Archive for March, 2012

Friday Fun: Some new North Korean art

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Although the Korea-watching world is focused on Tongchang-ri at the moment, I thought I would offer a mild distraction this Friday with some rarely-see-by-the-outside-world North Korean art. (A big thanks to a reader for these).

On display in the Mansudae Art Studio (the DPRK’s premier art studio) at this very minute, “The girl with the cell-phone”:

Click image for larger version

And below we have a painting from a book on the art exhibition on the 65th birthday of the Korean Worker’s Party.  The painting is called “Sarangeui jib” (English title: “House of affection”):

Click image for larger version

I bet the painter was a man.

Blogging has been light as I try to clear a big project from my plate. I will play catch up on Tonchang-ri, SPA, KWP , and Google Earth this weekend.

For an additional smile, KCNA has an article today titled, “North Korea Launches Satellite of Love”.


Lankov on DPRK sanctions

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Andrei Lankov writes in The Asian:

However, the decades-long experience of dealing with North Korea leaves little doubt: international sanctions do not work. When the sanctions were first introduced after the October 2006 nuclear test and tightened after the second 2009 nuclear test, many a hardliner believed that this was the way to press the North Korean government into a corner and make them consider denuclearization. In academic articles, newspaper pieces and blog entries, many a hawk was ready to interpret pretty much every piece of news that emanated from the North as a sign of ‘sanctioning beginning to bite’.

But what has happened to the North Korean economy over the past five to six years? Contrary to expectations, the era of sanctions has been, rather, a time of mild economic recovery and growth. The expectations of hardliners therefore have as yet, come to nothing.



DPRK child nourishment

Monday, March 26th, 2012

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Nearly two-thirds of North Korean children under 10, or some 2.2 million, suffer from growth disorders related to malnutrition and 18,000 of them are so undernourished that their life is at risk, according to a study.

Hwang Na-mi [황나미], a researcher at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs in Seoul, published her findings in the March issue of the journal Health and Welfare Forum on Sunday. She analyzed a nutrition assessment conducted in the North by the UNICEF in cooperation with the North’s Central Statistics Bureau in 2004 and 2009.

According to the study, 2.2 million or 61.7 percent of the North’s 3.55 million children under 10 were underweight, chronically malnourished with stunted growth, or acutely undernourished with a frail physique. Some numbers overlap.

Some 320,000 or 18.8 percent of children aged 0-4 years were underweight, and 430,000 or 23.1 percent of those aged 5-9. Five-year-old North Korean boys weighed less than 14.1 kg and girls less than 13.7 kg on average, about 4 kg lighter than their South Korean peers.

Some 1.23 million or 34.7 percent of children under nine showed stunted growth for their age due to malnutrition. Some 210,000 or 6 percent were frailly built and underweight for their height as a result of acute malnutrition.

Conditions varied widely between regions. In Ryanggang Province, which has no proper food rations and suffers from a lack of farmland, a massive 82.1 percent of children were undernourished, nearly double the percentage in the capital Pyongyang (43.5 percent). Next came South Hamgyong, North Hamgyong, and Jagang provinces.

“The health of North Korean children has improved thanks to food aid from the international community, but most of them are still undernourished,” Hwang said. “Some 0.5 percent of the North’s entire child population are at a high risk of dying of diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia or diarrhea because their immune system is so weak due to extreme malnutrition.”


Yonhap also reported on this same report:

The life expectancy of an average North Korean stood at 69.3, 10.8 years lower than comparable figure for a South Korean, a report by a social health institute said Sunday.

The report by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) based on a census conducted in 2008, showed the average life expectancy for North Korean men standing at 65.6 years, while for women it reached 72.7.

In the same year, an average South Korean was expected to live 80.1 years. Men and women were expected to live 76.5 years and 83.3 years, respectively, in the cited year.

The latest report also showed the health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) in North Korea stood at 58 in 2007 compared to 71 in South Korea. HALE refers to the average number of years that a person can expect to live without serious health problems.

KIHASA’s findings said death while giving birth reached 77.2 per every 100,000 mothers in the communist country in 2008, up from 54 in 1993. This is five times higher than the maternal death rate in South Korea.

The infant mortality rate in the North stood at 19.3 for every 1,000, which is again five times higher vis-a-vis the South.

