North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

SPA Session to Issue Statement on Cheonan?

Mansudae Assembly Hall

The ROK Ministry of Unification anticipates that the DPRK is expected ” to announce its positions and principles on issues it is faced with, such as the outcome of an investigation into the Choenan incident” at the 3rd session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly to be held next Tuesday (7 June).  Yonhap reports:

On Monday, the ministry predicted in a weekly report that next week’s meeting could deal with the March sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan that killed 46 sailors.

“North Korea is expected to announce its positions and principles on issues it is faced with, such as the outcome of an investigation into the Choenan incident,” the report said.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been running high after a multinational team of investigators announced on May 20 that North Korea is responsible for the sinking. South Korea took a series of retaliatory steps, such as halting nearly all trade with North Korea. Pyongyang has reponded with belligerent rhetoric.

The ministry report said next week’s session also appears to be related to enactment or approval of laws on measures to follow up leader Kim’s trip to China in early May or to attract foreign investment. A personnel reshuffle could also be a topic, it predicted.

Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea (Yonhap)

The country is currently making contradictory statements on the fate of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.  Kim So-hyun reports in the Korea Herald:

A North Korean official told a South Korean staffer in Gaeseong on Sunday that his country will continue efforts to develop the joint factory park, but that it will be more difficult for South Korean companies to take their equipment out of Gaeseong, according to an official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

Pointing to Seoul’s recent measure to reduce the number of South Koreans in the complex, the North Korean official accused the South of taking preparatory steps to close the factory park, the ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity.

The remarks contrast with the North Korean military’s threat to shut the cross-border route to Gaeseong in anger over the South’s resumption of anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts, one of its retaliatory measures against the North’s attack on the South Korean warship in late March.

Could the North Koreans’ mixed messages on Kaesong indicate a policy shift from Pyongyang?  Ser Myo-ja writes in JoongAng Ilbo:

According to the Unification Ministry, the North Korean official complained about Seoul’s recent measures. Calling the moves preparations to shut down the complex, the North Korean official said the South will be held accountable if that happens.

The North also demanded that South Korean firms pay all overdue payments including wages, before taking any machinery out of the factories, the ministry said.

Machinery that requires repairs in the South will be allowed to leave the complex as long as the North confirms their malfunctions, and on the condition that they be returned to the factories after being fixed, the North demanded, according to the ministry.

No North Korean workers should be put on leave because South Korean companies pull machinery and raw materials from Kaesong, the North also said.

The detailed demands hint at the communist regime’s intention to keep the project alive. It also clearly contradicts North Korea’s May 27 warning that it would consider banning all South Koreans and their vehicles from entering the complex.

Passage of South Koreans at the inter-Korean border remained unchanged as of yesterday. About 813 people were to enter Kaesong Industrial Complex and 600 were to return.

Meanwhile, a poll of Hong Kong financial executives found that 48% of its respondents “doubted that [KJI] was in control of the isolated country’s military.”  Kim Young-gyo reports in Yonhap:

Nearly half of the financiers in Hong Kong believe North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is losing his grip on power in light of the country’s deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March, an online poll showed Tuesday.

According to the survey of 130 financial people conducted last week by the monthly publication Finance Asia, 48 percent of respondents doubted the reclusive leader was in control of the isolated country’ military.

An additional 33 percent thought Kim was not losing his power, while the remainder said they did not know what was going on in Pyongyang, according to the findings.

An affiliate of 38 North