Jeffrey LewisDPRK GDAE Stationery

When the Washington Post published a letter, purportedly from Jon Byong Ho to AQ Khan, we had a lively debate here about whether or not it was real. Some of the questions related to font, kerning, stationery and even how Jon signed his name.

In trying to reach some sort of judgement about the veracity of this document, I was struck by how few examples of official DPRK stationery I have seen.  I went through all the DPRK-IAEA  communications, for example, only to find they were by TELEX.

Until now!

I have acquired a copy of the DPRK’s invitation to the IAEA to “discuss technical issues with regard to the monitoring of moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Nyongbyon in accordance with the agreement of the DPRK-US high-level Talks held in Beijing recently.”

Now that is some stationery!

The document is also interesting because the DPRK is very clear that the invitation is to discuss the monitoring of the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon.  The document contains no reference to reprocessing facilities, the disabled 30 MWth reactor or the light-water reactor under construction.  US officials were dismissive when reporters tried to point out these discrepancies.  But the reporters were right.

I have to admit, this looks terrible for the Administration.

By the way, has anyone heard a peep from Glyn Davies since all this went down?  The press is hinting that he’s no longer speaking in public. For example, the Korea Times mentioned seeing Davies outside the State Department: “Davies swiftly went back into the building, without talking to the media.”  There is a little editorializing in that sentence — the decision to mention the appearance at all, the characterization of his departure as “swift.”

Poor guy.  By my estimate, Davies has 32 years in the foreign service.  He’s probably taking this abuse to hit the magic 35 and get his retirement deductions refunded. The President should appoint Davies as an Ambassador someplace uncomplicated so he can finish out his career in peace and quiet.

Someplace where they don’t make Ambassadors tie their own ties.

Late Update | 6 April 2012 Steph Haggard has a nice analysis of the letter on his blog with Marcus Noland, North Korea: Witness To Transformation.  One issue relates to Amano’s response, dated 30 March, which is the subject of a story by AP’s George Jahn.  Here is the complete package, GOV/INF/2012/9.


  1. Toby (History)

    > Now that is some stationary!

    Pedant mode: On

    Or even some stationery, Jeffery…

    Pedant mode: Off

    • Jeffrey (History)

      The worst part is that, as a sometimes pedant, I did not, until this very day, know stationery was spelled with an “e”.


    • Scott Monje (History)

      Stationery, as in wrting paper, is spelled with an “e”.
      Stationary, as in immobile, is spelled with an “a”.

    • Scott Monje (History)

      And writing is spelled with an “i”.

  2. Andrew (History)

    I was secretly hoping that they would use comic sans as the official font for all their correspondence.

  3. Anon (History)

    Well, there’s an email on the letterhead. Tried it?

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I’ve been thinking about auto-forwarding my spam to it.

    • Gridlock (History)

      I’m a little surprised their telephone number isn’t “6”, to be honest.

  4. rwendland (History)

    I wonder if they have by now produced enough LEU to fuel the experimental 25 to 30 MWe LWR. ISIS said in 2011 the enrichment plant can produce “270 kilograms of 3.5 percent LEU hexafluoride per month”, so if it has worked well, by now it will have produced about 4.5 tonnes of hex.

    Pakistan’s copy of the Qinshan-1 plant uses 36 tonnes of fuel (U, UO2 or all fuel element?) for a 300 MWe reactor. So a 30 MWe LWR might need around 4 tonnes. So NK might have enough hex now to create the first fuel load.

    If so, a moratorium on uranium enrichment now might not hinder the domestic experimental LWR project at all.

  5. Alex W. (History)

    For those who, like myself, were trying to figure out what the candle-like aspect of the logo is, it is, I believe, Juche Tower (surrounded by three electron rings). As far as atomic agency emblems go, I have seen better, I have seen worse…

  6. Olli Heinonen (History)

    E-mail communications have been used with the General Department of Atomic Energy from late 90’s. The e-mail address has been in the letter head more than 10 years in. The Juche tower logo was already used, if I remember correctly, by the Ministry of Atomic Energy in early 90’s. The missing logo from the letter to A. Q. Khan could have a simple explanation. Very often notes like this have a cover sheet, which has the logos of the transmitting organization such as an embassy. The note itself is then just a typed sheet of paper. The DPRK was using still in mid-90’s telexes for official communications. In order to send such telexes, you had to type an error free message on a paper tape. Since there was no way to make corrections, you were after a mistake back in square one. Writing of an error free telex with half a dozen pages was quite an exercise.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      “In order to send such telexes, you had to type an error free message on a paper tape. Since there was no way to make corrections, you were after a mistake back in square one. Writing of an error free telex with half a dozen pages was quite an exercise.”

      I am inexplicably fascinated by office-life in the pre-internet age. I never miss an opportunity to ask someone what it was like to move paper in the 1970s.

    • joshua (History)

      If memory serves, the memo in question was delivered by hand, not by fax, telex, etc. I don’t think it necessarily followed standard bureaucratic procedure.

  7. Ibisbill (History)

    The fact that in the letter the nuclear site is spelled Nyongbyon suggests to me the letter is genuine. This is how the site is spelled on KCNA although in the west it is almost always called Yongbyon.

  8. kme (History)

    A claimed picture of the North Korean launch control room may be of wonkish interest:

  9. Anon2 (History)


    Can you start a thread on the new North Korean nuclear testing site. Particularly, I’d like to hear informed commentary on how this was included or excluded in the leap day agreement.



    • Jeffrey (History)

      Oh, but you already know the answer to that, don’t you? 🙂

      No verification, but they probably don’t do hydrotests either.

      Actually, a thread is a good idea. Perhaps tomorrow. I think we have some time before that particular set of fireworks