In the News – UN: North Korea needs immediate food aid due to flood

Aside

In the News – UN: North Korea needs immediate food aid due to flood 

UNITED NATIONS –  North Korea needs immediate food assistance after heavy rains killed scores of people and submerged vast swaths of farmland, a U.N. office said Thursday.

That assessment was released by the U.N. resident coordinator’s office in Pyongyang following visits to flood-stricken areas in North Korea earlier this week. Floods caused by two storm systems last month killed at least 119 people and left tens of thousands homeless, according to the North’s state media.

The United States said it would consider a request for assistance but has not received one, and it was not aware of Pyongyang making such requests to other states.

“If requested, it would be something that that we would carefully evaluate but we are not at that point,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told a news conference in Washington Thursday.

The flooding, which occurred on the heels of a severe drought, renewed concerns about North Korea’s ability to feed its people. In June, the U.N. said two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people are coping with chronic food shortages.

Thursday’s U.N. report said torrential rains caused severe damage to homes, public buildings, infrastructure and farms, affecting maize, soybean and rice fields. The worst-hit areas are Anju city and Songchon County in South Phyongan Province, as well as Chonnae County in Kangwon Province, where residents are in dire need of emergency food aid, it said.

Some 36,000 families in Anju do not have access to clean water; wells are contaminated due to overflow of pit latrines and open drainage, raising the risk of a diarrhea outbreak, the report said. A city official told The Associated Press earlier this week that it was the worst disaster in Anju’s history.

North Korean officials are asking for food, fuel, medicine, water and purification supplies, while farmers are requesting seeds and fertilizer for the next season, the U.N. said.

Aid groups have donated emergency supplies, including the British-based charity ShelterBox, which dispatched 270 tents to North Korea, according to Howard Chang, a spokesman for Rotary International, who provides funding to ShelterBox.

The U.S. government gave $900,000 in relief supplies for North Korea after deadly floods last year. A subsequent plan this year to send 240,000 tons in food aid in return for nuclear concessions was scuppered when North Korea tested a long-range rocket in April. Washington said that step undermined confidence that North Korea would stick to its agreement to allow proper monitoring of food distributions.

Original Article 

Advertisements

In the News – N.Korea’s Island Dream Dead in the Water

Aside

In the News – N.Korea’s Island Dream Dead in the Water

A joint project between North Korea and China to develop the North’s Hwanggumpyong Island looks dead in the water. Japanese media already reported last month that the project has been stalled due to differences over details since a groundbreaking ceremony in June last year, and on Sunday the Asahi Shimbun said it was suspended last month.

“Plans for the project have been announced since 2010, but nothing has come of them because China doesn’t think it’s economically viable,” according to a diplomatic source here.

The plan to develop the island was a pipe dream from the start. The biggest problem is that the area is inappropriate for an industrial complex.

A child carries lumber along a farm road on Hwanggumpyong Island in North Korea on June 11.
A child carries lumber along a farm road on Hwanggumpyong Island in North Korea on June 11.

“The island was created from deposits by rivers, so the foundations are weak and susceptible to floods,” Cho Bong-hyun of the IBK Economic Research Institute said. “You’d first have to build flood walls and raise the ground by 3-5 m. North Korea wants China to do that, but Chinese companies just aren’t interested.”

Beijing reportedly asked Chinese businessmen several times to travel to the North and attend Pyongyang’s investment presentations, but they said that unless the North takes care of the foundation work, the project has no business value, a government official here said.

The island’s proximity to Dandong is another reason for Beijing’s lack of interest. China is already developing a new city and an industrial zone there and would rather focus investment on its own projects rather than across the border.

Original Article

In the News – Beijing Asked Seoul to Stop Help for N.Korean Defectors

Aside

In the News – Beijing Asked Seoul to Stop Help for N.Korean Defectors

China asked Seoul to make sure that South Koreans stop engaging in “organized activities” there to help North Koreans escape if South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan was to be released. Kim was tortured during his 114 days in Chinese detention for helping North Korean refugees.

