Green Energy and Carbon Credits in North Korea

Clouds are reflected in a reservoir beneath the Huichon Power Station during its opening ceremony on April 5, 2012. (Photo credit AP Photo / Kim Kwang Hyon).

Mention North Korea and a few associations come to mind: nuclear weapons, human rights, famine, weird family dictatorships. It’s often called the most isolated country in the world, the most communist country in the world, the least free country in the world. These superlatives are typical descriptors of North Korea for most, and since few people have any opportunity to engage with North Korea outside of the traditional news media, other conceptions of the country are mostly neglected.

But we here at OneKorea are all about providing new perspectives on the peninsula. We want to enrich your understanding of important issues such as human rights and unification, but we also want to offer entirely new ways of seeing the country. So here’s a new thing to think about when you think about North Korea: ecological sustainability. Continue reading

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”Everyone Thinks Highly Of South Korea”: Part 3 of 3 on Outside Media in North Korea

A diagram from InterMedia shows the pyramid structure of the outside media environment in North Korea. Photo credit InterMedia.

In posts 1 and 2 of this series on outside media in North Korea we saw all sorts of accounts from defectors about the procurement, consumption, and utility of outside media in North Korea.

Now it’s time for a conclusion.

What effect does all of this foreign media have on North Koreans? We’ve seen already that it can affect the way they run their businesses, the way they fill their free time, and even the way they speak. It also affects the way they think, although proponents of sending material specifically targeted at North Koreans should be aware that it might not have the same effect as, say, South Korean TV dramas. The study’s authors cite defectors who were appreciative of the lack of overt messages or careful selection of subjects in dramas, and note that “North Koreans are well-practiced consumers of heavy-handed propaganda and the absence of such propaganda in South Korean dramas increases their credibility in the minds of many North Korean viewers.” In other words, North Koreans aren’t that easy to fool; they are used to propaganda, and rather than brainwashing them, it has made them sophisticated and world-wise. Continue reading

“It Works Like A Market Economy”: Part 2 of 3 on Outside Media in North Korea

A radio tower stands in North Korea. Radio inside the country is limited to state transmissions, but citizens are often able to pick up transmissions from China or South Korea. Photo credit InterMedia.

In part 1 of this series we were introduced to the surge of outside media availability inside North Korea, reported in a recent survey of defectors and others with recent inside experience in North Korea by InterMedia. In this post we’ll go deeper into the role outside media plays inside the isolated country.

DVDs aren’t the only source of information on the outside world. CDs, cassettes, USBs, and even micro-SD cards are flourishing in black market trade, providing additional access to outside films and TV shows. Access typically comes through border residents or through the political and economic elite; the media are then shared with trusted contacts throughout the country. Some people in positions of power can even “order” a show or film brought in and it will make its way across the border through a network of bribery and smuggling. Continue reading

“Once You Start Watching, You Simply Cannot Stop”: Part 1 of 3 on Outside Media in North Korea

A screenshot of Lee Min Ho and Son Ye Jin from the first Korean drama your correspondent ever watched, “Personal Preferences.” South Korean dramas are one of the most important sources of new information now becoming available to North Korean citizens. Photo credit MBC.

Typically I scan the web for my information about North Korea. Most of my sources are from Internet news stories, usually in US or Korean media. But now and then I stumble upon a primary source, and they are phenomenally, refreshingly satisfying.

This post comes from such a primary source.

North Korea, according to a new study produced by InterMedia, is experiencing a huge increase in foreign media penetration. The study finds an increased awareness of the outside world, positive perceptions thereof, and a growth of trust between citizens.

Hopeful observers recall the surprising effect of access to technology in the Arab Spring revolts in 2011 and imagine a similar uprising in the future for North Korea. A more logical analysis suggests that any change will be slow. Access to outside media in North Korea is still extremely low; mobile penetration is around 2%, and 80% of North Korean citizens say that word-of-mouth is the most common means of information dissemination in the country. State media comes in a distant second at 40%.

