Geopolitics

Duped By North Korean Propaganda, Japanese Expats Are Suing Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, has been summoned to appear in a Japanese courthouse. Five people who moved to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) between 1959 and 1984 are seeking 500 million yen (3.8 million euros) in damages from the North Korean government for deceiving them with promises of a prosperous life they never found in the totalitarian state, South Korean daily Segye Ilbo reports.

The plaintiffs, four women and one man, are among the estimated 93,000 Japanese-Koreans and other Japanese who moved to North Korea in the latter half of the previous century, often persuaded by a propaganda project (Zainichi Chosenjin no Kikan Jigyo) to attract immigrant workers. The targeted campaign was carried out through the General Association of Koreans in Japan (Chongryon), the de facto representative of North Korea in Japan, touting life in the Northern peninsula as "paradise on Earth."

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No Free Lunch: What Trump Must Face On North Korean Nukes

The U.S. may need to accept that Pyongyang doesn't give up its nuclear program.

WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump flew to Hanoi, Vietnam, this week, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had a surprise announcement: Trump and Kim would meet earlier than expected, at a dinner on the first evening. The late announcement led skeptics to describe the dinner as an attempt to overshadow Michael Cohen's embarrassing testimony about his work for Trump. But the last-minute dinner raised unexpected challenges. The two sides apparently struggled over the menu, with the White House pressing for simpler fare.

Even as a first-time novelist, I know this is called "foreshadowing."

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Pyongyang Potential: Could North Korea's Economy Take Off?

With its mineral resources and cheap labor, the country has significant potential for growth, but economic openness could undermine its dictatorship.

SEOUL — Last month, Ian Bennett hosted a start-up workshop in Pyongyang. Several times a year, the computer scientist travels to North Korea to run training seminars organized by the Singaporean NGO, Choson Exchange. The workshops feature foreign professionals introducing North Korean workers to marketing skills, economic analysis and sales techniques.

"There is a strong entrepreneurial spirit," says Bennett. "Many people who seek to develop these new skills have experienced famine in the 1990s, and now know they can't rely any longer on the state alone. Those who have not tried to fend for themselves in the past often die."

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North Korean Defectors Watch Summit With Hope, Trepidation

SEOUL - They are the simplest of dreams.

To see familiar streets once more. Or walk along a river at the center of childhood memories. Or throw a big party with wine.

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North Korea

Next On The Korean Peninsula: Trump And Pyongyang Nukes

Kim Jong Un's historic call for peace also included an unspoken message to U.S. President Donald Trump: North Korea won't surrender its nuclear weapons easily.

The agreement Kim reached Friday with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in declared "a new era of peace" and sought a formal end to the seven-decade-old Korean War. While it said both countries committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, it gave no details on concrete steps to achieve it.

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North Korea
Yann Rousseau

How Kim Jong-un's Nuclear Arsenal Could Lead Us To Peace

North Korea may now be too dangerous to be attacked. But that may force all to find a diplomatic solution.

-OpEd-

PARIS — As soon as North Korea's sixth nuclear test was announced on Sunday, the litany of condemnations against Kim Jong-un's umpteenth "provocation" started up yet again. But despite all the "strong condemnations," the world's most powerful countries will most likely prove incapable of forging a coherent response. The regime in Pyongyang, meanwhile, is convinced that it has finally attained the key to peace.

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North Korea
Tori Otten

North Korea, Time To Face The Music

-Analysis-

As Kim Jong-un again edges the world closer to an unthinkable nuclear showdown, the tribulations of a humble music store owner in Berlin may help explain why it's so hard to figure out what to do with North Korea.

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North Korea
Stuart Richardson

Did Donald Send Dennis? A Reality Check In Pyongyang

Basketball star-cum-celebrity apprentice-cum-cultural envoy Dennis Rodman is in North Korea for yet another rendezvous with his "lifelong friend" Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of the hermit kingdom. When Rodman last visited Pyongyang in 2013, he blasted then President Barack Obama for nurturing hostile relations between the U.S. and the pariah state. But now, under Donald Trump's watch, the flamboyant celebrity's travel plans take on a whole other dimension.

Indeed, Trump is also a friend of Rodman's, and both have brought a similar Reality TV flare to the serious business of international politics. As Rodman prepared for his expedition Monday, President Trump was busy turning his Cabinet meeting into a strange episode of how-much-I-love-my-boss. One-by-one, in front of the television cameras, Trump's cabinet secretaries showered him in stilted praise reminiscent of contestants' eleventh-hour flattery when he hosted the Celebrity Apprentice. Or, perhaps, a Kim Jong-un appearance before the Central Committee?