A senior diplomatic source here on Wednesday said China attempted to make Kim’s release contingent on South Korea putting a stop to activists’ help for North Korean defectors in the three northeastern Chinese provinces.

“China threatened not to release Kim unless Seoul promises to stop organized assistance for North Korean defectors, but the South Korean government declined,” the source added.

A senior South Korean government official confirmed the story.

China is worried about the activities of South Korean NGOs helping North Koreans in the provinces adjacent to North Korea. Chinese police fear that North Koreans could escape en masse if organized assistance increases.

There is also speculation that the North Korean regime has asked Beijing for help. After Seoul declined to meet its demand, China reportedly decided to deport Kim after a visit to Seoul last month by Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu.

Seoul has been seeking a consular agreement with Beijing to increase protection of South Korean citizens for a decade, but progress has been slow. According to the Foreign Ministry, talks kicked off in May 2002 and were convened on three more occasions — in January 2007, January 2010, and December 2011 — but the gap in opinions remains wide.

Seoul made consular agreements with the U.S. in 1963 and with Russia in 1992. A ministry official said, “Even if there’s no bilateral consular agreement with China, there won’t be any big problem if we stress the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which most countries including China and Korea are signatories.”

Original Article 

In the News – S. Korean activist seeks to prove torture through medical checkup

Aside

In the News – S. Korean activist seeks to prove torture through medical checkup

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) — A South Korean human rights activist who has accused Chinese security agents of torture during his four-month arrest said Thursday he will prove his claims through a medical checkup amid Beijing’s denial of the alleged abuse.

The dramatic story of Kim Young-hwan, who was expelled from China and returned home on July 20, has taken another turn in recent weeks following his revelations of torture under Chinese detention.

The 49-year-old activist recently described the beatings, electric shocks and sleep deprivation he endured during the early days of his arrest in northeastern China, exposing the Seoul government to criticism about its lack of action against Beijing.

Kim was arrested on March 29 on suspicion of endangering China’s national security, a charge believed to be related to the activist’s efforts to help North Korean defectors in China and promote human rights in the North.

China’s foreign ministry has rejected the allegations of torture, saying the investigation went according to law.

“Externally, there doesn’t seem to be any scars remaining,” Kim told Yonhap News Agency in a phone call. “I plan to get a medical checkup.”

Formal evidence of the alleged torture is expected to help Kim in the event that he decides to sue the Chinese government or take the case to the United Nations.

South Korean human rights activist Kim Young-hwan (Yonhap)

Lee Kyu-ho, a 41-year-old Korean-Chinese, said he moved to South Korea in 2010 after having worked as a Chinese security agent from 1995 to 2002, and witnessed similar violence by Chinese authorities at the time.

“In 1996, we took into custody a male North Korean defector who appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s, and during the investigation, I kicked him with my heels and beat him with an electric rod,” Lee said in an interview with Yonhap.

“I was infuriated when I heard about the torture Chinese authorities used against Kim Young-hwan and decided to blow the whistle out of guilt about my past actions.”

Kim’s detention drew public attention due to his personal background.

He is a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance who later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the North’s dismal human rights record.

Original Article 

In the News – Koreas again in diplomatic war with Japan on East Sea naming

Aside

In the News – Koreas again in diplomatic war with Japan on East Sea naming

NEW YORK, Aug.1 (Yonhap) — The two Koreas have informally teamed up against Japan in a war of diplomacy in the United Nations on the naming of the waters near them, sources said Wednesday.

The 10th United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names open earlier this week at the U.N. headquarters here, setting the stage for experts from around the world to discuss key issues relating to the handling of place names.

International organizations formally call the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan the Sea of Japan. But South and North Korea insist its original name is the East Sea and that should be used at least concurrently.

South Korean delegates are trying to publicize a nonbinding practice of using both of the names in case of disputes between countries, according to a U.N. source.

