Home » Posts tagged 'Yalu River'

Tag Archives: Yalu River

Corruption, Sanctions, Dandong

In two essays which I anticipate publishing this week (in NK News and CPI Analysis, respectively), I question the connection between Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption activity and the implementation of sanctions on North Korea.

Here are some of the data points I’m dealing with, in no particular order. Sadly, in pulling my research materials together, I found that the Hongxiang firm appears to have wiped its website of most of the good stuff. Likewise, a handful of promising blog entries published in mainland China in the last two weeks have been “harmonized” (i.e., deleted) by Chinese censors.

In a subsequent post on Sino-NK, I hope to discuss what I learned from conversations with Chinese counterparts I met with in Seoul last week, thanks to a small gathering sponsored by the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, a think-tank overseen by the ROK Foreign Ministry. There was some scuttlebutt there about the Hongxiang case, so my ideas were certainly workshopped, and, I think, of interest to Korean counterparts. However, the Hongxiang glimmers of positive collaboration were mainly overshadowed by a bruising US-China-ROK anti-missile debate that nearly got out of control at times. On the whole the ethos was one of healthy discussion and plenty of conversations over meals and drinks which one imagines to be where the real diplomacy actually takes place.

Anyway, a look at what we know about Dandong, the anti-corruption struggle in and around it, and a few related themes which I hope to bring together in my upcoming work:

  • South Korean newspaper interviews trader in Dandong who expresses surprise that PRC has not put tougher customs inspections on North Korea after the 5th nuclear test [“More robust N. Korea-China trade happens after nuclear test,” Dong-A Ilbo, 18 September 2016].
  • People’s Daily in Beijing describes a new wave of officials appointed in Liaoning, including a new Party Secretary for the CCP Party Committee (essentially the top job) in Dandong. [刘兴伟拟任辽宁丹东市委书记 高科拟任盘锦市委书记
    2016年09月19 人民网-地方领导]




Image: A night drive along the Yalu River, moon over the northeastern outskirts of Sinuiju, DPRK. Photo by Adam Cathcart, 2016. 

Distant Proximity: China and the North Korean Human Rights Catastrophe

Beijing is a long way from North Korea.  Border crossing points between China and the DPRK remain open, but the potentially fastest and ‘game-changing’ of these is blocked at present, clogged up with estuary mud and the slow hatreds of bureaucratic inaction. Chinese trains that blaze up and down the northeast have yet to reach the North Korean frontier. But when they do arrive, panting with the heat and speed of a new era, there will be yet another symbol of the huge experiential chasm between the two countries.

China continues to dwell in the crux of a dilemma about pressuring North Korea, because the DPRK continues to invite external pressure upon itself. The failure of the eternally-smiling Kim Jong-un (does his face ever hurt?) to meaningfully reshape the sclerotic and intolerant system he inherited in 2011 has meant that human rights advocacy groups were, if anything, energized by his arrival and subsequent actions.  North Korean defectors have grown louder and more articulate, with a global audience for their depictions of life in the Kimist dystopia. North Korea’s barrage of missile and nuclear tests since 2011 also brought much international opprobrium, not only from China but from audiences prone to see the DPRK as China’s own scarred and misshapen creation.

Of all of the countries in the world lining up to assess North Korean human rights, China is the one that, in so many ways, knows the most and says the least. There is a lack of zeal among the various echelons of the Chinese Communist Party to point the finger at North Korea’s shortcomings. After all, the People’s Republic of China is unquestionably led by a unitary Leninist Party-state which would mirror China’s own almost precisely — but for the historical accident of hereditary succession and a distinctive lack of ‘nationalities theory’ and de-Stalinization. But the rhetoric is changing: More and more Chinese are reading of North Korean human rights abuses, and China’s own changing attitude toward the laogai, or labor camps, isolates Pyongyang all the more.

Among the dark channels and wide expanses of the Yalu River, there is a conceptual border that must be crossed.  But in which direction? Chinese audiences and thinkers have become inured to their own nation’s pain; there is little desire to thrust toward Pyongyang with some great vision of transformation, opening the desiccated guts of labor camps, spilling decades of secrets and archived brutalities locked in filing cabinets up and down the frontier. After all, their Han rhetoric of liberation was spent in the 1950s and 60s along with traumatic mass violence at home and frozen wars in countries better forgotten. And looking toward China? We can only begin to guess what ordinary North Koreans expect from the PRC, much less Chinese diplomats on the other side of the globe. Yet North Korea’s emotionally distant and most proximate neighbor, the People’s Republic, simply remains an immensity glowing to the north. Over the trembling waters, it lies beyond.

