Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

Nothing says, "Lee Young Ho, who the hell is he? Power struggle? What power struggle?" like an image of Kim Jong Eun and his wife strolling out in front of a literal who's who of regime heavyweights. Just look! There's Choi Yong Rim, Kim Young Nam, Choi Tae Bok, Kim Kyung Hee, Jang Sung Taek, Choi Ryong Hae and more.

Quote: "The gang's all here! So stop talking about coups, would you. No chance."

© Rodong Shinmun
But then, does anything say "This is a Party-centered system and don't you forget it" like standing in shot clapping calmly as Supreme People's Assembly Presidium Permanent Chairperson Kim Young Nam and Cabinet Prime Minister Choi Yong Rim, the two top civilian administrators in the regime, cut the ribbon on a new resort built off the backs of military labor? No sir, nothing.

Quote: "Yoo hoo, we might be moving toward reforrrrrrmmmmmmmmm... Can we have some aid, please?"

© Rodong Shinmun 

Kim Jong Eun, Back with a Fresh Disney Move

Webster’s Third New English Dictionary 

Public Relations” 

Definition: The business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution.


Dictionary of Chosun Urban Slang 
[Kim Jong Eun-era edition] 

“Disney Move” 

Definition: An extremely simplistic and practically meaningless PR activity done in order to change the prevailing opinion of one or more sections of the international community in the hope of being able to enjoy the public relations benefit engendered by the activity while at the same time avoiding having to do something much harder and more sincere later on.

Monday, July 23, 2012

North Korea 2012: More Reclusive, More Open

North Korea is 7.75% more reclusive than it was in the same period of last year, new statistics released today reveal.

The news of increasing reclusiveness was revealed at an event this morning to commemorate the release of the latest report from the South Korean state-run Hermitage Foundation, “North Korea 2012: Outlook for Introspection”.

The statistics were taken from analysis of headlines and reports carried by the five major international newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and Mainichi Shimbun) between January 1st and June 30th, 2012.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Did You Say Military-first Was Dead?

Anyone who thought that the dismissal of V. Mar Lee Young Ho on Sunday meant the end of the Military-first Policy and imminent launching of “reform and opening” ought to be feeling pretty silly by now. First Gen. Hyon Yong Chol made rank and then, just 24-hours later, Gen. Kim Jong Eun parachuted in over almost every other officer’s head (everyone alive, at least) to become Mar. Kim Jong Eun.

Prof. Leonid Petrov apparently thinks “Mr. Youngman is panicking,” and is hoping to buy himself some authority with the latest move. Frankly I don’t know whether that is true or not, but I do know one thing; anyone still predicting the end of the “Military-first” political line is a fool.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ri Takes a Hit from the Regime

Kumsusanology, which, much like Kremlinology, one might define as the study of an entire ruling elite based on extremely flimsy evidence, is back with a vengeance. Yesterday, Politburo Standing Committee member, Politburo member, Party Central Military Commission Vice-chairman and Army Chief of Staff V. Mar Ri Yong Ho was cast into the wilderness by the assembled Politburo, for reasons that experts have spent much of today trying to analyse without giving away the fact that they don't actually know.

Among the more prominent of these commentators, in English at least, has been Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group. Wisely, he tried not to sell the farm, instead offering a modest takeaway; that Ri was purged to both circumscribe his power and as a warning to others not to go too far in their own pursuit of influence.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's the Election, Stupid!

When something happens like the July 5th arrest of Ro Su Hui, the vice-chairman of the ‘South Korean section’ of the “heavily left-leaning” (at best) Reunification of the Fatherland Union (RFU), it is easy to simply criticize the South Korean government for what appears at face value to have been a ridiculous overreaction that handed North Korea a propaganda victory.

It is certainly the case that by arresting Ro as soon as he crossed the Military Demarcation Line at Panmunjom, the South Korean government did exactly what the North Korean government will have wanted it to do. There is also little doubt that Ro, a balding, mid-60s, died-in-the-wool pro-North figure, will have received a briefing in Pyongyang prior to his return during which he will have been instructed to resist his inevitable arrest and ensure, as did happen, that he would be wrestled to the ground and handcuffed. That he was tied up with a length of rope before being led away was, perhaps, an unexpected bonus.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Beware the North Korean Rumor Mill

This is a story that appeared on the Radio Free Asia (RFA) website on July 3rd. Given the glacial, infrequent and patchy nature of RFA translations, here is my [reduced and lightly edited for clarity of purpose] English version;
There is a rumor going around that Kim Jong Eun is in favor of the reform and opening of the North Korean economy but is being stopped from so-doing by Jang Sung Taek and Kim Kyung Hee. This news is causing the North Korean people’s dislike of the couple [Jang and Kim are a married couple] to go through the roof.

Reporter Moon Sung Hwee is here with the story.

Moon: Criticism of Kim Jong Eun’s aunt Kim Kyung Hee and her husband Jang is spreading in the markets and in universities, and popular dislike of the two is growing rapidly as a result. This is supposedly because they are implacably opposed to Kim Jong Eun’s plans to reform and open the North Korean economy.

A student from North Hamkyung Province whom I recently spoke to explained, “Kim Jong Eun’s reform and opening plan is not being allowed to reach fruition because of the implacable opposition of Kim Kyung Hee and Jang Sung Taek. This story is whizzing around universities in Pyongyang and the provinces, of course, and also in the markets, and some people are really angry.”

According to the student, Kim planned to make the complete reform of farming and the military his first job following the death of Kim Jong Il, and had made implementation plans.

[The report then goes on to discuss the ways in which Kim hoped (and may still hope) to carry out military and agricultural reform. This includes military modernization (including troop number and military service length reductions). Notably, he also apparently strongly believes in the need to follow the Chinese road in agriculture so as to solve food insecurity issues.]

However, when she heard about Kim’s ideas, Kim Kyung Hee reportedly demanded of him, “Would you, in the fourth generation, discard the ‘juche agricultural law’ and ‘military-first political line’ made by my father Premier Kim Il Sung and adhered to by my brother NDC Chairman Kim Jong Il?”

“You will not abandon socialism for as long as I live,” she apparently went on to declare, and husband Jang declared that rapid reform could lead to regime collapse.
[Ed.: As with all quotes in all articles in all Korean print and online media all the time, the precise accuracy of this quote has to be regarded with circumspection. Anyway, onward...]
However, a Party cadre source in Yangkang Province, while agreeing that the story is indeed going around, added, “For one thing, we don’t know if that is a true story, and even if it is a true story we cannot say for sure when it took place. And, even if it did happen, doubts still exist over the way it leaked out.”

Nevertheless, “The unconfirmed rumor is circulating, and the people’s feelings towards Kim Kyung Hee and Jang Sung Taek are worsening greatly,” the cadre source continued. “People who know well how people’s minds work may very well have leaked the rumor in order to try and restrain Jang Sung Taek.”