North Korea’s New Propaganda Wants to ‘Turn Ours Into a Country of Mushrooms!’

North Korea just released 300 new propaganda slogans, many of which appear to be pro-locavore health food

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A North Korean man surrounded by a field of corn, and yet the country is still plagued by hunger.

Threats to kill Americans? Check. Wait, what? North Korea just unveiled a list of 300 new propaganda slogans, and many of them are oddly poetic and food-themed. Our favorite slogan is probably "Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!” but there are plenty more where that came from, like: “Make fruits cascade down and their sweet aroma fill the air on the sea of apple trees at the foot of Chol Pass!" (Chol Pass is a revolutionary site in North Korea). In fact, most of the slogans have to do with North Korea’s economy and food production.

North Korea also claims to have plans to “grow vegetables extensively in greenhouses!” and “produce larger quantities of meat, eggs and milk holding high the banner of science-based livestock farming!” Their factories, they promise, will soon be “germ and dust-free,” a feat that would indeed be marvelous.

"It's an indication of the absolutely dire state of the North Korean economy,” James Grayson, a professor at Sheffield University, told BBC News. “You have this huge disparity between the select few living in the best parts of Pyongyang, who live very well — there are now examples of international businesses there, coffee shops and designer labels... — whereas other parts of the country are allowed to go to hell in a cart."

In other words, the slogans are meant to distract from that real issues, like poverty and starvation, that plague North Korea, and to placate the growing population of hungry citizens.

Food and the US: new slogans show North Korea’s obsessions

It is a “fairyland” in which the aroma of apple orchards mingles delightfully with that of fish farms. A picture of domestic harmony in which women are “dependable assistants” to their menfolk, and a proud nation in which enemies are to be “annihilated”.

Sloganeering has always been central to North Korea’s propaganda machine, and yesterday the state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published 310 new exhortations, resolutions and imperatives in characteristically bombastic style. They touch on science, culture and sport, and on the country’s great weakness and preoccupation — food.

You can buy Cognac at North Korea’s airport, but a SIM card? Not so much

How many North Koreans does it take to sell a SIM card?

It sounds like a bad joke, but the answer Tuesday afternoon at the Pyongyang airport seemed to be four, or maybe five.

A dozen or so foreign journalists were queued at a window marked “Currency,” having landed on a flight from Beijing about 3:30 p.m. Kim Jong Un’s government has invited 130 overseas reporters to the North Korean capital this week for the biggest political gathering the country has seen in 36 years: a Korean Workers’ Party Congress.

Since my last visit in 2008 — when I traveled to North Korea as a tourist — the capital appears to be better off financially, with much more capitalist-style amenities than before. Traffic is much heavier, though any L.A. driver would still describe the roads as blissfully empty. Taxis ply the streets. Dozens of snack stands line main streets in the city center.

And the new Pyongyang airport, opened by Kim last summer with great fanfare, offers services previously unavailable to air passengers arriving in the city.

Sanctions notwithstanding, there’s not one but two duty-free shops, offering a fairly wide selection of Cognacs, whiskeys and vodka — including brand names like Courvoisier, Chivas Regal and Hennessy (a liter of VSOP was going for about $140 at the official exchange rate). Smokers can select from cartons of Swiss-made Chesterfields and other brands, including Marlboros and Phillip Morris.

The duty free shop at the international airport in Pyongyong, North Korea (Julie Makinen / Los Angeles Times)

Fortunately, the duty-free shops are located before passengers clear customs, where the intensive screening process might drive one to toss back a shot or three.

It took dozens of customs workers in blue-and-brown military-style uniforms more than two hours to process the 40 or so foreign reporters who arrived from Beijing carrying all manner of electronic devices —equipment that Kim’s government still deems an existential threat.

Portable Wi-Fi routers, GPS devices and satellite phones are a definite no-no they had to be handed over to authorities, with a promise that they’d be returned when we depart the country. Cellphones were inventoried, along with laptops, cameras, external hard drives, English-to-Korean tourist phrase books, iPads, Kindles and portable battery banks.

I typically carry two portable battery chargers, including one whimsical one in the shape of a blue-and-yellow Minion from the Universal Pictures cartoon films. The item stumped the inspectors.

“What is this?” a tall, burly supervisor asked me, trying to screw off the Minion’s lone protruding eyeball — which is not removable. I had to plug my phone into the battery to demonstrate to him that it was not something capable of bringing down a government — though Gru, the supervillain of “Despicable Me,” might beg to disagree.

After clearing my Minion, the agents demanded to look at my Kindle. They apparently were not happy with some of my recent downloads, including “2012 Complete Guide to North Korea” published by the CIA.

One male agent expertly navigated through the pages, swiping through the history and statistics sections, while a female agent translated some lines for him. After about five minutes, he declared that I had “illegal materials” on the device and would have to deposit the item with him until I returned to the airport for my departing flight.

