In the News – Arrivals of N. Korean defectors drop

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In the News – Arrivals of N. Korean defectors drop

SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) — A total of 366 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea in the first three months of this year, down sharply from 566 in the same period last year, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday.

The North Koreans are composed of 119 men and 247 women, according to the ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Rights activists said the number of new arrivals decreased as the defection of North Koreans has become more difficult due to crackdowns on defectors and increased costs in illegally crossing the border into China.

Many North Korean defectors in the South claim that they bribed North Korean guards to flee across the border into China.

South Korea is home to more than 23,500 North Korean defectors as a constant stream of North Koreans has fled their communist homeland to try to avoid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression.

 

Original article can be found here.

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In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

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In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

North Korea detains university students over a failed rocket launch.

North Korean students work on their computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, April 11, 2012.

Authorities in North Korea are hunting down college students suspected of “spreading rumors” about a recent failed rocket launch amid warnings the reclusive state may stage a nuclear test.

North Korea defied international warnings and fired a long-range rocket on April 13 saying that it would carry a satellite into space, but the rocket crashed into the sea just minutes after takeoff, drawing condemnation from the U.S. and its allies who called the act a “provocative” move.

New leader Kim Jong Un had shrugged off international concerns and pushed ahead with the launch in conjunction with the 100th birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the deceased founder of the state.

Now, according to students, security personnel at some universities in North Korea are being instructed to take those who talk about the rocket failure into custody.

“The authorities are hunting down students who have spread rumors about the failed launch of the Kwangmyung-sung-3 [satellite] at the Hoeryong Teacher Training College (now renamed Kim Jong Suk Teacher Training College),” said one student from North Hamyong province, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Continue reading

In the News – Survivor of N. Korean prison camp appeals for action on those left behind

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In the News – Survivor of N. Korean prison camp appeals for action on those left behind

PARIS, May 1 (Yonhap) — A North Korean defector who is the only known person to have escaped from a notorious political prison camp in the North has appealed for global action to prevent the ongoing tragedy of political prisoners in the isolated nation.

Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in a North Korean concentration camp and escaped to freedom in 2005, gave a personal account of life there, saying inmates were subjected to torture, hard labor and arbitrary execution.

“Even now, it is not too late. We should prevent a massacre (in the North Korean prison camps),” the 31-year-old Shin told the audience at a lecture in Paris, warning that Holocaust-style slaughter could occur there any time if the outside world continues to turn a deaf ear to the testimony of defectors. Continue reading

In the News – Defectors send anti-regime leaflets to N. Korea

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In the News – Defectors send anti-regime leaflets to N. Korea

PAJU, South Korea, April 28 (Yonhap) — About 40 North Korean defectors launched balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the communist state Saturday, as the communist country stepped up its saber-rattling against the South.

The activists from the Fighters for Free North Korea group sent 10 large balloons carrying 200,000 leaflets from Imjingak pavilion in the northern border city of Paju about 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul.

Activists in the South have frequently sent propaganda leaflets across the border, condemning the autocratic North Korean regime and calling for an uprising against the leadership. The isolationist country is currently ruled by Kim Jong-un, the grandson of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung.

Pyongyang has frequently threatened retaliation for the South’s anti-regime propaganda activities including the launching of leaflets, although no real actions have been taken place so far.

Recently, the North threatened military retaliation against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and those that have insulted the integrity of the communist regime.

 

Original article can be found here.

After Kim Jong-Il: America and the Two Koreas

Recently while listening to the National Public Radio (NPR) in the car I came across this program, made by “America Abroad,” about predictions on the future of North Korea and its relations with America. I found the nearly hour-long program at the “America Abroad” website and thought it would be helpful to show others this fairly comprehensive study of the past of Korean relations and to highlight its main points for those who don’t have a free hour to listen to the entire program. The program ended with a quote on the current state of relations; “The 65 million dollar question is… are we going to be ready if this succession doesn’t work.” This question colored the discussion on predictions for the future and unification through the hour. Continue reading

In the News – 8 N.Korean Defectors Arrive in Seoul

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In the News – 8 N.Korean Defectors Arrive in Seoul

Eight North Korean defectors who fled a logging camp in Russia arrived in South Korea earlier this month. According to a government source, the eight defectors arrived in Seoul aboard a Russian passenger jet on April 13 with the aid of the South Korean Embassy in Moscow.

