Do of the day no joke

30 03 2014

NKOREA-POLITICS-KIM(By James Giggacher, ANU Asia & Pacific, 28 March 2014) North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has again caught the attention of international media, but not for the usual sabre-rattling or Dennis Rodman roadshow he’s known for. This time it’s his hair that’s made the headlines.

According to reports from Radio Free Asia, a state-sanctioned directive requiring male students to cut their hair in the same style as their leader has been rolled out across the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The guideline was introduced in the capital Pyongyang two weeks ago. But in a place known for its secrecy and subterfuge, questions have been raised about whether the story is even true.

According to North Korea expert Dr Leonid Petrov from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, it’s “nothing sensational at all”. “Back in 2004, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s state TV launched a propaganda campaign called ‘Let us trim our hair in accordance with socialist lifestyle’,” says Petrov.

“It recommended a relatively generous range of 28 hairstyles for its citizens, claiming that they are ‘the most comfortable’ styles and capable of warding off the corrupting effects of capitalism.” Petrov adds that young men were more restricted; their hair had to be less than five centimetres long and they were required to have a haircut every 15 days.

“Longer hair apparently takes away nutrition from their brains,” says Petrov. “Older men, whose brains are presumably in decline anyway, were allowed to rock out with hair as long as seven centimetres.”

The ‘socialist lifestlye’ haircuts are tied closely to North Korea’s philosophy of Juche, or self-reliance, which the regime uses to distance itself from ‘the West’. “And while North Korea enforces haircuts, some foreigners choose the Juche-style voluntarily,” says Petrov.

So who knows; the next time the leader is in the media it may not be as agent provocateur, but rather for a perm. It’s a hair-raising issue either way you look at it.





N Korea will ‘use Aussie as pawn’

22 02 2014

john_short(RICK WALLACE, THE AUSTRALIAN, 21 FEBRUARY 2014) An Australian missionary detained in North Korea faces the prospect of a stint in prison as the totalitarian state is likely to use his arrest as leverage in its quest to reopen an embassy in Canberra.

Academic Leonid Petrov, who has run tours to North Korea, says John Short will have to make a public confession to avoid a long spell in prison, but given his Christian stance against the regime, he may refuse, turning the issue into a diplomatic stand-off.

Dr Petrov, a Korea specialist at the Australian National University, said the fact the recent UN inquiry into North Korea’s human rights was led by an Australian (former High Court judge Michael Kirby) might also count against Mr Short in Pyongyang.

The 75-year-old missionary, who reportedly once served in the Australian military, was detained in his hotel lobby in Pyongyang at the end of a tour to North Korea organised by a Chinese travel agency.

It’s believed he was carrying a Bible and other Christian materials translated into Korean, all of which are banned in North Korea, where there is no religious freedom, even though some token churches are allowed to operate primarily for show.

Dr Petrov said the Australian government, which is relying on Sweden to handle consular matters in this case, would be hampered by the fact it doesn’t have an embassy or consulate in Pyongyang.

“Hundreds of Australians go to North Korea each year both for business and pleasure — sooner or later this was bound to happen,” he said. “It would much better in this case if we had an ambassador in Pyongyang.”

He said North Korea was likely to use Mr Short’s arrest to push for concessions from Australia, including the right to reopen its Canberra embassy, plans for which were scotched in the wake of a nuclear test last year.

North Korean authorities would try to force Mr Short into a videotaped “confession” — as they did with an elderly US ex-serviceman temporarily detained last year, Dr Petrov said.

“But I doubt that a missionary such as John Short is likely to succumb to pressure by a regime which he abhors,” he said.

So far, Pyongyang has said nothing about Mr Short’s detention, which was revealed after his wife, Karen, released a statement in Hong Kong, where they have lived for 50 years.





South Australian man John Short detained in North Korea, now facing 15 years in jail

20 02 2014

John Short(CRAIG COOK EXCLUSIVE THE ADVERTISER FEBRUARY 20, 2014) A South Australian man detained in North Korea for allegedly distributing religious material could be “very difficult to protect”, former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says.

John Short, 75, a former member of the Unley and Elizabeth Global Hall Brethren, was arrested by the public security bureau of North Korea on Sunday and faces 15 years in jail under the harsh regime of Kim Jong-un.

He has since been questioned in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital and its largest city, about religious pamphlets printed in the Korean language and believed to be in his possession.

“It’s a fascist state and they would take a very dim view of anyone distributing information that doesn’t concur with the state ideology,” Mr Downer said. “A worse place to be caught doing something like that is unimaginable.

Mr Short, who was born in Barmera in the Riverland, lives in Hong Kong with his wife and three children, but is a regular visitor to Adelaide…

…A DFAT spokeswoman said the Government was aware of Mr Short’s arrest. “Australian has no diplomatic representation in North Korea and our capacity to deliver consular services there is extremely limited,’’ she said.

