North Korea

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North Korea

Post  polka23dot on Sun Nov 18, 2012 10:22 pm

North Korea through the eyes of witnesses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM1sKwW_Ogk

China is now, for all practical purposes, the sole provider of aid to North Korea. It is also North Korea’s only significant trade partner. source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2014/04/304_155744.html

According to The Cleanest Race, North Korea's government is founded on far-right politics, rather than those of the far left, because of the state's military-first policy, racism, and xenophobia, as evidenced by the attempted lynching of Black Cuban diplomats and forced abortions of North Korean women pregnant with ethnic Chinese children. source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cleanest_Race

Hyeonseo Lee: My escape from North Korea:http://www.ted.com/talks/hyeonseo_lee_my_escape_from_north_korea.html

A South Korean think tank has analyzed North Korean census and other records and estimated that as many as 1.13 million people starved to death between 1995 and 2008... Despite announcements by new ruler Kim Jong Un that foreign (mainly Chinese) investment would be welcome, corruption and incompetence has driven away earlier Chinese and South Korean efforts to set up business in North Korea. The senior leadership in the north is not willing, or able, to suppress the corruption that drives foreign investors away. So while North Korean propaganda keeps proclaiming how easy it is to do business in North Korea, nothing is happening. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20121118.aspx

Songbun is the system of ascribed status used in North Korea. Based on political, social, and economic background for direct ancestors as well as behavior by relatives, songbun is used to determine whether an individual is trusted with responsibility, given opportunities within North Korea, or even receives adequate food. Songbun affects access to educational and employment opportunities and particularly whether a person is eligible to join North Korea's ruling party, the Workers' Party of Korea... Files are maintained on every North Korean by security official and party cadres from age 17 and updated every two years. In general, songbun is difficult to improve, but it can be downgraded from a variety of reasons ranging from a lack of political enthusiasm, to marrying someone of lower standing, to being convicted, or having a family member convicted of a crime, political or otherwise. source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songbun

There will never be justice in North Korea: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/special/2012/10/304_122768.html

North Korean spies: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htintel/articles/20121205.aspx

North Korean propaganda for Western audience: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NMr2VrhmFI

When North Korea was founded in the late 1940s, a caste system was created. This established an official list of 51 social classes in North Korea. Most (29) of these classes were composed of people considered either hostile to the government or leaning that way. These new lower classes included business people, the most successful farmers, professionals, and, well, you get the picture. Most of the population falls into these 29 social classes and they are getting increasingly hostile to a government that seems to do nothing but create one disaster after another. The people are hungry, the soldiers are hungry, the secret police are stealing whatever they can get their hands on, and the senior officials are planning their escape routes. The highest caste people, who have long come to regard themselves (quite accurately) as a hereditary aristocracy, are growing more corrupt and fearful. http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20121228.aspx

North Koreans are losing faith in their own government, economy and currency. This can be seen in what currency is used in legal and black markets. In the capital about half the transactions are carried out using U.S. currency with a quarter using Chinese and the rest North Korean. The cost of U.S. dollars in North Korean won continues to increase and now it’s over 9,000 won per dollar. Two years ago it was less than 1,500 won to the dollar. A year ago the government outlawed the use of foreign currency at markets but this is widely ignored and police are bribed to keep it that way. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130113.aspx

Undercover reporters from the Asiapress news agency, which has a focus on North Korea and is based in Japan, discovered last year that the depths of starvation in the North are so severe that people are being forced into cannibalism. In a report released by Asiapress this week, an official of the Korean Workers' Party detailed in a rare clandestine meeting with the reporters that on visits he made to farming villages in the middle of last year he found only infinite despair. "There was no food at all," he was quoted as saying. "In a village named Hwayangri in Chondang," he added, "a man who went mad with hunger boiled his own child and ate his flesh and got arrested." An illicit trade in human meat has sprung up around North Korea, according to the journalists, who spoke to local residents. One man was executed by firing squad last May after being found guilty of killing 11 people and selling their flesh as pork, one of the reporters found. Elsewhere, a father killed his two children and tried to eat them; he, too, was executed. Another man "killed his eldest daughter, and because his son saw what he had done, he killed his son as well. When his wife came home, he offered her food saying 'we have meat.' But the wife, suspicious that her children were missing, notified the Ministry of Public Security (the police), which led to the discovery of part of their children's bodies from under the eaves." source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-j-furney/north-korea-cannibalism-hunger_b_2601956.html

Attracted by the opportunity to settle in prosperous South Korea, many of the millions of Chinese, of Korean ancestry, try to sneak in as North Korea refugees. There are schools in northern China that will train these Chinese, who already speak Korean (with a North China accent) to sound and act like North Koreans and pass the intense interrogation South Korean intelligence officials give each refugee who makes it to South Korea. Most of these Chinese appear to succeed. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htintel/articles/20130205.aspx

Most North Korean exports are illegal items (weapons, drugs, counterfeit currency) that can only be moved to foreign customers because of Chinese cooperation. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/china/articles/20130211.aspx

Talk of coming change in North Korea, so loud and audible as recently as August and September [of 2012], has all but disappeared in the past two months. source:https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2013/01/304_125977.html

