In the News – 30 North Korean officials involved in South talks die ‘in traffic accidents’

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In the News – 30 North Korean officials involved in South talks die ‘in traffic accidents’

In its annual study, Amnesty International claimed that in addition to the 30 who died in purges last year, a further 200 were rounded up in January this year by the State Security Agency as Pyongyang carried out the transfer of power from Kim Jong-il, who died of an apparent heart attack in December, and his 29-year-old son, Kim Jong-un.

Of those 200, Amnesty said, some were apparently executed and the remainder were sent to political prison camps. The gulag system presently contains an estimated 200,000 people in “horrific conditions,” the group said.

North Korea has a habit of executing bureaucrats who are perceived to have failed the regime, even though they are often merely carrying out the orders of higher-ranking officials or members of the ruling family.

In 2010, Pak Nam-gi, the former head of the finance department of the Workers’ Party, was reportedly executed by firing squad for the catastrophic attempt to reform the impoverished nation’s currency. The result was rampant inflation and food shortages became even more acute.

The 30 men executed for failing to improve Pyongyang’s ties with Seoul are considered scapegoats for the new low point in inter-Korean ties.

Their task would have been made immeasurably more difficult given North Korea’s insistence with pushing ahead with its development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In spite of universal condemnation of its failed attempt to launch what Pyongyang claimed was a rocket to put a satellite into orbit in April, North Korea appears to be putting the finishing touches to a test detonation of a nuclear device.

Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Defence, said on Thursday that intelligence reports indicate the North has completed its technical preparations to carry out the long-awaited test and that it could go ahead at any time.

Satellite images of the Punggye-ri site and other data show that the tunnel that had been excavated for the test has been refilled, indicating that the nuclear device has been put in place.

There is speculation that the test may be timed to coincide with the Memorial Day national holiday in the United States, which falls in Monday.

“The North Korean regime is hell-bent on being a belligerent actor,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, during a visit to Seoul with a congressional delegation. “And I think that on holidays or sad commemorations like Memorial Day weekend is when the leadership tries to provoke the democratic allies into action.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – China Starts 5-Month Crackdown on N.Korean Defectors

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In the News – China Starts 5-Month Crackdown on N.Korean Defectors 

Chinese security forces launched a massive crackdown on North Korean defectors in Jilin Province’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture on May 15.

Chinese officials say the crackdown is part of a nationwide bust of illegal aliens, but there are suspicions that the drive specifically targets North Korean defectors hiding out in northeastern China as well as South Korean activists and religious organizations who are helping them.

Beijing in March arrested South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan (49) on the vague charge of threatening national security.

Security forces in Yanbian told reporters the crackdown will continue until October and aims to wipe out all the places where North Korans hide, Chinese media reported on Thursday. “Due to its proximity to the border [with North Korea], Yanbian has been the scene of illegal border crossings and other crimes,” said Yanbian immigration chief Li Yong-xue. “If we find illegal immigrants or foreigners without proper documentation, we will investigate immediately.”

He also pledged to “root out activities by foreign NGOs or religious activists that violate laws or have a negative impact on national security and social stability.”

North Korean defectors caught in Yanbian or neighboring areas are expected to be arrested and sent back to the North, while South Koreans who help them worry about criminal investigation and deportation.

Around 10,000-15,000 defectors and other illegal migrants from the North are believed to be living in Yanbian. Some 10,000 South Koreans live there as well. “State security agents already informed Korean residents groups there that they will boost screening of immigration and residency requirements,” said one South Korean businessman in Yanbian. “North Korean defectors here are going into hiding.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Amnesty Details Human Rights Abuses in N.Korea

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In the News – Amnesty Details Human Rights Abuses in N.Korea

Up to 200,000 prisoners are being held “in horrific conditions” in six concentration camps in North Korea, Amnesty International said at a press conference in Seoul Thursday to publicize its annual report.

The report said men, women and children are tortured, ill-treated, and forced to work in dangerous conditions in the camps. “The combination of hazardous forced labor, inadequate food, beatings, totally inadequate medical care and unhygienic living conditions, resulted in prisoners falling ill, and a large number died in custody or soon after release,” it adds.

