‘The Pentagon is dreading the potential of an inter-Korean reconciliation’

31 01 2018

Radio Sputnik(26 January 2018) North Korea has called on all Koreans at home and abroad to make a breakthrough for unification without the involvement of foreign countries. The message was announced by Pyongyang’s state media and came after the government met with political parties. Earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signaled his willingness to mend relations with his southern neighbor ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics which will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Radio Sputnik discussed this issue with Dr Leonid Petrov, North Korea expert and visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.

Listen to this interview or download the broadcast 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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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…

N. Korean ski resort anticipates 5,000 customers per day

13 08 2013

masik-ski-project-north-korea(BY CHAD O’CARROLL, NK News, 12 August 2013)

LONDON – North Korean authorities expect that 5,000 people will visit the Masik-ryong Ski resort each day – 250 days per year – once construction is completed, a planning document seen by NK News reveals.

Charging $50 per person, the People’s Committee in Kangwon Province and DPRK Ministry of Sports anticipate a net revenue stream of $62.5 million from the ski resort per year, of which $43.75 million will be profit.

The planning document says that North Korean customers from nearby provinces will form the backbone of anticipated demand, followed by international tourists from “surrounding nations”.

“We also plan to host the Asian or international competitions, or hold business matches and to invite many ski fans and cheering enthusiasts,” the document says in a passage detailing the predicted income.

But at $50 per day the ski resort entry fee is extremely expensive for the average North Korean, who the CIA World Factbook estimates earns just $1800 per year.

Despite the apparent contradiction, the planning document cites million dollar profit projections to convince foreign investors to help fund infrastructure for the resort, including ski-lifts, entertainment facilities, and unspecified “operation technology”.

“Masik-ryong Ski Resort is going to increase to the maximum, the multiplicative and accelerant effectiveness of the investments by introducing energy-cycling technology and constant development operation strategy, which are the world trends in designing and operation management”, the planners claim.

Chris Green, Manager of International Affairs at the Daily NK, says the project is “pie in the sky” and indicative of dubious North Korean business planning practices.

“This is classic North Korea. 1) Attract foreign currency while 2) providing plausible evidence of development that 3) placates some North Koreans that their country is in the same ballpark as South Korea or China,” he told NK News.


While the planning document says that the resort is being built to “improve” the “material and cultural lives of the people,” the push to build the massive ski resort comes just one year after South Korea was awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics to be hosted at Pyeongchang. Some experts suggest that the Masik-ryong development plans are intrinsically linked.

“As usual, North Koreans are trying to outperform their southern neighbors by over-investing in ideologically important mega-projects”, said Leonid Petrov, a North Korea expert at Australia National University. “The outcome is likely to be usual too. Masik ski resort will be used by the regime for buying the loyalty of the elites, while sending the message of achieved affluence and happiness to the common people,” he added.

But given the scale of the Masik-ryong Ski resort plans, it is possible that North Korea might use the prestige project to justify a bid to co-host the Winter Olympics with South Korea.

“I think a push for co-hosting is possible, but not necessarily sincere: Masikryeong won’t meet International Olympic Committee standards anyway,” Chris Green told NK News.


Aside from profit forecasts, the planning document also reveals interesting details about the scope of development at the Masik-ryong ski resort.

Part one of the authorities’ plan, scheduled for completion by the end of 2013, is to complete the building of a junior level ski course and four “high-level ski runways”, a hotel, ski service halls, ski school, ski kindergarten, children’s snow park and children’s skating ground.

Before the end of the year the North Korean developers also hope to build “a combined lift, two surface lifts, one moving carpet and other equipment and facilities.”

Stage two, which will kick off in 2014, aims to build one sleigh course and seven medium-level and high-level ski courses, a terrace park, a ski park, a children’s skating ground, snow park and “various four season playgrounds and amusement facilities”.

Furthermore, the planning document says that Masikryong will be an environment-friendly ski resort, powered “entirely through windmills and solar-energy roofs”.

Since being announced to the nation, North Korean propagandists have regularly reported on progress at Masikryong frequently on TV, radio, and newspapers. The construction site has also been visited by key leadership figures, including Kim Jong Un.