North Korean women dream of marrying communist party officials or secret police officers. North Korean men dream of becoming communist party officials or secret police officers. source: https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2013/02/304_130313.html

The generation who grew up during the 1990s famine (that killed about ten percent of the population and starved most of the rest for years) no longer believe in the North Korean dictatorship. Many who came of age before 1990 still do, but for most everyone under 30 the state is the enemy and self-reliance, and not a benevolent dictatorship, is the only way to survive. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130228.aspx

North Korea vows nuclear attack on US, saying Washington will be 'engulfed in a sea of fire.' source: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/03/07/north-korea-vows-nuclear-attack-on-us-ahead-un-sanctions-vote/

While China has officially joined the many nations backing sanctions against North Korea, it has not cut off trade (China is North Korea’s largest, by far, trading partner) or aid. China is the only source of petroleum for North Korea and a major source of much-needed food imports. Even more crucial is Chinese connivance with North Korean smugglers. This allows North Korea to get its illegal exports (weapons, drugs, and counterfeit currency) out of the country and smuggled items (weapons components and industrial equipment, as well as luxuries for the leadership) in. China has long been pressured to crack down on this illegal trade. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130310.aspx

The economic sanctions against North Korea have changed over the years to target the leadership. This has not worked well because China refuses to participate. Thus Chinese firms do a brisk business supplying several hundred thousand families that comprise the North Korean ruling elite with luxury goods. These families always have electricity and heat and the latest gadgets. There has been more Chinese investment in North Korea over the last few years, the most successful being mining ventures. But the foreign currency earned is not being spent on the North Korean people in general but rather to keep the rulers comfortable. The shortages are reaching the military and lower ranking members of the secret police, who are more frequently reported stealing food and complaining of not getting as much food as they used to.  source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130322.aspx

Although most North Koreans now know their government has been lying to them about the outside world, and that life is much better in South Korea, because North Koreans are brainwashed from birth, some will still not welcome the southerners as liberators. South Korea is not making this stuff up, as they have over 24,000 North Koreans who escaped to South Korea, most of them in the last decade. These North Koreans give details about how people think, and are likely to react during a collapse up north. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htun/articles/20130403.aspx

A lot of North Korean propaganda, especially the stuff insisting that North Koreans have it better than people of other countries (like China, South Korea, and Japan) is considered a bad joke by most North Koreans, and a growing number of them are openly mocking the mandatory lectures and demonstrations they must attend. This is ominous, the fact that the people are losing their fear of retaliation. This is what happened in Eastern Europe in 1989, when all the communist governments there collapsed in a few months. North Korean leaders studied that event carefully and concluded that they had their people under control, that the people still feared their leaders. The decline in fear is scary news indeed because North Korea is basically a police state and without a lot of fear, that sort of government does not work. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130425.aspx

Although GDP has increased by 25 percent in the last decade, most of that increase went to the military and the few thousand families that run the country. They have flat screen TVs, new cars and impressive homes (visible on Google Earth) outside the capital. Inside Pyongyang there is a lot of new construction, including stores selling luxury goods. In the rest of the country all you see is a poorly maintained slum with frequent electrical blackouts and growing shortages of fuel for heating and transportation. The GDP growth comes largely by allowing Chinese firms to operate mines and factories, using cheaper North Korean labor. The government seizes most of the profits from this increased economic activity, leaving most North Koreans with less than they had a decade ago. This has caused growing unrest, including anti-government graffiti (unknown a decade ago) and more people fleeing to China and from there to South Korea with details of the hell up north. China has been urging North Korea to allow economic freedom, as China did in the 1980s. But many in the North Korean leadership believe this would lead to revolution and catastrophe for them. North Korea has put more restrictions on travel to the Chinese border. Like most old-school communist police states everyone must carry an internal passport at all times and you need a permit to travel outside your home town. For those travelling to areas near the Chinese border additional permissions and documentation must now be obtained. This puts pressure on the government and secret police officials involved because for everyone they approve who disappears (and is presumed to have fled to China) the responsible official is in trouble. Too much of that can get you sent to prison. Despite the risk, $50-100 in bribes will get you past all the document checks as you get near to the Chinese border...  The North Korean government is trying to find new jobs for the workers at the recently closed (by North Korea) Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea. This put over 50,000 North Koreans out of work... Most of the workers and their families brought to Kaesong to work in the South Korea factories are being sent back to the other parts of North Korea they came from. Shutting down Kaesong cost the North Korean government a lot of money since the wages of the Kaesong workers were heavily taxed. North Korea has long exported workers to China and Russia, as long as the workers were housed in dormitories where they could be watched by North Korean secret police. Any of these workers who tried to defect would be putting their family into prison, which was a death sentence for the very young and very old. North Korean workers don’t like working outside the country when they have to leave their families behind. But working in Russia and China was at least a job and you got enough to eat... The South Korean managers have long been a good source of intel on the north. One of the last bits of such intel received was North Korean officials fearing that the 50,000 workers at Kaesong were learning too much about the higher standard of living in South Korea and were beginning to question the mismanagement of the North Korean economy. Apparently this has been a problem for several years and the decision to shut down Kaesong was delayed because of all the cash it was bringing in for the North Korean government. The North Korean government is also trying to ensure that the former Kaesong workers do not pollute other North Koreans with impure thought. To that end these workers are being forced to attend two hours a day of indoctrination and reminders that North Korea is the worker’s paradise and that South Korea is evil incarnate. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130510.aspx

