NKorea threatens to cut all dialogue with SKorea

30 03 2008


SEOUL (AFP)North Korea’s military on Saturday threatened to cut all dialogue with South Korea, calling for an apology over remarks by the South’s top military general and signalling a further slide in relations. On Wednesday, South Korea’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Kim Tae-Young, told parliament the South would strike the North’s nuclear sites should the communist country attack it with nuclear weapons. The North’s retort late Saturday followed its test-firing of several short range missiles on Friday, an action backed by a warning that it could slow down work to disable atomic plants.

– Even before Mr. Lee moved to the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, many people in Asia and beyond associated his ascendance to power with the potential deterioration of inter-Korean relations. If not a complete freeze, a serious cooling was expected the fragile North-South Korean cooperation. Some political groups found his conservative stance and rhetoric while others welcomed the fresh approach.

The war of words on what policy toward North Korea is more effective has been going on between the two camps the supporters of unconditional engagement and the pragmatic conservatives. It is likely that debate will continue because a solution for the issues regarding the DPRK (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name) is still nowhere in sight…


Read the full text of my article on this issue at Nautilus Institute’s website here (in English)

«Доктрина Ли Мён Бака» и будущее межкорейских отношений (in Russian)

Не обойдётся без перемен и в вопросах внешней политики. Консервативные круги, интересы которых выражает партия «Ханнара», никогда не испытывали симпатий к пхеньянскому коммутистическому режиму. Именно по этому, уже во время своей предвыборной кампании Ли Мён Бак заявил, что в случае его избрания президентом отношения с северным соседом подвергнутся серьёзной ревизии. Он также высказывался за сближение с США (традиционным и главным стратегическим партнёром Южной Кореи) в координации дейстивий по отношению к КНДР. Намерения новой президентской администрации пересмотреть все соглашения достигнутые между Севером и Югом за последние несколько лет порядком насторожили либерально настроенную общественность.


N.Korea Expells S.Korean officials from Kaesong Industrial Zone

27 03 2008

 Kaesong bus

Yahoo! Asia News has just reported: SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea on Thursday expelled all 11 South Korean officials from a joint industrial estate just north of the border in retaliation for Seoul’s new tougher line towards the communist state.

The move was in protest at comments by a South Korean minister linking expansion of the Kaesong estate to the North’s denuclearisation, Seoul’s unification ministry said. Last week, Unification Minister Kim Ha-Joong said Kaesong would not be expanded unless progress was made in scrapping the North’s nuclear programme. On Wednesday Kim added that improvements in bilateral relations “will be decided according to progress in the North Korean nuclear issue.”

-Ouch! I told them so… See What North Korea Policy Will Lee Pursue?


How North Koreans overcome the shortage of electricity

26 03 2008

Voltage converter

The Daily NK describes how North Koreans, who have faced chronic shortages of electricity, use conventional and alternative means to meet their basic needs.

“People overcome the shortage of electricity on their own. They import a large number of batteries from China. In addition, there are many households which have a bicycle generator,” Mr. Shin said, “Even though no electricity is provided by the state, people can manage to get by. Indeed, they get used to the shortage of electricity and can solve the problem on their own.”

– A similar situation was in the USSR well until the later 1970s – early 1980s. Not only in provinces but in the large cities too.

“Unlike their counterparts in the city, many people in the rural areas do not use motor vehicle batteries because they need not only the battery but also a 220v converter, current transformer and low voltage circuit breaker to watch TV and video, Mr. Shin said.”

– The picture above shows such batteries and a voltage converter.

“In North Korea, it costs 70,000 North Korean Won to get a used motor vehicle battery and 120,000 to 160,000 North Korean won to get a new one. Considering the availability of repair services, people prefer to buy the domestically produced ‘Daedong River Battery’ to its Chinese counterpart even though Chinese one is of better quality,” said the merchant.

– That’s correct! Last October I checked the prices for small generators sold at the T’ongil Market in Pyongyang and was asked 140,000 NKW. However, in Pyongyang people have more cash in hands.  However, a greater variety of consumer goods in Pyongyang markets makes the competition there stronger.

When asked whether North Korean people complain about the shortage of power, the merchant said, “Do you think the government has ever provided anything for its people? These days, people have become accustomed to making a living with their own hands even if there is no provision from the government.”