Amnesty made even gloomier forecasts for the human rights situation in the North after the transfer of power to new leader Kim Jong-un. “In apparent preparation for a succession of power, unconfirmed reports suggested that, in January, the State Security Agency detained over 200 officials, some of whom were feared executed, while others were sent to political prison camps,” the report says.

“Thousands were imprisoned in at least 180 other detention facilities. Most were imprisoned without trial or following grossly unfair trials and on the basis of forced confessions.”

According to the report, 30 officials who had led or participated in dialogue with South Korea were either executed or killed in masked traffic accidents, and 37 officials were executed between 2007 and 2010 on economy-related charges.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N.Korea Striker Jong Tae-se to Tie Knot This Year

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In the News – N.Korea Striker Jong Tae-se to Tie Knot This Year

Striker Jong Tae-se (28) has seen his fortunes dip and dive for FC Köln, which got relegated from Germany’s leading Bundesliga at the end of last season, but off the pitch the ethnic Korean is enjoying life and will realize another key ambition by tying the knot later this year.

Jong, a third-generation Korean Japanese who has a South Korean passport but who plays for North Korea, has long expressed his desire to find a soul mate. He talked about his wedding plans for the first time on Wednesday in Bangkok, where he participated in the 2nd Asian Dream Cup, a charity football event hosted by Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung’s JS Foundation.

“She is Korean Japanese, like me, and we’ve been together for five years. She works at a company and is one year older than me,” he said, apparently reluctant to divulge too much information about his bride-to-be.

Jong Tae-se poses for a photo ahead of a luncheon organized on the sidelines of the second Asian Dream Cup at a hotel in Bangkok on Wednesday.

The couple got together after being set up by one of Jong’s university friends when he was playing for Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale. Since Jong moved to Bochum, Germany, in 2010, they have maintained a long-distance relationship.

In January, Jong moved up from Germany’s second-tier league to join Koln, but played in just five games and mostly served as a benchwarmer. Adding to his misfortune, the team got relegated. Jong expressed his disappointment and said he was not hopeful of finding another team to transfer to in the Bundesliga at this point in his career. Rather, he said, he will focus on trying to get as much playing time as possible in the lower league.

He also seemed open to the idea of playing in South Korea’s domestic league.  “If I receive a good offer, I will definitely consider it,” he said. “In the past, I heard rumors that a number of K League teams were interested in me, but I wasn’t prepared to make the move at that time.”

He named playing in the UEFA Champions’ League as one of his unfulfilled ambitions. “I wanted to become the first North Korean to play in the Champions’ League, but Park Kwang-ryong of Basel beat me to the punch. I will have to wait until I hear from him to find out how he found the experience, but I would still love to play on such a grand stage.”

 

Original article can be found here.

Intimacy in North Korea

Last summer I spent two weeks as an English language partner to North Korean defector middle and high school students in a small town on the outskirts of Seoul. After four years, I found myself once again immersed in the complex jungle of teenage angst, hormones, and emotions. Well, I know from my university experience that those unpredictable attitudes and moods don’t necessarily go away when you get older and that everyone manages to overcome his inner-teenager individually. But, I remember that while we did our best to think about what kind of activities would be both fun and advantageous to our seventeen through twenty-year-old students, at least one person would say something along the lines of our need to understand that these students weren’t just defectors preparing for new lives in South Korea; they were also hormonally driven teenagers on the brink of young love, experiencing their first infatuations, and learning the art of flirtation. I did not notice too many hormonal imbalances erupting before my eyes, but what about attraction and relationships in North Korea? To go even further, what about sex in North Korea?

“A North Korean couple has a picnic along the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea” (AP Photo/Vincent Yu).

