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Russian Far East minister in Pyongyang to discuss joint economic projects, By Colin Zwirko
Banquet held Thursday with key economic officials in attendance
The head of Russia’s Ministry for the Development of the Far East (MDFE) Alexander Kozlov arrived in Pyongyang Thursday, North Korean state media reported, as the two sides appear set to resume discussions on a number of joint economic projects.
An official report from the MDFE published Thursday announced Kozlov’s trip, saying it would be focused on holding an “intersessional meeting” continuing the work of a major intergovernmental committee which last held its annual meeting in March.
The 9th DPRK-Russian Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) on Cooperation in Trade, Economics, Science, and Technology was held in Moscow on March 6, where Kozlov reportedly said the two were close to agreeing “on a protocol on the use of funds that can be sent for development projects.”
The MDFE report from Thursday also said Kozlov will hold “working meetings with representatives of sectoral departments, as well as meetings at a higher level” during his trip, adding that he is scheduled to depart Pyongyang on Saturday.
Kozlov serves as chairman of the IGC for the Russian side, with North Korean Ministry of External Economic Relations (MEER) head Kim Yong Jae serving as co-chairman.
Indicating the economic focus of the visit, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Kozlov was greeted at the airport in Pyongyang by MEER vice-minister Ri Kwang Gun.
KCNA also reported that a banquet was held Thursday evening with MEER and foreign ministry officials in attendance, listing Kim Yong Jae first in the order.
Representing the foreign ministry was vice-minister Im Chon Il, the report said – another North Korean official with extensive experience in Russian affairs.
Kozlov, notably, was North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s primary Russian interlocutor throughout his visit to Vladivostok in April, greeting him at the DPRK-Russia border and standing beside Kim for his ceremonial arrival and departure.
Following a final meeting between Kozlov and the DPRK leader at the Russian border, the MDFE minister said in an official report that the two discussed a cross-border road bridge, and that he was “interested in increasing exports” to North Korea.
“We have a fairly good exchange of opinions with North Korea. We see interest in projects. The official visit of the DPRK leader to Russia was constructive and informative,” Kozlov said in the report.
But while sanctions continue to restrict the flow of many of these exports, both sides appear to be pushing forward with an online trading platform to address imports from the DPRK, another likely item on the agenda for Kozlov and Kim Yong Jae this week.
Official updates on the “trading house” project – developed, in part, by the Association of the Korean Organizations in Primorsky Krai (AKORP) – have been scarce in recent months, however, and it has yet to be launched.
But it may have seen a boost with AKORP head Valentin Park shown on North Korean television meeting Kim Jong Un in Vladivostok multiple times during the recent trip.
Revealed: Evidence of Kim Jong Un university location, ties to tech industry, By Colin Zwirko
New construction also underway at Kim Jong Un National Defense University
Following a report in March showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had attached his name to the National Defense University near Pyongyang, NK Pro can reveal further evidence confirming the change, the school’s location, and its ties to the tech industry.
It is the first known instance of a university or educational institution in the country named after Kim Jong Un, and comes as the nation’s propagandists continue to raise the current leader’s cult of personality to a level similar to those of his father and grandfather.
It is also the school that Kim Jong Un once said played a critical role in modernizing and providing scientific and technological support for the country’s armed forces.
But while the change appears to have been made prior to 2017, there is also evidence that state media has attempted to hide this fact, even as construction on new buildings on its campus began in April this year.
In the image above, a wider shot of the one previously highlighted by Kang, a red banner with the words “Kim Jong Un National Defense University” (KJUNDU, 김정은국방종합대학) can be seen circled in yellow to the left.
The area circled in red also provides a clue as to the university’s activities and why they set up a booth in a prime location at the center of the 2017 National Exhibition Of IT Successes: a poster which appears to say “war game simulation” (가상전쟁) or “virtual battlefield” (가상전장).
But in an additional, previously unreported detail from another image from the exhibition, the name of an IT company – what appears to be the “6.13 Information Technology Company” (6.13정보기술교류사) – is printed on a poster within the university’s booth (shown below).
