Thursday, September 30, 2010

First photo of Kim Jong Un with military commission

Kim Jong Un, bottom left, and his father, bottom right center, are seen with the rest of the Workers Party of Korea's central military commission.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kim Jong Un, now four-star general and vice chairman of the North Korean Workers Party

Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was named vice chairman of the Workers Party of Korea's central military commission, North Korea's state news agency reported Tuesday.
Kim Jong Un, who is widely expected to be the successor to North Korea's "Dear Leader," was also named to the Central Committee of the party. And just prior to this, during the party conference, Kim Jong Un was promoted to a four-star general.
Kim Jong Il served a 20-year apprenticeship at his father's side. But with Kim Jong Il, now 68, and in poor health after suffering a stroke, analysts think succession plans have accelerated.
Kim Jong Il prioritized the military and bypassed the party. One key question if Kim Jong Un does inherit leadership: Can he sustain his grandfather's and father's legacy, even as North Koreans go hungry while the country pours money into its nuclear program and military?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What do we know about Kim Jong Un?

Who exactly is Kim Jong Un, the youngest son and expected heir to North Korea leader Kim Jong Il?
Kim Jong Un is described as "a chip off the old block, a spitting image of his father in terms of face, body shape and personality" by their former chef writing under the name of Kenji Fujimoto.

According to reports, Kim Jong Un was born in either 1983 or 1984 to Kim Jong Il's late third wife, Ko Yong Hui. His mother is described as "doting" to Jung-un and nicknamed him the "Morning Star King".  (She died in 2004, reportedly from breast cancer.)

Kim Jong Un attended school in Switzerland during the 1990s and was trained in English, German and French. While there he avoided any Western influences and mostly dined with the North Korean ambassador. He then studied military science at Kim Il Sung Military University between 2002 and 2006.

He is believed to be much more ambitious than either of his brothers.

Like his father, Jong Un is believed to already have diabetes and heart disease due to a lack of exercise. One report pegs him at 5'9 and about 200 pounds. Despite his stature, he is said to be a basketball fan.

Unlike his father, there is no cult of personality for Jong Un. He is not well-known to North Koreans, although there are reports the propaganda machine is gearing up for Jong-un. Some 10 million portraits are being prepared of him to hang alongside his father and grandfather, reports say. There have also been poems and songs written about him promoting his leadership qualities.

However, Jong Un will not be able to control the country on his own immediately after his father's death. Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law, Jang Song Taek, is also on the defense commission and is seen as a power broker behind the scenes.

North Korea and China in joint hunt for defectors

The Asahi Shimbun speculated a hunt for North Korean defectors in China is part of efforts by the North to tighten the regime's control ahead of an extraordinary congress of the Workers Party that starts Tuesday.

Chinese and North Korean sources are saying some 100 secret police from several security agencies in North Korea have teamed up with hundreds of armed Chinese police to round up North Korean defectors throughout China. "It appears that scores of North Korean defectors have been arrested by the teams and repatriated to the North," the Asahi Shimbun reports.

North Korean secret police have been homing in on Yunnan Province and its vicinity, a major defection route to Vietnam, Laos or Thailand, and on South Korean and Korean-Chinese businesses suspected of harboring North Korean defectors. They are combing Shandong Province on the eastern coast and Guangdong Province on the southern coast, which are home to many such enterprises.

"To arrest North Korean defectors, some North Korean secret police disguise themselves as defectors, and others work undercover at South Korean or Korean-Chinese stores or companies," the daily said.

Monday, September 27, 2010

North Korean heir Kim Jong Un promoted to general

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's youngest son apparently was among more than 30 military promotions announced Monday by his father during celebrations of the Workers' Party of Korea's 65th anniversary, North Korea's state news agency reported.

Two senior U.S. administration officials said this was expected and will likely pave the way for eventual transition of the son to replace his father.

Kim Jong Il's sister, Kim Kyong Hui, was apparently also promoted to general, according to the state-run KCNA news agency.

"This appears to be the first public mention of Kim Jong Il's son by the North Korean media," said Mike Chinoy, the author of "Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis."

