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Judge orders North Korea to pay Otto Warmbier’s parents $501 million in damages, By Leo Byrne

Judge orders North Korea to pay Otto Warmbier’s parents $501 million in damages

North Korea “liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier”

A U.S. district court judge on Monday ordered North Korea to pay $501 million dollars in damages to Otto Warmbier’s parents as part of a lawsuit they filed against the DPRK earlier this year. Otto Warmbier was held captive in North Korea for 17-months after being charged with attempting to steal a propaganda poster.  He was returned to the U.S. in June last year in a coma and died shortly after his arrival back in the United States. “The defendant Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“North Korea”) shall be liable for damages in the amount of $501,134,683.80,” the court order reads.

Although North Korea is unlikely to pay the damages and did not send any representatives to defend the case, the Warmbiers said they pursued the lawsuit as they wanted “justice” for Otto’s death. In her reasoning behind the decision, Judge Beryl Howell criticized Warmbier’s trial in the DPRK and said North Korea was “liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier, and the injuries to his mother and father, Fred and Cindy Warmbier.”“North Korea never entered an appearance in, or defended against, this action, and the plaintiffs now move for default judgment for the damage caused by North Korea to Otto and his parents,” Howell said in comments carried by Law and Crime.

Hasil gambar untuk Judge orders North Korea to pay Otto Warmbier's parents $501 million in damages

Howell added that Warmbier’s testimony in North Korea appeared to be staged and that he had been forced to memorize the words. The judge added that there were numerous factual problems with his testimony. “Examples of the many untruths in the purported “confession” include: (1) Otto called his father’s company “Finishing Cincinnati Black Oxide,” but that company, in fact, is called “Finishing Technology”; (2) Otto said he practiced for his alleged crime by stealing street signs at the University of Virginia and storing the stolen signs under his bed, yet his father never found any such stolen signs,” the judge wrote.

“Otto said he conspired with the Friendship United Methodist Church, which had assets of $42 million, even though Otto had no relationship with that church, was not Methodist, and the church has no such extensive assets.”

Hasil gambar untuk Judge orders North Korea to pay Otto Warmbier's parents $501 million in damages

When the Warmbiers filed the lawsuit in April, the White House said it was supportive of the action, though was added it was not involved with the case. North Korea denies torturing Warmbier and said his condition was due to his contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. “To make it clear once again, Warmbier was a criminal who was sentenced to reform through labor … However, we provided him with sincere medical care on humanitarian grounds in consideration of his failing health until he returned to the U.S.,” North Korea said in September last year.

A coroner for Hamilton County, Ohio, told media at the time that Warmbier’s brain had at some point been starved of oxygen, though they did not what the root cause of his condition was.


Rodong accuses the U.S. of “fabricating” UN resolution to strengthen sanctions, By Dagyum Ji

Rodong accuses the U.S. of “fabricating” UN resolution to strengthen sanctions

Seoul also criticized for “tarnishing atmosphere” of improving ties by raising human rights issue

North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Tuesday denounced Washington for “fabricating” the UN human rights resolution with the “wicked intention” of strengthening sanctions and pressure. The report comes following a string of articles released in DPRK state media since last Friday ratcheting up the rhetoric against both the U.S. and South Korea and warning of consequences, in response to the recent adoption of a UN resolution condemning the North Korean human rights situation.

The Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), on Tuesday criticized the U.S. for “fabricating” the resolution, which was passed during a plenary session of the UN General Assembly on December 17. “This is a serious political provocation against the dignified DPRK,” the Rodong said in a commentary. “And it is a vicious move to tarnish the DPRK international image, which can never be condoned.”

In the Korean-language editorial, the DPRK’s most widely-circulated newspaper said the U.S. State Department “clamored that it ‘should put sustained pressure on North Korea’ for ‘the improvement of human rights’” by issuing the statement before the passage of the resolution.

Though the Rodong did not provide any further details, the statement is likely to refer to remarks carried by Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino on the U.S. designation on three high-ranking North Korean officials on December 10.

