North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Jan 2011 to May 2011

: Ignoring DPRK threats to shoot at them, some 50 ROK activists launch 10 balloons across the DMZ. They carry 200,000 leaflets, 1,000 dollar bills, radios and DVDs.

: North Korea’s SPA Presidium formally annuls Hyundai Asan’s rights at Mt. Kumgang, declaring the area a new special zone for international tourism. (See also April 8)

: An anonymous senior ROK official says the North’s purported summit offer is “nothing … new” and “too ambiguous. What we want is concrete action.”

: MOU nixes a visit to Kaesong by two ROK labor groups, FKTU and KCTU on two grounds: they applied late and such trips are banned. KCTU holds a protest rally, and asserts that “we will achieve a South-North workers’ general meeting at all costs even if we can’t be together in one place.” The last such joint meeting of unionists was in 2007.

: In Seoul, Jimmy Carter says he bears a personal message from Kim Jong Il: “He specifically told us that he is prepared for a summit meeting directly with President Lee Myung-bak at any time to discuss any subject directly between the two heads of state.” Lee does not meet Carter either.

: Seoul suggests Red Cross talks on May 4, to discuss not just the North’s four boat defectors but also hundreds of South Koreans held in North Korea.

: The DPRK Academy of Social Sciences sends a fax via China to the ROK’s Northeast Asia History Foundation (NEAHF), suggesting cooperation on ensuring that the sea between Korea and Japan is known internationally as the East Sea rather than the Sea of Japan. NEAHF replies positively, suggesting they meet at Kaesong in mid-May.

: Apropos the visit to Pyongyang by former US President Jimmy Carter and three retired European leaders, known as The Elders, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan tells Pyongyang that it should speak to Seoul directly rather than using intermediaries.

: US and ROK NGOs kick off North Korean Human Rights Week in Seoul. Held annually in Washington since 2004, this is the second year it has been staged in Korea.

: The Seoul daily Chosun Ilbo reports that North Korean clams, scallops and other seafood are openly on sale in ROK markets.

: North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) accuses the South of “denying dialogue and driving the inter-Korean relations to catastrophe.” Specifically, it accuses Seoul of failing to send government officials to the volcano talks, but only “personages of a nongovernmental organization bereft of any real mandate and responsibility” who had “a very insincere attitude.”

: The KPA threatens “unpredictable and merciless” fire against any future launches of propaganda leaflets into the North, calling this “a form of psychological warfare and just a clear-cut war provocation to a warring side” and a violation of the 1953 Armistice.

: Seoul rejects a renewed call by Pyongyang for Red Cross talks on the four boat people who defected.

: MND belatedly confirms DPRK charges that machine-gun rounds were fired towards the North at Yeoncheon at the DMZ on April 15. It says this was an accident.

: At a press conference in Pyongyang, 10 of the 27 returned boat people claim they were kidnapped and held in South Korea, which tried to force them to defect.

: MOU allows two further NGOs to send small amounts (worth $90,000) of medical supplies and food for orphans to North Korea. 20 applications are still pending.

: MOU says that North Korea owes the South about $1 billion for food, railway, and other loans. Repayment falls due from 2012. Seoul is not holding its breath.

: Young activists march to the National Assembly in Seoul to ask why a North Korea human rights bill has been delayed for a year. The reason is hostility by the opposition Democratic Party (DP), which fears that this will worsen inter-Korean relations.

: North Korea marks Sun’s Day, the 99th birthday of its founder Kim Il Sung, with an arts festival and other celebrations. South Korean activists launch 200,000 leaflets into the North, bearing information about uprisings against dictators in the Middle East.

: The ROK parastatal Korea Resources Corporation (KoRes) holds a forum in Seoul to voice its concern at losses in its DPRK mining ventures since Lee Myung-bak took office. Kim Shin-jong, KoRes’ president, says he now cannot even ascertain the status of ten Northern projects, much less visit. China is gaining ground in the North’s mining sector.

: MOU issues new guidelines for schools denouncing North Korea’s human rights abuses and its hereditary succession. Southern conservatives regard many ROK school texts on modern Korean history as over-critical of the South while whitewashing the North.

: At a second round of volcano talks, held in Kaesong and lasting for eight hours, the two Koreas agree to convene an expert forum in May – possibly in Pyongyang – on potential volcanic activity at Mt. Paekdu, followed by an on-site survey in mid-June.

