World North Korea Megathread - Dear Leader and his shenanigans

Will our great nation The Democratic People's Republic of Korea succeed?

  • Dear leader will guide us to glory

  • Everyone goes to the labor prisons

  • Trump nukes Kim Jong Un a new anus

  • DPRK starves to death before anything interesting happens

Results are only viewable after voting.


That Defense Sperg.
Today on the DPRK: less news

The food situation has gotten so bad in many regions of North Korea that less than 70% of government officials in some regions are showing up to work. If that is true it would be the worst rate in history, barely beating out the long march of the 1990s.

The thing is, North Korea doesn't want to fix the food problem. Sanctions don't effect food import. They really don't buy food. They export it. It got so bad that seafood exporting had to be banned years ago.

(Coincidentally, this has led to the North Korea selling fishing rights of their coastal waters to China. The Chinese then promptly started over fishing the area that it has cause an entire phenomenon of Korea "ghost ships" floating over to Japan. Many North Korean fishermen starve to death trying to get to international waters to perhaps catch fish there.)

If the budget for the DPRK's elite was cut, and instead distributed to the rest of North korea, we would be able to feed the country 5 times over. Kim Jong-un alone spends over $640 million a year on luxury goods.

North Korea spends practically all of its money and resources on the research and development of weapons systems, predominately nuclear. North Korea just doesn't care about food production. For the Kim Regime, it is a useful tool to bludgeon against sanctions. Relying on stupid western audiences to call for the end of sanctions.

Meanwhile, the UN providing sanctions to those feeding and medicating the populous of North Korea.

"Our (proposed) denuclearization steps and demand for corresponding sanctions relief sufficiently reflected the U.S. government's stance and demand as well. There can be no better way than that," Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean propaganda website

That should be all the argument against incrementalism you need.
North Korea avoids sanctions on imported luxury cars. Probably by leet haxoring and trading DPRK manufactured narcotics. -South Korea

Here is a good look at how one sect of North Korean smugglers move materials, and how they have been exposed in the most recent UN report.
Again ending on a happier note:
Looks like a new set of sanctions against North Korean business partners, From the US Department of the Treasury.


That Defense Sperg.
Today in the DPRK: I finally was able to get through the CAPTCHA.
North Korea fails to show up to the Liaison Office for the THIRD week in a row.

The two sides launched the joint liaison office in mid-September and had agreed to hold meetings every week. The previous meetings were held on February 22nd, five days before the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi.

"An official from Seoul said the two acting North Korean chiefs, Hwang Chung-song and Kim Kwang-song, have also been absent from the office since Monday because of what the North cited as “internal affairs.”"

Wew lads.

China canceled an investor relations meeting on North Korea, slated for early March in a border city.

Chinese government appears to be strengthening its visa control of North Korean workers, apparently in accordance with Washington's decision to maintain sanctions on the North.

North Korea to begin limiting number of foreign visitors to 1,000 per day. Get your tickets now!

That embassy raid was totally conducted by those Cheollima Civil Defense guys alone. No CIA help whatsoever. -Washington Post's anonymous sources. CCD were most likely involved heavily however and we should expect a video from them soon.

The US has over 300 heavy sanction ready to be deployed against North Korea.

Today in the DPRK protectorate of South Korea: The wheels are coming off.

More than half of South Koreans disprove of Moon Jae-In.

"The U.S. State Department’s latest report on human rights violations around the world, entitled “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018,” said defector organizations in South Korea reported coming under “direct or indirect pressure” from the South Korean government to tone down their angry rhetoric towards Pyongyang as Seoul authorities “engaged in talks” with the regime."

"“This pressure allegedly included, for example, the termination of 20 years’ funding support for the Association of North Korean defectors in December 2017, the police blocking groups’ efforts to send leaflets into North Korea by balloon, and police visits to organizations and requests for information on financial and other administrative matters,” read the report."

Yeah, South Korea is totally not beholden to North Korea.

Just like everywhere else, the Internet allows too much freedom of speech and opinion to be left unmolested by the government.

"The KCC 2019 Plan for Pursuing Key Tasks (방송통신위원회 2019 주요업무추진계획), dated March 8, 2019, has a section titled “Strengthening the Regulation of Illegal information / Service” on page 12, which states “If it is impossible to correct illegal activities (three times), [the KCC] will introduce (as of February 2019) a system to order temporary cessation of services. This applies not only to domestic companies, but also to “foreign enterprises providing service through the internet” and it “strengthens the inspection of prohibited activities and expands the duty to evaluate protection of users.” it further stated in 2018, the KCC “conducted the first evaluation of app entrepreneurs, and in 2019, will expand to include entrepreneurs of social network services, such as YouTube and Facebook. (See the KCC 2019 Plan pdf below)"

This is in direct response to Google/Youtube telling the Democratic party to fuck off with its demand to censor 104 "fake news" Youtube programs.

South Korean Blue House Senior Secretary of Civil Affairs Cho Kuk Sues Journalist Woo Jong-chang for libel. This case was brought over the Youtube video that Woo Jong-chang made last year called: "Falsehoods and Truths: Mountains of Lies that Buried the President (Park Geun-hye, 박근혜)’ series, episode 59. [his 59th YouTube video about various lies that led to Park’s impeachment and the criminal trial that followed]"

"He (Woo Jong-chang) talked about a tip-off, and began with a caveat saying “It has not been verified as truth yet.” He continued “sometime during January to early February 2018, Senior Secretary Cho Ku met and had dinner with Seoul Central District Court Judge Kim Se-yoon at a Korean restaurant near the Blue House…Also, there was a third person.” Woo said if Cho met with Kim, it is shocking, because it was before the initial court decision (on the guilt of former President Park) was reached. "

Moon Jae-In and the executive branch of the Republic of Korea has committed the crime of “systematic employment corruption,” prosecutors say.

"Prosecutors investigating suspicions that the Environment Ministry had a blacklist of officials and filled vacancies with associates of President Moon Jae-in recently got hold of a document that allegedly shows the Blue House chose executives for several public organizations affiliated with the ministry before recruiting procedures began - and pressured the ministry to give those candidates special treatment."

Supposedly they kick out 24 Liberty party leaning individuals too.

This is important because the Korean left has been trying to use their Environmental Ministry to block American defense operations in the country. Most notably the battle over installing the THAAD system featured the EM trying to block the land acquisition on environmental grounds. The grounds in question were defunct golf course lands that were still maintained.

"insult against the head of state virtually tantamount to treason under the cloak of a US national [sic] wire service " Moon Jae-In Spokesperson.

Moon's administration handles the press very badly. This really isn't anything important. However, Moon has lost a lost of goodwill with a whole heck of a lot of journalist recently. This last statement has created a optics shitstorm that is still reverberating.

SFCC Eng trans "treason" doesn't capture the inflammatory tone of accusation. Correct trans: "insult against the head of state under the cloak of US national [sic] wire service."

Connotation is: "high treason by insulting our great leader while selling out to the US"

BIG EDIT: Update to the Official Cheollima Civil Defense website:

Make of that what you will.
Last edited:


That Defense Sperg.
Got nothing much for you today: So hear is an article.

Bolton: North Korea 'not willing to do what they needed to do' for nuclear deal

White House national security adviser John Bolton hammered North Korea in an interview broadcast Sunday, saying the country's leader Kim Jong Un was unwilling to take the necessary steps to reach a nuclear deal with the U.S.

“The North Koreans were unfortunately not willing to do what they needed to do. Just last night they issued an unhelpful statement that they’re thinking of going back to nuclear and ballistic missile testing, which would not be a good idea on their part,” Bolton told radio host John Catsimatidis on AM 970 in New York.

President Trump wants this threat resolved through negotiations,” he added. “He wants North Korea to be free of nuclear weapons, that’s for sure.”

Bolton's comments came after North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui asserted Friday that the Trump administration created an "atmosphere of hostility and mistrust" in nuclear negotiations and threatened to resume nuclear and missile tests after refraining from such a move for over a year.

A second nuclear summit between Kim and President Trump came to an abrupt end in February after the negotiations over denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula hit an impasse over sanctions relief.

Bolton opened the door to China, North Korea’s chief ally and trading partner, to help put talks back on track.

“The idea that there’s a role for China in the negotiations is something that we’d be willing to consider if we could see some movement on North Korea’s part,” he said.

“The Chinese have said repeatedly they don’t want to see North Korea with nuclear weapons at all because they think it destabilizes North East Asia…In theory, China has the same position we do. What they could do more of is apply more pressure on North Korea. They could apply the U.N. sanctions more tightly. They control 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade, so China could have a very important role here. There’s no question about it”

However, Bolton suggested any courting of China to help deal with the North Korean nuclear program could face complications over Beijing’s own nuclear ambitions and Washington’s desire to rein in its existing programs.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China that discussion as well,” he said.



That Defense Sperg.
Today in the DPRK: The Monday news cycle rarely disappoints.
North Korea holds air-raid drills.
Does anyone read these? said:
North Korea has been conducting air-raid drills in Pyongyang since last Thursday, after the summit with the U.S. in Hanoi, Vietnam collapsed late last month. The next day, the North's Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui warned the U.S. that the bilateral talks may be suspended.
The North also indicated that it may end the moratorium on missile tests that it claims has been in place for more than a year.

Radio Free Asia reported Saturday that North Korean authorities had been holding nationwide air-raid drills since Thursday to prepare for a U.S. attack. One source in Ryanggang Province told RFA, "Things had been quiet for a while with no air-raid drills or military exercises, but the drills resumed suddenly and created many difficulties for people."

"Authorities across North Korea are telling people to get ready for war preparations by the U.S. and South Korea," the source added.

But a government source here said, "They could simply be part of winter military drills that were scheduled to last until this month."

North Korea state media did not report on Choe's remarks at a press conference on Friday, where she warned that the North could stop talks with the U.S. unless it agrees to "phased denuclearization" by easing sanctions at each stage.