Chinoy said the announcement was a step in laying down the foundation for a transition."It's significant that there was an explicit reference to him, and the position of general is a very senior one, obviously," he said.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jang Song-taek, not Kim Jong-un , is the man to follow in North Korea

The historic conference of the Korean Workers’ Party this week is Kim Jong-il’s coming-out party for his third son, Kim Jong-un, the heir apparent who is so enigmatic, the outside world isn’t even certain what he looks like. 
But in the shadows stands an even more obscure figure, a power player at the center of an uncertain struggle over who will hold the reins to the nuclear-armed Hermit Kingdom after the ailing Dear Leader.

It’s 64-year-old Jang Song-taek. Jang has over the last couple of years become Kim Jong-il’s right-hand man, groomed to be the regent for the younger Kim. At least at the start, the son Kim Jong-un will be little more than a figurehead.

Jang was promoted this June to vice chairman of the National Defense Commission—which controls the military—making him the second most-powerful man in the country.

According to An Chan-il, a North Korean defector and head of the World Institute for North Korean Studies, Jang is only one of three confidants who speaks directly to the Dear Leader—the other two being Kim Jong-un and Jang’s wife, Kim Kyonghui, who happens to be the Dear Leader’s sister.
Several generals are reportedly upset at Jang’s position, including Kim Jong-gak, head of the Korean People’s Army; O Kuk-ryol, vice chairman of the NDC; and Kim Yong-chun, minister of the People’s Armed Forces.

In his new defense post, Jang officially controls the internal security forces, including the secret police. Part of this portfolio includes customs and border patrols, which have recently been ramped up to forestall the growth of private markets and cross-border smugglers. But his reach extends much further. During the shaky period following Kim Jong-il’s stroke in August 2008, he was thought to have taken over everyday decision-making power. If all goes according to plan, he will now serve as the behind-the-scenes administrator to Kim Jong-un until the younger Kim can keep the party chiefs in line himself.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Post-Kim succession could bring moderation in North Korea

Could reform follow the rule of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il? When a Communist dictator dies, moderation follows. It's a virtual axiom of political science, supported by much of 20th-century history. 
Soviet and Chinese Communist history is instructive. After Joseph Stalin's death in March 1953, new Soviet Premier Georgi Malenkov spoke and acted in decidedly non-Stalinist ways. Under Malenkov, Stalin's ruthless secret police chief, Lavrenti Beria, amnestied thousands of political prisoners from the Gulag in 1953.

Likewise, in Communist China soon after Mao Zedong died in 1976, reformers began to lead the party. Successors like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have enacted a train of more moderate, non-Maoist domestic and foreign policies. A similar pattern appears to be under way in Cuba as Raúl Castro gradually relaxes some of his ailing, comandante brother's harshest policies.

There already are faint signs of a post-Kim succession in Pyongyang, one that could bring moderation in policy. This process could take the form of relaxing Kim's strictly centralized, statist economic principles, which in turn could lead to a gradual transition to Chinese-style market economics. Moderation of foreign policy could well follow, as it did in the other postautocrat Communist dictatorships.

North Korea reinstated Pak Pong-ju, a former prime minister who was purged in 2007 for his market-oriented reform policies. His return to power may signal a fresh willingness by Kim and his circle to consider modernizing steps.

 [Excerpt of an article by Albert L. Weeks, professor emeritus of New York University]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Factional in-fighting inside North Korea government?

It is reported that factional in-fighting has broken out between Jang Song-taek, North Korea’s second-in-command, and a group of senior reform-minded officials, according to a source who has recently met people at the highest levels of the North Korean government.

Jang, 64, is married to Kim's sister and "always believed the crown would be his [one day]", according to the source. His ambition may yet be fulfilled, since many observers believe he could take charge of North Korea as a regent while Kim's third son, the 28-year-old Kim Jong-un, gains experience.

However, Jang has recently seen his hard-line views being challenged by a group of reformists, bent on opening up the North Korean economy to Chinese-style capitalism. The source, who was approached by top North Korean officials and asked to invest in the country, added. "The government does want to open up, and the only thing stopping them from doing so is Jang."

