The Korea Institute for National Unification published its analysis on Wednesday, which described “youth” as the most essential theme ahead of the Party Congress.
The KINU identified the Korean word cheongnyeon (youth) as having frequently appeared in Rodong Sinmun articles about the upcoming Party Congress over the past six months. It’s frequency was even greater than staple terms including “Paektu bloodline,” “Kim Il Sung” and “Kim Jong Il.”
“Kim Jong Un has continued to try to describe his young age as ‘North Korea’s young era’ and give hope to the youth. It is indeed to get rid of the people’s distrust in the young leader and justify a shift in generation,” the analysis reads.
Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on youth is not new. He stressed the youth’s contribution to building a strong nation when he gave his New Year speech. Youth interests such as sports and cultural activities have been highly encouraged under Kim Jong Un’s leadership.
NK News director of intelligence John Grisafi said the shift toward youth is a somewhat “easy object to achieve.”
“It depends on how the criteria is defined: how much of an age change you require and how much time you allow to accomplish it. If you are lenient in both, it will undoubtedly come true as officials in the regime retire and younger ones are promoted,” Grisafi said.
Another North Korea leadership expert said that the group at the highest levels of power in the country would become younger after the Party Congress, but not too drastically, as “the definition of youth varies in political and biological term in Kim Jong Un era.”
“In biological terms, youth definitely is defined as people in their 20s and 30s. Kim has provided benefits in sports and culture to appeal to them,” said Cha Du-hyeogn, a former secretary to President Lee Myung-bak for crisis information told NK News.
“At the same time, youth in the political field is defined as those starting in their 50s. He would definitely promote a shift in the core elite group in order to refresh the party with a young atmosphere. Kim Jong-un was in his 20s when he was first made a general, a position which takes ordinary people until the age of 50 to achieve through selection process,” he said.
“Kim Jong Un would narrow the age gap between him and the elite group,” said Cha.]]>
Unless South Korea returns the 12 female North Korean restaurant workers, North Korea warned that a “ruthless response” will follow.
“If the puppet state (South Korea) keeps on ignoring our warning and acts in defiance, we will begin our ruthless response against the warmongers of the Blue House and South Korean intelligence for fabricating this (mass-defection) case,” Pyongyang said on Thursday.
Since the mass-defection incident of North Korean restaurant workers to South Korea in the first week of April, North Korean authorities have been calling the incident an “abduction” organized by South Korean intelligence. South Korea has firmly denied such claims, urging the North to stop distorting the event.
“The North Korean announcement distorted the recent mass-defection case as an ‘abduction’ carried out by the South,” South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MoU) spokesperson Jung Joon-hee said Friday.
“We strongly condemn Pyongyang’s distortion of the mass-defection case, repeatedly made false claims and threats against Seoul.”
The spokesperson emphasized that all of the defectors came to South Korea of their free will, and said there is no “hunger strike.”
It is South Korean custom to send all recently arrived defectors to Hanawon, the South Korean government institute that provides help for every defector on how to adapt to South Korean society.
As the instituted remains hidden from the public eye, there would be practically no possible way for North Korea to know the current state of the defectors.
Nonetheless, Pyongyang claimed that its “citizens” are protesting against South Korean authorities in defiance to their “abduction”.
“South Koreans’ are locking each of our citizens into solitary cells, forcing them with their threats, lies and deception to ‘defect’ to the South,” Pyongyang’s statement read.
“All made up,” the South Korean National Intelligence Service’s public relations office told NK News in response to North Korean government’s claims.
Featured image: KCTV]]>
Kim Dong-chul, a South Korea-born pastor from Fairfax, Virginia, admitted to spying for South Korea in January during an interview with CNN in Pyongyang.
He said that he had collected pictures and files on USBs “for South Korean conservative elements” for the purpose of “destroying the North Korean system.” His said he had smuggled the materials from April 2013 to October 2015, when he was arrested.
A North Korean soldier who had access to a great deal of information allegedly helped Kim.
