Interview with Andy (March 20th, 2012) on his August 2011 visit (10 days long)

On a sunny afternoon, I sat down with Andy. I met Andy during my visit to London over spring break, when I was visiting my sister who works for a consulting company. Andy recently graduated from Oxford University, where he studied Politics, and he recently started working with my sister at a consulting firm based in London. When I first met him Andy struck me as a well-travelled person; the type of guy who would mention a new place he visited every time you strike up a conversation with him. But one of the most interesting places that he had been to recently included Pyongyang. For 10 days last summer (August 2011), Andy travelled to North Korea with a group of other tourists. I had actually never met anyone who had been to North Korea for pure tourism purposes. I was curious to hear about his perspective on the country, and also his experiences during the trip.   Continue reading

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In the News – Pyongyang denounces U.S. for firing at N. Korean flag

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In the News – Pyongyang denounces U.S. for firing at N. Korean flag

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) — North Korea vowed Monday to further strengthen its nuclear deterrent to cope with what it called U.S. hostile policy, leveling criticism at the latest South Korea-U.S. joint military drill.

The latest rhetoric came after North Korea’s flag was fired upon during a South Korea-U.S. joint live-fire drill near the border with the North on Friday. The communist nation, which conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, has made similar threats in recent years.

“It is an extremely grave military action and politically-motivated provocation to fire live bullets and shells at the flag of a sovereign state without a declaration of war,” the North’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said in an English-language statement carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The unidentified spokesman also claimed the “reckless act” by the U.S. was the most vivid expression of its hostile policy toward the North.

North Korea “will further bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense as long as the U.S. … persists in its hostile policy towards” Pyongyang, the spokesman said in the statement.

North Korea has long used the term, “nuclear deterrent,” to refer to its nuclear arsenal.

The North frequently accuses the United States of hostility toward Pyongyang and plotting with South Korea to invade North Korea.

In March, U.S. President Barack Obama said during a trip to Seoul that Washington has no hostile intent toward North Korea and is prepared to improve relations between the two.

The North’s latest threat comes on the 62nd anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help deter North Korea’s possible aggression.

entropy@yna.co.kr
(END)

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea says it targets S. Korean media for possible attack

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In the News – N. Korea says it targets S. Korean media for possible attack

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) — North Korea said Monday its military has entered map coordinates of some conservative South Korean media offices as it threatened to strike their headquarters for their alleged insult to North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un.

The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said the country’s troops have been targeting the Seoul headquarters of the Chosun Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 56 minutes 83 seconds North latitude and 126 degrees 97 minutes 65 seconds East longitude. It also revealed the coordinates of the JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo newspapers, as well as the KBS, MBC and SBS television stations and CBS radio.

It is the first time the North has released coordinates of intended targets in South Korea.

“We would like to ask the Lee group if it wants to leave all this to be struck by the (North) or opt for apologizing and putting the situation under control, though belatedly,” the General Staff said in an English-language ultimatum, referring to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Seoul, the South Korean capital city of more than 10 million people and home to South Korean media headquarters, is within range of North Korea’s artillery and rockets.

“If the Lee group recklessly challenges our army’s eruption of resentment, it will retaliate against it with a merciless sacred war of its own style as it has already declared,” the General Staff said in the ultimatum carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

It also warned the North is “fully ready for everything” and “time is running out.”

South Korea defended its media reports on its communist neighbor, saying freedom of the press is a basic right guaranteed in free and democratic countries around the world.

The South Korean government said in a statement it “will maintain a posture to immediately cope with any North Korean provocation.” A South Korean military official said no particular movements in the North Korean military have been observed.

Also Monday, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk urged the North to immediately stop threatening the South’s media outlets. He said the North’s threat was a grave “provocation” against South Korea’s free and democratic system.

There is no freedom of the press in North Korea where authorities use state media as a propaganda tool to strengthen personality cults of the country’s leaders.

The North’s latest threat was in response to some South Korean media reports critical of the North’s celebration of the Korean Children’s Union (KCU) under way in Pyongyang.

About 20,000 North Korean children pledged their allegiance to Kim as the North began a six-day festival on Sunday to mark the 66th anniversary of the KCU, according to Pyongyang’s state media.

Some South Korean media dismissed the celebration as part of the North’s attempt to win support for Kim, who took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

Channel A, a television arm of the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, likened Kim to the late German dictator Adolf Hitler over the anniversary celebration.

