Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Lee sends envoys to proclaim start of 'pragmatic diplomacy' "

On last January, Lee sent four representatives to United States, Japan, China, and Russia to "herald the advent of his pragmatism-oriented diplomacy." Lee sent his own brother, Representative Lee Sang-deuk, vice speaker of the National Assembly, Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of GNP, Chung Mong-joon, and Lee Jae-oh will to Japan, China, US, and Russia, respectively. The letters that those envoys carried emphasized "his diplomatic policy direction and laying the ground for improving bilateral ties, according to officials at the transition team." The message was clear that unlike former President Roh, who claimed very anti-US diplomacy after his inauguration in 2003, Lee will be more pragmatic and friendly to those countries which play important role in terms of not only North Korea, but also economic development of South Korea. However, North Korea recently criticized Lee's pragmatism and claimed that there will be no progress if Lee keeps his pragmatic diplomacy towards North Korea. In addition, the North's most influential state-run daily, the Rodong Shinmun, claimed that it is almost criminal violence to insert pragmatism in relations with North Korea and "Lee ignored the reality and the special nature of inter-Korean relations when he took a "practical approach" toward the communist neighbor."

Lee's attitude towards North Korea probably didn't make North Korea very happy. Unlike last two presidents, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, Lee seems tougher to negotiate in favor of North Korea. However, I personally believe that it's much better decision by Lee to negotiate with little bit of stubbornness rather than do whatever North Korea is asking. By inserting idea of pragmatism, Lee might actually see some progress with North Korea during his presidency.

How the other 0.0000001% live

As most of you should know by now, North Korea is incredibly impoverished and lacks the thriving middle class found in most other developing world nations, but, similar to Soviet Russia, North Korea's elite power holders have attained certain socioeconomic privileges over that of the general population.  These advantages, as pointed out in this article from The Economist, give the elites access to a plethora of foreign technologies and goods that would otherwise be banned by the North Korean orthodoxy.

While the offered goods are nothing spectacular by our standards (they range from T-shirts to Chinese refrigerators to knock-off iPods), the access is extremely limited, and the privilege completely contradicts the minimalist lifestyle preached in North Korean political dogma.  Clearly there are perks to being close to power in North Korea, and while millions of North Koreans struggle daily to survive, these political elite take advantage of the relaxed rules of a corrupt government.

To read the original article from the Economist, Click Here.

Deadly risks in escaping N Korea

A documentary film with regard to the realities of North Korean refugees will go on the air through BBC world news and domestic channels this weekend. (5/31-6/2) The title of this film is 'Korea: Out of the North' produced by Chosun Ilbo Crossmedia Corp. As noted in the article, hunger is driving more and more North Koreans to escape to China, crossing a river frontier at the mercy of traffickers and corrupt police.

Why do they have to take risks of crossing the border? Certainly, it has something to do with their hopeless life in North Korea. Their human rights remain unprotected in the hands of Kim Jong-il regime. It is an epitome of destitute DPRK's economic situation and the Cold-War legacy.
It is also pathetic that there is little room to be intervened for complicated political reasons. Although some often say that the DPRK's food supply has improved compared to that of 1990s, a growing number of North Korean refugees tells us how desperate its situation is.
Please check the BBC article and a short video clip attached to it.
Now click → here

North Korea missile testing

North Korea on Friday (5/30) fired three short-range missiles into West Sea. In response to it, South Korean government official said,
"It does not appear to have been aimed at provoking the South as the missiles were fired northeast toward North Korean land and from far north of the maritime border."

Well, it may be true. Understandably, it can be seen as a annual routine event in a bid to test its aging missle arsenal. However, it is necessary for us to contemplate its implication of series of missile launches. Even assuming that the all-out military conflict is least likely, that does not necessarily mean that North Korea exclude small-sized military disputes against its regime threats. The DRPK has publicly heightened its animosity against new ROK government, calling new ROK president, Lee as national traitor and sycophant of US. Under this virtual standoffish circumstance, the missile symbolically demonstrates that hawkish military power group in North Korea still has its voice and their pushing measures after their verbal assault against the ROK.

Lee Myung-bak has enunciated his principles and strategies on the DPRK since he was elected as a President. According to 2008 January edition of government-issued, Korea Policy Review, he said,
"Our North Korea policy must center on solving the perennial problem of hunger and then supporting North Koreans' basic human rights and dignity. If Chairman, Kim Jong-il makes a decisive choice of giving up nuclear weapons and liberalizing its economy, the international community will respond with an equally decisive choice."