Recent reports suggested that construction at Masik-ryong had been seriously set back due to heavy rains. But North Korean media quickly hit-back, with the Rodong Sinmun saying that soldiers had installed “all kinds of facilities” to ensure work could continue “regardless of heavy rains”.

The fast-pace of construction at the ski resort has been hailed by North Korea’s propagandists as a new “Masik speed,” a term now used by state media to describe any project needing urgent completion.

Dennis Rodman Bids Farewell to “Great Leader” Kim Jong Un

2 03 2013

KJU_Dennis Rodman_rodong shinmun(NKnews.org March 1, 2013) U.S. delegation attract huge media interest both in North Korea and abroad

Former basketball legend Dennis Rodman left North Korea today, calling the Kim family “great leaders” as he said goodbye to journalists at Pyongyang’s Sunan Airport.

In remarks about his time spent with Kim Jong Un, Rodman said, “He’s proud, his country likes him – not like him, love him, love him…[And] guess what, his grandfather, and his father were great leaders, and he’s such a proud man.”  He further added, “Guess what, I love him. The guy’s really awesome.”

Yesterday, Rodman broke world news by becoming the first high profile American visitor to meet North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un. The unlikely pair watched a basketball game between the visiting U.S. delegation and an unspecified local team. Sitting next to Kim Jong Un, North Korean state media outlet described their initial encounter, “Dennis Rodman went up to the auditorium to bow to Kim Jong Un….Warmly welcoming him, Kim Jong Un let him sit next to him.”

Wearing dark glasses and drinking a can of Coca Cola, Rodman apparently chatted without translators to Kim Jong Un throughout the game. The match ended in a 110-110 draw, with 12 DPRK players and four players from the U.S. team Harlem Globetrotters divided into two teams.  Rodman said afterwards that “although relations between the two countries are regrettable, personally I am a friend of Marshal Kim Jong Un and the DPRK people.”

Following the game, North Korean state media outlet KCNA reported that the group went for a dinner with Kim Jong Un, who expressed his “expectation that [further] such sports exchange would be activated, contributing to promoting mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries”. A VICE Media staff member at the dinner Tweeted last night, “Um… so Kim Jong Un just got the #VICEonHBO crew wasted… no really, that happened.”

Spending five days in North Korea, Rodman’s delegation also took in a number of recently built tourist sites. KCNA reported that the group “spent a good time watching dolphins dancing to the tune of cheerful music, jumping in group, spinning rings, jumping into the air and shaking hands with people.”

Reacting to the news, North Korea expert Leonid Petrov today told NK NEWS,

“This week Kim Jong-Un has really surprised the world. Like a talented film director he changes the pace of the unfolding drama with new turns in the plot. The December rocket launch was overshadowed by the visit of Google’s CEO. The February nuclear test suddenly looked boring when an ex-NBA star and the Supreme Leader set together to cheer the basketball exhibition. Will the next visitor to Pyongyang be a game-changer?”

In stark contrast to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s January trip to North Korea, the Rodman delegation was covered in close detail by North Korean media. Making front page news in today’s edition of Rodong Sinmun (North Korea’s main newspaper), DPRK TV and radio news bulletins all led with the story both last night and this morning.  Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University, told Yonhap News today, “North Korea is likely to show off an image of openness about Kim Jong-un by displaying Rodman’s visit at home and overseas.”

A picture released of Rodman’s farewell today showed Kim Jong Un hugging him, with North Korea’s world-famous basketball player Ri Myung Hun clearly visible in the background.  As the only North Korean basketball player that an NBA team was ever interested in, Ri is known to be the world’s tallest basketball player, standing at nearly 8 foot tall.

In an exclusive report for NK NEWS, journalist Nate Thayer yesterday described how the Rodman visit likely came to be.  ”Kim Jong Un and his brother Kim Jong Chol are known to be ardent fans of  American basketball, with Kim Jong Un reported to have had posters of  basketball star Michael Jordan on his wall during his schooldays and his brother, Kim Jong Chol, once photographed in Switzerland wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey with Dennis Rodman’s number on it.

