Cyber attacks may spark new war in Korea

8 06 2012

(Leonid Petrov, 38 North, 9 July 2013) Those who are familiar with Len Wiseman’s 2007 film “Live Free or Die Hard” (“Die Hard 4.0”) will recall the actor Bruce Willis taking on a gang of cyber terrorists intent on hacking FBI computers. At one point, the arch-villain Gabriel orders a crew of hackers to start a “fire sale” by taking control of the stock market and transportation grids. The attack is designed to target the nation’s reliance on computer controls, sending the public into a panic and presenting us with an almost credible sci-fi plot. The reality of today’s world shows that cyber-terrorism, if left unchecked, might be used not only by individuals or extremist groups, but by hostile governments on the offensive.

The Korean peninsula is now quickly turning into a place where a singular cyber-attack might spark a full-fledged conflict. Last month, North Korea was accused of actively jamming global positioning system (GPS) signals, targeting South Korea’s two largest airports outside its capital city of Seoul. The jamming signals, which were first detected on April 28 and ended on May 6, were traced to the North Korean border city of Kaesong, just 10 km north of the DMZ. Suspicions fell on imported truck-based jamming systems from Russia, capable of jamming signals within 100 kilometres. Was it really North Korea who stood behind the GPS jamming incidents and, if so, what was the purpose?

Following the North’s failed satellite launch on April 13, cyber warfare could be considered by Pyongyang as a more cost-effective way of intimidating the South. North Korea can send out jamming signals over a wide bandwidth, affecting a large number of facilities without consuming excessive amounts of energy or much needed foreign currency. A total of 553 aircraft flying in and out of South Korea’s Incheon and Gimpo airports reported GPS system failures, as did hundreds of ships and fishing boats. Considering the proximity of Seoul to the DMZ and Incheon International Airport’s proximity to the disputed waters of West Sea (Yellow Sea), such activity could cause aircrafts or ships to stray into North Korean territory, which would justify another naval clash.

GPS jamming can be used alone or in combination with other electronic and network-based attacks to disrupt South Korea’s highly digitized society. In addition to its forays into electronic warfare, the North’s military is also reportedly building up its hacking expertise. Within the last 12 months, North Korean military intelligence was accused of conducting a number of cyber attacks against South Korean and US financial institutions, government, and military websites. Experts believe that the DPRK People’s Army has units with hundreds of hackers, many of them based in China, who are employed in psychological operations to spread propaganda and infiltrate social networks. The Reconnaissance General Bureau is usually suspected of being responsible for coordinating these attempts to take down South Korea’s IT and communications infrastructure.

While inter-Korean confrontation is reaching new heights, the arrest of a 56-year-old naturalized citizen of New Zealand in Seoul in June reveals a new trend in an old conflict. An ethnic Korean known as “Mr. Kim” has been accused of exporting a satellite navigation system and long-range rocket detectors, which could have seriously compromised South Korea’s military capability. Kim and his South Korean business partners were arrested after an alleged meeting with a North Korean agent in Dandong, China. In July of last year, Kim also engaged in trade activities in Nampo, North Korea, where he handed over sensitive information that had been requested by a North Korean agent.

To what extent the North Korean military was able to utilize this equipment and information became clearer in early June this year. In an unusually detailed statement, the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army declared an ultimatum to the South Korean president Lee Myung Bak. It claimed that its missile units and other forces had been programmed with the longitude and latitude co-ordinates of various media outlets in Seoul. Among the named targets were the Chosun Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo newspapers, a TV channel operated by the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper, and the KBS, CBS, MBC, and SBS television stations. In its report, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) named specific coordinates of the targets and promised to eliminate them if Lee did not publicly apologize for “hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK.”