#BREAKING: #DPRK sentences S. Korea-born American Kim Dong Chul to 10 years of hard labor for subversion, espionage pic.twitter.com/81EhPB2Xfc
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) April 29, 2016
Go Myung-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute previously indicated Pyongyang was revealing its diplomatic considerations by allowing a CNN interview in the hopes of inducing a U.S. representative’s visit to the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which is scheduled to start May 6.
“What Pyongyang hopes for is to go to the negotiation table with strategic superiority,” Go told NK News. “This would increase Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic contribution for domestic politics.”
Go expected North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons and the meeting is likely to be symbolic rather than practical.
“North Korea will prefer well-known former government officials like Carter or Clinton, but it’s up to the U.S. who to dispatch,” Go continued.
Washington dispatched intelligence director James Clapper in 2014 to arrange the release of detained Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller. Bae had been detained for missionary activities in 2012 while Miller reportedly tore up his visa and declared intent to seek asylum in early 2014.
In 2009 former U.S. President Bill Clinton went to the North to bring back two American journalists who had been captured inside the Sino-North Korean border area.
In March, North Korea sentenced American university student Otto Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor for stealing propaganda posters in Yanggakdo Hotel in January. Warmbier tearfully admitted his wrongdoings at a press conference in Pyongyang in February.
The U.S. embassy in Seoul told NK News that a statement regarding Kim will be provided by the U.S. State Department.]]>
A closer look at the practice of North Korean leadership shows, however, that every North Korean “father” had his own soft spot: an area of leadership which he enjoyed or interested more than others. For Kim Il Sung it used to be heavy industry, for Kim Jong Il culture and cinematography. As for Kim the Third, in addition to his affinities for sports and pop culture, he so far has demonstrated particular interest to the world of North Korean childhood.
At first, this connection seemed predominantly practical. “Father Kim Jong Un and the children” became one of the first core themes of Kim Jong Un’s image-making, due to evident political reasons. If 33-year-old Kim Il Sung once ascended to the top leadership being surrounded by young political companions, in 2011 octogenarians at the highest positions of North Korean military and the Party made up an uncomplimentary backstage for his rosy-cheeked grandson. Kim Jong Un’s public image was in a desperate need of maturation. Thus, there was little surprise that the first writings of propaganda fiction devoted to the young Marshal and describing him in detail as a fatherly figure appear in media aimed at a younger audience. Literary texts for children could naturally apply terms like “father” or “uncle” to the 27-year-old Kim Jong Un.
A good example is a mature image of Kim Jong Un in the medium-length documentary novel for children, Children of the Military-First Epoch by Kim Yu-jin (2014). The novel presents Kim Jong Un in the typical mode of a caring father involved in the distribution of sugar to children, who gives them advice to drink hot water with dissolved sugar and recommends they write good novels. A protagonist in the novel, a boy poet, writes a verse about his only wish: to let “father Kim Jong Un” live a long and healthy life.
Soon, however, it becomes clear that the involvement of Kim Jong Un in children-related themes extends far beyond purely propagandistic purposes
Soon, however, it becomes clear that the involvement of Kim Jong Un in children-related themes extends far beyond purely propagandistic purposes. Heard of as a doting father of a little girl, Kim Jong Un not only likes to pose around kids – he seems intensively involved in projects related to the orphans’ childcare, issues of early education and middle school reforms.
MAKING A CHILD HAPPY
North Korean fiction, which glorifies such projects, has developed a special stereotype of such texts. The narration invariably starts with the depiction of an unhappy little kid who suffers from the lack of space to play near his childcare center, or from separation with his elder brother who has been moved to the other building of the orphanage, or has learning difficulties due to the badly structured study materials. Due to these stresses, the child misbehaves – runs into the busy street to play, or runs away from the orphanage to search for his elder brother, or gets bad marks at school. The next scene depicts a Dear Leader who happens to be thinking about exactly that problem which torments the child, and after much deliberation, giving wise orders to his subordinates. In the finale, the reader is relieved to see a happily obedient child playing at the wider and a better-equipped schoolyard, who, together with his brother, has moved to one joint orphanage where children of all age groups live nearby, and who enjoys learning with better materials.
