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North Korean Tourism Dwarfed by Visitors to Elvis,South Korea For Nose Jobs, Thai Sex Change Operations

22 Feb

North Korean Tourism Dwarfed by Visitors Paying Homage to Elvis, Thai Sex Change Tourists, Those Seeking Nose Jobs in South Korea; And 1/15 of UK Citizens Traveling Abroad for Dental Treatment; 

In 2012, North Korea welcomed nearly 30,000 visitors, including 4000 westerners, and official state media trumpeted this week that foreign tourism is “booming” days after they exploded a nuclear bomb drawing global condemnation. State news organ KCNA said the number of foreign visitors to the North has grown since 2000 and has surged after 2009, citing a spike in European visitors but offering no statistics. “The global popularity of tourism to (North Korea) is booming,” they said, citing socialist accomplishments by the Kim family hereditary dynastic regime.

Tourists Bow Paying Homage to Kim Il Sung

Tourists Bow Paying Homage to Kim Il Sung

Independent industry analysts have put the number of western visitors to North Korea at about 2,000 per year, but KCNA said this week tourists rose “sharply” from 2009.  The respected independent NK News quoted Simon Cockerell, General Manager at Koryo Tours, the preeminent group tour operator to Pyongyang based in Beijing, saying numbers have spiked, but visitor numbers are so small “an unexpected increase of a few dozen can look like a large percentage surge.”

It is estimated that in 2012 perhaps 4,000 Western visitors traveled to the world’s most isolated nation, and KCNA said that “eye-catching achievements made by the country in the effort for building a thriving socialist nation in recent years are one of the attractions.”

But a tourism boom in North Korea is quintessentially relative. A cursory comparative look breaks the annual visitor arrivals to North Korea down to the equivalent of the number of tourists who arrive from abroad every 34 minutes in the U.S., and every 27 minutes in France.

Less foreign visitors travel to North Korea annually than take in the British Lawnmower Museum in the U.K. Foreign visitors to North Korea per year amount to less than 5% of those who visit the birthplace of Elvis Presley—Graceland in Memphis Tennessee which attracts 600,000 people annually to pay homage to the “King”. Graceland opened for tours on June 7, 1982. “We had no idea whether 30 people were coming, or 300, or 3,000 that first day, Fortunately, it was the latter,” said Jack Sodden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises. They sold out all 3,024 tickets on the first day and the flow of tourists has remained steady, with an average of 600,000 annual visitors to the mansion.

The Elvis Presley Shrine at Graceland Draws More than 20 Times the Visitors than Visit North Korea Every Year

The Elvis Presley Shrine at Graceland Draws More than 20 Times the Visitors than Visit North Korea Every Year

The entire annual number of foreign visitors to the Hermit Kingdom is less than 3% of those who trek to visit the home of one of capitalism’s most storied robber barons, the Biltmore Estate of the Vanderbilt family in America’s deep rural South, which attracts 900,000 visitors per year.

Fetish Con, an annual sex conference celebrating all things kinky, attracts more than 10,000 people annually worldwide to a U.S. city by people interested in the whips, toys, videos, outrageously high high-heels and black leather stiletto knee-high boots, and features such offerings as Kinky Karaoke, with fetish enthusiasts dressed in outfits ranging from very little to full-body latex. That is more than twice the total annual western visitors to all of North Korea at the moment.

Annual Sex Fetish Conference Draws More Visitors Than North Korea Does in an Entire Year

Annual Sex Fetish Conference Draws More Visitors Than North Korea Does in an Entire Year

Each year about a half million leather clad bikers and their half naked girlfriends converge on the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota for the world’s largest motorcycle rally—more than 15 times the entire yearly total of foreigners who visit North Korea.

A more nuanced comparison makes the entire cumulative arrival of visitors to North Korea less than those who travel to Thailand for sex change operations. It stands, for instance as 1/15 of UK citizens who traveled abroad in 2011 for dental treatment. In 2006, Israel welcomed 15,000 foreigners who traveled there for medical procedures, bringing in $40 million of revenue. 30,000 people came to Iran in 2012 to receive medical treatment. About 1 million Californians go to Mexico for healthcare procedures, mostly to Tijuana seeking weight loss, and plastic surgery, in addition to alternative cancer treatments. According to the Secretary of Tourism of Baja California, Mexico in 2009, close to 8 million people went to Tijuana for some type of healthcare.

The most obvious comparison is in South Korea where in 2009, a total number of 60,000 medical tourists arrived, rising in 2010 to 80,000. The South Korean Ministry of Health has set the target for 2015 to up to 300,000 medical tourists. Currently, the most popular treatments for medical tourists are cosmetic procedures such as eyelid surgery, nose jobs, facelifts, and skin lightening.

There are no reports of any visitors choosing Pyongyang as a preferred destination for medical care.

So a surge in foreigners visiting Pyongyang is all a matter of perspective.

travel sino bridge afp

Tourists to North Korea must go on guided tours and must have their tour guides with them at all times. Photography is strictly controlled, as is interaction with the local population.

In 2002, the scenic Mount Kumgang close to the South Korea border was designated a special tourist destination, and South Korean tourist companies brought thousands of South Koreans to Mount Kŭmgang until that was suspended in late 2008 after an elderly South Korean woman was shot dead by North Korean soldiers for veering off the designated tourist paths. When tours had still not resumed by May 2010, North Korea unilaterally seized hundreds of millions of dollars of South Korean real estate assets developed to accommodate tourists in the region.

In July 2005, the South Korean Hyundai Group signed an agreement with the North Korean government to open up more areas to tourism, including Baekdu Mountain and Kaesong, which was opened to tours for South Korean and foreign tourists in December 2007, with North Korea charging US $180 for a one-day trip, receiving several hundred tourists each week.

The tours to Baekdu Mountain were suspended in December 2008 after Pyongyang objected to South Korea activists sending balloons filled with propaganda messages critical of Kim Jong Il which floated into the North. When South Korea did not respond to North Korean demands to stop the propaganda balloons, North Korea suspended the Kaesong tours. The tours to Kaesong resumed in April 2010, but were again suspended the next month in May 2010 after Pyongyang sent clandestine spies into South Korean territorial waters and torpedoed a South Korean ship, the ROKS Cheonan, which sunk, killing dozens of South Korean navy sailors.

Chinese tourists make up the lion’s share of the still miniscule tourist industry. In April 2010, tourist trains from Dandong, China began a highly controlled 4-day trip to North Korea. Prior to that, the international train from Beijing to Pyongyang was the only train allowed for tourists to the North. In June 2011, Chinese citizens were allowed on controlled bus tours to a strictly delineated zone near the Chinese border focused on shopping for the first time, and in January 2012, were able to bring their own mobile phones into the DPRK for the first time without being confiscated by border authorities to be returned upon departing the country, but without a North Korean sim card, strictly prohibited in North Korea, the phones are useless as they are unable to make or receive calls. The number of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea fell 70 percent from 2010 to 2011, with Chinese tour operators citing restrictions on where tourists can travel—only the capital Pyongyang and Mt. Kumgang–for the lack of interest.

The leading tour company for non Chinese citizens desiring to visit North Korea, is the quirky, but highly professional and knowledgeable British run, Beijing based Koryo tours, which have been running curious visitors to the hermit Kingdom for 20 years.