The split in the Workers' Party, which echoes the division in the Chinese Communist party between hardliners and reformists during the 1970s and 1980s, may have prompted the recent two-week delay of the first party conference for nearly 45 years.

Meanwhile, the source said he felt that Kim Jong-un would eventually be appointed to lead the country. "North Korea does not want to be economically-dependent on China, and they want to break the umbilical cord, but Beijing has groomed Kim Jong-un, so it will be hard," he said.

[The Telegraph]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

North Korea, the Kim Family Regime

The 28,000 American troops stationed near the 38th parallel use a simple acronym to refer to North Korea: KFR, the Kim Family Regime. The fact that the Kim Family Regime has lasted this long is a puzzle to many Western observers. While the leaders feast on imported lobster and drive luxury cars, there is not enough electricity to light the country at night.
Yet despite their poverty, North Koreans remain politically loyal to the Kims, with almost half the people who leave the bankrupt state returning voluntarily, according to Korea specialist B.R. Myers."Even today, with a rival state thriving next door, the regime is able to maintain public security without a ubiquitous police presence or a fortified northern border," he remarks.

The loyalty stems from a racial belief, instilled by propaganda, that Koreans are too pure to survive in the world without the protection of first the Great Leader and then his son. To the rest of the world, Kim Jong-il appears petulant and capricious but to North Koreans his vulnerability compared to his father and his steadfast fight against perceived American aggression make him a "dear" leader.
But the remarkable personality cult is waning as more and more information confronts the official line. Judging from the occasional leaked reports, the government is beginning to lose its iron grip. If the succession does not go according to plan, the world faces the prospect of a nuclear-armed state spiralling out of control and 22 million people needing emergency relief.

American soldiers are aware that they face the possibility of having simultaneously to conduct a relief operation and fight off the 100,000-strong North Korean special-operations forces lining the Demilitarised Zone. Then there is the question of whether or not the US Army has liaised with the People's Liberation Army about a contingency plan. What happens when Chinese and American soldiers find themselves face to face on North Korean soil?

To preserve its fragile stability, North Korea's only solution is to change rapidly. "If the regime does not open up economically, the country will barely progress. But even with a little more openness, North Korea can make enormous economic gains," says Ulrich Kelber, a German MP who recently visited Pyongyang.

[The Telegraph]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Appeal for dynastic rule in North Korea

We can speculate about the future in what is arguably the world's most secretive country, but we can never be sure that our guess has been proved right. The incumbent North Korean leader is now 68 years old, and ailing. Western observers have been predicting his "imminent" departure for the last five or six years, yet he remains. 

In his speech at a recent Senate hearing, Kurt Campbell, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, described North Korea as a "black box" and lamented that American intelligence reports on the reclusive regime are often inaccurate. When asked by Senator John McCain whether the U.S. Administration expected Kim Jong-un to replace his father, Campbell quipped: "Your guess is as good as ours, Senator."

That said, however, some signs of change can be discerned on the North Korean horizon. On September 28, the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) is due to hold a national congress in Pyongyang. The last time the party held a conference on such a scale was exactly three decades ago. At its 1980 congress, then President Kim Il-sung officially presented his successor, Kim Jong-il. However he did not take over immediately. He only become North Korea's head of state on his father's death in 1994, having spent the preceding fourteen years working his way up the government ladder.

Kim Jong-il is likely to approach the succession issue just as his father once did. Even if he presents his son to the WPK gathering as his heir apparent later this month, the designated helmsman-in-waiting may spend years rising through the ranks.

Portraits of the heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, now 28-29 years of age, have print runs approaching the millions in Korea, and the country's army is being taught songs with lyrics celebrating the "glorious son." 

The message Pyongyang authorities are trying to get across ahead of the landmark WPK congress is that the passage of power from father to son will protect North Korea from political upheavals like those that struck the USSR and China. Dynastic rule in fact seems surprisingly appealing. Not least because of the safeguards it offers against the trials and tribulations of a change of government.

[RIA Novosti]

North Korean defectors worry about Kim Jong-Un assuming power in North Korea

With conditions inside North Korea so desperate, many are willing to risk the border crossing in search of work and food. Lee So-ra, a 51-year-old mother crossed at the end of last month. She told us she saw people dying of hunger just a few weeks ago.