Image from ‘Distant Proximity’ catalog, Centrale for Contemporary Art, Brussels, 2014: ‘The paradoxical heading (distant proximity) involves the creator when faced with their creation, just as much as the spectator who discovers the work.’

Yalu River Notes: On Dandong

North Korea's Hong Kong? Perhaps. Image courtesy Shijie Zhishi, linked well below.

An empty optics firm looms on the horizon on the dirt-torn and perpetually expanding fringes of Xinchengqu, the new city being built southwest of Dandong. Photo by Adam Cathcart; click on the photo for more pictures.

The following is a cross-post from SinoNK.com.  And King Tubby (a regular commenter on both this site and David Bandurski’s essential China Media Project) points out a new Los Angeles Times article that deals with the matter of North Korean capitalism from a different angle. 

Along the frontier between North Korea’s North Hamgyong province and the PRC’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Region, journalists, according to Chosun Ilbo, have been encountered problems with Chinese police.

Not so for Jeremy Page of the Wall Street Journal, who files a report which, amid all the other often completely baseless bloviating about rumors in Pyongyang, actually points the way forward to change of a sort in North Korea.

Entitled “Trade Binds North Korea to China,” Page’s dispatch virtually lays out a blueprint for further research and observation.

Among the questions prompted by Page’s work: Are North Korean cross-border traders an effective and powerful interest group in the DPRK today?  Is their relationship to provincial officials in North Hamgyong and North Pyong’an adversarial or symbiotic?  Does Jang Song-taek represent the interests of the trading elite, or an otherwise “pro-China” or “China-leaning” faction in Pyongyang? And, to be just a bit insouciant, why do the North Korean officials in or passing through Yanji prefer the Liujiang Hotel (which does not have a DPRK state-affiliated restaurant) when they could stay at the Rason Hotel (which assuredly does)?

To answer the question about Jang Song-Taek and the “new” (in the sense of “newly emergent”) Pyongyang elite and their relationship with China, it behooves us to look at the players on the Chinese side.

Dandong Leadership Watch (Part I) 

Last week at SinoNK, we discussed the role of the past Vice-Director for Public Security in Yanbian, and today, the provincial official in focus is the Secretary of the Dandong CCP Committee, Dai Yulin.

Dai Yulin / 戴玉林, CCP Party Secretary in Dandong

The highest-ranking CCP provincial and city leaders, or the most successful ones at least, are technocrats, and they tend toil away in provinces distant from their personal power bases.  Dai Yulin, born in 1959, is indeed a technocrat — with a doctorate in finance and two subsequent professorships in the same field — but he has been firmly entrenched in Liaoning province since at least the late 1980s, operating primarily within the tri-cornered circuit between Shenyang, Dalian, and Dandong.

In other words, he is a peninsular creature — that is to say, of the Liaoning peninsula, that economic counterweight to Kyonggi-do, which has the western part of North Korea caught in a kind of inevitable pincer of economic ties.

In particular, Dai is a Dalian man, having arrived there in 2001 and being promoted to vice mayor to the gregarious Bo Xilai [son of Bo Yibo], China’s most famous “princeling” and now in charge of Chongqing, in 2008.  Dai’s success in Dalian — a city which, in spite of three massive oil spills and a major chemical spill in the past 14 months of so, foreign columnists like Thomas Friedman still like to depict as a kind of ecotopia worthy of emulation by American mayors — resulted in his being thrown into Dandong at the unique historical juncture of August 2010, as plans began to materialize for accelerated ties with North Korea.  He was re-upped for the position by the CCP Party Congress in Beijing in July 2011.

Dai’s new office is in Xinchengqu; the entire city government has been moved out there.  The famous Yalu River bridge, as was pointed out by Tang Longwen in a very nice Shijie Zhishi article earlier this year, is a relic of Japanese imperialism, and hardly has the capacity for the kind of extensive mega-city and multi-national trade that China ultimately has planned to flow via Liaoning and North Pyong’an and onward to Pyongyang and points well south and east.  In other words, Dai’s new office is near the new $250 million bridge to Korea, which was reported on by the present author in dispatches from Dandong in June (here) and August of 2011.