“North Korea directly requested the dual use of the names,” the source said, requesting anonymity. “South and North Korea are taking a virtually cooperative approach.”

But Japan claims that the single name should be maintained.

The ongoing U.N. conference is not aimed at produce a conclusion on the sensitive issue but it is important in enhancing the awareness and understanding of the international community.

During a meeting of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) in April, the South Korean government made a strong pitch for the East Sea to be used in the official maps of the international community.

The IHO, however, decided not to revise its current “Sea of Japan” appellation this time. The next session will be held in 2017.

Meanwhile, the U.S. made clear its longstanding policy of using a single name for the waters between Korea and Japan.

The State Department said, “We understand that the Republic of Korea uses a different term.”

The U.S., a key ally of both South Korea and Japan, has encouraged the two sides to “work together to reach a mutually agreeable way forward with the International Hydrographic Organization on this issue,” it added.

Original Article 

In the News – North Korea says nearly 120 killed after July rainfalls

Aside

In the News – North Korea says nearly 120 killed after July rainfalls

(Reuters) – Recent torrential rain and a typhoon inNorth Korea have killed 119 people, made more than 84,000 homeless and destroyed some 46,000 hectares of crops, the official news agency said on Wednesday.

It is now feared that the rains and typhoon that led to floods in many parts of the impoverished country will deal a severe blow to North Korea’s already malfunctioning economy and exacerbate its already serious food shortages.

“Downpours swept some east and west coastal areas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on July 29-30, leaving 31 people dead and 16 missing,” the KCNA news agency said on Wednesday, using the country’s official name.

This was on top of the damage KCNA previously reported as resulting from about a week of heavy rainfall and floods earlier in July, which led to 88 deaths and left thousands left homeless.

A United Nations inter-agency team was already deployed to the two hardest-hit areas to assess the damage from recent floods with a view to developing an aid plan, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.

Since the mid-1990s, North Korea’s farm sector has frequently been devastated by floods and drought. The floods could weigh on Kim’s efforts to buoy the moribund economy.

Landslides and lightning storms also led to some casualties while floods damaged some coal mines, North Korea’s primary energy source, KCNA also reported on Wednesday.

North Korea remains one of the most isolated states in the world. That has not changed since new leader Kim Jong-un took power seven months ago.

A recent United Nations report classified 7.2 million of the 24 million population as “chronic poor” and said one in three children were stunted due to poor nutrition.

Original Article

In the News – South Korea Rejects North’s Terrorism Allegations

Aside

In the News – South Korea Rejects North’s Terrorism Allegations

South Korea is calling “ridiculous” a North Korean claim that activists based in Seoul are behind alleged acts of sabotage in the North.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry says police and the National Intelligence Service are taking necessary measures to protect four people, including a freshman lawmaker, threatened by Pyongyang.

In an unusual announcement Tuesday, North Korea accused the four people of plotting to blow up statues and commit other acts of attempted terrorism.  It said they would not be able to escape merciless punishment.

Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin says there is no truth to the North’s allegations and they do not merit a response.

Park says Pyongyang is making groundless charges that defectors from North Korea are engaged in kidnappings and terrorism.

One of those named by North Korea is Cho Myung-chul, a defector and freshman lawmaker (from the ruling Saenuri Party) who says he feels devastated by the allegation.

Cho tells reporters at the National Assembly this is a brutal pronouncement from Pyongyang and he says its threats against those in South Korea are inexcusable.

Two other defectors, Kim Song-min, the founder of Radio Free North Korea, and Park Sang-hak, who floats leaflets by balloons to North Korea, were threatened by Pyongyang along with high-profile activist, Kim Young-hwan.

Kim Young-hwan was formerly the leader of an underground leftist party, and a long-time polarizing figure on the Korean peninsula. In the 1980s he helped lead demonstrations against the dictatorship then in power in Seoul. He was imprisoned in South Korea for two years. In 1991 he was smuggled twice by submarine to North Korea to meet the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. But he later became a fierce critic of North Korea’s repressive system.

