North Korea - South Korea

Chronology from Sep 2011 to Dec 2011

: A meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) declares that “the dear respected Kim Jong Un assumed the supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army according to the behest of leader Kim Jong Il on October 8.” This is Kim Jong Un’s first new official post.

: North Korea issues postage stamps featuring Kim Jong Un with his father.

: The WPK Central Committee and Central Military Commission (CMC) issue lengthy and hardline “joint calls,” including a threat to turn “Chongwadae [the ROK presidential office] and the stronghold of aggression into a sea of fire and accomplish the historic cause of national reunification without fail if the enemies dare mount an attack.”

: South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) says joint excavations of Manwoldae palace will resume next March. Seoul also hopes to work with Pyongyang to have the folk song Arirang listed as a UNESCO intangible cultural asset.

: A memorial service with speeches for Kim Jong Il is held in Pyongyang.

: The National Defense Commission (NDC), the DPRK’s highest executive body, says it “will have no dealings with the Lee Myung-bak group of traitors forever… We will surely force the group of traitors to pay for its hideous crimes committed at the time of the great national misfortune.” An ROK spokesman call this “disappointing.”

: Kim Jong Il’s funeral is held in Pyongyang, amid scenes of mass grieving. Unusually this is carried live on television, with broadcast hours much longer than normal.

: South Korea sets up an inter-agency task force – comprising the foreign and unification ministries, the police, the National Intelligence Service, et al. – on kidnap victims held in the North.

: Rodong Sinmun refers to Kim Jong Un as leading the WPK Central Military Commission (CMC). He was hitherto one of two CMC vice-chairmen.

: The Unification Church reveals that its founder’s son – a US citizen, hence not subject to Seoul’s permission – has gone to Pyongyang to mourn Kim Jong Il. So has at least one unauthorised Southern leftist: Hwang Hye-ro, an activist based in France.

: The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) attacks the Southern government for trying to “quench the hot wind for consolatory visits…. Their obstructions will entail unpredictable catastrophic consequences.”

: North Korea says the future course of inter-Korean relations will depend on Seoul’s attitude toward condolences for Kim Jong Il.

: Minju Joson, daily paper of the DPRK Cabinet, editorializes: “Kim Jong Un is another great general who carried the bloodline of Mangyongdae, and a great sun.”

: ROK President Lee says that South Korea is trying to show North Korea it bears no hostility. He stresses that stabilization in the North is in the South’s interests.

: South Korean, Japanese, and US representatives walk out of UN General Assembly when a moment’s silence is called in memory of Kim Jong Il. ROK diplomats the next day concede that such a tribute is routine when a head of state dies in office.  The UN Security Council, by contrast, refuses to make a similar gesture of respect.

: Flanked by top military and party officials, Kim Jong Un visits his father’s bier at Kumsusan Memorial Palace (where his grandfather Kim Il Sung also rests in state).

: As a precaution, South Korea brings its 13 archaeologists home three days early from the Manwoldae excavation in Kaesong. Unification Minister Yu says they will return once the North is back to normal, since Pyongyang remains committed to the project.

: Seoul media and lawmakers criticize Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and NIS Director Won Sei-hoon, for admitting the first they heard of Kim Jong Il’s death was from TV.

: The ROK holds a security ministers’ meeting to discuss how to react to Kim Jong Il’s death. It issues a statement offering sympathy to the Northern people rather than to the DPRK government. MND says that two Christian groups have accepted an official request not to illuminate three huge Christmas tree-shaped towers along the DMZ this year, for fear of exacerbating tensions at a delicate time.

: A special KCBS broadcast at noon tremulously announces Kim’s death. North Korea begins 11 days of official mourning. Kim Jong Un’s name is listed first on the funeral committee, and DPRK media at once start referring to him as “Great Successor.”

: Kim Jong Il dies of a heart attack. This is not made public for two days, nor apparently are South Korean or other intelligence services aware of the news.

: The Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea, an association of 50 Southern civic groups, says it will send a 10-strong delegation to Kangnam county, south of Pyongyang, to monitor the fate of aid which it sent in September.

