The article was referring to the early February visit of China’s chief North Korea nuclear negotiator, Wu Dawei, who arrived on a mission to convince Pyongyang to forego the expected missile launch. Wu reportedly told reporters upon returning to Beijing empty-handed that he “said what had to be said, and did what was supposed to be done.” China had sent other clear signals to Pyongyang NOT to go forward with the recent missile launch. Beijing’s state organ the Global Times published an editorial at the end of January that warned that North Korea was “headed on a path of peril” and that if it continued to develop its nuclear arsenal it “should not expect China’s protection.” Kim Jong Un obviously spurned these admonitions.
The sight of a 30-something, narcissistic bully in Pyongyang thumbing his nose repeatedly at his elders in Beijing will certainly draw notice in Confucian Asia
From a practical point of view, Kim Jong Un’s shameless public displays of contempt for his sole major ally are difficult to explain. In July 2015 International Policy Digest reported, in an article titled “Strategic Alliance: China-North Korea,” that “North Korea is economically dependent on China for its basic necessities like energy and food, which dominate the trade between the two countries. China provided North Korea with 70 percent of its food and about 70-80 percent of the country’s fuel supplies.” But in a deeper cultural sense Kim’s humiliations of Beijing are even less comprehensible. Even before the Ten Commandments codified respect for one’s parents as a basic tenet of Western culture, the Sinocentric culture of East Asia had emphasized deference to one’s elders and mentors as the harmonious glue which holds the social order together. The sight of a 30-something, narcissistic bully in Pyongyang thumbing his nose repeatedly at his elders in Beijing will certainly draw notice in Confucian Asia from Singapore to Seoul and from Taipei to Tokyo. So what is China to do?
China’s ace-in-the-hole may be the proverbial prodigal elder son of the late Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Nam. Like a former claimant to the English throne, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Kim Jong Nam may be being kept in the wings for some as yet unexpected future contingency. And, like the Stuart pretender, Kim Jong Nam possesses the requisite pedigree via the Baekdu bloodline that would make him an ideologically acceptable alternative to Kim Jong Un.
Both biology and misbehavior played roles in Kim Jong Nam’s falling out with his father, Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, when the time arrived to identify an heir apparent for the Kim dynasty. Kim Jong Nam’s mother, movie actress Song Hye Rim, had not been a favorite of his grandfather, the dynasty’s founder, Kim Il Sung. According to Bradley K. Martin in his 2004 work Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, Kim Jong Nam’s father, Kim Jong Il, a self-acclaimed expert movie director, met his mother “in the 1960s, after he started hanging around at the studios” of the Pyongyang film industry. The fact that the actress was already married required securing a divorce and reportedly having her ex-husband sent abroad. Martin notes that “Kim Jong Il, according to Song’s nephew’s account, worried about the Great Leader’s (Kim Il Sung’s) reaction to the potentially scandalous situation he had gotten himself into.” Kim reportedly kept his mistress and their baby son, Kim Jong Nam, ensconced in a palatial mansion for a few years until his father handpicked Kim Yong Suk, the daughter of a high-ranking North Korean military officer, to be Kim Jong Il’s official wife. A number of Kim Jong Nam’s mother’s relatives further annoyed his father by subsequently defecting and engaging in tell-all interviews. One of them, a cousin of Kim Jong Nam, was gunned down by suspected North Korean agents in Seoul in 1997.
In the 1980s Kim Jong Il became involved with Ko Yong Hui, with whom he had a daughter and two sons, including current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Nam’s mother increasingly spent time abroad in Moscow, reportedly both for medical reasons and to curb any further scandalous rumors about her relationship with the Dear Leader. Kim Jong Nam was cared for as a child by his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was purged and killed by Kim Jong Un in 2013, and Jang’s wife, Kim Kyong Hui, a daughter of Kim Il Sung, as the couple had no son and heir of their own. Jang reportedly maintained a relationship with his nephew even after Kim Jong Nam fell from favor and was removed as heir apparent, providing financially for him and his family in exile in Beijing and Macau.
Kim Jong Nam’s fall from grace is most often attributed to his arrest in May 2001 at Japan’s Narita Airport while attempting to enter the country on a forged Dominican Republic passport in order to take his son to Tokyo Disneyland. His subsequent deportation reportedly embarrassed his highly secretive father. Kim, however, has also reportedly engaged in other nefarious activities as well. Bradley Martin quoted a former captain in North Korean State Security as stating that in his early manhood “Kim Jong Nam drank heavily, went to the Koryo Hotel and shot the place up.”
US News and World Report, in a January 27, 2003 article titled “The Far East Sopranos,” reported the existence of a videotape showing Kim Jong Nam using counterfeit U.S $100 supernotes at a Macau casino. As a result of these bad boy activities, his father dropped him as heir in favor of his younger half-brother and sent him into exile.
At the time of the Kim Jong Un’s coming to power his brother Kim Jong Nam, “ostensibly under the protection of the Chinese government,” moved from Macau, which was considered too risky due to the presence of North Korean agents, to Singapore. Beijing was certainly aware of the potential security threat, noting South Korean news reports that “South Korean authorities indicted a North Korean agent for violating the National Security Law. Prosecutors said Kim Yong Su had been ordered by the North Korean regime to travel to China in July 2010 to kidnap Kim Jong Nam.” Further, he and his student son, Kim Han Sol, went into hiding after Jang Song Thaek’s purge in 2013, with the Independent reporting on December 18, 2013 that “the teenager was chaperoned to his dormitory by French police officers.” Kim Han Sol had previously referred to his uncle Kim Jong Un as “a dictator” in a public interview with Finnish television. (The college student also represents the only known fourth-generation male heir to the Kim dynasty as Dennis Rodman, after his North Korean visits with Kim Jong Un in 2013, revealed to the world that the current leader only has a baby daughter).