According to Martyn Williams, who runs the “North Korea Tech” website, the coordinates given by the KCNA for the Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo were incorrect, in that they failed to factor in the simple rule that the maximum value for measuring minutes and seconds is 60. That is, the Chosun Ilbo was listed at 37°56’83″ North and 126°97’65″ East. Even if these calculations were corrected and processed through mapping software, one would end up in the mountains to the northwest of Chuncheon province—a long way from downtown Seoul. The Dong-A-Ilbo’s location was similarly mistaken, as well as the coordinates of JoongAng Ilbo office, which in fact, belonged to a building across the street.

However, it is not only the hi-tech GPS equipment that North Korea might use to cause chaos and panic in South Korea. Some computer experts say that the North could try to destroy infrastructure in South Korea connected with traffic, electricity, power plants, and water supplies by hacking into computer systems. Over the years, the arsenal of North Korean cyber warfare has expanded to include virus-laden computer games. A 39-year-old South Korean game distributor, known as “Mr. Cho,” is now in police custody for allegedly violating the National Security Law when he travelled to Shenyang, China, where he is said to have met with agents of a North Korean trading company.

Cho asked the North Korean programmers to develop game software that would be used in South Korea, purchasing dozens of copies valued at tens of millions of Korean won. He then sold them to South Korean distributers. According to South Korean intelligence officials, these games were infected with malignant viruses, which turned customers’ PCs into “zombie computers,” contributing to the attempted cyber attacks against Incheon International Airport in March 2011. This activity could also provide the North with the personal information of hundreds of thousands of South Korean users of online games.

Unlike the GPS-guided conventional strike, a cyber-attack can be much more precise, long-ranged, and frustrating. North Korea-focused websites run by Pyongyang watchers and academics often fall victim to hacking attempts, which usually take the form of a Distributed Denial of Service attack. DDoS attacks involve surging a server with unwanted requests, creating such demand on the processor that the website itself becomes unavailable. Tad Farrell’s web portal “NK News: DPRK Information Center” suffered several such attacks in the past before being knocked out completely on June 6 by a different type of malicious attack where passwords were changed and most of the data in the server was wiped out.

It happened just two days after a rare photo of Kim Il Sung was published online, revealing the huge cyst on the neck of the former North Korean leader. Talking about this tumor is considered a crime in the North, and the DPRK media still meticulously avoids depicting it. Was this attack initiated by the North Koreans? It is always very difficult to find the culprit of any cyber attack. The North is routinely blamed for masterminding cyber attacks against the unfriendly sites, particularly if they are linked to North Korean defectors or focused on human rights issues. The paranoid nature of the South’s spy agencies and the ongoing inter-Korean conflict tend to elevate such suspicions to the status of common knowledge.

Cyber-attacks occur regularly worldwide and Trojan viruses are relatively easy to code. To organize and sustain a DDoS attack, the hackers must have resources on the scale that could only be provided by a wealthy client or a nation state. With heightening tensions in mind, North Korea would certainly do everything in its power to bolster its intelligence gathering capability along with the ability to attack vulnerable targets. But would not South Korea or China do the same? Even rogue NGOs with sufficient funds and vested interests can be linked to cyber crime.

For example, another news portal that follows North Korea, The Daily NK, reports that it knows the source of the malware infections installed on its website because the same Trojan scripts can be found on Chinese registered domains digtaobao.com and 10086chongzhi.com. These sites have no content and could be used by squads of international hackers. But just because a script is associated with China, does not necessarily answer the question about the origin of the malware code. The reasons behind each attack are much more obvious then the identity of a culprit. In most cases, cyber attacks leave us with circumstantial evidence but never with a smoking gun.

Still, following the most recent incidents, South Korean prosecutors will look even closer at any possible relations between the arrested suspects and North Korea’s jamming of GPS signals and cyber attacks. In a divided Korea, espionage can mean the death penalty. Although no one has been executed in the South for any crime since 1997, the new age of burgeoning information and communication technologies presents new challenges to states and national security. More peoples’ lives become vulnerable to subtle technological manipulations, and even foreign nationals can be easily accused of conspiring with the enemy or targeted by the conflicting sides.