: MOU publishes data on separated families. Some 128,600 South Koreans had applied for family reunions since 2000, but 49,300 have now died. Of those remaining, 43.8 percent are over 80 and 37.3 percent over 70.

: North Korean television warns South Korea not to illuminate three towers shaped like Christmas trees along the DMZ, warning of “grave consequences.”

: Six members of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, an ROK NGO, cross the DMZ to deliver 254 tons of food to Kaesong. It is destined for child care facilities in Anju, a mining area north of Pyongyang.

: A special ROK committee under the Prime Minister’s office rules that 217 named South Koreans were abducted by the North during the 1950-53 Korean War.

: The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) denounces “traitor Lee Myung-bak” for “[sending] a ‘letter of encouragement’ to the human scum, who wrought a nonsensical novel viciously slandering the dignity of the DPRK supreme leadership.” (A defector from the North wrote a book about Kim Jong Il.) This is the first time in six months that the DPRK has insulted the ROK president by name. On Dec. 13 the DPRK website Uriminzokkiri calls Lee a “corrupt traitor,” citing the same offense.

: MOU says that after two years the effects of North Korea’s botched currency reform still linger. Neither rice prices nor the currency have stabilized, and shortages persist.

: ROK sources say the KPA has pulled back patrol boats in the West Sea from the NLL towards coastal waters of South Hwanghae province, to deter defections by boat.

: ROK forces mark the first anniversary of the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island by staging exercises on nearby Baengnyeong Island. The KPA threatens next day to turn the Blue House into “a sea of fire” if a single shot enters its waters.

: Seoul reports that this month and last the KPA has flown IL-28 bombers to test anti-ship missiles in the Yellow/West Sea. This potential threat to ROK vessels close to the Northern Limit Line (NLL) can be countered by the South’s indigenous Chunma ground-to-air missile, now deployed on Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong islands near the NLL.

: Seoul notes that this year’s resolution on DPRK human rights abuses for the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee for the first time mentions prison camps. South Korea is one of 49 co-sponsors. The resolution is passed by 112 in favor to 16 against, with 55 abstentions, on Nov. 21. North Korea’s delegate rejects this as a dastardly political plot.

: MOU says it has sent hepatitis B vaccines for over a million North Korean children, worth 1.06 billion won ($942,300), via international relief agencies. These are the first vaccines Seoul has provided to Pyongyang in almost a year.

: MOU says it has approved a 10-day visit (Nov. 14-23) by ROK historians and archaeologists to the Manwoldae palace site in Kaesong to conduct a flood damage survey.

: Good Friends, a South Korean NGO, claims the price of rice in Pyongyang almost doubled from 2,500 Northern won (KRW) in September to KRW 3,800 in November.

: South Korea says it will resume medical aid to North Korea via the World Health Organization (WHO). Having donated $13.12 million in 2009, last year Seoul withheld $6.94 million after accusing Pyongyang of sinking the corvette Cheonan. It has now re-authorized that sum for distribution.

: Seoul reports that a 5-ton boat with 21 North Koreans on board was found drifting in the Yellow/West Sea on Oct. 30. Those aboard expressed a wish to defect. The same day, a single defector crossed the marine border on a raft.

: Yonhap reports that Kim Jong Un’s activities have expanded and diversified, from 35 appearances in the first half of the year to 36 in the four months July-October alone.

: On a week-long visit to the US, ROK Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik says that Seoul’s aim is to establish a “stable dialogue channel” with Pyongyang.

: A senior foreign ministry (MOFAT) official says Seoul is seeking a third round of bilateral nuclear talks, but that Pyongyang should be more serious and sincere.

: Yonhap reports that the DPRK government is squeezing its people harder than ever for funds to make a big splash for Kim Il Sung’s centenary next April.

: Archaeologists from both Koreas hold a working-level meeting in Kaesong. An official from the ROK National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, who inspected the Manwoldae palace site, says safety measures are urgently needed due to flood damage.

: KCNA reports the GNP’s loss of the by-election for Seoul mayor to a leftish independent as “the people’s grave judgment call on conservative forces in South Korea.”

: An MOU official belatedly reveals that a month earlier, meeting a Hyundai Asan delegation in Kaesong, the North’s Ri Jong Hyok hinted that if the South proposed holding talks about the Mt. Kumgang dispute the North would respond.

