North Korea Reading

International Crisis Group’s new working paper was issued yesterday, and is essential reading for folks interested in the DPRK (full text here as pdf.). Among other things, the paper draws upon Japanese intelligence sources to indicate, among other things, that:

a. Japanese sanctions on North Korea have hampered the operation of North Korean organized crime syndicates in Japan, meaning that Chinese gangs are now filling the void, and

b. Mexican drug cartels may be purchasing RPGs and other heavy weaponry from North Korea, and

c. In June 2009, North Korean foreign ministry officials told their Chinese counterparts they had assumed a scenario of post-test sanctions into their calculations leading up to the May 25, 2009 nuclear test.

In sum, it’s worth a close read, if only to review the events of the past ten months and glean a few new details and possible themes, as above.

On DPRK-Mexico relations: Telemundo will be broadcasting the Mexico-North Korea soccer match on Wednesday, March 17 in North America.  Meanwhile, Kushibo, a Korea blogger, has a good essay about “the war on our doorstep” and, I hope, will keep his eyes peeled for more information on the North Korea-Mexico connection which is intimated in the ICG report but not fully substantiated.

How do we get our news from within North Korea? This post on the Marmot’s Hole combines multiple sources to get at an answer.

Rajin-Sonbong scuttlebutt gets parsed, along with some very interesting historical background concerning barbed wire, by Joshua Stanton in this post on One Free Korea. Meanwhile, China blogger Adam Daniel throws around several dozen half-truths (an exercise not without value) in calling the leasing of two docks at Rajin evidence that North Korea has now become China’s “full-blown colony.”

French Diplomacy continues in Korea, with Foreign Minister Barack Kouchner in Seoul today to clear up some misunderstandings dating back some 19th century looting in Seoul by French troops, while somehow I missed this Le Monde article from December 2009 about Jack Lang’s trip to Pyongyang.

North Korean media turn the tables on human rights scrutiny of the DPRK at the United Nations, calling the U.S. “a tundra of human rights” and referring to Skip Gates in stating the following:  “Rights to existence of hundreds of millions of toiling people are wantonly abused due to the unlimited pursuit of profits by the privileged circles including monopoly plutocrats, shuddering murders including gun-related crimes are daily occurrences and racist forces are going so rampant that even the president of the U.S. shrinks up after censuring the racial discrimination by white police.”  Well how about that?  If you’re looking for some happier KCNA dispatches, try this one which describes how women in Hamhung are now all singing the song “Vinylon, Pride of My Country.”  Or you could try to figure out what the hell this story means about Kim Jong Suk tellling a story about killing a wolf in 1946.  I’m sure Bryan Myers has some ideas.

And, since C-SPAN has now opened up the entirety of its archives online, you can enjoy this video of the North Korean Foreign Minister at the UN making a few nods to problems of global warming, avian flu, and UN reforms before launching into a (pretty interesting) discussion of how North Korea, now having achieved a credible deterrent, can move from “making bullets to making sweets.”

NK comic

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