Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Slow news weekend with the Lunar New Year holiday. Even Kim seems relatively quiet since his Military Day speech and has not seemed to act out (yet).

Quotes of the Day:

"Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt." 
– Herbert Hoover

"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." 
– Winston Churchill

"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform." 
– Susan B. Anthony

1. N. Koreans celebrate Lunar New Year with traditional food, folk games: state media

2. N. Korea sets sights on 4th Industrial Revolution technology

3. Yoon visits Marine corps on Lunar New Year holiday

4. Song Joong Ki Is A North Korean Defector Struggling To Survive In “My Name Is Loh Kiwan”

5. American allies worry the US is growing less dependable, whether Trump or Biden wins

6. Social isolation takes a toll on a rising number of South Korea's young adults

7. Lunar New Year: The London suburb where North and South Koreans unite

8. South Korean company will pay its employees $75,000 to have babies. Here's why

9. Clue Kim's daughter will become N.Korea's next tyrant hidden in snaps

10. Sariwon residents dismayed at government-business collusion on construction projects

11. These false eyelashes are ‘Made in China,’ wink wink

1. N. Koreans celebrate Lunar New Year with traditional food, folk games: state media

According to party media.

N. Koreans celebrate Lunar New Year with traditional food, folk games: state media | Yonhap News Agency · by Yoo Jee-ho · February 10, 2024

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- North Koreans celebrated the Lunar New Year on Saturday dining on traditional food and playing folk games, while also paying tribute to their two late former leaders on one of the country's biggest holidays, Pyongyang's state media reported.

The Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper, published an article in its Saturday edition describing the Lunar New Year as "one of the holidays that our people enjoy the most."

According to the story, North Koreans clean up their homes and prepare traditional dishes to mark the Lunar New Year. The paper also said North Korean people dine on "tteokguk," a soup with rice cakes, with their family and take "sebae," a formal bow, before the elderly -- just as South Korean people do.

North Koreans also play folk games on the Lunar New Year, including "yutnori," a board game played with four wooden sticks as dice.

This Jan. 23, 2023, file photo released by the Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean people paying their respects to the late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il to celebrate the Lunar New Year. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Even though it's a holiday, North Koreans don't celebrate the Lunar New Year over an extended holiday, as South Koreans do.

Unlike in South Korea, where millions of people travel out of Seoul and its surrounding region toward their hometowns en masse during the weekend, North Koreans face travel restrictions.

In North Korea, the birthday of its founder, Kim Il-sung (April 15), called the Day of the Sun, and the birthday of Kim's son, Kim Jong-il (Feb. 16), known as Kwangmyongsong Day, are considered the two biggest holidays.

On the start of the new year, North Koreans typically visit the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun or statues of the two Kims in their neighborhoods to pay tribute to their former leaders.

The reclusive regime began celebrating the Lunar New Year in 1989 on Kim Jong-il's order, and it became an official holiday in 2003.

The Korean Central News Agency claimed Saturday that it was thanks to Kim Jong-il's devotion to the Korean tradition that the people were able to celebrate the Lunar New Year with joy.

(END) · by Yoo Jee-ho · February 10, 2024

2. N. Korea sets sights on 4th Industrial Revolution technology

We should keep in mind that north Korea's nuclear program is paperboy based on 1950s -1960s technology.

N. Korea sets sights on 4th Industrial Revolution technology

The Korea Times · February 11, 2024

North Korean college students looking around artificial intelligence robots at a science and technology exhibition, Oct. 24, 2023, are seen in this screen capture from North Korea's Korean Central Television, Oct. 26, 2023. . Yonhap

North Korea appears to be setting its sights on Fourth Industrial Revolution technology, such as artificial intelligence, in a bid to explore ways to expand its applications.

The Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper, reported Dec. 24, 2023, that global competition for science and technology has been intensifying, citing efforts to apply AI to the education sector and the increased use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.

The Korean Central Broadcasting Station, the country's state-run radio network, said in November last year that other countries are actively using AI to ramp up agricultural production.

Last year, Korean Central Television also aired footage introducing a newly developed VR-based education program that enables users to learn about North Korea's history and culture around the third to the fourth century B.C.

North Korea's state media appears to introduce global trends of new technologies in a bid to explore ways to expand their use in the agricultural and education fields.

But the isolated nation also may attempt to use Fourth Industrial Revolution technology for military purposes.

Kim Hyuk, a research fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said in a report that North Korean researchers have applied AI and its sub-field machine learning (ML) for "sensitive applications, such as wargaming and surveillance and continued scientific collaboration with foreign scholars until recently."

In his report carried by 38 North, a U.S. website monitoring North Korea, Kim said, "North Korea's conceived wargaming environment might be actual conflicts at a tactical level involving artillery shells."

Kim said given that AI/ML technology could be transferred via intangible means, it is important to monitor the North's activities and implement measures to mitigate potential sanctions risks within the academic and private sectors, if necessary. (Yonhap)

The Korea Times · February 11, 2024

3. Yoon visits Marine corps on Lunar New Year holiday

Yoon visits Marine corps on Lunar New Year holiday | Yonhap News Agency · by Kim Eun-jung · February 10, 2024

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol visited a Marine Corps unit Saturday to show appreciation for the troops' service and order strong readiness against North Korea, his office said.

On the Lunar New Year holiday, Yoon visited the Marine Corps Second Division in Gimpo, just west of Seoul, to inspect the unit's military readiness amid heightened tension with Pyongyang.