Kim Jong Nam … has voiced criticisms of his younger brother
Kim Jong Nam, despite a globetrotting playboy image which has seen him periodically surface in Southeast Asian watering holes in Indonesia and Malaysia, has voiced criticisms of his younger brother similar to those espoused by his own student son. Kim Jong Nam reportedly emailed a Japanese journalist in 2012 a prediction that “the Kim Jong Un regime will not last long.” He has also voiced support for economic restructuring, stating that “without reforms, North Korea will collapse,” which would be music to the ears of the leadership in Beijing. Kim Jong Nam’s close familial ties to his purged uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was widely seen as Beijing’s point man in Pyongyang, would also likely earn him kudos among the Chinese leadership facing a quandary of what to do about North Korea. The question is how to preserve a reliable buffer state against American influence in South Korea while curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs which increasingly threaten regional stability. Kim Jong Nam, despite his bad boy image, would likely prove far more pliant than his disagreeable and defiant little brother.
So where is the prodigal son? In a gilded cage in Southeast Asia surrounded by Chinese body guards? The Daily Mail reported in July 2015 that Kim Jong Un had given his errant half-brother a DPRK foreign ministry post working on Japanese affairs apparently on the theory of “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”
Bringing Kim Jong Nam back into North Korea as part of a palace coup would be a risky business for Beijing and could have unintended consequences. The Kaiser’s secret police successfully smuggled the revolutionary Lenin and a pile of gold in a boxcar from Switzerland to Sweden to help trigger the Bolshevik Revolution and Russia’s subsequent withdrawal from the Great War. But just over a quarter-century later Lenin’s Soviet military successors marched into Berlin and divided Germany. The question is: At what point does Kim Jong Un become so belligerent and unpredictable that a bold move to remove him seems the only viable option left? If Kim Jong Nam is indeed again working with the North Korean bureaucracy and military in some new diplomatic role he may be able to forge ties which would prove useful in an unforeseen contingency. And with Kim Jong Un removed and his more pliable brother in his place, Beijing could re-build its highly successful but recently frayed diplomatic ties with Seoul. Xi Jinping could then seek to entice South Korea with the holy grail of a confederated Korea under Seoul’s influence in exchange for a reduction of American military and diplomatic influence on the peninsula.
And the prodigal son could be the one to make all this happen.]]>
The point of these presumed publicity stunts, according to an increasingly insecure consensus, is to force America to talk with the North Koreans on their own terms. Just how much — if anything — they would then be ready to give up is a matter of dispute. And the grand prize they are after? In roughly chronological order since the 1990s, we have attributed to them an obsession with: a self-reliant energy supply, a massive aid package, the normalization of relations with Washington, and formal acknowledgment of the right to a nuclear deterrent.
In 2012, however, Kim Jong Un broke a new aid agreement with the U.S. within weeks, which made his lack of interest in trust-building obvious even to most soft-liners. Since then ever more credence has been given to the notion that the North’s “provocations” are aimed mainly at shoring up domestic support. Yet the rather slow-moving propaganda apparatus had hardly begun exploiting the H-bomb test when the missile was launched. Some American observers have therefore begun to claim, as Katherine H.S. Moon of the Brookings Institute did a few days ago, that the DPRK “seems to want nukes for the sake of nukes.”
the general tendency since 1990 has been towards ever-greater trivialization of the North Koreans’ motives
In short, the general tendency since 1990 has been towards ever-greater trivialization of the North Koreans’ motives. The more they develop their nuclear program, the less we think they want to gain from it.
As a result any serious South Korean show of opposition, like President Park’s closure of the Kaesong Industrial Zone, is treated as a rash over-reaction. Presumably she should have kept the place open in case Kim Jong Un ever wanted to communicate through that channel, and none other. The assertion that the KIZ was undermining the Kim Jong Un regime is no more valid than the failed-communist-state model of the country from which it derives. I can’t help noticing how often North Korea invites the very Pyongyang watchers who call in public for this kind of subversion.
Kingsley Amis once asked a don to tell him the most important lesson he had learned at Oxford. The answer: “Never be afraid of the obvious.” So let me point out that none of the goals commonly imputed to the regime would remove the main threat to its long-term survival, which, as Siegfried Hecker recognized years ago, is internal in nature. The North Korean people’s ardor for the personality cult and their participation in political ritual would continue diminishing even if the U.S. acknowledged the North’s nuclear deterrent or agreed to lift sanctions. Any permanent relaxation of tension with the outside world, no matter how heroically it might be effected, would ultimately undermine Kim Jong Un’s hold on power.
He behaves accordingly. As the Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel put it last month, “We have extended our hand, but North Korea will not unclench its fist.” Some apologists attribute this implacability to NATO’s attack on denuclearized Libya, as if the North Koreans were such nice fellows before that happened. But the nuclear program has already progressed far beyond the stage needed to keep the enemy at bay. The regime hardly needs long-range missiles, or any more nuclear capability than it acquired years ago, to keep using Seoul as the world’s largest human shield.
Any permanent relaxation of tension with the outside world, no matter how heroically it might be effected, would ultimately undermine Kim Jong Un’s hold on power
Isn’t it time, then, that we paid more attention to the DPRK’s own declarations of its intentions? Reiterated in Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s address, and featured in garish new wall posters, the slogan of “autonomous unification” seems harmless to most outsiders, as the regime knows only too well. To the North Koreans themselves, it has always stood for the conquest or subjugation of South Korea after nullification or removal of the U.S. military presence.
“Final victory,” which means the same thing, is another slogan that has taken on special urgency in the past decade, particularly in the domestic-only propaganda that the regime keeps offline. According to South Korean intelligence, which has been right about so much in the past few years, Kim Jong Un has been vocally raising the military’s hopes for “final victory” in the very near future. Like his predecessors before him, he appears sure that the removal of the rival state is the only long-term solution to the regime’s security problem.