: Park Joo-sun, a lawmaker of the ROK’s main opposition Democratic Party (DP), who met Ri Jong Hyok in Atlanta, says Ri claimed that the two Koreas had agreed to a summit during a meeting between ROK Presidential Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee and Kim Yang-gon, the North’s point man on the South, but that Seoul later broke the deal.

: The Korea NGO Council for Cooperation, which represents over 50 Southern civic groups, says the North has invited it to come for discussions. Seoul nixes the trip, citing a lack of monitoring of food aid already sent. But it permits another NGO coalition, the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, to send a team to Sariwon, south of Pyongyang, to monitor flour aid donated to childcare centers.

: North Korea’s Union of Agricultural Working People (UAWP) condemns the recent US-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) as a betrayal of the nation, and pledges support to South Koreans who oppose it.

: Unification Minister Yu says the lesson of Libya is that leaders should feed their people well, protect them and allow them freedom. North Korea has yet to report the overthrow of Gadhafi, and is said to have banned its citizens there from returning home.

: Yonhap notes that since late August DPRK media have carried 48 separate reports on the upcoming by-election for mayor of Seoul. Most are critical of the GNP while praising the left-leaning independent opposition candidate Park Won-soon (the eventual winner).

: Ten businessmen, representing 120 Southern SMEs operating in the KIC, ask Unification Minister Yu to approve new investments and address issues of communications, the passage of people and customs clearance for the zone. Yu stresses Seoul’s commitment to developing the complex.

: Chosun Ilbo reports that KIC orders for Choco Pies are down sharply. The ROK snack has spread by barter all over North Korea. The North reportedly told Southern businesses to provide cash or instant noodles instead. A Seoul official says that Pyongyang seems to have “singled out Choco Pies as an agent that may be spreading anti-Socialist values from the South.”

: Visiting the US for a seminar at the University of Georgia, Ri Jong-hyok, a senior DPRK official involved in North-South ties, calls on the ROK to implement the two summit agreements and lift the sanctions it imposed in May 2010.

: GNP lawmaker Hwang Jin-ha says the National Intelligence Service (NIS) told a closed NA session that KPA ground forces are using virtual reality technology to stage simulated invasions of South Korea, while beefing up cyber threats.

: Citing military intelligence, South Korean lawmakers claim that the North is accelerating Kim Jong Un’s grooming as successor. Jong-un reportedly practiced controlling the military during his father’s most recent overseas trip, to Russia in August.

: The DPRK Committee for Peaceful Unification of the Fatherland (CPUF) calls on the ROK to cease its online broadcasting on inter-Korean affairs, which began a fortnight earlier. CPUF calls this a grave provocation to tarnish the image of the North.

: Presidents Obama and Lee reaffirm the “unbreakable” US-ROK alliance, and urge North Korea to denuclearize. On the proposed Siberia-Korea gas pipeline, Lee says: “It will take some time … it’s not something that will see immediate progress.”

: Russia and North Korea hold a test run of their renovated 54 km cross-border railway linking Khasan to Rajin. They reaffirm Rajin’s intended role as a freight hub for Europe-bound shipments from the wider region. For Moscow this means South Korea.

: South Korea says it has stepped up vigilance against possible provocations after detecting unusual Northern military movements near the West Sea border, including the deployment of KPA fighter jets and ground-to-air missiles to forward positions.

: In an interview published as Lee Myung-bak arrives in the US for a state visit, South Korea’s President tells the Washington Post that his firm stand on North Korea is making progress: “There are some real changes we are detecting.” He does not elaborate.

: North Korea marks the 66th anniversary of its ruling WPK on a smaller scale than usual, with no military parade or national meeting.

: KCNA threatens “physical retaliation” against South Korea’s “ceaseless provocative war moves”. These include alleged maritime intrusions, and “anti-communist right-wing conservative organizations [scattering] a lot of leaflets and undesirable USBs and pamphlets into … the north.” A separate warning about the latter the same day says that the KPA is “ready to take direct fire to destroy the citadels of the psychological warfare,” and may be “compelled to go into real action any moment.”

