In the News – Prominent S.Korean Activist to Testify Before UNHCR

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In the News – Prominent S.Korean Activist to Testify Before UNHCR

Oh Kil-nam, a prominent South Korean activist whose wife and daughters were detained in North Korea, will testify before the UN High Commissioner for Refugees this week about the abuse his family suffered, a diplomatic source said.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees apparently decided to hear Oh’s testimony after the UNHCR found last month that his wife and daughters were unlawfully detained by North Korea. It is rare for a member of a family abducted by North Korea to get a chance to testify before the UNHCR.

Oh will also reply to questions from members and read a letter urging North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to release his daughters.

Oh and his wife, Shin Suk-ja were lured to North Korea from Germany in 1985. Oh later escaped alone.

In November last year, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea submitted a petition to the UN seeking the rescue of Shin and her daughters. Pressed by the UN for a response, North Korea sent a curt letter this month claiming Shin had died of hepatitis and her daughters disowned Oh.

Original article can be found here.

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 – S.Koreans Unlawfully Detained in N.Korea, UN Finds

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In the News – S.Koreans Unlawfully Detained in N.Korea, UN Finds

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has concluded that the wife of a prominent South Korean activist and their daughters were forcefully detained by North Korea. The finding by the UNHCR Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will be mentioned officially in all UN reports related to North Korea in the future, a government official here said Monday.

Shin Suk-ja and her husband Oh Kil-nam were lured to North Korea from Germany in 1985 with the promise of free medical treatment for Shin’s hepatitis. Oh later escaped and last year received word that his wife was still alive despite spending decades in concentration camps.

In November last year, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea submitted a petition to the UN seeking the rescue of Shin and her daughters. Pressed by the UN for a response, North Korea sent a curt letter this month claiming Shin had died of hepatitis and her daughters disowned Oh.

Based on the working group’s findings, the UN is expected to press North Korea to send Shin’s remains to her husband and seek the release of her two daughters.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Disabled N. Korean Defector Finds Hope in Seoul

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In the News – Disabled N. Korean Defector Finds Hope in Seoul

For North Korean refugees, the journey to freedom can be physically grueling. Many swim across a river into China and then travel undercover, avoiding authorities before they reach Southeast Asia and head to South Korea.  Imagine making the trip with only one foot and one hand.

Every week, Ji Seong-ho holds a silent demonstration against North Korea. He is one of the 23,000 defectors in South Korea who have fled the repressive Pyongyang government.

Ji’s journey south was more challenging than most. During the famine of the mid-1990s, when Ji was 14, he suffered a terrible accident.

“I was helping my parents make a living by stealing coal off trains and selling it in the market. I got dizzy once and I ended up falling off a moving train. It ran me over,” Ji explains.

He lost his left hand and foot.

Eventually, Ji crossed into China to find food. But on the way back, he was caught by North Korean guards.

“The police severely beat me for a week, maybe more than other escapees. They told me that because I am disabled I brought shame to North Korea and that someone with only one leg should stay home,” Ji recalls. “That is when I lost my trust in the North Korean government.”

In 2006, Ji escaped again and made it to South Korea, where he was given a prosthetic foot and hand.

Many refugees arrive with traumatic injuries that leave them emotionally impaired. Kion Won-hyoung is a psychologist at a government resettlement facility for defectors.

“Because of their experience, many refugees are afraid of even the security guards at the facility,” explains Kion. “They have nightmares about being tortured in North Korea, or being chased by animals.”

Ji Seong-ho is now a law student. He says he had never imagined how much easier life is for the disabled in South Korea.

“I don’t feel any discrimination toward disabled people in South Korea,” Ji says.”I think that’s because of its democracy and good education. I really feel it’s like heaven here.”

Ji says he is waiting for the Koreas to be unified. He says that’s when he will finally be able to step back onto his homeland.

 

Original article can be found here.

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 – NSA Bringing in Midnight Disappearance

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In the News – NSA Bringing in Midnight Disappearance

Since the National Security Agency (NSA) took over border security from the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces last month, measures taken against the families of defectors have been stepped up, Daily NK has learned. This even includes the kind of midnight arrests and disappearances that used to characterize the way political criminals and their families were taken away to prison camps.

Finding that people are disappearing overnight is causing a lot of nervousness for others living in areas adjoining the border, according to a Daily NK source from North Hamkyung Province.

“Right now the atmosphere along the border has gotten pretty brutal,” the source told Daily NK yesterday. “Cases are happening where families of defectors or people who have ever been found making international phone calls just disappear without a trace.”

“Last week in Hoiryeong, three families categorized as ‘household of a defector’ by the NSA were dragged off somewhere one night,” the source said. “And a few weeks ago a foreign currency earner who had called China was dragged off by the NSA and hasn’t been heard from since.