In the statement broadcast by Pyongyang radio Tuesday  Kim was singled out as a “heinous nation-selling bastard.”

Kim Young-hwan and two colleagues were arrested in China on March 29. They were held there until July 20 on charges of endangering national security.

Kim has told local media Chinese security officers tortured him with a cattle prod and threatened to send him to North Korea.  He says that as a condition for his release, his captors tried to force him to sign a statement denying any mistreatment and admitting he violated Chinese law.

Kim says he wants the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into his allegations. He says he also plans to file civil lawsuits against Chinese authorities.

Kim has said he was visiting the country merely to collect information on human rights in North Korea and to aid refugees from the North who are in China. He has denied reports he was also attempting to set up the defection of a senior North Korean official.

South Korea’s foreign ministry, facing pressure from rights groups, announced Tuesday it plans to interview about 600 other citizens to determine whether they were also mistreated in Chinese jails.

Original Article 

In the News – U.S. Keeps N.Korea Off Terror Sponsors List

Aside

In the News – U.S. Keeps N.Korea Off Terror Sponsors List

The U.S. government has left North Korea off its annual list of state sponsors of terrorism for the fourth consecutive year.

In the Country Reports on Terrorism 2011, the State Department said Pyongyang is not reported to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a South Korean commercial airliner in 1987.

The report, however, re-certifies the North as a country that does not fully cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts under the Arms Export and Control Act.

The OECD’s Financial Action Task Force, which expressed concerns over Pyongyang’s lack of regulation on money laundering and terrorist financing, said the North’s financial system is murky and its compliance with international standards difficult to measure.

Original Article 

In the News – China Must Investigate Torture Claims

Aside

In the News – China Must Investigate Torture Claims

China on Tuesday flatly denied torturing a prominent South Korean activist who was detained in Dandong for 114 days for helping North Korean defectors. China claims no laws were broken during its investigation of Kim Young-hwan and his rights were not violated.

The claims contradict Kim’s own account in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo on Monday, where he said he could smell his flesh burn as Chinese security agents tortured him with a cattle prod.

Kim vividly recalled the brutal torture he suffered in the Chinese prison. “Three state security agents checked my blood pressure and collected a blood sample on April 15 and then proceeded to torture me with a cattle prod from that evening until the early hours of the following morning,” Kim said. “They put the cattle prod, wrapped with electrical coils, inside my clothes and placed it on my chest and back,” he said. “It is hard to describe the pain I felt. It felt like being electrocuted continuously.” Kim added he suffered continuous blows to his face and they stopped only when his entire face was bloody.

He said he was also deprived of sleep from April 10 to 15 and was forced to wear handcuffs and stand for 10 hours straight. “That left my hands paralyzed for more than a month,” Kim said.

Kim’s account of getting a medical check-up before being tortured suggests meticulous planning by Chinese security agents. There are accounts that Chinese agents warned him not to talk about the torture he suffered in Dandong.

When confronted with such a vivid account of torture by a victim, the first thing to do would be to investigate whether those allegations are true. It is simply irresponsible of Beijing to deny them. Perhaps according to Beijing’s standards, the torture Kim suffered is par for the course and represents no great violation of a prisoner’s rights.

But as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China also signed the UN Convention against Torture. It should find out whether any other permanent member of the Security Council has rejected calls for a probe into allegations of torture of a foreign national. Even a superpower like China can lose global respect that way.

Kim said he wants no financial compensation but simply an apology from China. It is not a huge request to make. But if Beijing rejects it, the only thing left to do is to conduct a joint investigation through the UN Human Rights Council and appeal to the international community. If human rights groups around the world join hands to pursue the truth, even China would feel the heat.

Original Article

In the News – N.Korea Threatens S.Korean Activists

Aside

In the News – N.Korea Threatens S.Korean Activists

North Korea on Tuesday threatened to hunt down defectors as well as South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan, who was detained in China for 114 days for helping them.