There is speculation that she made the remarks only to assuage remaining hardliners in the regime. A diplomatic source said, "Choe said that the military sent thousands of petitions imploring [leader] Kim Jong-un not to give up nuclear weapons, which suggests there is considerable opposition in the military" to diplomacy with the U.S.

Meanwhile, North Korea is planning a Workers Party general assembly aimed at bolstering ideological conformity and investigating what party officials did while Kim was away in Hanoi.

"The general assembly is being held in order to quell discontent among North Koreans following the failed second summit with the U.S.," a source said.

Any missile launch could be shot before the bow of the U.S. Nam Joo-hong at Kyonggi University said, "There is a chance of a North Korean provocation in mid-April, which marks the first anniversary of the Workers Party session where [Kim Jong-un] announced a new policy of pursuing both nuclear armament and economic development."

North Korea has apparently restored a missile test site in Tongchang-ri which it promised to scrap last year.
South Korea and North Korea have missed another "weekly" meeting. This makes 4.

"North Korea will never give up its Nukes" -North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, probably...
North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui and the opinion peice said:
North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui told foreign reporters in Pyongyang on Friday, "We have no intention to yield to the U.S. demands [at the Hanoi summit] in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind." Choe added ominously that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will soon announce his next plans.

What Choe was hinting at was that North Korea could scrap only its aging nuclear complex in Yongbyon, which was built 50 years ago. The plutonium-extraction and uranium-enrichment facilities in Yongbyon are no longer central to the North's nuclear weapons program, which makes them expendable bargaining chips. If U.S. President Donald Trump had accepted Kim's offer in Hanoi to scrap the Yongbyon facility in return for an easing of sanctions, he would effectively have acknowledged the North as a nuclear power.

If Kim really intended to give up his nuclear weapons, he would have sought to start a new dialogue with the U.S. about his secret uranium-enrichment facilities. But instead he is resorting to the old brinkmanship and blackmail. The North tried to dupe the international community and put up a big show pretending to scrap nuclear and missile sites. Kim even said that he wished to achieve complete denuclearization "during President Trump's term in office" and added that he has no reason to hang on to them and suffer. He also said he does not wish his children to inherit a nuclear legacy. But U.S. intelligence officials knew all along that Kim was lying, and even Trump knows it now. President Moon Jae-in, too, probably smelled it a long time ago but played dumb, and by doing so he was tricking the public here.

For the last 25 years, North Korea has repeatedly resorted to provocations every time its deceptive tactics failed. The North no longer needs to conduct more nuclear tests and already has enough nuclear weapons to equal a hydrogen bomb. Any more nuclear tests would merely waste valuable fissile materials. But it may well test-fire more long-range missiles to ratchet up pressure on the U.S. and seek to gain the upper hand in negotiations.

Nobody should fall for this tactic again. North Korea may be willing to play with fire, but it still fears getting burned because Kim knows he has too much to lose. What is needed is a watertight defense and tough sanctions. The effect of the sanctions, already in evidence here and there, will become much more obvious over time. This is a game that requires patience.
North Korea is having meeting with the Chinese and Russian Governments.
More news stories talking about the Cheollima Civil Defense guys and their embassy raid.

US is pushing for stricter enforcement sanctions enforcement in the U.N.

U.S., N.K. trying to get 'sequencing' right in nuclear talks- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun goes to Europe to "seek Europe's cooperation on denuclearizing the North, the State Department said Monday"

"Biegun is set to visit London on Tuesday to discuss "coordinated efforts to advance the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea" with his British, French and German counterparts, the department said in a statement."

Bolton tells Pyongyang that new tests are ‘not a good idea’
38 North's take on the Hanoi Summit and where to go from here.
I will let you decide whether or not it is of any value.

Today in the DPRK protectorate of South Korea:
North Korea could have rebuilt Sonhae Satellite Launch Facility just to decommission it for us.-Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon
South Korean Unification Ministry said:
SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Monday that North Korea could have repaired its rocket launch site in an effort to get the facility ready for dismantlement.

Satellite imagery has shown that the North has restored the Dongchang-ri site, or Sohae Satellite Launching Station, that the North had partially dismantled last year to show its denuclearization commitment.

Assessment of the move was divided, with some experts calling it part of preparations to conduct a missile launch following the collapse of last month's summit with the United States and others saying the restoration could be designed to spruce up the facility for dismantlement.

Asked for his assessment of the move, Cho said during a meeting of the parliamentary foreign affairs and unification affairs committee that there is "sufficient possibility" of the North rebuilding the site for dismantlement.

"As North Korea is continuing work, we need to look more carefully into North Korea's intentions," he said.
We (South Korea) are a strong independent Nation and we don't need no America to negotiate with North Korea!-A Nation that needs the power of the US to Negotiate with North Korea.

South Korea salivates at the prospect of resuming inter-Korean projects.
South Korean Unification Ministry said:
"South Korea’s Unification Ministry says it will beef up efforts for the possible resumption of inter-Korean economic projects within the constraints of sanctions on North Korea.

In a policy report to the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee on Monday, the ministry said it will try to prepare in advance to create an environment for the resumption of the projects such as the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and the Mount Geumgang tourist program.

The ministry said it will develop comprehensive plans regarding President Moon Jae-in's "new economic map of the Korean Peninsula" as well as for inter-Korean special businesses and tourist zones agreed upon during the September 2018 inter-Korean summit and seek out joint research projects and field surveys with the North. "
South Korea sees an open artillery port in a North Koran base along the DMZ. South Korea tells North Korea to close it 10 times. North Korea says that the artillery base is actually empty. South Korea accepts that answer.

So, is the artillery base actually occupied and the South Koreans are dunces for believing a North Korean lie? Or is the base empty and the South Koreans dunces for believing that the base was occupied in the first place?

You Decide!
"The US wants to look at the big picture, North Korea wanted to focus on the Yongbyon nuclear complex.
Overall we feed that we are a big player and are a key partner"-South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. Paraphrased a bit.

South Korean nuclear envoy goes to Russia and the EU to talk about denuclearizing North Korea. I have nothing witty to say about this one.
South Korean Foreign Ministry said:
"South Korea's top nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon will embark on a tour to Russia and Europe to create a favorable atmosphere for dialogue between North Korea and the U.S.

The Foreign Ministry in Seoul said Lee will depart for Russia on Monday and meet with his Russian counterpart Igor Morgulov on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg.

During the meeting the two sides will exchange opinions regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula following the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi last month, which ended without an agreement. In addition, Seoul and Moscow will discuss ways to cooperate in order to achieve the North’s complete denuclearization and establish lasting peace in the region.

Lee will then visit the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday to meet with Helga Maria Schmid, secretary general of the European External Action Service.

The ministry said the visit is aimed at explaining Seoul's position to other countries in regards to the North Korean nuclear issue, and to secure support and consolidate the international community's commitment to resolving the peninsula’s issues."
South Korean Blue House agrees with Pyongyang that incrementalism is the way forward! A bad deal is better than no deal!
South Korean Blue House said:
The aim of complete denuclearization is “difficult to achieve all at once,” the Blue House said in Mar. 17 comments on the denuclearization talks between North Korea and the US.

The Blue House also stressed the “need to reconsider the ‘all-or-nothing strategy.’”

Meeting with reporters that day, a senior Blue House official said, “Going forward, they will need to get away from this very conclusive framework for North Korea talks in the North Korea-US denuclearization negotiations.”

“The argument that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ is not helpful,” the official added.

“As a first step, we need to get North Korea to reach an agreement to achieve the comprehensive aim, and we need efforts to use that as a foundation for turning a ‘small deal’ into a ‘good enough deal,’” the official suggested.

“I think we need a series of one or two ‘early harvests’ to achieve meaningful progress with denuclearization,” the official said. The remarks were seen as calling for a more flexible attitude from the US, which has adopted a “big deal” strategy since the breakdown of the second North Korea-US summit last month by insisting that North Korea eliminate or freeze all of its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons along with other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

The Blue House also indicated it would act as a “driver” for North Korea-US dialogue through efforts with Pyongyang to reduce tensions.

“We helped last year in moving North Korea-US dialogue forward, and US President Donald Trump helped drive dialogue between the South and North Korean leaders through the North Korea-US summit on June 12 in Singapore,” the official said.

“It may be our ‘turn’ this time with inter-Korean dialogue,” the official added. “We’ll consider how we can use the baton that’s been passed to us.”

By Seong Yeon-cheol, staff reporter
A record of over 6,100 conscripts we declared unfit for service last year.

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) riots in the office of Mayor Byun Kwang-young.


That Defense Sperg.
Don't worry, I am still posting here. Work just got a lot busier. My bosses were caught unprepared despite me telling them that it would pick up hard and fast again. Can't say anymore because I have NDAs coming out of every pore of my body it seems.

Anyway, I will still be doing this. I just can't spend two hours a night curating this shit. So, I am cutting down on some of the links and copying the shit that matters a little bit more than most.

So, without further ado.

Today in the DPRK:

WHAT!‽‽‽ An article analyzing the Hanoi summit that doesn't have TDS? This has to go to the top of the pile.

All jokes aside, this is a pretty good read. I personally disagree with a few points, but it is more nuance than anything else. For people that are not hardcore NK watcher like I am, this article is about as good as any.

The Hanoi Summit: A Blessing in Disguise but What Now? A View from Seoul

Some observers in Seoul, deeply troubled by the outcome of the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, feared that the Hanoi Summit might produce an agreement that only partially addressed North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat and that the US would provide too much compensation to North Korea in return, especially in areas affecting ROK-US combined defense posture. They went so far as to say that “No deal is better than a bad deal.” On the morning of February 28, I also had begun writing a column under the title: “Can we salvage the Hanoi debacle?” But the second Trump-Kim summit did not turn out the way many in Seoul had feared, and the “no deal” outcome was actually welcome by them.