: The DPRK Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (APPC) warns that it will revoke Hyundai Asan’s tourism monopoly at the Mt. Kumgang resort.

: The DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) holds its annual session, for a single day. It approves a budget with no numbers. Ri Myong-su is appointed Minister of People’s Security, and Pak To-chun to the National Defense Commission (NDC).

: Yoon Sang-hyun, a lawmaker of South Korea’s conservative ruling Grand National Party (GNP), claims that North Korea has at least a million tons of rice stockpiled in case of war: 300,000 tons for regular forces and 700,000 tons for reserves. It has also stored 1.5 million tons of oil and 1.7 million tons of ammunition, he says.

: The Cyber Terror Response Center of the ROK National Police Agency (NPA) accuses the DPRK of responsibility for a wave of cyber-attacks on March 3-5.

: ROK geologists propose more volcano talks on April 12 in Kaesong.

: MOU says it will not allow 14 NGOs to meet North Koreans in Shenyang, China during April 7-10 to discuss aid, “considering the current situation.”

: ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin tells lawmakers that both eastern and western sea borders are under close watch, as the KPA has staged seaborne infiltration drills. Next day a Seoul source says Pyongyang has tested a new larger Sango-class submarine.

: University of Georgia professor Park Han-shik, just back from Pyongyang – he has made over 50 visits – tells Yonhap that North Korea still denies sinking the Cheonan and “will never offer an apology, even after a century or millennium passes.”

: MOU permits two South Korean NGOs to send powdered milk and porridge worth $161,800 to orphanages in North Korea’s bleak northeast. A day later Vice Foreign Minister Park Seok-hwan said Seoul is “thoroughly reviewing” a recent assessment by three UN agencies, which called for 434,000 tons of food aid to feed 6 million North Koreans.

: ROK official confirms the execution of former DPRK Railways Minister Kim Yong Sam, not seen since 2008. He links this to the huge rail explosion at Ryongchon in 2004, seen by some as a bid to kill Kim Jong Il whose train passed by hours earlier.

: ROK MOFAT says the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has complained to the DPRK about its jamming of South Korean GPS signals, and agreed to take “necessary measures” if there is any repetition.

: Seoul eases its ban on humanitarian aid to the North by NGOs, allowing the Eugene Bell Foundation to send tuberculosis medication worth $306,000.

: DPRK liaison officials at Panmunjom refuse to accept a letter from Hwang In-cheol, a South Korean publisher now aged 44, demanding the return of his father who was aboard an ROK airplane hijacked to Pyongyang in 1969.

: Meeting in Munsan, civilian seismic experts from both Koreas agree on the need for joint volcanic research. No date is agreed to reconvene.

: The 27 DPRK boat people, in their repaired craft, are finally handed over in the West (Yellow) Sea at the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the contested sea boundary.

: A day after the anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan a year ago, the DPRK website Uriminzokkiri posts six articles casting doubt on Seoul’s investigation which held Pyongyang responsible.

: Yonhap quotes an unnamed official as saying Seoul will soon let NGOs resume limited humanitarian aid to the North, but excluding food items like rice and corn.

: KCNA quotes an unnamed KPA commander threatening to fire at activists who send balloons carrying propaganda into the North: “If the South’s puppet warmongers do not want to see the lesson of the Yeonpyeong artillery battle repeat, it must act discreetly and stop all its moves for psychological warfare, including the dissemination of leaflets.”

: The (South) Korea International Trade Association (KITA) compares North Korea’s trade with the South and China. Both rose in 2010, but the latter more than twice as fast. Inter-Korean trade last year was only 55 percent of the Sino-DPRK total.

: Kim Tae-hyo, ROK deputy national security adviser, tells a security forum in Seoul that “a heartfelt apology for the two provocations last year could become a starting point to opening new South-North relations.”

: Seoul agrees to volcano talks, on a civilian rather than an official basis. It suggests March 29 in Munsan: an ROK city near the DMZ used for dialogue in the past.

: KCNA wittily calls ROK MOU the “ministry of confrontation and separation.”

: KCNA says Kim Jong Il sent a personal message for the 10th anniversary of the death of Hyundai group founder Chung Ju-yung, saying he paved the way for national reconciliation and cooperation. On March 20, Hyundai officials in the Kaesong zone receive a wreath from the North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (APPC) in memory of Chung.