Other illnesses cited for fatalities were also high, with tuberculosis accounting for 344 deaths per every 100,000 in 2010 in North Korea. This is much higher than 97 deaths caused by the same disease in the South.

The institute said that judging by the data, health conditions for people living in North Korea seem to have deteriorated over the years. It added that data released by international agencies such as the Nations Children’s Fund showed a gloomier picture of health conditions in the impoverished country, indicating that Pyongyang’s official census may not be totally reliable.

The actual census data can be found here.

Read the full stories here:
Most North Korean Children Under Nourished
Choson Ilbo 

N. Korea’s life expectancy 10 years lower than South: report


American chorus to perform at Spring Arts Festival

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The Sons of Jubal, an all-male chorus and orchestra made up entirely of Georgians, has been invited to perform during the Spring Arts Festival in Pyongyang, DPRK (North Korea). They are the largest American group ever invited to enter the country. The visit is the culmination of years of preparation. They will also perform additional concerts in Beijing, China.

Here is the press release:

All-Male Chorus and Orchestra to perform in Pyongyang, DPRK 

ATLANTA—A 150-member all-male chorus and orchestra from the Atlanta area will perform in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during their Spring Arts Festival in April.

The chorus and orchestra, named the Sons of Jubal, will be one of the largest musical groups of Americans ever to enter the DPRK. The Sons of Jubal was founded in 1954 and consists of volunteer professional musicians, church musicians, educators, and institutional leaders from the state of Georgia.

Global Resource Services, Inc. (GRS), a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Atlanta, is coordinating the cultural exchange. Through its “Advocacy for the Arts” program, GRS is providing opportunities to promote goodwill and reconciliation.

GRS has already sent three other groups to DPRK, including the Grammy Award Winning group, Casting Crowns. The organization has three main principles: relationships, respect, and reconciliation.

“We are excited that this opportunity has come after a decade and a half of experience in DPRK-United States musical exchanges,” said Robert Springs, GRS Chief Executive Officer and President.

The Sons of Jubal will also have performances in Beijing, China, which will include a brass choir, handbell choir, and vocal ensemble. The group has presented concerts in major halls, local churches, and communities in the United States, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Moldova, the Czech Republic, and Russia.

“This is a historic opportunity for the group and I am privileged to be a part of this great musical endeavor,” commented Dr. Jon Duncan, conductor of the group for the past 10 years.

The Sons of Jubal performs an extensive repertoire in the classics, Broadway show tunes, spirituals, and contemporary genres. Members of the Sons of Jubal will leave on April 10 and return to Georgia on April 23.

UPDATE: Here is a follow up article on the group (Augusta Chronicle):

Last month, amid reports of rocket launches in North Korea, a handful of Augusta pastors and musicians were quietly making history.

They were part of a men’s choir that performed in North Korea and China.

The 150-member Sons of Jubal, who are ministers from churches across the Georgia Baptist Convention, is the largest group of Americans to visit North Korea in decades, according to Global Resource Services, an Atlanta nonprofit that coordinated the trip.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We made history,” said the Rev. Roy Kiser, an associate pastor with senior adults at First Baptist Church of North Augusta. He has sung in the choir for 14 years.

The choir performed American show tunes, Korean folk songs and a few hymns at various venues, including a Beijing Christian church; the Morang Hill Symphony Hall, the home of the North Korean National Symphony Orchestra; and a spring festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, the first rule or North Korea, who died in 1994.

For those two weeks, members of Sons of Jubal were celebrities everywhere they went, said the Rev. Keith Burrow, an associate minister of music and senior adults at First Baptist Church of Augusta, who has sung in the choir for five years.

“We were the first Americans a lot of them had ever met,” he said.

The performances took more than three years of planning and six months of rehearsals. The choir worked hard to learn How Great Thou Art in Chinese, and a few traditional Korean songs, Burrow said.

“Music has a way of breaking down barriers in ways other things can’t,” he said. “You could feel the two people groups coming together, all because we sang in their language.”

Between concerts, the group did a little sightseeing, stopping at both the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. Under military escort, the group toured the north side of the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea from South Korea.

Upon returning from the tour, church members have asked Burrow whether he ever felt scared while traveling through the communist countries.

“Not once,” he said. “Because of the (political) relations between us and them, we really didn’t know what to expect. We saw over and over again that people are people no matter where they are.”