Students of Kim Jong Un
In state media coverage of Kim’s visit to the campus, the school was reported to be “one of the universities for which he has the deepest affection and to which he attaches importance.”
It said he would “frequently receive reports on the problems … and personally settle them,” and that he “promised to turn the university into the most prestigious one in the country and an iconic university training hardcore personnel and talents … [in] national defense science.”
The Korean-language Rodong Sinmun report also quoted Kim as saying his mission with the school was to “further consolidate and shine the status of the East’s nuclear power and the pillar of Songun Choson’s great military power.”
Kim was quoted as saying the school “solved necessary scientific and technological problems to realize the modernization of military equipment” and “develop high-tech arms” for the country’s armed forces.
Joo Seong-ha’s original report on KJUNDU also said the school reserved the right to select the most talented students from around the country, and that rocket engineering was a key program.
Hiding in plain sight
Kim Jong Un has renamed an existing university to attach the name of a DPRK leader before, having dedicated the People’s Security University to his then-recently deceased father Kim Jong Il.
State media announced in late 2012 the renaming to Kim Jong Il People’s Security University (KJIPSU), and it was officially re-inaugurated in July 2013.
KJIPSU also happens to be situated in northern Pyongyang, directly adjacent to the school Kim Jong Un approved to be named after himself.
Kim Jong Un has also attached symbols of his personal details to highly significant state institutions before.
Writing for NK Pro last year, expert on North Korean politics and the military Fyodor Tertitskiy revealed that Kim Jong Un had injected two special dates related to him and his rule into the names of two new military branches he established.
These were the Strategic Forces, codenamed Unit 108 of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), and the Special Operations Forces, codenamed Unit 506 of the KPA.
108 is believed to signify Kim’s birthday, January 8, Tertitskiy wrote, while 506 likely refers to the date he received the title of Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), May 6, 2016.
He added that the announcer on state television narrating the military parade where the flags of the new branches appeared even directly referred to Unit 108 as “Kim Jong Un’s branch” (김정은 군종).
But while the state’s propaganda naturally promotes the stature of Kim Jong Un as one of its primary objectives, larger symbols of the leader have only gradually been introduced in the over seven years since he came to power.
For instance, there are still no known statues of Kim Jong Un in the country, and his official, illustrated portrait still is not known to be hung next to those of his father and grandfather.
Activity in the defense district
Kim Jong Un’s university is situated near at least one other significant – and active – site related to North Korea’s national defense: the Sanum-dong missile research center just down the road, where ongoing activity was reported in March by South Korean intelligence.
Promoted during Kim’s visit as a key player in the development of the North’s nuclear and high-tech defense industry, KJUNDU has also seen construction in recent months, with a new section of buildings beginning to go up in April, according to satellite imagery.
Medium-resolution daily imagery provided by Planet Labs shows that clearing on a patch of land on campus began late last year, and that construction began on at least one new, large building in the first week of April.
This followed the building on campus of the Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il statues platform and another large building directly adjacent in the months leading up to Kim’s June 2016 visit, Google Earth satellite imagery shows.
Meanwhile, a review of satellite imagery shows there has been major construction since 2016 on new facilities at the KJIPSU and another likely significant but unidentified university or institution campus nearby to the northeast.
But the ongoing construction at Kim Jong Un’s university and his professed, particular focus on its success, is likely yet another sign North Korea continues to make advances in its high-tech military sector.
Singaporean companies linked to luxury goods exports still visible in N. Korea, By Chad O’Carroll
Products linked to T Specialist and OCN available as of April and May 2019, photos show
Two Singaporean companies thought to have been involved in the illegal export of luxury goods to North Korea appear to continue to have a presence there, recently obtained photos by NK Pro show. Products seemingly linked to the Singapore-based T Specialist and OCN – the former of which is currently facing dozens of charges in Singapore relating to Nort Korea.
Three North Korean ships head to Chinese port, though overall activity constant, By Leo Byrne
Pyongyang likely to continues to outsource much of its trade and smuggling
Two North Korean ships capable of handling bulk cargos arrived at a Chinese port earlier this week, continuing the apparent uptick in visits to the facility.
