Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

“We live in a world in which speed is prized above almost all else, and acting faster than the other side has itself become the primary goal. But most often people are merely in a hurry, acting and reacting frantically to events, all of which makes them prone to error and wasting time in the long run. In order to separate yourself from the pack, to harness a speed that has devastating force, you must be organized and strategic. First, you prepare yourself before any action, scanning your enemy for weaknesses. Then you find a way to get your opponents to underestimate you, to lower their guard. When you strike unexpectedly, they will freeze up. When you hit again, it is from the side and out of nowhere. It is the unanticipated blow that makes the biggest impact.”
- Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies Of War

“Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing."
-George Orwell

"The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey."
– LTG John M. Schofield, 1879

1. Biden nominates North Korea human rights envoy, first since 2017

2. Establish a US-Japan-Korea Center in Tokyo

3. U.S., S. Korea working to hold N. Korea accountable for supporting Russian war in Ukraine: State Dept.

4. Solution to forced labor issue won't please everybody

5. How ChatGPT became the next big thing

6. N. Korean media decries Yoon's remarks on Iran

7. Foreign ministry welcomes nomination of new US special envoy for NK human rights

8. N. Korean media airs documentary touting successful COVID response

9. US House passes resolution calling for return of USS Pueblo seized by N. Korea

10. ‘Beyond Utopia’ Director Madeleine Gavin on Capturing the Harrowing Journey of North Korean Defectors: ‘I Wanted to Crack That World Open’

11. "What A Joke": South Korean Netizens Unimpressed By North Korea's New English Vlogger

12. FBI says North Korea-linked hacker groups behind US crypto firm heist

13. North Korea Missile Tests Spill Into 2023 – Analysis

14. What the Map of Korea Can Teach Us About Russia and Ukraine

15. Kim Jong Un's new secret squad will SHOOT anyone viewing sex videos

1. Biden nominates North Korea human rights envoy, first since 2017

Good news. After 6 years we finally have a nominee,

I do not know Ambassador (Select) Turner, but I received many positive assessments since the news came out last evening.

Julie Turner, Nominee for Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues, with the Rank of Ambassador

Julie Turner, Nominee for Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues, with the Rank of Ambassador

Julie Turner is the Director of the Office of East Asia and the Pacific in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State. Prior to that, she was Director for Southeast Asia at the National Security Council. Turner has served more than 16 years in the Office of East Asia and the Pacific, in positions of increasing responsibility, primarily focused on initiatives related to promoting human rights in North Korea, including a tour as Special Assistant in the Office of the Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Issues. She began her career at the Department of State as a Presidential Management Intern. Turner earned a B.A. at Pepperdine University, and an M.A. at the University of Maryland at College Park. She speaks French and Korean.  

Biden nominates North Korea human rights envoy, first since 2017

Reuters · by Josh Smith

SEOUL, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday nominated a special envoy for human rights in North Korea, moving to fill a post that has been empty since 2017 amid debate over how rights issues fit with efforts to counter Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

President Joe Biden nominated Julie Turner, a long-time diplomat and current director of the Office of East Asia and the Pacific in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the Department of State, the White House said in a statement.

She speaks Korean and has previously worked on North Korean human rights as a special assistant in the envoy's office, the statement said.

The special envoy position - and a similar one in South Korea - had become controversial as preceding administrations tried to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. Some activists said human rights had been shunted aside in favour of national security priorities.

Biden vowed repeatedly after taking office in 2021 that human rights would be at the centre of his foreign policy, but the position had remained vacant.

South Korea's ambassador on North Korean human rights expressed disappointment last year that Biden's administration had yet to appoint an envoy for the issue at the time.

North Korea has repeatedly rejected accusations of human rights abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation. It accuses Washington and Seoul of using the issue as a political tool to smear Pyongyang's reputation.

A landmark 2014 U.N. report on North Korean human rights concluded that North Korean security chiefs - and possibly leader Kim Jong Un himself - should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities.

Since then, North Korea's coronavirus curbs have aggravated human rights violations, United Nations investigators have said, citing extra restrictions on access to information, tighter border security and heightened digital surveillance.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Stephen Coates

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Reuters · by Josh Smith

2. Establish a US-Japan-Korea Center in Tokyo

Trilateral cooperation is critical to =antional security in all three countries.


Imagine the depth of the personal ties that could be established between the three countries if elementary schools in the three nations hold regular Zoom-based exchanges wherein the students from each country share their culture with students from the other two countries.
It is critical to note that by holding educational and cultural exchanges that include the United States can help to make cooperation between Korea and Japan possible, overcoming resentment and misunderstandings concerning the colonial period.
The long-term result of such a center might not only be a robust platform for coordination concerning security and supply chains, but an incubator for the next generation of leaders in all three nations who will be inspired by trilateral exchanges from a young age.

Establish a US-Japan-Korea Center in Tokyo - SNA Japan · by Emanuel Pastreich · January 23, 2023

SNA (Tokyo) — The recent efforts to encourage cooperation between Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul in diverse fields, from science and technology to diplomacy and security, comes as welcome news, especially in light of the decline in collaboration during the Trump administration. Even before that time it was never particularly vibrant.

Although the economic and technological significance of East Asia for the United States has risen exponentially over the past two decades, concrete engagement with America’s closest partners and allies in the region remains fragmentary, often relying on personal connections. That is to say, for all the grand pronouncements made about shared values when heads of state shake hands, there is little institutional support on the ground to foster long-term cooperation specifically between Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul. We need to plan for long-term exchanges at the grassroots level–and at the working level within universities, businesses, government agencies, and NGOs–that will form a thick fabric binding the three nations together.

Sadly, there exists at present no institution that is run jointly by the governments of the United States, Japan, and South Korea. There are smaller working groups in government and in the private sector that are focused on specific hot topics, but they are not capable of long-term planning and, more importantly, they do not collaborate, nor do they reach out to the general public.

By contrast, the governments of Japan, South Korea, and China established the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat in 2011, based on agreements for collaboration dating back to 1999.

The Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, located in Seoul, has become a vital center for coordination, only in diplomacy, but also in business, culture, research, and education. It holds regular events to introduce the cultures of the three countries to the public, and it also organizes conferences that bring together students from the three countries.

The United States, Japan, and South Korea should bear in mind this highly successful effort and establish an office that is run jointly by the three governments, one that will assure a broad dialog between governments, institutions, and citizens.

Of course, diplomacy and security must be a key part of this US-Japan-Korea Center, as we might call it. Nevertheless, it should also engage citizens within the three countries in educational and cultural activities that will build the necessary consensus for long-term collaboration.

One model for this center can be found in the United States Study Center located in Sydney, Australia. It is now home to Michael Green, a leading US expert on Japan security policy. It promotes close cooperation between the United States and Australia as part of the University of Sydney, and it maintains close ties to other Asia research centers and governments in Asia.

It would be most appropriate to locate the US-Japan-Korea Center in Tokyo, seeing as the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat is in Seoul and Washington is already crowded with multinational governmental offices.

Moreover, launching such an institution in Tokyo would affirm the Japanese vision for innovation in global governance, and a new commitment to integration in Asia.

The US-Japan-Korea Center could advance original programs that go beyond what similar institutions have attempted, promoting close ties between the citizens of the United States, Japan, and South Korea from an early age through homestay programs and the creation of sister-school relations between elementary, middle, and high schools.

Imagine the depth of the personal ties that could be established between the three countries if elementary schools in the three nations hold regular Zoom-based exchanges wherein the students from each country share their culture with students from the other two countries.

It is critical to note that by holding educational and cultural exchanges that include the United States can help to make cooperation between Korea and Japan possible, overcoming resentment and misunderstandings concerning the colonial period.

The long-term result of such a center might not only be a robust platform for coordination concerning security and supply chains, but an incubator for the next generation of leaders in all three nations who will be inspired by trilateral exchanges from a young age.

For our full news coverage, become a Shingetsu News supporter on Patreon and receive our daily “Japan and the World” newsletter. · by Emanuel Pastreich · January 23, 2023

3. U.S., S. Korea working to hold N. Korea accountable for supporting Russian war in Ukraine: State Dept.

Despite the fact Russia and China will block every action at the UN, we need to keep getting the malign activities of north Korea, Russia, and Conhia on the record and then take all available means to hold them accountable.

U.S., S. Korea working to hold N. Korea accountable for supporting Russian war in Ukraine: State Dept. | Yonhap News Agency · by 변덕근 · January 24, 2023

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- The United States and South Korea regularly discuss ways to address threats posed by North Korea, including its support for Russia's war against Ukraine, a state department spokesperson said Monday.

State Department Press Secretary Ned Price also said the U.S. will continue to use all available means to hold accountable those that support Russia's illegal war in Ukraine.

"It's fair to say that of course, we have the closest of relations with our South Korean allies. There is a nexus to the DPRK, in this case, given the provision of arms and other military wares from the DPRK to Wagner entities for use in Ukraine," the department spokesperson said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

U.S. Department of State Press Secretary Ned Price is seen speaking during a daily press briefing at the department in Washington on Jan. 23, 2023 in this captured image. (Yonhap)

The White House reaffirmed last week that Pyongyang provided military equipment to the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, releasing rare declassified imagery of Russian railcars traveling between Russia and North Korea in November.

Price said the U.S. and South Korea routinely discuss "the broad array of threats and challenges we face from the DPRK" when asked if the U.S. plans to work with its Asian ally to hold North Korea and the Russian mercenary group accountable.

Their discussions most frequently focus on the challenge from North Korea's nuclear weapons program, its ballistic missile program, he said.

"But we have spoken to its activities in the cyber realm, to money laundering to criminal activities, and yes, to its support for what is perpetrated on the people in Ukraine," he added.

The captured image shows imagery released by the White House National Security Council on Jan. 20, 2023 that show a set of Russian railcars traveling between Russia and North Korea on Nov. 18-Nov. 19, 2022 for a suspected delivery of North Korean military equipment to Russia's private military company, the Wagner Group. (Yonhap)

The department spokesperson also emphasized the U.S.' own efforts to hold the Wagner Group to account.

"What the White House noted last week is that we are imposing additional designations or using additional authorities to pursue the Wagner Group," said Price.

"We are going to use every appropriate tool to pursue the Wagner group, to attempt to counter its destabilizing actions, its destabilizing influence, again, in the Ukrainian context and more broadly as well," he added.

(END) · by 변덕근 · January 24, 2023

4. Solution to forced labor issue won't please everybody

As Lincoln said: "“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.”


January 24, 2023

 dictionary + A - A 

Solution to forced labor issue won't please everybody

Civic groups protest in front of the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on Jan. 18, criticizing a proposal to solve the forced labor issue. [YONHAP]

The ball is in Japan’s court in the forced labor compensation issue, said the Foreign Ministry.


“Basically, there must be some sincere response from Japan, based on which the final solution can be designed at the [Korean] government level,” said a Foreign Ministry official in meeting with reporters in Seoul on Jan. 17.


Asked what would comprise a “sincere response” from Japan, the official said it could include contributions from Japanese companies to a compensation fund Korea intends to set up with donations from Korean companies, and apologies from the Japanese government or companies, “as these are what the victims have requested.”


The requests from forced labor victims and their relatives were conveyed to Tokyo in the latest director-level meeting between the two countries on Jan. 16. 


Seo Min-jung, director general for Asia and Pacific affairs of the Foreign Ministry, enters the Japanese foreign ministry building in Tokyo on Dec. 26. [YONHAP]

The legal dispute between Tokyo and Seoul on the forced labor issue dates back to 2018. 


A landmark ruling on the case came on Oct. 30, 2018, when the Korean Supreme Court ordered Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal, renamed Nippon Steel, to pay 100 million won ($78,590) each to Korean victims of Japanese forced labor. The Supreme Court made a similar ruling on Nov. 29, 2018 against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.


Japan protested the decision, claiming that all compensation issues related to its colonial rule were resolved with a treaty with Korea in 1965. In that deal, Japan give Korea $300 million in economic aid and $500 million in loans.


