North Korea refuses to allow
verification of its dismantling of its nuclear weapons program, and wants to be
taken off the U.S. terrorism list immediately. The U.S. refuses to take North
Korea off the list until there is verification. So North Korea has ceased its
dismantling of its nuclear weapons program. North Korea has always been a hard
bargainer, often to the point where they lost more than they could possibly
gain. This makes no sense, but that's the way North Korea operates. North Korea
wants off the terror list so they can move forward with their counterfeit money
and illegal drug operations. These activities are much more profitable when the
government has complete access to the international banking system. Being on
the U.S. terrorist list hampers banking access.
can receive foreign broadcasts, and MP3 players, are increasingly popular in
the north. Some radio broadcasts are passed around as MP3 files, but mostly the
MP3 players are mainly used to hear foreign pop music. There is a lot more money
in North Korea, and most of it is illegal. There are a growing number of criminal
gangs. The larger and wealthier gangs can go into business with government
officials. This is often the case when it involves illegal drugs, like methamphetamine
("speed" or "ice"). The spreading corruption means that,
eventually, the government will lose control of the country, piece by piece.
Or, as the local says goes, "death by a thousand cuts."
2008: U.S. and South Korean military
commanders are openly stating their belief that any North Korean invasion would
fail. In the past, there was always some hesitation about being this confident.
But apparently the readiness and capabilities of the North Korean armed forces
have declined so much that even the professionals doubt the north could get
very far if they went to war.
2008: North Korea has developed a new
food (soybean noodles) which they claim are highly effective at making starving
people feel less hungry. Soybeans have never been a staple dish in the north.
But these days, after over a decade of food shortages, hunger has become a hot
topic, and tips on how to eat anything are big news, even in the state
2008: South Korean audits of aid given
to North Korea continue to reveal many cases of theft and diversion of aid to
2008: Russia and North Korea are
adjusting their border along the Tumen river. This was last done 18 years ago,
and has to be done every decade or so because the river keeps changing its
channel, and moving border markers. North Koreans also use the Tumen river
bridges to escape into Russia (where life as an illegal migrant is possible,
because of a labor shortage). But North Korea has increased the security along
the Russian border, and the cost of bribing the North Korean guards to get
across has now risen past $700 per person.
2008: China has laid claim to Suyan
Rock, which the Chinese call Ieo island. Two years ago, the Chinese had agreed
not to challenge South Korean claims, which are supported by the international
community. This is actually a submerged (nearly five meters under water) rock in
the East China sea that is 150 kilometers from South Korea and 245 kilometers from
China. In 1987, South Korea built a warning beacon on the rock, which is a
navigation hazard to large ships.
2008: South Korean tourism in the north
dropped 60 percent in July. To make matter worse, North Korea is forcing South
Korean firms to remove their staff from North Korea (which has never been an
easy place to run a business in). Overall trade between the north and south has
dipped nearly two percent versus last year.
2008: Heavy rains in the north, over the
past few days, have caused severe damage to crops, meaning that there will be
even larger food shortages next year.