Archive for July, 2010

Noko Jeans sales to expand beyond Sweden

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

According to the Choson Ilbo:

According to RFA, the company announced a plan to open outlets selling its jeans in many locations outside of Sweden.

Encouraged by growing sales, the company has been carrying out aggressive marketing activities since the beginning of this year, including promoting products, expanding outlets, and seeking overseas markets.

The Swedish firm signed a contract with North Korea to produce the jeans in 2008. Available from both online and offline stores since last December, they come in one style for men and one for women with a price tag of US$210.

Read the full story here:
Market for N.Korea-Made Jeans to Expand
Choson Ilbo


Chinese lease Chongjin port

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

UPDATE:  The Daily NK offers some more information:

North Korea has leased the rights to use Chongjin port to a Chinese firm, according to a Yonhap report released yesterday.

The report, citing an anonymous government official from Tumen in China’s far northeast, across the Tumen River from Namyang in North Hamkyung Province, said that the usage rights have been sold to a “Chinese state company, Yanbian Haihua Import-Export Trade Company.”

He predicted, “Yanbian Haihua Import-Export Trade Company will start shipping between Chongjin port and Busan by container ship in September, and will start shipments to southern regions of China soon.”

The anonymous official also revealed that North Korea has agreed to allow the Chinese company to use the railroad between Tumen and Chongjin as part of the deal. The deal, the official said, will “facilitate trade from Tumen,” and added that the Chinese company which inked it is planning to use it to fulfill shipping contracts with three other Chinese companies.

The Chinese company is reportedly investing 10 million Yuan ($1.48 million approx.) in shipping cranes and other construction at Chongjin, and is having 150 freight cars produced to add to 50 already sent.

The deal follows a similar one for the No. 1 dock at Rasun port, some 70km north of Chongjin. That deal, made after the visit to Pyongyang of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in October last year, gave the rights to the dock to another Chinese company, Chuangli Group.

ORIGINAL POST: According to Yonhap:

China has acquired the rights to use another one of North Korea’s northeastern ports, signaling deepening economic ties between the ideological allies, a Chinese official said Thursday.

China has used the North Korean port of Rajin in North Hamgyong Province for commercial trade since 2008. An official at the Tumen city government in northeast China said that a Chinese state company has now also obtained the rights to use the port of Chongjin, about 70 kilometers south of Rajin.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles North Korea affairs, said it could not immediately confirm the comments by the Chinese official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Since North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to Beijing earlier this year, the two countries have been strengthening their economic cooperation. China is the foremost ally of the cash-strapped North, which is under deepening sanctions for its nuclear testing.

The Chinese official also said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that North Korea and China have also agreed to allow Chinese companies to use North Korea’s railways from Tumen to Chonjin.

The series of agreements would “facilitate trade from Tumen,” the official said, adding the Chinese company that struck the deal to use the port of Chongjin will use it to carry out shipping agreements with three Chinese companies.

Here is a map of the Rajin port showing which pier the Chinese are leasing.

Read the full story here:
China allowed to use another N. Korean port: official


Choson Excange continues to grow

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Geoffrey See at Choson Exchange is putting together a solid team to facilitate innovative academic outreach programs in the DPRK.

Judging from a recent blog post it appears he is having luck making contact with a wide variety of DPRK organizations.

This fall the group plans to launch is first academic program in the DPRK.


RoK to teach legal system to DPRK defectors

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

According to Yonhap:

The Unification Ministry signed an agreement Wednesday with a leading association of lawyers here to support North Korean defectors having difficulties while adapting to the capitalist South Korean society.

Minister Hyun In-taek signed the deal with President Kim Pyung-woo of the Korean Bar Association, calling on lawyers to teach the defectors about South Korea’s legal system at resettlement centers.

The agreement also provides consultation with lawyers for free or at reduced fees if the former residents of the communist North are involved in a legal dispute or need to file a lawsuit.

More than 19,000 North Koreans have defected to the South since the three-year Korean War ended in a truce in 1953. A bulk of them have come in recent years as the North’s food crisis deepens.

