Archive for December, 2010

DPRK restaurant in Dubai

Friday, December 31st, 2010

NPR published a story about a North Korean restaurant in Dubai.  According to the article:

The Dubai branch of the Okryu-Gwan restaurant is tucked into the corner of a nondescript business park in Dubai’s Deira neighborhood. In the dining room, the all-female staff is dressed in colorful gowns and robes. Most speak decent English and are happy to guide newcomers to Pyongyang cuisine through the menu.

The signature naengmyon cold noodles are recommended, but the menu is extensive, with varieties of kimchi, the pickled cabbage dish popular on both ends of the Korean peninsula, as well as Korean meat and fish dishes. It’s not quite as spicy as they do it in Seoul, says one waitress pressed for the difference between North and South Korean cooking.

As the food begins to arrive, a synthesizer strikes up a theremin-sounding introduction, and soon the waitresses are onstage, belting out Korean songs and decades-old American pop.

The Okryu-Gwan restaurants are an important source of hard currency for Pyongyang, says Marcus Noland, a North Korea expert with the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, via e-mail.

Since so few North Koreans get to travel, Noland says, being picked to work in the restaurants is a plum assignment.

Potential staff members are thoroughly vetted for political reliability, he added, and pressure may be used against family members to minimize the risk of defection. But as long as the restaurants meet their monthly revenue quotas, the regime tends not to interfere.

Dubai’s Okryu-Gwan is tiny compared with the cavernous original in Pyongyang, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The official North Korean news agency reported that leader Kim Jong Il himself provided “on-site guidance” when the restaurant added a 60,000-square-foot extension.

The foreign branches do have their advantages, however: Unlike the average North Korean, I did not have to endure a lengthy waiting list to purchase a ticket from my work unit to get in.

If any readers can find this restaurant on Google Earth, please let me know.

Read the full story here:
Dubai Restaurant Offers A Taste Of North Korea
Peter Kenyon


DPRK has markets but still no market institutions

Friday, December 31st, 2010

(Pictured above: Areas in Pyongyang where street stalls have reportedly become more numerous—via Google Earth)

Although we in the west note the proliferation of markets across the DPRK, the Daily NK reminds us that they still lack the institutions of capitalism: security of contract and property, rule of law, etc. According to the article:

Kim Sun Jung, who is a wholesaler in Pyongyang, talked to The Daily NK on Tuesday from the border region in North Korea. She said, “Wives of military officials and general workers should engage in trade in order to get by even in Pyongyang. Those who cannot get a stall in a permanent market (an allowed market, called jangmadang) sell goods in alley markets near the jangmadang, neighborhood alleys or on the banks of the Daedong River, but they always get trouble from PSM agents and community watchmen, who systematically squeeze money and goods from them.”

According to Kim, currently in the center of Pyongyang, the Pyongcheon and Jung districts on the west side of the Daedong River, and the Sunkyo, Dongdaewon and Daedong River districts on the east side, the number of street stalls set up along the river has been increasing greatly.

Traders selling goods along the river are chased every day by agents. If they are caught, they have to pay for the stalls. The cost is the same for a stall in permanent markets, 250 won per stall.

She said that, “In order to avoid paying the 250 won street tax, you often see traders clutching their goods while running this way or that way. Nowadays, agents use cell phones, so it is not so easy to get away.”

Besides the costs for a stall, agents regularly demand meat and alcohol in order to offer them to their cadres including the chairman of the PSM office. If they have not gathered as much as they want through bribes, they confiscate goods and impose fines, around 20,000 or 30,000 won, and offer the excuse that, “Trade is prohibited by those above.”

She said such despotism is directed not only at illegal trade but also at the jangmadang. She explained, “In a permanent market when the chief manager (of the market management office) comes to the site under the pretext of doing an inspection, after collecting as many goods as he wants, he leaves the market without having carried out any inspection.”

In addition, according to sources in the jangmadang, street vendors have been spreading recently. Agents help themselves to food and alcohol there without paying. The street vendors sell pork and alcohol until 11 in the evening and after agents eat there, they leave saying only, “Comrade, trade well.”

