Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners


Quotes of the Day:

“The single biggest thing I learned was from an indigenous elder of Cherokee descent, Stan Rushworth, who reminded me of the difference between a western settler mindset of “I have rights” and an indigenous mindset of “I have obligations.” Instead of thinking that I am torn with rights, I choose to think that I am born with obligations to serve the past, present, and future generations, and the planet herself.”
- from a Lion's Roar interview with avid mountaineer and former war reporter Dahr Jamail about his new book The End of Ice

“You come home, make some tea, sit down in your armchair, and all around there’s silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that’s loneliness or freedom.”
- Unknown

"All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way."
- Marcus Aurelius



1. N. Korea fires an apparent ballistic missile toward East Sea: JCS
2. U.S. must not reward N. Korea with end of war declaration before talks: Harry Harris
3. Don’t Hand North Korea a Win in the Missile Defense Review
4. North Korea’s ‘Strategic Patience’
5. North Korea launches first missile in 2022
6. Moon rebukes military for failing to detect border-crosser
7. North Korea rings in 2022 with big bang missile test
8. South Korean F-35 Conducts Emergency ‘Belly Landing’ - Air Force Magazine
9. North Koreans unmoved by lectures praising Kim Jong Un for keeping them safe
10. North Korea moves to stem a rise in insubordination within its military
11. N. Korea generates “atmosphere of competition” to fulfill manure quotas
12. N. Korean leaders order North Hamgyong Province to produce “model units of science education”
13.  Former North Korean defector who made rare cross-border return home could have been a spy or simply unhappy with life in the South, experts say
14. North Korea Demands Handwriting Samples From Thousands Of Residents After Offensive Kim Jong Un Graffiti Found



1. N. Korea fires an apparent ballistic missile toward East Sea: JCS
Below this article is my draft response.
(4th LD) N. Korea fires an apparent ballistic missile toward East Sea: JCS | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 송상호 · January 5, 2022
(ATTN: UPDATES with U.S. military's response in paras 7-9)
By Song Sang-ho and Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Wednesday fired what appears to be a ballistic missile toward the East Sea, South Korea's military said, in the recalcitrant regime's first show of force this year.
The North launched the missile eastward at around 8:10 a.m. from a site in its northern province of Jagang bordering China, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said without further elaboration.
Jagang Province is the region from which the North fired what it claimed to be a hypersonic missile, called Hwasong-8, in September last year.
"In consideration of what we have detected, the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting a detailed analysis," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
South Korea's military in cooperation with the U.S. is closely watching related North Korean movements and maintaining a readiness posture against the possibility of the North's additional launches, the JCS said.
It marks the North's first projectile launch since the regime fired off a new submarine-launched ballistic missile in October last year.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said it is aware of the "ballistic missile launch" while assessing that it "does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory or to our allies."
"The ballistic missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK's illicit weapons program," the command said in a statement, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad," it added.
The latest saber-rattling came just days after the North concluded a five-day Central Committee plenary of the ruling Workers' Party on Friday, highlighting its key focus on economic issues and its pandemic response.
At the plenary, participants stressed the importance of boosting their country's defense capabilities, pointing to the growing instability of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not issue any particular messages for the South or the United States at the gathering, but the latest launch appears aimed partially at raising the stakes for future talks with the allies, analysts said.
Wednesday's launch could also be part of the North's wintertime drills, some observers said.
The launch came amid expectations the North could refrain from major strategic provocations that could undermine the mood for peace in the lead-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics slated for next month.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
colin@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 송상호 · January 5, 2022

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Kim Jong-un Sends the World His New Year’s Message with a Ballistic Missile
 
David Maxwell
 
At the end of the Worker’s Party of Korea 4th Plenary Meeting of the party's 8th Central Committee the party issued a statement with some 18,400 words, none of which included a reference to the hostile policy of the regime, or the perceived hostile policies of the ROK/U.S. Alliance. The summary of the entire message appears to be a focus on domestic issues of the economy, food shortages, and COVID 19 defense by strengthening the regime’s ideological efforts to control the Korean people in the face of severe hardship. There was a single national security and foreign policy related sentence in the statement: "The increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean Peninsula and international politics have instigated calls to vigorously push forward with our national defense build-up plans without any delay."
 
On January 5th Kim Jong-un “vigorously pushed forward” with his ongoing military development plans by testing a ballistic missile with a launch into the East Sea between Korea and Japan. It is too soon to assess the details of the missile launch, but it is likely Kim Jong-un is trying to send a message. The specific message could be his expression of opposition to the end of war declaration. It could be a warning to the alliance to leave the regime alone while the regime focuses on internal problems. It could be Kim attempting to be a spoiler in strategic competition to affect relations among the U.S., PRC, ROK, and Japan. Most likely, it could be simply another page from the seven decades old Kim family regime provocation playbook. This last would likely be to try to convince the U.S. to offer concessions such as sanctions relief for a return to denuclearization negotiations. The usual blackmail diplomacy.
 
The key question that is asked with every North Korean action is how should the ROK/U.S. alliance respond?
 
Policymakers should keep in mind that the Kim family regime's political warfare strategy relies heavily on its blackmail diplomacy - the use of increased tension, threats, and provocations to gain political and economic concessions. Part of an information and influence strategy should be to counter the criticism that a north Korean provocation is a US and South Korean policy failure. 
 
The ROK and U.S. should make sure the press, pundits, and public understand that this is a fundamental part of north Korean strategy and that it conducts provocations for specific objectives. It does not represent a policy failure; it represents a deliberate policy decision by Kim Jong-un to continue to execute his political warfare strategy. The following is a response framework for consideration:
 
First, do not overreact. But do not succumb to the criticism of those who recommend ending exercises. Always call out Kim Jong-un's strategy As Sun Tzu would advise- “ …what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy; … next best is to disrupt his alliances.” Make sure the international community, the press, and the public in the ROK and the U.S. and the elite and the Korean people living in in the north know what Kim is doing.
 
Second, never ever back down in the face of north Korean increased tension, threats, and provocations.
 
Third, coordinate an alliance response. There may be times when a good cop-bad cop approach is appropriate.  Try to mitigate the internal domestic political criticisms that will inevitably occur in Seoul and DC. Do not let those criticisms negatively influence policy and actions.
 
Fourth, exploit weakness in north Korea - create internal pressure on Kim and the regime from his elite and military. Always work to drive a wedge among the party, elite, and military (which is a challenge since they are all intertwined and inextricably linked).
 
Fifth, demonstrate strength and resolve. Do not be afraid to show military strength. Never misunderstand the north's propaganda - do not give into demands to reduce exercises or take other measures based on north Korean demands that would in any way reduce the readiness of the combined military forces. The north does not want an end to the exercises because they are a threat, they want to weaken the alliance and force U.S. troops from the peninsula which will be the logical result if they are unable to effectively train.
 
