Monday, July 31, 2006
AFP reports an estimated 60,000 North Koreans are left homeless and 30,000 hectares (74,100 acres) of farmland destroyed in the recent flooding, according to UN relief agency WFP.
"Damage and casualties are far heavier than known so far to the outside world," Good Friends said in a statement.
North Korea stopped accepting UN food aid late last year and asked for development assistance instead, citing better harvests and aid from China and South Korea. However, South Korea earlier this month angrily rejected a North Korean request for rice aid after Pyongang launched a series of missile tests that earned it international condemnation.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) said, "Approximately 75 percent of the estimated 60,000 persons made homeless/displaced due to the floods are located in South Pyongan province." It said flooding of farmland caused the loss of 100,000 tonnes of food supplies, adding to a chronic food crisis in the communist country.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Vollersten first went to North Korea as a volunteer to do humanitarian aid work and offer medical assistance. The turning point came when he saw a young soldier lying dead on the ground, ruthlessly beaten and abandoned.
Why has he chosen to embark on a hunger strike, a strategy uncommon to foreigners?
The reason is that as a German he cannot understand why the South Korean government does not take action for their people in the North, oppressed and dying of hunger. In regard to why he began the hunger strike, Vollersten says that he is “Fed-up!” with the Korean government.
When asked if he felt tired, he said “Whenever I feel tired, I look at the North Korean children (on the picket). How can I tire when I see their poor faces?” He discloses that the suffering he is enduring now is nothing compared to the suffering of the people and in particular the children of North Korea, and that the hunger strike will be over “when I fall down and I get taken to the hospital.”
[Excerpt of article by By Kim Yong Hun and Kim Yun Yi, Daily NK]
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Three of the four refugees, who had stayed at the U.S. Consulate in China's northeastern city Shenyang since May, left for the United States last weekend, diplomatic sources said.
Washington reportedly declined to accept the fourth's application as he formerly worked for a prison camp in the North. He now hopes to come to South Korea, sources said.
It is the second time the United States has accepted North Koreans as refugees since the enactment of the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2004, and the first to airlift them directly from China.
Washington granted asylum to six North Koreans on May 6, but they received refugee status in a third country in Asia.
[Excerpt of article by Park Song-wu, Korea Times]
Friday, July 28, 2006
My name is Lim Chol and my sister is Lim So-yon. I am 10 years old and she is eight. We were born in a small coal-mining town [in North Korea].
My parents were desperate to find food. They already had sold everything they had to buy corn. My mother roamed around, collecting edible grass in order to make soup with corn flour. She served one bowl of that soup to my father, sister and me, but took only half a bowl for herself.
One day, my father decided to go to Hwanghae Province to get corn from his relatives. He asked us to take good care of mother and we asked him to bring home lots of rice and corn. That was the last time we saw him.
[As my mother got weaker], I walked four kilometers to the old coal mine to get some coal and went to the mountain to get some edible grass and put them in the kitchen. My mother could barely stand up to boil the water to make soup with the grass. She was so weak she couldn’t lift the bar by herself to grind the grass in the mortar. I had to assist her to hold the bar and pound the grass. She wept and murmured, as tears streamed down her face. “Please forgive me for making you suffer like this,” she said.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
One day, after finding my sister lying in the mud, I decided to steal some food for her. First I begged the lady of the noodle shop, but when she refused I stole a bowl and started to run away while she was busy with other customers. I didn’t make 10 steps before the woman caught me. She and two other adult customers in the store beat me and yelled, “You little bastard and useless thief!” But I only thought about my sister.
To save her life, I poured noodle soup on my belly that I covered with a cloth. The broth dripped down through my pants, but under the cloth some strips of noodle hung over my belt. I walked to my sister, clenching my bleeding nose with one hand while holding up my belly with the other. Then I shook her. She had been lying with her eyes closed for hours and hours. I took off my belt and took the noodles from my belly and put them into her mouth. How eagerly she ate! My stealing saved her life.
