In the News – Lee criticizes pro-N. Korea groups in S. Korea

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In the News – Lee criticizes pro-N. Korea groups in S. Korea

SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) — President Lee Myung-bak on Monday urged “pro-North Korea” groups in South Korea to wake up to reality and stop blindly accepting nonsense assertions Pyongyang makes, calling their unconditional following of the communist regime “problematic.”

It was the first time Lee, who has tried to avoid ideological remarks, has openly criticized those sympathetic to North Korea by using the word, “jongbuk,” which means “blindly following the North.” Pro-Pyongyang followers are criticized as jongbuk forces in South Korea.

Lee made the criticism in his biweekly radio address, saying North Korea has made “wild assertions” denying its involvement in attacks on South Korea, including a 1983 terrorist bombing targeted at the then South Korean president in Myanmar and the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship.

“The North has repeatedly made such wild assertions, but what is more problematic are some pro-North Korea groups within our society,” Lee said. “Just as the international community is demanding the North change, those people who unconditionally support North Korea must change; they are, after all, living in the Republic of Korea that has joined the ranks of advanced countries.”

Criticism of pro-North Korean groups has risen sharply in South Korea in recent months after some lawmakers-elect of the leftist opposition Unified Progressive Party displayed strong leanings to the communist nation and reluctance to criticize the regime.

Earlier this month, Lee visited Myanmar as the first South Korean president to visit the country in 29 years since the North’s 1983 terrorist bombing ripped through a Yangon mausoleum. The attack killed 17 South Koreans, including some Cabinet ministers.

Lee visited the mausoleum during this month’s trip.

“What wrong did they do and to whom? They were the victims of the division of the country and a ruthless terrorist attack. I could not hold back my anger thinking about who took their lives. I felt all choked up,” he said in the radio address.

Lee praised Myanmar for opening up to the outside world with sweeping democratic reforms, saying he hopes the North will follow in Myanmar’s footsteps, “change its thinking, make new friends and open a new age.”

South Korea and Myanmar can become good business partners, Lee said.

“It is significant for Korea to have another big market the size of Vietnam in the region,” he said. “Our country can be assured of the abundant resources of Myanmar and actually invest in it. If our two nations consult and make thorough preparations this year, Korean businesses can make inroads in earnest, beginning next year.”

 

Original article can be found here.

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In the News – N. Korea’s human rights condition ‘extremely poor,’ U.S. gov’t

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In the News – N. Korea’s human rights condition ‘extremely poor,’ U.S. gov’t

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 24 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s human rights conditions remain “extremely poor,” the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

In an annual report on political freedom and civil liberties in 199 nations, the department again grouped North Korea with Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Belarus and China.

“Overall human rights conditions remained extremely poor in many of the countries that we spotlighted in our 2010 country reports,” said Michael H. Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

The report said North Korea is an “authoritarian state led by the Kim family for more than 60 years,” referring to a recent leadership change in the communist nation to Kim Jong-un, the third son of late leader Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, the late founding leader Kim Il-sung, was granted the posthumous title of “eternal president.”
“The most recent national elections, held in March 2009, were neither free nor fair,” read the 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

“Citizens did not have the right to change their government. The government subjected citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives, including denial of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement and worker rights,” it added. “There continued to be reports of a vast network of political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh and life threatening.”

In the previous report, the department described the North’s human rights record “deplorable” and “grim.”

Responding to Yonhap News Agency’s inquiry over if the change of wording has implications, Posner quipped, “I may be running out of words.”

He emphasized that Washington is “deeply concerned that the situation remains poor” and without progress.

He cited a separate report by a U.S. nongovernmental group last month that as many as 200,000 people are held in the secretive nation’s political prison camps, where human rights abuses are prevalent.

He said the U.S. will continue to raise the issue and hopes that the burgeoning transition of Myanmar, or Burma, to democracy may “inspire” North Korea and other closed societies, including Iran, Uzbekistan, Eritrea or Sudan.

On South Korea, meanwhile, the department’s report again took issue with controversies over the National Security Act, which critics view as aimed at cracking down on dissidents and those who support North Korea, along with other laws designed to keep public order.

“The primary human rights problems reported were the government’s interpretation of national security and other laws to limit freedom of expression and restrict access to the Internet as well as incidents of hazing in the military,” the report said.

