Archive for October, 2010

$1m won to secure job as Hyesan police officer

Friday, October 29th, 2010

According to Good Friends:

Hyesan City police officers in the Ryanggang Province are still doing well amidst North Korea’s economic chaos which has been further exacerbated by the government’s recent currency reform. Illegal trade in Hyesan, which is close to the national border, is rampant and particularly connected to the sale of drugs as well as rare metals, such as gold, silver, copper, iron, et cetera that are under tight government control. While some smuggling operations are managed by individual venders, most are large-scale enterprises. Bribery has thus become customary since sending and receiving prohibited items requires the aid of police or security officers. As a result, obtaining such positions in Hyesan has become very competitive; in particular, many Ryanggang Province officers have been applying for transfers, with bribes being exchanged in the process.

In order to become police or security officer in Hyesan a candidate must offer a bribe of at least one million won in the new currency. This may be a large sum of money; however, it’s only a matter of time before officers recoup their investment by taking in bribes from the smugglers. A smuggling or drug case that may be considered big in other regions can be resolved fairly easily if the right security officials are involved. Last September, a reputed drug trafficker who was arrested on drug related offenses was released within days after being declared innocent of charges. Although an order for intensifying drug regulations had been issued across the country, money clearly had priority.

Such corruption is encouraged by a society-wide permissiveness that doesn’t make a big deal out of anything unless it has to do with ideology issues. Simply speaking, if an incident is not “related to espionage,” then it is not a big deal. Rather, releasing culprits in exchange for money is regarded as a way of surviving during difficult times. Since corruption has become routine, neither officers nor smugglers seems to have a sense that what they are doing is wrong. The same goes for the people at large. For example, although officers are prohibited from possessing and riding personal motorbikes, those who do not own their own are often looked down upon by citizens; they believe that such officers must be slow-witted for not having one being in the position that they are. Along with the jeering is a healthy dose of envy.

If the officers take bribes from smugglers to look the other way, the wives of officers use their husbands’ status to actually join in the fray. They send articles to and receive prohibited items from China; they money they earn from such smuggling activities actually surpass the amount their husbands earn through bribes. Even if the wives are caught, the husbands step in to make the problem go away. The money a husband-wife team earns in this way surpasses the imagination of ordinary people. In Hyesan, there is a saying that only police officers have withstood the currency reform tsunami without breaking a sweat. Others say that “all the laws enacted by the government only serve to fill the bellies of the police officers.”


Singapore reportedly toughens DPRK trade laws

Friday, October 29th, 2010

UPDATE (10/29/2010): According to the Straits Times:

Singapore has tightened its trade controls by imposing new prohibitions on transactions with North Korea and Iran.

Singapore Customs said in a statement on Friday that the latest regulatory revisions, effective from Nov 1, are timely in the light of ongoing global efforts to curb illicit diversions of controlled goods and technology to rogue entities and sanctioned countries such as North Korea and Iran. Both countries stand accused of trying to start nuclear weapons programmes.

At present, prohibitions on them include arms or related materials, certain vacuum systems and pumps, compressors and gas blowers. They also cover luxury goods such as cigars, wines and spirits and even plasma televisions. But in the revised list, there will be new prohibitions on any arms as defined by the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, and related materials.

These include among other things: weaponry, battle tanks, combat aircrafts, warships, armoured combat vehicles. The latest amendments to the list of prohibited imports, exports and goods to or from North Korea and Iran are in line with recent United Nations Security Council Resolutions’ sanctions imposed on the two countries, as well as Singapore’s continuous commitment to its international obligations.

Singapore’s trade with North Korea and Iran accounted for less than 0.4 per cent of the Republic’s total trade value of $747 billion last year. The small amount of trade typically revolved around commodities and other agricultural, tobacco and consumer goods.

Traders are strongly encouraged to implement effective internal export control compliance measures to screen the consignees and end-users of their exports, Singapore customs said.

ORIGINAL POST: According to Today Online:

After relying on its existing laws for more than a year, Singapore is adding more bite to its implementation of United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

According to documents on the Government’s electronic gazette website, the Republic is introducing additional legislation to meet its obligations to the resolution adopted in June last year by the UN Security Council (UNSC).

From Nov 1, it will be an explicit offence to breach the measures imposed by the UNSC on various individuals, entities and goods and services from the hermit kingdom.

The prohibitions will apply to all persons in Singapore and any Singaporean abroad and cover a wide range – from financial and bunkering services to the supply and procurement of certain items.

These not only include military-related material but also luxury goods, if it is believed to be in relation to any person who might be involved in North Korea’s weapons programmes. The Singapore Customs website lists 14 categories of luxury goods, such as cigars, wines and spirits, fur products, perfumes and cosmetics, plasma televisions, personal digital music players and luxury cars. Works of art and musical instruments are also included.

When the UNSC adopted the resolution last year, Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon, had informed the council that the city-state had the “necessary legislative framework in place to meet its obligations”. Such laws include the Strategic Goods (Control) Act, the Merchant Shipping Act and the Immigration Act.

When contacted, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the Republic “is obliged to implement the UNSC Resolutions on North Korea. We take these obligations seriously”.

But in his letter dated Aug 3 last year, Mr Menon also said that a regulation was being drafted to give effect to the provisions of Resolution 1874 (2009), which had been imposed in response to North Korea’s second nuclear test in May last year.

The upcoming legislation comes more than a year after the Monetary Authority of Singapore prohibited financial institutions from carrying on transactions and services with North Korea relating to banned material and listed individuals.

Few companies incorporated in Singapore have dealings with North Korea, though.

One such company is Maxgro Holdings.

According to its website, it is a concession owner and infrastructure development company that holds a 70-per-cent stake in a joint venture with the Pyongyang government to grow eight million hard-wood timber trees on a $23-million, 20,000-hectare plantation near Pyongyang. Other dealings with the Communist state include pharmaceutical and tourism projects.

Previous Singapore/DPRK posts can be found here.