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North Korea
Nicola Busca

Pyongyang Puts On A Modern Face But Misery Lingers

An Italian reporter gets a rare glimpse past the North Korean regime's attempt to portray the country in a positive new light.

PYONGYANG — Every year North Koreans spend months preparing the capital for the country's most important holiday: the birthday of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung.

No expense is spared on "The Day of the Sun," the April 15 festivities commemorating the hermit nation's "eternal president."

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North Korea
Roy Greenburgh

Poisoning Relations, From Pyongyang To Moscow

-Analysis-

When a hit has been ordered, the chosen method for assassination is ultimately of secondary importance. A "successful" car bomb, stabbing or long-distance rifle shot all have the same final result for the intended victim. Still, there's something about poisoning. The Shakespearean plotting and preparation required to secure and administer the fatal potion give an extra icy chill to premeditated murder at its most devious.

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North Korea

Spotlight: Happy Birthday Kim Jong-Un!?

Kim Jong-un will be celebrating his 33rd birthday this Sunday. Wishes and presents are usually in order on this type of occasion, but it's difficult to see any desire the North Korean dictator hasn't already seen fulfilled in his five years in power.

For starters, the cult of personality has never been bigger in North Korea. As NK News recently reported, Kim's approach when it comes to imposing his image is "quantitative, not qualitative." New statues of the young leader rise on a regular basis in squares around the country, and his "Image of the Sun" portrait has been copied tens of thousands of times. More recently, Kim even seems to have managed to ban Christmas, replacing it with his grandmother's birthday.

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North Korea

North Korea's Biggest Nuke Test

At first, most thought it was another earthquake. But the 5.3-magnitude rumble coming from the northeastern corner of North Korea was a potentially much more frightening event: Pyongyang had set off its most powerful nuclear weapon test ever.


World leaders were quick to react to this latest act of defiance. South Korea denounced Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un for his "maniacal recklessness." Japan, Russia, the U.S., France — all quickly joined in condemning the threat posed by the the biggest of North Korea's biggest of five nuclear tests.


But with each passing provocation coming from North Korea, the world is increasingly counting on one power to step in: China. Not only is it Pyongyang's direct economic ally, but as a neighbor, the stakes are even higher in avoiding that a nuclear confrontation is sparked.


Chinese state news media issued a prompt statement this morning, calling on "all sides" to stop "adding oil to the flames" while the foreign ministry in Beijing said that it was "firmly opposed" to the test. Still, too carefully picked words from a country that has spent the past decade seeking a larger role on the international stage, but has so far failed to take tougher sanctions against its gung-ho neighbor.


We're used to poking fun at the North Korean dictator and his antics. Just yesterday, news reports circulated that Kim Jong-un had banned the use of sarcasm in private conversation, which definitely sounds like a great idea. But toying with nuclear warheads is no laughing matter, and China should know it's even less funny when you're in the neighborhood.

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North Korea

Chinese Travel Agents Offer 'Nostalgia' Tours To North Korea

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Pyongyang's Mansudae monument — Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

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North Korea

North Korean Missiles, Fatal Lightning, Olympic Jaguar Shot

SPOTLIGHT: SARAJEVO RUBBLE TO TRUMP TOWER

The pace of modern communication tells us that what's here today is gone ... tonight. The potential worldwide virality of any piece of digitally circulated information comes with the caveat that everything is also potentially, and eternally, invisible. The tree falling in some proverbial unseen forest of the Internet. But history teaches us that ideas — good and bad — are bound to travel and cross-pollinate, fade and reappear. And, yes, some of it will last.


That brings us to Aleksandar Hemon, an accomplished 51-year-old Bosnian novelist … and Donald Trump. We get this story by way of another transplanted U.S.-based Balkan writer named Andrej Mrevlje, whose Yonder pieces are occasionally republished on Worldcrunch. Mrevlje recounts how the Sarajevo-born Hemon refused to sign a recent petition of American writers to try to ban Trump from the presidential election.


"His message is universal," Mrevlje writes of Hemon. "Only a person who suffered that much, who saw his hometown reduced to ruins by bombs and shells, disinfected of all its smells and memories — only this kind of person can cherish democracy to the extreme of supporting Trump's right to run for office. Hemon knows that exclusion leads to segregation, revenge, violence and destruction. Hemon is not an American patriot, and he is not a Trump fan, but he defends voting as the strongest tool of democracy. Once your homeland — your courtyard, your imaginarium — has been wiped out by savages, you will defend these institutions of democracy with your own claws. It happens after every war." Here's the full piece.