Korea’s top court acknowledged the illegality of Japan’s 1919-45 colonial rule and recognized that individuals' rights to compensation had not expired.


Both Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi refused to comply with the top court's decisions, and the victims filed another case requesting the liquidation of assets of two Japanese companies to compensate forced labor victims.


The Supreme Court in Korea has yet to rule on the latest case.


The Foreign Ministry, which since the onset of the Yoon Suk Yeol administration last year has been trying to negotiate between the victims and Japan to improve diplomatic relations with Tokyo, saw this an opportunity to intervene. 


It submitted an argument to the Supreme Court last August to “consider the diplomatic efforts” it has made with Japan in recent months before it rules.


A participant holds up a sign at a hearing hosted by the Foreign Ministry at the National Assembly in Seoul on Jan. 12 to discuss possible solutions to the forced labor issue between Japan and Korea. [NEWS1]

The ministry then held several meetings with victims and experts before holding a public hearing on Jan. 12, proposing that instead of liquidating the Japanese corporate assets, the government and Korean companies could step in as third parties to compensate the victims.


“Through our discussions with the victims and experts, we’ve seen that the chances of liquidation of Japanese corporate assets to compensate all victims are slim, and we’ve discovered that it is possible for a third party to legally compensate the victims instead,” said Seo Min-jung, director general for Asia and Pacific affairs of the Foreign Ministry, the diplomat in charge of negotiations with Japan on the issue, at the hearing. “We think this could provide a legal breakthrough on the issue.”


The ministry proposed that a fund could be set up by a government-supported foundation to receive voluntary donations from Korean companies that benefited from the 1965 treaty and economic aid from Japan. This fund would then be used to compensate the victims.


Some relatives of victims present at the hearing said they would like to take this proposal, while others didn't approve. 


“Even I if I die tomorrow, I will not be taking the dirty money from Korea,” said Yang Geum-deok, a 94-year-old forced labor victim, in a press conference in Gwangju last Tuesday. 


Yang is one of five forced labor victims who sued Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. 


Today, only she and another victim survive. They have consistently called for liquidation of the company’s assets for their compensation.


Yang Geum-deok, a forced labor victim, speaks at a press conference hosted in Gwangju on Jan. 17 against the recent Foreign Ministry proposal on the issue of forced labor. [YONHAP]

In a rally before the Foreign Ministry building in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul last Wednesday, civic groups supporting victims of forced labor demanded the ministry retract its proposal.


“Why should Korean companies take on the responsibility to compensate the victims, which is completely Japan’s?” asked Lee Guk-eon, who heads a civic group supporting the forced labor victims, at the rally.


The rallying groups submitted a statement to the Foreign Ministry last Wednesday in which they criticized the plan and asked the government to “stop trying to reach a quick solution for the sake of Korea-U.S.-Japan and Korea-Japan military cooperation.”


One of Yoon administration’s foreign policy objectives is improvement of ties with Japan and closer military cooperation with both Japan and the United States.


There have been reports that, behind closed doors, Tokyo and Seoul may have reached an agreement to improve relations after a certain sequence of events: Korea officially establishing a forced labor compensation fund, followed by Japan lifting export restrictions on Korea and normalization of high-level exchanges, multiple diplomatic sources told the JoongAng Ilbo last week.


Since the court rulings in 2018, Japan removed Korea from its "white list" of trading partners and instituted export restrictions that hurt Korea's semiconductor industry. In return, Korea threatened to pull out of a military intelligence sharing pact with Japan.


President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at their meeting on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Cambodia on Nov. 13, 2022.[NEWS1]

“Once the Japanese government moves, the companies are also likely to move in sync,” a diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo on Jan. 16. “There seem to be some agreement within political circles in Japan that if Korea, with great difficulty, comes through with the proposal, that Japan shouldn’t just sit there and watch.” 


Some experts are looking for a breakthrough.


“If the Japanese companies agree to contribute to the fund, then we have a totally different story,” Lee Won-deok, a professor of Japanese studies at Kookmin University, told the JoongAng Ilbo on Jan. 16. 



5. How ChatGPT became the next big thing

This tweet string from my good friend and escape from north Korea, Hyun-Seung Lee, is very instructive about ChatGPT (and about north Korea)

Hyun-Seung Lee


Describe 10 reasons why the North Korean leader should be replaced. #ChatGPT answer.

1.Human rights abuses, including widespread repression and censorship of the North Korean people.

2.Failure to provide basic necessities for citizens, resulting in widespread poverty and hunger.

3:43 PM · Jan 22, 2023·1,979


3.Development and proliferation of nuclear weapons, posing a significant threat to global security.

4.Refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue with the international community and disregard for international law.

5.The leader's cult of personality and lack of political accountability.

6.Failure to address the country's economic problems and lack of investment in infrastructure and industry.

7.The lack of freedom of speech, press, and assembly.

8.Discrimination against certain groups such as religious minorities and political dissidents.

9.Lack of access to information and education for citizens.

10.Failure to address the COVID-19 pandemic in a transparent and effective manner.

How ChatGPT became the next big thing

Axios · by Erica Pandey,Dan Primack,Ina Fried · January 24, 2023

ChatGPT has captured the public imagination in a way the tech world hasn't seen since the debut of the iPhone in 2007.

Why it matters: Most of us are only now getting a glimpse of just how smart artificial intelligence has become. It's awe-inducing — and terrifying.

  • When ChatGPT launched to the public, it proved to be much more advanced than even many in the tech industry had expected.

What it is: ChatGPT is a free (for now) site that lets users pose questions and give directions to a bot that can answer with conversation, term papers, sonnets, recipes — almost anything. In almost any style you specify.

The big picture: The possibilities for ChatGPT seem endless. It recently passed all three parts of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, although just barely, as part of a research experiment.

  • You can tell the chatbot you're a gluten-free lover of Italian food and it'll spit out a meal plan and grocery list for you in seconds.

Everyone seems to see an array of uses for the technology in ways that are both exciting and scary.

  • It might one day handle complex tasks better and more efficiently than humans have ever been able to. And it might lead us to dark places we can't even anticipate yet.