Sixth, depending on the nature of the provocation, be prepared to initiate a decisive response using the most appropriate tools, e.g., diplomatic, military, economic, information and influence activities, cyber, etc. or a combination.
 
There is no silver bullet to the North Korea problem. Therefore, the focus must be on the long-term solution to the security and prosperity challenges on the Korean peninsula. This requires the execution of a superior ROK/U.S. alliance political warfare strategy. It must focus on resolving the Korean question, e.g., “the unnatural division of the peninsula” (per paragraph 60 of the 1953 Armistice Agreement). Solve that question and the nuclear issues and the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity will be ended. The question to ask is not what worked and what did not, but whether the ROK/U.S. alliance actions move the region closer to the acceptable, durable political arrangement that will protect, serve, and advance U.S. and ROK/U.S. alliance interests.  
 
The way ahead is an integrated deterrence strategy as part of the broader strategic competition that is taking place in the region. There is a need for a Korean “Plan B” that rests on the foundation of combined ROK/U.S. defensive capabilities and includes political warfare, aggressive diplomacy, sanctions, cyber operations, and information and influence activities, with a goal of denuclearization to ultimately solve the “Korea question” (e.g., unification) with the understanding that denuclearization of the north will only happen when the Korea question is resolved and there is a United Republic of Korea (UROK).
 

2. U.S. must not reward N. Korea with end of war declaration before talks: Harry Harris

 For the quote book:

Excepts:
"I'll simply say that the quest for dialogue with the North must never be made at the expense of the ability to respond to threats from the North. Dialogue and military readiness must go hand in hand. Idealism must be rooted in realism," Harris said when asked how the U.S. should move ahead on North Korea in a webinar hosted by the Washington Times Foundation.
"I firmly agree that we must not relax sanctions or reduce joint military exercises just to get North Korea to come to the negotiating table. This is a tried and true road to failure," he added.
....
"We have done, I think, all that we could do with regard to encouraging North Korea to come back to the negotiating table, without any preconditions at all. And I think it's up to them," said Harris, a retired Navy admiral who also served as commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
"If they have their way, we'll give up stuff. We'll give up sanctions, will give up military exercises and readiness. We'll give all the stuff away ... they'll come to the table and they'll leave and they'll take with them the sanctions, weakened sanctions regime, the decrease in readiness and all that. And they'll be in a better position and we will be in a worse position," he added
U.S. must not reward N. Korea with end of war declaration before talks: Harry Harris | Yonhap News Agency
en.yna.co.kr · by 변덕근 · January 5, 2022
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- The United States must not give anything to North Korea, including an end of war declaration, before Pyongyang returns to the dialogue table, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris said Tuesday.
Harris noted prospects for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula are getting darker by the day, but insisted giving benefits in advance to the North would only lead to failure.
"I'll simply say that the quest for dialogue with the North must never be made at the expense of the ability to respond to threats from the North. Dialogue and military readiness must go hand in hand. Idealism must be rooted in realism," Harris said when asked how the U.S. should move ahead on North Korea in a webinar hosted by the Washington Times Foundation.
"I firmly agree that we must not relax sanctions or reduce joint military exercises just to get North Korea to come to the negotiating table. This is a tried and true road to failure," he added.

His remarks come amid stalled negotiations with North Korea, which has stayed away from denuclearization talks since 2019.
Pyongyang also remains unresponsive to numerous overtures from the Joe Biden administration, which took office in January 2021, citing what it claims to be U.S. hostility toward Pyongyang and arguing such hostility is shown in joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
Harris noted the outlook for resumed dialogue with North Korea was getting darker by the day.
"I do not believe that it is a rosy scenario. I think it's a dark scenario, getting darker every day," he said.
Still, he insisted the U.S. and South Korea must not reduce their joint military drills.
"We have done, I think, all that we could do with regard to encouraging North Korea to come back to the negotiating table, without any preconditions at all. And I think it's up to them," said Harris, a retired Navy admiral who also served as commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
"If they have their way, we'll give up stuff. We'll give up sanctions, will give up military exercises and readiness. We'll give all the stuff away ... they'll come to the table and they'll leave and they'll take with them the sanctions, weakened sanctions regime, the decrease in readiness and all that. And they'll be in a better position and we will be in a worse position," he added.
As a way of restarting dialogue with North Korea, South Korea proposed declaring a formal end to the Korean War.
Harris dismissed the idea.
"We should ask ourselves what will change the day after the declaration is signed. It's not a peace treaty. The armistice will still be extant. Our treaty obligations to defend South Korea while still be extant, and North Korea's missile, nuclear, chemical and conventional capabilities will still be extant," he said, referring to the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.
"I always thought we had an end to war declaration. It's called the armistice agreement and it served us well for decades."
bdk@yna.co.kr
(END)
en.yna.co.kr · by 변덕근 · January 5, 2022

3. Don’t Hand North Korea a Win in the Missile Defense Review

A timely piece.

DPRK Missile Threat
Don’t Hand North Korea a Win in the

 Missile Defense Review 

Published January 4, 2022
The Biden Administration is considering a proposal to abandon pacing U.S. homeland ballistic missile defenses against even the rogue state threat from North Korea. This is especially risky and should be rejected in favor of the longstanding bipartisan missile defense policy, a realistic policy regarding denuclearization of North Korea, and U.S. alliance commitments. Instead, the United States should design a homeland missile defense system that – at a minimum – keeps pace with the North Korean nuclear threat in order to effectively extend deterrence and assure allies.

The Risks of Nuclear Blackmail by North Korea:
  • Kim Jong Un’s long-term goal is the reunification of the Korean Peninsula under Kim family rule. While Kim Jong Un is not suicidal, there is an enduring risk of a North Korean nuclear attack against the U.S. homeland.
  • North Korea possesses dozens of nuclear warheads and missiles capable of reaching the United States. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are expanding, even without ongoing nuclear tests and long-range missile launches.
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency in its 2021 “North Korean Military Power” report explained that North Korea uses “its nuclear and conventional military capabilities to compel South Korea and the United States into policy decisions that are beneficial to North Korea.”
  • The Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community, released on April 9, 2021, stated that Kim Jong Un “views nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrent against foreign intervention.”
  • A credible U.S. homeland missile defense against North Korea is crucial to thwarting Kim’s strategy because it removes Kim’s ability to blackmail the United States. with a threat to the homeland. And if deterrence were to fail, a capable homeland missile defense capability could save countless American lives.
  • Further, without a credible homeland missile defense, our allies in South Korea and Japan may fear that the United States will not come to their aid in the event of an attack or invasion if Kim is able to hold the U.S. homeland hostage.
  • Kim will see any policy choice by the Biden Administration to weaken U.S. missile defense as a unilateral U.S. concession that only validates his efforts to expand North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
  • Additionally, policies to limit missile defense, accompanied by an effort to focus on an arms control agreement instead of denuclearization, will signal to Kim that the United States has accepted North Korea as a nuclear state. Tehran will be more likely to follow Pyongyang’s pathway to a nuclear weapon.