While not all the details have come out yet, the thrust of what happened in Hanoi is pretty clear, thanks to post-summit press conferences given by President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and senior US administration officials in the aftermath of the meeting. In addition, the North Koreans uncharacteristically gave several press conferences of their own. Surely, those North Korean briefings contained a fair amount of spin, but they were nonetheless helpful.

In Hanoi, President Trump had the option of accepting a deal that exchanged the dismantlement of Yongbyon for providing some sanctions relief, while important details remained to be worked out. As it turned out, Trump not only rejected this small-scale agreement, but chose to “go bigger,” asking to broaden the scope of an agreement beyond the Yongbyon nuclear complex. Kim Jong Un was unprepared to consider this approach and ended up revealing that his idea of denuclearization was different from that of the international community. Trump’s proposal to accelerate the process and have sanctions removed more quickly makes eminent sense, but only if Kim Jong Un had made the decision to give up the country’s nuclear weapons. Had he been willing to denuclearize, Kim could have objected to the pace of Trump’s offer rather than rejecting the whole deal. This is a particularly critical point in Seoul where key officials insisted that Kim Jong Un had already made a decision to give up nuclear weapons. Whether or not it had been President Trump’s intention all along, his “go bigger” offer effectively forced Kim Jong Un out of his comfort zone.

In this sense, no agreement doesn’t necessarily mean failure. On the contrary, the Hanoi Summit produced important results which can turn out to be the first step toward genuine denuclearization talks.

First, according to reports, President Trump clearly defined the end state of negotiations by handing Kim Jong Un a paper “broadly defining” the US concept of denuclearization. No longer will North Korea be able to play the ambiguity game with impunity.

Second, by refusing to accept Trump’s offer to “go bigger,” Kim Jong Un revealed that he has no intention of parting with his nuclear arsenal. Surely, North Korea will again try to dupe the US and the international community. But it will not be easy this time.

Third, North Korea made the same mistake it did during the Banco Delta Asia (BDA) incident when the Macau-based bank, under US pressure, froze $25 million dollars deposited in North Korean accounts. In one of the conversations with US officials, Kim Kye Gwan, then the North Korean Vice Foreign Minister, said “finance is like blood in [the] human body,” arguing that BDA was causing great pain to his country. His intention was to stress the gravity and injustice of US measures, but the remark was effectively an admission that finance was a serious pressure point with North Korea.

Once again, by making an all-out effort to gain sanctions relief, North Korea revealed its key weakness. In his book The Art of the Deal, Trump observed that if the other side knows you want the deal more, he will smell blood and you’re dead. Now that Trump knows that North Korea wants sanctions relief badly, his ensuing actions are more or less predictable.
If the Hanoi Summit had produced an incomplete agreement, the opportunity for denuclearization could have been lost forever. Thus, a potential catastrophe was averted.

The US will continue to profess its willingness for negotiations and will send a team to Pyongyang if North Korea agrees. However, the US will likely maintain the current position that Yongbyon alone is not enough for substantial sanctions relief. At every opportunity, Trump will say that as long as there are no tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and full sanctions remain in force, he has no reason to hurry into a third meeting with Kim Jong Un unless there is a chance of producing an outcome that will bring him thunderous applause.

It seems that Kim Jong Un is shaken. The leader’s infallibility doctrine makes it extremely difficult for him to deal with failure. It is no surprise that it took Rodong Sinmun, the North Korean Workers’ Party’s official newspaper, more than a week to report—not on the front page but on page six—that there was no agreement in Hanoi.

North Korea’s more substantive response came on March 15. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media, said that the US threw away a golden opportunity in Hanoi and North Korea had neither the intention to compromise with the US in any form nor the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation. She added that “Whether to maintain this moratorium [of nuclear and missile tests] or not is the decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission,” and he would make his decision in a short period of time. After delivering the warning, she also said that personal relations between Chairman Kim and President Trump were still good “and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.”

Vice Minister Choe’s remarks seem carefully calculated to warn the US that North Korea might resume tests while not closing the door for dialogue—in particular, the dialogue between Kim Jong Un and Trump. In other words, North Korea likely has yet to make a decision and still wants to explore whether there is room for compromise on the US side. While gauging the US response, Kim Jong Un may choose to stop the negotiation and resume testing right away, or take a more incremental approach.

Going Forward

Looking at the big picture, Kim Jong Un fundamentally has three choices: provocation, muddling through, and, of course, genuine denuclearization.


There are some immediate signs that suggest a reversion to provocation, such as the rebuilding of key facilities at Tongchang-ri (also called Sohae), its satellite launch facility, and Sanum-dong, an ICBM-related site. But it is not yet clear whether North Korea will stop at posturing or resume flight testing either a long-range missile or a space launch vehicle. Pyongyang’s provocations will jeopardize its dialogue with the US. In addition, North Korea is likely to face stricter sanctions as UNSC Resolution 2397, adopted in December 2017, commits the Security Council to further restricting petroleum exports in such occurrences.

Since negotiations started last year, North Korea has not resorted to brinkmanship—at least not on its past grand scale. However, there were small cases. For instance, on November 16, 2018, North Korea attempted to provoke after six months of trying in vain to get sanctions relief. It announced that Kim Jong Un attended an unspecified “cutting-edge TACTICAL weapons test.” Lest this tactical weapons test should cause a strong US reaction, North Korea released the last detained American citizen the same day.

For now, provocation seems to be a last resort rather than part of its standard playbook. Of course, this could change in the future and Vice Foreign Minister Choe’s warning to resume tests may be the first sign of such change. But so far it is clear North Korea is being very careful. While he can certainly use brinkmanship, Kim Jong Un knows well that regardless of North Korea’s capability to wreak havoc on the South, no military escalation scenario ends well for him or his regime. As the man with the “bigger working button” said, it will ultimately be a suicide mission for “Little Rocket Man.”

Muddling Through

Muddling through seems like the easier option for Kim Jong Un—at least for the time being. If he chooses to muddle through, developments in the next several months will resemble the months that followed the Singapore Summit, except that the tables are turned in favor of the US this time. Kim Jong Un must know that this is only a temporary fix. Given that the North Korean economy has been stuck in negative growth for three years running according to the Bank of Korea, and given that last year, 88% of North Korea’s exports to China—which account for over 80% of North Korea’s export earnings—went up in sanctions smoke, Kim Jong Un has only so much time.

Needless to say, the right kind of sanctions bite. Going beyond areas directly related to North Korea’s WMD activities, UN Security Council sanctions adopted since 2016 have had a punishing effect on North Korea, which is likely why Kim, at the Hanoi Summit, pushed for their removal. As long as these sanctions remain in place, there is no way the North Korean economy will achieve the progress that Kim Jong Un has promised to his people. As Hugh Griffiths, head of the United Nations Panel of Experts monitoring UN sanctions on North Korea, recently said, sanctions are “clearly the number one problem for Chairman Kim in terms of long-term sustainability…because you can’t spend decades engaging in clandestine and illegal ship-to-ship transfers of coal, or petroleum products.” The US government has also made it abundantly clear that sanctions cheating won’t be condoned even if the perpetrator were one of Japan’s top banks. Furthermore, the United Nations recently announced that, “A prolonged heat wave, along with typhoon and floods, has taken a toll on food harvest, which posted a nine percent drop from 2017 to the lowest level in more than a decade.” UN aid agencies sometimes exaggerate food shortfalls; nonetheless, it seems clear that North Korea is headed for a rough patch in feeding its population.


Everyone hopes that Kim Jong Un will choose complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization, but this scenario is implausible. Kim Jong Un has invested too many resources on building a nuclear weapons program, and his reputation is at stake. He must worry about North Koreans living in poverty, but also about too much affluence. He wants economic development but also needs to control the process to maintain regime stability. This appears to be something that Trump the businessman struggles to fully comprehend. In addition, nuclear weapons can come in handy when he needs to discourage outside intervention, especially in times of internal troubles.

Although one should never lose hope, genuine denuclearization by North Korea, certainly on the timeline the Trump administration appears to have in mind, is highly unlikely unless Kim Jong Un makes a decision to build a nuclear-free future for North Korea. Given the extensive nature of the facilities and infrastructure of the North’s nuclear program that would need to be dismantled, implementation of any denuclearization agreement will be a long and phased process and quid pro quos must be provided to North Korea along the way. But there has to be an agreement, at the outset, on a roadmap for this process. Otherwise, denuclearization negotiations may go on and on without the same understanding of a destination and a timeline.

South Korean Views

Kim Jong Un faces difficult choices. His attempt to sell Yongbyon for the third time failed. Sanctions are emptying his coffers. Holding on to nuclear weapons can be more risky than he had first thought. Kim Jong Un cannot hope to rule for the next few decades, let alone pass the throne to a fourth generation, unless there is a serious economic turnaround. He reportedly said to Pompeo in April last year, “…I have children. And I don’t want my children to carry the nuclear weapon on their back their whole life.” I hope Kim Jong Un will reflect on his words.

From Seoul’s perspective, the recent episode in North Korea’s long nuclear saga is particularly disturbing for several reasons.
First, North Korea’s nuclear threat has already become a clear and present danger as far as South Korea and Japan are concerned. That is why it is difficult not to have concerns over possible “small deals” that only address US interests: the absence of nuclear and long-range missile tests does not mean as much to South Korea and Japan as it does to the US.

Second, we have a very unique US president who has little regard for alliances. The ROK-US alliance stood the test of time as it is rooted in shared values and interests. Right now, however, the alliance needs all the support it can get. Expressions of support from the US Congress and friends of South Korea are important.

Third, the combination of a liberal president in Seoul and an “America First” president in Washington is, in itself, a challenge. When the US and North Korea are engaged in important negotiations without the presence of the Republic of Korea, it is crucial that the alliance be managed by truly capable professional hands on both sides. President Trump’s unilateral announcement in Singapore of the suspension of US-ROK combined military exercises caused great distress among many former officials and academics in Seoul. Equally, President Trump’s transactional approach to the alliance raises questions about the continued presence of US forces in Korea, especially if peace negotiations actually get underway.

