Extra! Korea

June 23, 2010

Kim Jong-il may be smoking again; hopefully he’ll die sooner

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 1:17 pm

I know an old lady dictator

who swallowed a fly started smoking again.

I don’t know why

she swallowed a fly he started smoking again.

I guess she’ll hope he’ll die.

– with apologies to the original Mother Goose nursery rhyme

June 19, 2010

North Korea’s Mount Baekdu could erupt … because of their nuclear tests

Filed under: North Korea, schadenfreude moment — extrakorea @ 12:01 pm

Wow. Rarely is the idiom “shoot yourself in the foot” so close to being literally true.

Geologist Yoon Sung-hyo at Pusan National University strongly believes that an eruption is possible.

“Baekdu could erupt anytime soon,” said Yoon who has monitored the mountain for changes. “A variety of indicators are backing this scenario. The thing we should try to predict is when. It’s clear it’s imminent.”

The geologist speculated that an eruption could take place in a couple of years.

[snip]

Yet, “unusual signs,” including minor trembling among others, began to emerge around June 2002 and their frequency quakes has notably increased since a 7.3-magnitude earthquake rattled the area around the mountain, according to geologists..

Among other indicators backing the scenario of a future eruption is the height of Baekdu, which has grown nearly 10 centimeters since 2002. Experts say an expanding magma pool, a precondition for an eruption, is gradually pushing up the height of the mountain as well as the temperature on the surface.

On Oct. 1, 2006, a Russian satellite found the surface temperature of the mountain notably higher than before. The finding came just days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in its northern territory, which could have been a catalyst reactivating magma flows, according to analysts.

(emphasis mine)

So when might it erupt?

The last volcanic eruption at the 2,744-meter Mount Paektu was in 1903.

[snip]

Historic records indicate volcanic activity has previously occurred on the mountain roughly every 100 years.

[snip]

At a KMA seminar earlier this week, an expert said that Mount Paektu could erupt “within several years,” citing topographical signs and international studies. Some Chinese experts even predict that there may be an eruption between 2014 and 2015, said Yun Sung-whyo, a geology professor at Pusan National University.

And what kind of damage are we potentially looking at?

Yoon said that if Paektu does erupt, the damage will far exceed the airline chaos caused when a volcano in Iceland erupted last April. That eruption spewed about 0.11 cubic kilometers of lava, but lava flows and ashes from the Korean mountain will be of greater volume, Yoon said.

Imagine if that were to happen just as Kim Jong-un were taking the reins of power from his late father. That would be a sure sign that the heavens disapprove of him as much as the rest of us do.

May 17, 2010

Kim Jong-il cut trip short after China’s rebuke

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 7:18 am

Kim Jong-il’s visit to China was scheduled to last from last May 2nd to the 7th, but Kim cut it short and returned home one day early. Why?

According to the Chosun Ilbo:

“Maybe Kim was upset that China mentioned the succession and reform and opening of its economy,” the paper [the Asahi Shimbun] quoted the source as speculating.

However, according to the Joongang Daily:

“At the luncheon between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Kim on May 6, the Chinese government informed the North that China will not provide aid outside the framework of the United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang,” the source said.

[ snip ]

At the end of the day, he [Zhu Feng, professor at the Peking University’s School of International Studies and deputy director of Center for International and Strategic Studies at the university] said, China didn’t defer to North Korea for the sake of it returning to six-party talks on the shutting of its nuclear weapons program. “Unfortunately, the standoff will continue,” he said.

May 1, 2010

Andrei Lankov: “[North Korea’s collapse is] a very likely probability.”

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 4:52 am

People have been predicting the downfall of the North Korean regime for years and years, and yet it has always managed to survive. In the aftermath of the failed currency reform, these same predictions are being made again. However, this time, there may finally be some credence to them. How do we know? For one thing, North Korean expert Andrei Lankov is among those who believe that we may finally be seeing the end game of the current ruling regime.