While these texts primarily aim at leader worshiping, they also promote the idea of loving attention to the emotional needs of children and broader speaking, an idea of North Korean educational institutions as happy, comfortable places. Instead of scolding the misbehaved child the fictional teacher strives to search for the reasons of his disobedience, and finds them, following wise instructions of the father leader. The teacher loves and understands.
MAKING THE LEADER HAPPY
One of the dramas on North Korean TV produced in 2015 and entitled Long-Awaited Father (Kidarineun Abeoji) depicts promising young pianist Chang Hyok who attends Kyeong-seong kindergarten in Pyongyang and is preparing for the international children’s piano competition. The boy badly misses his father, who is working at the distant construction site, and the stress caused by this separation negatively influences his performance. The teacher allows the boy to interrupt practice for a while in order to visit his father.
At the moment when Chang Hyok and his mother are about to take the plane which is going to the father, Chang Hyok overhears a TV report about Kim Jong Un now visiting his kindergarten. Without warning, the boy rushes back to the city in the hopes of catching the leader. A police car intercepts Chang Hyok but, instead of scolding him, the kind policeman gives the boy a lift to his kindergarten while calling to his mother by mobile and informing her that Chang Hyok is with them. The mother takes the plane leaving Chang Hyok to the care of his grandfather.
Chang Hyok reaches the kindergarten when the Father Leader has already gone and bitterly cries with disappointment on the shoulder of the director of his kindergarten. The woman gently explains to the boy that the Father Leader will inevitably come to their kindergarten once again. Meanwhile, Chang Hyok can make him happy by practicing the piano well and winning the competition. The boy starts intensive practice, gaining inspiration from the portraits of Kim Jong Un and visions of the chair on which the Father Leader used to sit while in the kindergarten. Chang Hyok promptly wins the competition and is granted a meeting with the beloved leader.
THE OLD AND THE NEW
In a typical mode of North Korean works devoted to the leader, Kim Jong Un never emerges in front of the audience. His meetings with children are portrayed in a traditional way of North Korean cinematography: the camera follows a crowd of kids running toward it cheering “Father Leader!” In the cases of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, such scene used to be complemented with the visions of rising sun and blooming Kimilsungia/Kimjongilia – flowers devoted to the relevant leaders. In the case of Kim Jong Un, such symbols are yet absent.
In Long-Awaited Father Kim Jong Un is substituting for the protagonist’s living and much-loved real father
Another old theme is that of substitution of the real father by the Father Leader. Such a motif was particularly popular in the works of North Korean cinematography set in the “Arduous March” – the famine of the late 1990s when many children lost their parents. It is enough to mention the films like My Father (Naeu Abeoji) or Run to the Sky (Dallyeoseo Haneul) (2000) where the photograph of the Father Leader Kim Jong Il on the wall was supposed to substitute for the recently deceased fathers of the children. In Long-Awaited Father Kim Jong Un is substituting for the protagonist’s living and much-loved real father. Since the moment of his return to the kindergarten, the boy never mentions his father again, raving only about Kim Jong Un.
Interestingly enough, Chang Hyok’s role is played by an overweight boy named Choe Tae Yong who even physically resembles Kim Jong Un.
Priceless is the moment when at the end of the film North Korean teachers and kids are approached by foreign correspondents. Like in the majority of foreign characters in North Korean films, these are the cases of pure stupidity. They predictably ask a little Korean girl pianist their greedy capitalist questions about the money, which her family spent of her study music – only to be proudly rebuffed that in the DPRK, education is free. When witnessing warm welcoming hugs of the teacher with her boy student, another dumb Western correspondent asks whether they are related – apparently in ignorance that while under capitalism homo homini lupus est, people are brothers in the DPRK.
These old good stereotypes, however, fail to overshadow a feature which I have not witnessed yet in the other works of North Korean cinematography: a surprising dose of free indomitable spirit and individuality, which all children characters demonstrate. The children may feel tired or distracted from their studies by the new toy; sometimes they fight and get angry; they may even run away from their supervisors. Their instructors are astonishingly patient and use only positive reinforcement, correcting the wrong ways of the children with love and care.