“Australian interests in North Korea are currently represented by the Swedish Embassy. We are in close contact with Swedish officials in Pyongyang to seek their assistance in confirming the well-being of Mr Short and to obtain more information.”

Mr Downer said he was believed the Australian government could work with Beijing to try to help. “Or the Swedes or the Brits could get involved but he could have a very difficult time of it,” he said. “It would depend on how he was looking to distribute material but it’s a very dangerous place to be doing something like that — we can only hope for the best.”

North Korea has several sanctioned churches in Pyongyang, but frowns on the distribution of Bibles and other religious materials by foreigners. Interaction between North Koreans and foreigners is strictly regulated.

Dr Leonid Petrov, who teaches North Korean political history at the Australian National University in Canberra, said Mr Short’s situation “could be complicated” by the release of a UN report on Monday detailing regime crimes against humanity.

Releasing the report, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urged world powers to refer North Korea to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“If he was found to be networking directly with North Koreans to spread religious material it could be very bad for him and them,” Dr Petrov said. “For locals, the whole family would be sent to the Gulag (forced labour camps) with little chance of ever being released unless they repent (their religious views). “For the foreigner, they could face a similar sentence to Kenneth Bae of 15 years with 16-hours-a-day hard labour.”

Mr Bae, a South Korean-born US citizen , was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in April , 2013 for attempting to topple the Korean regime. “They do treat white foreigners with some dignity compared to Korean born ‘foreigners’,” Dr Petrov added. “And foreigners are normally deported if they are distributing religious material. “But I would expect them to videotape a confession and then hold a press conference before they let him go.”

Mr Petrov said religions were sanctioned in the country, but people were too scared to participate and Koreans had no idea about Christianity. Christians suffered most in North Korea on the sole basis of their faith…

See the full version of this article here…

 





Inside the world’s weirdest bromance between Kim Jong-un and Dennis Rodman

13 01 2014

KJU_Rodman(News.com.au 08 January 2014) He may be in the country to celebrate his dictator best mate’s birthday today, but Dennis Rodman is making headlines for entirely different reasons.

The former NBA star, currently in the isolated state to celebrate Kim Jung-un’s birthday as part of a basketball tour, lost it during an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

The eccentric Rodman lashed out at the CNN anchorman who quizzed him about visiting North Korea so soon after the execution of Kim’s uncle.

When quizzed further about the status of detained US citizen Kenneth Bae, Rodman really let loose, struggling to contain his anger:
“I don’t give a rat’s a*** what the hell you think,” he said.
“Look at the guys right here.
“You are the guy behind the mic…and we are the guys here doing our thing.”

Rodman has been protective of his relationship with Kim after striking up a friendship since meeting a year ago.
But their relationship isn’t as bizarre as the rest of the world might think.

According to one expert, the pair have a mutually beneficial relationship with Kim using Rodman as a PR weapon against the west and the American using his new found friendship to become a celebrity once again.

KIM JONG-UN UNCLE’S IDENTITY ERASED

Dr Leonid Petrov, researcher at Australian National University’s School of Culture, History and Language, told news.com.au while North Korea seems a strange country, its leader’s friendship with a former sports star was far from odd.

Dr Petrov said the dictator’s attraction to someone like Rodman wasn’t unusual when you considered Kim’s lifelong obsession with sports and basketball in particular. Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, is a keen basketball fan and loves the Chicago Bulls. Rodman played a key role in winning three NBA titles for the Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

WHY RODMAN?

According to Dr Petrov, Rodman helped Kim show his people and the rest of the world the Supreme Leader had the human touch and that a friendship with a basketball icon would be a dream come true for him. “Kim has always had a strong interest in sport from a very young age and Rodman is an idol to him,” he said.

Dr Petrov added that with North Korea being isolated from the west, Kim “feels he needs some form of appreciation from the world” and such a relationship brought some normality to the country and its people. “Both (men) want the attention, Kim gets attention from the western media and so does Rodman” Dr Petrov said.

HOW THEY MET

Rodman first struck up a bond with the Supreme Leader in February last year when he visited the country for what was coined a “basketball diplomacy mission” where he attended a mixed-match basketball game with VICE Magazine . Kim Jong-un reportedly declared Rodman, known as “The Worm”, a “friend for life” and the sportsman is one of the few Westerners to have met him.

Upon visiting Kim’s private island, Rodman declared, “It’s like Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.”

WHY IS HE BACK IN NORTH KOREA?

The ex-Chicago Bulls player is leading a team including retired NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker for a celebratory exhibition game against North Korea in honour of Kim’s 31st birthday.