The North has long bristled at any outside criticism of its leader and has made similar threats against the South over the past several months, although no actual attack has occurred.

South Korea has repeatedly vowed to avenge any North Korean attacks following two attacks by the North in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

 

Original article can be found here

In the News – S. Korea to increase diplomatic pressure on N. Korea over human rights issues: official

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In the News – S. Korea to increase diplomatic pressure on N. Korea over human rights issues: official

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) — South Korea plans to increase diplomatic pressure on North Korea over human rights issues, including the case of three people from the South believed to have been held in the communist nation for decades, a senior official said Friday.

The move could further exacerbate the already frayed relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

An immediate focus of the campaign is expected to be on the case of Shin Suk-ja and her two daughters who are believed to have been held in the North since 1987, a year after her husband, Oh Kil-nam, fled the communist nation.

Oh claims his family was lured to the North in 1985 via West Germany where he was studying.

But a senior North Korean diplomat told a U.N. group last month that Shin had died of hepatitis and the two daughters do not regard Oh as their father since “he abandoned his family and drove their mother to death.” Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea condemns U.S. human rights report

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In the News – N. Korea condemns U.S. human rights report

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) — North Korea has lashed out at the United States for its recent annual report critical of Pyongyang’s dismal human rights conditions, calling the move a “product of the U.S. hostile policy” toward the North.

“We bitterly condemn the despicable human rights report worked out by the U.S.,” the foreign ministry said in an English-language statement carried late Tuesday by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The ministry claimed that the U.S. report is based on rumors concocted by a handful of traitors and criminals who left their homeland, referring to North Korean defectors in the South.

South Korea is home to more than 23,500 North Korean defectors. Many of them have testified about a wide range of human rights abuses in the communist country, including torture, public executions and political prison camps.

The North’s angry reaction came days after the U.S. State Department said in an annual report that the North’s human rights conditions remain “extremely poor.”

The report said that North Korea subjected its 24 million people to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives and that there continued to be reports of a vast network of political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh and life threatening.

Amnesty International, a London-based human rights advocacy group, also estimated in its separate annual report last week that up to 200,000 prisoners were held in horrific conditions in six sprawling political prison camps.

The North has flatly denied accusations of its alleged rights abuses, describing them as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

“The U.S. unchanged human rights racket against the (North) is, in essence, a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward the (North) to isolate and stifle at any cost its socialist system,” the foreign ministry statement said.

It also accused the U.S of being the “world’s worst human rights abuser,” claiming the U.S. has massacred hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in different parts of the world through aggression and interference.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

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In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) — North Korea “can’t have” the status of a nation possessing nuclear weapons, South Korea said Thursday, responding to a report that North Korea recently revised its constitution to proclaim itself as a nuclear-weapon state.

An official Web site run by North Korea and monitored by Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday in Japan, carried the full text of the reclusive communist nation’s revised constitution that included the term “a nuclear-armed state.”

“At first, nuclear-weapon state status is in line with the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but North Korea itself has admitted that it is not a member of the NPT,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

North Korea backed out of the NPT in early 2003, right after the outbreak of the so-called second nuclear crisis in late 2002.

Cho called on North Korea to “implement its commitments and give up all nuclear weapons programs from the September 19 joint statement.”

Under the 2005 agreement, North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear programs in return for security guarantees and economic assistance from five nations participating in the six-party talks. But Pyongyang boycotted follow-up negotiations by making a series of unacceptable demands.

There are concerns that North Korea, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, may soon carry out a third nuclear test to make amends for the failed launch of a long-range rocket on April 13.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions following the two nuclear tests.

“As North Korea continues to ignore promises with the international community and breach international laws, it will only deepen its isolation,” Cho said.

The text of the North’s amended constitution reads that its late leader Kim Jong-il, who died last December, “has turned our fatherland into an invincible state of political ideology, a nuclear-armed state and an indomitable military power, paving the ground for the construction of a strong and prosperous nation.” The revision was made during a parliamentary session in April.

The North’s previous constitution last revised on April 9, 2010 didn’t contain the term nuclear-armed state.

