In the News – Beijing Asked Seoul to Stop Help for N.Korean Defectors

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In the News – Beijing Asked Seoul to Stop Help for N.Korean Defectors

China asked Seoul to make sure that South Koreans stop engaging in “organized activities” there to help North Koreans escape if South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan was to be released. Kim was tortured during his 114 days in Chinese detention for helping North Korean refugees.

A senior diplomatic source here on Wednesday said China attempted to make Kim’s release contingent on South Korea putting a stop to activists’ help for North Korean defectors in the three northeastern Chinese provinces.

“China threatened not to release Kim unless Seoul promises to stop organized assistance for North Korean defectors, but the South Korean government declined,” the source added.

A senior South Korean government official confirmed the story.

China is worried about the activities of South Korean NGOs helping North Koreans in the provinces adjacent to North Korea. Chinese police fear that North Koreans could escape en masse if organized assistance increases.

There is also speculation that the North Korean regime has asked Beijing for help. After Seoul declined to meet its demand, China reportedly decided to deport Kim after a visit to Seoul last month by Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu.

Seoul has been seeking a consular agreement with Beijing to increase protection of South Korean citizens for a decade, but progress has been slow. According to the Foreign Ministry, talks kicked off in May 2002 and were convened on three more occasions — in January 2007, January 2010, and December 2011 — but the gap in opinions remains wide.

Seoul made consular agreements with the U.S. in 1963 and with Russia in 1992. A ministry official said, “Even if there’s no bilateral consular agreement with China, there won’t be any big problem if we stress the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which most countries including China and Korea are signatories.”

Original Article 

In the News – S. Korean activist seeks to prove torture through medical checkup

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In the News – S. Korean activist seeks to prove torture through medical checkup

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) — A South Korean human rights activist who has accused Chinese security agents of torture during his four-month arrest said Thursday he will prove his claims through a medical checkup amid Beijing’s denial of the alleged abuse.

The dramatic story of Kim Young-hwan, who was expelled from China and returned home on July 20, has taken another turn in recent weeks following his revelations of torture under Chinese detention.

The 49-year-old activist recently described the beatings, electric shocks and sleep deprivation he endured during the early days of his arrest in northeastern China, exposing the Seoul government to criticism about its lack of action against Beijing.

Kim was arrested on March 29 on suspicion of endangering China’s national security, a charge believed to be related to the activist’s efforts to help North Korean defectors in China and promote human rights in the North.

China’s foreign ministry has rejected the allegations of torture, saying the investigation went according to law.

“Externally, there doesn’t seem to be any scars remaining,” Kim told Yonhap News Agency in a phone call. “I plan to get a medical checkup.”

Formal evidence of the alleged torture is expected to help Kim in the event that he decides to sue the Chinese government or take the case to the United Nations.

South Korean human rights activist Kim Young-hwan (Yonhap)

Lee Kyu-ho, a 41-year-old Korean-Chinese, said he moved to South Korea in 2010 after having worked as a Chinese security agent from 1995 to 2002, and witnessed similar violence by Chinese authorities at the time.

“In 1996, we took into custody a male North Korean defector who appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s, and during the investigation, I kicked him with my heels and beat him with an electric rod,” Lee said in an interview with Yonhap.

“I was infuriated when I heard about the torture Chinese authorities used against Kim Young-hwan and decided to blow the whistle out of guilt about my past actions.”

Kim’s detention drew public attention due to his personal background.

He is a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance who later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the North’s dismal human rights record.

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In the News – South Korea Rejects North’s Terrorism Allegations

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In the News – South Korea Rejects North’s Terrorism Allegations

South Korea is calling “ridiculous” a North Korean claim that activists based in Seoul are behind alleged acts of sabotage in the North.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry says police and the National Intelligence Service are taking necessary measures to protect four people, including a freshman lawmaker, threatened by Pyongyang.

