38 North: Documentary Film and North Korea by Andray Abrahamian

[From time to time CanKor will alert our readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by Andray Abrahamian, freelance writer on Korea issues. He teaches in the Social Science College at the University of Ulsan in South Kore while working towards completing his doctoral dissertation on contemporary Orientalism and western images of North Korea. He holds an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Sussex, where he focused on Realist and Critical Theory approaches to East Asian relations. Please follow our links to this article on the 38North site. –CanKor.]

Documentary Film and North Korea By Andray Abrahamian

Foreign documentaries on North Korea suffer from a number of unique challenges, including issues of access, verifiability, and potemkinism. They also face the challenge of how to fairly represent “the other” to an audience that has no direct experience of the object of study. To what extent can the filmmaker allow audiences to make up their own minds, when so much mediation necessarily takes place? How can he ensure some balance between competing voices? How can the film be fair to its subject? These are challenges that face any documentary, but are present to a greater degree when the subject is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a radically different society with a singular media image that has been built up over the past six decades. Four of the most widely-viewed documentaries on North Korea illustrate the many failings and occasional successes in addressing (or avoiding) these issues: Welcome to North KoreaThe Vice Guide to North KoreaA State of Mind, and North Korea: A Day in the Life. …Read More

38 North: Admitting North Korean Refugees to the United States by Roberta Cohen

[From time to time CanKor will alert our readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by Roberta Cohen, a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution specializing in human rights and humanitarian issues; a Senior Associate at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University; and Co-Chair of the the Board of Directors of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).. Please follow our links to this article on the 38North site. –CanKor.]

Admitting North Korean Refugees to the United States: Obstacles and Opportunities By Roberta Cohen

“The numbers are too small,” a Korean American told me, referring to the fact that the United States has admitted only 122 North Korean refugees to this country since the adoption of the North Korea Human Rights Act (NKHRA) in 2004, and that only an estimated 25 have received political asylum.[i] His remark reflected the view of Korean Americans who would like to see more North Koreans find refuge in the United States after the brutality, oppression, and economic hardship to which they have been subjected.

North Korea is one of the few countries in the world where permission to leave is highly restricted, making it incredibly risky for its citizens to seek refuge abroad. Despite this, tens of thousands have managed to cross into China where they are in hiding, more than 22,000 have made their way to South Korea, and at least 2,000 have reached countries in Europe and Asia.[ii] Why haven’t more gained entry to the United States?

In adopting the NKHRA, members of Congress recognized that despite the difficulty of affecting change inside North Korea, something should be done to help those who manage to escape. The act sought to facilitate the entry of “acutely vulnerable” North Koreans to the United States, calling for “a credible number” to come in as refugees, while recognizing South Korea’s “principal responsibility” for their resettlement.[iii]

Nonetheless, major obstacles continue to block their admission to the United States. To be sure, there has been progress since the adoption of the NKHRA—more than 20 North Koreans began to be admitted as refugees each year. Yet it is also true that the U.S. has the largest refugee resettlement program in the world and that of 73,293 refugees brought into the country in 2010, only 25 came from North Korea, whereas 18,016 came from Iraq, 16,693 from Burma, 12,363 from Bhutan, followed by Somalia (4,884), Cuba (4,818), Iran (3,543), Democratic Republic of Congo (3,174), Eritrea (2,570), Vietnam (873) and Ethiopia (668).[iv] …Read More

Other articles by Roberta Cohen:

38 North: The Road to Rason by Andray Abrahamian

[From time to time CanKor will alert our readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by Andray Abrahamian, a freelance writer on Korea issues. He teaches in the Social Science College at the University of Ulsan in South Kore while working towards completing his doctoral dissertation on contemporary Orientalism and western images of North Korea. He holds an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Sussex, where he focused on Realist and Critical Theory approaches to East Asian relations. Please follow our links to this article on the 38North site. –CanKor.]

The Road to Rason By Andray Abrahamian

A bus bumps and bruises its way along the unpaved road, carrying would-be investors to Rason’s First Rason International Trade Exhibition which ran from August 21-25, 2011, in Sonbong. The windows are open, until a crimson humvee barrels past, its powerful suspension dancing on the road, leaving behind a plume of beige dust. The bus windows snap shut, the still air quickly gets hot and more than one of the passengers wishes we were Chinese high-rollers, being whisked to the Emperor Casino and Hotel, which sits beautifully on Korea’s East Sea, overlooking Bipa Island and flanked by lush green mountains and crystal waters.
Pictured to the right (Google Earth via NKeconwatch.com): Rason geographic border (in red) and security perimeter fence (in yellow).

