Green Energy and Carbon Credits in North Korea

Clouds are reflected in a reservoir beneath the Huichon Power Station during its opening ceremony on April 5, 2012. (Photo credit AP Photo / Kim Kwang Hyon).

Mention North Korea and a few associations come to mind: nuclear weapons, human rights, famine, weird family dictatorships. It’s often called the most isolated country in the world, the most communist country in the world, the least free country in the world. These superlatives are typical descriptors of North Korea for most, and since few people have any opportunity to engage with North Korea outside of the traditional news media, other conceptions of the country are mostly neglected.

But we here at OneKorea are all about providing new perspectives on the peninsula. We want to enrich your understanding of important issues such as human rights and unification, but we also want to offer entirely new ways of seeing the country. So here’s a new thing to think about when you think about North Korea: ecological sustainability. Continue reading

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A Glimpse into the Lives of the Women of the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights

Journey for Survival: A Report on Female North Korean Refugees and Human Trafficking published by the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights gives a look into individual women’s experiences of hardship in their struggles to find hope. Along with an in-depth account of the state of affairs in North Korea, Journey for Survival provides its readers with direct quotes from the hundreds of women of the coalition working to spread word of their own trials in order to protect the human rights of thousands more struggling in North Korea or journeying to South Korea. Continue reading

The Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights: Part I

 

During last summer’s Ministry of Unification internship program, we interns visited a small local clothing factory where some of the North Korean women who recently defected have found work after getting adjusted to life in South Korea. While visiting the factory, we got a look around the workstation. There were a few stations set up for sewing with rows of sewing machines, large tables for cutting, and poles hanging with new coats for the upcoming fall and winter seasons. The organizers of the fieldtrip also told us a little more about the increasing number of women who have been defecting from North Korea. It was still difficult for me to keep up with the spoken Korean language, but, fortunately, they also supplied us with small books describing the women’s journeys from North to South Korea in both Korean and English. The small books, Journey for Survival: A Report on Female North Korean Refugees and Human Trafficking,were published by the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights explaining their humble origins and including a collection of testimonies from coalition members. Continue reading

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.

Original Article 

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.

Original Article 

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.

Original Article

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.

Original Article

In the News – Gov’t vows efforts to deal with S. Korean activist’s alleged abuse in China

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In the News – Gov’t vows efforts to deal with S. Korean activist’s alleged abuse in China

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) — South Korea is taking the claims that a rights activist from the country was severely tortured while under detention in China seriously, and will do everything it can to verify the claims and ensure the safety of its citizens, the presidential chief of staff said Monday.

The 49-year-old activist Kim Young-hwan was expelled from China and returned home on July 20 following his 114-day detention on suspicions of endangering the country’s national security, a charge believed to be related to his campaign to help North Korean defectors and other human rights activists.

Kim publicly admitted last week that he suffered from both physical abuse, including electrical shocks, and sleep deprivation during his detention.

“The government and the presidential office are taking the matter seriously,” said Ha Kum-loul, the chief of presidential staff during a plenary session at the National Assembly, responding to a ruling party lawmaker calling on the government to take more proactive actions against China over the issue.

South Korea’s foreign ministry has come under fire for failing to take proper diplomatic actions against China when it first learned of the alleged abuse of a prominent activist in Chinese custody.

“The government spares no efforts to find cold facts with the Chinese government. We will do everything possible to protect the lives and guarantee the safety of our people and human rights activists, though whether to bring the matter to the United Nations has not been discussed yet,” Ha said.

Also on Monday, the activist disclosed fresh details of the alleged torture and ill-treatment.

“Beating and electrical shocks continued for five to eight hours from the night of April 15 until dawn on the following day,” Kim told Yonhap News Agency shortly before heading to the National Human Rights Commission, a state rights watchdog in Seoul, to testify.

“For seven days starting April 10, I was forced to stay awake all day long, and physical pressure began on the sixth day,” he said.

The Chinese authorities even had him sleep while seated on a chair in handcuffs during one entire month of interrogation, he claimed.