Rodman’s visit comes at a sensitive time for South Korea and the United State’s relationship with North Korea. North Korea tested a nuclear device last month and launched a satellite into orbit, despite widespread international pressure against it. Currently, the UN Security Council is working to try and develop a suitable response to the third nuclear test.

North Korea’s coach is excoriated in a public meeting

4 08 2010

Kim Jong-hun, the manager of the North Korean football team for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, has been sentenced to 14 hours of labor on a building site, the Sun reported Sunday.

SEOUL (Radio Free Asia 2010-07-28) North Korea’s soccer team got an official reprimand for losing all three of its World Cup matches, and the national coach could now be in danger for “betraying” the Stalinist country’s heir apparent, knowledgeable sources have said.

The players were summoned on July 2, on returning to Pyongyang, to a large auditorium at the Working People’s Culture Palace and subjected to a “grand debate” and criticism that they failed in the “ideological struggle,” according to a Chinese businessman.

Players “who participated in the World Cup were subjected to a session of harsh ideological criticism, with the exception of [Korean-Japanese players] Jung Tae Se and An Yong Hak,” the businessman said, citing senior North Korean officials.

They took the stage before more than 400 people, including the sports minister Park Myoung Chul and a deputy director of the Workers’ Party Organization and Guidance Department. Players were then criticized by other athletes and a sports commentator and required to criticize head coach Kim Jong Hun.

The Chinese trader said in an interview that how the players were reprimanded and what kind of punishment they received wasn’t known. “Coach Kim Jong-hun and the team’s athletes were made to stand on a stage and other North Korean athletes and students took turns criticizing the players. At the end of the session the team members were made to criticize their coach,” RFA quoted a source as saying.

“There were about 400 participants at this closed-door meeting, including athletes from various organizations under the umbrella of the Ministry of Sports, and students from Pyongyang University, Kim Il Sung University, and Kim Hyong Jik School of Education,” he said.

According to another source in Shinuiju, the meeting lasted six hours and coach Kim Jung Hun’s safety could be in jeopardy, as he was publicly accused of “betraying the Young Gen. Kim Jong Un,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s anointed heir. “There are rumors that coach Kim Jung Hun has been expelled from the Workers’ Party, or that he has been sent to perform forced labor at a residential building construction site in Pyongyang, but such rumors are hard to verify,” the source said.

According to the same sources, the sports commentator who covered World Cup games was present, and noted sports commentator Ri Dong Kyu was tasked to point out the shortcomings of each of the players, and subsequently criticize them. According to multiple sources in North Korea, as soon as the North Korean soccer team qualified to the World Cup, Workers’ Party meetings and lectures for students were organized to celebrate “Young Gen. Kim Jong Un’s accomplishment.”

See the full text of this article here…

More articles on this topic here…




Forza Coreana!

21 06 2010

Leonid Petrov for «Klar Tale» (21/06/10)

The North Koreans, like their brothers in the South, are crazy about football. They find this game fascinating because it reminds them of real life full of tough moments with unpredictable results. Their political leaders are quick to link the performance of the team to the broader national goals and prides.

For the DPRK, which lives in the state of permanent crisis, every small victory gives its people a good reason to celebrate. Playing football with Brazil is already a challenge, while scoring even one goal is a feat. Last week Ji Yun Nam’s lucky strike made millions of Koreans not only in the North of the Korean peninsula but also in the South and overseas elated. Tonight the DPRK is facing Portugal to seek revenge for the blow received 44 year ago (they lost 5-3 to Portugal despite taking a 3-0 lead after thirty minutes) .

Victories in sport give the North Korean people much consolation in their daily struggles. Their country remains stuck between the communist past and an unknown future. Desperately trying to modernise the nation, DPRK leadership remains fearful of any real change or reform. The dynamism and passion with which North Korea plays football could have been utilised in revamping its economic strategy, exactly like South Korea did it once to score the “miracle on the Han river”.