Lee Ok Rim, who sells goods in a market in Pyongsung, South Pyongan Province, explained another type of extortion, “Even though the authorities have been strictly monitoring the sale of South Korean goods, traders cannot give them up because they’re good. Accordingly, agents take advantage of this situation: they will confiscate all South Korean goods through a sudden crackdown, and then a few days later, if they get tens of thousands of won in fines, they give the goods back to the traders.”

She explained, “When wholesalers who smuggle South Korean goods through Shinuiju are caught, they must pay 100,000 won as a fine.” Once wholesalers are caught, they make the acquaintance of the agent in charge, offer bribes regularly, and then will not have any further problems in supplying South Korean goods. For agents who are in charge of monitoring wholesalers, this is a big business, so they generally put a lot of work into monitoring them because the scale of regular bribes from wholesalers is huge.”

Therefore, traders openly say that, “Agents are much higher than secretaries of the Central Committee of the Party,” according to Lee.

Read the full story here:
Bribery and Extortion Are Common in North Korean Commerce
Daily NK
Shin Joo Hyun


Friday Fun: New year’s close out

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Item number one: the DPRK’s domestically produced film camera, Hakmujong-1 (학무정-1):

This picture comes via the Russian blog “Show and Tell Pyongyang”. You can read about this camera in the original Russian here.  You can read about it in English (via Google Translate) here. This is the same blog that informed us about the DPRK’s PDA device and the DPRK’s Linux OS, Red Star.  He also has some fabulous pictures of the Kim Jong-suk Pyongyang Silk Mill here.

Item number two: DPRK’s domestic “Coke”:

This photo comes from the collection of Eric Lafforgue.  If you have not already seen his photos, please do yourself a favor and click over.

The soda is “Crabonated” which is a pretty funny typo.  Also worth noting are the lengths they have gone through to copy the Coca-Cola brand–as if they are trying to win back market-share from the foreign firm.  The colors, red, black, silver and white are the same.  The familiar cursive English “C” at the beginning of the word is a close copy.  They even tried to replicate the Coke “wave” by adding a literal wave in a similar curve along the bottom of the advert.

Item number three: DPRK caviar (Okryu Restaurant)

“Thanks to our leader Kim Jong-il we have managed to breed sturgeons.  People from Pyongyang and other provinces can come here to taste caviar and turtle meat.”

See the full video here. Here is a satellite image of the restaurant.

Item number four: Women’s fashion

Uriminzokkiri has posted a clip on DPRK women’s fashion to their Youtube account.  You can see it here.  I have blogged about women’s fashion before here and here.

Item number five: New Koryolink advert (Koryolink is the DPRK’s new 3-G mobile phone service founded by Orascom)

The video comes from this NK web page.  For South Koreans I posted it to my Youtube account.  You can see it here.

Item number six: DPRK verison of The Diary of Anne Frank

Michael Rank has scanned the introduction and uploaded it here.

Item number seven: Happy new year!


DPRK economic activity in 2010

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-12-29

In the New Year’s Joint Editorial issued last January, the North Korean government vowed to improve the lives of the people by focusing on light industry and agriculture. Early in December, the North Korean government-run media reflected on the year’s achievements, stating that advances in industry and improvements in the lives of the people had made unprecedented leaps in 2010.

As North Korea pushes forward with its attempt to “open the doors to a Strong and Prosperous Nation,” Pyongyang has poured significant effort into reviving its economy. In mid-December, the [North] Korean Central News Agency released a report on the 2010 activities of Kim Jong Il, noting that he had made 65 visits to sites related to the nation’s economy, more than twice as many as the 31 visits made to military sites. In 2009, Kim Jong Il made 58 visits to economic sites and 43 visits to military sites, suggesting that the leadership has shifted its focus to the economy this year.

On December 9, the Choson Sinbo published an article in which it highlighted the importance of improving the lives of the people and called an “economic renaissance” critical to the achievement of a “great and prosperous nation.” It also stressed the need for an independent people’s economy as the foundation for such a recovery.

As the North has worked to establish a self-sustaining economy this year, it has highlighted the Kimchaek Iron and Steel Complex as an example of ‘Juche’ production. North Korean media has highlighted the improvements in mining production, in Kimchaek as well as other areas, and has reported that the metals industry has undergone a “revolution” this year. The media has reported surprising production gains at the Hwanghae and Chollima steel complexes, and claim that these production levels have been repeated throughout the country.

