The almost 1.8 billion dollars in trade recorded in 2007 is the highest to date, and is equal to 65 percent of the DPRK”s non-Korean trade volume of 2.996 billion USD in 2006.

A senior Russian diplomat was quoted on January 11 as saying that while Russia regrets the slowed state of progress in talks on DPRK nuclear issues, Russia will fulfill its promise to provide the North with fuel oil.

50,000 tons of fuel oil were delivered on January 20~21.

Defectors claim that prostitution is on the rise in North Korea, and on January 9, the aid group ‘Good Friends’ reported that the DPRK has begun to close massage parlors as part of a crackdown on prostitution.

The agency reported that in the DPRK there was a “steady campaign to weed out decadent foreign culture,” and that in September, DPRK soldiers were ordered to avoid alcohol, sex, and money.

The minister stated, “Cambodia is in a position where it can hold high-level meetings with North Korea, and it has the ability to persuade North Korea.” Inter-Korean Affairs The incoming Lee Myung-bak administration announced on January 4 a plan to develop an international cooperative fund to support North Korea’s economy.

The plan is said to call for World Bank and the Asia Development Bank to help, and for South Korea to provide 40 billion USD.

While the DPRK will continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Australia, it apparently can no longer afford to maintain an embassy in Canberra. White House spokesman stressed that there was still opportunity to move forward with negotiations, stating, “the important thing is that we get a declaration that…needs to be full and complete,” not whether the declaration is made by the deadline.

According to a report released by the International Red Cross, North Korea has the largest number of people in the world killed by natural disasters over the past decade. Senate investigation reported that the DPRK funneled as much as 2.7 million USD through a bank account set up from UN development projects. On January 4, North Korea claimed it had met its obligations to come clean on its nuclear programs, and that it had provided Washington with a list of its nuclear programs in November.

On January 16, it was reported that Kim Jong Il had instructed all DPRK institutions to reduce their bureaucracies, including senior staff, by thirty percent.

Figures released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency indicate that the DPRK’s population had increased to 23.6 million in 2004, the latest available figures.

The report states that 458 thousand North Koreans have died from natural disaster, 38 percent of the disaster-caused deaths in 220 countries from 1997-2006. The report stated that North Korea used the UN account due to fears that the United States would block its ability to transfer money internationally. Pyongyang also threatened to bolster its “war deterrent” because Washington had failed to provide promised aid following the declaration.