Bruce Willis_die-hard-4The damage from cyber warfare can be serious and its potential consequences are yet to be understood worldwide. A Russian specialist on information security, Eugene Kaspersky, warns: “A cyber weapon can replicate itself and hit a random victim anywhere around the world, no matter how far you are from the conflict zone. After all, the Internet has no borders and an attack may target an identical system, for example power stations, even if they are located in a very different region of the world.” In other words, cyber terrorism opens a new Pandora’s Box of dangers of which the world has not had a chance to witness except from hypothetical scenarios in the Hollywood blockbuster “Die Hard 4.0.”

Peace and security in Korea is becoming increasingly susceptible to cataclysms, which can be triggered by either a malicious intent or human mistake. The non-aggression and non-nuclear agreements, which were signed by Seoul and Pyongyang in the early 1990s, as well as the suspension of mutually hostile propaganda, which was maintained during the years of “Sunshine Policy” (1998-2008), are now null and void. Any provocation—either real or assumed—can be fatal and can lead to the resumption of a full-scale war on the densely populated peninsula.

The Armistice Agreement signed in Korea in 1953 is long over-due for replacement by a firm peace treaty, which would guarantee security and create conditions for peaceful co-existence of the two Korean states. Reconciliation and collaboration between Koreans and their neighbors is necessary to avert the danger of a man-made regional catastrophe. Failing to achieve it quickly, means the whole world might be caught in the virtual crossfire of an unfinished civil war, which began 62 years ago.

Read a shorter version of this article in Korean here…  한반도에서 펼쳐지는 사이버 전쟁?!





Pirates or Hawks: Who Hijacked the Chinese Fishing Boats?

25 05 2012

(Leonid Petrov, The University of Sydney) China often describes its relations with North Korea, its closest regional ally, as intimate but not substantial. For more than half a century, Beijing’s attitude towards the Korean peninsula has revolved around the avoidance of three scenarios: ‘No new war on the Korean peninsula’; ‘No regime change in North Korea’, and ‘No American troops on the Sino-Korean border’. But can the developments of recent weeks shake this strategic alliance tested by time, wars and revolutions?

This year North Korea declared that it has reached its self-professed goal of becoming a strong and affluent state. However, the state of its cross-border trade and cooperation with China indicates otherwise. There are signs that inside North Korea’s closed borders the domestic situation in the DPRK is deteriorating and the regime is using every opportunity to use government agencies to earn the desperately needed cash and goods.

A range of UN sanctions have been imposed on North Korea. In response to two nuclear tests and recent ballistic missile launches, a ban on luxury goods has been imposed on North Korea by the UN Security Council. The country is now hard at work, evading these bans, with the help of China. Almost all imports of luxury goods (cigarettes, cosmetics, cars, watches and computers) go to North Korea via China. The criminalisation of border trade with North Korea is notorious within China, whose government does not officially recognise the contraband goods to qualify as ‘luxury items’. This ambiguity often creates situations replete with potentials for border conflicts between the former communist allies.

One incident unfolded in the Yellow (West) Sea on 8 May 2012, where three Chinese fishing boats, with 29 Chinese fishermen onboard. They were abducted by unidentified and armed North Koreans, who demanded the payment of ransom for their return. The vessels were seized in a traditional Chinese fishing area, about 10 nautical miles from the maritime boundary between the two countries. Seven Chinese boats were initially taken; four were later returned to the port of Dandong in return for ransom. Three Chinese boats remained in the hands of the unnamed North Korean kidnappers for another 13 days.

While these kinds of incidents are common, this one developed in an unusual way. As a rule, Chinese ships owners pay the ransom through private channels. There are many individuals and even companies involved in such cases and, on many occasions, they are well connected to DPRK marine forces. This time, however, the armed hijackers approached the Chinese fishing vessels on a speed boat. They wore blue hats and uniforms and some of them spoke perfect Mandarin. They initially demanded the payment of 400,000 Yuan (AU$65,000) for each boat, but later lowered their request and threatened to ‘dispose’ of the boats if the money was not sent through within a short deadline. The demand was transmitted by satellite phones through the crew members, who were kept in captivity on shore without food and were reportedly subjected to beatings.

