Open Sources, August 7, 2014

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NORTH KOREA, WHICH WAS REMOVED from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008 for promising to give up its nuclear weapons program, is quietly expanding its uranium enrichment capabilities, and not-so-quietly threatening to test more missiles and a nuclear weapon.

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HACK NORTH KOREA has chosen a winning technology for breaking down North Korea’s information blockade:

The winning team, which featured a pair of teenage siblings who flew in from Virginia for the event, presented a prototype of a system that could allow North Koreans to get real-time information more easily inside the country, Mr. Gladstein said.

The team proposed using micro-radio devices the size of credit cards, which they said could pick up signals from the South and which could be delivered into the country by smuggling or balloon drop.

Alongside this, the team would target South Korean satellite television broadcasts aimed at China, which pass over the North. Using what they described as “easily concealable” satellite receivers, North Koreans would be able to directly plug their televisions into the receivers. [Wall Street Journal]

Chad O’Carroll’s report for NK News adds the most delectable detail of all — the winners were “a three person Korean-American team who requested to remain anonymous.” If the winners are reading this, congratulations. I wish you success.

The Human Rights Foundation has put out press releases in the event in both English and Korean, and where it notes that this year’s event is just one part of an ongoing campaign called “Disrupt North Korea.” That campaign could easily be more consequential than anything the U.S. or South Korean governments have ever done to promote reform in North Korea.

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SPEAKING OF SUBVERSIVE COMMUNICATIONS, Radio Free Asia reports that North Koreans have really taken to Kakao Talk. The real killer app for North Korea may be combining satellite communications with chatting and instant messaging.

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ANDREA BERGER ANALYZES North Korea’s links to Hamas and Hezbollah, at 38 North.

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LEO BYRNE INVESTIGATES Kim Jong Un’s Mercedez Pullman limousines, and the sanctions that were likely broken to import them.

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MORE ON THOSE POSSIBLE IMPORTS of North Korean gold, via The New Yorker.

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REUTERS HAS MORE INFO on the arrest of American Jeffrey Fowle in North Korea.

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CHINA EXECUTES alleged North Korean drug dealer:

A North Korean national has been executed in China for smuggling and trading drugs, court documents showed Thursday, following the executions of three South Korean drug dealers in the country this week.

A 32-year-old man identified by his surname Oh was executed for selling 3.75 kilograms of methamphetamine he had smuggled into China from North Korea between October and November 2010, according to a district court in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of Jilin Province. [Yonhap]

This will be used to support arguments that the China-North Korea relationship is under strain, and that may be the case, but I take nothing from the Chinese government at face value.

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PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FOREIGN POLICY is now almost as unpopular as George W. Bush’s was at the same point in his presidency. Obama wouldn’t have to replicate Bush’s interventionist excesses to recover from this. He could start by ignoring Gaza; he could then direct the State Department to concentrate on alliance diplomacy in Asia, direct Treasury to strengthen sanctions against North Korea and Iran, and direct DOD and CIA to arm and train the Ukrainians, and to support a reawakening and broad autonomy for Sunnis in Iraq and Syria.

If the President chooses not to recover from his de facto isolationism, then foreign policy deserves to be one of the top issues in this year’s mid-term elections.

4 Comments

  1. With all these mini-revolutions in communications technology going on among the oppressed NK citizenry, I can only hope that it’ll be just a matter a of time before we finally hear about large-scale, coordinated uprisings. “Why don’t North Koreans rise up?” is one of those perennial questions whose answers largely boil down to “the NK government keeps its citizens starving, weak, and lacking the right to assemble; transit from city to city in NK is closely monitored and heavily restricted; NK citizens don’t have the means to communicate with each other.” That latter excuse ought to be eroding fast, given recent events.




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  2. Why in blazes would the Wall Street Journal or this blog publish this information, re: methods to break down the NK info blockade? Surely they read this blog and the WSJ. Why give NK this advantage especially when we know what they will do to anyone possessing such materials?




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  3. I think that cat was out of the bag when the WSJ and various websites covering that event printed what they printed. As for this blog, I think it’s fair to say that it doesn’t add appreciably to the audience that the WSJ and others have. HRF decided to withhold some information, while revealing other information. I’m sure they’re aware that once information is in the public domain, it’s out there.




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