A 2007 survey showed that North Korean defectors were dozens of times more susceptible to fraud due mainly to their lack of understanding of the market system here.

Read the full story here:
Gov’t joins hands with lawyers to support N. Korean defectors


US attempts to apply more pressure to DPRK

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

UPDATE 2: More details are coming out about the US led initiative to track down DPRK-owned accounts in foreign banks.

According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is believed to have a US$4 billion slush fund stashed away in secret accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

According to sources, North Korean bank accounts in Russia are being tracked after the U.S. government obtained information that the Russian mafia is laundering money for the North. Kim Jong-il and other officials cannot engage in financial transactions using their real names, so they are believed to operate secret bank accounts or rely on the Russian mob.

Philip Goldberg, the former U.S. State Department envoy charged with enforcing UN sanctions, visited Russia in August last year and reportedly asked Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin to crack down on the mob for its involvement in laundering money for North Korea.

North Korean accounts held in African banks are being tracked, because the reclusive regime has been earning a substantial amount of money in the region by smuggling ivory and selling weapons. “Despite the UN sanctions, North Korea has opened up new markets in Africa and Latin America,” said one North Korean source.

The U.S. sanctions against North Korea are expected to differ from pressure applied to Macao-based Banco Delta Asia back in 2005. “Rather than freezing the operations of an entire financial institution like BDA by getting the U.S. Treasury Department to blacklist it on suspicion of money laundering, the measures this time will probably involve the tracking of individual North Korean accounts directly linked to illicit activities and freezing them,” a diplomatic source said.

Sanctioning entire banks could prompt North Korea to complain that its legal financial transactions are also being blocked and this could make the lives of ordinary North Koreans even more difficult. This is probably why U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said these measures “are not directed at the people of North Korea,” but at the “destabilizing, illicit and provocative policies pursued by that government.”

Others say the latest sanctions could be more comprehensive than previous ones by automatically limiting U.S. transactions with all banks found to deal in a certain amount of money with North Korea, rather than singling out particular banks. Under such pressure, banks could voluntarily sever relations with North Korean businesses or individuals to avoid being blacklisted.

The South Korean government has apparently notified the U.S. of between 10 to 20 North Korean bank accounts under suspicion of being involved in illicit deals. There are fears that massive Chinese aid to the North could render the U.S. sanctions useless, but judging from the vehement protests lodged by North Korea when its accounts at BDA were frozen, experts say financial sanctions are an effective means of pressure.

And according to a different Choson Ilbo story:

The U.S. will freeze North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s overseas secret bank accounts based on a tip-off from a whistleblower at a state-run bank in Liechtenstein in 2006-2007.

The August issue of the Monthly Chosun said since the North’s attack on the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in March, speculation has been rife among North Korea experts in Washington that the Obama administration will freeze Kim Jong-il’s secret accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

The tip-off from Heinrich Kieber, a former employee of LGT Bank, which is owned by the Liechtenstein royal family, contributed decisively to the U.S. obtaining information about Kim’s secret accounts. According to the U.S. Senate, Kieber said the “head of department in a socialist government” wanted to deposit more than US$5 million “with no explanation in the files whatever in regard to the source of the vast amount.”

The U.S. recently signed a tax information exchange agreement with Liechtenstein which could allow it to freeze bank accounts suspected of belonging to Kim.

The US also plans to distribute a lack list of North Korean firms to distribute internationally.  According to Asahi:

The United States plans to release a blacklist of North Korean companies and individuals believed to be involved in transactions of weapons of mass destruction and luxury items as part of new sanctions on Pyongyang in the wake of the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan.

An official with the South Korean government divulged the plan on Friday. Seoul has been contacted by Washington about the blacklist.

The official said financial institutions would be under pressure to freeze or close accounts held by the companies and individuals on the blacklist.

The new measure is designed to avoid the problems that arose in September 2005 when the U.S. Treasury Department designated Banco Delta Asia of Macao as a financial institution suspected of laundering money for North Korea.