At the market, I heard that there was a lot of food in China across the Tumen River. They even said that people in China would give away food to the beggars from North Korea. Those words kept ringing in my ears and never left.
It was 11o’clock in the morning when I reached the bank of the Tumen River with my sister. On the bank, some armed soldiers were on guard duty. We pretended to collect and eat some young grass. I told So-yon that we had to be prepared to overcome some expected whipping in order to go to the better place.
Fortunately, we safely reached the other side. Our bodies shivering, we ran to the town squeezing water out of our clothes.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
China donated 5,77,000 tonnes of food to more than a dozen countries around the world in 2005, with the great majority sent across the border by rail to North Korea, which relies on food aid to feed its poverty stricken rural population.
The report's findings, which track all international food donations, underline China's growing economic and political clout in Asia, and show how far the country has come since the great famines of the late 1950s killed an estimated 30 million peasants.
For the past few years, WFP and other countries have steadily cut donations to North Korea. China is keen to prevent a refugee crisis in North Korea spilling over its borders.
Paul French, a Shanghai-based expert on the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,'' said: “If food didn't come from China, the trickle of refugees could quickly turn into a flood.'' Beijing also sees food aid as a carrot with which to persuade the North Koreans to come to the negotiating table.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
As part of his missionary work, Peters became involved in human-rights issues, and was soon thrown out of the country for handing out leaflets that criticized the Seoul government. He returned to live in Seoul in the late '80s, and then for a third time in 1996. South Korea was by then a democratic, prosperous nation, "and for a time I wondered why the Lord had brought me back to this place," says Peters.
But North Korea was in the midst of a horrific famine. "One night it just dawned on me, I wasn't here this time for South Korea, I was here for the North, to try to do the Lord's work and help people there. It couldn't have been any clearer."
Peters formed Helping Hands Korea in 1996, and within just two years, as refugees tried to escape the famine, the beginnings of the Underground Railroad took shape. "We were overwhelmed," he says now. That's when the organization's mission became more focused: helping North Koreans in crisis, people who really needed help getting to freedom."
[Excerpted from TIME magazine “Long Walk to Freedom”]
Monday, July 24, 2006
Up to 2.5 million North Koreans, or about 10 percent of its population, died in the 1990s due to famines caused by droughts, flooding and mismanagement of the agriculture sector, the WFP has quoted studies as saying.
Even in a good year, North Korea's harvest falls about 1 million tons short of its needs, experts have said.
At the end of 2005, North Korea said it no longer wanted handouts from international agencies, causing the WFP to suspend its operations there providing food for 6.5 million people. But in May, North Korea agreed to again accept aid from the WFP but on a smaller scale, for 1.9 million people.
South Korea has rejected the North's latest request for 500,000 tons for rice for this year, unless Pyongyang returns to stalled talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Two major storms over the past two weeks have drenched the impoverished North with some of its heaviest rains in years, severely damaging crops and raising the possibility of famine in a country that already battles chronic food shortages.
WFP officials are on the ground in North Korea, but the North so far has granted them access only to one county that experienced damage, Banbury said.
As a condition for aid, the WFP wants to conduct a full assessment of damage to find out North Korea's needs and then monitor the aid to make sure it gets to the people who need it most, he said. Aid workers say this monitoring is aimed at ensuring the aid goes to the needy and does not end up in the hands of North Korea's powerful military.
[Excerpt of an article by Jon Herskovitz, Reuters]
Saturday, July 22, 2006
North Korea has the most repressive government on earth. It makes no secret of its animosity toward the Christian faith. And the country’s leader, President Kim Il Sung, threatens the United States so frequently that he’s become the poster child for lunatic political leaders.
I recalled how President Bush labeled North Korea part of an international “Axis of Evil” that creates instability and terror throughout the world, a judgment confirmed in the nation’s recent missile test firings.
Warren isn’t just a pastor, author and church leader. In recent years he has expanded his concern into some of the most pressing social issues of the day, including AIDS and world poverty. He has turned into something of an itinerant minister, traveling across the world like a modern day John Wesley, calling the church back to its core purposes of worship, fellowship, evangelism and ministry and service.