Original Article

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 – ‘The Fact’ Exhibition Opens in Insadong

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In the News – ‘The Fact’ Exhibition Opens in Insadong

“The Fact,” a new North Korean human rights photo exhibit, opened in Insadong, Seoul on Wednesday. Running until the 11th, the event has been organized with sponsorship from the Ministry of Unification by NKnet, a Seoul-based North Korea human rights NGO.

The exhibit has been created to inform visitors about the reality of life inside North Korea. Juxtaposing the hardships faced by the North Korean people against the life of luxury lived by the Kim regime elite, the display spans two floors and includes many pictures, all with detailed information in both English and Korean.

Visitors are presented with both the familiar and more obscure aspects of North Korea; from the state-run drug trade, prostitution and forced labor to Kim Jong Eun’s recent activities and the influence of South Korean pop culture on Pyongyang fashion.

One volunteer working at the gallery, Moon Dong Hee, described to Daily NK his hope for the event; namely, that the images and information it contains will inspire visitors to continue learning about North Korean human rights even when they are no longer in South Korea.

“Nowadays people are becoming more concerned about human rights in North Korea,” one student who had come to see the event told Daily NK. “I came here because I wanted to participate.”

The free exhibit, located in Seoho Gallery, is definitely worth a visit for anyone walking along the main street of Insadong, a shopping destination for traditional Korean crafts. It is open from 10AM-7PM on weekdays and until 8PM on weekends. An English-speaking staff will be on hand later in the day.

Seoho Gallery is located at Jongro-gu, Insadong 1-1. If arriving by subway, come out of Line 3 Anguk Station Exit 6 and it’s a few hundred meters down Insadong St. More information, including a detailed map, is available on the NKnet website here

 

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 – 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 – The Hidden Horrors of North Korea

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In the News – The Hidden Horrors of North Korea

While much of the world’s attention is focused on the Assad regime’s appalling assaults against Syrian citizens, with more than a hundred dead in this week’s massacre in Houla alone, another human rights atrocity occurring on a much larger scale garners far less attention.

North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-Eun, has done what few expected when he assumed power after his father’s death last December. Instead of loosening control in the most totalitarian nation in the world, Kim Jong-Eun has actually expanded the number of North Koreans subject to forced labor, torture, starvation and death in the totalitarian nation’s prison camps.

The camps, known as kwan-li-so, form a hidden gulag where those accused of crimes against the state are imprisoned. An estimated 200,000 people serve in these camps. The regime imposes sentences, often without even the pretense of a show trial, like those that took place in the Stalinist Soviet Union. Summary executions occur regularly in the camps. Although the sentences may be for ten years or less, most prisoners die in the kwan-li-so before completing their terms.

Prisoners work 12-18 hours a day under inhumane and dangerous conditions in mines, quarries, and factories. Accidents maim and kill many, but more often starvation takes an unimaginable toll. The average prisoner receives only 100-200 grams of food a day — the equivalent of about one cup of white rice — with virtually no protein. But even rice, a staple of the Asian diet, is often unavailable. Corn is the usual substitute, which leads to pellagra, a disease that brings on skin lesions, mental confusion and eventually dementia.

But perhaps the most heinous aspect of the camps is that not only are those accused of “crimes” but their entire families imprisoned. The founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Il-Sung, justified the practice by claiming, “The seed of factionalists or class enemies, whoever they are, must be eliminated through three generations.” So, spouses, children, siblings, even elderly parents often serve sentences along with the accused.

Now Kim Jong-Eun, the latest in the Kim dynasty that has ruled the DPRK since 1948, has expanded this barbaric practice. The young Kim has now instructed that both older and younger relatives of anyone caught trying to flee the country will be sent to the kwan-li-so.

Even knowing the horrific consequences, North Koreans will continue to try to leave. Since the devastating famine in the mid-’90s when as many as 2.5 million people starved to death, some 15,000 North Koreans have reached safety in South Korea or third countries.