A survey of defectors from and travelers in North Korea provided the authority for the survey. About 650 defectors, refugees, and travelers were interviewed in 2010 and 2011 and the results analyzed in “A Quiet Opening: North Koreans in a Changing Media Environment”. Continue reading

In the News – Seoul Seeks Clues on New Mrs. Kim

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In the News – Seoul Seeks Clues on New Mrs. Kim

SEOUL—Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Eun, may have visited South Korea in 2005 as part of a singing group, authorities in the city that hosted the group said Thursday as South Koreans scrambled to learn more about her.

Videos and photos show a teenage girl who looks like Ms. Ri as a featured singer in a traditional music group that was part of a broader North Korean contingent attending an international track and field championship in the Seoul suburb of Incheon.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said a girl named Ri Sol Ju was on the list of North Koreans who visited Incheon for the September 2005 event. But late Thursday, they were still trying to verify that the woman is Mr. Kim’s newly revealed wife.

About two weeks after Ms. Ri began to be seen in pictures with Mr. Kim, North Korea’s state-run media mentioned her by name for the first time on Wednesday and identified her as his wife. The North Korean media gave no other information, however, and said nothing more about her on Thursday.

South Korean media, government agencies and independent analysts of North Korea spent the day scouring old North Korean media accounts and records of North Korean visitors to the South over the past decade for references to Ms. Ri.

The emergence of Ms. Ri does nothing to alter the fractious state of relations between the two Koreas. North Korea has been angry at the South’s government since President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008 and ended a decade-old policy of few-questions-asked economic assistance, costing North Korea hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It staged two military attacks against the South in 2010, and its state media vilifies President Lee almost every day.

Her presence does create a new dynamic in the power structure of the Kim family regime, which has maintained control of North Korea for three generations and concentrated attention almost entirely on the male leaders.

It also changes the image of Mr. Kim, showing North Koreans worried about his young age that he’s got a stable home life and people outside the country that he’s got different ideas about how he appears than his reclusive father did.

Kim Gyu-ri, who runs an image-consulting firm in Seoul, said Ms. Ri is getting mostly positive attention in South Korea, in part because she’s displayed a fashion sensibility. “With this introduction, people will pay some more attention to what happens there, especially young people,” Ms. Kim said.

A woman named Ri Sol Ju who looks similar to Mr. Kim’s wife also appeared as a solo singer on a televised concert on North Korean TV last year, portions of which have been posted to YouTube.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that a check of its archives turned up two instances in which a young girl named Ri Sol Ju attended inter-Korean events in the North in 2003 and 2004.

The woman with the singers who visited Incheon in 2005, called the North Young Student Cooperation Group, was 17, according to Yonhap.

Kim Yun-hee, an Incheon city official who spent a week as a guide for the girls’ choir, said they had given a favorable impression on stage and off.

“At first they were cautious at what we said or asked, but later we conversed comfortably,” Ms. Kim said. “At the time I had a digital camera, and they were amazed at it. Though they couldn’t express their interest too much since a North Korean security official was in the bus too, but they liked it very much when I took pictures of them.”

Visits by North Korean groups to South Korea gained frequency after the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, but they tailed off after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon for the first time in late 2006.

Original Article 

In the News – Rocky Yes, Juche Wind No

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In the News – Rocky Yes, Juche Wind No

The Ministry of People’s Safety has been ordered to crack down on more than 500 popular songs that either have South Korean melodies with North Korean words or are deemed to be influenced by South Korean culture.

An inside source told Daily NK late last week, “The authorities have tried to ban more than 500 North Korean movie theme songs that are either of South Korean origin or influence. The Ministry of People’s Safety has declared them ‘anti-socialist’ and started a crackdown.”

The North Korean authorities have been enforcing a crackdown on South Korean cultural influences through the ‘109 Inspection Team’ for some time, but this is the first time that they have publicized a list of banned songs.

According to the source, the banned songs are categorized into three types: 1. South Korean songs sung with different lyrics 2. South Korean songs sung by North Koreans 3. Songs composed under South Korean musical influence.

