TIME North Korea

North Korea Has Banned Foreign Envoys From Having Media Critical of Kim Jong Un

South Korea Korean War Anniversary
Lee Jin-man—AP An effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set up by South Korean conservative activists in Seoul on June 25, 2015, during a rally against the North to mark the 65th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War

But isn't that pretty much everything?

Foreign diplomats are no longer allowed to keep content critical of the North Korean regime or supreme leader Kim Jong Un, according to a new ordinance.

Anything considered slanderous to the Hermit Kingdom or Kim, which could include photographs, movies, literature or files saved on phones or computers, can no longer be kept by foreign embassies or international organizations in the capital Pyongyang, reports UPI.

The U.K. has decried the ban as a violation of international standards of human rights. The ordinance, issued June 26, comes on the heels of a U.K. Foreign Office report on human rights and democracy, which classified North Korea as a “human-rights concern” for reasons including its limits on freedom of expression.

North Korea has a long history of censorship and is considered one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Late last year, U.S. envoy to the U.N. Samantha Power accused Pyongyang of the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, apparently in retaliation for the release of the studio’s The Interview, a movie parodying Kim and the regime.

Compared with the general population, diplomats live in relative comfort. But the ban is another in a long list of inconveniences, which includes frequent blackouts due to power shortages.

[UPI]

TIME North Korea

North Korea Reportedly Executes Its Defense Minister for Dozing Off at a Military Event

Senior North Korean military officer Hyon Yong Chol delivers a speech during the 4th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow April 16, 2015.
Sergei Karpukhin—Reuters Senior North Korean military officer Hyon Yong Chol delivers a speech during the 4th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow April 16, 2015.

The execution is the latest in a series of purges against senior North Korean officials

North Korea has reportedly executed its Defense Minister for falling asleep at a military event that was attended by the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told lawmakers in Seoul.

According to South Korean media on Wednesday, Hyon Yong Chol was charged with treason and executed on April 30 in front of a crowd of hundreds of North Korean officials, reports Reuters.

Hyon, who was chief of the country’s People’s Armed Forces, is also said to have talked back to the North Korean dictator several times.

The South Korean intelligence agency briefed a parliamentary committee about the execution on Wednesday.

Hyon’s execution is the latest in a series of purges against senior officials in the isolated country. Last month, the NIS said Pyongyang had ordered the execution of 15 high-ranking officials for undermining Kim’s leadership.

[Reuters]

TIME North Korea

North Korean Official Threatens Nuke Strike If U.S. ‘Forced Their Hand’

Participants of the 5th Conference of the Training Officers of the Korean People's Army greet Kim Jon Un (not pictured), in a photo released on May 1, 2015.
KCNA/Xinhua Press/Corbis Participants of the 5th Conference of the Training Officers of the Korean People's Army greet Kim Jon Un (not pictured), in a photo released on May 1, 2015.

"We're a major power politically, ideologically and militarily," he said

A senior North Korean figure said his country has the capability to strike the mainland United States with nuclear weapons and would do so if the U.S. “forced their hand.”

In an rare interview with U.S. media, Park Yong Chol told CNN that his country’s investment in nuclear arms was worth the cost of Western sanctions. “This strategic decision was the right one,” he said.

Park, who is the deputy head of the country’s Institute for Research into National Reunification, a government-tied think tank, denied United Nations reports of brutal camps for political prisoners and said that reports from South Korean intelligence that dictator Kim Jong Un had personally ordered the execution of more than a dozen officials this year amounted to “malicious slander.”

He also said that his country plans to become a world economic powerhouse.

“We’re a major power politically, ideologically and militarily,” he said. “The last remaining objective is to make the DPRK a strong economic power.”

[CNN]

TIME North Korea

China Has Reason to Be Worried About North Korea’s Nukes

This video grab taken from North Korean TV on March 20, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's overseeing a live fire military drill.
AFP/Getty Images This video grab taken from North Korean TV on March 20, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's overseeing a live fire military drill.

The two countries were once as close as lips and teeth, but Beijing is increasingly wary of Pyongyang and Kim Jong Un

In the U.S., North Korea often feels more like of a punchline than a political threat. Coverage of the country skews heavily toward humor, whether it’s news stories about Kim Jong Un’s gravity-defying hair, or Hollywood films that milk North Korean misery for laughs. Have you heard the one about Pyongyang’s weapons program? North Korea’s nuclear missile is almost ready—just a few more trips back to Radio Shack. (Thanks for that, Twitter.)