Many more live secretly in China, where their plight is not much better than in the DPRK. These refugees are under constant threat of being turned over to North Korean authorities by the Chinese government or even being kidnapped and forcibly returned by DPRK agents who cross the border for that purpose.

Yet most people in the West either are unaware of what is going on in North Korea or choose to ignore it. And the U.S. government reserves what little outrage it displays on the rogue nation’s nuclear program.

It may become more difficult to avert our gaze, however, as new information leaks out about exactly how bad conditions are in the kwan-li-so. An updated report of the Committee for Human Rights in Korea, “The Hidden Gulag: The Lives and Voices of Those Who Are Sent to the Mountains,” now includes eyewitness testimony from 60 former prisoners along with 30 pages of satellite images of the camps.

In addition, a new book focuses attention on the plight of those who have survived the terror of the camps. Blaine Hardin’s “Escape from Camp 14” details the life of Shin Dong-hyuk, a young man born in the camp who escaped, but only after turning in his mother and brother, whom he regarded as traitors and rivals for food, and witnessing their execution. But there have been other books that told similar stories — “The Aquariums of Pyongyang,” by former prisoner Kang Chol-hwan, and “The Long Road Home,” by Kim Yong — yet neither provoked sufficient interest and outrage to mobilize Americans to want to do something.

Unless that changes, North Korea will continue to starve, torture, and kill its people while we look the other way.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – S. Korea to increase diplomatic pressure on N. Korea over human rights issues: official

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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

In the News – Int’l Pressure Growing Over N.Korean Human Rights

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In the News – Int’l Pressure Growing Over N.Korean Human Rights

The international community has taken one step further in addressing human rights issues in North Korea, from simply raising the problem to demanding changes from the governments of China and North Korea. Recent developments clearly reflect the change of mood.

The UN Human Rights Council addressed China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees in March, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees recently concluded that the wife and two daughters of a prominent South Korean activist are being unlawfully detained in the North.

The European Parliament on May 24 adopted a resolution urging the Chinese government to stop repatriating North Korean escapees and abandon a treaty with North Korea on border control signed in 1986. It also urges Beijing to release Kim Young-hwan, a South Korean activist, and his colleagues.

The European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights invited U.S. human rights ambassador Robert King and Kim Tae-jin of activist group Free the NK Gulag to a hearing on human rights in North Korea on Tuesday.

King is also scheduled to visit in South Korea on June 7 to exchange views on human rights condition in North Korea. He may also visit China.

Original article can be found here.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea condemns U.S. human rights report

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In the News – N. Korea condemns U.S. human rights report

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) — North Korea has lashed out at the United States for its recent annual report critical of Pyongyang’s dismal human rights conditions, calling the move a “product of the U.S. hostile policy” toward the North.

“We bitterly condemn the despicable human rights report worked out by the U.S.,” the foreign ministry said in an English-language statement carried late Tuesday by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The ministry claimed that the U.S. report is based on rumors concocted by a handful of traitors and criminals who left their homeland, referring to North Korean defectors in the South.

South Korea is home to more than 23,500 North Korean defectors. Many of them have testified about a wide range of human rights abuses in the communist country, including torture, public executions and political prison camps.

The North’s angry reaction came days after the U.S. State Department said in an annual report that the North’s human rights conditions remain “extremely poor.”

The report said that North Korea subjected its 24 million people to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives and that there continued to be reports of a vast network of political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh and life threatening.

Amnesty International, a London-based human rights advocacy group, also estimated in its separate annual report last week that up to 200,000 prisoners were held in horrific conditions in six sprawling political prison camps.

The North has flatly denied accusations of its alleged rights abuses, describing them as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

“The U.S. unchanged human rights racket against the (North) is, in essence, a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward the (North) to isolate and stifle at any cost its socialist system,” the foreign ministry statement said.

It also accused the U.S of being the “world’s worst human rights abuser,” claiming the U.S. has massacred hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in different parts of the world through aggression and interference.

 

Original article can be found here.