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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

STTB: The alphabet soup edition: POTUS, OFAC, BBC, SACP, and, uh, Paradise Island?

by | June 28th, 2013 | 07:26 am
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Wednesday we reviewed the recent UN Expert Panel sanctions report and noted its recommendations for expanding the number of individuals, entities and products subject to sanctions.  Yesterday the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) updated its list of specially designated nationals per the Panel’s recommendations.

A slew of press reports have come out regarding the report’s treatment of the origins of the North Korean missile carrier spotted last year.  True, the report traced it back to a made-in-China log carrier.  But the press appears not to have read the whole report: while the truck was produced in China, the photographic evidence suggests that the retrofitting to transform it into a missile carrier took place in North Korea.  Given that North Korea has a sizeable logging industry, the is presumption that the Chinese manufacturer expected that the vehicle would be used for its intended purpose–not transformed into a missile carrier.  How’s that for dual use technology?

Amnesty International released a statement indicating that it believes the government of Laos violated international law by forcibly returning nine teenagers to North Korea, where they are at risk of punishment, rather than providing them with international protection. The South Korean embassy in Vientiane has come under severe criticism for its handling of the situation. China was in a position to stop the repatriation (the nine had to go through China enroute to North Korea), but regrettably President Obama did not raise this issue with Chinese President Xi when he had the opportunity to at Sunnylands. No one has exactly covered themselves in glory on this one.

Earlier we reported that the BBC was planning to begin Korean language broadcasts aimed at North Korea.  Not so fast. According to Josh Halliday in the Guardian, “The BBC’s aim to broadcast in North Korea for the first time has been curbed by government cuts to its budget.” Broadcasts to the North Korean information desert are still on the “wish list” of Peter Horrocks, the corporation’s director of global news has said, but are unlikely to happen in the next year in light of cuts to the BBC’s budget associated with the Conservative government’s austerity drive. We’re still waiting for Mr. Abe to let us set up medium-wave (AM) transmitters in Japan.

In April we ransacked the kook file to profile Bonakele Majuba, head of the the Mpumalanga (or as KCNA renders it, Mfumulanga) branch of the South African Association of Friendship and Solidarity with Korean People (SAAFSKP). Majuba doubles as the provincial secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), as did his predecessor. Our man in Jo’burg, Brooks Spector, passed along a fine essay by Jack Bloom titled “The ugly truth of communist solidarity.” One can argue that the SACP played an important role in the struggle against apartheid, and there is something to be said for showing loyalty to past supporters. But the simple fact is that it is 2013 and there is no conceivable reason for SACP leaders (or the ANC Youth League, for that matter) to adopt the over-the-top rhetoric of the KCNA by, for example, referring to the government in Seoul as “fascists” or “the puppet regime.”  Bloom makes the obvious point that South Africa might have something to learn from South Korea’s astonishing economic success and then plunges the dagger straight into the heart of the avowedly multiracial SACP by asking “Are they [the SACP] really serious in celebrating a country where leadership is passed from father to son in a hereditary dictatorship? North Korea’s latest constitution actually drops all mention of communism, and its official ideology has been described as racial nationalism.” Hear, hear!

Lastly, it looks like Paradise is really being lost. Steph Haggard pointed me to a piece at 38th North indicating that, despite alleged displeasure in North Korea’a antics, China is moving forward with paving over Hwanggumpyong Island. OK, it was bucolic Wihwa, not Hwanggumpyong, that the Chinese journalists likened to paradise, but you get my drift…