But NK Pro analysis indicates that, overall, DPRK ships were not more active in the first half of 2019 than they were last year.
A number of North Korean ships suspected of illegally shipping coal out from the regime are still actively sailing. According to Voice of America on Wednesday, a ship tracking website showed movements for 10 of the 33 North Korean vessels that were on the U.S. Treasury Department watch list in March.
Most of these ships sailed between North Korea and China, with others sailing to Russia. Some of the ships continued suspicious acts such as sailing with their Automatic Identification System turned off or not stating their destination. These vessels are not themselves under sanctions, but with the Treasury’s close watch on them, they could be seized and investigated.
Making sense of leadership hierarchy: the cases of Kim Yong Chol and Kim Yo Jong, By Rachel Minyoung Lee
Observers should avoid reading too much into state media imagery
Following the re-emergence of North Korea’s ranking party official Kim Yong Chol on June 3 and the supreme leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong the next day, South Korean media has widely reported on what they viewed as a decline in Kim Yong Chol’s rank, and a rise in Kim Yo Jong’s position, in the North Korea.
A South Korean newspaper has reported that Pyeongyang is carrying out a purge for the deadlock in denuclearization talks with the U.S. following the Hanoi summit… as part of efforts to divert attention away from internal turmoil and discontent. Kim Ji-yeon reports. Citing an unnamed North Korean source… the South Korea-based Chosun Ilbo daily reported Friday… that North Korea has executed its special representative for U.S. affairs Kim Hyok-chol and four senior foreign ministry officials who carried out working-level negotiations during the second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
They were reportedly executed at the Mirim Air Base in Pyeongyang in March… after being charged with spying for the U.S. The newspaper also reported that Kim Yong-chol , who had been U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart in the denuclearization talks,… was relieved from his duty and subjected to forced labor and ideological education in Jagang-do Province.
Kim Yong-chol was replaced as director of the United Front Department in the reshuffle in April. The source added the director of the United Front Department’s strategy office Kim Song-hye , who carried out working-level negotiations with Kim Hyok-chol has been sent to a political prison camp.
Meanwhile, Shin Hye-yong , who was the interpreter for the Hanoi summit has also reportedly been detained in a political prison camp for undermining the authority of Kim Jong-un by making a critical interpretation mistake. Kim Yo-jong , the sister of Kim Jong-un… who hasn’t been spotted after the Hanoi summit, is also said to be lying low.
The North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary on Thursday that “acting like one is revering the Leader in front of others but dreaming of something else when one turns around, is an anti-party, anti-revolutionary act that has thrown away the moral fidelity toward the Leader, and such people will not avoid the stern judgment of the revolution.” It added “there are traitors and turncoats who only memorize words of loyalty toward the Leader and even change according to the trend of the time.”
The Chosun Ilbo said it’s the first time since the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle Jang Song-thaek in 2013… that expressions hinting at purging such as “anti-party, anti-revolutionary” and “stern judgment” have appeared in the Rodong Sinmun.
North Korean party daily slams “reckless” South Korean military, civil drills, By Dagyum Ji
Ulchi Taeguk exercise violated September’s inter-Korean military agreement, Rodong Sinmun says
North Korea’s party daily on Friday condemned the South Korean government for recent military and civil drills, warning that the exercise stood to worsen increasingly-tense relations between the two.
An article carried on the sixth page of Friday’s Rodong Sinmun reported that Seoul had continued its “provocative racket,” slamming the modified “Ulchi Taeguk” drills held late last month.
Why future North Koreans may be nostalgic for the cult of Kim, By Andrei Lankov
Just as some Russians fondly remember Stalin, many will continue to love the Great Leader
The past few months in Russia have been marked by yet another upsurge of discussions about Joseph Stalin and his role in the nation’s history. Influential internet personalities are exchanging sharp polemical blows, presenting their anti-Stalin/pro-Stalin opponents as a bunch of naïve simpletons being manipulated by evil puppet masters.
