Open Sources, February 26, 2014
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“N. KOREA LISTED AS ‘HIGH-RISK’ COUNTRY IN MONEY LAUNDERING” shouts this Yonhap headline. So does that mean that Treasury has finally designated North Korea as a primary money laundering concern, something that would severely restrict its access to the global financial system? No. This is actually a non-binding advisory by an international body called the Global Financial Action Task Force, and in fact, the new FATF statement is virtually identical to other advisories that are as many as three years old. FATF regularly re-issues its advisories, even if their basic content hasn’t changed. In this case, that fooled Yonhap into believing that this was news, but it isn’t.
Not that I discount the importance of FATF advisories. They are important in getting third-country banks and finance ministries to examine North Korean accounts and transactions more carefully. They might even nudge Treasury into blacklisting North Korea one day.
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A NORTH KOREAN PATROL BOAT “violated the tensely guarded western maritime border several times Monday night, but it retreated after repeated South Korean military warnings, Seoul’s defense ministry said Tuesday.”
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SOUTH KOREAN VOTERS APPROVE OF Park Geun-Hye’s handling of North Korea, so far. Yes, she’s managed to keep the North out of the headlines and get her way in negotiations, but the June elections will be telling. First, what will North Korea do before those elections to hurt Park’s domestic support? Second, how will Park’s policies change once the election is safely behind her? I see Park as being skilled at reacting to crisis, and furthermore, I think she has well-thought-out long-term policy objectives. Just don’t ask me what they are.
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AN INTERESTING NOTICE APPEARS at the end of this newspaper article, which I’m happy to pass along to all of you:
The Human Rights Foundation and dissident groups, including the Seoul-based North Korea Strategy Center, are appealing to Silicon Valley companies and engineers to share their technology prowess to spread pro-democracy messages in North Korea. Because the Internet is banned in the country, leaflets, DVDs and flash drives filled with news and other information are now either being dropped by weather balloons or smuggled in through China.
For more information about the campaign, email disruptNK@thehrf.org or go to the Human Rights Foundation’s website at http://bit.ly/1d5RlSM.
Whoever invents and deploys a way for North Koreans to communicate with each other — and with us — clandestinely and affordably will eventually be responsible for ending one of the most tragic chapters in human history.
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RI SOL JU HAS A MARIE ANTOINETTE PROBLEM:
“At first people just felt a bit awkward seeing old cadres bow at the waist to her, but now they say it looks really ugly,” the source went on. “The Republic is struggling and rations aren’t coming, so people don’t understand how a woman who appears only to care for her appearance would be able to guide the nation.”
Furthermore, “People may find it unsightly to see cadres old enough to have known her father and grandfather bowing, but what they really hate is seeing her shaking their hands like its nothing and then swan around brazenly laughing like that. When she was first introduced, people could hardly believe she was going around arm-in-arm with Kim in that way.”
A second source, this one from Hyesan in northerly Yangkang Province, reported similar views there. “The number of younger people who view comrade Ri Sol Ju negatively is rising,” she said. “It’s true that some are quite interested in her fashion decisions, but they agree that the wife of the Supreme Leader ought not to be dressed like that. There are young people calling her superficial for not sporting a Suryeong portrait badge and wearing flash accessories instead.” [Daily NK]
This doesn’t just demonstrate the erosion of ideological control; it also demonstrates its persistence, in that people are offended when Ri doesn’t abide by it. But fundamentally, it tells us that North Korean society is still deeply Confucian and socially conservative — like South Korea, only more so.
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I’M OFTEN CONFLICTED ABOUT FOOD AID, but every now and then, I see an example of food aid to North Korea that poses such a high potential benefit, and such a low risk of diversion, that I see nothing to oppose and every reason to support it. Stephan Haggard posts about one such example — “a sachet of micronutrients developed by Dr. Stanley Zlotkin at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children that can be sprinkled on food.” I can only hope that the North Korean authorities allow this to get to the kids who really need it.
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NO, BUT THIS TIME, IT’S REALLY DIFFERENT: The South China Morning Post reports that “China is exploring whether to change tactics in engaging with North Korea, which is becoming increasingly unpredictable since Kim Jong-un came to power,” and has recently tested North Korea’s fidelity to the empire by sending emissaries to Pyongyang. Personally, I think this is another head-fake by people in Beijing who want us to be patient and stay our hands from sanctions in the hope that they’ll finally come around of their own accord. I believe that Beijing is displeased with the purge of Jang Song Thaek and unhappy that Kim Jong Un has made North Korea a greater liability for them than it had been than in years past. That doesn’t mean they’re ready to dethrone him. It may explain this, however.
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HE’S NO IDIOT, BUT HE’S STILL USEFUL: If you’re looking for an example of a sympathetic academic the North Koreans bolster with preferential access, and then use to relay their messages faithfully, that would be Han S. Park, who in this Hankyoreh interview toes the KCNA line on Jang Song Thaek, on talks, on Kenneth Bae, and on Pyongyang’s demand for a peace treaty like a left-leaning flying Wallenda (which must be as awkward as it sounds). Park is so meticulously servile to the party line that he ought to consider registering as a foreign agent. With Selig Harrison evidently retired from that business, these must be boom times for Park.
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YES, THAT’S ABOUT RIGHT: The website Laughspin writes, “Comedy about Dennis Rodman and North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un is happening, because what’s funnier than human rights violations?”
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THAT’S A PRETTY COOL PICTURE, but it still won’t fit in my banner image.