Notorious for a reputation of severe control and discipline, to what extent does the North Korean regime play a role in sexual intimacy? According to Radio Free Asia, the simple answer is that “when it comes to the privacy of the bedroom, even the all-powerful North Korean Workers’ Party is largely hands-off” (Love and Sex in North Korea). Continue reading

In the News – Remains of S. Korean soldiers killed in N. Korea return home for 1st time

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In the News – Remains of S. Korean soldiers killed in N. Korea return home for 1st time

SEOUL, May 25 (Yonhap) — The remains of South Korean soldiers killed in North Korea during the Korean War returned home on Friday via the U.S., marking the first such repatriation of South Korean war dead since the 1953 armistice.

Twelve sets of remains, two of which have been positively identified, were among 226 sets recovered in the northern part of North Korea by a U.S. excavation team between 2000 and 2004, before Washington halted the joint recovery mission with Pyongyang due to concerns over the safety and security of its workers.

After conducting DNA tests, the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii confirmed last August that some of the remains were those of Asian soldiers.

Since then, Seoul and Washington have conducted joint analyses to identify the remains and 12 sets were confirmed to be from South Korean soldiers, officials at Seoul’s defense ministry said.

The 12 sets of remains were flown Friday to a military airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, where they were met with an honor guard ceremony attended by President Lee Myung-bak, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Army Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea’s human rights condition ‘extremely poor,’ U.S. gov’t

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In the News – N. Korea’s human rights condition ‘extremely poor,’ U.S. gov’t

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 24 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s human rights conditions remain “extremely poor,” the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

In an annual report on political freedom and civil liberties in 199 nations, the department again grouped North Korea with Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Belarus and China.

“Overall human rights conditions remained extremely poor in many of the countries that we spotlighted in our 2010 country reports,” said Michael H. Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

The report said North Korea is an “authoritarian state led by the Kim family for more than 60 years,” referring to a recent leadership change in the communist nation to Kim Jong-un, the third son of late leader Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, the late founding leader Kim Il-sung, was granted the posthumous title of “eternal president.”
“The most recent national elections, held in March 2009, were neither free nor fair,” read the 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

“Citizens did not have the right to change their government. The government subjected citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives, including denial of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement and worker rights,” it added. “There continued to be reports of a vast network of political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh and life threatening.”

In the previous report, the department described the North’s human rights record “deplorable” and “grim.”

Responding to Yonhap News Agency’s inquiry over if the change of wording has implications, Posner quipped, “I may be running out of words.”

He emphasized that Washington is “deeply concerned that the situation remains poor” and without progress.

He cited a separate report by a U.S. nongovernmental group last month that as many as 200,000 people are held in the secretive nation’s political prison camps, where human rights abuses are prevalent.

He said the U.S. will continue to raise the issue and hopes that the burgeoning transition of Myanmar, or Burma, to democracy may “inspire” North Korea and other closed societies, including Iran, Uzbekistan, Eritrea or Sudan.

On South Korea, meanwhile, the department’s report again took issue with controversies over the National Security Act, which critics view as aimed at cracking down on dissidents and those who support North Korea, along with other laws designed to keep public order.

“The primary human rights problems reported were the government’s interpretation of national security and other laws to limit freedom of expression and restrict access to the Internet as well as incidents of hazing in the military,” the report said.

It added other human rights problems included some official corruption; sexual and domestic violence; children engaged in prostitution; human trafficking; societal discrimination against foreigners, North Korean defectors, persons with HIV/AIDS; and limitations on workers’ rights.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Rising Instability Fuels North Korean Rhetoric

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In the News – Rising Instability Fuels North Korean Rhetoric

SEOUL—North Korea’s increasingly inflammatory criticism against South Korea is a sign of instability in its authoritarian regime and doesn’t appear likely to end soon, the South’s top official in charge of dealing with the North said.

Since the death of Kim Jong Il in December, the North’s government has been trying to build support for his son Kim Jong Eun and resorted to greater extremes of rhetoric in the process, Yu Woo-ik, South Korea’s Minister of Unification, said in a recent interview.

“The reason why North Koreans criticize South Korea ever more strongly, we believe, is an expression of anxiety,” Mr. Yu said.

