An Unfinished Conversation

Everyone has his or her share of problems, prejudices, sorrows. But even so, I don’t believe in unadulterated hatred. And I know what it is to be angry and upset. I know what it feels like to be disadvantaged because of history, discrimination, and imperialism. I know what it means when I can’t fight off the ignorance of a million people. It means that I have only to clear away my own ignorance and to observe the ways my own behavior can impact the lives of others. So even when I don’t think that I can forgive or forget the way people have treated and will treat people like me – people who look like me – I know that hatred toward them will only destroy me.

I wanted to say the same things to him but I didn’t know enough Korean, and he didn’t know enough English. So after he told me how much he hated them, and I said, “I know,” we just sat on the benches of Hangyeore contemplating the hills in the distance and putting our conversation behind us. But I am sad that we never finished it. Continue reading

United Nations and North Korean Human Rights: Just an Opinion Piece

I receive several email alerts everyday on everything North Korea. Now, that’s a lot of emails to go through but what caught my eye today was the United Nation’s resolution on North Korean human rights. It’s a great thing and definitely necessary but it also got me thinking about some other things. But before I get into that, let me give you some details on the resolution.

The human rights committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that is supposed to pressure North Korea into correcting its human rights violations against its own people yesterday (November 21, 2011). Now, we all know about North Korea’s human rights violations: the torture, the political prison camps, the restraint against freedom of religion, the inability to travel freely, the malnutrition, the constant fear of being watched, and the list continues. Continue reading

In the News – N.Korea’s New Year’s Statement Stresses Continuity


In the News – N.Korea’s New Year’s Statement Stresses Continuity

The traditional joint New Years editorial of North Korea’s official papers was mostly devoted to stressing dead leader Kim Jong-il’s legacy and his “songun” or military-first doctrine, as if to reassure everyone that nothing will change now that his 20-something son Kim Jong-un has taken over.

Nam Sung-wook, director of the Institute for National Security Strategy, said, “It was a poorly-prepared statement that contains only an outline with no details. There are no specifics on what will be done other than the consolidation of Kim Jong-un’s grip on power.”

An intelligence official said the North could hardly be expected to come up with any new policies before Kim Jong-un has consolidated his position. He added the editorial seemed “very guarded.” And Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said nothing new can be expected until the following year. Continue reading

In the News – South Korea Predicts Changes in Peninsula


In the News – South Korea Predicts Changes in Peninsula

Kim Jong-un visited with members of a tank division in a photograph released Sunday by North Korea's official news agency.

Published: January 1, 2012

SEOUL, South Korea — President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea vowed on Monday to “deal strongly with any provocations” from the North, predicting a “big change” on the divided Korean Peninsula following the death of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, and his young, untested son’s rise to power.

In his nationally televised New Year’s speech, Mr. Lee did not elaborate on what momentous change he foresaw. But policy-makers and analysts in the region are closely watching whether the designated successor in the North, Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be in his 20s, can consolidate his dynastic grip on power or will depend on caretakers and even regents to run the country, and how such scenarios might affect the country’s external policies, especially its nuclear weapons programs. Continue reading

In the News – N.Korea threatens not to associate with Lee government


In the News – N.Korea threatens not to associate with Lee government

By Kim Kyu-won, Staff Writer

North Korea declared Friday that it would “never again associate with the traitorous thug Lee Myung-bak,” taking issue with the South Korea government’s attitude during the funeral period for Kim Jong-il.

Analysts said inter-Korean relations are unlikely to escape tensions in the near future.

In a statement Friday in the name of the National Defense Commission, Pyongyang said the South Korean government had “downgraded its condolences to ‘consolation to residents as separate from the North Korean administration,’ and fended off demands to send a condolence delegation with arguments about ‘mixed signals in South Choson [Korean] society.'” Continue reading

In the News – U.N. chief expresses hopes for easing tensions on Korean Peninsula


In the News – U.N. chief expresses hopes for easing tensions on Korean Peninsula

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 30 (Yonhap) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday he hopes to see tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia ease next year, saying 2012 will be a very important one for Koreans.

In a New Year’s message to the people of his native South Korea, Ban also said he will provide unsparing support as U.N. chief to help reduce tensions on the divided peninsula and in the region.

Ban said that the year 2012 will be “very important” for the Korean Peninsula, apparently referring to the leadership change in North Korea after the Dec. 17 death of Kim Jong-il. South Korea is also set to elect a new parliament and a new president next year.

Ban also praised South Korea’s economic development and democracy as an exemplary success case of realizing the ideals and goals the United Nations pursues.

He also called for South Koreans to make greater contributions to the international community.


Original article can be found here.

In the News – Lee Holds Out Hand to N.Korea


In the News – Lee Holds Out Hand to N.Korea

President Lee Myung-bak on Monday offered North Korea a “new era” in bilateral relations provided the Stalinist country shows it is sincere.

Six-party nuclear disarmament talks “could resume as soon as the North stops its nuclear activities,” Lee said in a nationally televised New Year’s address. “We are prepared to give the North the necessary assistance to remove its worries about security… and restore its economy.”

Lee did not demand an apology for the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. But a senior presidential official later said Lee “didn’t exempt the North from its responsibility to apologize. It’s a message that anything the North wants will be possible once the peninsula is denuclearized. Through his New Year’s address, he extended his hand to the North.”

Another official said Lee suggested he would leave the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong issues “in the area of strategic ambiguity.”

Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said, “We are going to watch how the North reacts while maintaining a flexible approach.”

The North Korean regime in its regular New Year’s editorial in the state papers earlier reaffirmed that it will not engage with the Lee Myung-bak administration.

Original article can be found here.

Thoughts on Kim Jong-il’s Death

Kim Jong-Il in August 2011

Originally I had intended to write about South Korea’s plan to put up a hundred-foot tall Christmas tree. North Korea was quite upset about this affront to their nation, declaring it to be tantamount to psychological warfare, and threatened that “unexpected consequences” would ensue if the tree went up. Where North Korea is concerned, almost all consequences are unexpected, so I found their threat convincing enough.

But a rather unexpected circumstance popped up on its own, a development more compelling to write about: Kim Jong-il died. I found out after work on the 18th; I had called my boss to talk shop on the walk home and as I was about to hang up she told me. We both sounded happy when we got off the phone with each other. I reflect that most people outside North Korea seem pretty happy about the news, though they may not proclaim it loudly. But the tone of the activity seems, on the whole, celebratory. Continue reading

What I Never Learned in School

In my schooling I don’t remember learning anything about North Korea. At all. If anything existed in my U.S. History book about the Korean War and its aftermath, it was not only glossed over by my class but also completely ignored by myself since we were promised that it wasn’t necessary for the AP History Test (it was, to my dismay). All I ever knew about North Korea was based on a magazine cover that was held by push-pins onto the bulletin board in our history classroom—an ominous cartoon of Kim Jung Il and lots of nukes. In college I didn’t learn much more—in my class in Korea I learned about the Korean War and resulting separation of the Koreas, but nothing about North Korea after the fact. All I’ve learned about North Korea has been from an International Relations class that had a week focused on dealing with nuclear war and the internship this summer. Continue reading