– People in NK, like it was in the former USSR, have little expectations of government ability to help them with their daily needs. But they don’t blame the government for inefficiency. Instead, they see the source of their misery in the hostility of foreign nations (first of all the US), continuing conflict with South Korea, the collapse of Socialism in China and Russia, and natural disasters….


북한의 범죄 행위는 생존 전략의 일환이다

25 03 2008

Choi Dongsong

레오니드 페트로프(호주국립대학)

북한 마약 운반선 봉수호의 선장 및 3명의 선원에 대한 오스트레일리아 빅토리아 주 최고법원의 최근 무죄 판결은 아무도 예상치 못했을 정도로 놀랍다. 북한이 국제 무대에서 불법 행위를 지원하고 있다는 지배적인 견해는 오스트레일리아인과 미국의 북한 전문가 2명(에이드리안 부조, 발비나 황, 조 베르뮤데스)가 행한 증언에 잘 표현되어 있다. 이들은 조선민주주의인민공화국(DPRK)의 최고 지도부가 사건의 배후에 있다고 믿어 의심치 않았다. 그런데도 여성 7인과 남성 6인으로 구성된 배심원단은 봉수호 선장 송만선, 정치 지도원 최동송, 1등 항해사 리만진, 1등 기관사 리주천에 대해 무죄를 판결하고 3년간의 구금 상태에서 그들을 석방시켰다…

The full story is here:

North Korea’s Criminal Activity is Part of Survival Strategy

25 03 2008

Pong Su

By Leonid Petrov

It has been exactly two years since the acquittal of the captain and three officers of a North Korean drug-running cargo ship, Pong Su, by the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australian. After the three years of investigation and four months of trial, this decision caused a sensation that continues to cause debates about the DPRK government’s involvement in illicit activities across the globe.

The dominating view that the North Korean state supports illicit activities on the international stage had been consistently expressed in the testimonies provided by one Australian (Adrian Buzo) and two US-based (Balbina Hwang and Joe Bermudez) experts on North Korea. They and many other commentators had little doubt that DPRK top leadership was behind the incident…

Read the full story here: http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?article_class=2&no=382170&rel_no=1

Taedonggang Beer

24 03 2008

Taedonggang beer brewery

North Koreans are very proud of their Taedonggang Beer, which, in fact, is of excellent export quality. However, for some reason, its export is allowed only to South Korea (which is technically the same country).

The hardware is, indeed, British but the story of brand creation goes back to Kim Jong-il’s visit to Russia in August 2001. During his visit to the Baltika brewery in St.Petersburg, the North Korean leader invited its experts to cooperation and, in memory of the tasting, took away a 5-liter keg.

See: http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=5037

Some cooperation between this Russian brewery and North Korean Taedonggang took place soon after that. Also, Taedonggang beer owes its qualities to the technological processes of Chinese Tsingtao and Japanese Sapporo (according to the factory’s official guide, Ms. Kim Seong-bok). Its byproducts include Taedonggang soju and Taedonggang barley tea.

Barley and hop, which are used for Taedonggang beer, come from the northern Ryanggang Province, and the fresh water from South Hwanghae Province. The filtering material is also produced locally. Taedonggang is produced bottled and draft (10° and 12°). But the North Koreans prefer stronger liqueurs and consider beer merely a “beverage”, not alcohol.


See “Taedonggang Beer: The Simple Pleasures” by DPRK Studies

Questions from NK Monitor

22 03 2008


NK Monitor has asked many interesting questions. I hope my answers are not completely wrong.

>Some (anecdotal) evidence seems to suggest that the public distribution system, especially in the border regions, is breaking down…

– Apparently, the PDS has been revitalized all across the country after 2003. It can break down again only if the government is collapsing or there is nothing to distribute. So far, these do not seem to be the case.

> …and as this happens, the jangmadang are increasingly filling this gap.

– This is why the “farmers’ markets” (jangmadang) were officially permitted in 2002-2003 virtually in every district and village. Moreover, after the 2005 crackdown on private selling activity, people still trade and speculate but discreetly, at night. The authorities know about that but seldom react.

> Imaginably, some of this food, especially up in the border areas, is imported from China. Assuming a large percentage of the food in that region is imported from China, wouldn’t that drive up prices in the region ?

