North and South Korea Hold Talks And I Was There!

Well, not at the talks, but I was at the border.  In fact, I was actually (briefly) in North Korea!

North and South Korea Hold Talks on Shuttered Plant – NYTimes.com.

Kaesong is big money for N. Korea.  The companies pay the country, which then pays the workers.  I also found out today that the companies provide food, but not rice – the workers have to bring their own.  Our guide said this was because the North doesn’t want the workers to know how much better quality the South’s rice is.  The workers also receive  2 “moon pies” every day.  Groups of 5 or 6 workers pool the pies – every day one worker gets all the pies, which are then sold on the black market.  They bring in the equivalent of a month’s wages.

Back in April, at the height of tensions, the plant was closed.  But now the North wants money, and the workers need jobs, so the 2 sides are back at the table.

The Kaesong complex had been the centerpiece of joint projects launched when the liberal governments in Seoul introduced a period of inter-Korean rapprochement between 1998 and 2008. All those projects were suspended as relations deteriorated in the later years. The current South Korean leaders were more skeptical of North Korea, which continued to develop its nuclear weapons programs despite years of economic aid and diplomatic engagement.

Their attitude was reflected in their repeated rejection of a North Korean proposal to meet in Kaesong. They insisted that both sides meet halfway, on the border.

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Crazy or Not, Here He Comes

Inside the world of Kim Jong Un: North Korea’s strange hermit king – The Week.

Nice analysis from the folks at The Week.

What kind of student was he really?
Kim flunked science and only narrowly passed English, German, and math….He idolized American basketball players like Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, and often shot hoops with Swiss friends.

Is his authority secure?

Obviously not.

The Kims’ sibling rivalry
The late Kim Jong Il’s oldest son, Kim Jong Nam, is still bitter over his little brother’s success. Jong Nam has repeatedly lobbed insults at Jong Un since his accession, telling one Japanese newspaper that his regime was “a joke” and doomed to collapse.

The older brother is now in hiding (or dead).

Who Knew? Accordions in North Korea!

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