DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.2

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the  current March 2013 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.2

Rural DPRK community with Red Cross kits (Photo by IFRC)

Rural DPRK community with Red Cross kits (Photo by IFRC)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • P’yang Sues Taiwan Over Nuclear Waste Disposal Deal
  • NK Seafood Exports Thriving
  • China’s First Offshore Processing Pact Inked with NK
  • NGO Initiatives: International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • Handicap International is looking for a consultant to work with deaf people in the DPRK
  • ROK Green Light for TB Work Aid to North
  • New Reunification Group Formed in ROK
  • New Tax Rules for Mount Kumgang Tourism Zone
  • High-Tech Way Forward for NK Agriculture
  • North Korean scientists publish record number of research papers in international journals
  • China to Upgrade Rail Links to Rason
  • Koryo tours guide to mobile & Internet services in the DPRK

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators. Read the rest of this entry »

Books: Inspector O and the case of Jon Yong Chol


THE MAN WITH THE BALTIC STARE: an Inspector O Novel, by James Church. New York: Minotaur Books, 2010. 279 pp. Can$29.99, hardcover. ISBN 978-0-312-37292-7. Reviewed by CanKor editor-in-chief Erich Weingartner.


A most unusual document reached us at CanKor early in August. It isn’t unusual for us to receive messages from the Pyongyang-based Korean Committee for Solidarity with the World People. We are obviously on the KCSWP mailing list, and have published a number of their documents right here on the CanKor website. Usually these concern anniversaries or special pronouncements by the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Not this time. Attached to the partially garbled email message was a file with an attention-grabbing title: “INTERVIEW WITH THE ARRESTED TERRORIST.” The email explains that Jon Yong Chol had been caught trying to perpetrate the “hideous crime of undermining the supreme dignity of the DPRK at the instructions of the U.S. and south Korean intelligence agencies.” He was subsequently interviewed by domestic and international reporters in Pyongyang on 19 July 2012.

I found it interesting that the DPRK scribes referred to this document throughout as an “interview” although – as you can see from the transcript – the hapless Jon Yong Chol clearly calls it a “confession”. Have DPRK translators become aware that the word “confession” elicits an emotionally negative response and wanted to give this document an air of objectivity? The email underlines repeatedly that the important thing to pay attention to is the identity of the ROK and US puppet masters, not the gullible individual who was close to committing the crime.

Jon’s confession is excruciatingly detailed, naming names, organizations and places. The goal behind a conspiracy to blow up monuments to Kim Il Sung (the “statue demolition society”, purportedly) in order to sow confusion and undermine confidence in the central government’s authority also makes political sense. In other words, if this confession is a fiction, it has been very well researched and made to seem perfectly plausible, at least to the casual reader. Read the rest of this entry »

North Korean Gulag Conference to be held in Washington DC

The US-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) has announced that a one-day conference will be held in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, 10 April 2012, entitled “Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Political Prisoner Camp System & Calling for Its Complete, Verifiable, and Irreversible Dismantlement”. The conference is organized together with the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, and will be hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics at the C. Fred Bergsten Conference Center (1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036).

Two CanKor Brain Trust members have prominent parts in the proceedings. As Chair of HRNK, Roberta Cohen (Non-resident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution) will make opening remarks. David Hawk, author of “Hidden Gulag” (First & Second Edition), will be the first presenter in the first panel of the conference.  Read the rest of this entry »

The North Korea Food Aid Dilemma by Toni Johnson

[This analysis brief – really a summary of the arguments about food aid to the DPRK, with useful links interspersed – was compiled by Toni Johnson, Senior Staff Writer for the Council on Foreign Relations and published on the CFR website on 2 June 2011. –CanKor.]

A Chinese frontier policeman checks sacks of rice from South Korea, which will be sent to North Korea. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

A U.S. team in North Korea is soon expected to present findings on whether or not the country is facing a new food crisis. Robert King, U.S. special envoy to North Korea, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 2 that the Obama administration has not made a decision on resuming food aid–suspended in 2009–but, if it does, aid will be based on need and include monitoring requirements.

North Korea’s food situation has been a topic of considerable debate in recent months. The UN World Food Programme found in March that, due to a brutal winter and crop failures, the country could run out of food and needs more than four hundred thousand metric tons of food aid (PDF) to feed the country’s six million most vulnerable. Former president Jimmy Carter echoed the plea for new aid (BBC) a month later. But South Korea’s intelligence agency argues the North’s situation is no worse than it has been (AP) in the last two years and fears of a crisis are overblown. Read the rest of this entry »

The Logic and Illogic of Food Aid by Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland

[If you have not already read this article either at the Peterson Institute’s North Korea: Witness to Transformation blog or at 38North of the US-Korea Institute SAIS, we highly recommend this clear-speaking clarification and debunking of common arguments against food aid to the DPRK. We present here only the four statements (or myths) that are dealt with in the article and encourage you to read Haggard and Noland’s commentary here. –CanKor.]

As the food aid discussions heat up, we have been engaged in a number of conversations with friends–and critics–about the logic of granting food aid. Some of the arguments floating around need much closer scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »

New monograph by Noland and Haggard on the role of economic statecraft

The East-West Center released Engaging North Korea: The Role of Economic Statecraft, a monograph written by Marcus Noland and Steph Haggard.  A description notes:

North Korea’s political economy and its external relations render it remarkably insensitive to either sanctions or inducements. Instead, its behavior appears driven to a significant extent by domestic political considerations and regime survival. It is conceivable that as the regime consolidates power internally, it may be more willing to undertake risks and engage in negotiations more seriously and substantively. It is possible that external constraints have simply not imposed enough pain, and that the country’s worsening food shortages might push the regime to reengage or to exploit a humanitarian gesture. But the converse appears equally, if not more, plausible: that the post–Kim Jong-il leadership may be too politically insecure or divided to make meaningful concessions, and consolidation will only reinforce the pre-existing trends toward a more hard-line and truculent policy. If so, the ultimate resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue may await fundamental change in the political regime.

Haggard and Noland also maintain a blog North Korea: Witness to Transformation which examines a wide range of issues involving North Korea.

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