Fourth, ROK-Japan relations are in dismal shape, and there is no easy solution on the horizon. This is an additional burden on the ROK-US alliance as ROK-US-Japan security cooperation, which is necessary to cope with North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat, can be negatively affected by overall relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

Finally, if US-North Korea negotiations take a turn for the worse, one must question how long the façade of coordination between the Trump administration and Moon government will hold up. One reason the ROK-US relationship has not shown more strains is the Moon government’s realization that Trump is probably the only US president willing to sit down with North Korea’s leader. If the current stalemate continues, anti-American sentiments may rise especially among the ranks of Moon supporters. If that happens, the ROK-US alliance will face even more difficult tests. Let us hope that commitment, trust and strategic thinking prevail on both sides and help the alliance withstand yet another test and come out even stronger.

If nothing else, the Hanoi Summit was a rude awakening to Kim Jong Un and his appeasers. But the “no deal” meeting, paradoxically, could turn out to be a blessing in disguise and the beginning of genuine denuclearization if the US and North Korea can start negotiations on a concrete roadmap for denuclearization.
Top N.Korean Ambassadors called back to Pyongyang ahead of expected statement from Kim-Jong-un on his moratorium on nuclear and missile tests. Also Namibia expels all North Korean slave laborers.

Kim Myong-song said:
North Korea's ambassadors to China, Russia, and the UN hastily returned to Pyongyang on Tuesday ahead of an expected statement from leader Kim Jong-un about his moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.

Ambassadors to China Ji Jae-ryong, Russia Kim Hyong-jun, and the UN Kim Song took an Air Koryo flight from Beijing to Pyongyang on Tuesday afternoon, according to diplomatic sources.

North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said during an urgent press conference last Friday that Kim Jong-un was considering putting a halt to negotiations with the U.S. and would soon announce a future action plan, including whether to scrap the moratorium.

"Rumors are spreading fast that Kim Jong-un will hold a press conference on Wednesday," a diplomatic source in Beijing said. "It's possible that the gathering of North Korean envoys has something to do with this."

Meanwhile, Namibia has expelled all North Korean laborers despite its long-standing ties with Pyongyang, Radio Free Asia reported that day.

Namibia canceled all contracts with North Korean firms to implement UN Security Council resolutions and all North Korean workers have left the country, a Namibian government spokesman told RFA.

Some 50,000 to 100,000 North Korean overseas laborers, who are kept in conditions of virtual slavery, will have to return to their country by the end of the year in compliance with UN sanctions. That will deal another blow to the regime's increasingly desperate efforts to get its hands on hard currency.
North Korea REEEs about South Korean military exercises. said:
SEOUL, March 20 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean propaganda outlet on Wednesday lashed out at military exercises that South Korea plans to conduct on its own without U.S. troops, even though Seoul and Washington have scaled back their joint drills as part of efforts to keep the dialogue mood with the North alive.

In a commentary, Uriminzokkiri said the South Korean military's Ssangyong and Ulchi Taegeuk exercises are a "vicious challenge" to hopes for peace and a violation of the agreements reached between the two Koreas.

The Ulchi Taegeuk exercise slated for late May is designed to replace the summertime South Korea-U.S. military training as part of efforts to support diplomacy for denuclearization.

The U.S. has also decided not to send any troops or equipment to this year's annual combined regiment-level Ssangyong amphibious landing exercise next month, apparently to facilitate ongoing talks with the North.

Yet, Uriminzokkiri called for the suspension of all "war trainings," saying they could lead to the breakdown of inter-Korean relations.

"South Korean military's provocations, which became more brutal this year, are an act of betrayal that goes against the Panmunjom and September Pyongyang declarations," it said. "Any act that causes the situation to deteriorate should never be tolerated."

Meari, another propaganda website, also said the South Korean military should contemplate the negative results those drills could bring about.
Illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil products to North Korea have more than doubled over the past year, South Korean military data suggest.

Yang Seung-sik said:
Illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil products to North Korea have more than doubled over the past year, South Korean military data suggest.

The transfers aimed at evading tough import quotas set by the UN Security Council have taken place not only on the South China Sea but even on the West Sea as the North has become bolder amid dwindling supplies. But South Korea has done little to intercept them.

According to data Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Baek Seung-joo obtained from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suspected cases of illegal transshipments involving North Korean vessels rose from around 60 in 2017 to around 130 last year. The figures are supported by evidence gathered by communications and satellite surveillance.

A staffer at Baek's office said Tuesday, "These are clear instances of illegal transshipments that took place on the high seas and captured through communications surveillance activities."

Although they took place primarily on the South China Sea, some occurred in the West Sea as well. A military source said some North Korean ships were caught near a South Korean port on the West Sea.

At the request of the U.S. in 2017, the South Korean Navy monitored shipments and discovered around 10 offenses. The UNSC recently also listed some illegal transshipments of refined oil that were reported by South Korea among the 148 cases that it identified between January and August last year.

The UNSC said foreign banks and insurers continue to be involved without their knowledge in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of oil worth millions of U.S. dollars. It added that illegal transshipments of coal are rising as well.

A military source said, "If we spot signs of illegal transshipments, Navy boats are mobilized to gather evidence which is sent to the Defense Ministry. But we don't forcefully inspect civilian vessels on the high seas."

Instead, the ministry sends the information to Cheong Wa Dae, which then passes it to the UNSC. "We monitor every instance of suspicious transshipments," the source said.

But the findings are not made public. "The U.S. and Japan reveal photographic evidence of North Korea's illegal ship-to-ship transfers, but our Defense Ministry and Joint Chiefs of Staff don't," Baek said. "This is due to a fear of agitating the North Korean regime and is tantamount to a refusal to abide by UNSC resolutions."

The UNSC has capped the North's annual oil imports at just 500,000 barrels since the regime's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.
According to """"Sources"""" (cough cough the US cough cough), China and North Korea have recently agreed on joint operation of some of their maritime transport routes, which have been suspected by sanctions monitors of being channels for smuggling.

Yonhap News Agency said:
BEIJING/SHENYANG, March 21 (Yonhap) -- Apparent efforts by Pyongyang and Beijing to bypass United Nations sanctions on North Korea appear to have gotten sophisticated, sources said Thursday, as the United States is moving to toughen its own sanctions on the North after last month's summit in Hanoi.

According to the sources, China and North Korea have recently agreed on joint operation of some of their maritime transport routes, which have been suspected by sanctions monitors of being channels for smuggling.

It has been known that Bohai Ferry, a Chinese shipping company, recently signed a strategic alliance agreement with North Korea's western port city of Nampo, which calls for its exclusive operation of maritime routes between Nampo and Yantai and between Nampo and Dalian, the sources said.

To that end, a vice mayor of Nampo visited China earlier this week for negotiations with Bohai, they said, noting both sides agreed to push to open freight and cruise transport routes between the North Korean port and China's Shandong and Liaoning peninsulas at an appropriate time.

Chinese financial media have reported that Bohai Ferry has acquired the exclusive rights to the maritime routes between China and North Korea.

The purported agreement drew attention, as the U.N. sanctions committee has pointed to the Dalian-Nampo route as a typical smuggling channel meant to bypass international sanctions on the North. The committee suspected Nampo of being a base for illegal oil transshipments (transfers) to North Korea.

"The maritime route deal between North Korea and China can be a problem, particularly at a sensitive time amid the stalled denuclearization talks between the North and the U.S.," a source said.
The United States has dispatched a Coast Guard vessel to Japan to strengthen monitoring of possible breaches of international sanctions on North Korea.
KBS World Radio said:
The United States has dispatched a Coast Guard vessel to Japan to strengthen monitoring of possible breaches of international sanctions on North Korea.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said on Tuesday that the four-thousand-500-ton Bertholf arrived in Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture on March third.

The Coast Guard ship has been tasked with patrolling the East China Sea to crack down on possible ship-to-ship transfers of banned items under the UN Security Council resolutions against the North, such as fuel and coal.

After the collapse of the second summit between the North and the U.S. in Hanoi, the ship’s deployment is seen as a signal that the U.S. will strengthen sanctions on the North unless the regime makes sincere moves for denuclearization.
Boy, with all this talk of illegal oil transfers to North Korea, it sure would be a shame to find out our purported ally and nation we are trying to protect from North Korea, was actually stabbing us in the back.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Wednesday the government does not consider petroleum products transferred to North Korea for an inter-Korean liaison office as subject to U.N. sanctions.

Oh... said:
SEOUL, March 20 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Wednesday the government does not consider petroleum products transferred to North Korea for an inter-Korean liaison office as subject to U.N. sanctions.

Last week, a U.N. report on sanctions on North Korea took note of South Korea's transfer of petroleum products to the North's border town of Kaesong where the liaison office is located.

"We see it as not subject to the U.N. sanctions," Cho said during a parliamentary session on foreign and security affairs.
According to the annual U.N. report, Seoul said South Korean officials used the products exclusively for inter-Korean projects, while ensuring no transfer of economic value to the North.

The report, however, said member states should disclose any transfer of refined petroleum products to North Korea, regardless of who possesses the products, citing a sanctions resolution adopted in 2017.

"As the report noted that the South Korean government's perspective on how to interpret the sanctions differs from the panel of experts, we will consult with the U.N. and other related countries," Cho said.

During the session, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon expressed regret over media reports that said the government violated sanctions when the U.N. report did not say that the act was in violation of the sanctions.
You know, when they say: "Last week, a U.N. report on sanctions on North Korea took note of South Korea's transfer of petroleum products to the North's border town of Kaesong where the liaison office is located."

I think they meant to say that Moon Jae-in and crew were told it was blatantly fucking illegal.
As seen in this article from last week:

Chad O'Carroll said:
South Korea’s justification for a transfer of over three hundred tons of petroleum products to North Korea in 2018 was dismissed by the United Nations Panel of Experts in an annual report published on Tuesday.