How it works: Most software is specifically coded to do certain tasks. If the programmer didn't think of it, the software doesn't do it. Generative AI programs like ChatGPT, though, can create unique content in response to user prompts.

  • ChatGPT, developed by a company called OpenAI, uses text as both its input and output. Other systems — including another OpenAI product, called DALL·E — can generate images from a text prompt. Google and Meta are working on similar technologies.
  • Anyone can use ChatGPT for free via a simple web interface, although there's talk of OpenAI planning to launch a paid version, and it has licensed many of its technologies to Microsoft to sell to businesses.

Between the lines: Researchers have been working on generative AI for a long time. In fact, OpenAI itself is already more than 7 years old.

  • But most of that was occurring outside of the public eye. Even some experts were taken aback by how advanced it turned out to be.
  • That's led some to assume OpenAI will manage to fix ChatGPT's many problems, such as the incorrect information it sometimes provides.
  • But that's not a sure bet. Marc Andreessen recently referred to such certainty as "hand-waving" away some very real challenges.

The bottom line: Artificial intelligence has long seemed like science fiction, or at least like something in the distant future. But ChatGPT is forcing us to confront the fact that AI may play a big role in our daily lives — and much sooner than we imagined.

Go deeper:

What ChatGPT can't do

Newsrooms reckon with AI following CNET saga

Why Microsoft is betting big on ChatGPT

The chatter around ChatGPT

What's next for ChatGPT

Axios · by Erica Pandey,Dan Primack,Ina Fried · January 24, 2023

6.  N. Korean media decries Yoon's remarks on Iran

Of course the regime would support its fellow rogue and revolutionary power.

N. Korean media decries Yoon's remarks on Iran | Yonhap News Agency · by 송상호 · January 24, 2023

SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean propaganda outlet on Tuesday criticized President Yoon Suk Yeol's recent remarks on Iran's relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), noting they drew Tehran's wrath and created a "commotion" in the South.

During a recent visit to a South Korean military contingent in the UAE, Yoon said that the UAE's "enemy and biggest threat" is Iran while the South's enemy is North Korea.

The Tongil Shinbo, a weekly publication, made the first mention of Yoon's remarks by a North Korean media outlet.

The outlet pointed out that due to the "single" remark, a commotion flared up in the South, apparently in reference to the opposition party's criticism of the remark, while Iran has voiced anger and demanded the South clarify its position.

South Korean officials have said that the remark was made as part of efforts to encourage the members of the contingent, and that Yoon's comments were "irrelevant" to Seoul's relations with Tehran.

(END) · by 송상호 · January 24, 2023

7. Foreign ministry welcomes nomination of new US special envoy for NK human rights

Foreign ministry welcomes nomination of new US special envoy for NK human rights

The Korea Times · by 2023-01-24 07:57 | North Korea · January 24, 2023

A national flag-hoisting ceremony is held at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 1. AP-YonhapJulie Turner /Yonhap The foreign ministry welcomed the nomination of a new U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, Tuesday, saying South Korea will further strengthen cooperation with the United States to improve the North's human rights situation.

The White House announced earlier that Julie Turner, director of East Asia and the Pacific at the State Department's bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, has been nominated to serve as special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.

Biden nominates new special envoy for N. Korean human rights

The post has been vacant for about six years since the last envoy, Robert King, left.

"Our government welcomes the U.S. government's nomination of a State Department special envoy for North Korean human rights and looks forward to an early start of the mission," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"South Korea and the U.S. share serious concern about North Korea's human rights situation and ... the government will further strengthen cooperation between the two countries for the improvement of North Korea's human rights situation," the ministry said. (Yonhap)

The Korea Times · by 2023-01-24 07:57 | North Korea · January 24, 2023

8. N. Korean media airs documentary touting successful COVID response

I think they meant propaganda. One of the regime's great strengths is shaping its own narrative.

That said, one of the "miracles" has to be that the Korean people in the north continue to survive the most horrendous conditions to include COVID. Tehey survive despite the nature and actions of the Kim family regime.

N. Korean media airs documentary touting successful COVID response

The Korea Times · January 24, 2023

This image, captured from the Korean Central Television, shows a documentary film aired touting North Korea's measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, Jan 24. Yonhap

North Korea's state TV has aired a documentary film praising the country's success in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic last year amid efforts to prevent another outbreak.

The documentary, aired on Korean Central Television, Monday night, introduced Pyongyang's antivirus measures since the country announced its first coronavirus case in May last year, recalling the pandemic period as the greatest "disturbance since the founding of the country."

"The threat of the malicious virus invading our territory was a problem, but the bigger problem was that the country had weak quarantine and health infrastructures, and we had to get through an unprecedented crisis when the economy was in a very difficult situation from the two-year virus crisis," the documentary said.

The film also hailed the country for successfully tackling the pandemic in around 80 days, calling it a "miracle on this planet" and an "unprecedented event" in the North's history.

In August last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared victory over COVID-19 and ordered the lifting of Pyongyang's "maximum emergency anti-epidemic" measures, claiming an end to the pandemic three months after announcing its first case.

North Korean state media has been highlighting the country's successful antivirus measures amid efforts to tighten discipline and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Yonhap)

The Korea Times · January 24, 2023

9. US House passes resolution calling for return of USS Pueblo seized by N. Korea

US House passes resolution calling for return of USS Pueblo seized by N. Korea

The Korea Times · January 24, 2023

A Korean People's Army (KPA) guide walks aboard the USS Pueblo at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang, in this July 28, 2017 file photo. AFP-Yonhap

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution last week calling for the return of a U.S. Navy ship seized by North Korea 55 years ago.

The resolution calls for the return of USS Pueblo while denouncing North Korea's seizure of the ship and its crew Jan. 23, 1968.

The House "maintains North Korea's seizure of the vessel USS Pueblo and its detention of the crew were in violation of international law," it states.

It also adds the House "declares that USS Pueblo is the property of the United States government and it should be returned to the United States."

North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported Saturday that Pyongyang will wipe out "not only a port or an airfield of a warmonger or invader but their entire land if a second USS Pueblo enters our territorial waters again."