Read the full story here:
S’pore toughens laws against trade with N Korea
Today Online
Esther NG


UN’s DPRK programs at 20% of capacity

Friday, October 29th, 2010

According to the AP:

Ban Ki-moon told U.N. member nations in a report on North Korea’s human rights situation that rainfall in some areas of the country is expected to be 18 percent lower this year than in 2009, despite torrential downpours and flooding that hit the country’s west on Aug. 20.

U.N. agencies providing humanitarian assistance in the country are also increasingly faced with critical funding shortages, and have managed to provide only 20 percent of the $492 million required in 2009, he said. “This has led to a downsizing of operations, with several areas and some vulnerable groups no longer receiving international assistance,” Ban’s report said.

The Secretary-General wrote that reports from inside the country indicate that North Koreans continue to suffer from chronic food security, high malnutrition and severe economic problems.

e also urged nations to “encourage improvements in the human rights situation” inside North Korea.

The Secretary-General said the North Korean government also had the responsibility “to take immediate steps to ensure the enjoyment of the right to food, water, sanitation and health, and to allocate greater budgetary resources to that end.”

“Such persistent problems as widespread food shortages, a health care system in decline, lack of access to safe drinking water and deterioration in the quality of education are seriously hampering the fulfillment of basic human rights,” Ban wrote.

Ban said broad restrictions on civil and political rights, such as freedom of thought, religion, and expression continue to be imposed by the North Korean government on its citizens. “The government’s control over the flow of information is strict and pervasive,” his report said.

North Koreans found listening to broadcasts or disseminating information seen as opposing the government can be sentenced to up to two years in a “labor training camp,” or up to five years of “corrective labor” for more serious cases, it said.

The report said that although independent verification is impossible, there continue to be reports of public executions, political prisoners held under harsh conditions, and the use of torture, forced labor, and ill treatment of refugees or asylum-seekers repatriated from abroad.

Ban said that North Korea has rejected offers of technical assistance by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and he urged the government to reconsider its position.

While serious concerns remain about political and civil rights in the insular nation, “I urge the international community not to constrain humanitarian aid on the basis of political and security concerns,” Ban wrote.

Read the full story here:
UN: Less rain, aid to hurt North Koreans
Associated Press
Anita Snow


DPRK cyber attack organization

Friday, October 29th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

The North Korean authorities have a group of almost 1000 people dedicated to conducting cyber attacks against targets in South Korea and elsewhere, according to South Korean intelligence.

At a hearing of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee attended by Won Se Hoon, the director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), yesterday, lawmakers Hwang Jin Ha of the Grand National Party and Choi Jae Sung of the Democratic Party asserted that North Korea’s cyber attacking capacity is certainly worth focusing on.

According to NIS, North Korea’s hacking and cyber terror groups number between 700 and 800 persons acting on the orders of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces. They have hacking bases in several places in North Korea, and some even operate in China.

Basing his speech on NIS materials, Hwang Jin Ha explained, “We presume that they (the North Korean cyber attack group) gather information and generate social unrest most of the time, while working to paralyze a country’s functions in war time.”

Committee members revealed in a briefing after the hearing that there have been approximately 48,000 North Korean cyber attacks against South Korean targets since January, 2004, and 9,200 during this year alone.

These have included attempts to hack into locations related to the preparatory committee for the G-20 meeting, which is scheduled for November 11-12, ROK-US Combined Forces Command and the computers of lawmakers’ and their aides.

Even though NIS acknowledges that it cannot confirm the source of the attacks, Hwang said that there is a high possibility of North Korean responsibility.

In August this year, Song Young Sun, a member of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee revealed that there have been 1,763 cases of hacking into South Korean military computers in the last five years.

As Song explained at the time, “North Korea has been cultivating around 600 hackers under the No. 110 Office of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance since 2002. They prepare cyber terror attacks using IPs in the countries in which they reside in Europe or North America.”

This story was also covered by KBS.

Read the Daily NK story here:
800 North Korean Hackers Preparing Global Cyber Attacks
Daily NK
Namgung Min


RoK flood aid to the DPRK (2010)

Friday, October 29th, 2010

UPDATE 18 (11/08/2010): South Korean aid will finally be delivered to the DPRK on 11/09.  Here is more from the PRC’s People’s Daily:

Some of South Korea’s first government-financed rice aid in almost three years will be delivered to the flood-hit Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ( DPRK) starting Tuesday, the unification ministry said Monday.

Some of the 5,000 tons of rice currently in the Chinese city of Dandong will be sent to the northwestern DPRK city of Sinuiju, a city reeling from heavy rains in August, and the delivery will be completed by the end of next week, according to the ministry.

Three million cups of instant noodles, also part of the flood aid, have already been sent to Sinuiju, while some of the pledged one million tons of cement will reach the city later in the day, the ministry said.

As he took office in 2008, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak cut a free flow of rice aid to Pyongyang, which once amounted to 300,000 to 400,000 tons each year. A hard-liner toward Pyongyang, he also ended a decade of rapprochement under his liberal predecessors by linking aid to dismantlement of the DPRK’s nuclear programs.

UPDATE 17 (1o/29/2010): Here and here are photos of the aid arriving in China. 

UPDATE 16: According to the Korea Times, the shipment was delayed due to weather.

UPDATE 15: First aid shipment to go today (10/25).  According to Yonhap:

A shipment of rice was to depart a South Korean port en route to North Korea Monday, which will mark Seoul’s first government-financed rice aid to the communist nation in more than two and a half years.

A cargo ship carrying 5,000 tons of rice was scheduled to depart the port city of Gunsan for the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong on the border with North Korea. Another ship was also set to head from the port of Incheon to the Chinese city, carrying 3 million packs of instant noodles.

The Red Cross aid, which is aimed at helping the North cope with the aftermath of floods, marks South Korea’s first government-funded provision of rice to the North since President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 on a pledge to link aid to progress in efforts to end Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.

Seoul also plans to send a shipment of 10,000 tons of cement to the North later this week.

A total of 13.9 billion won (US$12.3 million) came from the government coffers to finance the flood aid.

Also Monday, three Red Cross officials prepared to fly to the Chinese city to receive the rice and instant noodles there and transport the relief supplies by truck to the flood-hit North Korean border city of Sinuiju, according to officials from the Red Cross and the Unification Ministry.