Although I was impressed to some degree with the agents’ familiarity with foreign electronic gadgetry, the concept of “the cloud” may still be a bit murky in North Korea. It seemingly did not occur to my inquisitors that once I arrived at the hotel media center and could connect to the Internet, I could easily and merrily re-download my forbidden 600-page CIA tome to my laptop from Amazon’s website if I so chose. Or maybe they just wanted to make a point.

And so I quickly agreed and moved on to the next task: procuring a SIM card to have some connection to the outside world over the next 10 daysas our minders schlep us around the capital by bus, working double time to keep our eyes focused on what they want us to see. Apparently North Koreans haven’t figured out what all parents know: that if we’re all glued to our devices, we won’t have much time to look out the window, let alone complain or ask pesky questions like, why isn’t that giant, pyramid-shaped Ryugyong hotel in downtown Pyongyang complete yet, nearly three decades after construction began?

Many North Koreans have cellphones these days, but they are intended to work only within North Korea and don’t connect to the global Internet. A limited — apparently very limited — number of SIM cards that connect to the real Internet are available for foreigners willing to part with substantial sums: $200 for a card and then $200 for a few hundred megabytes of data.

Off I went to be gouged for a SIM card. About 10 journalists were already ahead of me. Five minutes turned into 10, then 15, then 20. We amused ourselves by discussing the apparently brand-new, but out-of-service, Ryugong Commercial Bank ATM — such machines are still a rare sight anywhere in the country. I looked over the offerings at the two snack stands, the coffee shop and the closed gift shop.

We took note of a small notice posted behind the currency clerk’s window: “All the users of the DPRK Internet system cannot access to the anti-republic false propaganda websites. Sex and Adult websites.For example, access to South Korean Websites including South Korean Newspaper websites . such as ‘chosun.com,’ ‘donga.com,’ ‘kbs.co.kr,’ and anti-republic false propaganda websites such as ‘rfa.org,’ ‘voanews.com,’ Adult websites, Gambling websites and websites being used for distribution of malwares is blocked.

“In addition, access to Social Network Service such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter is blocked for a certain period of time.”

A sign at the airport in Pyongyong, North Korea (Julie Makinen / Los Angeles Times)

Surely North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who was educated in Switzerland, knows that most of the foreign media here to chronicle his big coming-out party plan to cover the event in large measure via such networks. But hey, Kim’s got some face to maintain, so what’s a little firewall-leaping VPN software between friends?

The SIM card line wasn’t budging. Two women and two men huddled behind the counter, staring at phones and paperwork. One of the women occasionally spoke into a Bluetooth headset on her right ear. A fifth man walked back and forth from the clerk’s room to a side office.

As the clock ticked past 6:20 p.m., a Bloomberg correspondent near the window said, “They’re down to the last one!” At first, I thought it was a typical reporter’s prank. “Good one!” I said. But it was true: sold out. Perhaps 20 people had gotten cards, if that.

The SIM card counter, Pyongyong airport, North Korea (Julie Makinen / Los Angeles Times)

From counterfeiting to narcotics-making and coal-mining, North Korea works hard for its foreign cash. So I was a bit surprised that given such an easy opportunity to earn scarce greenbacks, Euros and Chinese renminbi, the North Korean machine had fallen down on the job. After all, Kim has been inviting foreign journalists to North Korea with some regularity, including scores for October’s massive military parade, and other events like missile tests or when he wants to parade a foreign detainee in front of TV cameras.

“I’m a bit surprised,” I said to my government-assigned minder-interpreter. “Officials clearly knew how many of us were coming and surely expected all of us would want SIM cards.”

It is likely to be one of the many slightly awkward exchanges we have over the course of the week: I will ask about something that doesn’t quite add up, and she — armed with no real information — will do her best to try to say something that sounds like an explanation but isn’t.

“Maybe they knew how many passengers, but not how many foreigners or foreign journalists,” she said, though somehow they dispatched precisely the right number of minders and buses.

“Maybe you can buy one tomorrow at the hotel,” she said. “Let’s go to the bus.”

Excerpts From Interview With North Korean Premier on Policy Toward the U.S.

PYONGYANG, North Korea, May 26—Following are excerpts front, an interview conducted with Premier Kim 11 Sung through, an official interpreter by Harrison, E. Salisbury and John M. Lee of The New York Times:

PREMIER KIM—You wrote me many times asking to come so I let you. It is 10 years after your first application, but my secretary told me that you did not have a very good impression because of the strong anti‐American expressions of the Korean people.

It is inevitable that we Koreans have bad sentiments toward. Americans. We had very difficult contacts with Americans. It is also the first time for me to meet Americans in several scores of years.

Actually our country is still in a state of cease‐fire. No peace treaty has yet been concluded, has it? Virtually we are still in a state of cease‐fire and we have not yet settled the question by peaceful means, have we?

Therefore I always say our generations are changing but the target of our struggle remains the same.

There are many reasons here. As you already know, even after the armistice, the U.S. Government still adopts unfriendly attitudes toward our country. Under these circumstances we cannot but prepare ourselves always for war.

The most important thing in war preparation, in my opinion, is that we educate our people in the spirit of hating the enemy. Without educating our people in this spirit we cannot defeat the U.S., which is superior in technology.

