest employment sector by number of workers is education, followed by machinery manufacturing, textiles and coal mining. About 40,000 people work in computer, electronic or optical-product manufacturing.

North Korea hasn’t shared meaningful information about its economy or its financial system with the outside world since the early 1960s.

Outside estimates of its economic performance, most prominently an annual estimate by the South Korean central bank, the Bank of Korea, are filled with assumptions that even their authors say render them almost meaningless.

Word of the availability of the North Korea census data was disseminated last week on North Korea Economy Watch, a Web site run by Curtis Melvin, a Virginia-based graduate student in economics and a specialist in North Korea.

Read the full article here:
Pyongyang Reports an Aging, Less Healthy Population
Wall Street Journal
Evan Ramstad

UPDATE 2 (1/12/2011): According to the Choson Ilbo:

Each year, Statistics Korea publishes population figures for North Korea in a booklet based on surveys conducted by international organizations like the UN and data released by the Education Center for Unification under the Unification Ministry.

Most of these statistics were compiled based on a census the North took in 2008 with the UN’s help.

North Korea’s only previous census was in 1993, which established that the population is 21.21 million. Although rumor has it that several millions of people starved to death during the famine of the 1990s, nobody knows how many exactly died.

The second census in 2008 was taken with funds provided by the UN Population Fund to obtain basic data for humanitarian aid to the North. The North accepted the offer, presumably because it wanted a good grasp of the reality to develop its own economy.

The census lasted for 15 days, from Oct. 1 to 15, 2008. The North’s Central Statistics Bureau surveyed 5,587,767 households nationwide by mobilizing a total of 35,000 census takers through municipal and provincial statistics offices. The questionnaire consisted of 53 questions about income, furniture, electronic home appliances, toilets, heating system, and tap water and sewage facilities, as well as basic personal information such as age and gender.

Like in South Korea, the North Korean census takers visited homes to ask the questions face to face. Statistics Korea officials flew to China, where they taught North Korean officials census methodology and techniques, and the South gave the North as much as US$4 million for the census from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.

According to the census, the North’s population was 24,062,000, up 2.85 million from 1993. Average life expectancy was 69.3 years, and infant mortality was 19.3 per 1,000. But these data are quite different from UN estimates, which put life expectancy at 67.3 years and infant mortality at 48 per 1,000. The credibility of the North’s census data has not been verified.


Earthquake in North Korea-Russia-China border area (interesting follow-up at the bottom)

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

A strong underground earthquake registering a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale occurred about 21 km from the Russian border with North Korea around 10:13 a.m. on Thursday, the Korea Meteorological Administration announced based on data by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was 42.7 degrees northern latitude and 130.9 degrees eastern longitude 110 km southwest of Vladivostok near the border of North Korea, China and Russia.

The KMA said the quake was strong but the actual surface wave magnitude was a mere 2 because it happened 562.5 km below from the surface. “It’s the kind of situation where objects hanging from the ceiling swing a little and parked cars shake slightly, so almost no damage seems to have been done to people or buildings in North Korea and elsewhere,” a spokesman said. “The quake was a natural result of the subduction of the Pacific plate under the Eurasian plate. There always exists the possibility of strong quakes occurring on the Korean Peninsula as quakes stronger than magnitude 6 occur in the region every two years.”

Quakes are becoming more frequent. According to Chosun Ilbo’s analysis of the KMA data, 157 quakes occurred in both Koreas in the 1980s, but the frequency soared to 259 in the 1990s to 436 in the 2000s. Sixty quakes were reported last year, the most in the 31 years since the KMA began observation. Eight already occurred this year, similar to last year’s monthly average of five.

South Korea has far outdistanced North Korea both in frequency and magnitude of quakes. A total of 279 quakes have been reported on the peninsula since 1978, with 199 in the South and 80 in the North. Of the five quakes stronger than magnitude 5 since 1978, four occurred in South Korea. The South also led in terms of frequency of quakes with magnitudes between 4 and 5 with 28 of all 33.