“Final victory” …is another slogan that has taken on special urgency in the past decade
The West shrugs off such talk under the assumption that such a goal would require North Korea’s defeat of the U.S. in an all-out war, something Kim must indeed know is out of the question. But there is a very real possibility that the regime will someday seek to trade in its nuclear program for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the peninsula. The dictator has good reason to hope that the South Korean public would assent to such a grand bargain rather than risk another war.
If people in the West find this scenario almost as ludicrously improbable as the other one, it is because they have always overestimated South Koreans’ loyalty to their own republic and their hostility to the North. For a long time I made this mistake myself. In 2009 I was sure the DPRK would soon push Seoul and Washington too far, resulting in a punishing retaliation that would start a process of regime collapse.
I was right about the increase in North Korean belligerence, wrong about everything else. Had anyone told me that the Kim Jong Il regime would be able to torpedo a South Korean naval vessel, killing 46 sailors, and then bombard Yeonpyeong Island, killing 4, without suffering any serious retaliation from the Lee Myung Bak administration, I would not have believed it. My mistake lay in not realizing that moderate South Korean conservatives do not identify much more strongly with their republic than the left-wing does. They too, being pan-Korean nationalists at heart, will get angrier about Japanese claims to Dokdo than about their blood-brothers’ attack on an actual, populated island.
This is hard to understand without knowing the warts-and-all history of the South Korean protest movement, to which even many of today’s ruling party members belonged in their youth. Alas, this remains a taboo topic in Korean Studies. In the West, researching it would bring one into conflict with the dominant academic orthodoxy, according to which the military dictators’ allegations of North Korean subversion of the opposition were almost wholly false.
There is a wider range of opinion in the ROK, but it would be a brave historian indeed who would discuss the North’s infiltration of certain parties, unions and church groups. A few veterans of the protest movement who are now in the so-called New Right have told me they fear the social repercussions of speaking out. The very least they could expect would be a libel suit.
Of course, the subject matter carries with it inherent difficulties. It is hard to draw attention to the opposition’s pro-North record — and to many intellectuals’ continued denial of the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea — without encouraging some rightists’ tendency to malign everyone on the left as a “jongbuk seryeok,” or stooge of Pyongyang.
Unification is the only plausible goal big enough to make sense of the enormous sums of money the country continues investing in its nuclear and ballistic program
But so long as the West remains unaware of just how different divided Korea is from divided Germany, it will continue misjudging and mispredicting the North’s behavior. Unification is the only plausible goal big enough to make sense of the enormous sums of money the country continues investing in its nuclear and ballistic program — and losing through sanctions as a result. After years of appearing more displeased with Tokyo than with Pyongyang, the Park administration finally appears to have grasped the gravity of the situation. Whether the electorate will show its support in the upcoming regional elections remains to be seen.
For our part, we must at least stop acting as if the only motive for North Korea’s armament too preposterous to discuss were the one that the country has reiterated, and acted in accordance with, for the past seventy years. Our initial response to 9/11 was to reduce it to a protest against U.S. support for Israel. Only recently have we begun to understand that the jihadists quite literally want the whole world. It is wishful thinking to assume that the ultra-nationalists in Pyongyang, who are far better armed than Islamic State, do not at least want the rest of their ethnic homeland.
Main Picture: Rodong Sinmun]]>
University of Chicago history professor Bruce Cumings said that the North is a “ritualistic” regime that insists on following ritual displays, and the recent launch of a satellite into orbit demonstrates its commitment to signs that it can keep pace with South Korea and Japan technologically, even though it long ago lost the ability to compete with them economically.
“People get along and rise in the regime through ritualistic means even when it hurts North Korea,” he said. “Every time I think they’re going to give this pattern up they deepen it.”
The Pyongyang leadership, Cumings said, is “burying huge amounts of money trying to keep up with where the Soviet Union was 60 years ago.”
Cumings, speaking at the University of Hawaii’s Center for Korean Studies, entitled his Thursday talk “The North Korea That Can Say No,” a reference to right-wing Japanese politician Shintaro Ishihara’s The Japan That Can Say No from the early 1990s, as well China Can Say No, a nationalistic compilation from 1996. Both of those books postulated that their countries increasing – at the time, in Japan’s case – stature would result in their increasing ability to defy the United States.
Though Cumings noted the North’s continual defiance of the U.S., he also spoke of their ability to work against the wishes of China, ostensibly Pyongyang’s closest major ally. Cumings notes the arrival, in early February, of China’s special representative for Korean Peninsular affairs Wu Dawei to explicitly warn the North not to launch its satellite – which is considered a cover for a test of long-range missile and prohibited under UN Security Council resolutions – only to see the North do exactly that days later.
“North Korea has been saying no to China in such a way that Chinese experts say is just a slap in the face,” Cumings said.
Cumings is known for a contrarian take on the North, using his books such as North Korea: Another Country and The Korean War: A History to note the failure of Pyongyang’s enemies, namely the United States and Japan, to come to terms with their role in shaping the conflict on the Korean Peninsula through, respectively, the heavy bombing of the North during the Korean War and the colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45.
However, during his speech Cumings noted the Obama’s administration’s improving of U.S. relations with Burma, Cuba and most recently Iran, and said that North Korea had made a “stupid” move by conducting a satellite launch and its second nuclear test in 2009, the year Barack Obama was inaugurated. He also expressed confusion as to why the North would announce the launch of a satellite in March 2012, just after it had concluded an aid-for-nuclear-freeze deal with Washington.
However, Cumings said that North Koreans have been regularly disparaged as fanatical, barbaric or even childlike, dating back to the Korean War. In one particular example, he noted a Newsweek cover from 1994, just after the death of Kim Il Sung, which called North Korea “the headless beast.” Cumings called this a “racist headline on a racist article.”