Kiser agreed.

“They rolled out the red carpet for us,” he said. “Everyone was friendly, personable. They made quite the positive impression.”

So did one translator in particular, Burrow said.

“Our guide told us, ‘I will never look at Americans the same way again.’ She said, ‘I hope you never look at Koreans the same way again either.’ ”


Humedica donates 20 tons of rice to DPRK

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

According to Reliefweb (2012-3-23):

According to the World Food Programme of the United Nations, one in three children is affected permanently by hunger, mal- or undernutrition to a degree so alarming that the children are too small for their age. Also one in four nursing mothers is mal- or undernourished – and we can imagine the consequences for the infants.

In order to help above all those who are weakened by diseases, we offer support in the form of food supplies and together with a local partner of humedica we sent another relief good shipment, this time containing 20 tons of rice, to the DPR of Korea on March 23.

The nutritious staple will be provided to the hospital in Haeju (Hwanghae-namdo province), where ill children, women and men are offered medical treatment during their stay as in-patients. Thanks to the humedica shipment, these patients will regain new strength.

Haeju is a city of 222,396 inhabitants. It is located at the western coast of the country, 140 kilometres south of the capital of Pyongyang. Located at a distance of seven kilometres and half from the town is Mount Suyang, which is above all famous for of its cataracts. The water of Mount Suyang falls down over cliffs of a height of 128 metres and a breadth of twelve metres into the depths of a picturesque little lake.

On the mountainside itself, there is an old fortification built in the Goryeo Dynasty that can be visited by tourists. Sights in Haeju are an old stone cooling house (also built in the Goryeo Dynasty) and a pagoda of five floors. Haeju is an important traffic junction; above all companies in the cement and chemical industry have set up their businesses there (Source of information: Wikipedia).

Since 1998, humedica has been sending relief shipments with a value of more than one million euros to the DPR of Korea. Besides food, seeds or special additional food these shipments also contain drugs, sanitary articles, medical equipment and every-day necessities.

Please support us with your personal contribution so that we will be able to help the people in this country also in future.

humedica e. V.
Donation reference “Famine relief North Korea”
Account 47 47
Bank Code 734 500 00
Sparkasse Kaufbeuren
IBAN: DE35734500000000004747


DPRK undergoing 2012 calendar recall

Friday, March 23rd, 2012


Pictured above (Google Earth): (L) Kumsong Youth Publishers (금성청년출판사), (R) Pyongyang General Printing Factory (평양종합인쇄공장). According to the Daily NK article below, both factories print calendars in the DPRK.

UPDATE 1 (2012-3-23): The Daily NK updates us on the DPRK’s 2012 calendars:

The slogan on the cover of the calendar has been edited from “The Great Leader President Kim Il-sung will always be with us” to “The Great President Kim Il-sung and the Great Leader Kim Jong-il Will always be with us”

The new calendar marks February 16th (Kim Jong-il’s official birthday) as “The Day of the Shining Star”. This same day is also celebrated as the day Kim Jong-il received the title “generalissimo”.

“The Day of the Sun” (April 15th–Kim Il-sung’s birthday) was always there, however, revised text about other dates has been added.

The May picture comes from the DPRK film Petition. The June image comes from The Blessed Land.


July – October calendar pages

December 17th 2012 commemorates “Juche 100”. December 17th is the day Kim Jong Il passed away.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-1-10): According to the Daily NK:

North Korea has recalled all 2012 calendars because they do not specify the date of Kim Jong Il’s death (December 17th), and is producing new ones.

A Shinuiju source confirmed for Daily NK on the 5th, “Pyongyang Combined [General] Printing and other printers are creating new calendars marking Kim Jong Il’s death.”

“An order was handed down through Party organs, enterprises and people’s units calling for the return of those calendars which had been distributed. Calendars stored by traders who were planning to go and distribute them outside of North Korea are also being recalled,” the source added.

However, most of those calendars which have already been exported, such as the one obtained by Daily NK [see picture here], will continue to circulate.

The absence of the date of death is not the only problem with the new calendar. There are also problematic messages such as ‘We hope for great leader comrade Kim Jong Il’s good health.’ As such, the new calendar will reportedly both include Kim Jong Il’s official date of death and the latest slogan, ‘Great leader comrade Kim Jong Il is with us forever.’