Popular South Korean songs in North Korea that make the list include Morning Dew by Yang Hui Eun, Friend by Ahn Jae Wook, Japcho by Na Hun A, Apartment by Yoon Soo Il, You will Never Know by Hae Eun I, and A Letter From A Private by the late Kim Kwang Suk. Many people sing the songs without even knowing that they are South Korean.

An example of a song with its lyrics changed to contain North Korean words is ‘Wind Wind Wind’ by Kim Beom Ryong from 1985. The last verse, ‘you are a wind that makes me cry’ is sung as ‘Juche, Juche wind.’ However, the people sometimes sing the original South Korean version when meeting in private.

The banned songs are sung in a way that is distinctly different from North Korean songs, which are sung in high-pitched voice. The lyrics of the banned songs are mostly about friendship and love, which stands in contrast to the standard North Korean fare.

In the past, South Korean songs could not be spread easily, but now they are easily copied through MP3, MP4 and USBs. North Korean students run the risk of being sent to Coventry if they are uncool and don’t know any South Korean songs. As such, the authorities are only likely to drive the songs a little further underground, rather than eliminating them.

As the source pointed out, “Even though the Ministry of People’s Safety is cracking down on South Korean films and music, people will still watch the films and listen to the music.”

 

Original Article

In the News – Who Is Kim Jong Un’s Mystery Woman?

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In the News – Who Is Kim Jong Un’s Mystery Woman?

Sister? Lover? Girlfriend? Wife? Speculation is mounting over the identity of a mystery woman and the nature of her relationship with Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, with whom she has been spotted on a number of public engagements. The short-haired woman, dressed smartly in a black suit, is thought to be in her 20s.

The South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo speculates that the woman may be his sister, Kim Yeo Jong. “Born in 1987, Yeo Jong is now in her mid-20s,” an article posted on its website read. “She apparently went to a school in Switzerland along with Jong Un in the 1990s.”

However, South Korean intelligence experts have identified the woman as Hyon Song Wol, the former front woman of the Bochonbo Electronic Music Band and a married mother whom they believe is having an affair with the North Korean leader.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Bochonbo Electronic Music Band produced several hit singles that were “hugely popular among the North Korean masses,” but Hyon “disappeared from public view at the time that Mr. Kim emerged as the heir-apparent to his father Kim Jong Il.” Hyon reappeared in public to perform at a concert in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in early March to mark International Women’s Day.

Rumors of the affair have reportedly been circulating for some time. Kim Jong Un is believed to have begun a romance with the singer a decade ago, but was forced to end the relationship by his father. She is then said to have married a North Korean army officer and given birth to his child. Nothing is known of the current whereabouts of Hyon’s husband and child, or whether she even remains married.

However, others speculate that the woman is in fact Kim Jong Un’s wife, a view shared by Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University in South Korea, an expert on North Korea, who thinks it highly implausible that the Supreme Leader would so publicly reveal his girlfriend. He told CNN that her presence is likely a part of a carefully constructed campaign to appear “much more approachable, humanlike and soft on people” in order to distance Kim Jong Un from his father and predecessor.

Lankov added that Kim Jong Un “travels much more than his father and even [more] than his grandfather. He likes to hug everybody, physically hug. In this regard it’s probable he decided that it might be a good idea to hint that he does have a wife.” If the woman is his wife, then it would mark a significant departure to the secrecy with which his father and grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, cloaked their personal lives. Lankov noted, “When his grandfather’s first wife, if you like, the founding mother of the dynasty, was alive, her name was never, never mentioned in media. Her existence was never even hinted at.”

Likewise, Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Waseda University in Tokyo and author of a number of publications on North Korean leadership, told the Daily Telegraph, “It is highly possible that this is his wife and that Kim is trying to show a new style of leadership, of a husband and wife, in North Korea.” Shigemura also observed that Kim Jong Un had been uncharacteristically quiet in the weeks leading up to the woman’s sudden appearance.

Earlier this year he engaged in a large number of high-profile appearances, in an attempt to shore up his position as North Korea’s new leader, following the death of his father in December. It is possible, Shigemura said, that his recent silence could be the result of behind-the-scenes preparations concerning how to publicly introduce his spouse.

