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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Slave to the blog: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead

by | September 14th, 2012 | 05:40 am
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According to the Joongang Ilbo, a report from the Bank of Korea claims that North Korea trade dependence on China reached 89 percent last year.  As we have argued ad nauseum, these figures overstate North Korea’s dependency for a variety of reasons, most notably the exclusion of North-South trade.  We calculate China’s share of North Korea last year was 57 percent—still high, but a far cry from 89 percent.

Endangered species: We have run a number of posts about North Korean trading in endangered species parts, including rhino horns; Curtis Melvin at NK Economy Watch has come up with a new and disturbing twist:  a cross-border trade driven by Chinese tourists. According to a report cited on the blog, between January and July this year Dandong customs confiscated 137 bottles of tiger bone wine, five bears’ gall bladders weighing 172 grams and five boxes of powdered bears’ gall bladders weighing 50 grams. It gave no further details but said such seizures have increased with the growing numbers of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea. Tiger bone wine is allegedly available in tourist shops in North Korea where it is popular with Chinese visitors on account of its supposed aphrodisiac properties. But public health law enforcement being what it is, it is not clear how much, if any, tiger bone the wine actually contains, or from where it is derived. Caveat emptor? I’ll stick to beer, thanks.

Slip-sliding away: My colleague Steph Haggard recently commented on a new analysis suggesting that the Cheonan may have been sunk by an errant mine. The highly-technical work on which this paper was based assumed that the culprit was an aging South Korean mine.  Yonhap now reports that the South Korean military recently discovered 16 wooden-boxed land mines believed to have been washed away from North Korea after heavy rains. (See photo above.) According to the report, military units in Gyeonggi have collected 16 North Korean land mines, including 12 empty boxes, in downstream areas of the Imjin River and the Hantan River since mid-August. Officials suspect the mines made their way south due to swollen water levels after storms hit the Korean Peninsula.

Back in the 1970s, SNL had an ongoing gag during the weekend news segment in which Chevy Chase, playing a news announcer, would announce that “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.” For John Delury’s sake I sort of feel a compulsion to continue to run these announcements that “output at KIC is still rising.”