He noted that the younger Mr. Kim has begun reshaping the North’s government and, in an environment where jobs are on the line, people and organizations are jockeying for power by showing loyalty to him—and one way to do that is to criticize the South.

The period has also opened an opportunity for China, North Korea’s political ally and economic benefactor, to wield more influence on the regime, said Mr. Yu, who was South Korea’s ambassador to China until taking his current post last September.

0524yuwooik

Reuters

“If China thinks more progressively, it will be more effective in bringing change to North Korea,” he said. “We believe this is the right time to go in that direction.” Continue reading

In the News – U.S. Officials in Secret Visit to N.Korea Before Rocket Launch

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In the News – U.S. Officials in Secret Visit to N.Korea Before Rocket Launch

Two senior U.S. figures apparently flew to Pyongyang aboard a U.S. Air Force plane in a secret mission six days before North Korea’s failed rocket launch on April 13.

“At around 7:40 a.m. on April 7, a U.S. Air Force Boeing 737 entered North Korea,” a diplomatic source in Seoul said. “The aircraft flew from Guam and into North Korea along the same route on the West Sea used by former President Kim Dae-jung during his visit to the North back in 2000.”

Experts speculate that the plane carried Joseph Di Trani, a nuclear negotiator in the George W. Bush administration, and Sydney Seiler, a National Security Council advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The secret visit appears to have been a last-ditch effort by Washington to stop North Korea from pressing ahead with the rocket launch.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Kaesong Firms Still Suffer from N.Korea Sanctions

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In the News – Kaesong Firms Still Suffer from N.Korea Sanctions

South Korean firms in the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea lost about W2 billion each due to sanctions on the North implemented in 2010 (US$1=W1,173).

Some 61.8 percent of 200 firms said it has been hard to recover from losses, according to a survey published by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday. Some 24.8 percent said they have recovered slightly and 13.4 percent they have fully recovered.

The firms suffered average losses of W1.94 billion, about double the W970 million estimated in a survey right after Seoul imposed sanctions on the North on May 24, 2010.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. to mull food aid for N. Korea if it changes direction: White House

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In the News – U.S. to mull food aid for N. Korea if it changes direction: White House

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 23 (Yonhap) — A White House official said Wednesday that the U.S. will again consider food aid for North Korea if it stays away from provocations and averts a confrontational course.

“I think the precondition is that North Koreans have to demonstrate that they are going to refrain from those types of provocative actions and they are serious about moving in a different direction,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said at a press conference for foreign reporters.

He pointed out that Washington has lost trust in the communist regime as it reneged on a bilateral deal by launching a long-range rocket in April.

The two sides reached an agreement on Feb. 29, nicknamed the “Leap Day Deal,” after high-level talks. It called for the North to suspend some of its nuclear activity and put a moratorium on missile launches.

In exchange, the U.S. promised to deliver 240,000 tons of food. Washington halted a related process after the North’s rocket launch.

Rhodes said the U.S. is not convinced that food, if shipped, will reach ordinary people in need such as mothers, children and pregnant women.

He stressed that the U.S. remains open to bilateral and multilateral talks with the North.

But he expressed skepticism that Pyongyang will change its mode.

“We haven’t seen that indication yet,” he said. “Right now we not optimistic that there will be any imminent breakthrough that could lead to the provision of additional assistance.”

On a trip to Northeast Asia, meanwhile, Washington’s point man on Pyongyang also said food assistance is still a viable option depending on the North’s attitude.

“I think as you all know the United States has been historically very generous when it comes to the provision of nutritional assistance,” Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters after meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing.

The U.S. has provided more than 2.2 million metric tons of food, valued at over $850 million, to North Korea since the mid-1990s, he noted.

“And should the opportunity present itself, if we can reach a stage where we can once again have faith in the North Koreans’ ability to abide by its undertakings and its promises, we would like very much to get back to the provision of nutritional assistance,” he said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Ruling party considering motion to oust pro-N.K. lawmakers-elect from parliament

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In the News – Ruling party considering motion to oust pro-N.K. lawmakers-elect from parliament

SEOUL, May 24 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s ruling party is considering a motion to strip two opposition lawmakers-elect of their parliamentary seats amid conservatives’ growing concern their alleged pro-North Korea stances could pose a threat to national security.