Background on U.S. Ballistic Missile Defenses:
  • The Obama administration in 2013 determined that 44 Ground-based Interceptors (GBIs) were necessary to meet the requirement to defend the homeland against the ballistic missile threat from rogue states.
  • The Trump administration sought to increase the number of deployed GBIs based on the evolving rogue state threat.
  • But, as a result of delays in issuing its policy, and technical challenges with earlier modernization programs (e.g., the Redesigned Kill Vehicle), the Trump Administration was not able to field a homeland defense capability beyond the 44 GBIs it inherited from the prior Administration. 
  • Instead, the Trump Administration initiated the plan to field 20 Next Generation Interceptors, increasing the total number of interceptors to 64, but not until approximately 2031. 
  • At the same time, failure to invest in homeland missile defense is catching up with us. In a June Congressional hearing, the Director of the Missile Defense Agency said that there would be a time in the not-so-distant-future when the total number of Ground-based Interceptors required to protect the American people will dip below the current number of 44 GBIs. 
  • Meanwhile the threat – rogue state and beyond – has not sat still. 
  • According to U.S. Northern Command and senior DOD civilians, North Korea could overwhelm the homeland missile defense system by 2025 if the United States does not commit to improving the system.
  • This 2025 capability gap means additional modernization may be required before the Trump Administration’s Next-Generation Interceptor program arrives. 

Recommendations for the Biden Missile Defense Review:
  • U.S. ballistic missile defense policy has been hotly debated since before the U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002 in practically every respect save one: the U.S. shall defend the homeland from ballistic missile attack by rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran. 
  • A decision to abandon that policy and no longer counter the rogue state threat – as arms control advocates have urged (see here and here) – would upset more than 20 years of bipartisan defense policy. 
  • The United States should design a homeland missile defense system at minimum to keep pace with the North Korean nuclear threat, and any potential Iranian nuclear threat, in order to effectively extend deterrence and assure allies. At the same time, the rising nuclear threat posed by Russia and China should drive a fundamental reappraisal of the decision not to pursue missile defense capability against peer and near-peer states.
  • Homeland missile defenses designed to keep pace with the North Korean threat enhance the credibility of the U.S. extended deterrent. Allies understand that if Washington can deter, and if necessary, defend against a North Korean nuclear attack with minimal risk to the U.S. homeland, the U.S. will have greater freedom to intervene on allies’ behalf.
  • And most importantly, a failure to invest in additional and more capable homeland missile interceptors would allow the North Korean regime to acquire the ability to credibly threaten the U.S. homeland missile defense system, leaving American families highly vulnerable to North Korean nuclear missiles and subjecting the U.S. to North Korean blackmail and coercion. To permit this to happen would be a moral and strategic failure of the nation’s political and military leaders. It would also gift a significant concession to Russia and China, who have been urging the United States to limit its missile defenses even while advancing their own. 

4. North Korea’s ‘Strategic Patience’

Excerpt:
Under the North’s “strategic patience” approach, Pyongyang is not likely not respond to any U.S. and South Korea statements over its missile tests even if it harshly criticizes their “double standard.” Additionally, North Korea’s state media might not publish any statements from high-ranking officials such as Kim Yo Jong, a leading voice on inter-Korean relations, to condemn the joint U.S.-South Korea military drills that will be conducted in the coming months. However, Washington and Seoul should keep reaching out to Pyongyang with a list of detailed economic incentives the North can receive for restoring the dialogue through back channels as diplomacy is still the preferred route.
North Korea’s ‘Strategic Patience’
Recent developments suggest North Korea is adopting its own version of “strategic patience”: ignoring diplomatic outreach until the situation turns in its favor.
thediplomat.com · by Mitch Shin · January 5, 2022
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North Korea held the fourth Plenary Meeting of the Workers’ Party’s eighth Central Committee from December 27 to 31. According to the North’s state media, Kim Jong Un mostly focused his message on rural and agricultural development, as the country’s economy has plummeted due to strict anti-pandemic measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 inside of his country.
Kim expressed his strong will to revive the country’s disastrous economy. The U.N.-led crippling economic sanctions imposed on North Korea have intensified since Kim’s ascension in 2011 due to the North’s growing nuclear and missile threats against U.S. allies South Korea and Japan. Combined with North Korea’s restrictive pandemic strategy, the result is that the country has been facing its worst economic crisis since the “Arduous March” of the 1990s.
While setting out plans to improve the economy, Kim also reaffirmed the North’s overtures and policies on “inter-Korean relations and the field of external affairs” during the plenary meeting. State media did not provide details, while reporting that the country would “bolster the military capability.”
This could be a signal that North Korea will not return to the negotiating table in 2022, implying that South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s final attempt to reactivate the peace process before the end of his tenure in May will not work. However, it should not be interpreted to mean that Kim has no interest in sitting down with U.S. and South Korean leaders. As a powerful autocratic leader, Kim would want to recover his international reputation, tarnished after the debacle of the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi.