Mostly in the past, if a person were caught making an international call by the NSA or signal detection team in the border area, he or she could avoid serious censure as long as 300,000 to 1,000,000 won in fines was paid. Failing that, punishment usually only meant time in prison. If a defector were arrested, he or she could expect a public trial during which a fine or spell in detention would be handed down

However, the new measures are characteristic of the NSA, which has always focused on instilling fear in the target population.

The source said, “People are feeling really anxious, thinking that they can’t even remonstrate now or risk being taken away one day. Whole defector families can’t even sleep when the sound of an engine comes in the night.”

 

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.

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 – Protests for N.Korean Defectors Sent Powerful Signal

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In the News – Protests for N.Korean Defectors Sent Powerful Signal

Protests across the street from the Chinese Embassy in Seoul that began in February against Beijing’s forced repatriation of North Korean defectors came to an end on Monday. It had been 77 days since the protests began with a press conference by conservative Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Park Sun-young on Feb. 13 calling on Beijing to stop the repatriation of 24 North Korean defectors who were caught hiding in China.

Residents of the neighborhood complained about inconvenience as the demonstrations dragged on, and police and the Jongno District Office also requested that they end.

At first, the protests did not gain much attention. Then on Feb. 21 Park began a hunger strike and actor Cha In-pyo showed up with around 50 teenage North Korean defectors, drawing widespread attention to the demonstrations. Lee Ae-ran, the first North Korean defector to earn a PhD in South Korea, took the baton from Park and carried on the hunger strike, followed by other prominent officials. 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

In the News – Human Rights Body Details N.Korean Abuses

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In the News – Human Rights Body Details N.Korean Abuses

North Korean defectors are seen at a prison camp in North Hamgyong Province in footage filmed by an activist group (file photo).The National Human Rights Commission unveiled its first report on North Korea’s rights violation on Sunday. The evidence was obtained in interviews with some 60 of the 800 North Korean defectors who arrived here since March last year.

The report details the horrific situation of those imprisoned in four political prison camps in Yodok, Kaechon, Pukchang and Hoeryong, and two concentration camps in Jeungsan and Chongori.

West Germany documented 41,390 human rights violations that took place in East Germany. The NHRC’s report is a similar attempt to catalog human rights abuses in North Korea indicating specific victims and compiled for the purpose of taking those responsible for crimes against humanity in North Korea to the International Criminal Court after reunification.  Continue reading

In the News – Defectors send anti-regime leaflets to N. Korea

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In the News – Defectors send anti-regime leaflets to N. Korea

PAJU, South Korea, April 28 (Yonhap) — About 40 North Korean defectors launched balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the communist state Saturday, as the communist country stepped up its saber-rattling against the South.

The activists from the Fighters for Free North Korea group sent 10 large balloons carrying 200,000 leaflets from Imjingak pavilion in the northern border city of Paju about 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul.

Activists in the South have frequently sent propaganda leaflets across the border, condemning the autocratic North Korean regime and calling for an uprising against the leadership. The isolationist country is currently ruled by Kim Jong-un, the grandson of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung.

Pyongyang has frequently threatened retaliation for the South’s anti-regime propaganda activities including the launching of leaflets, although no real actions have been taken place so far.

Recently, the North threatened military retaliation against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and those that have insulted the integrity of the communist regime.

 

Original article can be found here.

After Kim Jong-Il: America and the Two Koreas

Recently while listening to the National Public Radio (NPR) in the car I came across this program, made by “America Abroad,” about predictions on the future of North Korea and its relations with America. I found the nearly hour-long program at the “America Abroad” website and thought it would be helpful to show others this fairly comprehensive study of the past of Korean relations and to highlight its main points for those who don’t have a free hour to listen to the entire program. The program ended with a quote on the current state of relations; “The 65 million dollar question is… are we going to be ready if this succession doesn’t work.” This question colored the discussion on predictions for the future and unification through the hour. Continue reading

In the News – 8 N.Korean Defectors Arrive in Seoul

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In the News – 8 N.Korean Defectors Arrive in Seoul

Eight North Korean defectors who fled a logging camp in Russia arrived in South Korea earlier this month. According to a government source, the eight defectors arrived in Seoul aboard a Russian passenger jet on April 13 with the aid of the South Korean Embassy in Moscow.

They are being interviewed at a government facility in Siheung, Gyeonggi Province about the motive for their defection. The eight are just part of 40 North Korean loggers who are waiting in Moscow to go to South Korea.

The loggers were sent to Siberia seven to 10 years ago to earn foreign currency but apparently fled because they could not endure the harsh weather, extortion and constant surveillance. With the help of religious support groups, they were granted refugee status by the UN, but Moscow refused to let them leave after former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to Russia in August last year.

Kim Hee-tae, head of one religious group, vowed to maintain contact with the remaining 32 and make sure they too can come to South Korea.

 

Original article can be found here.

China, Refugees… and Repatriation?

