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

Aside

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 – Disney Characters Perform in North Korea

Aside

In the News – Disney Characters Perform in North Korea

(PYONGYANG, North Korea) — Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh took the stage in North Korea during a concert for new leader Kim Jong Un, in an unusual — and unauthorized — performance featuring Disney characters.

Performers dressed as Minnie Mouse, Tigger and others danced and pranced as footage from “Snow White,” ”Dumbo,” ”Beauty and the Beast” and other Disney movies played on a massive backdrop, according to still photos shown on state TV.

The inclusion of characters popular in the West — particularly from the United States, North Korea’s wartime enemy — is a notable change in direction for performances in Pyongyang. Actors and actresses also showed off new wardrobes, including strapless gowns and little black dresses.

Kim himself established the group that performed, and the changes may be a sign that he is seeking to carve out a different image from his father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, by easing restrictions on Western culture, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korean studies professor based in Seoul, South Korea.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said Kim has a “grandiose plan to bring about a dramatic turn in the field of literature and arts this year.”

Under Kim Jong Il, who died in December, North Korea became well known for its massive Arirang shows, synchronized dance and gymnastics shows involving up to 100,000 people.

This appears to be the first time Disney characters have been included in a major performance in Pyongyang, though Winnie and Mickey have been popular among children for several years. Backpacks, pencil cases and pajamas imported from China often feature Disney characters, and stories such as “Dumbo” have been translated into Korean for North Korean schoolchildren. However, it is unusual to make such images a central part of a North Korean performance and publicize them on state TV.

(PHOTOSDavid Guttenfelder: A New Look at North Korea)

Zenia Mucha, chief spokesperson for The Walt Disney Co., said the use of Disney characters in the North Korean performance was not authorized by the U.S. entertainment company.

“This was not licensed or authorized by The Walt Disney Company,” Mucha told the AP by telephone on Sunday.

U.S. sanctions prohibit the import of North Korean goods to the United States, but do not ban the sales of American consumer products in North Korea unless they involve officials or companies on the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions blacklist.

The performance was staged Friday by the Moranbong band, which was making its debut after being assembled by Kim himself, KCNA said.

The dispatch made no mention of Disney characters, but said the concert included the traditional folk tune “Arirang” as well as a number of upbeat foreign songs.

Kim, who is in his late 20s, has sought to project an image of youth, vitality and modernity.

Early Sunday, he led top officials in paying their respects to his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, at the mausoleum where he lies in state. Kim died 18 years ago Sunday.

Earlier in the year, a quintet of accordionists became a YouTube sensation for their arrangement of “Take on Me,” a pop song by the Norwegian band a-ha.

North Korea and the United States remain in a technical state of war because they signed a truce, not a peace treaty, after three years of fighting in 1953. The foes do not have diplomatic relations.

Original Article 

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

Aside

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

In the News – U.N. committee sanctions three North Korea companies

Aside

In the News – U.N. committee sanctions three North Korea companies

Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, speaks to the media at UN headquarters in New York, May 2, 2012.REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS | Wed May 2, 2012 4:41pm EDT

(Reuters) – A U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Wednesday added three North Korean state companies to a U.N. blacklist of firms banned from international trade in response to Pyongyang’s rocket launch last month.

The decision by the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee came after China consented to sanctions on the trio of companies. It falls far short of the roughly 40 firms the United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan had wanted to blacklist after Pyongyang’s launch.

The newly blacklisted firms are “very significant North Korean entities” involved in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said. Continue reading