In an unusual announcement Tuesday, North Korea accused the four people of plotting to blow up statues and commit other acts of attempted terrorism.  It said they would not be able to escape merciless punishment.

Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin says there is no truth to the North’s allegations and they do not merit a response.

Park says Pyongyang is making groundless charges that defectors from North Korea are engaged in kidnappings and terrorism.

One of those named by North Korea is Cho Myung-chul, a defector and freshman lawmaker (from the ruling Saenuri Party) who says he feels devastated by the allegation.

Cho tells reporters at the National Assembly this is a brutal pronouncement from Pyongyang and he says its threats against those in South Korea are inexcusable.

Two other defectors, Kim Song-min, the founder of Radio Free North Korea, and Park Sang-hak, who floats leaflets by balloons to North Korea, were threatened by Pyongyang along with high-profile activist, Kim Young-hwan.

Kim Young-hwan was formerly the leader of an underground leftist party, and a long-time polarizing figure on the Korean peninsula. In the 1980s he helped lead demonstrations against the dictatorship then in power in Seoul. He was imprisoned in South Korea for two years. In 1991 he was smuggled twice by submarine to North Korea to meet the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. But he later became a fierce critic of North Korea’s repressive system.

In the statement broadcast by Pyongyang radio Tuesday  Kim was singled out as a “heinous nation-selling bastard.”

Kim Young-hwan and two colleagues were arrested in China on March 29. They were held there until July 20 on charges of endangering national security.

Kim has told local media Chinese security officers tortured him with a cattle prod and threatened to send him to North Korea.  He says that as a condition for his release, his captors tried to force him to sign a statement denying any mistreatment and admitting he violated Chinese law.

Kim says he wants the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into his allegations. He says he also plans to file civil lawsuits against Chinese authorities.

Kim has said he was visiting the country merely to collect information on human rights in North Korea and to aid refugees from the North who are in China. He has denied reports he was also attempting to set up the defection of a senior North Korean official.

South Korea’s foreign ministry, facing pressure from rights groups, announced Tuesday it plans to interview about 600 other citizens to determine whether they were also mistreated in Chinese jails.

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In the News – China Must Investigate Torture Claims

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In the News – China Must Investigate Torture Claims

China on Tuesday flatly denied torturing a prominent South Korean activist who was detained in Dandong for 114 days for helping North Korean defectors. China claims no laws were broken during its investigation of Kim Young-hwan and his rights were not violated.

The claims contradict Kim’s own account in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo on Monday, where he said he could smell his flesh burn as Chinese security agents tortured him with a cattle prod.

Kim vividly recalled the brutal torture he suffered in the Chinese prison. “Three state security agents checked my blood pressure and collected a blood sample on April 15 and then proceeded to torture me with a cattle prod from that evening until the early hours of the following morning,” Kim said. “They put the cattle prod, wrapped with electrical coils, inside my clothes and placed it on my chest and back,” he said. “It is hard to describe the pain I felt. It felt like being electrocuted continuously.” Kim added he suffered continuous blows to his face and they stopped only when his entire face was bloody.

He said he was also deprived of sleep from April 10 to 15 and was forced to wear handcuffs and stand for 10 hours straight. “That left my hands paralyzed for more than a month,” Kim said.

Kim’s account of getting a medical check-up before being tortured suggests meticulous planning by Chinese security agents. There are accounts that Chinese agents warned him not to talk about the torture he suffered in Dandong.

When confronted with such a vivid account of torture by a victim, the first thing to do would be to investigate whether those allegations are true. It is simply irresponsible of Beijing to deny them. Perhaps according to Beijing’s standards, the torture Kim suffered is par for the course and represents no great violation of a prisoner’s rights.

But as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China also signed the UN Convention against Torture. It should find out whether any other permanent member of the Security Council has rejected calls for a probe into allegations of torture of a foreign national. Even a superpower like China can lose global respect that way.