When a little pianist refuses to continue his practice, the teacher gives him a break and goes out with him to play at the new slide and swings, so the boy returns to the classroom refreshed and ready to work. When another little boy fails to remember the notes, the teacher helps him by drawing notes in the form of various fruit on the wall. When a little girl demonstrates lack of study discipline, the teacher mildly points to her mistakes in the form of allegory about a hardworking turtle and a speedy but not disciplined hare.
Physical education constitutes a large part of the kindergarten curriculum in the film, as a counterbalance to the intensive intellectual load. The children are encouraged to play actively with no fear of injury, for the kindergarten’s playground is covered by the special protective cover. Unfortunately, not all aspects of modern healthcare are properly promoted in the film: the protagonist Chang Hyok, an obese child of an overweight mother played by the popular actress Sin Yong Ni, as well as his minder played by another overweight actress O Hwa Soon are surely supposed to serve as pictures of health. An even more problematic detail is the boy’s rotten front teeth, which the authors of the film apparently ignored.
Despite these shortages, the films say heaps about a new mindful approach to early childhood in North Korea, the particularly curious feature of which is the respect to the manifestations of children’s personality. Characteristically, these manifestations are referred in the film as the desire of talented children to do everything “in their own way” (jagisikeuro) – the terminology which normally describes political course of Juche Korea.
Images: Long-Awaited Father stills]]>
“It did feel when I got off the plane that this was a Soviet-style society,” he told NK News. “Which was curious because colleagues with an Asian background had got off the plane in Pyongyang and said ‘this feels like Asia, this feels like Korea.’ That highlights the weak position that North Korea finds itself in: the Soviet system in an Asian society.”
Now retired from the Foreign Office, Slinn spends his time as a fellow at the Centre for International Policy Studies, based out of the University of Ottawa. With a “background in old Soviet stuff,” as he puts it, North Korea was Slinn’s first posting in East Asia. But he was well-acquainted with challenging countries with a Stalinist pedigree and complex history, having spent two years in Mongolia as its communist experiment drew to an end, as well as in the Balkans as the breakup of Yugoslavia turned into brutal civil war. He had originally applied for the job as Britain’s first ambassador to North Korea out of a search for a new challenge.
He had originally applied for the job as Britain’s first ambassador to North Korea out of a search for a new challenge
“I mean, I could only assume that the combination of all my experience helped convince (the Foreign Office) that I was the person for the job at that time,” he said.
Slinn’s arrival to North Korea, coinciding as it did with the opening of official diplomatic relations between Britain and the DPRK, as well as with South Korea’s burgeoning Sunshine Policy of rapprochement with the North, should have taken place at a time of relative calm on the peninsula.
At least that was the theory.
In practice tensions were higher than usual. The revelations that North Korea had violated the 1994 Agreed Framework, where the United States had agreed to assist the country in developing peaceful nuclear energy in return for disarmament, had just broken – and his departure to the country had actually been delayed while the Foreign Office considered the news’s implications.
Two years had passed since the official decision, made on December 12, 2000, that the two countries reopen diplomatic relations and opened residential embassies in each others’ capitals. When Slinn arrived, a chargé d’affaires had been getting things ready, and the first few months went relatively smoothly, despite the tensions between the two countries.
“Life wasn’t too bad,” he said. “The British embassy in Pyongyang, in relative terms, it is quite comfortable, and the logistic supply lines had been set up, the offices were there and things worked.”
That said, nuclear issues were high on the agenda, and with no U.S. representation in Pyongyang it was up to British representatives to press the North Koreans on the issue. Slinn admits there were several meeting when representatives “lost their temper,” and that they were obliged to clearly state the position of the UK government and its NATO allies.
“It was obviously a very firm message,” he said. “It was not, obviously, what the North Koreans wanted to hear.
“But at the same time part of the message was ‘we’re here, we’re willing to engage and we’re willing to talk to you about these issues, but you’ve got to understand that we have big concerns about the track you’re taking.’”