Cumings also said that the headline reflects the continual belief in the coming collapse of the North, noting former George W. Bush advisor Victor Cha’s New York Times column, just after Kim Jong Il’s death in 2011, that the North would become a “province” of China or would collapse.
“Don’t you say mea culpa at some point?” Cumings said.
Cumings went on to say that Kim Jong Un dying in office was a more likely outcome than war or collapse, and that the U.S. priority should be capping the North’s nuclear weapons program, rather than finding or disposing of “every last A-bomb.”
Images: Rob York]]>
Minister of Unification Hong Yong-pyo told journalists that the government has the relevant materials to back up the concerns that the money, including wages, going into the KIC is used for weapons of mass destruction.
“Despite the concerns, (the South Korean government) tried to maintain the KIC, explaining its meaning in inter-Korean relations to international society. North Korea’s continuous provocations in recent days, however, are creating instability for our citizens,” Hong said.
Hong, however, declined to reveal the relevant evidence in public, citing “intelligence.”
“Approximate $540 million was wages, among the $560 million in total expenses, as of the end of last year,” an official from the ministry told NK News.
The minimum salary of KIC workers is $73.873 a month, which was agreed upon by the two Koreas last August. Including overtime wages, bonuses and social welfare fees, the average personnel expenses per worker amounted to around $164.50 a month, according to the MoU.
“The procedure after giving a dollar to the ‘general office’ is not known to us,” an MoU official said, adding that the ministry has not been informed about the next step.
Social welfare fees, which take up 15 percent of the salary, are directly collected by the North Korean governmental organization called the “general office (chongguk),” the Hankyoreh reported.
Experts suggested that between 60-70 percent of the money is given to the workers.
Another 30 percent is taken by North Korean state organization called the Kaesong City People’s Council and 70 percent is provided to workers, Kim Jin-hyang, who served at KIC Management Council from 2008-11, told YTN Radio on Thursday.
“About 60 percent of the money to the KIC is distributed to workers and some of the salary is paid by vouchers,” Kim Young-yoon, president of the Korea Logistics Forum told NK News.
The currency given to the workers is exchanged from dollars to North Korean won according to the official North Korean exchange rate, Lim Eul-chul, professor of University of North Korean Studies, told NK News.
“North Koreans prefer vouchers to hard money, as they can exchange goods with money,” said Lim.
But South Korean media outlet TV Chosun, a subsidiary of the conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper, reported that only 10-20 percent of money is given to North Korean workers and funds from the KIC may be used to buy a “handbag” for Ri Sol Ju, Kim Jong Un’s wife.
“The organization in charge of foreign currency is Office 39 of the Workers’ Party of Korea, so it is reasonable to see that that all of the money goes into Office 39,” professor Kim Jeong-bong of Hanjoong University said, quoted by TV Chosun.
Lim disputed this argument, saying the MoU had reversed its previous position.
“Like other countries, North Korea uses some of the taxes for national defense expenditures. It is difficult to prove with confidence that some of them are used for nuclear weapons and missiles,” he said.
Kim echoed this remark.
“It is hard to completely ensure that none of the income is used for weaponry, but it’s insignificant, compared to the trade scale between North Korea and China.”
The total amount of money entering KIC amounted $100 million last year and the total value of production from the complex amounted to $515 million, according to the MoU. The total value of trade between China and North Korea was $7.6 billion in 2014, according to KOTRA.]]>
Iron and ore from mining are among of North Korea’s most valuable exports, after coal and textiles. But while North Korea’s coal exports to China likely benefited from Vietnam’s withdrawal from the market last year, iron exports were not so fortunate.
With falling global prices and slowing demand in China, the DPRK earned only a fraction of its usual revenues from its shipments of iron pyrites (otherwise known as fool’s gold) to China in 2015.
See more at www.nknews.org/pro/north-korea-sees-50-drop-in-iron-exports-to-china-in-2015/]]>
Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the Saenuri Party lawmaker said that President Park Geun-hye should come up with a plan to eliminate Kim Jong Un, which he said would bring peace to the world.
“We have to be determined to carry out Kim Jong Un’s termination and if we make it so, we only have four to five years to carry out the plan. If such a plan is not carried out in time, Kim Jong Un may be the 21st century’s Hitler with the nuclear weapons in his hands,” Ha said during the interview with YTN Radio.
Ha’s harsh rhetoric did not stop there.
“Just like we (sought to) terminate (Saddam) Hussein, the Islamic State and the Taliban, we have to know the gravity of the situation. South Korean politicians must tell people that North Korea can attack us, and we may be engaged in war because of it,” he said.
Ha claimed that the result of Kim’s death would be a “happier world.”
“Terminating Kim will make everyone happy, 70 million Koreans will be happy and so will China and Japan as well. Then why shouldn’t we carry it out?”
“We have to choose to live as slaves to North Korean nuclear weapons or bring peace and denuclearization to the Korean Peninsula by terminating Kim Jong Un,” he said.
A military expert said an assassination attempt on Kim Jong Un’s life might result in South Korea being listed as a state sponsor of terror.
“It would be hard to attack Kim Jong Un like the U.S. did to take out Osama bin Laden in 2011; the easiest way would be bombing Kim when he is moving in a vehicle, ship or airplane,” Kim Min-seok, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum told NK News.
But this method would prevent the attackers from acknowledging the effectiveness of the attack, with Kim’s body being difficult to find among the debris, he said.
“But the worst result would be that South Korea might be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Kim said.
During the phone call with NK News, Ha’s office said that they have not come up with the solid plan on how to carry out “Operation: Kim Jong Un.”
“There haven’t been further talks about that issue yet,” said the Ha’s office.
On Wednesday, the U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested the need to make Kim Jong Un “disappear.”
“I would get China to make that guy disappear in one form or another very quickly,” Trump said during the radio interview with CBS.
Featured image: Fyodor Tertitsky]]>
If that’s not a petulant cry of “You can’t dump me, I’m dumping you,” I don’t know what is!