The ship and its 83 crewmembers were seized while on an intelligence gathering mission in the East Sea.

The House resolution argued the ship had "strict orders to remain at all times at a distance more than 13 nautical miles from the near point in North Korean territory, in order to avoid any possible incident."

"The United States has no reason to believe the orders were not obeyed," it added, also noting the ship was carrying three 50-caliber machine guns at the time of its seizure, but that not a single shot had been fired.

One of the crewmembers, Fireman Duane Hodges, died on the day during the North Korean seizure of the Pueblo. His body and the other 82 sailors were repatriated in December 1968 after being detained in the North for 11 months.

The crew and their family members filed a damage suit against North Korea in 2018 for the "mental and physical abuse" they were exposed to during their time in the reclusive country.

A U.S. federal district court ruled against the North in 2021, ordering it to pay over $2 billion in total or a minimum of $3.35 million to each of the crewmembers in compensation. (Yonhap)

The Korea Times · January 24, 2023

10. ‘Beyond Utopia’ Director Madeleine Gavin on Capturing the Harrowing Journey of North Korean Defectors: ‘I Wanted to Crack That World Open’


​I do not usually go to Variety for national security related news. But I will be on the lookout for this film.​

‘Beyond Utopia’ Director Madeleine Gavin on Capturing the Harrowing Journey of North Korean Defectors: ‘I Wanted to Crack That World Open’

Variety · by Brent Lang · January 23, 2023

Beyond Utopia” offers an astonishing look at the lengths people will go for freedom. The new documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it has attracted interest from several streaming companies, takes viewers on a harrowing journey as one family risks everything to escape from North Korea.

For director Madeleine Gavin, “Beyond Utopia” is an opportunity to change the conversation around the repressive regime by moving the focus from its brutal leader Kim Jong-un and onto the ordinary citizens who have been abused and neglected by the country.

“As I researched this film, I became more and more outraged that nobody is talking about North Koreans themselves,” says Gavin. “I wanted to crack that world open to people. Too often, we focus on what North Korea’s leaders want us to focus on, which is their nukes. That’s their only leverage. Without them, they would not exist as a country. We hear about missile launches, parades and Kim Jong-un watching over everything, smiling and laughing.”

Initially, Gavin was approached about making a documentary about Hyeonseo Lee, a defector who wrote the memoir “The Girl With Seven Names.” But while researching that project, Gavin learned about the Underground Railroad for North Koreans looking to flee the country, one that takes them through China, Laos, Vietnam and eventually into South Korea.

That put her in touch with Pastor Seungeun Kim, a South Korean man who helps defectors through his network of volunteers. Lee appears in the film as an expert on North Korea, but much of “Beyond Utopia” involves the five-person Ro family, as they flee the Chinese border, aided by Pastor Kim’s associates, and then seek refuge in a series of safe houses. The movie also documents the efforts of Soyeon Lee to get her son out of North Korea, so he can join her in South Korea, where she now lives.

“Pastor Kim is incredibly protective of his networks and of the people he’s trying to help rescue,” says Gavin. “As a result, it took many months to get to know him and to gain his trust. Once that happened, however, Pastor Kim helped us take the project to unimaginable places. Ultimately, he gave us the opportunity to embed with and document two attempts at defection. No other film has ever entered that world the way we were able to and Pastor Kim was central to this happening.”

In the final product, there’s extraordinary footage of the Ro’s as they stumble through dense forest, trying to evade authorities, much of it shot with iPhones and flip-phone cameras. There are also interviews with the defectors in their various stops along Southeast Asia. In order to keep Pastor Kim’s network intact, Gavin changed a few details of the journey.

“China is closely allied with North Korea, and there is no way that we as filmmakers could shoot there without putting the family at risk,” says Gavin. “Pastor Kim can’t travel to China either because he has been known by the regime for decades. However, his network of brokers and farmers along the border of China and North Korea were able to help the defectors and to shoot footage along the way.”

In the past, North Korea has responded dramatically to attempts to paint the regime in an unfavorable light. U.S. authorities say the country orchestrated an embarrassing hack of Sony Pictures in retaliation for the studio’s release of “The Interview,” a Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy that lampooned Kim Jong-un. Was Gavin concerned about her safety?

“At first, we were concerned,” says Gavin. “But the more that I’ve learned about the North Korean government, the less concerned I am. Kim Jong-un is called a brutal this and that on the news every time he’s mentioned. He apparently doesn’t mind that at all. The reason the Sony thing was so upsetting to him was the fact that he was mocked.”

The saddest part of “Beyond Utopia” may be its coda. Because of COVID-19 and China’s new restrictions on travel, it has become increasingly difficult for Pastor Kim and his allies to help defectors who want to flee North Korea.

“It’s horrible,” says Gavin. “This is going to lead to so much more suffering.”

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Variety · by Brent Lang · January 23, 2023

11. "What A Joke": South Korean Netizens Unimpressed By North Korea's New English Vlogger

This is why I am not at all worried about the South Korean government lifting the restrictions on north Korean broadcasts. Should have been done long ago.

"What A Joke": South Korean Netizens Unimpressed By North Korea's New English Vlogger · January 24, 2023

A North Korean vlogger has started to gain attention in South Korea for the doubtful representation of Pyongyang on her channel.

| @olivianatasha-yumispacedpr3652/YouTube

The YouTuber, who goes by the name of Yu Mi, has been posting lifestyle videos on her channel, Olivia Natasha- YuMi Space DPRK Daily, since August 2022. In all ten videos on this channel, Yu Mi showcases the “normal” life in North Korea’s capital city Pyongyang, speaking entirely in English. She introduced her viewers to North Korean ice cream in her very first upload. Since then, she has regularly highlighted different parts of Pyongyang’s “lifestyle,” visiting amusement parks, shopping at grocery stores, eating at restaurants, and training in a fitness studio.

The entire channel’s focus seems to be on portraying Pyongyang as a desirable place to live. Yu Mi also mentioned how Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is trying to improve the lives of the citizens.

But South Korean netizens don’t buy that the channel’s content is genuine. According to analysts, the amateurish vlogging style that otherwise would have hinted at the authenticity of the content is the ploy North Korea has started using to disperse propagandist content without getting flagged by the platforms.

