Open Sources, Feb. 28, 2013

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT WILL BACK a long-belated U.N. human rights probe of North Korea.

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NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME, North Korean defectors allege that the regime uses political prisoners to dig tunnels for its nuclear tests, and then executes them.  I found no evidence to support that charge in the imagery, but I couldn’t rule it out, either.

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GOOD ORDER AND DISCIPLINE:  “Our female soldiers went out to steal things every night. They stole potatoes or radishes to appease their hunger.”

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DRIVING IN NORTH KOREA, where your songbun even determines your speed limit.

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PLAN B WATCH:  The Senate has joined the House in passing a resolution condemning North Korea’s nuclear test.  That does not mean that much tougher sanctions are not also being considered in Congress.

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I WOULDN’T OBJECT IF JOE DiTRANI’S VISITS to Pyongyang were legitimately about testing the attitude of Kim Jong Un, to the extent that really means anything.  It would only be the latest of many fool’s errands.  I would certainly object if those visits were about buying North Korea’s temporary, election-year silence.  It borders on paranoia to suggest it, but it’s within the realm of plausible conduct for this town.  It’s also conspicuous that, unlike the many occasions when a returning Chris Hill held court with crowds of adoring journos in airport and hotel lobbies, no one is willing to say much of anything about what was discussed this time.

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CAPITALISM, THE LEAST INHUMANE ALTERNATIVE:  A North Korean market trader offers this insight about how the flow of information helps the flow of food into North Korea:

“As the jangmadang developed in North Korea, more goods were brought into the country that fit consumers’ demands. Traders came to be in tough competition with each other, and we had to be plugged into a logistical network in order to move our goods efficiently. The mobile phone was an important tool for staying abreast of fluctuations in exchange rate and demand of goods.”

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NORTH KOREA PERESTROIKA WATCH:  The regime is issuing confusing and contradictory diktats on the confiscation of private plots, and the crops grown on them:

A source from Hyesan told Daily NK on the 20th, “Orders on the 13th of last month limited everyone to 10 pyeong and said that the remainder would be taken, but that has been changed in less than a month. Now they’re allowing the use of all plots in their existing format, but have told people to give up 30% of the grain produced there.”

On January 29th, Daily NK reported on the original land use decree, noting that the authorities had moved to prohibit farming on hillsides and limit the size of personal market gardens. One square meter is equal to 0.3025 pyeong. [....]

“Kim Jong Eun is handing down orders with little clue as to how we live,” the source pointed out, “so how can they implement agricultural reforms properly? They are inspecting all farm land now in an attempt to estimate the yield for next fall, but people are telling them that corn plots are vegetable gardens, and aren’t registering empty land at all.”

As a consequence, there is more skepticism about agricultural reform in Ryanggang Province than there is in most parts of Washington.

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I CAN’T GET ENOUGH of old pictures Korea like these.  I’ve bought whole books filled with them at the Kyobo Bookstore just to pore over the sight of familiar places before they were familiar.

3 comments

  1. Glans says:

    Joshua, here’s the natural interpretation of Joe di Trani’s visits – the Obama administration wanted to know if the new Kim would be an improvement over the old Kim. The answer was no, and the US didn’t give North Korea anything. I don’t really know if this is true, but that’s how it looks to me.

  2. Alec says:

    NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME, North Korean defectors allege that the regime uses political prisoners to dig tunnels for its nuclear tests, and then executes them – I found no evidence to support that charge in the imagery, but I couldn’t rule it out, either.

    Similarly, claims about human skin being used for lampshades by the Nazis don’t appear to have been so much based on official ‘policy’ as the actions of especially depraved Bitch of Buchenwald (she does not deserve the be refered to by her given name). That is, it may not be recorded but there were people foul enough to have done so.

    Also, my co-blogger, Gene has summat about Dennis Rodmam’s taudry holiday in other people’s misery.

    ~alec

  3. Glans says:

    Will China’s next inner circle accept the Glans Plan? Probably not. Irene Jay Liu and Chris Ip speculate for Reuters. Of course, they don’t so much as allude to the Glans Plan or even to Korea. But they say the future leaders are likely to be alumni of the Communist Youth League, that no faction seems to be dominant, and that we should expect little change.

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