In the News – Romney camp views China as key to resolving N. Korean issue

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In the News – Romney camp views China as key to resolving N. Korean issue

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, July 25 (Yonhap) — Former Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive presidential candidate of the Republican Party, believes China holds the key to resolving the North Korea problem, a close aide to Romney said Wednesday.

“North Korea is a tremendously difficult problem,” Rich Williamson, senior adviser for foreign and defense policy for Romney, said at a forum in Washington.

He said the Romney camp recognizes that China is “the leverage point” to try to change North Korea, armed with nuclear weapons and various missiles.

“As you know, North Korea is sustained by Beijing’s food support,” he said, citing Washington’s years of efforts to put more pressure on North Korea through China.

He pointed out Romney has not outlined the details of his strategy on Pyongyang yet, but hinted that he supports the six-party talks on the communist nation’s nuclear program.

“On a bipartisan basis there has been support for the six-party talks,” he said.

Williamson, who served as U.S. special envoy to Sudan during the George W. Bush administration, was debating with Michele Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy.

Flournoy represented the Obama government in the session hosted by the Brookings Institution on the foreign policy agendas of the two sides.

Original Article 

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In the News – (Olympics) N. Korean football match delayed after S. Korean flag displayed

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In the News – (Olympics) N. Korean football match delayed after S. Korean flag displayed

LONDON, July 25 (Yonhap) — A women’s football contest at the London Olympics between North Korea and Colombia was delayed by about an hour Wednesday after organizers mistakenly displayed the South Korean national flag on the scoreboard.

North Korean players refused to take the field after the flag row took place during player introductions at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Organizers apologized for the mishap.

“Today, ahead of the women’s football match at Hampden Park, the Republic of Korea flag was shown on a big-screen video package instead of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea flag,” the organizing committee said in a statement, referring to the two Koreas by their official names. “Clearly, that is a mistake. We will apologize to the team and the National Olympic Committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again.”

The North Korean women’s football substitutes leave the technical area on July 25, 2012, because of a delay before their Group G match against in Colombia in Glasgow. (AP=Yonhap)

The match, the opening Group G action, started an hour and five minutes late. North Korea won the game 2-0.

The flag flap comes amid heightened tension on the divided Korean Peninsula. Affects of strained ties have carried over into the realms of athletics here in London. North Korean officials have blocked South Korean media from covering their athletes’ training sessions before the Olympics, which start Friday.

The Koreas were welcomed into athletes’ village earlier Wednesday. North Korean officials refused to answer any inquiries from South Korean journalists.

Athletes from the two Koreas marched in under one flag at opening ceremonies for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, and even ate and trained together. But inter-Korean relations have deteriorated since, and there have been no talks of sports exchange at the Olympic level since before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Original Article 

In the News – N. Korean leader’s wife visited S. Korea in 2005: spy agency

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In the News – N. Korean leader’s wife visited S. Korea in 2005: spy agency

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) — The wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited South Korea in 2005 as part of a cheering squad for an athletic event, a South Korean lawmaker said Thursday, citing information provided by the South’s spy agency.

The revelation came one day after North Korean media identified the woman recently pictured flanking Kim as his wife, Ri Sol-ju.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) confirmed local media reports claiming Ri had visited the South Korean city of Incheon in 2005, Rep. Jung Chung-rai of the main opposition Democratic United Party told reporters after a parliamentary interpellation session attended by Won Sei-hoon, the director of the NIS.

Her visit was during an Asian athletics competition held in Incheon in September of that year, he said.

It is rare for South and North Koreans to visit each other’s countries, as they must receive special permission from their respective governments. The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war following the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

NIS officials told lawmakers they believe Ri was born in 1989 and married the North Korean leader in 2009, according to Jung. The leader, whose age has been disputed due to the secretive nature of the reclusive regime, was confirmed to have been born in January 1984, the NIS officials said in the closed-door session.

The spy agency interpreted the North’s disclosure of the first lady as an attempt to give Kim a “stable image,” according to Jung.

News reports have often cited sources familiar with the communist regime as saying Kim lacks the support of his people due to his young age and lack of experience.

The young leader inherited the military-backed regime following the death of his father and longtime leader Kim Jong-il last December.

NIS officials also confirmed reports that Ri is a singer for the North’s Unhasu Orchestra, according to Jung. Details of her background have yet to emerge, but she is believed to have been born into an ordinary family and studied vocal music in China, he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling Saenuri Party quoted NIS officials as saying North Korea’s former military chief Ri Yong-ho was dismissed earlier this month because of his “uncooperative attitude” toward Kim’s drive to tighten his grip on the military.

North Korea announced Ri’s dismissal last week in a surprise move that fueled speculation about a possible power struggle in Pyongyang.

Asked to explain the “uncooperative attitude,” Yoon said it was related to a generation shift within the 1.2-million-strong armed forces as Kim Jong-un moves to transfer control of the economy from the military to the government.

The lawmaker also quoted NIS officials as saying Ri appeared to have been “purged,” based on a July 21 re-run on North Korean state television of a visit to an orchard by Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un last year. Scenes of Ri, who accompanied the Kims on the trip, were deleted from the clip, he said.

On Kim Jong-un’s aunt Kim Kyong-hui and her husband Jang Song-thaek, both powerful figures in the communist regime, NIS officials said they appear to be strengthening their roles as the young leader’s guardians by respectively providing mental support and policy advice.