Therefore, we frankly tell you we are always making preparations for war. We do not conceal this matter. We are making preparations openly. Nobody can tell, neither you nor I can tell, what time you'll pounce upon us. Therefore, I think it is quite natural and quite all right to educate people with the spirit of hating the target of our struggle.

Widespread Suffering Cited

I do not think there is any Korean who has not suffered in the Korean war. At least relatives or friends of all of us suffered. Tens of thousands of people were killed by indiscriminate bombings. In Pyongyang alone all houses were reduced to ashes and only three houses were left intact. Not only Pyongyang but also Wonsan and Hamhung and others, and then by the end of the war, all our villages were destroyed indiscriminately. In these circumstances, we Koreans can have nothing but bad sentiments toward Americans.

Under the armistice agreement it was promised that parties concerned in the war should conclude a peace between the North and the South so that peace might be brought to Korea. But the U. S. authorities do not keep their promise.

In recent years, after the Pueblo incident, the U.S. authorities conducted reconnaisance over our country by highaltitude reconnaisance planes.

In this way we are in a state of war. So we cannot but devote more funds to strengthening our defensive power and this, frankly speaking, affects the increase in the living standards of our people to a certain extent.

We always say this is only because of the U. S.

We not only suffered from the war. but after the war we are in a state of war. U. S. authorities violate the armistice agreement and adopt unfriendly attitudes toward us and conduct reconnaissance against our country.

And we educate our people on this, and therefore our people cannot but have bad feelings against Americans. You must understand things in this way.

Q. What positive steps should be taken to end the abnormal state of relations between the United States and Korea?

A. From our point of view it is very simple. Everything entirely depends on the United States Government. If the United States Government changes its policy toward us we will also change ours toward it. The most important thing is to leave the Koreans to unify their country by themselves and not interfere in the internal affairs of the Korean people.

Nearly 20 years have passed since the signing of the armistice agreement, and what kind of necessity do you have for stationing forces in South Korea under the signboard of the United Nations forces?

Some people say you are staying in South Korea to protect the South Koreans because we want to invade South Korea. But we have declared time and time again we have no intention at all of invading South Korea. Therefore I think it is high time for you to put an end to your role of police. If you withdraw we Koreans can do things in common for peaceful unification.

What the United States Government does that displeases us is not only station its troops in South Korea but helps the revival of Japanese militarists. So we see the joint communique 1969 between Nixon and Sato, and Nixon put forward the so‐called Nixon Doctrine under which he instigated Japanese militarists so as to replace the United States in South Korea so to interfere in the internal affairs the Korean people.

After the joint communique Sato claimed he would interfere in the internal affairs of the Korean question. We cannot but describe this as an unfriendly attitude of the United States Government toward us.

The American attitude toward us at the United Nations is not justified either. Why do they attach conditions to inviting us to the United Nations while they invite the South Koreans without any conditions? They insisted we recognize the legality of the resolutions adopted at the United Nations against us. How can we go under such preconditions?

And you also instigate the so‐called United. Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea to make an annual report full of lies and falsifications against our country and make unfriendly false propaganda

You should withdraw United States forces, dissolve the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea and not encourage the division of the Korean nation but help the reunification. If there is no interference of outside forces, the Koreans can seek common points for unification of the country.

When President Nixon visited China, he said while looking at the Great Wall of China that there should be no divided countries — no barriers. If the United States Government wants to put this into practice, it must begirt with Korea.

President Nixon said he wanted to improve relations with China, and while visiting the Soviet Union he said he wants to have improved relations with the Soviet Union. We say, why should he continue to have military bases in South Korea and the Korean peninsula?

If in the past you said you needed military bases in South Korea to prevent the expansion of Communism, now that you have good relations with the big powers, why is there any necessity of having military bases in South Korea?

What can you benefit by asking Japan to replace the United States South Korea to invade South Korea and turn South Korea into a market for Japanese goods and turning it into an appendage of Japan?

The Korean nation is a single nation. We must unify this nation.

Many North Koreans have relations in South Korea and many South Koreans have relations in North Korea, So we should remove this barrier of long standing and eradicate the tragedy of Korea.

Our policy toward the United States is as follow: If the United States Government stops its unfriendly attitude toward us and stops obstructing the unification of our country, then there is no reason why we should have hostile attitudes toward the United States. So I should say relations between ourselves and the United States entirely depend on the United States and not on us.

Q. Is there any role in this question for outside powers such as China and the Soviet Union, br must it be solved only by the United States and Korea?

A. In my opinion, China and the Soviet Union have very little concern with the question of Korean unification. The Soviet Union and China support the peaceful unification of Korea. think the Korean question must be left to the Koreans to solve by themselves without any interference by outside forces on the basis of national self‐determination. Only in this way can be solved in a peaceful way.

Q. Is there any possibility that Geneva‐type conference would be helpful in solving the Korean question?

A. In my opinion, we don't need such thing. United States troops must be withdrawn first of all. Even if they are withdrawn we will not fight each other.

