What a Tangled Web We Weave, by Kim Dong Jin

[Kim Dong Jin is Director of the Peace Culture Institute in Korea (PCIK), a newly-founded research institution based in Seoul, Korea. The PCIK is dedicated to sharing information, knowledge and experience on peace-building in conflict-affected societies. Pursuing a collective peace intelligence and peaceful open source collaboration, the PCIK provides space for researchers, practitioners and experts from various disciplines to discuss issues related to conflict transformation by peaceful means on the Korean peninsula, in Asia, and beyond. This article was first published on the PCIK blog site on Thursday, 30 May 2013. –CanKor]

kaesong_ind_nk_624On 22 May, the North Korean Committee for the Realization of the 6.15 Joint Statement proposed holding a joint ceremony at either Kaesong or Mt. Keumgang, to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Statement issued at the conclusion to the 15 June 2000 Summit meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The South Korean counterpart Committee responded positively, interpreting the proposal in relation to the issues at the closed Kaesong Industrial Complex.

“The suggestion to use Kaesong by North Korea as a venue for the event indirectly expresses their desire to restore the Kaesong Industrial Complex”, the South Committee said. Read the rest of this entry »

Is ROK ready to resume aid to DPRK?

[North Korea has been hit with another summer of poor weather for agriculture. First there was a drought which extended also to South Korea and areas of China. Then there came floods. Prospects for the harvest this year are extremely poor. Yet apart from China, the major donors of food aid to the DPRK (ROK, Japan, USA) continue to withhold aid, for various reasons that have been covered by CanKor previously. The following article (dated Paju, 24 August 2012) from the South Korean Yonhap news agency reports about a South Korean NGO effort to provide flood relief aid. The group was well received by the North, which agreed to receive the promised aid. The article also reports about indications that the ROK Government may be ready to continue aid to the North. –CanKor]

South’s aid group crosses border to discuss flood aid with North

A non-governmental South Korean aid group crossed the border early Friday to hold a discussion in North Korea over relief aid to the flood-stricken North.

ROK Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik (Photo by Yonhap)

Four officials of the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea left the Doransan transit office in Paju, north of Seoul, around 10:00 a.m. to travel to Kaesong, a North Korean border city.

The council representing 51 South Korean private aid groups for the North said the officials will meet their counterparts from the National Reconciliation Council, North Korea’s organization for promoting friendship with the South, and discuss the South group’s plan to provide relief aid to North Koreans. The South Koreans will return home in the afternoon, according to the group.

Friday’s trip by the private aid group marks the first North Korean visit by a South Korean entity over the flood relief issue since the North was struck by devastating floods this summer.

The United Nations and other countries channeled funds and other relief goods to the North as part of their humanitarian assistance, but South Korea has remained mum so far due mainly to a chill in the South-North relations.

The latest trip helped fuel speculation over whether the Seoul government will decide to take action about the North’s flood damage despite the restrained inter-Korean relations. Read the rest of this entry »

Rare earths bankroll North Korea’s future, by Leonid Petrov

[CanKor Brain Trust member Leonid A Petrov PhD is a lecturer in Korean studies at the School of Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney. This article first appeared in Asia Times on 8 August 2012. –CanKor]

North Korea is sitting on around 200 different minerals, including a large number of rare earth metals, hidden in its mountains.

Those who travel to North Korea regularly might have noticed that the last couple of years have brought significant improvement in the country’s economic situation. Newly built high-rise apartments, modern cars on the roads and improved infrastructure come as a surprise to visitors. It begs the question, where does Pyongyang get the money from? The ambitious rocket and nuclear programs, which North Korea continues to pursue despite international condemnation, are expensive and harmful to its economy.
International sanctions continue to bite the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s foreign trade and investment prospects. Regular floods and droughts, animal epidemics and other natural disasters hit the fragile economy even harder.

According to expert estimations, the DPRK should have ceased to exist in the mid-1990s, after the Communist Bloc collapsed and Kim Il-Sung died. But North Korea has fully recovered after the famine and even shows steady signs of economic growth. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.5

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 June 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.5

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

In Chiba in 1991 Hyun Jung-hwa of the ROK (right) and Li Bun Hui of the DPRK formed a

In Chiba in 1991 Hyun Jung-hwa of the ROK (right) and Li Bun Hui of the DPRK formed a joint Korean team. The pair won the female finals by defeating China.