"If the enemy provokes, you have to sternly and overwhelmingly respond under the principle of 'act first, report later' to completely crush the enemy's will," Yoon was quoted as saying.

He inspected the multiple rocket system Cheonmoo and urged the troops to be prepared against any North Korean provocations.

During his meeting with soldiers, Yoon made surprise appearances in some soldiers' video calls with their parents on the traditional holiday.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (2nd from L) meets soldiers during his visit the Marine Corps 2nd Division in Gimpo, just west of Seoul, on Feb. 10, 2024, on the Lunar New Year holiday, in this photo provided by the presidential office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

(END) · by Kim Eun-jung · February 10, 2024

4. Song Joong Ki Is A North Korean Defector Struggling To Survive In “My Name Is Loh Kiwan”

I wonder how this will go over in north Korea?

Song Joong Ki Is A North Korean Defector Struggling To Survive In “My Name Is Loh Kiwan”

Netflix has released a new sneak peek of Song Joong Ki’s upcoming film “My Name is Loh Kiwan”!

Based on Cho Haejin’s novel “I Met Loh Kiwan,” “My Name is Loh Kiwan” tells the love story of North Korean defector Loh Kiwan (Song Joong Ki) and professional shooter Marie (Choi Sung Eun).

The newly released stills capture the difficult journey of Loh Kiwan, who arrives in Belgium clinging to his last shred of hope. Before she passed away, Loh Kiwan’s mother told him, “You need to survive,” and it is those words that drive him to escape alone to Belgium, hoping to start a new life.

However, once he finds himself in a foreign country where he can’t speak the language, Loh Kiwan struggles to prove his identity and obtain the refugee status he needs in order to start anew. Although each day is a challenge for him as an outsider who knows no one and has nothing, Loh Kiwan’s fierce determination to survive shines through in his burning gaze.

Meanwhile, Marie—a shooter who competed on the Belgian national team—suffers her own heartbreak after the death of her mother. In contrast to the impressive focus she exhibits while shooting, Marie’s life falls apart once she loses her reason to live.

However, Marie winds up meeting Loh Kiwan in her darkest hour, and the two unexpectedly find comfort in one another.

Song Joong Ki commented, “I found the story of two people whose lives are polar opposites meeting and comforting one another both appealing and refreshing.”

Meanwhile, Choi Sung Eun remarked, “[‘My Name is Loh Kiwan’] is a film that has many layers. Searching for one’s basic rights, the determination to survive, love for humanity.”

“My Name is Loh Kiwan” will premiere on March 1.

In the meantime, watch Song Joong Ki in his hit drama “Reborn Rich” on Viki below:

Watch Now

And watch Choi Sung Eun in her variety show “Young Actors’ Retreat” below!

Watch Now

Source (1)

5. American allies worry the US is growing less dependable, whether Trump or Biden wins

We need to reflect upon this and its impact on our national security.

From yesterday's article "Our Restraint Destroys Your Deterrence"

(Why do they always leave out north Korea?)

Remember the advice the great geopolitical thinker, Halford Mackinder, provided in 1906, “[N]one but a powerful nation is a desirable ally. Moreover, to accept an ally, and to depend upon his aid for needful power, is to give a hostage to fortune….” 
Do not rely on the United States to march or sail to your relief. The less you need our help, the more likely we are to help you. When your adversaries attack, the United States, in service of ‘peace’ and in thrall to domestic politics, will prevent you from achieving victory. Far too many of our citizens either align with adversaries, or they believe that the peace of accommodation and weakness is superior to victory.
The autocracies of Eurasia – China, Russia, and Iran, with their proxies – have entered an alliance and are coordinating their actions, aimed at destroying the Pax Americana and the Westphalian order.

American allies worry the US is growing less dependable, whether Trump or Biden wins

AP · February 11, 2024

LONDON (AP) — As chances rise of a Joe Biden-Donald Trump rematch in the U.S. presidential election race, America’s allies are bracing for a bumpy ride.

Many worry that a second term for Trump would be an earthquake, but tremors already abound — and concerns are rising that the U.S. could grow less dependable regardless of who wins. With a divided electorate and gridlock in Congress, the next American president could easily become consumed by manifold challenges at home — before even beginning to address flashpoints around the world from Ukraine to the Middle East.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent verdict was blunt: America’s “first priority is itself.”

The first Trump administration stress-tested the bonds between the U.S. and its allies, particularly in Europe. Trump derided the leaders of some friendly nations, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s Theresa May, while praising authoritarians such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin. He has called China’s Xi Jinping “brilliant” and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán “a great leader.”

In campaign speeches, Trump remains skeptical of organizations such as NATO, often lamenting the billions the U.S. spends on the military alliance whose support has been critical to Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

He said at a rally on Saturday that, as president, he’d warned NATO allies he would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that didn’t pay their way in the alliance. Trump also wrote on his social media network that in future the U.S. should end all foreign aid donations and replace them with loans.

Biden, meanwhile, has made support for Ukraine a key priority and moral imperative. But Biden’s assertion after his election in 2020 that “America is back” on the global stage has not been entirely borne out. Congressional Republicans have stalled more military aid for Ukraine, while America’s influence has been unable to contain conflict in the Middle East

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, reaches past U.S. President Joe Biden to shake hands with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda as they stand with other NATO members, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, during a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Doug Mills/Pool via AP, File)

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, Friday, July 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Thomas Gift, director of the Centre on U.S. Politics at University College London, said that whoever wins the presidential race, the direction of travel will be the same – toward a multipolar planet in which the United States is no longer “the indisputable world superpower.”

