North Korea Notes from Chengdu

Given the absence of substantial content on issues of succession coming out of Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency, leading Chinese international news outlets like Huanqiu Shibao are resorting to quoting the Daily NK in describing the appearance of four or five portraits of Kim Jong Un in an internal party publication (special publication of Rodong Sinmun Pictorial).

Much more significantly, Huanqiu reports that some important (but unnamed) North Korean cadre have left Pyongyang, and may return for the delayed Party Congress in early October.  The paper further notes that the anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party is October 10, traditionally an auspicious date upon which to conclude a Congress.  The variety of sources in this piece is again indicative of the progress of the Chinese media in putting forth a more complete and less-than-dogmatically supportive picture of North Korea; among the sources cited are a conservative South Korean daily (the Chosun Ilbo), a National Endowment for Democracy-funded website whose stock-in-trade is information relayed from defectors and from inside North Korea on cell phones (the Daily NK), a sometimes-radically pro-regime change radio station (Open Radio Free Korea), and the Voice of America.  As far as I can tell, all of these websites (including that of LiNK, Liberty in North Korea, an organization whose explicit mission is to harbour refugees in China and ferry them out) are unblocked in China.  Chinese readers deal with censorship all the time on a number of issues, including their own history, but when it comes to North Korea, the opportunity to be supremely well-informed is available in the PRC.

American conservatives may be perennially upset at Jimmy Carter, but the man translates into a brilliant ambassador when you read him in the Chinese press.  This short item in the Huanqiu Shibao summarizes Carter’s recent conciliatory op-ed in the New York Times (朝鲜希望谈判) and has the ex-President echoing Chinese criticism of Western media for spreading unfounded rumors about North Korean succession.

China’s leading North Korea blogger provides a list of probable attendees at the ostensibly forthcoming Party Congress in Pyongyang (in Chinese).  The same source provides the full text of the editorial which I translated part of recently, “Daily Changes in Northeast China” from Rodong Sinmun; interestingly enough, the North Korean media bends over backward to laud Jiang Zemin’s theories of “the three represents.”  Also available is a Chinese translation of a Rodong Sinmun interview with the DRPK vice-minister of environmental protection, among others.  The interview contains no great shockers, but it does provide a bit of detail about relief efforts in Sinuiju, the national reforestation plan, and indicates (logically) that the country’s railroad infrastructure and bridges were damaged by the recent storms.

It’s business as usual for the North Korean men’s soccer team, which will go to Vietnam for a tournament from Sept. 20-24, bucked up by the Vietnamese ambassador’s recent visit to the Korean War memorial in Pyongyang.  Which reminds me: did any reputable Western news organization ever issue a retraction for passing along the entirely unfounded rumor that the World Cup performance of the DPRK squad had put the players into labor camps?  (Where is blogger Juchechosunmanse when you need him?)

Final Notes:

The day after the Global Automotive Forum ended here in Chendgu, popular consciousness became briefly fixated not on some carbon-free future, but on the burning sensation of recollection.  Around two p.m., sirens around the city lifted three times in commemoration of the Japanese invasion of the northeast on September 18, 1931. Nevertheless, on one prominent nationalist Chinese website today, the Huanqiu Shibao, one can still find favorable photo galleries of the latest Japanese accessories, and find out that some Japanese males these days are really getting into using makeup.  Let the sirens wail, and hoist the banner to defend Diaoyu Island!  Shinsedo cosmetics just might conquer after all.

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