Tagged: Korea Leaks

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Doing Business in the DPRK

Doing Business North Korea

Another formally confidential cable from a US State Department communicae which originated from the US Embassy in Seoul on May 23, 2007. Who knew that Kim Jong-il’s second son was such a fan of Eric Clapton? There may be hope for this despotic regime yet!  “Beware of greedy leaders. They’ll take you where you should not go. While Weeping Atlas Cedars, they just want to grow, grow, grow.”

C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 001576



¶1. (C)XXXXXXXXXXXX Arranging an Eric Clapton concert in Pyongyang could also be useful, he said, given Kim Jong-il’s second son’s devotion to the rock legend. END SUMMARY.




¶3. (C) For an outsider to get anything done in the DPRK, XXXXXXXXXXXX advised, it is necessary to get the DPRK’s various institutions to cooperate. Each institution seems to have veto power, but none has the power to push anything forward. XXXXXXXXXXXX the only organizations that can really deliver are the military, which does not talk to anybody, or the Red Cross. XXXXXXXXXXXX


¶4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX advocated in favor of USG involvement in facilitating the reunification of Korean-American families divided by the Korean War. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that currently two groups organize these visits for Korean-Americans. The first is Compatriots United, which has arranged thousands of reunions. However, the group is controlled by the DPRK’s Overseas Compatriots Committee and extorts a tremendous amount of money from desperate families to arrange the visits. Families seeking to participate must pay USD 300 to apply and submit comprehensive personal and financial information. If selected, the families are forced to pay for unwanted sightseeing excursions in North Korea. Before they are finally able to see their relatives, which is always just hours before their departing flight, they are often told that the relatives had to travel to the meeting place by taxi and owed several thousand dollars in fare. As XXXXXXXXXXXX explained, these are desperate, old people who would pay anything.
After the trip, the participants typically get repeated correspondence from the North Korean government asking for money to assist the family members, who are sometimes falsely alleged to be ill.

¶5. (C) The other group active in family reunions is Pyongtong in Los Angeles. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the group recently arranged for 15 persons to visit family members in the DPRK. However, the DPRK canceled the arrangement after the group went to the press. Pyongyang ultimately intervened and instructed the Compatriots Committee to help facilitate the visit. Thus, Pyongtong was able to arrange a visit for six people a few weeks ago.

¶6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that North Korea would not run such an exploitative system if the United States government were involved in the process. There is a reluctance, he said, for Korean-Americans to pursue family reunions because they do not want to divulge their personal information to the DPRK and they do not want the North Koreans to milk them for money before, during and after the reunion. The USG could at least volunteer to serve as a conduit for correspondence between these families and North Korea to prevent the DPRK from learning the home addresses and bank accounts of participants. The DPRK might be willing to accept this structure because it badly wants a relationship with Washington.



¶8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX did not see hope for inter-Korean engagement, despite the widely acclaimed railroad test. “North Koreans have no intention of dealing with (South Koreans). The South Koreans really think they can help. They don’t understand that North Korea is sealed.”


¶9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX passed on the suggestion from his North Korean interlocutors that the USG arrange for Eric Clapton to perform a concert in Pyongyang. As Kim Jong-il’s second son, Kim Jong-chol, is reported to be a great fan, the performance could be an opportunity to build good will. VERSHBOW

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Special Envoy Discusses Human Rights and Transfer of Power in North Korea

Special Envoy Discusses North Korea

A meeting between Special Envoy Robert King and Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan as described in a confidential cable communication from the US Embassy in Seoul to the Secretary of State in Washington, DC.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 000062

Summary: During a January 11 meeting with Special Envoy Robert King, FM Yu
downplayed press speculation that a North-South summit is imminent. Yu asserted
that Kim Jong-il would visit China in late January or early February; the North
Korean leader needed both Chinese economic aid and political support to stabilize
an “increasingly chaotic” situation at home. An unspecified number of high-
ranking North Korean officials had recently defected to the ROK, according to
Yu. The foreign minister thanked King for his willingness to press the PRC on
the treatment of North Korean refugees. Yu said the ROK would provide “significant”
food aid to the DPRK if Pyongyang asked for it and agreed to monitoring. The ROK
also planned to help fund work by NGOs to combat TB and multi-drug-resistant TB
in the North, which has spread widely within the DPRK’s chronically malnourished
population. At a lunch following the meeting, Seoul’s point man on DPRK issues,
Ambassador Wi Sung-lac, reiterated the FM’s call for U.S. help in persuading China
to go easier on North Korean refugees. Wi also thanked Ambassador King for his
willingness to keep the ROK updated on discussions between the American Red Cross
and its DPRK counterpart regarding potential reunions between Korean-Americans
and their North Korean kin.