"Right before I came to China I saw a person, sitting outside a public toilet. I said 'Don't sit here go to the entrance of the market, maybe someone passing by will give you a candy or bread.'

"They said they didn't have enough energy. Two days later they died, right there. There are many people like that, so weak they starve to death," says Mrs Lee.

Mrs Lee says she hopes the regime comes to an end. She fears more hardships if Kim John-Unn, who's thought to be 27 years old, takes over. "Everybody is worried about it. We worry about how someone so young, will be able to be our leader, running the country, because he doesn't have the capability, he's a person without experience or skills."

A third woman, Kim Soon-young, who'd crossed to China recently, told us that ordinary North Koreans have been told nothing about Kim Jong-Il's son, even though he may soon be their leader.
"We don't know anything about him. I never even saw a picture of him until I came here to China," Mrs Kim tells me. "We don't know what he looks like or what he's done. All I knew was that he is a three-star general and a new propaganda song came out about him."

Coming to China has, she says, opened her eyes to the way North Koreans are kept isolated, impoverished, starved of information and food, and so controlled by the Kim dynasty.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Starvation and death in North Korea: “We live like dogs”

Near where the Chinese border meets North Korea, we met some who had recently escaped from North Korea. All told us that hunger and starvation are returning to their country.

"Recently people started dying. If there's no food people starve,"  says a woman who we'll call Choi Young-hee. "You see lots near the train stations. People without homes, they go there to sleep. Many of them die." 

Mrs Choi is a grandmother in her 70s. A couple of months ago she paid smugglers to carry her across the heavily-guarded river that separates North Korea from China. Her daughter also tried to cross, was caught and is now serving a three-year sentence in a North Korean political prison.

"We don't ask to wear good clothes, to dance or play. We only want full stomachs. But every day we wake up and our first thought is 'How are we going to get some food for breakfast?' Then 'How are we going to get something for dinner?'," she says. 

"Living like that makes people go crazy. Just brush against someone in the street and they will start fighting you. In their hearts everyone knows we live like dogs. But no-one can say it out loud."


Monday, September 20, 2010

North Korea ruling party to meet September 28

North Korea's ruling party will host its largest meeting in decades on September 28 to pick new leadership, the official Korean Central News Agency has just reported.

"The conference of the WPK for electing its supreme leadership body will take place in Pyongyang on Sept. 28," KCNA reported the Worker's Party of Korea said.

The party has not convened its delegates in decades, and speculation that North Korea's political leaders are working to set the stage for a possible handover of power from Kim Jong Il to his youngest son Kim Jong-Un is widespread.

With Kim Jong-Il now 68, and in poor health after suffering a stroke, analysts believe succession plans have accelerated.

Small S. Korean church exposes North Korean secrets

A little-known South Korean Christian group, The Caleb Mission, is doing its best to expand what outsiders know about neighboring North Korea.

The Caleb Mission has gained some recognition in recent months for releasing clandestine video of life inside the reclusive North, and now it has provided VOA with what it says is a secret North Korean military manual that regional security analysts consider authentic.

Reverend Kim Sung-eun runs the Caleb Mission in Cheonan, about 80 kilometers south of the capital, Seoul. His wife, he says, is a former lieutenant in North Korea's army. She is one of 30 or so defectors from the North who are frequently seen at the mission.

Kim says he is in regular contact with collaborators inside North Korea. Some secretly videotape what is going on in the country, which is virtually sealed off from the outside world. Others, he says, smuggle out official documents.
Kim says he has information detailing North Korean-sanctioned manufacturing and exporting of illicit drugs and the country's extensive network of internment and re-education camps for political prisoners.

The pastor gave VOA a partial copy of what appears to be a 2005 North Korean military manual that details electronic warfare countermeasures, such as using radar-absorbing paint to camouflage jets and ships. Kim says they decided to release the manual because their colleagues inside North Korea are taking great risks by working on their projects. Thus, he explains, he wants to see some recognition for their efforts.