It is also the spy agency’s assessment that the North’s three-generation hereditary power succession has been completed with Kim’s promotions to the top levels of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party, government and military.

Following Ri’s dismissal, the North announced its leader had been given the title of marshal, the highest functioning military rank.

The NIS noted it took three years for former leader Kim Jong-il to complete his inheritance of power from his own father, the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung.

Original Article 

In the News – That Mystery Woman in North Korea? Turns Out She’s the First Lady

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In the News – That Mystery Woman in North Korea? Turns Out She’s the First Lady

SEOUL, South Korea — She was first spotted at a gala concert for the country’s who’s who, dressed in a trim black suit in the Chanel tradition. Then she popped up at a kindergarten, trailing photographers who caught images of her smiling gently at children playing on a slide. Her latest appearance, at the inauguration of an amusement park, was yet another star turn: the cameras zooming in on the slim woman with the easy smile and fashionable polka-dot jacket.

Ri Sol-ju’s sudden appearance in the spotlight on Wednesday, in a photo from the amusement park visit, had all the trappings of a Kate Middleton moment.

Except this is North Korea, and Ms. Ri’s tantalizing public appearances were less a debut than a typically opaque North Korean-style acknowledgment that the mysterious 20-something leader of the country had taken a wife. State media made that clear with little fanfare, almost as an afterthought, in an announcement that the new amusement park had opened in Pyongyang.

“While a welcoming song was resonating,” state television intoned, “Marshal Kim Jong-un appeared at the ceremony site, with his wife, Comrade Ri Sol-ju.”

The fact that Ms. Ri was introduced publicly at all was considered significant, the latest sign for North Korea analysts that Mr. Kim was breaking from the leadership style of his father, a dour man who was known for marrying beautiful performers but who never introduced them to the public.

“Secrecy and shadows characterized the 17-year rule ofKim Jong-il,” said John Park, a research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. “In contrast, Kim Jong-un has already shown a pattern of being more open and engaging. He appears to enjoy public events and interacting with children and the common soldier. Many of these recent appearances look like a re-enactment of his grandfather’s mingling with the people in better times.”

The introduction of Ms. Ri followed weeks of surprises from Mr. Kim. First he was shown at the concert, beaming during a performance by Mickey Mouse, formerly considered a symbol of the corrupt West. Then he fired a hard-line top general and was reported to have taken away important financial perks from the military, moves that analysts saw as signs that he was trying to tame the powerful army — and even possibly make economic reforms that could allow the country to open up a bit to the world.

The announcement of his marriage, analysts said, seemed to be a continuation of what is either a policy change, or a propaganda offensive, or both.

“It would put some of his new policies into the context of a North Korean version of Camelot,” Mr. Park said. “A dynamic and charismatic first lady could be very helpful in creating this image of Camelot. It’s definitely an uphill battle, but this image could generate some initial momentum.”

“Uphill,” in this case, is an enormous understatement. North Korea remains one of the world’s most tightly controlled police states, with active gulags where defectors say torture and death are commonplace and one where failed economic policies helped lead to mass starvation in the 1990s and widespread food shortages that continue today.

For Mr. Kim, analysts say, a change in tone could speak to a young generation that is slowly learning about the world — and its own country’s failings — through a proliferation of smuggled cellphones and South Korean television shows. Ms. Ri’s fashion sense, they say, appears to be part of the building of a youthful new image; for years North Korean women were pictured only in traditional billowing dresses or Mao-style work clothes.

It is difficult to judge how important Ms. Ri’s ascension will prove to be in the realm of policy.

Mr. Kim has reportedly made a few significant changes since coming to power after the death of his father in December. They include publicly acknowledging some failures that his father and grandfather would almost certainly have hidden. He has been much more blunt about the food shortages, vowing to do more to ensure his people will not go hungry, and he admitted that an important rocket launching was a bust. He is even reported to be backing a program to allow hundreds of North Koreans to work in China to bring in much needed foreign currency, a risky plan that could expose many more of his countrymen to the world after decades of a virtual information blackout.

But defectors and others with contacts inside North Korea say his government has also tightened control on its border with China to keep disaffected North Koreans in, and the increasing trickle of foreign news out. And he shows no signs of backing off the nuclear arms program that has made his country a pariah, nor of abandoning “socialist principles in economic matters.”

It is also a matter of dispute how important the wives and female companions of North Korean leaders are. Confidential cables released by WikiLeaks suggested that at least one source for American government analysts thought the women played an important role. (One cable by the consulate in Shanghai quotes that source as saying that a woman close to Kim Jong-il was “extremely powerful” and the person deciding who had access to him.) Others, however, have suggested that Kim Jong-il’s wives’ most important role was to try to ensure their own progeny ascended to run the nation.

Kim Jong-un’s mother, the winner in the dynastic skirmishing, died years before he was named successor. But according to many analysts in South Korea — whose job is to parse what few details there are on the North — all indications were that she had already convinced her husband that Jong-un would be the strongest leader among his sons.

The understated introduction of Ms. Ri to her people ended weeks of fevered speculation outside the country over who the “mystery woman” suddenly appearing at Mr. Kim’s side was.