China has become much more hostile to the North Korean government of Kim Jong Un. This includes grooming his older brother Kim Jong Nam to replace him. Kim Jong Nam was long believed to be the heir apparent to Kim Jong Il but this heir was too much of a playboy and had an unhealthy (to North Korean officials) positive attitude towards the West and the way China was run. Kim Jong Nam spent much of his time in China and basically lives there supported in luxurious fashion by the Chinese government. That includes protection from any North Korean assassins who might be sent to kill him (by his nervous younger brother). China has long recruited members of the North Korean leadership, usually via favors, like tolerating their private business enterprises in China. The Kim clan in North Korea has fought this infiltration as best it can, firing officials thought to be pro-Chinese and even executing a few. But Chinese economic activity in North Korea is so widespread and crucial that is has proved impossible to shut the Chinese agents out. This new Chinese pressure could result in push-back in the form of more real or suspected pro-Chinese North Korean officials losing their jobs, freedom, or lives. Succession conspiracies aside, China has imposed some more immediate and debilitating restrictions on North Korea. Access to Chinese banks is being cut off, one bank at a time. This makes it very difficult for North Korea to pay for illegal imports and get profits for illegal exports (weapons, drugs, counterfeit currency). China has ordered border police to crack down on the illegal North Korean smuggling. This was long tolerated, as long as the drugs and counterfeit currency did not land in China. That rule was not always obeyed by North Korea and now China is making up for lost retribution. The Chinese border guards can be bribed (with a lot more money), but that won’t shut down all the many other Chinese security organizations under the same orders to block those exports. North Korea, fearful that China will cut off oil imports, is trying to make a deal with Iran to trade iron ore for oil, but that assumes the Chinese (and American and so on) navies will allow those tankers and ore carriers to complete their deliveries. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/china/articles/20130516.aspx

The North Korean bureaucrats in charge of agriculture were not happy with the agricultural reforms announced last year and have apparently been successful at sabotaging them (by forcing the new “entrepreneurial farms” to use land unsuitable for farming). The agricultural reforms in the north also ran into problems because many government agencies did not want to see their share of crops reduced. An earlier government investigation found that over the years various government and military bureaucrats had increased how much of the crops they could take to the point where the farmers themselves were left too malnourished and weak to increase production even if they received more resources (fuel, fertilizer)...
In North Korea the police have been ordered to pick up the growing number of homeless children (seen begging or just running wild even by foreign visitors) and put them under the control of local government. This is only a temporary solution because the food and other shortages means that government don’t have the resources to house and feed all these homeless kids. Most are orphans, their parents having died or disappeared into prison camps, China or elsewhere in North Korea. The poverty and privation is so great in the north that the extended family no longer provides a safety net and there is often no kin to take in abandoned or orphaned children. So the kids just hit the streets and become a source of criminal activity and, more embarrassing for the government, defectors who get to China and commit a lot of crimes. Some North Korean officials want to just quietly kill these “worthless children” but senior officials know that could be a public-relations disaster and forbid it, officially at least. The North Korean secret police often make people just disappear but if it is done on a large scale mistakes are likely to be made. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130708.aspx

Theft and other crime has become more common, committed by teenage boys who have left home (or been orphaned and fled to avoid an orphanage) and joined young gangs. In the cities, these gangs survive because the cops are corrupt and lazy, and if you avoid high profile crimes, you can keep out of labor camps. Begging also works, although the kids often fight over the choice spots. The gangs are also responsible for a lot of the anti-government graffiti. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130722.aspx