“[A North Korean collapse is] a very likely probability,” said Lankov. “And personally, if you ask me, I don’t believe there is going to be a peaceful, gradual end of the North Korean regime. It will be dramatic, and probably violent.”

Be sure to read the article in its entirety.

April 12, 2010

20% of North Korea’s budget is for Kim Jong-il’s personal use

Filed under: Kim Jong-il, North Korea — extrakorea @ 7:49 am

Unbelievable. According to Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking North Korean defector, this is North Korea’s budget:

50%: military spending

30%: public services

20%: Kim Jong-il

I know that some people, like Bill Gates, earn more money than some countries in the world, but they don’t take it from taxpayers or captive citizens. Twenty percent of an entire country’s budget for just one man is obscene. And evil.

April 10, 2010

North Korea wants YOU as a tourist!

Filed under: North Korea, travel — extrakorea @ 1:38 pm

North Korea must be desperate for money. They’ve seized South Korean assets, and now they’ve put out a full-page advertisement in Time Out New York‘s back cover in an attempt to lure tourists. (Be very sure not to enter illegally.) Here’s one quote that they included:

“An eye-opening experience” — Anderson Cooper, CNN

A lie of omission. Here’s the full quote:

“Watching 5-year-old children being forced to battle feral dog packs for scraps to eat in Pyongyang garbage heaps was an eye-opening experience. Particularly the local police placing bets… On the dogs!”

Of course, you won’t see the gulags where they imprison entire families and murder half-Chinese babies.

But you don’t need to go there (and line Kim Jong-il’s pockets). Just watch Vice Guides series of videos which they made when they went there (and pissed off some of their handlers in the process).

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

The videos are also on YouTube, but in 14 parts. Here’s Part One (use the search function to find the others).

March 30, 2010

These aren’t Monty Python’s “suicide squads”

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 8:07 am

According to defectors, North Korea has “suicide squads.” No, not those kinds of suicide squads.

Silly sods. If only NorK suicide squads really were like that. Unfortunately, they’re not.

They are similar to the underwater demolition teams operated by the South Korean Navy, the defectors claimed. Recruited from the cream among North Korea’s naval commandos, members of the teams are treated well but undergo brutal training.

According to one high-ranking North Korean defector, the North formed suicide attack squads in each branch of the military after the country’s leader Kim Jong-il said during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that no military in the world can defeat an army that can carry out suicide bombings.

The suicide attack squads are known as the “invincibles” in the Air Force, “bombs” in the Army and “human torpedoes” in the Navy. North Korea is said to place special emphasis on the naval squads. It operates a brigade of suicide attack squads in its East Sea and West Sea fleets and they are considered key to overcoming North Korea’s inferior conventional military power.

One former North Korean sailor who defected to South Korea said the suicide squads have many semi-submersible vessels that can carry two bombers and either two torpedoes or two floating mines. In areas like the West Sea where the underwater current is fast, the suicide bombers train with mines rather than torpedoes.

One defector who served in North Korea’s intelligence service, said, “Following the first naval battle in 1999, North Korea realized that it cannot defeat the South Korean Navy by conventional means and began studying unconventional methods.” The best method is said to be the use of “acoustic mines” carried by small, semi-submersibles that travel at speeds of less than 2 km/h. The craft could be detected by South Korean sonar if they travel any faster. If the underwater squads returned after placing the mines on the hull of a ship, it would be very difficult to find evidence of the attack.

(Chosun Ilbo, emphasis mine)

Interesting.

B.R. Myers has described North Korea’s kamikaze-like rhetoric.

Here’s something that you may choose to believe or not, at your discretion. Back when I taught adults,* one of my students was –get this– a priest who had also been a special forces underwater demolitions expert.
“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I bloweth up the earthly constructions of the North Korean spawns of Satan. Amen.”

* My present students are, legally and physically, adults, but for all intents and purposes, have the minds of children.

March 29, 2010

Mine now considered “most likely cause” of vessel’s sinking

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 10:02 am

It looks like my hunch now has some support.