The export of the petroleum – subject to strict UN regulations and reporting requirements – was last year authorized by Seoul despite the U.S. warning in September that Pyongyang had exceeded “four times the annual quota” of allowed petroleum imports in the first eight months of 2018 alone.

Asked by the Panel to explain 2018 media reports on the “transfer of petroleum products to Kaesong” – which NK News showed in January had not been reported in accordance with UN Security Council rules – South Korea justified the exports due to how the fuel had been used in the North.

“In the process of carrying out the [inter-Korean] projects, the ROK personnel used the petroleum products exclusively for the implementation of the projects, while ensuring that no transfer of economic values to the DPRK occurs,” South Korean authorities responded to the Panel’s request for explanation.

But that didn’t justify South Korea’s failure to report the transfers to the UN’s 1718 Committee, which is tasked with collecting data on petroleum transfers every 30 days from UN member states to North Korea.

“The Panel notes that the specific language of paragraph 5 of resolution 2397 (2017) requiring Member States to notify the Committee of any transfer to the DPRK of refined petroleum products is by territory as opposed to possession and does not differentiate between temporary and permanent transfers, or under whose control the items will be after transfer.”

As a result, even though South Korea’s export of fuel products did not transfer “economic values to the DPRK,” Seoul’s failure to report the transfers was inconsistent with Security Council requirements.

Nevertheless, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) told NK News in January that it “maintained a close coordination with the U.S. and the international community in this process,” and that “inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation projects (took place) in accordance with the framework of sanctions against DPRK.”

But asked three times by NK News about why the Panel had to ask South Korea to explain media reports on the unreported petroleum transfers, MOFA declined to provide an answer as of Wednesday.

The Panel’s interpretation that a “transfer” is “by territory as opposed to possession…and does not differentiate between temporary and permanent” could, however, have additional ramifications for other inter-Korean activities which took place absent sanctions exemptions last year.

When asked by Reuters to explain why Seoul authorized the transfer of one million dollars of construction equipment and material specifically sanctioned by the UN for its Kaesong liaison office, a MOFA spokesperson used a similar logic last year.

“It does not give any economic gain to North Korea, so we are concluding that it does not damage the objective of the sanctions,” a MOFA spokesperson said about why South Korea had not sought UN sanctions exemptions for the transfer.

But since the creation of the U.S.-ROK Working Group last fall – a forum where inter-Korean activities are often discussed among the allies – Seoul has been much more careful in seeking UN sanctions exemptions.

That has, however, meant that for direct or indirect reasons some inter-Korean projects have been highly delayed or effectively abandoned, which has resulted in public North Korean criticism of South Korea’s stance on sanctions.

This may explain the approach with the Kaesong liaison office last year, where NK News understands from multiple informed sources that South Korea chose to overlook certain sanctions rules in order to avoid delays in an area that had a low risk of subsequent punishment.

“The Moon administration seems to be sliding the thin end of the wedge into Kaesong to establish a precedent for a more substantial, long-term practice of violating the sanctions,” said North Korea sanctions blogger Joshua Stanton in January about Seoul’s export of petroleum products.

“The amount isn’t the problem; the precedent is.”

Edited by Oliver Hotham
This is a good overview of the effects of the sanctions on the North Korean regime. Rest assured, they are biting hard. Just not as hard as they should. Give it a read to get a good look as to what is actually sanctioned. Also, ignore the bit about oil sanctions. The North Koreans can and have gotten their hands on enough of that for right now. They literally exceeded the yearly limit by over 4 times last year.

ISHIMARU Jiro said:
On February 27, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump met in Hanoi for a second round of talks. While the U.S. aimed to set the terms, speed, and extent of North Korean denuclearization, North Korea sought an end to the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council. Despite North Korean boasts that the country’s philosophy of self-reliance was holding up against the sanctions, the country’s economy was truly crippled.

According to ASIAPRESS reports from inside North Korea, it is not only the government and military that have been hit hard by the effects of the sanctions. From the poorest citizens to the wealthiest Pyongyang elite, life under the sanctions has been much more difficult for all levels of society.

"Trump is a fraud"

ASIAPRESS relies on a team of about 10 reporting partners living inside North Korea. One of the group, a man in his 40’s, called on February 16, the anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s birthday.

“We were very happy about the meeting with Trump last June. We thought that the sanctions would be lifted and that life would get better. But nothing has changed. The people here are angry because, while we have kept our promises to the United States as best as we can, Trump has broken his promises- condemning us to carry on like this. Party officials explain to us what happened at the summit this way.”

The reporting partner lives near the Chinese border in Musan County, North Hamgyong Province. The county’s main industry, iron ore production, came to a halt late last year when all exports to China were blocked. In accordance with the UN sanctions, China had banned imports of iron ore from North Korea.

Despite this, the partner says that, due partly to government propaganda, many residents blame the U.S. for their worsening lifestyles.

In January, a reporting partner living in another region of North Korea said, “Kim Jong-un needs to give up the nuclear weapons. Then the sanctions can soon be lifted. Nevertheless, people are saying that Trump is a fraud. We don’t expect anything to come from this next meeting with the United States.”


Foreign currency imports plunge...N. Korean exports to China fall off by 88%

In 2017, the Kim Jong-un regime focused on upgrading its nuclear weapon and missile programs. Over the course of the year, the regime conducted 17 ballistic missile tests and experimented on an atomic bomb with 10 times the strength of the one dropped on Hiroshima. In response, the U.N. Security Council, with the full support of China and Russia, stepped up economic sanctions with 4 new resolutions.

The real force behind the latest sanctions is China, with North Korea’s traditionally supportive neighbor responsible for more than 90% of its neighbor’s trade. According to statistics from China’s customs authorities, trade with North Korea declined sharply following implementation of the sanctions. North Korean exports to China amounted to only $220 million in 2018, down 88 percent from the previous year. In 2016, the year before sanctions were introduced, North Korean trade with China had amounted to about $2.6 billion. It can be estimated that the sanctions have deprived the regime of about 90 percent of its expected trade gains.

Economic sanctions by the UN Security Council against N. Korea
-① Exports of minerals, textiles, and seafood are banned.
-② North Korean workers may no longer be dispatched to work in foreign countries.
-③ Joint ventures with North Korea are prohibited. Existing businesses are to be eliminated.
-④ Exports of petroleum to North Korea are limited to less than 500,000 barrels per year- a nearly 90% reduction.
-⑤ Exports of industrial machinery and transport vehicles to North Korea are prohibited. Transferring large amounts of cash is also prohibited.

Information on the true extent of the damage to the North Korean economy is carefully guarded by the regime. With 90 percent of trade lost, however, the impact must have been severe.

To find out the exact impact of the sanctions, ASIAPRESS worked with reporting partners living in various regions of North Korea to investigate. Through actual visits to the iron mines, fishing ports, regional trade offices, and Pyongyang markets, reporting partners were able to uncover the true effects of the sanctions on the lives of the North Korean citizens they met. To smuggle this information out of the country, reporting partners were asked to cross the border into China, through both illegal and legal means. Other reports were given through calls on smuggled Chinese mobile phones.

As the investigation progressed, it became clear that there is rising chaos in North Korea.

North Korean exports drop further than predicted

Let’s return to Musan County. Musan is on the border with China, facing the Tumen River, with a nearby iron mine providing work for much of its 100,000-strong population. The closeness of this mine to the border is convenient, as most of the iron produced is traded at the border. According to statistics from 2017, iron ore exports to China in 2014 amounted to $211.9 million and, for 2016, $74.41 million. Iron provided not just for Musan. As the second most important national export, the industry was regarded as a crown jewel among North Korean state-owned enterprises.

Our local partner set out to investigate the situation in Musan, reporting back that, “All operations at the mine were suspended apart from a small amount of mining at the domestic steel mills. The company can’t afford gas for its vehicles, so it has been renting them out to local businesses in an effort to recoup some losses. Food distribution to mine workers was suspended in March of last year. In July, workers received 4-5 kilograms of Chinese rice but following that, they didn’t receive anything at all until October. There are many hungry workers who have gone off to look for paying work elsewhere.”

‘Job desertion’ now a major crisis

All adult men in North Korea must work at jobs assigned to them by the government. In the 1990’s, a famine led to the dissolution of the food distribution system and, due to skyrocketing inflation, wages at most enterprises lost their value entirely. Despite this, North Korean men still had to report for work at their state-assigned jobs, mostly for the government to maintain control over their daily lives and political thoughts.

Workers have to sign in at their offices and, each morning, the police checks attendance registers. The Musan mine was one such employer where attendance was checked daily. The difference though was that due to the mine’s success, it was able to continue providing food and wages to an estimated 10,000 workers. After the sanctions, however, the mine could no longer support its workers and many began to desert their posts.

Last July, the reporting partner visited the house of an acquaintance who works in the mine. He said that a policeman had came earlier to the house to force him to go to work.

“The policeman decided not to drag the friend away once he saw how destitute his house was. Workers who were deserting were going into the mountains to collect herbs and vegetables to sell or eat. Workers who were not deserting their posts couldn’t work anyway because they were too weak from the hunger.”

Musan County is designated as a ‘hardship area’, with residents given corn and Chinese dried noodles. The region is on the cusp of a humanitarian crisis. Nevertheless, the authorities have refused to relax their control, prioritizing societal order over the lives of its citizens. Starting last fall, those who were caught repeatedly deserted their posts were sent off to labor camps.

In February, the local partner reported, “Workers at the mine have nothing to do even when they attend their posts. So they are being pressed into ‘construction brigades’ and sent to help with construction at a hydroelectric plant on the East Coast.”

The ‘construction brigades’ are units set up to lend labor to national construction projects, with members conscripted from state-owned enterprises and youth organizations.