They are being interviewed at a government facility in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province about the motive for their defection. The eight are just part of 40 North Korean loggers who are waiting in Moscow to go to South Korea.

The loggers were sent to Siberia seven to 10 years ago to earn foreign currency but apparently fled because they could not endure the harsh weather, extortion and constant surveillance. With the help of religious support groups, they were granted refugee status by the UN, but Moscow refused to let them leave after former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to Russia in August last year.

Kim Hee-tae, head of one religious group, vowed to maintain contact with the remaining 32 and make sure they too can come to South Korea.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors

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In the News – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors

The Chinese government has halted the repatriation of North Korean defectors, apparently in response to South Korean requests and because it is angry that the North went ahead with its rocket launch.

The Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday cited an official from China’s Liaoning Province as saying China, which had been repatriating up to 30 North Korean defectors a day since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December, recently stopped doing so.

“North Korea failed to inform China of specific plans to launch its missile last Friday,” another Chinese official told the Japanese daily, which added that Beijing’s anger at being kept in the dark played a role in the decision to stop the repatriations. “Although it is unclear when Beijing stopped repatriation, it is certain no more defectors were sent back to North Korea,” the paper said. Continue reading

In the News – China eases repatriating policy!

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In the News – China eases repatriating policy

South Korean government ministries say they have received no confirmation China has stopped, at least temporarily, repatriating North Koreans.

A Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri, says an unnamed Chinese official in Liaoning province told its reporter such forced returns of North Koreans to their home country had stopped.

The newspaper says the suspension reflects China’s displeasure with North Korea for the controversial rocket launch.

Ahead of the launch, China permitted five North Korean defectors to leave for South Korea. The North Koreans had long been holed up in South Korea’s Embassy in Beijing to avoid arrest.

South Korea and international rights groups have called on China to alter its policy, saying those sent back to North Korea face retribution, possibly including death sentences.

The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations. They technically remain at war as they never signed a peace treaty following a devastating three-year conflict in the early 1950s.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Boney M urges Beijing to be lenient on N. Korean defectors

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In the News – Boney M urges Beijing to be lenient on N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) — A lead vocalist of the well-known disco group Boney M said on Tuesday that North Korean defectors detained in China should be given a chance at freedom, calling for Beijing to show leniency.

“There should be some kind of leniency, giving these people (defectors) a chance to live a life they have chosen,” Liz Mitchell said at a press conference in Seoul before playing a concert on Saturday.

Boney M’s three other members also showed support for North Korean defectors, according to Howard Kim, the manager of the concert organizer. Continue reading

In the News – Disco group Boney M to show support for N. Korean defectors

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In the News – Disco group Boney M to show support for N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) — The well-known disco group Boney M plans to show support for North Korean defectors who face repatriation in China during their visit to Seoul this week for a concert, the event organizer said Monday.

The four-member vocal group, which achieved massive popularity during the disco era of the late 1970s, is scheduled to play a concert in Seoul Saturday and will donate part of ticket sales to a local defectors group, according to Howard Kim, manager of concert promoter Btechnic.

“Boney M thought the issue of forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors is in line with the philosophy of their songs,” Kim said, adding the group will hold a press conference in Seoul Tuesday to urge Beijing not to repatriate defectors detained in China.

Some 100 North Korean defectors are reportedly in detention in China and face deportation back to their communist homeland, where it is feared they will receive harsh punishment and even execution, according to a South Korean lawmaker.

At the height of their popularity, the group released “By the Rivers of the Babylon” in 1978, which became the second highest selling single in British chart history. The song, which was also Boney M’s only U.S. Top 40 hit, is about freedom for the oppressed.

“Boney M is scheduled to visit the Chinese Embassy (in Seoul) Wednesday to show support for defectors who are on a hunger strike and participate in a candelight rally (against forceful repatriation),” Kim said.

Defectors and activists have been staging hunger strikes to protest against Beijing’s policy of repatriation in front of China’s mission in Seoul. Most recently, high-profile South Korean lawmakers have joined the rallies.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – China Lets N.Korean Teenager Go to Seoul

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In the News – China Lets N.Korean Teenager Go to Seoul

One of the North Korean defectors who arrived in South Korea from China early this month was a teenager who had been hiding at the South Korean Consulate in Shenyang. According to a diplomatic source in Seoul on Thursday, China sent him to South Korea along with the three family members of a South Korean prisoner of war who had been living in the Consulate in Beijing.

