Friday, July 04, 2008

North Korean Defectors not buying North Korea’s nuke pledge

Han Chang-kweon is skeptical when he hears that his homeland is taking steps to get rid of its nuclear weapons.

Born in North Korea in 1961, he escaped from a communist logging camp in his early 30s, lived in Uzbekistan, and sought asylum in the United States before moving to Seoul in 2005. He said North Korea’s nuclear weapons are its only bargaining chip, and the country can’t survive without them.

"What they are doing now is nothing but a show. They will never give up their nuclear programs — they simply can’t, at least for as long as Kim Jong Il lives," said Han, now chairman of the Association of North Korean Defector Organizations, which represents 28 defector groups in South Korea.

Both said that despite widespread famine and poverty, North Koreans can’t overthrow their government because the country has no free press and no way for dissenters to organize.

Han said South Korea’s Sunshine Policy, which emphasized cooperation with the North, was a "total failure" because it gave the communist nation time to develop its nuclear programs while millions starved. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak reversed the 10-year policy when he took office earlier this year.

Han said North Korean defectors will be crucial in reunifying the countries. "In a long term, I think it is us who hold the keys to resolve the situation," he said. "North Korean defectors have experienced democracy and communism and can walk forward to help both South and North better adjust to the changes."

[Excerpt of an article by Ashley Rowland and Hwang Hae-rym , Stars and Stripes]

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