Daniel Pinkston, a long-time North Korea scholar and an analyst in Seoul for the International Crisis Group, considers the document important. "It's certainly useful for analysts on the outside. And I would agree anyone in North Korea, any KPA (Korean People's Army) soldiers or officers who would smuggle such a document out of the country, if they were to be caught, would suffer serious consequences. It would be a great risk to them, of course," he said.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

North Korea document names Kim Jong-Un as heir

North Korea's ruling party has named the son of absolute leader Kim Jong-Il as his heir apparent in an official document, a Japanese daily the Tokyo Shimbun said on Sunday.

The newspaper quoted North Korean sources, and said it had seen photographs showing parts of the document, which it added was circulated by senior officials in the party's central Pyongyang chapter.

The text said Jong-Un had "received a revolutionary education and influence from the beloved supreme commander (Kim Jong-Il) and his respected mother to equip himself with the dignity and qualities necessary for a great successor to the Songun (military-first) revolution," according to the daily.

It added that Kim Jong-Il had put his heart into giving his son the "qualities of an all-conquering great commander and an outstanding statesman excellent both in the arts of pen and sword".

The document quoted the son as saying that the leader has "taught me a profound truth about the rifle troops and helped me build ties with them".


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why North Korea defectors become refugees a second time

More and more North Korean defectors who danced with death to flee famine and oppression for a new life of freedom in South Korea are migrating to other countries in search of jobs. A growing number of North Korean defectors who have obtained South Korean citizenship are now seeking false refugee status in Europe, causing a diplomatic predicament for Seoul.

Some 1,000 North Koreans have sought asylum in Britain since 2004, of which 70 percent have been discovered to have South Korean citizenship. Norway, too, has caught 20 fake asylum-seekers from North Korea. The Foreign Ministry estimates some 600 North Koreans with South Korean citizenship have been kicked out of Britain and Norway and have nowhere to go.

Once in South Korea, defectors from North Korea are provided with housing, job training, education and health benefits to help them settle in the capitalist South Korean society. So their leaving suggests they fail to find a future in the South.

These defectors risked their lives to make it to South Korea in hopes of finding a better future. They probably tried their utmost to adapt. While most earn a living doing day-to-day labor, what pains them is contempt and neglect from South Korean society.

[JoongAng Daily]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What goes into getting the news out of North Korea

Almost every night, seeking to gather opinion from North Korea where opinion is often punishable, Kim Un Ho calls North Korea.

The conversations never last long, as Kim believes his calls can be tapped within two or three minutes. Kim says he knows this because, as a North Korean police officer before he defected in December 2008, he sometimes monitored the conversations.

Kim Un Ho now works as a reporter for Seoul-based Free North Korea Radio. The nightly routine testifies to the difficulty of gathering information from within the world’s most reclusive state. Kim first calls a friend who lives close to the Chinese border, where a smuggled foreign cellphone receives a clear signal.

When Kim reaches his friend, the friend uses a second phone — a North Korean line — to call one of Kim’s police sources in Pyongyang. The friend then places the North Korean phone and the Chinese phone side-by-side, volume raised on the receivers, allowing Kim an indirect, muffled connection.
For extra caution, the conversations rely on code words.

[The Boston Globe]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dozens killed in North Korea typhoon as conference postponed

Dozens of people died in North Korea in floods and landslides caused by a typhoon which hit the country earlier this month, state media has said. Nearly 9,000 buildings were destroyed and roads, railways and power lines were badly damaged, the report said. And some 65km (40 miles) of railway tracks were also washed away.

It has prompted speculation that a rare ruling party conference has been delayed to deal with the situation.

Good Friends, a South Korean humanitarian group with contacts in the North, said the meeting had been postponed as many delegates were unable to travel. Many analysts expect the meeting to give some indication of who will succeed Kim Jong-il. 


Monday, September 13, 2010

Korean cross-border tensions easing

South's first aid shipment to its neighbor since the Cheonan warship row in March is the latest sign cross-border tensions are easing.

The aid, enough for 100,000 people for 100 days, is expected to reach the country's hard-hit north-west within a month.

The $8.5m package, to be funded by the government, is the south's first aid shipment to North Korea since the sinking of a warship in March reduced bilateral relations to their lowest point for years. Seoul says its vessel was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, a claim Pyongyang still denies.