“It seems China let go the teenager who was hiding in the consulate because it’s tired of the international focus on the plight of young North Korean defectors,” the source added.

China drew international condemnation when it emerged that the 14- and 18-year-old grandchildren of the South Korean POW had been living in the Beijing consulate for as long as 34 months.

China is apparently planning to let another seven North Koreans hiding in South Korean diplomatic missions in Beijing and Shenyang travel to Seoul in the near future.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Human Rights Groups Call on UN Over N.Korea Gulag

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In the News – Human Rights Groups Call on UN Over N.Korea Gulag

Over 10,000 people die in North Korean prison camps every year, 20 to 25 percent of them from forced labor, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea said Tuesday.

The group consists of some 40 leading human rights organizations and activists including the world’s big three — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International League for Human Rights — and was established in September last year.

/Newsis

In a press conference Tuesday it called on the UN to carry out a special investigation of North Korean gulags and said it submitted a petition to the UN Human Rights Council.

Based on testimonies of North Korean defectors, it says there are six political prisons in the Stalinist country housing 150,000 to 200,000 people who are subject to inhumane treatment such as forced labor, torture and public execution. It said the work of just one UN special rapporteur on North Korea is not enough to save the vast number of political prisoners there and urged the UN to establish a commission to investigate crimes against humanity in the isolated country.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – 10 N.Korean Defectors’ Odyssey Ends

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In the News – 10 N.Korean Defectors’ Odyssey Ends

Ten North Korean defectors who had been hiding in South Korean diplomatic missions in China arrived discreetly in South Korea on Sunday. They consisted of five who had been hiding in the Consulate in Beijing for three years, three of them family members of a South Korean prisoner of war, as well as defectors who were living at the Consulate in Shenyang.

It was the first time in the five-year tenure of President Lee Myung-bak that the Chinese government has allowed North Korean defectors hiding in South Korean diplomatic missions to come to South Korea. Remarks by Chinese President Hu Jintao in a meeting with Lee on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul on March 26 appear to have played a role in their release.

Hu told Lee that China “is taking a lot of interest and giving consideration to the issue of North Korean defectors and respects [South Korea’s] position. It will strive to ensure that the issue is resolved smoothly.”

Some say China’s decision is a kind of warning to Pyongyang. China urged North Korea through diplomatic channels to halt the launch of what Pyongyang says is a space rocket but was rebuffed, and some experts believe that prompted Beijing to let the defectors go.

But China apparently stressed that their release was an exception. China’s official stance regarding North Korean defectors remains the same, placing more importance on its pact with Pyongyang to repatriate them than the UN treaty on the treatment of refugees.

Other experts say the release of the defectors demonstrates Beijing’s displeasure with Pyongyang over the missile launch. Beijing repeatedly allowed North Koreans who sought shelter in diplomatic missions in China to come to South Korea, but that stopped in the last three or four years, apparently due to pressure from Pyongyang.

Original article can be found here

In the News – North Korean Defector Sees Signs of Chinese Policy Shift

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In the News – North Korean Defector Sees Signs of Chinese Policy Shift 

Protesters hold a poster during a rally by Now Action & Unity for North Korea Human Rights activists and North Korean defectors near the Chinese embassy in Seoul, FILE March 3, 2012.

Photo: Reuters Protesters hold a poster during a rally by Now Action & Unity for North Korea Human Rights activists and North Korean defectors near the Chinese embassy in Seoul, FILE March 3, 2012.

A research organization in Seoul says it is hopeful of better treatment for North Korean defectors in China following signs that the Chinese policy of forcing them to return home has eased.

Kang Chul Hwan, a founding director of the North Korea Strategy Center in Seoul, spoke Wednesday about media reports that a family of five has been permitted to travel to South Korea after almost three years in a South Korean consulate in Beijing.

South Korean government officials contacted by VOA confirmed the accuracy of the reports. Kung, who is himself a defector, said his group is still trying to obtain details about the Chinese action. Continue reading

In the News – Stop crackdown on N. Korean refugees

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In the News – Stop crackdown on N. Korean refugees

By Sokeel Park

Western media attention on North Korea has recently been dominated by the U.S.-DPRK “Leap Day Deal” of food aid for nuclear concessions, and by Pyongyang’s subsequent announcement of a “satellite” launch to mark the centenary of Kim Il-sung’s birth, which would be a deal-breaker for the U.S. However, as usual, beneath all the high politics and focus on security concerns, there is quite a different story involving the North Korean people.