If Koreans are united they can keep Japan from reinvading our country. In regard to unification, Koreans can achieve agreement on common points and unification.

As you know, we’ have made tacts with South Korea through the North‐South Red Cross talks. Of course we have to wait and see what will be the prospect of these talks and what will become of it. But we think that if North and South Koreans can sit down together they can remove present misunderstandings and distrust.

So far, because we do not sit down together, there are still frozen sentiments between us and distrust and misunderstanding in many aspects.we sit down together, we can remove all of this.

In what aspects are there misunderstandings? I think there are some. For our part we understand that South Korean rulers may invade us with the backing of the Japanese and the United States. And South Koreans misunderstand us, thinking we would invade South Korea.

Recently we hear South Koreans also want to reunify the country by independent means. They also advocate selfhelp, self‐sustenence and self‐defense. We also advocate independence, self‐reliance and self‐defense. These are the common points. If we develop these common points, we think we can come to an agreement uniting us.

They are also kicking up an antiCommunist racket saying we want to communize South Korea, We have no intention whatsoever of imposing socialist system on South Korea. We think it is not necessary for them to change the social system built up here for another social system.

Some foreign journalists write there are two poles in Korea — North Korea is a Communist society and South Korea is a capitalist society and these two poles cannot meet each other. They say if these two poles meet each other war will break out.

In my opinion we cannot see South Korea as a big capitalist country. Are there any big monopolies in South Korea? We don't think there are any big monopolies in South Korea. If there are, they are comprador capitalists [Korean agents for foreign businesses]. Of course we are against comprador capitalists because they obstruct the development of the national economy.

We are not against capitalism and medium and small‐size enterprises in South Korea. Of course we can say South Korea is just starting to take the road of capitalism, or is just sympathizer with capitalism or is being infiltrated by capitalism or worshiping capitalism or something like that. Of course there are differences of ideals and beliefs between us. But we think we must rise above them for the sake of national unity. Since we do not impose our social system on South Korea and if they don't force us to change our social system for another social system, then these things cannot be the reasons why we do not achieve national unity.

If we establish this principle of not imposing social systems on each other, then there is no necessity for fighting each other by force of arms because neither side imposes upon the other.

It is possible that a country may have various systems and maybe people who have different kinds of beliefs. What kind of political system there should be in South Korea should be decided by the South Korean people themselves. So we see that even after unification there may be this or that political system in Korea and people who have different political beliefs may live together. Here mutual trust and respect are necessary. So in my opinion there are no conditions why we cannot unify our country.

In my speech of Aug. 6 last year, I proposed we could hold talks even with the Republican party of South Korea, the ruling party there. This comes out of our intention for mutual respect. So I think that if we achieve national unity in this way, we can eliminate mutual misunderstandings and distrust gradually and achieve the unification of our country independently and in a democratic way.

Of course it may need quite a long time. But we can unify the country on these principles.

Q. With what practical steps would this evolve?

A. We demand such things—mail, visits and trade. We advocate mail exchange, mutual visits, exchange of trade and cooperation in economic development and so on. We also advocate mutual exchange of parliamentarians, scientists, as well as political figures.

We also advocate holding political negotiations between. political parties and social organizations in North and South Korea. We also propose that parliamentary members of North and South Korea sit down together and hold consultations with open hearts.

For our part, we are always ready to do these things. But I wonder in what respects they are not ready to do so.

While holding North‐South Red Cross talks with us, they are oppressing people demanding peaceful unification. They proclaimed the so‐called state of national emergency under the fictitious pretext of a southward threat from the North.

In South Korea alone, parliamentary members from the New Democratic party and the Republican party cannot talk even among themselves. They hold so‐called conferences for prevailing over Communism and are kicking up an antiCommunist racket.

All these things show they have no intention of reunifying the country. Those advocating prevailing over Communism to reunify the country mean they want to reunify the country after wiping out the Communists. How is possible to do so?

All these acts are meant to separate from each other, not to approach each other. We do not think this is a good thing.

We are dealing with this problem with patience. So we are continuing our efforts to create opportunities for contact.

Q. Do you envisage separate social systems in the same country with gradually increasing contacts as time goes on, somewhat in the manner as has been proposed by North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front?

A. Yes, that is the general idea. I do not know about Vietnam but our demands are just as I told you. And all these things are included in our eightpoint program for unification of the country.

We propose that a confederation of North and South Korea would be all right if we can't reunify the country right away. This means forming a Supreme National Committee to consult and discuss matters of common concern for the nation while retaining different social systems intact in North and South Korea. Even now we want economic cooperation. So we think if we give South Korea what they have not and if they give us what we have not, we can develop our economy faster in exchanging in that way. So we think we must proceed from the interests of the nation.

We propose an exchange of trade, economics, culture, and scientists. We propose political negotiations on broad basis and meetings between parliamentary members on a broad basis.

They have closed their doors, not we. We ate not afraid of capitalist influence coming in. We are not afraid of it because there is no reason why we should fear it. Everything will be solved South Korea opens its door.