Even now, though, much remains unknown. She may be the founder of the girl band, including string players in miniskirts, that performed at the now-famous state concert in which Ms. Ri was seated to Mr. Kim’s right. She appears not, however, to be the old flame that some media reports say Mr. Kim was forced to abandon on his father’s orders.

But almost everything else remains unknown; the world knows more about Kate Middleton’s popular sister, Pippa, than about Ms. Ri, whose age is just one of the remaining mysteries. It is not even clear when Mr. Kim and Ms. Ri married, and analysts said they might already have a child.

North Korea’s first family was not always hidden from view. The veil of privacy descended after Kim Jong-il was designated as his father’s successor in the mid-1970s. Before that, state news media carried reports when Kim Il-sung and the woman believed to be his second wife, Kim Song-ae, met foreign leaders.

After it became clear that Kim Jong-il would succeed his father, that woman dropped out of the news, which instead began building a personality cult around his own mother, who had died when he was 7.

Kim Jong-il himself had at least three known wives, but none was ever identified as the first lady. Like his father before him, he also was thought to surround himself with other beautiful young women. For the current leader, all indications so far are that Ms. Ri has no rivals.

Original Article 

In the News – N.Korea Tries Out Agricultural Reforms

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In the News – N.Korea Tries Out Agricultural Reforms

North Korea has embarked on agricultural reforms, reducing some collective farming units and increasing cash crops the farmers can sell in the market.

According to an informed source, basic farming units in some areas have been cut down from the present 10 to 25 people to family units of just four to six. These and other agricultural measures were apparently announced late last month.

The source said a set amount of land, farming equipment and fertilizer have been distributed to family units, and they have been given greater rights to sell their crops in order to motivate them. Until now, the regime allowed farmers to sell only surplus crops raised on communal plots, but output always fell below targets.

“The measures appear to allow North Korean farmers to hand over a set ratio of their crops to the state and dispose of the rest as they wish,” said one high-ranking defector from the North.

North Korea set up a collective farming system in 1958, but the structure virtually collapsed due to devastating famines during the mid-1990s. The regime now apparently allows some factories to sell surplus output as well.

“Since last week, North Korean broadcasts have announced that leader Kim Jong-un has decided to undertake economic reforms to radically improve the lives of the people,” the Daily NK, a website specializing in news about North Korea, reported quoting a source in Chongjin. The area, on the North’s border with China, was one of the worst-affected areas during the famine.

“Agricultural reforms are being carried out on a trial basis in three counties, and 30 percent of grain output will be allotted to individuals,” the source said.

Some see the measures as a precursor to full-fledged economic reforms by North Korea, but a South Korean intelligence source was more cautious. “To my knowledge, no other developments have been detected yet other than the agricultural reforms being implemented in certain areas,” the source said.

Original Article 

In the News – Alleged U.N. sanctions violations divide U.S. Congress, administration

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In the News – Alleged U.N. sanctions violations divide U.S. Congress, administration

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, July 24 (Yonhap) — The Obama administration on Tuesday downplayed allegations that a United Nations agency illegally provided technology to North Korea and Iran.

But the U.S. Congress is still pressing the agency to come clean on its role.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), based in Geneva, is accused of having run a technology-supply project with the two nations, both under U.N. sanctions.

According to media reports, the 185-member WIPO, which promotes the use and development of intellectual property, has provided North Korea with desktop computers, servers, printers and firewalls. It has also allegedly shipped information-technology equipment to Iran.

“Our own preliminary assessment — but we are still seeking more information from WIPO — is that there doesn’t appear to have been a violation of U.N. sanctions,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

She added the U.S. is still seeking more information from WIPO to conclude its work on the allegations, and the U.N. Security Council will make its own assessment.

“This has now been referred to the sanctions committee for them to make their own determinations, so we will await the views of the respective U.N. sanctions committees,” she said.

The U.S. administration’s approach is contrary to an aggressive congressional campaign against WIPO.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee strongly criticized the organization for refusing to cooperate in its probe into the case.

“Director-General (Francis) Gurry (of WIPO) is obstructing this Committee’s investigation ot WIPO’s transfer of U.S.-origin technology to rogue regimes under international sanctions — a transfer that occurred on his watch,” Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), committee chairwoman, and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), its ranking member, said in a joint statement Tuesday.

They claimed Gurry is obstructing a congressional investigation into the matter and urged WIPO to allow some of its members in charge of projects with North Korea and Iran to attend the committee’s hearing.

Original Article 

In the News – S. Koreans to file suit against N. Korean leader in int’l criminal court

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In the News – S. Koreans to file suit against N. Korean leader in int’l criminal court

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) — A South Korean private committee said Wednesday that it will file a lawsuit against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with the International Criminal Court in September.

The move is designed to put pressure on the communist country to repatriate the hundreds of South Korean soldiers taken prisoner and the remains of those killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, said Park Sun-young, a former lawmaker who has championed the rights of North Korean defectors and South Korean prisoners of war (POWs).

The committee, which calls for the return of the South Korean POWs, also said it plans to present a petition to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the issue in the fall, said Park, one of about 50 committee members.

“The pressure will be enormous,” Park said after a news conference in the National Assembly as she vowed to make efforts to try to bring home aging former South Korean soldiers.

South Korea estimates about 500 POWs are believed to still be alive in the North. Pyongyang denies holding any POWs and claims former South Korean soldiers voluntarily defected.

