Sunday, January 31, 2010

North Korean defector prepares for Korean unification

Kang Chul-ho, a former North Korean refugee now a pastor living in Seoul, believes that at the time of Korean reunification, North Korean defectors in South Korea could play a crucial role in bridging the ideological, economical and social gaps that have widened during the six-decade division.

"It took me 10 years to adjust and become a South Korean. It may take the same amount of time for North Koreans to adjust to a new life here when the two Koreas reunite. The defectors here could help reduce the time by assisting them. We need to train them."

Kang stressed the need to pay more attention to North Korean defectors struggling to adjust to a capitalist South that is "diametrically different" from what they experienced in the North.

"Many churches here are interested in providing aid to North Korea while they pay little attention to the defectors here [in South Korea]. When we cannot embrace North Korean defectors, how can we embrace North Koreans? With proper education and attention, we should help them confidently live in this society," he said.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Remembering Robert Park, American activist in North Korea

Excerpt of an article by Miyoung Monica Kim, chief researcher, Korean War Abductees Research Institute:

Surprisingly silence prevails since Robert Park crossed into North Korea the day before Christmas.

Who is Robert Park to [South] Korea? He presents a weighty subject beyond judicial dimension. Robert Park raises a meaningful question. [His actions] implies that a new kind of peaceful regime without scars and hatred is possible in the war-scarred Korean peninsula. I think that such an all-out, self-sacrificial love itself as shown by Robert Park constitutes enough reasons for North Korea to set him free and for the United States to rescue him.

The incident, had it been committed by a North Korean, is a 'first degree' offense in North Korea's law, classified as a blasphemy against the so-called 'the top', Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. In the case of a foreigner like Robert Park, I do not think he will be branded as a 'first class' criminal on the basis of 'the ten grand principles of unitarian thought' that serves as canon of the absolutism of the chief.

It is true that he entered a foreign territory without permission but his lack of malice and criminal elements in his statements does not allow the United States government to leave this case up to North Korea. It is clear that despite Robert Park's plea not to seek his release, the United States government cannot forsake its constitutional duty to protect its people, much less neglecting a citizen held in North Korea.

Friday, January 29, 2010

And what of activist Robert Park, and where is he?

28-year-old Robert Park, who walked across the frozen Tumen River border from Chinese to North Korean soil on Christmas Eve bearing a letter of "peace and goodwill" for Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, is believed to be quarantined like the carrier of a deadly disease.

"Robert Park will be isolated from the general public," said Kim Tae-jin, co-director of the Democracy Network Against the North Korean Gulag, who fled from North Korea more than a decade ago after having been imprisoned in the infamous Yodok Camp for more than four years. "He will not be mixed with North Korean citizens in prison. The guards will know. They will give a gag order about his detention."

It is a measure of North Korea's fear of Park's evangelical message that there has been no word about his whereabouts or the charges against him. Christian worship, mere possession of a bible or a prayer book, is a crime punishable by death in North Korea.

Recounting his moods of terror and despair before his release from Yodok, Kim Tae-jin believes Park's Christian beliefs make it too dangerous for him to stay in Yodok or any other well-known gulag where eventually his presence might become known. "There are some detention centers in the mountain areas," said Kim. "He could be kept there where people do not know about him."

[Excerpt of an Asian Times article by Donald Kirk]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

North Korea arrests a second US citizen

North Korea has arrested an American male for "trepassing", illegally entering the country across the border with China, according to its state media.

It was the second time in a month that North Korea has arrested a US citizen, after detaining Robert Park, a Christian missionary, in December. Mr. Park, 28, crossed the frozen Tumen River on Christmas Day to raise the issue of human rights.

Commentators believe that Robert Park is now being held as a bargaining chip with the US in future negotiations over the North's nuclear ambitions.

Jo Sung-rae of the Seoul-based group Pax Koreana said he and fellow activists sent about 150,000 leaflets by balloon across the border into North Korea on Wednesday as part of efforts to let North Koreans know about Park. Jo said the leaflets repeated Park's demand that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il step down and dismantle camps for political prisoners.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

North Korean diplomat defects, now in Seoul

A 40-year-old North Korean diplomat, a doctor by training, defected to South Korea this past autumn by seeking asylum at Seoul’s embassy in Ethiopia. He had been working at North Korea’s Embassy in Addis Ababa.

The man, identified only as Kim, appeared at the South Korean embassy in October and spent several weeks there before he flew in November to Seoul, Yonhap said.

North Korea had demanded the diplomat be returned and used several vehicles to erect a barricade in front of Seoul’s embassy in Addis Ababa, it said.

South Korea’s government has made no official confirmation of the defection.