How to send your child to summer camp in North Korea, by Justin Rohrlich

[We are pleased to present another article by New York-based Canadian journalist Justin Rohrlich. CanKor Brain Trust member Matthew Reichel is one of the people interviewed in this article, which was featured in the newly-launched NK News Pro on 6 June 2013, and is re-posted here with permission. We encourage you to view the original article on the NK News website, where you can see more pictures and embedded videos from and about Songdowon International Children’s Camp. For those wishing to read more content like this, click here to get a free trial of NK News Pro. --CanKor]

How to send your child to summer camp in North Korea

by Justin Rohrlich , NK News Pro, 6 June 2013

“Parents are responsible for about 300 Euros in fees and travel costs, with all other expenses being met by the Korean side.”

Songdowon International Children's Camp (Photo by Matthew Reichel)

Songdowon International Children’s Camp (Photo by Matthew Reichel)

While some kids are being sent away to summer camps in New England right now, others are on their way to the Songdowon International Children’s Camp in Wonsan, North Korea.

Songdowon is one of the last vestiges of a type of cultural exchange seen in similar countries from across the Communist bloc in decades past, not entirely unlike the Soviet Artek camps and East Germany’s Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation.

Far from just a getaway for North Korean children, thousands of young people from countries including China, Russia, Nigeria, Mongolia, Mexico, Syria (where North Korean military officers have reportedly begun advising Assad’s forces), Tanzania, and Thailand have attended the Songdowon camp since it opened in 1960, which expanded to accommodate 1,200 guests in 1993 “under the special care of President Kim Il Sung and the leader Kim Jong Il.” Read the rest of this entry »

Much ado about style over substance: Kim Jong Un’s New Year

Continuing the theme of channeling his grandfather’s charisma by reversing his father’s aloofness, the young DPRK leader Kim Jong Un read his first major policy speech on New Year’s day. During his 19-year reign, “dear leader” Kim Jong Il (Jong Un’s father) substituted the traditional New Year’s pronouncements of “great leader” Kim Il Sung (Jong Un’s grandfather) with a “joint New Year’s editorial” published by the official newspapers of the Korean Worker’s Party, the Korean People’s Army and the Party’s youth wing.

Kim Jong Un delivers 2013 New Year message (Photo by KCNA)

The young Kim Jong Un appeared before television cameras to read the lengthy speech, which will be the subject of intensive study within North Korea. But as can be seen by a sampling of “expert” opinions, this annual summary of DPRK policies is also carefully dissected by DPRK-watchers the world over.

The full text of the speech (courtesy the Korean Central News Agency KCNA) can be read at the following link: New Year Address Made by Kim Jong Un.

To see the young leader reading the text (with the voice of an interpreter in English) please watch the video at the bottom of this article.

Here follow some early commentaries about the significance of this speech by a number of (mostly American) experts as assembled by Chris Nelson taken from the 2 January 2013 Nelson Report:  Read the rest of this entry »

The Wonderful World of North Korea’s YouTube Channel by Caleb McFadden

[Caleb McFadden is a history student at Middle Tennessee State University. He wrote the following article about North Korea's YouTube channel for EA World View, a blog "dedicated to engaging with the notion of 'America' through a consideration of US foreign policy and politics." It was published under the title North Korea Video Feature: The Wonderful World of the Regime's YouTube Channel (McFadden) on 27 May 2012. --CanKor]

On 14 July 2010, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with the username “uriminzokkiri”, created its official YouTube channel.

Since that day, 3000 videos have been posted, and the channel has more than 3000 subscribers and more than 2 million views of its footage. In comparison, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has three times the population of North Korea, has less than 2000 subscribers and about 2.5 million visits. Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor Megaphone: The North Korean Human Rights Film Festival in Toronto

If Kim Jong Il’s opinions mean anything, the power of film cannot be ignored. The late dictator spent quite a bit of energy trying to vitalize the North Korean film industry – to the point that he kidnapped a South Korean director Shin Sang Ok and his actress wife Choe Un Hee to provide an injection of fresh air into what he thought was a stagnant film scene. This emphasis on film seems to have left a mark on the North Korean people as well. One of the fondest pre-famine memories of those who have escaped the DPRK often revolve around going to the local cinema house to view the latest and greatest coming out of Pyongyang’s movie mill.

There’s not much that Thornhill native Gilad Cohen agrees with Kim Jong Il, but the power of film is one of them. Cohen, the founder of the North Korean Human Rights Film Festival in Toronto, (NKHRFF for short) was a former English teacher in the ROK. As with many folks in Canada, he had very little knowledge of the DPRK and what went inside that country. Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor Editor Interviewed on Russian Television

‘Food shortage not No.1 priority for deal’

Russia Today, 1 March 2012

Erich Weingartner, a Canadian humanitarian affairs consultant, believes the food shortage and leadership change in North Korea are not primary driving forces behind the agreement.