Away from the back and forth in U.S.-DPRK negotiations on security concerns, South Korea has been battling with the Chinese government over its forced repatriations of North Korean refugees. China is hemorrhaging soft-power on this issue, alienating the South Korean people and government and damaging its reputation before the international community. In the long run this is a strategic mistake.  Continue reading

North Korean Defectors in the United States

Image representing face of refugees from Eritrea

Officially back on campus, I decided to get involved with Yale’s branch of THiNK, There’s Hope in North Korea, once again. Thinking back to my previous year as a volunteer for the organization, I remembered that we had been fortunate enough to hear the story of a North Korean defector now living in America. She had described how she had tried to defect from North Korea on more than one occasion. After the first attempt, she, her brother, and mother had been captured and sent to a detention center where they had been tortured. After she had one day escaped, she started a new life in the United States. Unfortunately, I do not remember enough of her story to form a narrative of her personal journey to America, whether or not she spent a lot of time in a third country or in South Korea before coming here. I only remember that she occasionally shares her experiences with others in the same way that she had for us undergraduate students. Continue reading

In the News – King urges N. Korea to stop punishing repatriated defectors

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In the News – King urges N. Korea to stop punishing repatriated defectors

WASHINGTON, March 13 (Yonhap) — The U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues demanded in this week’s U.N. meeting that Pyongyang stop punishing forcefully repatriated defectors.

Robert King, attending a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday (local time), shared “deep concerns” about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers from the North, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the State Department
“We urge the DPRK to end the punishment and imprisonment of North Koreans who have sought asylum abroad, as well as their family members,” he said. The DPRK stands for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

A growing number of North Koreans cross the border into China, fleeing their authoritarian and perennially hungry homeland. Beijing, a key communist ally of Pyongyang, has a firm policy of sending them back.

King also called for Pyongyang to allow a visit by Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea. The secretive nation is accused of oppressing many of its 24 million people.

“We hope the DPRK will work with Mr. Darusman, and recognize the benefits of cooperating with the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and thematic special rapporteurs,” King said. “The DPRK could use this opportunity to obtain valuable assistance from international human rights mechanisms. We urge the DPRK to allow the special rapporteur to visit the country and fulfill his mandate to observe and assess the human rights situation.”

He stressed the importance of resuming inter-Korean dialogue and the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

“We appreciate the modest progress between DPRK officials and the American Red Cross on family reunions between Korean-Americans and family members in the DPRK, but we seek greater progress in this area,” King said.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – China Rejects Pleas Not to Repatriate North Koreans

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In the News – China Rejects Pleas Not to Repatriate North Koreans

South Korean actor Cha In-pyo delivers a speech during a rally against the Chinese government's arrest of North Korean refugees, near the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 21, 2012.

China is rejecting South Korean pleas not to repatriate some 30 North Korean refugees who were recently arrested in Chinese territory.

Since last week, several dozen protesters outside of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul have called on Beijing not to repatriate around 30 North Korean detainees Chinese authorities recently arrested.  Continue reading

In the News – Four more N. Korean defectors detained in China: lawmaker

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In the News – Four more N. Korean defectors detained in China: lawmaker

SEOUL/BEIJING, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) — A South Korean lawmaker claimed Monday four more North Korean defectors had been detained by Chinese authorities in the central city of Zhengzhou while fleeing their impoverished homeland, raising the number of defectors believed to be in custody to 34.

Rep. Park Sun-young of the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party had earlier said five groups totaling 30 North Korean asylum seekers have been detained in China since earlier this month in a tightened crackdown on defectors near the border between the two nations. Continue reading

Exploring the Connection between China and North Korea: Part II

In Seoul Train, often the Chinese government did not seem to consider the North Korean defectors as eligible for asylum. Therefore, I will first clarify the definition of refugee and asylum-seeker as stated by the United Nations Refugee Agency. According to the 1951 Refugee Convention that established the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “a refugee is someone who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his [or her] nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself [or herself] of the protection of that country,” and an asylum seeker is “someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.”[1]

Continue reading