Most allied leaders refrain from commenting directly on the U.S. election, sticking to the line that it’s for Americans to pick their leader.

They are conscious that they will have to work with the eventual winner, whoever it is — and behind the scenes, governments will be doing the “backroom work” of quietly establishing links with the contenders’ political teams, said Richard Dalton, a former senior British diplomat.

But many of America’s European NATO allies are worried that with or without Trump, the U.S. is becoming less reliable. Some have started to talk openly about the need for members to ramp up military spending, and to plan for an alliance without the United States.

U.S. President Joe Biden walks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was “currently on the phone a lot with my colleagues and asking them to do more” to support Ukraine. Germany is the second-largest donor of military aid to Kyiv, behind the U.S., but Scholz recently told Die Zeit that the country couldn’t fill any gap on its own if “the U.S.A. ceased to be a supporter.”

Russia, meanwhile, is busy bolstering ties with China, Iran and North Korea and trying to chip away at Ukraine’s international support.

Macron also suggested American attention was focused far from Europe. If Washington’s top priority is the U.S., he said its second is China.

“This is also why I want a stronger Europe, that knows how to protect itself and isn’t dependent on others,” Macron said at a January news conference.

Trump does have supporters in Europe, notably pro-Russia populists such as Hungary’s Orbán. But former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson raised some eyebrows when he argued recently that “a Trump presidency could be just what the world needs.”

Johnson is a strong supporter of Ukraine in its struggle against Russian invasion, whereas Trump has frequently praised Putin and said he’d end the war within 24 hours. However, Johnson said in a Daily Mail column that he didn’t believe Trump would “ditch the Ukrainians,” but instead would help Ukraine win the war, leaving the West stronger “and the world more stable.”

Bronwen Maddox, director of the international affairs think tank Chatham House, said arguments like that underestimate “how destabilizing” Trump has been, and likely would continue to be if reelected.

“For those who say his first term did not do much damage to international order, one answer is that he took the U.S. out of the JCPOA, the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s acceleration of its work since then has left it a threshold nuclear weapon state,” she said during a recent speech on the year ahead.

Biden was a critic of Trump’s Iran policy but hasn’t managed to rebuild bridges with Tehran, which continues to flex its muscles across the region.

Dalton, a former U.K. ambassador to Iran, said prospects for the Middle East would be “slightly worse” under Trump than Biden. But he said divergence on the region’s main tensions — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s ambitions — would be limited.

“No U.S. administration is going to make a serious effort to resolve differences with Iran through diplomacy,” Dalton told The Associated Press. “That ship sailed quite some time ago.”

Palestinians and their supporters, meanwhile, implore Biden to temper U.S. support for Israel as the civilian death toll from the war in Gaza climbs. But hard-liners in Israel argue the U.S. is already restraining the offensive against Hamas too much.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, recently said Biden was not giving Israel his “full backing” and that “if Trump was in power, the U.S. conduct would be completely different.”

Much like its allies, America’s rivals are not openly expressing a preference for the election outcome.

Trump developed a strong rapport with Turkey’s Erdogan, calling them “very good friends” during a 2019 meeting at the White House.

Yet Turkey-U.S. relations were fraught during his tenure. The Trump administration removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet project over Ankara’s decision to purchase Russian-made missile defense systems, while Trump himself threatened to ruin Turkey’s economy.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told CBS in January that he doesn’t “believe there will be any difference” between a Trump and a Biden presidency. He argued that Russia-U.S. relations have been going downhill since George W. Bush’s administration.

China, where leaders’ initial warmth toward Trump soured into tit-for-tat tariffs and rising tensions, little changed under Biden, who continued his predecessor’s tough stance toward the United States’ strategic rival.

Zhao Minghao, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai, said that for China, the two candidates were like “two ‘bowls of poison.’”

Gift, from University College London, said the move to a more fractured world is “going to happen regardless of whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden is elected.”

“It’s just sort of a reality,” he said.


Associated Press writers Jiwon Song in Seoul, South Korea, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Nomaan Merchant in Washington, and Jill Colvin and Michelle Price in New York contributed to this story.

AP · February 11, 2024

6. Social isolation takes a toll on a rising number of South Korea's young adults

Social isolation takes a toll on a rising number of South Korea's young adults

NPR · by By · February 11, 2024

SEOUL, South Korea — For Kim Ji-yeon, a 31-year-old Seoul resident, the pandemic was a chance to escape isolation.

He had spent much of his 20s at home, shunning people. He lived with his family, but they rarely talked. His only social interactions happened online, with fellow gamers. He thought he needed to change but didn't know where to start.

Then he learned about food delivery on foot. Delivery platforms were expanding options to meet soaring demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

"That's how I started going outside again. It was all contact-free, so I could just drop the food at the door and not see anyone," says Kim, who is now out of reclusion. "It helped a lot that I could do something outside, even though it wasn't anything huge."

A growing number of South Korea's young adults like Kim are isolating themselves from society, raising questions about the state of youths in a country known for cutthroat competition and pressure to conform.

The issue predates the pandemic, and as Kim's case shows, its causes are more complex than social distancing mandates. But the global health crisis did aggravate the problem of social isolation among young people and their mental health.

A pre-pandemic study from 2019 by the government think tank Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) estimated about 3% of South Korea's population between ages 19 and 34 suffer from isolation, which the study defined as having no meaningful interaction outside of their cohabiting family and work and no one to seek help from when needed.

