In the News – S. Korean activist seeks to prove torture through medical checkup

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In the News – S. Korean activist seeks to prove torture through medical checkup

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) — A South Korean human rights activist who has accused Chinese security agents of torture during his four-month arrest said Thursday he will prove his claims through a medical checkup amid Beijing’s denial of the alleged abuse.

The dramatic story of Kim Young-hwan, who was expelled from China and returned home on July 20, has taken another turn in recent weeks following his revelations of torture under Chinese detention.

The 49-year-old activist recently described the beatings, electric shocks and sleep deprivation he endured during the early days of his arrest in northeastern China, exposing the Seoul government to criticism about its lack of action against Beijing.

Kim was arrested on March 29 on suspicion of endangering China’s national security, a charge believed to be related to the activist’s efforts to help North Korean defectors in China and promote human rights in the North.

China’s foreign ministry has rejected the allegations of torture, saying the investigation went according to law.

“Externally, there doesn’t seem to be any scars remaining,” Kim told Yonhap News Agency in a phone call. “I plan to get a medical checkup.”

Formal evidence of the alleged torture is expected to help Kim in the event that he decides to sue the Chinese government or take the case to the United Nations.

South Korean human rights activist Kim Young-hwan (Yonhap)

Lee Kyu-ho, a 41-year-old Korean-Chinese, said he moved to South Korea in 2010 after having worked as a Chinese security agent from 1995 to 2002, and witnessed similar violence by Chinese authorities at the time.

“In 1996, we took into custody a male North Korean defector who appeared to be in his late 30s or early 40s, and during the investigation, I kicked him with my heels and beat him with an electric rod,” Lee said in an interview with Yonhap.

“I was infuriated when I heard about the torture Chinese authorities used against Kim Young-hwan and decided to blow the whistle out of guilt about my past actions.”

Kim’s detention drew public attention due to his personal background.

He is a former South Korean proponent of North Korea’s guiding “juche” philosophy of self-reliance who later renounced his pro-North Korean ideology and became active in projects to raise awareness about the North’s dismal human rights record.

Original Article 

In the News – China Must Investigate Torture Claims

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In the News – China Must Investigate Torture Claims

China on Tuesday flatly denied torturing a prominent South Korean activist who was detained in Dandong for 114 days for helping North Korean defectors. China claims no laws were broken during its investigation of Kim Young-hwan and his rights were not violated.

The claims contradict Kim’s own account in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo on Monday, where he said he could smell his flesh burn as Chinese security agents tortured him with a cattle prod.

Kim vividly recalled the brutal torture he suffered in the Chinese prison. “Three state security agents checked my blood pressure and collected a blood sample on April 15 and then proceeded to torture me with a cattle prod from that evening until the early hours of the following morning,” Kim said. “They put the cattle prod, wrapped with electrical coils, inside my clothes and placed it on my chest and back,” he said. “It is hard to describe the pain I felt. It felt like being electrocuted continuously.” Kim added he suffered continuous blows to his face and they stopped only when his entire face was bloody.

He said he was also deprived of sleep from April 10 to 15 and was forced to wear handcuffs and stand for 10 hours straight. “That left my hands paralyzed for more than a month,” Kim said.

Kim’s account of getting a medical check-up before being tortured suggests meticulous planning by Chinese security agents. There are accounts that Chinese agents warned him not to talk about the torture he suffered in Dandong.

When confronted with such a vivid account of torture by a victim, the first thing to do would be to investigate whether those allegations are true. It is simply irresponsible of Beijing to deny them. Perhaps according to Beijing’s standards, the torture Kim suffered is par for the course and represents no great violation of a prisoner’s rights.

But as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China also signed the UN Convention against Torture. It should find out whether any other permanent member of the Security Council has rejected calls for a probe into allegations of torture of a foreign national. Even a superpower like China can lose global respect that way.