Of the four possible causes — internal explosion, collision with a reef, explosion of a naval mine or a torpedo attack — the government was most drawn to the likelihood of a naval mine, a Cheong Wa Dae official said yesterday.

“Judging from what the captain of Cheonan said and the condition of the ship, the possibility of a naval mine explosion seems a bit higher than the other three,” the official said.

[ snip ]

Several survivors from the sunken ship reportedly ruled out the possibility of an internal explosion or a collision with a reef, drawing attention to the scenarios of a mine explosion or a torpedo attack.

[ snip ]

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said in a parliamentary hearing yesterday that there was no South Korean naval mine in the West Sea area.

“There is no South Korean naval mine along the west coast,” Kim said in response to a question by a lawmaker on the parliamentary committee for defense.

[ snip ]

Another military official said a mine laid underwater during the 1950-53 Korean War could have surfaced, noting that mines from then were often found in the West Sea.

The South Korean navy practiced placing naval mines during the Korea-U.S. military drill earlier this month but not in the waters around Baekyeong island, he said.

North Korea reportedly has defensive minefields near the disputed inter-Korean sea border.

The country that lost track of its naval mine should be responsible for an accident caused by the mines it placed, according to international law experts.

(Korea Herald)

Defense Minister Kim Tae-young cautiously raised the possibility that the ill-fated Cheonan may have hit a sea mine laid by North Korea.

[ snip ]

He said, “North Korea’s sea mines might have been floating in our territorial waters.” However, Kim refused to comment on whether the mines had been placed by the North intentionally or had drifted into South Korean waters.

He rejected the possibility of a blast caused by South Korean mines. The minister also played down the possibility of a torpedo attack.

North Korea bought about 4,000 sea mines from the Soviet Union during the Korean War and was believed to have laid about 3,000 of them both in the eastern and western waters of the Korean Peninsula, Kim noted.

“Almost all mines were removed, but not 100 percent,” he said. “A North Korean mine was found (in South Korean waters) in 1984 and another was removed in 1995.”

(Korea Times)

March 28, 2010

(Updated) Could a mine have sunk South Korea’s vessel?

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 2:52 am

There’s still no public announcement as to the cause of the sinking of the South Korean vessel. ROK Drop has a post in which he links to various sources that claim that the explosion was caused by something from outside of the ship. If that is so, what could it have been? One suggestion has been a mine. If so, then whose mine? Perhaps ours.

Now if it were an external cause and it were a mine — it could be one of “ours.” Look at the islands in the West Sea. Were there a Nork attack, we’d want to mine the area between them– and that means we almost certainly already have done so, by mines that are on the seabed ready to be detonated by electrical impulses from shore. They could also have a secondary pressure trigger if the electric signal was cut. So there could have been a mistake.

It’s also possible that the ship had wandered off course or the mine could have broken loose from its moorings.

Could it have been a North Korean mine? Here’s my theory, and you can decide for yourselves if I need a tinfoil hat or not. There have been three previous clashes in that area, in 1999, 2002, and 2009. In all three incidents, the North Koreans suffered more casualties. Knowing that that they can’t win a straight-up fight with the technologically-superior south, they decided to mine the area. According to some sources, the North Koreans were in that area earlier that same day. (Is it illegal to mine disputed waterways? I think so, but am not sure.)

If it was a North Korean mine, then it would be the worst casualties that the south has suffered since 1967, when 39 sailors were killed by North Korean artillery. And could this lead to an escalation of conflict?

Paul Chamberlin, a former US naval attache to South Korea, told Al Jazeera: “If it becomes clear this was an attack from North Korea, a major escalation that would lead to general war is very unlikely.”

Edit/Update:

The possibility that it was a mine has now been publicly put forth.

Sea mines might have caused the tragic sinking of a South Korean naval ship, U.S. experts said Saturday, dismissing concerns over possible North Korean involvement.