Palladino said Washington “remains resolved to press North Korean government to respect human rights” during a regular briefing held on December 11. But the Rodong on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to “stop provocative and malicious behavior” against Pyongyang. “It is the trite method used by the U.S. that arbitrarily fabricates the human rights situation of the country which irritates Washington and misleads public opinion,” the Rodong said in the commentary. “The wicked intention of the U.S. and its followers in obstinately clamoring about the non-existent ‘human rights issue’ of the DPRK is done to broaden the scope of sanctions and pressure and to strengthen them.”

The Rodong also denounced Seoul, continuing that Pyongyang could not overlook that the South Korean government was engaged in Washington’s “anti-DPRK racket of slandering the human rights situation.” “The South Korean authorities’ act of chiming in and involving in the impure act of plotting to do harm to the DPRK is the thoughtless and shameful behavior that would tarnish the atmosphere of the improving inter-Korean relations…,” the newspaper read.

The Rodong continued that such behavior “incites the rash act of the U.S. and its followers aiming to make confrontation against the DPRK.”

Other North Korean state media outlets Uriminzokkiri and Arirang-Meari on Tuesday also respectively carried an editorial denouncing Washington of “fabricating” the UN resolution on human rights and naming 10 “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) for severe violations of religious freedom including the North.

The outer-track outlet Uriminzokkiri called on the U.S. to “cultivate the habit to see the world in the right perspective and behave with discernment” in order to “avoid a bleak future.” Uriminzokkiri  particularly said the U.S. and its followers “must pay a dear price for provocative and malicious behaviors against the dignified DPRK.”

North Korean online media Arirang-Meari and DPRK Today respectively on Sunday and Monday also used the same rhetoric in warning of the “dear price” to be paid.


North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun drops free PDF distribution, By Colin Zwirko

North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun drops free PDF distribution

Downloads through Japanese affiliate still available, however

The website of North Korea’s primary state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun ceased offering a downloadable PDF version of its daily newspaper late on Sunday. Previously free to view page-by-page through a button on the Rodong’s homepage, the option was gone by Monday morning, following NK News confirmation of the Sunday edition’s availability early on December 23.

Article text is still being uploaded to the Rodong website as of December 25, however, and state broadcaster Korea Central Television (KCTV) still carried its customary walkthrough of the Monday edition to round out the day’s 5pm daily news. But this is not the first change Rodong has made to its PDF distribution service, as smaller files with lower resolution and sometimes blurry text began to replace higher quality images uploaded to the site in early February 2016.

Those still seeking higher-resolution PDF files for the country’s mainstay newspaper will now have to look elsewhere, with one remaining option being to apply for membership of a subscription service operated by North Korean media partners in Japan. One affiliate of the Rodong and state outlet Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), the  Tokyo-based “Korea Media,” offers members “real-time” access to over a dozen North Korean newspapers and other publications, including daily PDF files of the Rodong Sinmun. Korea Media’s homepage, now merely an “under renewal” landing page, described its operation as recently as April 2018 as one made in partnership with North Korean media organizations, created to “introduce and sell various books, newspapers, magazines, photos and videos to the world.”

While a page explaining the service on another Korea Media site, “KPM,” currently says the service is free to institutions who sign contracts with the organization, it also explains that payment is necessary for media companies wishing to redistribute any content offered through the service. Current pricing for article redistribution is not listed, but the price for reprinting images ranges from USD$60 to $200.

NK News sister-site KCNA Watch previously redistributed PDFs from the Rodong website for free, allowing users to download the PDFs without accessing North Korea’s official newspaper website, which is often offline or slow to use. The Rodong decision to take down the freely-available PDF could, therefore, be seen as an effort to take more control over where and how readers obtain high-quality versions of the Rodong newspaper.

But as North Korea continues to feel the pressure from ongoing efforts by the U.S. to press UN member states for strict sanctions enforcement, the move could also be seen as a way to earn money for media content produced by the state and already widely consumed by an international audience.

