Tag Archives: Kim Jong-un


North and South Korea Find a Way to Avoid Disaster, Reach Deal

Above photo: South Korean National Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin addresses reporters in Seoul shortly after 2 a.m. following three days of “marathon talks” with North Korea. (Reuters)

Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After 40-plus-hours of talks, North and South Korea on Tuesday pulled back from the brink with an accord that allows both sides to save face and, for the moment, avert the bloodshed they’ve been threatening each other with for weeks.

In a carefully crafted, though vague, piece of diplomacy, Pyongyang expressed “regret” that two South Korean soldiers were maimed in a recent land mine blast Seoul blamed on the North. While not an acknowledgement of responsibility, let alone the “definite apology” South Korea’s president had demanded, it allows Seoul to claim some measure of victory in holding the North to account.

South Korea, for its part, agreed to halt anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts on the border, which will let the authoritarian North trumpet to its people a propaganda win over its bitter rival — and put an end to hated loudspeaker messages that outside analysts say could demoralize front-line troops and inspire them to defect.

The agreement marks a good first step in easing animosity that has built since South Korea blamed North Korea for the mine explosion at the border earlier this month and restarted the propaganda broadcasts in retaliation. But, as always on the Korean Peninsula, it’s unclear how long the good mood will continue.

Despite South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s expression of hope that the North’s “regret” will help improve the Koreas’ relationship, the accord does little to address the many fundamental, long-standing differences. The announcement of further talks to be held soon in either Seoul or Pyongyang could be a beginning, but the Koreas have a history of failing to follow through on their promises and allowing simmering animosity to interrupt diplomacy.

The negotiations that began Saturday at the border village of Panmunjom, where the Koreas agreed to the 1953 ceasefire that stopped fighting in the Korean War, also resulted in Pyongyang agreeing to lift a “quasi-state of war” declared last week, according to South Korea’s presidential office and North Korea’s state media.

While this declaration was largely a matter of rhetoric — the border is the world’s most heavily armed and there has never been a formal peace agreement ending the Korean War, so the area is always essentially in a “quasi-state of war” — there had been growing worry about South Korean reports that the North continued to prepare for a fight during the talks, moving unusual numbers of troops and submarines to the border.

The Koreas also struck an important humanitarian agreement by promising to resume in September the emotional reunions of families separated by the Korean War. They said more reunions would follow, but there were no immediate details.

In a signal of North Korea’s seriousness, Pyongyang sent to the talks Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer for the Korean People’s Army and considered by outside analysts to be North Korea’s second most important official after supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

“I hope the two sides faithfully implement the agreements and build up (mutual) confidence through a dialogue and cooperation and that it serves as a chance to work out new South-North relations,” chief South Korean negotiator and presidential national security director Kim Kwan-jin said in a televised news conference.

The United States quickly welcomed the agreement and the prospect of tensions dropping.

Kim, the Seoul negotiator, described the North’s expression of “regret” as an apology and said the loudspeaker campaign would end at noon Tuesday unless an “abnormal” event occurs.

Pyongyang had denied involvement in the land mine explosions and rejected Seoul’s report that Pyongyang launched an artillery barrage last week. South Korea’s military fired dozens of artillery rounds across the border in response and said the North’s artillery strikes were meant to back up an earlier threat to attack the loudspeakers. There were no details on whether the North addressed the artillery claim in Tuesday’s deal.

These were the highest-level talks between the two Koreas in a year, and the length of the sessions was no surprise.

While the Koreas have difficulty agreeing to talks, once they do, marathon sessions are often the rule. After decades of animosity and bloodshed, finding common ground is a challenge. During the latest Panmunjom talks, the first session lasted about 10 hours and the second session about 33 hours.

The negotiations started just hours ahead of a Saturday deadline set by North Korea for the South to dismantle the propaganda loudspeakers. North Korea had declared that its front-line troops were in full war readiness and prepared to go to battle if Seoul did not back down.

South Korean defense officials said during the talks that about 70 percent of the North’s more than 70 submarines and undersea vehicles had left their bases and could not be located by the South Korean military. They also said the North had doubled the strength of its front-line artillery forces since the start of the talks.

It was not immediately clear whether North Korea pulled back its submarines and troops after the agreement was announced.


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Tinder Claims It Has North Koreans Users

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Tinder threw a public tantrum on Twitter earlier this week in response to a Vanity Fair article that criticized the app’s hook-up culture and its users.

In more than 30 tweets, Tinder argued in points of 140-character-or-less for why #GenerationTinder is a thing and why having users in China and North Korea somehow validates its product of “amazing experiences” and “meaningful connections.”

