Saturday, April 30, 2011

Resettled North Korean defectors seek asylum in Britain

Police in Busan, South Korea, recently conducted a survey on 25 North Korean defectors in an effort to gain insight into North Koreans’ motivation to move overseas.

Among them, eight North Korean defectors are believed to be staying in Britain in an attempt to win asylum, after staying for years in South Korea, according to a police official handling defectors in Busan.

South Korea is home to more than 20,000 North Koreans who fled hunger and political oppression in their communist homeland, but many of them fail to get decent jobs, falling further down the social ladder in this highly competitive society. Such challenges apparently prompt some North Koreans with hopes of a higher quality of life to leave South Korea and seek asylum in foreign countries.

South Korea provides defectors with three months of mandatory resettlement training and doles out 13 million won ($11,650) to each household as housing subsidy while offering vocational training to help them find jobs.

North Koreans fleeing their homeland can seek asylum in South Korea, but once they become South Korean citizens, they are not eligible to seek refuge in foreign countries, said Lee Jong-joo, a spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry handling inter-Korean affairs.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Former President Carter’s message departing from North Korea

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il wants direct talks with South Korea's leader — an offer unlikely to be accepted until Pyongyang takes responsibility for violence that killed 50 South Koreans last year.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has also floated the possibility of one-on-one talks with Kim — but only if the North takes responsibility for the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang and an artillery attack on a South Korean island.

Carter told reporters hours after he returned from the North that he and three former European leaders didn't have a hoped-for meeting with Kim during their three-day visit to North Korea. But he said that Kim sent them a written personal message as they were leaving, saying he's prepared for a summit meeting with the South Korean president at any time. 

Carter has sharply criticized the United States and South Korea for their refusal to send humanitarian aid to the impoverished North. Mr. Carter said their deliberate withholding of food aid amounted to ''a human rights violation''.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Robert Park on Genocide in North Korea

In the Opinion section of The Washington Post, activist missionary Robert Park writes:

“Holocaust” is the word used to describe the systematic extermination of millions of innocent European Jews during World War II. In the aftermath of this mammoth failure of humanity, many nations “repented” and declared that “never again” would such inhumanity and absolute disregard for human dignity and life be tolerated.

Yet on Jan. 1, the regime of Kim Jong Il warned that a “nuclear holocaust” would be inevitable if South Korea engaged the North in war. While the world watches peoples in the Middle East and North Africa rise up against tyranny, another people suffers on the Korean Peninsula. And that Pyongyang so irreverently invoked this term to describe its so-called necessary defense is a stark reminder of the genocidal and inhumane nature of Kim Jong Il’s regime and the atrocities it has committed against millions of innocents.

Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, called on the international community in 2004 to investigate “political genocide” in North Korea. In response to reports of “North Korea’s use of gas chambers to murder and perform medical experiments on political dissidents and their families” and the “chilling image of the murderers coolly watching their victims’ death agonies . . . all too reminiscent of Nazi barbarism,” the group’s chairman, Avner Shalev, wrote to then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that “the issue is all the more severe due to North Korea’s status as a member of the U.N.”

In other words, the world’s foremost authorities on genocide appealed to the international community, one of the few rays of hope for the North Korean people, who are trapped in a living hell.

An estimated 1 million innocent men, women and children have been murdered in North Korean political concentration camps since 1972, academics believe.

Virtually nothing has been done to speed the closure of these camps since 2004, though the testimony of tens of thousands of refugees provides mounting evidence of crimes against humanity and genocide.

Outside observers and nongovernmental organizations estimate that 3.5 million North Koreans died of starvation between 1995 and 1997. They continue to die in huge numbers in a government-organized famine akin to the Holodomor famine-genocide in Ukraine (1932-33), which was orchestrated by Joseph Stalin. 

Billions in humanitarian aid have been shipped to North Korea, more than enough to feed the nation’s population, but government and academic studies have revealed that North Korea systematically diverted the aid, using it to bolster its military might while millions, for whom the aid was intended, starved to death.

Raphael Lemkin’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide included political murders in its first draft definition of genocide, but Stalin objected, the definition was amended and the Soviet Union was not held accountable for the tens of millions of innocents murdered without just cause by starvation and in the Gulag. Some have incorrectly concluded that mass murder and genocide in North Korea would also be exempt from prosecution under the convention. 

