Introducing Joanna Hosaniak

Today I’d like to introduce to you another foreigner in Seoul working for North Korean human rights. Meet Joanna Hosaniak.

Joanna is a senior programs officer with the Seoul-based NGO, Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR). She was born and raised in Poland and became interested in North Korean issues while working at the South Korean embassy in Poland. She then had a chance to work with NKHR when she helped organize an event in Warsaw. She was then offered a position and moved to Korea in 2004 and has been working on North Korean human rights since then.

Joanna brings an interesting perspective to the field because she grew up experiencing communism and knows what that looks like. “As head of NKHR’s international campaign and cooperation team, she says her experience watching Poland overthrow communism is vital to her work raising awareness and assisting North Korean defectors.” Having grown up in a communist state where her parents had to smuggle prohibited books for her, she feels even more strongly the need to do what she can to help those suffering in North 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

Love has no boundaries… or does it?

A popular Korean reality TV show called “Zzak” (meaning ‘partner’) takes place in what can only be called a “love camp” where men and women who are looking for a significant other come together. Each of these men and women are identified by numbers, and they get to find out more about each other through various ordeals and tasks. At the end, they choose who they want to be with, and the lucky ones become a pair. Continue reading

In the News – S.Korea to talk Olympic TV broadcast with North

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In the News – S.Korea to talk Olympic TV broadcast with North

SEOUL — A South Korean official will visit North Korea this week to discuss the possible broadcast of the London Olympics there, Seoul’s unification ministry said on Monday.

Kim In-Kyu, president of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), will visit Pyongyang from Tuesday to Thursday for talks with the North’s radio and television broadcasting committee, said an official .

The ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, authorised Kim’s visit after Pyongyang invited him to discuss such broadcasts, said spokeswoman Park Soo-Jin.

Kim, who also runs the South’s state Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), will be the first South Korean civilian to pay an authorised visit to the communist state since the funeral of leader Kim Jong-Il in December.

KBS said in a statement that ABU plans to provide broadcasting rights for the Games to about 40 organisations in 30 countries, including the North.

In 2010 the impoverished North was able to air the football World Cup finals with the help of ABU and football’s international governing body FIFA.

North Korea has announced it will send 51 athletes to London to compete in 11 events including women’s football, weightlifting, table-tennis and wrestling.

South Korea’s private SBS station retains the right to air the Games for the entire Korean peninsula including North Korea until the Summer Olympics of 2024.

The company said it would broadcast the games in the South along with two public broadcasters KBS and MBC, and has mandated ABU to handle the rights in North Korea.

Original Article

 

In the News – N.Korea’s New Elite Analyzed

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In the News – N.Korea’s New Elite Analyzed

The North Korean elite of Kim Jong-un’s reign are predominantly male graduates of Kim Il-sung University born in Pyongyang or South Pyongan Province.

According to Unification Ministry analysis of 106 core cadres in the military and Workers Party, 35.5 percent were graduates of Kim Il-sung University, the alma mater of Kim Jong-il, followed by Kim Jong-un’s alma mater Kim Il-sung Military University with 17.7 percent, and Kim Chaek University of Technology with 9.7 percent.

Some 18.6 percent were born in South Pyongan Province, 16.3 percent in Pyongyang, 16.3 percent in North Hamgyong Province, and 14.6 percent in South Hamgyong Province. A whopping 94.3 percent are men.

Only 2 percent of cabinet ministers are women, significantly lower than the 11.5 percent in China and 7 percent in Russia.

While the cabinet mostly consists of relatively young technocrats in their 50s or 60s, the Workers Party remains heavily dominated by loyal apparatchiks in their 60s to 80s. The ministry explained that those who have been loyal to three generations of Kim Dynasty from Kim Il-sung to Kim Jong-un form the core of the party, but cabinet members seem more practically oriented.

Original Article

In the News – With crackdown, N. Korea puts a hold on defectors

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In the News – With crackdown, N. Korea puts a hold on defectors

By , Published: July 21

SEOUL — With tighter border security and harsher punishments for those who cross into China, North Korea has forced a swift and drastic drop-off in defections this year, according to aid groups and South Korean officials.

The crackdown, they say, coincides with the rise of new leader Kim Jong Eun, and suggests that his authoritarian police state is not only worried about people leaving the country, but also strong enough to stop them.

As many as 20,000 additional soldiers have been dispatched to the Chinese border, according to Seoul’s Open Radio for North Korea, which has a network of contacts in the North. Those guards, threatened with punishment of their own, have become less willing to take bribes from would-be defectors, other aid groups say.

As a result, outside experts say, the number of North Koreans entering the South after a circuitous journey through China is plummeting.

