Did Kim Jong Un’s uncle prepare his first state visit to China?

[The following two news items strike us as being related. First a high-level visit to China by the assumed power behind the throne, Kim Jong Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek. The first article is by Didi Tang for The Associated Press, published 17 August 2012. The second is the widely expected but unconfirmed request for the first external state visit and first official visit to China by Kim Jong Un, in his capacity as DPRK leader. The Reuters article appeared in guardian.co.uk on 24 August 2012. –CanKor]

Wen Jiabao, right, meets Jang Song-thaek, uncle of North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un, on Aug. 17. (Photo/Xinhua)

Senior North Korean holds talks with China’s leaders in sign allies’ relations back on track

Associated Press, BEIJING, China – The powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met both China’s president and premier on Friday in a sign that relations between the two countries are back on track after Kim irked Beijing with a rocket launch soon after taking power.

State media have said the six-day visit to China by Jang Song Thaek, the chief of the central administrative department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, is a possible prelude to a visit by Kim himself. China remains North Korea’s most important ally.

The top-level meetings came after Beijing earlier this week agreed to help Pyongyang revamp two trade zones near the Chinese border. Read the rest of this entry »

North Korea could have used a Havel by Charles Burton

[This op-ed piece was written by CanKor Brain Trust member Charles Burton, and published in the Ottawa Citizen on 22 December 2011. Charles Burton is associate professor of political science at Brock University and a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing. –Cankor]

Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-il, both of whom died this week, personified an extreme contrast in leadership styles. Each man oversaw a nation’s response to the dashing of the hope for human dignity and justice that the Marxist-Leninist paradigm once offered. But the ways each went about it could not have been more different.

Vaclav Havel

Both Czechoslovakia and North Korea were deeply affected by the decline of the Soviet Union that began in the mid-1980s and culminated with its collapse in 1991. But North Korea turned inward, replacing Marxist ideology with the even more stifling and arcane Juche doctrine, and intensifying its repressive politics of charismatic personality cult to new extremes. From the late 1980s on, North Korea became even more closed to the outside world, leading to a rapid deterioration of the national economy to the point that more than a million of its people died of starvation in the famine of 1995-’97.

Today North Korea is dependent on food and energy inputs from China, South Korea and the UN, which delivers food aid originating in the United States and other western nations, including Canada. Even so, about half the children in North Korea still suffer from stunted growth and disabilities due to prolonged malnutrition. Meanwhile, the North Korean politicaland military elite lives in high luxury with their Mercedes Benzes, munificent walled housing compounds, flownin supplies of lobster and cognac, jewelry and expensive perfume imported through China; all gifts of the Dear Leader to maintain their support for his domination of a miserably failed state. Read the rest of this entry »

Heavy Metal Tour of North Korea

For the past two decades, Koryo Tours has been opening North Korea to tourism, and in 2012 they are once again breaking new ground. After working closely with their Korean partners, they are proud to offer both group and independent tourists the chance to go where no visitor has ever been, namely factories and similar sites around Nampo, the west coast port city not far from Pyongyang.  Here’s a brief introduction to what is offered:

Tae'an Glass Factory

Chollima Steelworks – A major heavy industry site for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), this place was built by the Japanese and is known to Koreans as the birthplace of the Chollima movement, which even today drives the country. If you’ve always wanted to witness the making of ‘Juche Steel’ in a giant facility, come to Nampo with Koryo Tours. This is the DPRK’s most famous factory, and as always, Koryo Tours are the first company to be allowed to take tourists inside.

But Koryo has its own Chollima connection; they can tell you about the art project they arranged at the steelworks as well as the scenes they shot there for their new feature film!

Tae’an Heavy Machine Tool Complex– This enormous complex boasts a number of hangar-sized buildings; you will see the vast range of machine tools, lathes and so on that the workers use to make shaped steel, turbine components, and other products. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Jong Il’s Whistle Stop Tour in China by Jeremy Paltiel

[Was the recent visit by Kim Jong Il to China a resounding failure, as reported in the South Korean press? CanKor Brain Trust member Jeremy PaltielProfessor at Carleton University in Ottawa, summarizes his take on the trip based on Korean and Chinese sources. –CanKor.]

The woman in a yellow jacket is thought to be Kim Jong-il’s fourth wife Kim Ok at a banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Bejing, 25 May 2011. (Captured from CCTV Yonhap)

Kim Jong-Il’s third tribute mission to his Chinese patron in less than a year took place between May 20 and May 26. Once again, the head of North Korea’s Kim family holding company toured sites of China’s economic success in Jilin, Heilongjiang and Jiangsu provinces, and met with all the members of the Standing Committee of the CCP Politbureau. Chinese media did not give any special reason for this unofficial visit but instead carried the speculative reports coming from South Korean media outlets. As Chinese official media normally do not carry news of Kim’s official tours until he has safely crossed the frontier of his own country, this quaint courtesy to Kim’s sensibilities was undermined this time around when the People’s Daily sister publication Global Times carried a report citing “South Korean sources” that Kim Jong-il was indeed in China.

While there was much speculation that Kim was seeking to pave the way for his third son Kim Jong-Un’s succession, newly-minted General did not accompany his father. Instead, Kim Jong-il was accompanied by his brother in law Jang Kai-Taek, and more unusually his current consort,Kim Ok whose picture surfaced at the Beijing banquet, seated next to Hu Jintao’s top foreign policy advisor, Dai Bingguo. (See Kim Jong-il calls for early resumption of six-party talks.) Read the rest of this entry »

Workers Party of Korea Conference highlights on KCNA

Kumsusan Memorial Palace

Kumsusan Memorial Palace, DPRK

[The following article appeared in CanKor Report #329, and was published in UnCommon Sense, 14 October 2010]

All the news that’s fit to print in the DPRK about the Conference of the Workers Party has been gathered on a separate page in the official (North) Korean Central News Agency website here.

Numerous articles concern the surprising re-election of Kim Jong Il, first as a delegate, then as member of the WPK Central Committee and its Secretariat, member of the political bureau and the presidium of the political bureau, and finally as WPK General Secretary.

Following his re-election is a message of congratulations from Hu Jintao, on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and numerous congratulatory events, beginning with a meeting of servicepersons of the three services of the Korean People’s Army: Read the rest of this entry »

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