Arrival Customs Gate at Pyongyang Airport

Arrival Customs Gate at Pyongyang Airport

When visitors arrive by plane in Pyongyang, they land on an empty runway, and walk into an empty terminal. One visitor wrote “On a visit to North Korea I had a surreal experience as my Air China plane touched down at Pyongyang airport the music which was played into the passenger cabin was Isaac Watts’ Christmas carol “Joy To The World”:

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room;

And let Heaven and nature sing.”

The nonexistent lines at customs efficiently immediately confiscate all mobile phones and electronic devices. Shortwave radios are sometimes allowed into the country—after they are taken in a back room and radio frequency access is sauntered to the state propaganda channel. Listening to foreign broadcasts is punishable by jail. Each visitor is met at the security gate by two government minders who accompany all visitors during every waking hour while in country.

Visitors can go to a handful of approved sites, which include visiting the captured US spy ship Pueblo, the war museum where guides lecture on American atrocities committed against Koreans, pay homage to the Kim clan at  statues, and visit the $900 million building where Kim father and son lay embalmed, and houses thousands of gifts from every corner of the world given to the Kim’s when they were alive. The Palace of the Sun serves doubly as a museum, and visitors are forbidden from speaking and must remove their shoes and put on disposable plastic sleeves over ones feet to make sure no germs infect the sacred site.

Some favored the portrait of Kim Il Sung behind a gynecologist's chair (insert "on-site guidance" joke here). I preferred the one of him sitting behind a desk double-fisting ears of corn.

Some favored the portrait of Kim Il Sung behind a gynecologist’s chair (insert “on-site guidance” joke here). I preferred the one of him sitting behind a desk double-fisting ears of corn.

A comparable experience is offered at the “International Friendship Exhibition” in Mount Myohyang-san, which has on display over 200,000 gifts given to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, carefully separated by country leaving the impression that the Kim’s have a fervent and massive global following. The gifts range from whole train cars and handguns from world leaders, to knickknacks from obscure communist sympathizers in the U.S. and Europe who are portrayed as famous renowned vanguard of these countries oppressed proletariat. Many of the groups one suspects have memberships in the single digits and the uninitiated might be shocked to learn that virtually none of their countrymen have ever heard of them. Other gifts include a stuffed crocodile in bow tie and waistcoat standing on two legs holding a cocktail tray and serving drinks, courtesy of the Sandinista National Liberation Front of Nicaragua, and a Tolpuddle Martyrs plate from the British parliamentary Labour party.

Formal attire is required of all visitors to both the mausoleum and gift repository museum, and all are mandated to bow to a statue of Kim Il-sung, march down marble corridors, pass through a wind tunnel to shake the dust from ones clothes, and then into a darkened room holding the embalmed body of Kim Il-sung where visitors line up in rows and must step forward three steps at a time, and bow three times from three different directions.

Then one is taken to another marble chamber where an audio recording is played of the reaction of North Korean’s when the Great Leader died which includes this typical clip: “All people were rending their hearts! And weeping scalding tears that as they hit the ground fossilized and became glittering pieces of stone! It was as if the earth itself had died!”

TOUR1

“After depositing our cameras and bags in the coat check room, we were instructed to line up in rows of four and walk to the security checkpoint…we were quickly forced back into a single line in order to get through the metal detector and subsequent pat down by soldiers of the Korean People’s Army. But then again, this is North Korea, and if you’re told to get in a row of four, you get in a row of four.

Having been checked for explosives, weapons, and cameras, we then encounter an incredibly long moving walkway. I was a bit surprised to see a standard airport feature in a somber mausoleum. We began walking on the moving walkway, as most people, save the exceptionally lazy, usually do, until we were quickly instructed by our guide that we were supposed to stand still and let the walkway slowly take us to our destination. So we stood there, quietly, and patiently, as the walkway delivered us to…yet another walkway. It seemed like we had traveled for a mile on these things. In fact, I’m willing to bet that, as with everything in the DPRK, it’s the longest moving walkway in the world.”

The tourist then continues describing “standing before the large white statue of Kim Il-Sung, which was bathed in a beautiful pink and blue lighting…while music plays in the background. God, this place is so weird. And we haven’t even gotten to the actual corpse yet.”

Then one is taken to another room with another statue of Kim and given audio headsets “which contains a track of an over dramatic man with a British accent telling us how the death of Kim Il-Sung was basically the worst thing to ever happen in the history of mankind.

Finally, it was time to see the Great Leader himself. First, however, we had to be purified, and were led through a chamber with powerful jets of air that blew any specks of dirt off of us American Imperialists. Thoroughly cleansed, we entered a dimly lit room with high ceilings. In the center of the room was a glass coffin containing the body of Kim Il-Sung, which was draped with a blanket so that only the head was visible. In front of us, rows of somber North Koreans bowed before the coffin, under the vigilant gaze of ramrod straight white gloved soldiers clutching their polished Kalashnikovs….Lenin’s Mausoleum truly has nothing on this place.”

Then it is on to another room with a “giant map showing all the places Kim managed to visit during his tenure, as well as his personal rail car and official vehicle.”

And then to another room “filled with all of the “awards” bestowed upon Kim Il-Sung by foreign governments and political parties. Most of them aren’t real awards, but rather trinkets with little value that have been put on display to give North Koreans the impression that their Great Leader was highly respected all over the world…I was quite amused to come across an honorary degree from Kensington University of Glendale, California.”

tourism tunisia

A cursory research of Kensington University reveals it is a fake degree program since eliminated as a fraud degree issuing mill by both the states of California and Hawaii, where it was once located run out of an obscure lawyer’s office in Glendale, California.

Kim Il Sung is not the only high profile dubious dictator to have obtained a degree from Kensington University. Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, since overthrown in a popular revolution and fled the country in January 2011, had a diploma from Kensington University hanging on his wall in his palace–a doctorate in political science awarded in 1999. The university was shut down by the state of California for granting diplomas by mail and having “little or no rigor or credible academic standards.”

The North Korean dictator didn’t go quite as far as the Cambodian dictator Hun Sen, who left school to join Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in the jungle as a teenager. He was awarded an Honorary Ph.D. in Political Science by Hanoi in 1991 and another honorary Ph.D. in Politics from the Southern California University for Professional Studies in the USA in 1995. But his most treasured accolade was when, in 1996, he was presented with an Honorary Ph.D. of Law by Iowa Wesleyan College, USA. He publicly declared that he was now an accredited lawyer and on September 15, 2004, Hun Sen was accepted and sworn in as a member of the Bar Association of Cambodia.

Dong Zong Chairman, Dr. Yap Sin Tian – a controversial Malaysian leader pushing for Chinese education bought his doctorates from the Internet, including a PhD from the Kensington University in 1993 and another doctorate in Business Administration from Kensington University in 1991.

Dr Yap is the chairman of the board of the New Era College. Kensington University has no classrooms, no laboratories, no dormitories, and its so-called campus is housed in a small Glendale office building in California. Students could earn anything from a bachelor’s degree to a doctorate – all without ever attending a single class or meeting an instructor, awarding inflated credits for “life experience”.

TOURfakeresumes

The California investigation revealed that students were awarded doctorates for four-months of “work”, by reading magazines and writing short reaction papers, according to the California report that resulted in closure of the diploma mill school by Californian authorities in 1996, whereupon it shifted its operations to Hawaii only to be shut down by the authorities there in 2003. It is also illegal in the State of Texas to use a degree from Kensington University.

Other graduates included Florida State Representative Jennifer Caroll, who was forced to resign from the National Commission on Presidential Scholars after being exposed for having a degree from Kensington University.