Household checks in North Korea
Imagine that you are a North Korean ― well, let’s say it just happened that you were born in that very peculiar country.
It is late evening, almost midnight, and you are sitting with your family when suddenly somebody knocks on the door. The loud, demanding sound leaves one with no doubt: these are persons of authority who have decided to visit your humble dwelling.
Most readers would expect that the average North Korean would have the fear of death strike them, dreading impending imprisonment or death. For most North Koreans, though, this is not the case; rather it is probably just another household check (sukbakgeomyeol in Korean). This is a recurrent procedure that the average North Korean household endures near enough every month.
Household checks are conducted by teams that usually include one or two police officer as well as the head of the local “people’s group.” Such groups usually include all the inhabitants of a block or a multi-story apartment building ― between 20 and 40 families. Some personnel from the military police are often part of the team, and someone from the security police might be present occasionally.
The household check of a given people’s group unit usually starts around 11 p.m. and continues until 2 a.m. There are some measures taken to ensure that no one can secretly make an escape from a neighborhood when the check begins. For instance, in multi-story buildings they usually put a sentry to the staircase, and in a block a sentry usually guards alleyways in order to stop people from escaping.
The checks are largely designed to stop people from breaking the regulations that make travel in North Korea so restrictive. In fact, one needs a permit just to travel outside one’s own city/county, and special permits are required to travel to the borderland areas or Pyongyang. A North Korean child cannot even have a sleepover at his/her friend’s or relative’s house without first going to the local “people’s group” head and registering themselves as an overnight visitor.
Of course, such regulations are bound to be violated. Relatives may go and see their families in other places even without permit ― especially now that it is all too easy to bribe bus drivers or ticket inspectors on trains to let people aboard without the requisite permits. And let us not forget that sex exists in North Korea too, and lovers will probably spend nights together without going so far as to advertise this fact to the authorities.
During the household check, the inspection team makes a quick search of the house to look in the places where an unregistered person can hide. In the event of the discovery of such a person, an investigation follows. The guest as well as host family often faces fines or even a brief period of incarceration.
At the same time, the work place of the unregistered visitor is to be notified as well ― a serious sanction for a woman who is discovered at her lover’s house at midnight (North Korean sexual mores have become more relaxed recently but still remain rather patriarchic).
The presence of the military police is necessary because common police cannot arrest military personnel. During a check without a member of the military police on hand, a team must let an unregistered visitor who is a soldier go without sanction.
The inspection team also serves two other purposes: they have to check registered radio sets and also DVD players.
Since the 1960s it has been illegal in North Korea to possess a tunable radio set ― North Koreans could not use their wireless to listen to foreign broadcasts. However, all radios could be made tunable by a skilled technician, so all radio sets are sealed and these seals are also checked by the inspection teams.
Of late, inspection teams have also begun to go through video tapes and DVDs that they encounter in households. Movies from “imperialist countries” (like the U.S.) and their “stooges” (i.e. South Korea) are banned in the North. If such contraband is discovered, it may lead to serious trouble for the owner.
The last two decades of North Korean history has been marked by a considerable relaxation of regulations, but it seems that the notorious household checks have not changed as a result this general relaxation.
Therefore, if you are a North Korean, you have to open your door when it is the authorities at the door, and invite in the waiting police officers ― you should not expect a search warrant to come with them.
source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2013/08/304_140895.html

Last year North Korea attacked South Korea with a massive GPS jamming campaign. The jamming began in late April, 2012 and continued for over two weeks. It took about a day for South Korea to confirm that the signal was coming from North Korea and was mainly aimed at the South Korean capital (Seoul). The jamming had little impact inside the city itself (the ground based jamming signal was blocked by buildings and hills) and was only noted by several hundred aircraft landing or taking off from local airports and over a hundred ships operating off the coast. In all these cases the ships and aircraft had backup navigation systems, which were switched on when GPS became unreliable. This is how navigation systems, especially those that rely on an external (satellite) signal are designed.
This is the third time North Korea has used GPS jamming against South Korea. For most of March, 2011, North Korea directed a GPS jamming signal across the border towards Seoul. A separate jammer has been directed at cell phone traffic. The GPS jamming signal could be detected up to a hundred kilometers south of the DMZ.
The usual response to GPS jamming is to bomb the jammers, which are easy to find (jamming is nothing more than broadcasting a more powerful version of the frequency you want to interfere with). But such a response could lead to more fighting in Korea, so the south protested and refrained from responding with force. The jamming is a nuisance more than a threat and most military equipment is equipped with electronics and other enhancements to defeat it. The North Korean jamming confirmed what was already suspected of them. So now, South Korean and American electronic warfare experts have an opportunity to study the effects of jamming on a large metropolitan area. It is causing intermittent problems for users of GPS devices and many more cell phone connectivity problems. There were briefer and less powerful jamming incidents in August and December of 2010. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htecm/articles/20130820.aspx

North Koreans now sense that the government is weak. Government officials are also intimidated, afraid and often corrupt. This is how things came apart in the late 1980s in Eastern Europe and Russia. People began to disobey and defy the local party officials and that resistance spread until hardly anyone, including the police and soldiers, were obeying orders. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20130913.aspx

There are over 20,000 North Korean refugees living in South Korea, and the number arriving each week has gone from 30 to over a 100 in the last seven years. There are over 3,000 North Koreans who have obtained asylum in other countries. Many more are getting out of North Korea but it's difficult to get from China to South Korea. This is usually done by travelling across China to a Southeast Asian nation, like Thailand, and asking for political asylum there. That usually results in the South Korean government stepping in and transporting the North Korean refugees to South Korea. There are believed to be at over 600,000 North Korean refugees in northern China, nearly all of them there illegally. Attracted by the opportunity to settle in prosperous South Korea, many of the millions of Chinese, of Korean ancestry, try to sneak in as North Korea refugees. There are schools in northern China that will train these Chinese, who already speak Korean (with a North China accent) to sound and act like North Koreans and pass the intense interrogation South Korean intelligence officials give each refugee who makes it to South Korea. Most of these Chinese appear to succeed. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htintel/articles/20130917.aspx

For over a decade now the United States has been trying to halt the blatant North Korean counterfeiting of American currency... North Korea has long had an edge in distributing its counterfeits because it could ship them, as diplomatic mail (which is not subject to inspection) to their embassies. There, embassy officials could sell the currency to local gangs for distribution. It’s not that easy if you are operating out of the North Korean embassy, which have also been used for distributing illegal drugs produced in North Korea and for all sorts of illegal schemes. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlog/articles/20131024.aspx