It has since been reported that all South Koreans who had worked in the KIC have safely returned and that the South Korean government has also cut off electric power transmission to the complex.
I thought that it was a golden opportunity for South Korea to finally wash its hands off the ugly mess that was the Sunshine Policy and walk away from that cursed thing
When President Park Geun-hye’s administration negotiated with the North Koreans to reopen the KIC after a five-month hiatus in 2013, I was livid. I thought that it was a golden opportunity for South Korea to finally wash its hands off the ugly mess that was the Sunshine Policy and walk away from that cursed thing. Considering how the ROKS Cheonan and Yeonpyeongdo were still fresh in everyone’s memory at the time and the North Koreans had recently conducted a third nuclear test, it made no sense to me that Park would want to reopen the KIC.
I remember saying that day “With hawks like these, who needs doves?”
Naturally, when Park spoke of the need for the free world to punish North Korea with “bone-numbing” sanctions recently, I had a hard time taking her seriously. In fact, I thought it was nothing more than a cynical ploy to appear to be doing something while actually doing nothing. So recent events have certainly taken me by surprise. It has been a pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. Although the KIC ought to have been shut down years ago (and preferably never allowed to see the light of day), I suppose better late than never.
There is no doubt that the approximately $100 million per year that Seoul has funneled into North Korea through Kaesong pales in comparison to the billions that North Korea earns from its exports to China. However, it makes no sense to use that to claim that shutting down the KIC is a mistake.
To use an analogy, if I told a morbidly obese man that it wouldn’t make sense for him not to eat a slice of chocolate cake for dessert because refraining from doing so would make little difference to his already clogged arteries – seeing how he had eaten a grotesque amount of food for dinner just moments ago – wouldn’t anyone rightfully accuse me of enabling a horrid lifestyle?
NO GOOD REASON
China is the second-largest economy in the world, a military powerhouse, and also one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. As such, South Korea’s options are limited when it comes to preventing Beijing from propping up the Kim regime. However, as late as it may be, by finally deciding that it cannot simply allow South Korean taxpayers’ money to be used in any way to help build up the North’s arsenal or prop up Kim Jong Un’s lackies, the South Korean government has finally taken a principled stand.
How many times has the North Korean government threatened to turn South Korea into “a sea of fire?” How many South Korean soldiers, sailors, marines, and civilians have been maimed and killed by the North Korean government’s “continuation of politics by other means?” Also, why must South Koreans live and work to pay for North Korean elites? Why is that the good?
And how much more South Korean blood must be spilled before people realize that it is a gross perversion of justice and morals to insist that South Koreans continue to fork over their hard-earned money to a gangster government that intends to do them harm?
It also makes little sense to mourn the closure of the KIC because it somehow acted as a window to the outside world for the 55,000 North Koreans who worked there. At one time, it might have been the only significant window to the outside world that some North Koreans had. However, that is no longer the case.
It is widely known now that the North Korean people have more access to information from the outside world than ever before, as more North Koreans are secretly watching foreign movies and the black markets are shaking up the country more than South Korea’s National Intelligence Service ever dared to hope. Furthermore, the increased use of cellphones among the North Korean people, both registered and unregistered, means that as far as being a source of information to the outside world goes, the KIC with all of its bureaucratic controls and limits has been made obsolete.
There is also another reason why the KIC’s closure is a blessing. To put it bluntly, when you stare long into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you.
To explain, as Casey Lartigue wrote in an op-ed in the Korea Times in 2013: “Stephen Linton of the Eugene Bell Foundation pointed out at a Cato Institute event in 2010 that countries tend to adopt North Korea’s tactics. ‘South Korea tries to approach North Korea the way North Korea approaches South Korea, by funneling everything through government ministries, by strangling in a sense or denying its private sector full participation,’ Linton said. The result is too much government, not enough private sector activity in dealing with North Korea.”
… the KIC was always nothing more than a chess piece that was being used by both governments to influence each other
The obvious end result is that the KIC was always nothing more than a chess piece that was being used by both governments to influence each other. Is it then any wonder why after nearly 14 years, the KIC has failed to convince the North Korean regime to abandon Juche and adopt the market economy? The KIC merely cemented the Kim regime’s hold on power. It did nothing to bring about any meaningful change whatsoever.
In other words, there was far too much government involvement, which necessarily came at the expense of genuine cross-border private-sector activity – actual free trade relatively unmolested by either governments – and it failed to achieve any of its political goals.
The KIC was the final remnant of that snake oil people called the Sunshine Policy. Now that the KIC has been shut down and the buildings are about to become a North Korean military installation – only time will tell what kind of military installation and how the U.S.-ROK alliance ought to deal with it – the Sunshine Policy is finally dead and buried. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
RIP, Sunshine Policy, in hell.]]>
Indeed, international human rights organizations have long criticized China for repatriating defectors to North Korea and not recognizing them as refugees. The UN Commission of Inquiry Report on Human Rights in the DPRK from early 2014 pointedly criticized China on precisely this front.
South Korea currently supports asylum in Southeast Asian countries, but there are mixed opinions as to whether Seoul is doing all it can, particularly for those who have not made it out of China yet.
Speaking to NK News, former North Koreans now working on DPRK issues in the South pointed out that the diplomatic relations between Seoul and Beijing now make it difficult to openly help defectors in China, considering Beijing’s ties with North Korea.
While one expert said there is not that much that can be done, most said South Korea needs to take action via international organizations.
In part 34 of an NK News expert interview series, defector experts interviewed include:
Q33) What more can the South Korean government do to make it easier for North Koreans to defect to South Korea? Is enough being done to convince China not to repatriate defectors to the North Korea?
In some sense, the South Korean government is helping North Koreans to defect to South. But the most important thing one needs to cross the Tumen River between China and North Korea is a wall built of money.