With Warren’s visit to North Korea, he’s fully aware that the government there is in all likelihood using his visit for its own purposes, to present to the world community a softer, less oppressive side. They can certainly use some positive publicity right now.
Warren doesn’t care, though. “I know they’re going to use me. So I’m going to use them,” he said in an interview earlier this week.
He added on his personal blog, “Regardless of politics, I will go anywhere to preach the Gospel.”
[Mike Turner, writing in Jacksonville Daily News]
Friday, July 21, 2006
The federation said the heavy weather could also affect North Korea's food supply — critical to the country that suffered famine in the 1990s believed to have killed 2 million people.
"Extensive areas of arable fields have been inundated, wiping out much of the anticipated harvest," the federation said.
North Koreans' efforts to grow food on any possible arable land has led to deforestation in the mountainous areas of the country's South Pyongan, North Hwanghe and Kangwon provinces, leading to landslides, Timmer said.
"Erosion is most likely the main cause of this large disaster," he said.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Another editorial in the Joongang Ilbo adds, “Mr. Roh remained silent after North Korea’s missile launches except for a warning against Japan’s muttering about pre-emptive strikes against North Korea. … It is really sad to see the administration closing its eyes to international society as it indulges in the naive thought that North and South are the same nation and rushes to embrace Pyongyang.
And then in article in Chosun Ilbo, entitled “Paying North Korea to Laugh at Us”, another journalist writes:
North Korean Senior Cabinet Counselor Kwon Ho-ung told a stunned South Korean delegation at ministerial talks in Busan that his country’s military-first policy “helps the security of South Korea too, and a vast majority of South Korean citizens have benefited from it.” North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear weapons program are apparently a boon to us?
“The economic cooperation funds that [South Korea] provided to [North Korea] since the 2000 inter-Korean summit amounts to 1.3 times North Korea’s entire budget. There is a high chance that some of the money went into development of the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles, but the government has maintained there is nothing it can do about it.”
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
In the wake of China's first-ever support for a North Korea resolution, Chinese President Hu Jintao reaffirmed his position when the meeting of Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries in Russia published its own statement condemning the missile tests
North Korea must have felt a sense of betrayal. But the North forced China’s hand when it went ahead with the tests despite pleas from Beijing to desist.
North Korea's play with fire has had all sorts of unexpected results in the region. Japan, which committed itself to pacifism after its World War II excesses, has gained a foothold for transforming itself into a "normal state" by revising the "peace constitution," and China is showing signs of abandoning its special relationship with North Korea.
Our [South Korean] government did not support the Japanese draft, expecting China to prop it up where its own influence fell short. It reckoned entirely without China's change of heart. Where are they now, the [South Korean] government figures who bragged only last year that Korea would play the role of a “balancer” between Japan and China?
[Excerpt from Chosun Journal editorial]
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
But the U.S. warned of more action against the North if it continues to abstain from international talks on its nuclear program, which it has boycotted for more than eight months.
North Korea drew international condemnation earlier this month after launching a long-range missile believed capable of reaching the U.S., violating a self-imposed moratorium.
On Saturday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution criticizing the launches and banning all U.N. member states from dealing with North Korea on material or technology for missiles or weapons of mass destruction.
The North's U.N. ambassador promptly rejected the resolution at the Security Council and left the chamber, a breach of typical diplomatic protocol.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
--Hannah, North Korean refugee (now in the U.S)
Saturday, July 15, 2006
--Hannah, North Korean refugee (now in the U.S)
For an estimate of what North Korea is investing in its missiles, and how much food this could instead buy for its starving millions, see the Korean Liberator
Friday, July 14, 2006
According to a 2003 report by the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, torture was “routine” and “severe.”
Methods of torture reportedly included severe beatings, electric shock, prolonged periods of exposure, humiliations such as public nakedness, confinement for up to several weeks in small “punishment cells” in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down, being forced to kneel or sit immobilized for long periods, being hung by one’s wrists, being forced to stand up and sit down to the point of collapse, and forcing mothers recently repatriated from China to watch the infanticide of their newborn infants. Defectors continued to report that many prisoners died from torture, disease, starvation, exposure, or a combination of these causes.