South Korea has lots of problems with its refugees from the north, and one of the most worrisome problem is that many of them are spies... The generation who grew up during the 1990s famine (that killed about ten percent of the population and starved most of the rest for years) no longer believes in the North Korean dictatorship. Many who came of age before 1990 still do, but for most everyone under 30 the state is the enemy and self-reliance, and not a benevolent dictatorship, is the only way to survive... Professional people smugglers in China... will get North Koreans from northeast China, to the South Korean embassy in Thailand for $6,000 or more... Currently, there are over 20,000 North Korean refugees living in South Korea. Over 70 percent of them are unemployed, through a combination of culture shock and lack of useful skills. North Korea is run like a prison, with initiative and innovation (essential skills in the South Korean market economy) considered criminal behavior. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htintel/articles/20131106.aspx

For decades, North Korean farmers were required to surrender every grain to the state, but last year the North Korean government allowed them to keep significant part of their harvest... Last month workers of some privileged state-run companies discovered that their monthly salary had suddenly increased a hundredfold, from less than $1 to $30-$40. source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2013/11/304_146391.html

Although North Korea loudly proclaims its eagerness to welcome and encourage more foreign tourists it regularly hurts itself by abusing, or even killing foreign tourists. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20131127.aspx

If a North Korean wants to go somewhere by train, it is not sufficient to have money. He or she is also supposed to present a travel permit to the cashier. Only then can a ticket be purchased. Such a travel permit is issued by police if they consider the reasons for the trip to be valid enough, but in recent years policemen are usually ready to issue a permit for a small bribe. source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2013/12/304_147195.html

South Korea is again having lots of problems this year with Internet trolls. These are people who go online to disrupt or subvert discussions on message boards, blogs or services like Twitter. Earlier this year South Korea found that even its own national intelligence agency (NIS or National Intelligence Service) had assigned some of their personnel to troll against a candidate (not the winner) in the 2012 presidential election. On the plus side the NIS also uncovered similar North Korean and Chinese programs. These are basically people using bogus Internet messages to influence public opinion. China has been using this sort of thing for over a decade and quickly started using these tactics outside China, especially in South Korea.  North Korea has since followed the Chinese example and was found to have over 200 military intelligence operatives working to post pro-North Korea messages on South Korean message boards and social media sites. The North Koreans also impersonate real South Koreans by using stolen passwords for South Korean Internet users. Recently North Korean operatives were caught operating in China, where they posted nasty comments about South Korea and defended North Korea. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20131213.aspx

Multiple sources inside North Korea report that all the blood relatives of Jang Sung Taek, the uncle of supreme leader Kim Jong Un, have been killed. Jang was denounced in early December and executed on December 12th. The reports indicate that shortly after Jang was executed the secret police rounded up Jang’s siblings along with their children and grandchildren and killed them all. Some who resisted orders to leave their homes and accompany the secret police were shot on the spot, in front of witnesses. Those who had married into the family were spared and sent to live with their families. Such mass murder is an ancient custom and was once found all over the world. It persisted longest in East Asia, where has been less frequently used in the last century or so. The purpose was to prevent family members later seeking revenge for the execution of their kinsman. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20140126.aspx