In East Asia, North Korea is less of a joke than a policy imperative—as we were reminded this week. Reporting published Thursday by the Wall Street Journal suggests that China may be worried—or more worried than normal—about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Citing “people briefed on the matter,” the paper reported that Chinese experts privately advised American nuclear specialists that Pyongyang may have up to 20 warheads, as well as enough weapons-grade uranium to double that number within a year.

If the figure is indeed accurate, or even close, it is significant for several reasons. First, the figure—20—is considerably higher than recent U.S. estimates, which put the number of warheads in the 10 to 16 range. Second, the revised estimate is reportedly based on China’s belief that North Korea has improved its capacity to enrich uranium. This, if true, would make it easier and faster for them to build-out their arsenal, potentially allowing them to produce up to 20 new warheads per year.

It is hard to say if the number is accurate—we don’t know how the intelligence was gathered and it is an estimate to begin with. What’s perhaps more significant to the non-nuclear scientists among us is the fact that it could put the North Korea nuclear question back on the agenda in the United States. Several U.S. publications, including the WSJ’s editorial board, are already using the news to critique Washington’s approach to the issue, and to compare the handling of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea. Will the threat gain currency heading into 2016?

It also puts the spotlight on China. U.S.-based observers have a habit of underplaying—or outright forgetting—China’s role in all this. In May 2014, the foreign press was aflutter over reports leaked to Japanese media that appeared to outline China’s planned response to a North Korean collapse. South Korea and China-based observers were hardly surprised. Of course the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army have contingency plans in the event of something going very wrong across the Yalu River. China is North Korea’s neighbor. It knows that a problems in Pyongyang will likely spillover.

And this is an interesting time for Sino-DPRK ties. North Korea and China were once brother-at-arms, as close as lips and teeth, as Mao famously said. They fought together in the 1950-1953 Korean War and China has long been considered Pyongyang’s only real ally. (That may change as Putin’s Russia cozies up.) Trade with China, both official and unofficial, has helped keep the Kim regime afloat amid escalating rounds of sanctions. The last thing China wants is destabilizing conflict, or, worse, a collapse that could send North Koreans streaming to the border—or so the thinking goes.

This latest wrinkle reminds us that China is also very much concerned with nuclear weapons, especially nuclear weapons in the hands of a blustery young dictator that they don’t quite trust—and, that this is an area where China, the U.S., and South Korea could find common ground. Will they make it a diplomatic priority going forward? Or will North Korea have the last laugh?

TIME North Korea

See Kim Jong Un Celebrate Ascent of North Korea’s Highest Peak

This photo taken on April 18, 2015 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on a snow-covered Mount Paektu during sunrise in Ryanggang Province.
KNS—AFP/Getty Images This photo taken on April 18, 2015 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on a snow-covered Mount Paektu during sunrise in Ryanggang Province.

“Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon,” said a state media report.

North Korean state media released a collection of celebratory images of leader Kim Jong Un at the summit of the country’s highest peak.

The state-run Rodong newspaper reported that Kim climbed Mt. Paektu on Saturday with a group of fighter pilots and other party and military leaders.

The country’s media is keen on portraying the supreme leader—a member of this year’s TIME 100—in action, such as when video surfaced of him flying a small plane.

North Korean propaganda says Mt. Paektu, which rises some 9,000 feet, was the birthplace of Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father — though historians say he was actually born in Soviet Russia.

“When one climbs snow-stormy Mt. Paektu and undergoes the blizzards over it, one can experience its real spirit and harden the resolution to accomplish the Korean revolution,” the Rodong report said. “Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon and it is the way for carrying forward the revolutionary traditions of Paektu and giving steady continuity to the glorious Korean revolution.”

TIME North Korea

South Korean Activist Plans to Airdrop 10,000 Copies of The Interview to North Korea

Stunt planned for late March could raise tensions between the two countries

Despite North Korea’s best efforts to stamp out The Interview, the comedy film about the attempted assassination of Kim Jong-Un may yet land on its territory.

Defector-turned-activist Park Sang-Hak is planning to send as many as 10,000 copies of the movie and 500,000 propaganda leaflets across the North Korean border by balloon on an unspecified date at the end of the month, AFP reports.

The demonstration will coincide with the five-year anniversary of the sinking of a South Korean warship, which the country has blamed on North Korea.