These revelations have not sufficiently concerned the Pyongyang government from displaying the degree  awarded to Kim Il-sung, which is displayed alongside his embalmed corpse at his mausoleum in Kumsusan Memorial Palace, in Pyongyang.

Along with the fake Kensington University Doctorate degree, displayed also is a peace medal from Japan, which lies next to his “Medal “For the Victory over Japan”” awarded to him by the USSR. The room is dominated by large paintings and photographs of Kim Il-sung meeting various world leaders during their visits to North Korea and during Kim’s trips abroad, most of which have since been violently overthrown and executed by their own people during popular revolutions, including Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, , Nicolai Ceauşescu of Romania, Erich Honecker of East Germany, Gustáv Husák of former Czechoslovakia, Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland, Todor Zhivkov of Bulgaria, János Kádár of Hungary, Houari Boumediene of Algeria, and Moktar Ould Daddah of Mauritania.

Other leaders featured prominently at his tomb include Yasser Arafat of Palestine, former Soviet leaders Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Konstantin Chernenko, and Mikhail Gorbachev, and other well-known people including Che Guevara, and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Chairman Mao Zedong of China, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Josip Broz Tito of former Yugoslavia

The 2007 celebration of Kim Il Sung’s birthday, Pyongyang

Also on the tourist itinerary is a visit to the Demilitarized Zone, the most heavily mined piece of real estate on earth. The four lane highway typically has virtually no other vehicles. It is in fact a hundred kilometer long military air landing strip.

The leading European tour group is the British, excellently run Koryo Tours (koryogroup.com). Koryo Tours makes very clear what the prerequisites and terms of visiting are. Under a section titled “RULES”, the tour group says: “Please be aware that whilst we do the utmost for our tourists you are under very strict regulations as to what you can and cannot do and this is not negotiable. For example; you are not free to wander around on your own, there are photographic restrictions and video cameras are generally prohibited….WE CANNOT TAKE JOURNALISTS INTO THE DPRK. We therefore ask all journalists to notify us of their position so we can suggest other alternatives.”

They continue: “It is therefore only advisable visiting the DPRK if you can tolerate the following points:

1) In the DPRK you will be under close scrutiny from the guides and security. Use of cameras causes the majority of problems. You can only take a photograph of what the guides allow. The public are obliged to report all photography. Taking photos of soldiers, at check points, poverty, sneaked photos and close ups of people without their express permission will cause serious problems. Photography when being driven around is also restricted….DPRK regulations state that you cannot take a lens over 150 mm into the country.”

2) Leaving the hotel without the guides or the guides’ express permission is not possible. If you are feelng the need for ‘a breath of air’ then a casual stroll along the river is possible but only if accompanied with a guide. It is possible to stroll in the grounds of the hotel but please ask the guide and do not take your camera.

3) We are ‘invited’ to the DPRK and therefore we ask our tourists to respect the Koreans and their vision of the Great Leader – this involves bowing at the 20 meter statue on Mansudae and on various other occasions. Chewing gum, eating sweets and wearing scruffy clothing in places of Korean national importance (such as Mansudae statue to Kim Il Sung, the Friendship Exhibition and Manyongdae birthplace of Kim Il Sung) will offend guides.

The tour company reemphasizes the point again and again: “If any of the above poses a problem it is advisable not to visit the DPRK….”

The number of foreign visitors to the North has grown in the last decade and in 2009, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said “The global popularity of tourism to (North Korea) is booming,” without providing any details or numbers of visitors, citing the reason for the increase as Pyongyang’s “shining, socialist accomplishments” adding “Most tourists gave positive reviews about their experiences in (North Korea) on the internet and other media.”

Here is a list of National holidays:

January 1st – New Year’s Day

February 16th – Comrade Kim Jong Il’s birthday (1942)

April 15th – President Kim Il Sung’s Birthday (1912)

May 1st – May Day, International holiday of Workers

July 8th 1994 (Juche 83)Memorial day of the death of Kim Il Sung

July 27th 1953 Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War 1950-1953)

August 15th – National Liberation Day (1945)

September 9th – Day of the Foundation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (1948)

October 10th – Day of the Foundation of the Workers Party of Korea (1945)

December 27th – Day of the Promulgation of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK (1972)

And here is the list of government recognized “Major Commemoration Days”.

February 20th – Machine Workers’ Day

March 5th – Farmers’ Day

March 8th – International Women’s Day

March 22nd – Fishermen’s Day

April 5th – Public Health Day

April 6th – Reforestation Day

April 8th – Communications Day

April 25th – Korean People’s Army Day

May 11th – Railway Day

May 15th – Geological Survey Day

May 21st – Builders’ Day

June 1st – International Children’s Day

June 6th – Day of the Foundation of Korean Children’s Union

June 7th – Local Industry Day

July 1st – Miners’ Day

July 7th – Coal-Miners’ Day

August 10th – Forestry Workers’ Day

August 20th – Air Force Day

August 28th – Navy Day and Youth Day

September 5th – City Administration Day

September 15th – Commerce Day

October 9th – Metal Workers’ Day

October 14th – Broadcasting Workers’ Day

October 15th – Textile Industry Day

November 1st – Press Day

November 16th – Land and Marine Transport Day

December 6th – Chemical Industry Day

For Pyongyang, Global Digital Revolution for Foreign Eyes Only:You Tube Bans North Korean Video

21 Feb

For Pyongyang, Global Digital Revolution for Foreign Eyes Only: You Tube Bans North Korean Video for Stealing Copyrighted U.S. Video Game Soundtrack: Pyongyang Dips its Toes Awkwardly Into the Global Information Age by Sending Propaganda Out and Forbidding Information In.

The North Korean Video Removed by You Tube for Copyright Violations

The North Korean Video Removed by You Tube for Copyright Violations

YouTube has removed another North Korean government video from the state run Uriminzokkiri You Tube site for copyright infringement, according to the excellent North Korean Tech website run by Martyn Williams. This propaganda video used the soundtrack from the video game “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” after a copyright complaint from ZeniMax Media, a Maryland-based computer game publisher.

North Korea, which maintains a remarkably large international patenting program having registered worldwide claims to tens of thousands of alleged inventions from machine tools to science research, regularly rips off music, movie clips, foreign news footage, cartoon characters, and protected technology from Androids to counterfeit brand name cigarettes.

The You Tube removal of the video game soundtrack comes on the heels earlier this month of another You Tube removal of another North Korean propaganda video using a computer-generated animation clip from Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” following a complaint by Activision. North Korea released that video also on its official YouTube page showing New York being destroyed by a military attack after a cartoon space ship circles earth and zooms in on New York City being attacked. The caption in Korean read: “Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing. It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze.”

Animation Clip from Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” Illegally Used by Pyongyang on a Video Depicting a North Korean Spaceship Blowing Up New York Shortly Before They Detonated a Nuclear Bomb

Animation Clip from Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” Illegally Used by Pyongyang on a Video Depicting a North Korean Spaceship Blowing Up New York Shortly Before They Detonated a Nuclear Bomb

The Uriminzokkiri social media site is based in China and designed for foreign consumption, and no North Koreans are allowed possession of technology to access even its governments own social media propaganda under penalty of being sent to harsh prison camps.

