Inter-Korean economic cooperation projects—including railroads—are among the few things that garner a consensus in South Korea. In the last couple of weeks there have been a flurry of reports that, having re-established the rail link between Khasan and Rason, Russia’s Vladimir Putin wants to push south through the DMZ and re-establish the “Eastern line” down to Pusan. The Russians are arguing that the new Trans-Siberian Express would be faster, cheaper, and less prone to political disruptions than Europe-Asia shipping routes via the Suez Canal.
North Korea has discovered a new way to solve its unemployment problem, or rather, North Korea has no unemployment problem and now we know why. Steph Haggard had previously discussed the rigorous treatment of suspected political wavering among workers formerly employed at the Kaesong Industrial Complex; the Daily NK reports that if KIC ever reopens, the North Koreans will employ 3 secret police watchers for every 5 workers employed. Who knows, maybe they’ll use advanced surveillance techniques: KCNA is reporting that North Korea and foreign investors will construct a new high tech industrial park in Kaesong.
I wonder what the bowibu think of Abenomics? Indicative of the mood in Seoul, a recent Maeil Daily headline on the World Knowledge Conference was “Abenomics could end up with three adverse outcomes.” To be clear, this is an editorial decision: with half the brains in the world in attendance and a million possible story lines, the paper chooses to promote an attack on Japanese economic policy.
When I was in Japan a few weeks ago, there was a lot of talk of China halting oil shipments to North Korea. Now the Asahi Shimbun is reporting that China is indeed impeding the trans-shipment of oil from Iran to North Korea. It is an interesting and plausible story. But there are no named sources--the only attribution is to “Chinese sources”--and insofar as most of the oil flows through a pipeline, you’d practically have to interview the pipeline engineers to know the degree to which supply has been curtailed. One to keep an eye on.
Cyber is becoming another hardy perennial. Erik Weeks passed along a very nice piece by Mark Clayton at the Christian Science Monitor which goes through recent cyber events and claims that North Korean cyber warriors are operating out of China's Jilin and Liaoning provinces.
And just when you thought you were safe from another Dennis Rodman post, Ambassador R sold the tequila-soaked account of his recent visit to North Korea to the Sun. Not sure if he addresses the Kenneth Bae non-rescue. I suspect not. The piece is behind some registration system, so here the HuffPo’s take on Kim Jong-un’s “7-star” lifestyle. And of course we cannot mention the Worm without reminding you to get in your entry to the Starting Five Dictators, Living or Dead Contest which closes 31 October, and the ongoing Rodman Roster Contest. Employees and dependents of Paddy Power and the International Crisis Group ineligible for entry in the latter.