-- Excerpt of latest State Department’s Human Rights report, country section on North Korea
Thursday, July 13, 2006
At risk amid Pyongyang's growing isolation are North Koreans facing persecution, forced labor, economic collapse and chronic food insufficiency there, as well as those attempting to flee across the border into China. By diverting attention from their plight, heightening tensions and increasing pressure to cut humanitarian assistance amid security flaps, the latest missile crisis makes the humanitarian crisis harder to resolve.
At a recent conference at the Asia Society in New York, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Lefkowitz hinted that linking resumed humanitarian aid to progress on human rights is an idea that "could very much be on the table."
This suggestion is hopeful. Instead of a reward for bad behavior, it implies that working for humanitarian and human-rights progress, even amid acute tensions, might give Pyongyang an incentive to be less intractable on other fronts. In any case, human rights and humanitarian concerns remain primary in themselves. Even nuclear security threats don't trump the imperative to raise them consistently, through all available channels, until they are respected.
[Excerpt of article by Shyama Venkateswar & Joel R. Charny San Francisco Chronicle]
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Japan delayed a vote on its resolution in order to give China's mission to Pyongyang time to negotiate. Still, the Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations added: "This does not mean that we will be prepared to wait for any lengthy period of time."
He said the draft resolution had already had an impact. "I think we have already sent the sort of message that we wanted to give. Of course, it needs to be formalized."
China's president has urged North Korea to refrain from increasing tensions over its nuclear program and to return to disarmament talks as diplomats worked to forestall U.N. sanctions against the regime.
In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that supporters of the resolution "believe very strongly that North Korea has to have a message from the international community that their current course is destructive and will isolate them, but we do think that the Chinese mission to North Korea has some promise and we would like to let that play out."
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The term of a U.N. council's special rapporteur for North Korean human rights has been extended by another year. Vitit Muntarbhorn, a professor of law at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, Muntarbhorn was named special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name, on July 13, 2004.
The special rapporteur is mandated to investigate the human rights situation in the North and report his findings to the council and the General Assembly.
Since his appointment two years ago, the Thai professor has made several trips to South Korea, but his repeated requests for the North to allow him to visit the communist state have yet to be accepted. [Boldface mine]
Monday, July 10, 2006
Worse, some officials say, it is likely Beijing deceived the United States about its efforts to dissuade North Korea from the apparent tests and that China may have tacitly backed the seven missile launches.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
About 300 human rights experts and activists from South Korea and abroad will discuss alternative ways to improve human rights conditions in North Korea. They will compare different approaches proposed by South Korean conservative and progressive groups, the South Korean government and the international community.
The symposium aims to establish a "mutually beneficial relationship" among the parties concerned, the Peace Foundation said in a statement.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
The U.S. occupies a unique place in the Chinese imagination. To immigrants and students, it is the "Gold Mountain"—a land that, ever since the gold rush in 19th century California, has epitomized the promise of wealth, progress and modernity. The flip side is the global "bully" with which China first clashed in the Korean War, and that to many Chinese still seems intent on preventing their country from rising to its natural place among the world's great powers.
"Chinese perceptions of the United States are deeply ambivalent," says Minxin Pei, China program director at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They mix resentment and admiration, fear with respect, jealousy with the desire to emulate." So long as that volatile mixture constitutes a central, "brittle part of the national psyche," says Pei, there's always the possibility that these emotions will boil over.
[Excerpts from an article in TIME Asia]
Why look upon America with awe or fear when an endless trail of foreign leaders and corporate titans now flocks to China to grab a piece of the action and to pay their respects? Indeed, even Washington now looks to China to play a more pivotal role in global diplomacy, not least seeking Beijing's help in contending with the twin threats of nuclear-weapons programs in North Korea and Iran.