Last year, 2,706 North Koreans came to the South. During the first half of this year, there have been only 751 — a 42 percent decline compared with the same period a year earlier.

The unprecedented drop off reverses a 15-year trend. The downturn is especially jarring because it challenges an underlying assumption held by many analysts in the South that the North would face an ever-mounting problem keeping people within its borders. Indeed, after the North’s famine in the mid-1990s, the number of defectors arriving in the South rose exponentially — from fewer than 100 in 1997 to more than 1,000 in 2002 to nearly 3,000 in the past few years, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea launches first multi-purpose vaccination project

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In the News – N. Korea launches first multi-purpose vaccination project

North Korea has launched its first multi-purpose vaccination project recently with funds provided by international organizations, including UNICEF, part of which was contributed by South Korea, according to its state media and officials in Seoul.

The North held a ceremony this past Thursday to launch the Pentavalent Vaccine project aimed at inoculating children against five diseases — diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and haemophilius influenza type b — before beginning the project at two hospitals in Pyongyang, state media reported.

During the ceremony, the North’s health minister, Choe Chang-sik, thanked international organizations for their support for the project, saying close cooperation between the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) helped realize the project.

A UNICEF official said the organization funded the vaccination project with money collected from South Korea and other donor countries, and Seoul’s contribution represents a large portion of the fund.

According to an official at South Korea’s Unification Ministry, Seoul provided UNICEF with US$5.65 million from its inter-Korean cooperation fund last year for the purposes of purchasing vaccines and other medical supplies, and $900,000 of it is earmarked for vaccination-related purchases.

 

Original Article

Some Reflections on the Internship on the first Anniversary of its Commencement

The author and fellow participants on the 2011 March for Peace and Unification. Photo credit Park Chan-yong.

When I was first to meet the MOU overseas correspondents, I stood outside the Central Government Complex building in the growing darkness. The back gates have two guards posted on them, South Korean policemen quite a few years younger than I am, and they were very sorrowful when they told me I could not go in without an ID badge. They struggled to find the words in English. These three aspects of the guards—their youth, and sorrow, and struggle—made me sympathetic enough that I waited outside instead of bluffing my way in.

The other members of our group arrived gradually; they drifted up the street and attached to our group, like plastic bottles to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We talked and swirled intermittently as we waited, explaining and re-explaining schools and majors and life situations. I have had similar meetings many times before and since, but this was remarkable for its cocktail-party-on-a-sidewalk-outside-a-government-building feeling, an unusual locale, though we eventually moved to a proper restaurant once all our group members arrived. But even from the very first meeting, it was clear we were about to have an unusually unforgettable summer. Continue reading

Interview with Andy (March 20th, 2012) on his August 2011 visit (10 days long)

On a sunny afternoon, I sat down with Andy. I met Andy during my visit to London over spring break, when I was visiting my sister who works for a consulting company. Andy recently graduated from Oxford University, where he studied Politics, and he recently started working with my sister at a consulting firm based in London. When I first met him Andy struck me as a well-travelled person; the type of guy who would mention a new place he visited every time you strike up a conversation with him. But one of the most interesting places that he had been to recently included Pyongyang. For 10 days last summer (August 2011), Andy travelled to North Korea with a group of other tourists. I had actually never met anyone who had been to North Korea for pure tourism purposes. I was curious to hear about his perspective on the country, and also his experiences during the trip.   Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea says it targets S. Korean media for possible attack

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In the News – N. Korea says it targets S. Korean media for possible attack

SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) — North Korea said Monday its military has entered map coordinates of some conservative South Korean media offices as it threatened to strike their headquarters for their alleged insult to North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un.

The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said the country’s troops have been targeting the Seoul headquarters of the Chosun Ilbo at coordinates of 37 degrees 56 minutes 83 seconds North latitude and 126 degrees 97 minutes 65 seconds East longitude. It also revealed the coordinates of the JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo newspapers, as well as the KBS, MBC and SBS television stations and CBS radio.

It is the first time the North has released coordinates of intended targets in South Korea.

“We would like to ask the Lee group if it wants to leave all this to be struck by the (North) or opt for apologizing and putting the situation under control, though belatedly,” the General Staff said in an English-language ultimatum, referring to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Seoul, the South Korean capital city of more than 10 million people and home to South Korean media headquarters, is within range of North Korea’s artillery and rockets.

“If the Lee group recklessly challenges our army’s eruption of resentment, it will retaliate against it with a merciless sacred war of its own style as it has already declared,” the General Staff said in the ultimatum carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

It also warned the North is “fully ready for everything” and “time is running out.”

South Korea defended its media reports on its communist neighbor, saying freedom of the press is a basic right guaranteed in free and democratic countries around the world.

