Thursday, June 28, 2007

North Korea to probe abducted Japanes

I don't know if anyone would read my post, but still, I found an Article about North Korea will conduct internal investigation on Japanese abductees to the North.
As we all know (from today's quiz) diplomatic normalization between North Korea and Japan could not be achieved due to this issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped to the North (probably to teach the North Korean intelligence agents to be sent to Japan - what would they feel!)
I hope DPRK to approach this problem with some sincerity (not like last time when they provided the Japanese government remains of the random people - proved that he/she was not Japanese.)

Rankings of the Korean Language

I just wanted to post this in relation to Dr. Peterson's speech, he commented on the high ranking of the Korean language in usage and popularity. There is some variation, the World Almanac lists Korean at number 10 while places it at 13. Overall I agreed with what Peterson had to say about the potential positive effect that South Korea can have on the world. It was a interesting to contrast with the vastly different realm that is North Korea.

the World Almanac - -The 50 Most Widely Spoken Languages -

Extra Credit Lecture

I attended the 4pm Peterson (or is it Petersen?) lecture at the Elliott School today. Though I was very impressed with his knowledge of ancient Korea, I had hoped that he would focus on modern history about which I know far more and am primarily interested in (thanks to our class). I was intrigued by his repeated belief that the peninsula would be peacefully reunified someday; I'm not sure that I agree with him on either count and he gave little evidence to back up this assertion, aside from characterizing (rightly it seems) South Korea as a peace loving nation with a non-interventionist track record (South Korea has never attacked another country).

The end of the lecture featured some lively give and take between the speaker and audience, the latter including representatives from some sort of Korean organization within the State Department.

Our Presentations

I thought the book reviews all went really well! It was fascinating listening to so many different views and subjects within the area of North Korea in general. I think the range of books were great too, because we heard touches of history, politics, economics, and society. At first going into it I thought there was no way we would each be able to talk about a book for 10 minutes, but that time quickly flew by! I find it amusing that after just 6 weeks of learning about North Korea we find ourselves criticizing authors who have spent much longer on the subject, but such is the beauty of class I suppose! I personally found the reviews on torture and personality traits of Kim to be the most fascinating- and quite sad for the torture as well. It is incredible to me that people could force others to go through that type of horror, but from our studies the reasons why and background are at least a little more familiar. Good job everyone!

North Korea -Ebay!

As its tough to get North Korean stuff being as the country is on the "Axis of Evil" heres a link to some North Korean items being sold on ebay. Everything you can think of stamps, posters, costers, money, flags, dvd's, etc...
I just put through an order for a Kim Il-sung pin like the ones Myers talks about in his book.

UN inspectors finally allowed back to NK

As noted here, UN inspectors are back in North Korea today to visit a nuclear plant for the first time since they were kicked out in 2002. This comes at a convenient time, and probably has a lot to do with the transfer of funds that just occurred finally. If all goes well, IAEA inspectors will also be allowed back in to do formal inspections. Though the reason for the visit was not explicitly explained, I would assume it was to check on the progress of closing the reactor. The article also talks about how North Korea has agreed to look into the kidnapping case as well. I'm sure that the DPRK has kept a close eye on the victims, and it would be easy to allow Japan access to them if they really wanted to.

Jimmy Carter

As you all know, former President Jimmy Carter was key in deescalating the nuclear situation between the U.S. and North Korea. As I was surfing the internet, I came across this article entitled "U.S.-North Korea war seems 'strong possibility". The author of this article is Jimmy Carter, it was published in 2003. Carter says that another war with North Korea is possible and that North Korea has "a cultural and almost sacred commitment for its leaders not to back down, even in the face of international condemnation and the most severe political and economic pressure". This sounds very typicall of North Korean diplomacy.
The article does not have much new information but the interesting thing is that it is a first hand account and primary resource about the incidents with North Korea.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Even in animation??

I was surfing the internet and found a North Korean animation. It was about a pencil cannonball. I know, when we watched North Korean documentary film in class, school had posters on the wall which included image of rocket. I didn't think it seriously But see here This is hilarious. Every animation had some kinds of lesson about military or against Japanese. It might be because choices of posters but it is still too much.

Specify- free medical care...

This article Portrays that North Korea views people with disabilities as a nuisance, therefore the numbers given for people with disabilities may be underestimated. Many communist states distort images or figures of aspects they see as negative. In the past they have denied the existence of disabled people in North Korea. The situation has somewhat improved since they have established a federation for their protection. Sadly as we have seen in the constitution I highly doubt this federation has much activity.

Workers & oppressed people of the World Unite!

I found the title of this website hillrious. This article describes the wonderful celebration on April 15 for the eternal President and the long living legacy in his son; resisiting the Capitalist world. It discusses the abundance of performaces and precise training. It lacks to mention the famine, poverty and the oppressed people who are scared to unite for other reasons aside from Kim Il Sung or Kim Jung Il.

Film Festivities in Pyongyang

I am a big fan of going to movies (I mentioned my favorite movie theater a few weeks earlier; E Street Cinema shows the occasional South Korean flick) and all this talk of Kim Jong-il's cinematic hobby has made me curious as to what is shown in North Korea. Apparently there is an international film festival held in Pyongyang every year! I found a great account by an American who, using a German passport, was able to sneak into North Korea and get a glimpse of the festivities. The majority of the international films come from "non-aligned" countries (re: the festival's official title is the Pyongyang Film Festival of Non-aligned and Other Developing Countries), but the year the author went, they showed "Bend It Like Beckham". Nice!


Invented by Korean chemist Dr. Lee Seung-ki, Vinalon is the leading textile produced in North Korea and often labeled Juche Fiber. Its made from polyvinyl alcohol using anthracite and limestone. Although its cheap to produce Vinalon is only made in North Korea possibly because by all accounts its described as an very uncomfortable material that is difficult to dye and prone to shrinking.
However, there is a more interesting aspect to Vinalon and that is its connection to North Korea's production of chemical weapons. Many North Korean defectors have linked Dr. Lee Seung-ki to the DPRK chemical and nuclear program.
This site ( ) lays out the connections to Vinalon and weapons.
"It is noteworthy that CW agent precursors for sulfur mustard could be readily supplied by North Korea’s ample carbide production capability. For the DPRK, having large deposits of anthracite coal and limestone, therefore, means ample supply of carbide. Furthermore, by mixing carbide with water, one can release and capture acetylene gas, the latter being only two hydrogen atoms away from ethylene. Ethylene is, of course, the starting point of many commercial products, such as plastics and detergents."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Ever wonder about the actual text of the Constitution of the DPRK? Unfortunately, you won't find a pretty preamble or Bill of Rights, but fear not, the state will protect all your rights and interests, they promise.

One of the most intellectually shallow things I ever read about North Korea came from a pro-regime American journalist named Selig Harrison (he is also the author of the book I read for my book report). Harrison had the audacity to justify his claim that North Korea and Kim Jung-il were liberalizing economically by citing additions to the 1998 (or should I say Juche 86) Constitution which relaxed the stranglehold the state had on economic affairs. The author specifically points to Articles 21, 22, 24, 33, and 37.

As is the North Korea government held the nation's constitution in any level of esteem.

This is the same constitution that guarantees freedom of expression, right to elect officials, right to a fair trial, and freedom of religion. Harrison, of course, does not concern himself with these details because what good are human rights if the basic economic system is unjust.

Apologists for socialism/communism need a better posterboy than Kim Jung-il and the Worker's Party. They should also stop pretending like the constitutions of countries like DPRK and PRC have any worth beyond the intrinsic value of a piece of paper.


I was unaware that non-North Koreans often pose questions to North Korea about itself; I was more shocked to find out that North Korea listens and has provided us with answers!

Click to see The Top 20 Frequently Asked Question (and Answers!) of North Korea

At the bottom of the page I found this:

Copyright © Juche 94 Korean Friendship Association
Official Webpages of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Is this really the DPRK's official site???

