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Divided families reunited in emotional event at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang, By Dagyum Ji
ROK President says three-year gap between meetings “shameful” for Seoul and Pyongyang
Families divided by the Korean War were reunited at a Mount Kumgang hotel in two-hour group meetings on Monday afternoon, the South Korean press corps reported.
The oldest South Korean participant, the 101-year old Baek Seong-gyu, was reunited with his North Korean daughter-in-law and granddaughter in a venue hall as the pro-unification song “Nice to see you” played on loudspeakers.
His North Korean relatives, who reportedly arrived at Mount Kumgang following a several-day-long journey from North Phyongan province, audibly wept while embracing him, according to the ROK pool reporters.
Baek’s daughter-in-law Kim Myong Soon had brought photos of her now-deceased husband.“Can I take these photos?” he asked.“You can have them,” she replied. “We have more photos at home.”
A total of 185 North Koreans and 197 South Koreans, composed of 89 applicants and 108 of their companions, participated in an-around two-hour group meeting beginning at 1500 local time.
Among the other participants was the 92-year old Lee Geum-seom from the South, who was reunited with her 71-year old North Korean son Sang Chol, his wife, and her granddaughter-in-law.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday said the two Koreas “should strive more boldly to resolve the issue of separated families.”
“Their wait should not be prolonged any longer,” Moon said at a meeting with key aides.
“Expanding the reunions of separated families and speeding them up is the top priority among humanitarian projects that the South and the North should implement.”
Citing reports that a 95-year-old Korean had burst into tears after not being selected for the reunion event, Moon said he “deeply sympathized with their sorrow.”
“We really don’t have time now,” he told his key aides, adding more than 3000 applicants for reunion events have passed in the first half of this year.
“It’s really shameful for both the South and North Korean governments that they ended their days holding a lasting regret without knowing whether their relatives were alive or dead.”
Moon said the two Koreas should take measures to expand reunions through regular events, video reunions, letter exchanges, and visits to hometowns.
“Especially, the Mt. Kumgang Reunion Center which was established a long time ago based on the inter-Korean agreement should be operated round the clock,” the President said.
A banquet between the reunited families began at 1917 KST.
Two Koreas begin first family reunions in almost three years, By Dagyum Ji
89 ROK nationals set to meet with North Korean relatives at the Mount Kumgang resort this week
The two Koreas on Monday afternoon began five days of reunions of families separated by the Korean War at the DPRK’s Mount Kumgang resort, the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced.
The reunions are the first of their kind since October 2015, and the 21st to take place since 2000.
A total of 89 South Korean nationals will meet family members from North Korea at the first round of meetings from Monday to Wednesday.
The oldest participant among them is the 101-year Baek Seong-gyu, who is set to meet his daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
A two hour group meeting started at 1500 local time, to be followed by a banquet hosted by the North.
During the three days of reunions, the South Koreans are scheduled to be reunited with their North Korean families and relatives six times for a total of 11 hours, including in a three-hour private meeting tomorrow.
The South Korean participants on Sunday gathered in Sokcho city on the ROK’s northeast coast, were briefed on the reunion event, and received a medical check-up before their departure for the North this morning.
Buses carrying 197 South Koreans crossed the inter-Korean border on the eastern coast and arrived at the Mount Kumgang resort at 1255 local time, the Ministry of Unification (MOU) confirmed to media.
April’s Panmunjom Declaration saw the two Koreas agree to proceed with reunions of divided families on the occasion of National Liberation Day, which fails on August 15.
Seoul and Pyongyang then agreed on logistics for the meetings at Red Cross talks in June.
Earlier in the month Seoul and Pyongyang shared their final lists of 93 South Korean and 88 North Korean participants for the first and second round of the reunions at the truce village of Panmunjom.
Four South Koreans reportedly withdrew from the meeting with North Korean relatives, citing health issues and other factors.
Among the original 93 South Korean applicants, 37.6% are over 90 and 49.5% are in their 80s. Only 12.9% are below the age of 80 years old.