The passengers of the humvee—part of the casino’s fleet—will long be checked in and gambling their fortunes away by the time we complete our two and a half hour journey. However, it won’t always be this way. Rason’s 50km road to the border is finally being upgraded. Indeed, the 2.5 hour journey took 3.5 hours in June. Since then, the road has been widened, the first stage of the construction plan, allowing for traffic to flow both directions more easily and smaller passenger vehicles to overtake the more cumbersome truckers who ply the road.  …Read More

38 North: The Syrian Litmus Test by Rudiger Frank

[From time to time CanKor will alert our readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by CanKor Brain Trust member Rudiger Frank, Professor of East Asian Economy and Society at the University of Vienna (also an Adjunct Professor at Korea University and the University of North Korean Studies, Kyungnam University, in Seoul). Please follow our links to this article on the 38North site. –CanKor.]

North Korea’s Strategic Outlook on Northeast Asia: The Syrian Litmus Test By Ruediger Frank

The Libyan story seems to be over, at least for now. We do not exactly know who is going to rule that country next and with what consequences. There is room for experience-based pessimism, but only time will tell. So it is now worth looking closer at another of the anti-dictatorship uprisings in the region. What is the meaning of Syria for North Korea?

The case is particularly interesting if we consider the international debate about its resolution. A few countries felt uneasy about intervening in Libya; however, in the case of Syria, one country is outspokenly against any international interference. That country is Russia, a long-time ally of Syria and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Two decades after the end of the Soviet Union, dissatisfaction and disillusionment on the individual level in Russia combines with nostalgia and translates into a deeply hurt national pride and an enormous anti-Western nationalist undercurrent in public opinion. The latter matters because, despite doubts about the nature of Russia’s democracy, political leaders there must consider the will of the masses if they want to get (re)elected. …Read More

Die Pyramidenbauer von Pjöngjang

[For German readers of CanKor, here is an article published in Financial Times Germany by Georg Fahrion, who recounts the fascinating history of the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. Originally slated to be the tallest building in Asia and largest hotel in the world, this structure remained a concrete shell for decades in North Korea’s capital. Ironically, it is an Egyptian communications multinational that is completing this pyramid-shaped structure in what seems to be a billion-dollar wager on the future opening of the DPRK itself. –CanKor]

Ryugyong Hotel (photo by picture-alliance/dpa)

Seit Jahrzehnten ist das riesige Ryugyong-Hotel in Nordkoreas Hauptstadt eine Bauruine. Jetzt wird es fertiggestellt – von einem ägyptischen Mobilfunkkonzern. Die Geschichte einer ungewöhnlichen Geschäftsbeziehung. von Georg Fahrion, Pjöngjang. Read the rest of this entry »

Six North Korean professors study economics at UBC

Sauder School of Business (Photo by UBC)

[CanKor Brain Trust member Prof. Park Kyung-Ae, director of the Center for Korean Research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, is host to six DPRK Professors who are studying economics for 6 months at UBC. CanKor has been aware of this project for some time, but honoured Dr. Park’s request for discretion, considering the sensitivity of the guests and the subject they are studying. The article we are reprinting here appeared first in the Yonhap News Service and is taken from The Korea Times. An earlier article in Asahi.com by Yoshihiro Makino, under the title “N. Korean professors start capitalism studies in Canada” contained some factual errors which have been corrected in the current article. The DPRK’s Ambassador (to Canada) Sin Son Ho, accompanied by two of his colleagues from the DPRK Permanent Mission to the United Nation in New York visited Vancouver from 11 to 14 August to meet with the visiting professors, who are the first group to have been invited under the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program, which Professor Park helped launch at UBC last year. –CanKor.]

SAN FRANCISCO (Yonhap) — Six North Korean professors are studying economics and other related subjects at a university in Canada on a months-long program initiated by the school, the program director said Wednesday, opening a rare opportunity for the people of the repressive regime. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Flood Damage Reports by KCNA

[Heavy rains in the past weeks have caused considerable flood damage in both parts of the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK Permanent Mission to the UN in New York has provided CanKor with a collection of articles appearing in the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that describe the damage caused to cropland, dwellings and industrial buildings. As of 28 July, the human toll of the floods was 23 lives lost, 8 injured, 4 missing and 8860 homeless. An appended spreadsheet itemizes losses and damage per city, county and province. See DPRK Data on Flood Damage-updated on Jul 28-2011. For pictures and a video of  some of the damage, see DPRK Hit by Heavy Rain Again on the new KCNA website. –CanKor.]

Photo by KCNA

DPRK Hit by Heavy Rain Again 

Pyongyang, July 28 (KCNA) — Many areas of the DPRK have been seriously affected by heavy rainfalls again.

According to data available for the Hydro-meteorological Service, 100-500mm torrential rains came down in some areas of North and South Hwanghae, Kangwon and South Hamgyong provinces and Kaesong City from around 00:00 Tuesday to noon Thursday.