The fact that the captors gave the kidnapped sailors the mobile number of an intermediary in the border town of Dandong to discuss how to send the ransom suggests that the captors were international group of pirates. For some ten days the Chinese government worked closely with the North Korean maritime authorities, to ensure the safety of the Chinese citizens. Pyongyang, however, has still not commented on the incident. While the nature of this incident remains unclear, it came after Beijing criticised a recent North Korean rocket launch and expressed concern over another nuclear weapons test planned by Pyongyang. This raises a very serious question: Were the hijackers real pirates or was this in fact all a carefully planned retaliation, by the DPRK government, against China?

The North Korean defectors who are familiar with the chain of command in maritime border protection assert that the three Chinese fishing boats were seized by operatives of DPRK General Bureau of Reconnaissance. They usually use armed speed boats which belong to West Sea Base No. 2 located in Nampo and secretly enter international waters to fulfil special missions. Their speedboats are disguised as mid-size fishing vessels but equipped with four Russian made M-400 engines. The General Bureau maritime bases also conduct infiltration missions against South Korea and exist both in the East and West Sea.

The initial reports of the attack testified that the group of captors was wearing blue uniforms and hats and included several Chinese-speaking people. However, the involvement in this particular incident of Chinese criminals is unlikely. The staff members of General Bureau of Reconnaissance are fluent in Mandarin because they are trained to operate in Chinese waters. For example, the operatives stationed at East Sea Base No.1 are required to speak excellent Japanese.

Could the General Bureau of Reconnaissance suddenly decide upon the capture of Chinese fishing boats simply to earn money? Capturing foreign nationals and their property would inevitably create a diplomatic problem and could not be done without the approval of authorities. Discipline in North Korean military is stern and hierarchy is thoroughly observed. While scheming with the authorities to demand money from the captured Chinese sailors, they must have intended to express discontent at something else. What message did the North Korean authorities want to convey to Beijing?

The moist likely scenario was that the abduction of Chinese fishermen was carefully planned by the new leadership in Pyongyang in retaliation for China’s continuing criticism of the North Korea’s April rocket launch and ongoing preparations for another nuclear test. In addition, Beijing recently permitted a number of North Korean defectors to leave China to seek asylum in South Korea that could not but anger the DPRK leaders who wanted to teach China a lesson.

The timing of the incident (8-21 May) also supports this hypothesis. It coincided with the joint US-ROK aerial exercises Thunder Max, which was held between the 7th and 18th May. While these exercises take place on an annual basis, this year’s activities were of a particularly massive scale. These war games in the skies of south-western Korea not only send a warning message to the DPRK but also to China, serving to further strengthen the security cooperation between Beijing and Pyongyang. Paradoxically, joint US-ROK military exercises equip North Korea with extra leverage over China.

Beijing, however, is refusing to link the dots. So far the Chinese Foreign Ministry is labelling the incident a ‘fisheries case’ and searching for the traces of criminal gangs in Dandong. Clearly, Beijing is trying to soft-pedal the incident and avoid open antagonism with its long-term regional ally. All signs indicate that this incident will not negatively affect the strong political ties between the two countries. In the situation where the Chinese government at all costs prefers to maintain the status quo on the Korean peninsula, such a minor incident will not force Beijing to stop supporting the DPRK, a buffer state which separates its own borders from the US-allied South Korea.

After all, the Cold War in the region is continuing, Northeast Asia remains divided and paranoid, and its main front line still divides the Korean peninsula.

See the Korean version of this text here…  해적이거나 호커스이거나

This article was also published by EAF as “North Korea, China and the abducted Chinese fishing boats”

and by The Korea Herald as “Pirates or hawks: who hijacked Chinese boats?”