That designation caused a run on the bank and the Macao government was forced to place it under its control.

Under the new blacklist proposal, the United States hopes to provide financial institutions around the world with the names of individuals and companies with close ties to North Korea.

A South Korean government official said, “If a foreign government or financial institution does not cooperate with the new sanctions, there is the possibility that it could lose trust so the blacklist would apply silent pressure to conform.”

One problem is that many North Korean-related accounts are held in China and it remains unclear what, if any, cooperation will be obtained from Beijing and Chinese financial institutions.

One report from China does indicate that this strategy will make business with North Korea more difficult.  According to the Korea Herald:

Chinese banks ― mostly bigger institutions with international operations ― will not be able to avoid the sanctions that the U.S. is pursuing against North Korea, an official here said Monday.

“The bigger banks cannot avoid the sanctions because all of its transactions go through the U.S.,” he said.

He stressed that even smaller institutions ― such as Banco Delta Asia in the past ― could come under scrutiny because all wiring services go through New York.

“This means that for everyone dealing with North Korea, it will become difficult for them to send and receive money from the North,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The U.S. has already called for a dozen banks around the world including those in China to freeze the North Korean assets in their accounts, according to diplomatic sources in Washington. The accounts are suspected of being used for illicit activities by the North, such as purchasing weapons, luxury goods and trading in counterfeit.

UPDATE 1:  The US has already begun going after DPRK bank accounts.  According to the Donga Ilbo:

The U.S. government will reportedly freeze some 100 illegal bank accounts allegedly linked to North Korea, a diplomatic source said Thursday.

Washington is known to have discovered about 200 bank accounts worldwide linked to Pyongyang in the process of mulling financial sanctions separate from those of the U.N. since the March 26 sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan.

“The U.S. is closely tracking 100 of the suspected accounts that are highly likely to be illegal,” the source said.

If Washington takes action against the accounts, including suspension of transactions, its sanctions are expected to be stronger than the September 2005 freeze of 25 million U.S. dollars in the North’s accounts at the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia.

“As U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 ban financial transactions that could be used for weapons of mass destruction or missile programs, bank accounts under borrowed names related to such transactions can be seen as illegal,” the source said.

“Investigations by the CIA and the Treasury Department will reveal how many of the 100 accounts are directly linked to illegal transactions.”

The source said the level of sanctions sought will likely be 100 times stronger than the measures taken against Banco Delta Asia.

Even if Washington imposes sanctions on illegal accounts, however, it will likely ask each bank to close them rather than disclosing them on its official gazette, the source said.

“Disclosing the names of the banks where the accounts were opened will likely cause a strong protest from the banks because of possible damage to the banks` reputations and transactions,” the source said. “The U.S. government has continued to consult the banks and will likely induce them to quietly close the accounts.”

A detailed outline of the U.S. financial sanctions is expected to be released by Robert J. Einhorn, new U.S. coordinator for sanctions on North Korea and Iran, when he visits Seoul early next month.

And according to the Joong Ang Daily:

The United States has already begun quietly freezing assets in North Korean accounts at about 10 banks around the world, diplomatic sources familiar with the situation told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

On Tuesday in Seoul, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. would levy additional sanctions on North Korea for the March sinking of the Cheonan.

“The U.S. Treasury Department and intelligence authorities began looking into about 200 bank accounts that showed suspicious activities involving North Korea,” an informed diplomatic source said. “Bank accounts used to deposit money earned from the North’s exports of arms, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, were studied, along with accounts used to purchase luxury goods believed to be supplied to the North’s leadership.”

Of the 200 suspicious accounts, U.S. authorities narrowed their attention to about 100 and began freezing their assets, the source said. The accounts belong to about 10 banks in Southeast Asia, southern Europe and the Middle East, the sources said. All the accounts were opened and operated under aliases, the source said.