Increased publicity about Pyongyang’s increasing use of social media, including Twitter, Face Book, and You Tube has brought greater scrutiny and an increase of complaints of unauthorized use of copyrighted material could result in YouTube cancelling Pyongyang’s  Uriminzokkiri  account for repeatedly violating You Tube’s copyright policy agreement which all subscribers must agree to adhere to when opening an account.

North Korea announced they had opened a Gmail account last month on the eve of the visit of Google chairman Eric Schmidt, but the account was never activated as the DPRK@gmail.com name failed to meet Google’s requirement of a 7 character minimum for email addresses. As no North Korean’s are allowed access to email it is unlikely that Pyongyang seriously considered the aborted venture into the digital age a major setback.

In December, 2012, the same week Google Chairman Eric Schmidt announces he would visit North Korea is the state news agency KCNA revamped its website to include greater use of video, and photographs and a flashier less utilitarian style, but the update remains far from cutting edge.

kcna.kp was created in October 2010 as Pyongyang first dipped its toes in the waters of the digital age and updated in April 2011. Before that, the official North Korean government website was registered in an obscure one room apartment in a building in Tokyo, the daily news made available days later arriving clumsily by obscured delivery to a website hosted by sympathetic ethnic Koreans in Japan who followed strict instructions from Pyongyang.  That website, kcna.co.jp, still delivers Pyongyang produced propaganda in a carefully edited, less comprehensive version of the .kp domain, according to the excellent website NK News operated by European Korea watchers.

The newly revamped KCNA website focuses on the big stories according to the worldview of Pyongyang, and is broken down into categories which include world news, mostly dedicated to obscure people, publications, and rarely heard of organizations paying homage to the Kim family, studying Juche ideology, detailing the activities breathlessly of the current Kim, or republishing the works of the Kim Grandfather, son, and current leader, his grandson. A prominent feature id dedicated to the indefatigable, brilliant, and universally revered Kim Jong-un, which replaced a similar category that highlighted his father until his death in December 2011.

Stories from African, South American, South Asian, Russian and Chinese alleged Juche devotees are ubiquitous, leaving a reader with the impression that there is a mass global following that views the Kim dynasty as the most advanced nation on earth. The most common theme is worldwide praises and gifts sent to Pyongyang supporting missile and nuclear advances.

KCNA has a newly revamped website which has a visitor registration that asks for numerous personal details but offers no additional access(Photo via NK NEWS)

KCNA has a newly revamped website which has a visitor registration that asks for numerous personal details but offers no additional access(Photo via NK NEWS)

A new section visitors to the revamped KCNA website encounter encourages user registration, asking for those who visit the site to give their name, birthday, sex, telephone, email, address, and nationality as requirements of registration process, but registering offers no additional to other content of the website, but would allow Pyongyang to determine the IP address of visitors.

Prior to 2010, the KCNA Japan based site was purely text, as it remains today, but the addition of the KCNA.kp domain included pictures and video for the first time, but is carefully created to prohibit linking to news articles, photos or videos on the site, as remains true with the newly unveiled revamping in December 2012, making it impossible for readers to share articles.

NK NEWS asked its own website to analyze the new KCNA website and quoted them as saying “the site still loads content in the top middle container upon clicking side news links. However, these clicks call an Ajax script with parameters to load the appropriate content, and then it seems they set JavaScript variables and utilize cookies to validate the request.”

Prior to 2010, Pyongyang had virtually no online footprint. Indeed, even cell phones were banned until 2008 in the country after a brief nascent program that peaked at about 20,000 mobile phones was abruptly extinguished in May 2004 after an explosion on a train was determined to have been triggered by a cell phone used as a detonator by still unidentified perpetrators hours after then leader Kim Jong Il passed through the area on his return from China in his private train.

Despite North Korea’s increased web presence, there remains virtually no access to North Koreans themselves, the target audience being foreigners who are deemed useful for state propaganda.

Frequent Flyer’s Guide to North Korean Air: a Review of World’s Only One Star Airline

26 Jan

Frequent Flyer’s Guide to North Korean Air: a Review of World’s Only One Star Airline

By Nate Thayer

Air Koryo, North Korea’s official airline, is rated the world’s only one star air carrier. But it is improving. In August, Pyongyang’s promise of being global technological leaders achieved a key milestone, when the national airline announced it would offer online reservations with “convenient reservations day and night”.

The official airline of North Korea now allows international travelers to book one of their eight weekly international flights, which accommodate the global hubs between Pyongyang and Beijing, Pyongyang and Shenyang, China, or Pyongyang and Vladivostok.

Air Koryo says customers can purchase additional room for their “black box” or for their “fat”, according to the Air Koryo website, which is inexplicably down at the moment

There is a hitch though; the airline doesn’t accept credit cards, so one has to use PayPal.

Air Koryo website for revolutionary new online bookings for reservations. Unfortunately they don't accept credit cards

Air Koryo website for revolutionary new online bookings for reservations. Unfortunately they don’t accept credit cards

Air Koryo offers scheduled flights from Pyongyang to Beijing and Shenyang in China and Vladivostok in Russia.

There are a number of independent air travel rating services that rate the service. Skytrax, a company that ranks global air transport gives Air Koryo the only airline on earth a one-star rating that represents “very poor quality performance”.

AirKoryo-620x410 air-koryo-is-not-quality-approved-and-has-1-star-general-ratings-almost-across-the-board-from-skytrax.jpg air-koryos-webpage-is-part-of-the-governments-site-and-theres-not-much-you-can-do-on-it-you-have-to-call-or-email-a-hotmail-address skytrax not quality approved

Air Koryo’s website offers a one way business class fare from Pyongyang to Beijing, if you book online, of $374, which would seem prohibitive to most citizens of the isolated nation where per capita income is estimated at $1,800.

The website Terminal U, which offers “Air travel news & views” recently wrote a detailed pictorial story titled “Flying on North Korea’s national airline, Air Koryo: “The zero star airline” by “Our writer, Gunnar Garfors” who “ shares his experiences on board North Korea’s Air Koryo, where he inadvertently discovers the world’s smallest beef burger patty.”

The World's Smallest Hamburger

The World’s Smallest Hamburger

Their crack correspondent Gunner writes: “My favorite airlines are all based in Asia. It just so happens that my least favorite airline is also Asian. North Korea’s national airline, Air Koryo offers you nothing that resembles quality on its flights to or from its hub in Pyongyang – but the experience is certainly worth writing home about.”

He continues that “Strange sounds and seat configurations are all part of the experience, as well as the revolutionary-like propaganda music played before and during take-off” and offers a colorful portrait where the stewardesses “wear white gloves and uniforms that must have won fashion awards in the 60s make on board announcements in a formal manner along the lines of: ‘The beverage service is about to commence, thanks to our Dear Leader Kim Jong-il.’”