The thaw in inter-Korean ties came amid reports that the failing health of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, had delayed the opening of a ruling party meeting in Pyongyang, where he was expected to name his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor.

The countries may resume reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended in an uneasy armistice but no peace treaty. 

Hopes were also raised today for a resumption of multiparty talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Stephen Bosworth, Washington's special envoy to North Korea, said he was "optimistic" that Pyongyang could be persuaded to rejoin the talks. "I would stress we are not setting any timetables," said Bosworth, who is in the region attempting to revive the process.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

North Korean defectors have a problem with Kim Jong Un taking over

With Pyongyang set for a Workers’ Party convention that could trumpet the country’s next leader — Kim Jong Il’s youngest son — defectors who speak regularly to North Koreans hear plenty of opinions reflecting what Kim Un Ho described as a broad sentiment against hereditary succession.

“Of 10 people I talk to,’’ he said, “all 10 have a problem with Kim Jong Un taking over.’’

Just as North Koreans know little about their potential future leader, the rest of the world knows almost nothing about North Korean opinions. Recent academic research, based on surveys with defectors, suggests that North Koreans are growing frustrated with a government that allowed widespread starvation in the early 1990s and orchestrated brutal currency reform in 2009 that was designed to wipe out the private markets that enable most residents to feed themselves.

The defectors are motivated to emphasize the worst-case scenario in their homeland. There are some who think that Kim Jong Un will take power and gradually lead North Korea to Soviet-style reforms. Some defectors say that even though the younger Kim is largely unknown, they hope he will allow for a free economy after his father dies.

Sohn Kwang Joo, chief editor of the Daily NK, a Seoul-based publication focusing on North Korea, receives frequent reports from stringers in four North Korean provinces. Those ground-level reporters, gathering information mostly from intellectuals, farmers, and laborers, suggest to Sohn that “8 or 9 out of every 10 people are critical of Kim Jong Un.’’

A recent report from PSCORE, a Seoul-based nongovernmental organization promoting harmony on the Korean Peninsula, suggested that two party officials were sent to a gulag last month for slandering the chosen heir.

Kim Young Il, a PSCORE director who was in China during Kim Jong Il’s recent trip, said, “Criticism of Kim Jong Un is very strong. . . . What you see now is face-level loyalty, but it’s not genuine.’’

[The Boston Globe]

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Food aid for North Korea could benefit South Korean farmers

Domestic farming groups in South Korea, sitting on stockpiles of surplus rice, turned hopeful on the news that North Korea was requesting rice aid from South Korea. The central and local governments also have to worry about running out of silos to store the swelling supplies of rice.

The ruling party has good reasons to suggest the resumption of rice aid to North Korea even though cross-border ties have been severed following the North’s attack on the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in March.

While South Korea battles with excess, our impoverished neighbors in the North face dire shortages of food. No matter how strong Kim Jong-il believes himself to be, he cannot leave his people to go on starving.
If Kim came up with the idea of seeking aid from South Korea after his recent visit to China, we may even anticipate a breakthrough in the frozen bilateral relations. Asahi Shimbun editor in chief Yoichi Funabashi, upon returning from China, believes Kim promised Beijing leaders that Pyongyang will act more flexibility toward South Korea and the United States.

It may be an overstatement to say that North Korea’s latest aid request for rice and heavy equipment suggests a turning point in the recalcitrant country’s policy toward South Korea. But it can be a start.

The provision of aid at this stage could indeed help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

[ JoongAng Ilbo]

Friday, September 10, 2010

Activists float leaflets into North Korea

Some 200 members of the North Korean defectors' group, Fighters for Free North Korea, and conservative South Korean organizations, sent 100,000 pamphlets attached to 10 helium balloons into North Korea on Thursday, the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of North Korea.

The leaflets condemn North Korea's three generations of hereditary rule. "Was 62 years of dictatorship not enough to oppress the people of North Korea?" the pamphlets read in part, ahead of a North Korean party congress that is expected to anoint leader Kim Jong-il's son as his heir.