The cargo ships are expected to arrive in Dandong around Wednesday.

Rice will be delivered in five-kilogram packages, and each package is marked with “Donation from the Republic of Korea,” South Korea’s official name.

In August, South Korea first offered to provide relief aid to the North after devastating floods hit the communist nation. North Korea later asked for rice, heavy construction equipment and materials.

UPDATE 14: S. Korea to send rice aid to N. Korea next month.  Accrording to Yonhap:

South Korea’s Red Cross will begin the shipment of 5,000 tons of rice and other aid materials next month to North Korea, which has been battered by summer floods, officials here said Sunday.

It would mark South Korea’s first government-funded provision of rice to the hunger-stricken communist neighbor since the conservative president, Lee Myung-bak, took office in early 2008 on a pledge to link inter-Korean ties to Pyongyang’s denuclearization.

The South’s government plans to convene a committee on inter-Korean exchanges on Tuesday to approve the use of taxpayers’ money earmarked for projects to improve relations with the North, the officials said.

“(The government) will report to the National Assembly on Sept. 28 and the committee will approve the aid worth 8 billion won (US$6.9 million) from the South-North Cooperation Fund (on the same day),” a Unification Ministry official said.

The rice shipment will depart from the port of Incheon, west of Seoul, on Oct. 25 and it will be delivered to the North Korean city of Sinuiju bordering China via Dandong, an adjacent Chinese town, he added.

Other aid items to be sent to the North in stages include 10,000 tons of cement, three million packs of instant noodles and some medical goods.

South Korea has ruled out the shipment of construction equipment, which the North requested, taking into account the possibility of the equipment being used for military purposes.

Seoul’s rice aid, although officials here stressed it is purely a humanitarian move, has been seen as a possible sign of a thaw in chilled inter-Korean relations. Military tensions have risen sharply since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which the South attributed to a North Korean torpedo attack.

South Korea suspended an annual shipment of 300,000-400,000 tons of rice to the North in 2008, citing little progress in efforts to end the North’s nuclear program.

UPDATE 13: Incheon Gov’t, Civic Group Sign MOU on NK Aid.  According to KBS:

The Incheon city government has signed a memorandum of understanding with a civic group to send 700 tons of corn to North Korean flood victims in Sinuiju.

The aid is worth 300 million won.

The city government and the Korean Sharing Movement obtained permission to provide the food aid from the Unification Ministry on September 14th.

The first shipment of corn will arrive late this month via an overland route linking the city of Dandong in China to the North Korean city of Sinuiju.

The remaining food aid will be delivered to North Korea by year’s end.

Previously, the Incheon city government announced a plan to send six shipments of milk and infant formula by December. The aid is valued at 100 million won.

The first shipment left Incheon port for North Korea on Saturday.

UPDATE 12: First shipment of aid has headed north.  According to the New York Times:

The nine trucks in the convoy carried 203 tons of rice that civic groups and opposition political parties in South Korea had donated for the victims of recent flooding in North Korea. The flooding is expected to worsen food shortages in the North, which even in a year of good harvests, cannot produce enough to feed its estimated population of 23 million people properly.

The shipment, coming just before the Korean harvest festival of Chuseok next week, also seemed to symbolize a newfound South Korean good will toward the North. It followed 530 tons of flour that a South Korean provincial government and civic groups sent on Thursday.

After President Lee Myung-bak came to power in Seoul in early 2008, South Korea had been reluctant to provide rice or any other major aid shipments to the North until its government in Pyongyang took significant steps to give up its nuclear weapons. The sinking of the warship, the Cheonan, further soured relations.

But in the past week, the South approved the civic groups’ donations, as well as a separate Red Cross plan to send 5,000 tons of rice. The approval followed conciliatory gestures by North Korea, including a plan to resume a Red Cross program of arranging temporary unions of families split by the 1950-53 Korean War.

The nine trucks in the convoy carried 203 tons of rice that civic groups and opposition political parties in South Korea had donated for the victims of recent flooding in North Korea. The flooding is expected to worsen food shortages in the North, which even in a year of good harvests, cannot produce enough to feed its estimated population of 23 million people properly.

The shipment, coming just before the Korean harvest festival of Chuseok next week, also seemed to symbolize a newfound South Korean good will toward the North. It followed 530 tons of flour that a South Korean provincial government and civic groups sent on Thursday.

After President Lee Myung-bak came to power in Seoul in early 2008, South Korea had been reluctant to provide rice or any other major aid shipments to the North until its government in Pyongyang took significant steps to give up its nuclear weapons. The sinking of the warship, the Cheonan, further soured relations.

But in the past week, the South approved the civic groups’ donations, as well as a separate Red Cross plan to send 5,000 tons of rice. The approval followed conciliatory gestures by North Korea, including a plan to resume a Red Cross program of arranging temporary unions of families split by the 1950-53 Korean War.

UPDATE 11: North Korea complains that it did not receive enough aid from South Korea.  According to UPI:

North Korea complained Sunday that a planned shipment of flood-relief aid from South Korea is much smaller than expected.

The state-controlled weekly Tongil Sinbo said the rice shipment the South Korean Red Cross said would feed 200,000 people for 50 days was not nearly adequate.

“After the lid was removed from the box of aid, there was only 5,000 tons of rice in it,” Tongil Sinbo said in a posting on the North’s official Web site.

The statement, which was monitored by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, said the shipment would not last “even for a day.”

The Red Cross aid package, which includes rice and cement, was consigned to Sinuiju, a town near the Chinese border in a region hit hard by rain and flooding last month.

The shipment had been seen by diplomatic analysts as an easing of tensions between the two Koreas, Yonhap said. North Korea relies heavily on donations of rice and other supplies to prop up its economy.

Also, see this Yonhap story.

UPDATE 10: The Ministry of Unificaion is opposed to large scale food assistance—drawing a distinction between flood relief and large-scale food aid.  According to KBS:

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek says he is opposed to large-scale food aid to North Korea.

He said large-scale food aid is separate from humanitarian aid, and that all aspects of inter-Korean policy and the sinking of the “Cheonan” naval vessel should be considered.