“We will in the future, too, never allow those abductors, terrorists and saboteurs who dare hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of [North Korea], encroach upon its sovereignty and threaten the safety of its people to go scot-free even by scouring all parts of the earth,” the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement.

The statement singled out Kim Sung-min of Radio Free North Korea, Park Sang-hak of activist group Fighters for Free North Korea, Cho Myong-chol, a defector who became a Saenuri Party lawmaker, and Kim.

“The U.S. and the South Korean puppet regime should stop at once the act of luring and abducting [North Korean] people, make an official apology for the hideous politically motivated, state-sponsored terrorism against the dignity of its supreme leadership and sternly punish the prime movers,” the statement added.

The statement comes after a North Korean defector claimed in a press conference in Pyongyang that he had infiltrated the North on a mission sponsored by U.S. and South Korean authorities to blow up statues and monuments.

Original Article

Love has no boundaries… or does it?

A popular Korean reality TV show called “Zzak” (meaning ‘partner’) takes place in what can only be called a “love camp” where men and women who are looking for a significant other come together. Each of these men and women are identified by numbers, and they get to find out more about each other through various ordeals and tasks. At the end, they choose who they want to be with, and the lucky ones become a pair. Continue reading

As One: more than a movie

 

With the 2012 London Olympics currently in progress, I thought I’d write about sports. Just in time for the international event, a movie was released this past May simply titled As One. It is based on the true story of Korea’s first unified sports team since the division, an event that brought patriotism and hope to the entire Korean Peninsula.

In February 1991, North and South Korean officials met at Panmunjum at the North-South border to make agreements on forming a unified soccer and table tennis team. Everything was decided on at this meeting. The flag was to be the unification flag, a blue Korean peninsula on a white background, and the anthem was to be the famous Korean folk song Arirang. And in April that same year, both the North and South Korean table tennis teams left for Japan to participate in the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships as the first ever unified Korean team since the division of the peninsula. History was in the making. Continue reading

In the News – Gov’t vows efforts to deal with S. Korean activist’s alleged abuse in China

Aside

In the News – Gov’t vows efforts to deal with S. Korean activist’s alleged abuse in China

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) — South Korea is taking the claims that a rights activist from the country was severely tortured while under detention in China seriously, and will do everything it can to verify the claims and ensure the safety of its citizens, the presidential chief of staff said Monday.

The 49-year-old activist Kim Young-hwan was expelled from China and returned home on July 20 following his 114-day detention on suspicions of endangering the country’s national security, a charge believed to be related to his campaign to help North Korean defectors and other human rights activists.

Kim publicly admitted last week that he suffered from both physical abuse, including electrical shocks, and sleep deprivation during his detention.

“The government and the presidential office are taking the matter seriously,” said Ha Kum-loul, the chief of presidential staff during a plenary session at the National Assembly, responding to a ruling party lawmaker calling on the government to take more proactive actions against China over the issue.

South Korea’s foreign ministry has come under fire for failing to take proper diplomatic actions against China when it first learned of the alleged abuse of a prominent activist in Chinese custody.

“The government spares no efforts to find cold facts with the Chinese government. We will do everything possible to protect the lives and guarantee the safety of our people and human rights activists, though whether to bring the matter to the United Nations has not been discussed yet,” Ha said.

Also on Monday, the activist disclosed fresh details of the alleged torture and ill-treatment.

“Beating and electrical shocks continued for five to eight hours from the night of April 15 until dawn on the following day,” Kim told Yonhap News Agency shortly before heading to the National Human Rights Commission, a state rights watchdog in Seoul, to testify.

“For seven days starting April 10, I was forced to stay awake all day long, and physical pressure began on the sixth day,” he said.

The Chinese authorities even had him sleep while seated on a chair in handcuffs during one entire month of interrogation, he claimed.

Original Article

In the News – N. Korea says will build up nuclear arsenal against U.S.

Aside

In the News – N. Korea says will build up nuclear arsenal against U.S.

SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) — North Korea vowed on Tuesday to further build up its nuclear capabilities, accusing the United States of attempting to topple its communist regime.

In a statement carried by the North’s Korean Central News Agency, a spokesperson of the North Korean foreign ministry said the country will counter any U.S. hostility with the utmost resoluteness.

“While talking about the livelihood of people in other countries, the U.S. is blocking our economic development and improvement of our people’s livelihood with its most vicious and persistent anti-republic sanctions,” the statement said.

“And for such a country to say we will be better off once we give up our nuclear weapons only reminds us of a coyote who tells a ram that it will not be eaten if it gives up its horns.”

The statement said the North did not need the U.S.’s support to develop its economy now that it has nuclear capabilities and the means to further build up its stockpile.

“With a rifle in one hand and a banner of industrial revolution in the other, we will surely build a powerful socialist nation while facing the U.S.’s anti-DPRK policies with the utmost resoluteness,” it said. DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The statement comes shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama last week said North Korea, along with Iran, “cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons.”

“It is our firm decision to counter U.S. hostility with stronger nuclear deterrence,” the statement said.

Original Article 

In the News – North Korea Denies Reform Effort

Aside

In the News – North Korea Denies Reform Effort

SEOUL — North Korea is rejecting speculation any economic reform is getting underway in the reclusive and impoverished country.

Pyongyang is making it clear it considers unacceptable any assertions from officials in Seoul and foreign media that policy change, reform or opening of the country has begun.

Quoting an unnamed spokesman for a North Korean group, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a television announcer declared that what he termed “ridiculous rhetoric” by South Korean officials reveal their “ignorance and sinister intention” against the North.

The announcer said the United States and South Korea, after decades of advocating reform and opening to impose their “corrupt” system, now seem “preoccupied by hallucinations that such a move is taking place” in North Korea.

A prominent defector from the North, Lee Yun-keol, says the late leader Kim Jong Il, expressed in his will that the words “reform” and “opening” will not be used.

Lee, chairman of the North Korea Strategic Information Service Center in Seoul, says the authorized phrase from Pyongyang is “economic reform management system.” But Lee says this change is not meant to make life better for the masses, but rather to benefit the privileged class. He says, for its survival, the North’s leadership knows it must maintain the military-first policy because any true reform or opening would cause chaos for the government.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s powerful National Defense Commission is issuing a separate warning to Washington. This comes after repeated accusations in recent weeks that the United States is behind an alleged plot by agents in the North to sabotage national monuments and statues.

The defense authority in Pyongyang said it would launch a physical counter-offensive to render ineffective America’s strategic bombers and carrier strike forces.

Lee, who was a researcher at a North Korean state organization charged with extending the lives of the country’s leaders, is not worried by this rhetoric.

Lee believes the threats are just a ploy to get more food aid and other desperately needed support from the outside world. Although North Korea is well-armed, Lee says its leaders are actually afraid to start a military conflict and do not have the economic resources to support a war.

North Korea has the world’s fourth-largest standing army. It has never signed a peace treaty with the South following the three-year Korean war, which ended
in 1953 with an armistice that both sides have, over the years, repeatedly accused the other of violating.

Original Article 

In the News – N.Korea Pours Cold Water on Reform Hopes

Aside

In the News – N.Korea Pours Cold Water on Reform Hopes

North Korea on Sunday poured cold water South Korean hopes of a changing political climate in the North. The South Korean government and media had cautiously interpreted recent changes in the North as the first signals of reform and opening.

But the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said, “Our dynamic reality is earning admiration from the entire world. A group of traitors in the South interpret our situation to their own advantage and calling it ‘attempts towards reform and open door policy’ and ‘signs of political change.'”

According to the official KCNA news agency, a spokesman for the committee said the South Korean government aimed to create a negative image of North Korea by talking of possible regime change and reforms. “South Korea has the treacherous objective of spreading the delusional idea of reunification, with the South ‘absorbing’ the North.”

