Saturday, June 30, 2007

U.N. monitors satisfied with North Korea visit

U.N. monitors expressed strong satisfaction Friday with a rare visit to North Korea's main nuclear reactor, praising the communist regime for its cooperation in an indication Pyongyang is serious about meeting its promise to close the facility. It was the first IAEA visit to the facility since U.N. monitors were expelled from the country in 2002.

Pyongyang pledged to close Yongbyon in exchange for economic aid and political concessions in an agreement with the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. The purpose of the IAEA trip is to discuss shutdown and verification procedures with North Korea.

The 5-megawatt reactor, believed capable of churning out enough plutonium for one atomic bomb a year, is at the center of international efforts to halt North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea mounted its first atomic test explosion last October.

Other facilities his team saw at Yongbyon included an unfinished 50-megawatt reactor, the fuel fabrication plant and reprocessing plant.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Defected North Korean artists unite to raise profile

In an effort to reach out to the highly commercialized South Korean art world, a group of North Korean artists who defected to South Korea launched an organization on June 26 aimed at promoting the communist state's little-known style of artistry.

"However good they were in the North, they can't do it alone in the South. They are alienated," said Kim Yong-nam, the president of the association, who was a composer in North Korea before he defected in 2002.

[Yonhap News]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Condoleezza Rice to visit North Korea?

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may become the highest-ranking Bush administration official to visit North Korea.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun's special adviser said Monday that Rice's possible visit, in October or November, would pave the way for a four-way summit between two Koreas, the United States and China to discuss a peace settlement on the Korean peninsula and change the political landscape in Northeast Asia.

"Rice's trip can be realized when further progress is made to disable North Korea's nuclear facilities," Lee Su-hoon, chairman of the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative, told a local radio program.

"If Rice eventually goes to Pyongyang, North Korea will most likely take reciprocal steps," he said, predicting significant improvement in inter-Korean relations.

His comments come after a surprise visit to Pyongyang by chief U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill last week during which North Koreans promised to carry through with their nuclear obligations.

The last secretary of state to visit North Korea was Madeleine Albright in October 2000.


Monday, June 25, 2007

South Korea: On the 57th Anniversary of the Korean War

Four out of 10 Koreans in their 20s to 40s don't know which year the Korean War broke out. Asked when the Korean War broke out, 61.8 percent of the Gallup respondents correctly answered 1950, 38.2 percent replied "I don't know," and the remainder gave wrong years.

Most respondents showed no interest in defending their nation, agreeing with the statement, "If a war breaks out, I won’t return home."

Some 48.7 percent said they would return from abroad if a war broke out, down from 53.6 percent in December 2002. The proportion who said they would not come back rose from 31 percent to 45 percent in the same period. The biggest group of refuseniks were in their 20s (57.2 percent), followed by those in their 30s (51.8 percent), their 40s (45 percent) and their 50s (31.1 percent).

Comparing military strength between the two Koreas in 1999, more respondents felt South Korea was stronger (46.9 percent) than North Korea (32.6 percent). But this year, more opted for North Korea (45.4 percent) than South Korea (42.5 percent), reflecting greater fears since the North test-fired a nuclear bomb in October last year. Asked "Which country do you think North Korea’s nuclear weapons threaten most?" the largest proportion or 49.8 percent cited South Korea.

Asked who they think was responsible for the Korean War, 33.2 percent said both North and South Korea and another 33 percent North Korea. Some 18.2 percent blamed "powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula."

[Excerpt of a Chosun Ilbo article]

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Court permits remarriage of North Korean defectors in S. Korea

In a landmark ruling, a Seoul court cleared the way for North Korean defectors who left spouses in their communist homeland to remarry in the South, according to a news report.

Married North Korean defectors have so far been legally barred from remarrying in South Korea because they are already married in the North.

Under a revised law on the protection of North Korea defectors, people who have obtained South Korean citizenship after defection now can file for divorce "if it is unclear whether their spouse lives in the South."

[The Korean Herald]

Saturday, June 23, 2007

From a Lead Role in a Cage to Freedom

Lee Chan emerged as the unofficial leader of dozens of North Korean refugees held at the detention center in Bangkok, Thailand. S

tanding with attitude in a visitation pen filled with detainees from all over Southeast Asia, openly smoking cigarettes he had somehow managed to get, speaking in a cocksure manner, he seemed a natural-born leader. He loomed large.