Kim said he wants no financial compensation but simply an apology from China. It is not a huge request to make. But if Beijing rejects it, the only thing left to do is to conduct a joint investigation through the UN Human Rights Council and appeal to the international community. If human rights groups around the world join hands to pursue the truth, even China would feel the heat.

Original Article

In the News – Gov’t vows efforts to deal with S. Korean activist’s alleged abuse in China

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In the News – Gov’t vows efforts to deal with S. Korean activist’s alleged abuse in China

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) — South Korea is taking the claims that a rights activist from the country was severely tortured while under detention in China seriously, and will do everything it can to verify the claims and ensure the safety of its citizens, the presidential chief of staff said Monday.

The 49-year-old activist Kim Young-hwan was expelled from China and returned home on July 20 following his 114-day detention on suspicions of endangering the country’s national security, a charge believed to be related to his campaign to help North Korean defectors and other human rights activists.

Kim publicly admitted last week that he suffered from both physical abuse, including electrical shocks, and sleep deprivation during his detention.

“The government and the presidential office are taking the matter seriously,” said Ha Kum-loul, the chief of presidential staff during a plenary session at the National Assembly, responding to a ruling party lawmaker calling on the government to take more proactive actions against China over the issue.

South Korea’s foreign ministry has come under fire for failing to take proper diplomatic actions against China when it first learned of the alleged abuse of a prominent activist in Chinese custody.

“The government spares no efforts to find cold facts with the Chinese government. We will do everything possible to protect the lives and guarantee the safety of our people and human rights activists, though whether to bring the matter to the United Nations has not been discussed yet,” Ha said.

Also on Monday, the activist disclosed fresh details of the alleged torture and ill-treatment.

“Beating and electrical shocks continued for five to eight hours from the night of April 15 until dawn on the following day,” Kim told Yonhap News Agency shortly before heading to the National Human Rights Commission, a state rights watchdog in Seoul, to testify.

“For seven days starting April 10, I was forced to stay awake all day long, and physical pressure began on the sixth day,” he said.

The Chinese authorities even had him sleep while seated on a chair in handcuffs during one entire month of interrogation, he claimed.

Original Article

In the News – Undercover Footage Reportedly Shows North Korean Circus Forcing Bears And Monkeys To Roller Skate

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In the News – Undercover Footage Reportedly Shows North Korean Circus Forcing Bears And Monkeys To Roller Skate 

Nk Circus

Footage covertly filmed by the Sun during a one-week stay in North Korea shows bears and monkeys being forced to perform tricks in gaudy costumes at a circus for wealthy citizens.

According to the Sun, the bears were caught in the forests of North Korea and perform three times a day while wearing tight muzzles.

In the video, the bears and monkeys are made to roller skate, jump rope and play basketball — behavior PETA spokesperson Carney Anne Chester says could only be learned through torture.

“The only way to get wild animals … whether they’re bears, primates, elephants, tigers, to learn ridiculous tricks is through the constant threat of physical punishment,” Chester told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. “They’re deprived of everything that’s natural to them.”

Chester went on to say that even after their years of performances are through, animals such as the ones in these videos will continue to exhibit unnatural behavior due to psychological trauma.

While the U.S. has regulations for conditioning animals for performances, undercover video taken the Humane Society of the United States last month revealed rampant disregard for those rules in the training of the Tennessee Walking Horses.

In the video obtained by ABC News, stable hands can be seen allegedly applying corrosive chemicals to the horses’ ankles in order to encourages the animals to lift their legs high in a prance.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – The Hidden Horrors of North Korea

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In the News – The Hidden Horrors of North Korea

While much of the world’s attention is focused on the Assad regime’s appalling assaults against Syrian citizens, with more than a hundred dead in this week’s massacre in Houla alone, another human rights atrocity occurring on a much larger scale garners far less attention.

