Prospects of an Open Economy in North Korea

One of thousands of statues of Kim Il Sung in North Korea? Nope, this is a statue of Mao Zedong in Chengdu, China (photo from ArianZwegers)

Since Kim Jong Il’s death many articles have explored the likelihood of an open North Korea. Everyone hopes that the recent change in person in North Korea’s leadership might be synonymous with a change in governance. The media attention might also be the result of attempts to capitalize on more exciting angles on North Korea, but let us explore the possibility that maybe we are sensing something about to happen; maybe the change in leadership might herald a new day for North Korea.

The Atlantic has an interesting piece on the historical precedent in China of movement from Communist dictatorship to economic opening. China in 1976 was in a similar position to North Korea’s in 2012, coming off of the death of Mao Zedong to his hand picked successor, revealed only just before his death: Hua Guofeng. The thought is that Kim Jong Un is a near-perfect analogue to Hua Guofeng Continue reading

North Korean Defectors in the United States

Image representing face of refugees from Eritrea

Officially back on campus, I decided to get involved with Yale’s branch of THiNK, There’s Hope in North Korea, once again. Thinking back to my previous year as a volunteer for the organization, I remembered that we had been fortunate enough to hear the story of a North Korean defector now living in America. She had described how she had tried to defect from North Korea on more than one occasion. After the first attempt, she, her brother, and mother had been captured and sent to a detention center where they had been tortured. After she had one day escaped, she started a new life in the United States. Unfortunately, I do not remember enough of her story to form a narrative of her personal journey to America, whether or not she spent a lot of time in a third country or in South Korea before coming here. I only remember that she occasionally shares her experiences with others in the same way that she had for us undergraduate students. Continue reading

In the News – Obama Calls for North Korea to Have Courage to Pursue Peace


In the News – Obama Calls for North Korea to Have Courage to Pursue Peace
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak (L) poses with U.S. President Barack Obama as he arrives for a working dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Center in Seoul, March 26, 2012.

Photo: Reuters
South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak (L) poses with U.S. President Barack Obama as he arrives for a working dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Center in Seoul, March 26, 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s discussions Monday with the leaders of Russia and China appear to have yielded no breakthroughs regarding concerns about North Korea and Iran. The meetings came hours after the president delivered a speech in the South Korean capital calling on the North Koreans to “have the courage to pursue peace” and “take irreversible steps” to meet their international obligations.

Nuclear tensions with North Korea and Iran were the focus for Obama and many of the other leaders now in Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit.

Chinese President Hu Jintao met Monday with both South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and, then, President Obama to discuss an upcoming North Korean missile launch. Continue reading

In the News – Obama urges N. Korea to embrace peace, better life for N. Koreans


In the News – Obama urges N. Korea to embrace peace, better life for N. Koreans 

By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday urged the North Korean leadership to pursue peace and a better life for its people, stressing that there will be no rewards for provocations.

“Here in Korea, I want to speak directly to leaders in Pyongyang,” Obama said during a special lecture at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. “Have the courage to pursue peace and give a better life to the people of North Korea.”

Obama also reiterated his warning to Pyongyang that “there will be no rewards for provocations,” apparently referring to the communist country’s plan to launch a long-range rocket next month.

“The United States has no hostile intent toward your country. We’re committed to peace,” he said.

Obama added that the U.S. is prepared to improve relations with Pyongyang, noting a recent bilateral deal under which the U.S. agreed to give 240,000 tons of food aid to the North in exchange for its temporary suspension of missile and nuclear tests and uranium enrichment activities. Continue reading

In the News – China promises to try to dissuade N. Korea from rocket launch: official


In the News – China promises to try to dissuade N. Korea from rocket launch: official 

SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) — China promised Monday to keep trying to dissuade North Korea from its planned long-range rocket launch, expressing “deep concern” that the move could have negative effects on peace on the Korean Peninsula and efforts to resume six-party nuclear talks, an official said.

Chinese officials made the remarks during summit talks between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Hu was in Seoul to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, a global anti-nuclear terrorism conference set to open later Monday.
“Expressing deep concern, the Chinese leadership said it is urging North Korea to give up the satellite launch and focus on development of the lives of ordinary people,” Kim Tae-hyo, a senior presidential security official, told reporters during a briefing on the summit.

The Chinese side has tried to contact North Korea many times on the issue and already conveyed concern to Pyongyang, Kim said.

It is rare for China to take such a clear-cut position on a North Korean provocation. Continue reading

In the News – Lee vows to retaliate against N. Korea if provoked


In the News – Lee vows to retaliate against N. Korea if provoked

SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) — President Lee Myung-bak said Monday that South Korea will thoroughly retaliate against North Korea if provoked again, amid rising tensions over Pyongyang’s plan to launch a long-range rocket in defiance of international warnings.

North Korea has recently threatened to launch a “sacred war” against South Korea over Seoul’s defamation of the dignity of its new leader Kim Jong-un and his late father, Kim Jong-il.