Tinder did release a statement acknowledging the outburst and overreacting. But the big question now is then, are there actually Tinder users in North Korea?

Vox Media is calling bullsh-t. For one, North Korea’s only legal smartphone, called the “Arirang,” is quite incapable of doing much other than running an old, probably crippled version of Android and a few rip-off apps. The hardware probably can’t handle Tinder, let alone run Flappy Bird at the proper frame rate.

Any foreign smart devices smuggled in won’t be able to connect to North Korean cell services or Internet-connected WiFi. Currently, only foreigners are able to access WiFi through their mobile devices by purchasing an overpriced SIM card from North Korean telecommunications company Koryolink. Most North Koreans use foreign devices as storage for (often illegal) content, including music, movies and TV shows.

Lastly, it could just be the foreigners in North Korea who are using Tinder. Chinese tourists, who are allowed to use smartphones, or businesspeople spending time in Pyongyang, might have opened Tinder out of curiosity or boredom. That might explain why Tinder was receiving location pings from the area. It could also have been Dennis Rodman.

In any case, the best thing about this has been the memes, especially ones showcasing Kim Jong-un on Tinder. Thank you, Internet.


Feature image via Run of the Web


North Korea Bans Foreign Envoys from Owning Media Critical of Kim Jong-un

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Well, I guess The Interview is out of the question.

Foreign diplomats are no longer allowed to possess any media content critical of Kim Jong-un or the North Korean regime, according to a new ordinance.

UPI reported on Tuesday that any content considered to be slanderous to Pyongyang—including photographs, movies and literature saved on mobile phones, memory sticks or computers—will be forbidden from being kept at foreign embassies and international organizations.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office denounced the ban as a violation of international standards of human rights. North Korea’s ordinance, which was issued on June 26, came shortly after the U.K. report on human rights and democracy, which had classified North Korea as a “human rights concern” for reasons including its ban on the freedom of expression.

North Korea is notorious for its censorship. Last year, the Freedom House gave the country a press freedom score of 97, with 100 being the worst possible score.

North Korea also briefly banned Instagram for week in late June, with warnings appearing in English and Korean that the social media platform had been put on the blacklist for harmful content. While almost no North Koreans have free access to the Internet, foreigners can access social media by using 3G on their mobile devices through the country’s local carrier, Koryolink.

Compared to the rest of the North Korean population, foreign diplomats in Pyongyang live in relative comfort. However, the latest ban adds to an already long list of inconveniences, including frequent blackouts due to power shortages.

See Also


North Korea Blacklists Instagram

North Korean Defector Drops ‘The Interview’ in Pyongyang


Featured image via Reuters

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North Korea Reports 99.97% Turnout in Local Elections

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

North Korea held local elections on Sunday to decide its provincial governors, with the official voter turnout recorded at 99.97 percent, the Korean Central News Agency reported. However, voters did not mark their ballots, as all candidates were already pre-selected by the government.

Voting is compulsory for all North Korean citizens over the age of 17. Since candidates usually run uncontested, voters only have to deposit their ballot slips into a ballot box to show their support for their soon-to-be provincial representatives. Failure to make an appearance at the polls is considered tantamount to treason.

Only those who were overseas were unable to participate in the elections, KCNA reported. It added that the elderly and ill who were unable to visit polling stations participated in the elections votes via “mobile ballot boxes.” North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un also cast his vote in Pyongyang over the weekend.

According to CNN, the North Korean elections are seen as an unofficial census to ensure that all citizens are where they’re supposed to be.

Since 1999, North Korea’s local elections have been held every four years. The number of seats is determined by each district’s population. During each four-year term, elected deputies convene once or twice a year to set their provinces’ budgets and endorse leaders appointed by the ruling party.

Earlier this month, South Korean intelligence officials claimed that about 70 North Korean officials have been executed since Kim Jong-un rose to power.


Featured image via Yonhap News Agency

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Kim Jong-un Has Executed 70 Officials: Seoul

by KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has executed 70 officials since taking power in late 2011 in a “reign of terror” that far exceeds the bloodshed of his dictator father’s early rule, South Korean officials said Thursday.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, at a forum in Seoul, compared Kim Jong Un’s 70 executions with those of his late father, Kim Jong Il, who he said executed about 10 officials during his first years in power.

An official from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, who refused to be named, citing office rules, confirmed that the spy agency believes the younger Kim has executed about 70 officials but wouldn’t reveal how it obtained the information.

Yun also said that the younger Kim’s “reign of terror affects significantly” North Koreans working overseas by inspiring them to defect to the South, but he also didn’t reveal how he got the details.