The two, Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), have been under a firestorm of criticism for refusing to give up their parliamentary seats despite findings the party’s primary voting to select proportional candidates was seriously rigged.

Rep. Shim Jae-chul (L) of the ruling Saenuri Party speaks during the party’s leadership meeting on May 24, 2012. (Yonhap)

Fueling conservative concern about them were revelations that they are key members of the party’s largest faction comprised mainly of former student activists who had followed and acted under North Korea’s former ruling ideology of “juche” or “self-reliance.”

Lee actually was arrested and convicted in the early 2000s of involvement in an underground party linked to Pyongyang, and concerns from conservatives are that their entry into parliament would allow them wide access to sensitive information on national security. Kim was also formerly convicted on charges of violating the anti-communist National Security Law.

These concerns have prompted talk of the ruling party pushing to oust them from parliament. Continue reading

In the News – N.Korea Denies Imminent Nuclear Test

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In the News – N.Korea Denies Imminent Nuclear Test

North Korea on Tuesday claimed it never planned to conduct a nuclear test and its missile tests were purely for scientific research. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the regime “from the beginning” never envisaged “such a military measure as a nuclear test,” and the aim of a failed rocket launch last month was to put a satellite into orbit for peaceful purposes.

The North was responding to a statement on Saturday from the G8 nations condemning the April 13 rocket launch and pledging tougher UN sanctions against the Stalinist country in response to any further provocations or a nuclear test.

North Korea then accused the U.S. of condemning it without good reason by taking issue with the peaceful satellite launch and of ratcheting up tensions by spreading what it called “rumors” of an impending nuclear test.

But an intelligence official here insisted the North has nearly finished preparations for a third nuclear test at a facility in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province and that the only thing left is for Pyongyang to officially announce the move. “We have learned from U.S. and South Korean intelligence data that a few more specialized vehicles entered the shaft at the Punggye-ri site, proving that the North is preparing for a nuclear test as we speak,” a South Korean military source said.

Citing military think tank IHS Jane’s Defense and Security Intelligence and Analysis, CNN reported Tuesday that afresh activity has been detected at Punggye-ri related to an impending nuclear test. IHS Jane’s analyzed recent photos taken by private satellite operators Digital Globe and GeoEye showing mining cars and other digging equipment near the shaft, and soil and rocks being moved out.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that the regime has no choice but to bolster its nuclear arsenal while the U.S. keeps up “hostile” acts. “If the US persists in its moves to ratchet up sanctions and pressure on us despite our peace-loving efforts, we will be left with no option but to take counter-measures for self-defense,” the spokesman said.

But the denial itself was unusual. Experts speculate the statement was an excuse for the delay of the nuclear test, which was believed to be imminent. “This is related to speculation that North Korea postponed the nuclear test due to pressure from China,” said Yoo Ho-yeol at Korea University. “North Korea is trying to save face by pretending it has not caved into pressure from China but never planned a nuclear test in the first place.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Lee calls for greater attention to N. Korea’s human rights record

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In the News – Lee calls for greater attention to N. Korea’s human rights record

SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday North Korea’s human rights record is an issue as important as its nuclear or missile programs, and should be dealt with more urgently than other matters.

Lee made the remark during a meeting with a group of U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the chairwoman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, presidential spokeswoman Lee Mi-yon said.

“The issue of North Korea’s nuclear test or a missile launch is of the same weight of significance as the issue of North Korea’s human rights,” Lee was quoted as saying. “The issue of human rights for the North Korean people should rather be dealt with more urgently.”

The lawmakers promised to pay more attention to the human rights issue, the spokeswoman said.