A Unification Ministry official said, “We’re checking what effects the latest quake had on North Korea alongside related agencies.” Nothing has been reported yet by North Korean media, he added.

Sources in Najin Sonbong in North Korea and Hunchun in China, which are near the epicenter, said they have not been informed. Kim Sung-min, the director of Radio Free North Korea said their source in Hoeryong in North Hamgyong Province heard nothing about the quake.

Commenting on rumors that it was an artificial earthquake caused by a nuclear test, a South Korean government official said, “It would be realistically impossible for them to have dug 562 km down. Chances that it was caused by a nuclear test are extremely slim.” He said it was also unlikely that the North would conduct a test in a place close to the border plus the quake was too strong to be caused by an explosion.

Further information:

Here is the USGS data on the quake.

Here is the quake’s epicenter.

On October 22, 2008, a 4.8 earthquake struck off the coast of Chongjin.

And the fun–The US Geological Service has earthquake readings for both of the DPRK’s nuclear tests:

*Here is the USGS earthquake report for the DPRK’s October 09, 2006, test – a 4.3. 

*Here is the USGS earthquake report for the DPRK’s May 25, 2009, test – a 4.7.


Border crossing more expensie

Friday, February 19th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

Since the redenomination on November 30 last year, the cost of crossing the Tumen River has risen as high as 10,000 Yuan on the back of tighter border regulations.

A source from North Hamkyung Province told the Daily NK on Thursday, “Since border security was strengthened in February, it has cost at least 10,000 Yuan to cross the border into China.” This is equal to around 400,000 North Korean won at the black market exchange rate, or $1400.

In 2006, the cost of crossing the Tumen River around Musan and Onsung in North Hamkyung Province was just 500 Yuan.

The reason is because now there is an alliance of brokers monopolizing the crossing business, and a number of regulations designed to both circumscribe the ability of citizens to cross and limit the relationship between guard companies and local citizens.

In the distant past, if people wanted to cross the river, they approached guards and haggled over the price directly. However, now people have to rely on professional brokers who put them in contact with guards and guides in China. One pays a price to the broker, who shares it with North Korean border guards and Chinese guides respectively at a ratio of 4:3:3.

The North Korean authorities designated the period from February 5th until Kim Jong Il’s birthday on the 16th as a period of “special vigilance,” handing down special instructions to strengthen the border guard and regulations covering migration in border cities.

According to a Daily NK source, this measure is primarily intended to limit the ability of those suffering since the redenomination to smuggle or cross the border to make money in China, as well as to regulate citizens in advance of Kim Jong Il’s birthday, which is customary.

The source emphasized, “Since December last year, the number of citizens using human networks in China to make money has been increasing. Therefore, agents of the National Security Agency and the People’s Safety Agency have been watching those people closely.”

The source further explained, “Now, the authorities are forcing border guards to observe each other in order to track down those doing business with brokers and border crossers. In January, in Yusun-dong, Hoiryeong, one company commander was dismissed after a platoon commander informed on him for assisting border crossers.”

In the mid-2000s, along the border near settlements such as Namyang, Sambong, and Jongsung in North Hamkyung Province, the authorities set up nail boards and extra barbed wire along the Tumen River in order to inhibit defection. However, as these physical measures were not as effective as hoped, in 2006 the authorities took to switching guard posts between different guard companies without notice and awarding a prize, membership of the Party, to guards who caught people crossing the border. These measures were designed to break down connections between individual guards and the local populace

Therefore, the source added, “These days, no border guards are helping people cross the river, and the cost is soaring.”