(More photos of the construction in Xinchengqu are here, and then subsequently with more documents, thanks to Curtis, at NK Economy Watch).

By way of closing the argument about local ties and the relation of Chinese provincial officials to Pyongyang,  this analysis from September 2011 bears repeating in full:

At first I wondered: even in the midst of North Korea’s biggest wave of Chinese aid and investment since 1958, isn’t it a little bit unusual for the mayor of Dandong to go to Pyongyang?  And for KCNA to throw down not one, but three stories about the friendly visit?

And then I read a new piece in the Daily NK (which unlike so many DailyNK stories has much more than a just single source breathing rumors into a borderland cell phone) which describes a major purge going on in Sinuiju and surrounding North Pyong’an province.

…Occasionally one’s cross-border counterparts will simply disappear, and with them the claims to capacity or access of various kinds.

For Chinese officials in the northeastern provinces, the lesson is clear: always have friends in Pyongyang (preferably a handshake away from the Dear Leader), because the provincial cadre (even the ones you took out to karaoke, warbling away on the Dandong riviera) may not have your back after all.

And regardless of what North Korea does, money in the meantime is still flowing in Dandong, the little city with international ambitions. Not to veer into boosterism, but the city has indeed created an attractive investment environment for electronics and flat-screen manufacturers; a recent visit to the city of a representative from Philips was a focal point for Dai Yulin on December 15.

The interest in Sinuiju and the new Special Economic Zone — passed into law by the DPRK only on December 9 — is properly the subject of another post, one which will probably introduce SinoNK’s new Economic Analyst, Alan Ferrie.


Obedient, Intransigent North Korea in the Chinese Media

Thanks to the ever-productive Joshua Stanton at the very useful but hopelessly Anglophone (and somewhat impervious) command post for North Korean counter-revolution known as One Free Korea, I got motivated to do some more analysis of Chinese sources touching upon the recent flare-up in the sea to the west (and north!) of the DMZ in Korea.

As I see it, Chinese media strategy as regards the Korean crisis for the past month has centered upon the following themes:

– Downplay the KPA’s having initiated Yeonpyeong incident, but allow some sympathetic reporting and photos regarding civilians on the island so as to reinforce the general harm that war poses;

– Yoke responsibility for tensions on both Koreas, keeping in mind the need to reconsolidate relations with Pyongyang in the wake of certain discomfiting (Wikileaks) disclosures of discussions that reveal at least the possibility of serious internal fissures in the alliance with the DPRK;

– Call repeatedly for Six Party Talks, preserving the central PRC role in mediating, and also precluding some North Korean lone deal with Washington via Bill Richardson or whomever comes calling;

– And imply in the sizable yet nevertheless endemically vague wave of anti-Liu Xiaobo articles that China, yes, China was deserving of the Nobel Prize for Peace due to its even-handed handling of the Korean peninsula situation.  (This last theme was hardly prevalent, but I picked up between the lines in more than a couple of places.

Today, the Xinhua news tack is to freak out over the ROK artillery drills, leaving South Korea standing as the final provocateur, making their firing live artillery into an empty slate of sea in the direction of Shandong province front-page news pretty much everywhere.

This means that the DRPK can get some positive reinforcement for its restraint in not retaliating.  The Global Times today spells it out in an op-ed which by North Korean standards is either fairly clever, or indicates how desperate China has become to quiet this whole thing down.  (Applause for North Korean Restraint,” which wins the prize for most unlikely headline of the year…)

Criticizing North Korea in the Chinese Press

However, it might be worth noting that while South Korea seems to get little more than verbal rifle butts from Beijing’s English-language media of late (anger over military drills, unusually straight statements that Seoul can never unilaterally unify Korean peninsula, etc.), the Chinese-language press in the PRC always makes a few things clear:

– North Korea is overly arrogant (see May 2010 writings after “nuclear fission” announcement)

– North Korea is poor, and its leadership (as opposed to its socialist system) is weird

– South Korea has vastly superior armaments (a fact which is persistently and specifically reported on in China)

– South Korea has public opinion and civil society (the absence of which in DPRK is obvious)

– Responsibility for peace on peninsula is in large measure up to South Korea, because North Korea basically refuses to change.