Reviewers nearly unanimously say that the flight attendants are friendly and efficient, but perfunctory. They earned a 3 star rating for Grooming and Presentation

Gunner then offers his assessment of in flight service, saying he “was given a complimentary copy of “The Pyongyang Times,” North Korea’s only English speaking newspaper. I should point out that in no other country would it be called a “newspaper.”

koryo inflight reading

He then quoted from a story on the World Cup qualifying match between North Korea and South Korea in Seoul. “The match turned into a mess of tricks and swindles. It is as clear as day that this was the product of the Lee Myung Bak [the President of South Korea] clan’s moves of confrontation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the deliberate behavior of the dishonest forces instigated by the clan. We sternly condemn the behavior of the Lee clan, which misbehaves itself in every way in disregard of the nation and the idea of sport, as the anti-reunification and anti-national moves of confrontation with the DPRK and strongly urge the South Korean authorities to bear full responsibility and immediately apologies for the serious incident.”

he attendants pass out a propaganda paper before getting off the ground. Guess who's on the front page

Regarding the meal service, Gunner writes “You will get a tray with calories on it, but whether what’s on the tray can be called ‘food’ is debatable.”

skytrax-rates-the-food-at-1-star-for-economy-and-2-star-for-business-class-most-reviewers-say-that-its-edible-but-nothing-special

Gunner notes correctly that Air Koryo is largely banned from flying to Europe because it doesn’t meet international safety standards, but the Norwegian, whose bio says he “visits over 50 countries a year and is on a mission to visit all 198 countries in the world” and “his wildest journey so far was a trip to five countries on five continents in a single day – a world record” ends on a high note concluding “you won’t find a more unique in-flight experience anywhere else in the world.”

Flipdown TV screens with homages to Kim (Sr) (Jr) )3rd) for passenger entertainment

Flipdown TV screens with homages to Kim (Sr) (Jr) )3rd) for passenger entertainment

In August, 2011, the official state Korean Central News Agency announced that there would be a scheduled Shanghai-Pyongyang air service available on Tuesday and Friday every week, but it turned out the scheduled route was limited to “Chinese volunteers” who wanted to visit North Korea for the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.

Air Koryo operates round trip flights between Pyongyang and Beijing on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  It operates round trip flights between Pyongyang and Shenyang on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The flights always originate in Pyongyang and return the same day.

Terminal 2 is nothing special and get's a lot of flights to obscure places, including 2 Air Koryo flights to FNJ (Air China flies to FNJ from Terminal 2 by the way)

Business Insider magazine reported last year in a story headlined “On North Korea’s 1-Star Airline, You’ll Be Served One Sad-Looking Hamburger” that Japanese news website RocketNews24 offered a pictorial food review of Air Koryo’s service on Japanese news website and its correspondent, who was travelling economy, was served a hamburger and a cup of juice which “looks totally gross. The worst part? The burger was served cold. RocketNews24 surmises that the microwave is reserved for first-class customers only.”

screenshot via YouTube RocketNews24

RocketNews24 wrote “On our Japanese site, we run a regular column where we review the in-flight meals of airlines around the world. While we’ve yet to bring any of these to our English site, our latest review was just too good to keep to our Japanese readers. Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the in-flight meal of North Korea’s state-owned carrier, Air Koryo. The meal under review was served to our correspondent during an economy class flight from North Korea’s Sunan International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport. The contents of the meal included a hamburger and a cup of juice – nothing more, nothing less. The hamburger was topped with 2 thin onion slices and mayonnaise and came in wrapping with Chinese writing on it, suggesting it was made in China. The juice was available in either apple or orange. Regarding the taste of the hamburger, our correspondent tells us that both the buns and hamburger patty were incredibly dry, though this may partly be due to the fact that the hamburger was served to him cold. Our guess is that the microwave is reserved for first-class passengers only.”

hamburger4

Business Insider Magazine wrote in 2011 in a story titled” “North Korea’s Air Koryo Is The Worst Airline In The World” that “there’s only one airline in the world that has been deemed horrible enough to earn a dismal 1-star rating from leading airline reviewer SkyTrax. It’s North Korea’s state-owned airline: Air Koryo.”

In the business magazines airline review it asked: “In an industry already suffering from widespread negative perception, what makes Air Koryo stand out as the very worst? Customer service, food, safety or a little bit of everything?”

They then posted photographs from recent passenger Australian biomedical engineer Mark Fahey on his flight from Beijing to Pyongyang.

It gets so bad that they have to wipe the cabin down so that droplets dont bother the passengers a process that Joseph Ferris caught on camera on his flight.

It gets so bad that they have to wipe the cabin down so that droplets dont bother the passengers a process that Joseph Ferris caught on camera on his flight.

For your refuses vomit bag

For your refuses vomit bag

The website airlinemeals.com, a service devoted to rating in flight food quality on every commercial air carrier on earth, devotes a whole section to passenger reviews of Air Koryo’s cuisine.

Route:         Beijing to Pyongyang, 2005-08-12

Flight duration:    1h 30m

Flight class:          economy

Ticket price:         n/a

Aircraft:      IL

Meal:          lunch – See the pic. No products are of any known brand or known style: it’s all ‘North Korean’ in style.

Drink:         Water approved by the Great Leader

Comments:           Large portions. The sausages did have hard parts in it (bone?).

Rating (1-10):       5 stars

koryo5meal

In another review the meals slightly improved it seems.

Route: Beijing to Pyongyang, 2005-10-01
Flight duration: 1h 30m
Flight class: economy
Ticket price: USD 332.00 (roundtrip)
Aircraft: TU-154
Meal: Lunch – Rice with chicken, potatoes and some orange sauce without much flavor. Also salad, fruit, hardboiled egg, cake, processed cold meat, and bread.
Drink: North Korean orange-like fizzy drink
Comments: This was much more fulfilling than the return flight’s offering. Quality-wise, it’s not bad relatively speaking — typical economy class airline stuff.
Rating (1-10): 7 starskoryo1

In a review a few years later the Pyongyang authorities probably were pleased in the conclusion that the food “was better than you get on any American airliner.”

Route:         Pyongyang to Beijing, 2005-10-04

Date added:          2008-05-21

Flight duration:    1h 30m

Flight class:          economy

Ticket price:         USD 332.00 (roundtrip)

Aircraft:      IL-62

Meal:          Breakfast – Some hamburger with a mystery chicken-type meat in the middle, and some overcooked lettuce, as if it had been frozen and microwaved.

Drink:         North Korean draft beer

Comments:           Doesn’t fill you up much. Still better than what you would get on any US airline, though.

Rating (1-10): 5 stars

Although a review the next year fared decidedly worse:

Route:         Beijing to Pyongyang, 2009-10-01

Date added:          2010-03-12

Flight duration:    2h 0m

Flight class:          economy

Ticket price:

Aircraft:      TU-154

Meal:          Hot lunch – mystery chicken, canned fruit, nothing special.

Drink:         I had decent bottled water

Comments:           Since this flight originated in Beijing, the food was at least identifiable. On the return flight which originated in Pyongyang, it was quite different and even more of a mystery… it was a roll with some kind of mystery pate on it

 

Air Koryo's Ilyushin Il-62

B y 2010, it appeared airline frequent flyers were getting used to bland fare:

Route:         Pyongyang to Beijing, 2009-09-10

Date added:          2010-05-08

Flight duration:    2h 0m

Flight class:          business

Ticket price:

Aircraft:      TU154

Meal:          Airkoryo.jpg Typical Korean (North) meal…

Drink:         “Orange Drink with Pulp” (their words)

Comments:           Airkoryo3.jpg – Blanched peanuts and “Orange Drink with Pulp”

