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from Global Investing:

Discovering Pyongyang’s view with a North Korean diplomat

Last week I went to a very unique session on North Korea which featured a rare appearance of a North Korean diplomat, at London-based policy institute Chatham House.

A wide range of topics -- from North-South relations, human rights, a potential nuclear test to a new generation of young diplomats -- were discussed, but  under the so-called Chatham House rules (meaning I cannot reveal who said what).

Participants discussed how Pyongyang's relationship with South Korea and the United States has been deteriorating as both sides exchange some pretty acrid verbal attacks. For instance earlier this month North Korea's official KCNA called  South Korean President Park Geun-hye a "political prostitute" while it described U.S. President Barack Obama as a "wicked black monkey".  South Korean Ministry of Defence spokesman Kim Min-seok for his part, had retorted that North Korea wasn't a real country and that it existed solely to prop up a single person.

The North's argument is that all those abusive comments were made by members of the North Korean public and were just reported by the KCNA.

from Global Investing:

A guide to North Korean “elections” – due in March

Investors are bracing themselves this year for elections in all of "Fragile Five" countries and a number of other emerging nations that are adding political concerns to those economies already vulnerable to capital flight risks.

Perhaps a lesser-known political event that is coming up in 2014 is in North Korea, which will hold "elections" for its parliament on March 9.

from Photographers' Blog:

Five days with my North Korean minders

Pyongyang, North Korea

By Jason Lee

From stepping on to the Air Koryo flight to Pyongyang on the evening of July 24th until my return on the 29th, I didn’t stop taking pictures. Our group from Reuters, visiting the secretive state of North Korea for its celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, often found ourselves with no time to eat. It was only in the taxi on the way home from Beijing airport that I had time to think back on my trip.

GALLERY: INSIDE NORTH KOREA

It was the experience of a lifetime, a nation of 22 million people showing a depression and weakness of spirit that I tried my best to interpret through my cameras.

from Ian Bremmer:

When hackers bully a bully: Anonymous vs Kim Jong-un

For an American emissary looking to have an impact, there’s no better place to visit than North Korea. Most of the world is shut out of Kim Jong-un’s country, and the U.S. government has so few levers to influence policy that any American who finds his way in will make news.

That doesn’t mean the news will be good news. Former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt didn’t accomplish much during their January visit, and basketball carny Dennis Rodman was as embarrassing as one would expect. In North Korea, even tourists can make headlines: Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained in 2009 after filming refugees on the China-North Korea border. They became flashpoints in the U.S.-North Korean standoff because Pyongyang had nothing else to work with.

from John Lloyd:

North Korea’s known unknowns

As Donald Rumsfeld used to say, there are known unknowns. Two of them are confronting the world today, and both stem from the Korean peninsula. 

One: What will North Korean leader Kim Jong-un do now? He’s ordered missiles to be ramped up, fired a gun on TV, watched missiles shoot down dummy planes and told his military they were cleared for an attack on South Korea and the United States. He said “a sea of fire” would engulf his enemies if they dared to provoke him. Earlier this week, South Korea’s Unification Minister, Ryoo Kihi-Jae, said “there are signs” that a fourth nuclear test is being prepared at the Punggye-ri test site. What is the next move? 

from Ian Bremmer:

The hope and beauty of a North Korean stalemate

President Obama’s recent trip to South Korea may have gained attention for his “open mic” slipup with outgoing Russian President Medvedev over missile defense, but that’s just a media distraction from the importance of Obama’s visit to the Korean peninsula. After Kim Jong Il’s death in December, the U.S. took an early lead in negotiations with North Korea doing so because Obama and his team thought it could be an easy diplomatic win. With the promise of aid and food, the U.S. could let new leader Kim Jong-un quietly drop the consistently belligerent stance the country has taken in what passes for its foreign policy.

It’s now clear that easy win is not going to happen. Despite Kim’s titular status, we still don’t really know who is in charge in North Korea. While there have been no major coups, protests, or blowups, there have been plenty of smaller events, like military executions due to insubordination, that point to a high likelihood of purges happening in the regime. Now factor in that North Korea has gotten decidedly more, rather than less, militant on the nuclear arms front. Its announcement of a satellite test is a thinly veiled attempt to launch a long-range ICBM. The global community is perceiving it as such with South Korea threatening to shoot the missile down. The vitriol coming out of the North Korean propaganda machine is as hardline and aggressive as we’ve seen in many years.

from Breakingviews:

Kim Jong-un could thaw dictatorship into growth

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

A limited nuclear deal with the United States suggests North Korea’s Kim Jong-un might be looking for a thaw. If the country’s basketball-loving young master really wants to build on that agreement and bring economic growth to his impoverished citizens, land reform would be a good place to start.

from Breakingviews:

Dear Leader’s death may prize open hermit state

By John Foley (The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

The greatest achievement of Kim Jong-il was to keep North Korea cut off as the rest of the world joined up. The Dear Leader, who died on Dec. 17 according to state media, didn't manage it perfectly - the "hermit state" imports energy and food from China, and until lately the odd bottle of French cognac. But North Korea's quest for self-sufficiency has left the people in ignorance of the modern world and created grinding economic hardship. Kim's successor, likely his youngest son Jung-un, will struggle to lift that heavy burden.

from Tales from the Trail:

Washington Extra – Bad behavior

"We will not be drawn into rewarding North Korea for bad behavior," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said today, after revelations that the world's most reclusive state showed off its latest advances in uranium enrichment. "They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result. We're not going to buy into this cycle."

Those are sound intentions, although analysts are already predicting the United States will find a way to restart six-party talks in the next six months or so if only as a containment strategy,  despite the fact that North Korea appears completely unwilling to talk seriously about denuclearization.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 10 October 2010

North Korea opened its doors and the internet to the World's media to allow a glimpse of the parade which marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party. More importantly, it gave the world its first independent look at the protege Kim Jong-un. China based Chief Photographer Petar Kujundzic took full advantage of the opportunity.  The warmth of the picture of the women soldiers smiling - a rare glimpse into the world from which we normally only get formal, over compressed and pixelated images.

KOREA-NORTH/

North Korean female soldiers smile before a parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 10, 2010. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

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