Resolution 1718 was adopted on Oct. 14, 2006, after the North’s nuclear test that month. The main sanctions were an arms embargo, inspection of cargo going in and out of the North, an export ban on luxury goods to the North and the freezing of assets of individuals and entities designated by the UN sanctions committee. Resolution 1874 was adopted in June 2009 after the second nuclear test in May 2009, and it reinforced the existing sanctions.

While the U.S. was public about freezing North Korean accounts at the Macao-based Banco Delta Asia in 2005, the latest freezings were done quietly, the source said.

“When the U.S. authorities informed the banks that there were problems associated with certain accounts, the banks quietly froze the assets, making it hard for the media to detect,” the source said. “The assets in those accounts are likely to be money Kim Jong-il needs to operate his regime, so this will deal a serious blow to the North.”

“The U.S. began the freezings before June,” the source said. “The moves should be interpreted as a part of new sanctions on the North to hold it responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan.”

The assets in those accounts were presumably raised through illicit trade of arms, counterfeiting money, money laundering and drug trafficking, the source said. “In the past, the North deposited money in African bank accounts created under aliases and raised through trafficking in elephant ivory, selling of counterfeit Viagra and exporting arms in Africa,” the source said.

The source said the new financial sanctions will be different from what happened in the Banco Delta Asia crisis that stalled the six-party nuclear talks for years due to the North’s protest. Instead of naming and shaming a specific bank as a money laundering institution and pressuring it to freeze North Korean assets, “quiet” moves are now preferred to avoid blowback from Pyongyang, the source said.

Another source confirmed the additional financial sanctions, noting that, “If the charges are very clear, then the Banco Delta Asia method will be used, while the silent method will be used in more ambiguous cases.”

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official said a package of sanctions aimed at stopping Pyongyang’s illegal activities will be announced in the next couple of weeks. In a press briefing in Washington on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley elaborated on the fresh sanctions announced by Clinton in Seoul.

“Much of what we’ve done up to this point has centered on proliferation activities that stem from specific authorities,” Crowley said. “We’re moving into strengthening our national steps to attack the illicit activities that help to fund the weapons programs that are of specific concern to us – things like the importation of luxury goods into North Korea, concerns that we have long had about trafficking in conventional arms. So there are authorities that we will strengthen nationally, and we’ll have more to say about that in the next couple of weeks.”

North Korea’s counterfeiting of banknotes and cigarettes, diplomats’ smuggling of cigarettes, banking transactions that fund weapons programs and support the government and its policies were named as some of the illegal activities to be tackled under the sanctions.

Crowley also said Robert Einhorn, special adviser for nonproliferation arms control, will soon begin a trip to encourage countries that have been reluctant to implement earlier sanctions, noting that the North has found ways to sidestep the measures.

“They look to see if there are seams and gaps in the international effort,” Crowley said. “That’s what Bob Einhorn is going to be consulting with a range of countries where we think there needs to be more aggressive implementation of Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874.”

Crowley, however, refused to say what Einhorn’s destinations are and if they include China.

“China obviously has a big role to play in this,” Crowley only said.

ORIGINAL POST: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton has announced the US will impose tighter financial sanctions on the DPRK.  According to Al Jazeera:

The United States will impose new sanctions on North Korea in a bid to stem its nuclear weapons ambitions, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said.

Clinton said the measures were designed to stamp out illegal money-making ventures used to fund the nuclear programme.

“These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided priorities of their government,” Clinton said after talks with defence and military officials in South Korea on Wednesday.

“They are directed at the destabilising, illicit, and provocative policies pursued by that government,” she said.

She said the sanctions would be aimed at the sale or procurement of arms and related goods as well as the procurement of luxury items.

The US will freeze assets as well as prevent some businesses and individuals from travelling abroad, and collaborate with banks to stop illegal financial transactions, Clinton said.

Also the US Department of the Treasury (h/t Josh) has announced new procedures that apply to U.S. financial institutions maintaining correspondent accounts for “foreign banks operating under a banking license issued by” North Korea.  According to FinCEN:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has not committed to the AML/CFT international standards, nor has it responded to the FATF’s numerous requests for engagement on these issues. DPRK’s lack of a comprehensive AML/CFT regime poses a risk to the international financial system. DPRK should work with the FATF to develop a viable AML/CFT regime in line with international standards.