Kim said he wants no financial compensation but simply an apology from China. It is not a huge request to make. But if Beijing rejects it, the only thing left to do is to conduct a joint investigation through the UN Human Rights Council and appeal to the international community. If human rights groups around the world join hands to pursue the truth, even China would feel the heat.

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In the News – N.Korea Threatens S.Korean Activists

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In the News – N.Korea Threatens S.Korean Activists

North Korea on Tuesday threatened to hunt down defectors as well as South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan, who was detained in China for 114 days for helping them.

“We will in the future, too, never allow those abductors, terrorists and saboteurs who dare hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of [North Korea], encroach upon its sovereignty and threaten the safety of its people to go scot-free even by scouring all parts of the earth,” the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement.

The statement singled out Kim Sung-min of Radio Free North Korea, Park Sang-hak of activist group Fighters for Free North Korea, Cho Myong-chol, a defector who became a Saenuri Party lawmaker, and Kim.

“The U.S. and the South Korean puppet regime should stop at once the act of luring and abducting [North Korean] people, make an official apology for the hideous politically motivated, state-sponsored terrorism against the dignity of its supreme leadership and sternly punish the prime movers,” the statement added.

The statement comes after a North Korean defector claimed in a press conference in Pyongyang that he had infiltrated the North on a mission sponsored by U.S. and South Korean authorities to blow up statues and monuments.

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In the News – Rights activist says North involved in his detention in China

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In the News – Rights activist says North involved in his detention in China

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) — A South Korean activist said Wednesday North Korea was certainly involved in his four-month detention in China, indicating close cooperation between the two allies in their efforts to root out defector assistance and human rights activities in China.

About one week after he was deported from China following a 114-day detention on charges of endangering China’s national security, the 49-year-old activist Kim Young-hwan recounted in a press conference how he was unexpectedly arrested by a Chinese intelligence unit and detained under brutal treatment, as well as how the North was involved in his ordeal.

The North Korea-sympathizer-turned-human rights activist said the taxi he was riding in Dalian, a Chinese city near North Korea, was stopped by Chinese intelligence agents. He was taken by them right away on March 29, one week after he went to China to discuss cooperation on North human rights improvement and assistance for North Korean defectors with other activists there.

Without telling him why he was arrested, Kim was brought to the intelligence agency’s detention facility in Dandong and spent one month there under brutal conditions, including sleep deprivation, before being moved to another prison.

“They did not tell me what charges I was under, but ordered me to confess all I know (about human rights activities in China),” Kim told the press conference.

Having done nothing against China nor tried to dig out information about the country, “I could not understand why they were so brutal to me,” said the activist who led local efforts to assist North Koreans defecting to the South as well as shore up human rights protection in the reclusive communist country.

He said he is “certain” that the North’s spy unit, State Security Department, played a major role in the detention of him and several other fellow South Korean and Chinese activists who were taken by the Chinese intelligence unit along with him.

“The motive of this incident seems to be very much related with the State Security Department, I think,” Kim said.

“For the first three or four days following the arrest, they did not know who I was,” he said, adding that they later seemed to get the idea from information provided by the North’s intelligence agency. “I think they were in cooperation.”

The crackdown attempt by China, the first of its kind in trying to charge a foreigner with endangering the country’s national security, appears to be part of the country’s efforts to set off alarm bells for those working in China to help North Korean defectors or improve human rights there, activities irritating to the North as well as its closest ally China.

“This was thought to be the case, given that the Chinese government requested Seoul help stop North Korean defector assistance activities (by activists in China),” said Saenuri Party lawmaker Ha Tae-kyung who attended the conference following his efforts to free the detained activist.

“China may have thought we posed high potential risks because we had done underground activities for a long time without being caught,” Kim said, referring to his past experience as a pro-North activist while in college.

The three other activists, caught together with Kim, spent more than a decade collecting information on the status of North Korean human rights and helping North Koreans defect safely to the South, without being detected, Kim also noted.

However, he refused to specifically elaborate on how brutally Chinese intelligence agents treated him and what activities he was leading in China, citing sensitivities involved.