Says the reporting partner on life in a construction brigade, “Food is provided on-site but the work is unpaid, with shifts lasting between 3-4 months. Everyone tries to forge medical certificates to avoid conscription, but it’s not easy.”

Pyongyang’s privileged elite feel the pressure

What about the impact of the sanctions in Pyongyang, where the rich and privileged are concentrated?

A Chinese reporting partner for ASIAPRESS met with a Pyongyang businessman in China last November to learn more about the situation in the capital. The businessmen visits China several times a year to buy wallets and bags for resale in Pyongyang.

Meeting in a restaurant late at night to avoid prying eyes, the businessman said, “There are a lot of export companies that have gone bankrupt. Many of the newly-rich, private investors and traditionally wealthy elite are poor now. Especially those that were involved in trading coal and other minerals. Sales are slow in Pyongyang as the flow of money is totally blocked. Many vendors have stopped coming to the market altogether because they will make a loss if they have to pay the tax for vendors. My acquaintances can no longer afford to take taxis because of their loss in business. All in all, it can be said that the income of common people has been cut by about half.”

Who are the ‘newly-rich private investors’ that the Pyongyang businessman referred to and how did they come to prominence? This can be best explained by examining North Korea’s top foreign currency earner, the coal industry.

There are many coal mines in North Korea where high-quality anthracite is excavated. Since the 1980’s, however, operations at these sites were significantly reduced due to the country’s crippled economy. In the early 2000’s, however, operations at these sites began to return to their original productivity thanks to investment from new sources as, for the first time, private individuals were allowed to invest in the market economy. These private investors, labeled the kiji, brought back mining at neglected sites across the country, efficiently unearthing iron before selling it on to state-authorized trading companies for export to China.

Since private companies are illegal in North Korea, kiji used bribes to secure official permits which would allow them to operate under the banner of state-owned enterprises. In practical terms, however, they were private companies, usually with 30-200 employees. Bribes and wages for workers were the only costs of entry into the market, with profits going straight into the pockets of the kiji. These private enterprises would go on to have great success thanks to a simultaneous boom in coal exports to China, with the kiji becoming subjects of much envy. Kiji would repeat this success in various other fields, reaping profits in the fishing, transportation, and gold mining industries.

In 2016, before the sanctions were tightened, North Korea exported about $11.8 billion worth of coal to China. This amounted to 45 percent of all exports to China. One year later, however, North Korea would lose all of this trade, with China abiding by the UN Security Council’s ban on coal imports from the country.

It was not just coal miners or kiji who felt the impact of this ban. Entire towns, such as those in Musan County, are set up to support the mining industry, with mechanics, electricians, shippers, and other professions all depending upon work at the mines to support their businesses as well. All in all, it can be estimated that close to a million people are engaged in coal-related businesses across the country. Now, with coal exports stopped, these people’s incomes have plummeted as well.

A reporting partner in South Pyongan Province, where large coal mines are also located, described how, as the sanctions have taken effect, markets around the coal mines have become stagnant, with the flow of goods and money totally blocked. In addition, the partner reported that many of the private companies which were running the mines have gone bankrupt and have simply disappeared.

The reporting partner described local sentiment, further stating, “The residents say that sanctions have turned the kiji into beggars and that Kim Jong-un has had to approach South Korea because of the loss of revenue from coal. That’s the gossip in the streets.”

Kim Jong-un’s treasury takes a hit

Many of the North's trade companies are under the administration of the North Korean People's Army, the Workers' Party, and the Ministry of Security (police). Among these administrative bodies, however, the most important and powerful is an organization called “Room 39”. This special office is responsible for raising funds for the regime through various trade and financial operations. It is also in charge of dispatching workers to foreign countries.

So, how is Room 39 being impacted by the sanctions? To find out, ASIAPRESS began an investigation in March of last year with the help of a reporting partner living in the northern region of the country. As the reporting partner is a member of the Worker’s Party and a mid-level executive in a small company, he has several connections in the business world that served to shed some light on the dealings of the secretive organization.

Under Room 39 there are many bureaus, one of which is the “Paradise” Guidance Bureau. It is this bureau that oversees the “Peony Company”, a company headquartered in Pyongyang and with a branch office in Chongjin City, the third largest city in North Korea. Close to the Chinese border and facing the East Sea, the company’s branch office deals with exporting seafood, minerals, and clothing to China. In addition, the company expanded its operations to become a distribution hub for imported Chinese products to be sent across the country. Beginning his research, the reporting partner traveled to Chongjin to learn more about this particular enterprise of Room 39.

In Chongjin, the reporting partner was able to meet with a senior employee of the company, finding out that the company’s Chongjin operations had been suspended, with the company’s office rented out to a local merchant for use as a warehouse. In addition, the reporting partner was told that the branch office had 35 full-time employees, with many sub-contracted staff as well. These subcontractors, however, were employed solely to collect medicinal herbs to be exported to China and many of them were let go after the sanctions took effect.

The senior employee told the reporting partner, "Up until 2018, I would receive 50 kilograms of white rice and 500 Chinese yuan (about 80,000 South Korean won) per month. As official trade with China is totally off the cards, I have an arrangement with a chinese merchant to sell luxury Chinese-made products such as TVs, electric rice cookers, water tanks, and beds to North Korea’s wealthy elite on his behalf. I have to give back 1000 Chinese yuan (about 160,000 South Korean won) of the profits each month to the Chinese merchant. I am allowed to keep any profit made over that but if I do not make 1000 yuan in a month, I will lose the job.”

Rising discontent among Pyongyang’s privileged class

Profits from trade with China go directly to the regime’s treasury and are distributed amongst the Pyongyang elite. When trade is brought to a halt, this privileged class feels the pressure, as the exploitative system it relies upon to sustain itself collapses.

Thanks to a Chinese reporting partner for ASIAPRESS, we were able to hear about the situation firsthand from a Pyongyang elite, a senior executive for a state trading company. Meeting the executive in China, the reporting partner asked, “What do you suppose will happen next?”

The executive answered briefly, “It goes without saying that trade right now is difficult. It is very hard now for the high-ranking officials in Pyongyang. Though life is tough, local people can make ends meet by doing menial day jobs. The higher-ups, on the other hand, have lost their only source of income. If this continues, it could become a big problem. There is a lot of discontent."

The executive didn’t elaborate on what he meant by ‘big problem’. As a North Korean with permission to conduct business abroad, there is a lot of trust placed in him by the regime. His lifestyle is only guaranteed if he remains loyal to Kim Jong-un. But if, as the man says, discontent is on the rise, does it mean that Pyongyang’s loyal elite will lose their faith?

The sanctions are not just keeping money out of the hands of North Korean citizens though. The regime too is feeling the pressure and is struggling to maintain its various programs and policies. Although it may present only a small part of the greater picture, we can clearly see evidence of this by studying the North Korean government’s failing national programs, listed below:

▪ Distribution of new national ID cards, which began in late 2017, took until February 2019 to complete.

▪ The tradition of distributing special rations to celebrate holidays and the birthdays of its leaders has been discontinued since the anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birthday in April of last year.

▪ Construction of the Samjiyeon Special Tourist Zone at the foot of Mt. Baekdu, labeled by Kim Jong-un as a top priority national project, has been delayed due to financial difficulties. Due to sanctions, the project ran out of rebar and other necessary materials.

▪ Due to financial difficulties and soaring fuel prices, military units have been forced to use ox-drawn carts or charcoal-fueled vehicles to transport supplies.

▪ From November last year, the electricity supply for residents across vast northern regions has been cut off almost entirely.


Predicted inflation does not occur...but people’s suffering is on the rise

When sanctions were strengthened at the end of 2017, it was anticipated that the North Korean economy would experience heavy inflation. Specifically, the value of the North Korean won was expected to lose its value due to the lack of foreign currency imports. Experts believed that the country’s economy, like that of Zimbabwe and Venezuela before it, could be plunged into chaos due to hyperinflation.

This was not to be, however. Apart from fluctuations in the prices of gasoline and diesel oil, the value of North Korea’s currency remained relatively stable, with only a 20-30 percent increase in the price of food and other commodities reported.

This does not mean to say, though, that North Koreans are living comfortably or that the North Korean economy is doing well. Since November of last year, electricity has been reliably supplied to very few cities outside of Pyongyang. Residents outside of the capital no longer refer to the problem as a ‘power outage’; with no power being provided at all, they say their cities have been ‘powered down’. In addition to the lack of electricity, residents have to deal with demands from authorities for cash and other resources.

The North Korean government frequently extorts resources and cash from citizens in order to complete road repairs, school maintenance, military upgrades, and various other construction projects. Now, with sanctions tightening, the regime has begun to demand even more from the local population.

A reporting partner explained the increasing burden, “The state extorts about 100 Chinese yuan (16,000 South Korean won) from us each month.” This total represents 30-50 percent of an average household’s monthly income.

In addition, starting from December of last year, authorities began forcing all households to enroll in a state-run insurance program. A reporting partner in Yanggang Province said, "We are told to enroll in the insurance program as a show of patriotism. We are not told any information about the contents of the insurance plan or its supposed benefits. We know the state has no money, so it has to take it from us citizens.”

Despite the recent hardship, the reporting partner maintains a strong sense of perspective, saying, "It's hard to earn a lot of money, but there's been no word of people starving to death anywhere. All of us common people have taken to the markets and found a way to make ends meet somehow. These days, there are not people dying in North Korea of starvation like there was before.”
Overall, not as bad as the long march in the 1990s. The government didn't bow back then, it probably won't now. Be prepared for an unmitigated humanitarian disaster in North Korea.

by the way, their RSS link is:
I think I forgot to post it with the rest.

More from Cheollima Civil Defense:
Yoon Hyung-jun said:
A shadowy guerrilla group opposed to the North Korean regime that was recently fingered in a daredevil raid on the North Korean Embassy in Madrid has received W64 million in Bitcoin funding over the last two years (US$1=W1,130).