Read the full story here:
Tight Rules Make Border Costs Soar
Daily NK
Lee Sung Jin


Kim Jong-Il idolized as supreme leader in North Korea’s word processor

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Open Radio
Hyelim Kim

Changdeok, North Korea’s primary word processor like Hangul in South Korea, is a true mirror of the idolization of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.
When Changdeok was first launched, the version 1.0, had April 15th, 1990 marked as the release date. It is Kim Il-Sung’s birthday.
As a word processor, Changdeok was developed to a 7.0 version in 2002 and has as superior quality of its functions, such as Hangul or MS-Word. It provides Korean, English, Chinese, Russian, and Japanese characters and other various functions such as 2 or 3 dimensions character effects and complex arithmetic calculations.
It has special characteristics devised especially for Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. KPS 9566-2003 legislated in 2003 is the most recent version of North Korean industrial standards. 22 of a total 16,776 KPS 9566-2003 characters are not included in Unicode set, a computer standard for encoding characters expressed in most of the world’s writing systems. 16 of KPS 9566-2003 are special characters. And the rest 6– “Kim”, “IL”, “Sung”, “Kim”, “Jong”, and “IL– are reduplications only uses for Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.
Therefore, “Kim Il-Sung” and “Kim Jong-Il” are recognized as special characters on Character Map and automatically switched to Bold text. But there is nothing wrong with this system because nobody has the same name as Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in North Korea.
Another Changdeok system indicating the absolute power of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il are CTRL modifier keys. <CTRL+I> for “Kim Il-Sung” and <CTRL+J> for “Kim Jong-Il” are only modifier keys allowed in the Changdeok system.

These special characters and modifier keys is one side of Kim Il-Sung’s and Kim Jong-Il’s idolization. But, considering “Kim Il-Sung” and “Kim Jong-Il” in North Korean published works must be in bold text, special characters and modifier keys are for convenient editing processes as well.
The last distinct feature of the Changdeok system aew font names designed and systemized by the Korea Computer Center and Pyongyang Program Center for convenient electronic publishing. Chollima, Kwangmyong, and Cheongbong are major ones among those interesting fonts.
Chollima font is named after the Chollima campaign which led to North Korea’s economic development in 1950s and 60s. It is often used for posters and advertisements.
Kwangmyong is the second famous font. Kwangmyong means Kim Jong-Il, and it was named after ‘Baekdu-Kwangmyong legend,’ a novel written to deify Kim Jong-Il.
Cheongbong font is a memorial for celebration of Kim Jong-Il’s victory in the battle with Japanese troops during the colonial period. This font is often used for long body paragraphs of texts as well as titles and subtitles.
As the Cheongbong system shows, the status of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il are special, even in a word processor program. In other words, a field of software is also used as a means for promotion and instigation of the North Korean dictatorship.


Kimjongilia and Kimjongeunia trivia

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

According to Bloomberg, Kim Jong Un [Eun] might have his own flower.

North Korea celebrated Kim Jong Il’s birthday today with tens of thousands of flowers. The most intriguing blossom is a new variety of begonia sent on his son’s birthday that may signify preparations for a succession.

Floral tributes arrived from China, Japan, Laos, Russia and Syria, the Korean Central News Agency reported this month. The inclusion of a new breed of begonia delivered on the Jan. 8 birthday of youngest son Kim Jong Un follows a pattern of using flowers to help legitimize the ruling family’s power, according to Paik Hak Soon, a director of inter-Korean relations at the Seongnam, South Korea-based Sejong Institute.

“North Korean leaders have used the flowers as a propaganda tool to glorify their leadership,” Paik said. “The flower is an obvious sign that Kim Jong Il is preparing a handover,” he said, adding that both Kim and his father Kim Il Sung, who founded the nation, have their own designated blossoms.

Flower symbolism?  I believe Emperor of Japan is owed some royalties!

Anyhow, I was looking forward to seeing pictures of  the new “Kimjongeunia” but it turns out the flower might not exist.  According to the same article in Bloomberg:

[Kim Il Sung] received a hybrid orchid in 1965 from Indonesian President Sukarno and named it Kimilsungia. Kim was given his begonia in 1988. It is called Kimjongilia and dubbed the “immortal flower” to glorify his leadership.

KCNA said both Kim Jong Il’s flower and the begonia delivered on Jan. 8 were sent by a Japanese botanist named Mototeru Kamo. The KCNA report didn’t mention the son.

Kamo, who said he has visited North Korea about 10 times, denied sending a new flower to commemorate Kim Jong Un. Neither had the 1988 begonia been intended for the father, Kamo said by telephone from his office in Kakegawa, Japan. “At the time, no one knew anything about Kim Jong Il,” he said. “Therefore, there’s no way I could create a flower to suit his image. Horticulture and politics should be separate.”