Keeping quiet on North Korea’s overtures and policies on foreign affairs, especially on nuclear talks and inter-Korean dialogue, could reflect a decision by Kim not to renew the stalled negotiations with Washington and Seoul. Alternatively, this lack of focus on international affairs might point to the decision to adopt a North Korean-style “strategic patience” approach toward the denuclearization negotiations.
Considering its current nuclear and missile capabilities, North Korea is going to complete its nuclear armament soon and become a nearly untouchable nuclear-armed country that can directly confront the United States. John Bolton, who previously served as national security advisor for former President Donald Trump, said that North Korea is one year closer to perfecting “nuclear, ballistic-missile technology and perhaps hypersonic cruise missiles” due to the Biden administration’s first year of “frenetic diplomacy.”
Kim’s detailed listing of the country’s missile programs at the January 2021 Party Congress – an unusual move from the leader of the most isolated country in the world – signaled that his stance on missile development amid the arms race on the Korean Peninsula remains unchanged. The North will not accept the U.S. deal on offer, namely North Korea’s Complete Verifiable Irreversible Denuclearization (CVID) in exchange for the lifting of the economic sanctions, for the foreseeable future.
Kim’s attempt to strengthen the North both militarily and economically to gain more leverage in the region implies that the United States and South Korea might need to offer better bargaining chips if Kim’s economic plan works without significant support from China – Pyongyang’s economic lifeline and largest trading partner – amid crippling economic sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Furthermore, if the North’s economy recovers and thrives even under the economic sanctions and the pandemic, there would be no reason for Pyongyang to negotiate with Washington and Seoul. Kim would prefer to maintain the self-reliance approach in defense and the economy to ensure his supreme power and his safety until the end of his life. In this context, there is not much time for the United States and South Korea to negotiate with North Korea, as denuclearization negotiations seem to be getting derailed even further.
Some believe that the ball is in Pyongyang’s court on the nuclear talks. Analysts in this camp assume that North Korea will eventually collapse under the U.N.-led economic sanctions, meaning Washington and Seoul do not have to rush to strike a bad deal with Pyongyang to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. However, this scenario will not unfold under China’s watch, since it would result in further isolation due to the U.S. and its allies’ encirclement. Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have been advanced continuously as Kim’s father and grandfather chose this path to survive the United States. It is unrealistic to expect Kim Jong Un to change paths at this point.
Under the North’s “strategic patience” approach, Pyongyang is not likely not respond to any U.S. and South Korea statements over its missile tests even if it harshly criticizes their “double standard.” Additionally, North Korea’s state media might not publish any statements from high-ranking officials such as Kim Yo Jong, a leading voice on inter-Korean relations, to condemn the joint U.S.-South Korea military drills that will be conducted in the coming months. However, Washington and Seoul should keep reaching out to Pyongyang with a list of detailed economic incentives the North can receive for restoring the dialogue through back channels as diplomacy is still the preferred route.
On Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that his government will pursue “an irreversible path to peace until the end” in his last New Year’s address. However, such a development can only occur when the United States and China work closely together to tackle the North Korea issue. As the rising tensions between Beijing and Washington give unlimited time to Pyongyang to gain more leverage by building up more advanced weapons and improving the economy, the U.S. and South Korea should entice China to engage in the denuclearization negotiations more actively rather than providing help to North Korea behind the scenes.
To conclude, North Korea seems to be trying to circumvent or even change the regional status quo – military tensions without direct confrontation – which the U.S. and China have been upholding, by setting a sort of new approach, that of “strategic patience.”
This piece was originally published by the Institute for Security and Development Policy and is republished here with permission.
thediplomat.com · by Mitch Shin · January 5, 2022

5. North Korea launches first missile in 2022

Wednesday
January 5, 2022

North Korea launches first missile in 2022

Travelers at Seoul Station, central Seoul, watch a news report about North Korea's launch of a possible ballistic missile on Wednesday morning. [YONHAP]
 
North Korea launched a missile, possibly ballistic, into waters east of the Korean Peninsula early on Wednesday morning, its first such test of the year. 
 
The launch was reported by the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Japanese Coast Guard.
 
South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook presided over a National Security Council meeting at 9:45 a.m. in response to the launch and was briefed by JCS Chairman Gen. Won In-choul, according to the Blue House.
 
"Council members expressed concerns over North Korea's launch at a time when stability is very necessary at home and abroad," the Blue House said in a statement released after the meeting.

 
NSC members agreed that talks with the North are needed to defuse tensions on the peninsula.



The North has not responded to repeated calls from South Korea and the United States for it to return to denuclearization talks, which collapsed in a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. president Donald Trump in 2019 in Vietnam.

 
Although the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said is willing to meet North Korean representatives "anytime, anywhere" without preconditions, Pyongyang has dismissed Washington's “hostile” policies.
 
The latest launch came 78 days after the North's last missile test. 
 
In that test, which took place on Oct. 19, the North launched a new, smaller submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
 
At a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the country’s ruling Workers' Party last week, Kim vowed to continue building up his regime’s weapons capabilities. 
 
Despite self-enforced isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic and international sanctions tied to its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, Pyongyang has expanded its weapons delivery systems over the past year. 
 
In 2021, the nuclear-armed regime tested a new SLBM, a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched ballistic missile unit and a hypersonic missile. 
 
In all, the North conducted seven major weapons tests last year. 
 
Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, the North is prohibited from testing ballistic missiles, but not cruise missiles. 
 
Wednesday’s missile test came as South Korean President Moon Jae-in is pushing for an official declaration to end the Korean War, the wording of which is supposedly under discussion between Seoul and Washington.
 
The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice agreement signed by the U.S.-led UN Command, North Korea and China on July 27, 1953, bringing about a ceasefire until a final peaceful settlement was achieved.
 
The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war, which the South Korean president has declared he wants to change before he leaves office in May.

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]


6. Moon rebukes military for failing to detect border-crosser

Wednesday
January 5, 2022

Moon rebukes military for failing to detect border-crosser

President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday rebuked the military for failing to detect a man who crossed the eastern inter-Korean border into North Korea over the weekend, calling for the military to have a special sense of alert in border security.
 
The man, who was found to be a North Korean defector, crossed the heavily fortified border on Saturday despite surveillance cameras having caught him as many as five times in a major security failure, according to the military.
 
Moon said the "failure of security operations" at the eastern border is a "grave problem that should not have happened," according to presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.
 
"With regard to the issue that such situation was repeated, the military should have a special sense of alert and responsibility," Park quoted Moon as saying.
 
Moon also ordered the military to conduct a special inspection in front-line units to prevent such incidents from happening again, Park said.
 
According to the military, the defector climbed over the barbed wire fence to enter the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, and then raced across the Military Demarcation Line despite eleventh-hour efforts to stop him.
 
After defecting to the South, the man is known to have worked as a cleaner here, an indication that he might have had economic difficulties. Other details about him were not immediately known.
 
The latest incident came in spite of the South Korean military's pledge to overhaul its border defense system with stronger surveillance equipment to forestall any security lapses in the wake of earlier border breaches.
 
Yonhap


7. North Korea rings in 2022 with big bang missile test

I doubt our cages are rattled by this. Perhaps the only ones who were rattled were the ones who thought the recent statements from the party meeting indicated a change in behavior and intent of the regime.


North Korea rings in 2022 with big bang missile test
Pyongyang opens the new year with a new provocation aimed at rattling cages in Seoul and Washington

asiatimes.com · by Andrew Salmon · January 5, 2022
SEOUL – In its first global-facing action of 2022, North Korea this morning (January 5) launched a projectile eastward in what South Korean officials say is almost certainly a new missile test.
Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff said the object had been fired from a land-based platform at 8:10 this morning, though it is not clear yet whether the missile fired was a cruise missile or a ballistic missile. Under United Nations resolutions, North Korea is not allowed to possess ballistic missile technologies but it routinely defies those resolutions.
The object appears to have splashed in the Sea of Japan, which Koreans call the East Sea. As is routine practice after such events, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff responded with a bland message to reporters. “For additional information, the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting a detailed analysis,” the JCS said.