Data provided by the unification ministry suggests that 54.8% will be meeting with lineal family members (brothers, sisters, children, etc).
At the second round of reunions between Friday and Sunday, a total of 83 North Koreans will meet South Korean families, the unification ministry said.
A total of 337 ROK nationals will visit the North in total.
As of the end of July, 132,603 people had registered as members of divided families, with 75,741 of them (57.1%) now deceased – a number that grew by 316 in the past several weeks.
A total of 23,425 and 12,146 of those remaining are over 80 and 90, respectively.
972 North and South Koreans from 186 families participated in 2015’s reunion event, according to statistics provided by the unification ministry.
Fewer than a thousand people have participated in the reunion event since 2010, with a total of 888, 886, and 813 people from 195, 191, and 170 families meeting relatives in the North at reunions in 2009, 2010, and 2014.
Since 2000, 19,771 and 3748 Koreans have been reunited with family members through 20 reunion events and seven video conferences.
Secretary Pompeo may visit Pyongyang again “soon”: Bolton, By Colin Zwirko
Trip, if it goes ahead, will be Secretary of State’s fourth this year
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is likely to visit Pyongyang again in the near future, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said in an interview with ABC on Sunday.
“I think Secretary Pompeo will be returning to Pyongyang soon for his fourth visit,” Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that he and Trump “expect” the Secretary of State to hold direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the trip.
The visit, if it takes place, would be Pompeo’s fourth to the DPRK this year.
He most recently went in early July, where he did not meet with the North Korean leader despite White House officials having previously voiced their expectations such talks would occur.
A State Department spokeperson last week told NK News that they had “no travel to report,” when asked to comment on reports that the Secretary of State would soon visit the DPRK.
Bolton did not provide a date for the coming visit during Sunday’s interview, only saying he thought “the timing will be announced at an appropriate point by the State Department.”
The purpose of the visit, he added, would be to further press the North Koreans on denuclearization, reiterating and clarifying comments made earlier in the month that suggested Kim Jong Un had promised to denuclearize within a year.
Describing the revelation as one delivered directly to U.S. officials by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Bolton said Moon had suggested a one-year time frame for denuclearization during his first summit with Kim Jong Un in April.
“Kim Jong Un said yes” to that proposal, Bolton said.
“So the one year period that we’ve talked about from the point where North Korea makes this strategic decision to denuclearize, it’s something that the North and South Koreans have already agreed to,” he added, appearing to suggest the one-year countdown has not yet begun.
This, instead, would start when the U.S. receives assurances Kim has made this “strategic decision to denuclearize,” according to Bolton.
When asked to clarify how this decision will formally come into effect without prior reference in the Panmunjom Declaration or Singapore agreement, Bolton said “It’s hard to believe they don’t understand” the tacit items of such a deal.
But he declined to say how long the U.S. would wait for this formal decision when asked for a clearer time frame.
Sunday’s comments come after repeated allusions to the same goal by Bolton, saying two months ago following the Singapore summit that the U.S. will “find out soon enough… whether [North Korea] made this strategic decision to denuclearize.”
The agreement signed in Singapore by Trump and Kim states that “Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Meanwhile, Pompeo said during a cabinet meeting last Thursday that his team was “continuing to make progress and hoping that we can make a big step here before too long.”
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported last Friday that U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Harry Harris had met over the previous weekend with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui at Panmunjom, though the State Department declined to confirm the meeting.
A fourth visit to Pyongyang by Secretary Pompeo, if coming soon as Bolton implied, would likely follow the DPRK’s September 9 National Day festivities.
That event is expected to see a number of high-level delegations from traditionally-friendly countries visit the North Korean capital – with reports over the weekend suggesting Chinese President Xi Jinping may be among the visitors.
President Moon is also set to visit Pyongyang next month, though a date has not yet been announced.
DPRK state media over the weekend described U.S.-North Korea diplomacy as being at a “deadlock,” blaming internal political conflict in the U.S. and “anti-Trump forces” for attempting to undermine the President.