Northeast Asia – a Region without Regionalism

20 05 2012

(Leonid Petrov for East Asia Forum, 23 May 2012)

Last week once again demonstrated to the world the sad truth about the inability of Northeast Asian nations to establish good working relations in political and economic spheres. The ambitious plan to build a Free Trade Zone across China, South Korea and Japan was pompously declared, only to stumble over old unresolved issues. The legacies of colonialism, international wars and civil conflicts persist, thwarting any attempts to rebuild trust and achieve multilateral cooperation.

The creation of a network of FTAs between the neighbouring states could serve as a confidence building mechanism toward deepening regional integration in East Asia, but efforts have been lagging. Japan and China have yet to enter talks for a bilateral FTA. South Korea and Japan suspended negotiations for a bilateral FTA in 2004 and have made little progress since. This year Seoul has agreed with Beijing to start negotiations for a bilateral FTA, and the first session took place in Beijing on 14 May.

The trade ministers of South Korea, Japan and China for the first time agreed to launch negotiations for a three-way FTA by the end of this year. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met in Beijing with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for annual summit talks, where they discussed the future of tripartite economic cooperation. The three leaders shared the view that a trilateral FTA would boost trade and investment among the three countries and provide a framework for comprehensive and structural cooperation.

But at the press-conference after the summit, South Korean President Lee looked less enthusiastic than his Chinese and Japanese counterparts. Lee said the trilateral FTA would be meaningful to the countries’ future, but avoided answers regarding the possibility of concluding the FTA negotiations within two years. Also further undermining confidence among the three countries, Chinese President Hu Jintao refused to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda without any explanation. Speculators have suggested Hu’s cancelation may have been triggered by the heated debate on May 13 between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Noda over the sovereignty of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, or Japan’s granting of a visa to Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer to run the World Uyghur Congress in Tokyo.

The three leaders also discussed the continuing North Korean provocations, but the absence of North Korea in these negotiations was conspicuous. A successful regional FTA could allow products produced in North Korea to be freely sold in South Korea and Japan, helping its flagging economy. Similarly, the lack of consumer goods in North Korea could be rectified by an influx of quality products from South Korea and Japan. But for ideological reasons this opportunity remains closed for North Korea.

It is no coincidence that just days prior to the trilateral summit in Beijing, the President of North Korea’s Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim Yong-nam, went for his first foreign trip since the death of Kim Jong-il. But rather than heading to China, he went to Southeast Asia where he met with the President of Singapore, Tony Tan, and the city-state’s parliamentary leader Michael Palmer. Kim Yong-nam was accompanied by Ri Kwang-gun, who heads the Joint Venture and Investment Commission, and An Jong-su the Minister of Light Industry. Obviously, North Korea is trying to attract foreign investment by offering itself to manufacturers interested in cheap labour, and to boost exports of its own consumer products and minerals. In Singapore the leaders discussed a variety of issues, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula and bilateral relations, but President Tan and Mr Palmer stressed that while Singapore was open to advancing bilateral relations with North Korea, they were constrained by the fact that North Korea remains subject to UN Security Council sanctions.

The following day, Kim Yong-nam flew to Indonesia, where he also drummed up support for foreign investment. Most western multinational companies avoid direct business with North Korea because of US trade embargo. Washington has warned financial institutions in Southeast Asia that they should not do business with North Korea. Banks in Macao and Singapore stopped doing business with North Korea several years ago. Given this backdrop, what is the reaction of Indonesia to such pressure?

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for dialogue to resolve problems on the Korean peninsula, while Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa suggested that isolating North Korea further was not a constructive solution. When discussing the issue of the controversial rocket-satellite launch, Yudhoyono underlined that misunderstandings should be avoided through dialogue and communication. Kim Yong-nam was assured that there are areas where cooperation is possible. For example, the two leaders resolved to raise bilateral political relations by promoting visits by officials, ministers, managers, and media professionals of the two countries. The media swap deal will allow networks in both North Korea and Indonesia to share content and participate in journalist exchanges.