Considering the point that his policy cannot proceed without the Pyongyang's cooperation, Lee's policy is likely to face the resistance from the DPRK constantly until mutual trust firmly establishes. The tug of war has started between Lee Myung-bak and Kim Jong-il, which remains to be seen. Please check this news article by clicking here.

North Korean Website, Naenara

Hello all.
While doing researches at the library, I found an interesting on-line source about North Korea, which is Naenara. Naenara, meaning my country in Korean, is a type of portal website operated by North Korea. Arguably, it is known that North Korea suppresses its media thoroughly for fear of potential internal rebels. In this regard, the existence of such a thing came to me as a surprise. As you can imagine, it is all about propaganda basically. It offers diverse news and information in nine different languages including Korean, English, French, German, Chinese and Japanese. In consideration of the fact that its server is currently located in Germany, I assume that it is only accessible to foreigners. If you want to, you can register as a member and buy some of DPRK ringback tone musics from there. I was reluctant to do it, though. Instead, Hans and I successfully made a fake id under the name of Global Resource Center (GRC) for fun.
Please enjoy this intriguing website below.

Friday, May 30, 2008

North Korean military parade

I found a video (obviously from the North Korean government) that shows one of their famous military parades. I've only seen some clips of one of these parades on the news channels, so it was pretty interesting to watch. The clips are in two parts. Kim Jung-il comes out and you can tell he is displeased with something about the parade. It is kind of funny. Anyway take a look! Oh and can someone translate a little of what they say?

Part I

Part II

Inside North Korea

Here is a documentary by Peter Tetteroo and Raymond Feddema. Its about an hour long, so watch it when you have some time, but this video is very interesting. This video shows just how different North Korea is from the rest of the world. It reminds me of the book 1984.
Mid-Level Official Steered U.S. Shift On Korea
Washington Post, Monday, May 26, 2008, pp. 1 and A14

According to the article, Pyongyang "shut down its nuclear reactor, disabled key facilities and provided thousands of pages of records meant to verify the size of its stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium" because of Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill's "maverick" approach. Hill, according to the article, was instrumental in shifting the U.S. policy toward North Korea from confrontation to accommodation. According to the article, Hill was able to convince the Bush Administration to separate the two issues in negotiations. The issues are North Korea's uranium enrichment program and its holding of plutonium. According to Hill, the uranium enrichment issue was secondary in the sense that the original intelligence was not accurate in that it overstated the problem.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

N.Korean Dictator, Kim Jung Il's death

Through various media from Korea and Japan continuously talking about the death of N.Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il. One influential N.Korean information group in S.Korea, Lee said Kim Jung il was attacked by mysterious group of people while he was traveling aroung Pyung Yang in his vehicle. Lee said the place where incident happend in Pyung Yang, they found Kim's blood around the place also the mysterious attackers took Kim Jung il's body, therefore the N.Korean government is searching Kim Jung il and try to keep this issue secretly.

However according to S.Korean government said, We never heard about Kim Jung il's death from N.Korean government yet and we never heard about Kim Jung il's health issue, that we assume Kim Jung Il is not dead.

But in Japan, the situation is totally different. Most of Japanese media and people believe the death of Kim Jung il, therefore Japanese stock market's investment is turned out very optimistic and increased investment on stocks.

The first death story about Kim Jung il came out about 3days ago, on may 26th, 2008. After this death story came out later in that day, N.Korean media said Kim Jung il visited military bases. Therefore S.Korean government believe Kim Jung il is not dead yet. However some people keep questioning about Kim Jung il's death and said, there was no picture or video evidence to prove Kim Jung Il's visit on military bases on 26th.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"N.K. stops drills, sends troops to help farms: source"

Instead of spending time on training for upcoming summer exercise which considered very important, the troops went to help farmers raising its crops. This kind of action from North Korean troops is very unusual because Kim Jong-Il always treated military enhancement as country’s most priority task which is supported by his policy called, "Songun."

From my point of view, this unusual action from North Korean troops can be explained many different ways. First explanation can be simply because North Korean leader realized immediate emergence of food shortage. Some source actually stated that their food shortage is so serious this year that they actually will be experiencing famine if they don't receive large amount of aid from other countries. Second way of looking at this incident is may be North Korea wants to provoke sympathy from foreign aid groups by emphasizing seriousness of food shortage. Thirdly, such unexpected help from troops will always increase patriotism from people (Especially when the government emphasizes so much whenever they do something actually good for people). Finally, this type of action actually will provoke positive point of view towards North Korea. North Korea can actually use these kinds of actions later in the negotiation that they are looking after their people and claim that people come before military development; therefore, North Korea isn't always just asking for help but actually trying.