It rained 564mm, 469mm, 339mm and 337mm in South Hwanghae Province’s Chongdan, Pongchon and Kangryong counties and Haeju City respectively. And it rained 397mm in Kaesong City and 343mm, 333mm, 328mm in Kangwon Province’s Sepho, Phyonggang and Changdo counties respectively and 341mm in Phyongsan County, North Hwanghae Province.

The downpours severely damaged economic sectors in the afflicted areas. An initial survey shows more than 36 000 hectares of cropland were flooded in South Hwanghae Province, some 20 000 hectares of them being submerged. Thousands of dwelling houses and hundreds of industrial establishments, schools and public buildings were destroyed.

Read the rest of this entry »

38 North: The Food Debate — Hungry for Action

[Following up on our food aid and food security theme, we would like to alert our readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. Two articles in particular have drawn our attention. The first is a further analysis of the recent decision by the European Union to send food aid to the DPRK. It is written by Glyn Ford, a man who knows the EU intimately, having been a Member of the European Parliament for over 25 years, until the June 2009 elections. The second article is by Roberta Cohen, whom CanKor readers have met before. She is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution specializing in human rights and humanitarian issues, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Cohen argues in her article that the time has come for the Obama administration to stop dawdling and come to a positive decision regarding food aid. Please follow our links to the articles on the 38North site. –CanKor.]

Feeding the Famine: The European Union’s Response to North Korea by Glyn Ford 

The European Union (EU) announced on July 4, 2011 that it would provide €10 million ($14.3 M) of emergency food aid to North Korea to be distributed through the World Food Programme (WFP) over the next three months–until the end of September, just prior to the arrival of this year’s harvest. This aid represents a much delayed response to an initial request for humanitarian assistance sent by Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun on January 24… Over the last decade, the EU has provided roughly €500 M ($715 M) in aid, including humanitarian assistance, and nutritional, sanitation, and development projects, plus an earlier contribution to the Korean Energy Development Organisation (KEDO)… Read more…

Hunger in North Korea: Time for a Decision by Roberta Cohen

…But taking no decision is really a decision, which gives the impression that there may be no urgent or extensive food crisis in North Korea requiring immediate action. It set aside the findings of thirteen reputable relief groups and did not dispatch its own mission until the end of May. The mission visited only two provinces (the United Nations visited nine) and has been studying its findings for more than a month. Washington also has been developing stringent monitoring standards should it resume aid, given North Korea’s known diversions to the army and elite. But these may possibly be so restrictive as to preempt agreement… Read more…

IISS Strategic Dossier: NORTH KOREAN SECURITY CHALLENGES

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released a new dossier warning that DPRK provocations increase the risk of retaliation from South Korea. A press release issued by IISS summarizes the dossier as follows:

The latest IISS Strategic Dossier, North Korean Security Challenges: a net assessment, is the most systematic and thorough public analysis of the range of threats emanating from the state. This includes its two nuclear programmes, the world’s third largest chemical weapons arsenal, a range of ballistic missiles – all of which it appears willing to sell – plus the world’s fourth largest army. North Korea is the most militarized country on earth. North Korea is also threatening because of the criminality that seems hard-wired into the regime and the human security problems created by its repression and economic mismanagement.

The press release and a launch statement by its editor, Mark Fitzpatrick may be read by following these links:

US Admiral Mullen on DPRK stability threat by Chris Nelson

[The following commentary is taken from the 14 July 2011 edition of the Nelson Report, with permission of the author. –CanKor.]

Out there in the real world, at least the version known as Asia, Adm. Mullen wrapped up his very interesting four days in China with a visit to ally S. Korea, and jumped right into the domestic ROK debate over N. Korea…saying the Kim Jong-il/Kim Jong-un succession process helped prompt last year’s DPRK sinking of the Cheonan.

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left, speaks to incoming commander of combined U.S.-South Korea forces, U.S. Army Gen. James D. Thurman during a change-of-command ceremony for the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and United States Forces Korea at a U.S. military base in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, 14 July 2011. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left, speaks to incoming commander of combined U.S.-South Korea forces, U.S. Army Gen. James D. Thurman (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

Warming to a theme he’s been stressing to China since last December, Mullen spoke about “the whole provocation cycle” facing S. Korea, warning that the “threat remains very real” as the DPRK continues to improve its nuclear weapon capabilities, adding “I’m not convinced they won’t provoke again. I’ve said for a long time that the only thing predictable about N. Korea is their unpredictability”.

His conclusion: “We have a sense of urgency to essentially work on planning to deter the North from further provocations. Whether they will be deterred or not, that’s to be seen.”

So what’s Mullen up to here? Read the rest of this entry »

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