The tendency to go easy on North Korea in English publications, while critiquing them in Chinese, has been more evident lately. Yesterday’s Global Times (basically the English-language foreign-affairs offshoot of People’s Daily) op-ed “US destructive role in Northeast Asia” can be contrasted with today’s Chinese-language op-ed, “但愿朝韩的心理昨天扯平了(“If Only Yesterday[‘s Drills] Psychologically Equalized North and South Korea).”

A few highlights from the latter piece include: “The power and pressure of the ROK-US military alliance on North Korea doesn’t need to be demonstrated.  Even if North Korea has already taken up nuclear weapons, American nuclear power could wipe North Korea from the map. This, and the fact that South Korean population outnumbers North Korean by a factor of two or three, and has economic power even more times larger than North Korea, is also clear.”

I don’t know about you, but apart from the first sentence, that sounds like something Mike Mullen might say openly, that is, if he felt like making North Korea really very mad.  But this appears in a nationalistic/pugilistic standard Chinese publication on foreign affairs, and no one notices, and KCNA keeps its mouth shut about it.

Is it the case that the North Korean Embassy in Beijing simply does not read the Huanqiu Shibao?  Is it possible that couched in its criticisms of South Korea, the Chinese media is in no way rather forcefully reminding the DPRK that it would get very badly beaten in a conventional (or even a nuclear) war?

In other words, it is a mistake to judge China’s actual thinking (or its actual _stance_) on the North Korean issue by what they tell you they think in English.  The domestic discussion in China of the Korea problem is still barnacled with all manner of inconsistencies and barriers to information, but it deserves a little better treatment than the assumption that Shen Dingli in Shanghai and Lu Chao in Liaoning represent the uncritical consensus on the DPRK.

Shen, by the way, has a nice op-ed in today’s National Defense Journal (国防时报)entitled 忠告朝韩兄弟,战争不是游戏 (Even If Koreans are Loyal Brothers, War is Not a Game).  This outlet is rapidly becoming one of my “favorite” papers in China, and it has a kind of symbiotic relationship with Huanqiu Shibao. In any case, the editorial reminds us of something which you simply will not hear in the Western echo chamber, which is that China fought a war from 1950-53, one of the ultimate aims of which was to expand the range of North Korean territory for the purpose of securing a durable and dignified peace for the North, but that the cease-fire agreement could not settle upon who owned the islands upon which the artillery controversy is now playing. Complain about Shen Dingli’s dogmatism if you must, Mr. Stanton, but applaud how his dogma appears to be attached to facts which might sometimes bear repeating.

Reassessing Wars and Occupations in North Korea

If Chinese criticism of North Korea counts as progress toward a more “globalized outlook on the DPRK” inside of China, we see the same in the realm of historical analysis.  Popular magazines in China are now recounting the Korean War as having been started by a North Korean “advance” into the South.  (Sure, you might add, it is in fact 60 years late, but it is after all the anniversary season in China, and therefore time to consolidate and capitalize upon master narratives).  So Kim Il Sung is looking a bit worse for wear these days, even while core publications like the National Defense Journal hold up the justice of the intervention.  Granite Studio has a good post on evolving Korean War narratives, and some speculation on Xi Jinping’s Korea policy.

Myself, I’m waiting for the big retrospective on the Chinese occupation of North Korea from 1953-1958.  Or is the only place to learn about that in the Foreign Ministry Archive in Beijing or the Hoover Institution Archive in Palo Alto, California?

Isn’t it completely ridiculous that the very people who are constantly barking about the coming Chinese “occupation” of a post-collapse North Korea (see: Kaplan, Robert, Atlantic Monthly) know next to nothing about how the PRC and the Chinese “volunteers” operated in those five lean years?

Fortunately there are many more documents and information available about Sino-North Korean relations in the 1960s, in the form of an extensive new North Korea International Documentation Project working paper which spends over a hundred beautifully footnoted pages recalling a time (1968) when the DPRK was agitating for war and chafing about China’s new path.

There are a few possible untruths in there (such as that ethnic Chinese loaded the frozen bodies of dead ethnic Koreans on to some random “freight train” going into the DPRK in 1967-68 and wrote anti-revisionist slogans on the bodies, which is unlikely on multiple levels), but on the whole, it reveals the tensions between North Korea and China at a very different (yet somehow similar) time.

Yanbian and the Border Region

On Yanbian, don’t miss this post (from the Korean) by Lee Yoo Eun about possible volcanic explosion of Mount Paektu/Changbaishan.

