North Korea’s International University

A trail of thirtyish couples with coffees in hand floated on the streets this morning, like wood planks and barrels from a wreck at sea. Gradually their density increased as I approached a hulking shape looming through the fog, which turned out to be an elementary school releasing parents with free coffees as they returned to their now-childless homes.

It’s back-to-school season in America.

North and South Korea both operate on different school calendars; for them, the school year begins in spring. When I taught English in South Korea, the school year ended in December and started again in early March. North Korean schools start about a month later at the beginning of April.

The difference is probably hard to imagine for most Americans; it conflicts with our whole concept of summer as a time of vacation, of idleness and play, of long days to fill with things other than school.

But for all the difference, going back to school is pretty much the same in spirit everywhere. Kids still have that anxious, excited energy to them and haven’t yet rediscovered the boredom of regular school days. And parents still want to take photos with their darlings before leaving them.

Parents take photos with their children on the first day of school at Pyongyang Middle School No. 1 on April 2, 2012. (Photo credit AP Photo / Jon Chol Jin). 

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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 – Kaesong Firms Still Suffer from N.Korea Sanctions

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In the News – Kaesong Firms Still Suffer from N.Korea Sanctions

South Korean firms in the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea lost about W2 billion each due to sanctions on the North implemented in 2010 (US$1=W1,173).

Some 61.8 percent of 200 firms said it has been hard to recover from losses, according to a survey published by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday. Some 24.8 percent said they have recovered slightly and 13.4 percent they have fully recovered.

The firms suffered average losses of W1.94 billion, about double the W970 million estimated in a survey right after Seoul imposed sanctions on the North on May 24, 2010.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Kim Jong-un ‘Watched Long-Range Missile Launch’

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In the News – Kim Jong-un ‘Watched Long-Range Missile Launch’

 Korean Central Television on Sunday, North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un appears in a military vehicle (top) and a helicopter at an undisclosed place in North Korea. /KCTV-Yonhap”]
North Korean state TV marked new leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday on Sunday with a documentary that claimed he watched the launch of a long-range missile alongside his late father Kim Jong-il in April 2009.

The 50-minute film focusing on Kim junior’s so-called on-the-spot guidance tours said he accompanied his father during a visit to the control center for the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite. The launch of the fictitious satellite was a thin cover for what is widely believed to be an attempt to test a long-range missile. Continue reading