Borderland Updates 中朝边区的消息

Wangqing County Forestry Officials Discuss the Previous Year's Work, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Region - courtesy Wangqing County

1. Wangqing County government in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture brings you a fantastic image of how cadre spend a full afternoon.  Something tells me these guys didn’t get the “no smoking” memo. I recommend clicking on the picture and watching the facial expression of the cadre all the way at the right side of the table.  Isn’t he excited that the county is investing in new rural libraries whose bilingual books might end up in the hands of purchased North Korean wives, or that Dalian investors are tearing up the earth, or that his county was successful in rousting out North Korean defectors just before the 2008 Olympic triumph?

2. According to North Korean media, ethnic Koreans in China are getting mobilized to support Kim Jong Il:

Koreans in China Urged to Strive for Prosperity of Homeland

Pyongyang, January 14 (KCNA) — Choe Un Bok, chairperson of the General Association of Koreans in China, on Jan. 5 made public a statement titled “Let us more vigorously struggle for the prosperity and the independent reunification of our homeland under the Songun revolutionary leadership of respected General Secretary Kim Jong Il”

The statement noted with high appreciation that Kim Jong Il worked out grand plans and operations for bringing about a decisive phase in the Korean revolution and the building of a thriving nation by effecting a new great revolutionary surge and wisely led the efforts of the army and the people last year.

It is the shining fruition of his wise leadership that last year the people in the homeland achieved the great victory in defending socialism and building a thriving nation and wrought admirable miracles and innovations in different sectors of the national economy, weathering out the harsh tempest of history, it said.

The statement expressed the determination to closely rally the broad strata of Koreans in China around the association and vigorously arouse them to the patriotic drive for national reunification in keeping pace with the people in the homeland working hard to carry out the militant tasks laid down in the joint New Year editorial.

All Koreans in China will turn out as one in the struggle to resolutely smash the anti-DPRK and anti-reunification moves of the pro-U.S. conservative ruling forces of south Korea and achieve the independent reunification of the country by intensifying the struggle for peace against the U.S. and war, it said.

But, so far as I can ascertain, Yanbian news carries not a word about Choe’s speech or that meeting.  Instead, readers are wondering when Kim is going to get serious about turning his recent pronouncements about reform into action. Undeterred and oblivious, KCNA reports that ethnic Koreans in China will be celebrating Kim Jong Il’s birthday on Feb. 16 and implies that the same population is longing all day for Korean unification.  Are such news articles actually a way to annoy the CCP by needling at ethnic sensitivities?  Because, were I Wen Jiabao, I would find it a touch irksome.

3. China Plays Along with the Currency Revaluation after Reporting on Internal Chaos and Executions Due to the Same Policy: Via Huanqiu on Jan. 5 comes this positive report on how the currency reforms in North Korea have allegedly led to a rise in real wages among farmers and miners.  Such people buoyed by the new policies in the new year were said to have bought 500 carpets, televisions and clothing in state stores, according to the Pyongyang news outlet  (hosted in Japan), New Korea.

4. North Korea seeks Chinese tourists, like in these hot springs near Rajin/Sonbong.

5. South Korean students appear to be under closer watch than before in Yanbian. Last month, local cops rousted South Korean students from a “severely dangerous” Hunchun dormitory/hostel.  On the prextext of “fire safety,” local cops got in and searched around the gear of a group of ROK students in the Sino-Korean-Russian border city.  I wonder if they were looking for Bibles and Robert Park-style missionary manifestos.  These are the same cops who made North Korean anglers depressed (or perhaps excited?) by smashing 47 gambling machines in the city earlier this summer.

6. There are reports of sightings of a monster at the lake atop Mount Paektu/Changbaishan.

7. China is naming its new infrastructure projects in Yanji city after Korean landmarks.

Lake Cheonji/Tianchi Bridge, dedicated in late December 2009 in Yanji city, Yanbian

8. Yanbian City Courts prosecuted three pimps who had organized ten prostitutes.  No word is given to their ethnicity or nationality, but I wonder to what extent China is interested in breaking up these rings as a means of finding (and subsequently repatriating) North Korean refugee women.  While a great deal of Western writing implies that Yanji is completely crawling with North Korean prostitutes, I think the estimates are overblown.  Keeping an eye on stories like this one from Yanji can at least provide a sense of official response to the larger problem of which North Korean women are  a small but significant part.  Also, if China were interested in pressuring North Korea, provincial officials could engage in some kind of a massive anti-prostitution campaign (arguably needed anyway) in the Northeast and repatriate all of these women to the DPRK.

9. Kim Jong Suk continues to appear in North Korean news as a placebo for a host of present issues. Not only did she wait anonymously in line to vote in elections,we now learn that Kim Jong Il’s border-jumping mom was a patch farmer in 1946, according to this KCNA dispatch.  This kind of story serves to soften the sometimes arbitrary crackdowns on patch farming, or independent mountain-side farming in places like North Hamgyong in particular.  I am working on a short article about new sources on the period of the “construction of socialism/der Aufbau des Sozialismus” in the DPRK and Kim Jong-Suk plays a role in that manuscript.  More to the point here, she stands in for all North Koreans and has served a convenient function whenever an anecdote is necessary.

Finally, it is interesting, put probably not surprising, that on the Yanbian News Center’s international board, the stories about North Korea are far and away the highest hit counts.

10. The mighty Yalu River is freezing.

Walking Possible from Sinuiju? via Xinhua

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