Meanwhile, the North’s National Defense Commission issued a statement on Sunday warning of a “strong physical attack” on South Korea and the U.S. in retaliation for an alleged plot to blow up statues of past leaders in the North.

Original Article

In the News – Pyongyang Says Floods Kill Scores, Hurt Crops

Aside

In the News – Pyongyang Says Floods Kill Scores, Hurt Crops

SEOUL—North Korea said heavy rain caused by a typhoon killed nearly 90 people, destroyed thousands of homes and submerged a large amount of farmland.

Seoul-based analyst Kwon Tae-jin said the flooding is expected to worsen North Korea’s chronic food shortage because it comes soon after a severe drought.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that rains over the past month killed 88 people and left more than 60,000 homeless.

It said that about 11,860 hectares of cropland were washed away and 63,500 hectares submerged.

The United Nations said last month that two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million people face chronic food shortages.

Original Article 

In the News – N. Korean visitors to China rise drastically since last year: data

Aside

In the News – N. Korean visitors to China rise drastically since last year: data

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) — The number of North Korean visitors to China increased drastically since then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s tour of the North’s biggest communist ally early last year, Chinese government data shows.

The data on the entry of foreigners obtained Sunday by Yonhap News Agency showed that 152,000 North Koreans entered China in 2011, a sharp rise from 116,000 the previous year. Out of the total, 114,000 were businessmen and laborers.

The comparable figures were 116,000 in 2010, 103,000 in 2009, 101,000 in 2008, 113,000 in 2007 and 110,000 in 2006.

The sharp rise is attributed to the visit to China by late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in May last year, apparently to enhance bilateral economic cooperation.

The Beijing government said at the time that Kim was invited “so he could have the chance to grasp the developments in China and make the most of them for the development of North Korea.”

The number of North Korean visitors to China will likely increase further this year as China has received 88,000 North Koreans for the first six months this year alone.

The statistics comes amid reports North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over from his father Kim Jong-il after the senior Kim’s sudden death in December, might soon come up with measures for economic reform.

The young Swiss-educated leader has often stressed the need to catch up with global trends in upgrading the country’s industries.

His father was rarely reported to be talking about global trends and instead focusing on “juche,” or self-reliance, ideology during a 17-year iron-fist rule of the impoverished state with nuclear ambitions.

The 28-year-old Kim recently sacked the chief of the North’s 1.2 million-strong Army, has been seen with his wife at official functions and has had North Korean troupes perform in Western style costumes.

Original Article 

In the News – Obama issues proclamation on Korean War Armistice anniversary

Aside

In the News – Obama issues proclamation on Korean War Armistice anniversary

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, July 27 (Yonhap) — U.S. President Barack Obama issued a proclamation Friday to commemorate the end of the Korean War 59 years ago, as the Pentagon hosted a formal ceremony to mark the anniversary.

“Today, on the 59th anniversary of the Military Armistice Agreement signed at Panmunjom, we honor all who served in the Korean War, and we pay lasting tribute to the brave men and women who gave their lives for our Nation,” Obama said in the proclamation. Panmunjom is a truce village in the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas.

The Korean War ended with an armistice agreement on July 27, 1953, after three years of fierce fighting between the invading North, supported by China, and the South with the help of the U.S. and other U.N.-coalition forces.

“Most of all, we honor the tens of thousands of Americans who gave their lives defending a country they had never known and a people they had never met,” Obama said. “Their legacy lives on not only in the hearts of the American people, but in a Republic of Korea that is free and prosperous; an alliance that is stronger than ever before; and a world that is safer for their services.”

More than 50,000 U.S. service members were killed during the war, according to government data.

Obama called upon all Americans to observe the day with “appropriate ceremonies and activities” to honor Korean War veterans.

He has issued the proclamation each year since taking office in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon held a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the anniversary.

Named, “Heroes Remember,” it began with a wreath-laying ceremony to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war
In his speech, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the Korean War is not “America’s forgotten war.”