The group, which variously goes by the names Cheollima Civil Defense or Free Joseon (after North Korea's conventional name for itself), first made headlines by protecting the son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's half-brother Kim Jong-nam, who was assassinated by North Korean agents in Malaysia in 2017.

According to the group's website, around 14.2 Bitcoins have been sent to the group's cryptocurrency account since March 2017, which was worth around W64 million as of Wednesday.

Most of the Bitcoins have already been cashed in.

The group recently declared itself the government-in-exile of North Korea and is rumored to include some dissident members of the ruling Kim family and have links to the CIA.
as well as a youtube video:

Anyway, on to South Korea.

A good beginners guide to Moon Jae-in's political problems.
[I]Scott Seaman[/I] said:
U.S.-North Korea engagement will likely continue to limp along despite last month’s failed summit in Hanoi and Pyongyang’s veiled threat last week to pull out of talks and restart missile testing.

But if efforts to denuclearize North Korea fizzle out, the political leader who stands to lose the most is not President Donald Trump or Chairman Kim Jong Un, but South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Moon has spent enormous political capital supporting diplomatic initiatives to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear arsenal while also working to ensure Seoul drives and shapes them as much as possible.

Moon argues that improving relations with Kim’s regime not only creates a pathway to lasting peace but also opens the door to economic interactions that can benefit both countries.

Slowing economic growth and other issues, such as population aging, are fueling concerns inside and outside South Korea about the country’s future.

The promise that détente with Kim will give the South access to mineral wealth and cheap labor in the North as well as the chance to rebuild transportation routes across it and develop it into a new consumer market is thus a seductive one.

Unless the outlook for the U.S. and North Korea reaching a comprehensive, durable deal for denuclearization and eliminating tensions brightens, criticism at home and abroad of Moon’s outreach to the North will intensify.

Growing skepticism that Kim has truly turned a new leaf and wants to bring his country out of the wilderness has already put a dent in Moon’s approval ratings.

A weaker Moon would likely find it more difficult to maintain support not only for his North Korea policies but also for an economic policy agenda that focuses in part on reining in the economic and political influence of the "chaebols" — Korea’s large, family-controlled business conglomerates.

Moon and others in his government believe that these firms’ ties with previous governments and control over so much economic activity have fueled corruption and inefficiencies.

There is no doubt that South Korea’s business sector could use a large dose of reform to improve corporate governance and invigorate the country’s stock market.

The performance of the Korea Composite Stock Price Index has routinely lagged behind other markets in terms of shareholder returns and company valuations despite the presence of many profitable, world-class firms.

The fact that South Korean equities make up the second-largest country allocation (over 13 percent; behind only that for China) of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index means that the success or failure of Moon’s efforts to shake up business as usual and reduce the “Korea Discount” will have a sizeable impact on many portfolios around the world as well as on the trajectory of South Korea’s macroeconomy.

If Washington and Pyongyang cannot get their dialogue back onto a smoother track in the coming months, chaebols and their conservative allies will likely be emboldened to further obstruct progress in a reform process that many observers argue has already slowed to a crawl due to Moon’s need for cooperation from chaebol leaders for his North Korea policies and fears about the potential negative, short-term effects on the economy of putting pressure on marquee firms.

In particular, legislation to reduce chaebols’ alleged excesses by tightening restrictions on intragroup transactions and supply chain management, mandating electronic voting and cumulative voting and introducing shareholder derivative lawsuits would be at greater risk of being blocked or diluted in a National Assembly that Moon’s Democratic Party of Korea does not control.

If U.S.-North Korea talks are still in a holding pattern — or worse — late this year or in early spring, conservatives will be better positioned to capture additional seats in National Assembly elections in April 2020.

A resurgence by conservatives would create even more pushback against Moon’s economic and foreign policies as well as speculation that they might take the presidency in 2022.

It is tough to fault Moon for wanting to do his utmost to take advantage of what he and many other South Koreans view as a historic opportunity to end a dangerous, decades-long standoff with their northern neighbors.

A South Korean president who decided that pursuing this goal was a waste of time would arguably face even harsher condemnation — including from the right.

But Moon’s bet that two mercurial leaders like Trump and Kim will work out their differences is not one that many people would put much money on. If Moon craps out, faith in his leadership might take a hit from which he and his plans for reviving South Korea’s economy would never fully recover.
So, one of Moon Jae-in's key anti-corruption officers has been implicated in a massively expanding sex and corruption scandal. Make of that what you will.

SER MYO-JA said:
A key presidential aide responsible for combating corruption is facing renewed pressure to step down as a police officer who worked under him at the Blue House was named a criminal suspect in a mushrooming sex, drugs and police protection scandal.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) said Wednesday that President Moon Jae-in must relieve Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs at the Blue House, from his duties for failure to run his office properly. LKP leaders also complained that Cho failed to vet minister nominees in a recent cabinet reshuffle.

A police senior superintendent, who worked in Cho’s office at the Blue House from July 2017 to August 2018, was named an investigation suspect Monday over suspicions he gave favors to the operators of the scandal-plagued Burning Sun nightclub.

The suspect, identified by his surname Yun, played golf with K-pop megastar Seungri and his business partner Yu In-seok, the co-owners of Burning Sun. They also dined together on multiple occasions, including the period during which he was working at the Blue House. Police suspect that the entertainment was a form of bribery.

At the Blue House, Yun worked with former Civil Affairs Secretary Baek Won-woo. He was responsible for collecting information on possible corruption involving the president’s family and relatives and gathering intelligence on public sentiment. He was the highest-ranking police official dispatched to the office.

“Cho and Baek were direct supervisors of Yun, and it is inevitable that they will become subjects of the investigation,” Rep. Na Kyung-won, LKP floor leader, said Wednesday. “I am afraid that [the police investigation] won’t be able to touch the Blue House,” she said, because both Cho and Baek are “Moon’s particular favorites.”

While Cho is still working at the Blue House, Baek has left and is reportedly preparing for next year’s general election.

Yun is accused of maintaining corrupt ties with Seungri and Yu. He was suspected of pulling strings to help the nightclub when it faced an investigation last July. Yun was also suspected of helping Seungri and his friends combat a probe into another nightclub they operated and helping another singer on a drunk driving case.

It appears that Yun’s Blue House supervisors failed to detect the suspicions.

“The office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs is open to criticism for having failed to supervise its members,” a Blue House official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday after the Blue House was swept into the scandal because of Yun’s alleged misconduct. “It is true that Cho is ethically responsible.”

Yet the Blue House official said the police agency was responsible for selecting the officers it sent to the Blue House, saying, “The fact that a corrupt one was recommended backs our campaign to reform the investigative authorities.”

Cho did not issue any statement as of Wednesday.

In addition to not supervising the scandal-ridden cop, Cho was also criticized for failing to properly vet minister nominees. President Moon nominated seven new ministers earlier this month, and confirmation hearings at the National Assembly will soon take place. “The latest reshuffle is worse than the worst,” said LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn said Wednesday. “The nominations are astounding.”

Hwang said the nominations are far below the appointment standards the Blue House and Moon promised earlier.

“Why did they create the standards if they won’t respect them?” Hwang said.

According to Hwang, the land minister nominee owns three apartments, despite the Moon administration’s policy that real estate should not to be used to make profits.

Hwang also said the unification minister nominee has made many controversial remarks, including a denial that the North torpedoed the Cheonan warship in 2010.

“There are various issues concerning the nominees, such as plagiarism, draft-dodging, use of false address and seeking favors for a child’s employment,” Hwang said. “The Blue House said it had vetted them all. If they were nominated despite those serious problems, I suspect that the Blue House is indifferent to ethics.”

The Bareunmirae Party also issued a statement on Tuesday that demanded Cho be sacked for his poor vetting of the nominees.

“There was enough time to prove that Cho was incompetent,” it said, urging Moon to replace him as soon as possible.

Since the launch of the Moon administration, Cho has repeatedly faced demands he step down for failing to do his job.

In April last year, the National Election Commission ruled that Kim Ki-sik, then the nominee to head the Financial Supervisory Service, had previously violated election laws. Three opposition parties, including the LKP, demanded Cho step down for having failed to vet the candidate.

A similar vetting issue took place in November last year when Moon appointed a new environment minister.

Cho was summoned to testify at the National Assembly when special inspectors in his office were accused of corruption in December last year.

Cho, a professor of law at Seoul National University, was appointed to the post, often occupied by top prosecutors, when Moon took office in May 2017. His job includes combating corruption among senior government officials and reforming investigative authorities, including the prosecution.
US intelligence chief in Seoul to discuss North Korea

Yonhap News Agency said:
The U.S. intelligence chief is in South Korea, a government source said Wednesday, on a visit seen as aimed at sharing information and assessment of North Korea following the breakdown of last month's summit between the two countries.

Earlier, a local newspaper reported that U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats arrived at a U.S airbase in Osan, south of Seoul, Tuesday night for a three-day stay. The government source confirmed his arrival but declined to elaborate further.

His detailed schedule in Seoul has yet to be confirmed but he is likely to meet his South Korean counterpart, National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon, and other senior officials.

The trip came after North Korea repaired its Dongchang-ri long-range rocket launch site that had been partially dismantled last year. That led to concern that the rebuilding could be a sign Pyongyang may be preparing a missile launch.

Last week, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui threatened that Pyongyang may stop nuclear talks and resume nuclear tests and missile launches, saying that it has no intention to give in to Washington's "gangster-like" demands.

While in Seoul, Coats is expected to share intelligence and assessment on North Korea and coordinate a joint approach in dealing with the communist nation's nuclear weapons program.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Hanoi, Vietnam, in late February but failed to strike a deal as they differed on the scope of denuclearization steps from Pyongyang and reciprocal concessions, including sanctions relief, from Washington.

The U.S. has since stepped up calls for strict enforcement of sanctions on North Korea until its complete denuclearization.