Not only has the North celebrated “Juche steel”, but also “Juche textiles” and “Juche fertilizer.” In February, North Korea reopened the modernized “February 8 Vinalon Factory,” highlighting the factory as representative of the country’s independent textile production capacity and likening the new Vinalon factory to a new representation of North Korea’s socialist economy. On March 8, the KCNA called the Vinalon factory the new face of “the brilliant future of the Strong and Prosperous Nation.”

As for “Juche fertilizer,” the North’s media sang the praises of the Namhung Youth Chemical Complex, reporting that the anthracite gas process developed there allowed for steady agricultural production without needing to import fuel or other raw materials, and stated that if the process can be further institutionalized, it should be able to provide for the basic needs of the entire country.

Pyongyang has set as a goal the resolution of the country’s fertilizer shortage by producing one million tons of fertilizer by 2012 in the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex and the Namhung Youth Chemical Complex, stating that for every ton of fertilizer, it can produce ten tons of rice. The media has reported that the North will produce “over ten million tons of grain” in 2012 with the expected million tons of fertilizer.

Improvements in textiles, fertilizer, and other light industries are directly related to raising the standard of living for North Koreans. Kim Jong Il visited the Samilpo factory in Pyongyang in April, and for the rest of the year, state media heralded the advancements made in the factory and called for industries throughout the country to follow in its footsteps. Throughout the year, North Korean media highlighted numerous factories and light industries to illustrate the regime’s efforts at improving the standard of living.

The North Korean government has set a goal of resolving its food, clothing and housing shortages. In order to meet the food demands of the people, the regime seeks to increase grain output by boosting fertilizer production through ‘samilpo’-style factory enhancements. In order to assure everyone is clothed, the regime is relying on the Vinalon factory and increased domestic production. As for housing, the state has set its sights on the construction of 100,000 new houses by the year 2012.

At the forefront of the North’s push for modernization and increased production is its “Computer Numerical Control” (CNC), a vaguely defined idea that has been attributed to Kim Jong Un, the third son and probable successor of Kim Jong Il. As Pyongyang pursues a “strong and prosperous nation” by 2012, state-controlled think-tanks and industries are focusing on CNC as the means for modernization and increased productivity.


“Bend It” shown [edited] on DPRK TV

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

According to the New York Times:

But on Sunday, The Associated Press reported, North Korean television audiences were given a rare break from this routine when the British comedy “Bend It Like Beckham” was shown there. The film, which stars Parminder Nagra as a young woman from a Sikh family with dreams of soccer stardom; Keira Knightley as her best friend; and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the dreamy coach they both have eyes on, was shown over the weekend by the arrangement of the British Embassy. According to the BBC, a message was shown during the film saying that the broadcast was done to mark the 10th anniversary of diplomatic ties between North Korea and Britain.

In a message on his Twitter account, Martin Uden, the British ambassador to South Korea, wrote: “Happy Christmas in Pyongyang. On 26/12 Bend it like Beckham was 1st ever western-made film to air on TV.” The A.P. said the North Korean broadcast of the two-hour movie was only an hour long, so please, no spoilers about the film’s subplots about religion and sexuality, or which of the women Mr. Rhys Meyer’s character ultimately chooses.

UPDATE from a Koryo Tours newsletter:

In 2004 Koryo Tours together with Ealing Studios and the British Embassy screened the film Bend it Like Beckham at the Pyongyang International Film Festival, it was seen by over 12,000 Pyongyang citizens and was the film they raved about…during the festival we were inudndated with requests for tickets from the Yanggakdo hotel staff. During the film the coach tells the heroine of the film to make a decision about her life…and this was translated as her following the Juche way!

In 2009 Koryo Tours was asked by the British Embassy in Pyongyang to assist with ideas for marking 10 years of diplomatic relations- and football was what we came up with. In October 2010 we took Middlesbrough Women’s football team to play two local Korean sides (to a total of 14,000 fans and nationwide tv broadcast) and on Boxing Day the film Bend It Like Beckham was broadcast in Pyongyang- and that is a massive ‘first’ with everyone in Pyongyang talking about it!

Our colleague Hannah Barraclough is working on bringing over the April 25th women’s team in 2012 to play in Europe. If you want any details or have any ideas on how to help with this project please let us know.