Ros-Lehtinen and five other Congressmen arrived in Seoul Tuesday for a four-day visit that includes talks with Lee, meetings with the unification minister handling relations with Pyongyang and the first vice foreign minister, as well as a visit to the border with the North. Continue reading

In the News – Chinese fishermen say North Korean soldiers beat and robbed them

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In the News – Chinese fishermen say North Korean soldiers beat and robbed them

BEIJING — Chinese fishermen released by North Korea this week after nearly two weeks of captivity alleged that they were beaten, robbed and stripped and given starvation rations in a case that has opened up a rare public rift between the Communist allies.

“They used the back of their machine guns to hit us and also kicked us,” said Wang Lijie, one of 29 fishermen in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “They stripped us of all our clothes after the beating, including sock and shoes. Most of us had only underwear left.”

The North Koreans drained the three captured ships of fuel and also removed almost all the caught fish and the food and cooking oil stored for the journey. The fisherman were allowed out once or twice a day to cook small rations of grain, but were otherwise confined in a tiny storage room while their captors negotiated for ransom.

The hostage takers had initially demanded $65,000 per ship, according to the ships’ owners, which apparently the Chinese refused to pay.

Although none of the Chinese crew were seriously injured, their accounts of mistreatment were reported in the Chinese media on Tuesday, triggering calls for an explanation from North Korea. “Crew treated ‘inhumanely,’ ” read the headline Tuesday in the Global Times, a newspaper closely tied to China’s Communist Party.

Moreover, the fishermen returning home identified their captors as North Korean military.

“They didn’t dock our ship at any of the North Korean ports. Our ship was just drifting in the ocean the whole time with North Korean soldiers watching and guarding us all the time,” said Wang. “The North Korean soldiers also forced us to sign a document in Korean language which is supposed to be confessions of us fishing in North Korean waters. When we at first refused, they started to beat us again.”

The boats were seized May 8 while fishing in what the ship owners claimed were Chinese territorial waters and were forced to sail toward North Korea. Although it is not the first time Chinese fishermen have claimed harassment by North Koreans, the incident is by far the most serious and raises questions about whether impoverished North Korea is descending into Somalia-style piracy.

The country is in a difficult transition period following the death of its leader, Kim Jong Il, in December and the elevation of his son, Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s.

“If North Korean governmental authorities are linked to this incident, we could suspect that the central government’s control has weakened in the process of power shifting to Kim Jong Un,” said Lee Dong-bok, senior associate at Center for Strategic and International Studies in Seoul.

China is North Korea’s main ally, the source of most of its fuel oil, investment capital and food aid, but Pyongyang has irritated its patron in recent months by ignoring Beijing’s calls for restraint in its weapons programs.

The Global Times, among other Chinese media, have demanded an investigation and prosecution of the latest incident.

“As lives are involved, the severity of the incident cannot be offset by national interests, including Sino-North Korean relations,” the paper editorialized last week.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Rogue N.Korean Soldiers Suspected in Hijack of Chinese Boats

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In the News – Rogue N.Korean Soldiers Suspected in Hijack of Chinese Boats

Three Chinese fishing boats that were seized by a small North Korean Navy boat on the West Sea on May 8 returned to Dalian Port at around 7 a.m. on Monday. The fishermen were given a health check immediately after they arrived. Three complained of extreme dizziness, and three others showed clear signs of external injuries, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Twenty eight Chinese fishermen had been abducted, not 29 as reported earlier.

The owners of the Chinese fishing boats said the crew were taken to the coast of North Hwanghae Province in North Korea. They were kept in a dark room all day and given just two bowls of gruel a day. They were beaten with sticks or metal rods if they failed to obey orders, and the food and supplies in their ships were plundered. Just before they were released, the captors erased the navigational records on the GPS devices on the fishing boats, the fishermen said.

On Sunday the North Korean Foreign Ministry said the fishermen were returned with no strings attached. Initially, the captors had demanded a ransom of 90,000 yuan (around W160 million) per vessel.

“That was something that should not happen between the two countries. We understand the complaints of the Chinese people,” a North Korean official was quoted as saying by China’s Global Times.