And the Global Times, citing uncited reports in the Singapore Lianhe Zaobao, has a good human-interest-meets-geostrategy post on war fears ratcheting up in the Sino-North Korean border region, and indicates that Chinese troops may be filing into Ji’an on the Yalu River.

Heinrik Bork On China’s Role in the Crisis

Occasionally someone who has not enlisted in the ROK military or (Dear God!) memorized “The Pledge of Allegiance” will tender analysis of the Korean Peninsula, and will do so in a way that renders the North Korean strategy clear.  Don’t miss the linked essay below by Heinrik Bork.  Any man who can fence at length with Japanese revanchist manga man Kobayashi Yoshinori and do justice to the German view of the Rape of Nanking, and spend a couple of decades capably in Asia, has my vote of confidence.

I actually don’t agree with Bork’s assertion that China is walking on pins and needles with the DPRK simply because it fears a refugee influx (after all, China’s capacity to handle natural disasters and flood/earthquake relief in recent years has given the regime a great deal of confidence in these areas — witness the $250 million donation to Pakistan by Wen Jiabao for that country’s disaster relief), but this is solid stuff over all.  We are, as Bork says in his article “Korea Crisis: The Role of Beijing and the Useful Dictator,” only “in the early stages of atomic poker.”

Into the Sandstorm, a New Season Indeed - photo by Jason Lee, via Reuters and Liberation.fr

Reading Kim Il Sung’s Memoirs [1]

Although no one seems to be writing about the topic, Kim Il Sung’s life and works are likely to play an important role in justifying any new direction taken in North Korea, just as the present order, just as that life and those works undergird the present order even as the constant public reminders of that early era kindle a certain revolutionary nostalgia in the DPRK.

Thus it behooves us to read the man’s memoirs, “With the Century,” whose multiple volumes are sometimes referred to in biographies of the Kim family, but rarely stand on their own as the subject of news stories, much less scholarly journal articles.  I am revisiting volumes 5-7 in my less-than-voluminous spare time this week, and thought I might lay out a few thoughts on the blog in response, pulling together a kind of fragmented yet potentially useful reading summary.  The entire memoir, by the way, is available as a pdf. here.  If nothing else, it’s a good 1500+ page pdf. to have on your hard drive in the event that you get stuck, for instance, in a cabin on the Russian taiga with no internet connection for several weeks.  Or, alternatively, if we’re looking for the roots of what Adrian Buzo has called “the guerrilla regime,” wartime Manchuria is probably one of the best places to start.

In Volume 5, Kim Il Sung recounts the events along the Sino-Korean border from May 1936-March 1937.    Let’s just isolate the first 40 pages of this tome, shall we?

Fluidity Between Enemy and Friend

The dilemma confronting the young Kim Il Sung in 1936, at the outset of this volume, is how to maneuver between puppet Manchukuo forces and rival anti-Japanese units.  It is a Hobbsean world without steady ally, in which friends can become enemies, in which one’s enemies can be at least temporary friends.  Immediately, we see Kim reaching a mutual understanding with the local puppet forces that neither will attack the other, and Kim uses the breathing space to bury his organization’s archives on the Minsaengdan Incident that had so badly decimated his party (pp. 4-6).  The guerrillas may have been planting grain as they went, but they also dug into the northeastern earth in order to conceal their collective past, and, in hiding it from the Japanese, hid it too, from themselves.  So much of this past, as Kim duly notes, is now irretrieveable.

In 1935-36, a number of Kim’s putative allies went over to the Japanese side.  According to Kim Il Sung, the extreme violence of Japanese anti-guerrilla operations was in part responsible: in Fusong, the walled town that was at the center of much of Kim’s early life, one could find the decapitated heads of former guerrilla commanders displayed in the streets (p. 10, 15).  Since the Japanese attached great importance to Fusong as a key to control of the Sino-Korean frontier area, they would take rebels into the marshes outside of town and execute them, according to Kim.  Looking back on these cruel conditions, the old man Kim Il Sung engages in the logic of the liberator, perhaps conflating Fusong 1935 with Seoul 1950: “I thought then that an attack on the town of Fusong would constitute the most sympathetic greetings to the townsfolk, as well as an expression of the warmest and truest love I could offer them” (p. 26).   He goes so far as to relay the contents of his thought process on attacking the city, noting that he had ultimately to argue that the absence of an attack on the town would be an unacceptable loss of prestige for his guerrilla unit.  Self-preservation was something he did rather well, but the notion that, having military power, one is obliged therefore to use it, is perhaps not one of the more positive intellectual legacies which Kim Il Sung has left his descendants.