The South Korean government said in a statement it “will maintain a posture to immediately cope with any North Korean provocation.” A South Korean military official said no particular movements in the North Korean military have been observed.

Also Monday, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk urged the North to immediately stop threatening the South’s media outlets. He said the North’s threat was a grave “provocation” against South Korea’s free and democratic system.

There is no freedom of the press in North Korea where authorities use state media as a propaganda tool to strengthen personality cults of the country’s leaders.

The North’s latest threat was in response to some South Korean media reports critical of the North’s celebration of the Korean Children’s Union (KCU) under way in Pyongyang.

About 20,000 North Korean children pledged their allegiance to Kim as the North began a six-day festival on Sunday to mark the 66th anniversary of the KCU, according to Pyongyang’s state media.

Some South Korean media dismissed the celebration as part of the North’s attempt to win support for Kim, who took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

Channel A, a television arm of the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, likened Kim to the late German dictator Adolf Hitler over the anniversary celebration.

The North has long bristled at any outside criticism of its leader and has made similar threats against the South over the past several months, although no actual attack has occurred.

South Korea has repeatedly vowed to avenge any North Korean attacks following two attacks by the North in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

 

Original article can be found here

In the News – Rising Instability Fuels North Korean Rhetoric

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In the News – Rising Instability Fuels North Korean Rhetoric

SEOUL—North Korea’s increasingly inflammatory criticism against South Korea is a sign of instability in its authoritarian regime and doesn’t appear likely to end soon, the South’s top official in charge of dealing with the North said.

Since the death of Kim Jong Il in December, the North’s government has been trying to build support for his son Kim Jong Eun and resorted to greater extremes of rhetoric in the process, Yu Woo-ik, South Korea’s Minister of Unification, said in a recent interview.

“The reason why North Koreans criticize South Korea ever more strongly, we believe, is an expression of anxiety,” Mr. Yu said.

He noted that the younger Mr. Kim has begun reshaping the North’s government and, in an environment where jobs are on the line, people and organizations are jockeying for power by showing loyalty to him—and one way to do that is to criticize the South.

The period has also opened an opportunity for China, North Korea’s political ally and economic benefactor, to wield more influence on the regime, said Mr. Yu, who was South Korea’s ambassador to China until taking his current post last September.

0524yuwooik

Reuters

“If China thinks more progressively, it will be more effective in bringing change to North Korea,” he said. “We believe this is the right time to go in that direction.” Continue reading

In the News – Rogue N.Korean Soldiers Suspected in Hijack of Chinese Boats

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In the News – Rogue N.Korean Soldiers Suspected in Hijack of Chinese Boats

Three Chinese fishing boats that were seized by a small North Korean Navy boat on the West Sea on May 8 returned to Dalian Port at around 7 a.m. on Monday. The fishermen were given a health check immediately after they arrived. Three complained of extreme dizziness, and three others showed clear signs of external injuries, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Twenty eight Chinese fishermen had been abducted, not 29 as reported earlier.

The owners of the Chinese fishing boats said the crew were taken to the coast of North Hwanghae Province in North Korea. They were kept in a dark room all day and given just two bowls of gruel a day. They were beaten with sticks or metal rods if they failed to obey orders, and the food and supplies in their ships were plundered. Just before they were released, the captors erased the navigational records on the GPS devices on the fishing boats, the fishermen said.

On Sunday the North Korean Foreign Ministry said the fishermen were returned with no strings attached. Initially, the captors had demanded a ransom of 90,000 yuan (around W160 million) per vessel.

“That was something that should not happen between the two countries. We understand the complaints of the Chinese people,” a North Korean official was quoted as saying by China’s Global Times.

In the News – Lee: N. Korea’s economy should first stand on its own before unification

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In the News – Lee: N. Korea’s economy should first stand on its own before unification

SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday North Korea’s economy should first get on its feet before the two Koreas become unified again, stressing that Seoul never wants the communist neighbor to collapse.

Lee made the remark in an interview with CNBC television broadcast in Singapore earlier in the day, stressing that the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear programs and other issues can be resolved if the regime opens up and works together with the outside world.

“It is not that we wish something will go wrong and North Korea will collapse because it will give South Korea a great burden,” Lee said in the interview. “If North Korea goes together with the international community, its economy can stand on its own and it would be most desirable to have a peaceful unification after that,” he said.

North Korea has relied on outside aid to feed its people since the mid-1990s.

Regarding the eurozone financial crisis, Lee said debt-ridden Greece should accept austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a bailout package, saying South Korea went through harsher measures when it accepted humiliating IMF bailout loans during the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

“Compared with South Korea, I think the level now being demanded for Greece is reasonable,” Lee said. “I think Greece, including its government, businesses, workers and people, should voluntarily accept this.”