The commentary appealed to both Trump and Pompeo’s sense of leadership, calling on the Secretary of State to “resolutely smash the opposition’s unreasonable and foolish assertions with his own view and courage.”
Pompeo should “display his wisdom and bargaining power in negotiation as the chief of the U.S. diplomacy both in name and reality in order to realize the president’s will,” it added.
North Korea has ratcheted up its condemnation of sanctions in recent days, too, saying in a commentary on outer-track website Uriminzokkiri on Monday that the “roadblock of sanctions must immediately be lifted.”
The commentary claimed that sanctions fundamentally prevented carrying out items of the Panmunjom Declaration, including joint North-South road and railway projects.
Bolton did not mention any change in U.S. policy on sanctions for North Korea during his interview Sunday, though Pompeo said earlier this month that sanctions relief was not on the agenda and that seeing progress on denuclearization from Kim Jong Un was his first priority.
What McDonald’s can teach us about the North Korean economy, By Peter Ward
There are some unlikely parallels between the Golden Arches and the DPRK’s nascent private sector
North Korea is a very unusual place to do business. Markets are legal, but private property is not. Individuals cannot own machinery, land, or industrial buildings. Actually, North Koreans do not even own their own houses – they just hold tenancy rights.
Yet, North Korea has a thriving private sector, and private entrepreneurs manage and finance much of what on paper are goods and services made by state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Private entrepreneurs in North Korea are franchisees of SOEs and state institutions. They make deals with local government (people’s committees) to open restaurants, using the local government’s name as their “brand.” They need it to protect them from the police and provide a legal cover.
But many other businesses in North Korea that operate outside people’s homes and outside formal marketplaces also make use of similar schemes.
Thinking of them as franchises of state agencies and SOEs helps us better understand this relationship: entrepreneurs purchase the right to use the name of a state entity, they usually a portion of the share the profits, and the state entity’s ‘trademark’ keeps them out of prison.
It’s like McDonald’s, if the Golden Arches held monopoly rights on the production of all goods and services in the United States.
COSTS OF CASH
North Korean GDP is a bit larger than the McDonald’s Corporation’s global revenues. But at USD$24 billion, Mickey D’s is not so far behind the DPRK’s estimated USD$32 billion. McDonald’s is a far more successful corporation than the DPRK government, yet with all its success, it has stuck to a model of business organization: the franchise.
Headquarters in Chicago could probably secure the funds to gradually buy out all of its franchisees, if they so wished, but they don’t. The franchise model works for a number of reasons, but one is that it spreads risk – franchisees pony up the cash for their location, for the restaurant’s supplies, fixtures, equipment, for staff recruitment and much else besides.
Franchisees take huge risks, they are often highly dedicated people who are prepared to invest a great deal of their own money. Their devotion can make them very successful, but from the perspective of McDonald’s sales executives, it’s very useful for another reason: franchisees are a cheap source of capital and a cheap way to grow the business.
Borrowing money and taking the risk, even if you are a big, diversified corporation like McDonald’s, is unnecessary, if you have a pool of would-be entrepreneurs prepared to take the risks and do the work for you. The same goes for restaurants, fishermen, bus companies, and even garment factories in North Korea.
MANAGING THE MANAGERS
Finally, the Golden Arches explains another reason why private enterprise has become a part of North Korea’s ‘state’ economy: managers face limited incentive to work hard – promotion prospects and bonuses are key in a lot of situations.
North Korea under Kim Il Sung was an economic system that prized political loyalty over profit, and inside the corridors of power, loyalty appears to remain highly important.
However, when it comes to making money, both private businesspeople and their state patrons have good reason to opt for franchise-like business arrangements.
Many North Korean officials have no idea how to run a business, have no money to do so, and also have no idea how to assess whether a business is being run well, and how much money it is making. North Korea is a very corrupt country, and plenty of sales are handled in cash.
Of course, state agencies and trade companies may require their ‘franchisees’ to use their ‘business model’. To have company bank accounts and also be audited regularly. But rest assured, North Korean businesspeople find ways to evade taxes.