North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-Eun, has done what few expected when he assumed power after his father’s death last December. Instead of loosening control in the most totalitarian nation in the world, Kim Jong-Eun has actually expanded the number of North Koreans subject to forced labor, torture, starvation and death in the totalitarian nation’s prison camps.

The camps, known as kwan-li-so, form a hidden gulag where those accused of crimes against the state are imprisoned. An estimated 200,000 people serve in these camps. The regime imposes sentences, often without even the pretense of a show trial, like those that took place in the Stalinist Soviet Union. Summary executions occur regularly in the camps. Although the sentences may be for ten years or less, most prisoners die in the kwan-li-so before completing their terms.

Prisoners work 12-18 hours a day under inhumane and dangerous conditions in mines, quarries, and factories. Accidents maim and kill many, but more often starvation takes an unimaginable toll. The average prisoner receives only 100-200 grams of food a day — the equivalent of about one cup of white rice — with virtually no protein. But even rice, a staple of the Asian diet, is often unavailable. Corn is the usual substitute, which leads to pellagra, a disease that brings on skin lesions, mental confusion and eventually dementia.

But perhaps the most heinous aspect of the camps is that not only are those accused of “crimes” but their entire families imprisoned. The founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Il-Sung, justified the practice by claiming, “The seed of factionalists or class enemies, whoever they are, must be eliminated through three generations.” So, spouses, children, siblings, even elderly parents often serve sentences along with the accused.

Now Kim Jong-Eun, the latest in the Kim dynasty that has ruled the DPRK since 1948, has expanded this barbaric practice. The young Kim has now instructed that both older and younger relatives of anyone caught trying to flee the country will be sent to the kwan-li-so.

Even knowing the horrific consequences, North Koreans will continue to try to leave. Since the devastating famine in the mid-’90s when as many as 2.5 million people starved to death, some 15,000 North Koreans have reached safety in South Korea or third countries.

Many more live secretly in China, where their plight is not much better than in the DPRK. These refugees are under constant threat of being turned over to North Korean authorities by the Chinese government or even being kidnapped and forcibly returned by DPRK agents who cross the border for that purpose.

Yet most people in the West either are unaware of what is going on in North Korea or choose to ignore it. And the U.S. government reserves what little outrage it displays on the rogue nation’s nuclear program.

It may become more difficult to avert our gaze, however, as new information leaks out about exactly how bad conditions are in the kwan-li-so. An updated report of the Committee for Human Rights in Korea, “The Hidden Gulag: The Lives and Voices of Those Who Are Sent to the Mountains,” now includes eyewitness testimony from 60 former prisoners along with 30 pages of satellite images of the camps.

In addition, a new book focuses attention on the plight of those who have survived the terror of the camps. Blaine Hardin’s “Escape from Camp 14” details the life of Shin Dong-hyuk, a young man born in the camp who escaped, but only after turning in his mother and brother, whom he regarded as traitors and rivals for food, and witnessing their execution. But there have been other books that told similar stories — “The Aquariums of Pyongyang,” by former prisoner Kang Chol-hwan, and “The Long Road Home,” by Kim Yong — yet neither provoked sufficient interest and outrage to mobilize Americans to want to do something.

Unless that changes, North Korea will continue to starve, torture, and kill its people while we look the other way.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea condemns U.S. human rights report

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In the News – N. Korea condemns U.S. human rights report

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) — North Korea has lashed out at the United States for its recent annual report critical of Pyongyang’s dismal human rights conditions, calling the move a “product of the U.S. hostile policy” toward the North.

“We bitterly condemn the despicable human rights report worked out by the U.S.,” the foreign ministry said in an English-language statement carried late Tuesday by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The ministry claimed that the U.S. report is based on rumors concocted by a handful of traitors and criminals who left their homeland, referring to North Korean defectors in the South.

South Korea is home to more than 23,500 North Korean defectors. Many of them have testified about a wide range of human rights abuses in the communist country, including torture, public executions and political prison camps.