In January, Coats told Congress that he believes it is unlikely the North will completely abandon its nuclear weapons program because Pyongyang views the program as critical to regime survival. (Yonhap)
So, the final article of the day:
This article has been making the rounds in the Korean news world. It is the height of hysterical reporting: USFK bunker plan could be cut to pay for border wall

A U.S. military command bunker complex in South Korea could be scrapped to fund U.S. President Donald Trump’s wall on the border with Mexico, according to a list of possible cuts submitted by the Pentagon to Congress on Monday.

The inclusion of Command Post Tango on the 21-page list of projects is stoking concerns that a withdrawal of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) may be the ultimate target of the Trump administration’s Korea policy.

According to a statement by the Pentagon, the total value of the hundreds of projects around the world listed on the document is around $12.9 billion. Many of the projects listed remain in the planning stages and have yet to be constructed, and there was also no indication about which projects would be prioritized for cuts.

On Monday, Pentagon Spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Buccino told CNN that “some of the projects within this pool may be used to fund up to $3.6 billion in barrier construction.”

CP Tango, or Theater Air Naval Ground Operations, is a bunker designed to house the wartime headquarters of the Eighth Army command staff stationed in Korea as the “brains of the battlefield,” according to a military source in Seoul who said the Pentagon list is an alarming development. “North Korea has recently ramped up its military forces, like deploying a new missile on the front lines,” the source said. “The situation calls for an increase in spending and an update of defense capabilities.”

Another U.S. military asset in South Korea listed in the document is a drone hangar at the Kunsan Air Base valued at $53 million. Analysts say dismantling such a facility could negatively affect U.S. air offensive and intelligence capacities in Korea.

To follow through with his signature policy of building a wall on the United States’ southern border with Mexico, Trump recently declared a national emergency on illegal immigration that provided him with the legal authority to redirect federal funds to erecting the barrier. The Pentagon also requested a $7.2 billion budget for the wall from the 2020 defense budget.

Congressional approval, however, would be necessary to implement the proposed defense cuts, which appears to be an uphill battle given the polarized landscape of the U.S. legislature. Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat, slammed Trump’s moves on Monday, saying the president was “planning to take funds from real, effective operational priorities and needed projects and divert them to his vanity wall.”

Analysts in Seoul say the flagging of military assets in South Korea for possible cuts again reflects the White House’s disgruntlement over the U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula. Trump has frequently complained about the “tremendously expensive” costs of joint military exercises and has more than once said he would like to withdraw the USFK. “President Trump appears to be redirecting funds used for military preparedness in Korea towards his political goal of a border wall based on a belief that he is stably managing affairs on the Korean Peninsula,” said Shin Beom-chul, head of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies’ Center for Security and Unification. “The decision to cut back on a wartime command post in spite of the recent lack of progress on denuclearization negotiations strikes me as an overly complacent view.”
Everything about this has been twisted backwards. The bunker came up on the list because it was under discretionary defense spending. Not that it will be cut, but that it has the option to be under the realm of said discretionary spending. The last place defense spending would be cut right now is USFK. Mark my words, if USFK wants the damn bunker, it will get it. Bottom line, don't trust a Korean to understand US government at all.

That is all for tonight folks, see you again soon.
Last edited:


That Defense Sperg.
What the fuck is even happening.
Yonhap said:
(ATTN: ADDS analyst comments, more background)
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korean officials withdrew from an inter-Korean liaison office in the country's border city of Kaesong on Friday as the peace and denuclearization process reached a deadlock following last month's no-deal summit between the North and the United States.
The North notified the South during a liaison officers' meeting earlier in the day that it would pull out of the office, in accordance with a directive from the higher-ups, and then all North Korean officials, totaling about 15, left the building, the South's unification ministry said in a statement.
The North said it will not care about whether South Korean officials remain or withdraw from the office, the ministry said. Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung said that 25 South Korean officials will staff the office over the weekend.
Chun said the North gave no reason for the decision.
South Korea expressed regret. "The government considers this withdrawal decision regrettable and hopes the North will return at an early date so that the office will be operated normally," Chun said during a press briefing.
Chun also said that all other inter-Korean communication channels are operating normally and the government will comprehensively review the situation and contemplate follow-up measures.
He also said that no unusual signs have been detected over the past week, but the weekly liaison meeting between Chun and his North Korean counterpart, Jon Jong-su, has not been held since the breakdown of the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump late February.
The office of President Moon Jae-in said that Chung Eui-yong, Moon's top security advisor, presided over a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the North's decision and its possible repercussions on inter-Korean relations.
Analysts said that the North's decision appears to be aimed at pressuring South Korea to do more to persuade the U.S. to lower its demands in the stalled denuclearization negotiations.
"They appear to be pressuring our government to play a more active role in narrowing differences over denuclearization and sanctions relief," Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far East Studies at Kyungnam University, said.
"I think their message is that there should be a meaningful agreement between the North and the U.S. in order for the liaison office to be operated normally," he said.
The office opened in September last year to facilitate inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation in accordance with an agreement that President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reached at their first summit in April last year.
Relations between the South and the North made significant strides last year, with Moon and Kim holding three summits, but the reconciliation process reached a deadlock as the denuclearization negotiations between the North and the U.S. made little progress.
Prospects of cross-border projects dimmed further after last month's summit between Kim and Trump ended without an agreement due to differences over how to match denuclearization measures from the North and sanctions relief from the U.S.
South Korea had been pushing to hold video reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in a follow up to an agreement the leaders of the two Koreas reached in their September summit.
"It is true that it became difficult to consult with the North over the video reunions of the separated families," the vice minister said. "We will continue our efforts to resume consultations on such issues before too late."
Its a big deal. No-one knew what the fuck was going on today.

I'll post more tomorrow.


That Defense Sperg.
Thanks for your support everyone.
It is "A North Korean Situation Explained" (ANKSE) time. Otherwise known as "How journalists fuck everything up."

So, yesterday was a particularly egregious example of news-media reporting on North Korea related issues.

There were three events that mattered yesterday.
" The United States on Thursday sanctioned two Chinese shipping companies over their ties to North Korea, Reuters reported."

"North Korea withdraws from inter-Korean liaison office"

"U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he has ordered the withdrawal of new sanctions on North Korea, possibly signaling an intention to continue denuclearization negotiations with the regime."

Let me explain the processes here.

Event 1, 2, and 3 are mostly/completely unrelated.

Event 1: The sanctions put on the two Chinese SHIPPING companies were from violating OLD sanctions.

Event 2: More of a formality than anything else, North Korea had not been using the liaison office for over a month. Their staffers apparently hadn't shown up since Monday.

Event 3; Trump put a PAUSE on NEW BANKING sanctions that have NOT been implemented yet.

So... what does the media report?

The NEW United States sanctions have caused the DPRK to withdraw from the liaison office. Trump in a useless last ditch effort to save what he fucked up canceled those sanctions.

Yeah, great job guys. A media manufactured, self-feeding frenzy created a mountain of fake news. What are the odds 90% of this is memory holed in a week.

Anyway, Those new sanctions will probably come in after Kim Jong-un announces that the DPRK is dropping from the denuclearization talks.

Now for the news round up.

"N. Korea denounces Japan over heightened monitoring of illicit ship-to-ship transfers."

The real story here is Japan stepping up enforcement efforts. said:
SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state news agency lashed out at Japan on Thursday over its efforts to crack down on the North's illegal ship-to-ship transfers of goods in violation of international sanctions.

Earlier this month, Japan's foreign ministry said France has decided to support its monitoring of ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean-flagged vessels banned under the U.N. sanctions.

Calling the move a "last-ditch effort" to hamper the peace process in the region, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a commentary that Japan is trying to escalate tension in the region "against the trend."

"It is the real intention of the Japanese reactionaries to show their existence by inveigling countries out of the region into monitoring the DPRK's activities under the pretext of the implementation of the U.N. Security Council's 'sanctions resolutions' and thus provide an environment favorable for militarization," it said. DPRK is the acronym for
North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The KCNA said Japan will be faced with a more "miserable position" marginalized from the current detente in the region if it continues its "hostile policy" against the North.

The commentary, however, did not mention the United States, which sent a Coast Guard vessel to Japan earlier this month to strengthen monitoring of the illicit maritime activity.

In a recent annual report, the U.N. said North Korea "continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal."
South Korea Withholds Approval for Visits to Gaeseong (Kaesong) Industrial Complex.

Almost like reopening a joint business venture with North Korea is completely and totally illegal. It should be noted that this is a big blow to Moon Jae-in's policy.

KBS World Radio said:
The South Korean government has again withheld a decision on a request by a group of South Korean business-people to visit the shuttered inter-Korean Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North Korea to check up on their equipment and facilities.

Unification Ministry spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun said on Friday that the situation surrounding the two Koreas has not changed much since the last time the request was withheld in January.

When asked for the reasoning behind the decision, Baik said Seoul is currently pushing for inter-Korean economic cooperation projects within the framework of international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, Seoul had suggested allowing the visit, but is believed to have decided to defer approval after failing to secure Washington's permission during the two sides' working group meeting last week.

This is the eighth time businesses in Gaeseong have requested permission to visit the industrial park since the Park Geun-hye administration shut down the complex in response to North Korea's missile and nuclear tests in 2016.
That is quite literally all of the "important" news from the past two days. The rest are articles retracting previous statements about yesterday's events.

Update, looks like Russia wants role in NK denuclearization:

Russia's presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says his government will do everything it can to prompt the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are likely to hold their first summit next week.

On Friday, Peskov said the two leaders will discuss a wide range of issues, including the development of bilateral ties and the denuclearization of the peninsula.

Earlier, sources close to the Russian government and state-run railway operator told NHK that Kim is expected to enter the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok by train next Wednesday.

The sources added that Kim will meet Putin at a university on an island in the city the following day.

Russia apparently aims to increase its influence over denuclearization talks after a US-North Korea summit in February ended without an agreement.
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