WHY THE RELATIONSHIP MATTERS

Dr Petrov said while Rodman had clearly failed when it came to bringing up human rights abuses in the rogue state, at least he was extending the hand of friendship in the spirit of reconciliation.

One positive aspect of Rodman’s visit was it did open up some diplomacy with the world and at least allowed North Koreans insight into the west and an opportunity to learn more about the world.

RODMAN NEEDS TO RECONSIDER POSITION

However Dr Petrov said the former NBA star had missed an opportunity to talk to his friend about human rights, its collapsed economy and an illicit drug and black market trade.

Speaking from Beijing Airport ahead of the visit, Rodman said he hoped the match could “open the doors” to “talk about certain things” and said he wasn’t there for a political debate. “But I am not going to sit there and go, ‘Hey guy, you are doing the wrong thing. That is not the right way to do it.’ He is my friend first … and I love him,” Rodman said.

According to Dr Petrov, it’s not only a missed opportunity to help the people of North Korea but loses him respect with the west.

WHY THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

Dr Petrov maintained the visit did have some positive aspects such as developing some form of friendship with the isolated state. “If we want North Korea to change we need to engage them somehow,” he said. “At least his visit is better than not doing nothing at all.”

See the full text of the article here…





Jang Sung-taek Purge Confirmed Amid Rumors of His Execution

9 12 2013

jang_purge(By Chad O’Carroll, 9 DECEMBER 2013, NKnews.orgAmid rumors of his own execution, North Korean state media on Monday said that Jang Song Thaek had been “eliminated” from the party and his group “purged” – for reasons including corruption, factionalism, drug abuse, anti-state activities and womanizing.

The decision, the most public dismissal of a member of the Kim family and their associates in history, was made on Sunday at an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers Party of Korea, state media said. At the meeting – broadcast at length on Monday during a special transmission on North Korean state TV – Jang Song Thaek was shown being publicly arrested by security personnel in front of thousands of members of the Korean Worker’s Party.

But in unconfirmed reports emerging Monday, Free North Korea Radio said that Jang and his aides has actually been executed on December 5, four days before the reported special meeting of the Political Bureau. Jang had been executed for trying to get rid of Kim Jong Un “in association with China” and now all of the organizations he had been responsible for are being monitored, an unnamed source told Free North Korea Radio .

Further executions should be expected and there was also rumor that Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae could be next on the purge list, being organized by Kim Jong Un and uncle Ko Soo Il, the source added. But while the ultimate fate of the “Jang group” was not made immediately clear from North Korea’s own reporting of affairs, it was clear that domestic media wanted to deal aggressively with the dismissal, dedicating maximum airtime and column length to the situation throughout domestic media. [...]

[...] “There are no signs of instability, but this would be a time of vulnerability. The problem is we would not know about instability until we see it, North Korea watcher Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group told NK News. “But I must say, it is almost the perfect dictatorship and Kim Jong Un seems to have that place locked down,” Pinkston added.

Leonid Petrov, a North Korea researcher at the Australia National University, said that hopes of reform under Kim Jong Un now looked unlikely given the purge. “The dismissal of Jang Sung-taek has heralded the beginning of long-awaited political changes in the DPRK. However, instead of progressive and visionary reforms, akin to what happened in China in 1979 and in the Soviet Union in 1985, North Korea is now experiencing “Perestroika in reverse”

“After the decade of 2002 Economic Measures and the slow-motion marketisation, the young Marshal Kim Jung Un is now tightening the screws. Uncle Jang and his group are used as scapegoats for all policy mistakes to relegate the responsibility from the Kim’s dynasty in the same manner it was done with the ‘Gang of Four’ in China.”

“The irony of that”, Petrov said, “was that in the North Korean case Kim Jong Un “simply leans up the space to rule the country in the same manner his father and grandfather did throughout the previous sixty years”.

See the full text of this article here…





“North Korean Cinema: A History”

8 12 2013

Johannes Schonherr_NK Cinema_A History_cover pageReview: “There is one man who stands above them all in terms of North Korea cinema: Johannes Schonherr. Schonherr has recorded for prosperity’s sake some marvellous adventures associated with North Korean cinema that those of us unable to read Korean may never have discovered…excellent…Schonherr [has] written the only ‘essential’ book on North Korean cinema that you could need.” –North Korean Films.

About the Book: Like many ideological dictatorships of the twentieth century, North Korea has always considered cinema an indispensible propaganda tool. No other medium penetrated the whole of the population so thoroughly, and no other medium remained so strictly and exclusively under state control. Through movies, the two successive leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il propagandized their policies and sought to rally the masses behind them, with great success.

This volume chronicles the history of North Korean cinema from its beginnings to today, examining the obstacles the film industry faced as well as the many social problems the films themselves reveal. It provides detailed analyses of major and minor films and explores important developments in the industry within the context of the concurrent social and political atmosphere. Through the lens of cinema emerges a fresh perspective on the history of North Korean politics, culture, and ideology.