What if they shut the door continuously, then Japanese capitalists will come into South Korea and South Korea will be subjected to Japan economically. We do not forget history.

We know that in 1894 Japan began invading South Korea under the pretext of protecting Japanese residents in South Korea and from that time on, Korea began falling into a Japanese colony. We do not want to become Japanese colony again.

Q. Can there be moves to reduce tension and increase understanding between our tWo countries before United States withdrawal from South Korea—that is, by exchanges of journalists, cultural groups and so on?

A. To say frankly, I wonder what kind of interesting things Americans will come here with. I don't think we can find anything interesting if we go there. It doesn't mean we want to.shut the door. But so long as the basic problem is unsolved, nobody will benefit from it.

Since you have come here, you also feel unpleasant feelings. If more Americans come here and go back with unpleasant feelings, one will not benefit by it. So long as the policy is not changed, you will always feel unpleasant sentiments here and you will not benefit by it, don't you think so?

You also say you feel unpleasant here. Is it any good if we cause more people to have bad feelings here? Only when the United States Government changes its policies toward us may we discuss anti‐American sentiments and only then will it be interesting for both of us to visit each other.

So in my opinion, while the United States Government makes no big change in policy toward our country at present, I am not against mutual visits between us just on a limited scale, as at present.

Q. This is an era of great changes in world relationships, the United States, China and the Soviet Union. Yet big problems like Korea and Vietnam remain. Do you see any hope that the changes among the big powers will positively affect the smaller powers?

A. The United States Government should improve relations not only with the big powers but with the small powers. I don't think improved relations of the big powers will affect relations with small powers. If the United States has changed its policy in relation to China and the Soviet Union, I don't think they need military bases in South Korea any more. And if they don't need them, they must show this by practice.

If they withdraw their forces from South Korea, then it would help Koreans to harmonize with each other and will help us improve our sentiments toward the United States.

We clearly remember all the speeches’ made by President Nixon in China. What interests me most is Nixon said the world should not be divided and countries should not be divided when he looked up at the Great Wall of China. So I am watching with great interest what channel his words will take in practice.

Q. What are the prospects for improving your relations with Japan?

A. That also depends on the Japanese Government. Of course successive cabinets of the government have adopted unfriendly attitudes toward us—Yoshida, Ikeda, Kishi, Sato and all the successors.

The smaller a country is the greater the confidence and self‐respect it must have. Small countries live on self‐reliance and self‐respect. Without self‐respect, how can we live?

Visitors See North Korea Still Stunted by Its Isolation

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Girls’ soccer teams waged a fierce battle outside a huge gymnasium. Two young brides, one resplendent in a white gown and the other in deep pink, married sweethearts in a snowy square. Parents pulled toddlers on plastic sleds. Pedestrians lined up at kiosks to buy baked sweet potatoes and pancakes.

A six-day visit to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, that ended last Tuesday offered carefully monitored glimpses of a land where reality and fantasy are routinely conflated. While there were no obvious signs of impending collapse or political intrigue swirling around the fate of North Korea’s ailing leader, the visit offered hints of why the North might be particularly eager now to resume international aid and trade.

For nearly four years, an unrelenting barrage of government propaganda has promised that North Korea will be strong and prosperous by 2012, the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the nation’s founder and the father of the current leader, Kim Jong-il.

That is now 18 months away. And prosperous is the last word one would use to describe North Korea’s shuttered factories, skimpy harvests and stunted children.

Perhaps with that deadline in mind, North Korea’s leaders last week made what might be a bid to reduce their isolation. They offered concessions that could help open up and limit the country’s increasingly sophisticated nuclear program.

And after promising to retaliate militarily should South Korea renew artillery drills near disputed waters, they have reacted — so far — only with words. But North Korea has made conciliatory gestures before, to extract aid at times of economic need or political transition, only to turn hostile later.

Of the nation’s 24 million citizens, the three million in Pyongyang are the most privileged. North Koreans need a special permit to live or come here. Still, signs of hardship are evident.

Commuters crammed into decrepit electric buses, packed as tightly as boxes of toothpicks. Pedestrians bowed beneath huge bundles strapped to their backs, apparently stuffed with goods for trade in private markets that have eclipsed the ill-supplied state stores. Most were women one collapsed on the sidewalk under the weight of her load.

Economists say coal production is, at best, half that of two decades ago, and Pyongyang has regular power shortages. At the elite Foreign Language Revolution School, students warmed themselves around stoves fed by coal or wood. In much of the city, residents report only a few hours of electricity daily.

New apartment buildings — apparently for officials — grace the city center. But the pyramid-shaped, 105-story Ryugyong Hotel remains a shell nearly 25 years after construction began. While it was recently sheathed in glass, other abandoned construction projects scar roads outside the city.

Elsewhere, especially in northern provinces, residents report that child beggars haunt street markets, families scavenge hillsides for sprouts and mushrooms and workers at state enterprises receive nominal salaries, at best. Workers in Pyongyang are said to be much better compensated.