A man takes a morning stroll along the rocky coastline of Seogwipo, the second-largest city on Jeju Island, on Feb. 23, 2023. Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

This group included people in reclusion — an extreme form of isolation — who shut themselves in their home or their room for years like Kim.

In 2021, the estimate rose to 5%, or 540,000 young Koreans.

Realizing the severity of the situation, the government recently conducted its first nationwide survey on young recluses. Like many countries, South Korea has become increasingly aware that impacts of social isolation not only hurt individuals' mental and physical health but also the country's future.

More than 21,000 people aged 19-39 from across the country, who have experienced isolation or reclusion, completed the online survey. Some 12,000 of the respondents, including 504 that reported they don't even leave their room, were in current danger of isolation, the survey concluded.

The respondents' level of life satisfaction and mental health was significantly lower than their peers.

Repeated disappointment is a factor

Nearly 60% of them self-reported that their physical and mental health is bad. Three out of four respondents said they have had suicidal thoughts, compared to 2.3% of the general youth population in the country.

A quarter of them said their isolated or reclusive state lasted for one to three years, while 6.1% said the period exceeded 10 years. More than 80% said they want to break out of their situation.

The two biggest self-reported reasons for their state were job-related difficulties and personal relations issues.

The recovering recluse Kim experienced both. He says he began withdrawing himself from peers after suffering from severe physical bullying through his teens. After graduating from high school, he applied for jobs but only faced one rejection after another.

"I felt powerless and depressed. My self-confidence dropped with repeated failures, so I couldn't help but stay at home," he says.

Kim Seonga, an associate research fellow at KIHASA who has studied the issue of youth isolation and participated in designing and analyzing the government survey, says many young Koreans who experience repeated disappointments in their transition to adulthood report feeling like their existence in society is denied.

"Many seem to think they were not given a role in this society, that they have nowhere to be," she says.

Isolation knows no borders, but cultural pressures are distinct

Japan noticed a similar phenomenon of young hermits decades earlier than South Korea and termed them "hikikomori," which means "withdrawn to oneself." But Kim says South Korea's isolated youths are more comparable in sentiment to the nihilistic pessimism of doomerism or China's tang ping — meaning "lying flat" — in that overwhelmed young people are simply giving up trying.

In that sense, she adds, citing anecdotal accounts she has heard from fellow researchers in other countries, South Korea's case may be a part of a broader, possibly global youth phenomenon that is yet to be clearly recognized, let alone named.

Researchers outside Asia, including in the United StatesCanada and Europe, have reported cases of extreme social withdrawal akin to hikikomori.

Other experts, however, attribute the problem to social and cultural conditions specific to South Korea and its neighboring regions.

Lee Eunae, the chief director of Seed:s, a civic organization that has provided counseling to more than 1,000 recluses and runs a facility for their gatherings, says young people in countries with family-centered culture and economic prosperity are more likely to experience isolation and reclusion.

"Parents give everything to their children to ensure them opportunities, and they also expect a lot from their children," she says. "They believe their children must inherit the wealth and social status that they have achieved."

Psychology professor Kim Hyewon of Hoseo University, who specializes in teenagers and young adults and runs recovery programs for recluses at the civic organization PIE for Youth, says such pressure comes also from outside the family in collectivist societies that frown upon people diverging from a standardized way of life.

People sit near the cherry blossoms in full bloom along a street in Seoul on April 3, 2023. Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

"They try to fit themselves in," she says, to their society's conventional life stages of getting a job in their 20s, a spouse in their 30s, and then children in their 40s — until the pressure becomes too much.

When they fall out of the path, "the sense of frustration, hurt and shame from feeling useless in this society supersedes their desire for relationships," she says.

But the adulthood tasks have become increasingly difficult to fulfill for the younger generations. South Korea's economic growth rate hovered around 10% in the 1980s, when the parents' generation of baby boomers came of age. The country's gross domestic product increased by 1.4% last year, according to the Bank of Korea.

Competition for stable jobs is fierce, as the labor market becomes more and more polarized and the quality of jobs sinks. Among advanced economies, South Korea has the shortest average job tenure, fourth-longest working hours and second-highest rate of temporary employment.

Seed:s director Lee says in both South Korea and Japan, "There is the mainstream generation that experienced success, and their children's generation is now experiencing this problem of reclusion."

"The older generation demands the standards, concept, and method of success that they experienced, but working hard alone no longer guarantees comfort in South Korea," she says.

This generational gap in expectations confused a middle school teacher surnamed Kim, whose 21-year-old son spent three teenage years cooped up in his room. Kim wanted to be identified only by her surname for fear of harm to her son's future.

Her son started skipping classes in his last year of middle school, saying he couldn't see why he should be in school when he wanted to be a musician. He then hid himself in his room.

"Parents tend to have this strong, stiff idea that their children should at least attend school and belong in an institution," says Kim. "I cried every day, because I couldn't understand my son."

She tried "everything I could," taking him to psychotherapy, a mental health clinic and an alternative school, to no avail. What eventually pulled him out of his reclusion was doing what he had always wanted — studying music.

Money problems cornered him

While middle-class and affluent families may have clashes over inheritance, a lack of financial or social assets to inherit creates a different group of young recluses.

Oh Dong-yeop, 27, spent the past seven years in isolation. He was a diligent enough student to win a scholarship to study computer science at a college, but unable to receive any help from his family, he also had to earn a living through part-time jobs. By his junior year, the double burden overtaxed him, and he lost his scholarship.