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food / travel
Olivier Racine

A Swiss Man's Bizarre Quest To Give Kim Jong-Un A Toblerone

Switzerland-born globetrotter Olivier Racine does things because he can. He wanted to give the North Korean dictator two gifts from his country, a giant Toblerone chocolate bar and a piece of the Matterhorn mountain. This excerpt from his recently publish

PYONGYANG — It's Sept. 15, 2012. I get off the plane in North Korea, carrying in my pocket an email from Sir Jong Chol that I'd printed in case I had to cover my ass. It was meant to inform any potential intermediary that the first secretary of the North Korean embassy in Switzerland, where the Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself had lived during his studies in Bern, had been informed of our travel and that he wished us a trip "without any trouble."

We try to reach the security gate amid the turmoil and the indefinable hubbub that is reminiscent of the Saigon airport. We have the choice between two gates. I take the left lane. The soldier on duty gives me a receipt for my cellphone, which I'll be able to retrieve when we leave. My luggage is scrupulously examined. This was predictable, considering the contents of my bags. What was less predictable was the fact that it wasn't them preventing me from going through, but indeed me refusing to move further.

They keep telling me to move along, urging me towards the exit, but I don't budge. The people behind me are starting to lose patience and make sure to let me know it, but I don't give a damn: "No, no, no! You don't understand. You first give this to your big chief, Big Supreme Dear Kim Jong-un!"

I made sure I knew how to pronounce his name to be understood. But judging by the dumbstruck expression of the soldier in front of me, I'm not sure he understands what I want to say. And you can't blame him. But no way can he open my Toblerone to make sure it doesn't contain a rifle or something, even if the exaggerated length of the packet renders his suspicions reasonable. My mission would be immediately aborted if he did.

Except they absolutely want to open the Toblerone. "No, no!" They pull it towards them, I pull it back, asking myself how this unlikely situation will unfold. I put it down one moment to defuse things, ready to grab it back at any suspicious sign. We don't understand each other the slightest. I don't speak Korean, and they don't speak English. But I hold on. There are now five soldiers around me, who eventually start arguing about what they should do with me.

One of them has a stroke of genius and shifts the waiting line to the right to unjam the queue.

I considered this scenario and prepared with a very demonstrative, explanatory speech, along with detailed gestures to make myself understood. I then got out the letter I had personally addressed to Kim Jong-un to go with my presents:

"Would you be so kind as to accept, Supreme and Dear Commander of the Korean People's Army and Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, this modest gift, a symbol of my country, in the form of this chocolate Toblerone, as well as this piece of rock which I personally brought back when I climbed the Matterhorn in your honor on Aug. 21, 2012, together with a detailed fact sheet and a certificate in my name to prove this ascent. I can barely express my appreciation and gratitude for such a wonderful opportunity. It will indeed be an enormous honor for me to be received in your fascinating and beautiful country, which I am greatly looking forward to visiting. With my most sincere and heartfelt thanks. Yours most respectfully, Olivier Racine"

I spared no effort. Yet it had no result whatsoever, apart from astounded looks and frowns. I start losing hope, not knowing what to do to get myself out of this jam. I'm almost about to give up and concede defeat. Then a miracle happens: An interpreter shows up.

— My name is Mr. Ryu. Good heavens, what's going on here?

— Thank God you're here! Par Toutatis, you speak French?

— Yes, yes, yes! But why you not go? They say you go and they ask why big rock and big packet?

He starts reading the letter that he eventually translates, frightened, bowing down in the humblest and most respectful way in front of a military man, seemingly a senior officer, who remains skeptical about what he's only beginning to understand. After an endless debate in Korean, no one seems able to cope with this unlikely situation. Until two additional soldiers turn up with a scale, a measuring tape and a camera. Orders are given, the rock is weighed, measured and photographed, as is the Toblerone. My terrified savior is very heavy-handedly solicited to translate the thousands of questions from the senior officer, as well as my answers:

— Where did you buy this big chocolate? Do you have a receipt? Have you left this packet alone, out of your surveillance since the moment you bought it? Has it already been opened? Is this the original wrapping? Is this rock indeed a gift for our Great and Very Dear Leader Kim Jong-un? And why? Did you really bring it down from the mountain you climbed in honor of our Very Very Dear Leader? How high is the mountain? Are you alone here?

All of these questions are, of course, asked three or four times, even though I answer them perfectly clearly, while my documents are thoroughly examined — my passport, my travel itinerary, my hotel reservation, my plane ticket, etc.

Finally, my rock and giant chocolate are taken away by two soldiers, and I'm told that what should be done will be done and I'll be informed when the time comes.

— Welcome to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mr. Racine. You can go now!

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