– Food (and other goods) come from China as the result of barter (non-cash) deals with North Koreans. The food prices are growing, so the prices on the commodities which North Korea is exporting.

>(Also, due to predicted food shortages locally-produced food prices will no doubt rise as well).

– Yes, in jangmadangs the food prices rise and fall seasonally. But the prices on food sold through the PDS is likely to stay at the same level. PDS remains for the central government an important stabilizing factor which buys it time to look for survival paths.

>And as those traders start accumulating power and money and coalesce together, is it possible that this could contribute to the formation of “fiefdoms” along the border area that are autonomous and able to resist the central government?

– This process began in the early 2000s, when economic freedoms were hardly controlled from the centre. After 2005, when Pyongyang gained momentum, many of the freedoms associated with “7.1 economic measures” were curtailed. Recently, the government began to crack down on collective property on the means of production (trucks, buses, machinery) to undermine their ability to earn cash and barter.

And, the most important, you cannot “resist the central government” in societies like North Korea unless you feel suicidal…


Can Surging Grain Prices Spark Unrest in N.Korea?

18 03 2008
The Hyundai Economic Research Institute, via Chosun Ilbo, reported that

surging international grain prices may worsen North Korea’s food shortage and lead to other serious problems in the country. In a report released on Sunday, the Hyundai Economic Research Institute said, “Soaring international grain prices will further worsen North Korea’s food shortage and encourage more North Koreans to flee the country. This will very likely lay a big stumbling block to North Korea’s opening and create instability for Northeast Asia as well.”
If it is protracted, the upward rise of grain prices caused by short supply will have serious effects on global food security. This, in turn, may cause wide-spread starvation, produce more refugees, and cause regional armed clashes, the research institute said.
In order to attain food security, the research institute urged the South Korean government to enhance its food self-sufficiency and lay a stable foundation for food supply by strengthening cooperation with neighboring countries in cultivating food crops on undeveloped land. The institute also called on the government to seek strategic cooperation with North Korea in the agricultural sector.

This report does not seem to be exactly right.

1) North Korean agricultural sector is NOT linked to international grain markets;
2) Humanitarian aid from overseas does NOT necessarily need to be given in the form of top-quality grain;
3) North Korea is NOT going to “open up” even if the grain prices are low or humanitarian assistance is bountiful.

On the contrary, the soaring grain prices may help North Korean become a net exporter of grain, raising the badly needed foreign exchange. If needed, a single directive from Pyongyang can make the whole country switch from rice and


비핵화인가 협상중단인가?

14 03 2008

LMB_force1레오니드 페트로프 박사
(Leonid Petrov PhD)

새롭게 취임한 한국의 이명박 대통령은 남북관계에 대해 “이념의 잣대가 아니라 실용의 잣대’로 풀어나가겠다고 밝혔다. ‘실용적인 남북관계’는 그가 대통령 후보로 선거활동을 펼칠 때부터 고수해온 대북정책이다. 많은 이들은 이 대통령이 청와대에 입성하기도 전부터 “이제 남북관계는 잠재적으로 악화될 것이다” 또는 “남북 관계가 완전 동결되진 않더라도 일정수위로 차가워 질 것”이라는 쪽에 힘을 실은 견해들을 밝혀왔다. 몇몇 정치 그룹들은 이 대통령의 보수적인 자세와 방해가 되는 수사법에 주목해왔으며 몇몇 그룹들은 남북문제에 대한 참신한 접근법을 반겨왔다. 남북문제와 관련한 여러 말 싸움은 무조건적인 협상 및 지원을 지지하는 쪽과 실용적인 보수주의를 외치는 쪽으로 좁혀진다. 양쪽의 논쟁은 쉽게 종결될 것 같지는 않다. 북한 관련 문제에 대해서는 아직도 확실한 해법이 없기 때문이다…

The full text is available at:


Presidential elections and the future of Russian-Korean relations

13 03 2008

Putin_KimJongIlBy Leonid Petrov

At the end of this month the inauguration of the recently elected President of the Republic of Korea will take place in Seoul. Russia is poised for its own presidential elections in early March. In North Korea (formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK), it has been reported, the grooming of a new leader is already under way. Nevertheless, the dynamics of relations between Russia and the two Koreas will depend not so much on personalities but on the joint efforts of the sides…

See the full text at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JC05Ag01.html