A good realist view of North Korea’s recent satellite/missile launch from Selig Harrison, although it is a little out of date after today’s announcement from the DPRK that it will leave the six-party talks for good. Perhaps most disturbing about all this is his belief that Japan is edging toward being an open nuclear power rather just than a de facto nuclear state. If US hegemony continues to decline what are the chances that South Korea will also re-activate its nuclear weapons program? By 2020 it is not hard to imagine a situation where all four of the Northeast Asian states have nuclear weapons and North Korea will be far behind the other three.
May 26, 2009
April 14, 2009
February 19, 2009
Another in my (very) occasional series of posts highlighting the sheer poetic genius of the writers at the North Korean news agency KCNA. Beyond the obvious brilliance of the writing, one can’t help feeling slightly concerned about the attitude of the DPRK authorities toward climate change, not to mention the possible negative effects that the Gen. Sec.’s future birthdays might have on global warming.
Unprecedented Natural Phenomena on Jong Il Peak
Pyongyang, February 12 (KCNA) — The snow in the area of Jong Il Peak began to thaw with the auspicious February 16, the birthday of General Secretary Kim Jong Il just ahead, heralding the approach of spring.
According to the data tabulated in the Paektusan Secret Camp Meteorological Observatory, the temperature in the area from the beginning of February this year is 15 degrees higher than last year to make willow trees in Sobaeksu Valley open catkins on Feb. 11 three days earlier than the previous years.
Five centimeters of snow is thawing every day on an average in the area.
As there is no strong wind and mild climate continues there, it is foreseen that the depth of snow will go down by nearly 60 centimeters in the middle of this month.
An unprecedented phenomenon of moon halo was observed.
At around 18:25 on February 8 the surroundings of the peak became as bright as daytime to make the night view above Kim Jong Il’s birthplace in the Paektusan Secret Camp brilliant.
This was the first of its kind there this year.
Those who witnessed the opening of willow catkins earlier than the previous years and the unprecedented nocturnal view said excitedly that even the nature and the sky unfolded such mysterious ecstasy in celebration of the birthday of Kim Jong Il.
January 15, 2009
Maybe it’s a case of stopped clocks being correct twice a day, I dunno, but every so often those fools running North Korea get things right:
The U.S. already in September last year allowed Israel to purchase 1,000 GPS-guided missiles, called GBU-39, to be used in bombings on Gaza Strip. These missiles arrived in Israel in early December before the start of air strikes and they were the main means of strike in the air-raid, the first stage of the current military operation.
With this patronage of the U.S., Israel tightened the blockade of Gaza Strip last year and killed armed personnel of Hamas on November 4, which forced Hamas to resume its rocket and mortar attacks on the northern area of Israel.
This led to the total destruction of the truce which had been maintained, though perfunctorily, between Hamas and Israel from June 2008. Israel, as if it had been waiting for it, made it a pretext to carry its plan of massive military attacks on Gaza Strip into practice.
Israel and the U.S. are pursuing several political and military purposes through the operation.
A general election is slated in Israel on February 10. Yet the ruling Kadima Party appears disturbed over the scandal of the Prime Minister and the support rate to it is woefully low.
The Israeli authorities seek to stave off the crisis within the party and boost its “popularity” through the military adventures at the expense of the Palestinians.
From the military point of view, they regard the operation as an important chance of recovering from its miserable setback in the 2006 Lebanese War.
The current operation may be called the second war by proxy to be provoked by the present U.S. administration in the Mid-east through Israel during its eight-year office.
The Bush administration has tried by hook or by crook to turn the Mid-east peace process into an “anti-terrorism war” for establishing an order of its exclusive sway in the region, but to no avail.
The U.S. is trying to cover up its defeat in its Mid-east policy by means of focusing the world’s attention on the “terrorism” of Hamas and beating the drum of “anti-terrorism war” more loudly.
Full article here.
For the wit-challenged among my readers this will no doubt be more evidence of my Kim Jong Il-loving tendencies.
March 18, 2008
The Hankyoreh English edition reports on a development that I’ve been hearing about from some people here in London recently: the arrival of North Korean ‘defectors’ (or “saet’omin” in the new politically correct terminology) from South Korea seeking asylum in the UK. These are people who have left North Korea as refugees and been resettled in South Korea under the government programme there, but then left again after finding life difficult in the South.
Apparently there are now some 300-350 North Koreans in the UK awaiting decisions on their asylum applications and it seems that this may be causing some tensions within the established (South) Korean community in south west London, where many of them are living. It will be interesting to see how far they get with their applications, since I imagine that the UK government will see them as claiming asylum from South Korea rather than North Korea. On the other hand, I have no doubt that their difficulties in living in South Korea are absolutely real and they have a genuine desire to escape from the second-class status they are lumbered with in the South by making a fresh start in a third country. If our government is at all serious in its condemnation of North Korean human rights abuses and concern for the plight of North Koreans then it ought to welcome them with open arms.
December 12, 2007
This certainly sounds like a racist attack to me:
A group of young men wielding pipes and sticks attacked a group of North Korean laborers in the Moscow region, leaving four of the migrant workers hospitalized, authorities said Tuesday.
The attackers, all in their early 20s, ransacked the building where the North Koreans live at around 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the town of Volokolamsk, 130 kilometers northwest of Moscow, said Pyotr Ustimenko, deputy head of the Volokolamsk administration.
There were around 20 attackers, and 17 of the 39 North Koreans in the camp at the time were treated for injuries, Ustimenko said. Four were hospitalized.