On the aviation forum airliners.net, which bills itself as the wings of the web”, Gialloboy from Ireland posted on September 3, 2012 on his trip from Beijing to Pyongyang. “Woke up Tuesday morning with a rather bad hangover but managed to drag myself in the shower and ultimately into a cab to Beijing airport. Traffic was not too bad for a change and I arrived in Terminal 2 within 30 minutes. Did some last minute email (no Internet in the DPRK!) and drank some Isotonic drinks which made me feel a lot better.” The Irish lad offered copious detail for the frequent Pyongyang flyers that were to follow him. “Terminal 2 is nothing special and get’s a lot of flights to obscure places, including 2 Air Koryo flights to FNJ (Air China flies to FNJ from Terminal 2 by the way)”

koryo4

“At 11 am I made my way past security and on towards Air Koryo’s check in. They actually have a separate J checkin and I had my boarding card and lounge pass within 60 seconds. Funny thing is that Korean Air operates check in desks for their flight to Seoul in the very next row of desks! Check in desk (used for J PAX). Went past immigration and visited the lounge. Air Koryo uses the Air China lounge which is again used by Korean Air! ”

“Boarded quickly and settled into my comfy J seat. There are three rows in a 2-2 configuration; I was in row 2 and next to a quite friendly Danish businessman. We had some good conversation about his frequent trips to Pyongyang.

the-seatbelt-sign-is-old-school

Unfortunately photos are not allowed inside Air Koryo planes so all shots are “sneaked”, the Danish businessman acted as my “wingman” and kept an eye on the FAs. There had been cases of travelers made to delete all of their pictures so I was extra careful. Air Koryo J class snaps, rather stylish and nice. I have no idea why they score only 1 star on Skytrax, I thought they were rather adequate for a 2 hour flight and probably offered more comfort than some US airlines.”

but-see-all-that-smoke-its-water-vapor-coming-from-the-air-conditioning-outlets-explained-fahey-on-flickr-it-was-as-if-they-had-a-fog-machine-running-in-the-cabin

“Despite the flight being only 120 minutes we got a full meal, consisting of cold cuts and curry. Not bad at all! drinks were served also with a choice of water, soft drink and beer. Meal was followed by coffee. Note there was no milk, as everywhere in North Korea. Only powdered cream. FA consisted of a patriotic North Korean film: Thanks were paid to the Great Leader when we entered DPRK airspace and shortly after we touched down in FNJ. Surely this airport has one of the longest taxies anywhere in the world.

The TU204 at home base in FNJ”

Then the Irishman landed in Pyongyang.

1-6

“Arrivals is pretty new, the old Soviet style terminal has been bulldozed to the ground. We were in within 30 minutes and they had our mobile phonesJ.”

Busy day in FNJ!

Busy day in FNJ!

Into town and first stop Arch of Triumph: People were training for the upcoming torch parade on Kim Il Sung square

air-koryo-actually-hasnt-had-an-incident-since-2006-when-a-plane-ran-off-a-runway-and-hasnt-had-any-fatalities-since-1983

The Irishman had a few comments on the discussion board: “Quoting theobcman (Reply 5):

“Also when you say they took your mobile phones at the airport, then what happens? Do they keep them until your return flight?”

He replied “You get the phone back when you are about to leave the country.”

Another intrepid traveler inquired “Is milk is not available in DPRK at all?”

139287-north-korea-s-flagship-airline-air-koryo-to-pyongyang

Our Celtic correspondent helpfully explained “Not really, if anything else most Asians are lactose intolerant so there is not much of a demand for milk to begin with. Second dairy is very resource intensive to make, something the DPRK does not have a lot of.”

Has Kim Jong Un Had Plastic Surgery? China Says: No Comment: Pyongyang erupts following reports circulating in Chinese media

24 Jan

Has Kim Jong Un Had Plastic Surgery? China Says: No Comment

Pyongyang erupts following reports circulating in Chinese media
Kim Il Sung and his grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un. Carefully orchestrated propaganda strategies to evoke similarities are alleged to include plastic surgery, which Pyongyang vehemently denies

Kim Il Sung (R) and his grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un (L). Carefully orchestrated propaganda strategies to evoke similarities are alleged to include plastic surgery, which Pyongyang vehemently denies

by Nate Thayer , January 24, 2013
NKNews.org

In the wake of North Korean state media Thursday issuing vitriolic objections of the “sordid hackwork of rubbish media” who alleged their young dictator underwent plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Chinese government censors have ordered Chinese media to “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

North Korea erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong Un had undergone plastic surgery to look like his grandfather Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing “sordid” and “false reports… released by enemies… which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate.”

But what seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean rumor suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report posted last week by Shenzhen TV, which cited a diplomatic source who had spoken to a North Korean official while on a private visit to Pyongyang and confirmed the plastic surgery rumors.

KCNA referenced the Chinese report today, “Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency.” And reacting to a diplomatic demarche from Pyongyang to Beijing, China’s central propaganda authorities subsequently issued a directive to their journalists on January 24 reading:

Central Propaganda Department: Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs. Do not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).

The previous day, on January 23, the provincial government state censors of Guangdong province issued another directive saying:

Guangdong Propaganda Department: North Korea objects to Shenzhen Satellite TV’s report that Kim Jong-un had a face-lift. Do not report this incident, including Xinhua’s clarification. (January 23, 2013)

What was particularly noteworthy was that the Chinese censors had specifically ordered their media to censor their country’s own state media report from Xinhua in a bid to prevent Chinese citizens from reading their own governments official propaganda, which had in this case been written for consumption by a foreign audience.

It is not unusual for both North Korean and Chinese state media to issue reports only in foreign languages and not in native Korean or Chinese, targeting and limiting the audience who is able to access it.

The January 24 Chinese censor’s directive reference to “Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs” comes on the same day that Pyongyang released a blistering rejection of a new UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions and condemning the north for its December rocket launch.

That statement issued today by the supreme power body of the regime, the National Defense Commission (NDC), vowed that North Korea would launch  “a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched…one after another and a nuclear test of higher level” in an “upcoming all-out action.” The NDC went on to dismiss “all the illegal resolutions adopted by the “United Nations Security Council.

The NDC statement is significant as is targets Beijing, as much as the U.S. or ROK.

“The keynote of the resolution was worked out through backstage dealing with the U.S. as a main player and it was adopted at the UNSC with blind hand-raising by its member nations,” said KCNA in a clear reference to Pyongyang’s only significant ally, Beijing.  “This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principle, under the influence of the U.S. arbitrary and high-handed practices, failing to come to their senses.”

Regarding the report on Kim Jong Un’s plastic surgery, apparently Pyongyang communicated their grievances to Beijing and China’s ruling party instructed the official party media organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories.  As such, this Tuesday Xinhua issued a report that cited two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who denied the plastic surgery rumors.

The rumours of Kim Jong Un having a face lift have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus for months who have carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Following the new censorship directive, Xinhua said that “there have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong Un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry the same genes. While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, together this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua reported.

The official Chinese censorship directives were first reported by China Digital Times, a Berkeley California based website that monitors Chinese censorship of news reports. “Chinese state media does make a distinction for news coverage intended for domestic consumption,” said Anne Henochowicz, translation coordinator for China Digital Times. Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these official censorship instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

The Chinese censorship comes at a particularly sensitive time due to internal Chinese press freedom issues and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.

The order by Beijing to all media and bloggers to “refrain from writing on the personal lives of North Korean leaders” also came just two days after Beijing took an unusually adversarial position against Pyongyang by signing the unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on North Korea for their December launch of a long range ballistic rocket.

Aside from the UNSC resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China does not support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at a meeting with a delegation sent by South Korea’s President-elect to Beijing. “I believe South Korea under Park’s leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era,” Yang was quoted by the official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, as saying during a meeting with the delegation. “South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road.”