About the Author:Johannes Schonherr is a freelance writer specializing in travel, film and food. He lives in Japan.

Interview with Johannes Schönherr, North Korea cinema expert, by North Korean Films

Read Introduction and Chapter 1 on-line

Read Chapter 6 of this book on-line

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: McFarland (August 13, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0786465263
ISBN-13: 978-0786465262
Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches

By this book on Amazon.com





‘Murky’ drug trade: How did North Korea become a meth hub?

8 12 2013

Foreign_nationals_suspected_of_smuggling_methamphetamines_from_NK(By Geoffrey Cain, GlobalPost Contributor, 7 Dec. 2013SEOUL, South Korea – Extradited from Thailand, the five suspects appeared before a New York court last month to face charges of a sensational plot: smuggling crystal meth from enemy number one, North Korea.

The five suspects – from China, the U.K., the Philippines and possibly Slovakia – stand accused by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of conspiring to sell 40 pounds of 99 percent pure crystal meth to an undercover agent. They pleaded not guilty, and will appear in court again in early December.

You wouldn’t guess it, but North Korea – run by the world’s most infamous authoritarian regime – happens to be a colossal supplier of a highly potent but moderately priced form of crystal meth, experts say.

It comes in the form of “Ice,” the powerful, smoke-able type that delivers a near-immediate jolt to the brain. The drug is primarily made for export, ferried through China and, from there, distributed around the world. But some North Koreans – despite the watchful eyes of their government – are avid consumers of crystal meth too.

Two North Korean refugees in Seoul told Global Post that, in a country suffering from poverty and food shortages, the drug is a much-needed appetite suppressant, offering a means of self-medication to cope with the hardship.

Near the Chinese border, they said, Ice was widely available on the black market. It was popular among private traders and their families, who had no problem inhaling or selling it in outdoor markets with a bribe to authorities.

“Life was hard, people were hungry, and we needed the drug,” said one female North Korean defector in Seoul, who fled to the Chinese border region in the mid-2000s. She admitted to smoking Ice multiple times, and once gave smaller doses to her two boys, aged 11 and 13.

“My family was a little wealthier, so we could afford it, but even poor people did it too,” she said. “It was a popular drug.” She asked not to be named, fearing reprisals against family members still in the country.

Of course, various types of amphetamines enjoy some popularity in developing countries in Asia and Africa, where laborers, for instance, need energy to work long hours on scant meals. Even South Korea, which leaped from poverty to riches in about 30 years, was once a big-time producer of crystal meth.

This booming trade, now in private hands, was once a fundraising arm for the cash-strapped government, experts say. North Korean embassies trafficked in hashish as far back as the 1970s.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the economy collapsed, resulting in a devastating famine. By the mid-2000s, a nascent class of merchants flourished, peddling just about any illegal product you could imagine, including drugs and pirated DVDs.

“These days, more and more freelancers and professional drug dealers are taking over this murky operation of delivering the drugs produced in North Korea, packed in Northeast China, and smuggled via South East Asia to Australia, America and Europe,” said Leonid Petrov, a North Korea watcher at the Australian National University in Canberra. “Many North Korean scientists began to moonshine in private laboratories producing the similar high-quality product for domestic consumption and illicit export,” he said.

Since crystal meth laboratories are smelly, they would have to be away from populated towns. From a business standpoint, moving the contraband from North Korea to China would be realistic and highly profitable.

Chinese Mafiosos probably hand over supplies, while North Koreans, in the safety of their country, synthesize the drugs in factories near the southern banks of the Tumen River that marks part of the boundary between North Korea, China and Russia, writes Andrei Lankov, a North Korea specialist at Kookmin University in Seoul. That’s a swift change from a lucrative narcotics trade that, a decade ago, was mostly state-run.

Still, it’s not clear whether the group of five suspected dealers had the resources and connections to move meth from North Korea all the way to North America. Prosecutors accuse the group of trafficking and selling North Korean drugs in Southeast Asia, a more reachable market.

One suspect even boasted that his organization was the only one that could get the job done. “Because before, there were eight [other organizations]. But now only us, we have the NK product,” Chinese suspect Ye Tiong Tan Lim was quoted as saying on the recordings.

The suspect said that his group stockpiled one ton of North Korean meth in the Philippines, anticipating an unconfirmed decision by North Korea to destroy meth labs under pressure from the U.S. The drugs would be shipped through Thailand, according to prosecutors.

The two North Korean defectors told GlobalPost they were unsure whether laboratories have been destroyed. One study in the North Korea Review suggested that the trade was indeed moving from an array of factories to the underground.

But, explains Petrov, “As with everything that comes out of North Korea, the veracity of this story is 50-50.”








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