North Korea is clearly trying to curb its excessive reliance on China by reaching out to other countries in Asia. But how many countries can or will help North Korea integrate successfully? Why should North Korea look for partnerships away from its own region? Would not it be more logical to improve relations with its immediate neighbours, namely South Korea and Japan? Is the US or Russia willing to see the three countries building a genuine free trade platform in the region? The combined population of the three major Asian powers is around 1.5 billion people, with an aggregate GDP of US$15 trillion or 20 per cent of the world total. The establishment of a multilateral FTA would definitely help lay a foundation not only for strong economic partnership, but also for trust, reconciliation, and reliable peace in the region.

But developments over the last week have shown once again that domestic affairs appear to carry more weight for national leaders than regional projects. The disputes of the 20th century continue to affect the hearts and minds of politicians in the two Koreas, China and Japan. And it may take longer than expected before regionalism in Northeast Asia will prevail over political mistrust and economic protectionism.

See the Korean version of this article here…  동북아시아- 지역주의 없는 지역

Also published by The Korea Times (23.05.2012)





Russia and China on the North Korean plan to launch a rocket

17 03 2012

Russia urges North Korea to refrain from rocket launch

(Reuters 16 March 2012) Russia expressed serious concern on Friday over North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite and urged Pyongyang not to create hurdles to the revival of six-nation talks over its nuclear programme.

“The announcement about an upcoming launch of a satellite by (North Korea) causes serious concern,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We call on Pyongyang not to put itself in opposition to the international community, to refrain from actions that increase tension in the region and create additional complications for the relaunch of six-sided negotiations about the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula,” it said. The ministry also called for “maximum restraint from all sides”.

China has also voiced its concern over the DPRK’s satellite launch plan.

(Xinhua, 17 March 2012 ) Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, in a meeting with the DPRK Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong on Friday, expressed China’s worry over the matter, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Zhang exchanged views with Ji on China-DPRK ties and the situation on the Korean Peninsula, said the statement.

Zhang said China had taken note of the DPRK’s satellite plan as well as the reaction from the international community. China believes it is the common obligation and in common interests of all parties concerned to maintain the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, said the statement.

“We sincerely hope parties concerned stay calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation of tension that may lead to a more complicated situation,” Zhang was quoted as saying.






N. Korea’s Mineral Exports to China Tripled from Last Year

3 12 2011

 (Seoul, Yonhap, 2011/11/06)  A joint study of Chinese data by Yonhap News Agency and Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute showed that China imported 8.42 million tons of minerals from North Korea from January to September this year, worth US$852 million.

Over the first nine months of last year, China brought in 3.04 million tons of minerals from the North for $245 million. Most of the minerals were anthracite coals, the data showed. This year, of 8.42 million tons, 8.19 tons were anthracites. China is the sole major ally and the biggest economic benefactor for North Korea, a reclusive regime under international economic sanctions following its nuclear and long-range missile tests.

Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK institute, said North Korea may be trying to earn much-needed hard currency as it aims to become a powerful and prosperous country by 2012. “Last year, North Korea ordered its institutions to meet their goals in foreign currency income by this year,” Cho said. “Since exporting minerals is a military business, we can see that the military is trying to meet its target. In addition, the steep mineral export growth was attributable to the lifting of the cap on the amount of mineral exports, as ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.”

China appears to be trying to stockpile mineral resources at affordable prices, Cho added. North Korean anthracites were traded at an average of $101 per ton, whereas the international standard for quality anthracites is $200 per ton. “Given that North Korean coals are of very good quality, trade with China must have been made at a fairly low price,” Cho said.

Meanwhile, sources said North Korean authorities last month entirely halted its coal exports, as the impoverished country fears a shortage of energy resources during the upcoming winter. From January to September this year, China exported 732,000 tons of minerals to North Korea, most of them crude oil.

North Korea’s closed economy contracted for a second year in a row

 (By Jeremy Laurence, Reuters, Nov 3, 2011) – North Korea’s closed economy contracted for a second year in a row last year due to international sanctions, sluggish agricultural production and a slowdown in manufacturing, South Korea’s central bank said on Thursday.