North Korea Fights Off Malaria as Disease Heads South

Although Malaria in the 1990s was a big problem in North Korea due to poor sanitation, currently North Korea claims to have no issues with Malaria at the moment. What is interesting is that recently, the boarder between North and South Korea has become overwhelm with cases of Malaria, with most cases being reported close to South Korea's capital, Seoul. However, the governor of Gyeonggi province which boarders on North Korea and surrounds Seoul, Kim Moon-soo, has noted that "The North has replied that it has no problem with malaria. They are reluctant to have this issue publicized. We also suffer from this issue and we have proposed to them to catch mosquitoes together," Kim said. This is interesting in that reflecting on how to better a people, the right thing to do (especially in terms of a confucian ruler looking out for the benefit of his people) would be to address the problem and work with their counterpart in the South to the betterment of their people. However, in a Kim jong-Il fashion, the image of North Korea takes precedent over real health concerns.
What is also interesting about this article, is the language used to describe North Korea and South Korea's relationship. Discussing the rate of infection "In his province [Kim Moon-soo], 677 people were infected last year with malaria by mosquitoes that had crossed the no-man's land Demilitarized Zone buffer dividing the two countries technically still at war." It is interesting to think of the two countries still being technically at war, although the major battles have long been fought. It is telling of the North and South's contentious relationship with one another

Friday, May 23, 2008

Official: NKorea very close to turning in nuclear accounting

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea is extremely close to producing a long-awaited accounting of its shuttered nuclear program, a senior U.S. official said Friday. The documentation would be a major step toward a disarmament deal with the reclusive communist regime.
Although there is no date agreed yet, the documentation is expected within the next month. That would clear the way for a high-stakes meeting as soon as the end of June between the top U.S. and North Korean diplomats, along with the other four nations involved in a deal to put North Korea out of the nuclear weapons business.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the six-nation diplomatic consultations are confidential, says the U.S. insists it be able to verify that North Korea's documentation is complete.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The World Worst Concentration camp,YODUK in N.Korea Interview of Yoduk Survivor actual Yoduk concentration camp Video of Yoduk Story Info from Wikipedia

There is a one of the world most crucial and non humane concentration camp in North Korea known as YoDuk. There are some survivors from YoDuk concentration camp came to S.Korea and published book and even made Musical: YoDuk Story. Yo Duk story was even performed in Washington D.C. about 2 years ago.

People from North Korea who are sucess to escape from N.Korea and currently live in S.Korea always mentioned about this Yoduk concentration camp and they all described how brutal they were. Therefore some say N. Korea's Yoduk concentration camp is worse than German's Auschwitz concentration camp. Nothing was given to people in camp and just continuously work. Only served food were poorly made cover of grain soup that contains no nutrition to live. So most of people rely on other food like roots of trees, mice, and anything that are edible.

Since prisoners were not treated well that they only attempt to achive instinct desires like eat, sleep, and sex. It is pretty much like the first step of Maslow's pyramid. Military personnels only watch out for escaping prisoners but do not care much about what prisoners doing, even if there is fight between prisoners. Therefore there is many fights between people over food. Some survivors described as animal like pure wild nature was happening in Yoduk concentration camp.

"S. Korea seeks to buy N. Korean nuclear fuel rods"

After North Korea agreed to disable its nuclear reactor for aids from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan during six parties talk in 2007, they began to take the first of three phases, which is to close down Yongbyun nuclear power plant. This article stated that they already implemented 8 out of 11 steps to disable such facilities. As North Korea getting closer to shut down its main nuclear reactor, South Korea suggested that they are willing to buy "unused rods" in Yongbyun to use it as South Korea energy source. This article also noted that Japan has not been committed with the nuclear agreement as they reject to aid North Korea until they show significant improvement on disablement of nuclear weapons.

South Korea's decision on buying North Korea's "unused rods" is surely a non-zero-sum trade. South Korea can benefit not only from energy they would receive but also stimulate the North Korea's process on disablement. North Korea can benefit from it as they wouldn't have to throw away their "work" for nothing. Furthermore, this also could be very good for U.S or other anti-terrorist country because there were several accusations that North Korea support terrorist groups and those unused rods may have put on hands of those terrorists.

