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

 

Before looking into the individual experiences of the women of the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights, it is worthwhile to explore North Korean society, the women’s struggles within that society and also in China. Notorious for male dominance and paternalism, North Korean society relies on women to sustain the system that has been in place since the leadership of Kim Il Sung. Although Journey for Survival indicates that women became a larger part of the economy after the financial crisis of the 1990s, the testimonies that follow its introductory pages reveal that violence has been projected against them both while they lived in North Korea and when they journeyed abroad in search of food and work to provide for their families.

According to Journey for Survival, most defectors come from Hangyeongbuk-do and Yanggang-do because these regions, which are closest to the border between North Korea and China, are the first victims of any standstill in the distribution of food. This is especially because the region is home to people from the lower classes. Consequently, most of the early defectors originated from this area; however, as of late, members of the middle class have also started to migrate in search of something new because information about possible escape routes have spread and the opportunity for a different kind of life in South Korea has grown more attractive to the masses (Journey for Survival, 14). Continue reading

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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 – North Korea says nearly 120 killed after July rainfalls

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In the News – North Korea says nearly 120 killed after July rainfalls

(Reuters) – Recent torrential rain and a typhoon inNorth Korea have killed 119 people, made more than 84,000 homeless and destroyed some 46,000 hectares of crops, the official news agency said on Wednesday.

It is now feared that the rains and typhoon that led to floods in many parts of the impoverished country will deal a severe blow to North Korea’s already malfunctioning economy and exacerbate its already serious food shortages.

“Downpours swept some east and west coastal areas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on July 29-30, leaving 31 people dead and 16 missing,” the KCNA news agency said on Wednesday, using the country’s official name.

This was on top of the damage KCNA previously reported as resulting from about a week of heavy rainfall and floods earlier in July, which led to 88 deaths and left thousands left homeless.

A United Nations inter-agency team was already deployed to the two hardest-hit areas to assess the damage from recent floods with a view to developing an aid plan, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.

Since the mid-1990s, North Korea’s farm sector has frequently been devastated by floods and drought. The floods could weigh on Kim’s efforts to buoy the moribund economy.

Landslides and lightning storms also led to some casualties while floods damaged some coal mines, North Korea’s primary energy source, KCNA also reported on Wednesday.

North Korea remains one of the most isolated states in the world. That has not changed since new leader Kim Jong-un took power seven months ago.

A recent United Nations report classified 7.2 million of the 24 million population as “chronic poor” and said one in three children were stunted due to poor nutrition.

Original Article

In the News – Pyongyang Says Floods Kill Scores, Hurt Crops

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In the News – Pyongyang Says Floods Kill Scores, Hurt Crops

SEOUL—North Korea said heavy rain caused by a typhoon killed nearly 90 people, destroyed thousands of homes and submerged a large amount of farmland.

Seoul-based analyst Kwon Tae-jin said the flooding is expected to worsen North Korea’s chronic food shortage because it comes soon after a severe drought.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that rains over the past month killed 88 people and left more than 60,000 homeless.

It said that about 11,860 hectares of cropland were washed away and 63,500 hectares submerged.

The United Nations said last month that two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million people face chronic food shortages.

Original Article 

In the News – Seoul central bank: North Korean economy logs 1st growth in 3 years on agricultural boost

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In the News – Seoul central bank: North Korean economy logs 1st growth in 3 years on agricultural boost

SEOUL, South Korea — The central bank in Seoul says North Korea’s economy grew for the first time in three years, thanks to a boost in agricultural production.

The Bank of Korea in South Korea said Sunday that the North’s gross domestic product grew 0.8 percent in 2011.

The bank credits favorable weather and more use of fertilizer in boosting crop production in North Korea. It estimates the North’s gross national income at $28 billion – compared to $1 trillion last year for South Korea.

The bank provides annual estimates of the North’s economy by analyzing data gathered by South Korean government agencies. Pyongyang has not publicly released detailed economic data for decades.

The United Nations says North Korea continues to face chronic food shortages affecting two-thirds of the population.

