In the News – MoU Claims Park Return Coerced


In the News – MoU Claims Park Return Coerced

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification claims to have uncovered evidence supporting the idea that North Korean officials threatened Park In Sook, the woman who “re-defected” to North Korea on May 25th after living in South Korea for six years.

A ministry official suggested yesterday that Park’s return was due to external pressure, saying, “An investigation conducted by a related organization found the North somehow threatened Park about the safety of her family members in the North.”

Another defector living in Seoul reportedly provided further evidence supporting the story, allegedly testifying that Park had “been agonizing” over threatening calls she received from the country beginning in April.

According to Park’s statement after returning to Pyongyang, she was lured into defection in 2006 with the promise that she would be reunited wither father, but she later regretted coming to the South, saying, “I am an ingrate who had betrayed my motherland to seek a better life while others devoted themselves to building a thriving nation, tightening their belts.”

Despite her apparent conviction, speculation at the time suggested that her statement might have been coerced, and that the North Korean government was using her to discourage other citizens from attempting to defect.

According to the Ministry of Unification, the government plans measures to protect vulnerable North Korean defectors residing in the South from similar events, although it has not said how this would be achieved.


Original Article

Nam-Nam Buk-Nyuh: The Southern Man and the Northern Woman

Joint Defector Wedding

There’s a saying in Korea about “Southern men and Northern women.” Basically, it says that men from the South of the Korean Peninsula are handsome and women from the North are beautiful. My grandmother tells me that way back when, it was favorable for a man from the southern region to marry a woman from the northern region. Apparently, people thought that northern women had the full package. However, lately, it seems that this belief is coming back. Continue reading

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


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 – S. Korea to press N. Korea again to hold reunions of separated families


In the News – S. Korea to press N. Korea again to hold reunions of separated families

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s point man on North Korea said Tuesday he will urge Pyongyang to accept Seoul’s offer to resume reunions of family members separated for nearly six decades.

The move came three days after North Korea rejected South Korea’s recent proposal to hold Red Cross talks to help arrange reunions of separated families.

The North has called for South Korea’s apology for not paying official respect over the December death of its leader Kim Jong-il as a key condition for resuming stalled bilateral talks.

South Korea expressed sympathy to the people of North Korea over Kim’s death but did not send an official mourning delegation to Pyongyang. Seoul did approve condolence trips by private delegations.

“I will urge North Korea” again to accept the issue of reuniting separated family members, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told reporters, without providing a specific time frame for his planned offer. Continue reading

Hangyeorae Boarding School

James—standing at the border between darkness and a new day?

An hour to the south of Seoul there is a boarding school attended exclusively by North Korean defectors.

It’s a modernist-looking building set back in the mountains, about fifteen minutes away from nowhere. Middle and high school students attend. I have spent a fair amount of time in other schools in Korea, and this one feels completely different. Not least in design: although South Korea seems to have hired the exact same architect to draft all of its other public schools, this school follows a different paradigm, with massive gray concrete forming twin north and south buildings, divided by a four-story open-air hallway that creates a deep gulf between them; but the buildings are joined by the congress of these high school kids going back and forth between them, the whole thing a potent architectural metaphor for the Korean peninsula.

But, beyond design, the general spirit of the place is very different from other schools I’ve seen. This school felt remarkable. Continue reading