The communist country has also warned it will take the “strongest countermeasures which no one can imagine” if South Korea “dares find fault with its nuclear deterrent and satellite launch” at an international nuclear summit under way in Seoul.

South Korea will “thoroughly retaliate against North Korea” if Pyongyang provokes it, Lee said in a video message to a music concert in Seoul marking the second anniversary of the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on the North. Continue reading

In the News – Lee, Hu to Discuss N.Korea


In the News – Lee, Hu to Discuss N.Korea

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who came to Seoul on Sunday to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, meets his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak for the 10th time on Monday.

A Foreign Ministry official said, “Basically, all major issues between South Korea and China that have made headlines will be on the agenda.”

That is likely to include the hottest issue in bilateral relations, China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees.

North Korea’s plan to test a long-distance ballistic missile, which the regime claims is a satellite launch, is also likely to be discussed.

A diplomatic source said, “China’s role is the crucial to prevent North Korea’s reckless missile launch. We plan to ask China to join the sanctions against North Korea that are to be imposed if it goes ahead with the launch.”


Original article can be found here.

In the News – Most N.Korean Children Undernourished


In the News – Most N.Korean Children Undernourished

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, 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.”


Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea’s Rocket Plan Hijacks Nuclear Summit


In the News – North Korea’s Rocket Plan Hijacks Nuclear Summit

(SEOUL, South Korea) — The security summit that began here Monday was supposed to be an opportunity for President Barack Obama and other leaders to find ways to keep nuclear material away from terrorists. So far, North Korea has upstaged that agenda.

And that may be just what Pyongyang intended.

Several of the heads of state meeting in Seoul have criticized the North’s surprise announcement 10 days ago that it plans to blast a satellite into space next month aboard a long-range rocket — a launch that Obama’s government views as cover for nuclear missile development.

Obama urged North Korean leaders to abandon their rocket plan or risk jeopardizing their country’s future and thwarting a recent U.S. pledge of food aid in return for nuclear and missile test moratoriums — considered a breakthrough after years of deadlock. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s government warned it might shoot down parts of the rocket if it violates South Korean air space.

Obama and Lee also pressed North Korean ally China to use its influence to prevent a launch. Meanwhile, a Chinese government-backed disarmament expert said allowing the launch to dominate discussions at the summit may be exactly what North Korea wants.

“I think North Korea did this to overshadow our talks about nuclear security,” said China Arms Control and Disarmament Association head Li Hong. “We shouldn’t fall for their trick.” Continue reading

In the News – North Korea to Hold First Parliament Session Under New Leader


In the News – North Korea to Hold First Parliament Session Under New Leader

North Korea announced Saturday it will hold an annual parliamentary session next month around the time of a planned rocket launch that has sparked widespread condemnation.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the Supreme People’s Assembly would convene on April 13.  Analysts say the parliament will likely promote the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, to chairman of the National Defense Commission, a post held by his father Kim Jong Il, who died in December.

The news agency also carried a statement by the North’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, who said launching a satellite “is an exercise of an independent and legitimate right in accordance with… international laws.”

The U.S., Russia, South Korea and Japan have condemned the planned launch, saying it violates a U.N. ban on all North Korean launches using ballistic missile technology.

Even Pyongyang’s long-time ally, China, has expressed rare disapproval.  Beijing said it is concerned about the launch’s potential to disrupt regional peace and security.


Original article can be found here.

In the News – UN Chief Urges North Korea to Reconsider Rocket Launch Plan


In the News – UN Chief Urges North Korea to Reconsider Rocket Launch Plan

Photo: AP

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in South Korea, March 24, 2012.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged North Korea to reconsider its announced plan to launch a so-called “application satellite” next month.

Mr. Ban discussed the issue in a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak Saturday.  He arrived in Seoul earlier in the day to attend the Nuclear Security Summit which begins Monday.

The statement issued by his office says Mr. Ban urged Pyongyang to fully comply with the relevant resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, particularly the resolution which bans “any launch using ballistic missile technology.”  He also urged North Korea to reconsider its decision in line with its recent agreement to refrain from long-range missile launches. Continue reading

In the News – Obama visits DMZ amid N.K. rocket tension


In the News – Obama visits DMZ amid N.K. rocket tension
By Chang Jae-soon
SEOUL/WASHINGTON, March 25 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Barack Obama made his first visit to the heavily fortified border with North Korea on Sunday as the communist nation is believed to have moved a long-range rocket to a launch site for final preparations for a threatened liftoff.

Obama’s visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas is seen as a gesture underscoring Washington’s security commitment to South Korea at a time of high tensions over the North’s plan to launch what it claims is a satellite-carrying rocket next month. Continue reading

In the News – Obama warns North Korea on ‘bad behavior’ over weapons program


In the News – Obama warns North Korea on ‘bad behavior’ over weapons program

By , Published: March 25

SEOUL — President Obama warned North Korea on Sunday not to follow through on a planned long-range missile test next month, vowing to break the authoritarian regime’s pattern of “bad behavior.”