If you’ve been on our blog during the past few months, you may have noticed the news articles about the North Korean refugees being held in China. These refugees have gotten international notice from human rights activists, politicians, and celebrities alike but unfortunately it may not make a difference.

Let me give you some background information on this incident. Early in February, Chinese officials arrested a group of North Korea refugees who had crossed the Sino-Korean border in order to escape the grips of the North Korean government. This issue was first exposed to the world on February 14th through Donga News. It is believed that China eventually arrested 31 refugees and their fate has been up in the air since then. Among those captured, it is said that there are young children and maybe even an infant. Many of these people have family waiting for them in South Korea, family members that can do nothing but wait for their safe arrival. Continue reading

In the News – No Orders to Stop Repatriation

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In the News – No Orders to Stop Repatriation

Yomiuri Shimbun reported on the 18th that the Chinese government has stopped forced repatriation of the North Korean defectors in China however no guidelines or situations have changed. Rather, crackdowns on the defectors have intensified.

The Japanese newspaper citing a Chinese official revealed, “The Chinese government stopped forced repatriation for reasons that North Korea did not give them advance notice on their long-range rocket launch”. The Shimbun stated, “The Chinese government even after the death of Kim Jong Il in December of last year has repatriated roughly 30 defectors to North Korea everyday”.

But it appeared that the Chinese government, even after North Korea’s announcement of rocket launch last month, has continued to repatriate North Korean defectors. In addition, the Chinese frontier guards and public security officials have been strengthening its inspection and enforcement activities at the North Korea-China border.  Continue reading

In the News – Lee urges N. Korea to carry out privatization of farmland

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In the News – Lee urges N. Korea to carry out privatization of farmland

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) — President Lee Myung-bak on Friday urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to give up the collective farm system and privatize state-owned agricultural land to help enrich the North and its residents.

In a special lecture given at Seoul’s Education Center for Unification, Lee also called on the young North Korean leader to pay greater attention to the human rights and defector issues.

President Lee Myung-bak gives a special lecture at the Education Center for Unification in northern Seoul on April 20, 2012. (Yonhap)

“North Korea should abandon its collective farm system and shift to the privatization of agricultural land. If so, rice will be abundant in two to three years. Farmland privatization will help individuals earn more and the state increase revenues,” Lee was quoted by his spokesman Park Jeong-ha as saying in the lecture.

“(Farmland reform) is a must for North Korea. All the young leader has to do is the (reform). It is the most urgent matter and has to precede its market opening. Continued dependence on aid will only produce beggars.”

Lee went on to ask Pyongyang to pay more attention to the defector and human rights issues.

“Human rights is an issue as important as the North Korean nuclear problem. I believe what is most necessary for the North Koreans is human rights,” Lee was also quoted as saying.

“Bread is important. But in this 21st century, freedom of individuals is as important as bread,” said the president, noting it is getting increasingly difficult to maintain a dictatorial regime in this informatization era.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors

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In the News – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors

The Chinese government has halted the repatriation of North Korean defectors, apparently in response to South Korean requests and because it is angry that the North went ahead with its rocket launch.

The Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday cited an official from China’s Liaoning Province as saying China, which had been repatriating up to 30 North Korean defectors a day since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December, recently stopped doing so.

“North Korea failed to inform China of specific plans to launch its missile last Friday,” another Chinese official told the Japanese daily, which added that Beijing’s anger at being kept in the dark played a role in the decision to stop the repatriations. “Although it is unclear when Beijing stopped repatriation, it is certain no more defectors were sent back to North Korea,” the paper said. Continue reading

In the News – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to N.Korea

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In the News – China Joins World Powers in Strong Warning to N.Korea

China has joined other world powers in warning North Korea that they will not tolerate any more provocations after the isolated nation’s failed rocket launch last week.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late Monday in Brasilia that the UN Security Council members, including China, are agreed there will be “further consequences” in the event of another provocative act by North Korea. Recent satellite photographs show Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground nuclear test.

China’s state-controlled media are also showing signs of frustration with Pyongyang, noting that China took “a clear attitude in condemning” its longtime ally when it backed a UN Security Council statement criticizing the rocket launch. Continue reading

In the News – China eases repatriating policy!

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In the News – China eases repatriating policy

South Korean government ministries say they have received no confirmation China has stopped, at least temporarily, repatriating North Koreans.

A Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri, says an unnamed Chinese official in Liaoning province told its reporter such forced returns of North Koreans to their home country had stopped.

The newspaper says the suspension reflects China’s displeasure with North Korea for the controversial rocket launch.

Ahead of the launch, China permitted five North Korean defectors to leave for South Korea. The North Koreans had long been holed up in South Korea’s Embassy in Beijing to avoid arrest.

South Korea and international rights groups have called on China to alter its policy, saying those sent back to North Korea face retribution, possibly including death sentences.

The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations. They technically remain at war as they never signed a peace treaty following a devastating three-year conflict in the early 1950s.

Original article can be found here.