Strategic analysts were more forthright in their assessments. “North Korea is sending us a message that it is business as usual,” Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean general told Asia Times. “Kim Jong Un has been very clear that he will concentrate on his economy, but at the same time will develop his military capabilities,” he said referring to North Korea’s leader.
Pyongyang tests weapons for reasons that are both military and political. In terms of timing, the test follows hot on the heels of both military and political developments: annual winter military drills and a December party plenum.
“They have been doing winter military training since last month … this could well be part of live-fire exercises,” said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based international affairs expert with Troy University, told Asia Times.
“They have been introducing a lot of new weapons systems and having a lot of meetings and discussions on doctrine and how these systems are to be used and how they are integrated into war plans. In that sense, it makes sense to have a live-fire exercise – it’s a safety and reliability issue,” Pinkston said.
But regardless of how essential tests are for troops, the timing is no doubt political. Channeling the North Korean leadership, Chun said, “It is, ‘Damn the Olympics, damn the new year and damn the starvation – my missiles are getting better!’”

Since 2018, when Kim Jong Un emerged from seven years of international isolation to embark upon a series of diplomatic engagements with the leaders of China, South Korea, the United States and Russia, his state has refrained from testing the kind of weapons that press Washington’s red button, including nuclear devices and long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Better days: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un meets then-US president Donald Trump and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in at the border village of Panmunjom on June 30, 2019. Photo: AFP / KCNA via KNS
That self-imposed moratorium had held even since 2019, when then-US president Donald Trump walked out of a high-profile summit with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Last year, North Korea tested a range of weapons that fall below Washington’s threshold of response but still menace its neighbors: cruise missiles, suspected hypersonic missiles and even train-launched missiles. The last missile test conducted by Pyongyang was a submarine-launched ballistic missile in October 2021, state media claimed at the time.
Today’s launch precedes sensitivities packing the regional calendar in the weeks and months ahead. The Beijing Winter Olympics kick off on February 4 and finish on February 20 – a period over which analysts don’t expect Pyongyang to undertake any actions which might irk its key benefactor, Beijing.
North Korea is believed to be suffering massive economic and nutritional difficulties due to the crushing combination of its self-imposed Covid-19 isolation and US-led international sanctions. As a result, it relies heavily upon China for essential supplies of fuel and food.

Tensions could soon rise on the Korean peninsula. A South Korean presidential election takes place on March 9, and joint military drills between South Korean and US forces are expected in March and April.
Asia Times understands that these drills have been rebranded and will be more low-key than in the past. Even so, they are certain to raise hackles in Pyongyang, which insists they are preparations for an invasion.
Meanwhile, the region is engaged in an undeclared arms race. While North Korea’s missile forces grant it considerable global relevance, both China and Taiwan are muscling up naval capabilities amid escalating tensions in the Taiwan Straits.
South Korea and Japan are also spending big on a range of military assets that appear aimed at deterring North Korean systems.
Japan’s Special Defense Forces could become more offensive with a change of the constitution. Image: Facebook
Seoul is developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles – albeit, conventionally armed ones. Japan, having decided not to proceed with a US-made Aegis ashore missile defense program in 2020, is reportedly mulling the adoption of a “first-strike” capability to deter exactly the kind of threat represented by North Korea’s missiles.

While such a high-risk system may stress the elasticity of Japan’s pacifist constitution, the country’s right-wing has been significantly strengthened following last November’s election for the lower house of the Diet.
That political shift signals a potentially more robust approach to defense and security than has customarily been seen in Tokyo.
asiatimes.com · by Andrew Salmon · January 5, 2022

8. South Korean F-35 Conducts Emergency ‘Belly Landing’ 


South Korean F-35 Conducts Emergency ‘Belly Landing’ - Air Force Magazine
airforcemag.com · by Greg Hadley · January 4, 2022

Jan. 4, 2022 | By Greg Hadley
A South Korean air force F-35 pilot was forced to make an emergency “belly landing” but managed to escape unharmed Jan. 4, according to multiple media reports.
The incident was caused by “avionic system issues,” South Korean air force officials told news agency Yonhap, which caused the landing gear to malfunction and resulted in the pilot landing on a runway with the gear up.
Before the landing, a fire engine deployed a special foam on the runway, “which prevented the jet’s fuselage from sustaining any serious damage,” officials added. The full extent of the damage has not been reported.
The emergency landing occurred around 1 p.m. local time at a South Korean base in Seosan, some 70 kilometers from Osan Air Base. According to media reports, it is the first known instance of a belly landing by an F-35 since the U.S. began selling the fifth-generation fighter to partner nations.
South Korean officials have reportedly said they are suspending flights for all its air force’s 30-plus F-35 fighters while it investigates the emergency landing.
There have been other incidents involving allies and partners in the F-35 program—members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force have had to make at least seven emergency landings in F-35s, news agency Nikkei reported. There was also a nighttime crash into the ocean in April 2019 that killed a Japanese pilot.
More recently, a British F-35B crashed just after takeoff from an aircraft carrier in November 2021, falling into the Mediterranean Sea. 
U.S. Air Force pilots have also dealt with problems. In May 2020, a pilot at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, crashed while landing due to excessive speed, as well as issues with faulty flight control logic, the helmet-mounted display, the jet’s oxygen system, and ineffective simulator training. A month later, an F-35A’s landing gear collapsed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
In addition to South Korea and Japan, U.S. ally Australia also operates F-35As in the Indo-Pacific, and Singapore is slated to receive F-35Bs starting in 2026.
9. North Koreans unmoved by lectures praising Kim Jong Un for keeping them safe

Because you cannot eat ideology. Lectures do not feed the people.

We must be observing for signs of internal instability.


North Koreans unmoved by lectures praising Kim Jong Un for keeping them safe
Amid a severe economic crisis, the effort to project strength is falling flat with hungry audiences.
Faced with growing food shortages and a tanking economy, the North Korean government is sponsoring lectures intended to rally the citizenry against South Korea and the United States and to laud leader Kim Jong Un for boosting the country’s military capabilities and keeping the people safe.
But according to sources who attended the lectures, many of the people in the audience did not seem to buy the government’s latest propaganda efforts.
“Though the lecturers made an impassioned speech, most of the audience waited for time to pass or they dozed off. These are people who don’t even have enough corn or rice. Who among them is going to believe that the ‘puppets’ in the South are trembling in fear of our ‘inexhaustible’ military power?” a resident of the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA’s Korean Service Dec. 15.
The North Korean economy lies in shambles due to the combined effects of international nuclear sanctions and an almost two-year long suspension of trade with China due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prices have risen sharply due to supply shortages and there have been reports of starvation deaths.
The source told RFA that the lectures have been held in every party, military and citizen organization as part of annual winter training assignments.
“The lecturer criticized the United States, saying they are ‘in collusion with their South Korean puppets, dealing with the fearsome threat North Korea represents to South Korea by yammering on about ‘peace and cooperation,’” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
“The lecturer said the U.S. is holding joint military exercises with the South, a blatant slight on our republic, right in front of our face,” the source said.
“The lecture materials distributed earlier this month concentrate on promoting the greatness of General Secretary Kim Jong Un, saying that he, the ‘Highest Dignity,’ has fortified our national self-defense capabilities,” the source added.
Lectures in the northwestern province of North Pyongan similarly emphasized Kim Jong Un’s “immortal achievements” in overcoming severe economic difficulty to strengthen the national defense, a citizen there told RFA.
“The lecture was titled ‘About the Respectful General Secretary Building Up the National Self-Defense of Our Country,’” said the second source, who also requested anonymity to speak freely.
The lecture the second source attended emphasized the 2017 test of North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, the Hwasong-15, which theoretically could give North Korea the capability to deliver a nuclear payload as far away as the northeastern United States.
“They said that on Nov. 29, 2017, our country and our people seized a powerful strategic weapon that could completely subdue the United States, the global center of imperialism and the main enemy of the Korean Revolution, and the cause of our pursuing nuclear capabilities for the defense of our nation,” the second source said.
But just as in North Hamgyong, the North Pyongan residents saw through the exercise, according to the second source.
“The lecturer ordered all the executives, citizens and soldiers to reflect deeply on the miraculous increases in military capabilities. He passionately praised the ‘immortal patriotic achievements’ of the general secretary who ‘gave birth to the great power of North Korea,’ saying his ‘life and death decisions’ should be engraved in their hearts,” the second source said.
“But the people complained that Kim Jong Un came to power 10 years ago with a promise that they would never have to tighten their belts. That promise is now gone,” the second source said.
Kim had promised his people early in his reign that they would never go hungry again. But last year the government told people that they were on their own for food, and told them to prepare for another “Arduous March,” the Korean name for the 1994-1998 period of famine that claimed the lives of millions of North Koreans.
“The people resent the authorities, saying that if their national defense problems are solved through the development of missiles and nuclear weapons, will the food problem just solve itself?” the second source said.
Translated by Claire Lee. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