Opening a three-day trip here for a summit on nuclear security, Obama spoke in stern terms as he sought to ramp up international pressure on Pyongyang to abandon what U.S. officials have termed a direct violation of the North’s pledge to end weapons tests in exchange for food aid.

“North Korea needs to understand that bad behavior will not be rewarded,” Obama said during an evening news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, after the leaders discussed security and trade issues at the Blue House, the office of the chief executive. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea Moves Rocket to Launching Pad


In the News – North Korea Moves Rocket to Launching Pad

SEOUL — North Korea has moved a long-range rocket to a launching site, apparently determined to press ahead with its plan to launch a satellite in defiance of international condemnations, the South Korean military said Sunday.

The North Koreans moved the main body of the Unha-3 rocket to the newly built launching station in Dongchang-ri, a village in northwest North Korea, as President Barack Obama and other world leaders traveled to Seoul over the weekend for a nuclear security summit meeting. Mr. Obama visited the border with North Korea on Sunday to show solidarity with South Korea and warn the North against further provocations. Continue reading

In the News – Obama to China: Help rein in North Korea


In the News – Obama to China: Help rein in North Korea

(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama urgedChina on Sunday to use its influence to rein in North Korea instead of “turning a blind eye” to its nuclear defiance, and warned of tighter sanctions if the reclusive state goes ahead with a rocket launch next month.

North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations,” a stern-faced Obama said after a tour of the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas resonant with echoes of the Cold War.

Such a launch would only lead to further isolation of the impoverished North, which much show its sincerity if on-again-off-again six-party aid-for-disarmament talks are to restart, Obama told a news conference in the South Korean capital.

Seoul and Washington say the launch will be a disguised test of a ballistic missile that violates Pyongyang’s latest international commitments. North Korea says it merely wants to put a satellite into orbit. Continue reading

S. Korea vows to deal sternly with N. Korea’s planned rocket launch


S. Korea vows to deal sternly with N. Korea’s planned rocket launch

SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) — South Korea will deal sternly with North Korea’s planned rocket launch but will keep its door open to talks with the communist country, Seoul’s point man on Pyongyang said Wednesday.

The North announced last week it would launch a rocket in mid-April to put a satellite into orbit, in what it said was part of its peaceful space program. The launch is timed to mark the centennial of the birth of the country’s late founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korea “will deal sternly with” North Korea’s planned rocket launch through close coordination with the international community, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said in a forum, according to his office. Continue reading

U.S. Suspends MIA Search in North Korea


U.S. Suspends MIA Search in North Korea

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2012 – The United States has suspended efforts to find remains of U.S. service members lost during the Korean War due to North Korean threats to launch a ballistic missile, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little and Navy Capt. John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, brief the press corps on defense-related issues at the Pentagon, March 21, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Recovering remains of those lost and unaccounted for is a priority to the Defense Department, and U.S. experts were due to enter North Korea this month.

“We have suspended that effort because we believe that North Korea has not acted appropriately in recent days and weeks and that it’s important for them to return to the standards of behavior that the international community has called for,” Little said at a Pentagon news conference. “We do hope at some point to be able to re-engage the effort.” Continue reading

An Insider’s Guide to MOU’s Internship

Michelle wrote a great article about the MOU Internship, and I wanted to write about what kinds of advice I would give to future applicants to the Overseas Correspondent Program and add a little bit about my experience at MOU. Continue reading

In the News – China Warns on North Korea


In the News – China Warns on North Korea

By ANDREW BROWNE in Beijing and EVAN RAMSTAD in Busan, South Korea

China again expressed its “concerns and worries” over rocket-launch plans announced by North Korea ahead of an international nuclear summit in Seoul, as Beijing seeks to portray itself as a peacemaker amid rising pressure on Pyongyang from the U.S. and its allies.

But North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator warned during a visit to Beijing against any attempt to interfere with the launch, a day after Japan’s defense minister said he would consider shooting down a North Korean missile if it poses a danger to that country. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea Invites IAEA Inspectors to Return


In the News – North Korea Invites IAEA Inspectors to Return

North Korea's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Ri Yong Ho (file photo)

North Korea's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Ri Yong Ho ( 2011 file photo) Reuter

North Korea considers its February 29 agreement with the United States still in effect, despite Washington’s insistence that, if Pyongyang goes ahead with a so-called space launch next month, that will break the deal. The North says it is inviting United Nations inspectors to return to the country to monitor the recent agreement with the United States.

North Korea is continuing efforts to keep its announced “satellite launch” from jeopardizing its recent agreement to partly freeze its nuclear programs in exchange for American food aid.
Chief nuclear negotiator, Ri Yong Ho, says Pyongyang intends to carry out the deal with the United States. Continue reading