The North Korean radio you can never turn off: fact or fiction?, By Greg Noone
Rumors have persisted for years, but how true they are remains up for debate
Although small and austere, with just a speaker and a turquoise dial for volume control, the device stood out for two reasons: firstly, it looked cemented to the wall and secondly, his guide told him that “people cannot turn off the system.”
The French photographer would later post an image of the device on Flickr, where it remains one of the few pieces of photographic evidence of a uniquely North Korean twist on public address systems typical to the region.
Instead of issuing intermittent earthquake and tsunami warnings, however, this network is alleged to broadcast regime propaganda into citizen’s homes day and night without respite.
In some ways, the existence of this type of radio would be in keeping with what we know about the North Korean media landscape.
All television, radio and internet content is strictly censored by the state and suffused with propaganda glorifying the exploits of the state and its economic successes.
And a walk down the streets of any North Korean city will inevitably bring you into contact with a wide variety of posters exhorting greater personal sacrifice for the regime, praising its achievements or damning its enemies.
These are vivid displays often accompanied by motivational music and state announcements pumped daily into streets through public loudspeakers.Even so, while these manifestations of North Korean propaganda are well-known to even casual observers of the country, visual evidence for the radio system described by Lafforgue remains scant.
In October 2018, Chad O’Carroll, CEO of the Korea Risk Group — which owns and operates NK News — tweeted three photos of what he described as a type of radio affixed to the walls of many North Korean apartments that “broadcast[s] programming at low volumes.”
In addition to an image of the exterior housing, O’Carroll included a picture of the back and interior of the device. No power switch is visible in the photo.
That isn’t to say that the radio can’t be turned off. In all three photos, a small plug is visible which, according to Fahey, serves to connect the device to a wired audio network.
“This means at least in this location, an audio system is wired to the various apartments – assuming this is in an apartment building – rather than the speakers connecting directly to the power outlets,” he explains.
“In this example, somewhere else in the building or nearby there will be a central amplifier that feeds the audio to this speaker and other[s].”
Pull the plug, therefore, and the broadcasts cease. This might also be achieved by the volume control knob, or potentiometer, which in many radios can serve to turn off the device completely if turned all the way down, and would follow the design credo of most wireless sets in the DPRK.
“It’s rare, but when we do see examples of radios in North Korea which actually tune to radio waves… they actually don’t have tuning dials,” he explains. “You turn them on and the sound comes out.”
This does not exclude the possibility, however, that this speaker prevents the potentiometer from fully extinguishing the sound that comes out of the speaker.
“It is feasible,” explains Fahey. “It would be an unusual design, but possible!”
While their popularity began to diminish by the early 1960s in the non-communist world with the proliferation of cheap and portable transistor radios, communist regimes fully embraced wired networks as a way of preserving state propaganda from outside interference.
Most of them followed the Soviet model, wherein programming was delivered wirelessly from a central studio headquarters to regional ‘radio diffusion exchanges.’
Here, the programs would be sent out by wire to ‘radio points’ installed in households across the locality, units described in a U.S. report from 1965 as consisting of ‘a transformer, a speaker, a volume control, and a switch.’
Before reaching their destination, however, broadcasts were often supplemented by technicians inside the diffusion exchanges with local news reports or instructions from the authorities.
The DPRK was no exception. “Since 1953 the most conspicuous development in broadcasting in North Korea has been the rapid expansion of the wire diffusion network,” said one CIA report from 1962, with an estimated 794,000 units installed thanks, in part, to Soviet help.
Eventually, it became mandatory for the Third Radio to be present in every new home and apartment complex.“As such, it is perhaps the most effective, if not the principal, medium of mass communications available for obtaining popular support for the government,” said the report.
The latest from the podcast:
How South Koreans really feel about unification – Ep.74
KINU’s Lee Sang-shin talks public opinion, methodology, and changing perceptions of the North
South Korean public opinion towards North Korea and unification is much more diverse and multi-layered than what is often transmitted by Seoul’s official channels. The Korea Institute for National Unification, or KINU, is one of the most respected think tanks in Seoul and has for years documented and cataloged how people feel about the North.