“I was very resentful at first and eager to expose the dismal human rights conditions in China,” he said, referring to 13 hours of forced labor he had to shoulder during the early stage of his imprisonment, low-quality food, the short time allowed for meals as well as the small prison space.

“Talking about the specific experience may shift the attention away from North Korean human rights conditions from those in China, which are fundamentally in a different (better) stage from the North and improving,” Kim said.

And exposing our specific activities there may negatively impact those being led by other activists and organizations, he said.

“I give my thanks to the government, citizens and those who helped me out (of the detention) and vow to dedicate myself more to North Korea human rights and democratization there.”

Kim Young-hwan, now a senior researcher for the Seoul-based civic group Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, was a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance, but later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the North’s dismal human rights record.

In the News – Activist ‘Tried to Organize High-Level Defection from N.Korea’

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In the News – Activist ‘Tried to Organize High-Level Defection from N.Korea’

A South Korean activist who returned home on Friday after 114 days in Chinese detention apparently attempted to set up the defection of a senior North Korean official. Kim Young-hwan will hold a press conference on Tuesday to reveal the circumstances surrounding his arrest in China.

A diplomatic source in Seoul on Sunday said that he was told that Kim tried to get a key North Korean official to defect but failed. This official is “someone who starkly represents the reality of human rights abuses of North Korean refuges, and his presence is a thorny issue in China,” the source added.

A senior South Korean official said, “China demanded that Seoul prevent South Korean activist groups from setting up organized escapes from North Korea in return for releasing Kim.”

But the South Korean government reportedly said it cannot intervene in every single activity of non-governmental organizations.

China also suspects that South Korean intelligence agents were involved with Kim’s activities. This may be the reason why China accused Kim of “endangering national security,” a term China often uses in espionage cases.

Some in the government believe that Kim attempted to unite scattered cells of resistance across North Korea.

Original Article

In the News – Freed activist renews efforts to help N.K. human rights

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In the News – Freed activist renews efforts to help N.K. human rights

Kim Young-hwan, the prominent anti-North Korea activist freed Friday from detention in China, pledged to continue his fight for democracy and human rights in the communist country.

Kim, 49, and his three colleagues arrived in Seoul on the same day China expelled them after 114 days of detention. They were arrested on March 29 in the northeastern border city of Dalian apparently for helping North Korean refugees. They were charged with “endangering national security.”

“The reality in North Korea is that it is suffering from a brutal dictatorship and horrendous human rights situation,” Kim told reporters upon arrival at Incheon International Airport.

“At a time when far-away countries strive for North Korean human rights and democratization, as a fellow Korean it is my right and duty to do so.”

Kim Young-hwan gestures on his arrival at Incheon Interna­tional Airport on Friday. (Yonhap News)

Kim’s detention attracted heavy public and media interest for his dramatic life. In the 1980s, he was a pro-North Korea movement leader playing a key role in disseminating Pyongyang’s philosophy of “juche,” or self-reliance.

He turned to activism against the coercive regime’s human rights abuses in the 1990s and is currently a senior researcher for the Seoul-based Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights.

The other crusaders are Yoo Jae-gil, 43, Kang Shin-sam, 41, and Lee Sang-yong, 31.

His release may place North Korea under greater pressure over human rights issues amid growing international criticism over its harsh punishment of repatriated defectors and political prisoners, observers say.

China, the North’s lone major ally, has also been blamed for deporting North Korean asylum seekers despite the torture, labor camps or public executions they face back home, calling them “illegal economic migrants.”

With Pyongyang’s tighter border control and China’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, however, concerns have arisen that North Korean defectors hiding there could become more exposed to abuses.

Open Radio for North Korea reported early this year that about 20,000 additional North Korean soldiers have been mobilized to border regions, warning severe penalties for those who get caught fleeing.

In March, Beijing launched a nationwide crackdown on foreigners who illegally crossed borders, gained jobs and overstayed their visas.