He moved to Seoul to save money for his studies and worked construction and logistics jobs. But struggles with financial security wore him down and cornered him into isolation. He ended up depleting his savings, drinking and watching online videos day after day.

"I kept thinking, 'I shouldn't be living like this,' " Oh says. "Then I would wake up the next day, forget about that thought, waste the day, and think again at night, 'I should straighten up from tomorrow.' "

"Young people from underprivileged backgrounds find they have too few professional choices in the society," says the Seed:s director Lee. "Having lived a disadvantaged life from their childhood, they find it difficult to form meaningful relationships and have confidence in themselves."

But until recently, the government didn't consider young recluses like Oh as a welfare policy target.

When Oh eventually felt like he hit a wall, with not even a penny in his hands, he went to a local administrative office. His vague yet desperate expectation of help was quickly dashed. "They told me they don't have much to offer because I'm young and able-bodied," he says.

"Public support for isolated middle-aged or elderly people may not be sufficient but exists," says the KIHASA researcher Kim Seonga. "But when it comes to youths, it has been a blank."

Changes began only recently as more young Koreans, including those secluded in their home, started voicing their hardships and seeking help. Some are creating YouTube videos about their reclusion or poverty, while others are applying for support programs run by civic groups or local governments.

Additionally, the marked deterioration of youth mental health in the past few years alarmed public health authorities. The suicide rate of Korean 20-somethings jumped from 16.4 per 100,000 in 2017 to 23.5 in 2021, according to the government statistics agency.

Experts say early intervention is crucial in helping young recluses, as their state can easily become permanent if the "golden time" of relative malleability is missed.

In Japan, the "8050" problem of parents in their 80s taking care of their long-reclusive children now in their 50s has emerged as a social issue.

The longer recluses stay isolated, the more likely they are to develop physical and mental health problems. A 2022 survey by the Seoul metropolitan government on over 5,000 isolated or reclusive youths in the city found that 8 out of 10 are experiencing some degree of depression and 18.5% of them are taking psychiatric drugs, compared to 8.6% of their peers.

Experts say the medical costs and missed opportunities can weigh down not only the individuals, but the whole nation.

Researcher Kim Seonga says they can incur social welfare costs on the rest of the society, especially as they age and lose family support. They are also unlikely to get married and have children, bringing South Korea's low birth rate even further down and consequently the country's productivity.

For these reasons, Kim says, "This can become a problem not just for the current youth generation but for our country's next 20, 30, 40, 50 years."

Korea Youth Foundation, an organization in Seoul, estimated last year that the annual costs of lost economic output, welfare services and health-related expenses of isolated youth can exceed $5.6 billion.

A woman visits the I-Link Town observatory as skylines of Tokyo and Ichikawa are seen during the evening hour in Ichikawa, a city in Japan's Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, on June 7, 2023. Japan has a phenomenon known as "hikikomori," which means "withdrawn to oneself." Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

In December, along with the survey results, the South Korean government announced a set of measures to help the youths' recovery, such as opening a hotline, setting up support centers in four municipalities and providing tailored rehabilitation programs.

While welcoming the move, psychology professor Kim Hyewon says the policies require further elaboration on who will receive the services for how long and from whom.

She also calls for sensitivity and attentiveness in developing concrete details, as isolated or reclusive people are not used to demanding what they need.

Researcher Kim Seonga says more support centers need to be established, in smaller towns and wards nationwide.

Some major cities like Seoul and Gwangju launched their own support plans in the past few years, through which hundreds of people, including the former recluses that spoke to NPR, have received help. But awareness of the issue is still limited in remote regions.

Pointing out that the measures are currently in a pilot stage, Kim also calls for sufficient funding and legal basis to ensure their stability.

Seed:s' Lee Eunae agrees that a long-term perspective is necessary, as well as a holistic, patient approach.

She also thinks intergenerational, society-wide conversations about what makes a happy, successful life need to take place to fundamentally solve the problem.

"I keep working on this issue out of the belief that this can be an opportunity for the Korean society to reach a fresh agreement on the need for huge changes," she says.

Such self-reflection is what the middle school teacher and mother Kim arrived at after her son's reclusion.

"I am a teacher myself, but looking at parents pushing their children to their limit, I have doubts about the future of our education," she says. "I too would feel depressed if I were a young person."

"I once thought of dropping out of school as falling into hell," says Kim, "but my son seems to be doing just fine now, regardless of what his parents think."

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, in the United States: Contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 9-8-8, or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

In South Korea: Visit this website for hotlines and support.

Internationally: Visit this website to find a hotline near you.

NPR · by By · February 11, 2024

7. Lunar New Year: The London suburb where North and South Koreans unite

Lunar New Year: The London suburb where North and South Koreans unite

4 hours ago


By Je Seung Lee

BBC News

Je Seung Lee/BBC

People come together and eat at Lunar New Year celebrations

As millions of people around the world ring in the Lunar New Year, the celebrations in one London suburb are bringing North and South Koreans together.

But for Min Jung Park - not her real name - and other North Koreans who cannot return to their homeland, this festive season reminded them of family members they had left behind.

Ms Park, a North Korean defector, said her decision to leave was not driven by opposition to the regime but because she could no longer cope with starvation.

After arriving in the UK in 2007, she settled in New Malden in south-west London which is believed to be home to the largest concentration of Korean people anywhere in Europe.

