Weekender: North Korea in the International Media

North Korean troops conducted live-fire drills on the south-eastern coast near South Korea, earlier this week. North Korean troops brandished weapons given to them by new leader Kim Jong Un, Associated Press reported.

Indeed, the respected leader left many guns as souvenirs after inspection tours, as Voice of Korea reported on March 4, and wouldn’t leave any unit behind without some practical advice either, concerning a barber shop, for example:

Sitting on the beds of soldiers without ceremony, he praised that heating conditions have been ensured well, to live warmly in cold winter, too. At the barber’s, he […] that mirrors should be installed not only in the front, but also in the back and both sides, so that they can see if their haircut is good or not.
[Update, December 23, 2012: soundfile now removed. Please contact me by email or comment if you are interested in the soundfile – JR Former link: soundcloud.com/jr_s-soundfiles/vo-korea-20120304]

Chinese media show some guns being brandished on high-resolution military-exercise photos, and some of those may indeed come from the hands of the respected leader:

Mirrors your haircut (click picture for source)

Colt Government, mirrors your haircut (click photo)

In its weekly “Last Week in East Asia” (东亚过去一周时事回顾) program a week ago, IRIB Tehran‘s Chinese service noted that North Korea had condemned U.S.-South Korean military exercises on February 27 as an “unspoken declaration of war”, and that the DPRK Defense Commission had referred to the southern exercise as an inexcusable war of nerves (精神战). That U.S.-South Korean plot would, however, be eliminated by the DPRK’s people and army, by means of a particular war (特殊战争)*).

Apart from their military exercise [of February 27], America and South Korea also announced an exercise for the month of March. To North Korea, these exercises indicate America’s long-term hostile policies on the Korean peninsula.

On February 29, [North Korea] took a position which led to unexpected change. North Korea announced that it would stop nuclear testing, launchings of long-range missiles, and uranium enrichment activities. The North Korean foreign minister announced these positions on the afternoon of February 29. Pyongyang [also] immediately allowed IAEA inspectors to inspect the country’s nuclear-enrichment activities. […] This, of course, satisfied America. Washington decided to provide North Korea with 240,000 tons of grain.


2月29日,朝鲜局势变化进程和该国采取的立场发生了令人难以预料的变化。朝鲜宣布:该国将停止核试验、发射远程导弹以及进行铀浓缩活动。朝鲜外相2月29日下午宣布了这些立场。随即,平壤将允许国际原子能机构核查人员检查该国的铀浓缩活动。朝鲜的这些政策是在朝鲜副外相在北京与美国代表会晤之后做出的。朝鲜现在还没有宣布停止上述活动的确切时间。 […..] 此后,华盛顿和平壤就此方面达成共识,华盛顿也决定向朝鲜提供24万吨粮食。

Then six days ago, there came this bomb shell: headlined Iran allegedly tested atomic bomb in North Korea, Hans Rühle explained in an article for German  weekly Die Welt (or their Sunday edition) how, well, the allegation could make sense.

Die Welt: Ahmadinejad, Kim

Be very afraid, Dear Reader (click picture for “Die Welt” article in German)

Whenever Rühle, a former leading bureaucrat at Germany’s defense ministry, provides detailed data and information, I’m glad if there is most probably someone else on the world-wide web who will translate that stuff into English – or give an account of the gist of it – before I have to. Adam Cathcart did that right away, still on March 4, on the Sino-NK website. Given that he’s not so familiar with Die Welt, and geographically more distant, too, the revulsion threshold he has to overcome to translate that kind of stuff is probably somewhat lower than mine, and I can just keep reading Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times, but not the English-language one), another produce of global quality journalism from another neck of the globe, and sufficiently foreign to me to get some bizarre enjoyment out of translating it.

I had the opportunity to reciprocate, though, in providing my concise, even if possibly somewhat subjective, views of who Rühle is, and what Die Welt is, in another Sino-NK thread:

Hans Rühle, member of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU), until he left, reportedly out of anger for not being promoted within the defense ministry (which has been attributed to a ruse by Helmut Kohl against Rühle). A sober member of the military-industrial complex he is (otherwise), and a classical pre-unification German apparatchick.

Die Welt, without saying so, seems to subscribe to a concept of a muscular liberalism – but not only at home. They used to be explicitly conservative in the past, but have become somewhat more flexible during the past decade (or even longer), so as not to embarrass the yuppies they’ve discerned as a crucial target group. I suppose Rühle writes there, because this helps the paper to suggest that they have background information to offer. I tend to agree with many things Die Welt writes about domestic politics (an over-emphasized ecological “awareness”, for example), and to disagree with the ideology which seems to define their coverage of international politics. If you are looking for Wilhelministic heritage in Germany (in style only, after all, our allies have changed since), their foreign-affairs editorial department may be a good place to start with.

An exception, and probably not the only one, would be Jonny Erling, their China correspondent. He either knows a lot about the country, or he’s successfully judgmental when deciding to whom in China he should talk and listen, on any day.

The Sino-NK post contains both useful English-language links, and a translation of some of the Rühle’s article.



*) Not sure if particular war is the correct translation, or if it should rather be special warfare, for example, but some of the North’s guns did look particular.



» Why are Mass Media losing Relevance, Febr 26, 2009
» Asshole in a Wall Closet, Volker Pispers/Youtube, 2004


5 Responses to “Weekender: North Korea in the International Media”

  1. Bravo bravo! I will be linking to this shortly. Very much appreciated your further explanation of Ruehle and that Spiegel link in particular was delightful. “The grey eminence of Hardthöhe” indeed!

    Have also been enjoying your tireless work on the cultural front. I think with the meetings in Beijing it becomes clear how meticulous the Party is with the arc of their (messily-executed) campaigns: spring crackdown, summer retrenchment, fall meetings and speeches, winter re-up in Qiushi, early spring consolidate. Or something along those lines. What I mean to say is that the CCP has done plenty of prep work on the cultural front (domestically) to make sure the congress goes well, relatively.

    The international propaganda front is a whole different story (surprised not to see much hyperactive comment in the West about the new China-Africa CCTV network)…


  2. I think special warfare is the intended meaning. Of course in sane circumstances that could mean NBC weapons, but in the context of North Korea probably means that they expect people to be over-awed by their flowery chrome-work.



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