Official North Korean calendars are designed and published by a number of publishing houses including Keumsung Youth Publishing House and Agricultural Publishing Company on the authority of the Party Propaganda and Agitation Department. They are still distributed to all Party organs, enterprises and military bases, although due to economic and production limitations the paper quality has dropped in recent years, and even this measure has not been enough to stop distribution to households breaking down.

On this, one defector from North Hamkyung Province commented, “There are 28 households in a people’s unit, but only 10 calendars were given to us once.”

Other than the official calendar published for distribution, each of the authorized publishers produces a higher quality 7-page calendar for sale in places like the jangmadang. Some high-quality scroll calendars are also produced by People’s Army Publishing House, People’s Safety Ministry, and National Security Agency etc.

An additional point of interest for the reproduced calendars is whether Kim Jong Eun’s birthday (January 8th) will be made prominent. January 8th, 2012 is a Sunday and as such would typically be marked in red anyway, but usually to emphasize special days the numbers are printed in a bigger font.

Read the full story here:
North Korea in Mass Calendar Recall
Daily NK
Park Jun Hyeong


Kim family Kangdong compound updated

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I am going through some new satellite imagery of the Pyongyang area and wanted to point out a new highlight:

Among the many things that Kim Jong-un inherited from his father is a new, exclusive train station built just across the river from the family’s Kangdong estate (39.198864°, 126.016210°).


Google Earth images. (L) 2006-12-17 (R) 2011-11-13.

Pictured above are two Google Earth screen shots of the Kangdong complex (highlighted in red). The new train station can be seen to the north west of the compound on the opposite side of the river.


The station compound is 780 meters in length, and there is no train visible.  Although the satellite image is dated 2011-11-13, it is unclear if this facility has ever been used–this is the only commerically available photo of the station. It is also worth noting that a village just north of the station has been removed.

This new train station is connected to the national railway system at the Phyongsong Station via a dedicated line that is approximately 11.5km long.

Google Earth offers an interesting perspective of the railway line construction:


In the images above (TOP: 2009-4-16, BOTTOM-L: 2010-3-28, BOTTOM-R: 2011-11-13) We can see the construction of the railway line. A nearby factory was torn down to make room for the tracks.

This dedicated line has one branch that is under construction and extends south towards the Taedong Fruit Farm before abruptly ending.

The Kangdong facility itself has also received a few new additions:


Pictured above are two different Google Earth images of part of the Kangdong Leadership Compound.  (L) 2006 (R) 2011.

Judging from these satellite images, the Kandgong leadership compound has received a new residency (for Kim Jong-un?) in the upper-right side of the 2011 photo, a new support facility (bottom-center), and new sports facilities (top-center). On the left side of the photo is a peculiar area that appears to be a tree farm, but in all honesty, I can’t say with any confidence what it is.  Ideas welcome.

Additional information:

1. This compound has been drastically overhauled since Kenji Fujimoto visited.  See his pictures here, here, here, and here.

2. Kim Jong-il lived here while recovering from a stroke in 2008.


Kim Il-sung Youth League gets new leader

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth:  39.018532°, 125.728943°): The Central Committee of the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League in Pyongyang (청년동맹중앙위원회)

According to the Daily NK:

Chosun Central News Agency reported today that Ri Yong Cheol, the 1st Secretary of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, has been dismissed, replaced by Jeon Yong Nam.

Ri was removed by the 47th plenary session of the organization’s central committee in Pyongyang yesterday for reasons related to his age, according to the report. Ri, the son of former Workers’ Party Guidance Department Vice Director Ri Hwa Seon, had been in the job since December, 2007. He was also on the funeral committee at the death of Kim Jong Il.

The Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League is among the first political organizations with which young North Koreans come into contact. Acting as the youth wing of the Chosun Workers’ Party, its membership, comprised of persons aged 14-30, is estimated at approximately five million.

Here is coverage in Rodong Sinmun:

The 47th plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League was held in Pyongyang on March 22.

At the meeting former First Secretary Ri Yong Chol was relieved of his post and recalled for his age reason and Jon Yong Nam was posted instead.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the Kim Il-sung Youth League:

Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League (Korean: 김일성사회주의청년동맹, Hanja: 金日成社會主義靑年同盟) is a Korean youth organization. It is the main youth organization in DPR Korea.

