Conflicting Messages: Whipping Out The Crystal Ball

When it comes to message control, our current Prime Minister’s office has nothing compared to the likes of Pyongyang. The rulers of the DPRK have for the last seventy years been quite fastidious when it has come to shaping the regime’s official message. After all, when you enjoy the benefits of controlling both the media and your diplomats abroad, the only thing you really have to worry about are the folks who decide to leave your tightly-controlled society.

It’s surprising that despite some extreme shocks to the system, including the famine and the death of the only leader the country had ever known in 1994, the regime’s grip did not grow any “looser.” Perhaps the areas around the country’s northern provinces have become a little more porous after the famine, but despite the relative free flow of knowledge that appears to be growing in the borderlands between China, the number of people (successfully) fleeing the country has dwindled, especially after the recent power succession.

This makes the conflicting messages coming out of the country quite surprising. Read the rest of this entry »

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 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 »

DPRK delegation visits Beijing

[This article by Ding Qingfen and Li Xiaokun appeared in China Daily, 14 August 2012. –CanKor]

Trip may signal move to boost battered economy, experts say.

The new PRC/DPRK economic zone: Hwanggumphyong Island, Wihwa Island, and Sin Island. [Google Earth 2010]

A delegation from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is visiting Beijing to hold talks with officials on economic and trade ties, sources told China Daily.

Specialists in Korean Peninsula affairs said the visit will play a crucial part in improving the DPRK economy following food shortages and severe flooding.

Members of the delegation will attend a conference on Tuesday, sources said, covering the two DPRK special economic zones involving both countries.

One of the DPRK special economic zones is in Rason, and the other is located on the Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa islands.

The delegation is also expected to visit Liaoning and Jilin, two border provinces.

Jang Song-thaek, vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK, is leading the delegation, a source said on condition of anonymity. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Jong Un: I Am NOT My Father

I would like to think that Kim Jong Un listened to my advice and hired a Don Draper type to sex up the regime’s image

abroad. Yes, such visions of grandeur. Bringing us back to reality, however, the DPRK has certainly gone to some great lengths to ameliorate its image abroad, to the point that some have described it as an “extreme makeover.” It all perhaps began with Kim Jong Un complaining about the general disrepair of amusement parks (“pathetic” is supposedly the word used). One has to wonder in opaque North Korea whether Kim was referring to simply the amusement park itself, or really criticizing the way that his father ran the country.

Meet the new boss

Then we have Kim the 3rd walking around accompanied by a mystery woman who we later find out he has married – perhaps even against his father’s wishes. Even if this allegation of filial impiety is not true, Kim Jong Il never trotted out his women in public.

The implication of this rather public announcement is enormous: again, Kim Jong Un is not his father! Then we have a well publicized concert involving trademark infringement of the Mickey Mouse variety and mini-skirts that would have shocked O Jin U if he were still around. We receive word of things like prisoner amnesties. Finally, Ri Yong Ho is sacked. The official cause is illness; the word on the street is power struggle, including fanciful notions of firefights in the inner sanctums of Pyongyang. Ri Yong Ho was supposedly one of the capos in the Kim Jong Il regime. Getting rid of someone like him again is clear signal that a new boss has rolled into town.

At the end of the day, this branding exercise seems a clear play to contrast Kim Jong Un from Kim Jong Il. Perhaps the rumours that Kim Jong Un (and Jang Song Thaek behind him) really want to open the country up. The evidence so far, doesn’t suggest that yet: the border hasn’t been this controlled since the 2008 Olympics and the kwan-li-so system still exists. What isclear is that the regime has, six months after his death, buried Kim Jong Il, set up his statue right beside Kim the 1st, and has all but announced that his era is over. Read the rest of this entry »

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