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After Test, Life in Pyongyang Goes On

Posted December. 07, 2006 07:04,   


"As the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution against North Korea, some of the projects pursued in partnership with Pyongyang needed to be postponed. So I explained the background to a North Korean director-level official in charge of relevant work, but he knew nothing about the UNSC sanctions."

He suggested that the U.S.` financial sanctions against the North were already having an impact on the upper class. "I recently met a businessman selling medical devices to North Korea, who told me that the sales of blood pressure testers widely used by the North Korean upper class recently dropped dramatically. I believe this is because foreign currency inflows into North Korea are on the decline due to the financial sanctions against it," he explained.

He also mentioned subtle changes taking place in relations between North Korea and China that have become growingly complex these days.

"The North is recently beefing up security measures against Chinese merchants operating in Pyongyang. The development project of the Musan iron mine in North Hamgyong Province of North Korea, which China has pushed for enthusiastically as part of its endeavor to secure natural resources, is put off for now. It is reported that after the North Korean nuclear test, the Chinese authorities ordered a postponement of the project for the time being." As China needs raw material in the long term, however, he projected, "Though there currently are some conflict factors between China and North Korea, China will have to support the North as it does not want the country to collapse."

With regard to what North Korean society as a whole is like after the nuclear test, he stated, "There are absolutely no signs of political changes. The North Korean regime`s control over the society is rock-solid, not being swayed at all." He also indicated, however, "More recently, the North Korean authorities are strengthening their control over foreigners there."

As to why the North Korean regime forces humanitarian international groups leave the country and tries not to receive food aid from outside, he cited two reasons: First, as international groups have operated in the North for a long period of time, North Korean residents started to show "real goodwill" to them. This leads to social uncertainties there. Second, as a country emphasizing "self-reliance," North Korea finds it hurting its ego to receive foreign aid every year.

He worried that a food shortage is expected when the season of spring poverty unfolds in earnest in April. He stressed, "Given this year`s harvest was not good, if foreign aid decreases, North Korea is highly likely to face the worst-ever food shortage, arbeit not a famine, since the mid-1990s (dubbed the "Painful March under Trials"). Help from the international community is desperately needed."

Regarding his life as a diplomat in Pyongyang, he said that even though he needed to get permission from the North Korean authorities to go to provincial areas, he could move freely within downtown Pyongyang. As the structure of everyone monitoring each other has been internalized in North Korea, he added, when one tries to shoot an "inappropriate" scene from the perspective of North Korea, someone appears out of nowhere to stop him.

He plans to return to Pyongyang sooner or later.