This website seems to take itself seriosry. but I think its a crock. I don't think the regime cares enough to indulge itself in answering non-Koreans' questions, let along maintaining a website for non-Koreans.


You be the judge:

In The Know: Kim Jong-Il's Approval Rating Plummets to 120%

UPDATE: Since it may not be entirely clear to everyone, the video above is a joke.

Why was North Korean reaction to South Korean idol group or to a old singer?

When we saw a video clip of South Korean idol group performing in front of North Korean, I thought about concert of Jo Yong Pil, an old and well known South Korean singer, in North Korea. You can see the his concert clip here. Audiences are clapping, shaking light sticks and some of them show facial expressions.
I wonder what differences made audiences act differently. I am not sure how correct my idea is but I think it is because North Koreans are not used to fast or techno-type of musics. Even dances that idol groups showed could have been new, so it looked wierd to them. However, Jo sang many songs including a kind of Arirang, representative Korean melody, and North Korean one.
I imagine what Korean society will be like after unification. When people react differetly even to music, Korean people will face a lot of ackward situation because of differences of language, culture, and way of thinking... etc... To have real unification among people will take longer than to have geographical one.

Cf] the name of stadium where Jo had concert is 'Jong Ju Young' gymnasium. It makes me think about how much Jong, former president of Hyundai, donated to the North.

N.K. defectors form new political group

I read this article yesterday about the radio station (or actually radio program) that has recently opened in April 2007 that are run by North Korean defectors who now are living South Korea. The main argument of the article was that in May/June after about a month of running the program, eviently there was some complaint from North Korea to stop the program though article didn't mentioned specifically about the details of the complaint - but it was certain that North Korea didn't like this new radio station.

Anyhow, while searching for the similar story about this new radio station, I actually found the translated version of the article written by Korean Herald that expalins not only about the radio station but also how it was created and about this political group formed by North Korean defectors, thought that it will be interesting read. The article mentioned that there are "various views of over 100,000 North Koreans who have defected to the South", I honestly didn't know that there were so many North Korean defectors in the South - my estimate was about 10,000 at most but guess not.

Anyways, here is the link to the article "N.K. defectors form new political group"

Hair management and "reality" TV

I found this article (2005)
that discussed a campaign for men to get short haircuts - which fits socialists lifesytle. The campaign stressed that longer hair "consumed a great deal of nutrition" thus robing the brain from energy. the regime was considerate enough to allow men over 50 to keep seven centimeters of hair to cover balding- perhaps thats the reason Kim Il Sung was excluded from the new haircut recommendations.
Another show was created that followed people who did not react correctly to this new hairstyle. The TV show actually singled out individuals revealed their names, addresses and criticized them for their appearance. This was a major shift from usual TV reports which only portray and enhance individuals who are a positive example to the regime.

Monday, June 25, 2007

very disturbing video
I found this video to be more disturbing that most of the ones we've seen. The constant memories from the past, are a tool to instill hate and anger towards the US. By maintaing the position of refusing to give N. Korea aid, realiotns seem hopeless. A resoltion is difficult to reach when each country lacks understanding, and mostly fears the other. The US fears N. korea's "irrationality," while N. Korea fears the loss of status and security against the US by giving up the one object that places them on equal planes.

How much has changed in 6 years?

I was reading an article that was written in 2001, with the title "at a Crossraods" discusses the realtions between North and South Korea including the anticipated visit of Kim Jung Il to South Korea. The other issue that is emphasized would be nuclear weapons. I found it interesting that this was written 6 years ago, yet we are still dealing withs the same problems

Linguistics question

I have a question for any Korean speakers.... do the charaters that mean "America" or "American" have any instrinsic negative connotation? I know sometimes there are words in languages that connote a negative image just by being those words. I also assume there are some pretty degrading titles for Americans in Korean? ...not trying to say that this is only in Korean, of course.... I know Americans are made fun of everywhere....
One of the questions on the quiz today had to do with differences between the leadership of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. In my response, I touched on the fact that they both came to power very differently; Kim Il Sung really carved his own niche in North Korean society/politics by building up his image. On the other hand, Kim Jong Il was groomed to be the next leader. He later had to play down images of himself as a vibrant youth and the idea of him being careless. And even though socialists do not beleive in hereditary succession, that is exactly what is happening. So who's next? Poking around in some of last year's Blog posts, I found this article (albeit a little old now) that discusses Kim Jong Il's sons. I find it interesting that they, too, have gotten a reputation of being careless and unfit for the job as leader. It also talks about the fact that Kim Jong Il may have other children that he has not claimed, due to his so-called "voracious appetite for young women." It's really an interesting article that talks about the potential (or lack thereof) of each of the sons to become the next leader of North Korea.
Well it looks like North Korea has finally gotten over the 25 million dollars in Macao. So, I guess Pyongyang might actually deliver on its promise about shutting down its nuclear program because it was part of the "deal". Here is the article.

Film Culture and Fashion

As we discussed in class, film is a huge part of North Korea society and ideology. A South Korean professor noted in this article just how influencial and important film is. As she says, Kim Jong-Il loves film, but is also smart to incorporate it into propaganda and politics. I find the second part of the article, on fashion, interesting as well. When Kim decided that people should start wearing suit and ties to work, the result was a bit odd, as people without dress shirts would wear ties over tshirts, or whatever they were able to obtain. One thing I am not sure I agree with however, is when she states that female labor is not as valued as male labor. Not sure what she means exactly, she may very well mean on the upper levels of administration, but from what we've seen women are an important part of the workforce.

"Tobacco firm has secret North Korean plant"

In class last week, we learned about a few shady ways North Korea may be making money (selling ballistic missiles, counterfeit US dollars, methamphetamines). But it's not all under the table deals in the second and third worlds: I found an article from the Guardian that discusses a British tobacco firm's "secret" plant in Pyongyang.

Apparently, British American Tobacco (BAT), the second largest tobacco company in the world, had been operating a plant in North Korea for four years (as of October 2005, when the article was released) -- only two years after shutting down a factory in Burma (aka Myanmar) after intense pressure from human rights organizations and the United Kingdom. North Korea of course too has a terrible human rights record, but a spokeswoman from BAT said that it was "not for us to interfere with the way governments run countries"; that instead, the British company could "lead by example." I think they are indeed leading by example. Despite repeated condemnations of the DPRK by internationally respected human rights groups, BAT has still set up a factory in the center of North Korea. A change in North Korean attitudes in respect to workers' rights? Not likely.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Team Spirit

Here's a couple sites related to that fascinating event/military exercise known as Team Spirit. It was a joint exercise done by South Korea and the United states military - Here's an excerpt from the book Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis by Joel S. Wit, Daniel B. Poneman, and Robert Gallucci

Called "our Super Bowl" by one U.S. officer, Team Spirit began in 1976 after the Vietnam withdrawal to reassure South Korea and bolster deterrence against the North. The exercise often involved hundreds of thousands of troops and, some suspected, even nuclear weapons. Not surprisingly, North Korea viewed Team Spirit as a dress rehearsal for an invasion

Team Spirit has been blamed for raising the hostility between the North and South especially during 1993-94 nuclear crisis. Below are some sites by U.S. soldiers and their experiences in participating in the exercise -

also an overview and history of the event

Christopher Hill's Joint-press on latest visit

For those who haven't yet seen the joint-press session by Christopher Hill about the progress he had made for the latest visit to North Korea. Although I'm sure many have already followed the story about the latest visit however I thought it would be good to actually hear the press briefing.

First part is in Korean, but I'm sure everybody can understand Chris Hill without a problem.

Food Provision Scam

An interesting article on a rather interesting website talks about how farmers are being forced to not only give up their normal amount of production to the state, but are actually being forced to dip into what is supposed to be their own provisions to provide for another "national provision". Yet, they are not receiving food in return as one would expect for participating in a communal food program. The end of the article is what I found most interesting, as it declares that this is an example that the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-Il is falling apart, and that his dictatorship is trying to retain control that is slowly slipping away. Granted this is from a defector's news website, but it brings up the same issues we were discussing in class, about whether or not there really is a shift in control, or if the regime and society is changing.