[ snip ]

Feffer disagreed with the assumption that North Korea attacked the South Korean naval vessel, noting this incident is different from the previous clashes that involved fishing boats of the two Koreas crossing their sea border.
“There have been naval clashes between North and South in the past, but these have usually involved rising tensions, warnings, fishing boats crossing the NLL,” he said. “But this was, as far as we know, a surprise. And there was no larger reason why the North might engage in such a surprise attack.”

[ snip ]

Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, described the unexplained explosion as “an oddity in an era of sophisticated ships and communication,” raising a sea mine as a possible cause.

“Although initial media reports suggested a North Korean torpedo as the cause, that interpretation now appears to be the result of overeager reporters,” he said. “Seoul is now downplaying the likelihood of North Korean involvement in the explosion and sinking. A survivor of the sinking insists there was no onboard explosion, leading to speculation the cause was a naval mine, either South Korean or one that had drifted from the North.”

That still wouldn’t explain why the mine hit a South Korean ship but didn’t hit any of the North Korean ships that had been in that same area earlier that same day. That it was a mine that had been planted there by the North Koreans still makes the most sense to me.

March 27, 2010

Timely, excellent article by B.R. Myers on North Korea

Filed under: North Korea — extrakorea @ 4:37 am

While looking for updates on the sinking of a South Korean vessel, I stumbled upon a timely article by B.R. Myers. It’s excellent. (Normally, I try not to block-quote huge swathes of an article, or try to break them up into pieces interspersed with my commentary, but in this case, I won’t, or rather, can’t.)

They [North Koreans] have known since the 1990s that their living standard is much lower than South Korea’s. The gap was explained away with reference to the sacrifices needed to build up the military. What the North Koreans are only now realizing, however—and this is more important—is that their brethren in the “Yankee colony” have no desire to live under Kim Jong Il. In 2007, after all, they elected the pro-American candidate to the South Korean presidency. Why, then, should the northerners go on sacrificing in order to liberate people who don’t want to be liberated? Unable to answer this question, the regime in desperation has resorted to the most reckless propaganda campaign in its history.

[ snip ]

Such misery prevailed in the mid-1990s too, but at least then the regime admitted an economic crisis, even as it mostly blamed the Yankees. Now it talks of a country transforming itself from one year to the next. No dictatorship can afford to lie so stupidly to its people, or to raise public expectations that will be dashed in a matter of months.

Unlike the East Germany of old, North Korea lacks the high walls, incorruptible border guards and surveillance technology needed to keep an entire populace in lockdown. Reports of demonstrations against the currency reform may have been exaggerated, but the belated decision to increase the amount of exchangeable currency shows there must have been unrest of some sort. It also indicates that the regime lacks the will to crush it in Tiananmen-style fashion. Kim Jong Il must either find new ways to inspire his people or watch ever more of them cross into China.

[ snip ]

Since the East Bloc crumbled away in the early 1990s, North Korea has shown its true ideological colors ever more clearly. Last year it even deleted the word communism from the national constitution, elevating “military first” socialism to the country’s guiding principle instead. At the same time it has made ever more extensive use of kamikaze terms and slogans (“Let us become human bombs in defense of the leader”) taken almost verbatim from Pacific War propaganda. The official media routinely mock the leaders of the old East Bloc for giving up “without firing a shot,” and vow that “there can be no world without [North] Korea.”

The possibility of a violent, potentially apocalyptic regime collapse in North Korea within the decade is one that all countries with an interest in the region should keep in mind. They should also be more conscious of the internal ideological contradictions that make the country’s long-term survival impossible. If North Korea must collapse anyway, it makes no sense for China to prolong things; the leadership will only go out with a bigger bang when the day finally comes. As for Americans, we should focus our contingency planning on a worst-case nuclear scenario instead of fretting about Beijing’s role on a post-Kim peninsula. A Chinese occupation of North Korea should be the least of our worries.

I wonder how South Korea would feel about “a Chinese occupation of North Korea”? Bye bye to dreams of a reunified Korea.

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