On Monday, Lee instructed officials to make thorough preparations to stave off any negative fallouts from the fiscal crisis amid concerns that Greece may not meet the terms of its bailout and drop out of the eurozone, a scenario that could destabilize the entire European market and beyond.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Kim Jong Un Bashes ‘Pathetic’ North Korea Fun Park

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In the News – Kim Jong Un Bashes ‘Pathetic’ North Korea Fun Park

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un publicly rebuked officials for the “pathetic” management of an amusement park in Pyongyang in an effort to bolster his image five months after taking power in the totalitarian state.

Kim toured the Mangyongdae Funfair in the capital and pointed out a broken pavement and chipped paint on rides while plucking weeds, the official Korean Central New Agency said yesterday. Improving the facility should be “an opportunity to remove outdated ideological views from officials’ heads and end their old work-style,” KCNA quoted him as saying.

Kim, believed to be under 30, became head of the country after his father Kim Jong Il died in December, inheriting an economy isolated through global sanctions and wracked by malnutrition. His condemnation of the conditions at the amusement park may be the latest effort to shore up his power base by reinforcing an image as an engaged leader, said analysts including Park Young Ho.

“This is Kim’s blatant effort to appeal to the public as a young leader thoroughly engaged in improving the people’s economic lives,” said Park, of the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. “The strong words he uses to censure the officials show just how desperately he’s trying to gather public support.” Continue reading

In the News – Hyundai foundation offers 2 bil won to help N. Korean defectors

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In the News – Hyundai foundation offers 2 bil won to help N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) — A Hyundai foundation pledged Thursday to give 2 billion won (US$1.7 million) to help North Korean defectors better adjust to life in South Korea, the Unification Ministry said.

The Hyundai Motor Chung Mong-koo Foundation inked the deal with the North Korean Refugees Foundation for three years of financial assistance for defectors, according to the ministry.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – ‘North Korea may have aborted launch’

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In the News – ‘North Korea may have aborted launch’

By Kim Young-jin

North Korea may have intentionally crashed its long-range Unha-3 rocket last month due to problems in staging, a U.S. missile expert said Monday.

David Wright, a senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, put forward the possibility among a range of scenarios in an analysis of the failed April 13 launch that sent regional tensions soaring.

The rocket failed shortly after liftoff, dealing an embarrassing blow to the fledgling regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command said the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 kilometers west of Seoul, some 300 kilometers from the launch site. Local reports estimated the splashdown occurred closer to 400 kilometers from the site.

“North Korea reportedly announced prior to the launch that the rocket was equipped with a flight termination system that would allow operators to shut down the engines manually if the ground station detected a problem,” Wright wrote on 38 North, a website focused on North Korean affairs.

“It is possible that if, as some sources have suggested, the first stage burned to completion but there was a problem with staging, that the North may have aborted the flight at that point.

“For example, if the launcher was seen to be deviating from the intended trajectory, it is possible that it was destroyed intentionally.”

The move earned the North a U.N. Security Council statement that expanded sanctions on the cash-strapped country. Tensions remain high as Pyongyang has reportedly made some preparations to carry out a third nuclear test.

The expert said that based on open source information it remains impossible to determine the exact cause of the failure and that more data on possible irregularities in the flight path and operation of the engines would shed light on whether the flight was aborted.

If splashdown occurred at 300 kilometers, analysts say the failure likely occurred during the operation of the first stage, before staging took place.

The expert said a splashdown at 400 kilometers would raise another possibility.

“That would suggest that the first stage worked essentially as intended, but that ignition and separation of the second stage did not occur properly so that it fell with the first stage into the sea at this location,” he said, adding portions of the rocket could also have landed at both places.

The North insists the launch was meant to put a satellite into orbit for science. But it was widely condemned as a ballistic missile test amid concerns that Pyongyang is working to build long-range missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

 

Original article can be found here.

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.

North Korea’s Embarrassing Rocket Launch

If you’ve kept up with the news at all, you may know about North Korea’s recent failed rocket launch. I know it’s been in the news quite a lot but I thought I’d provide a simplified version of what happened.

This past March, North Korea and the United States entered negotiations once again. The United States offered to provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance if North Korea would “freeze its nuclear and missile tests, along with uranium enrichment programs, and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors.” This was big step both for North Korea and the U.S. because it meant that the North would possibly be giving up its biggest weapon and it also meant that the United States would be sending food aid to the impoverished country for the first time since 2009. It was also the first time North Korea and the U.S. had official talks since Kim Jong Un came to power. Thus, these negotiations had a lot of meaning because it would have determined DPRK’s future relationship with the United States. Continue reading

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