In the News – Lee: N. Korea’s economy should first stand on its own before unification

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In the News – Lee: N. Korea’s economy should first stand on its own before unification

SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday North Korea’s economy should first get on its feet before the two Koreas become unified again, stressing that Seoul never wants the communist neighbor to collapse.

Lee made the remark in an interview with CNBC television broadcast in Singapore earlier in the day, stressing that the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear programs and other issues can be resolved if the regime opens up and works together with the outside world.

“It is not that we wish something will go wrong and North Korea will collapse because it will give South Korea a great burden,” Lee said in the interview. “If North Korea goes together with the international community, its economy can stand on its own and it would be most desirable to have a peaceful unification after that,” he said.

North Korea has relied on outside aid to feed its people since the mid-1990s.

Regarding the eurozone financial crisis, Lee said debt-ridden Greece should accept austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a bailout package, saying South Korea went through harsher measures when it accepted humiliating IMF bailout loans during the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

“Compared with South Korea, I think the level now being demanded for Greece is reasonable,” Lee said. “I think Greece, including its government, businesses, workers and people, should voluntarily accept this.”

On Monday, Lee instructed officials to make thorough preparations to stave off any negative fallouts from the fiscal crisis amid concerns that Greece may not meet the terms of its bailout and drop out of the eurozone, a scenario that could destabilize the entire European market and beyond.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Group Seeks UN Help Over S.Koreans Detained in China

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In the News – Group Seeks UN Help Over S.Koreans Detained in China

A South Korean activist group is seeking UN help over China’s detention of South Korean activists involved in helping North Korean defectors there. Kim Young-hwan and three fellow activists have been detained in China for unclear reasons since March 29.

Han Ki-hong of the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights said on Sunday, “We are discussing ways to appeal to the UN or large international human rights organizations and highlights China’s illegal detention of Kim and his colleagues on the vague charge of threatening China’s national security.”

The Chinese government has denied Kim access to his lawyer in person or by phone. He was allowed just one 30-minute meeting with the South Korean consul on April 26. The network, for whom Kim has been working, says such harsh treatment violates international law and human rights.

The group has been talking to the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, which recently extracted through the UN an official response from North Korea on the fate of Shin Suk-ja, the wife of a prominent South Korean who was lured to North Korea but escaped.

Kwon Eun-kyoung at the ICNK said, “We have had legal advice that China clearly violates international law by detaining Kim and his colleagues for more than 37 days without indictment and obstructing meetings with his lawyer and consular officials. We are drafting petitions to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Special Rapporteur on Torture.”

The group has also written to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

 

Original article can be found here.

A German Story: Part 1 of 3

This story was told to me by Horst one Friday morning, November 9th, when I was the only one who showed up for class. Horst was a professor of mine when I studied abroad in Germany. He is quite tall, probably 200 pounds, dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin, has an air about him like he may have been a former military officer. He is full of conspiracies, and when I knew him he was in the process of building a bicycle-powered wood-chopper for his cottage in the event of a crisis-level power failure. He carries around first editions of 17th century books, his finger marking the page.

In this particular class, we went through some of my questions about grammar, such as “Ob…?” implicit questions and how one uses Intentionalpartikeln such as doch, bloß, mal, etc. Then he said that he thought that today we would work on hearing comprehension, he would tell me a story and I should take notes, and then I could write something up and we could see how I did. So he told me this story.

If you are a particularly acute student of history—as Horst was—you might recognize the date on which he told me this story as a significant one. November 9th is the date the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Horst was 26 at the time; he had grown up his entire life in East Germany, behind the Wall. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea Releases Chinese Fisherman

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In the News – North Korea Releases Chinese Fisherman

BEIJING—A group of Chinese fishermen apparently detained by North Koreans nearly two weeks ago has been released, Chinese state media reported Sunday.

The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Jiang Yaxian, Chinese counselor to North Korea, as saying the detained vessels and fishermen were on their way back to China.

The Xinhua report provided few details about the fishermen’s detention, and it remained unclear why the vessels were detained in the first place and whether Chinese authorities had agreed to pay a ransom in exchange for their release. Continue reading