I would recommend checking out the website, it is actually fascinating, there are defectors' stories, news articles, cartoons, and anything and everything that has to do with North Korea. Though it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, it is coming straight from the people who hated their situation enough to leave, and it is possible that the site is full of assumptions of what is going on in North Korea, as they may not actually know.

Korean War survey

Tomorrow (June 25) is the 57th anniversary of the Korean War. I read an article about a survey done by Chosun Daily (Chosun Ilbo – one of the major SK newspapers) asked 1005 post-war generation South Korean adults, “Do you know when the Korean War broke out.” 61.8% gave the right answer (1950), 38.2% answered “don’t know,” or answered wrong.
The result varied according to the different age groups. Less than half of the 20s (46.8%) gave the right answer (53.2% answered wrong). On the other hand, 62.8% of the 30s, and 75.5% of the 40s answered correctly.

Question about the characteristic of Korean War:
52.3% answered “It was North Korean invasion to the South.” (21.2% higher than 2002 survey, which was only 31.2% - what a surprise!)
It was quite astonishing that only about half of the South Korean (even though the result does not necessarily represent the opinion of total SK population) believe that it was started by North’s attack.

Question about the likelihood of another North Korean invasion:
51.2% answered “there is possibility.” (in 2002, 32.8%) while
45% answered “it is not likely.” (in 2002, 57.9%)

“If the war brake out in Korea while you are abroad, would you go back to Korea?”
48.7% answered “Yes.”
45% answered “No.” (I think they are too honest.)

IAEA chief inspector leaves for North Korea visit

According to the article, Olli Heinonen, chief inspector with the UN's nuclear watchdog group, left today for Pyongyang to hammer out the details of North Korea's proposed shut down of it's Yongbyon facility. IAEA officials need to have regular access to said plant so that the regime's claims can be verified.
See story.

From a Lead Role in a Cage to Freedom and Anomie

“From a Lead Role in a Cage to Freedom and Anomie”

I think I mentioned couple of classes ago about the North Korean defectors wanting to go back to North Korea because they were having a hard time adjusting to the new life in South Korea. I was actually quite surprised when I heard this; however, I have to say that life in South Korea is quite hard for many defectors from North Korea, not just because of the differences that have grown between the North and South over the past 60 years but honestly even as South Korean I know the South Korean people and society as a whole really doesn’t have much room for forgiveness when it comes to things that are “foreign” or “different”. Perhaps this might be because of being such a homogeneous country or whatnot; however, unless you are totally different on the outlooks – such as looking like an Anglo-American – there is no “excuse” for not knowing what everybody else’ knows or not understanding something when everybody else’ understands. I guess the North Korean defector, Lee Chan probably felt that way when he came to South Korea, because he is Korean after all – one cannot differentiate him, by the way he looks, from other Koreans; he was probably expected to know it and understand it when he really couldn’t.

Here is the link to article, “From a Lead Role in a Cage to Freedom and Anomie”, I recommend it for anyone who might be interested in stories about defectors

Saturday, June 23, 2007

White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2007

White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2007

The “Korea Institute for National Unification” (tong-il yunguso, Aka KINU) sends out regular emails to its members and couple of weeks ago it sent out the 2007 – White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea (it’s in Korean but I suspect that since they have an English version for the previous years, they will soon upload the English version on their website, here is the link to where you can see the previous years White Papers on Human Rights in North Korea - KINU ENGLISH)

I’ve read through a couple of chapters – the whole paper is about 350 pages long – and found things that were quite concerning to anyone who come across such information. We have perhaps read about it but I guess such reality never really sinks in, like this direct quote from the white paper, “In order to keep the control of social order, North Korea regularly holds public executions, even after the huge outcry from the global community, they only reduced the frequencies…” and evidently in 2004 the law was amended so that forced labor was legalized. One of the interesting things was since the post in 2000, there have been increasing numbers of people who have prosecuted for spreading/transferring South Korea’s video/other media-related (foreign information) materials. One has to wonder how North Koreans get a hold of South Korean videos; however it is interesting that after all North Koreans too seem to be interested in the “outside” world.

The report obviously covers a lot more, from human rights issues regarding minorities, women and children who have been subjected to more violence and sexually related crimes. In addition the number of women defectors has not only increased but those who actually defect by themselves have increased.

In conclusion, I think the overall quality of the white papers by KINU is actually quite high, although how much of the provided information that is true is anyone’s guess but they have been producing the papers since 2000. The changes throughout the past 7 years are actually much more interesting so by just reading one, it is hard to tell if the situation is getting better or worse in the DPRK.

National Geographic Documentary

Here is a link to a National Geographic North Korea documentary hosted by Lisa Ling. To watch the whole thing you will have to click on the other four parts of the documentary to the right of the playing video. It is a bit corny and I think some of the facts may not be totally correct, but it still has some interesting interviews and footage.
One thing I didn't know was that the US-South Korea forces sometimes use loudspeakers to send messages across the DMZ. The documentary also shows some fascinating clips of Kim il-sung's funeral. Again, it is definitely not a scholarly documentary or anything, but any sort of footage inside of North Korea is interesting to see.

I have also included a clip of a North Korean cartoon. It shows little kids using pencils as missiles against Americans!

Death Count in North Korean Prisons Hits 1 Million

I know we mentioned this shortly in class, but the prison system in North Korea continues to gain attention from NGO's around the world, most notably in this article, which mentions Christian Solidarity and other Christian human rights groups. These organizations have done research on prisoners' treatment in North Korean prisons, and their findings include startling accounts of forced abortions and summary executions. Although the article doesn't get into as much detail as I'd like regarding the prison issue, the end quote was what drew in my attention. Christian Solidarity released a statement that talked about the fact that although the United States and the world focus on North Korea as a nuclear threat, the real threat of North Korea is seen and felt by its people, who suffer the realities of the regime. The "dire human rights situation" in North Korea needs to be viewed as equally important to their acquisition and development of nuclear technology.

A New York Times article from 2002 published on gives yet another disturbing account of infanticide in North Korean prisons. The article spoke about a human rights organization, Human Rights Without Borders, and their work on investigating infanticide and other human rights abuses in North Korean prisons by conducting interviews on survivors of the horrors of the prison camp system. I was interested in finding out more about the work done by the organizations I have mentioned in this piece. I was impressed by the homepage for Christian Solidarity Worldwide , because it is the first human rights organization website I have seen that actually does more than write the occasional report and hide it somewhere in their website 5,000 clicks and 4 search pages away. Christian Solidarity actually posted informationa about the North Korean situation and a link to their recently published report right on their homepage. The report has some really interesting information and factoids that would probably be a useful supplement for some of your papers...I know I'll consider including it in mine!

Nuclear Reactors to Shut Down in 3 Weeks

According to this report that came over the wire a few hours ago, US Envoy Christopher Hill has successfully negotiated a deal in which North Korea will shut down its reactor in Yongbyon (the heart of the nuclear arms development program).

At the crux of the deal lay $25 million in assets frozen in Macao. The US had asked Russia to freeze the funds some years ago, but reports indicate that the money has been transferred to a North Korea bank account in Russia. The US also provided North Korea with some energy security.

The IAEA is due in North Korea next week to begin the disarmorment process and the six-party talks are due to recommence in the near future.

With a (potentially) meaningful resolution of the nuclear issue, the six-party talks hold much more promise for progress. Like all dealings with North Korea, I believe the North's cooperation is contingent upon the US' faithfulness to the agreement as well as the spirit of the agreement.

The nuclear/missiles crisis brings to light an interesting conundrum: The DPRK existence is predicated on the US (and Japan) as a perpetual hostile enemy. With the US making compromises and assurances for North Korean energy and practical security the US is acting more like an honest peace broker rather than a belligerent. In fact, the peace talks demonstrate that the US, ROK, and Japan are not looking to undermine the regime. With the undoing of one of the essential underpinnings of the North, how does the North legitimize itself? I say, it has to hold onto the past and anachronistic views of the US and Japan for its ideology to make sense.