Here is a link to the ambassador’s Twitter feed.

To be honest, I am not sure about the claim that it is the first western-made film shown on DPRK TV. I know that the Bonner/Gordon film The Game of Their Lives was shown unedited on DPRK television, though it is about the DPRK and they were involved in the filming.  Tom & Jerry is on DPRK TV to this day, though it is not a film. Titanic was shown in DPRK cinemas.  Any other examples?

Read the full story here:
North Korea Gets a Special Kick Out of ‘Bend It Like Beckham’
New York Times
Dave Itzkoff


Korea-Germany comparisons

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

This chart comes from a recent article in The Economist:

Read the full article here:
Parallel economies
The Economist


DPRK military downsizes to remain competitive

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

According to Strategy Page:

December 30, 2010: In the last year, North Korea has more than doubled the number of training exercises held for its troops. Conspicuously absent from most of these has been large numbers of armored vehicles or warplanes. That’s because these fuel-hungry beasts consume more diesel and jet fuel than North Korea can afford. But there has been more North Korean warplanes in the air, indicating that there is growing concern over the decline in flying skill among North Korean pilots.

All this began four years ago, when North Korea, feeling the strain of maintaining one of the largest military establishments in the world (some one million active forces, plus 600,000 reservists, plus an enormous number of people in the militia), began a downsizing program. As many as 20 percent of the 40 reserve divisions were to be disbanded, with troops and equipment redistributed. This reorganization was also meant to deal with the deterioration of weapons and equipment over the last decade, due to lack of use, and resources for maintenance. With fewer weapons to maintain, the limited resources can be applied to keeping more stuff combat ready.

While South Korea adds new weapons and gear each year, North Korean troops get hardly anything, and their aging weapons get older, and less reliable. So the troops will concentrate even more on training that is cheap (infantry exercises). There is very little target practice, because ammo is expensive, and even less mechanized training, because of the cost of fuel and spare parts. But the increased artillery training activity in the last year is partly the result of so much artillery ammo (shells and rockets) reaching the age at which the stuff is too dangerous, and unreliable, to use. So it is fired off in training exercises.

But the importance of flight hours should be a no-brainer. During World War II, when some nations simply didn’t have the fuel available for pilot training, they saw combat (and non-combat) losses increase as training-hours-in-the-air went down. Nazi Germany’s warplanes began losing, big time, when they could no longer produce enough fuel to allow their trainee pilots sufficient time in the air. This was a trend that had been ongoing since 1942. Up until that time, new German pilots got 240 hours of flying time before entering combat. By comparison, British pilots only received 200 hours and Soviet pilots even less. Germany ruled the skies. But in late 1942, Germany reduced training time to 205 hours. The British now had the fuel, and increased theirs to 340 hours, while the US was providing 270 hours. In the Summer of 1943, the British increased flying time to 335 hours and the US went to 320 hours. At the same time, the Germans reduced it to 170 hours. A year later, the Germans were down to 110 hours, while the British were at 340 hours and the Americans at 360.

This experience was remembered after World War II, and reinforced when, in campaign after campaign, the side with the fewer training hours per pilot, suffered the greatest losses. North Korea, unable to give its pilots much flight time in the last decade, is facing a catastrophic situation if there is a war with South Korea (whose pilots spend more than five times as many hours in the air). Thus the increased flying hours in the last year is more for North Korean pilot morale, than it is to increase North Korea’s chances of winning an air war with South Korea.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Downsizes To Remain Competitive
Strategy Page


DPRK delpoys Pokpung-ho (Storm)

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Image from KCTV via Yonhap

According to Yonhap:

North Korea has deployed new battle tanks and bolstered the size of its special forces by 20,000 over the past two years, deepening the threat of unconventional warfare against South Korea, the South’s new defense white paper said Thursday.

The biennial defense paper also defined the North Korean regime and its military as the “enemy” of South Korea, a description stronger than before but short of reviving the symbolic tag of “main enemy” for the communist neighbor.

The new white paper was released as the South’s military resolved to strike back hard against future provocations by the North, which last month bombarded the South’s front-line island of Yeonpyeong, killing two marines and two civilians.