More than 23,500 North Koreans have sought asylum in the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, according to the Unification Ministry. The figure steadily rose each year from 1,383 in 2005 to 2,927 in 2009, although it slid to 2,376 in 2010 due to strengthened border security.

In the State Department’s report on human rights in 199 countries released late last month, North Korea was rated as “extremely poor” and remained at the bottom of the agency’s list along with China, Iran, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belarus.

The North has rebuffed accusations of its rights abuses, which it bills as an attempt to oust its government.

Original Article

In the News – China likely to release S. Korean activist soon: source

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In the News – China likely to release S. Korean activist soon: source

SEOUL, July 10 (Yonhap) — A South Korean activist held in China for allegedly helping North Korean defectors there is likely to be released soon following months of pressure from Seoul and civic groups, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.

The release of Kim Young-hwan, a senior researcher for the Seoul-based civic group Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, is likely to come before or after the visit of Chinese Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu to Seoul later this week, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Kim, 49, was one of four South Korean activists arrested in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian on March 29. The group is accused of endangering China’s national security, a serious charge that carries heavy punishment, but no further details have been made available, according to officials in Seoul.

It is believed the detentions are related to the activists’ efforts to help North Korea defectors hiding in China and improve the North’s human rights conditions and other activities Pyongyang considers an affront to its totalitarian regime.

“It is common sense to expect (China) to resolve the case of Kim Young-hwan before Minister Meng’s visit to Seoul,” the source said. “If Kim is indicted and his activities become known, this could create a stir, so China is likely to release him first and then deport him.”

Meng is scheduled to arrive in Seoul Thursday for a three-day visit, during which he will meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan among other officials, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry.

China is a key ally of North Korea and typically repatriates North Korean defectors caught within its borders. Activists and lawmakers in South Korea and other countries have recently stepped up pressure on Beijing to stop the forced repatriation, and release the South Korean detainees.

A senior ministry official said the government has not been informed of an exact timing for their release, although it continues to be in talks with Beijing.

“There are often ‘gifts’ during a high-level visit from China, and I understand that the recent atmosphere in China (regarding the issue) isn’t bad,” said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kim, the activist, is a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance. He met with the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung in 1991 after sneaking into the North via a North Korean submersible.

However, he later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the dismal human rights record in North Korea.

Original Article

In the News – S.Korean Activist Arrested in Vietnam for Helping N.Korean Refugees

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In the News – S.Korean Activist Arrested in Vietnam for Helping N.Korean Refugees

Vietnamese police have arrested a South Korean activist for helping North Korean refugees enter the South via the Southeast Asian nation.

The South Korean Consulate in Ho Chi Minh city said the 51-year-old man, identified only by his family name Yu, was detained last week along with a group of refugees from the North at a hotel in the southern city.

Yu was expelled from the country eight years ago for attempting to help about 400 North Korean refugees reach the South. The activist had reportedly also helped defectors pass through other countries, including Laos.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Activist-turned-lawmaker under fire for allegedly calling N.K. defectors ‘traitors’

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In the News – Activist-turned-lawmaker under fire for allegedly calling N.K. defectors ‘traitors’

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) — A ruling party lawmaker demanded Monday that one of South Korea’s best-known former pro-unification activists and now an opposition lawmaker offer a sincere apology again for insulting him and North Korean defectors as “traitors.”

Rep. Lim Su-kyung of the main opposition Democratic United Party hurled the insult and other abusive remarks during an impromptu meeting with a defector-turned-college student at a bar on Friday, according to a Facebook posting by the student, Baek Yo-sep.

Lim, a former pro-North Korea student activist, became widely known after making an unauthorized trip to the communist nation in 1989 and meeting with then leader Kim Il-sung, the North’s founder and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

Pyongyang called her the “flower of unification” at the time.

She entered parliament as a proportional candidate of the DUP in April’s general elections.