Park claimed former South Korean soldiers toil in mines in the North, citing testimonies of some of the 56 former POWs who escaped to the South after spending decades in the North.

The war ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.

She also said the committee plans to upload testimonies of former South Korean POWs to YouTube to raise international awareness of the issue.

Choi Eun-suk, a North Korea legal expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said he did not think it is impossible to pressure the North to return former South Korean soldiers. He did not elaborate.

Original Article

In the News – Rights activist says North involved in his detention in China

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In the News – Rights activist says North involved in his detention in China

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) — A South Korean activist said Wednesday North Korea was certainly involved in his four-month detention in China, indicating close cooperation between the two allies in their efforts to root out defector assistance and human rights activities in China.

About one week after he was deported from China following a 114-day detention on charges of endangering China’s national security, the 49-year-old activist Kim Young-hwan recounted in a press conference how he was unexpectedly arrested by a Chinese intelligence unit and detained under brutal treatment, as well as how the North was involved in his ordeal.

The North Korea-sympathizer-turned-human rights activist said the taxi he was riding in Dalian, a Chinese city near North Korea, was stopped by Chinese intelligence agents. He was taken by them right away on March 29, one week after he went to China to discuss cooperation on North human rights improvement and assistance for North Korean defectors with other activists there.

Without telling him why he was arrested, Kim was brought to the intelligence agency’s detention facility in Dandong and spent one month there under brutal conditions, including sleep deprivation, before being moved to another prison.

“They did not tell me what charges I was under, but ordered me to confess all I know (about human rights activities in China),” Kim told the press conference.

Having done nothing against China nor tried to dig out information about the country, “I could not understand why they were so brutal to me,” said the activist who led local efforts to assist North Koreans defecting to the South as well as shore up human rights protection in the reclusive communist country.

He said he is “certain” that the North’s spy unit, State Security Department, played a major role in the detention of him and several other fellow South Korean and Chinese activists who were taken by the Chinese intelligence unit along with him.

“The motive of this incident seems to be very much related with the State Security Department, I think,” Kim said.

“For the first three or four days following the arrest, they did not know who I was,” he said, adding that they later seemed to get the idea from information provided by the North’s intelligence agency. “I think they were in cooperation.”

The crackdown attempt by China, the first of its kind in trying to charge a foreigner with endangering the country’s national security, appears to be part of the country’s efforts to set off alarm bells for those working in China to help North Korean defectors or improve human rights there, activities irritating to the North as well as its closest ally China.

“This was thought to be the case, given that the Chinese government requested Seoul help stop North Korean defector assistance activities (by activists in China),” said Saenuri Party lawmaker Ha Tae-kyung who attended the conference following his efforts to free the detained activist.

“China may have thought we posed high potential risks because we had done underground activities for a long time without being caught,” Kim said, referring to his past experience as a pro-North activist while in college.

The three other activists, caught together with Kim, spent more than a decade collecting information on the status of North Korean human rights and helping North Koreans defect safely to the South, without being detected, Kim also noted.

However, he refused to specifically elaborate on how brutally Chinese intelligence agents treated him and what activities he was leading in China, citing sensitivities involved.

“I was very resentful at first and eager to expose the dismal human rights conditions in China,” he said, referring to 13 hours of forced labor he had to shoulder during the early stage of his imprisonment, low-quality food, the short time allowed for meals as well as the small prison space.

“Talking about the specific experience may shift the attention away from North Korean human rights conditions from those in China, which are fundamentally in a different (better) stage from the North and improving,” Kim said.

And exposing our specific activities there may negatively impact those being led by other activists and organizations, he said.

“I give my thanks to the government, citizens and those who helped me out (of the detention) and vow to dedicate myself more to North Korea human rights and democratization there.”

Kim Young-hwan, now a senior researcher for the Seoul-based civic group Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, was a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance, but later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the North’s dismal human rights record.

In the News – South, North Korea Discussed Rare Earth Mining

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In the News – South, North Korea Discussed Rare Earth Mining

South Korea’s state-owned commodities developer held talks in North Korea last year about a possible North-South project to develop North Korea’s rare-earth deposits, an official at the company said Monday.

The talks took place in November as part of a second round of discussions over a graphite development project in the North that Korea Resources Corp., or Kores, invested in about a decade ago. That project has been stalled since 2010.

Jointly developing rare earth mines is a possibility “but the precondition is always this: an improvement in the North and South Korea relationship,” said the Kores official. For now the potential project is on hold, he said. The official declined to be named.

During the November visit, Kores received samples of North Korean rare earths. Kores analyzed the samples, some of which turned out to be “good,” the official said.

North Korea makes occasional claims to have large deposits of rare earths, a potential source of hard currency for the impoverished nation. There are no reliable data on North Korea’s rare earth deposits.

China controls about 95% of the world’s rare-earth production. Rare-earth minerals are used in products ranging from consumer electronics to batteries to defense systems.

Kores invested 6.25 billion won ($5.5 million) in 2003 to jointly develop a graphite mine in North Korea. The project has capacity to produce as much as 3,000 tons of graphite annually and the deal allows Kores to take half of the annual produce for 20 years, according to the official. So far, Kores has collected 850 tons of graphite.