Hyun made the remarks at a budget committee meeting on Friday when a main opposition Democratic Party member urged the government to send 500-thousand tons of rice to North Korea.

Hyun said that South Korea had sent large amounts of food aid on multiple previous occasions for what was called humanitarian assistance, but it is doubtful whether the rice had been distributed to people in need.

Adding to political pressure against further donations, the Choson Ilbo reports that the North Korean military is warehousing quite a bit of rice:

In a party caucus at the National Assembly on Thursday, Grand National Party floor leader Kim Moo-sung said calls for humanitarian food aid for the North are “inappropriate” at a time when the North “has as much as 1 million tons of rice in storage in preparation for war. We have to take this into consideration.”

The figure apparently comes from a report by the National Intelligence Service for the ruling-party leadership.

South Korea worries about a rice surplus when it stores only about 1.49 million tons this year. If it is true that the North is really holding back 1 million tons of rice for the military, it could have a profound effect on the ongoing debate over whether to increase aid for the North.

UPDATE 9: The first aid shipment has arrived.  According to Arirang News:

The first round of civilian emergency aid since recent flooding in North Korea was delivered to the border town of Gaeseong on Thursday.

The transport of 530 tons of flour on two dozen large trucks by Gyeonggi Province and non-governmental groups is also the first aid package from the South after it enforced punitive measures on Pyeonyang in May, in response to its sinking of the warship Cheonan.

And five South Korean personnel were permitted to cross the border to transfer the goods.

Kim Moon-soo, Governor Gyeonggi Province: “Many South Koreans have been wanting to provide assistance and there’s been a delay but we’re finally sending aid today. There are factors other than intent to consider.”

The group had been waiting since July for the government to give the green light to supply food aid worth about 240-thousand US dollars… enough to feed some 30-thousand children and other vulnerable groups for a month.

It is estimated that some 28 million square meters of agricultural land was swamped by rainfall of up to 324 milimeters in Gaeseong.

Kim Deog-ryong, Co-chair, Korean Council for Reconciliation & Cooperation: “Following the first round of aid, we plan to send additional second and third rounds in October. We hope nongovernmental efforts will eventually lead to continuous government-level assistance.”

The resumption of aid delivery to the North on humanitarian grounds will likely be succeeded by a series of foodstuffs, such as rice and corn, being transported through the Dorasan Customs, Immigration and Quarantine office, on top of the South Korean Red Cross’ pledged shipments of rice, cement and other supplies.

On Friday, more civilian aid consisting of 203 tons of rice is scheduled to be delivered to the flood-ravaged Shinuiju region.

Choi You-sun (reporter) “The South Korean government is maintaining a firm stance concerning its set of stringent measures against North Korea. But officials here say there are more applicants wishing to send provisions forecasting that there will be a significant increase in the amount of nongovernmental aid to the impoverished North.

UPDATE 8: The Ministry of Unification seems to have approved the private aid donations mentioned in UPDATE 7.  According to the AFP:

South Korea’s government said Wednesday it has approved a plan by local groups to send flood relief aid to North Korea, amid growing signs of a thaw after months of tension on the peninsula.

The Unification Ministry said it approved Tuesday requests to send emergency supplies worth a total of 2.24 billion won (1.2 million dollars) including 203 tons of rice.

The aid for flood victims in Sinuiju and Kaesong also includes flour, bread, blankets and instant noodles, said spokesman Chun Hae-Sung, adding the first shipment of 400 tons of flour would be sent Thursday.

It was the second time this week that Seoul groups have announced help following floods that hit the city of Sinuiju on the China border and the town of Kaesong, just north of the inter-Korean frontier.

UPDATE 7: In addition to the aid offernd by the South Korean government (in the posts below),  private organizations in South Korea are offering flood assistance.  According to Yonhap:

The Korea Sharing Movement and the Join Together Society (JTS) plan to ship 400 tons of flour to the North Korean border city of Kaesong via an overland route on Thursday, an official said. The Gyeonggi provincial government helped fund the assistance.

Separately, the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, a coalition of pro-unification civic and social groups, also plans to send 130 tons of flour to the North on Thursday.

And in another Yonhap story:

An umbrella trade union said Wednesday it seeks to send about 100 tons of rice, possibly by land, to North Korea to help the flood-hit nation.

The Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), which claims up to 900,000 members across the country, said it is in talks with its North Korean counterpart to determine the exact delivery route and size of the aid.

UPDATE 6: The South Korean government is trying to figure out how to prevent aid from being diverted to the military.  According to the Choson Ilbo:

“Rice can be stored for a long time and is easy to divert to the military,” the official said. “But rice flour or noodles are harder to store for longer and are more likely to be given to the victims instead of being transported to military warehouses.”

The government offered the North 10,000 tons of corn following the reunion of separated families on the occasion of Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving last year reportedly because this was less likely to be used for military rations. North Korean defectors say they were rarely given any rice supplied by the South, while rice bags with the lettering of the South Korean Red Cross stamped on were seen in military facilities close to the heavily armed border.

During the famine in the late 1990s, the North received corn flour aid from the U.S which the authorities then distributed through ration stations, a defector recalls.

But processing over 100,000 tons of rice into flour and other products may not be realistic as it would cost a lot of time and money, a Unification Ministry official said.

UPDATE 5: According to the Donga Ilbo:

Yoo Chong-ha, head of the (South) Korean National Red Cross, said in a news conference Monday that the Red Cross will send 10 billion won (8.6 million U.S. dollars) worth of aid comprising 5,000 tons of rice, 10,000 tons of cement, three million packages of instant noodles, and medicine.

He also suggested a working-level meeting of Red Cross organizations from both sides in Kaesong Friday on Pyongyang’s proposal for reunions of separate inter-Korean families.

On the volume of rice aid, Yoo said, “Around 80,000 to 90,000 people in (the North Korean city of) Shinuiju are known to be displaced, and 5,000 tons of rice can feed 100,000 people for 100 days,” translating into 500 grams a day per person.

The South’s Red Cross said it set the amount given that international aid organizations allocate 300 to 500 grams per person when they send rice assistance to the North.