: An official in Seoul says North Korea is seeking $5.7 billion compensation for the failure of KEDO’s LWR project, adding: “The North’s demand is nonsense.”

: Apropos the food situation in North Korea, the South’s unification minister Yu Woo-ik tells the ROK National Assembly (NA): “I don’t think [it] is very serious.”

: North Korea calls on the South to repatriate two men whose small boat crossed the eastern sea border the day before. It is unclear as yet whether they are seeking asylum.

: KCNA claims that since August the South has beamed propaganda broadcasts to the western DPRK on the same frequency as the North’s own TV channel, and threatens “merciless punishment” unless this ceases. MOU says it has no immediate comment.

: Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), founded by a US-Korean Christian and partly funded from South Korea – where its website,, is hosted – holds an international symposium with scientists from at least seven nations.

: MOU says it has dropped plans to send flood aid to North Korea. The North did not respond when the South offered baby food, biscuits and instant noodles, rather than the food, cement and heavy construction equipment which Pyongyang had asked for.

: On the fourth anniversary of the second inter-Korean summit, Rodong Sinmun calls on South Korea to change its policy and implement the accords signed there.

: After visiting the KIC – the first GNP chairman ever to do so – Hong Joon-pyo calls for flexibility in South Korea’s policy to the North. Separately, ROK civic groups deliver 250 tons of flour and medical supplies for North Korean children to Kaesong city.

: The UN World Food Program (WFP) says that one-third of DPRK children under five are malnourished. It warns that this number may grow. WFP’s annual assessment survey, jointly with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), begins on Sept. 26.

: DPRK media report that Kim Jong Il sent condolences on the death of Park Yong-gil, who died aged 93 on Sept. 25. Park and her late husband Rev. Moon Ik-hwan, who was jailed for visiting the North in 1989, were prominent unification and democracy activists. MOU nixes a bid by Park’s family to visit Kaesong and meet Northern officials

: MOU begins internet broadcasts on unification issues, including an hour-long daily radio program and a weekly television show. These can be accessed at (television) and (radio).

: MOU notes that in the year since his unveiling, Kim Jong Un accompanied his father Kim Jong Il on 100 of the latter’s 152 on-the-spot guidance visits.

: MOU says that South Korea’s share of North Korea’s trade fell from 38.0 percent in 2007 to 33.0 percent in 2009 and 31.4 percent in 2010. Meanwhile China’s share grew from 41.6 percent in 2007 to 57.1 percent in 2010. Nonetheless inter-Korean trade rose from $1.8 billion in 2007 to $1.91 billion in 2010.

: Citing customs data, GNP lawmaker Kwon Young-se says that since South Korea suspended most trade with the North in May last year, it has confiscated Northern imports worth 46.5 billion won ($39.4 million) disguised as Chinese. Almost all of this (45 billion won) was anthracite coal, with potato starch (900 million won) a distant second.

: The two Koreas’ respective nuclear envoys, Wi Sung-lac (ROK) and Ri Yong Ho (DPRK), meet for three hours at a private club in Beijing.

: Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Lee Myung-bak reiterates his plea to North Korea to forsake nuclear ambitions; in which case the South stands ready to give aid.

: Seven ROK religious leaders, representing Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, and Chondogyo (an indigenous Korean faith), lead a 24-strong delegation to the DPRK.

: Yoon Seok-yong, a lawmaker of South Korea’s ruling Grand National Party (GNP), claims that North Korean attempts to hack websites of the ROK Ministry of Health and Welfare have soared from 3,349 in 2009 to 17,091 in 2010, with 14,669 so far this year alone.

: MOU reports that interest on ROK government bonds issued to finance the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) – a consortium of the US, South Korea, and Japan, which was to build two light-water reactors (LWRs) in North Korea – has risen to over 900 billion won ($798 million) since 1999.

: MOU says it is resuscitating plans, on hold since last year, to spend $2.1 million to build a fire station and emergency medical center in the KIC.

: Having been nominated to the post on Aug. 30, Yu Woo-ik, a close crony of President Lee, formally takes office as ROK unification minister.