Why North Korea doesn't want you wandering around

As we've heard from many accounts, foreigners traveling in North Korea don't have much freedom to walk where they'd like. Mr. Bradley Martin had trouble in 1979, and those visiting the country today still get the same advice:

From Wikitravel: "[U]nless you have the explicit authorization of your guides, you are not to wander anywhere on your own, not even outside of the hotel. If you are courteous to your guide and toe the line, a brief walk around the hotel grounds alone may be possible, but always ask first. Do not take pictures of anything without explicit approval of your guides. The best rule of thumb in North Korea is to always ask for permission from your guides before doing anything at all."

I'd like to recommend another account as contrast. It's a very funny article written by an American man who spent some time working in Beijing. He went for a walk, accidentally wandered into a top-secret aerospace complex, and was apprehended by police. It kind of made me want to go to China.

Juche Realism

Here's a list of several sites devoted to North Korean artists. All of the paintings seen throughout class and in the Martin book belong to the school of Socialist Realism. This style was first developed in the Soviet Union and used throughout Communist states. It's interesting to note that just like most other examples of Communism in government and society covered in class, Korean Socialist Realism has a unique identity from it's related Soviet and Chinese examples. As seen in these two pages, and, Soviet Socialist Realism is characterized by drab colors and stern subject matter. Juche Realism is bursting with color and Kim Il-Sung is rarely shown without a wide smile or a flock of overjoyed children.
Here are some sites on Juche Realism
Art Under Control in North Korea -
North Korean Artists -
The Art of Propaganda: Nationalistic Themes in the Art of North Korea -

Friday, June 22, 2007

Video of Kim's Military Command

Check out this video on It is dedicated to the politics and military command of Kim Jong-Il, and the english slides offer an interesting look at the propaganda used to express the wonderful nature of Kim. I especially like the part where it states that the world is envious of the perfect socialist paradise that is North Korea. I was wondering if the Korean subtitles say the same thing as the English slides, or if they are different. Would greatly appreciate some help with translation! Being able to read for oneself the actual words in the original language is important, because of missing emphasis, slight variations in meaning, etc. As we are seeing in our book, with a non-Korean speaking author.

This video truly does reflect the command of the military by Kim, but I think a video about how the military influences Kim would be extremely interesting. As we have learned, there is obviously a great deal of influence, and I'm sure videos like this help show Kim's dedication to the military, to prevent a coup by it!


I had an interesting coincidence the other day. I have a friend who occasionally plays at a high stakes poker room in the District, and a few nights ago he noticed I was reading my book report book (Han Sorya and North Korean Literature -- almost as fun as high stakes gambling). "Hey," he said, "so you know why they only give out twenties at the poker game?"

"No," I shrugged.

"Well, it's cause North Korea is making these crazy hundred dollar bills. Which I think is ridiculous. I mean, do they really think that fake money is going to make it here from North Korea?"

But thanks to class earlier that day, I could tell him he was mistaken. The counterfeit US hundred dollar bills (called Superdollars!) are indeed making it to the States, and have caused quite a ruckus. The New York Times put out an interesting article on the subject about a year ago . . . it's rather long, but the first couple of pages are helpful, if you're not interested in reading the whole deal.


The US envoy, Christopher Hill, who is visiting North Korea to hold talks about the country's nuclear weapons program, has publicly announced that the country is ready to "promptly" shut down its Yongbyon reactor. I suppose it's a matter of just how long "promptly" indicates. Mr. Hill himself said, "I come away from this two-day set of meetings buoyed by a sense that we are going to be able to achieve our full objectives... but also burdened by the realisation of the fact that we are going to have to spend a great deal of time, a great deal of effort, a lot of work in achieving these."

Lessons Learned- KEDO

Last night I attended a Dinner/ discussion about "What did we learn from KEDO." It was a really interesting talk given by three men who had been instrumental in carrying out KEDO's objectives. One had even been in North Korea.

The one man who had been in the Light water Reactor building site told a story of the sheer desertion on the site. He said there was basically maybe 12 trains per day going in and out of the area and they were always packed with people. And as the trains pulled in, people would simply be gawking at the train stop because it would be completely lit up by the flood lights at the construction site. Not only was there a display of a fair amount of electricity and technology being used, but there were also South Korean labels on everything...

Also a speaker was talking about his own (and referring to America's) incorrect assumptions that whenever something went wrong, the North Koreans were doing it intentionally. In one story he said that when he couldn't reach DC by phone or get inernet access as was agreed in their contracts, he assumed it was the North Koreans cutting their phone line access. In reality, 12 people were sharing the same line and he just couldn't get through. And then, one time he couldn't get through by phone because he had had the wrong number... I think this is a telling story because there is an obvious lack of trust between the DPRK and the US. If officials tried harder to find the real reasons behind setbacks in the future instead of jumping to accusations, I think that would help relations.

In fact, the discussion later in the night somehow got diverted to the cause of KEDO's failure. This ended up with the speaker and a attendee getting into a heated debate of who cheated first... This only solidifies the lesson that, the positive momentum of DPRK/ US relations can easily be cut off by back and forth blame.

Explosion of the Pipeline in North Korea

“Explosion of the Pipeline in North Korea – 110 Possibly Killed”

I read this news from the website, “Good Friends” ( – it is a non-governmental humanitarian organization. It says there was a huge explosion in North Korea on June 9, in a pipeline that comes down to Pyongyang that was delivering nearly 200t of oil. Good friends say that the biggest reason for such huge number of deaths is due to the fact that the cost of oil is so expense in North Korea that when the pipeline broke the people in the neighbor brought buckets to get the oil that was leaking out and while doing so, due to an accident it caught on fire and killed so many.

Evidently Korean intelligence is looking into this; however there is very little credibility to this story. However, there was even a broadcast of Satellite News from YTN (they get the pictures from a satellite view of the alleged North Korean explosion site) which pretty much said there was an explosion; however, it was more likely the explosion was not from an old-pipe breaking but from a train that was transporting gas.

“Sound of One” – South/North Joint AD

While watching Shinhwa’s solemn concert in North Korea I remembered an advertisement from Samsung Anycall (mobile phone brand line) CF that featured the very famous singer Hyoree Lee and North Korea’s famous dancer MyungAe Cho. Here is just a little background on how this was filmed. It was filmed at Shanghai – for obvious reasons - in April, 2005 and it was the most famous TV ad of the year. Samsung smartly produced “Sound of One I” and “Sound of One II” which aired from June 11 starting with “Sound of One – Hyoree”, “Sound of One – MyungAe” then the version “Sound of One II – We Meet”. Then later in July, “Sound of One II – Present
There is also the full version which runs about 1 min. and 30 sec. that was only available through the website - - “Sound of One II – FULL VERSION”)

The basic story line of this ad is as follows. In a “North-South Joint Concert” the two people walk pass with a crowd of reporters around them as they are the most famous singer/dancer representing each country; however they do not have any physical contact, they just walk pass each other. Then MyungAe finds this Satelite DMB phone in her waiting room and she does not know who gave it to her. Anyhow, they have a joint concert where MyungAe performs the traditional dances and Hyoree does her thing – later during the joint press conference they got to see each other and the first thing they say is, (Hyoree asks) “How old are you?” and MyungAe responds, “born in 83’” and immediately Hyoree goes on to say, “oh, then I’m unni (older sister)”
Then they spend a day together and they exchange gifts and surrounded by each country’s protection they leave the concert hall after making the promise “we will meet again”.

Behind the story of the making of the film is that prior to the shooting, which took place in Shanghai in April 2005, the project nearly fell apart due to North Korea’s view that since the South Korean Hyoree is a big star/actress but MyungAe is more of a traditional “art performer/dancer” that somehow South Korea tried to pick someone who will shadow his or her North Korean counterparts. Despite the 2-3 days required for the filming, except for the time when they were acting, it was strictly prohibited for Hyoree or any other staff member to talk to the North Korean, MyungAe Cho.