Some analysts in Seoul said the North Korean constitution’s proclamation of a “nuclear-armed state” is expected to cast further clouds over the prospects of resuming the long-stalled six-party talks that bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea’s west coast affected by severe drought

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In the News – N. Korea’s west coast affected by severe drought

SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s western coast region is experiencing severe drought that could seriously affect food production this year, a report by the communist country’s state-run media said Saturday.

The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), picked up in Seoul, said that if there is no rainfall by the end of the month, the drought will be recorded as the worst since 1962.

It said from April 26 onwards, the capital city of Pyongyang received 2 millimeters of rain, while 5 millimeters fell in Haeju of South Hwanghae Province.

The KCNA added that Sinuiju, just across from the Chinese border city of Dandong, reported getting just 1 millimeter of rain in the past month.

The wire service said advanced weather forecasts indicate that little rainfall is expected in June, which can pose challenges for farmers in the region.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – King to visit Brussels for discussions on NK human rights

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In the News – King to visit Brussels for discussions on NK human rights

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 25 (Yonhap) — A U.S. envoy will travel to Brussels next week to discuss North Korean human rights with the European Union, the State Department announced Friday.

Amb. Robert King, the special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will participate in the European Parliament subcommittee on the human rights situation in North Korea on Tuesday, the department said in a press release.

King also plans to meet with officials from the European Parliament, the European External Action Service, nongovernmental organizations and countries that share their deep concerns about the human rights situation in the communist nation, it added.

King is scheduled to return to Washington on Thursday after the three-day trip.

Earlier this week, the department issued a far-reaching report on the human rights record in 199 nations, including North Korea, which it graded as “extremely poor.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. to mull food aid for N. Korea if it changes direction: White House

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In the News – U.S. to mull food aid for N. Korea if it changes direction: White House

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 23 (Yonhap) — A White House official said Wednesday that the U.S. will again consider food aid for North Korea if it stays away from provocations and averts a confrontational course.

“I think the precondition is that North Koreans have to demonstrate that they are going to refrain from those types of provocative actions and they are serious about moving in a different direction,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said at a press conference for foreign reporters.

He pointed out that Washington has lost trust in the communist regime as it reneged on a bilateral deal by launching a long-range rocket in April.

The two sides reached an agreement on Feb. 29, nicknamed the “Leap Day Deal,” after high-level talks. It called for the North to suspend some of its nuclear activity and put a moratorium on missile launches.

In exchange, the U.S. promised to deliver 240,000 tons of food. Washington halted a related process after the North’s rocket launch.

Rhodes said the U.S. is not convinced that food, if shipped, will reach ordinary people in need such as mothers, children and pregnant women.

He stressed that the U.S. remains open to bilateral and multilateral talks with the North.

But he expressed skepticism that Pyongyang will change its mode.

“We haven’t seen that indication yet,” he said. “Right now we not optimistic that there will be any imminent breakthrough that could lead to the provision of additional assistance.”

On a trip to Northeast Asia, meanwhile, Washington’s point man on Pyongyang also said food assistance is still a viable option depending on the North’s attitude.

“I think as you all know the United States has been historically very generous when it comes to the provision of nutritional assistance,” Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters after meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.

The U.S. has provided more than 2.2 million metric tons of food, valued at over $850 million, to North Korea since the mid-1990s, he noted.

“And should the opportunity present itself, if we can reach a stage where we can once again have faith in the North Koreans’ ability to abide by its undertakings and its promises, we would like very much to get back to the provision of nutritional assistance,” he said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Ruling party considering motion to oust pro-N.K. lawmakers-elect from parliament

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In the News – Ruling party considering motion to oust pro-N.K. lawmakers-elect from parliament

SEOUL, May 24 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s ruling party is considering a motion to strip two opposition lawmakers-elect of their parliamentary seats amid conservatives’ growing concern their alleged pro-North Korea stances could pose a threat to national security.

The two, Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), have been under a firestorm of criticism for refusing to give up their parliamentary seats despite findings the party’s primary voting to select proportional candidates was seriously rigged.

Rep. Shim Jae-chul (L) of the ruling Saenuri Party speaks during the party’s leadership meeting on May 24, 2012. (Yonhap)

Fueling conservative concern about them were revelations that they are key members of the party’s largest faction comprised mainly of former student activists who had followed and acted under North Korea’s former ruling ideology of “juche” or “self-reliance.”