Read the full story here:
Birthday Flower May Be Part of Kim Jong Il Succession
Bomi Lim


2.16 Turtle soup

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

February 16 is Kim Jong Il’s official birthday and the second most important national holiday in the DPRK. I will let you guess the first.  The celebration actiities were predictable: fireworks, synchronized swimmingpublic pledges of loyalty, dancing, and of course the Kimjongilia flower show. The usual.

KCNA, however, pointed out one new tradition of which I was unaware:

Turtle Dishes Begin to Be Served
Pyongyang, February 13 (KCNA) — Okryu Restaurant in Pyongyang has begun serving dishes made of snapping turtle on the occasion of the birthday of leader Kim Jong Il, February 16.

One can be treated in the restaurant with various kinds of turtle dishes such as turtle soup, raw dishes made of turtle heart, liver or spawn, steamed or fried turtle and turtle porridge.

Liquors of famous brands including Pyongyang Soju brewed at the Taedonggang Foodstuff Factory are adding to the taste of the dishes.

The dishes are associated with leader Kim Jong Il’s loving care for improving the people’s diet as required by a thriving nation.

He gave meticulous instructions as to turtle breeding and cookery, hoping that turtle dishes, good for health, would be served well to the people at restaurants.

Refurbished Okryu Restaurant, famous for Pyongyang cold noodles, took the lead in making preparations to successfully realizing the leader’s wish.

Its employees built a habitat in order to raise turtles on a large scale.

They completed a unique cookery for diversified turtle dishes to suit the Korean people’s taste through several sampling parties.

Along with turtle food the restaurant also delights customers with caviar and other rare dishes.

It has a plan to include bullfrog, salmon and other high-grade dishes in its menu.

The Okryu Restaurant is located here.

The Daily NK offers some unofficial news about Kim Jong il’s birthday holiday:

While the North Korean media praises Kim Jong Il’s greatness on his 68th birthday, the common citizens are having a quiet time, suffering under a growing food crisis.

This year’s Lunar New Year holiday fell around Kim Jong Il’s birthday, so sources report that the authorities gave the people time off from the 14th for three days. However, special distribution for the holiday was patchy this year, differing in quantity from province to province.

One source from Musan, North Hamkyung Province reported, “Even though we are facing the General (Kim Jong Il)’s birthday, there is no liquor being distributed. Just for cadres and soldiers, a 500ml bottle of liquor and a kilogram of pork are being supplied.”

The source added that general food prices are fluctuating. “Rice prices in the jangmadang are different all the time. On the 15th, over 450 won, but in the afternoon it went down to 400 won. And, now it is up to almost 500 won.”

“There are a number of people who are starving. Even though the jangmadang is open, these people cannot purchase rice due to its high price. However, liquor sellers are seemingly able to earn money because people need it for memorial ceremonies for their ancestors.”

A source from Yangkang Province reported the situation there, “The authorities have provided us with four days of mixed rice and corn. There has been no other special distribution, except cookies for children from their schools. However, even though people have received food distribution, the price of rice is up around 500 won.”

Only in Hoiryeong have residents received as much as Pyongyang citizens. They got one bottle of liquor and one day’s rice, according to a source in the city.

Links to previous birthday posts can be found here.


China to send $10 billion investment to DPRK

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

UPDATE: According to the Daily NK, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) claims $10 billion transfer is not likely:

The director of the NIS, Won Sei Hoon passed on the confirmation to a closed-door meeting of the Intelligence Committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday, after which members Chung Jin Suk of the Grand National Party and Park Young Sun of the Democratic Party revealed it to the press.

According to the two lawmakers, Won told the Committee, “Although North Korea is likely going around trying to invite 10 billion dollars of foreign investment, it seems that they have not attracted that much capital,” before predicting, “Unless the North solves the nuclear problem, it will be almost impossible to attract that much capital.”

