North Korean leader Kim Jong-il emerged from his reclusive life last week for a rare visit to China looking every bit the part of a man nearing 70 recovering from serious illness. Kim, who was widely suspected of suffering a stroke about two years ago, walked with a slight limp, had a thinning head of hair and shed the trademark paunch that once pressed snugly against his jumpsuits. The most telling pictures of his change can be seen in the posed shots he took with Chinese President Hu Jintao, born just 10 months after Kim in 1942, and looking much younger today. Pictures taken in October 2005 when Hu visited Pyongyang and from earlier this month when Kim was in Beijing show how much the North Korean leader has changed.
Global News Journal
(Photographs by Lee Jae-won)
North Korea said on Tuesday it had detained a U.S. citizen who entered its territory, apparently confirming a report that an American activist crossed into the
state to raise awareness about Pyongyang’s human rights abuses. Robert Park, 28, walked over the frozen Tumen river from
China and into the North last Friday, other activists said. The Korean-American told Reuters ahead of the crossing that it was his duty as a
Christian to make the journey and that he was carrying a letter calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to step down.
While some people enjoy collecting model trains and building tiny stations along scaled down tracks, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appears to have taken this passion to a new level. According to a report in South Korea’s largest daily newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, Kim has six private trains and 20 stations around the country built just for him.
Once a year, North Korea’s often vitriolic rhetoric machine fires up with special intensity to attack those who attack its human rights record. The exchanges usually come toward the end of the year when the U.N. General Assembly approves what has become an annual measure criticising North Korea for having one of the worst rights records in the world.
One of the primary aims of North Korea’s propaganda machine is to show its founder Kim Il-sung and current leader Kim Jong-il as all-knowing, parent-like (and at times god-like) figures who devote themselves entirely to bettering the lives of every citizen of the state.
from Tales from the Trail:
It turns out that it was North Korea which had suggested that former President Bill Clinton would be the best person to come and negotiate the release of two journalists who had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in the Stalinist state.
The U.S. government -- particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- had been working for months on trying to free the two journalists. The secretary of state reportedly proposed sending various people to Pyongyang, including Clinton's former vice president Al Gore, to lobby for the women's release.
But North Korea rejected Gore and other possible envoys like Senator John Kerry, Governor Bill Richardson and former ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg. Pyongyang wanted President Clinton and passed that word along through the two detained journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were making occasional phone calls to their families.
"In mid-July during one such phone call, Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee shared what the North Koreans had told them -- that they would be willing to grant them amnesty and release the two Americans if an envoy in the person of President Clinton would agree to come to Pyongyang and seek their release," a senior administration official said.
Former U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s attempts to be philosophical about ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’ gave him a reputation for slipperiness and cant. The phrases uttered in 2002 to explain the military’s failure to improve security in Afghanistan have passed into folklore, alongside such gems as ’stuff happens,’ which was his explanation for the looting that followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003.