The policy was known as “critical engagement”: showing the North Koreans that EU countries were willing to meet them on their terms, but that they would not lose sight of their concerns about the nuclear program and the human rights situation in the DPRK. This was 2002, and the devastating famine which killed millions was still fresh in everyone’s minds. Eighteen months after he’d arrived, the European Union began pushing resolutions to the United Nations concerning human rights abuses in North Korea.
“That message went down badly with the North Koreans,” Slinn said. “But it was saying, ‘Look, you want to deal with the European Union, this is the sort of issue that we need to be able to talk about.’”
‘It was clearly, for these guys, the first time they’d ever heard Kim Jong Il criticized’
Over time, however, the British officials developed closer ties with the North Koreans, and Slinn argues that a result of the more tempered, diplomatic approach was that he and his team were able to do lower-level engagement on the ground. One particular memory he cites is a conversation with North Koreans in which he was critical of the country’s leadership – and the surprise from his local companions was palpable.
“It was clearly, for these guys, the first time they’d ever heard Kim Jong Il criticized,” he said. “And it was difficult for them to contain their shock.”
“So there was a sense of the lower-level possibilities offered up by critical engagement: I got to talk to a whole host of English language students, and talk political issues with them on a regular basis.”
Part of the purpose of these conversations was to show North Koreans that Westerners were not what their propaganda had taught them and counteract the message of self-reliance and nationalism coming from the regime. But it was also an opportunity to get real eyes and ears on the ground and see the regular, day-to-day lives of the people.
And while meeting with officials were almost formal and overseen by “interpreters,” there were occasional chances for more direct, personal conversations with high-ranking diplomats and politicians. Slinn’s quick to state that he didn’t make friends, he did feel they were able to communicate on a more “human” level at social occasions where the atmosphere was a little more relaxed and discussion could be more wide-ranging.
“We’d talk about global affairs and what was going on in the world, what was going on in the UK,” he said. “They would sometimes offer slight insights into what was going on in North Korea. Nothing major, that wouldn’t have been possible, but off the cuff comments.
“One that sticks in my mind is as one North Korean diplomat was going off to a conference … and he said “it’s not always easy being a North Korean diplomat, you know?””
That said, Slinn and his colleagues were struck by the knowledge gaps North Korean officials would often display. While most displayed a basic understanding of world affairs, they found it difficult to understand why, say, Eastern European countries who had once been staunch allies were now firmly aligned with the United States.
“The U.S. is their main frame of reference,” he said. “My impression was that although many of the diplomats that I was talking to had a certain knowledge of what was going on in the world and what the U.S.’s role in that was, most of them couldn’t put it in the wider strategic context.”
“Some of the questions they asked did suggest that in their knowledge there was room for improvement, shall we say: they were trying to understand why in their eyes the EU was so hostile, but couldn’t quite understand why. They couldn’t quite grasp the details of how the strategic world had moved on.”
So does think that what he calls “critical diplomacy” has been a success since the end of his tenure as ambassador in 2006? It’s hard to pin him down.
On the one hand, he argues, these kinds of meetings offer a chance to meet people on the ground and talk face to face with North Koreas – a rarity for representatives of any government generally seen as hostile to the DPRK. But on the other, the same issues which plagued the peninsula when Slinn first arrived in 2002 persist: human rights and nuclear tests.
“Sadly, Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Il have not exactly encouraged the international community to pursue that strategic level of engagement,” he said, accepting that tangible political change has been thin on the ground. “Inevitably global politics means there is a certain lack of patience.
“The nuclear issue, the wider global issues dictate a firmer approach.”
Images: Courtesy of David Slinn]]>
Unnamed military experts claimed that they could tell the launch was deceptive because the recovered fairing indicated inadequate shock, acoustic, and heat shielding for the rocket’s ascent. They say that, thus, the recent space launch was “not being used to send a satellite into space,” indicating that the whole launch was exclusively a pretense for ballistic missile research.
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STRATCOM systems was able to track the two launches on Wednesday and Thursday but did not provide a further assessment of the type of missiles involved.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missiles launched from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” the statement read.
According to the statement, the first attempted launch was made at 4:43 p.m. Central Daylight Time (CDT) on Wednesday and the second at 5:24 a.m. CDT on Thursday.