The North’s angry reaction came days after the U.S. State Department said in an annual report that the North’s human rights conditions remain “extremely poor.”

The report said that North Korea subjected its 24 million people to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives and that there continued to be reports of a vast network of political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh and life threatening.

Amnesty International, a London-based human rights advocacy group, also estimated in its separate annual report last week that up to 200,000 prisoners were held in horrific conditions in six sprawling political prison camps.

The North has flatly denied accusations of its alleged rights abuses, describing them as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

“The U.S. unchanged human rights racket against the (North) is, in essence, a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward the (North) to isolate and stifle at any cost its socialist system,” the foreign ministry statement said.

It also accused the U.S of being the “world’s worst human rights abuser,” claiming the U.S. has massacred hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in different parts of the world through aggression and interference.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – UN Rapporteurs to Make Statement on N.Korea

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In the News – UN Rapporteurs to Make Statement on N.Korea

Special rapporteurs in the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights are to issue statements next month detailing instances of torture as well as the food shortages and health problems in North Korea. The move follows the decision by a working group under the OHCRC to take up the case of a South Korean family unlawfully detained in the North.

“Human rights abuses are more serious in North Korea than in other countries, and there have been calls from within the UN that it should have done more to address the problem,” a diplomatic source in Seoul said. “As a result, five to six UN special rapporteurs will make statements about the situation soon.”

In addition to the special rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights, Marzuki Darusman, there are UN rapporteurs specializing in around 40 different fields, including torture, freedom of expression, hunger and poverty. Some of them gather next month for an annual meeting and discuss the human rights situation in North Korea.

It is rare for several special rapporteurs to issue a joint statement on a specific country. “The fact that several of them are joining hands to speak out underscores how seriously the UN takes the situation in the North,” the source added. “This will have a major impact on the international community.”

Meanwhile, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea in a press conference on Tuesday unveiled the OHCRC’s finding that the wife of a prominent South Korean activist and her daughters were unlawfully detained in North Korea. The coalition first filed a petition to the UN seeking their rescue in November last year.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Shin Suk-ja and her daughters are still being detained against their will. It also demanded the North free them immediately and take steps to compensate them.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Emergency Hearing on North Korean Refugees in China

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In the News – Emergency Hearing on North Korean Refugees in China

From L to R, T. Kumar, Director, International Advocacy for Amnesty International USA; Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea; and Michael Horowitz, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute testifies before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, March 5. They said that China’s forced repatriation of North Korean refugees violates International law. (Gary Feuerberg/ The Epoch Times)

WASHINGTON—The Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) held an emergency hearing to draw attention to the over 30 North Korean refugees who had fled to China and are facing the imminent danger of repatriation. If returned, they face certain persecution, torture, and even execution.

“The international community—especially the United Nations, the Obama Administration, and the U.S. Congress—must insist that China at long last honor its treaty obligations, end its egregious practice of [forced return to North Korea], or be exposed as hypocrites,” said Rep. Chris Smith, Chairman of the CECC, March 5 in his opening remarks. Continue reading

In the News – China to Repatriate ‘Hundreds’ of N.Koreans

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In the News – China to Repatriate ‘Hundreds’ of N.Koreans

Hundreds of North Korean defectors were awaiting repatriation as of last Friday after being arrested in various parts of China, rights activists say.

“Some 220 defectors have been interrogated by regional security departments in China and are being held at about 10 detention centers near the North Korea-China border,” said Kim Hoe-tae of Solidarity for North Korean Human Rights. “They’ll be sent back to the North one by one.” Continue reading

In the News – S. Korea to call on China to comply with refugee law for N. Korean defectors

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In the News – S. Korea to call on China to comply with refugee law for N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) — In what appears to be a policy shift to step up efforts to avoid repatriation of North Korean defectors detained in China to their communist homeland, South Korea said Sunday it will urge Beijing to comply with an international refugee law. Continue reading