He did add, however, “The Cabinet, Workers’ Party, military authorities and National Defense Commission have all seemingly been moving to try and obtain foreign capital. The appeasement attitude shown to the international community may be a part of their efforts to solve the problem of a lack of foreign currency.”

During the closed-doors meeting, Won also gave his opinion on a wide range of other issues pertaining to North Korea, including the inter-Korean dialogue and the truth of Kim Jong Il’s health status.

“It is not a deadlock situation because there is still dialogue,” Won said of the inter-Korean relationship. However, “Since North Korea’s attitude has not changed yet; it will take more time to resume the tours of Mt. Geumgang and Kaesong.”

Commenting on Kim Jong Il’s probable health condition, Won revealed that Kim has been making an effort to appear healthy, for example by removing age spots on his face, but, “While he has been visiting industrial sites, he has expressed nervousness about current issues and economic problems, and has a sharpened temper. His tendency of relying on old acquaintances and family members has been increasing.”

However, “I believe there is zero possibility of a coup. For the time being, it seems that the North Korean leadership can control its domestic society.”

ORIGINAL POST: According to Yonhap:

During his four-day visit to Pyongyang, the source said [Wang Jiarui, head of the international department of the Communist Party of China] held in-depth discussions about investments by Chinese companies via Daepung Group, an investment company that works to attract overseas capital to the communist state.

Total investments are expected to exceed the $10 billion mark, with a signing ceremony planned by North Korea’s State Development Bank in mid-March that is to be attended by foreign investors from involved nations, the source said.

“Over 60 percent of total investments, which will be announced next month, will come from China,” the source added, suggesting the Chinese government’s close involvement in building railways, ports and houses in North Korea.

China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner and an important provider of food and fuel. North Korea remains isolated from most of the world and has received virtually no foreign investment. The North’s GDP was estimated at around $26.2 billion in 2008 compared with $1.3 trillion for the South, according to the U.S. State Department.

Read more about the Korea Taepung International Investment Group and the DPRK State Development Bank here.

Read the full story below:
N. Korea draws US$10 billion in foreign investments: source


S. Korea to deliver anti-viral sanitizer to N. Korea next week

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

According to Yonhap:

South Korea said Tuesday it will send 1 billion won (US$866,000) worth of hand sanitizer next week to North Korea to help the impoverished neighbor combat the spread of the H1N1 flu virus.

The shipment of 200,000 liters of sanitizer, scheduled for next Monday, comes after South Korea delivered some $15 million in anti-viral medications to the North in December in the first state-level cross-border humanitarian aid in nearly two years.

North Korea first acknowledged cases of Influenza A virus infection on Dec. 9, but it has yet to report any flu-related deaths.

The hand sanitizer will be transported to the North Korean border town of Kaesong on South Korean trucks across the military demarcation line and handed to the North there, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said.

“North Korea agreed to accept the aid on Feb. 22,” he told reporters, adding about 20 25-ton trucks will likely be mobilized to deliver the aid.

The Tamiflu aid in December marked the first humanitarian assistance provided by the South Korean government to North Korea since conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in Seoul in early 2008. Lee cut off the unconditional aid that his liberal predecessors had shipped to the North over the past decade, conditioning exchanges on progress in the North’s denuclearization.

Read the full story here:
S. Korea to deliver anti-viral sanitizer to N. Korea next week

UPDATE: The shipment has been delivered

SKorea sends 2nd batch of swine flu aid to NKorea
AP via Business Week

South Korean trucks have crossed the border into North Korea to deliver a second batch of swine flu aid.

Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo says South Korea sent 52,840 gallons (200,000 liters) of hand sanitizers to North Korea on Tuesday.

South Korea sent enough doses of the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza for 500,000 North Koreans in December in its first direct humanitarian aid to the communist country in nearly two years. North and South Korea have remained in a state of war since 1953.

North Korea acknowledged in December that swine flu had broken out in the country though hasn’t mentioned any virus-related deaths.

Tamiflu is made by Switzerland’s Roche Group. Relenza is a procuct of GlaxoSmithKline.