For those with an unhealthy need for detail, here is the longer version submitted before legitimate length and style requirements required editing and cutbacks:

China issues Censorship Order on North Korea Reporting After Pyongyang Erupts at “sordid hackwork by rubbish media”

Chinese Official Directive Orders Press “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts)”

By Nate Thayer

In the wake of North Korean state media issuing Thursday particularly vitriolic objections of the “sordid hackwork of rubbish media” who have alleged their young dictator has undergone plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Chinese government censors have ordered Chinese media to “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

North Korea has erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong-Un had plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing ”sordid” and “false reports… released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate,” said Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday, calling it “sordid hackwork by rubbish media.”

But what seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean news reports suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report last week by China’s Shenzhen TV who cited a diplomatic source who, on a private visit to Pyongyang, had spoken to a North Korean official who confirmed the plastic surgery rumours. KCNA referenced the Chinese report,

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency,” said the KCNA.

Apparently reacting to a diplomatic demarche from Pyongyang to Beijing, the Beijing central authorities issued a directive January 24 reading: “Central Propaganda Department: Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs. Do not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

中宣部:严格遵守有关涉外宣传报道规定,对朝鲜领导人个人生活(如整容)不报道、不评论、不转载。

The previous day, on January 23, the provincial government state censors of Guangdong province issued another directive saying: “Guangdong Propaganda Department: North Korea objects to Shenzhen Satellite TV’s report that Kim Jong-un had a face-lift. Do not report this incident, including Xinhua’s clarification. (January 23, 2013)” 广东省委宣传部:深圳卫视报道了金正恩整容引发了朝鲜外交抗议,此事不要报道,包括新华社的澄清也不要报道。

What was particularly noteworthy was Chinese censors had specifically ordered Chinese media to censor China’s own state media report from Xinhua, in a bid to prevent Chinese citizens from reading their own governments official propaganda, which in this case was written for consumption by a foreign audience.

It is not unusual for both North Korean and Chinese state media to issue reports only in foreign languages and not in native Korean or Chinese, targeting and limiting the audience who is able to access it.

Apparently, Pyongyang issued a demarche to Beijing, and the Chinese ruling party instructed the official Chinese party media organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories, and Xinhua issued a report Tuesday, citing two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who denying the plastic surgery rumours. Xinhua had its correspondents in Seoul and Pyongyang write a detailed background of the story which has circulated in the often gossip fueled and unverifiable rumor filled South Korean media, concluding that media stories that Kim Jong-un has had plastic surgery six times to resemble his grandfather. The story has been reported for months in South Korean, Japanese, and other foreign media, but was reported recently on a Chinese news website, and then reported as fact on Shenzhen Satellite TV in recent days.

The official Chinese censorship directives were first reported by Chinese Digital Times, a Berkeley California based website that monitors Chinese censorship of news reports and issues that strictly control what Chinese media can report on and filter news or online discussion on issues the ruling Chinese party deems sensitive. “Chinese state media does make a distinction for news coverage intended for domestic consumption,” said Anne Henochowicz, translation coordinator for China Digital Times. “This Xinhua report was likely made for foreign consumption, including Taiwan and Hong Kong, which wold explain why it was written in both Chinese and English.’

Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these official censorship instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency,” official North Korean central News Agency said Thursday. “Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” it said.

“Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” the Korean Central news Agency said Wednesday.

The rumours of Kim Jong-un having a facelift have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus who for months carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong-Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Xinhua cited as evidence of the stories falsehood that “There have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong-un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry same genes.

While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua said.

The Chinese censorship comes at a particularly sensitive time for both internal Chinese press freedom issues and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.

Earlier this month, Chinese Journalists in the Southern province of XXX publicly refused to follow orders to censor reports on corruption, with the staff of the Southern Weekly holding public demonstrations.

On January 7, state censors from the central Beijing government“Ministry of Truth” issued the following: “Central Propaganda Department: Urgent Notice Concerning the Southern Weekly New Year’s Message Publication Incident: Responsible Party committees and media at all levels must be clear on three points related to this matter: (1) Party control of the media is an unwavering basic principle; (2) This mishap at Southern Weekly has nothing to do with Guangdong Propaganda Department Head Tuo Zhen; (3) External hostile forces are involved in the development of the situation. Every responsible work unit must demand that its department’s editors, reporters, and staff discontinue voicing their support for Southern Weekly online. Starting tomorrow, media and websites in all locales must prominently republish the Global Times editorial “Southern Weekly’s ‘Message to Readers’ Is Food for Thought Indeed.” (January 7, 2013).”中宣部:关于南方周末新年献辞出版事件的紧急通知,各级主管党委和媒体,对于此次事件,必须明确以下三点:一,党管媒体是不可动摇的基本原则;二, 南方周末此次出版事故与广东省委宣传部长庹震同志无关;三,此事的发展有境外敌对势力介入。各主管单位必须严格要求其部门的编辑,记者和员工不得继续在网 络上发言支持南方周末。各地媒体、网站明天起以显著版面转发《环球时报》的社评《南方周末“致读者”实在令人深思》。

The order by Beijing to all media and bloggers to ‘refrain from writing on the personal lives of North Korean leaders” comes two days after Beijing on Tuesday took an unusually adversarial position against Pyongyang in signing a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on North Korea for their December launch of a long range ballistic rocket, which most analysts say was testing the rocket delivery system for nuclear warheads designed to reach the United States.

“China maintains that the Security Council’s reaction should be prudent and moderate, and that it should work for the peace and stability of the (Korean) Peninsula and avoid the progressive escalation of tensions,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing on Monday.

The U.S. and China hashed out a carefully worded agreement in private negotiations over the last month to win Beijing’s approval of the UN sanctions. “China and the US have many differences in principles over dealing with the satellite launch. That’s why the UN negotiations have lasted for more than a month,”Shi Yuanhua, a researcher on Korean studies at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, was quoted as saying.

Diplomats say the U.S. circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member U.N. Security Council condemning the launch and expand existing sanctions.

Aside from the UNSC resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China does not support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at a meeting with a delegation sent by South Korea’s President-elect to Beijing. “I believe South Korea under Park’s leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era,” Yang was quoted by the official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, as saying during a meeting with the delegation. “South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road.”

North Korean state media just released a statement by the supreme power body of the regime, the National Defense Commission Thursday January 24 vowing “ a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level” in an “upcoming all-out action.” The NDC dismissed “all the illegal resolutions adopted by the “United Nations Security Council.

The NDC built on Wednesday January 23 KCNA official reaction to the UN security Council condemnation and sanctions taken after last month’s launch of a ballistic missile rocket designed as a delivery system for nuclear weapons, “that only when the denuclearization of the world is realized on a perfect and preferential basis including the denuclearization of the U.S., will it be possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the DPRK.”

The NDC statement is significant as is targets Beijing, as much as the US or ROK.

The National Defense Commission statement, according to KCNA said : “Our successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 was a great jubilee in the history of the nation as it placed the nation’s dignity and honor on the highest plane and a spectacular success made in the efforts to develop space for peaceful purposes recognized by the world.

This being a hard reality, the U.S. at the outset of the year termed our satellite launch “long-range missile launch,” “wanton violation” of the UN resolutions and “blatant challenge” to world peace and security in a bid to build up public opinion on this. Finally, it prodded the UNSC into cooking up a new resolution on tightening sanctions against the DPRK.