Discussion Highlights: […] Foreign Minister Yu claimed that the North’s botched
currency reform had caused “big problems” for the regime and that the power
succession from Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-eun was “not going smoothly.” Moreover,
Yu confided, an unspecified number of high-ranking North Korean officials
working overseas had recently defected to the ROK. […] Yu thanked Ambassador
King for stating that he intended to work closely with the ROK on the issue of
improving human rights conditions in North Korea. […] North Koreans in China
are economic migrants. Yu claimed that the number of North Koreans fleeing
into China [passage removed] continues to increase; 2,952 North Koreans made it
to the ROK in 2009 and more than that are expected in 2010. Yu noted that at
least 80 percent of the refugees who come to the South are women, adding that
they are often abused by human traffickers. […] Given the North’s chronic
transportation and storage problems, there would be starvation “here and there”
during the spring, Yu lamented. The foreign minister said the ROK would be
willing to provide “significant” food aid to the DPRK if Pyongyang asked for
it and agreed to monitoring. [Name removed] said that North Korea has made only
token efforts to support North-South family reunions and has “reacted badly”
to Seoul’s repeated calls for the release of the approximately 1,000 abductees
and POWs believed to be still held by the DPRK.

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Formally Confidential Talks about North Korea’s Future

From a cable sent this past February, published on WikiLeaks.org along with thousands of other classified State Department communication cables. Long live the Internet!

C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 000248

Discussion Summary: A group of five ROK opinion leaders and experts on North
Korea issues told A/S Kurt Campbell on February 3 it was difficult to predict
whether Kim Jong-il’s youngest son Kim Jong-un would be able to succeed his
father without sparking instability in the North. Of the five experts, one
thought the younger Kim might succeed and one argued his lack of leadership
experience made it unlikely he would win the support of the ruling elites. They
agreed that Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law Jang Song-taek would prove a strong
rival for the younger Kim and would probably be tempted to challenge him. Kim
Jong-il had used draconian controls and international aid to discourage coups
after having foiled three such attempts in the late 90s. China’s strategic
interests were fundamentally at odds with U.S.-ROK interests in North Korea.
End Summary. Succession in Progress but Success in Doubt
Discussion Highlights: [...] The experts agreed that regime succession was
fully underway and that the North Korean people had accepted the process.
[...] The group agreed that Kim Jong-il’s brother-in-law and right-hand man
Jang Song-taek was spearheading the succession drive and would be a rival for
power once Kim Jong-un’s father died, but the group was split on the younger
Kim’s prospects for holding onto power. XXXX suggested it was unclearwhether
Jang would be content to control the younger Kim from behind the curtain, or
would challenge him directly for outright control. [...] XXXX recalled the
tumultuous state of affairs in the ROK following the death of President Park
Chung Hee in 1979 and suggested the DPRK succession would be “100 times more
troublesome.” [...] XXXX opined that brutal repression and international aid
had been the secrets of Kim Jong-il’s ability to fend off challenges. After
three separate coup attempts in the 90s, Kim Jong-il had implemented very strict
controls and sent a stern warning to would-be plotters by executing anyone who
had been even remotely involved in the plots. [...] The large-scale assistance
provided to the regime by the ROK, China, the U.S., Japan and others had been
intended in part to avoid a hard landing, and indeed had kept the regime afloat,
he said. XXXX suggested that North Korea had skillfully played Washington and
Beijing off one another. [...] The experts agreed that China’s obsession with DPRK
stability at all costs, was clearly and fundamentally at odds with U.S. and ROK
interests. Given a choice between reaching out to Seoul or Beijing, XXXX believed
that Pyongyang elites would reflexively look to China for support [...] the U.S.
stake in North Korea was minimal compared to that of China by virtue of its proximity
to the North. [...] Beijing was concerned about [...] a potential flood of
“economic migrants” and broader social unrest on its immediate border.

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