Despite the hardships he had endured in the North and during his escape through China, he also looked younger than a man in his late 30s. But the months since his arrival in South Korea last December had changed him. He now lived in a place he had never imagined occupying, one of the new, nondescript towns on the periphery of Seoul, dotted with identical white-and-blue high rises.

“I’ve lost a lot of weight — it’s the stress from living in South Korea,” Mr. Lee said, shifting uneasily inside his own apartment, which he had furnished sparsely with part of the resettlement money the South Korean government gave to each North Korean arrival.

Worries were ruffling him. He had to pay off the $3,400 he owed the brokers who had smuggled him across China and through the Golden Triangle into Thailand. He had to find a way to bring over his 62-year-old mother, who is in hiding in northeast China. He had recently broken up with his girlfriend, a North Korean who had shared the journey with him to South Korea and had sustained him during the bleakest moments.

“When I think about all the things I have to do here, I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “I feel so small.”

[Excerpt from The New York Times]

Friday, June 22, 2007

Call North Korea to account, urges charity

North Korea’s ruling regime is guilty of crimes against humanity and should be called to account by the international community, a Christian human rights group said on Tuesday.

Its report, based on interviews with 80 North Korean former political prisoners and prison guards, comes amid fresh signs that Beijing is cracking down on North Koreans trying to flee across the border into China, a move ascribed to preparations for next year’s Olympic games.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a London-based non-governmental organisation, said action was urgently needed to redress the “glaring disparity” between the scale and seriousness of rights violations in North Korea and the international community’s limited and largely ineffectual response.

Meanwhile humanitarian workers who have recently visited the border between North Korea and China say there are “very alarming” signs of increased security on both sides of the Tumen river that separates the two countries.

Tim Peters of the humanitarian organisation Helping Hands, which helps North Koreans escape to safety, said he saw a sharp rise in the number of soldiers and guard dogs patrolling the border in late April.

“It looks like China is trying to quash any attempts by North Koreans to cross the border as part of their damage control before next year’s Olympics,” he said.

[Excerpt of an article by Anna Fifield, The Financial Times]

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

North Korean defectors testify before British Parliament

Two North Korean defectors testified before the British parliament about the life in North Korean gulags, Christian group officials said Wednesday.

Having spoken at a meeting of the All-Party British-North Korea Parliamentary Group in the Moses Room of the Houses of Parliament in London, Ahn Myeong-Cheol and Shin Dong-Hyok, both now settled in South Korea, also met with David Cameron, leader of Britain's opposition Conservative Party.

[Excerpt of an article by Sohn Suk-joo, Yonhap News]

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ideology of North Korean Women

''Everything is very rigid in North Korea,'' [a young, female, North Korean defector in Seoul] said, claiming that it was a taboo for women to smoke or wear their hair longer than shoulder-length, let alone consort with men in public or henna their hair, as she does now. ''If my friends in North Korea saw me now, they'd say, 'She's lost her mind,' '' she said proudly. ''I would be considered a bad, bad girl.''

She said that her two best girlfriends were in the North Korean military and that she thought it would be impossible for them to understand life here, though, at moments it seemed just as impossible for those who were here to understand.

In North Korea, they had been required to take daily ideology classes in which they were versed in the illustrious past of their leaders. Given the mythopoetics of the North Korean government and the propaganda -- Kim Il Sung singlehandedly beat back the Japanese, then the Americans; Kim Jong Il showed such scholarly aptitude that his teachers came to him for lessons -- they were instructed that their lives should be molded in the image of these gods and that strict discipline, order and sacrifice were necessary to achieve a state of juche, or self-reliance based on what was best for the collective.

[Excerpt of an article by Michael Paterniti, GQ magazine]

Monday, June 18, 2007

Human trafficking of North Korean Refugee Women

Along the tortuous road to defection, many North Korean women and girls fall victim to human traffickers or lived in extremely adverse conditions, and consequently are in worse health than men, a study conducted by Seoul National University found.

In April, the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs studied the health of 6,500 North Korean defectors who had arrived in South Korea between 2000 and 2005. It found a high infection rate for syphilis, at 1.8 percent in 2004 and 2.1 percent in 2005.

Women are also thought to have experienced far higher rates of rape and sexual assault, often through being trafficked by criminal gangs.