: After Japan’s disaster, the director of the DPRK Bureau of Earthquake writes to the ROK’s meteorological office, proposing joint research on volcanic activity at Mt. Paektu. The peninsula’s highest peak, on the Sino-DPRK border, last erupted in 1903.

: KCNA reports that Minister of People’s Security Ju Sang-song has been “dismissed from his post due to illness” by the NDC. Some in Seoul doubt this explanation.

: In a lecture, ROK Unification Minister Hyun In-taek says North Korea is not at risk of collapse. Its political situation is “relatively more stable than in the past.”

: North Korea at last agrees to accept just the 27 boat people who want to go home, but insists they do so by sea. This causes further delay, as their craft is unseaworthy.

: North Korea’s liaison officer at Panmunjom refuses to accept an official South Korean letter of complaint about alleged jamming of its GPS signals by the North.

: Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell says in Seoul that the US will “consult closely” with the ROK before any decision about food aid for the DPRK.

: KCNA dismisses a recent comment by South Korea’s “chief executive” that the South is ready for dialogue with the North, saying this “cannot but arouse derision.”

: Kwon Tae-jin, a North Korea expert at the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI) in Seoul, says he expects the North’s grain harvest to fall by 100,000 tons this year to 4 million tons. It needs 5.5 million tons to feed everyone. The same day, a joint mission of UN agencies concludes its month-long on-the-spot assessment of the DPRK food situation.

: ROK Unification Minister Hyun says that “current inter-Korean relations are quite difficult … There is a variety of currents but they yet look unstable and uncertain …In principle I believe (a summit) is needed, but for now conditions are not ripe.”

: South Korea’s Foreign Ministry (MOFAT) says it will seek international punishment of North Korea for jamming GPS signals on March 4 during US-ROK exercises.

: North Korea proposes Red Cross talks about the boat people on March 9, and demands that the South bring the four whom it seeks to keep. Seoul says it is ready to talk, but will not bring the four to the meeting.

: Kim Jung-tae, head of Pyongyang Andong Hemp Textiles, says that “South Korean companies which invested about 200 billion won [$179 million] in Pyongyang and Nampo are on the brink of bankruptcy because of the suspension of inter-Korean trade.”

: The South brings the 27 boat people to Panmunjom to repatriate them. But the North refuses to accept them, demanding that the other four be returned as well.

: Marking the 42nd anniversary of MOU’s establishment (originally as the National Unification Board), Minister Hyun In-taek says that “over the past 20 years North Korea has gone against the global trend and our good intentions to develop nuclear weapons, further isolate itself from the outside world and strengthen its military-first policy.”

: On the 92nd anniversary of the March First movement against Japanese rule, DPRK media stress the need for self-reliant unification by Koreans alone. Marking the same day, President Lee reiterates that “we are ready to engage in dialogue with the North anytime with an open mind.”

: Visiting the ROK First Army Corps, whose remit includes Imjin pavilion, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin tells his men to retaliate at once if they come under attack: “Don’t ask whether to shoot or not. Report after taking action first.”

: A KCNA editorial denounces the joint US-ROK Key Resolve military drill, which began the same day. Next day’s Rodong Sinmun calls this a “blatant challenge” to the North and an “unpardonable crime” aimed at driving the peninsula to the brink of war.

: KCNA carries a joint “peace declaration” by the North’s General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) and the South’s two union umbrella bodies, FKTU and KCTU. As reported, this “expressed concern about the touch-and-go situation prevailing on the Korean Peninsula [and] urged the US and the south Korean authorities to immediately halt the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises.”

: ROK agriculture minister Yoo Jeong-bok says FMD has hit seven provinces and cities in the North, affecting 11,000 head of cattle and pigs. This is vastly less than in the South, which since Nov. 29 has slaughtered 3.4 million animals for a loss of $2.6 billion.

: A KPA spokesman uses KCNA to warn that “our army will stage direct fire at the Imjin Pavilion and other sources of the anti-DPRK psychological warfare” if activists continue to float propaganda balloons into the North across the DMZ. The same day, North Korea’s mission at Panmunjom issues its usual critique of the imminent annual US-ROK Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military drills, and warns of “turning Seoul into a sea of fire.”

: Seoul says the DPRK boat people (see Feb. 5) will be returned in a few days.