The South Korean government has acknowledged activists’ right to send the balloons but asked them to refrain in order to avoid increasing increasing tensions. North Korea has said it will respond with “cannons and missiles” if the propaganda balloons cross its borders.

“Nobody can stop it,” Park said. “I will keep sending leaflets into North Korea at the risk of my life.”

[AFP]

TIME North Korea

Someone Has Hacked Into Kim Jong Un’s Hair

NKOREA-POLITICS-KIM
KCNA/AFP/Getty Images North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a meeting of the political bureau of the central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, Feb. 18, 2015.

The evolution of the the North Korean leader's hairstyle continues

The Supreme Leader of North Korea appears to be changing things up stylewise, even as his government comes under renewed fire for human rights abuses.

At a politburo meeting on Wednesday, Kim Jong Un displayed a new haircut that appears to be the latest in his evolving style. The upward trapezoid-shaped hair is even more pronounced than previous hairdos, and his eyebrows aren’t getting any larger.

READ MORE Watch North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un Take the Controls of an Airplane

North Korea observer Frank Feinstein called out the makeover on Twitter.

TIME North Korea

Here Are 7 of the Weirdest North Korean State Slogans

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) appl
ED JONES—AFP/Getty Images North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) applauds during a military parade in honour of the 100th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012.

"Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms!"

The North Korean leadership published a list of more than 300 slogans in state media on Thursday ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country’s Workers’ Party this year.

The lengthy list, comprising some 6,000 words in English translation, provides an often comical sense of some of the priorities of the government. Some of the statements are typical of the bellicose rhetoric North Korean directs toward South Korea and the United States, while others are more general declarations for improving different aspects of life, ranging from food production to the style of school uniforms.

An English translation was posted by the KCNA Watch, a website that monitors the North Korean official news agency. Here’s seven of the more bizarre slogans on the list:

  • “Let us build a fairyland for the people by dint of science!”
  • “More stylish school uniforms and quality school things for our dear children!”
  • “Should the enemy dare to invade our country, annihilate them to the last man so that none of them will survive to sign the instrument of surrender!”
  • “Let the wives of officers become dependable assistants to their husbands!”
  • “Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!”
  • “Launch more cutting-edge sci-tech satellites and applications satellites of our style!”
  • “Make fruits cascade down and their sweet aroma fill the air on the sea of apple trees at the foot of Chol Pass!”

See the full list here

 

TIME North Korea

Russia Confirms North Korea Leader’s Visit in May

TO GO WITH Oly-2012-PRK,FEATURE(FILES)
Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un saluting as he watches a military parade in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012 .

Kremlin declined to mention Kim Jong-Un by name, leaving some ambiguity as to whether the reclusive leader himself might attend

North Korea’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong Un, will reportedly make his first official visit abroad this May to attend a World War II commemorative ceremony in Moscow, Russian officials said on Wednesday.

Russia’s presidential spokesperson confirmed that North Korea’s leader was among 20 “state leaders” who plan to attend the ceremony, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports.

However, the Kremlin declined to mention Kim Jong-Un by name, leaving some ambiguity as to whether Kim would attend in person or would be represented by his nominal head of state for foreign relations, Kim Yong-nam.

TIME North Korea

Dennis Rodman Doesn’t Believe North Korea Hacked Sony

CHINA-US-NKOREA-DIPLOMACY-BASKET
Wang Zhao—AFP/Getty Images Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman waits to check in for his flight to North Korea after his arrival at Beijing's international airport on Jan. 6, 2014.

"North Korea is going to hack a comedy, a movie that is really nothing? I can’t see that happening"

Dennis Rodman doesn’t believe that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures, the basketball star and self-declared friend of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un said in an interview published Saturday.

“How many movies have there been attacking North Korea? And they never hacked those. North Korea is going to hack a comedy, a movie that is really nothing? I can’t see that happening,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Rodman, whose remarks came as he promotes his new documentary on his travels to North Korea, has traveled to the isolated country on multiple occasions and has received a warm welcome from Kim, whom he describes as a friend. The basketball star has been criticized for being too cozy with a country often considered among the most repressive in the world.

Read More: The Interview May Be Funny; North Korea and Kim Jong Un Are Not

The claim challenges the United States government’s allegation that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures in retaliation for depicting the assassination of the country’s dictator in the movie The Interview.

Sony ultimately cancelled the theatrical release of the film in response to terrorist threats against some theaters that planned to show the movie.

[THR]

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