Lee actually was arrested and convicted in the early 2000s of involvement in an underground party linked to Pyongyang, and concerns from conservatives are that their entry into parliament would allow them wide access to sensitive information on national security. Kim was also formerly convicted on charges of violating the anti-communist National Security Law.

These concerns have prompted talk of the ruling party pushing to oust them from parliament. Continue reading

In the News – Chinese fishermen say North Korean soldiers beat and robbed them

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In the News – Chinese fishermen say North Korean soldiers beat and robbed them

BEIJING — Chinese fishermen released by North Korea this week after nearly two weeks of captivity alleged that they were beaten, robbed and stripped and given starvation rations in a case that has opened up a rare public rift between the Communist allies.

“They used the back of their machine guns to hit us and also kicked us,” said Wang Lijie, one of 29 fishermen in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “They stripped us of all our clothes after the beating, including sock and shoes. Most of us had only underwear left.”

The North Koreans drained the three captured ships of fuel and also removed almost all the caught fish and the food and cooking oil stored for the journey. The fisherman were allowed out once or twice a day to cook small rations of grain, but were otherwise confined in a tiny storage room while their captors negotiated for ransom.

The hostage takers had initially demanded $65,000 per ship, according to the ships’ owners, which apparently the Chinese refused to pay.

Although none of the Chinese crew were seriously injured, their accounts of mistreatment were reported in the Chinese media on Tuesday, triggering calls for an explanation from North Korea. “Crew treated ‘inhumanely,’ ” read the headline Tuesday in the Global Times, a newspaper closely tied to China’s Communist Party.

Moreover, the fishermen returning home identified their captors as North Korean military.

“They didn’t dock our ship at any of the North Korean ports. Our ship was just drifting in the ocean the whole time with North Korean soldiers watching and guarding us all the time,” said Wang. “The North Korean soldiers also forced us to sign a document in Korean language which is supposed to be confessions of us fishing in North Korean waters. When we at first refused, they started to beat us again.”

The boats were seized May 8 while fishing in what the ship owners claimed were Chinese territorial waters and were forced to sail toward North Korea. Although it is not the first time Chinese fishermen have claimed harassment by North Koreans, the incident is by far the most serious and raises questions about whether impoverished North Korea is descending into Somalia-style piracy.

The country is in a difficult transition period following the death of its leader, Kim Jong Il, in December and the elevation of his son, Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s.

“If North Korean governmental authorities are linked to this incident, we could suspect that the central government’s control has weakened in the process of power shifting to Kim Jong Un,” said Lee Dong-bok, senior associate at Center for Strategic and International Studies in Seoul.

China is North Korea’s main ally, the source of most of its fuel oil, investment capital and food aid, but Pyongyang has irritated its patron in recent months by ignoring Beijing’s calls for restraint in its weapons programs.

The Global Times, among other Chinese media, have demanded an investigation and prosecution of the latest incident.

“As lives are involved, the severity of the incident cannot be offset by national interests, including Sino-North Korean relations,” the paper editorialized last week.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Lee: N. Korea’s economy should first stand on its own before unification

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In the News – Lee: N. Korea’s economy should first stand on its own before unification

SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday North Korea’s economy should first get on its feet before the two Koreas become unified again, stressing that Seoul never wants the communist neighbor to collapse.

Lee made the remark in an interview with CNBC television broadcast in Singapore earlier in the day, stressing that the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear programs and other issues can be resolved if the regime opens up and works together with the outside world.

“It is not that we wish something will go wrong and North Korea will collapse because it will give South Korea a great burden,” Lee said in the interview. “If North Korea goes together with the international community, its economy can stand on its own and it would be most desirable to have a peaceful unification after that,” he said.

North Korea has relied on outside aid to feed its people since the mid-1990s.

Regarding the eurozone financial crisis, Lee said debt-ridden Greece should accept austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a bailout package, saying South Korea went through harsher measures when it accepted humiliating IMF bailout loans during the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

“Compared with South Korea, I think the level now being demanded for Greece is reasonable,” Lee said. “I think Greece, including its government, businesses, workers and people, should voluntarily accept this.”

On Monday, Lee instructed officials to make thorough preparations to stave off any negative fallouts from the fiscal crisis amid concerns that Greece may not meet the terms of its bailout and drop out of the eurozone, a scenario that could destabilize the entire European market and beyond.

 

Original article can be found here.