Economic ties between North and South Korea remain almost completely suspended following two attacks on South Korea in 2010 by the North that killed 50 people.

Original Article 

In the News – Broadcasting official in North Korea for talks on providing Olympics TV and radio coverage

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In the News – Broadcasting official in North Korea for talks on providing Olympics TV and radio coverage

 

PYONGYANG, North Korea — The chief of Asia’s broadcasting union is visiting North Korea for talks on providing the country with TV and radio coverage of the London Olympics.

Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union President Kim In-kyu arrived Tuesday in Pyongyang for a three-day trip.

Kim is a South Korean national and also serves as head of South Korean public broadcaster KBS.

An ABU official said earlier this month that his agency is expected to provide North Korea’s state broadcaster with Olympic coverage for only a “nominal” fee. The official declined to be named citing the sensitivity of negotiations and didn’t elaborate.

Three South Korean television networks holding Olympic broadcasting rights for the Koreas have entrusted ABU to handle North Korean broadcasting issues.

The opening ceremony for the games is Friday.

Original Article 

In the News – N.Korea Stations Attack Helicopters Near Sea Border

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In the News – N.Korea Stations Attack Helicopters Near Sea Border

North Korea has deployed around 20 helicopters at two bases near South Korea’s Baeknyeong Island in the West Sea, according to a government source here. They include attack helicopters that are capable of engaging targets on the ground.

Baeknyeong Island is South Korea’s northernmost island that lies just south of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border with North Korea. The North has deployed the attack and transport helicopters at air bases since May, the source said. “They seem to have been put there independently of any military exercises,” the source added.

The choppers are upgraded versions of Mi-2s as well as Mi-4 and Mi-8 troop carriers. But some are armed with heavy machine guns and rockets.

The deployment is believed to be part of a strategy targeting the South Korean islands that would also involve hydrofoils.

After Kim Jong-un took power at the end of last year, North Korea deployed rocket launchers, hydrofoils, Mi-2 helicopters and fighter jets on the western coastline and conducted military drills which appeared to prepare for an invasion of the South Korean islands. The deployment of the helicopters seems to be a response to South Korea deploying AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters and multiple launch rocket systems on the West Sea islands.

The South Korean military is ready to strike back with Cheonma surface-to-air-missiles or deploy KF-16 fighter jets if the North mobilizes a large number of choppers.

The South Korean military also plans to bolster anti-aircraft weapons stationed on the West Sea islands if the ones already deployed there are deemed insufficient to fend off a North Korean invasion.

“There are no signs yet that North Korea is seeking to stage a provocation,” said a military source. “But since the ouster of North Korean army chief Ri Yong-ho, there may be some instability in the North Korean army, so we have stepped up our preparedness.”

Original Article 

Ministry of Unification Film Screening

If you are fluent in English and are in Korea at the moment, please consider coming to our event on July 27th. The Ministry of Unification is hosting a premiere for a film about North Korean refugees and how the South Korean government helps them adjust to Korean society. Since the film has been made with an English-speaking audience in mind, we would love feedback and suggestions for improvement from you. Please join us for the showing and the discussion session afterwards! If you are interested, please send your name, nationality and passport number/alien registration number to laurenbae@unikorea.go.kr by July 26th. Small gifts and refreshments will be served.

The movie showing is at 5:00pm, on Friday, July 27. It is going to be held at the Headquarters for Inter-Korean Dialogue. There will be a reception with refreshments starting at 4:30pm, so feel free to come early and mingle with us and the other guests. The showing will start promptly at 5pm, so make sure to arrive a little earlier so that you have enough time to register.
Those who wish to attend must send their name, nationality, passport number/alien registration number and also car registration number if they are driving to the venue to laurenbae@unikorea.go.kr. 
*Please bring a goverment-issued ID as there will be a security check at the entrance.* 
The venue is closest to Anguk subway station (Line 3). A map can be found here:

http://eng.unikorea.go.kr/CmsWeb/viewPage.req?idx=PG0000000545

We hope to see many of you there! 

History in the Making: Basketball in North Korea

Luke Elie and his basketball team in North Korea.

Honestly, I’m not a huge sports fan. I don’t have a team that I follow nor is there a sport that I play regularly, although I did play varsity volleyball in high school but that was already six years ago. I’m just like any other average Korean when it comes to sports. Every two years I gear up to cheer for the Korean team competing in either the World Cup or the Olympics. And then when it’s over I go back to being pretty much oblivious to sports. The 2012 London Olympic Games are scheduled to begin on July 27th, but until then I thought I’d share an interesting sports story about a man named Luke Elie. Continue reading

The Kaesong Industrial Complex and FTAs

 

Since taking an international trade class at Wellesley this year, I found myself paying more attention to trade-related news, especially businesses between the two Koreas. It wasn’t all that unapproachable and boring as I thought it would be before taking the class; now that I understand some of the terms and basic concepts behind international trade, reading about current events became a lot more enjoyable. One of the news items that caught my eye recently was the Kaesong Industrial Complex and its status in the Korea-China FTA.

