In the north, each province has been ordered to select a hundred of its most honest and efficient security personnel to form a special unit (mislabeled by some as a "riot squad") to investigate corruption and anti-government activity. Corruption is becoming more common month by month, as growing shortages persuade normally well-off government officials (including those in the military and security forces) to seek other sources of income.
North Korea amped up the protests for the latest round of military training exercises in the south. The reason for the more dire threats (nukes, and the usual "sea of fire") had to do with the North Korean belief that this set of exercises includes training for operations in North Korea, both outright war, and peacekeeping (moving in after a collapse of the communist government up there.) That sort of thing, the ruling Kim family apparently takes personally. The Kims were not amused.
In the midst of all the violence bluster from the north, comes more discreet pleas from diplomats for food. The North Koreans quietly imply that renewed food aid could be monitored, to insure that it got to those who needed it, and not diverted to the military, or sold (in North Korea or China), to provide the government with needed cash. Most donors have stopped supplying food to North Korea because of these diversions, while North Korea explains the lack of free food with loud announcements that it would no longer accept such donations, because they were not needed. But malnutrition is widespread this Winter, the coldest in decades. A lack of fuel makes the suffering worse. Up north, the leadership has apparently decided that another major famine would not be good for the health of the current rulers, thus the diplomatic feelers about food aid and renewed discussions about disarmament. But there are also reports from the north that the government will allow the food aid to reach the starving, but will increase how much food, grown in the north, that will be diverted to stockpiles. It is believed that the government wants lots of food available for when young Kim Jong Un succeeds his sickly father, Kim Jong Il. It is customary for such occasions to be accompanied by distributions of free food, to put people in a good mood about the change of rulers.
South Korea has resumed its Information War campaign in the north. This sort of thing, involving loudspeakers blasting the news across the DMZ, along with balloons carrying leaflets, video CDs, cassette players and tapes, and even food, that are sent across to the DMZ. This annoys the northern government a great deal, and is part of the reason why the north has amped up the war threats. The north is particularly upset at its people being told about the popular uprisings in the Arab world. So southern politicians have asked that the military Information War operations to be carried out more discreetly (no more press releases, just keep quietly doing it.)
While factories continue to go dark in the north, for lack of fuel, manufacturing is booming in the south, where annual GDP growth is currently close to five percent.
February 21, 2011: North Korea is apparently digging another tunnel for a third nuclear weapons test. Despite the first two tests, North Korea does not appear to have a reliable and robust (able to survive use in a missile) nuclear weapon. So more underground tests are needed, to perfect the design.
February 20, 2011: Japan has, for the first time since World War II, set up an intelligence agency that will recruit and manage spies in foreign countries (especially China and North Korea.)
February 18, 2011: Hundreds of North Koreans rioted against food and power shortages in the town of Sinuiju, on the Chinese border. Police and secret police responded violently, and dozens of the demonstrators were killed or wounded, and many more arrested. But most got away, and the news spread. This was despite strenuous efforts by the government to keep it secret. The government no longer controls information like it used it. The word gets around, especially about really important stuff, like public demonstrations against the government. While there's lots of evidence about what happened in Sinuiju, there's less about similar unrest in other towns and cities. These have apparently been happening increasingly this year, and are getting larger. It's still uncertain if this sort of unrest will grow large enough to bring down the government.