Korea Media, on a previous version of its site, named their Director Lee Sang Ho (李相鎬 in Japanese), and listed their bank as Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank. The organization moved its offices to Shinjuku in downtown Tokyo in June 2015, the site also says, having previously been located in the nearby Hakusan district within the offices of the [North] Korea Publishing House (조선출판회관). Korea Media first started offering Rodong PDF files of the Rodong Sinmun online in November 2011.


Chinese brand-promotion group wraps up week-long Pyongyang business trip, By Colin Zwirko

Chinese brand-promotion group wraps up week-long Pyongyang business trip

Investment seminar, B2B meetings, and site inspections on itinerary for group of business leaders

Over a dozen Chinese business people wrapped up a week-long trip to Pyongyang Sunday as part of the Global Promotion Project of National Brands, according to a report from one of the project’s co-developers, the Beijing Private Economic Development Association (BPEDA).

The group was scheduled to tour potential investment sites in Pyongyang and Wonsan, hold a “China-DPRK Investment Seminar,” and hold “face-to-face business meetings with [North Korean] company partners,” a pre-trip BPEDA itinerary said. Photos posted Monday to Chinese social media site Weibo show the group at the Koryo Hotel, the Pyongyang Sci-Tech Complex, and various tourist sites. Individuals identified in pictures and by BPEDA news articles on the trip include the organization’s Secretary General Zheng Yongge and Vice Presidents Yang Xiyun and Song Xianliang.

But BPEDA members who also serve as leaders of various businesses were also part of the delegation, including cosmetics brand Ejiasu chairwoman Lai Meifang. The BPEDA said the group was invited to Pyongyang by the National Science and Technology Commission of the DPRK, and arrived in Pyongyang having traveled by train from Dandong on December 18.

An announcement posted in November to the organization’s website – describing the upcoming trip and inviting interested parties to apply to join the tour – credited Kim Jong Un’s three trips to China in 2018 with setting the stage for increased economic cooperation.

It characterized the delegation as a response to DPRK “government reform” plans, saying it was organized “in order to promote in-depth economic and cultural exchanges and extensive cooperation between China and the DPRK.”

“The delegation will bring the DPRK people advanced domestic technology, national brands, and high-quality products,” the BPEDA statement read.

During the delegation’s trip, it said, “nearly 100 figures from all walks of life, such as DPRK leaders, ministry leaders, local government officials, and major associations, will be gathered together to discuss friendship and cooperation … [over] infrastructure, commercial real estate, park development, food, agriculture, trade, manufacturing, and other projects.”

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Get ready for a new North Korean missile test (Washington Examiner)

Hasil gambar untuk Get ready for a new North Korean missile test

North Korea is impatient that U.S. and international sanctions remain in force against it. We should expect at least one new North Korean missile test in the months ahead. In an aggressive statement on Thursday, North Korea warned that “The United States must now recognize … the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula … means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula.”

The North Koreans are complaining here about U.S. nuclear strike forces out of Guam, and the fleet nuclear ballistic missile submarine force in west Pacific waters. Yet the key point here is that North Korea knows the U.S. will never remove its submarine forces from the Pacific. They know that their nuclear threat to America and that posed by China, and Russia requires America’s presentation of an effective deterrent counterforce. So why, if North Korea knows its demands are absurd, is it making them?

Well, to grab U.S.attention. Kim Jong Un and his hardliner head honcho, Kim Yong Chol are aggravated by the Trump administration’s unwillingness to dance to Pyongyang’s traditional diplomatic waltz. Which is to say, Trump’s reluctance to reduce sanctions and invest money in North Korea in return for its mild-to-false concessions. Kim had hoped that Trump’s active praise of him over the past few months would meet functional U.S. concessions.

But beyond a U.S. reluctance to impose significant new sanctions on North Korea, Trump has ( somewhat) disappointed Pyongyang. Instead, the president has charted a careful course between confidence building and demanding North Korean steps towards denuclearization and the dismantling of its intercontinental ballistic missile program.