“Threats from North Korea’s asymmetric warfare capabilities such as special forces, artillery pieces and weapons of mass destruction have been on a steady rise since 2008,” Deputy Minister Chang Kwang-il told reporters.

Military officials here have said the North is increasingly focused on unconventional or “asymmetric” weapons, such as improvised explosives or low-cost missiles because the regime knows its aging conventional weapons are no match for the technologically superior South Korean and U.S. forces

The white paper confirmed for the first time that North Korea deployed its new battle tank, called the “Pokpung-ho,” which in Korean means “Storm Tiger,” believed to have been developed in the 1990s based on the Soviet Union’s T-72 tanks.

The North’s new tank is presumed to be equipped with either a 125- or 115-millimeter main gun, similar to that of the T-50 battle tank of the Russian Army, defense ministry officials said.

The paper didn’t say how many of the new tanks North Korea has “deployed for operational use,” but said the number of North Korean tanks rose to some 4,100 units as of November this year, from 3,900 in 2008.

Also, the paper said the number of lightly equipped North Korean special forces, who are trained to quickly infiltrate South Korea, increased to 200,000 from 180,000.

Overall, the total number of North Korean soldiers remained unchanged at about 1.19 million, but the North has reorganized its military to add four new divisions, the paper said.

Although its number of artillery pieces changed little over the past two years, its 170mm self-propelled artillery and 240mm multiple rocket launchers deployed on the front line are capable of carrying out a “massive surprise bombardment” on the South Korean capital of Seoul and its neighboring areas, the paper said.

North Korea is “presumed to have secured about 40 kilograms” of weapons-grade plutonium by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods four times by 2009, the paper said.

Concerns about the North’s nuclear weapons program deepened last month when Pyongyang, which conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, revealed a uranium enrichment facility to a visiting U.S. scientist. The uranium enrichment program could give the North a second route to build a nuclear bomb.

“Given that North Korea claimed that some 2,000 centrifuges are operational in November 2010, the North is presumed to have pushed for the highly enriched uranium (HEU) program,” the paper said.

Early this week, Chang told reporters that his ministry decided not to revive the “main enemy” tag for the North to “minimize controversy,” because the defense white paper is an official government document that is “used internally and externally.”

Thursday’s defense paper clarified that the “North Korean regime and military are our enemy” that poses a “grave threat” to the South’s security by “staging military provocations such as the torpedo attack on the Cheonan warship and the shelling on Yeonpyeong Island.” Forty-six sailors were killed when the North allegedly torpedoed the Cheonan warship in March in the Yellow Sea.

“Not using the expression ‘main enemy’ does not mean that we softened our stance,” Chang said.

The new description is aimed at sending a strong message of warning to the North and clarifying that the North Korean regime and its military, not the people, are aggressors, according to the official.

South Korea first used the label “main enemy” for North Korea in its 1995 white paper after North Korea threatened to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” a year earlier. Seoul stopped using the expression in 2004 in an apparent bid not to antagonize Pyongyang amid then-thawing ties.

In its defense paper published in 2008 under the government of President Lee Myung-bak, South Korea called North Korea an “immediate and grave threat” to its national security.

The two Koreas are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in the South, a legacy of the three-year war.

The New York Times has more.

Additional information:
1. This web page does not focus on military affairs (except when it overlaps with Google Earth research or broader economics), but I have put some military information resources here for the convenience of readers.  Please let me know if anything should be added.

2. I have kept a chronological list of Yonpyong stories here.

3. I have kept a chronological list of stories related to the DPRK’s new uranium facilities here.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea deploys new battle tanks, boosts special forces
Kim Deok-hyun


Rumored $3.5b Chinese investment deal

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The Choson Ilbo begins this story with “Rumor has it”….

Rumor has it that China is getting directly involved in the development of North Korea’s Rajin-Sonbong Port, once the center of the UN Development Programme’s Duman (or Tumen) River project in 1991. A source in Beijing said Wednesday, “As far as I’m aware, North Korea and China’s Commerce Ministry recently signed a memorandum of understanding outlining Beijing’s investment of US$3.5 billion over five years beginning next year” in the special economic zone there. The source said China is investing in roads, ports and gas facilities in the region.