The two launches therefore took place at 6:13 a.m. and 6:54 p.m. Pyongyang Time on Thursday.
An unnamed South Korean military source had previously told the Yonhap News Agency of the attempted launch of one missile, which was detected at 6:40am Korean Standard Time on Thursday. While the source assessed that the launch was a failure, the Yonhap report did not mention a second launch detected.
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) did not announce the launch in the regular press briefing which took place after the test due to an embargo, an MND spokesperson told NK News.
The missile was reported to be the mid-range Musudan missile also known as the BM-25, which is an intermediate-range ballistic missile developed and built by North Korea.
The BM-25 has an estimated range of 2,500-4,000 kilometers and an estimated payload capacity of 1,000-1,250 kilograms. The range means that the missile could reach the U.S. territory of Guam.
North Korea are prohibited from developing and launching ballistic missiles according to UN Security Council resolutions.
The Security Council recently passed Resolution 2270 further expanding sanctions against North Korea following its fourth nuclear test and the launch of a satellite earlier this year, both also in violation of existing resolutions.
The U.S., while assessing the missiles posed no threat, also reiterated that it would cooperate with allies South Korea and remain prepared against North Korea’s recent actions.
“The men and women of USSTRATCOM, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, and U.S. Pacific Command remain vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations,” the STRATCOM press statement added.
Featured image: Musudan (BM-25) on parade in Pyongyang, October 10, 2015 | Photo: KCTV]]>
This is true not only for North Koreans but also for humanitarian workers in the country, who have seen the sanctions create additional obstacles to process their projects.
George Lee, chairman of the Love North Korean Children Charity, based in Seoul and London, said the environment has clearly changed after the sanctions.
Lee who was born in South Korea and immigrated to the UK, said that, since he started the project to build a bread factory in North Korea, it’s first time that facilities from China to North Korea have been blocked at the Chinese customs in Dandong. The money collected within South Korea is now stuck there and plans for a factory expansion initiative have been postponed.
NK News: How often do you visit North Korea, and how many factories are you operating?
Lee: I visit North Korea about four times per year, a month after sending materials. It takes about 2-3 weeks for the goods to arrive from the Chinese city of Dandong to North Korea. Currently we are operating six factories in Rason, Pyongyang, Hyangsan, Sariwon, Nampo and Gwail County. Gwail, which means fruit, is named after the characteristic of the county, which produces a lot of fruit. It is my father’s hometown. The factory in Gwail County is the most recently built factory, from two years ago. Sometimes North Korea asks us where to build a factory and we try to choose based on the region’s food status. Once we build the bread factory, the nutrition of the region’s children improves.
Once we build the bread factory, the nutrition of the region’s children improves
NK News. Why did you choose bread as humanitarian aid?
Lee: Breads go bad easily. Mold appears three or four days after production in summer. Also, China doesn’t allow rice donations to other countries, since it is a staple for the Chinese. It is possible to sell it, but impossible to donate it for free. There is another danger that rice will be diverted for military use. We provide breads for schools and orphanages, which are called nursery schools in North Korea.
NK News: What is your goal to expand the project? Is it possible for now?
Lee: Once North Korea tests a nuclear weapon and launches a missile, the decrease in donations is visible. For now, we are managing to operate six factories. The donations are not going well, even though most of our donators are in the U.S. and Europe, which are less sensitive to North Korea’s military activities. South Koreans are more sensitive on this.
I tried to build a new factory in Haeju. The expansion initiative, however, has been suspended temporarily. As South Korea suspends humanitarian aid for babies and children, (South Korean) civil organizations’ projects also stopped, following the government’s policy. We are also holding money collected in South Korea since February. Now we are only using money from Europe and the U.S.
NK News: Is there any problem with getting flour into North Korea? What is the process to get flour into the country and which link in the chain is affected by UNSC Resolution 2270?