[Chosun Ilbo]

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The politics of North Korean need and South Korean aid

South Korea is in the process of providing the flood-ravaged North Korea with emergency aid, purportedly on humanitarian grounds.
Apparently in the hope of receiving those items, the North sent back a South Korean fishing boat and its crew on Tuesday, whom it had held in custody for a month for allegedly trespassing into its territorial waters. Reportedly, the South Korean government is favorably considering the North’s request.

Before making a final decision, Seoul will have to take into consideration the remarks President Lee Myung-bak made in May on North Korea’s March 26 torpedo attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan. He said aid would be limited to humanitarian purposes until after the North acknowledged the unprovoked act of hostility and offered an apology.

[Korean Herald]

Monday, September 06, 2010

Preparing North Korean hearts and minds for Kim Jong-un succession

Kim Jong Un as a student
In recent days, North Korean schoolchildren have taken to the streets to sing “Footsteps”, a song many believe was written for Kim Jong-Il's third son, Kim Jong-un, who is tipped to become the third member of the dynasty to rule the communist state.

In addition, thousands of people waving plastic flowers spent the weekend rehearsing for a parade, according to China's Xinhua news agency.

The city is reportedly decked out in posters announcing the upcoming Korean Workers' party Congress. "Let's make this a festive event that will shine in the history of our country and people," read one seen in footage from AP Television News.

The Rodong Sinmun, the party's newspaper, said delegates from across the country were poised to approve key policies and personnel changes at the heart of the regime's leadership. The meeting appears to coincide with the 62nd anniversary, on 9 September, of North Korea's founding by Jong-un's grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

In a typically colorful commentary, the Rodong Sinmun said: "The people's hearts awaiting the revolutionary, festive occasion heat up due to their joy and happiness."

Speculation that Kim Jong-un will eventually succeed Kim Jong-il has intensified since his 68-year-old father suffered a stroke two years ago. The meeting is the first party congress since 1980, when Kim Jong-il was confirmed as Kim Il-sung's successor, although he did not become leader until his father's death in 1994.

[The Guardian]

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Handing over power in North Korea to “the rising generation”

Expectations are high that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will use an upcoming meeting of party elites to introduce his heir apparent, initiating the Stalinist dictatorship's second hereditary power transfer.

Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong un, is widely expected to be given at least one high-level leadership position - the first step to claiming absolute power on a par with his father's. Experts differ on whether the younger Kim's rise will be publicly heralded.

Park Hyeong-jung, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification adds, "The appointment of the officials can give us an idea about how North Korea will run the nation."

During Kim Jong Il’s trip to China last week, among the Korean officials who accompanied Kim was Song Taek, Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law, who is expected to act as a regent for the power transfer.

In recent days, North Korea has escalated its rhetoric about the "rising generation," though Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency has not mentioned Kim Jong un by name.

According to a transcript of Kim's speech in China, published by the KCNA, he said that given the "complicated" international situation, "it is our important historical mission to hand over to the rising generation the baton of the traditional friendship."

A subsequent 2,860-word account of the trip, also published by the KCNA, made three references to China-North Korea relations as one "generation is replaced by another."

[The Washington Post]

Saturday, September 04, 2010

North Korea angling for foreign investment

A regular visitor to North Korea says North Korea is angling for foreign investment with a new government body set up to attract money into the isolated country.
Glyn Ford, a former member of the European Parliament who has been to North Korea more than 20 times and is now working for the EastWest Institute think-tank, said the country appeared keen to press forward with the move.
“All the messages I’ve been getting over the past six months or more are about bringing in inward investment,” he told the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Beijing. “There’s certainly a jockeying in Pyongyang to actually be part of the membership and the staffing of that state investment committee,” he added.
“It’s not full-blooded economic reform -- the North Koreans want to edge forward,” Ford said. “The problem they’ve got is that if they want to follow either Vietnamese or Chinese-style reform they require inward investment.”
China is already heavily involved in the North’s economy, and Ford said he expected it would only really be Chinese companies that would take advantage of Pyongyang’s move. “I was told that 80% of what’s coming in North Korea at the moment is Chinese and I’m told there’s a lot of Chinese investors nosing around in North Korea,” he said.