The problem for Kim, then, is that absent the kind of sanctions relief that would allow for greater foreign capital inflows and easier global trade, the North Korean economy continues to operate in crisis mode. It’s only real salvation are the increasingly rampant Chinese and Russian breaches of the sanctions embargo. One way or another Kim needs to change this state of play. But with the Trump administration rightly reluctant to copy South Korea and overtly appease Kim’s regime, Kim has only two options left. Either he can begin verifiably dismantling his missile and nuclear sites and receive U.S. concessions. Or he can return to the brinkmanship of 2017, firing off new missile tests in an attempt to corral the U.S. to new concessions.

Regrettably, I believe that Kim will choose the second option, because doing so will allow him to advance his ICBM strike capability. Remember, although he has suspended missile tests, Kim’s scientists have kept working to improve the delivery, targeting, and survivability systems on his warhead re-entry vehicles. As an extension, those improvements need testing if they are to take on a new threat. That takes us back to my concern as to tests coming early next year.

Trump should get ahead of this threat. The president should be clear to Kim and to his patrons, Xi and Putin, what will happen if North Korea does conduct a new missile test. Namely, that any new test will break the diplomatic process, perhaps irrevocably. That new sanctions will include Chinese banking institutions alongside cyberattacks on any and all who support Kim’s regime. And that if North Korea still decides to play games, the B-2s will be ready.


Pyongyang supermarket offers Seoul’s younger generation a taste of mysterious North Korea (ABC News)

PHOTO: South Koreas younger generation is relatively open-minded to North Korean culture.

Pyongyang coffee, in its pink logo, draws the attention of passersby.  The Pyongyang supermarket opened over the weekend, but not in North Korea — in a college town in Seoul.

Citizens are given a chance to experience North Korean-style cookies and candies, baked by North Korean defectors with the recipes they brought from back home.

PHOTO: Tin cases covered in pink stickers are filled with Punggye-ri popcorn, named after a nuclear site in North Korea.

“My family made a living out of baking cookies and candies back in North Korea for generations,” Hong Eun-hye, a 42-year-old defector who settled down in Seoul 12 years ago, told ABC News. “These handmade confectionaries follow the North Korean-style naming, such as finger cookies and light bulb candies. I’m glad customers find it interesting.”

All items sold in the Pyongyang supermarket are manufactured in South Korea. United Nations sanctions strictly ban imports and exports from North Korea.

PHOTO: The items are repackaged in Pyongyangs style.

The promotion team of the supermarket focused on repackaging goods under the theme of Pyongyang, with North Korea’s naming sense to portray satire.

Punggye-ri popcorn, for example, has a rocket on its cover and says it is “nuclear flavor.” Punggye-ri is an area in North Korea notorious for its nuclear test site, which the Kim Jong Un regime claims to have dismantled in May in front of foreign reporters.

The market related the sweetened Korean traditional popcorn with the images of a weapons test site, and consumers get a good laugh at its humor.Jung Jiah, a visitor who works at an art gallery in Seoul, told ABC News that shopping for items in the Pyongyang supermarket and seeing comical posters and products made her feel closer to North Korea.


50 years after POW release in North Korea, Boiling Springs man celebrated (ABC 27)

Hasil gambar untuk 50 years after POW release in North Korea, Boiling Springs man celebrated

The Pueblo was a Navy intelligence vessel engaged in routine surveillance off the North Korean coast, when on Jan 23, 1968, it was confronted by torpedo boats. According to U.S. reports, the Pueblo was in international waters, almost 16 miles from shore, but North Korea demanded its surrender.

One of the men onboard the Pueblo was Boiling Springs resident Don McClarren. “We thought we were going to be harassed and that was it,” McClarren said, “but once they started firing on us, we knew something was up.”

Fireman Dwayne Hodges was killed and the other 82 crew members were taken as prisoners of war. After 11 months in captivity with interrogations, beatings, and torture, all were released. “We walked over the bridge of no return and it was a good feeling,” McClarren said.