Signs of that relative good fortune were evident on Pyongyang’s streets. Some pedestrians chatted on cellphones, something unknown just two years ago. Koryolink, a cellphone network controlled by an Egyptian firm, has 310,000 North Korean subscribers. North Koreans can call only one another, but the network is expanding fast. Residents report more cars and traffic lights than three years ago, although traffic remains sparse.

Most pedestrians appeared well fed. Although malnutrition has improved in the past decade, one in three North Korean children is stunted, and nearly one in five is underweight, according to the World Food Program. Residents of the Pyongyang area are the nation’s best nourished.

North Korea’s isolation is striking from the moment of arrival at Pyongyang’s utilitarian airport. With a 40-plane, primarily Russian-made fleet, Air Koryo schedules just two daily outbound flights, to Beijing and to Vladivostok in far eastern Russia. Although visitors were allowed to bring laptops, inspectors immediately confiscated cellphones.

Journalists are rarely granted visas to North Korea, one of the world’s most secretive and militaristic societies. The government allowed two journalists to accompany Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a former ambassador to the United Nations, on a private mission to meet senior officials in Pyongyang.

Mr. Richardson sought to reduce the threat of conflict between North and South Korea and to persuade the North to abandon its aggressive behavior if it wants outside assistance.

Visiting Pyongyang as an outsider is a bit like entering a parallel reality. Official escorts stuck to visitors like Velcro. The rules were clear: No interviews without permission. No exploring beyond the hotel parking lot.

Everyone was closely watched, with tactics reminiscent of a bad cold war spy movie. Opposite a journalist’s spacious room at the mostly empty Potonggang Hotel, men with briefcases left keys dangling in doors and appeared to rotate shifts. Other guests warned that dining room tables were bugged and that a dark, out-of-place wall panel was in fact a two-way mirror. Calls from the United States were blocked. Outgoing overseas calls cost $8.27 a minute.

Some events seemed obviously staged. On a dazzlingly sunny Saturday, a crowd packed the auditorium of Pyongyang’s ornate central library for a lecture on the life of Kim Jong-il’s mother. Nearly every seat in the reading room was also taken. When one reader nodded off, a watchful monitor quickly poked him.


But the Foreign Ministry also showed surprising flexibility at times, allowing visits to the foreign language school, a crowded subway station and a silk-thread factory. Long-time visitors say they see a growing openness to journalists.

State stores were off limits, either because barren shelves hinted at economic difficulties or because only lucky government-coupon holders could take advantage of their artificially low prices. Window-shopping only, journalists were warned.

Better-stocked but costlier private markets were also out of bounds. Hundreds have sprung up nationwide, but officials play down their importance because they flout the socialist credo.

One, the huge, arch-roofed Unification Market in Pyongyang, sports row after row of stalls. Merchants say three-fourths of the wares come from China.

With paltry harvests, inflation of food prices is a chronic problem. Last month, the World Food Program reported that at that market a kilogram of rice, or 2.2 pounds, cost $10, about 10 times the price in Beijing. By the agency’s rough estimates, a typical household’s income would allow one person to eat two and a half cups of rice a day, assuming he had no other expenses.

North Koreans pride themselves on juche, or self-reliance, and government officials greeted Mr. Richardson with declarations of a thriving society.

“Everything is going well,” Vice President Kim Yong-dae assured the governor before reporters were shooed out of a meeting. “Thanks to our powerful military deterrence,” he said, “we can now concentrate on development” and achieve prosperity by 2012.

But privately, Mr. Richardson said, officials acknowledge that the country is desperate for fuel, food and an easing of economic sanctions imposed after North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, beginning roughly five years ago. Some North Korea analysts warn that unless aid and trade resume, the North may raise cash by selling nuclear technology and materials to Iran, Syria or others — if it has not already.

Interviews in the past six months with nearly 20 North Koreans who recently left for China, including several Communist Party members, suggest that faith in the leadership’s economic policies is shaken, if not lost. North Koreans know well that South Koreans live much better, while their own government demands constant sacrifice.

A few criticize the military’s pre-eminence, and hope that Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s son and chosen successor, will shift policy. “I heard a rumor that he said we have more bullets than food. So maybe he will be a good leader and feed the people,” one 59-year-old North Korean trader said, hopefully, in an interview last month in China.

But most seemed to support Kim Jong-il’s 15-year-old “military-first” policies. They regard the United States as an implacable enemy and South Korea as an American tool, barred by Washington from uniting with the North. They insist that Japan’s 35-year occupation of the peninsula, followed by the Korean War, proves the need for an invincible defense.

Billboards, patriotic songs, newspapers and movies continually reinforce that message. Every North Korean man spends up to 10 years in the military. Soldiers were spotted helping out at a Pyongyang construction site and heading through a nearby village toting shovels as a loudspeaker mounted on a tree blared patriotic messages.

“Even if we don’t eat, we give the military everything we can,” said a former humanities professor from the northern city of Chongjin, who now works as a maid in China but plans to return home. “Nuclear weapons mean we cannot be invaded. I really want to say that. We cannot be touched.”

