Korea: Another Great Victory


July 15, 2008: Nuclear disarmament negotiations with North Korea restarted after nine months. The big subject now is over verification. North Korea makes lots of promises, but has, over the decades, shown that it cannot be trusted.

Meanwhile, the food situation in the north grows worse. Thousands of people have been literally heading for the hills, seeking out medicinal herbs (which fetch a good price in North Korea and China). The herbs can be traded for food. There has also been a noticeable increase in prostitution, and the production of drugs (both those that are grown, and those which are synthesized in a lab or chemical plant.) Corruption continues to grow, despite some highly publicized executions and hundreds of arrests.

July 14, 2008: South Korea has recalled its ambassador from Japan, because of  escalating confrontations over the disputed ownership of some islands. South Korea has long been willing to sacrifice good relations with Japan over the issue of who owns the uninhabited Dokdo (Takeshima to the Japanese) islands in the Sea of Japan (East Sea in Korean). What is really going on here is continued Korean resentment of Japanese colonial occupation from 1910-45, and centuries of Japanese aggression towards Korea. Both countries have been sending more air naval reconnaissance missions to the islands, and the mass media in both countries have been jumping all over the tension.

July 12, 2008: North Korea agreed to disable its main nuclear facilities by the end of October. However, there will be negotiations to determine how this will be verified.

July 11, 2008: In one of the few North Korea tourist resorts, a 53 year old South Korean woman was shot dead during an early morning walk on a  beach. She had walked around a beach fence, entered a "military zone" and nearby soldiers shot her twice and killed her. Five other tourists witnessed what appeared to be three soldiers ambushing the women walking along the beach. North Korea refused to accept any responsibility for this (which is normal) and blamed South Korea for not sufficiently indoctrinating its tourists. The tours, which bring the north millions of dollars a year, have been suspended. It's ironic that the killing took place only hours before the newly elected South Korean president was to give a speech announcing a kinder and gentler approach to North Korea. Meanwhile, North Korea refuses to cooperate in an investigation of how the tourist was killed.

July 5, 2008: North Korea wants faster delivery of food and fuel. North Korea will not admit that there are serious food shortages for about 20 percent of the population, and simply insists that the food deliveries have not kept up with the pace of unconfirmed North Korean nuclear disarmament moves. North Korean media are touting the arrival of U.S. food as a "war trophy", given to North Korea, now equipped with nuclear weapons,  because leader Kim Jong Il demanded it. They say this with a straight face, of course.

June 29, 2008: The first 38,000 tons of food (of 500,000 tons over the next year) arrived in North Korea.

June 28, 2008: North Korea blew up the cooling tower for its nuclear weapons reactor at Yongbyon (100 kilometers north of the capital). This is a symbolic gesture, for which North Korea expects to be paid lots of free food and fuel. The U.S. paid $2.5 million for the demolition.

June 27, 2008: North Korea provided an inventory of items involved in its nuclear program. There's no way to know if the list is accurate, other than spy satellite images of some items.




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