In recent times, international media reports have noted a growing effort on North Korea’s part to spread a global image of the country through social media content. Kang Dong Wan, a professor at Dong-A University, said that the Kim Jong Un government is utilizing platforms like YouTube and Instagram to spread propaganda but through private profiles. Previously, all the state-run channels were repeatedly shut down for violating the platforms’ rules. Talking about the motive of such content, Kang said that “The strategy is to use videos containing the daily lives of residents to say ‘we’re not so different.’”

Yu Mi is just a recent addition to a growing list of such “content creators” from North Korea. Previously, another YouTuber that caught the attention of South Korea was an 11-year-old vlogger named Song Ah, who also made lifestyle videos in English.

11-Year-Old North Korean Vlogger Has South Korean Netizens Amazed And Worried, Here’s Why.

The similarity between Song Ah and Yu Mi goes beyond those two factors. Song Ah’s polished English made her viewers suspect that she might belong to a powerful household in Pyongyang, and later it was found that she indeed belonged to a prominent family. She was identified as the daughter of a North Korean diplomat to London and the great-granddaughter of Ri Ul Sol, an ex-marshal of North Korea’s Army. Analysts believe Yu Mi is also a part of a prominent family in North Korea since the places she shows in her vlogs are rare to access, even for wealthy families in Pyongyang.

Though South Korean netizens were shocked by Song Ah’s case, they seem to have gotten used to the concept now. But the irony of these YouTubers trying to appeal to a global audience while the rest of the country doesn’t even have the right to access the internet wasn’t lost on them.


| Naver

| Naver

  • “Jong Un’s A~S~M~Rrrrrrr”
  • “They’d get faster subs if Kim Jong Un just did mukbangs.”
  • “The fact that a North Korean girl is able to speak English fluently means she’s from a powerful family already.
  • “Commie propaganda…”
  • “So she’s obviously the top 1%, and this is all her lifestyle adds up to?? ㅎㅎㅎ Someone show her the lifestyle of our top 1%.”
  • “The irony of a North Korean YouTuber that North Korean children aren’t able to watch ㅋㅋㅋㅋ”

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Twitter · January 24, 2023

12. FBI says North Korea-linked hacker groups behind US crypto firm heist

FBI says North Korea-linked hacker groups behind US crypto firm heist

By CUE The Straits Times1 min

January 23, 2023

View Original

A portion of the stolen ethereum was subsequently sent to several virtual asset providers and converted to bitcoin. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Two hacker groups associated with North Korea, the Lazarus Group and APT38, were responsible for the theft last June of US$100 million (S$132 million) from US crypto firm Harmony’s Horizon bridge, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said on Monday.

On Jan 13, the groups used a privacy protocol called Railgun to launder over US$60 million worth of ethereum stolen during the theft in June, the FBI said in a statement

A portion of the stolen ethereum was subsequently sent to several virtual asset providers and converted to bitcoin, the FBI said.

The FBI said North Korea’s theft and laundering of virtual currency is used to support its ballistic missile and Weapons of Mass Destruction programmes.

In June last year, California-based Harmony said that a heist had hit its Horizon bridge, which was the underlying software used by digital tokens such as bitcoin and ether for transferring crypto between different blockchains.

Reuters in June reported that North Korean hackers were most likely behind the attack on Harmony, citing three digital investigative firms.

Harmony develops blockchains for decentralised finance - peer-to-peer sites that offer loans and other services without traditional gatekeepers such as banks - and non-fungible tokens. REUTERS

13. North Korea Missile Tests Spill Into 2023 – Analysis

North Korea Missile Tests Spill Into 2023 – Analysis · by Geopolitical Monitor · January 23, 2023

By Dr. Imran Khalid

Throughout 2022, the Korean peninsula witnessed persistent increase in tensions because of Pyongyang’s unprecedented spree of missile testing and South Korea’s large-scale retaliatory joint military exercises with the United States. Thus far 2023 has been much the same. Within just three hours into the new year, North Korea tested super-large multiple rocket launchers to send a clear and loud message to the outside world about its intentions to keep expanding its nuclear and missile development program in the coming days. Within the next 24 hours, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in the strategic meeting of his party for 2023, further confirmed this by ordering an “exponential” increase in North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, including mass production of tactical nuclear weapons and the development of new missiles for nuclear counterstrikes.

“They are now keen on isolating and stifling (North Korea), unprecedented in human history. The prevailing situation calls for redoubled efforts to overwhelmingly beef up the military muscle,” said Kim in response to what he called US and South Korean hostility. Claiming that Washington and Seoul were trying to smother and isolate North Korea, Kim urged his core party leadership to focus on the “mass-production of tactical nuclear weapons” and develop “another ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) system whose main mission is quick nuclear counterstrike.” This highly belligerent stance from Kim at the start of new year also indicates that he is undeterred by any changes in the global power equilibrium and new alignment in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The previous two weeks have witnessed some unusual happenings on both sides of the Korean Peninsula. On December 26, South Korea’s military detected five North Korean drones, believed to be for reconnaissance, trespassing into its airspace – one reached as far as northern Seoul, while the other four hovered in and around Ganghwa Island off the west coast. The South Korean military responded by sending attack helicopters, but failed to take any of the drones down.

The incident created a massive uproar in South Korea and President Yoon Suk-yeol subsequently threatened to suspend a 2018 military pact signed between the two Koreas if the North violates the inter-Korean border again. Signed in 2018 by former South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and his North Korean counterpart No Kwang-chol, the military pact stipulates the two sides must desist from any provocative and hostile activity that would raise tensions – including border trespassing, large-scale military exercises, and any operations for reconnaissance and field training such as firing artillery within 5 kilometers of the Armistice Line, also known as the Military Demarcation Line.

However, this deal has been violated by North Korea many times. In February 2019, soon after his frivolous summit with Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un ordered his military commanders to conduct exercises near the line and resume weapons tests. Interestingly, after the North Korean drones’ intrusion into South Korean airspace, President Yoon Suk-yeol also ordered the military to send a drone to North Korea the same day. In both cases, neither side was able to destroy the other’s drones. And according to unconfirmed reports, following the North Korean military’s failure to detect and intercept three South Korean drones, Kim has removed Pak Jong Chon, the second most powerful military official after Kim Jong Un.

