DPRK in Mid-2015

Well, I don’t know how to move this blog without disrupting some other things in place, so… it’s easier to stay here. Google did retract its censorship policy, though they lost their even-headed tone when they had to backpedal, clearly indicating their displeasure with the Will of the People, but there you go.

So what’s been going on in North Korea all this time?

The Koryo Hotel caught fire on the evening of Thursday, June 11. Foreigners taking pictures of the event were immediately arrested, and news outlets outside the DPRK struggled to get any real information on it.

Joshua Stanton noted Associated Press’ lackluster coverage of the event, despite their efforts to establish a Pyongyang office. Reuters’ James Pearson (North Korea Tech) managed more substantial journalism, including photos of the landmark hotel at the time of the event and afterward. Chad O’Carroll, NK News, offered an apologia two days later, responding to criticism of the dearth of news:

Slovenian industrial/political/art band Laibach has announced their live performance in Pyongyang, on dates to coincide with the Korean peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonization. Once banned by the former Yugoslavian government, Laibach’s presentation is characterized by martial/fascistic aesthetic, with growling, relentless four-on-the-floor dance-floor sound. Often accused of harboring neo-Nazi sentiment, their lyrics are instead critical of global governments and regimes. The name “Laibach” comes from Nazi Germany’s name for Ljubljana, what is now Slovenia’s capitol.

Their Liberation Day Tour will be documented by Morten Traavik, the Norwegian indie director who orchestrated Cambodia’s controversial “Miss Landmine” awareness campaign six years ago.

Personally, I wonder how they will actually make it to Pyongyang. They have a Beatles (read: capitalist running dogs) cover album, and their lyrics stand to be translated by an administration not prone to nuanced interpretation. To date the DPRK has not acknowledged the tour, while Laibach has a history of attention-getting but false tour announcements. We’ll see.

The DPRK’s defector problems continue: one was shot in China, one fled the military and wandered into South Korea, and 10,000 homes were destroyed to preclude this problem.

In the second week of June 2015, concerns of defectors along the “most porous stretch of its border with China” drove the DPRK to order the destruction of 10,000 homes, relocating the citizens of Hyesan and Musan deeper inland with the promise of “extra food.” This is one promise, however, the government has not seen fit to make good on in the past.

Also on Thursday, June 11, a North Korean soldier, possibly a defector, was shot and killed in the Chinese town of Helong by Chinese soldiers. This comes after a spate of tragic events, including several reports of North Korean citizens killing Chinese villagers. Events like these strain the relationship between China and the DPRK, the latter of which pridefully refuses to show sufficient respect or courtesy to one of their few allies on the planet.

Days after initial reports of the shooting, however, new facts came to light and it was not one DPRK soldier in Helong but two civilian defectors, one of whom was killed while the other fled.

And the blot on South Korea’s military prowess seems to be the teenaged DPRK soldier who not only wandered through a minefield to escape North Korea but camped out a mere four meters away from a South Korean guard post. All told, the young man survived a week between fleeing Gangwon Province and approaching the post in Hwacheon. He stated his motivation to defect as a result of abuses received during his military service.

Something like this has happened before, three years ago. That’s why this is especially embarrassing.

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