A recent survey of North Koreans who had gotten out found that 90 percent had seen South Korean TV or movies before they left. Most had seen this media via CDs, DVDs or memory sticks but about 55 percent lived close enough to the DMZ to catch South Korean TV broadcasts. This media changed the attitudes of North Koreans. Among those who had escaped, 63 percent believed in the market economy while 25 percent still believed in a state controlled economy (often as well as a market economy). There are more true believers in “socialism” back in North Korea, especially among those who have a good job and access to food and fuel. In some parts of North Korea nearly a third of adults have access to a cell phone although in many areas it is closer to ten percent. A third of the three million cell phones in North Korea are registered in China and generally illegal. This means that news gets around despite the state controlled media. Most of the “news” is about where to find food or fuel. North Koreans reported that they had obtained most (about two-thirds) of their food from the free (and now legal) markets and less and less from government distributions. Surveys of those who fled also indicates that about five percent of the population is “rich” (with annual income of $50,000 or more). Most of these wealthy families are government employees but a rapidly growing portion (soon to be more than half) are the new entrepreneurs who run legitimate (and otherwise) businesses. Many government officials also get a lot of their income from commerce and bribes. While the government has fought this trend it has been backing off simply because the market economy operations are key to keeping the decrepit state controlled economy from falling apart completely. Recently the government even loosened the rules against using foreign currency. These surveys have become increasingly effective because of the growing number of North Koreans in South Korea. In 2000 there were only 1,406 North Koreans in the south. Now there are over 24,000. South Korean researchers also have better access to the several hundred thousand North Koreans loving in northeast China. China, the United States and South Korea are finally in agreement that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program must be stopped. This means that China will use its extensive economic ties to pressure North Korea to drop its nukes. China was unclear about just how far it would go. China has becomes the vital economic lifeline that keeps the North Korean government in power. In addition to being North Korea’s biggest (60 percent of exports, even more of imports) trading partner, China is the main source of food and fuel. Most of this is paid for, but some is free. If China were to cut off North Korea completely (merely by shutting down the few rail lines into North Korea) the government there would probably collapse in chaos and mass starvation. China does not want that, because it would mean millions of desperate North Korean’s fleeing into China and the need for Chinese troops to enter North Korea and sort things out. This would be expensive, embarrassing and risk armed conflict with South Korea. So China has to apply enough pressure to persuade but not so much that it would trigger collapse. China also has its own list of problems with North Korea. The new leader Kim Jong Un is decidedly more anti-China than his two predecessors (his father and grandfather). Because of this North Korean officials feel free to demand more bribes and generally make life harder for Chinese trying to do business in North Korea. This is counterproductive as a growing number of Chinese businessmen are simply refusing to invest in North Korea or abandoning existing projects. Frustrated that the Chinese government is no longer able to intervene as it had in the past, the Chinese investors are voting with their money and not putting any into North Korea. This is hurting North Korea because Chinese businesses are the main source of foreign currency. Kim Jong Un appears to fear growing Chinese influence more than economic collapse. Kim also suspects that China has a “Plan B” to replace the Kim dynasty with a Chinese controlled North Korean ruler. China has developed a network of informants, supporters and generally pro-China contacts inside North Korea over the decades. Kim Jong Un has been trying to dismantle this network and get these pro-China people out of the senior bureaucracy. The growing number of wealthy entrepreneurs are also seen as a danger to the Kim family and failed attempts to curb this economic activity have failed. Kim sees the merchant class as a growing threat because these businesspeople are generally pro-Chinese and don’t care who runs North Korea as long as the entrepreneurs can do business. Meanwhile South Korea has some serious territorial disputes with China that it would like to settle. The big one is Chinese tolerance of Chinese fishing boats poaching in South Korean waters. In the last ten years South Korea has seized or fined over 4,600 Chinese fishing boats caught working in South Korean waters. Lesser economic problems include the large number of restrictions China imposes on South Korean exports to China. This is an issue with most nations that trade with China but South Korea has become a major trading partner and wants some relief from import restrictions that date back to before China became an exporting giant. South Korea has agreed to again increase the amount it pays the United States each year to offset the costs of stationing American troops in South Korea. In 2014 the payment will be $866 million, an increase of 5.8 percent over 2013. This arrangement is not unique and has been, for decades in some cases. It is pretty standard for affluent nations hosting American troops. As the economies in West Germany, Japan and South Korea recovered from war damage, they reached a point where the United States demanded, and got, payments to cover part of the expense of keeping American troops there. Since then, Japan, Germany and South Korea have paid over a hundred billion dollars. North Korea announced promotions for several dozen senior military officers. This continues leader Kim Jong Un’s efforts to remove officers of suspect loyalty. Kim Jong Un also wants to remove senior officers who might be sympathetic towards China. Officers suspected of corruption are also being retired or not promoted. The government is also quietly executing officers felt to be too contaminated by incorrect thinking or corruption. There are rarely hearings or any formal proceedings to determine guilt. A few unfortunate rumors can get a long-serving and loyal officer killed up north. The North Korean secret police who keep track of public opinion have been warning the propaganda bureaucrats that a growing number of media efforts are doing more harm than good. This is largely because people have access to cell phones and foreign media which provide contrary views of what is really going on in North Korea. Case in point is the month’s long media campaign praising Kim Jong Un for the large harvest last year. In reality this was the result of favorable weather and all the North Korean farmers involved in that harvest know that. But in the past these farmers would have kept quiet. Some farmers still do remain silent, but cell phones carry the truth that a growing number of farmers provide as well as news that the good weather last year led to good harvests all over northeast Asia. In some cases this reality check halts an embarrassing propaganda campaign, but sometimes it does not. This sort of thing leads to more whispered anti-government (or anti-Kim Jong Un) jokes and, worse, the same message in graffiti. North Korea continues its efforts to control the smuggling and illegal immigration on the Chinese border. Security personnel have been warned that they face the death penalty if caught working with the smugglers. Recently border guards were ordered to shoot on sight anyone seen trying to cross the border illegally. The government has put more undercover operatives on the border, to collect information, set up arrests, make the smugglers nervous and generally disrupt and discourage smuggling. People on the border just put up with it, secure in the knowledge that the government does not keep up these efforts indefinitely. Reliable secret policemen are in short supply and if you keep them on the border too long some will be corrupted and might even defect... North Korea also wants some diplomatic help in stopping a UN investigation that has accused the North Korean government of committing “crimes against humanity” on its own citizens. In the last decade several hundred thousand North Koreans have escaped, mostly into China, and that has brought with it a wealth of personal testimony about the prison camps and general brutality of the North Korean government against its own people. Currently North Korea is depending on China to use its UN Security Council seat to block a full-scale prosecution by the International Criminal Court. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20140216.aspx