Rep. Lim Su-kyung of the main opposition Democratic United Party. (Yonhap)

Baek quoted Lim as denouncing North Korean defectors as traitors and having “no roots.” She also vilified Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the ruling Saenuri Party, who had once worked with Lim in the 1980s, as a traitor for his conversion to an anti-Pyongyang activist, Baek said.

Lim was also quoted as saying she will “kill the traitor (Ha) with my hands.”

Baek said Lim became abruptly upset following a joke he cracked to her after some Lim aides had Baek’s photos taken with Lim deleted from his phone. After Lim denied she ordered the deletion, Baek said he joked that in North Korea, doing something at will without instruction from the supreme leader carries a “death by shooting” punishment.

Baek said Lim denounced him for working with Ha to improve the North’s human rights situation.

As the traitor remarks drew strong criticism, Lim offered an apology Sunday, claiming in a statement that she was referring to only Ha as a traitor for joining the conservative ruling party, and that she never meant to describe defectors as such.

On Monday, Ha accused Lim of lying and demanded she sincerely apologize again.

“Rep. Lim holds hostility toward North Korean defectors and thinks of defectors as traitors,” Ha said. “But she said in the statement that she never called North Korean defectors traitors, but she said I am a traitor just because I joined the Saenuri Party, not because I engaged in a human rights movement helping defectors.”

But the acting chief of Lim’s party said he trusts the sincerity of her statement of apology.

“As we trust Rep. Lim’s heartfelt apology, repentance and clarification, there is no measure the party plans to take,” said Rep. Park Jie-won, the interim head of the DUP. “Rep. Lim holds respect for North Korean defectors and has an attitude of working for them.”

Park said, however, the party will instruct lawmakers to be more careful about what they say.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – NK human rights advocacy ‘turns corner’: activist

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In the News – NK human rights advocacy ‘turns corner’: activist

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, June 1 (Yonhap) — The international community needs to maintain momentum in its efforts to address North Korea’s human rights violations, a U.S.-based activist said Friday.

“We have turned a corner in North Korea human rights advocacy,” Suzanne Scholte, head of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, said in an emailed letter. “We are no longer debating its importance as we have for so many years. It is on the agenda now.”

She was describing the results of the annual North Korea Freedom Week event in Seoul to raise public awareness on the urgency of tackling human rights abuses in the communist country.

Scholte is known for more than a decade of work to publicize North Korean human rights issues.

She won the Seoul Peace Prize in 2008.

“We have seen governments finally making human rights as equal a concern as the security issues,” she said.

South Korea’s conservative government of Lee Myung-bak has openly voiced concerns about the matter, even the fate of North Korean defectors in China, bearing the brunt of subtle diplomatic tension with a key trade partner.

The Barack Obama administration has also constantly talked about its interest in the well-being of North Koreans.

Scholte noted a growing number of North Korean people are fleeing their homeland in pursuit of freedom, not just to escape hunger.

She attributed the trend to access to foreign news and culture through DVDs, mobile phones and other technology.

Citing testimony from North Korean defectors, she said USB flash drives(thumb-size data storage devices) are perhaps the best tool since they are easier to hide and carry.

“The dramatic changes inside North Korea occurring over the past decade, especially the information explosion that has hit there and the market explosion with people no longer dependent on the regime to survive, makes North Korea vastly different today than the last transition in 1994 when Kim Jong-il assumed power,” she said.

Kim’s son, Jong-un, became North Korea’s new leader after his death in December.

There are no specific signs yet of social or political upheaval stemming from the recent leadership change.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – S.Koreans Unlawfully Detained in N.Korea, UN Finds

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In the News – S.Koreans Unlawfully Detained in N.Korea, UN Finds

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has concluded that the wife of a prominent South Korean activist and their daughters were forcefully detained by North Korea. The finding by the UNHCR Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will be mentioned officially in all UN reports related to North Korea in the future, a government official here said Monday.