Of 700 women aged 20 to 49 hosted by the Hanawon reception center outside Seoul, one out of five suffered from some type of gynecological disorder.

[Radio Free Asia]

Sunday, June 17, 2007

North Korea: Atomic inspectors can return

North Korea has invited inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog back into the country to monitor the shut down of its main nuclear reactor, state media reports. A letter inviting a "working level" delegation to visit and monitor the suspension of the operations of nuclear facilities was sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency, North's Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday.

Earlier Saturday, frozen North Korean funds that were thawed as part of a February agreement to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program were transferred out of a bank in Macau, China, to a Russian bank, where North Korea has an account. The funding, $25 million, was frozen at the bank in late 2005 at the request of the United States, which claimed some of the funding came from illegal activities.

North Korea had been expected to announce its steps in implementing the six-party agreement upon confirmation of the money transfer. Under the agreement, North Korea will shut down its Yongbyon reactor and allow the IAEA back into the country to monitor the process.

In exchange for North Korea's denuclearization, United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia have pledged to provide the reclusive Communist nation with political and economic incentives and security guarantees.


Friday, June 15, 2007

North Korea Threats Over U.S. Missile Plan

North Korea lambasted U.S. efforts to build a missile defense system and vowed to increase its "self-defense deterrent," a term that the communist regime usually uses to refer to its nuclear program.

"The U.S. is claiming that it is building a global missile defense system to protect against missile attacks from our nation and Iran. This is a childish pretext," the North's ministry said in a statement carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

"We cannot but further strengthen our self-defense deterrent if (an) arms race intensifies because of the U.S. maneuvers," it said.

The North Korean warning came as Russia seemed reluctant to respond to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' assertion that the Bush administration will not replace its plan for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe with Moscow's counterproposal for a radar site in Azerbaijan.

[CBS News]

Western fears for ill Kim Jong

Kim Jong-il, the enigmatic despot who runs communist North Korea, may have undergone major surgery last month in an operation performed in secret by German doctors.

Reports of a heart bypass operation and failing health have thrown intelligence agencies in the US, China and South Korea into a state of high alert as the region contemplates the prospect of a leaderless, but nuclear-armed, North Korea.

Sources close to the regime say that its 65-year-old dictator was treated successfully for a blocked artery early last month. The German Heart Institute in Berlin confirmed it had sent a team of doctors to Pyongyang in May, but said that they were there to treat patients other than Mr Kim.

There have been persistent rumours that Mr Kim's health is in sharp decline, fuelled by a reduction in the number of his public appearances.

Michael Breen, a biographer of Mr Kim, said speculation was inevitable because of the "huge importance" of the leader's role in the stability of the region. "So much hinges on the health of this one man. It is of enormous significance to the peninsula if he dies. It could be the beginning of the opening of North Korea or the start of a period of profound instability," he said.

[The Australian]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

No greater love has a man than this

China has increased its punishments for its own citizens who are caught helping North Koreans. The penalty used to be a fine, but now it is jail for a year or two — or for a decade or more if someone smuggles escapees to South Korea.

“Now most Chinese don’t dare help the Koreans,” said one local official who secretly protects a safe house full of North Koreans — and who even stood guard outside as I interviewed them. “But I feel so badly for them. They’re just wretched.”

With the help of incredibly courageous conductors on the modern Underground Railroad, I visited four shelters.

The North Koreans I talked to described a society that is increasingly corrupt and disillusioned.

Chinese and South Korean missionaries are also beginning to evangelize secretly in North Korea, a sign of weakening government control. One Chinese Christian I talked to had made four trips into North Korea to evangelize. “If I’d been caught, I don’t think I would have been executed,” she said, “but it wouldn’t have been good.”

[Excerpt of an editorial by Nicholas Kristoff, The New York Times]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Survivors reveal horror of North Korean concentration camps

A survivor of a North Korean concentration camp have spoken out about the grim conditions in the gulag where inmates are left to die in tiny cells, in the latest accounts to shed light on the human rights atrocities carried out in the world's most isolated country.

A 27-year-old North Korean, Kim Eun Chul, was one of a group of seven fleeing their country in 1999 who were intercepted in Russia after they scrambled through barbed wire on the border with China. The Russians sent [he and another female refugee] back to China despite a UN decision to grant them refugee status. China, which remains North Korea's staunchest ally, allowed the seven to be handed back to North Korea which subsequently informed the UN that the majority had been returned to their homes and factory jobs.