North Korea welcomes U.S. food aid
This article is related to another article that was posted a while back on the United States' intentions to send food to help aid North Korea's shortage. The US will send food and aid to North Korea and as it was accepted by the government and the people, the Bush administration made sure to distance this event from their label under the "Axis of Evil".
It is an interesting turn of events that both countries are working together to better the people rather than thinking in strictly diplomatic and political terms. This action might purely be a humanitarian issue, but it seems difficult to separate any actions between the United States and North Korea without thinking about their international relationship. I believe that even though the United States has not made any comments about any reciprocal action, that this might be a political tool in order to influence the actions of Kim Jong-Il and North Korea

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"N. Korea violates western sea border amid growing tension"

North Korea has been crossing sea border of South Korea three times already this year. Most recent annexation was last Saturday when North Korean patrol ship sailed 3.8 kilometers into Northern Limit Line (NLL). Even though it's nothing new and South Korean officials believe it was just a mistake, they are still worried that the numbers of these incidents are abnormal. Especially after they claimed the new president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, as traitor and imposter, these little incidents brought large attention to Korean officials.

It might be over reacting if South Korea or its allies retaliate for such violations; however, it is still important to note that how North Korea is continuously warning or, in other way, bothering South Korea to express their opinion about the new president. Furthermore, North Korea used this kind of strategy in 2006 when they tested long-range missile, Tepodong-2, to claim that U.S and its allies should take North Korea more seriously. In addition, indirect threats that North Korea often projects can put them in higher stance in terms of negotiation.

"North Koreans greet Olympic torch"

The Olympic torch made its way through North Korea last month. This event was very significant since this was the first ever passage of Olympic torch through North Korea.
To me this news was really surprising because I would never have guessed this would be the first ever passage of the Olympic torch from North Korea. On the other hand the passage was very easy in North Korea, since China is a close ally of the regime; therefore no pro-Tibet demonstrations occurred in North Korea.

"North Korea Welcomes New York Philharmonic"

February of this year the New York Philharmonic orchestra performed in North Korea. This visit was very interesting because similar strategies or similar visits resulted in improved diplomatic relationships. May be the most remembered one is “ping-pong diplomacy” with China. It will be very interesting to see in the future how this visit affects the diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea. But, also pointed out in the article, many analysts don’t think that this visit would be significant enough to have any effect on the relations between the two countries, since Kim Jong-il accepted many outsiders to the country without giving up his political or economical ideals. On the other hand this might be a sign of Kim Jong-il regime opening their country to outside world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

U.S. decides to send food aid to North Korea

Beginning in June, the U.S. has decided to send 500,000 tons of food to North Korea to help with problems of food shortages. North Korea has been experiencing issues of food shortages for many decades and has received aid since the mid-1990s. Some think this act will contribute to repairing relations between the two countries. However, American officials stated that this act of aid has no connection to rebuilding relations; they explain America is just a compassionate nation.

I believe that the act of the U.S. giving aid will cause a domino effect with other nations who have not had the most amiable relations with North Korea to start assisting with the food shortages. Without international aid, North Korea will experience what described as a "humanitarian disaster." Surprisingly, South Korea has publicly stated that they plan to put together a plan to help out as well with the crisis.

Monday, May 19, 2008

S.Korea's first Nobel Prized man, Kim Dae Joong's secret behind his prize

Unfortunately S.Korea's only Nobel prized man, Former President, Kim Dae Joong made secret deal with Nobel Prize committee and other influential organization. This issue was actually came up to surface far ago, even under Kim Dae Joong's preseidency during 2002, but this issue even become more popular in 2008.

It is because of former S.Korea's secret service agent (NIS: National Intelligence Service / CIA of Korea), Kim Ki Sam proclaimed there were some secret fabrication behind the Nobel Prize.
Kim Dae Joong prepared tons of money and sent to N.Korea for meeting. Also Korea's one of the finest company, Hyundai deeply involved with this issue and gave money to N.Korea as well.

Another suprising thing is under Kim Dae Joong's presidentcy there was Nobel Prize Task force team in NIS(National Intelligence Service/ CIA of S.Korea) lobbying money to various influencial organization and even controlling world media by giving them data about meeting between S.Korea and N.Korea.

However,Most people in the world including S.Korean do not know about this secret fabrication behind the Kim Dae Joong's Nobel Prize and they proudly think about S.Korea's first Nobel prize.