This is not the case. North Korea has been considered the world’s worst persecutor of Christians for many years by objective researchers of religious persecution such as Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. Soon Ok Lee, one of the few survivors of the North Korean concentration camp system, has testified before Congress and later told MSNBC that “since the Korean War — in Korea they call it June 25 War — the No. 1 enemy is God. Kim II Sung hated God most.” 

It is common knowledge among refugees and people who follow North Korea that those discovered to have any kind of faith or religious belief — and their families, to three generations — are executed or sent to concentration camps for life. This constitutes genocide under Article 2 of the convention; consequently, the world has not only the moral duty but also the legal right and obligation, under Article 8, to intervene.

Actions that all of us in the free world can, and must, take immediately to save the North Korean people and stop the crimes against humanity include: 
An NGO strike. The nongovernmental organizations supporting the genocidal Pyongyang regime must withdraw all support from Kim Jong Il immediately and unambiguously declare their action a protest of the North’s concentration camps, systematic diversion of food aid and mass atrocities.
Use our resources effectively. The United States, South Korea, Japan and the rest of the international community must recognize that there is a way to effectively save those in desperate need. It is through the refugees, most of whom still have relatives and friends in the North with whom they are in secret communication. North Korean refugees and their ally organizations must be provided all possible resources.
Mass demonstrations. Never have more than 100,000 people gathered to protest the mass atrocities in North Korea. All who object to the genocide must organize, assemble and make their voices heard.

We should get to work immediately, realizing that we are already far too late.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Korean American Jun Young-Su held in North Korean for missionary work

North Korea has said it would charge an American detained last November with crimes against the nation, amid reports he was engaged in missionary work in the hardline communist state.

A man identified as Jun Young-Su has been investigated "for committing a crime against the DPRK (North Korea) after entering it", the official news agency said without specifying the offense. "He admitted his crime in the course of investigation," it said, adding officials were preparing to bring charges.

A source in Seoul identified the man as a Korean-American businessman in his 60s who was detained for missionary work. The man, who attends a church in Orange County, California, travelled frequently to the North. The source told AFP, "It looks like the North had been watching the missionary for quite some time and arrested him for a political bargaining chip at what it thought was a suitable time to take advantage of him."

This is the third apparent case in less than a year of a US Christian activist being detained in the North. Missionary Robert Park was held on Christmas Day 2009, after walking across the border to make a one-man protest about human rights violations.On January 25, 2010, the North detained Aijalon Mahli Gomes for crossing the border illegally and sentenced him to eight years' hard labor.

Former President Jimmy Carter is due to visit North Korea again soon, reportedly late this month. Jo Sung-Rae of the Seoul-based Christian activist group Pax Koreana predicted the former US leader would also secure the release of the latest detainee.

Carter has said he would try to revive stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear disarmament and address humanitarian woes during his visit.

[Yahoo News]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

North Korean defectors highlighted in "The Journals of Musan"

A young man climbs a dusty, narrow staircase toward a job interview. A kindly police officer walking ahead of him looks back and says, "Don't tell him you're from North Korea, OK?"

The telling scene comes early in "The Journals of Musan," a dark and brooding South Korean movie that has won international acclaim for its portrayal of the struggles faced by refugees from North Korea in the capitalist - and, as depicted in the film, often heartless - South. The movie opened in Seoul last week.

Raised in an impoverished totalitarian state, many North Koreans lack the education, financial resources and personal connections to compete in South Korea, one of Asia's richest countries. In turn, they complain of discrimination in the job market.

Park Jung-bum, the 36-year-old director of "The Journals of Musan," is part of a young generation of filmmakers inspired by their plight. The movie is loosely based on the experience of his late friend, Chun Seung-chul, who came from the North in 2002 and died of stomach cancer a few years later. Park also incorporated stories about other North Koreans he knows into the main character.

"My big question was this: They came here to be happy, but if they have to stay in the bottom class in South Korea, was there any meaning for them to come all the way here?" he said in an interview.

Film critic Park Yoo-hee, a research professor at Korea University, described movies such as "The Journals of Musan" as a turning point in how filmmakers approach North Korea. The escapees are now seen as an internal South Korean issue, rather than fantasized characters from someplace far removed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Korean-American detained in North Korea

An American man has been detained in North Korea, two State Department officials told CNN.Diplomatic sources speaking on condition of not being identified said the man is a Korean-American businessman. One of the sources said the businessman had a visa to enter North Korea.

The State Department is working with the Swedish Embassy in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, the officials said.The Swedes have been granted consular access to the man and have visited him, the officials said.