The memoirs are particularly interesting to read as a kind of often-subtle corrective to the hagiography and the much-more sanitized and mythologized versions of DPRK historians.  Kim mentions that the Battle of Fusong “produced an anecdote about Kim Jong Suk” killing Japanese with Mauser pistols; the voicing of this statement seems to acknowledge rather explicitly that the story was manufactured later, as were most of the stories about Kim Jong Suk’s direct participation in violent struggle.

Given the care that North Korean propaganda has lavished this past year on the idea of strong military-civilian relationships, it is a bit astonishing and perhaps even refreshing to read Kim’s own words about how his actions impacted local civilians.  In response to his attack on Fusong, the Japanese sent bombers all the way from Changchun.  Kim relays the excitement of his guerrilla group in sitting outside of town, watching the bombs fall on the surrounding areas which included farms (p. 36).  Concern for local farmers is lost, as, after all, as Kim admits rather nakedly, the goal was to achieve a political impact, not a military victory and certainly not the ultimate safety of the Chinese and Korean civilians living in these particular border zones (p. 38).

Finally, in the midst of describing his own struggles, Kim Il Sung does not censor his own thoughts about what he sees as the most pathetic aspects of Chinese society.  Noting that in his army, opium addicts were simply shot, he recalls scenes from China:  “Wheerever I saw opium addicts looking vacantly at the world with dim eyes and snivelling noses, I could not help recollecting the long bloody history of our [Chinese] neighbors and feeling pity for its people (p. 30).  Even under life-and-death conditions, Kim Il Sung still had the presence of mind, or so it seems in this memoir, to look down on the Chinese.

Looking across the Yalu at North Korea from Linjiang, Kim Il Song's old haunt -- photo by Adam Cathcart

Korea in the Huanqiu Shibao

Today’s array of data on the Huanqiu Shibao/Global Times page is simply overwhelming; a brief selection of links with minimal commentary shall have to suffice:

On the North Korean Front

Probably the most explosive item being reported today in the Chinese press is the alleged execution of two officials in a Pyongyang stadium for botched currency reforms. The article is rather short, and voices things so that it’s clear the reports are coming from the South Korean sources like Chosun Ilbo and the website Daily NK:

环球网记者宋伟钢报道 据韩国《朝鲜日报》4月5日援引韩国专门对朝媒体daily NK网站报道称,因货币改革失败,朝鲜处决了包括前财政部长朴南基在内的两名高级官员,之前媒体报道称只有一位官员被处决,并且没有报道处决的时间和地点。

Daily NK报道称,两名朝鲜官员3月12日在平壤的西山体育场在一些经济官员和朝鲜中央党员面前被枪决。这两名被处决的官员是前朝鲜财政部长朴南基和另外一位未透露姓名的朝鲜国家计划委员会副委员长。

Huanqiu is censoring a few comments, but letting netizens vent their skepticism at the news in the comments, censoring a share of presumed criticisms of Kim Jong Il, but the cat is out of the bag in any case.  I think that this news being reported in China is particularly interesting/important given the sensitive timing of Kim’s pending/non-visit to Beijing, and that China seems to have been somewhat transparently piqued at the abrupt currency reform in any case.

After an unexplained absence, the paper’s “border region news page,” wherein Sino-DPRK and Sino-India security news reigns, is back in full swing.

An extended article on investment in the areas around Hunchun-Rajin;

A long article, also a sleeper, via Chinese Financial Times, on travel in the border regions;

More breakdown on the contractual issues of the new Chinese 10-year lease on part of North Korea’s port of Rajin, featuring some analysis by Scott Snyder;

Huanqiu promotes “Radio Open Korea” reports on Pyongyang’s foreign-exchange gains in sending laborers abroad;

A very long feature on Yalu River development and how the special economic zone outside of Sinuiju is projected to operate, a piece which is nicely paired with this feel-good article promoting North Korean waitresses in Dandong.

Finally, there is this insouciant photo gallery of French first lady Carla Bruni on a Top Gun mission (she who has been far too long neglected on this blog) and a priceless look at a protest in South Korea whose demands are simple: keep our hanja education!