: An unnamed top ROK official insists that for the Six-Party Talks to resume, the DPRK’s uranium enrichment program must first be taken in hand: “We have to get the UN Security Council to define the nature of this matter and take corresponding steps.”

: KCNA, previously in English and Spanish, now also has a Korean language website – presumably aimed at South Korea, although blocked there: .

: Yonhap reports that in a letter sent to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January, DPRK MPAF Kim Yong Chun warned that a “nuclear catastrophe will break out on the Korean Peninsula” and demanded talks with Washington to avert this. The US refused flat.

: A senior MOU official says that while “small-scale protests over livelihood have been reported since [North Korea’s Dec. 2009] botched currency reform, we have not observed any circumstances to be viewed as a collective demonstration there.”

: KCNA renews its claim that Seoul provoked November’s Yeonpyeong shelling: “Our military sent a telephone message to the puppet government … in order to keep peace and stability on the peninsula by preventing military confrontation but the group of traitors turned to its artillery on Yeonpyeong Island and fired toward our territorial waters.”

: Unification Minister Hyun In-taek predicts that protests in the Middle East will not affect the DPRK: “I believe the North Korean people have yet to learn of the facts because the North’s television does not report on them and the people can’t use the Internet.”

: An ROK source says that their and US intelligence have spotted the North digging new tunnels at its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong province: “It’s obvious [they are] preparing for a third nuclear test.”

: Kim Jong Il’s birthday is celebrated with the usual pomp and circumstance, including displays of ice-skating, synchronized swimming, and Kimjongilia flowers.

: Video footage shown on KCBS TV reveals that the as yet unannounced Kim Jong Un joined his father in visits to military bases from as early as January 2010. He is also now listed directly after his father, ahead of Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho – who outranks him.

: The ROK broadcaster KBS and others show footage of Kim Jong Il’s second son, Kim Jong Chol, at an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore the previous day with a female companion, probably his sister Yo Jong.

: In its annual assessment of the DPRK power structure, MOU says that Office 38, a bureau that raises funds for Kim Jong Il, has been revived after being merged in 2009 with Office 39 – whose remit is wider. UN sanctions are thought to be impeding both.

: MOU reports that Pyongyang has shrunk. Half of the DPRK capital’s area (formerly 2,630 square kilometres), with a sixth of its people (500,000) – presumably rural – have been shifted to adjacent North Hwanghae Province. The aim may be to save money.

: Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, an ROK NGO, reports that half of all DPRK defectors in the South have sent money to their families still in the North.

: In yet another overture, the North’s APPC writes to each of the South’s four main political parties: “We are hoping to talk frankly with anyone, whether a ruling or opposition party or a liberal or a conservative party, to improve North-South relations.”

: In a four-page diatribe blasting Seoul as insincere, the KPA says it “does not feel any need to deal with the group of traitors any longer.” Various DPRK media carry this in full over the next 24 hours, in a marked change from their milder tone hitherto this year.

: KCNA belatedly confirms that the North too is suffering an FMD outbreak.

: ROK Unification Minister Hyun In-taek says that Seoul is “keeping its door open” to Pyongyang despite the breakdown of military talks: “We will wait and see.”

: ROK’s official National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) says it will set up a North Korean Human Rights Violations Reporting Center, and also a Hall of North Korean Human Rights Violation Records.

: Seoul says it agrees “in principle” to Red Cross talks about fresh reunions of separated families. However, the failure of military talks later the same day puts paid to this.

: The DPRK Red Cross calls on Seoul to return the 31 boat people.

: MOU forbids the NGO Council for Cooperation with the North, an umbrella group of 50 aid bodies, to go as invited by the North’s National Reconciliation Council to monitor distribution of food aid sent last year. MOU explains that since Pyongyang has yet to show regret over the Cheonan or Yeonpyeong, “our punitive measures will stay in effect.”

: Colonel-level military talks are held at Panmunjom. The talks break up abruptly when the KPA team walks out. They later accuses the South of being the ones who walked out.

: Nam Sung-wook, director of the Institute for National Security (INS) says that Kim Jong Un is likely to visit China this year.

: A five-ton DPRK fishing boat arrives off Yeonpyeong in thick fog. All 31 North Koreans aboard are taken to Incheon for questioning. They say they do not want to defect.

: The DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) sends a letter to the ROK National Assembly, proposing contact and negotiations to improve North-South relations.