The mystery woman was first seen with Kim Jong Un watching a performance of North Korea’s Moranbong band at a theater in Pyongyang on Friday. (The performance included the appearance of various Disney characters, which the Walt Disney Co. confirms were used without its permission.) On Sunday, North Korean state TV showed the woman standing beside the Supreme Leader during a ceremony to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the death of his grandfather.

Original Article

Foreign Media in North Korea

I wrote an article a while back on the impact of South Korean media in North Korea and how big its role has become. Well, to say the least, the amount of access North Koreans have to foreign news and media content is the highest it’s ever been. And, more importantly, it’s making a difference.

A recent study conducted by InterMedia and commissioned by the U.S. State Department on the impacts of foreign media within North Korea says that although North Korea still remains as the world’s most reclusive country, “ the [North Korean] government’s ability to control the flow information is receding.”

The government still has laws against accessing foreign media but much of it relies on citizens reporting on each other. However, with less people willing to turn their neighbors in, the government is losing its power. A Korean would even say that the North Korean government has become like a tiger with a loud roar but very little teeth to do any damage. Of course, North Koreans are still smart about their actions and are still wary of government inspection teams but the thing that has changed the most is that people are more open to sharing their movies and dramas with each other instead hiding it in fear. Continue reading

In the News – Winds of Unification Still Blowing…

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In the News – Winds of Unification Still Blowing…

▲ Yesterday’s launch event for ‘Hallyu; The Wind of Unification’ opened at Seoul Club on the 27th. (© DailyNK)

It is well known that the higher up in the North Korean class hierarchy a family is, the more access its members have to South Korean movies and dramas (the media grouped together internationally as ‘Hallyu’ or ‘Korean Wave’).

This was a view confirmed yesterday by Park Jung Ran of the Center for Cultural Unification Studies at the release of the center’s latest report, ‘Hallyu; The Wind of Unification’.

The center’s latest report is the sequel to last year’s ‘Hallyu; Shaking North Korea’ by Kang Dong Wan and Park Jung Ran. This time the two have surveyed 100 defectors, divided by region, class, gender and generation, in their renewed hunt for ‘Hallyu reality’.

“People in the financial upper class are getting more access to South Korean videos”, Park asserted. “Many watch every day, or at least once a week. It seems that the wealthy have financial freedom, so they like to watch South Korean videos.”

According to the results published in the report, 32% of men and 13% of women have experience of watching some kind of South Korean media, while people in their 40s, at 33.3%, have the most access overall. Unsurprisingly, people living along the Sino-North Korea border in North Hamkyung Province have the highest degree of access in geographical terms.

The event also involved a policy debate, reminding the audience that allowing North Koreans to have access to South Korean media may be good, but the question of what kind of media to give access to is also important.

On this, Park noted, “Hallyu has both good and bad elements. It is positive in that the North Koreans can learn more about and empathize with South Korean society; however, it can give them a negative impression if they view pornographic or violent videos.”

Jeon Hyun Jun, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification who was at the event as a panelist, agreed, saying, “The lower down the classes one goes, the more conservative and hostile towards South Korea one seems to be. Because fantastical and violent content can lead to adverse effects, the government needs to take the lead in strategic policy to spread diverse genres among the lower classes.”

Nevertheless, Kang was confident that media access is a critical area that must be focused on.

“Although data is now being shared through new mediums such as USBs, how much is needed to generate systemic change is still a point of interest,” he said. “Shared awareness and cultural exchanges between the two Koreas could prove to be the road to unification.”

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 – Study: Outside media changing N. Korean worldview

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In the News  – Study: Outside media changing N. Korean worldview

WASHINGTON (AP) — The growing availability of news media and cellphones in reclusive North Korea likely forced it to admit within hours that its long-range rocket launch last month was a failure, the U.S. human rights envoy to the country said Thursday.

The envoy, Robert King, was speaking at the launch of a U.S. government-funded study that says North Koreans now have unprecedented exposure to foreign media, giving them a more positive impression of the outside world.

North Korea allowed foreign journalists extensive access to the country to report on the centennial of the nation’s founder in mid-April, which included the launch of a satellite into space that violated U.N. sanctions. The rocket, which uses the same technology to ballistic missiles, disintegrated within a minute or two of takeoff.