The budget for buying the rice was 7.7 billion won (6.6 million dollars), or 1.54 million won (1,330 dollars) per ton based on the price of rice Seoul purchased in 2007.

Even if the South Korean government provides rice aid to the North, the combined amount will be around 10 billion won as the South’s Red Cross proposed to the North last month.

Excluded from the aid package was heavy equipment that the North requested. Most of the 10 billion won in aid will come from a South Korean government fund for inter-Korean cooperation.

UPDATE 4: And the picture becomes clearer.  According to the Guardian:

The $8.5m (£5.5m) package, to be funded by the government, is the south’s first aid shipment to its neighbour since the sinking of a warship in March reduced bilateral relations to their lowest point for years. Seoul says its vessel was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, a claim Pyongyang denies.

The countries may also resume reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended in an uneasy armistice but no peace treaty. The reunions were suspended after a South Korean woman was shot dead by a guard during a visit to the North Korean tourist resort of Mount Kumgang, in 2008.

UPDATE 3: Some specifics come out.  According to Yonhap:

S. Korea’s Red Cross announces 5,000 tons of rice aid for N. Korea’s flood victims

UPDATE 2: South Korean farmers demand ROK government send aid to DPRK to keep rice prices high.  According to the AFP:

Thousands of South Korean farmers rallied Friday, demanding the government stop a fall in rice prices by shipping surplus stocks in state silos to North Korea.

The farmers urged President Lee Myung-Bak to resume an annual shipment of 400,000 tonnes of rice to the North, which suffers severe food shortages. The shipment was suspended in 2008 as relations soured.

About 3,000 farmers took part in morning rallies in a dozen cities and counties, said the Korea Peasants’ League, which represents farmers, adding more were under way or planned in the afternoon.

“Resuming rice aid to North Korea is a short cut to stabilising rice prices and also improving inter-Korean ties,” league spokesman Kang Suk-Chan told AFP.

The government makes an annual purchase of rice from farmers to stabilise prices amid falling national demand, but is predicting a bumper harvest this year.

Unless some stocks are sold off, the agriculture ministry says the South’s strategic rice reserve will soon reach an all-time high of 1.49 million tons, twice the 720,000 tonnes considered necessary for emergencies.

Last week minister Yoo Jeong-Bok said the government would sell about 500,000 tons of the reserve this year to companies that make alcoholic beverages and processed food ingredients.

Farmers claimed the ministry’s move would fail to stop the fall in prices. They want the government to lift the 2008 ban and to purchase this year’s harvest at higher prices.

Subsidised farmers grow more rice than South Koreans want to eat. The country’s consumption of the staple fell in 2007 to its lowest level for decades as people ate more meat and vegetables.

Cross-border tensions this summer have run high over the sinking of a South Korean warship with the loss of 46 sailors. The North vehemently denies involvement but the South has cut off most cross-border trade.

Read the full story here:
S.Korea farmers demand rice shipment to N.Korea

UPDATE 1: The DPRK accepts the ROK’s aid offer.  According to the BBC:

North Korea has responded to an offer from South Korea of emergency food and medical aid, saying it would prefer to receive rice and building materials.

The South Korean offer, worth more than $8m (£5m), was made last week after severe flooding in the North.

South Korea says it is considering the North’s request.

The aid would be the first large-scale shipment since South Korea blamed its impoverished northern neighbour for sinking one of its warships in March.

South Korea blames Pyongyang for sinking the Cheonan with a torpedo, killing 46 crew.

North Korea denies any role in the incident and has demanded its own investigation.

Food aid

North Korea’s Red Cross said it would prefer rice, cement and heavy construction equipment – items it said were necessary for flood recovery efforts, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry and Red Cross.

The South’s offer excluded rice – a staple which Seoul has stopped sending to Pyongyang amid strained relations.

North Korea has been hard hit by floods caused by heavy rains in July and August, especially in its northern areas bordering China.

This week a South Korean newspaper published pictures of people sleeping in tents and queuing for water in the city of Shinuiju.

They were taken by an undercover source who also reports rare public complaints that the North Korean leadership is not doing enough to help.

Read the full story here:
North Korea accepts flood aid offer from South

ORIGINAL POST: South Korea offers flood aid to the DPRK. According to the BBC:

South Korea has made its first offer of aid to North Korea since it accused Pyongyang of sinking one of its warships in March.

South Korea’s Red Cross has offered 10bn won ($8.3m, £5.3m) worth of flood aid to its impoverished neighbour.

The offer came hours after the United States imposed new sanctions on the North in response to the sinking.

South Korea blames North Korea for sinking the Cheonan on 26 March with a torpedo, killing 46 crew.

North Korea denies any role in the incident and has demanded its own investigation.

North Korea has relied on food aid from China, South Korea and aid agencies to feed millions of its people since a famine in the 1990s resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

But the communist country has been hard hit by floods caused by heavy rains in July and August, especially in its northern areas, bordering China.

“The aid includes medical kits, emergency food and supplies,” a Unification Ministry official said, quoting the Red Cross message sent to North Korea.

The offer has yet to be accepted by the North.

Under President Lee Myung-bak, the South has stepped back from its earlier “sunshine” policy of unconditional aid and has linked the provision of aid to progress from the North on ending its nuclear programme.

A South Korean offer of about 10,000 tonnes of corn to North Korea in October 2009 was the first official aid to its hungry neighbour for almost two years.

The year before, the South had offered 50,000 tons of corn but the North rejected the shipment amid high tensions.

The offer came after North Korea reportedly indicated it was ready to return to six-party talks over ending its nuclear ambitions.

Parts of North Korea have been badly affected by severe flooding Leader Kim Jong-il told the Chinese president that he wanted to see negotiations resumed during a visit to China last week, Chinese state media said.

The talks – which involve the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the US – have been stalled since December 2008 over Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests.

But South Korea is demanding an apology for the warship sinking before any return to the negotiations.

Japan also says the time is not right to resume talks.

On Tuesday its foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, told China’s visiting nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, that it was still “too early” to think about a return to talks.

On Monday the US imposed additional sanctions on North Korea, targeting trade in arms, luxury goods and narcotics.