2022 was one of the toughest years in recent history for the Korean peninsula: Pyongyang fired more missiles than ever before over a calendar year. In fact, nearly one-fourth of all missiles North Korea has ever tested hit the skies in 2022 alone. The year also saw Kim Jong-un publicly pronounce that North Korea has become a nuclear weapons state, and that it has no plans to reverse direction on nuclear proliferation, raising the temperature on the Korean peninsula to its highest levels since 2017, when then US President Donald Trump was threatening North Korea with “fire and fury.”

Starting with short-range missiles designed to hit South Korea, followed by mid-range ones that can reach Japan, and finally launching test flights of the advanced intercontinental ballistic missile – Hwasong 17 – which can hit the US mainland, North Korea attempted to demonstrate the complete range and scope of its missile technology in 2022. As per media reports, in addition to mass production of smaller, tactical nuclear weapons, Kim Jong Un is planning to launch a spy satellite, which he claims will be launched this spring, along with an advanced version of a solid-fueled ICBM.

Thus, 2023 will be the continuation of what Kim aggressively started in 2022. Now the question is: What prompted Kim Jong Un to go full-throttle on missile development and nuclear proliferation at this particular time?

The only plausible answer is Kim Jong Un is trying to strengthen his bargaining position vis-a-vis the US. He wants to maximize his leverage until the United States and South Korea decide to sit down with him at the negotiating table. By establishing that he has the theoretical capability to inflict mass destruction on the United States and South Korea, Kim is eager to resume the negotiations with a tangible lever to dictate his terms. Ever since the collapse of his talks with Donald Trump in 2019, Kim is deliberately refusing to resume talks with Seoul or Washington to buy time to reach a desired level of competency in missile and nuclear weapon technology. Kim will surely resort to the negotiating table eventually, but only when the North’s technological advances have been locked in and thus the potential concessions become all the more appealing.

The views expressed in this article belong to the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of · by Geopolitical Monitor · January 23, 2023

14. What the Map of Korea Can Teach Us About Russia and Ukraine

What the Map of Korea Can Teach Us About Russia and Ukraine · by Robert Farley · January 23, 2023

The map that distinguishes North Korea from South Korea is well known. At night, it shows South Korea filled with light while North Korea stands as a virtual island of darkness.

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The map has become symbolic of the differences between the two Koreas: One is open, dynamic, and energetic, while the other is closed, dark, and hostile. These differences are one result of a war that the international community helped wage 70 years ago.

While the analogy is imperfect, its implications for the survival of Ukraine are clear.

Engagement and Isolation

The story of North Korea is as well known as that map. The so-called hermit kingdom has isolated itself from the international community. In its self-imposed isolation, it has developed impressive ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

By contrast, in recent years, South Korea has become an artistic and cultural juggernaut, exporting film and music around the world and setting the terms for youth culture. South Korea has long been a critical cog in the global economy, displaying industrial and technological prowess competitive with the world’s most advanced countries.

Having started in relatively similar post-war economic circumstances, the contrast in the countries’ development could not be clearer.

The other difference between North Korea and South Korea is that the latter is democratic, with a robust protest culture, and the former is run by a collection of gangsters determined to redirect the country’s wealth to serve the purpose of their own domination. North Korea should be a wealthy country. It is heavily industrialized and technologically advanced in certain areas, and it has a well-educated workforce. It is not wealthy only because that band of gangsters, having wrapped themselves in nationalism and communism, have invested the greater part of the nation’s treasure in weapons of war, and have insisted on torturing its populace into uneasy submission.

An Illuminating Parallel

When thinking about the differences between the two Koreas, it is difficult not to let one’s thoughts drift to the war between Russia and Ukraine.

One of the primary justifications for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are fundamentally the same people, sharing the same culture if not necessarily the same language. Of course, the cultural and linguistic differences that distinguish Russia and Ukraine are unquestionably greater than those that separate the Koreas. But Russian President Vladimir Putin was not wrong to argue that Ukraine and Russia have a deep historical connection. And there can be no question that Russia’s core war aim is to prevent Ukrainian democracy from succeeding because that would demonstrate that Russia itself could prosper with democratic institutions. This is the last thing that the band of thugs inhabiting the Kremlin wants people to believe.

Like the Republic of Korea, Ukraine faces enormous challenges. On the upside, it is already (mostly) democratic, a status that the ROK did not achieve until the 1980s. On the downside, its economy has been devastated by the war, and it will struggle to recover in the absence of a strong trade relationship with Russia. But the Kyiv government has most certainly chosen to culturally and economically align itself with the West, and Ukrainians are conscious that the stakes in the war are greater even than the territories Russia has claimed in Ukraine’s south and the east.

The metaphor will never be exact. Russia will never quite go dark, if only because it sits on vast reserves of energy. But like North Korea, Russia has chosen a path of isolation, committing its national wealth to the preservation of a murderous, warlike clique. Unlike North Korea, Russia has the opportunity and wherewithal to launch devastating wars of conquest against its neighbors. There is every reason to believe that, in fifty years, the difference between a free Ukraine and an autocratic Russia will be as great as the differences between North and South Korea. Moreover, it is impossible to argue that the world as a whole isn’t a better place because of South Korea’s prominent position in global culture and the global economy.

And so, once again, the international community faces a choice. It cannot contribute to this war in the way that it contributed in Korea. The breezeway leading to the War Museum of the Republic of Korea is guarded by the flags of the countries that sent support to South Korea in the 1950s. Some of these (the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey) are well known, while others (Colombia, Ethiopia) are somewhat less so. These nations did not support Korea out of altruism, and of course there is no need to wash away the worst excesses of that war, or of the Cold War in general. But in an important way, South Korea comes alive at night in the 2020s because of the sacrifices that Koreans and their allies made in the 1950s. It would serve the nations of Europe and the rest of the world to contemplate what kind of Ukraine they want to engage with in the future.