“The media environment in North Korea has changed and is changing, and with the availability of cellphones for internal communication, and greater availability of information internally, you can’t just say, ‘Let’s play patriotic songs’ so all can tune in,” King said.

The study, commissioned by the State Department and conducted by a consulting group, InterMedia, said North Korea still has the world’s most closed media environment — there’s still no public access to the Internet — but the government’s ability to control the flow information is receding. Continue reading

The Death of Kim Jong-Il: Painting Perspective Part I

After the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il became known internationally, several friends and relatives who had known that I had worked as a volunteer English tutor at Hangyeore, a boarding school for North Korean refugee students, asked me if the emotional outburst and fits of tears that news reports presented were real. But I found that I did not know how to answer them because I think that a lot of the media already implies that the feelings of devotion expressed by the people to such a leader as Kim Jong-Il have no potential for authenticity. Taken out of context or applied to the messages that the media wants to convey, perhaps the tears of the North Korean people seem far-fetched or unjustifiable.

Although I do not intend to ignore violations of human rights occurring in North Korea with my more critical approach to the media, I think that it is unfair to put so much trust into the media’s portrayal of North Korea’s situation when understanding of North Korea still has its limitations since the North Korean state continues its policy of isolation. In my next few articles I hope to explore the way the death of Kim Jong-Il has been portrayed by a few different perspectives in the media to show how the media creates different images of the truth.

In this article, I would like to take a look at the image Fox News presents in regards to North Korea. I have chosen to look at Fox News because of its prevalence in the United States – the channel is estimated to air in about 102 million households – and its international presence – Fox News airs in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Israel, Pakistan, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and several other nations. Also I would like to take a look at Fox News because of its notoriety for promoting conservative political positions. Continue reading

Interview: Sang-Hun Choe, Journalist for New York Times & International Herald Tribune

By Grace Kim 

My favorite journalist had been a certain white-haired fellow on a cable news station until I met Mr. Sang-Hun Choe of the New York Times and International Herald Tribune at a lecture about North Korean issues in the media at Wellesley College this past spring. Thoughtful and soft-spoken, Mr. Choe was too polite and humble for my presumptions of what a New York Times Asia Correspondent with a Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Bridge At No Gun Ri, co-authored with Charles Hanley and Martha Mendoza under his belt would could be like. I had been a fan of his New York Times pieces on North Korea in the past because his articles were comprehensive and clearly revealed that he did his research. Judging from his writing, I assumed that he crafted his English in the United States or another English- speaking country, but much to my surprise, and probably to many Korean parents eager to send children abroad, he had never studied outside South Korea until his recent stay as a Koret Fellow at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. Meeting him in person not only bumped the Silver Fox down my fan list, but also reminded me of the dedication that some journalists put into investigating topics and publishing their work for the world to read. The following interview shows a glimpse of journalism, North Korea issues in the media, and of the man behind the text.

Continue reading

A Discussion with Professor Katharine Moon: A Different Perspective

Map of Yeonpyeong

The blue line indicates the oceanic border as understood by South Korea; the red line indicates the border as insisted by North Korea.

CHRISTINE OH (edited by Daisy Chang)

February 8th, 2011—Professor Katharine Moon of Political Science at Wellesley College sits comfortably in her chair, wearing a gray ANKHR sweater. She is the unofficial advisor for the Wellesley student organization, Advocates for North Korean Human Rights (ANKHR). ANKHR invited her to speak at a casual dinner-and-discussion to address a question that has been on all of our minds: What the hell is going on with North Korea?

Almost thirty students are gathered in a big living room, intently listening to her speak. She starts out by asking a familiar and frequently asked question: To whom do you listen when it comes to North Korea, and how to we know who’s right? From its governmental system to its organizational structure, everything about North Korea is foggy compared to the relative transparence of other nations.

So, what do we know about North Korea? Her answer: Well, not much. And what we do know, we must always question how we know it. Whatever information we have about the country, she says, must always be questioned. Continue reading