10. North Korea moves to stem a rise in insubordination within its military
This could be significant. A breakdown in the coherence of the military and support for the regime could be catastrophic. 

Recall the three chains of control for the military: the traditional chain of command from General to private, the political chain of control and the security officer chain of control. If there is rising in subordination all three of these chains of control could be eroding.

For the New Year let me reprise our uncertainty and complexity and implosion and explosion charts that Robert Collins and I developed decades ago to illustrate the potential scenarios we may still face today. 




​​
North Korea moves to stem a rise in insubordination within its military
Sources say a bad economy is fraying relationships between officers and enlisted personnel.
After a North Korean army officer threatened his superior with a weapon and another attempted suicide when higher-ranking officers ignored his pleas for help, the country’s politburo is taking steps to stem what leaders fear may be a rising trend of insubordination within the military.
In the last three months of 2021, as many as 10 soldiers have violently confronted their superiors nationwide, a military official from the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA Dec. 20.
“At the end of November, a company-level officer of the 45th Division under the 9th Corps asked several times to his superior battalion to let him help solve a family issue and take care of his own personal health issue, but when he was ignored, he confronted his superior with a weapon while he was drunk,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
“Even earlier this month, in a unit under the 3rd Corps, a company-level officer had a personal problem and appealed to a superior to help solve it,” the source said. “But when the senior officer ignored it, the company-level officer attempted to kill himself with a communication cable around his neck. This incident is embarrassing for the senior unit commanders.”
In North Korea, every able-bodied man is required to join the military for at least seven years. Officers can serve as long as 30 years.
Sources blamed the apparent rise in examples of insubordination — as well as a corresponding increase in incidents of superior officers brutally hazing enlisted personnel — on the stresses presented by a worsening North Korean economy due in part to COVID restrictions that have largely shut off trade with China.
After the incident in the 3rd Corps, the General Political Bureau, or politburo, ordered the higher-ranking officers to pay more attention to the problems of their subordinates, the source said.
“They fear that such incidents could demoralize the soldiers and spread into political incidents which could threaten the entire military hierarchy,” the source said. “The bureau ordered that they resolve conflicts by actively helping the lower-level officers having difficulties in their lives, especially since the new year is coming soon.”
Another aspect of the directive is to identify problem officers who could cause conflict within their units, the source said.
“The officers in charge of these problematic officers were ordered to routinely visit the subordinate units … and resolve any difficulties in a timely matter so that any political accidents can be prevented,” the source said.
In one case, the lower ranking officer exposed corruption among his superiors when they ignored his request for leave, an officer in the 8th Corps, stationed in the northwestern province of North Pyongan, told RFA.
“A company commander of a unit under the corps requested a leave of absence for his engagement ceremony, but the battalion commander and the political advisor ignored the request because it was during the winter military training period,” the second source told RFA.
“So, the company commander deserted for six days. When he was punished by the party, he publicly complained about their corruption,” the second source said.
The second source said that part of the directive from the General Political Bureau requires the senior officers to hold daily meetings with their subordinate officers to assess their loyalty.
“The low-level officers, however, claim that they are having a hard time living during such a time of economic hardship caused by the coronavirus, and that this problem will not simply be solved through ideological meetings.”
Korean People's Army (KPA) soldiers salute as they visit the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill to pay their respects on the occasion of the 74th founding anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea on October 10, 2019. (Credit: AFP)
Hazing getting worse
In addition to incidents of insubordination, hazing among the enlisted ranks and their immediate superiors is now “getting serious,” another source said. In one case, a soldier almost froze to death after being beaten by his superiors.
“Recently a soldier from a unit under the 9th Corps, who had deserted several times from the unit, was badly beaten by several officers,” another military source from North Hamgyong province said.
“They imprisoned him in an iron barrel and left him out in the cold winter weather for several hours, almost killing him. It was reported to the General Political Bureau, and they began an investigation into military hazing,” said the third source, who declined to be named.
For their treatment of the enlisted man, the officers were demoted, and the investigation revealed that hazing is occurring most often in smaller units in remote locations as opposed to more centrally located larger units.
“In mid-October, at the 108th training camp in South Hamgyong Province, the commander of a security platoon questioned a platoon soldier for leaving his place of work while on duty at the guard post, and there was an incident where the commander hit the soldier with a rifle butt and inflicted serious injuries,” the third source said.
“In addition to the instructions to prepare measures to prevent hazing, the General Political Bureau made a study guide on the subject and distributed it to the units under its jurisdiction,” the third source said.
In North Pyongan, authorities are organizing teams consisting of officers from the secretariat to visit units across the country as part of the investigation, a fourth military source there told RFA.
“Countless orders to eradicate hazing have been issued, but it still happens often among the soldiers,” the fourth source said.
“Beatings in the military have become more severe these days, and the problem is directly related to poor living conditions for soldiers as the government is providing them with less and less each year.”
Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


11. N. Korea generates “atmosphere of competition” to fulfill manure quotas
So they are competing to see who is the most "full of s***." But of course that would be the regime. 

Seriously, it takes food to produce manure. They need the manure to replace shortages of chemical fertilizer so they can grow food to overcome the shortages. But if when underfed how more manure be produced?