Expertise and Experience: A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph. D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020), and most recently Waging War with Gold: National Security and the Finance Domain Across the Ages (Lynne Rienner, 2023). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money. · by Robert Farley · January 23, 2023

15. Kim Jong Un's new secret squad will SHOOT anyone viewing sex videos

Perhaps a little hyperbolic but the regime fears all forms of "information."

Kim Jong Un's new secret squad will SHOOT anyone viewing sex videos

Executed for watching porn: Kim Jong Un's new secret squad will SHOOT anyone viewing sex videos and clamp down on 'foreign influences' such as haircuts and birthday parties


PUBLISHED: 08:28 EST, 23 January 2023 | UPDATED: 08:32 EST, 23 January 2023

Daily Mail · by Chris Jewers For Mailonline · January 23, 2023

Kim Jong Un's new secret squads will execute anyone viewing pornography under the North Korean dictator's efforts to clamp down on 'foreign influences'.

Enforcers are working to stamp out foreign television, hair cuts and even birthday parties, according to testimony from a defector included in a new report.

The squads, known as 'gruppa' or 'non-socialist groups', are tasked by Pyongyang to pursue violations of the Communist Party's official ideology.

'The groups operate as a hidden tool, which is used by the government to achieve their ultimate objectives of ubiquitous surveillance and the ability to thoroughly oversee each and every resident,' the report says.

Kim Jong Un's new secret squads will execute anyone viewing pornography under the North Korean dictator's efforts to clamp down on 'foreign influences'. Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a meeting of the Workers Party of Korea in December (file photo)

Foreign media, particularly anything deemed to be 'Western', is strictly prohibited in North Korea - which brainwashes its population to unquestionably support Kim Jong Un and his ruling regime. Any dissent is severely punished.

The dictator views South Korea as an American puppet state, and is highly sensitive to any of its media crossing the border from China, fearing the influence it may have.

For some time now, any sign that someone may have been consuming media from the South has resulted in brutal consequences.

Now, according to the report by the Database Centre for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) based in Seoul, Kim is tightening his grip even more with the gruppa.

Citizens are being prosecuted for anything from defection, drug dealing, smuggling and begging, to being absent from work, traffic offences, adultery, dying one's hair, religious practices and taking part in 'decadent culture' - which can include parties.

'It is worse than the Kim Jong Il era,' one testimony quoted in the report said.

'The border has become tighter, more barbed wire fences have been installed. Also, there were instructions to directly fire at any person crossing the border.

'[…] I've heard about people being shot for distributing impure cultural contents. There was one person who was executed for watching pornography and prostituting at his place after Kim Jong Un took office.'

Kim Jong Un meets representatives of the Korean Children's Union (KCU) under North Korea's ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released on January 1, 2023

North Koreans visit and pay respect to the statues of late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, North Korea Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023 on Lunar New Year

'First they check how you dress. Then what type of music you listen to, what videos you watch, whether you have dyed your hair […] You cannot have a birthday party as a group,' the defector said, according to the report.

'They keep saying not to have gatherings and drink alcohol because when people are drunk, they will end up singing one or two South Korean songs for sure.'

The report said that the secret informants are becoming increasingly preoccupied with the smuggling and distribution of South Korean media.

Outlawed songs, movies and television shows such as 'Squid Game' or 'Crash Landing on You' are sometimes smuggled into the country on USB flash drives.

One of the methods used by the 'non-socialist groups' is to cut off power to the homes of people suspected of watching banned media, and therefore preventing them from removing DVDs of videotapes from the payer and hiding their 'guilt'.

Punishments range from demotion at work, being fired, or even sent to a re-education or labour camp. In the most extreme cases - such as being found to have been watching pornography - people could be executed by firing squad.

'If you consume sexual media content in North Korea, you are either punished with a lifetime term of "reform through labour" or even executed by firing squad. Watching typical South Korean or American material will lead to a sentence of fewer than ten years of 'reform through labour,' according to another defector's testimony.

Earlier this month, it was reported that four students were expelled from university and forced to work in a coal mine because they sounded as if they had been watching too much foreign TV, by using accents or phrases from the South.

It is believed the students likely picked up the way of speaking through watching media outlawed by the ruling party.

People visit the statues of North Korea's former president Kim Il Sung and chairman Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill on the occasion of the lunar new year in Pyongyang on January 22, 2023

In December 2020, North Korea brought in the Rejection of Reactionary Thought and Culture Act, which punishes citizens with up to two years of hard labour for those who are caught speaking, writing or singing in a South Korean style.

The tough punishment of hard labour could be up to 15 years, while residents who are caught distributing foreign media content face the death penalty.

It was under this law that two teenagers were executed in October for selling USB drives containing South Korean TV shows or films. They were killed by firing squad.

The pair, both boys thought to be aged between 16 and 17, were shot on an airfield in front of terrified locals in the city of Hyesan, on the border with China. The news of their deaths only emerged two months later in December.

A third boy of the same age was executed alongside them for murdering his stepmother, with locals told the crimes were 'equally evil' as media distribution.

The ruling Communist regime uses informants recruited from the general population in order to catch those selling the drives, and report them to the authorities.

In the case of the two teenagers, one of these spies reported them for hawking thumb drives containing the programmes in the local marketplace.

Such executions are rare in North Korea but not unheard of, and are typically used to terrify people into obedience when authorities are worried about rule-breaking.

North Korean youth caught watching foreign movies face being sent to a disciplinary labour centre, one source in Hyesan said.

A second offence means being sent to a correctional camp for five years along with their parents, as punishment for failing to discipline their children.

But anyone caught distributing or selling South Korean movies can face the death penalty, even if they are minors, the source added.

In December 2021, it was reported that at least ten civilians in the previous decade had been killed by firing squad for watching South Korean content.

It has also been reported that some officials were executed with anti-aircraft guns.

Daily Mail · by Chris Jewers For Mailonline · January 23, 2023

De Oppresso Liber,

David Maxwell

Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation

Senior Advisor, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy

Editor, Small Wars Journal

Twitter: @davidmaxwell161

Phone: 202-573-8647


David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email:
Web Site:
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

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