To minimize what economists call ‘monitoring costs’ – that is, the cost of checking to see whether your business associates are being honest – the North Korean government often just requires that SOEs pay a certain amount of money to the central/local government on a quarterly basis (so-called ‘cash plans’).
By the same token, North Korean business people are often just required to do the same when they set up ‘state franchises’.
In a way, this is a bastardized version of McDonald’s franchise agreement, with its requirement that franchisees pay a fixed percentage of revenues to the company. It’s a cheap way to ensure that the company gets a relatively risk-free source of revenue – and potentially a source of business talent.
Equatorial Guinea repatriates North Korean workers, cuts agricultural ties: NIR, By Hamish Macdonald
West African state identifies two North Korean companies operating in wood, agriculture sectors
Equatorial Guinea repatriated North Korean laborers and has taken steps to cut ties with the DPRK in the agricultural sector, its most recent UN sanctions National Implementation Report (NIR) – uploaded by the 1718 Committee this week – claims.
According to the report, dated August 7, the country took three specific actions in order to restrict relations with North Korea, with one of the actions being imposed directly by the Office of the President.
These were taken “with regard to the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, concerning the prohibition of the continued development of weapons of mass destruction,” the report says.
Measures taken included putting an end to “all activities” of a North Korea agricultural company called “Miramax”, which was operating in the Oveng municipality.
“The company has liquidated its assets and expatriate staff have already returned to North Korea,” the report reads.
In Equatorial Guinea’s forestry and environment subsector, the activities of a North Korean forestry company – identified as “Chilbo” – were similarly Halted. Chilbo owned a sawmill as well as operated a veneer and plywood manufacturing business.
“The company has sold its sawmill in the municipality of Milong, in the district of Añisork, and its veneer and plywood manufacturing business in Bome to the Chinese company Changxi, and staff have been repatriated,” the report says.
The company is identified as the Chilbo Wood Company in a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report published in February 2006.
Equatorial Guinea’s presidential office also revoked a memorandum of understanding on agricultural cooperation, which it says was signed in Malabo on September 13 of 2017 by North Korea’s ministry of agriculture.
Officials from the two country’s agricultural ministries held talks in Pyongyang in August 2017 according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
According to the current UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, member states are required to repatriate North Korean nationals earning income in their jurisdictions immediately, but no later than December 22, 2019. Equatorial Guinea’s alleged actions detailed in the report, would be in line with Resolution 2397.
The report is only the second filed by the West African state, with its first submitted in January this year. In the earlier report, the country said that it would end its trade links with North Korean companies.
It also said that the North Korean Embassy in Malabo was told “to cease all commercial activities and urgently repatriate all citizens of that country, while the Government considers other arrangements and measures in this regard.”
North Korea and Equatorial Guinea – as with many African states – have long-standing relations stemming from the 1960’s and 70’s.
Diplomatic relations were first set up under Dictator Francois Macias and North Korea’s founding leader Kim Il Sung. Both rulers maintained a close relationship until Macias was tried and executed in a coup by Nephew Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
Kim even provided a home for Macias’ family in exile, with his daughter – Monique Macias – recounting her 15 years in Pyongyang as a guest of Kim’s for NK News in 2014.
Despite the overthrow of Macias, North Korea’s diplomatic relations with Equatorial Guinea remained and encompassed both economic and, at times, reported military cooperation.
As with other nations on the continent, North Korea’s now sanctioned Mansudae Overseas Projects (MOP) also conducted construction activities in Equatorial Guinea, building the Luba stadium and Luba conference hall, according to the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) tasked with monitoring sanctions implementation.
Despite the recent implementation reports, North Korean state media coverage of a recent DPRK delegation to the country, let by Ryu Myong Son, vice department director of the Central Committee of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK), indicates an intention to maintain close ties.
During the trip, which took place in late July, Ryu met with the Prime Minister Francisco Pascual Obama Asue.
According to KCNA, Asue “called for strengthened mutual support and solidarity in the struggle to maintain independence and realize the people’s interests, stating that Equatorial Guinea, a close friend of the Korean people, would develop the friendly relations between the two countries in the future, too.”