North Korea, an authoritarian nation ruled by the Kim family since its founding in 1948, is secretive about its government’s inner workings, and information collected by outsiders is often impossible to confirm.

High-level government purges have a long history in North Korea.

To strengthen his power, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, removed pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese factions within the senior leadership in the years after the 1950-53 Korean War. The high-ranking victims included Pak Hon-yong, formerly the vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the country’s foreign minister, who was executed in 1955 after being accused of spying for the United States.

Kim Jong-un has also removed key members of the old guard through a series of purges since taking over after the death of Kim Jong-il. The most spectacular purge to date was the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, for alleged treason. Jang was married to Kim Jong Il’s sister and was once considered the second most powerful man in North Korea.

South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers in May that Kim ordered his then-defense chief Hyon Yong-chol executed with an anti-aircraft gun for complaining about the young ruler, talking back to him and sleeping during a meeting.

Experts say Kim could be using fear to solidify his leadership, but those efforts could fail if he doesn’t improve the country’s shattered economy.


Featured image via Yonhap News Agency

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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North Korea Woos Tourists

Pictured above: A North Korean family at Pyongyang’s “fun fair.” (Photo courtesy of Roman Harak/Flickr)

by ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — If you’re still looking for somewhere exotic to go this summer and don’t mind a vacation that comes with a heavy dose of socialist propaganda and leader worship, North Korea says it’s just the place for you.

Fresh off a drastic, half-year ban that closed North Korea’s doors to virtually all foreigners over fears they would spread the Ebola virus — despite the fact that there were no cases of Ebola reported anywhere in Asia — the country is once again determined to show off its “socialist fairyland” to tourists.

The focus on tourism is the blessing of Kim Jong Un himself and, in typical fashion, officials have set lofty goals in their effort to please their leader.

About 100,000 tourists came to North Korea last year, all but a few thousand of them from neighboring China.

Kim Sang Hak, a senior economist at the influential Academy of Social Sciences, told The Associated Press the North hopes that by around 2017, there will be 10 times as many tourists and that the number will hit 2 million by 2020.

Pyongyang’s interest in attracting tourists may sound ironic, or even contradictory, for a country that has taken extreme measures to remain sheltered from the outside world.

But Kim said the push, formally endorsed by Kim Jong Un in March 2013, is seen as both a potentially lucrative revenue stream and a means of countering stereotypes of the country as starving, backward and relentlessly bleak.

“Tourism can produce a lot of profit relative to the investment required, so that’s why our country is putting priority on it,” he said in a recent interview in Pyongyang, adding that along with scenic mountains, secluded beaches and a seemingly endless array of monuments and museums, the North has another ace up its sleeve — the image that it is simply unlike anywhere else on Earth.

“Many people in foreign countries think in a wrong way about our country,” Kim said, brushing aside criticisms of its human rights record, lack of freedoms and problems with hunger in the countryside. “Though the economic sanctions of the U.S. imperialists are increasing, we are developing our economy. So I think many people are curious about our country.”

Opponents in the West say tourists who go to North Korea are helping to fill the coffers of a rogue regime and harming efforts to isolate and pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons and improve its human rights record. For safety reasons, the State Department strongly advises U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea.

None of that has stopped the number of American and European tourists from gradually increasing, and such concerns are not so strong in the countries North Korea is most actively wooing — China, Russia and Southeast Asia.

“About 80 percent of the tourists who come are from neighboring countries,” said state tourism official Kim Yong Il. “It’s normal to develop tourism within your region, so our country is not exceptional in that way. But we are also expanding to European countries as well.”

While the overall quality of life in North Korea hasn’t shifted much in the past few years, efforts to build attractions for visitors and the infrastructure required to host them are already beginning to change the face of the capital and some scattered special tourism zones recently established across the country.

Amid the generally Spartan context of their surroundings, those attractions, which are also used by average North Koreans at much lower fees, can be quite striking.

In Pyongyang, some of the more popular tourist sites include a new, high-tech shooting range, where visitors can hunt animated tigers with laser guns or use live ammo to bag real pheasants, which can be prepared to eat right there on the spot. There is also a new equestrian center, a huge water park and revamped “fun fairs” replete with roller coasters, fast-food stands and a 5-D theater. After a year of feverish construction, Pyongyang’s new international airport terminal could open as soon as next month.

Outside of the showcase capital, where funds, electricity and adequate lodging are much scarcer, development has been focused on the area around Mount Kumgang and Wonsan, a port city on the east coast.