Last month, South Korea and China started their process of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. China, which is currently South Korea’s largest trading partner, obviously has a great impact on Korea’s economy. In this sense, the decision to give preferential tariff on goods produced in designated outward processing zones (OPZ)* such as Kaesong Industrial Complex as part of the Korea-China FTA carries significance. This acknowledgement means that items partially or wholly produced in Kaesong by South Korean businesses would be categorized as South Korean in origin. This is meant to offer bigger business opportunities for corporations, which will contribute to peace between the two Koreas. Continue reading

In the News – Dossier: U.S. found N. Korea behind 1987 KAL bombing

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In the News – Dossier: U.S. found N. Korea behind 1987 KAL bombing

By Lee Chi-dong, Lee Woo-tak
WASHINGTON, July 18 (Yonhap) — The United States government conducted its own investigation into the mid-air bombing of a South Korean jet in 1987 and concluded it was an act by North Korea, a set of declassified State Department documents shows.

U.S. government officials interrogated Kim Hyun-hui, a self-confessed North Korean terrorist responsible for the bombing of Korean Air (KAL) 858, which killed 115 people, shortly after the incident in November 1987, according to the dossier.

Kim, traveling with a fake Japanese passport through Europe, made a failed attempt to commit suicide shortly before being arrested. She is now living in South Korea as a housewife.

“In a situation we controlled Ms. Kim picked out the photographs of 3 North Koreans who had contacted her under alias in Belgrade and Budapest, 2 in Belgrade one in Budapest,” read a diplomatic cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul to Washington in February 1988.

It is among 57 documents posted in June on the department’s website.

“Then 3 photographs were picked out of a collection of 26 shown her. In each case the individual she picked was in fact the photograph of a North Korean investigation department agent posted in that city at the time she was there,” it added. “We consider that part of the compelling independent evidence that she was working for North Korea.”

This file photo shows Kim Hyun-hui is taken out of a plane in South Korea, with her mouth taped, on Dec. 15 1987. (Yonhap)

The document also showed that a bureau affiliated with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency carried out a linguistic analysis of Kim’s statement, “which demonstrates that the words she used are North Korean (dialect).”

The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) was run by the CIA from 1941 to 2004.

South Korean officials also “strongly suspected” North Korea’s involvement from the beginning of their probe and reached the same conclusion, another document shows.

But the South Korean government, led by iron-fisted President Chun Doo-hwan, did not consider military retaliation, according to the document.

“Chun went on that he would rule out military retaliation at that time,” James Lilley, who served then as U.S. ambassador to Seoul, said in a cable sent in January 1988.

Chun was quoted as saying, “South Korea was in the course of a political transition and had to host the Olympics.”

In his comments attached, Lilley said, “There are Koreans who favor military retaliation but emphatic that Korea would not undertake any military action in the short term.”

In South Korea, there is a lingering controversy over the KAL case.

Some still claim that the Chun administration might have orchestrated the bombing itself to influence the presidential elections in December 1987.

In 1988, meanwhile, the U.S. blacklisted North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism on the basis of the KAL incident.

Washington removed Pyongyang from the list in 2008 in return for its initial move towards denuclearization.

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In the News – Park Geun-hye calls for implementation of previous inter-Korean deals

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In the News – Park Geun-hye calls for implementation of previous inter-Korean deals

SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s leading presidential contender Park Geun-hye said Wednesday that previous deals with North Korea should be respected, signaling she could take a softer approach toward the communist nation if elected in the December election.

Park made the remark during a rare trip to the heavily fortified border with the North.

North Korea has routinely pressed South Korea to honor agreements reached at two previous summits in 2000 and 2007 and made Seoul’s implementation of them a key condition for better ties.

The deals have been in limbo as relations between the two Koreas have been at one of the worst levels in decades after current President Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 with a harder-line approach to Pyongyang.

Park said that previous inter-Korean promises “should be kept,” as part of efforts to build confidence between the two divided countries.

Still, she said that deals reached at the 2007 summit should “win a parliamentary endorsement” before being carried out as their implementation requires a lot of money and involvement of private companies.

The first summit paved the way for the two Koreas to ease military tensions and begin economic cooperation after decades of hostilities.

In 2007, the leaders of the two Koreas also produced a deal calling for the South’s massive investment in the North’s key industrial sectors, including shipbuilding and tourism. South Korea is the No. 1 shipbuilding nation in the world.

Park’s rare trip to the border came more than an hour after North Korea announced that its young leader Kim Jong-un had been awarded the title of marshal in the latest promotion following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

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In the News – Power Struggles and Purges in Pyongyang

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In the News – Power Struggles and Purges in Pyongyang

By BRUCE KLINGNER

Concerns about possible instability in North Korea were raised this week when Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho, head of the General Staff, was abruptly dismissed. The move smelled of a power struggle. The subsequent announcement that Kim Jong Eun was elevated to marshal—a military rank second only to the “Grand Marshal” bestowed on Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il—indicated that he retained the upper hand in the battle for control in Pyongyang.

Last week the news out of Pyongyang provided some amusement and hope for positive change, as Kim Jong Eun was serenaded by Disney characters and other Western cultural icons. That sparked serious speculation that the new leader might be more open to economic and political reform than his late father.

Clearly the North Korean leadership transition is more fraught than previously thought. But what is driving events in Pyongyang remains uncertain. Potential explanations revolve around four Ps—power, parity, people and policy:

• A classic struggle for power between the leader and potential contenders is the most likely explanation for recent events. But was Gen. Ri’s sudden removal due to a more secure Kim Jong Eun able to purge from even the innermost circle to further consolidate his power? Or did it indicate that older leadership elites felt emboldened enough to attack a key Kim loyalist? We don’t know.