Beijing is hardly averse to making pointed displays of China's burgeoning wealth and power, including recently signing no less than $16 billion in contracts with American behemoths like Microsoft and Boeing. The endlessly mutating relationship between China and the U.S. has entered a new phase—one in which the balance of power has subtly but significantly shifted.
[Excerpt from an article in TIME Asia]
Friday, July 07, 2006
“Our military will continue with missile launch drills in the future as part of efforts to strengthen self-defense deterrent,” said a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement published by the country’s official news agency. “If anyone intends to dispute or add pressure about this, we will have to take stronger physical actions in other forms,” said the statement.
And despite the worldwide uproar, what does Big Brother China have to say about Little Brother NK’s missile tests?
“I don’t think China will take at this moment stronger political or economic action against North Korea,” said Chu Shulong, a political science professor at Tsinghua University and expert in international security.
“We Chinese believe basically, fundamentally it is not our problem, the missile launch problem. It’s a problem between North Korea and the U.S., it’s a problem between the DPRK and Japan, it might be a problem between North Korea and South Korea. But basically it’s not a China problem.”
Kind of how the North Korean refugees in China is also “not a China problem.”
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Addressing China’s treatment of North Korean refugees is an important first step towards an international solution, according to Tim Peters of Helping Hands Korea.
"Everyone wants a piece of China’s booming economy – but the refugee issue pits politics and lucrative trade agreements against human rights issues, and the pocketbook usually wins."
“We need to link trade with human rights issues,” Peters insisted. “International trading partners need to take a real hard look at their own policies towards China.”
“I personally feel we’re within a year or two of some type of seismic shift in North Korea,” Peters added. “But we should be aware that China is not sitting idly by. They’re moving in – building infrastructure, buying access to North Korean ports for shipping, propping up the North Korean economy for their own purposes.
“These signs are extremely troubling.”
[Excerpt of article in Compass Direct]
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
“Yet as soon as a North Korean crosses the border, they immediately fit the definition of a political asylum seeker because it is a crime against the state for a North Korean to leave the country.
“We know from eyewitness testimony that when North Koreans are repatriated they are subjected to harsh sentences, in some cases they are executed.”
--Suzanne Scholte U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
The missiles were launched from a site other than the one intelligence officials have watched for weeks ahead of a possible long-range missile test, a senior State Department official said.
The United States, Japan and other countries have warned North Korea against a long-range missile test, saying it would be considered a provocation.
Monday, July 03, 2006
It is not yet confirmed that these are the same refugees who were arrested in northern Thailand last month for entering the country illegally, as reported by Japan's Kyodo News Agency. Thai police are quoted as saying that the North Korean defectors were caught on a bus heading to the capital Bangkok from Phayao Province in northern Thailand.
Local police reported it uncommon to see such a large number of North Korean defectors in a single group, especially traveling on a bus.
An increasing number of North Koreans have fled to neighboring countries in Asia of late to escape hunger and oppression at home.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Four of the North Koreans currently in the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang China had earlier gone to the South Korean consulate in September of last year. They reportedly changed their minds when they learned through television about the official U.S. policy of accepting North Korean refugees.
It is said that unless there are special grounds for rejecting a defection request, once North Koreans are inside a U.S. diplomatic embassy, the State Department there wants to accept them. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, however, is reportedly uncomfortable with the idea, citing reasons of security.
The U.S. government has reportedly decided to accept three of the four defectors who entered the U.S. consulate in Shenyang the middle of last year. The fourth individual worked for state security in North Korea, and as such was not granted asylum.
[Hankyoreh Media Company]
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Tim Peters [and Helping Hands Korea] requested prayer for Christian activists who put their own freedom at risk to help the refugees.
As for the regime change predicted by some North Korean observers, he said, “There’s just no way you can predict with meaningful accuracy, because there are so many factors involved.”
Desperation is clearly growing. Peters said 95 percent of those who have escaped North Korea since 1953 have done so in the past five or six years, with a clear increase from 2002 onwards. At the same time, it has been reported that the amount of refugees declined for the first time in 2005 as the difficulty of crossing the border increased.
[Excerpt of article in Compass Direct]