“Today, thanks to the service and sacrifice of our veterans six decades ago, South Korea has grown strong and independent. South Korea is a trusted ally, an economic power, a democracy, a provider of security in the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world. To the veterans of this war: your sacrifice made a difference,” he said.

He pointed out the contrary fate of North Korea, “which remains a dangerous and destabilizing country that is bent on provocation and is pursuing an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction while its people are left to starve.”

Panetta said the U.S. needs to take a crucial lesson from the Korean War, in which lots of troops paid a heavy price due to a lack of necessary training and the right weapons.

“They were sent into a tough fight with little preparation,” he said. “That is a mistake that we will not make again. And that’s why today, coming out of a decade of war, we have put forward a strategy-driven defense budget to meet the challenges of the future.”

The Pentagon may face $500 billion in spending cuts on top of the $487 billion already being implemented.

Congress is stuck in a political deadlock, however, ahead of presidential elections in November.

Panetta emphasized the urgency for the U.S. to beef up combat readiness.

“The world remains a dangerous place, and America must maintain the decisive military edge. We must remain the most powerful military power on the face of the earth,” he said. “With this strategy, we will not only have the strongest military, but make no mistake: we will be ready to deter aggression — anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”

Original Article 

In the News – Both Koreas mark 59 years since war armistice after North announced military changes

Aside

In the News – Both Koreas mark 59 years since war armistice after North announced military changes

 

PANMUNJOM, Korea — Elderly North Korean veterans pledged loyalty to their 20-something leader in Pyongyang during Korean War armistice commemorations Friday that were being closely watched after Kim Jong Un reshuffled the military and revealed he’s married.

Over the last two weeks, Kim has taken on the title of marshal and replaced his army chief — once a key mentor. Both moves were seen as an effort to build loyalty among the million-man armed forces and solidify his credentials as commander.

North Korea also revealed Wednesday that the stylish woman at Kim’s side in some public appearances this month is his wife. Images of her walking with Kim were choreographed to show the leader as modern, mature and down-to-earth, analysts said, and contrast sharply to his intensely private father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled for 17 years before his death in December.

Kim Jong Un and his wife weren’t at Friday’s event. Hundreds of aging veterans were shown on state television in a huge auditorium as Choe Ryong Hae, the military’s top political officer, stood beneath giant portraits of Kim Jong Il and North Korea founder Kim Il Sung and urged the crowd to “follow the leadership of Marshal Kim Jong Un and win 100 out of 100 battles.”

North Korea later set off fireworks. At another location earlier in the day, soldiers from a tank unit named after military officer Ryu Kyong Su, famous in North Korea for leading troops during the war, also staged firing drills.

The commemorations are meant to kindle patriotism and loyalty in North Koreans, and especially the young, by showcasing veterans who fought for their country, said Kim Yeon-su of Korea National Defense University in Seoul.

Separately, North Korea is filling vacancies left by the sudden dismissal of former army chief Ri Yong Ho. Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency introduced the new military chief, Hyon Yong Chol, as Ri’s successor as a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party in a dispatch Friday. Hyon was promoted to vice marshal and chief of general staff after Ri was dismissed earlier this month. Kim Jong Un chairs the commission.

While South Korea and the U.S.-led U.N. forces that fought in the Korean War call Friday the 59th anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 conflict, North Korea calls it a celebration of “victory in the Fatherland Liberation War” and veterans streamed into the capital.

“Airports, railway stations and parking lots were crowded with delegates to the celebrations, their comrades-in-arms, families and relatives, people from all walks of life and youth and students,” KCNA said.

U.S. and South Korean officials marked the armistice at the border village of Panmunjom. Because no peace treaty was signed, the Korean Peninsula remains technically in a state of war.

Ahead of the anniversary, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry reiterated its long-standing demand that the United States sign a peace treaty with North Korea to replace the armistice.

Washington says normal ties will only come after North Korea abandons its pursuit of nuclear weapons and takes other steps. International nuclear disarmament talks have been stalled since late 2008, and animosity between the Koreas is high.

Original Article