Lee: It’s okay to deliver flour. However, machineries are under strict investigation according to the sanctions. Due to the unpaved way of North Korea, trucks and tires are easily broken. We need a new truck to move flour and breads so we bought a cargo truck in Dandong and tried to send it to North Korea. It’s now in stuck at Chinese customs. I will go there and explain that we are a charity organization. It’s the first time that truck is (being) held. I’m not sure whether it would be possible to take in the truck.
All approvals require China’s permission as well as North Korea’s
We also need five or six new baking machines and tires for trucks. I haven’t applied for taking baking machines in, though. Usually the facilities and materials are going through China by rail. All approvals require China’s permission as well as North Korea’s.
NK News: How’s the food situation in North Korea after the sanctions?
I’ve never felt an improvement in the North Korean food status. Currently, due to the UN sanctions, people in the lowest class are greatly impacted. High-ranking officials in Pyongyang will be better off, but farmers and workers receive the biggest impact. From my perspective, if this situation continues more than six months, starvation is likely to take place. It seems that North Korea is also considering that situation. It feels true that the recent sanctions are the strongest ever.
NK News: How about other humanitarian aid groups?
It is mostly similar. There are some American and Canadian organizations based in Rason. They also face difficulties, and some of them have suspended projects. Generally, the North Korean economy is getting more and more difficult.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Love North Korean Children
Those who oppose humanitarian aid in the DPRK have often pinpointed diversion as justification for not conducting aid programs. Diversion occurs when aid allocated for certain recipients is commandeered to an unintended recipient. Cases of diversion can range from the theft of aid intended for children by their hungry caretakers, to the systematic routing of aid supplies away from the vulnerable and into the coffers of rebel forces. Diversion is a problem in the DPRK because the authorities are unwilling to give humanitarian and development groups unrestricted access to their target populations, so groups cannot carry out unregulated monitoring activities. In some cases, groups do not have a residential presence in the country and thus must spend large chunks of time out of the country, unable to verify what has happened to their aid since their last visit.
… to impose unrealistic diversion expectations on the DPRK is to ignore the global evidence that diversion is nearly impossible to avoid
Diversion in the DPRK is a problem that should not be taken lightly. However, it is not a sufficient reason to wholly oppose humanitarian or development aid in the country. Groups can and do take steps to ensure their aid is reaching intended recipients. The DPRK has become more welcoming of projects that focus on training and knowledge transfer – areas where diversion is more difficult than material aid delivery. Additionally, to impose unrealistic diversion expectations on the DPRK is to ignore the global evidence that diversion is nearly impossible to avoid. It is irrational and unreasonable to expect every grain of rice to be accounted for anywhere, so this expectation should not be levied onto the DPRK.
NGOs and IOs in the DPRK are restricted in their ability to conduct needs assessments, monitor aid delivery and evaluate the impact of their work. This fact is an obvious obstacle toward fighting diversion. However, NGOs and IOs employ a variety of strategies to counter possible theft or misuse of aid. For example, groups may provide niche products for an intended recipients that do not have widespread appeal such as nutritional “sprinkles” for children or specific medicines for targeted diseases, make regular visits to measure health indicators affected by aid or check on the condition of infrastructure, and/or participate in the aid distribution process. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) operates on the condition of “no access, no aid.”
These strategies are not perfect. There is always a possibility that someone other than the intended recipient will use aid, especially aid of a highly fungible nature such as food or materials. This possibility exists in the DPRK and around the world. However, there is no evidence of a large-scale, centrally organized effort to divert aid in the DPRK. Smaller, more local diversions are more likely. For example, a doctor may hoard medicines in anticipation of future health crises or sell them on the market to make an income. Local officials may slip bags of rice away from their intended distribution sites and sell them on the market. Market shoppers who were not allowed access to aid in the first place, for political, geographical or other reasons, may be able use this market route to benefit from international humanitarianism.
In their 2005 report “Hunger and Human Rights: The Politics of Famine in North Korea,” Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland estimate that 10 to 30 percent of food aid is diverted, most likely through local channels. This estimation is indeed indicative of a diversion problem. However, the answer to this issue should not be to pull NGOs/IOS from the country. Rather, humanitarians, their donors and the international community must instead ask themselves how they can better negotiate for improved access, work within the constraints of the DPRK, and how diversion may reflect greater need than NGOs/IOs are officially able to respond to.