B. Jurisdictions in FATF Statement Section 2 have been identified by the FATF as having strategic AML/CFT deficiencies and not having committed to an action plan developed with the FATF to address key deficiencies. Based on the FATF’s adoption of the ICRG’s findings, a decision by the FATF in which the United States concurs, FinCEN is advising U.S. financial institutions of their increased obligations under Section 312 of the USA PATRIOT ACT, 31 USC § 5318(i). Accordingly, U.S. financial institutions should apply enhanced due diligence, as described under implementing regulations 31 CFR § 103.176(b) and (c) when maintaining correspondent accounts for foreign banks operating under a banking license issued by DPRK and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Read the full statement here.

Also, the US Department of State has added the DPRK’s Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) to its list of sanctioned companies.   According to the Chosn Ilbo:

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday put another North Korean company on a list of sanctions targets based on the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

The Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation was added to the list due to suspected dealings in weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles in violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime since 2006.

The company had already been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a target of financial sanctions. The blacklisting came as part of wider U.S. sanctions against the Stalinist country that largely cover well-trodden ground.

KOMID will not be permitted to conclude supply contracts with any U.S. government agencies or to take part in any U.S. government support programs. The newest round of sanctions will be effective for two years from the moment they take effect.


Rice price climbing

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

The price of rice has exceeded 1,000 won in border areas of North Korea, according to sources.

A source from North Hamkyung Province reported to The Daily NK on Sunday that the rice price had reached 1,050 won in Hoiryeong, 1,000 won in Hyesan and 950 won in Shinuiju.

Another source from Hoiryeong reported on Monday morning, “Rice prices have been going up since July, and they continue to rise steeply. Once rice prices go up, other prices follow suit. It is worrisome.”

The pace of the rises is dramatic. On the 1st of this month, the price hit 500 won, on around the 11th, 750 won, and on the 18th, 1,000 won. In just two weeks, then, it has doubled. If it keeps rising at this speed, it will rise to more than 1,200 won, a price which was also recorded in February this year.

Indeed, one South Korean NGO, People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE), said today that the rice price in Musan, North Hamkyung Province has already hit 1,200 won.

Sources unanimously agree that the cause of the rises is the rising value of the Chinese Yuan.

The North Hamkyung Province source said, “In one week, one Yuan grew to be worth 220 won (from 150 won). That is exactly double the value of the won late last month.” It is also exactly the same rate of increase as rice is experiencing.

The source predicted that, “In short order, one Yuan may be worth 300 won.”

“People are suffering from increasing food prices. Even corn is now 500 won (per kilogram),” he added.

Even though the authorities hope to trumpet economic achievements in the September Delegates’ Conference in order to publicize Kim Jong Eun’s succession, it seems that complaints against the third generation succession as well as rising food prices are increasing.

Sources are watching with keen interest whether the authorities are planning to try and ameliorate the skyrocketing prices.

Read the full story below:
Rice Prices Break Through 1,000 Won
Daily NK
Yoo Gwan Hee


DPRK reportedly executes another official

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

According to the Guardian:

Kwon Ho Ung – Pyongyang’s chief delegate from 2004 to 2007 for ministerial talks with Seoul’s then liberal government – was executed by firing squad, Seoul’s mass-circulation Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said, citing an unidentified source in Beijing.

South Korea’s intelligence agency and the unification ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, refused to comment on the report.

The newspaper report said it had not confirmed when and where Kwon was executed.

You can read the full Guardian story here.


Kaesong exports to ROK remain constant

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

According to Yonhap:

The volume of goods brought into South Korea from a joint factory park in North Korea has remained unchanged despite Seoul’s trade ban slapped on Pyongyang in May in retaliation for its deadly attack on a South Korean warship, the government here said Tuesday.