She said: "When I eat traditional food during the Lunar New Year, I would burst into tears because I remember my brothers and sisters back in North Korea. And I think how good it would have been if my parents were still alive to taste these delicious dishes we get to enjoy here [in the UK]."

North Korea is suffering from chronic food shortages and Ms Park said this meant that she was not able to treat her parents to a fancy meal.

She said: "I tell my kids here in the UK to be good to their parents, because in North Korea I couldn't provide for my own parents even if I wanted to."

Families sharing meals, playing traditional games and gathering to pay respects to their ancestors is a big part of celebrating the Lunar New Year, known as Seollal in Korean.

Je Seung Lee/BBC

North Korean defector Yi Young Choi says the New Year celebrations make her wonder if her siblings were still alive

Yi Young Choi is another North Korean defector who lives in New Malden with her husband and granddaughter.

She said she constantly thought about her siblings in North Korea and the Lunar New Year period evoked a greater sense of longing for them.

"During New Year, you would eat specially prepared food that you wouldn't normally eat," she said.

"Special occasions like these automatically make me think of my family members in North Korea. Then I feel bad for eating so well [here]."

Ms Choi's eyes filled with tears as she recounted her life back in North Korea.

"I wonder what my brothers and sisters are doing right now? And then I ask myself, would they still be alive?" she added.

Je Seung Lee/BBC

Tteokguk is a Korean soup dish typically eaten during Lunar New Year in South Korea

'We are all just Koreans'

Despite years of co-existence in the same area of London, North and South Korean communities seldom mix in personal settings.

Hyunsu Yim is chairman of New Malden's Korean Culture and Art Centre, which organised the Lunar New Year event to unite the two communities.

He emphasised the strength of culture as a way to break down barriers.

"Sharing a common tradition like the Lunar New Year and language make it easier to connect with each other," he said.

"In our culture centre, we are all just Koreans."

Je Seung Lee/BBC

Members of both the North and South Korean communities performed together at an event to celebrate Lunar New Year

Jung Hee Lee is head of the North Korean residents' society in the UK and co-organised the event with Mr Yim.

For Ms Lee, her adoptive home of New Malden has not only provided her shelter and a chance for a better life but also a new family.

She said: "When North Koreans flee, they usually leave their siblings behind.

"A lot of the elderly North Korean defectors living in New Malden are lonely because their children have all grown up and left home, so we bond through our similar experiences and circumstances.

"We are like brothers and sisters."

Lunar New Year

New Malden

8. South Korean company will pay its employees $75,000 to have babies. Here's why

South Korean company will pay its employees $75,000 to have babies. Here's why · February 11, 2024

A company in South Korea is offering its workers 100 million Korean won ($75,000) each time they become parents. But why? Booyoung Group, a construction company is offering this hefty sum to address the low birth rate in South Korea. As per reports, the company also announced that it would give cash payments totalling 7 billion Korean won ($5.25 million) to staff members who have given birth to 70 children since 2021.

Booyoung Group is 100 million Korean won to its employees when they become parents. (Unsplash )

Booyoung Group’s Chairman Lee Joong-keun told CNN that they are offering “direct financial support” to the employees to help ease the financial burden of raising children. He also said, "I hope we would get recognized as a company that contributes to encouraging births and worries about the country’s future." (Also Read: South Korea shatters its own record for world’s lowest fertility rate: Report)

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As per CNN, he stated at a company event that employees with three newborns will be given the option of getting 300 million Korean won ($225,000) in cash or rental housing if the government supplies land for the building.

As per Statistics Korea, a government organization responsible for managing national statistics in South Korea, the fertility rate or the average number of expected babies per South Korean woman over her reproductive life span fell from 0.81 to 0.78 in 2022. According to experts, the rate must be at least 2.1 to maintain the 52 million-person population of the nation. Relative to the previous year, the number of newborns declined from 260,600 to 249,000.

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Copy Link · February 11, 2024

9. Clue Kim's daughter will become N.Korea's next tyrant hidden in snaps

Everyone loves speculating about Kim's daughter. Photos at the ilink:

Clue Kim's daughter will become N.Korea's next tyrant hidden in snaps

The Sun · by Iona Cleave · February 10, 2024

BORN and bred to likely take over his despotic reign over North Korea - Kim Jong-un's Gucci-loving daughter is becoming a spitting image of her father.

A series of pictures reveals how the tubby tyrant, 40, is priming Kim Ju-ae, aged nine of ten, in the art of the statement leather coat, designer sunglasses and looking good while behaving badly.

Kim Ju-ae was pictured front and centre at an air force display in January in a strikingly similar get up to her fatherCredit: AP

The sudden display of paternal love may signal she is next in line for the throneCredit: AFP

The pair again are pictured in twinning outfits in September, 2023Credit: Reuters

Their matching styles could be an outward signal of Kim favouring his oldest daughterCredit: KCNA VIA KNS

Like father, like daughter - recent footage shows how Ju-ae is wearing identical outfits to her father on public outings.

The twinned clothes provide a striking clue that Kim is signally his oldest daughter out for succession.

Home-schooled, horse-loving, ski-obsessed Ju-ae first appeared on the scene at the end of 2022, walking hand in hand with her father to gleefully watch a ballistic missile test.

It seemed to many observers that Kim was placing the crown upon the head of his once secretive child. From then on, she quickly began appearing out and about with him more.

The tightly-controlled state-run media, who had never even hinted at her existence before, suddenly declared her as his "most beloved child".