But it was a lie. Instead, they faced torture and imprisonment for "betraying their homeland" by trying to flee the famine-hit North Korean "socialist paradise" in search of food. least five of the seven were dispatched to North Korea's Camp Number 15, known as Yodok in the West, where inmates labour 15 hours or more a day on meagre rations for such deeds as criticising the government or trying to escape because of famine, Mr Kim told the International Herald Tribune.

Kim Eun Chul, who now sports a crewcut and has pierced ears, said he spent three years at Yodok, and escaped to South Korea last year. His scalp, knees and arms still bear the scars of his prison experience.

Before being sent to Yodok, he said he was tortured at the National Security Agency, the government's intelligence and secret police organ. He was forced to kneel on a hot steel plate, and when he twitched, he was punished by kicks and punches. "After giving me nothing to eat for three days, they had my family bring some food," he said. "While I was watching, they fed it to another inmate. I wanted to tear the man apart and eat him."

[Excerpt of an article by Anne Penketh, The Independent]

Sunday, June 10, 2007

UN under fire over misuse of aid to North Korea

About $ 3 million of United Nations money aimed at helping impoverished North Koreans was instead used by the Pyongyang Government to buy property in France, Britain and Canada, the US State Department says.

"At first glance the allegations do not correspond with our own records, which we have scrutinised extremely closely in the past six months," a spokesman, David Morrison, said. Mr Morrison said the agency bought computers, GPS equipment and a spectrometer for forecasting weather patterns in flood- and drought-prone areas of the country.

A spokesman for the US mission to the UN, Ric Grenell, said the information indicated "an apparent misuse and diversion" of program funds, business dealings with "certain suspect entities affiliated with" North Korea, the program's procurement of "potential dual-use equipment" and information related to the further use of counterfeit US currency in North Korea.

But the State Department has not made public any documents to back up its accusations, and [the UN Ambassador] has declined to release details of the department's investigation.

The revelations come at a sensitive moment, as the Bush Administration has been working closely with other countries, particularly Russia, to arrange a transfer of $US24 million in tainted North Korean money to aid an agreement to shut down North Korea's nuclear reactor.

[Excerpt of an article by Glenn Kessler and Colum Lynch, The Washington Post]

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Tale of three North Korean rescuers

Three North Koreans -- Hong Jin-hee(38), Kim Hong-kyun(50) and Lee Soo-cheol(44) -- are now serving time in a Chinese prison for helping their fellow countrymen escape their poverty-stricken country.

Hong Jin-hee- Hong Jin-hee served in the North Korean military for 10 years. After his discharge, Hong got a job at a state-run company to earn foreign currencies, the most sought-after workplace in North Korea. At the time, North Korea was suffering from a famine, and as a growing number of people starved to death, Hong complained, "Why is it so hard to live these days?"

Someone reported Hong's "disloyal" remarks to the military intelligence service and Hong became a fugitive. Hong escaped alone across the North Korea-China border and made it to South Korea. He succeeded in bringing his family members over after they had been expelled to a rural area following Hong's defection.

Kim Hong-kyun - After graduating from an agricultural school, Kim Hong-kyun worked for the North Korean Workers' Party. He volunteered to work in Russia as a laborer. After concluding that the future was grim in his motherland, he defected to South Korea.

Lee Soo-cheol - He was a former guard with the security unit for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. After being discharged from the military, Lee became disillusioned by the bleak reality of North Korea. He fled the country with his in-laws in 1997.

After these three settled in South Korea, they began helping other North Koreans escape through Vietnam and Mongolia. The three changed strategies and helped defectors find refuge in Japanese and Canadian embassies in Beijing on September 1, 2004.

In 2004, Chinese police raided an apartment in Tongzhou in Beijing to arrest Lee and Kim, along with 60 North Korean escapees. Hong fled the scene but was arrested in Shenyang. Chinese authorities imprisoned the three for two years before trying them.

At a belated trial in 2006, the Chinese government sentenced Hong to seven years in prison, Kim to five years and Lee to two years.

[Chosun Ilbo]

Friday, June 08, 2007

North Korean crack down on Christian defectors

From an excerpt of an editorial by Nicholas Kristoff, in The New York Times:
In an archipelago of safe houses here, part of a 21st-century Underground Railroad, I met groups of people who live every moment with sickening fear.

