North Korea. According to
Countryaah reports, the hope of a solution to the international
conflict over North Korea's nuclear weapons program that emerged in
2007 was changed into new doubts during the year. Already at
the turn of the year, the countries in the six-party group
accused North Koreaof failing to fulfill the pledge to completely
close the Yongbyon nuclear plant and to publish its entire
nuclear weapons program before December 31, 2007. The United
States gave Pyongyang a final report by February.
In an effort to reduce friction between countries, the
New York Philharmonic held a concert in Pyongyang in
February. And for the first time since 2005, the United
States provided food aid to North Korea in May, which according to
the United Nations food program was threatened by
starvation. But irritation between the parties gradually
increased throughout the first half of the year, before North Korea in June finally submitted his report on the nuclear weapons
program to China. At the same time, one of the cooling
plants in Yongbyon was blown up.
During new six-party talks (between North Korea, South Korea,
Russia, USA, Japan and China) in July, it was decided that
the nuclear plant would be completely dismantled in October.
But in September, Pyongyang declared that Yongbyon would be
put back into service because the United States has not yet
removed North Korea from its list of countries that support
terrorism. In the same month, inspectors from the United
Nations Atomic Energy Agency IAEA were banned from visiting
Yongbyon, which was now upgraded again. After further
mediation, the parties agreed in October that IAEA
inspectors could visit the country's facilities again,
prompting the United States to fulfill its promise and
remove N. from the list of "terrorist countries." North Korea
announced that the disarmament of Yongbyon would continue,
but in December, the Americans stated that the process had
stopped again due to differences of opinion regarding the
account of the disarmament.
Relations with South Korea also deteriorated during the
year, partly as a result of South Korea's new president Lee
Myung Bak pursuing a tougher line against North Korea than
representatives Roh Moo Hyun and Kim Dae Jung. In the
spring, South Korea threatened to halt some aid if North Korea did
not strengthen respect for human rights, released imprisoned
South Koreans and followed the disarmament agreement. As
revenge, North Korea carried out new missile tests and expelled South
Koreans working in the Kaesong industrial zone on the border
between the two countries. The situation was made worse by
the fact that in July a North Korean soldier shot to death a
South Korean woman who was in the special tourist area of
the Kumgang Mountains inside North Korea. The woman must have happened
outside the tourist zone.
North Korea's new twist in relation to the outside world was linked
by some analysts with nervousness over rumors that the
country's leader Kim Jong Il would be seriously ill. The
speculation, which came to a halt when Kim was absent from a
series of official commitments, tried to stop the regime by
spreading images in the media of Kim in good shape.
According to the regime, the pictures would have been taken.
According to media reports, in June a South Korean
fisherman has moved from North Korea after over 30 years in
captivity. The man fled to the South Korean Consulate in
China and returned home from there. The fisherman told me
that he was captured in 1975 along with 32 other crewmen
aboard a trawler.
In November, North Korea announced that a month later, the country
would close the border for travel by road to and from South
Korea, as the neighboring country was perceived to be
pursuing an aggressive policy towards North Korea.