2008: Nuclear disarmament negotiations
with North Korea restarted after nine months. The big subject now is over
verification. North Korea makes lots of promises, but has, over the decades,
shown that it cannot be trusted.
the food situation in the north grows worse. Thousands of people have been
literally heading for the hills, seeking out medicinal herbs (which fetch a
good price in North Korea and China). The herbs can be traded for food. There
has also been a noticeable increase in prostitution, and the production of
drugs (both those that are grown, and those which are synthesized in a lab or
chemical plant.) Corruption continues to grow, despite some highly publicized
executions and hundreds of arrests.
2008: South Korea has recalled its ambassador
from Japan, because of escalating
confrontations over the disputed ownership of some islands. South Korea has
long been willing to sacrifice good relations with Japan over the issue of who
owns the uninhabited Dokdo (Takeshima to the Japanese) islands in the Sea of Japan
(East Sea in Korean). What is 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 tension.
2008: North Korea agreed to disable its
main nuclear facilities by the end of October. However, there will be
negotiations to determine how this will be verified.
2008: In one of the few North Korea tourist
resorts, a 53 year old South Korean woman was shot dead during an early morning
walk on a beach. She had walked around a
beach fence, entered a "military zone" and nearby soldiers shot her twice and
killed her. Five other tourists witnessed what appeared to be three soldiers
ambushing the women walking along the beach. North Korea refused to accept any
responsibility for this (which is normal) and blamed South Korea for not
sufficiently indoctrinating its tourists. The tours, which bring the north
millions of dollars a year, have been suspended. It's ironic that the killing
took place only hours before the newly elected South Korean president was to
give a speech announcing a kinder and gentler approach to North Korea. Meanwhile,
North Korea refuses to cooperate in an investigation of how the tourist was
2008: North Korea wants faster delivery of
food and fuel. North Korea will not admit that there are serious food shortages
for about 20 percent of the population, and simply insists that the food
deliveries have not kept up with the pace of unconfirmed North Korean nuclear
disarmament moves. North Korean media are touting the arrival of U.S. food as a
"war trophy", given to North Korea, now equipped with nuclear weapons, because leader Kim Jong Il demanded it. They
say this with a straight face, of course.
2008: The first 38,000 tons of food (of
500,000 tons over the next year) arrived in North Korea.
2008: North Korea blew up the cooling
tower for its nuclear weapons reactor at Yongbyon (100 kilometers north of the
capital). This is a symbolic gesture, for which North Korea expects to be paid
lots of free food and fuel. The U.S. paid $2.5 million for the demolition.
2008: North Korea provided an inventory
of items involved in its nuclear program. There's no way to know if the list is
accurate, other than spy satellite images of some items.