North Korea has detained several Americans in recent years, increasing tension levels in what is already a rocky relationship between Pyongyang and Washington.

In 2010, former President Jimmy Carter helped secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a U.S. citizen and Christian activist, who had been fined roughly $600,000 and sentenced to eight years of hard labor for crossing over the Chinese border into North Korea.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

North Korea parliament watched for signs of Kim Jong-un succession

A  rare session of North Korea's parliament scheduled to begin today is being watched closely for signs of succession. Analysts of North Korea's opaque politics believe Kim Jong-un, the son of leader Kim Jong-il (69), could be appointed to the National Defense Commission.
This parliamentary session is the first major national meeting since Kim Jong-un made his political debut last September. His predicted appointment to the defense body would cement the succession process, and make him the country's second most powerful man and the next step in the path to formally naming him as successor.

Analysts expect the succession process to be formally completed by April 2012, the centenary of the birth of late President Kim Il-sung, father of the current leader.

Others question whether Kim Jong Un will ascend to a major National Defense Commission post only six months after being made a four-star general and assuming senior Workers' Party posts.

Separately, North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan is reported to be in Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterpart, as part of efforts to re-start international talks. China and North Korea have expressed readiness to restart the six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs "without preconditions".

Monday, April 04, 2011

Former President Carter to North Korea April 26-28

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will make a private trip to North Korea on April 26-28, Yonhap News Agency reported Monday, citing an unnamed source.

The visit comes after a North Korean economic delegation ended a 16-day U.S. tour, and a senior North Korean diplomat attended a seminar hosted by a U.S. think tank in Berlin last week.

Carter will travel to Pyongyang with members of a group comprised of former heads of state from around the world, the source added.

‘‘Carter’s coming visit will provide a chance to see if there is a change in North Korea’s behavior and also gauge the possibility of a breakthrough’’ in the diplomatic deadlock with the country, the source was quoted as saying.

Carter previously visited North Korea last August to bring back an American man detained for illegal entry.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

After Libya, North Korea less likely to drop nuclear ambitions

A Christian Science Monitor writer speculates, “It's a pretty good bet that, as Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi sits in his fortified compound, Western airstrikes targeting his military, that Qaddafi rues the day he heeded US pressures and gave up his nuclear weapons program.”
And, more than a bet, it's now a matter of record that North Korean and Iranian leaders interpret Colonel Qaddafi's plight as a lesson in why not to compromise with the US and other international powers on nuclear development. Their assumption is that, were Qaddafi still in possession of his nuclear and other WMD programs, the West would have thought twice before it attacked.

The Obama administration has often said Iran and North Korea face that same choice that Qaddafi once did. But at this juncture in time why would North Korea be willing to compromise its nuclear programs?

North Korea was even more direct than Iran in addressing the "lessons" of Libya. Calling the deal the US extended to Qaddafi in 2003 "an invasion tactic to disarm the country," Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry declared this week that Libya's nuclear dismantlement "turned out to be a mode of aggression whereby the [US] coaxed [Libya] with such sweet words as 'guarantee of security' and 'improvement of relations' to disarm, and then swallowed it up by force."

Pyongyang and Tehran have concluded that "the US and its allies had a plan for premeditated treachery [against Qaddafi] where none likely existed," writes Doug Bandow in Friday's online issue of The National Interest.

Friday, April 01, 2011

A listening ear for North Korean defectors

North Korean defectors, like many others living in South Korea, suffer from ailments, but, unlike most, they have difficulty conveying them to doctors.

Tucked inside the National Medical Center in Seoul, the North Korean Defector Medical Counseling Center has been host to over 4,000 patients since its opening in 2007. Run by The Organization for One Korea, a civic group in favor of unification, the center helps refugees communicate with hospital staff and understand the medical culture here.

The center also gives them a place free from judgment and prejudice. “There are a lot of people who come for consultations and while they are waiting they usually talk about their hometown and things they have been through without hesitation, developing a bond like relatives,” said Im Hyang, 38.

Im, a defector herself, said it doesn’t matter if they do not know one another because, for those 10 minutes of waiting, they are family. “It almost acts as a community center because people come in here and pour out their feelings that they could not do otherwise, which helps people here become more familiar with each other,” she said.

Many defectors are struck by depression and loneliness which become root problems for other ailments. According to Im, they defect into the South alone and have no one to lean on in tough times, often exacerbating illnesses and leading to excessive drinking.

North Korean refugees come from as far as Jeju Island and Busan to seek medical counseling in Seoul, simply for this companionship.