I actually recommend to anyone who has a spare 3-4 minutes to watch it. The bgm is rather emotional and how they depicted the two, like we discussed in our class, the cultural difference – one wearing a traditional hanbok and other wearing a tank top and jewelry just shows the difference between the two. Also it is interesting how they used an English song in I but in II they used the Korean song that is known as the “Reunification Song” in Korea, “One Day” that repeatedly says that “One day we will meet again, though no one knows how it will, but we will meet again”

Here is also the link to the Making Film I-view from Hyoree, Making Film II-view from MyungAe for those who might be interested

Thursday, June 21, 2007

North accuses South of sea invasion

This article, published today, talks about how North Korea is accusing South Korea of sending warships into North Korean waters... and replied with a promise to send the ships to the bottom of the ocean if this continues. South Korea however, is denying any part in this. Apparently these ships started appearing in May, and now there are 36. Makes me wonder why North Korea didn't say something when they saw the first one if this is really true. It seems any country uncomfortable with foreign naval presence in their waters would take the neccessary step without allowing over a month to pass. The waters are noted to be a great area for fishing, and that alone is enough to undestand why both countries would want a stronghold there- one that has caused the deaths of sailors due to the conflict. If the Koreas are trying to move to unification, I think the sea off of the Korean penninsula could be a profitable place for another special economic zone. This would take immense cooperation, and special agreements not to use the waters as a means of a military advance, but shared money making waters would be much better than unclear accusations about invasions.

South Korean business in North Korea

As a South Korean, if anybody askes me whethere I want Korea's unification or not, my answer is "Yes." However, I don't want it to happen right away. Economical problem will be huge and South Korea will not be able to meet the needs in the near future. In addition, culturally, unification will face a lot of problems such as ideology conflicts. over five decades of separation, we have learned and lived very differently. Mingling together, all the sudden, will not be easy.

Today, we talked about business in North Korea by South Korean conglomerateur with the hope of North Korea sustaining its regime. Personally, I don't want the collapse of North Korea, either. I wish South and North to keep the way they are now and to change the North a little by little toward the way of South Korea working. I don't know how much one small economic zone or tour to North Korea, which is under the North Korean control, can change or influence. However, there's a saying that "begining is same as half way done." For example, Mt.Keumgang tour could've made North Korean learn about Hyundai. According to this article, about 1,000 North Koreans work at the resort and receive a $50 monthly salary. Considering whole population(23,113,019), 1000 is like nothing but I hope this make Korean unification easier.

If any of you are interested in Hyundai's tour business in North Korea take a look at here.

Most Recent

Picture of Kim Jong-Il taken on June 17
(click on the picture for larger view)
He looks healthy in this one. maybe because he's smiling?

Hill visits North Korea

I read a news article that Christopher Hill made his first visit (it was kind of surprise, as I thought he must have visited there a lot) to Pyongyang as the chief of the U.S. nuclear envoy (about an hour ago, 12:30pm local time). Article said that he is planning to meet his counterparts, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, and Kang Suk Joo to “move the process forward." With the BDA fund problem finally solved, it seems like that the State Department is now actively engaging in the North Korean nuclear issue (shutting down the Yongbyun reactor). This nuclear reactor had been one of the most valuable cards that the North held in order to ask for aid, etc. If they are to give up this reactor, I wonder what’s gonna be their next card.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Shutting down the nukes

I found two articles (here and here) discussing progress in negotiations to shut down nuclear reactors in North Korea since the frozen funds have been transferred. They are also receiving tens of thousands of pounds of oil from South Korea as part of the deal. Today we were talking a little more about Juche, and now that NK is about te receive such a hefty contribution from South Korea, in addition to beginning to eliminate its precious nuclear power, I wonder what effect this will have on the national psyche of "self-reliance."

Dating and Marrying in North Korea

Here you can read about dating in North Korea and marriage.
When we learned about different class in North Korea, I got the curiosity about the marriage in North Korea. North Korean defectors say that "dating in Pyongyang is liberal" such as going out for movie or zoo. It is a kind of surprising that North Korean couples hold their hands or kiss each other in public. I never imagined about it. For some reason I am only able to imagine North Korean in a army uniform walking in a group with exactly same postures. I guess I was brainwashed about North Korea since I was pretty young but I still think that level of liberty is different not only for marriage but also for dating. I assume that meeting different sex accross the social class is very limited because people get different treatment according to the class.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Comfort Women Issue

While searching embassy websites for internships, I stumbled upon a section on the Japanese Embassy website regarding comfort women. I found a few parts of it interesting, especially because it from the Japanese perspective. There are statements such as " The draft House Resolution (H.RES.121) is erroneous in terms of the facts" and " Its adoption would be harmful to the friendship between the US and Japan."

They claim that they have already apologized, using this 1993 statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary:
“Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”

Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like a pretty legitimate apology to me. True, it is not very official and is a kind of wishy-washy way of apologizing, and apparently the Japanese have not gone as far as the US and South Korea would have liked as far as education and coverage within Japan is concerned. Still, while I think it is appropriate to make a judgment regarding a certain act or event, I am not sure Congress should try to force it upon Japan. I would not have a problem with a US official saying that using comfort women was wrong, but to actually tell Japan to apologize for it through a House resolution seems a bit strange. After all, aren't apologies supposed to be from the heart and sincere, not forced by others? (well, I guess my mother told me to apologize for things to others when I was younger when I didn't want to... does that then make the US the mother of Japan?...)

National Geographic and the DMZ

While this article may be a few years old. It offers some interesting insight into the DMZ of North and South Korea. There are also some great pictures of the South Koreans because presumably National Geographic was not allowed into North Korea. The pictures really show the extremity of the situation and the seriousness that is required of the soldiers on duty. The task is described as being "like a schoolyard with two bullies poking each other in the eye." Mind games are key and psyching out the enemy is essential according to the article.

With the schoolyard analogy, it kind of simplifies the situation. How long is this going to last? what is the point? are the North and South really just acting like children that can't be mature enough to put aside their differences?

N. Korea Human rights

After writing my last paper I read how involved Amensty international USA has been with North Korea. ONe of the main difficulties in treatment is the lack of information the world is able to collect regarding the true state the country is in. Second, once the regime accepts money we have no control over where it is distributed.

Kidnapped Man Escapes

A South Korea man who was kidnapped by North Korea more than 30 years ago managed to escape to China and come in contact with South Korean authorities. Apparently he was not able to bring his North Korean wife and children because of "difficulties." I wonder what these complications might be, maybe they did not want to leave? Or maybe he did not even tell them he was leaving? It will be interesting to see these details when all the facts come out.

Although this is a happy time for this man, I imagine he is having very mixed feelings. On one hand he is able to see his South Korea relatives, but he will likely never again see his North Korean wife and children. It seems that North Korea has truly ruined some, if not all, parts of this man's life. Additionally, not only was he forced to live there for more than 30 years, but I am sure his family in the South was tormented every day by the thought of what might have happened to him.

According to the article, more than 480 South Koreans have been abducted by North Korea since its inception as a country, as well as 500 South Korean soldiers still held by the regime. While I assume North Korea says that these people probably defected voluntarily and they are being saved from the puppet state of the South, I don't think there is any excuse for this type of behavior and it is not the way in which to move towards peace on the peninsula.

Update on NK Defectors

Four North Koreans who arrived by wooden boat at Japanese port two weeks ago left for South Korea on Saturday (June, 16).
They arrived at Japan on June 2 (they left NK on May 27). They told police they left Chongjin on the east coast of North Korea and headed south, but changed course due to heavy security and ended up at Fukaura in Japan's northern Aomori prefecture, 800 km (500 miles) to the east. Japanese government granted asylum for them according to its immigration law, and “North Korean human rights law” of 2006, which states that the government must take certain measures to protect and support defectors from North Korea.
Usually, it is rare for North Koreans to flee to Japan, and China used to be the first option for the North Korean defectors until now. But recently, China is becoming harsh on defectors as they put up wire entanglement along the shallow or narrow parts (where people can swim across) of Yalu and Tumen River and adopted a new measure to deport defectors back to North Korea (meaning…).