I am reminded of the scene in Crash landing on You when the Korean protagonist from the South asked the Korean women of the north as they prepared for their Kimchi making battles - Is everything a war to north Korea? And of course the answer is yes everything in north Korea. is a war.
N. Korea generates “atmosphere of competition” to fulfill manure quotas
Cadres are protecting themselves from punishment by ordering families to pay KWP 1,000 per every kilogram of manure they fall short
By Lee Chae Un - 2022.01.05 3:34pm
As North Korea wages a “battle for manure” across the country, some regions are pressuring individuals and families to cough up money if they fail to fulfill their quota. This is apparently adding to the pain suffered by North Koreans struggling with economic troubles amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province, the “battle” commenced on Dec. 3 and will last until Jan. 10 — one day longer than last year’s struggle.
Workers at factories and enterprises have been tasked with providing 500 kilograms of manure per person, while inminban (people’s units) have been tasked with providing 200 kilograms per household. This represents no great increase from last year, but it is still a lot compared to years before that, when workers were expected to provide only 100 to 300 kilograms per person.
This suggests the increased quotas are a measure to deal with the suspension of fertilizer imports after the Sino-North Korean border was closed due to COVID-19.
North Korean workers distributing manure for use as fertilizer in this photo from January 2015. / Image: Uriminzokkiri
North Korean authorities may have also considered how experiments last year to produce more fertilizer at the country’s chemical factories yielded little but deadly explosions. That is, they may have concluded that the solution to their problems lies in traditional manure.
The measure also appears aimed at imprinting on the party, people and military the importance of the rural development goals adopted during the Fourth Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee, convened late last year.
On Monday, an article in the Rodong Sinmun on intensive efforts to transport thousands of tons of manure in South Hwanghae Province in the new year called on people to take ownership of achieving the basic tasks of the party’s rural development strategy.
In fact, the authorities are apparently generating an atmosphere of “competition” to achieve those tasks. Various organization directors, heads of neighborhood offices, and other officials in charge are focused on fulfilling their quotas, afraid that units that fall behind will face “thorough review.”
Accordingly, it is the people who are bearing the burden. Cadres are protecting themselves by ordering families to pay KWP 1,000 per every kilogram of manure they fall short.
Naturally, this is generating complaints and discontent. The source said even though North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered an end to “non-tax burdens,” he has seemingly revived them with his order to develop rural communities. He added that it was the government’s job to break this vicious cycle.
Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

12. N. Korean leaders order North Hamgyong Province to produce “model units of science education”
Excerpts:
The ministry said the schools offer poor-quality education given their conditions, and that their graduates will be unable to play their role in society as a result. It called on the three universities in question to “automate and computerize” on a trial basis.
In particular, the ministry and provincial party committee called on the three universities to create one more research team per school, and properly equip their laboratory spaces “without fail,” the difficulties of doing so at their own expense notwithstanding. They called on the schools to file regular situational reports and strictly evaluate progress.
The source said the ministry and provincial party conduct general reviews at the end of every year, threatening the presidents, deans, head lecturers and party secretaries of universities that fall behind with punishment.
N. Korean leaders order North Hamgyong Province to produce “model units of science education”
By Jong So Yong - 2022.01.05 3:45pm
North Korea’s Ministry of Higher Education has ordered education officials in North Hamgyong Province to produce “model units of science education.”
This comes after the ministry conducted inspections of three universities in the province late last year.
A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that after inspection visits to several local universities last month, the ministry sat down with education officials from the province on Dec. 23 to analyze their successes and failures, as well as to discuss the creation of “model units” at the province’s universities.
According to the source, officials from the ministry made the inspection visits to three local universities at the end of last month.
The source said the ministry launched the inspections after learning through discussions with students and other materials that the three universities in question had failed to properly automate or computerize, and for about two years, students have been unable to conduct lab experiments or research they learn in the classroom because their laboratory spaces are essentially shams.
In fact, during their inspections, the ministry officials strongly criticized the schools for failing to properly equip their labs. As a result, the presidents and party secretaries of the universities were subject to intense, organized criticism from the ministry and North Hamgyong Province party committee.
A picture of Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province, taken in February 2018. / Image: Daily NK
The ministry said the schools offer poor-quality education given their conditions, and that their graduates will be unable to play their role in society as a result. It called on the three universities in question to “automate and computerize” on a trial basis.
In particular, the ministry and provincial party committee called on the three universities to create one more research team per school, and properly equip their laboratory spaces “without fail,” the difficulties of doing so at their own expense notwithstanding. They called on the schools to file regular situational reports and strictly evaluate progress.
The source said the ministry and provincial party conduct general reviews at the end of every year, threatening the presidents, deans, head lecturers and party secretaries of universities that fall behind with punishment.
From the first semester of 2022, the Ministry of Higher Education has been working to improve the educational environment and conditions at the three universities by ensuring they have complete “linked education” structures that can integrate education, research and production “at a high level.” It has also stressed that all other universities in North Hamgyong Province must complete such improvements over the next five years.
The provincial party committee said the ministry’s order represented a “massive transition” in the province’s university sector, and called on officials to remember that fulfilling the party’s educational policies are related to the ideas presented at the Eighth Party Congress.
The source said the government plans to look at the educational system’s production of skilled personnel able to make real contributions to society — rather than just ivory tower scholars — by preparing students with experience of integrated education, research and production when it reviews its Eighth Party Congress tasks over the next five years. He added that every province plans to engage in related efforts.
Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK’s freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.


13. Former North Korean defector who made rare cross-border return home could have been a spy or simply unhappy with life in the South, experts say

And what do we think he was spying on? What kind of access and placement did he have? Was he recruiting? Or was he simply to report on the South Korean system of handling defectors?

Adn to the final section of this article. It could be both: he could be used as propaganda and still be harshly punished. 


Former North Korean defector who made rare cross-border return home could have been a spy or simply unhappy with life in the South, experts say
insider.com · by Ashley Collman
  • A former North Korean defector was observed last week going back across the border.
  • Insider spoke to experts who explained why the man risked possible punishment in returning to the North.
  • Experts said the man could have been a spy, or simply struggled with adjusting to life in South Korea.
Over 3 million people read Morning Brew; you should too
A former North Korean defector who South Korean officials said crossed the border back to his home country last week may have been a spy, or else simply unhappy when confronted with the reality of life in the South, experts told Insider.
The South Korean defense ministry confirmed the crossing on Monday. Officials said the man, who is in his 30s, appeared to be the same person who defected from the North on the eastern side of the Demilitarized Zone in November 2020, according to Reuters.
More than 33,000 North Koreans have resettled in the South in the past two decades, according to South Korea's Ministry of Unification. They flee a highly-regimented life in the North, where ordinary citizens face regular food shortages and practically no personal freedoms.
To make sense of why this former defector would want to return home, facing possible punishment and a more austere way of life, Insider spoke with experts who explained that North Koreans often have a hard time adjusting to life in the South. While re-crossings are rare, the experts said they have been known to happen.
With tensions still high between the two Koreas, which have never officially ended their 72-year-old long war, the experts noted it's also possible that the man may have been a spy. However, a South Korean official told Reuters that the government doesn't think that was the case in this incident.
A spy posing as a defector?
Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korean studies professor at Tufts University, laid out several reasons why the defector may have returned to the North, including economic hardships, threats to the defector's family, trouble with the law in the South, and espionage.
While he said he can only speculate on the former defector's intentions, the fact that the man had an unglamorous job as a cleaner "might be one source of frustration."
That appears to line up with reports about what the man's life was like in the South. A military official told Reuters that the man was "barely scraping a living."