Read the full story here:
South Korea offers aid to flooded North


Information on the DPRK’s informal transport market

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

According to the Daily NK:

With North Korea’s domestic security forces having been engaged in inspecting and confiscating vehicles being used for private gain since October 18th, the question of whether the so-called “servi-cha” industry will stay the course has become a central issue for many. This is because the presence or absence of the “servi-cha” can make or break the North Korean domestic economy, much like last year’s currency reform.

What is a “servi-cha”?

There are two types of “servi-cha”. The first are vehicles, mainly buses and trucks, owned by state organs and enterprises, which transport people and supplies in exchange for money. Enterprises use the money earned from the service to provide rations for the workers, cover transportation costs or obtain further raw materials for production.

The second type of “servi-cha” is those owned by individuals but registered as being owned by an enterprise; they are used for private gain. Collusion among three parties; the owner of the vehicle, the driver and the enterprise under whose name the vehicle is registered, is necessary in such cases. The owner of the vehicle acquires a car from, predominantly, China or Japan, whereupon cadres of a certain enterprise or local unit register the vehicle under the name of the enterprise or unit. A driver is hired thereafter, who then gets a drivers’ license from the cadre and sets about earn a profit by providing public transportation to residents or moving supplies. A portion of the money earned is given to the cadre, who will usually take a fraction for personal gain and register the remainder as company profit.

In general, two people man a “servi-cha”; the driver and his assistant. Alongside them, the owner of the freight being transported is present, and thereafter empty seats are taken by other passengers. If the car meets an inspection on the way to its destination, there is no problem; on paper, the vehicle is legitimate; it belongs to a unit, and the owner of the freight carries a transportation permit that he/she has received from the car owner. With a bit of alcohol and tobacco on hand to bribe the inspector, even the people occupying the empty seats are free to pass.

A North Korean license plate contains information on the institution the vehicle belongs to. As most people do not have a travel permit, they tend to prefer “servi-cha” that display the license number of a powerful institution. Transportation fees differ according to the type of license plate on the “servi-cha”. “Servi-cha” with plates from powerful groups charge higher fees than those with plates from food factories and agricultural offices, for example.

Vehicles are assigned numbers based on certain rules; license plates that reflect an auspicious date are deemed best; either 216 (February 16th; Kim Jong Il’s birthday) or 727 (July 27th; Victory Day). The license plate of a car given as a gift by Kim Jong Il to someone on the Central Committee might be assigned a number such as 216-11-101.

Furthermore, each department of the Party uses its own license plate number in order to distinguish ownership of vehicles. For example, the Party’s Finance and Accounting Department uses the number 02; 11 and 12 is reserved for Party offices; 12 to 14 for administrative units; 15 to 17 for the People’s Safety Agency; 18 to 20 for the National Security Agency; 21 for judicial branches; 22 for a unit under Party Department No. 39, 90 for the Central Party liaison office, and 46 for passenger transport services.

Inspections are stricter for those “servi-cha” with less impressive license plates. Travel permit checks become more thorough, and the inspectors ask more questions about the cargo. Thus, vehicle owners with “weaker” plates tend to have to give more bribes.

Origins of the “Servi-cha”

Public transportation virtually stopped in North Korea during the economic collapse which began in 1995, bringing about shortages of fuel and electricity. The country was incapacitated to the point that the government issued a decree calling on cadres to walk.

The first people to break the logjam were from foreign-currency earning units. They were able to use imported fuel to transport freight for other companies, at a price. Many enterprises quickly spotted the rising demand for freight logistics services, and started earning considerable profits by importing Chinese Dongfeng or Japanese second-hand trucks.

Demand for this was not limited to institutions and enterprises. Vendors also wanted to move their supplies around the country. The importing of Chinese products to the Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone beginning in 1997 was followed by a rise in long distance cargo transportation to cities as far as away as Pyongyang, Hyesan, Sinuiju, Kaesong and Haeju.

The Different Types of “Servi-cha”

In general, trucks are a popular choice. This is because they can transport cargo and people at the same time. Buses, which are more readily owned by institutions and enterprises than trucks, are also often utilized for long-distance trips. A regular 45-person bus will often be full to capacity, with the central aisle lined with makeshift seats.

Party and military cadres also use their vehicles as “servi-cha”. It is commonplace for them to order drivers to look out for long-distance travelers as a means of earning extra money when the car is not in use. This also applies to the case of military cadres.

Sometimes, the seats of Japanese second-hand vehicles or Chinese second-hand jeeps are removed in order to take a maximum of eleven passengers.

Earning Money through “Servi-cha”

Use of “servi-cha” has vastly increased the quantity of goods and number of people crossing provinces, with goods smuggled in across the Tumen and Yalu Rivers in the north spotted in locations as far away as South Hwanghae and Kangwon Province, both of which border South Korea. Therefore, it can be said that production and trade between enterprises and vendors owes a great deal to the “servi-cha”.

For example, in 2001 the price of sweet potatoes peaked in the Rajin-Sonbong Zone. Demand for sweet potatoes was high in places north of Hamheung because climate conditions in that northern region are not favorable for cultivating the crop. While sweet potatoes were priced at 7 won per kilogram in South Hwanghae Province, in the Rajin-Songbong Zone the price exceeded 45 won per kilogram.

Vendors from Rajin-Sonbong were therefore able to increase profits 50% by selling Chinese everyday goods in Hwanghae province, and then make seven times more money selling southern sweet potatoes in the north.

It goes without saying that initial expenditure is required to pull this off. The cost of changing tires, of filling up the vehicle with gas, of bribing officials for travel permits and drivers’ permits, all added up to about 70,000 won. However, a round-trip could earn the “servi-cha” crew a net profit of 60,000 to 70,000 won. At the time, it was very good money.

Kim Kyung Hee’s “Servi-cha” Experiment

On her way to Kangkye in Jagang Province, Kim noticed a throng on the street, and approached, concealing her identity. They were people waiting for a “servi-cha”. Leaving her assistant and vehicle behind, Kim quietly stood in line with the other people.