North Korean soldiers take bribes for the price of defecting. In order to defect from North Korea, you need around 5 million Korean won, which is around $4,400. Without money, you cannot escape from North Korea. If one is caught by the Chinese police during defection, one is imprisoned in a North Korean gulag. And a defector who has lived with Chinese nationals faces one-to-two years of imprisonment in a labor camp.
It would thus be very helpful for defectors if the South Korean government could guarantee safe passage to South Korea. During the former South Korean administration, defectors who had barely made it to the gates of the South Korean embassy were denied entry or refused any form of help.
That was how uncooperative South Korean officers were between the years 2000 to 2008. But since President Lee Myung-bak’s term, South Korean government offices started to take defectors without any pre-conditions. At least for those who have arrived at the gate of an embassy, the South Korean government should help them and accept them at all costs.
At least for those who have arrived at the gate of embassy, South Korean government should help them and accept them at all costs
While the numbers of defectors are diminishing, there are many other South Korean offices in foreign countries that still provide help. The best option for the South Korean government would therefore be convincing the Chinese government to stop returning defectors to North Korea. Should that option fail, the South Korean government must urge support from international society. Even if we can’t provide a safe runway for defectors, we should at least get rid of all obstacles.
In both the past and the present the South Korean government has provided a channel of entrance for high-ranking defectors, including Hwang Jang-yop, the former secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. But the total number of those kinds of high-level defectors does not exceed 10.
On the other hand, 28,000 defectors have entered South Korea without the help of the government, usually through a broker or religious parties. They cross the borders of China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand to enter South Korea.
They usually have to overcome around 4,000km of travel. It is also common for defectors to get arrested in China or other countries and be forcefully sent back to North Korea. Even though there are defectors that have died trying to cross the border, the government is still adamant in its position of “take care of your own passage.”
Of course there are governmental systems in the other countries’ refugee camps that aid defectors, but defectors need urgent help from the government of China.
The South Korean government needs to take a diplomatic stance stating that ‘by law, defectors are South Korean citizens’
The South Korean government needs to take a diplomatic stance stating that “by law, defectors are South Korean citizens.” They need to convince the Chinese government not to forcefully repatriate these defectors and provide an institutional mechanism to help them, such as providing a temporary passport and protection in the Chinese embassy.
It is difficult to say that they are doing enough, but it is even more difficult to do anything more.
No matter how hard the South Korean government tries, they cannot stop defectors from being repatriated
No matter how hard the South Korean government tries, they cannot stop defectors from being repatriated (from China). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other governmental agencies should try their best, but there has not been any result so one may conclude that these agencies are not performing their duties well.
The South Korean government cannot publicly help North Koreans, yet, due to concerns about North Korea-China relations and, especially, due to the inter-Korean relationship. And I’m aware that even if the South Korean government did make a real effort to improve things, it could all fail due to the interests and ignorance of officials in the field.
It is better to put an enormous strain on China, through things like raising human rights issues at the UN and other international organizations.
However, it is better to put an enormous strain on China, through things like raising human rights issues at the UN and other international organizations, because China has a central role in those.
The Chinese government, which has gone global, will eventually respond if there is sufficient pressure from the international community. This is because their economic role in the world could be impacted as the human rights issue becomes more politicized.
It is cumbersome for the South Korean government to support North Korean defectors living in foreign countries. Because there are political and diplomatic barriers and a distinct relationship that the South has with North Korea, it would not be an easy decision for the South Korean government (to help overseas defectors).
China, Russia and Southeast Asian nations might be able to provide unofficial help in supporting defectors arrive in South Korea. But I am still doubtful whether the South Korean government is promoting policies similar to those.
The South Korean government provides basic support for a refugee camp located in Thailand. But further support from the South Korean government is required, as defectors have to partially pay the fee for staying in the refugee center.
The South Korean government is doing almost nothing to prevent the Chinese government from sending defectors back to North Korea
The South Korean government is doing almost nothing to prevent the Chinese government from sending defectors back to North Korea. I am also doubtful as to whether the South Korean government is regularly checking on China’s new policy toward defectors.
Main picture: NK News]]>
The action is one of a series of declarations made by the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), that follow South Korea’s decision to suspend activity at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). The CPRK also slammed the South’s decision to suspend activities in strongly worded terms.
“The recent provocative measure is a declaration of an end to the last lifeline of the north-south relations, total denial of the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration and a dangerous declaration of a war driving the situation in the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a war,” the statement said.
The military hotline is a means for the two Korea’s to communicate over the travel of personnel from the South to the joint operated KIC in North Korea. The statement outlined that the hotline and another communication line at Panmunjom would be cut following the expulsion of all South Korean personnel left at the site, which would take place by 5 p.m. Pyongyang time on Thursday.
According to the Associated Press in Seoul, some personnel were stuck in Kaesong past the deadline, however Yonhap has since reported that despite an initial delay it is believed that all remaining workers have now returned to the South.
Other measures outlined by the CPRK include the North cutting off access routes to the Kaesong area, declaring it to be under military control, freezing South Korean assets at the site and withdrawing its own workers from the factories.
The decision to suspend activity at the complex came following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and its recent rocket launch on February 7, both in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The South Korean government said that its decision to suspend activity was due to its inability to be able to verify whether or not the earnings made by North Korea from the joint operation were being used to fund its ballistic and nuclear programmes.
“We’ve decided to halt the operation of the Kaesong complex to prevent South Korean money from being funneled into the North’s nuke and missile developments and to protect our companies,” South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said.
The KIC last closed down when North Korea withdrew its 55,000 workers from the site in April, 2013 for a period of five months, amid increasing tensions and in response to U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises.
The tensions were similarly preceded by North Korea’s launch of a satellite in December 2012 and its third nuclear test in February of 2013. While the complex was reopened following a five-point agreement signed in August, 2013 some experts are unsure of the prospects of the KIC reopening in the coming months and believe that the current situation is perhaps more serious than in 2013.