It added other human rights problems included some official corruption; sexual and domestic violence; children engaged in prostitution; human trafficking; societal discrimination against foreigners, North Korean defectors, persons with HIV/AIDS; and limitations on workers’ rights.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea evading UN luxury goods ban to smoke, drink, drive: panel

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In the News – North Korea evading UN luxury goods ban to smoke, drink, drive: panel

(Reuters) – Ten thousand rolls of tobacco, 12 bottles of Sake, and a handful of second-hand Mercedes-Benz cars are among the latest reported breaches byNorth Korea of a U.N. ban on luxury goods sales to the reclusive state, according to a confidential draft U.N. report.

Japan told a U.N. panel of experts that Pyongyang also imported thousands of computers and thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics and that almost all the goods were shipped through China, it was reported in the draft seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The five North Korean violations reported to the panel by Japan during the past year took place between 2008 and 2010. The panel was also informed of another two potential violations, but they have not yet been officially reported by Japan.

Two rounds of U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests ban the sale of luxury items to the state’s government. It was also hit with an arms embargo and is forbidden from trading in nuclear and missile technology.

The panel also said it was investigating reports of possible North Korean weapons-related sales to Syria and Myanmar, as well as other reports of arms-related violations.

The report, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee this week, said implementation of the luxury goods ban was “deeply problematic” because it was up to each country to create a blacklist and not all had done so.

“Also the DPRK (North Korea) is able to exploit differences between such lists, where they exist, to avoid bans in one member state by shopping in another – and the panel sees little evidence of information sharing between member states on what might be included on these lists,” the report said.

WHAT’S A LUXURY?

“Definitions of luxury goods by member states are not consistent. Chinese customs officials told the panel that most of the above mentioned goods were not considered as luxury goods by China,” it said.

The panel of experts wrote that Pyongyang residents and visitors said luxury cars were seen in the city and that luxury goods – both authentic and forgeries and including expensive liquors and cosmetics – were widely and openly available.

“All this indicates that the ban on luxury goods has not yet disrupted effectively the supply of such goods either to the DPRK elite or to the rising Pyongyang middle class,” it noted.

The U.N. panel also said it was collecting more information about media reports that the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization may have violated the sanctions by shipping computers and computer servers to North Korea.

The panel visited Italy to obtain documents on several cases of previously reported violations, including a foiled attempt by North Korea to import high quality U.S.-made tap dancing shoes valued at almost $200 a pair.

The experts also traveled to Switzerland to investigate sales of Swiss luxury watches to Pyongyang.

“The panel learned that hardly any watch sales to DPRK are in the luxury category,” the report said.

“The panel concluded that any luxury watches sold in the DPRK most likely are sourced elsewhere. Industry officials pointed out that manufacturers had little control over who purchased their watches once globally distributed,” it wrote.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – South Korea: Myanmar Pledges To Stop Buying North’s Weapons

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In the News – South Korea: Myanmar Pledges To Stop Buying North’s Weapons

South Korea has received assurances from Myanmar that it will no longer buy weapons from North Korea, an aide to President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday.

President Thein Sein of Myanmar acknowledged that his country had bought conventional weapons from the North over the past 20 years but vowed in a meeting with Mr. Lee in the Burmese capital on Monday to end the practice, said the aide, Kim Tae-hyo.

Mr. Thein Sein also indicated Tuesday that Myanmar had not pursued the development of nuclear arms and vowed to honor a United Nations Security Council resolution that bans countries from activities that could assist North Korea’s missile programs, Mr. Kim said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Myanmar Agrees Defector Release

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In the News – Myanmar Agrees Defector Release

Myanmar has agreed to release a North Korean defector imprisoned two years ago for entering the country illegally and declared its intention to comply with all UN resolutions covering nuclear and missile trade, reflecting the country’s recent tentative moves toward rejoining the international community of nations following years of economic and diplomatic isolation.

The imprisoned defector, whose identity has not been released, has been serving a five-year prison sentence following his 2010 conviction for illegal entry. Upon his release, the man is reportedly set to be transferred to South Korea.

The agreement came as President Lee Myung Bak met President Thein Sein in the new jungle capital of Napyidaw as part of the first visit to the country by a sitting South Korean president since a 1983 terrorist attack carried out in the former Burmese capital of Yangon by North Korean agents killed a number of government ministers and came within minutes of killing President Chun Doo Hwan himself.

For its part, South Korea has offered Myanmar a slew of different forms of development assistance matching the nature of its recent reforms, including loans and grants, scholarships and even help in establishing an economic think tank.

Today, President Lee is set to fly across from Napyidaw to the traditional capital, Yangon, to meet with democracy activist and newly elected lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

Original article can be found here.