Eventually, a 10-ton “servi-cha” arrived and people began scrambling for seats on the platform normally reserved for cargo. Paying her fare, 50 won, Kim also tried to board, but the driver noted her less than ordinary appearance and gave her the passenger seat.

After a few minutes of travel, a strange voice could be heard;

“Comrade, our time is up.”

The source of the sound was Kim’s watch. It was a message from her assistant, who was following the “servi-cha”. The driver, concerned for any number of reasons, immediately stopped and asked Kim to descend from the cab. In the end, the “servi-cha” left her behind on the road. It has been said that Kim went back to her vehicle and told her assistant that the “servi-cha’s are rather fun”.

Read the full story here:
Servi-Cha: the Lifeblood of the People’s Economy
Daily NK
Im Jeong Jin


China to lease two DPRK islands (update)

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

(via One Free Korea) Global Times reports (in Korean) that the DPRK is leasing two islands (황금평 and 위화도) to China.

Here is a satellite image of the two islands (highlighted):

According to the article:

South Korea’s Hankook Ilbo daily newspaper reported Thursday that North Korea has decided to extend the lease terms of two islands to Chinese companies for the establishment of a free trade zone.

However, analysts say the zone will more likely be developed as a trade area to facilitate business with China.

Both islands are located on the Yalu River, which constitutes the northwestern boundary between North Korea and the northeast region of China.

Hankook Ilbo reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed to establish a free trade zone of 50 square kilometers on the two islands during his visit to China in May, and foreigners won’t need a visa to visit the islands.

The extension of the lease term by 100 years – starting this past May – to Chinese companies is unusual because Pyongyang generally leases land to foreign companies for 50 years, the report said.

By press time, state-run media in North Korea hadn’t confirmed the report.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported earlier this year that in order to attract foreign investment to North Korea, Pyongyang will set up a free trade area, located near the Sino-North Korean border city of Dandong, Liaoning Province, to be developed by a Chi-nese enterprise.

The report quoted an informed source as saying the scale of investment in the two islands will total $800 million.

“I don’t think North Korea will establish a free trade zone in the border areas that soon,” said Lü Chao, director of the Korean Research Center at China’s Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences. “But it is likely that the two islands will be developed into a border trade zone that can help improve the lives of the locals and be conducive to regional stability.”

Lü told the Global Times that developing a free trade zone in North Korea’s border areas with China might take longer.

Separately, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported Monday that Kim Jong-un, the third son of Kim Jong-il, recently said his country needs food more than bullets.

“In the past, it was all right to have bullets and no food, but now we must have food, even though we don’t have bullets,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

The paper said Kim Jong-un made the remarks during a visit to Kimchaek city in Ham-gyong Province in late September, and the comments are confirmed in documents recently disseminated to party officials.

Kim Jong-un was promoted to a four-star general and vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission last month during an important meeting of the party.

The White House said Thursday that North Korea appeared to be in the early stages of a leadership transition, and it would still take some time to discern the final outcome.

“We’re watching the transition closely,” Jeff Bader, US President Barack Obama’s Asia adviser, told reporters.

The idea of building a special economic zone near Sinuiju has been proposed several times but it never seems to take hold.  Given the level of economic growth in Dandong over the last five years, and China’s growing clout in the DPRK, maybe things will be different this time.

Read the full aticle here:
NK leases islands to Beijing: report
Global Times
Wang Zhaokun


Canada to adopt DPRK sanctions

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

UPDATE (10/31/2010): According to CTV News:

The head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service quietly told a crowd of insiders he’s worried about North Korea and Iran surreptitiously trolling Canada for components to build an atomic bomb.

In a speech to academics and former intelligence officials, CSIS director Dick Fadden spoke of the spy service’s “active investigations” of people trying to procure nuclear materials.

The threat of weapons of mass destruction is an “area where we have to worry far more than we did not too long ago,” Fadden said.

“North Korea and Iran being people that we worry about the most.”

Fadden made the unusually candid comments in a previously unreported — and still partly secret — address to a late May gathering in Ottawa of the International Association for Intelligence Education.

The CSIS director also elaborated on his concerns about foreign interference in Canadian politics, as well as the threat of cyberterrorism. In addition, Fadden mused aloud on whether simply jailing homegrown terrorists is a real solution to the problem of radicalization. And he told the audience India has more influence in Afghanistan than Canada and its major coalition partners combined.

ORIGINAL POST: According to CTV:

Canada is adopting tough new sanctions against North Korea intended to demonstrate to Pyongyang that “its aggressive actions will not be tolerated.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon announced the new restrictions Thursday.

Under the new controlled engagement policy Canada’s relations with North Korea will be restricted to just a few areas, Cannon said.

Regional security concerns, human rights and humanitarian issues, inter-Korea relations and consular issues are now the only acceptable topics of contact between the two countries, Cannon said.

“All government to government co-operation or communication on topics not covered under the controlled engagement policy have now stopped,” Cannon said.

Cannon also announced new economic sanctions that will soon be put into place.

He said all imports from and exports to North Korea will be halted, apart from certain humanitarian exceptions.

There is also a ban on investment in North Korea by Canadians or people in Canada.

The sanctions also restrict the provision of financial services and the transfer of technology to North Korea.

All North Korean ships and aircraft are also banned from either landing in Canada or passing through its airspace, Cannon said.

“Canada takes a principled stand against those who recklessly commit acts of aggression in violation of international law,” Cannon said.

“The adoption of a controlled engagement policy and the imposition of special economic measures send a clear message to the North Korean government that its aggressive actions will not be tolerated.”

Canada has taken a tough stance with North Korea following the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean navy ship, earlier this year.

Forty-six sailors were killed when the ship went down. A multi-national investigation concluded the warship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo.

In the wake of the attack, Ottawa announced tougher diplomatic and trade restrictions, suspended high-level visits from officials and joined in the international condemnation of the attack.

Cannon on Thursday called on Pyongyang  to “improve its behaviour in complying with its obligations under international law.”

“These sanctions are not intended to punish the North Korean people. The sanctions we are announcing today are aimed directly at the North Korean government,” he said.

The level of trade between the DPRK and Canada is minimal, so these actions are more symbolic than anything else.