  • China Offers Work Visas for 40,000 N.Koreans
  • UN Report Highlights Plight of NK Children
  • Politics Hampering UN Aid Efforts
  • Female Participation in North Korea’s Business Sector
  • Table Tennis Player Sees Opportunity for Unity
  • NK Could Be Major Carbon Credit Player
  • Visa-free Access to Yalu River Zone

    …plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

China’s issuance of 40,000 work visas, and perhaps more in the pipeline, to North Koreans is a step in the right direction. It is well attested that the vast majority of North Koreans who have fled their homeland since the famine of the 1990s (the “Arduous March”) have been economic migrants seeking a better life, not political refugees, of whom only a handful were recorded in the previous four decades. The deal apparently came about as a result of a request by the DPRK’s new leader Kim Jong Un. Now, those who wish to do so will be able to legally work in China — as many already do in Russia — and send money (the Renminbi yuan is regarded as a hard currency in NK) and food home, avoiding falling into the hands of human traffickers and being smuggled into South Korea, where their lot is not a happy one. This will reduce the profits of this evil trade, and help the Chinese police crack down on the gangsters and rescue their victims.

It will also take the wind out of the sails of those who claim that North Koreans flee and fall prey to the traffickers because Pyongyang doesn’t allow them to leave.

Please feel free to consult the full issue by clicking on this link: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.5

DPRK Business Monthly Volume III, No.4

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 May 2012 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Vol III, No.4

Kim Yong Nam, head of the DPRK's Southeast Asia delegation [Photo:KCNA]

Kim Yong Nam, head of the DPRK’s Southeast Asia delegation [Photo:KCNA]

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Can Singapore Be Economic Model for NK?
  • China’s Jilin Province Speeding Up Border Projects
  • Various NK Bodies Competing for Investments
  • Change is Around the Corner for the DPRK
  • Will NK’s Plans for Foreign Investment Make it a Prosperous Nation?
  • Pyongyang Holds 13th Spring Trade Fair
  • Tanchon Port Completed
  • Rason to Host Second Int’l Trade Exhibition

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

May has been a good month for debunking misconceptions about the DPRK. First of all, the story that during the “sunshine” years of ROK presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun the South delivered “handouts” of free food to the North and got nothing in return has turned out to be untrue. The fact is that the North received a low interest loan from South Korea’s state-owned Export-Import Bank to buy the food. Read the rest of this entry »

Comment on Hsu article by David Straub

[CanKor readers are already familiar with the article referred to in this commentary by CanKor Brain Trust member Professor Victor W. Hsu, Korean Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management & Former National Director for North Korea of World Vision International. An excerpt is provided below. To read the full article, please click here.]

South Korea’s Humanitarian Dilemma, by Victor Hsu

On March 22, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Unification, Lee Jong-joo announced that “there are no plans for direct government-to-government humanitarian aid” to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). But the government is “considering when and how to resume humanitarian aid provided by South Korean NGOs.” This is certainly a step in the right direction given that in recent months the Republic of Korea (ROK) government officials have had to encounter enquiries not only by their own civil society but also by other governments and various United Nations officials. Read the rest of this entry »

South Korean Churches under fire for sending aid to North

The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) is coming under fire for sending aid to the DPRK. The shipment of 172 tons of food aid was not approved by South Korea’s government. Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo says it was not right for the church organization to contact the North Koreans and go ahead with the aid shipment, without getting South Korean government approval. Lee says the ministry will take necessary measures after hearing from the National Council of Churches about its activities. She adds that the government is monitoring the situation.

The NCCK acknowledges having unauthorized contact in Beijing with North Koreans to arrange the donation (Read Press Release here).


NCCK calls for humanitarian aid to North Korea

The National Council of Churches in Korea has drafted an open letter to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak calling for a resumption of food aid to North Korea. Open letter included below. Korean-language version can be found here.

President Lee Myung-bak,

We pray that God’s Grace be with you and your ministry.

Expressing our deep regret on the situation of escalating tension between the two Koreas and of cutting off dialogue, exchange and cooperation, the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) which has been praying and working for peace, reconciliation and well-being of people on the Korean peninsula prays for reopening of dialogue and cooperation based on the spirit of agreements and joint statements by South Korea and North Korea for improving their relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

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