November 9th marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And activists in South Korea will hold a series of events to highlight calls for similarly momentous developments leading to the liberation of North Korea.
Planned events this weekend include a mass human rights and democracy demonstration led by North Korean refugee leaders in Seoul on Saturday; an all-day national day of prayer, fasting and repentance on Sunday; and another demonstration on Monday at the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, calling for the North’s liberation.
Largely eclipsed by the Kim Jong-il regime’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, the oppression suffered by ordinary North Koreans draws relatively little international attention.
The organizers of the weekend events in South Korea note that an estimated four million North Koreans – of a total of some 22 million – have died since 1995 as a result of starvation resulting directly or indirectly from government policies, despite the provision of enough food aid by the international community to feed to entire population.
A further one million people are believed to have died since the 1970s in Pyongyang’s notorious prison camp system, where abuses reported by surviving inmates include systematic torture, rape, medical experimentation, and forced abortions and infanticide.
Fleeing oppression and starvation, an estimated half a million North Koreans have in recent years crossed into neighboring China, from where some have managed to make their way to third countries, usually ending up eventually in South Korea.