Friday, June 15, 2007

South Wants the North to Start Denuclearisation

I came across this article about how one of the terms for the money in the Macau bank to be unfrozen, North Korea was supposed to start denuclearisation. I realize that North Korea having nuclear weapons is a huge deal because they are so unknown, but I find it hard to believe that North Korea would ever stop its nuclear weapon making. Knowing that North Korea hasn't listened to demands in the past I can't help but wonder why we continue to give North Korea what they want knowing that they won't listen to us. I feel like North Korea is this spoiled child who continues to get worse because we won't really put limitations on North Korea. Why can't we be more harsh towards North Korea? Is it worth it to give North Korea money knowing it will not be going towards human aid? I don't think it is and I think that whenever North Korea gets aid that they should be heavily watched or countries in general should just stop helping the country unless North Korea does what we the countries want first.

More North South Friction

Yikes. Despite efforts to instill more unity between the two Koreas, leaders still make some mistakes... and those mistakes set off back and forth confrontations/ insults :( oh nationalism...

Today, because a South Korean GNP leader sat down at a shrine dedicated to Kim Il Sung and terribly insulted North Korean leaders, he was banned from a unity gathering in the People's Palace of Culture. And now South Koreans are making statements and sticking by their official, setting off more complaints from both sides...

This is unfortunte to see, but I assume tiffs like this are pretty frequent in this tense relationship.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

BDA fund transfer

Finally,, the North Korean fund transfer in BDA began on Thursday (local time), news article that I read said that more than 80% of its fund (about $20 million) has been transferred first to a Russian bank with links to North Korea via the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank and the Russian central bank.

The next question is: with its money in hand, whether the North will carry out the items which were agreed in the February 13 accord.

Washingtonpost Article about fund transfer

Limited Time Offer: View Spectaular Mass Games!

Since we are all on the topic of vacationing (investigating?) in North Korea, I thought it would be worthwhile to bring to your attention that there is a limited time offer to visit the DPRK and view the spectacular mass games for yourselves. Impossibility, you say? Not if you are one of the lucky few to be admitted into the hermit kingdom, and honored with the priviledge of not being able to use the bathroom without permission. I know what you're thinking, "This is too good to be true!". This website advertises the choreographed "human spectacle" that the website calls, "the greatest show on Earth" (sound familiar?). While the mass games may be just that, these pleasures cannot be enjoyed without a price.

I highly suggest that you all at least take a glimpse at the travel rules and really is a fascinating look into the one-step-forward, two-steps-back approach that North Korea is trying to take toward promoting tourism and a better world image.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Let's all go on a trip to North Korea!

Click here for the article!

After reading the posts below on tourism in North Korea, I too am interested in it! And for a good reason- who wouldn't want to go visit a country that is surrounded by mystery. As noted in this article, not only does this South Korean resort offer tourists excellent vacation opportunities, but now it is taking it a step further by giving a glimpse of country life on the way to Diamond Mountain. For me, this is the type of adventure I like in all of the countries I visit- I like to see natrual, beautiful locations by driving through real villages to see the everyday lives of the people. But the fact that this is happening in North Korea makes me a little uneasy. Is it possible that the village life has been choreographed to look better than it actually is, as was suggested in our book? Maybe, but the fact that $1.6 billion in investments were made in North Korea by a South Korean company- once again, North Korea is raking in the investments, without having to do much more than allow a glimpse at the natural beauty of its country. Not a bad trade if I do say so myself! Could this be the start of even more tourism, in other places? One can only hope, I know I am dying to get a look inside the country at some point!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The latest on the frozen funds...

This is a new article that is an update on the funds that were frozen in Macao's bank Banco Delta Asia...

So suppsedly Russia is willing lend its bank, the Far East Commercial bank, as a helping hand to the North Korean situation. Hopefully, the transfer will be smooth so that North Korea can go ahead with its promises to shut down the nuclear reactor.

Free Trade vs. Free People - US-Korea FTA

Free Trade vs. Free People

Here is the full text to the draft of the Free Trade Agreement between the Republic of Korea and the United States

The FTA talks have huge implications for South Korea as it would open the economy up to full utilization by the U.S. and the deal has caused a huge wave of controversy in the country.
As reported in Wikipedia The US-Korea FTA is the second largest trade agreement ever made by the United States.

Many activists in South Korea have begun to rally together and protest. On Nov. 22, 2006 as many as 20,000 gathered at city hall in Seoul. The most vocal opposition has been South Korean farmers and labor unions.
The connection to North Korea, beyond the impact of the economic changes brought to the Rep. of Korea, is what many South Korean activists see as legislation that might allow or even encourage government
surveillance and censorship. As Thomas Kim of the San Diego Union-Tribune puts it "South Korea has been a liberal democracy for less than two decades, and over the past year the trade agreement has become the latest chapter of the people's struggle to consolidate the practice of freedom. Democracy and development should not and need not be in opposition to each other, yet throughout the negotiations the administration of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun sacrificed democratic principles while embracing authoritarian trends." -
One such trend is the sections in the FTA
involving IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights) This site ( ) is a site that is dedicated against "bilateral trade and investment agreements that are opening countries to the deepest forms of penetration by transnational corporations" and their opionion of IPRs is very interesting -

Monday, June 11, 2007

North Korean TV

Here is an internet site where you guys can watch some North Korean tv news clips (Chosun Central TV News) and other tv programs. Sorry that there are no subtitles, but just have some feelings of what they actually watch.

Some pictures

I found a discussion board (sorry that the site is in Korean,,) which is run by I think a former North Korean military official who defected to the South (the site mainly deals with military subjects, but also have some interesting photos, such as...)

Pictures of a "Model" North Korean house which is shown to the foreigners

North Korean Tourism Part 2

A little bit more on tourism in North Korea... I visited the Official Korean (S) site for tourism, and it was really interesting to see what kind of spin they put on tourism... Mostly they emphasized the beauty of the historic districts and the scenic natural beauties of the region. Lots of pictures of vistas and moutains and classic Korean architecture. This really caters to those interested in the great and ancient history of the Korean people, which is really evident in the tourism's summary of their history (found on the bottom of the page).

However, the majority of the sites that catered to Americans was focused on North Korea as a fascinating adventure back in time (thats how it seemed to me atleast). More of a focus on experiencing the different lifestyle, compared to the South's and gawking at Kim-centric monuments etc. Especially with the Mass Games being open to foriegn spectators since 2006, there is even more interest in North Korea.

There are also lots of "what not to do" things are mentioned so that silly Americans don't get themselves in trouble... Theres this older article I found, but its still interesting.

Here is the Lonely Planet guide's site which tends to be more neutral and informational. But theres ones like this... a bit of a different slant.

Many question whether tourism in a dictatorial regime is morally right... Should we tour this country that is an "enemy to the free world" and support them with our money? Or should we stay out completely? I think that although the North Korean government suppresses its people, maybe tourism can atleast help in the humanitarian way of injecting money into their system- and hopefully raise citizen's quality of life by a little.

North Korea Tourism

I never thought of North Korea as a tourism spot, but after a few mentions about it in class and watching the movie, I really began to see how people might be interested in it.

Not only would North Korea be fascinating as a cultural experience, but I've also seen it promoted as a part of "Touring the Axis of Evil." There is even a book about the Axis of Evil World Tour. I guess people are interested in seeing just how evil the axis is... It really would be interesting to see how regimes work from the inside and this is a main interest, but I'm sure travellers come to see that travel in the North is heavily regulated by the government... so most only see the finished product the Kims' rule without much contact with the citizens.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

US alleges North Korea misused UN aid

According to the story available here, the United States has accused North Korea of misallocating United Nations Development Program financial aid. Specifically, the charges are that instead of using the funds for the benefit of the people, the government bought nearly $3m worth of land and housing in Britain, France, and Canada. The US also claims that North Korea purchased equipment that could be used for military purposes.