Shin Suk-ja and her husband Oh Kil-nam were lured to North Korea from Germany in 1985 with the promise of free medical treatment for Shin’s hepatitis. Oh later escaped and last year received word that his wife was still alive despite spending decades in concentration camps.

In November last year, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea submitted a petition to the UN seeking the rescue of Shin and her daughters. Pressed by the UN for a response, North Korea sent a curt letter this month claiming Shin had died of hepatitis and her daughters disowned Oh.

Based on the working group’s findings, the UN is expected to press North Korea to send Shin’s remains to her husband and seek the release of her two daughters.

 

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 – 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.

In the News – N. Korea suspected of involvement in China’s arrest of S. Korean activists

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In the News – N. Korea suspected of involvement in China’s arrest of S. Korean activists

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) — An activist-turned-lawmaker-elect said Friday he suspects North Korea is deeply involved in the arrest of South Korean activists held in China on charges thought to be related to their anti-Pyongyang campaign.

Four activists were arrested in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian on March 29. One of the detained is Kim Young-hwan, a senior researcher for the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, a Seoul-based civic group for North Korean defectors.

Ha Tae-kyung (Yonhap file photo)

Officials in Seoul said China has offered few details about the arrests, only saying the four are suspected of endangering China’s national security, a serious charge that carries heavy punishment. Further specifics will be available after an investigation is complete, China has said.

It is believed the detentions are related to the activists’ efforts to help North Korea defectors hiding in China, improve the North’s human rights conditions and other activities Pyongyang considers an affront to its totalitarian regime.

On Friday, Ha Tae-kyung, a leading anti-North Korea activist who was elected in last month’s general elections, said Kim has previously been considered pro-China and Beijing’s treatment of him and his colleagues as “anti-state” figures suggests there has been “outside pressure.”

Original article can be found here
“It is suspected that North Korea, while keeping a close watch over Kim’s activity, asked Chinese authorities for his arrest after confirming he had entered China,” Ha said in a radio interview.

Ha said the North is also believed to be involved in the questioning of the activists by relaying questions it wants answered to Chinese interrogators.

Kim, 49, is a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance. He met with the North’s founding leader Kim Il-sung in 1991 after sneaking into the North via a North Korean submersible.

However, Kim Young-hwan later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the dismal human rights record in North Korea.

In the News – N. Korea claims high-profile activist’s wife died

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In the News – N. Korea claims high-profile activist’s wife died

SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) — North Korea has claimed the wife of a high-profile South Korean died of hepatitis in the communist country, a Seoul-based rights advocacy group said Tuesday.

“Ms. Sin Suk-ja, the ex-wife of Oh, died of the hepatitis that she suffered since 1980s,” Ri Jang-gon, deputy permanent representative for North Korea at the United Nations in Geneva, said in an English-language letter to the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Ri was referring to Oh Kil-nam, who escaped the North alone in 1986, a year after his family was lured to the North via West Germany. His escape led to the detention of his wife and two daughters in a political prison camp.

Several North Korean defectors in the South have testified that they saw Oh’s family in the Yoduk political prison camp. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. and North Korean officials meet to seal food aid deal

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In the News – U.S. and North Korean officials meet to seal food aid deal

(CNN) — U.S. and North Korean officials are meeting Wednesday in Beijing to settle the details of a plan to allow the resumption of food aid to the North.

The talks take place against a backdrop of bellicose images and rhetoric from Pyongyang. North Korean television this week aired footage of a military unit carrying out live-fire drills in sight of a South Korean island.

Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, is holding talks with representatives from Pyongyang on Wednesday to “finalize all of the technical arrangements so that the nutritional assistance can begin to move,” according to the U.S. State Department. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. activists urge China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

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In the News – U.S. activists urge China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, March 1 (Yonhap) — A group of U.S.-based human rights activists staged an eye-catching protest rally Thursday right in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, demanding Beijing stop the forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors.

In a street performance, a participant, wearing the uniform of Chinese security officials, dragged two women, with their faces masked and hands tied with ropes. Continue reading