• Then there’s also the issue of parity between the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) and the military. Under Kim Jong Il, power shifted from the former to the latter, as the National Defense Commission became the preeminent center of government power. But under Kim Jong Eun, the KWP has attained a stronger status, regaining some power from the military. Some experts speculate that the KWP’s Central Military Commission could eventually eclipse the National Defense Commission as arbiter of North Korean military policies.

image

Associated Press Vice Marshal Choe with the new boss.

In that light, Gen. Ri’s dismissal could reflect a struggle for parity between the party and the military, the goal of which is to reduce entrenched military power. The problem is that Gen. Ri ouster had a foot in several competing camps. He was rewarded by both Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Eun, he was one of Kim Jong Il’s pallbearers, and he was—until this week—thought to be the younger Kim’s military mentor.

Thus, he was a “made” member of both the old guard and the new regime. He also held positions of authority in both the military and KWP. He was a member of the KWP Central Committee Presidium, the party’s highest-level body, and co-chairman of the Central Military Commission.

• Rather than a struggle to wrest power from Kim Jong-un, the purge may instead result from people fighting for closer access to Kim. There are widespread rumors that Gen. Ri was defeated in a struggle with personal rival Choe Ryong-hae, a senior party official.

Gen. Choe also recently became vice marshal, a member of the decision-making KWP Politburo Presidium and vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission (despite no military experience). He is thought to be close to Jang Song Taek, Kim’s uncle. During the important 100th anniversary celebrations of Kim Il Sung’s birth, Gen. Choe stood at Kim Jong Eun’s side, indicating his status had overtaken that of Gen. Ri.

• The least likely explanation for the purge is a debate over policy. Kim Jong Eun’s Mickey-Mousing resurrects the discredited theory that a despot’s appreciation of Western culture is supposed to presage an embrace of democracy and market principles. Gen. Ri’s removal played into this theory with adherents depicting him as a hardliner striving to obstruct Kim’s desire for bold reforms.

Yet there is no evidence that North Korea has become any less dangerous under its new leader or that Kim will pursue different policies. While the junior Kim has displayed a more dynamic and pragmatic image than his reclusive father, no one should think Pyongyang has embraced reform. Since Kim Jong Eun assumed power, the regime has called for the assassination of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and threatened to reduce South Korean media organizations to “ashes in three or four minutes.”

Most importantly, Kim violated U.N. resolutions by ordering April’s launch of a long-range ballistic missile. Nor should we forget that he oversaw the brutal purges that killed of hundreds during the past two years and has been credited with masterminding Pyongyang’s two acts of war against South Korea in 2010.

There’s one thing we know with relative certainty: That Kim Jong Eun felt it necessary to purge Gen. Ri strongly indicates his transition isn’t proceeding smoothly. Additional purges and organizational shakeups should be expected in coming months. All this is worrisome to the U.S. and its allies, since it increases the potential for provocative acts or, more ominously, the implosion of a regime possessing nuclear weapons.

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In the News – Kim Jong Un stamps his own style on his fantasy kingdom

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In the News – Kim Jong Un stamps his own style on his fantasy kingdom

THESE are unsettling times for watchers of North Korea. Scholars who used to pore over rambling documents on the philosophy of self-reliance are suddenly confronted with strange new questions. Who is the svelte young woman seen accompanying North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un? Why were American symbols such as Mickey Mouse, Rocky Balboa and Frank Sinatra featured at a concert that the two attended in Pyongyang this month? And who are the pop stars with miniskirts and electric violins who elicited an elated thumbs-up from the bouncy mini-Kim?

You could almost sense the relief this week when the boffins could get back to Kremlinology and ponder an unexpected overhaul at the top of North Korea’s armed forces. As ever with the Hermit Kingdom, the meaning was mostly guesswork. But the conclusion for the time being is that, superficially at least, Mr Kim is putting a very different stamp on the oppressive regime from that of his secretive and mirthless late father, Kim Jong Il.

The move, though it caused soldiers to dance through the streets of Pyongyang (see photo), suggested to some that Mr Kim may be toning down the “military first” policy that has guided North Korea for years. With the help of his uncle, Jang Song Taek, he may be promoting the primacy of the Korean Workers’ Party instead. So far, the transition seems to have been orderly—previous purges under his father had involved car crashes—but there is enough uncertainty in a nuclear-armed state to leave plenty of concern.

Far clearer is the emerging personal style of the young Mr Kim. Jocular in public, though no great orator, he seems to have no qualms about letting North Koreans gossip about the mystery woman at his side. He is playing on his youth, declaring in a big speech to the party’s gilded children (millions of less favoured youngsters are kept under heel from birth) that they are “treasures more precious than 100m tonnes of gold and silver”. His father barely uttered a sentence in public, let alone released details of his private life.

For now, though, it is purely cosmetic. There are no signs that conditions are improving for North Korea’s repressed citizens. State media still indulges in horrific invective against the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, suggesting that, despite its discovery of American schmaltz, the regime’s attitude remains dangerously paranoid. John Delury, of Yonsei University in Seoul, believes Mr Kim may “shift the priority a bit from security to prosperity”, noting that rapidly increasing trade with China and the illicit import of foreign films are familiarising North Koreans with Western concepts such as higher hemlines. Alternatively, though, they may just be sugar-coated ways of distracting a nation starved of everything else.