In a report issued by the Bank of Korea (BOK), the North’s centrally-planned economy was estimated to have shrunk 0.5 percent year-on-year in 2010 compared with a 0.9 percent contraction in 2009.

“Last year, the North Korean economy contracted as economic conditions at home and abroad worsened amid energy shortages and international sanctions and its manufacturing sector remained sluggish,” said BOK official Park Yung-hwan.

Seoul’s assessment of its neighbor’s economy does not auger well for the North’s ambitious drive to become a “strong and prosperous nation” by 2012 when it celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the state’s founder Kim Il-sung.

The North currently ranks as one of the world’s poorest and least developed states. It does not release economic data, and the South calculates the figures through specialist institutes which monitor the North’s economy.

The BOK report said North Korea’s nominal gross national income (GNI) amounted to 30 trillion won (US$26.5 billion) last year, which is only 2.56 percent of South Korea’s GNI of 1,173 trillion won. Meanwhile, inter-Korean trade grew 13.9 percent year-on-year to $1.91 billion, the BOK said…

AGRICULTURE, MANUFACTURE DECLINE

…The North’s moribund economy has also been affected by poor agriculture production, as a result of summer flooding and a particularly harsh winter. The BOK said its agricultural and fishery industry contracted 2.1 percent last year from a year earlier, and its manufacturing sector declined 0.3 percent in 2010, the BOK said.

The North has suffered chronic food shortages for about two decades due to mismanagement, isolation and natural disasters, making it dependent on foreign donors to fill the food gap. Aid agencies say the food situation has worsened this year as foreign aid deliveries have slowed.

Seoul and Washington, which had been the North’s biggest food donors until a few years ago, have suspended food aid to the North over monitoring concerns. South Korea has also said it will only resume aid when the North denuclearizes. The United States sent a team to the North earlier this year to assess the food situation, but has said it is still undecided on resuming aid.

Pyongyang has reached out for help this year, saying it wants to rejoin regional aid-for-denuclearization talks. The North quit the talks more than two years ago…





Kim Jong-il celebrates successful visit to Russia and China

30 08 2011

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended a banquet to congratulate him on his successful recent visits to Russia and China, the North’s state media said Monday.  The banquet was hosted by his son, Kim Jong-eun, on behalf of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party and the National Defense Commission.

Radio Free Asia has asked me to share opinion on the following issues:

RFA: Why do you think Kim Jong-il made a stopover at China?

LP: On his way back from Russia, Kim Jong-il spent a night in the northeastern city of Hulunbeier, China’s Inner Mongolia, after arriving from the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude. Then Kim Jong Il visited northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province on Friday at the company of Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo.

In a meeting with Kim, Dai, conveyed sincere greetings from President Hu Jintao to Kim and welcomed Kim on behalf of the CPC, the Chinese government and people. Kim thanked China’s warm hospitality and conveyedhis sincere greetings to Hu. Dai said that after an interval of three months, Kim visited China again that fully demonstrated the high attention attached by Kim to the consolidation and growth of China-DPRK ties. “Along with DPRK comrades, we are willing to earnestlyimplement important consensus reached by the top leaders of our two countries andpromote the continuous growth of our ties,” Dai said.

Kim said China and DPRK are close neighbors and should have frequent contacts. “Every time I visited China, I can feel the friendly affections from the Chinese people tothe Korean people,” he said. He spoke highly of the development momentum of current China-DPRK ties. Bilateralexchanges and cooperation should be enhanced between different departments andlocalities of the two countries in various areas, he said. During his stay in Heilongjiang, Kim visited the cities of Qiqihar and Daqing. In Qiqihar, Kim toured Qier Machine Tool Group Co., a large state-owned enterprise, and Mengniu Dairy, a leading Chinese dairy producer. In Daqing, he toured an urban planningexhibition hall and a residential district. “I’ve seen new changes every time I came here,” Kim Jong-il said. He wished that China would smoothly realize the goals set in its 12th Five-year Plan under the leadership of the CPC.