Dam News: China and DPRK Agreement on Yalu River Development

News is crackling along the frontiers of Sino-North Korean relations, and here at S.V. we thus are shaking off the torpor of spring to spring, metaphorically at least, over the Yalu.

c. 1895 self-portrait near the headwaters of the Yalu River, North Korean secret base camp of the General as backdrop, e.g., at the foot of Paektu-san/长白山

A wonderfully detailed and breathy dispatch from Dandong describes the signs of a Kim Jong-Il arrival like some kind of force of nature….While Chosun Ilbo spills doubt upon any hope of positive North Korean results.  Unfortunately for those who want to sanction North Korea into collapse, there was a bit of news which portends that the DPRK is getting yet more breathing room thanks to cooperation with China.

You can read about dam cooperation via Chris Green on the Daily NK, or you can get the original Chinese source served up right here, right now, for your convenience and reading pleasure:

中朝两国在鸭绿江新合建的两座水电站开工   // China and North Korea to Begin Construction on Two New Shared Hydroelectric Plants

Huanqiu Shibao, April 2, 2010 [translated by Adam Cathcart]

新华网吉林频道3月31日电(记者李双溪)31日, 中国与朝鲜在界河鸭绿江上共同建设的两座水电站开工。这两座电站总投资为11亿元人民币 ,建成后年发电量达3.08亿千瓦时。其中,望江楼(朝鲜称林土)电站计划投资6亿元,发电厂位于中方一侧,电站主要由混凝土重力坝、泄水闸、电站厂房及变电站等部分组成。On Jilin’s newschannel on 31 March, Xinhua’s reporter Li Shuangxi broadcast that China and North Korea would start joint construction on two hydropower plants in the border areas of the Yalu River. Investment on these two power plants will total 1.1 billion yuan, and the year after completion, they are projected to have a power generation capacity of 308 million kilowatts.  Among these plants are the Wangjiang Station (called Lintu by the Koreans), which is slated for 6oo million RMB of investment.   The power plant on the Chinese side will be a concrete gravity dam with a sluice gate and substation components.

[Lots of details follow on dam dimensions, projected electric output…It seems clear that China will bear all of the cost, though.]
2004年7月中朝双方审查通过了两座电站的初步设计,2006年中国有关部门批准了建设方案。2010年1月,双方在朝鲜签署了《中朝建设鸭绿江望江楼和文岳电站第九次会议纪要》,一致同意两电站开工建设。 In July 2004, China and the DPRK jointly reviewed the preliminary design of the two power stations.   In 2006, the Chinese authorities approved the construction plan.  In  January 2010, the two sides signed an agreement in North Korea known as the “Minutes of the Ninth Meeting on Sino-North Korean Construction of Yalu River Dams at Wangjianglou and Wenbing,” in which it was agreed to commence with the construction of the two power stations.
发源于长白山主峰、总长约795公里鸭绿江水能资源丰富,流经过吉林省和辽宁省。 目前在吉林省境内中朝双方已建有云峰、渭源两座水电站。 望江楼、文岳电站将成为双方共同受益的水电站,对开发鸭绿江、拉动吉林省和朝鲜的经济增长将起到积极的促进作用。Originating in the main peak of the Changbai Mountain range, with a total length of 795 km, the Yalu River is a rich resource flowing through Jilin and Liaoning provinces.  Currently, on the borders of Jilin Province, China and the DPRK have already built two jointly benefitted-from hydropower plants called Yunfeng and Weiyuan.  The Wangjianglou and Wenbing power stations will be built for of mutual benefit, developing the Yalu River, driving forward continued economic development between Jilin province and North Korea, playing a positive role.


I would respectfully disagree with the Daily NK analysis here which states that “Xinhua… contained no information about how the costs, or the electricity, would be shared out.”  I think the working assumption of any Chinese reader would be that China will bear all of the costs of the construction, and take less than half of the electricity.

Along more Yalu River lines: For a detailed look at Chinese looking down on North Korean poverty in Sinuiju, see this newly published travelogue from celebrated weekly Liaowang.  (Readers of this blog might remember that Liaowang is the magazine that gets reported on by Reuters only when someone in a PLA uniform says something provocative in it.  Hell yes!  When defense appropriations are on the line, no translation work is too small!  And when no threats are being made at the Foreign Reserve, who needs to translate that garbage anyway?  A politics of translation is really needed, explicit articulation…)