Last edited by polka23dot on Tue Apr 29, 2014 1:46 pm; edited 3 times in total

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Re: North Korea

Post  polka23dot on Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:48 pm

One of the things that worries North Korean leaders the most is the realization that decades of propaganda, which kept most North Koreans believing they were better off than South Koreans, has been undone by videos illegally brought in on CDs, DVDs and memory sticks that revealed what was really going on in the south. In the last decade this has undone all that energetic and expensive propaganda work... Over 90 percent of North Koreans know the South Koreans have a higher standard of living... Despite the difficulty adjusting to life in the fast-paced south, most of the northern refugees are adapting and most want to save money to pay the bribes required to get their families out of North Korea. The northern refugees also agree that North Korea is close to economic and government collapse... South Korea believes that unification will come in the wake of economic and political collapse in the north. In other words, the worst case... Collapse in North Korea makes South Korea and China nervous and, according to opinion surveys more South Koreans are agreeing with China taking over up there. That’s because since the 1990s South Korean reunification experts have been studying what happened in Germany (after the communist East Germany was absorbed by the democratic West Germany). That cost the West German taxpayers over two trillion dollars. Estimates of what it will cost South Koreans to absorb North Korea are now over five trillion dollars. Then there was the fact that Germany had a GDP four times that of South Korea, meaning that the average South Korean will have to pay ten times what the average West German paid to rebuild their lesser half. This could cost South Koreans up to ten percent of their GDP for a decade or more. Many South Koreans fear that rebuilding the north could wreck the South Korean economy... This social distance was a big problem when East and West Germany were reunited in the early 1990s. The easterners had lived under communism for 45 years, and that made them different, and not in good ways. The western Germans often avoided, or mocked eastern Germans. These tensions still exist more than two decades after the unification. source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20140407.aspx

The Ministry of Unification has published its statistics on the number of North Koreans who defected to the South in 2013. According to the statistics, there were 1,516 new arrivals ― almost the same number as 2012... Refugees are dangerous even when they are not politicized, because most of them keep in contact with their relatives in the North ― and relate the stories of South Korea’s material prosperity and individual freedom. In order to maintain connections so, they use brokers in China (who easily smuggle both letters and money) as well as Chinese mobile phones. source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2014/04/304_154819.html

In response to increased public pressure by the U.S. government to restrain North Korea the Chinese pointed out that North Korea has been openly disdainful of Chinese calls for restraint. North Korea has also abused and stolen from Chinese firms in North Korea and openly broken agreements with China. As discouraging as this response was, it was an open admission by China that North Korea was out of control and self-destructive to an extreme... images of the Kims on billboards and monuments are increasingly defaced with anti-government graffiti... Russia has agreed to forgive 90 percent of the $10 billion it is owned by North Korea. This is apparently part of a deal to get North Korea to allow Russia to build a natural gas pipeline to South Korea. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20140423.aspx

North Korea became a thieves paradise: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htun/articles/20140616.aspx

latest photos of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2014/06/kim-jong-uns-busy-year/100759/

In the last decade the growing number of Chinese business travelers to North Korea and the continued use of Chinese cell phones by North Koreans along the border has produced a steady flow of information about conditions there. Intelligence agencies love this sort of thing and that has created a new way to make money in northeastern China; collecting verbal news and passing it onto intel personnel working out of foreign embassies. Cell phone photos and videos are particularly valuable, and can also be sold to foreign journalists. There are also more North Koreans willing to risk prison or execution by smuggling out government documents and publications. Foreign intel pay well for these as well. The sheer volume of data makes it possible to use statistical analysis software to weed out fabricated stuff and get a sense of what is really going on in North Korea. One of the most striking recent trends is the open disdain North Koreans, especially members of the ruling class, show for their new ruler Kim Jong Un. In the past anyone showing open disrespect for the ruling Kim family could expect prompt and often fatal retribution. That is less and less the case. Subordinates will not disrespect Kim Jong Un to his face, but such disdain is increasingly being seen in the vicinity of Kim Jong Un. The disdainful includes high ranking North Koreans as well as the general public. This was apparently accelerated by the May building collapse in the capital. This involved a recently constructed apartment tower collapsing because of corruption and shoddy construction killing 400 family members of senior bureaucrats. This had an immediate, lasting and quite negative impact on the several hundred thousand members of the “ruling class” that keeps the Kim led dictatorship in power. The tower collapse made many of these privileged North Koreans realize that their world was indeed crumbling and likely to collapse at any time. Kim Jong Un can give orders all he wants, but if the people who normally carry out his decrees continue to lose their enthusiasm and effectiveness it means the Kims are doomed. Chinese officials recently told their North Korean counterparts that China expects North Korea to obey the “three nos” (no nuclear weapons, no economic or political collapse and no war). North Korea was told that it must obey these rules or face serious retribution. This apparently now includes a Chinese sponsored coup or a Chinese invasion if needed. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20140727.aspx

North Korea is a strange country: http://www.businessinsider.com/mind-blowing-facts-about-north-korea-2014-7?op=1

North Korea is having a Wi-Fi problem in its capital. There, many embassies have taken to installing powerful Wi-Fi systems that can be easily used by nearby North Koreans. These Wi-Fi routers are set up so they do not need a password. Many embassies do this on purpose to allow news of the outside world to get into North Korea via an uncensored Internet link (usually via a satellite link). source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20140907.aspx

In most parts of the world you can move your cell phone service from one phone to another by simply removing the small (25x14mm and smaller) SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) "card" from one phone and inserting it in another. North Korea has been restricting the use of SIM cards by foreign visitors. Tourists must buy a SIM card from the North Korean government when they arrive and surrender it when they leave. This is to make it more difficult for North Korean citizens getting foreign SIM cards that would enable them to access the worldwide Internet, and not just the local one (restricted to North Korea and boring as hell). source: http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htintel/articles/20140922.aspx