Original Article

In the News – Starvation Deaths Reported in Southern Areas

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In the News – Starvation Deaths Reported in Southern Areas

Food shortages in the North Korean agricultural heartland of Hwanghae Province are leading to starvation deaths, Daily NK has learned. A significant percentage of cooperative farm workers are reportedly too malnourished to work, and a number are leaving their farms to seek help.A North Hwanghae Province source told the Daily NK in recent days, “Local people are in pain from hunger, but the only help that households short of food are receiving from the authorities is 1 or 2 kg of corn; it’s emergency relief but only sufficient to stop them starving. Seeing the situation getting worse and with help from the authorities being so inadequate, there are people leaving for other areas to get help from family.”

The source gave an example of one village, saying, “Hangae-ri in Shingye County alone has seen a total of six children and elderly people die of starvation. At the same time, all the authorities are doing is telling everyone to try and overcome the difficulties.”

A second resident of the area, this time from South Hwanghae Province, recently came out into the North Korea-China border region to get food. Speaking with Daily NK by phone, the source mirrored the same sentiment, painting an alarming picture of the late winter food situation in and around Haeju, a coastal city just a few kilometers from South Korean Yeonpyeong Island.

“A few dozen very weak people could be found on each farm,” the source explained. “The farms put in place measures to deal with it, but these were fairly useless. By the time April had passed, something like ten people had died of starvation on each farm.”

“Food shortages were so serious that the 1st and 2nd Corps patrolling the military demarcation line around Kaesong were malnourished,” the source went on, adding that many of the soldiers from those units are now doing farming themselves because farm workers are deserting their posts. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea executed at least three over cannibalism: think tank

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In the News – N. Korea executed at least three over cannibalism: think tank

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) — North Korea has held public executions of at least three people on charges of cannibalism in recent years, a South Korean state-run institute said Thursday, the latest development that could support what has long been rumored in the isolated country.

There have been accounts among North Korean defectors in the South that some North Koreans ate and sold human flesh during the massive famine in the late 1990s that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.

A North Korean man in the northeastern city of Hyesan was executed in December 2009 for killing a preteen girl and eating her flesh, the Korea Institute for National Unification said in a white paper on human rights in North Korea, which is set to be released next week.

The man committed the crime because of a lack of food following Pyongyang’s botched currency reform in late 2009 that caused massive inflation and worsened food shortages, the white paper said, citing an interview with an unidentified defector in June last year.

The institute held in-depth interviews with 230 North Korean defectors in the South last year as part of efforts to glean fresh information on the North’s situation ahead of publication of its annual white paper.

An activist calls for a stop to public executions in North Korea during a rally in Seoul in mid-April. (Yonhap file photo)

The interviewees account for just a fraction of the more than 23,500 North Korean defectors who have settled in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

The white paper, the gist of which was obtained by Yonhap News Agency, also said a father and his son were shot to death in the eastern town of Doksong in 2006 on charges of eating human flesh, citing an eyewitness account of a North Korean defector.

The institute also said there was an account of cannibalism in the country’s northeastern town of Musan in 2011, though it was not known whether any punishment was meted out.

Last year, Caleb Mission, a small South Korean missionary group, unveiled a 2009 North Korean police document, which, among other things, chronicled several cases of cannibalism amid an acute food shortage in the communist country.

In one account, a male guard who could not bear his hunger killed his colleague using an ax, ate some of the human flesh and sold the remainder in the market by disguising it as mutton, the North Korean police report said, without giving any further details such as when the alleged crime occurred.

A former North Korean official who defected to the South 2001 said Thursday that he heard about more than a dozen cases of cannibalism from a North Korean intelligence official around 1999.

He said the practice appears to have ended in the North, citing his recent telephone conversation with another former North Korean official in the North. He asked not to be identified, citing safety concerns.

Still, the claim could not be independently verified as the North strictly restricts outside access to the country.

Despite the North’s crackdowns, some North Koreans near the border with China use Chinese mobile phones to keep in touch with their relatives and friends in South Korea and China, according to defectors.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea opens nation’s biggest power station

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In the News – North Korea opens nation’s biggest power station

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HUICHON CITY, North Korea –  North Korea on Thursday unveiled one of its biggest construction projects in recent years: a massive hydroelectric power station that is expected to provide the nation with much-needed electricity.

The opening of the Huichon Power Station in Jagang Province, north of Pyongyang, was the first big ceremony in a month of celebrations timed for the April centenary of the birth of late President Kim Il Sung.

The power station on the Chongchon River, which had been under construction for more than three years, was a favored project of late leader Kim Jong Il. Kim had visited the project at least five times before his December death. Continue reading