The keynote of the resolution was worked out through backstage dealing with the U.S. as a main player and it was adopted at the UNSC with blind hand-raising by its member nations. This goes to clearly prove that the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK has entered a new dangerous phase.
This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principle, under the influence of the U.S. arbitrary and high-handed practices, failing to come to their senses.

Moreover, this also indicates that the UNSC, which should regard it as its mission to guarantee sovereign rights and security of its member nations, has turned into a defunct marionette international body on which no hope can be pinned.

The DPRK National Defence Commission solemnly declares as follows as regards the adoption of the entirely unreasonable resolution on the DPRK:

We totally reject all the illegal resolutions on the DPRK adopted by the UNSC.

We have never recognized all forms of base resolutions tightening sanctions cooked up by the hostile forces to encroach upon the DPRK’s sovereignty.

Sovereignty is what keeps a country and nation alive.

The country and the nation without sovereignty are more dead than alive.

The U.S. should clearly know that the times have changed and so have the army and the people of the DPRK.

  1. Along with the nationwide efforts to defend the sovereignty, the DPRK will continue launching peaceful satellites to outer space one after another.
    2. As the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK has entered more dangerous phase, overall efforts should be directed to denuclearizing big powers including the U.S. rather than the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
    The army and people of the DPRK drew a final conclusion that only when the denuclearization of the world is realized on a perfect and preferential basis including the denuclearization of the U.S., will it be possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the DPRK.
    “Under this situation the DPRK can not but declare that there will no longer exist the six-party talks and the September 19 joint statement.”
    No dialogue on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will be possible in the future even though there may be dialogues and negotiations on ensuring peace and security in the region including the Korean Peninsula.
    3. We will launch an all-out action to foil the hostile policy toward the DPRK being pursued by the U.S. and those dishonest forces following the U.S., and safeguard the sovereignty of the country and the nation.
    The UN Security Council resolution on expanding sanctions against the DPRK, which was adopted on the initiative of the U.S., represents the most dangerous phase of the hostile policy toward the DPRK.

Under the prevailing situation, the army and people of the DPRK will turn out in an all-out action to defend its sovereignty which is more precious than their own lives and frustrate the moves of the U.S. and its allies to isolate and stifle the DPRK.

We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.

Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival.

The world will clearly see how the army and people of the DPRK punish all kinds of hostile forces and emerge as a final victor while following the just road of defending its sovereignty, convinced of the justice of its cause.”

North Korea Erupts at “sordid hackwork by rubbish media”: Vows a “dear price the human scum and media”will “have to pay”

24 Jan

North Korea Erupts at “sordid hackwork by rubbish media”: Vows a “dear price the human scum and media”will “have to pay”

By Nate Thayer

North Korea has erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong-Un had plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing  “sordid” and “false report… released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate,” said Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday, calling it “sordid hackwork by rubbish media.”

Kim Il Sung (L) and his Grandson (R)

Kim Il Sung (L) and his Grandson (R)

What seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean news reports suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report last week by China’s Shenzhen TV who cited a diplomatic source who, on a private visit to Pyongyang, had spoken to a North Korean official who confirmed the plastic surgery rumours. KCNA referenced the Chinese report,

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency.

“Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” it said.

Statues of Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang

Statues of Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang

Kim Jong Un on horse repeatedlly depicted in state media since he assumed power one year ago

Kim Jong Un on horse repeatedlly depicted in state media since he assumed power one year ago

Apparently, Pyongyang issued a demarche to Beijing, and the Chinese ruling party instructed the official Chinese party organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories, and Xinhua issued a report Tuesday, citing two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who  denied the plastic surgery rumours. Xinhua had its correspondents in Seoul and Pyongyang write a detailed background of the story which has circulated in the often gossip fueled and unverifiable rumor filled South Korean media, concluding that media stories that Kim Jong-un has had plastic surgery six times to resemble his grandfather was first reported in Seoul, then picked up by a Chinese news website, and then reported as fact on Shenzhen Satellite TV.

The rumours have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus who for months carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong-Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Xinhua cited as evidence of the stories falsehood that “There have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong-un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry same genes.

While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua said.

Out of 7,000 Internet Readers of This Blog Today, Exactly Zero Came From North Korea and Precisely One From China

21 Jan

Out of 7,000 Internet Readers  of This Blog Today, Exactly Zero Came From North Korea and Precisely One From China

A Brief Data Report Addressing the Thousands of Speculative News Stories in Recent Days on the March Towards an IT Revolution by Pyongyang and a Commitment to a Free Press In Beijing

By Nate Thayer

In case anyone was confused about censorship of, or access, the internet In North Korea, I received 7,113 page views on this blog so far today from 91 countries. More than 75% of those visitors came to read stories I had posted on North Korea.

There were precisely zero people who visited from North Korea.

And perhaps more interestingly, there was exactly 1 visitor from China. Unless one includes “Taiwan, Province of China”, which had 12 visitors, or Hong Kong, which had 44, or Macao which had 3.

South Korea, or better known as the Republic of Korea, had 141 visitors.

There were more readers from the “Palestinian Territory, Occupied” with 2, Guernsey (1), Senegal (2) Liberia (2), Guam (2), Iraq (6), Republic of Moldova (3), Afghanistan (9), and Slovenia (21) than there were from China, a country with one quarter of the world population which shares a land border with North Korea, and poses major strategic, security, economic, foreign policy, and political policy issues for Beijing and the citizenry of the People’s Republic.

Either the Chinese people have particularly shrewd and discriminating literary tastes, or their leaders are fucking around with internet access from the rest of the world on issues that, anywhere else, would be a given as a matter of public interest

Here is a breakdown of the countries from whence visitors to this blog came from today:

Country                Views

United States    3,965

Germany             830

United Kingdom 394

India      338

France  316

Canada 287

Australia 194

Singapore 165

Republic of Korea 141

Japan    110

Switzerland 103

Thailand 77

Austria  66

Cambodia 55

Finland 53

Belgium 51

Netherlands 47

Norway                45

Hong Kong 44

Indonesia 34

Romania 34

New Zealand 27

Philippines 25

Greece 22

Slovenia 21

Mexico                 20

Portugal 19

Turkey 18

Brazil     18

Ireland 18

Czech Republic  18

Sweden               17

Denmark 16

United Arab Emirates     15

Italy  15

Sri Lanka 15

Spain  14

Malaysia 14

Taiwan, Province of China 12

Poland 12

Afghanistan 9

Chile 8

Russian Federation 7

Viet Nam 7

Qatar 7

Bangladesh 7

Israel 7

Zimbabwe 6

South Africa 6

Bosnia and Herzegovina 6

Iraq 6

Saudi Arabia 6

Egypt 5

Estonia                 5

Costa Rica 5

Kuwait 5

Mongolia 4

Albania                 4

Luxembourg 4

Macao 3

Jordan 3

Republic of Moldova 3

Panama 3

Pakistan 3

Palestinian Territory, Occupied  2

Hungary 2

Slovakia 2

Nepal 2

Senegal 2

Myanmar 2

Liberia 2

Guam 2

Tunisia 2

Bulgaria 2

Ukraine 2

Venezuela 2

Georgia 2

Colombia 2

Bahrain 2

United Republic of Tanzania 1

China 1

Lao People’s Democratic Republic 1

Bermuda 1

Latvia 1

Jamaica                1

Kyrgyzstan 1

Argentina 1

Morocco 1

Montenegro 1

Kenya 1

Guernsey 1

 

 

 

 

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