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In the News – S.Korea to talk Olympic TV broadcast with North

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In the News – S.Korea to talk Olympic TV broadcast with North

SEOUL — A South Korean official will visit North Korea this week to discuss the possible broadcast of the London Olympics there, Seoul’s unification ministry said on Monday.

Kim In-Kyu, president of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), will visit Pyongyang from Tuesday to Thursday for talks with the North’s radio and television broadcasting committee, said an official .

The ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, authorised Kim’s visit after Pyongyang invited him to discuss such broadcasts, said spokeswoman Park Soo-Jin.

Kim, who also runs the South’s state Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), will be the first South Korean civilian to pay an authorised visit to the communist state since the funeral of leader Kim Jong-Il in December.

KBS said in a statement that ABU plans to provide broadcasting rights for the Games to about 40 organisations in 30 countries, including the North.

In 2010 the impoverished North was able to air the football World Cup finals with the help of ABU and football’s international governing body FIFA.

North Korea has announced it will send 51 athletes to London to compete in 11 events including women’s football, weightlifting, table-tennis and wrestling.

South Korea’s private SBS station retains the right to air the Games for the entire Korean peninsula including North Korea until the Summer Olympics of 2024.

The company said it would broadcast the games in the South along with two public broadcasters KBS and MBC, and has mandated ABU to handle the rights in North Korea.

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In the News – North Korea’s cult of personality surrounds Kim

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In the News – North Korea’s cult of personality surrounds Kim

The man before me is not yet 30. He stands, perhaps a little unsure of himself, a nervous tic in his shoulders seeming to betray his unease.

Before him is one of the largest armies on the planet. It is a war machine, still fighting a battle from more than half a century ago.

They move in lockstep, legs kicking and arms swinging as one, discipline and focus measured in millimeters.

A vast arsenal of weapons, missiles and tanks, pass by. The cost of this show of military might has been paid in the suffering of the people it is primed to defend. Aid groups say thousands have starved here; meanwhile, the army has grown fat.

The young man eyeing all of this is master of all he surveys. This is North Korea, and the man is Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Un named marshal of North Korean army

This was a rare glimpse indeed of a man who now rules the notorious hermit kingdom. In April this year, North Korea opened its doors to the world’s media. CNN was there to cover the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung.

The eternal president and “Great Leader” had passed power to his “Dear Leader” son, the erratic, eccentric Kim Jong Il. Now a third generation Kim, the so-called “Supreme Leader,” stood on the shoulders of his forebears.

He gained power by birthright, but the world is watching as he attempts to rule in his own right.

“He is the youngest head of state in the world,” said analyst Patrick Chovanec. “There’s still a lot of debate about how much power he has, whether other family members are in control or the military.”

Reading North Korean tea leaves

His soldiers certainly pay lip service to their loyalty.

These men are combat ready, never forgetting they have a sworn enemy in the United States.

“With the strategy of the great leader Kim Il Sung, the dear Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un with our bombs and weapons we will destroy them,” they tell me.

But beyond the war rhetoric are the realities of leading an impoverished, isolated and paranoid country.

As I stood below him at this military parade, my mind wandered to the young Kim’s thoughts. What would have been going through his mind? We’re told he was educated partly in Switzerland, loves music and western movies and is a huge basketball fan.

But the country he rules is largely sealed off from the outside world. People here mostly don’t have telephones; they never get exposure to foreign television, newspapers or films. The world is defined by endless statues, portraits and tributes to the cult of the Kims.

What Kim’s ‘mystery woman’ says about North Korea

When CNN visited Pyongyang, North Korea was putting on its most intimidating face.

But amid this display of what the regime called power and prosperity was the lone voice of the young leader.

For the first time North Koreans heard him speak.

This is why he appeared nervous.

Kim Jong Un mouthed the usual threats and warnings, but there was something different: an acknowledgment that North Korea must find a better future.

“Our fellow citizens, who are the best citizens in the world, who have overcome countless struggles and hardships, it is our party’s firmest resolve not to let our citizens go hungry again,” he said.

It was an important, if veiled, concession. Yes, North Korean people had suffered. Yes, the regime was responsible — not just for the past but a better future.

“This was really his introduction. A few years ago no one even knew he existed but they’re being told to worship him,” Chovanec said.

Our government-assigned minders escorted us around the city. They were there to make sure that what we saw and heard was strictly according to the party line.

In North Korea it is impossible to separate what is genuine and what is just for show.

In the streets of the capital, Pyongyang, we were given a glimpse of the great future Kim Jong Un was promising.

We were taken to bustling neighborhoods, saw families shopping, cars on the street.

But all of this only served to hide another harsher reality. Outside this showcase city, life was so very different.

In the bleak countryside, aid groups say people continue to starve. Defectors tell of surviving on little more than corn. Children are reportedly malnourished and have stunted growth.

All the while billions of dollars are still spent on high-tech missiles and nuclear weapons.

This is the essence of this secretive country.

Kim Jong Un may struggle to emerge from the shadows of his father and grandfather, but the gun here looms even larger. As young and green as he is, he knows this much: Without it, his rule and the regime itself will not survive.

Original Article