Food and material aid programs are ongoing in the DPRK, though not on the scale of the mid-1990s–mid-2000s. NGO/IO programming has diversified to include more development work such as training and workshops in fields such as business, agriculture, livelihood and healthcare. This aid, focused on knowledge transfers and sustainable community development, is less fungible than food. By working more closely with target populations in knowledge transfer activities, NGOs/IOs help foster greater feelings of ownership over projects and trust between foreigners and North Koreans. Diversion seems less likely when recipients and the involved authorities have a greater personal stake in the project.
DIVERSION – A GLOBAL PROBLEM
Diversion is a problem that has plagued humanitarians across all contexts. In contexts of war, such as Syria and Somalia, armed groups may steal aid for their own use, thus enabling them to continue fighting without using their own resources. In 2010, the Guardian published an article with the eye-catching headline “Half of all food sent to Somalia is stolen, says UN report.”
In no humanitarian context is it possible to ensure that no diversion occurs
Diversion is a problem in the DPRK, yes – but it is a problem in nearly all humanitarian contexts. Acknowledging this simple fact has two benefits: first, the humanitarian community can use the experience of groups in the DPRK to deepen their understanding of diversion. In a global sense, this adds to the humanitarian body of knowledge and development of monitoring strategies. For the DPRK, unpacking diversion gives greater insight into the needs of people that are unable to access aid, the needs of those who are not the most vulnerable but are still experiencing shortages, and the potential for developing less fungible aid sectors. Second, recognizing that the DPRK is not unique in this facet helps support realistic expectations. In no humanitarian context is it possible to ensure that no diversion occurs. Rather than focusing on the unattainable, the international community should focus on improving support for NGOs/IOs as they work to deliver effective programs for the North Korean people.]]>
North Korea’s food production decreased last year for the first time since 2010, according to a new report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Overall production dropped by 9 percent to 5.42 million tons, with the FAO citing last year’s widely reported low rainfall as the reason for the decline.
The shortage was more severely felt in rice and maize harvests, though some drought resistant minor crops were actually more plentiful the FAO noted.
“Total food requirements … are forecast by FAO at 5.49 million tonnes in cereal equivalent resulting in a cereal import requirement of 694 000 tonnes,” the report reads.
“It is clear that in the short term, with the onset of the lean season imminent, increased imports will be required to meet consumption needs. With Government cereal imports planned to total 300 000 tonnes, FAO calculates an uncovered deficit of 400 000 tonnes. Thus, unless the Government should revise its plans, this implies the uncovered deficit would need to be met by food assistance,” Paul Racionzer, agriculture economist at the FAO told NK News.
The report used weather and satellite data to compile its results, analyzing yearly rainfall by region and reservoir levels in North Korea. The FAO also used data from North Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture in its assessments.
Over the next year the group expects food security in North Korea to decline as a result of the lower harvests and declining publicly distributed rations. The FAO also noted the erratic nature of the North Korean government’s Public Distribution System (PDS).
“While it is not unusual that the Government changes the PDS rations within a year reflecting food availability, the rations since July were below those distributed during the same period in 2013 and 2014,” the report adds.
Overall the FAO paints a negative picture for the DPRK food situation in the coming year. In response the UN agency is providing machinery and training to drought affected farms and areas.
The FAO will also be launching a pilot program focused on a “set of long-term risk prevention and mitigation measures to reduce the risk and vulnerability of farmers to droughts.”
“Regarding longer term measures to increase resilience to production shocks by mitigating the impact of drought on crops, FAO is providing agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers, as well as irrigation equipment and technical support (drought coping, prevention and mitigation agricultural practices),” Racionzer added.
Last year North Korea appeared to import near record lows of food products from neighboring China, sharply decreasing most of its food shipments.
Despite the low import levels, the Daily NK rice price tracker showed the cost of rice within the DPRK remained relatively stable until the very end of the year. Sinuiju prices rose sharply in December the chart shows, however have since stabilized, returning to low levels by March.]]>