The Rajin-Sonbong area, at the mouth of the Duman River, is a strategic point of economic cooperation between the two countries, but neither bank is Chinese territory. One side is in North Korea and the other in Russia, so to get to the East Sea China had to borrow a port from either side. China did nothing about the UNDP initiative in the 1990s, but since the mid-2000s, it has set its eyes on the area.

North Korea for some reason rented out the best equipped dock there to Russia in 2008 but since last year it has been seeking investment from China to overcome dried-up aid from South Korea amid international sanctions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il urged Chinese President Hu Jintao when he visited China in May this year to invest in the region.

But the rumor of direct investment from the Chinese government has not been confirmed. One diplomatic source in Beijing said, “I’ve heard nothing about the Chinese Commerce Ministry’s direct involvement in negotiations. It’s just one of many rumors since North Korea became active in developing the Rajin-Sonbong area.”

UPDATE from the Choson Ilbo:

Chinese officials with close ties with North Korea say the North has used to demand hard cash for business deals but is now taking a more flexible approach. The Global Times, a sister publication of the People’s Daily, published a series of reports Saturday about the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone of North Korea.

It said street lights and neon signs powered by windmills have appeared in the region, which had earlier been pitch dark at night, while the previously ubiquitous soldiers have vanished.

North Korea allowed 4,000 Chinese residents in the area to rent commercial property and agreed to designate an area in the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone to be jointly administered by the two countries.

North Korea had offered China to develop one or two islands in the estuary of the Apnok River on a 50-year lease, but when China demurred it apparently offered a 100-year lease and even allowed construction of golf courses and other recreational facilities.

Many private Chinese companies are reticent about investing in North Korea. Not only is there a lack of business laws to protect their investment, there are also too many political uncertainties. As a result, the Chinese government is not playing a very active role. In the case of the bridge across the Apnok River, North Korea apparently wanted Chinese state-run companies to take part in construction, but Beijing declined.

One source in Beijing said some Chinese companies are showing great interest in developing the Rajin-Sonbong area, but most are biding their time. “Chinese businesses still don’t seem to trust the sincerity of North Korea’s desire to open up its economy,” the source added.

Additional Information:
1. The Chinese and Russians currently lease docks at Rajin. You can see a satellite image of them here.

2. Here is more information on China’s 10-year lease of Rajin.

3. Here is information on the Yalu Islands China is reportedly leasing.

4. The Russians are also building Russian gauge railway line from the Russian border to the port in Rajin.

5. Here are all previous Rajin (Rason)posts

Read the full stories here:
Beijing ‘Pouring Money into N.Korea’s Special Economic Zone’
Choson Ilbo

N.Korea’s Cross-Border Business with China Picking Up
Choson Ilbo


DPRK sends new year fax

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

According to Yonhap:

Closing a tense year in cross-border relations, North Korea is faxing New Year’s greetings to South Koreans likely to support the resumption of cross-border aid next year, an official said Thursday.

A total of 35 organizations, including local governments near the border with the North, and 15 South Korean activists, have so far received such faxes, the government official said, asking not to be identified by post or name.

North Korea has often used fax documents this year to deny its involvement in the deadly March sinking of a South Korean warship and its responsibility for the artillery exchange between the two countries in the Yellow Sea in November.

Two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed in the artillery attack on the island of Yeonpyeong. The latest North Korean fax offensive did not refer to the attack, but contained calls for the South to honor their past two summit deals promising economic aid and cooperation for the North, the official said.

“We are here sending New Year’s greetings. We wish you success in your patriotic activities toward the reunification of the (Korean) nation and the defense of peace and stability under the banner of the inter-Korean declarations,” the fax was quoted as saying.

North Korea has sent similar faxes to South Korea annually since 2001, according to the official. The two countries held their first summit in 2000, and the second one took place in 2007.

The official said the recipients this year included the Incheon city government and the Gangwon provincial government, both of which are headed by liberals supporting assistance to North Korea.

“The North also appears to be trying to create a rift and trigger an anti-government struggle among us,” the official said.

The ties between the Koreas deteriorated after a conservative government took power here in early 2008, suspending unconditional aid and pushing the North harder to take denuclearization steps.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. South Koreans are banned by law from contacting North Koreans without prior approval.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea faxing New Year’s greetings to S. Koreans
Sam Kim