NK NEWS BRIEF | April 18, 2012
Posted April 18, 2012 by Justin
- NK state media reported the failure of their “satellite” launch just 4 hours after it happened, saying in a television address “The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit. Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure.” The rocket broke into pieces and fell into international waters in the Yellow Sea (West Sea) less than two minutes after take-off. Two previous satellite launches during KJI’s rule were reported as successful to the NK people despite failing in reality, so it is surprising that the regime admitted the failure of this first launch under KJU which was supposed to honor KIS’s centenary celebrations, as it would give the appearance that their space program is actually going backwards.
- Daily NK: NKorean reactions to the failed launch have reportedly been widely mixed, with one source reporting that “[Most] people seem like they couldn’t care less about the reports of its failure.” Various rumors about the reason for the failure are reportedly spreading throughout the country with some suggesting that it was caused by elements in the NK govt hostile to KJU.
- KJU has assumed additional leadership titles in an expected formalization of his succession. He took the new title of First Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party (“true to the behest of leader Kim Jong Il” – KCNA), while KJI maintains the position of ‘eternal’ General Secretary of the KWP. He is also now the First Chairman of the National Defense Commission, while KJI is the “Eternal Chairman” of the NDC. Amongst other promotions, 70 military officers were promoted to the rank of general and two economists were promoted to key KWP posts.
- In a clear break with his father’s PR style (KJI never did public speeches), KJU delivered his first ever public speech (video), spending most of his 20 minute address emphasising the importance of the military. KJU read from script, constantly swaying on his feet, and occasionally looking up at the (neatly ordered) audience in front of him in KIS Square. Defectors noted that his speaking mannerisms resembled those of KIS. Evan Ramstad speech analysis video.
- NK conducted a huge military parade and other celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of KIS. The parade showcased a rocket seemingly larger than the one recently launched. Pictures. Video. Unveiling of new KIS and KJI statutes. Pictures. Video
- NK citizens around the country were reportedly ordered to celebrate the birth of KIS simultaneously by wearing “formal clothes,” watching celebrations on TV, and writing reports following the military parade. NK schoolchildren were reportedly given new uniforms, and scholarships were awarded to children of Korean nationals living in Japan, as gifts to mark KIS’ birth.
- NK TV presenters have begun wearing new KIS/KJI badges.
- The portraits of Marx and Lenin have been taken down from KIS Square. It is not clear whether this is temporary for the KIS 100th celebrations, but they did not appear to have been replaced with anything yet. The move would be consistent with the effort to elevate KJI and KIS as the only truly important figures in the history of NK, and also makes sense pragmatically as Marxism-Leninism has so little relevance to NKoreans today.
FOOD AID & FOOD SECURITY
- David Austin of Mercy Corps on his recent visit to a NK orphanage: “[Children were] getting only about 60% of what a child needs.”
- NK defector Kim Tae-jin urged NK to dismantle its prison camps through a letter submitted to the NK representative office in Paris.
- Disco group Boney M is reportedly to show support for NK refugees living in China during a visit to SK for a concert in Seoul (yes, you have heard of them).
- Dong-a Ilbo with the story of Cha Gwang-su, a former elite NK guard who fled the country in 1999 and worked with gangsters in China and guerrillas in Myanmar prior to settling in Seoul.
INTERNATIONAL POLITICS & SECURITY
- Foreign journalists in NK were not allowed to cover the “satellite” launch, but learned of the rocket failure from their home bureaus, surprising NK minders who had not yet heard the news.
- Following the rocket failure, the international community further condemned NK’s launch. The UNSC quickly agreed to a Presidential Statement (PRST) saying it “strongly condemns” the launch and ordered its sanctions committee to further expand the blacklist of NK entities and items (full text: S/PRST/2012/13). The PRST also warned NK off any further nuclear tests. The Russian FM had voiced opposition to new NK sanctions saying “they will not help resolve the situation.”
- The USG officially declared that no food aid would be provided through the Leap Day Deal and Obama stated that the U.S. “intend[s] to… work with the international community to further isolate North Korea.” Video.
- NK rejected the criticisms and the UNSC PRST, saying that it was no longer bound by the Leap Day Deal and had “become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement.” In his speech, KJU had said that “superior military technology is no longer exclusive to imperial countries, so the days of being threatened by enemies with nuclear weapons are gone forever,” suggesting that he did not intend to return to those days any time soon in any case.
- NK has reportedly decided to withdraw its promise to accept IAEA inspectors into the country.
- SK navy ships were dispatched to collect NK’s rocket debris but have reportedly given up efforts after recovering nothing, due to the cost of searching such a large area and also possibly because of the muddy waters of international law.
ANALYSIS & OPINION
- The Economist on the NK admission of rocket launch failure. “The regime over-confidently broke with precedent to invite in the world’s TV cameras to film what was supposed to be the centerpiece of its centenary celebrations for its late founder, Kim Il Sung. Instead, his insecure grandson, Kim Jong Un, suddenly finds himself in the midst of a huge public-relations disaster, with unruly TV commentators all over the place.”
- Lankov on NK decision to admit the failure of its “satellite” launch. “They know people watch South Korean movies and TV shows. They decided it doesn’t make sense to lie.”
- Jeong Jae Sung on KJU emulation of KIS. “For Kim Jong Eun, young as he is and light on experience, the priority right now is on creating internal unity, by borrowing on the legacy he has ‘inherited’ from his predecessors.”
- Lee Sung-Yoon with thoughts on a U.S. response to NK provocations. “[The] American response should not also be the usual — strong on rhetorical condemnation, weak on punitive action and generous in damage-control concessions.”
- Stanton on solutions to North Korea: Containing proliferation, constricting through increased sanctions, and promoting collapse through pressure and subversion.
- Video: NK Spring Friendship Art Festival.
- Pictures by Pedro Ugarte. NK ahead of KIS centennial birthday celebrations.
- Video: Inside NK mission control.
- Guardian: The DMZ as an ecological preserve.
- Lafforgue’s new pictures from inside NK.
- Mark P. Barry on meeting KIS in his last weeks.
- Mainichi Shimbun claims that KJU has tried to encourage KWP officials to engage in debate on economic reforms.
- Jennifer Lind on the history books of a post-reunification Korea. “Accommodating narratives facilitate reconciliation between former adversaries.” After all, as Ernest Renan said, a nation is “a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of their neighbors.”
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