The country’s always short of food,” he noted in an interview with RT, “Right now probably not as desperately in need as it was a year ago. They have just received in January some 500,000 tons of food from China, so this is not the number one priority for the particular action that’s happening right now.

Weingartner also pointed to the fact that the agreement was actually discussed by the US and North Korea prior to Kim Jong Il’s death. However, he also noted that the present deal is not a formal agreement, but is more in line with what North Korea likes to call “words for words” and “actions for actions.”“So it depends not only on North Korea and what they do, but it also depends on how the US is going to react in the next period of time and whether or not the six-party talks process gets back on track, and what happens in that regard.

He said the other five parties, namely South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States, had to do their part in the negotiations.

As for the drills recently conducted by the US and South Korea, Weingartner took note of the fact that North Korea isn’t the only cause of concern for America in the region.

The drills are an annual event and have to do partly with North Korea and the threat from North Korea, but also partly the US asserting its power in the region. And so it has as much to do with the US facing China and protecting its allies in Northeast Asia, as well as protecting economic interests there.

He said China was not likely to appreciate the exercises.

Related articles

DPRK Mourns Death of “Dear Leader”

The Face of Hunger in DPR Korea

After a harsh winter and floods which have devastated several harvests, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is struggling to feed itself. For a country that is mostly barren and mountainous, any reductions in food production can be devastating. Jonathan Dumont, WFP’s Head of TV Communications, recently went to the DPRK and was granted unprecedented access. Click on the image below to see what he found:


For Related Articles, click here.

For More CanKor Moving Pictures, click here.

Homefront and the DPRK bogeyman, a review by Michael Yee

[Homefront is a video game that posits a future history in which North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un takes over parts of Asia following the death of his father Kim Jong Il. This review was submitted to CanKor by Michael Yee, who has worked in Pyongyang (2004-05) as a development aid staffer for Global Aid Network (www.globalaid.net). You can follow Michael on Steam at steamcommunity.com/id/michaelvyee or on Twitter at twitter.com/michaelvyee. --CanKor.]

Watching the political circus when the US government struggled to avoid defaulting in August 2011, made me reflect on the premise of the video game Homefront. In the fictional parallel universe of the game’s plot, US troops and military installations withdraw totally from Korea, Japan and other locations by 2017, returning home because of cutbacks. The current 2011 US budget discussions include proposals for cutbacks to the US military. Could the writers of Homefront have some type of crystal ball that allows them to peer into the future? How accurate could they be? I suppose time will tell, but I wanted to look at the game’s presentation and atmosphere as it attempts to create a DPRK empire in America.

Aidan Foster-Carterhas already written an extensive review of Homefront for 38North (See: Just a game? Homefront’s sick, stupid Korean invasion fantasy, March 2011). Since I enjoy playing video games, in particular FPS (First Person Shooters), and since I have also previously worked in the DPRK, I would like to add my own comments to those of Foster-Carter. Read the rest of this entry »

Children pay for North Korean famine by Al Jazeera

[Exclusive footage by Reuters shows malnourished children in North Korea's countryside after winter worsens the country's food shortages. The commentary is by Al Jazeera journalist Khadija Magardie. --CanKor.]

In a hospital in Pyongyang, doctors monitor a group of weak infants, some of whom are already showing signs of malnutrition and sickness. They are the most vulnerable members of a population suffering from extreme food shortages.

According to the United Nations, one third of all children under the age of five in North Korea are malnourished, and other countries have become less interested in donating food as the “hermit kingdom” battles efforts to constrain its nuclear program.

The UN World Food Programme says public distributions are running extremely low, and they are only able to help half the people who need aid. Meanwhile, the countries rulers stage outsized military parades, and some wonder whether food donations are being siphoned off to them.

North Korea recently granted a Reuters news crew access to the country, and Al Jazeera’a Khadija Magardie reports on the plight they found.

North Korea: Hungering for Human Rights

Dr. Robert R. King

In honour of North Korea Freedom Week, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research hosted an expert panel on Wednesday, 27 April 2011, to discuss human rights in North Korea. The panel discussion included Ambassador Robert R. King, the Obama administration’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, who made a presentation on recent events in the DPRK, especially how these impact the US response to the request by DPRK authorities for food assistance.

The panel was moderated by Nicholas Eberstadt, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Other panelists were: Ken Isaacs, VP for Programs at the humanitarian agency Samaritan’s Purse; Robert M. Collins, retired political analyst with the Strategic Studies Institute of the United States Army War College; and Chuck Downs, Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

A video of this event can be viewed here.

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