RFA: Also why he didn’t bring his son, Kim Jong-eun?

LP: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s heir apparent son, Kim Jong-eun, was on standby during his father’s trip to Russia and China because the joint ROK-US military drill Ulchi Freedom Guardian was continuing on the peninsula. The joint training of 56 thousand South Korean and 30 thousand US American troops kept North Korean leadership alerted. Since Kim Jong-eun is the Vice-chair of the KWP Military Committee, his presence in the country was symbolically important during the absence of his father, the Chairman of National Defence Committee, and Kim Yong-Chun, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.

RFA: How do you view the impact of  Kim’s summit with Russian President Medvedev?

LP: The rare summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev became a very important step toward resuming the long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks with the North. Russia and North Korea also moved forward on a proposal to build a pipeline that will ship Russian natural gas to both Koreas. Simultaneously, North Korea and Russia signed a protocol calling for economic cooperation between the two countries. Last Friday, a Russian economic delegation, led by Minister of Regional Development Viktor Basargin, was in North Korea to sign “a protocol of the 5th Meeting of the DPRK-Russia Intergovernmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology,”





La Corée du Nord tenterait d’assouplir son image sur le dossier nucléaire pour obtenir une aide économique

29 08 2011

(Philippe Pons, Le Monde 28/08/2011) A la suite de sa visite en Sibérie, le dirigeant nord-coréen Kim Jong-il est passé, jeudi 25 août, en Chine du Nord-Est à bord de son train blindé. Selon l’agence Chine nouvelle, il doit faire dans cette région une « escale » sur le « chemin du retour ». Il n’a pas été précisé s’il aura des entretiens avec des dirigeants chinois.

Plusieurs projets de développement économiques conjoints entre la Chine et la République populaire démocratique de Corée (RPDC) sont en cours dans la région frontalière. C’est la quatrième visite en un an de Kim Jong-il en Chine.

D’éventuels entretiens avec les dirigeants chinois pourraient néanmoins apporter des éclaircissements sur les déclarations de Kim Jong-il en Russie. Selon la porte-parole du président Medvedev, celui-ci s’est déclaré prêt à une reprise sans conditions des pourparlers à six (Chine, deux Corées, Etats-Unis, Japon et Russie) sur la dénucléarisation de la RPDC et a proposé un moratoire sur les essais de missiles et les tests atomiques. [...]

Une proposition trop vague

Selon Paik Haksoon, chercheur à l’Institut Sejong de Séoul, « le moratoire proposé par Pyongyang n’est pas le moratoire demandé par Séoul, Tokyo ou Washington comme préalable à une reprise des pourparlers, mais un élément de la négociation elle-même. Il n’en ouvre pas moins une fenêtre dans le processus de reprise de celle-ci ».

L’agence nord-coréenne de presse, KCNA, n’a pas mentionné la proposition de moratoire. Mais « le fait qu’elle a été annoncée au président Medvedev accroît sa crédibilité », estime Leonid Petrov, spécialiste de la RPDC à l’Université de Sydney. Séoul et Washington estiment que la proposition nord-coréenne est trop vague pour constituer « un progrès substantiel ». La question nucléaire nord-coréenne s’est encore compliquée depuis que le régime a annoncé, à la fin de l’année dernière, s’être doté, en plus de sa filière à base de plutonium, d’un programme d’enrichissement de l’uranium.

La Corée du Sud et les Etats-Unis craignent que Pyongyang ne veuille reprendre les négociations que pour obtenir une aide économique, dont le régime a impérieusement besoin. Kim Jong-il a promis qu’en 2012 – année du centième anniversaire de la naissance de son père, Kim Il-sung (mort en 1994) -, la RPDC entrera dans une nouvelle ère : celle d’un « pays fort et prospère ».








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