It was founded by Kim Il-sung on January 17, 1946 as the Democratic Youth League of North Korea. It became the youth wing of the Workers Party of North Korea, later the Workers Party of Korea. It was renamed the Democratic Youth League of Korea and in May 1964 renamed as the League of Socialist Working Youth of Korea.[1] It assumed its present name on its 50th anniversary in 1996.[2]

The 47th plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League was held in Pyongyang on March the 22th of 2012. At the meeting former First Secretary Ri Yong Chol was relieved of his post for his age reason and Jon Yong Nam was elected to the post.

Read the full story here:
KIS Youth League Gets New Head
Daily NK
Kang Mi-jin


KCNA: DPRK encourages foreign investment

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Click image above to see KCNA video of interview with Yun Yong-sok, vice department director of DPRK Joint Venture Investment Committee

According to KCNA (2012-3-23):

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is willing to further improve its environment for foreign investment, Yun Yong Sok, a vice department director of the DPRK Committee for Investment and Joint Venture, told KCNA.

He said:

The nation’s economy is gaining momentum, with many industrial establishments and power stations being built across the country.

It is a consistent policy of the DPRK Government to enhance economic cooperation with other countries, while beefing up its self-reliant national economy.

In December last year, the government amended investment-related laws, including the DPRK Law and Regulations on Foreign Investment, laws on joint venture and joint collaboration and the Law on Foreign-funded Businesses and Foreigners’ Tax Payment, in step with the nation’s developing economy and international practices.

It enacted the law on economic zone on Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa islets in the River Amnok and revised and supplemented the law on the Rason economic and trade zone.

The joint development and management in the two economic zones takes on a new way of cooperation. Now it has been under way in a creditable way, driven by the active efforts of both sides of the DPRK and China.

Contracts on joint venture and joint collaboration have been on increase with the investment environment changing for the better.

Rare earth abundant in the country and infrastructure projects lure foreign investment in the DPRK.

The committee will pay deep attention to ensuring the interests of foreign investors, while invigorating the exchange and cooperation with governments, investors and businesses.

In other news, KCNA has adopted the American colloquialism “beefing up”.


“Day of the Sun” preparations

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

There is widespread displeasure not only at mobilization for various events planned for April but also the growing funding burden being placed on households, sources have reported.

One source from Musan in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on the 20th, “In all areas of North Korea including Pyongyang, everyone has been rushing around preparing for the upcoming birthday celebrations since the 15th. The authorities are collecting 20,000 won per household for the purpose of decorating streets and open spaces and to fund artistic performances.”

People in Hamheung in South Hamkyung Province have received orders to prepare eight flower pots per family for the streets and verandas of each home, a source from the city said; those without flowers are apparently purchasing them from traders. “We are so busy trying to get ready for the April celebrations right now that we don’t even have time to breathe,” the source said. “Difficult times during Kim Jong Il’s regime were nothing compared to now.”

A source from Wonsan in Gangwon Province agreed, saying, “It is tough for us to even make 2,000 won per day from trading, but the authorities are asking for 20,000 won from us to buy paint to do the exterior walls of apartments! I thought a new man would make the situation better but it has gotten worse.”

In previous years, the preparation period for April events was called the ‘big cleanup’. The stairs and hallway of apartments and the doors and fences of homes had to be painted with lime, which in recent years came to cost around 5,000 won. Thereafter, students would gather leftover paint and do the walls of their classrooms. However, the cost this year is much higher.

According to the source, “This year it is called the ‘total mobilization period,’ and they have told us that those who do not participate with sincerity will be evaluated politically.”

The period has begun fifteen days earlier than normal, too, which appears to be an effort to heighten the atmosphere for this year in particular.

The Musan source explained, “All organs, enterprises and schools are practicing songs and instruments during the afternoon, and women are using parks and public spaces to practice songs and dances until 7pm. Party cadres, to create a mood for celebration, ordered people to wear their outfits for the day, but the women all look disgruntled by the fact that they have to shiver in skirts all day in the cold.”

“There are lots of fights because local offices have exempted the Union of Democratic Women from paying festival costs, instead putting that portion on other families,” the Wonsan source added, commenting that the measure has been taken because practice hours are in the afternoon when most women ordinarily go to the jangmadang to work.

Read the full story here:
April Feeling Tiresome Already
Daily NK
Choi Song Min