North Korea Updates

For residents of Sinuiju, the DPRK border city which handles an estimated 70-80% of all Sino-North Korean trade, yesterday’s missile test coincided with the launching of a domestically-based cell phone service.  As Good Friends reported last month, October 10 was the slated blast-off day for North Korea’s new joint venture with Egypt in telecommunications.  (South Korea gets Nokia, North Korea gets Orascomm.)  While the cell phone service has already been propagandized by Pyongyang, I thought it was a nice coincidence that, along with the missle tests, gives the North Koreans some confidence that they are on path to modernization.

No one to my knowledge has yet stated that the missle tests might well have been an effort to stick a much-needed IV in the arm of the latest 100-day struggle campaign.  Going back-to-back with such inequal and often ineffectual, yet nevertheless mandatory, labor contribution campaigns is asking a huge amount from the North Korean populace, even if, as Nolland and Haggard argue, there is no indication of organized domestic resistance.  But disorganized, sporadic resistance?  In spades.  And the DPRK has used such tests in the past as one of the few methods they have of arguing to their populace that progress is being made toward a strong (if not prosperous) society.

Danwei crosses the Yalu with Wen Jiabao (well, flies into Pyongyang) via a Phoenix TV reporter’s account, rendered in a typically nuanced translation.  In addition to this being a stellar post, Danwei links it to a couple of my previous posts on this topic.  Thanks!

NK Leadership Watch keeps up its steady diet of meaningful posts with an analysis of Korean Workers’ Party festivities, linking the missle tests to that particular act of commemoration.

The military-first editors at the Huanqiu Shibao are hyperventilating over Indian interference in southern Tibet, decrying (with push-polls and all) the Indian President’s visit to the zone of Sino-Indian territorial dispute.  Digging up this smelly corpse from 1962 means the Huanqiu writers are keeping it quiet again on the North Korean front.  Instead, their reporter blogs a happy-happy hackneyed piece on a hamburger stand opening in Pyongyang.  Sorry, (and with apologies to Selig Harrison) but Kim Jong Il is no closet Deng.  In fact he probably hates Deng Xiaoping!  As GI Korea asks, “where did they get the beef?”

Finally, there is some action in the comments section on ROK Drop in which it becomes clear that for Chinese who wish to find out, information about North Korean sarin production in Sinuiju is, well, leaking into China.

Harmonious Gas Station Near the North Korean Border -- Don't Try Paying for those Pringles in NK Won -- outside Ji'an, June 2009, photo by Adam Cathcart
Harmonious Gas Station Near the North Korean Border -- Don't Try Paying for those Pringles in NK Won -- outside Ji'an, June 2009, photo by Adam Cathcart

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