Even people who aren’t very familiar with North Korean issues know that Kim Jong Il wasn’t your average man. There are plenty of news articles, testaments, and photos to verify this. He had a lot of different hobbies and interests. And North Korean propaganda only adds to his “bigger than life” reputation. I’ve put together a few of those facts and rumors into this article to take a look at. So let’s begin.
In the News – Fewer N.Korean Defectors Come to S.Korea
The number of North Korean defectors arriving in South Korea in the first half of this year dropped to half that of the same period last year. According to the Unification Ministry on Thursday, 751 defectors arrived from January to June, down 45.4 percent from 1,375 on-year.
The number of defectors arriving here mostly rose every year since 2001, when it first exceeded 1,000. The figure only dropped in 2005, by 27 percent, and in 2010, by 19 percent. But this is the first time that the number has fallen so drastically
A tougher crackdown by the North Korean regime seems to be the main reason. A ministry official said, “Around the time of former leader Kim Jong-il’s death late last year, more guard posts were set up along the North Korea-China border, and the brakes were put on North Korean border guards taking bribes to turn a blind eye to defectors crossing the river.”
“Since the North imported electromagnetic wave detectors from Germany last year, it has been difficult to make phone calls to anybody in the North,” points out Kim Hee-tae of Group for North Korea Human Rights, an NGO helping defectors. “The broker’s fee for arranging a defection has increased by more than 50 percent.”
Until last year, about equal numbers fled to China in search of food or traveled to a third country right after escaping the North with the help of their families or acquaintances in South Korea.
But now more than 80 percent who arrive here fled to China in search of food first and then come to Seoul later, suggesting that the regime’s crackdown has crippled South Korean NGOs’ organized assistance, and only those who had already fled and lived in China manage to get to South Korea.
China’s crackdown on illegal aliens this year also probably plays a part.
I’m not a skater. I can’t stay on a skateboard for more than 5 seconds without nearly falling to my death. But I do want to someday buy myself a longboard and learn to conquer it. It’s on my bucket list. So even though I don’t know how to ride a skateboard, I do admire those that do. I think it’s an impressive skill and an artistic means of expression. So imagine my intrigue when I came across an article about skaters in North Korea!
Visualtraveling is a website created by Patrik Wallner with documentaries and photos of skaters of all different nationalities who travel the world and film themselves skating in new environments. Although Wallner is also a skater himself, he mainly films and photographs his friends as they perform the tricks. What’s interesting about these documentaries is that it’s not just a film about skaters doing tricks but the culture of the host country is always what drives the atmosphere of the documentary. He already has several films released that document their adventures in various countries over the past six years. One of which includes North Korea. Continue reading
In the News – S. Korea to increase diplomatic pressure on N. Korea over human rights issues: official
SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) — South Korea plans to increase diplomatic pressure on North Korea over human rights issues, including the case of three people from the South believed to have been held in the communist nation for decades, a senior official said Friday.
The move could further exacerbate the already frayed relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.
An immediate focus of the campaign is expected to be on the case of Shin Suk-ja and her two daughters who are believed to have been held in the North since 1987, a year after her husband, Oh Kil-nam, fled the communist nation.
Oh claims his family was lured to the North in 1985 via West Germany where he was studying.
But a senior North Korean diplomat told a U.N. group last month that Shin had died of hepatitis and the two daughters do not regard Oh as their father since “he abandoned his family and drove their mother to death.” Continue reading
We open in medias res of Horst’s story. If you haven’t read Parts 1 and 2, you should go back and read them before continuing: [hyperlink to Part 1 post].
When we last left our hero, Horst had left East Berlin for the first time in his life and was eating pizza in West Berlin.
“Also, we are in West Berlin. And on this day Helmut Kohl [the Chancellor of West Germany] is visiting. He was traveling in Poland, and came back to West Berlin for this day and on the street we are on we see a big crowd of people and cars coming this way, and helicopters flying overhead. And this is Helmut Kohl. So I am standing there and next to me is a beige Opel sitting right there. And a large man walks up to me, very big and as tall as I am and very stern, just like this.” He demonstrates again, and it is intimidating. As I said, he is a believable actor and is also at least two meters tall. “And he throws the car door open”— fearing that I missed the verb, he adds, “Not opens it, but rather really throws it open—right into me, so.” Horst is acting his own part again and bends over in agony, clutching his crotch. “And out of the car steps Helmut Kohl! This was his car! Not some black state vehicle, but this beige Opel. So he is walking past me and I am bending over in pain. Hahaha. And so that is my first impression of Western government,” he adds, grinning, clutching his crotch again in memory.
“All right, now is when you should take notes again. A couple of years after, a friend told me that he remembered walking by the gate on Wednesday. The 8th. And a GI—the very lowest, a GI—told him, hey, do you know the Wall is going to be opened tomorrow? And he believed nothing of it, because it was just some GI and he hadn’t heard anything about it. So he forgot. Continue reading
We open in medias res of Horst’s story. If you haven’t read Part 1, you should go back and read it before continuing.
When we last left our hero, around 2100 hours on the night of November 9th, 1989, he had been confronted by Italian friends telling him the Wall had fallen. He did not believe them for a second, and denied their news with such authority that they believed him and returned to bed. Horst returned to his apartment and shut the door.
“So I went back to my reading and then I closed the book and really listened to the radio, no more in one ear and out the other. And there I heard it, the Wall is open, and then it all made sense, before with the . . . Continue reading
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.
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.
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 – German experts dismiss N. Korean missiles at parade as mock-ups
SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) — The new intercontinental ballistic missiles displayed in a military parade in North Korea were mock-ups and the presentation was “a nice dog and pony show,” according to two German experts on North Korean missiles.
The North showed off the missiles on transporter-erector-launchers during the parade to mark the centennial of the April 15 birth of the country’s late founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. The display sparked intense speculation on the North’s ballistic missile capability following its botched rocket launch earlier this month.
“At first glance, the missile seems capable of covering a range of perhaps 10,000 kilometers. However, a closer look reveals that all of the presented missiles are mock-ups,” Markus Schiller and Robert H. Schmucker, analysts with Schmucker Technology in Germany, wrote in an English-language report posted on a nuclear arms control and nonproliferation blog last week.
“There is still no evidence that North Korea actually has a functional ICBM.” Continue reading
In the News – N. Korea high on agenda at G-8 meeting
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, April 11 (Yonhap) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that she and her G-8 counterparts will discuss ways to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea set to launch a long-range ballistic rocket.
“I think we all share a strong interest in stability on the Korean Peninsula and we will be discussing how best to achieve that,” the secretary said at the start of a meeting with foreign ministers of the Group of Eight major economies.
The two-day session, under way at the Blair House, a state guest house near the White House, comes ahead of the G-8 Summit to be held at Camp David May 18-19. The group also involves Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Japan, Canada and Italy,
Clinton accused Pyongyang of pushing for such a provocative move at the cost of a Feb. 29 deal under which it pledged to suspend missile and nuclear activities. In return, the U.S. had planned to provide massive food aid. Continue reading
There is no sport that shakes this planet as hard as football does, according to numerous psychologists, neurobiologists, and economists. If you have read a chapter from Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, you would know the magnitude of the industry, the impact it has on people’s lives, and how it can improve a country’s image. Despite its isolated nature, North Korea has made its athletes visible at sporting events. Some of them have won medals at the Olympics and successfully played several World Cup games, the last one in 2010. Continue reading