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2009/12/10 11:42 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 84 (December 10, 2009)


Nobel Laureate to Give Lecture at N. Korean University: RFA

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Nobel Laureate Peter Agre will give a special lecture to North Korean students and scientists during a visit to the socialist country this week, according to a Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcast monitored in Seoul on Dec. 5.

   The broadcast aired by the non-profit corporation said Agre will visit the Kimchaek University of Technology with other U.S. scientists to give a lecture, and to hold talks with North Korean academics to discuss ways to advance bilateral scientific cooperation
Agre is a medical doctor and molecular biologist who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of aquaporins, proteins in water that regulate its flow. He is currently the chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

   RFA said that the U.S. scientists will return home around Dec. 16.

   It added organizer for the trip made clear that the visit by the U.S. scientists had nothing to do with the planned visit by Stephen Bosworth, Washington's special representative for North Korea policy next week.

   The envoy will fly to Pyongyang Tuesday and stay there for three days before returning to Seoul on Dec. 10.


Network of Ultra-deep Tunnels Built in Pyongyang: Defector

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has built a network of secret ultra-deep tunnels that can be used by its leader Kim Jong-il and senior officials as escape routes in times of emergency, according to a former senior North Korean official who defected in 1997 to the South.

   During a program on Free North Korea Radio, a Seoul-based broadcaster, aired on Dec. 7, Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the Workers' Party, claimed there were secret tunnels built more than 300 meters below ground linking Pyongyang with strategic locations within a radius of 40 to 50 kilometers.

   Hwang, who fled to the South in 1997, is the highest-ranking defector from North Korea, having served as chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly and secretary of the powerful Workers' Party. It is reportedly the first time that he has publicly mentioned the existence of a network of ultra-deep underground tunnels in the North Korean capital.

   Hwang claimed to have personally seen the tunnels, and said that the passages were connected with underground railway networks and built to be used as escape routes and shelter for the country's leader and top officials in an emergency.

   A subway system went into service in Pyongyang in 1973.

   "There was fresh water and grass growing in a underground tunnel that linked Pyongyang to a nearby mountain. In particular, an ultra-deep underground tunnel was built to connect one of Kim's residences in Pyongyang to Nampho (on the western coast)," Hwang said, adding that the North's leaders could escape to China by traveling through the tunnels.

   The South Korean military believes that North Korea in the 1970s dug more than 20 tunnels to infiltrate the South, some of them across the military demarcation line.

   According to the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, North Korea has some 8,000 underground military facilities, including hangars and missile bases, in its territory. Most of them are located about 80 meters underground, the South Korean state think tank said.


Bosworth Not Likely Produce Breakthrough in Nuclear Talks in Pyongyang

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A trip to North Korea by a key U.S. diplomat will not produce a breakthrough in the nuclear standoff due to Pyongyang's insistence on forging a peace treaty through bilateral talks, a Korea expert predicted on Dec. 8.

   Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, flew into Pyongyang earlier in the day for the first high-level contact with North Korea since the inauguration of Barack Obama, with the aim of persuading the North to return to six-party talks on its denuclearization.

   But Jack Pritchard, president of the Washington-based Korea Economic Institute, says the North has a different agenda, made clear on his trip to Pyongyang late November.

   "Prior to going to North Korea, I anticipated that the North Koreans would try to create the situation in which they have multiple meetings with Ambassador Bosworth and then commit to come back to the six-party talks," he said. "For face-saving reasons, they would want at least two meetings."

   Instead, Pritchard said, he found that the North Koreans want continued bilateral talks with Washington to establish a peace treaty to replace the fragile armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. He cited talks he had with Ri Gun, director general of the North American affairs bureau of North Korea's foreign ministry, and other officials.

   "After having been on this trip, it's my own view that the North Koreans would like to push this as far down the road as possible, maintaining bilateral-only discussions with the United States," he said. "They are going to have that kind of discussion. They are going to try to force the discussion on the peace treaty."

   Pritchard, a U.S. negotiator with North Korea during the Clinton administration, has traveled to the North several times and has known Ri for 13 years.

   "I don't expect a breakthrough," he said, referring to Bosworth's trip. "I don't expect that the North Koreans will agree to come back to the six-party talks after this initial meeting."

   U.S. officials have said Bosworth, who will be in Pyongyang until Dec. 10, will try to persuade the North to come back to the six-party talks but will not discuss the terms of a denuclearization deal, deferring to the multilateral forum.

   North Korea has insisted on resolving the nuclear standoff through bilateral talks with the U.S., although its leader, Kim Jong-il, recently hinted at a possible return to the six-party talks depending on the outcome of Bosworth's trip to Pyongyang.

   Pritchard said that a peace treaty is a prerequisite for the North to get access to international financial institutions, which can help the impoverished regime rebuild its languishing economy, and end what the North sees as a hostile U.S. attitude, which led to international sanctions for its weapons tests earlier this year.

   The North Koreans want to revive the "positive direction" achieved at the end of the Clinton administration, when North Korea invited then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang and sent Marshal Jo Myong-rok to Washington to sign a rapprochement agreement, he said.

   "Those agreements, in their words, were completely destroyed by the Bush administration," Pritchard said. "We need to hang this relationship on something that is more tangible and more enduring between the U.S. administrations. And that's their pitch for the peace treaty."

   State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said on Dec. 7 that Bosworth will not discuss the peace treaty, leaving that to a working group established under a six-party deal.


North Korea's Repressive Panel System Prompts Corruption: Paper

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's repressive and arbitrary panel system has helped the regime keep control of its citizens amid economic and social change sparked by the famine of the 1990s, but it has resulted in more bribery and "predatory corruption," a state research institute said in a paper released on Dec. 8.

   "As the state proved unable to provide food through socialist distribution networks, the economy underwent a process of marketization from below. Small-scale social units, households, factories and cooperatives, local government and party offices, even military units, began engaging in entrepreneurial behavior, much of it technically illegal, in order to survive," according to the paper by the Seoul-based Korea Development Institute.

   "This unplanned and unwanted marketization eroded state control of the economy... The penal system has played a central role in the government's repressive response to economic and social change," it added.

   The paper was co-authored by Stephan Haggard, an international relations and Pacific Studies professor at the University of California, San Diego, and Marcus Noland, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics. It was based on two surveys of North Korean refugees in China and South Korea over the past several years.

   Of the 102 refugees in South Korea who experienced imprisonment in the North, only 13 said they received trials, with most others sent to collection centers or training camps without due process, according to the paper. While they were detained or imprisoned, a majority of the respondents say that they witnessed executions, forced starvation, death from torture and the killing of newborns.

   The paper noted that the judicial system helps the reclusive communist country keep a strong grip on its citizens through "intimidation" but has ended up encouraging bribery and extortion as people seek to avoid punishment.

   "The more arbitrary and painful the experience with the penal system, the easier it is for officials to extort money for avoiding it. These characteristics not only promote regime maintenance through intimidation, but may facilitate predatory corruption as well," it said.