- Wednesday, 28 March 2012 18:09
Partly for work, partly for personal interest, I’ve been following reports on North Korea’s efforts in cyberspace, including a cyber-attack on Korea University
, an attack on the South’s agriculture bank and cooperative
, and speculation that Kim Jeong-Eun was behind at least some of the cyber attacks
prior to taking over the country in December upon the death of his father.
U.S. defense officials are also tracking North Korea’s cyber activities, saying in testimony on Capitol Hill today that the North has added “sophisticated cyber attack capabilities
” that mark “a skilled team of hackers
” as the newest addition to North Korea’s arsenal.
Given the limited ability to definitively trace and prove the origin of cyber attacks, I’m not sure how these new capabilities fit in with the North’s unique method of international relations. A method whereby the North intentionally creates and escalates international tension, before trading away a reduction in those tensions in return for aid from China, South Korea, and elsewhere. If cyber attacks can’t be traced to the North, how can the North use them as a bargaining chip?
Read more ...
- Friday, 09 March 2012 19:24
(subtitled: What economists can’t tell you about the most isolated country on Earth
) on the North Korean economy by Marcus Noland.
While the best quote comes at the end of the article (“Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale once counseled me that anyone who claims to be an expert on the North is a liar or a fool.”), the piece is an excellent reminder on the scarcity of accurate data coming out of the North. Take a look
if you have time – a 10-minute read.
- Tuesday, 06 March 2012 19:41
The new Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang (which opened in January 2012) has brought some more unique coverage out of the North, this time on North Korean live fire exercises
near the DMZ. The North’s drills reportedly come in response to joint U.S. – South Korean exercises, no surprise there. What is a surprise are photos, as shown here (apparently soldiers in every army around the world wedge blocks under vehicle wheels), and video
from the exercise, both courtesy the new AP bureau. I don’t see the bureau providing much hard news, but it is good to see some new reporting coming out of the North.
- Thursday, 01 March 2012 23:44
UPDATE (13 March): Right down to the word “tribute.” Compare the post on the recent U.S. deal with North Korea, below, with yesterday’s editorial from the Washington Post on the same subject. Thanks for coming out guys, way to be the ball, way to lead.
UPDATE (2 March): The AP’s new Pyongyang bureau weighs in on the new agreement in this article from the Washington Post. Not surprisingly, the citizens of Pyongyang allowed to speak to the AP are mistrustful of the U.S. and not very hopeful of any reduction in tensions. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what kind of reports this new bureau will be able to dispatch from the North.
Not to be overly pessimistic, but unless you are a starving North Korean, the recent headlines (JoongAng Daily
, Washington Post
) about North Korea agreeing to suspend nuclear weapons testing, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activities for U.S. food aid really don’t mean much.
As South Korea trades in electronics, cars, and the rest, North Korea trades in international tension. The recent deal allows the North to acquire 240-300,000 tons (accounts vary) of badly needed food aid from the U.S. in return for hitting pause, not stop, on its nuclear and long-range missile development programs. Once the food arrives, there is little to prevent Pyongyang from resuming either of these activities.
Read more ...
- Friday, 24 February 2012 20:57
For the better part of a week, South Korea has been worrying over and protesting China’s return of North Korean defectors
caught inside China. The South has even discussed bringing the issue to the UN
– a move that would mark a radical (and long overdue) departure from South Korea’s normal
quiet diplomacy with its much larger neighbor.
It’s high time that China lived up to its international treaty obligations and stopped returning defectors to a country, in this case North Korea, knowing full well the dire consequences awaiting the refugees upon their repatriation. For its part, the South needs to be firm with China about protecting a group of people that, under South Korean law, have the right to become South Korean citizens. This may have short-term trade repercussions for the South with its largest trading partner, China, but long-term economic trends will mitigate any momentary damage to the relationship, plus provide domestic political and diplomatic benefits for the party willing to take a stand.
Read more ...
- Tuesday, 21 February 2012 22:54
[Book Review] Thick. I’ve always enjoyed Halberstam’s work and this book is no exception, with well-sourced, evocative writing that brings alive the subject and keeps the reader interested long into the night.
At over 660 pages, this will not be a quick weekend read, but the insight and enjoyment make the book worth tackling. The portrayal of MacArthur alone is worth the price of entry, as is the discussion of U.S. failures to see and understand China’s entry into the war, despite numerous warnings (feel free to insert parallels to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 here).
I should have reviewed this in 2007 when I first read it. Apologies for the delay in highlighting this worthwhile, enjoyable work.
- Wednesday, 18 January 2012 23:15
UPDATE (22 January): The Guardian has an updated, more in-depth story on the book and its interviews with Kim Jong-nam. You can check it out here.
There’s been a flurry of reporting (The Washington Post
, The Guardian
, The New York Times
) the past couple of days about a new Japanese book purportedly based on interviews with Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-il’s eldest son and older half-brother of Kim Jong-eun, North Korea’s new ruler.
The Tokyo-based journalist who wrote the book, Yoji Gomi, says it is based on email exchanges and interviews with Kim Jong-nam over a period of years. In it, the older brother reportedly calls the third-generation succession a “joke” and expects Jong-eun will be nothing more than a figurehead. Not exactly a shocking prediction, but interesting given the reported source. If true, this book offers some of the most interesting insight into North Korea since that written by Kim Jong-il’s former sushi chef.
- Monday, 16 January 2012 22:42
One of the newer, more interesting areas of conflict between North and South Korea has been in cyberspace
, with some reports
blaming the new leader, Kim Jong-eun, for North Korean hacking attacks on South Korean websites.
Whoever is managing the attacks, they do not appear to be stopping. On Monday (16 January), a spokesperson for Korea University
, one of South Korea’s top schools, said email accounts at the college’s Graduate School of Information Security (hmm …) were hacked using a server and methodology previously associated with North Korean cyber-attacks. The latest attempt is reportedly similar to one made against the Korean Military Academy last May.
No damage came from the attack, since none of the students or graduates opened the problematic file attached to the emails used during the hack. The university was later able to relocate the graduate school’s email server behind additional security and, in cooperation with defense and intelligence officials, track the origin of the code used in the attack.
Banks, the South Korean military, schools, and businesses have all reportedly been victims or targets of North Korean cyber-attacks. With the difficulty of preventing the attacks, and of definitively tracing their origin, the likelihood is high that they will both continue and grow more effective as their instigators become more experienced. Couple that with a new North Korean leader anxious to prove his military and security bonafides, and cyber-security specialists in the South and U.S. should be getting plenty of new material.
- Friday, 06 January 2012 00:14
It’s been a couple of weeks now since Kim Jong-il died and his son, Kim Jong-un, took over. Reports are now beginning to filter out through the normal defector reporting networks about changes in North Korean policies during the transition.
While the defector networks are hardly free from bias, recent reporting
indicates the regime is cracking down sharply on defectors. NK border guards have reportedly been given orders authorizing them to shoot those attempting to defect, while state media, which had previously ignored or downplayed defection, has begun publicizing the punishment that awaits those attempting to flee the country.
According to the story
, the North’s policy of ‘three-generation punishment’ has been extended to defectors and their families. Meaning, if someone attempts to defect, three generations of their family will be executed, or perhaps sent to a labor camp (which is often a death sentence in its own right). This policy has long been used for political crimes (for insight read Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
, about a young boy forced to come of age in a labor camp after his grandfather made some anti-regime comments) and an extension of this policy to the ‘crime’ of defection would be an ominous sign, both for the defectors and for the direction the regime is heading under its new leadership.