How Kim Jong Un’s border crackdown has affected cross-border smuggling

A source in North Korea’s North Hamgyeong province bordering China said increased security had forced smugglers to carry goods such as medicinal herbs and wild edible greens, which are easier to conceal than the bulkier metal goods, including scrap products.” [Radio Free Asia]

Kim Jong Un’s border crackdown is a case study in how trade can help isolate, starve, and terrorize the North Korean people.

Rimjingang and the Daily NK have been running a stream of bleak reports on the dramatically worsening situation along the border between China and North Korea. In the six-week period since the purge of Jang Song Thaek, North Korea has virtually sealed that border by ordering border guards to shoot would-be defectors, increasing its use of cell phone detectors, …

North Korea Glasnost Watch: Kim Jong Un’s Border Crackdown Is Working

The most superficial things you’ve probably heard about Kim Jong Un are the closely related ideas that he is, or must be, a latent reformer because he (a) appreciates aspects of Western culture, (b) has a fashionable wife, and (c) had a Swiss education. As examples, I’ll cite this report by Jean Lee, this and this from Joohee Cho …

North Korea Perestroika Watch: Crackdowns on food, information, borders intensify

OFK readers likely have offered a diverse spectrum of adjectives to describe the views expressed on this site, but one that most of them would probably affirm is “contrarian.” After Kim Jong Un’s coronation, it was briefly fashionable to perceive him as a reformer. I argued that little substantive evidence supported this theory, and cited …

N. Korea, dissent & desertions: as internal control tightens, border control degrades

I haven’t yet had time to read Nat Kretchun’s new report on the circulation of samizdat inside North Korea, but Reuters, The Washington Post, and Sokeel Park helpfully summarize its bleak findings: Kim Jong-un is not a Swiss-educated reformer, is not bringing Glasnost to North Korea, has turned Koryolink into a tool for hunting down dissent and dissenters, and …

RFA: North Korean border guard under arrest after killing seven comrades

This blog has closely followed reports of indiscipline within the North Korean military, resistance against the state, strategies for political subversion, and the breakdown of border control. Last week, another report of a mass shooting incident by a North Korean border guard reinforced my belief that morale and discipline within the border guard force are declining. …

N. Korea perestroika watch: corruption defeats information crackdown

I’ve previously reported on Kim Jong Un’s efforts to crack down on illegal cell phones, memory sticks, DVDs, and other subversive information flows, even as some wishful observers clung to sketchy evidence to argue that Kim Jong Un was a reformer. The good news is that after an initial period in which smuggled DVDs became hard to find, they …

Crackdowns fail to reverse marketization of Peoples’ Economy

THE ELITES ARE DISGRUNTLED at Kim Jong Un’s impulsive temper and insensitivity, according to this Chosun Ilbo report. Separately, this report talks about endemic corruption and economic inequality in North Korea. Meanwhile, a third Chosun Ilbo survey of 100 North Koreans in China suggests that the marketization of the peoples’ economy has passed the point of no return. …

Murder, Plain and Simple: North Korean Snipers Killing Refugees Along the Chinese Border

[Updated below with photographs; Digg it here.] Helping Hands Korea, one of the most intrepid and trustworthy organizations that assists North Korean refugees escape from their repressive, famine-plagued homeland, has written to me with a detailed account of how the North Korean and Chinese militaries have joined forces to prevent North Koreans from escaping their …

North Korea Tries to Crush Dissent Along Its Borders

Chosun Ilbo correspondent Kang Chol-Hwan has a disturbing new report on a North Korean crackdown on dissent and efforts to destroy evidence of the regime’s atrocities. Kang himself is a survivor of North Korea’s Yodok labor camp district, a complex of camps that covers a vast, remote area of northeaster North Korea. Kang was sent …

To prevent war, talk to North Korea’s soldiers about rice, peace & freedom (updated: it happened again)

When the U.S. Army wants to breach a minefield, it deploys a Mine-Clearing Line Charge to blast a path through it with 1,750 pounds of C-4. The procedure looks like this: Obviously, the North Koreans know this, so they can’t possibly think that planting a few more anti-personnel mines along the DMZ — right where …

If Kim Jong-un can’t trust his own spies and assassins, who can he trust? (updates)

The revelation last weekend that a colonel in North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, or RGB, defected to South Korea last year represents a huge potential windfall in uncovering North Korea’s operations in the South. Reuters quotes Yonhap as reporting that the colonel “specialized in anti-South espionage operations before defecting and had divulged the nature of his work …

Obama sanctions enablers of censorship in Iran, Sudan & Syria (but not North Korea)

Another announcement, last week, from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control: Barracuda Networks, Inc. (“Barracuda U.S.”), of Campbell, California, has agreed to pay $38,930 on behalf of itself and its United Kingdom subsidiary, Barracuda Networks Ltd. (“Barracuda U.K.”), (collectively “Barracuda”) to settle potential civil liability for alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions …

Markets, food, and trade: steps forward, leaps backward (Pts. 1, 2 & 3)

~   Part 1   ~ Do you still remember March, when the “May 30 measures” were the next wave of “drastic” perestroika that would change North Korea? Those measures were supposed to “give[] autonomy management of all institutions, companies, and stores,” including “control over production distribution and trade from the state to factories and businesses,” …

Kim Jong Un seeks friends and funds abroad as he isolates his people.

In the three years that he has been in power, His Porcine Majesty has found plenty of time for Dennis Rodman, but none for meetings with foreign leaders. Suddenly, in the last two months, he has flirted with (1) a summit with South Korean leader Park Geun-Hye, (2) inviting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Pyongyang, (3) and a …