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Crossing the Border: Jang Jin Sung, North Korea's poet laureate, to publish memoirs

Jang Jin Sung, who used to write propaganda poems for Kim Jong Il, offers a rare glimpse of life in North Korea with his forthcoming memoirs.
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North Korean defectors hold defaced posters of North Korea leader Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un as they participate in an anti-North Korea protest in front of the South Korean Defense Ministry on Nov. 29, 2010 in Seoul. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Jang's work is billed as unique in coming from someone who was close to that government, who not only cooperated with it but actively shaped its myths. As he told one interviewer, "The more one serves the regime, the more one knows its true nature."

North Korea will "mass produce" nuclear weapons

According to documents reportedly found by the Japanese press, late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had ordered that the country "mass-produce" nuclear weapons.

North Korean defectors' grim fate

SEOUL — The North Korean government announced that anyone caught defecting during the period of mourning for Kim Jong Il’s death would have three generations of family members executed.

Pro-North Korea activists stick it out in South Korea

SEOUL — Some are motivated by the ideology of self-reliance preached in the North. Others say they just want to be able to express their views in the South, no matter what they are.

China ships rice to North Korea after Kim Jong Il's death

Kim Jong Il's death might have been good news to the hungry citizens of North Korea.
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China is shipping rice to North Korea, where malnutrition for children is still high. Here, children attend a nursery with special food provided by the World Food Program in Pyongyang. (Gerald Bourke/Getty Images)

A Japanese newspaper reports that China has initiated big shipments of rice to the Hermit Kingdom in recent days, something it agreed to do only after the Dear Leader departed.

The Tokyo Shimbun reported that China's president and others decided in late December to begin massive food shipments to North Korea in the wake of Kim Jong Il's death. AFP says shipments were made over 10 days earlier this month, before the Chinese New Year.

More from GlobalPost: Will North Korea change for the better?

It's unclear how Kim's son and successor was involved in making the deal with China for food aid, but one of China's interests doesn't seem to have changed. With its own political power transition afoot, China remains set on maintaining stability in North Korea and preventing a flood of refugees.

More from GlobalPost: An in-depth series: After Kim Jong Il

Following large-scale North Korean refugee incursions during recent famines, the Chinese government has made a practice in recent years of returning North Koreans to their country when they're caught here. Returnees faced punishment and possible death back home, and China's unspoken policy seems to have stemmed the tide of North Koreans.

Rice shipments might ensure that fewer people feel compelled to leave during the leadership transition. 

More from GlobalPost: The AP opens bureau in North Korea


North Korea: the problem of Kim Jong Nam

The ruling elite in Pyongyang must be wondering what to do about a problem like Kim Jong Nam, who seems unafraid to speak his mind.

Kim Jong Nam disses new North Korea

In a new book, Kim Jong Il's eldest son says the new regime is bound for disaster.
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Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, waves after an interview with South Korean media representatives in Macau on June 4, 2010. (JoongAng Sunday/AFP/Getty Images)

It hardly comes as a surprise that the passed-over eldest son of Kim Jong Il has been criticizing hereditary succession.

In a soon-to-be-published book, “My father Kim Jong Il and Me,” Kim Jong Nam reportedly rails against the system in North Korea and calls his half-brother and current ruler, Kim Jong Un, a pawn of the ruling elite.

The book is based on a collection of interviews and emails between Jong Nam and Japanese journalist Yoji Gomi, who told the Telegraph that he built a relationship with Jong Nam after the pair met in Beijing in 2004.

GlobalPost in-depth series: After Kim Jong Il

Jong Nam has been spotted from time to time in Macau, where he lives in exile, and elsewhere in China. Usually, his name appears in the press next to the word "playboy."

Jong Nam reportedly told Gomi before Kim Jong Il passed away that North Korea was stuck. It needed economic reforms to survive. But those very reforms would lead to the collapse of the Kim dynasty.

More from GlobalPost: What's next for North Korea?

He wrote to Gomi on Dec. 17:

It is obvious that [the] economy will collapse without reforms, but the reforms will lead to a crisis of the collapse of the regime.

On Jan. 3, Jong Nam wrote more specifically about Kim Jong Un, who he said was merely a figurehead.

I question how a young heir with two years [of training as a successor] would be able to inherit ... absolute power. It is likely that the existing power elites will succeed my father by keeping the young successor as a symbol.

Sour grapes?

Word on the street is that Kim Jong Nam was once first in line to succeed his father, as birth order would suggest. But it wasn't meant to be.

In 2001, Jong Nam fell out with his father following an incident at Tokyo's Narita airport, where he was nailed for trying to get through on a fake Dominican passport. Jong Nam fled to Macau and has been living it up ever since.


North Korea: Aid for nuclear deal?

TOKYO — But in the absence of US aid, some analysts say North Korea won't hesitate to resort to its old tactics of provocation.

North Korea embalms Kim Jong Il, hopes for successful transition

TOKYO — Giving Kim a permanent physical presence is a clear expression of the continuity needed to ensure the smooth transition from one generation of the dynasty to the next.
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