The Associated Press’s Newest Bureau

Pictures from North Korea:

A North Korean shovels snow at the foot of Mt. Paekdu on April 3, 2012. Photo credit David Guttenfelder/AP.

 

The Associated Press opened their first full news bureau in North Korea in January. This is tremendously exciting to all of us DPRK-watchers who want more, more, more news coming out of the country, and I think it’s partially responsible for the sustained higher media profile of North Korea since Kim Jong Il’s death.

The bureau operates out of Pyongyang. The official opening was planned for December 2011, but the news of Kim Jong-Il’s death broke just as Tom Curley and Kathleen Carroll, respectively AP’s president and executive editor, arrived in the capital city. Everything was postponed for the mourning period, and the official opening of the bureau itself was put off until January 16th. Still, the staffers in Pyongyang—already set up to operate—got straight to work covering the story of Kim Jong Il’s death.

Two North Korean journalists staff the AP bureau full-time; the Korean Central News Agency (the only North Korean news outlet) pledges full cooperation with the AP. This is pretty standard operating procedure for the AP, but it’s very interesting in the news-strangled case of North Korea to hear that some of the stories the AP produces will be developed by North Koreans. However, most of the news stories on AP’s site are produced by Western writers based in Seoul or the US or even Sweden.

The two North Korean journalists are supervised by the AP’s bureau chief for the Korean peninsula, Jean Lee, who makes frequent visits to Pyongyang from her base of operations in Seoul. The AP’s chief Asia photographer, David Guttenfelder, also plays a major role, producing many exceptional photos. These two account for the main coverage accreditation. Continue reading

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.

Intimacy in North Korea

Last summer I spent two weeks as an English language partner to North Korean defector middle and high school students in a small town on the outskirts of Seoul. After four years, I found myself once again immersed in the complex jungle of teenage angst, hormones, and emotions. Well, I know from my university experience that those unpredictable attitudes and moods don’t necessarily go away when you get older and that everyone manages to overcome his inner-teenager individually. But, I remember that while we did our best to think about what kind of activities would be both fun and advantageous to our seventeen through twenty-year-old students, at least one person would say something along the lines of our need to understand that these students weren’t just defectors preparing for new lives in South Korea; they were also hormonally driven teenagers on the brink of young love, experiencing their first infatuations, and learning the art of flirtation. I did not notice too many hormonal imbalances erupting before my eyes, but what about attraction and relationships in North Korea? To go even further, what about sex in North Korea?

“A North Korean couple has a picnic along the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea” (AP Photo/Vincent Yu).

Notorious for a reputation of severe control and discipline, to what extent does the North Korean regime play a role in sexual intimacy? According to Radio Free Asia, the simple answer is that “when it comes to the privacy of the bedroom, even the all-powerful North Korean Workers’ Party is largely hands-off” (Love and Sex in North Korea). Continue reading

In the News – U.N. chief voices concern over N. Korean defectors in China

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In the News – U.N. chief voices concern over N. Korean defectors in China

NEW YORK, March 8 (Yonhap) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “deep concern” Thursday over the fate of North Korean defectors in China, which has emerged as a key diplomatic issue between Seoul and Beijing, according to his office.

In a meeting with visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Ban “shared the deep concern with the Foreign Minister about the dislocated people from the DPRK, and encouraged the concerned parties to do their utmost to find a mutually agreeable solution,” the U.N. leader’s office said in a press release.

South Koreans are increasingly demanding China stop its forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors following media reports that around 30 North Koreans are in custody there and face deportation back to their hunger-stricken homeland.

Ban, formerly a South Korean foreign minister, also reiterated his worries about the severe food and nutrition problems in the North and welcomed some progress in talks between the U.S. and North Korea, Ban’s office said.

The South’s foreign minister, meanwhile, told reporters that the Seoul government and the U.N. agreed to continue consultations over the humanitarian issue in the North.

Kim said Seoul was trying to confirm press reports of the pending repatriation of North Koreans caught by Chinese authorities.

He is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Friday.

Original article can be found here

In the News – Pyongyang Demands Answers from Seoul

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In the News – Pyongyang Demands Answers from Seoul

Pyongyang on Thursday issued an “open questionnaire” that demands answers from Seoul if relations between the two Koreas are to improve.

The official KCNA news agency said that the questionnaire came from the policy department of the National Defense Commission, which “solemnly urges” South Korea to answer it “since it loudly trumpets a resumption of inter-Korean dialogue and improvement of relations.”  Continue reading

In the News – Defectors, activists hold rally to condemn rights abuses in N. Korea

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In the News – Defectors, activists hold rally to condemn rights abuses in N. Korea

By Kim Kwang-tae
SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) — About 150 activists and North Korean defectors held a symbolic rally in central Seoul Friday to protest against human rights abuses in North Korea.

The protest is timed to mark the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 1.1 million Jews died during the Holocaust.

Human rights advocacy groups have long called for international efforts to stop genocide and crimes against humanity which they claim are being systematically carried out by North Korean authorities. Continue reading

The MOU Internship: Pt. 1

Imagine an internship where your interests are a priority. Now add being treated with respect. And then add on top of that field trips every week to some of the most interesting places in South Korea. And as a bonus, go ahead and add the opportunity to eat some of the best food in Seoul with some of the most important people within the Ministry of Unification. Sound too good to be true? Usually, it would be. But, believe it or not, all of this, and so much more, is what the MOU summer internship was like for me. Hopefully I have your attention by now, so let me give you some more details. Continue reading

He Told Me He Was from North Korea

Just before heading back to the United States, I took a detour to London for three weeks to meet family and friends. Among my friends who are currently studying in London, one of them is currently enrolled at the school of economics in Regent University. It had been two years since I had last seen her; however, unfortunately, I had arrived in London while she was still in the middle of her dissertation and finals. I decided to stay over for a couple of nights and spend some time at her university so that I could be with her for a few days before I left for America.

Regent University – sits quietly in the middle of Regent Park – no sign announces its presence. My friend tells me that everyone knows it hides in the middle of the trees abreast the lakes of Regent Park. I did not know anything about the university or its students, but I could tell as soon as I walked passed the front gates and into its halls that the students were not from average families. There was a scent about them that suggested the elite. Continue reading

Matthias Vollert, Assistant Counselor of the German Embassy in ROK

CHRISTINE LEE

The first Korea Global Forum was held in Seoul, Korea on September 9-10, 2010. Co-hosted by the Ministry of Unification and the Ilsun International Relations Institute, there were 11 countries present, and had Former U.S. Secretary of Defense, William S. Cohen, as the keynote speaker.

As a student reporter for Korea’s Ministry of Unification, I had the chance to meet the Assistant Counselor of the German Embassy in Korea, Matthias Vollert. He agreed to sit down for a quick interview about his impressions and Germany’s part in the Forum:

Continue reading