McClarren was a crypto tech, encoding and decoding messages aboard the ship.

Saturday, his comrades at the Boiling Springs VFW post, along with help from family members, threw him a surprise celebration, although he wasn’t totally surprised. “I noticed some of the cars. I knew the cars. I knew something was up then,” McClarren said.

“Somebody should have picked you guys up and bussed you here. We had it that close,” joked Nina Klinger. Klinger is McClarren’s daughter. She says her dad is humble and views his other crew members as heroes. “It’s events like this that really brings it home for him, to let him know that, yeah, he did really do something, too,” Klinger said.

“Don, tonight, your friends, family and comrades honor your service, your sacrifice and your friendship,” said Nikki Noll, who helped to organize the event.


Homeless youth search for place to ride out winter in North Korea (Daily NK)

Although conditions in some of North Korea’s orphanages have improved for the country’s homeless children (known as kkotjebi), inadequate food supplies and a general lack of capacity have forced many to migrate to other areas in search of shelter.

Those in the northerly and coldest provinces of North Hamgyong and Ryanggang have been moving to Tonchon and Hamhung in South Hamgyong Province, seeking a milder climate to ride out the winter. “The number of homeless children in Tonchon and Hamhung has increased significantly this winter. Most of them are from Chongjin and Hyesan. The local police are trying to process them all and have been totally overwhelmed by the numbers,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK.

The average daytime temperature is five degrees higher in South Hamgyong Province when compared to the northerly provinces of Ryanggang and North Hamgyong. “The authorities ordered mobilizations to gather resources for facilities to house the young homeless population but it ended up being only in a few places–definitely not enough,” the source added.

With many already at capacity in these other areas, most facilities cannot accommodate new intakes and are sending them back to their point of origin. “They should find a way to make some sort of temporary facilities but they haven’t done a thing,” a separate source in South Hamgyong Province said.

“Vendors working at Tonchon Market and Kwangchon Market are really worried about their goods being stolen with the influx of kkotjebi. A lot of them are in their mid-to-late teens and move in groups. The local police often try to get them to work at construction sites but they cause way too much trouble and most just quit and leave. It’s a real mess.”


U.N. grants sanctions exemption for inter-Korean project’s groundbreaking ceremony(Yonhap News)

A KORAIL train enters South Korea's northernmost Dorasan Station in Paju, north of Seoul, on Dec. 18, 2018, after completing an 18-day inspection of the 400-kilometer railway between the North Korean cities of Kaesong and Sinuiju. (pool photo) (Yonhap)

The United Nations Security Council has granted a sanctions waiver to enable the Koreas to hold a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for their project to modernize and reconnect roads and railways across the border this week, a Seoul official said Tuesday.

South and North Korea are preparing to hold the event Wednesday at Panmun Station in the North’s border town of Kaesong. The project is part of the summit agreement reached between their leaders in April aimed at fostering balanced development and co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

“Consultations over the groundbreaking ceremony with the council’s North Korea sanctions committee were wrapped up Monday, New York time,” a foreign ministry official said.

While the groundbreaking ceremony itself is not subject to sanctions imposed on the North, the waiver was needed for the train that South Korean officials are planning to take, as well as for other materials necessary for the event, to enter the North.

 

The Seoul government said it sent related materials and some 30 officials to North Korea on Tuesday.

Another group of South Koreans were dispatched to the North on Monday for the preparatory work.

South Korea reportedly sought the sanctions exemption from the U.N. after consulting with the United States during their working group meeting on North Korea held in Seoul last week.

After the meeting, Lee Do-hoon, Seoul’s top nuclear envoy, said the groundbreaking ceremony will be held in North Korea as scheduled.

Ranking officials from the Koreas — including South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee, as well as Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the North’s state agency in charge of inter-Korean ties, and Kim Yun-hyok, the North’s railway minister — are planning to attend the ceremony.

Seoul earlier set aside around 700 million won (US$618,000) to hold the event, which will be attended by some 100 people from each Korea.

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