Tourists in North Korea Unable To Send Postcards Home Due To “Sanctions”

21 02 2013

No-Postcards-to-North-Korea(, 20 February 2013)  Western tourists in North Korea have been banned from sending postcards home to friends and loved ones, supposedly as a result of “sanctions” passed in recent days and weeks.

In particular, the new “sanctions” make it impossible for European tourists to send postcards home.  The development was reported to NK NEWS by two separate tourist groups who were in the country during the nuclear test and its aftermath.

When trying to send cards home, North Korean guides told European visitors that they were not allowed to send the materials due to “sanctions” passed in recent days.

One North Korean group leader told his visitors that the ban was a result of “Chinese sanctions”, though this looks unlikely because American tourists in another group were allowed to send their own cards home.

When asked for further details, North Korean tourist guides explained that the ban on sending to Europe was because mail would not be delivered to certain destinations. They said that they did not know how long the limitations would last.

While the European Union did apply new unilateral sanctions on North Korea in recent days, none appear to have been focused on the North Korean postal system. These latest sanctions were instead focused on increasing travel bans, asset freezes, and the number of EU sanctioned companies.

It is not clear which countries are behind the latest development, if any. There also remains the possibility that this could be an arbitrary measure on the North Korean side.

Reacting to the potential postal sanctions, Dr. Leonid Petrov, a North Korea Expert at Australian National University said,

    Sanctions never bring anything good and often bite both sides. Sanctions against North Korea, paradoxically, help the Kim’s tyranny survive. Totalitarian regimes can exist only in isolation, where common people have little or no exposure to outside information. The whole philosophy of North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile antics is designed to keep the country isolated.

North Korea has long limited the amount of mail coming in to the country and many third countries have controls over what can be sent there in packages. However, postcards and small letters being sent from the country have not traditionally been restricted. If the latest ban is a result of external sanctions, they would seriously undermine the spirit of the Universal Postal Union, a multilateral postal framework.

As a UN member, North Korea joined the Universal Postal Union in 1974, but has direct postal arrangements with only a select group of countries. But one objective of the union is that, “freedom of transit shall be guaranteed throughout the entire territory of the Union.” This has historically meant that items like postcards and small letters should be deliverable, regardless of where they are sent from.

In the United States, mail is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and the agency limits mail to North Korea solely to First-class letters/postcards and matters for the blind. All merchandise, currency, precious metals, jewelry, chemical/biological/radioactive materials and others are prohibited.

In related news, a business visitor who returned from the DPRK yesterday told NK NEWS that his North Korean partners were “extremely worried” about what China might do in reaction to the latest nuclear test. He said among his DPRK based partners fear that China could be “deadly serious” about punishing Pyongyang through sanctions that make ordinary business harder to conduct.

North Korea conducted its third nuclear test last week, in face of significant international pressure. The move was instantly condemned by the UN and many observers believe that further sanctions will be applied as a punishment for North Korea in the weeks ahead.


EU: On the Bench in Pyongyang

17 02 2009

sdc14217By Axel Berkofsky for ISN Security Watch

Brussels has stayed out of the North Korea nuclear game, letting the members of the six-party talks call all the shots in what some say is a lack of motivation and others a smart waiting game, Axel Berkofsky writes for ISN Security Watch.

…Rogue missiles and megaphone diplomacy aside, Brussels continues to implement what little is left of its economic engagement projects with North Korea. It’s not much, but it’s still more than most (except China) are willing to invest into the ailing North Korean economy. However, there are serious doubts that Pyongyang is at all interested in implementing any of the structural reforms the EU and its member-states are promoting through small-scale training and capacity-building projects, mainly in finance, trade and management.

In fact, North Korea’s economic reform process has essentially been suspended at best and scrapped for good at worst, says Leonid Petrov, research associate at the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. “In 2004, North Korean government officials and the army were told that market liberalism was a temporary phenomenon and would not be tolerated in the future. The economic policy of partial liberalization started in July 2002 was gradually abandoned and old patterns of central economic planning, public distribution system, and strictly controlled market activity were being reintroduced,” he told ISN Security Watch.

And recent personnel changes are making things even worse, he added. “In 2007, [North Korean President] Kim Jong-il’s brother in law, Chang Sun-taek, was promoted to the newly created post of first vice-director of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party. He visited the border area with China to ‘clean up’ smuggling and speculation, and issued an order to tighten regulations authorizing the maintenance of free markets in the country”…

Read the full text here…