: The two Koreas agree to hold working-level military talks on Feb. 8. President Lee urges the North to seize a “good opportunity” at the military talks. Speaking on TV, he adds that he “can hold a summit if necessary.”

: The head of the DPRK Red Cross sends a message to his ROK counterpart, demanding to hold a proposed inter-Korean Red Cross meeting at the earliest possible date.

: The North’s APPC again urges prompt talks on humanitarian issues, as well as other topics of mutual interest including reunions of separated families.

: Kim Jong Il’s exiled eldest son Kim Jong Nam tells the Japanese daily Tokyo Shimbun that his father opposed a third-generation hereditary succession, but had no option in order to preserve stability. He made similar comments to the Japanese press in October.

: The DPRK Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland (DFRF) proposes inter-Korean parliamentary talks to discuss how to defuse tension on the peninsula. The DFRF also urges talks on resuming suspended inter-Korean tourism. MOU dismisses all this as a “a routine offensive” and “not a behavior that shows sincerity.”

: Lee Choon-geun of the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI), a private Seoul think-tank, says North Korea has made an annual average of 3.8 military provocations since 1958, rising to 4 during and despite the ‘sunshine’ policy era (1998-2007). He and others at a KERI seminar aver that for Seoul “strong actions are the best option” in response.

: Rodong Sinmun urges the South Korean government and conservative media to desist from “mudslinging and provocative acts” which incite confrontation with the North.

: MOU calls on Pyongyang to hold inter-Korean talks on the nuclear issue.

: The North’s Foreign Ministry (MFA) reiterates the DPRK’s commitment to denuclearization of the peninsula, but warns Seoul against setting “unilateral preconditions” or trying to manipulate the order of pending cross-border talks.

: ROK FM Kim Sung-hwan says the North must offer an “acceptable” apology at upcoming military talks for sinking the Cheonan and shelling Yeonpyeong.

: MOU reports a dip in output at the KIC in November, when the North shelled Yeonpyeong. Production fell from $29.4 million worth of goods in October to $25.1 million, or by 15 percent. However the number of Northern workers in the zone grew to 45,000.

: A Seoul court sentences Rev. Han Sang-ryol to five years jail for his illegal two-month visit to North Korea last summer. Pyongyang condemns this as “persecution.”

: In a telegram signed by Minister People’s Armed Forces (MPAF) Kim Yong Chun and sent to the South’s Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, North Korea proposes high-level military talks. On Jan. 26 Seoul accepts this, and suggests a date of Feb. 11.

: MOU says 10 ROK companies are being investigated for illegally importing DPRK goods. Seoul has banned inter-Korean trade (except the KIC) since May 2010.

: MOU announces that despite the ban on inter-Korean trade in 2010 reached a record $1.91 billion, up 14 percent on 2009. The KIC alone accounted for $1.44 billion, up by more than half (53 percent) from 2009.

: Radio Free Asia (RFA) claims that on Jan. 10 the WPK sent a written order to work units telling them to supply food for the KPA. This has only occurred twice before.

: Seoul sources say North Korea too is suffering from an FMD outbreak.

: The South’s state-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses (KIDA) claims that the North’s actual military spending in 2009 was $8.77 billion: 15 times more than the official figure of $570 million, and equivalent to a third of total gross national income.

: Rodong Sinmun reiterates the North’s call for dialogue: “No issue can be solved by way of confrontation. This is proved by the last three years of confrontation.”

: KCNA says the DPRK Cabinet has adopted a 10-year development plan, to be run by a new agency – the State General Bureau for Economic Development (SGBED). No further details of either are given, and as of May the SGBED has not been heard of since.

: Meeting his ROK counterpart Kim Sung-hwan in Seoul, Japan’s Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji clarifies that inter-Korean dialogue should precede any resumption of talks between Pyongyang and Tokyo.

: The ROK Communications Standards Commission (CSC) blocks access to all websites using the DPRK’s domain name .kp, saying these contain “illegal information” under Seoul’s anti-communism and security laws. Pyongyang has only recently begun using its national .kp suffix, years after it was first allocated. (South Korea’s equivalent is .kr.)

: Two more DPRK bodies – the General Guidance Bureau for Development of Scenic Spots (GGBDSS), which oversees the Mt. Kumgang resort; and the General Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Special Zone of the DPRK (GBCGDSZ), which looks after the KIC – each send notices to their ROK counterparts proposing talks.