These are North Koreans who have escaped “to the free world” — China — and are now at constant risk of being captured by Chinese police.

The North Korean authorities used to detain citizens returned by China for a few weeks or months and then release them after a bit of “re-education.” Now those returned by China are often sentenced to prison for several years, and repeat offenders or Christians can be sent with their entire families to labor camps for life.

Some North Koreans told me that their government now holds regular sentencing rallies, at which the punishments are publicly announced — or in extreme cases, such as those who became Christian evangelists while in China, the accused are executed in front of the crowd by firing squad.

One Christian I spoke to had been beaten so badly after his return by China that he tried to commit suicide by swallowing a handful of pins. The prison, not wanting to have to dispose of a corpse, freed him — and he eventually made his way back to China.

China Forcibly Returns 5000 North Koreans

China is reported to have forcibly repatriated a total of 4,809 North Korean escapees in 2002.

A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences disclosed his findings in a paper written for a college journal.

This paper reinforces claims by U.S. and Korean human rights activists that around 5000 North Korean escapees are send back to the communist state by Beijing against their will each year.

[Radio Korea International]

Thursday, June 07, 2007

North Korea test-fires missiles

North Korea test-fired several short-range missiles Thursday off its west coast, South Korea's defense ministry officials told CNN.

The test comes nearly two weeks after Pyongyang test-fired a short-range missile off its east coast. Short-range missiles have an approximate range between 90 and 500 miles (150-800km), according to the U.S. State Department.

After North Korea's May 25 missile test, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator for talks on North Korea's nuclear program, said "this is not unusual."

"From time to time, their military tests these short range missiles," Hill told reporters. "It is obviously not anything that is ever going to contribute to their security, and we would prefer they spend their time figuring out how to denuclearize and how to join the international community. But this is not unusual."


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Incredibly courageous conductors on the modern Underground Railroad

An editorial by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times highlights the the plight of escaped North Koreans forced back to North Korea by what he calls a "disgraceful breach" of obligations.

China punishes its residents who have been discovered helping North Korean refugees. Those who run safe houses used to face small fines, but now the government imprisons such safe house operators and some have been thrown in jail for over a decade in instances where the refugees have been smuggled into South Korea. Kristof refers to the Chinese who help the escaping North Koreans "incredibly courageous conductors on the modern Underground Railroad."

He makes mention of one such North Korean refugee: “In one shelter is a 14-year-old North Korean girl: shy, sweet and terrified. Her parents led her across the frozen Tumen River from North Korea in the middle of winter, but then they became separated while trying to flee the police. ‘I don’t know where my parents are, or if they are even alive,’ she said.”

Kristof then challenges the Bush Administration: "President Bush should raise China's breach of its international obligations with Hu Jintao. Mr. Bush might think of that 14-year old girl, who spends her days minding two nine-year-old boys whose mothers were caught and sent back to North Korea. ... They fear with every footstep outside their door that China will arrest them and send them back to their national torture chamber."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

North Korean refugee "shrivelled to the size of a dog"

Because of the nature of the totalitarian regime in North Korea, the only information about conditions inside the nuclear power's labour camps come from the rare defectors who manage to escape.

Pang Young Sil, was dispatched to North Korea's Camp Number 15, known as Yodok, the only woman among the seven North Korean refugees apprehended. Ms.Pang "shrivelled to the size of a dog" [according to a witness report] by the time she arrived in Yodok in July 2000 after months of torture by North Korea's notorious National Security Agency and died in the camp two months later.

Ms Pang fled North Korea because her parents would not allow her to marry her boyfriend Heo Young Il, according to another Yodok survivor, Kim Gwang Soo, 44, who spent three years in the camp located 70 miles north-east of Pyongyang. Mr Heo had been dishonourably discharged from the military and could not join the ruling Workers Party.

"Pang arrived in Yodok on a stretcher. The day she died, we buried her together. Heo cried a lot. He blamed himself for her death," said Kim Gwang Soo. "After his woman died, he got strange and tried to escape," Mr Kim went on. "I had to report him to the guards for my own safety, since I was in charge of looking over him and his escape would mean trouble for me.

"For a month, they locked him in a cell so small he had to stand or sit upright 24 hours a day, eating little food. Usually that meant death, but he came out alive."