The volume of products transported from the Kaesong industrial park stood at 6,953 tons in June, compared to 7,004 tons a month earlier when South Korea banned trade with North Korea and cut the number of South Korean workers staying in the North Korean border town, the Unification Ministry said in a release.

“There has been little difference in the amount of manufactured products brought in since the May 24 measures,” which the South imposed after a multinational investigation found the North responsible for the March sinking of the Cheonan, it said.

Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said currency conversions for the data were not immediately available.

North Korea has denied any responsibility for the attack in the Yellow Sea that left 46 sailors dead. About 121 South Korean firms operate in Kaesong, employing 44,000 North Korean workers — the last remaining major symbol of detente between the divided countries.

According to the ministry that handles cross-border affairs, the amount of goods brought into South Korea for the first half of this year nearly doubled compared to the same period last year. The figures signaled the Kaesong factory park continued to grow even though the relations between the Koreas have soured since 2008.

But many of the Kaesong companies have complained of falling orders and are seeking rescue funds, arguing the deteriorating political relations are increasingly becoming a liability for their businesses.

Read the full story here:
Influx of goods from inter-Korean factory park stays consistent: gov’t
Sam Kim


Lost Korean War battalion awaits US MIA decision

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

According to the Associated Press:

Trapped by two Chinese divisions, troops of the 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment were left to die in far northern Korea, abandoned by the U.S. command in a Korean War episode viewed as one of the most troubling in American military history.

Sixty years later those fallen soldiers, the lost battalion of Unsan, are stranded anew.

North Korea is offering fresh clues to their remains. American teams are ready to re-enter the north to dig for them. But for five years the U.S. government has refused to work with North Korea to recover the men of Unsan and others among more than 8,000 U.S. missing in action from the 1950-53 war.

Now, under pressure from MIA family groups, the Obama administration is said to be moving slowly to reverse the Bush administration’s suspension of the joint recovery program, a step taken in 2005 as the North Korean nuclear crisis dragged on.

“If I had a direct line in to the president, I would say, `Please reinstitute this program. There are families that need closure,'” said Ruth Davis, 61, of Palestine, Texas, whose uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Benny Don Rogers, has been listed as MIA since Chinese attackers overran his company — I Company, 8th Cavalry — at Unsan in late 1950.

It was one of Rogers’ I Company comrades, Pfc. Philip W. Ackley of Hillsboro, New Hampshire, whose identifying dog tag appeared in a photo the North Koreans handed over at Korea’s Panmunjom truce village in January of this 60th year since the war started. The North Koreans also delivered photos of remains, a stark reminder that Unsan’s dead still wait to come home.

The U.S. “has developed the humanitarian issue into a political problem,” complained a North Korean statement urging resumption of the MIA search project, which earned hard currency for the Pyongyang government.

The devastating losses at Unsan, in early November 1950, came as China intervened to fend off a final North Korean defeat. In a last letter home, dated Oct. 30, Rogers told his parents, “It is a lot better over here, but it’s not over yet.”

The U.S. command had ignored intelligence reports that China’s army was moving south, and Rogers and the 8th Cavalry had been sent too far north, just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from China, where they stumbled into a closing enemy vise.

Higher headquarters rejected requests for a pullback, then refused to send artillery forward to support a rescue effort. Finally, it ordered the rescue force withdrawn.

Two of the 8th Cavalry’s three battalions managed to escape, with heavy losses. But only small bands from the five companies of the doomed 3rd Battalion made it out as waves of Chinese infantry attacked their 200-meter-wide (200-yard-wide) defense perimeter.

The 8th Cavalry’s abandonment at Unsan became an infamous chapter in Army annals — “one of the most shameful and little-known incidents in U.S. military history,” wrote Korean War historian Jack J. Gifford.

Some 600 of the 3rd Battalion’s 800 men were lost, about half believed killed and half captured, many of whom died in Chinese-run prison camps.

The U.S. and North Korea established the MIA search in 1996 after lengthy negotiations. Over nine years, working across North Korea, the joint teams recovered 229 sets of remains believed to be those of Americans, including 14 subsequently identified as 3rd Battalion men.