: The North reopens its Red Cross Office at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). MOU notes that the North had unilaterally closed it in the first place.

: Minju Joson, daily paper of the DPRK Cabinet, attacks Seoul for not agreeing to Pyongyang’s proposal for unconditional talks. It repeats that the North is “ready to meet anyone anytime and anywhere from the standpoint of great national unity.”

:   Seoul proposes talks on the North’s Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

: The North’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (APPC), and the heads of its Red Cross and of the Consultative Office for North-South Economic Cooperation (CONSEC) in the KIC, each send letters to their Southern counterparts urging fresh talks on cooperation.

: MOU reports that North Korea has banned ROK pork, beef, and poultry from the KIC, due to rampant foot and mouth disease (FMD) and avian influenza in South Korea.

: The North’s Korea Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) airs an hour-long TV documentary on Kim Jong Un, a day after his birthday – which was not otherwise celebrated.

: Seoul reaffirms that any new inter-Korean talks must include the nuclear issue.

: The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) proposes “unconditional talks” between the two Korean governments

: On Kim Jong Un’s birthday the DPRK website Uriminzokkiri is knocked out, while its Twitter and YouTube accounts are hijacked and show material derogatory of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un. South Korean (private) hackers gleefully claim responsibility.

: South Korea returns three North Korean fishermen via Panmunjom.

: ROK Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-sik dismisses the DPRK’s Jan. 5 overture, telling KBS Radio: “In both format and content, I believe it is difficult to see (the statement) as a formal proposal for talks.”

: An ROK government source says the North’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) recently lowered its alert level in the West (Yellow) Sea, which it raised on Nov. 21 two days before shelling Yeonpyeong

: The JoongAng Ilbo, Seoul’s leading daily, says that Seoul will likely push for bilateral North-South dialogue before any attempt to reopen the Six-Party Talks.

: The Min Forum, a senior liberal group in Seoul, calls for inter-Korean talks. Moon Chung-in of Yonsei University describes the recent situation on the peninsula as “the worst since the Korean War.”

: A joint meeting of the DPRK government, political parties and organizations in Pyongyang calls for “wide-ranging dialogue and negotiations … [and] an unconditional and early opening of talks between the authorities having real power and responsibility, in particular.

: Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), attacks Seoul’s bid to highlight DPRK human rights abuses: “They are the arch criminals who turned … south Korea into the worst tundra of democracy and human rights in the world … There is no such human rights issue in the DPRK.”

: According to the South’s Statistics Korea, ROK gross national income (GNI) in 2009 at 837 billion was 37 times the DPRK’s $22 billion.

: A joint meeting of the DPRK government, political parties and organizations in Pyongyang calls for “wide-ranging dialogue and negotiations … [and] an unconditional and early opening of talks between the authorities having real power and responsibility, in particular …We are ready to meet anyone anytime and anywhere … We propose discontinuing to heap slanders and calumnies on each other and refraining from any act of provoking each other.”  Seoul’s initial reaction is wary.

: ROK Ministry of Unification (MOU) reports that 2010 was Kim Jong Il’s most active year ever since he took power in 1994, with 161 reported guidance visits (up from 159 in 2009). 63 of these were to economic sites and 38 to military ones.

: Choson Ilbo reports a WikiLeak of an Aug. 2009 breakfast meeting between US Ambassador Kathleen Stephens and Hyundai’s chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, soon after the latter had met Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang.

: In his New Year’s address, broadcast live, ROK President Lee Myung-bak says: “I remind the North that the path toward peace is yet open. The door for dialogue is still open.” He adds that “nuclear weapons and military adventurism must be discarded,” and compares the Yeonpyeong shelling to the 9/11 attacks on the US.

: In his New Year’s address, broadcast live, ROK President Lee Myung-bak says: “I remind the North that the path toward peace is yet open. The door for dialogue is still open.” He adds that “nuclear weapons and military adventurism must be discarded,” and compares the Yeonpyeong shelling to the 9/11 attacks on the US: “From now on, we need … peace and reunification policies based on solid national security … [and to] make endeavors to engage our North Korean brethren in the long journey toward freedom and prosperity.”

: Citing UN data, the ROK’s Statistics Korea predicts that the urbanization gap between the two Korea will widen. The North was the more urbanized until the 1980s, but as of 2010 South Korea is 83 percent urban and rising, while the North is static at 60 percent.

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