In December, Kim and Ju-ae watched an air force display together in matching oversized leather trench coats and huge Gucci sunglasses.

They posed moodily together for photographers - but it revealed another hidden clue.

Ju-ae was standing in front of the despot, partially obscuring the camera’s view of his left side.

A report in South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said this was "unprecedented".

It said: “Ju-ae has appeared in many photos in the state media and always appeared either next to or behind her father, but in this picture she is the main character.

“It is unprecedented in the status-obsessed North to publish a photo with Kim Jong-un in the background.”

In February, 2023 Kim brought his daughter to work - to mark 75 years since his country's army was founded.

The young possible heiress joined him for a banquet for military officials in a surprisingly similar outfit - black suit, white shirt, pale tie.

According to insider reports, she’s been dubbed the “Morning Star General” and has now gone from being a “beloved” child to a “respected” child.

In January, South Korea's spy agency acknowledged for the first time that Ju-ae is likely to be Kim's heir.

The National Security Office, however, said it was still considering "all possibilities" in the succession plan.

"Based on a comprehensive analysis of public activities and the level of respect for Kim Ju Ae since her initial public appearance, at present, she appears to be the most likely successor," said the NIS.

However, analysts believe the public appearances are less a public display of paternal love and more a means to settle the internal war raging in the Kim household.

The dictator's wife, Ri Sol-ju, and his powerful, warmongering sister, Kim Yo-jong, are rumoured to be feuding over power.

For years, Yo-jang has been widely believed to take over control of North Korea - but Kim's recent appearances with his daughter now suggest otherwise.

Michael Madden, founder of North Korea Leadership Watch, believes it all sends a striking message.

He said: "It is highly significant and represents a certain degree of comfort on Kim Jong-un's part that he would bring her out in public in such fashion.

"What we are seeing is Kim telecasting that fourth-generation hereditary succession is highly likely to happen."

"This is intended to communicate it to the wider North Korean elite as well as to foreign governments."

If Kim Ju-ae ascends to power, she would become the fourth member of the dynasty to lead the country and the first female leader in the country's history.

Inside the only hereditary communist state in the world, it is both unprecedented for an heir to be announced before they are an adult.

And in a fiercely patriarchal society, it seems unlikely a woman would be allowed to rule.

However, Kim seems to be throwing caution to the wind and riling up his wife and sister by taking the young girl to speeches, military parades, weapons displays and factory inspections.

Some analysts have speculated that introducing Miss Kim to the public so early on could be a way to overcome prejudices towards a female leader.

How many kids does Kim Jong-un have?

NOT a lot is truly known about the children of North Korea's tyrannical leader.

Before his oldest daughter, Ju-ae, suddenly stepped into the public eye at the end of 2022, information on Kim's kids was largely just speculation.

South Korea's spy agency reckons that Kim and his wife Ri Sol-ju have three children together.

Ju-ae, aged nine or ten, is believed to the middle child.

Reports suggest she has an older brother, born in 2010, and a younger sister, born in 2017.

But very little is known or spoken of them.

North Koreans knew nothing about the families of Kim's father Kim Jong-il, and grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the founding president of the pariah state.

Kim himself was not even introduced to the public until he was officially announced as heir.

In November 2022 - Ju-ae started appearing very publiclyCredit: EPA

He took her to a military parade to mark 75 years since the creation of the army in 2023Credit: AP

The father-daughter duo pictured in surprisingly similar outfits after the parade

Kim's oldest daughter could be set to take over the reins of North KoreaCredit: Reuters

The Sun · by Iona Cleave · February 10, 2024

10. Sariwon residents dismayed at government-business collusion on construction projects

​For how can the regime keep treating the people this way? Unfortunately it is probably for the rest of their lives unless there is change within north Korea.

Sariwon residents dismayed at government-business collusion on construction projects

Sariwon has recently announced plans for spring construction projects that will force people to buy bricks from business people to "donate" to the projects

By Jong So Yong - February 9, 2024

Sariwon residents dismayed at government-business collusion on construction projects - Daily NK English

On Sept. 15, 2022, Rodong Sinmun reported on the status of rural housing construction in each province, saying, “Highly upholding the Party’s grand socialist rural construction initiative, workers and laborers in each province have been carrying out loyalty battles, fierce vigils, and are continuously expanding the achievements of rural housing construction.” (Rodong Sinmun-News1)

As the North Korean authorities promote the construction of houses and factories in rural areas, party and government officials have colluded with the to have ordinary citizens buy construction materials produced by the same businesspeople. This collusion is causing considerable levels of discontent among ordinary people.

“Sariwon has ordered the city’s businesspeople to produce bricks and other cement composite construction materials needed to meet the state’s economic construction targets. City officials have instructed citizens to buy the materials with their own money and donate them to the state,” a source in North Hwanghae Province told Daily NK on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

According to the source, Sariwon residents have recently seen producing large quantities of construction materials and piling them up in empty lots and the front yards of one-story houses.

Many Sariwon residents concluded that they would soon be given the “non-tax burden” of donating construction materials to the government. In the past, when businesspeople piled up construction materials, people were mobilized by their companies, schools, and neighborhood watch units to donate bricks and other materials needed for construction projects, either on a family or organizational level.

And that is exactly what the Sariwon government did on Jan. 26 when it announced regional development and construction projects to begin in the spring. Now people will have to buy bricks from these businesspeople and donate them to the city.