“How can it (South Korea) reopen the zone having said that funds from KIC may be going to banned programmes?,” a diplomatic source, commenting on the condition of anonymity, told NK News on Thursday.
“I think this is worse than 2013. The ‘declaration of war’ response is probably not so significant as the reestablishment of the MDL. The DPRK military have always disliked Kaesong because it puts a dent in their front line. It looks to me that they have seized this opportunity to reassert that line, and I don’t think that we can be sure that the KIZ will ever reopen.”]]>
The Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army is the North Korean military unit responsible for the country’s strategic-level missiles and rockets and is a key component of Pyongyang’s nuclear strategy. Effectively, it is the organization for the North’s missile and nuclear arsenal, as well as potentially its chemical and biological weapons.
The existence of this force in charge of the use of nuclear weapons is evidence of North Korea’s ongoing desire for nuclear capacity. Considering the significant resources needed for the nuclear program, this should have a certain impact on Pyongyang’s politics and economy, as well as giving clues to the regime’s future choices. For example, China, which opened its doors to the U.S. in 1971-72, prepared its own nuclear power before its economic reformation.
ORGANIZATION AND COMMAND
The Strategic Force is a corps-level command falling under the KPA General Staff for routine command and control but policy-wise is managed and controlled by the WPK Central Military Commission. The current commander of the force is General Kim Rak Gyom. Kim has held that post since at least 2012, when the unit was first named the Strategic Rocket Force. The command’s headquarters is located in Songchon County, South Phyongan Province.
Ultimate authority over the Strategic Force likely belongs to the KPA Supreme Commander, Kim Jong Un, especially in wartime
Ultimate authority over the Strategic Force likely belongs to the KPA Supreme Commander, Kim Jong Un, especially in wartime. The DPRK Law on Consolidating the Position of Nuclear Weapons State dictates that “The nuclear weapons of the DPRK can be used only by a final order of the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army to repel invasion or attack from a hostile nuclear weapons state and make retaliatory strikes.”
Much remains unconfirmed regarding the unit, however, and significant information may be inferred based on two similar units in foreign nations: China’s PLA Rocket Force (formerly Second Artillery Corps) and Russia’s Strategic Missile Troops. According to Andrew Scobell and John M. Sanford of the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College, “Information concerning the specific control and command of WMD is vague and unclear due to the newness of this aspect of the KPA.”
According to Joseph Bermudez, author of KPA Journal, at least some of the Strategic Force’s assets may be placed under control of KPA corps commanders during wartime. Whether this would apply to nuclear-armed missiles and rockets, however, is unclear.
Command and control of the nuclear arsenal is likely conducted primarily through hardened command and communications facilities and land-based communication channels such as fiber optic cable for increased security and reliability. Photographs published in 2013 by North Korea’s state media revealed the existence of a “U.S. Mainland Strike Plan” showing lines straight from the DPRK to numerous locations in U.S. territory. Presumably, such a plan is for nuclear-armed ballistic missiles operated by the KPA Strategic Force, though the ability of North Korea to actually carry out such a plan at this time is questionable.
HISTORY & CURRENT STATUS
The existence of a dedicated strategic missile and rocket unit in the KPA dates back 17 years. According to a 2015 report by Hong Min, a research fellow in the North Korean Studies Division of the Korea Institute for National Unification, “The creation of the strategic force by North Korea is akin to the cases of the former Soviet Union and China in which they formed strategic rocket units at the military strategic level to diversify and effectively operate nuclear weapons.”
Prior to 1999, the KPA had two national-level artillery corps possessing long-range conventional artillery and rockets. In 1999, one of the two artillery corps was reorganized to be focused on ballistic missiles and strategic rockets and was designated the Missile Guidance Bureau (Joseon inmingun misail jidoguk). In 2012, it was renamed Strategic Rocket Force (Joseon inmingun jeollyak roketeugun). The first known reference to the unit as Strategic Rocket Force was on March 2, 2012, in a state media report on an inspection of the unit’s headquarters by Kim Jong Un. The unit’s name was shortened to Strategic Force (Jeollyakgun) by March 2014.
Reflecting the elevation of the force itself is the continued promotion of its commander despite lack of position change
The U.S. Department of Defense and the Korea Institute for National Unification assessed that in 2012 – when the unit was renamed as the Strategic Rocket Force – the unit was elevated to the same level as the Ground Forces, Navy, Air and Anti-Air Force and is now considered one of the “four services” within the KPA. Reflecting the elevation of the force itself is the continued promotion of its commander despite lack of position change. Since being appointed commander as a lieutenant general in 2012, Kim Rak Gyom has been twice promoted: to colonel general in February 2014, and to full general sometime in 2014 or 2015.
This elevation of status is evidence of the increasing importance of the nuclear and missile deterrents in North Korea’s military strategy. Under the reign of Kim Jong Un, Pyongyang has emphasized the development of a credible nuclear deterrent alongside development of North Korea’s economy, a policy referred to as the Byungjin Line. The elevation of the Strategic Force, however, may also reflect a desire by the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea to maintain more direct control over the nuclear and missile arsenal, rather than doing so through too much of the military command structure. This, too, may be part of the shift from pure Songun (Military-First) politics toward Byungjin Line politics.
Along with North Korea’s determination to improve its nuclear capacity, as seen by the fourth nuclear test on January 6, the force’s status is also increasing. Commanding General Kim Rak Gyom was promoted to four-star general last December, following his previous promotion to three-star general in February 2014. Kim Jong Un has visited the training site of the Strategic Force on June 30, July 10 and July 27 in 2014.
An incident right before the nuclear test implies a correlation between this force and North Korea’s nuclear program, Jeong Chang-hyeon, adjunct professor of Kookmin University pointed out. Kim Jong Un’s remark about a hydrogen bomb on December 9 last year, came right after the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the Strategic Force on December 8. The U.S. sanctions were a reaction against North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test, Jeong said.