But an estimated 260 U.S. dead are still unaccounted for at Unsan, among almost 4,600 U.S. MIAs in North Korea, the Pentagon’s Defense POW/MIA Office says.

When then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld suspended the program in 2005, officials cited what they said were concerns about the security of American personnel working on the territory of a longtime U.S. adversary.

Richard Lawless, the former Pentagon official who recommended the move, defends it today, telling The Associated Press it was a “prudent decision” because the U.S. field teams “were potential high-value hostages as the North Korean nuclear crisis deepened.”

The MIA support groups rejected that rationale, saying they suspected President George W. Bush’s administration instead wanted to break the lone working link with North Korea and pressure Pyongyang in the nuclear showdown.

“This safety aspect from the Pentagon sounds like so much hogwash,” said former 3rd Battalion sergeant Robert J. Earl, 82, of Federal Way, Washington. Earl was not at Unsan, having been wounded earlier, and for years he has sought information on his 8th Cavalry mortar platoon, all of whom may have perished.

Stepping up their lobbying in Washington last year, the MIA families appear to have made headway with the new administration.

“I’m in touch with everyone there, and they all support restoring the program,” said Frank Metersky, 77, a Marine veteran of the war and longtime MIA campaigner.

Larry Greer, spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Office, said officials are “evaluating” a possible resumption. Other administration officials have pointedly referred to the recovery program as a humanitarian mission unrelated to political considerations. But the recent furor over North Korea’s alleged torpedoing of a South Korean warship “has stopped everything in its tracks for now,” Metersky said.

Nevertheless, U.S. specialists sound ready.

“We are prepared to resume operations in (North Korea) and will request access to the Unsan area,” the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, home to the field teams, said in its latest annual report.

Its forensic experts, meanwhile, continue the laborious work of DNA identification of remains returned years ago, like those of Master Sgt. Roy Earl Head of the 7th Infantry Division, finally identified, brought home and buried June 5 in a family cemetery in Grit Hill, Virginia.

“It’s remarkable, after 59 years,” said brother David Head, 71, of Kingsport, Tennessee.

All his life he thought daily about Roy, he said. His mind turned sympathetically to others.

“There are still a lot more families out there who might not ever find out, or get the closure we will get,” Head said.

I know where Unsan is, but if there is anyone who can tell me specifically where US soldiers are believed to be buried, I would like to tag these locations on Google Earth.

Read the full story here:
Lost Korean War battalion awaits US MIA decision
Associated Press
Charles Hanley


Asian football chief meets with DPRK official

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

According to Yonhap:

Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam met with a North Korean official in Pyongyang on Monday, the second and last day of his two-day trip to the country, the North’s media said.

“Yang Hyong-sop, vice-president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK, met and had a talk with Mohamed Hammam Saad Al-Abdulla, chairman of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), and his party at the Mansudae Assembly Hall on Monday,” said the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in a brief dispatch.

The AFC chief, also an executive member in FIFA, arrived in North Korea on Sunday to launch FIFA’s “Goal Project,” which helps underdeveloped countries build football fields and other sport facilities, according to the Web site of the AFC.

According to the AFC, Hammam planned wide-ranging talks with the president of North Korea’s football governing body and sports minister, before flying to China on Monday.

North Korea, which lost all three group matches in South Africa at its first World Cup in 44 years, was offered free World Cup footage in line with FIFA’s policy to promote football in poor countries.

In a separate report later on Monday, the KCNA also said that a new training camp with 60 beds has been built for the North’s national football team under the FIFA Goal Project.

The report said the camp, with a floor space of more than 2,100 square meters, has bedrooms, dining halls, bath rooms, a swimming pool and a video room, adding the opening ceremony took place on Monday with the attendance of Hammam and North Korean officials.

If anyone knows where this facility is, please let me know.

There are a couple of nicely rebuilt football fields here and here, but I do not know if they are part of this particular camp.

Read the full story below:
AFC chief meets with N. Korean official