Tall South, Short North

I found an interesting ARTICLE about height difference between the North and South Korean. As we know, North Korea suffered chronic food shortage due to series of drought and crop failures (also the fundamental flaw of the socialist system of collective farming). The articles says that average height difference is significant, as of 2005, the average height of people aged between 20 and 39 in North Korea is 154.9cm (5.08ft) for females and 165.6cm (5.43ft) for males, while the average height for the South Korean is 159.1cm (5.21ft) for females and 172.5cm (5.65ft) for males. The gap between the two will keep growing, and as article says we, Korean might become two totally different races! (To make the matter worse, the unification of the two seems elusive at this point)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Believe It or Not - Current Trends in North Korea

Believe It or Not

While going through the news articles that were related to North Korea I actually found this rather surprising article about the "Trends of North Korea - Eye Plastic Surgery, Dica (shortened version for Digial Camera by Koreans), MP3 Players"

The article started saying that 南男北女 (character reads South-Male, North-Female) meaning that men are better off as well as wealthier/smarter in the South and women from the North are pretty or sort of like that. Anyhow, what came across quite surprisingly and shockingly to me was that there are many in North Korea who would get plastic surgery - mostly for their eyes, which costs 0.7 Euro or $0.94 US which would be just a little less than the monthly earning for the average North Korean. Some even have surgery on their nose which is considerably more expensive than the eyes.

The article then goes on to talk about how the article’s author was quite surprised to find workers at the gift shop were busy listening to their MP3 players - when asked by the author the 'worker' replied by asking, "why are you so surprised?" and that he had "downloaded" the famous OST for soaps, 'Love and Hate' from his computer. Also, he also said that "I use a smaller and slimmer version of the Canon Digital Camera than the one you've got on your neck" and goes on to say that "I bought a MP3 player for my son, 3 years ago".

The author, presumably a reporter, at the end said that words such as "hair conditioner" are very different in the South and North so an average South Korean wouldn't have a clue if a North Korean asked for it; however words such as "Dica" and "MP3" were easily converted.

Am I the only one who is surprised by this article’s contents? I mean surely North Korea too has evolved and developed over the years but we all know about their economic hardships, their problems with the BDA account and what seems like another million problems.

Since we all know how much North Koreans have to "act" to represent their "not-so-ordinary-daily lives" for foreigners from the book, the digital cameras and MP3 players I can understand but when it comes to plastic surgery for their eyes, I've seen few North Korean girls interviewed by the South Korean media when they come to cheer at the ASIAN Games or other sports related events - not surprisingly they've been very pretty (we all know that they are the best looking girls picked from the country) so I didn't really pay attention about their faces to see if they were fixed by plastic surgery or not.

It seems the more I hear, read and learn about North Korea the more confused I become - how far do they go to lie about their "real lives" just to look good for the rest of the world? Are they for real? Is what we learn about their economic burden not as severe as we've learned?

Click Here for the article

North Korea Misuses Aid Funds

According to a recent State Department report, it seems that the North Korean government has not been properly managing the funds it has been receiving for the country's poor. The report also claims that the UN made a few mistakes which allowed for such actions and even helped them to obtain equipment for a weapons program. Although not particularly surprising or new, the revelations are nonetheless disturbing. I also find it ironic that those that help out North Korea the most (South Korea, US, UN) are also some of the most criticized nations and/or international organizations in North Korea. If the NK people knew where their aid were coming from, I am not sure if they would feel the same way towards not only those entities, but also towards their own government.

If the reports are true, I think it is very sad for the people of North Korea and very immoral on the part of the government. Does that mean that organizations should stop donating to North Korea? I have mixed feelings on that question. On one hand, we don't want the funds to go towards military or weapons programs. On the other hand, I am not sure what else could be done to help the North Korean people, at least as far as humanitarian efforts are concerned. Maybe it would be better for NGO's rather than governments try to establish relations with North Korea in a way that would allow for some sort of on-the-ground oversight. Either way, it appears to be a very sticky situation.

Kim Jong-Il's Health Problems

It seems that North Korea might just have another 'mortal' leader despite all the things that Kim Jong-Il claims since he is suffering from diabetes, liver and heart problems as well as constipation. Yesterday, I read an article that confirms Kim Jong-ll received, in mid-May, an emergent heart-bypass, which was performed by a group of doctors who were flown to Pyongyang just for the surgery. Being such a secretive and unknown state such information about Kim Jong-Il's health was actually confirmed by a surgeon who has close ties with North Korea and that "surgery was a success and they (group of doctors who were flown to Pyongyang) came back on the 19th (May)"
-Article were by Japan's weekly magazine, Shukangendai (週間現代)

Though I don't have any intention to ridicule someone's health but I guess Kim Jung-Il too like his father Kim Il-Sung, suffers from heart problems - I'd assume that North Koreans wouldn't be too happy with this article by a Japanese magazine which revealed not only that he had just had a major surgery but also that he suffers from constipation.

Before reading the article, I thought it was too early to ask about the next leader for North Korea but I guess after the heart-bypass, it would be fair to ask the question: "What happens after Kim Jong-Il?" Is it going to be one of his three sons or one of the top party leaders? One thing I don't think will happen is that Kim Jong-Il’s death will collapse the North Korean regime, like people predicted about Kim Il-Sung and his death. I guess being a dictator isn't easy after all - if he is suffering from all those health problems and planning the frequent missile test launches as well as showing up for photo ops. He might just live fine for another ten years but it is interesting to predict North Korea’s future without Kim Jong-Il.

link to original article (it's in Korean) Kim Jong-Il's Health Issues

Friday, June 08, 2007

North Korean "Diplomacy"

I continue to find it interesting how much stress the world seems to place on six-party talks and the hope that Kim Jong Il will suddenly abdicate his position of power in favor of energy development assistance. The Reuters article I was looking at that discusssed the ongoing nuclear debate also talked about the "hermit kindom's" lack of banking technology, a topic that I haven't heard a lot about. Another article from the International Herald Tribune (, Banco Delta Asia was the major financial institution for a great number of North Korea's monetary transactions and trade. In September 2005, US Treasury Department accused the bank of confterfeiting and money laundering schemes for North Korean government "companies and entities". Based out of Macao, after the Treasury Department's attacks, there was a run on the bank's deposits, which resulted in North Korea getting frozen out of not only Banco Delta Asia, but also numerous other institutions who were not willing to get involved with the country because of it's questionable reputation. Although the first things that pop into my head when I hear the words "North Korea" tend to be about nuclear weapons, I can't help but think that the USG's attacks on North Korea, and the banking issue will continue to gain momentum and become an increasingly volatile subject as six party talks continue.

The name "Choson"

The North Korea's official name in Korean is "Choson Minjujuui Inmin Gongwhaguk(democracy people's republic) . So people might think that the North Korea got its name after Choson dynasty, even though the North Korea considers Choson was backward and says they eliminated legacy of Choson. While I was in class and listened Prof.Larsen's lecture, I came up with an idea that the North Korea might choose its name after ancient Choson. There is no clear evidence to support my idea but the North Korea does not deny inheritance of ancient Choson at least. In addition, they support 'Tan-gun' story, teach the story at school and I made a huge tomb saying that it found bone of 'Tan-gun'.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

article for last post

Unifcation of North and South

Interesting that despite the fact the Korean people could benefit greatly from a unified Korea, still many oppose this action. The article discusses that the military in the North may reduce in power as a result of this occurence. I found it interesting that North Korea's Chief delegate, Kwon Ho ung stressed the need for the powers to work together, while he criticized the outside powers refering to the US as a force that has been nothing but an obstacle to this process.
Does he see the US as an obstacle becuase of the different ideologies of the North and South? Or could this actually be a tactic that he uses to create a common enemy (The Western world- US), hence unifing the North and the South?

Confucianism in North Korean State Development

I found this article in the Harvard Asia Quarterly while I was doing some research for my paper and it contains information some of you might find interesting...The author Jin Woong Kang said that loyalty and filial piety, which are Confucian traditions, are not ideals which have challenged the development of the North Korean state, but in fact have acted to stregnthen the state. It also has a lot of info on how relationships between men and women were altered throughout the development of the state, and people's response to land ownership policies.