A luxury ski resort was recently opened just outside of Wonsan and a number of new restaurants have sprung up along the city’s beachfront area, which is popular with tourists and locals alike for swimming, clambakes and outdoor barbeques.

But like everything else, North Korea is approaching tourism “in its own way.”

Tourists of any nationality can expect constant monitoring from ever-watchful guides and a lot of visits to model hospitals, schools and farms, along with well-staged events intended to impress and promote Pyongyang’s unique brand of authoritarian socialism. Like all other visitors to the North, they have precious few opportunities to interact with average people or observe their daily lifestyle.

Tourists can also expect severe repercussions if they step out of line.

Tours to Mount Kumgang by South Koreans were quite popular for about a decade until 2008, when they were halted after a South Korean housewife who walked into a restricted area was shot dead by a North Korean guard. More recently, an American tourist who impulsively left a Bible in a provincial nightclub was detained for nearly six months until the Pentagon sent a plane to Pyongyang to pick him up.

See Also


“Uri Tours Focuses on North Korea Tourism”

“Commentary: A Medical Mission to North Korea”

“North Korea Arrests Korean NYU Student for Illegal Entry”


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Kim Jong-un’s Brother Seen at Eric Clapton Concert in London

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Kim Jong-un’s older brother was recently spotted attending an Eric Clapton concert at Royal Albert Hall in London, reports Yonhap News Agency.

Kim Jong-chol, 33, is known to be a devoted Clapton fan, as he has previously been seen at the musician’s concerts in Germany in 2006 and Singapore in 2011, according to BBC.

On Wednesday, Japanese television network TBS filmed Kim, dressed in dark sunglasses and a leather jacket, exiting a van outside the venue in west London. TBS journalists reported that Kim was flanked by an entourage of suited men and a woman with cropped hair, who appeared to be Kim’s girlfriend.

South Korean diplomats in London confirmed that Kim attended Clapton’s concert on both Wednesday and Thursday nights, according to the Guardian. The diplomats also said the North Korean embassy in London arranged Kim’s transport to and from Royal Albert Hall.

Yonhap reported that Kim stayed at the Chelsea Harbour Hotel in west London, where rooms can cost up to 2,184 pounds (approximately $3383 USD) per night. He is scheduled to board a flight to Moscow on Friday.

This is the first sighting of Kim since his younger brother, Kim Jong-un, assumed power in late 2011.

Kim Jong-chol is the second of three sons of North Korea’s late leader, Kim Jong-il. He and Kim Jong-un were born to the late leader’s third wife, while the eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was born to the second wife.

Like the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-chol was educated in Switzerland. At one point, he was considered for the North Korean leadership, but was overlooked by his father in 2009, according to BBC. Kim Jong-il had reportedly decided that his second son was too much like a “little girl” to be a leader.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-nam fell out of his father’s favor after he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, supposedly to visit Tokyo Disneyland.


Featured image via Chosun Ilbo

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Yoon Mirae and Sony Pictures Settle Legal Dispute

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Korean singer-rapper Yoon Mirae was not amused when she heard her song “Pay Day” briefly play in the controversial Seth Rogan comedy The Interview.

“When we asked Sony about the use of ‘Pay Day’ in the movie, they replied by saying that they had a signed contract [authorizing their use of the song]. However, we did not sign such a contract,” Feel Ghood Music, Yoon’s agency, said at the time of the film’s release.

The Interview, a film that depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, drew global attention after Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered a cyberattack presumably instigated by North Korea.

Last December, Feel Ghood Music filed a lawsuit with a U.S. court against Sony Pictures Entertainment. After four months of legal dispute, the two parties announced on Wednesday that they have reached a settlement, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Sony Pictures said in an email sent to Yonhap that it acknowledged using the song before obtaining an official license and said that both parties amicably resolved the dispute.

“We want to emphasize that the fact that the track was included [in The Interview] does not mean that Yoon Mi Rae, Tiger JK, or Feel Ghood Music condones the content [of the film],” the studio wrote.

“Pay Day” is a track from Yoon’s third studio album released in 2007 and features her husband Tiger JK, who is also a Korean American hip-hop artist. The song played during a scene in the film where Kim Jong-un (portrayed by Randall Park) shows American talk-show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) how to party by drinking and playing billiards with women in lingerie.

You can watch Yoon Mirae and Tiger JK perform “Pay Day” below.

Recommended Reading


“Did North Korea Hack Sony? The Jury’s Still Out”

“Q&A with Seth Rogan: Behind the Making of the Interview 

“December/January 2015 Cover Story: Randall Park”