: The DPRK website Uriminzokkiri says the North remains ready to improve inter-Korean ties via exchanges and contacts, including reunions of separated families. It claims that the South’s unification ministry (MOU) has made no attempt to contact the North.

: Refuting ROK media reports that Kim Jong Il’s half-brother Kim Pyong Il is under house arrest in Pyongyang, the US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports him as back at his post in Warsaw, where he has served as DPRK ambassador to Poland since 1998.

: The South’s National Police Agency (NPA) claims that pro-North activity in cyberspace has surged in the past three years. 2010 saw 82 prosecutions for illegally posting pro-DPRK materials online – an offense under the ROK National Security Law (NSL) – up from five in 2007 and 32 in 2009. (Rather than any actual surge, a likelier explanation is that official prosecution of such postings has been stepped up since Lee Myung-bak took office.)

: Maestro Chung Myung-whun says in Seoul that he signed a letter of intent with the North’s Korean Association for Art Exchange (KAAE) to form an inter-Korean symphony orchestra that will give regular performances, e.g. of Beethoven’s 9th symphony.

: Choson Sinbo, daily paper of pro-North Koreans in Japan, quotes a DPRK tourism official as saying the North is ready to discuss Mt. Kumgang any time – “if South Korea adopts a positive attitude.”

: Russian energy giant Gazprom says it has agreed to set up a bilateral joint working group on the pipeline project with North Korea.

: Yonhap cites “a source” as claiming that the DPRK is forcing citizens to donate to the official campaign to build a “strong and prosperous nation” (Kangsong taeguk).

: ROK Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-sik calls on the North to expedite reunions of separated families. Seoul had hoped to hold a reunion around Chuseok time.

: Kyodo reports that nine North Korean boat people found adrift off Nanatsu Island on Japan’s west coast say they want to defect to South Korea. They arrive in Seoul on Oct. 4 amid unusual secrecy, prompting speculation that some are from elite families.

: The ROK says it will ask other countries not to invest in Mt. Kumgang

: The South’s Korea Customs Service (KCS) reports inter-Korean trade as worth $958 million in the first seven months of 2011, down 16 percent from 2010. ROK exports fell 14 percent to $447 million, while imports dropped 18 percent to $511 million. Almost all of this involves the joint venture Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).

: Paris-based Chung Myung-whun, Korea’s best-known conductor who also directs the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, visits Pyongyang to discuss musical cooperation.

: The 63rd anniversary of the founding of the DPRK is marked by a military parade in Pyongyang. Unusually this features civil defense militias, not the regular KPA.

: ROK President Lee says on television that he thinks plans for a gas pipeline involving Russia and both Koreas “will proceed faster than expected … It will be great if the project materializes.” He adds that he is ready for an inter-Korean summit “at any time if it helps open peace and prosperity between the two Koreas.”

: The 17th World Taekwondo Championships are held in Pyongyang for the first time in 19 years. These are organised by the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF).

: Pak Chol-su, the Korean-Chinese head of Taepung, the company tasked with attracting new business to Mt. Kumgang, says he respects Hyundai’s property rights and will not give third parties access to Hyundai assets at the resort without consulting Hyundai.

: The ROK defense ministry (MND) tells a National Assembly committee that the DPRK is developing new devices for jamming Global Positioning System (GPS) signals, with an extended range of up to 100 km.

: Buddhists from both Koreas hold a joint ceremony at Bohyun Temple on Mt. Myohyang, north of Pyongyang to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the Tripitaka Koreana or Palman Daejanggyeong.

: Rodong Sinmun, daily paper of the DPRK’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), calls on Seoul to fully implement agreements reached at the inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007. ROK President Lee Myung-bak withheld joint venture projects agreed at the latter by his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, calling on Pyongyang to denuclearize first.

: The ROK says it will send a first batch of emergency aid, worth 5 billion won ($4.6 million) in total, to DPRK flood victims next week. It will be delivered across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) by both truck and train.

: Some 30 Southern firms invested at Mt. Kumgang vow not to join the North’s new plans for the resort, and call on the two governments to resolve the dispute.

: The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) says “it’s fortunate that the [South’s] unification minister was replaced, though belatedly,” and urges Seoul to improve inter-Korean ties.

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