2008: The Chinese invasion along its
border with North Korea continues. Over the last year, the use of Chinese
currency has become widespread. North Korean currency is seen as unreliable and
more prone to inflation. Merchants in the free markets now prefer to get paid
in Yuan (the Chinese currency). A year ago, only the wealthy had Yuan, but
since then, Chinese traders, seeing an opportunity, have flooded the border
region with Yuan, and found a ready market. Smuggling from North Korea into
China continues to grow, and the smugglers now want to be paid in Yuan. First
Chinese products, then Chinese cell phones, now Chinese currency. The North
Korean government cannot crack down too hard on this Chinese invasion, because
the Chinese have made it clear that they will shut down the border to North
Korean officials, and take whatever other measures that are necessary, to
protect Chinese interests. China is North Korea's last "friend" in the world
(unless you count Cuba, which few in North Korea do), and one the North Korean
ruling class cannot afford to push too far.
2008: The long simmering dispute over who
owns the uninhabited Dokdo (Takeshima to the Japanese) islands in the Sea of Japan
(East Sea in Korean) continues. North Korea (because they also hate Japan) and
Russia (because Japan claims the Russian Kuril islands) back South Korea. The U.S. tried to back out this dispute by
changing its maps to show the uninhabited islands belonging to no one. But the South
Korean found out about that and raised a stink. The U.S. reversed that
decision, but let it be known that it would not go much further than that.
Meanwhile, South Korea threatens to escalate the situation by building a hotel
on one of the islands. There is some chance that all this could lead to
shooting between South Korea and Japan over this.
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
2008: North Korea has given the UN
permission to set up an emergency food program for some six million North
Koreans who are starving. In the past, North Korea diverted much of the food
aid to other uses (including openly exporting it to China for cash). That may
happen again, and that's why many donors are no longer willing to contribute
cash or food for North Korea. While the UN may get in there, it appears that
not enough food will be available to distribute.
2008: South Korea has been providing
rice to North Korean border guards and troops along the DMZ, when they noticed
that the government has (earlier this year) cut rations for government
employees (including the police and military.)
2008: Although South Korea is becoming a
major weapons exporter, it is still a major importer. In fact, Israel and South
Korea have both imported the same quantity of U.S. weapons over the last five
2008: Since a North Korea border guard
shot and killed a South Korea tourist two weeks ago, visits to the north have
dropped 25 percent. In response, North
Korea threatens to expel some of the 260 South Koreans working at the Diamond
Mountain resort where the shooting took place.
2008: The U.S. has changed its
negotiating tactics with North Korea, and is using high level officials to
negotiate with their North Korean counterparts. The current objective is to get
the North Koreans to agree to verification for recent claims that they had
dismantled parts of their nuclear weapons program (a precondition for U.S. food
and economic aid). North Korea refuses to allow verification, and demands "respect
as a nuclear power." North Korea isn't a nuclear power, as all they did was set
off a poorly designed nuclear device. But North Korea always thinks big and
asks for the impossible.
2008: South Korea is sending nine
counter-terrorism experts to join its peacekeeping unit in southern Lebanon.
The UN force there is under constant threat by local Islamic radicals
(Hizbollah), and South Korea wants to minimize the danger to the 350 support
troops it has there.
2008: In the north, the potato harvest
has been good, but in areas where potatoes are not cultivated, there is
starvation, with large segments of the population appearing very thin and