It is interesting to know that there are North Korean labourers working not only in the Russian Far East as lumberjacks, but also in the Moscow area as construction workers. While South Koreans went abroad to find work in the1960s and 70s it is now North Koreans who are trying their luck in foreign lands. One big difference of course, is that these workers are not exactly free agents pursuing the ‘Russian Dream’ but closer to indentured labourers, often strictly controlled by the North’s Labour Security Service.
In a talk last week North Korea expert Leonid Petrov suggested that there might be much unrealised potential for the North Korean economy as a labour exporter, where it could play the same role it has for many developing countries in acquiring foreign currency via remittances. In fact, it seems North Korean workers could already be forming part of what I would call the ‘Eurasian labour displacement chain’ (for want of a better term). As the UK and other rich EU countries relentlessly suck in workers from Eastern Europe, whole areas of Poland and other countries are becoming depopulated and suffering severe labour shortages. This in turn has led to the import of labour from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to pick fruit and fill other manual jobs in Poland. I’ve heard that Chinese workers are now arriving in Ukraine to fill the gaps in the labour market being created there, but could it be that North Koreans are another group who are beginning to make up for labour shortages in Russia and Ukraine?
Perhaps we could call this the labour version of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ - when someone in Hampstead needs a reliable cheap plumber it could mean that a North Korean gets a job on a Moscow building site.
October 17, 2007
There is an excellent analysis article on North Korea in this week’s Socialist Worker. Written by Kim Ha-young and translated (slightly woodenly I must admit) by yours truly. Here she is on North Korea’s embryonic neoliberal tendencies:
Food shortages and infant malnutrition continue. Young South Koreans are as much as 15 centimetres taller than their counterparts in the North. The lives of ordinary people have got even worse since the North Korean government “reformed the state economy according to profit-making criteria” in July 2002.
Services formerly supplied free of charge now have to be paid for, subsidies for education and childcare have been abolished, and piece rates have been introduced in all workplaces.
While wages increased to between eight and 20 times their former level, workers have suffered greatly, particularly in the cities, as soaring inflation has seen rice prices increase to more than 500 times their former level.
Although it is often claimed that North Korea has refused to open up, this is not true. The North has wanted to pursue friendly relations with the US and Japan. It has also been keen to join the World Trade Organisation and the Asian Development Bank.
It was reported that Kim Il Sung’s son and successor Kim Jong-il told Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002 that he wanted “to sing and dance with Bush until I go hoarse”. North Korea has even said that it would not object to US soldiers remaining on the Korean peninsula.
April 27, 2007
Found a couple of great pictures of the Kaesong ’skyline’ on Flickr today. Taken very recently too, so we can be in no doubt that the city’s old town is still very much intact and looking in better shape than the remnants of Seoul’s Pukch’on district, at least from a distance anyway (more on Seoul’s traditional buildings here and here).
Anyway, here’s something to enjoy while we wait with baited breath for Jamie’s account of his visit to Kaesong.
April 26, 2007
Yes, I’ve been in hiding again. Actually I was in France, but maybe that amounts to the same thing, except with more cheese and wine.
Anyhow, readers may be interested to know that my translations of three interesting pieces by Kim Ha-yong and Han Kyu-han on North Korean history are available at the ISJ website in newly revamped form with fancy footnotes and stuff. I’m also working on translating another piece by Kim Ha-yong giving a Marxist/state capitalist analysis of North Korean economy and society since the Korean War which was originally published in The Radical Review (진보평론) a while back. Obviously I’ll link here when it’s done.
April 8, 2007
North Korea seems to be a little conflicted in its attitude to the Korea-US FTA.
The FTA in question is a catastrophic document which would intensify the U.S. domination and economic subjugation of south Korea and worsen the economic crisis, thus bringing unemployment, poverty and social confusion and driving people’s living to the bottom of misery.
The United States has imposed unbearable misfortunes and sufferings upon the people while occupying south Korea for over 60 years. Now it is going to rob south Korea of everything and its people of their elementary right to live by binding it to such unequal and shackling yoke as the FTA.
Still more intolerable is that the pro-U.S. conservative forces in south Korea including the Grand National Party of south Korea captive to flunkeyism toward the U.S. are trying to abuse the struggle of the people against the FTA for grabbing power, crying over “people’s living” and “economy.”
The south Korean people cannot get rid of misfortunes and pain by leaving alone the U.S. which is tightening the noose of looting around the neck of south Korea, regarding it as a chunk of fat.
The south Korean authorities should stop the FTA negotiations without delay as demanded by the people.
North Korea has welcomed the just-signed free trade agreement between the South and the United States on Monday, seeing its possible role of promoting an inter-Korean industrial complex in its territory, Pyongyang’s management body of the complex said.
In the trade pact, the two sides agreed to hold further negotiations on goods produced in the Kaesong industrial complex, which Seoul wants to be treated as made in South Korea.
Pyongyang sounded upbeat that the pact has left room for the inclusion of Kaesong goods in the trade deal.
“We welcome sincerely (the fact) that the South Korea-U.S. FTA agreement has prepared the foundation for the goods from the Kaesong industrial complex to be treated as made in South Korea,” the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee, which oversees the joint project between South and North Korea.
Of course, it is worth remembering that the North Koreans have been trying to attract serious foreign investment since at least the mid-eighties, it’s just that Kaesong is the first time it’s actually worked - and that’s largely due to the favourable political situation in the South since the late nineties.
More FTA stuff: Andy at the Marmot’s Hole looks at how the various presidential candidates line up on the FTA question, Jamie at Two Koreas continues his in-depth coverage of the deal and Hankyoreh provides an overview of what’s in the deal.