At one Pyongyang subway stop, called Prosperity Station, commuters read news on the threat of military conflict with South Korea from newspaper pages posted on a stand-up carousel. “We want peace,” one man declared passionately. “But we are not afraid of war. We are ready for anything.”

Such statements aside, he and other residents were surprisingly friendly to journalists. So were government escorts. The six-day visit ended with a cognac-fueled celebration in the hotel’s karaoke bar in which the North Koreans belted out “You Are My Destiny” and Korean love songs.

The days were marked by odes to Kim Jong-il. Choi Hyok, 43, the rail-thin chief engineer at the Kim Jong-suk Silk Factory, which is named after the chairman’s mother, recalled Kim Jong-il’s visit in January 2009. “I felt like I had come out of the darkness and into the light,” he said.

Nam Dae-yong, 20, a geology student at Kim Il-sung University, marveled at 2,000 new desktop computers installed in April. “This is a very good present from Chairman Kim Jong-il,” she said.

The university is a showpiece. So is the silk factory, with its well-oiled machinery and 2,000 women at work in blue, pink and green scarves. Economists estimate that three of four North Korean factories are idle, lacking power and materials.

“Everyone knows the environment,” the former humanities professor said of her university in Chongjin. “No electricity, no light, no heat. The government doesn’t give anything, so we have to ask the parents for money.”

“People talk a lot about 2012, how we will become a strong and prosperous country,” one 45-year-old trader from Hwanghae Province told the advocacy group Human Rights Watch last month. “If we find a gold mine, yes, I guess it would happen.”

  • Author: Kristen Stevens
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 12 mins (plus 10 mins to let the rice rest)
  • Total Time: 17 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups cooked rice 1 x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Indian


Learn how to cook basmati rice on the stove. It is a very easy recipe and this method produces perfect basmati rice every time.



  1. Add the rice and cold water to a medium-sized pot over high heat. Bring the pot to a boil then immediately cover the pot and reduce the heat to low.
  2. Simmer the rice (no peeking!) for 12 minutes.
  3. Remove the rice from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Use a fork or spoon to gently fluff the rice before serving.


Pair with Sticky Cashew Chicken or Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry

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Is Iran another North Korea?

Last week the U.S. point man for talks on North Korea, Glyn Davies, met with his North Korean counterparts for the first time since the death of Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the subsequent transfer of power to his son Kim Jong Un.

The talks were aimed at reviving a proposal to exchange U.S. nutritional aid to North Korea for a halt to Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program.

The prospective deal was expected to lead to the resumption of disarmament talks between the two countries along with China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, and to more extensive quantities of food aid for North Korea. An announcement had been slated for the week Kim died, but was delayed to give the new regime a chance to regroup.

In an interview with CNN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of "modest progress," but no breakthroughs.

"We've always said that we are willing to talk," she said in the interview. "This is the first time that, under this new leader, we've had this opportunity, and we'll follow through."

Since the so-called "six-party talks" effort began in 2003, North Korea has played a game of yo-yo with the world following nuclear antics with gestures meant to demonstrate Pyongyang's commitment to halt its nuclear weapons program.

In 2005 the world powers and North Korea reached an agreement in which Pyongyang would abandon its nuclear program, resume compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allow international inspectors to return. In exchange, North Korea would receive food and energy assistance and a chance to normalize relations with the United States.

Since then, North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test in 2006, demolished its cooling tower at its main nuclear power plant and handed over thousands of documents on its program to the United States. In recent years as tensions with the United States and South Korea have increased, North Korea has undertaken efforts to restart its program.

The administration refuses to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear power although it's a distinction without a difference. North Korea has nuclear weapons and the test to prove it.

The United States is now trying to walk back a North Korean nuclear program that has matured while the international community allowed the regime to play for time to build a nuke under the guise of talking.

Is the U.S. now repeating these mistakes with Iran?

Last week Iran sent a letter that it was ready for talks on its nuclear program "as soon as possible." It was a delayed response to an October letter from European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading contacts between Iran and the so-called "P5 plus one" group of nations, inviting Iran to a new round of talks aimed at forging an agreement to address international concerns over Iran's nuclear program. The P5 plus one group is made up of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and France - plus Germany.

Tough sanctions on the regime have begun to trickle down to the Iranian people, and the suffering is sure to intensify once curbs against Iranian oil exports take effect in June. The United States and its allies believe those biting sanctions are what is bringing Iran back to the table.

We've been here before. The world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - first started negotiating with Iran over it's nuclear program in 2008. The following year, Iran reneged on an agreement to ship most of the enriched uranium it had made out of the country in exchange for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which is used to make isotopes for medical diagnosis.

The last round of talks took place in January 2011 without any results. Since then, Iran's nuclear program continues to develop.

According to the most recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran continues to expand operations at its underground facility at Fordow, as well as at its Natanz site, producing uranium enriched to 20%, a key level of achievement if Iran decides to create nuclear weapons.

Fordow is built deep into a mountain near the city of Qom, making it difficult to attack. Nuclear development at that facility is considered a major flashpoint for Israel, which has fueled speculation Israel will argue that Tehran is nearing "the point of no return" in its development of nuclear weapons and will be forced to launch a pre-emptive strike.