Ten officials of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party have been executed for charges including watching foreign soap operas. source: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/10/29/north-korea-executes-10-officials-for-watching-south-korean-soap-operas/

North Korean military is no longer immune to the shortages, especially of fuel and food. Some units are sending some troops home (under the supervision of an officer, to prevent desertion) to beg for supplies from parents. In North Korea young men are conscripted for six years and troops often do not get to go home for a visit for years at a time, if at all. So when the son shows up, looking older and thinner, asking for help, many parents give (cash, fuel, food, whatever). source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20141103.aspx

North Korea (2014 Frontline): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tioamoYRApA

North Korea's top family, currently consisting of a couple of dozen people, indeed lives in great luxury. Recently, Dennis Rodman, having visited Kim Jong-un's private residence in Wonsan, described the place as Kim Jong-un's private "Ibiza." He liked everything, the palace itself, the food, as well as the Supreme Leader's private yacht. Dennis Rodman himself is not known for living in terrible squalor, and his sincere admiration for the young Kim's lifestyle should be taken seriously... The lifestyle of North Korea's top officials ― a few dozen families ― is far less impressive. A few dozen top officials might enjoy luxurious residences (more or less similar to what a successful New York lawyer would be able to afford)... If we go further down the pecking order and talk about the top 1 percent of North Koreans, we will discover that these people have lifestyles similar to the middle class (or, perhaps, even lower middle class) in the developed world. They live in large apartments with a more or less reliable round-the-clock supply of hot water and electricity. They have unrestricted access to a car, in their houses they have such luxuries as a flat-screen TV, computer and refrigerator... Below these people is to be found the majority of the population. For such unfortunate people, affluence usually means the ability to eat rice and occasionally feast on pork. This is a big deal in a country where most subsist on corn gruel and pickled vegetables. source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2014/11/304_168227.html

North Korea is angry at China for not coming to their aid over recent war crimes accusations. North Korea is even angrier, and very shaken that a retired Chinese general said publically that China would not come to the aid of the current North Korean government if the government collapses or starts a war. China often makes official announcements via public “comments” by retired senior government or military officials. This makes it easier to, if need be, back off from the new policy. China is telling North Korea to do what China wants or else. China wants work on North Korean nuclear weapons stopped. Yet Chinese diplomats and spies inside North Korea report that supreme leader Kim Jong Un was not willing to halt his nuclear program under any circumstances. Kim Jong Un sees the nukes as his ultimate defense against all his diplomatic, economic and internal (as the result of poverty, corruption and greater knowledge of the outside world) problems. China has long been the ultimate solution if North Korea becomes so threatening that war seems likely. Only China has enough allies inside North Korea and military forces that can quickly (without having to battle through a fortified DMZ) go in and replace the Kim dynasty with a more accommodating dictator. source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/china/articles/20141204.aspx

North Korea has reached out to Russia for protection from UN war crimes prosecution. China, unhappy with North Korean refusal to give up their nuclear weapons, can no longer be depended on to protect North Korea from UN sanctions. Russia is desperate for allies, any allies, and has long worked to develop closer economic relations with North Korea. Now, in exchange for more economic opportunities in North Korea Russia will use its UN veto to try and protect North Korea from still more diplomatic problems (war crimes charges and more sanctions from the UN)... Kim Jong Un is quick to punish (via labor camp or execution) and for the least infraction (aides using his ashtray or elevator). Kim Jong Un is quick to punish (via labor camp or execution) and for the least infraction (aides using his ashtray or elevator)... Only China has enough allies inside North Korea and military forces that can quickly (without having to battle through a fortified DMZ) go in and replace the Kim dynasty with a more accommodating dictator. China does not see force as a desirable option. The fiscal, diplomatic and human cost is too high... North Korea has been smuggling illegal drugs and counterfeit U.S. currency into China for sale in China... While some tourists have been imprisoned, or even killed, North Korea is generally safer than most non-Western tourist destinations because there is virtually no crime... Another growing foreign exchange source is slave labor. This is basically the export of North Korean workers. The government takes up to 90 percent of the wages these men and women earn outside the country (mainly in Russia and China) and holds the workers’ families hostage in case the worker does not return home when ordered. If someone does not come back, their families are sent to prison camps. For most of them this means an early and unpleasant death... South Korean music, TV shows, movies and consumer goods are all very popular, and illegal, in North Korea. People have been executed for watching South Korean videos (via USB memory sticks smuggled in via China). source: http://www.strategypage.com/qnd/korea/articles/20141126.aspx

North Korean leaders ordered the attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment... The attack that began November 24, and continued to unfold nearly daily, came to a climax today with Sony cancelling the scheduled December 25 release of "The Interview"... — a comedy about a talk show host and producer asked by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. source: deadline.com/2014/12/sony-1201328713/

North Korean agriculture is quite primitive, generally involving toiling the earth with the use of 18th century technology. source: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2014/12/304_169040.html

Kim Jong-un in pictures: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/10521123/Kim-Jong-un-in-pictures-The-bizarre-photoshoots-of-North-Koreas-leader.html

Under Kim Jong-Il, only those who were trying to escape were executed. Now that Kim Jong-Un is in charge if one person gets caught, the whole family dies. They kill four generations. source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyqUw0WYwoc

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