Then, seven days later, on December 15, Kim Jong Un signed a document to order the fourth nuclear test, according to Rodong Sinmun’s report.
Pyongyang’s growing interest in the Strategic Force, as well as its nuclear capacity, has a number of implications for the country’s politics and economy.
Kim Jong Un’s Byungjin policy is different from Kim Il Sung’s Byungjin slogan, which prioritized military power over economy. Kim Jong Un, on the contrary, asserts that nuclear capacity is helpful not only for national security but also economic development. Kim Dong-yup, professor of University of North Korean Studies compared Kim Il Sung’ Byungjin, Kim Jong Il’s Songun and Kim Jong Un’s Byungjin, then pointed out the concentration on security is decreasing, in his recent academic article.
This has caused the transitions in distributing resources between sectors like military, party, conventional army and Strategic Forces. Nuclear program led by the party and the Strategic Force directed by the General Staff Department under Supreme Commander is a symbol of this transition.
“There has been an increase in the status of the party as a main agent in developing, managing and sophisticating nuclear weapons,” the report written by Hong reads. He pointed out the leader’s role in strengthening hierarchy and party-centered reconstruction during nuclear development.
As an example, Hong cited the frequent replacement of high-ranking military officials, a reported prohibition of the use of “command” in units below the level of services (Ground Forces, Navy, Air and Anti-Air Force and Strategic Force) and the measure to degrade other units to “bureaus,” and the strengthening of reporting system of unit commanders.
This has resulted in the strengthening of Kim Jong Un’s position, as evidenced by the “April 1 Nuclear Possession Law,” adopted at the Supreme People’s Assembly in April 1, 2013. “The nuclear weapon of DPRK can be used when hostile nuclear states invade our nation, for the purpose of repelling and revenging, directed only by the supreme leader’s final order, the fourth article of the law reads.
Previously, North Korea granted privilege to the military to found trade companies in order to sustain themselves, Hong said. This was an untouchable authority during the Songun period, but there have been continuous conflicts between the party and the military.
“The reshuffling the interest from the military to the party has been a continuous trend since 1990s. Jang Song Thaek was the person who pushed this plan, by transferring the Kangsong Trade Company from the military to the party, but this failed. Nuclear development is a good pretext for Kim Jong Un to reboot this plan, citing the ‘transferring the strategic value’ from the conventional weapon to the nuclear power,” Hong told NK News.
Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, echoed the growing influence of the party as a general trend since Kim Jong Un’s inauguration. Kim Jong Un has been trying to downsize the military sector, which had expanded during his father’s era and this sometimes causes conflict, such as in the dismissal of Ri Yong Ho in 2012, Cheong said.
“The Workers’ Party of Korea leads the nuclear development, at the department of munitions industry. The party will pass the nuclear weapon to the Strategic Force, once it is developed,” Cheong told NK News. However, this a implies transition of the military’s role in North Korea, rather than an implicit downsize of its share. This has accompanied the economic changes.
Cheong said nuclear development has a certain impact on North Korea’s economic structure.
“Since the nuclear program started, a number of munitions factories have been transitioned into the light industry sector, such as fisheries. Ensuring the established authority of the military sector, North Korea made them contribute to the people’s lives,” he said.
Cheong compared this to Cuba’s case, which designated the tourism industry to the military while pushing forward its economic development.
‘North Korea’s military now produces consumer goods, rather than weaponry to export. This enlarges the domestic market and eases the extreme poverty’
This strengthens North Korea’s domestic market and increases its ability to overcome international sanctions, multiple experts said.
“North Korea’s military now produces consumer goods, rather than weaponry to export. This enlarges the domestic market and eases the extreme poverty. For example, we can observe more bicycles at the border regions. There used to be three bicycles users out of 10, but now it is about seven out of 10,” said Cheong.
Hong also viewed the existence of the market in North Korea as likely to improve, citing that the ammunition expense has not decreased by developing nuclear weapons. North Korea is compensating for the financial losses by admitting the market economy, Hong said.
“North Korea, which is isolated from military alliances and external economic relations, should cover the cost to develop nuclear weapons, relying solely on its entire internal resource capacity,” Hong’s report reads, saying the regime’s dependence on market will increase.
However, another expert indicated a cautious view on the rapid effect of North Korea’s nuclear development of its economy, even though it has created an environment to manage the economy reasonably by obtaining nuclear power, out of extreme militarism. Kim Dong-yub pointed out that new facilities for Strategic Forces may cost more resources, which might be another challenge for Kim Jong Un’s Byungjin in its concentration on the economy.
“Generally, North Korea has limited resources and finance,” Kim told NK News. Kim, though, also recognized the indirect and psychological influence of nuclear weapons power, which encourages people’s motivation for production with relief on security issues. “This will raise the total pie of its economy, and gradually improve the situation.”
On the other hand, the increasing nuclear provocations will increase the isolation of Pyongyang, both Cheong and Hong agreed. However, they found clues of an open-door policy in the future, as China has.
“China successfully conducted a nuclear test in 1964 and equipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) before establishing diplomatic relations (in 1972),” Hong said. Hong expects North Korea may imitate this model in the future, but not in the near future.
“Kim Jong Un is young. His main interest is stability of the regime, for now. Once he succeeds in ensuring the long-term seizure of power, he might consider economic reformation.” Regarding this, Cheong predicted a kind of “deal” between neighborhood countries on the condition of freezing the nuclear program, in order to get out of this isolation. Kim pointed out Pyongyang’s dilemma in his academic article.
“North Korea cannot overcome its crisis without an open-door policy,” he said. “However, it is hard to succeed with eternally obtaining nuclear power.”
It seems necessary to keep our eyes on the young leader’s choices, after consolidating his leadership.
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun]]>