Defeats educate us better than victories. Even if DPRK national team does not show a great result at 2010 World Cup competition, it still learns a lesson together with its fans and critics back at home. By showing the character and strong determination for success in sport, North Korea puts a solid foundation for the new round of proclaimed self-modernisation. The final score means less than the general impression from technique, discipline and teamwork performed in the course of the match. By playing against the world strongest teams the North Koreans have already acquired respect and sympathy of millions, and probably inspired many more for hard work and excellent achievements.

North Korea punished its World Cup team’s Head Coach Kim Jong-hun.

(The Korea Herald, Aug. 02, 2010) Kim Jong-hun received his sentence after he and his players faced a six-hour grilling from 400 officials of the Communist country’s hardline regime. Kim was also stripped of his membership of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The players were then allegedly forced to… blame their coach for the defeats. Kim was being punished for “betraying the trust of Kim Jong-Un”…

— Read more articles by Leonid Petrov about soccer in Korea:



N.Korea secures World Cup broadcast deal

16 06 2010

North Korea: Broadcast Union Says Soccer Coverage Is a Gift (AP, June 15, 2010) Asia’s broadcasting union said Tuesday that it was providing North Korea with free live coverage of World Cup matches so that its citizens could enjoy the sport and get a feel for life outside their isolated nation. John Barton, the sport director of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said he signed a contract with the World Cup organizer, FIFA, on Friday to broadcast the matches live into North Korea. Mr. Barton dismissed as “rubbish” reports accusing North Korea of broadcasting pirated recordings of several matches.

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, 15 June 2010) — North Korea has secured legal rights to air World Cup matches live, Asia’s broadcasting union said Tuesday, denying the reclusive state had pirated a recording of the opening fixture.

According to South Korean broadcaster SBS, the North’s Korean Central Broadcast Service (KBS) aired Friday’s opening 1-1 draw between hosts South Africa and Mexico without permission. But the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union said North Korea — whose team is competing at the World Cup for the first time in 44 years — had used legal footage “right from the start” following a deal between the union and FIFA.

KBS is a member of the TV union, which has agreed with football’s world governing body to air the tournament live in six other impoverished countries — East Timor, Laos, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. “We have signed a contract with FIFA on June 11, just before the opening game started, to broadcast the matches live in North Korea,” a spokeswoman at the Kuala Lumpur-based broadcasting union told AFP. “It’s not true to say they have broadcast a pirate recording for the opening match. Right from the start, North Korea has been using the feeds from FIFA legally,” she said, while declining to detail the terms of the agreement.

South Korea are also competing in South Africa, and SBS says it holds the broadcast rights for the entire Korean peninsula. North Korea, whose national side open their campaign later Tuesday against five-time champions Brazil, wanted the South to provide free footage, as it had done for the 2006 tournament in Germany. But SBS said last week that negotiations with North Korea over a fee had broken down. It said the talks had been coloured by tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang over the sinking of a South Korean warship in March…

…Four years ago, South Korea’s then-liberal government spent 150 million won (132,600 dollars) subsidising World Cup broadcasts to North Korea.

N.Korea Shows Pirate Broadcasts of World Cup

(Chosun Ilbo, 14 June 2010) North Korea’s Central TV illegally aired the opener of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on Saturday evening despite having failed to buy the broadcasting rights. The broadcast showed about an hour and 20 minutes of footage of Friday’s opener between South Africa and Mexico.

As if mindful of accusations of piracy, the channel erased inscriptions at the top and bottom of the screen showing the source of the program. An announcer and a commentator voiced over the original broadcasters after muting the original noise soundtrack, with the result that stadium noise was almost completely lost.

SBS TV in Seoul, which holds the exclusive rights for the Korean Peninsula, says this was an “act of piracy.” “The North’s broadcast of the World Cup matches was illegal because our negotiations with North Koreans were suspended,” an SBS spokesman said. “We’ll decide how to respond once we find out where the North got the footage.”

In the 2006 World Cup, the North was given broadcasting rights for free by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. In 2002, it also broadcast matches illegally.

On Sunday, the North only broadcast edited games between Uruguay and France and between Argentina and Nigeria and skipped the South Korea-Greece match altogether.