"It's a terrible human tragedy," said Evans Revere, president of the New York-based Korea Society, referring to the camps where generations of the same family can be punished for a single crime.

[Excerpt of an article by Anne Penketh, The Independent]

Monday, June 04, 2007

North Korean defectors search out new escape routes

The decision by four North Korean defectors to brave 900 kilometers of open water in a small wooden boat to reach Japan suggests a level of desperation not seen before.

And it may signal that North Koreans are seeking out new routes to escape from the repressive regime in Pyongyang.

China traditionally was the route of choice. But after Beijing began to crack down out of consideration for its ties with North Korea, defectors started turning up all over Asia.

According to South Korean government officials as well as those who work with groups helping North Korean defectors, Thailand and Mongolia emerged as alternative escape routes from North Korea after China tried to put a stop to the exodus of North Koreans across its border. But now that both those nations have tightened their borders against defectors, North Koreans have been forced to consider alternative escape routes.

As one source working with a South Korean group helping North Korean defectors noted, "If the Japanese government grants asylum in this case, there may be an increase in the number of defectors who choose to make their way to Japan."

What does seem clear is that Japan's response to the issue will be closely watched.

[Excerpt of an article by Tadanao Takatsuki, The Asahi Shimbun]

Sunday, June 03, 2007

4 North Korean defectors treated well in Japan

Japanese authorities indicated Sunday they will comply with a request from a family of four North Korean defectors, to be sent to South Korea.

The family of three men and a woman were taken into custody after they arrived early Saturday at Fukaura port, Aomori Prefecture, in a small wooden boat. (7.3 meters long and about 1.8 m wide)

Aomori prefectural police were questioning the individuals to ascertain what they wanted.
The four spoke to police in Korean and explained that they left from a coastal area near Chongjin a week ago with the intention of reaching Niigata.

They also told police they wanted to go to South Korea eventually.

Police sources said the four explained that they escaped from North Korea because life is so difficult there. They told the police that "people cannot survive under the current regime." They said they chose Japan because the border separating the two Koreas is closely watched.

Police also found what appeared to be a small bottle of poison in the boat. The family members said they had planned to take the poison if they were captured by North Korean authorities.

A new law that went into effect in June 2006 states that the government must take measures to protect and support North Korean defectors.

[Excerpt of an article in Asahi Shimbun]

Saturday, June 02, 2007

No proof of UN funds diversion in North Korea: audit

An audit of operations of three UN agencies in North Korea has found no proof of US charges of systematic diversion of large-scale UN funding to the Pyongyang regime, the world body said Friday.

"The report does not indicate that large-scale UN funding has been systematically diverted, as has been alleged," said a statement released by UN spokeswoman Michele Montas.

North Korea angrily denied the US allegations, describing them as part of a smear campaign by hardliners in Washington to try to derail US-North Korean talks.

The preliminary UN Board of Auditors report did highlight hurdles UN funds and programs have faced in North Korea, particularly "independence of staff hiring, foreign currency transactions and access to local projects," the statement noted.

UNDP spokesman David Morrison told reporters Friday that over the past decade, funds from his agency amounted to less than two per cent of all development aid to North Korea, and only around roughly 0.1 per cent of foreign currency flowing into the Stalinist state.

UNDP suspended operations in North Korea on March 2 when Pyngyang failed to meet operational changes endorsed and mandated by the agency's executive board. The March suspension affected 20 projects with a budget of 4.4 million dollars, including food production and systems to help the government improve management of the economy, UNDP said.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Inter-Korea talks break down over rice dispute

High-level talks between two Koreas broke down amid a dispute over Seoul's suspension of food aid.

The 21st inter-Korean ministerial talks were bogged down by Pyongyang's protest to Seoul's decision to withhold a shipment of rice until Pyongyang follows through with a nuclear deal reached earlier this year.

Unification Minister Lee Jae-Joung, Seoul's chief delegate, told reporters that rice was the most difficult issue and that there were "frank discussions" on the matter.

On Thursday, North Korea's chief delegate Kwon Ho-ung lodged a protest against the delay in the rice provision. The South refused to concede, saying the rice aid is "difficult under the circumstances."

The dispute prevented the two Koreas from tackling other topics such as how to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to sources.

[Excerpt of an article by Jin Dae-woong, The Korea Herald]