Though the two countries exercise diplomatic relations, there is no DPRK embassy in Canada and vice-versa.

Read the full story here:
Ottawa drafting ‘tough’ new sanctions for North Korea


ROK Red Cross seeks hotline with DPRK

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Accordign to Yonhap:

South Korea’s Red Cross is pushing to set up its own communications channel with its North Korean counterpart so that it can carry out humanitarian missions independent of cross-border political tensions, the organization’s chief said Thursday.

“We’re talking with the government on the need to work with the North Korean Red Cross through an independent means of communication,” Yoo Chong-ha, president of the Korean National Red Cross, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

“Government-level dialogue is between governments. The role of the Red Cross has to be separate,” Yoo said.

The Red Cross, although tasked with non-political projects such as relief aid and family reunions, has at times served as an alternative track for contact and talks between the two Koreas, who are technically still at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

“The Red Cross is not a subsidiary agency to the Unification Ministry. It is not appropriate for all concerned that the Red Cross should work on behalf of the government,” Yoo said in the interview. The chief will be heading to the North to oversee a round of family reunions that begin on Friday.

Currently, there is no channel linking the Red Cross chapters of the two Koreas. Their sole hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom was severed as part of Seoul’s package of punitive measures announced in May after holding the North responsible for the deadly sinking of a warship that killed 46 sailors.

Yoo said he would tell his North Korean counterpart, Jang Jae-on, of the importance of resuming humanitarian exchanges, regardless of political tensions, when he visits North Korea.

In Red Cross talks this week that reopened for the first time in a year, the North asked Seoul to provide tens of thousands of tons in rice and fertilizer aid in exchange for expanding family reunions.

“This is not an issue for the Red Cross” to deal with, said Yoo, with skepticism on whether such aid draws results.

Read the full story here:
S. Korean Red Cross seeks independent communications channel with Northern counterpart


Can North Korea embrace Chinese-style reforms?

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

According to China Economic Review:

Could North Korea be saved by Chinese-style reforms? In return for its continued support, China is pushing the rogue state to liberalise its economy, and Chinese firms are making inroads into various sectors, especially infrastructure and mining. Earlier this week, I interviewed Felix Abt, a Swiss business consultant who was appointed managing director of a pharmaceutical joint venture in Pyongyang with a brief to turn around the loss-making company, about his experiences over the last eight years.

How open is North Korea to foreign investment, and how many foreign companies are operating on the ground?

In 1992 the Supreme People’s Assembly adopted three laws allowing and regulating foreign investment — the Foreign Investment Law, the Foreign Enterprise Law, and the Joint Venture Law.

Since then, foreign investors have become active in a variety of industrial and service industries. There are a few hundred foreign-invested companies operating at present, mainly smaller sized ventures ($100,000 to $3 million) and of Asian origin (with China ranking No.1).

There are a few very large foreign investments, mainly in the telecom and cement industries. Western multinationals have been shying away from North Korea for fear of ending up on a sanctions list in the world’s largest economy. BAT sold its highly profitable tobacco factory due to political pressure in Great Britain to a Singaporean company a few years ago.

What sort of person sets up business in North Korea? What sort of industries have arrived and what sectors are not represented?

The domestic market is still very small and limited and and not much growth can be expected in the foreseeable future. So to talk about a promising emerging market at present would be a silly exaggeration.

However, North Korea is a very interesting location for the processing of products from garments to shoes to bags where you send the cloth or the leather and the accessories and they send you the finished products back.

The same goes for the extraction of minerals and metals, abundantly available in North Korea, in which case you would send equipment and get the mining products.

In addition, the manufacturing of low to medium technology items is very competitive and such products are already being made with foreign investment in North Korea from artificial flowers to furniture to artificial teeth. I was involved in making the business plan for the artificial teeth joint venture and know therefore that such products can be manufactured with a much better profit margin than for example in the Philippines where the artificial teeth had been produced before.

A particularly promising industry is IT due to the extraordinary quantity and quality of mathematicians unmatched by other countries. The first and only software JV, Nosotek, has seen remarkable successes within a very short time from its foundation and could become a subject of interest to investors who would never have thought of putting any money in North Korea until now.

How easy is it to do business there? Are most foreigners concentrated in Pyongyang or are they spread around?

It depends on the expectations, on the choice of the local partner and on the expatriate staff a company sends there. You need to thorougly select the most suitable local partner and an expatriate manager that is not only professionally competent but also can adapt to and cope with a demanding business environment.

The success of the pharmaceutical joint venture I was running in the past depended on a fast capacity building of the Korean members of the board of directors, managers and staff. I brought them to China where they visited the first foreign and Chinese invested pharmaceutical JV and I convinced its Chinese octogenarian architect to become a member of our company’s board of directors.

Since he faced very similar problems decades earlier he could convince the North Koreans quite easily why certain things had to be done in a certain way to make the business successful. We visited a great number of pharmaceutical companies, wholesalers, pharmacy chains in China and some of our staff even worked in a Chinese factory for some time.

When I wanted to set up the marketing and sales function I was first told that “companies in the DPRK usually don’t have a sales dept.”. I was asked to send a letter to the cabinet to explain my reasons to get the permit for doing so. The visits in China were surely important eye openers and helped getting things organised like in any other country.

The Korean managers and staff quickly acquired all the necessary skills and were able to run the day to day business (factory, import and wholesale of pharmaceuticals, pharmacies) alone when my term ended as managing director.

Many foreign business people are based in Pyongyang, but there are also many working in different places throughout the country, e.g. near mines in the mountains.

Hu Jintao has urged North Korea to speed up its economic reform, using China as a model. Could North Korea open up in the same way over the next few years?

The Chinese are better informed than the scholar and North Korea expert who recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the country’s elite would never agree to reform its economy as they fear the system would then collapse.

Together with the Chinese, I believe the risk of a collapse is much bigger if no reforms are carried out than if there are slow and controlled changes.

Once the economy starts taking off and people’s living standards rise the people will hardly challenge the system and the leadership even though the North Korean people know that South Korea’s economy is much more advanced.

Read the full story here:
Can North Korea embrace Chinese-style reforms?
China Economic Review
Malcolm Moore