I know I'm being bad for not making a fancy shortcut, but my internet keeps shutting off and I can't figure it out! =( Sorry, kids.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

South Korean movies

The history of more than fifty years of division between North and South gave impact on numerous aspects on South Korean culture (literature, song, food, etc.), one of the most prominent being the movie industry. Four out of ten movies in the top box-office record (from 1999) are depicting the conflict between the two (such as Korean War, or espionage activities of North and South), which reflects the fact that this topic appeals to almost every South Korean audiences.

Title of the movie/#of total audiences

3. TaeGukGi: Brotherhood Of War / 11,746,235 (2004)
4. Silmido / 11,081,000 (2003)
6. Welcome To Dongmakgol / 8,008,622 (2005)
9. Swiri / 6,209,898 (1999)

11. Joint Security Area / 5,830,228 (2000)

Russia to help unfreeze North Korean funds

A news article from today described how Russia is going to try to help unfreeze $25 million of North Korean funds, as long as the United States promises there will be no sanctions for Russia if it does so.

Apparently, when the U.S. froze North Korea's funds in the first part of the year to speed up the nuclear disarmament process, it ran into a speed bump because the US was unable to figure out how to unfreeze the funds, and therefore asked Russia for help in finding a solution. Is this even possible? One would think that if you could freeze someone's accounts, you could just lift the ban, or at least know how to! My question is, why would the Russians be scared of sanctions if the US had asked them for help? Something seems a bit shady to me! Of course, the idea that Russia was the first to be able to help is a little humorous too, seeing how they started the communist revolution in the first place in NK! And what will these funds be used for? Will it help the people at all? One would hope so!

Monday, June 04, 2007

A State of Mind

I just finished watching a 2003 documentary on the Mass Games by Daniel Gordon. The film is called A State Of Mind and follows two Korean girls as they practice for the mass games. I've seen one other documentary about North Korea and found it interesting how I came out with two very different feelings after each one. After watching this documentary, I found it interesting that I did not leave with a negative view of North Korea. It was obvious that North Korea was behind on modern technology etc, but there were so many scenes in which these people seemed "normal." I thought it was interesting that even when CNN interviewed Daniel Gordon he never gave an opinion about North Korea and stated that his documentary was supposed to be non judgemental. Overall, I thought it was good documentary that honestly showed North Korean life for the privledged as well as the ideologies of the state.

Adventures in Asia

My brother's fiancee is travelling throughout Asia for a year with her acting company performing"The King and I." She periodically sends us pictures of her adventures, and the most recent have been some albums of her time in South Korea. Here is a link to some Shutterfly pictures I found a nice compliment to some of the culture we are studying.

Defector's Stories

As I was finishing the last post, I just stumbled on a whole section in The Daily NK which is devoted to Defector's Stories. I thought that that would be pretty interesting for others to look at going along with the defecting family story...

Update on North Korean Defectors

As an update to a previous posting about a a North Korean family defecting and being picked up in a Japanese port , I came across an article about the Prime Minister's latest statement.

The issue concerning Japan and defectors is serious because of its implication on the relationship between the two countries. Because of the shaky past, Prime Minister Abe must be careful not to push Pyongyang too far, especially with their latest missile tests. Abe has stated that a "humanitarian approach" would be taken. This could be viewed as an attempt to take the moral highground, and I'm sure that the North Korean government is outraged. It has been ecided that the family will be allowed to travel to South Korea with a "temporal protection landing permit" from Japan.

It is also interesting to note the differences between China and Japan's defector policies, because as Christina mentioned, the Chinese have sent defectors back, recognizing them as criminals.

Kim Jung-Il Successor

I was wondering if his heir will make it a point to continue emphasis on Confucian values by waiting three years in order to take his father's position. If so what will be the implications of this?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

China and North Korea

I just thought it was interesting how in America we tend to always focus on the relationships we have with other countries. Perhaps it was my lack of knowledge, but I had always thought that the United States had the most influence over North Korea. However, this overview of the North Korea and China article clearly shows that China has a lot invested in North Korea. I had always thought that North Korea was very much a hermit kingdom in the sense that it only exported and did not import. I find it interesting how China is basically the money behind North Korea, yet North Korea can still get China do follow their terms when it comes to things such as defectors. I was just curious as to why China doesn't take more of a powerful/demanding role in its relationship with North Korea.

Song of Ariran

This article was part of our required reading. However, we never discussed it in class so perhaps we could discuss it here.
I found the article extremely compelling and informative. It was a great read, I thought, because it told a story. It is always helpful for me to read articles about people who actually lived through an event such as Japanese annexation and the March 1st movement. This makes the event real to me and I am more willing to read other subject matter even if it is a bit dry.

Driving the streets of post-Stalinist Pyongyang is just like time travel

This article is from a British News paper, Telegraph. While the article is a little over a year old, the points that it raises are very interesting. The journalist who wrote this article drank Heineken while he was there, something that 99% of the population can not afford. He also says that citizens were skeptical in talking to him because it is illegal to have conversations with foreigners. He also says that the "teenage girls dressed in green military uniforms practising synchronised goose-stepping on parade grounds are a perfect snapshot of 1960s China". Also, the streets close down at night because the government is incapable of leaving the lights on all night because they do not have the money or capacity to maintain this.

These are just a few examples of the everyday occurrences that happen in North Korea. I can not imagine what it would be like to like in a society like this. Would I like it in my blind ignorance and find it to be a serene environment? or would I question the existence and the extremely unfair division of elite and poor? One woman is quoted as saying "Why do the Americans hate us so much?" Is this the case, I don't think so but what if that is all you ever knew? What would it be like?

Help the Average Person? Unlikely

North Korea signals goal of raising living standards

According to the above article, North Korea is supposedly transitioning from a "Army First" year to a year of helping average people. The idea is that now since North Korea has been successful in creating it's nuclear weapon program, it can focus on the economy and raising the living standards of the people. The article states that many people live on monthly wages of just $3-$6, and participate in small markets buying surplus from farmers that the Government turns a blind eye towards, allowing some people to make $25/month.

However, the government has not stated how they are going to accomplish this goal, apart from starting to build a few apartment buildings that will only house a few hundred people. In fact, the only response to how this goal will be met is "More Discipline!" I may not be an economist, but one thing I know that controlling people does not automatically lead to economic prosperity. The socialist system is obviously not working for the benefit of the poor. I think the government should take a hint from the mini capitalist version of the small markets. I think that the whole idea of the government switching from a military first position to a people position is unvalidated. I wouldn't be surprised if the propaganda for the nuclear weapons in the country included how these developments will help the people, but I highly doubt this will become a reality.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

North Korean family flees country

I found the following article in today's Washington Post interesting, and thought you all might too. It is titled "Suspected N.Koreans arrive in Japan on boat" and is available online here. The gist of it is four North Koreans left that country due to it's poor living conditions. Since their arrival in Japan they have requested to be taken to South Korea, presumably for asylum. The family apparently shoved off in their small wooden boat near the Chinese border six days earlier, beginning a journey hundreds of miles long across open water. Among the provisions on board were bottles of poison, likely to be used to commit suicide in the event the four were discovered by North Korean authorities. The incident is expected to further strain relations between North Korea and Japan.

movie star

I thought you might enjoy this short video, even better then the still images we saw in class.

Friday, June 01, 2007


I dont know if anyone else found this article on the BBC yet but north and south korea have broken off their talks for promoting more peaceful relations on the korean peninsula. The south wouldn't send their rice aid shipment on time leading to a rift between the two parties. Also, the north hasn't ever shut down its reactor in accordance with an agreement in February.
On my end, it seems likethe same old tune doesn't it and isn't it a shame that the people's of the north will be manipulated to think that the evil capitalists want them to starve and have no electricity. Anyway, if anybody wants to post on the psychology of dictaors or this topic feel free.