People bow during a three minutes silence to pay their respects towards portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, to mark the ten year anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il, the father of current leader Kim Jong Un, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on December 17, 2021.
In Lee's view, that the defector only stuck it out in the South for 14 months also raises the possibility espionage.
"To go back to his homeland, where possible punishment awaited him, suggests that he could have been on a mission, he could have been a spy," Lee said.
Annika A. Culver, associate professor of East Asian history at Florida State University, isn't convinced that the defector was a spy.
"It doesn't seem like he had the level of training or education to make the kind of intelligence observations that would be very useful to the North Korean regime," Culver said.
The defector may have led a privileged life in the North
Culver believes a more likely scenario is that the defector may have lived a relatively cushy life in North Korea and wasn't happy with the standard of living he found in South Korea, where North Koreans have often struggled to resettle in a radically different political and economic environment.
It's been reported that the defector was a gymnast, and Culver said athletes tend to be more "highly-prized" in North Korean society, where they're given better diets, lodgings, and are considered national heroes.
"We generally get an idea of North Korea as being a country entirely un-free where people's lives are incredibly regimented," Culver said. "But there's a sizeable number of elites in the North Korean state that are benefiting quite a lot from this regime and live immensely privileged lives, including athletes."
"My theory is that as a working class person in South Korea, he didn't have much social status and may have missed the life he had previously where as an athlete he would have been given many more benefits," Culver added.
North Koreans face discrimination in the South
And it's not just economic hardships that North Koreans may find difficult about life in the South.
Suzy Kim, associate professor of Korean history at Rutgers University, told Insider that North Korean refugees face discrimination in the South, where they are easily identified due to their regional dialects.
While South Korean government data estimates that at least 30 North Korean defectors returned to their homeland in the past decade, Kim said there are unconfirmed estimates that the number of returnees is "much higher" because they're able to evade detection.

The famous shopping streets of Myeong-dong in Seoul, South Korea.
The coronavirus pandemic has made it even more difficult for North Koreans to make a new life in the South, according to Sokeel Park, South Korea Country Director for Liberty in North Korea, a nonprofit which helps North Koreans resettle in South Korea and the US.
"Even in normal times North Korean refugees face a lot of challenges adapting to the South, as the two countries have diverged so much economically and culturally. They have to gain whole new sets of skills and build a whole new community to replace all the relationships they left behind," Park told Insider.
"The pandemic has exacerbated this, with some in-person support services suspended and newcomers reporting increased loneliness because of the difficulty of building community in socially distanced times," Park said.
The returning defector could be used as propaganda or be severely punished
It's unclear what happened to the defector once he crossed back over the border. The North Korean regime has not publicly commented on the incident, but did confirm the receipt of messages from the South Korean military about the crossing, The Guardian reported via the Yonhap news agency.
Culver and Lee are in disagreement about what now becomes of the returned defector. Lee says those who have escaped North Korea are considered betrayers of the state and face several years in prison or a gulag — and even the possibility of execution.
But Culver believes that the North Korean regime will welcome the defector back with open arms, in order to use him as a deterrent to other citizens thinking about fleeing the country.
"I believe they are going to use this as a means to not necessarily solidify their propaganda machine towards the outside, but to show their own people that it's not that great in the South," Culver said.
insider.com · by Ashley Collman


14. North Korea Demands Handwriting Samples From Thousands Of Residents After Offensive Kim Jong Un Graffiti Found

And it is looking for those in possession of one of the regime's most deadly weapons: a Sharpie.  I wonder if they are making every citizen write the following sentence for comparison. 

"Kim Jong-un, you son of a b***h. The people are starving to death because of you."

The graffiti will get real bad when they start writing that he is the son of a woman born in Japan.

North Korea Demands Handwriting Samples From Thousands Of Residents After Offensive Kim Jong Un Graffiti Found
Jake Massey
Published 19:38, 04 January 2022 GMT
| Last updated 20:42, 04 January 2022 GMT
North Korean officials are analysing citizens' handwriting after discovering offensive graffiti aimed at the county's dictator, Kim Jong-un.
While openly questioning, criticising and mocking our leaders serves an important function in most countries, North Korea is not most countries, and slagging off the Supreme Leader can see people sent for lengthy spells at prison camps - while some even receive a death sentence.
As such, it takes a huge amount of discontent and courage to take the potentially life-threatening risk and daub an apartment wall with an offensive message about Kim Jong-un.
The culprit could be handed an extreme sentence. Credit: Alamy
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The graffiti was discovered in the relatively upmarket Pyongchon district of the capital, Pyongyang, on 22 December, according to Daily NK - a news site based in South Korea which reports on the secretive goings-on in its neighbouring nation using 'a robust network of dedicated citizen journalists inside the country, who risk their lives on a daily basis to share news from the ground'.
It read: "Kim Jong-un, you son of a b***h. The people are starving to death because of you."
The site reported that a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea was being held at the time and local officials quickly cordoned off the area and erased the graffiti.
Since then, officials have been conducting 'handwriting analyses' of local workers and students in a bid to track down the culprit. They will also have extensive CCTV footage to examine, as Kim has installed thousands of cameras in the city since he came to power in 2011.
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Daily NK's source said the graffiti was being treated even more seriously than usual as it appeared around the time of the 10th anniversary of the death of previous leader Kim Jong-Il (17 December) and the birthday of Kim Jong Il's mum Kim Jong-suk (24 December).
Kim has led the nation for a decade. Credit: Alamy
Kim has now been at the helm for a decade, following his dad's death, and troops were recently urged to defend him 'with their lives'.
In a lengthy editorial, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper - which acts as a mouthpiece for the government - said military commanders and soldiers must become an 'impregnable fortress and bulletproof walls in devotedly defending (Kim) with their lives'.
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The editorial said the entire nation must uphold Kim's leadership to establish a powerful socialist country.
North Korea has previously issued similar propaganda-heavy statements urging people to rally behind Kim in times of difficulties.
Some experts believe Kim has been grappling with the toughest moment of his 10-year rule due to the coronavirus pandemic, UN sanctions and his own mismanagement.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
Topics: World News
Jake Massey
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Foundation for Defense of Democracies
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Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
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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