“A few years ago, the city’s used to collect raw materials such as cement, gravel, and sand and have factories make construction materials from them. That was more affordable for people who had to donate materials. But now they have to buy materials made by the for the donations, which ends up costing twice as much,” the source said.

In other words, the materials made by these businesspeople are much more expensive than those mass-produced in factories.

People complain about unscrupulous government officials 

The arrangement is a boon for party and government officials, who receive kickbacks from businesspeople to whom they award manufacturing contracts, and for these businesspeople themselves, who profit from the construction materials they sell to the people. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens are left holding the bag.

“People are angry at both the municipal party committee and the for collusion with the , and at these businesspeople for using this opportunity to make a profit,” the source said.

“People also complain about being ordered by the Workers’ Party to build houses and factories in the provinces on their own, without any rations. But they’re even more uncomfortable about being exploited to enrich the state and entrepreneurs through this kind of collusion.

“Many people are turned off by attempts to justify what is nothing more than a vulgar pursuit of profit by party and government officials and businesspeople. There’s growing resentment among the people over their attempts to enrich themselves without even trying to reduce the burden on the public.”

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources who live in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous due to security concerns. More information about Daily NK’s reporting partner network and information-gathering activities can be found on our FAQ page here.  

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to

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Jong So Yong

Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK’s freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to

11. These false eyelashes are ‘Made in China,’ wink wink

These false eyelashes are ‘Made in China,’ wink wink

North Korean eyelashes exported to China are repackaged and sold worldwide in possible violation of sanctions.

By Cho Jinwoo and Kim Jieun for RFA Korean


They stick on the eyelids and provide more volume than mascara ever could. False eyelashes are big business. But consumers who buy them may be indirectly funding North Korea's missile program.

Though they come in blister packs that say “Made in China,” they may have actually been made in North Korea and shipped to China – in possible violation of sanctions.

A Chinese trader provided Radio Free Asia with a shipping statement showing that a North Korean company based in the border city of Sinuiju last month exported 190,000 false eyelash products to a company in Donggang, a city in China’s Liaoning province.

“North Korean trading companies produce artificial eyelashes using raw materials imported from Chinese companies,” the trader told RFA Korean, insisting on not being identified for fear of punishment. “Then they sell them back to companies in China. North Korean workers receive 1 Chinese yuan (14 U.S. cents) for every three artificial eyelash products they make.”

Through this singular transaction, the state-run North Korean company made 63,000 yuan (US$8,800) in profit for the cash-strapped government, which is trying to develop missiles that would threaten the United States. Washington has in turn slapped sanctions on North Korea to keep it from exporting goods.

The transaction also included 18,000 wigs, which she said takes two or three days to make.

“Some people make more than 100 eyelashes a day,” she said. “The inspection standards are strict and very picky.”

‘Made in China’

The statement and the trader’s testimony corroborates a story that Reuters broke last week that fake eyelashes and other beauty products made in North Korea are sent to China and disguised as Chinese products to avoid sanctions.

The products are stamped “Made in China” and exported to the United States, Brazil, Russia and elsewhere, the report said.

Pingdu, in China’s Shandong province, is known as the center of the supply chain for North Korean artificial eyelashes. Reuters reported that this region produces 70% of artificial eyelash production in the world.

According to a 2023 estimate posted on its website by Kali, a Chinese manufacturer of eyelash boxes, about 80% of Pingdu’s artificial eyelash factories purchase or reprocess raw materials and semi-finished artificial eyelash products from North Korea.

The Reuters report said this kind of country-of-origin-laundering operation is being carried out openly in China, and according to Chinese customs data, North Korea exported a total of 1,680 tons of artificial eyelashes, beards and wigs to China last year, worth about US$167 million.

The eyelash business is so lucrative that North Korean workers dispatched by their government to earn foreign cash in China by working in factories there are being given extra eyelash work.

“A seafood company in China that employs North Korean workers is forcing workers to undergo additional eyelash processing,” the trader said. “The workers are complaining.”

The trader said that North Korea even uses prison labor to fill its eyelash contracts.

Employees work on a Monsheery production line for false eyelashes in Pingdu, China, Nov. 16, 2023. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

In June 2019, RFA reported that female prisoners in North Korea were doing additional work of making wigs and eyelashes even after their assigned work

RFA reported in April 2021 that the North Korean government wanted to steer young workers into other industries so there was a labor shortage for eyelash and wig makers that year.

Sanctions violation?

While the North Korean export of eyelashes violates U.S. sanctions against North Korea, they are not subject to U.N. sanctions, Troy Stangarone, at the Washington-based Korea Economic Institute told RFA.

“Technically speaking, the export of eyelashes is not sanctioned under the United Nations,” he said. “What is prohibited is the export of North Korean goods to the United States without a license to import from North Korea.”

“Any fake eyelash products processed in North Korea by Chinese firms would be ineligible to be shipped to the United States,” he said. “So, this is really a difference between U.N. and U.S. sanctions.”

The U.S. firm e.l.f. Cosmetics was fined US$1 million in 2019 after it was discovered that the company had over a period of five years imported eyelashes from China that had North Korean components.

“Ultimately North Korean export of eyelashes or other fake hair products is a small part of their economy and exports,” Stangarone said. “It's unlikely that North Korea will be able to really drive its own economic growth without diversifying into other areas.”

Translated by Claire S. Lee and Leejin J. Chung. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

De Oppresso Liber,
David Maxwell
Vice President, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy
Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation
Editor, Small Wars Journal
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."
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