Even as the regime seeks talks with world powers, Iranian officials refused last week to provide IAEA inspectors access to Parchin, a key military installation, and dismissed the concerns of inspectors as based on "unfounded allegations."

During her interview with CNN, Secretary Clinton called the Iranian actions "certainly troubling."

She was asked what the United States thinks is going on at Parchin and other sites the Iranians are preventing the IAEA from getting access to.

"We want to know what's going on in those sites," she said. "And the fact that they are secret, heavily protected sites seems to suggest something's going on the Iranians don't want the IAEA or the world to know about. That can only raise suspicions even higher than they already are."

The "P5 plus one" is ready to meet with the Iranians, Clinton said, "if they came to the table prepared to talk about their nuclear program."

But is this North Korea all over again with Iran simply playing for time, agreeing to an endless series of meetings over a course of years which ends with Tehran testing a nuclear weapon?

ISIS and Nuclear Terrorism

But there’s still one threat that is even greater than the clearly stated threats by all the nuclear powers in the world that is the ongoing threat of a nuclear attack by terrorists. While nuclear terrorism has never been tried, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people thinking about it. Unless terrorism is stamped out from the face of the earth, it is merely a matter of time until it occurs.

Building a simple nuclear device is not really all that hard you can find the information necessary online. With the funds that some of these organizations have backing them up, that has stopped them so far is the difficulty in coming up with the necessary materials, especially weapons grade nuclear materials.

The attack on Pelindaba

Many people don’t know that South Africa developed a small nuclear arsenal in the 70’s and 80’s. But in 1990 the bombs were dismantled and South Africa became the first nation in the world which voluntarily gave up all nuclear arms. But the highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel from about a dozen bombs is stored in their Pelindaba nuclear facility, which was successfully attacked and entered by armed terrorists in 2007. Even though it took security almost an hour to arrive and scare them off, fortunately they did not obtain any HEU. Or at least that is what the South African officials are saying. ( the attack on Pelindaba )

We may not be as lucky next time. And all it takes is once.

Recently, a vehicle carrying radioactive Iridium-192 was hijacked in Mexico. Could this be related to ISIS threats on America?

Considering our porous southern border, getting such a device into the United States would be extremely simple. Then it would just be a matter of selecting the sight and timing to make their attack have the maximum effect.

One carefully placed nuclear bomb, even a small one, would create worldwide pandemonium. Were it to take out our government leadership, it could end up being months before the United States could organize itself well enough to retaliate.

ISIS currently has access to modern military weapons, including the precursors for chemical weapons . Seeing the cruelty and destruction they have propagated in the lands which they occupy, it is clear that they wouldn’t hesitate to use a nuclear weapon, if they had one to use.

They have already stated their intent to attack the United States. They have bragged about how their flag will fly over the White House. Were such an organization to get their hands on weapons grade nuclear material, you can be sure that they would use it, and do so to great effect.

Slow Cooker Korean Beef

Yield: 8 servings

prep time: 10 minutes

cook time: 8 hours 30 minutes

total time: 8 hours 40 minutes

Amazingly tender, flavorful Korean beef easily made in the crockpot with just 10 min prep. It doesn’t get easier than that!


  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha, or more, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger, Sriracha, onion powder and white pepper.
  2. Place chuck roast into a 6-qt slow cooker. Stir in beef broth mixture until well combined.
  3. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 hours or high heat for 3-4 hours.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/4 cup water. Stir in mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.

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Help Animals Used for Clothing

When shopping for clothes, always choose something vegan—not someone. Pledge not to wear leather, fur, or wool. Post on the social media accounts of major brands urging them to stop selling materials made of animal parts. Stay up to date with the latest PETA campaigns for more ways to help.

With the help of our members and supporters, PETA and our international affiliates work globally to expose and end the use of animals in the fashion industry. Our actions include the following:

  • Conducting groundbreaking undercover investigations to inform the public
  • Working with celebrities and other activists on a wide variety of campaigns
  • Holding colorful, eye-catching campaigns such as “fur crawls,” naked demos, and Fur-Free Friday protests outside stores
  • Persuading legislative bodies to ban the farming and sale of fur and exotic skins
  • Encouraging fashion designers, companies, and shoppers to use only vegan fabrics
  • Buying stock in companies for the sole purpose of pressuring them to change
  • Facilitating connections between major brands and vegan innovators
  • Awarding innovative companies for creating new vegan materials and designs
  • Partnering with compassionate designers, brands, and retailers on runway shows, exclusive vegan products, and many other exciting initiatives
  • Hosting ethics and sustainability panels at fashion universities to help educate the next generation of designers about the vegan fashion revolution
  • Promoting vegan options that are available from popular stores and brands
  • Exposing the cruelty behind all animal-derived materials, including mohair, down, and shearling

This multifaceted approach secures lifesaving victories for animals targeted by the deadly fashion industry, and soon, using animals for clothing and accessories will be a thing of the past.