Kim Jong Un’s absence: coup or cooped up?

13 10 2014

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????(By Belinda Cranston, ANU, 10 OCT 2014) Why hasn’t Kim Jong Un been seen for 37 days? All sorts of conspiracy theories abound. Are ankle problems the reason the North Korean leader is lying low, as reported by the hermit kingdom’s officials? Or is something more sinister at stake, like a coup?

It was hoped that all would be revealed on Friday, when celebrations marking the 69th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s ruling party begin in Pyongyang.

The occasion would normally see the supreme leader on the podium of Kim Il-Sung Square, greeting a parade of workers and peasants passing by. But the North Korean leader has apparently missed this key political event.

Speaking before the event, North Korea expert Dr Leonid Petrov, from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, said, “it will probably look more suspicious than ever if he doesn’t appear.”

Footage of Kim in North Korean media a couple of months ago showed the North Korean dictator limping.

At an occasion to mark the 61st anniversary of the end of the Korean War, on 27 July, he was unusually subdued, fuelling rumours he had suffered a stroke.

“If he did survive a minor stroke, maybe his left side is a bit affected by that,” Petrov said.

Kim is also said to have suffered diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

When he failed to show on 9 September for National Day commemorations, the rumour mill went into overdrive.

If an injury required a major operation, it was possible Kim was recovering in a wheel chair, a look he would not want to sport for fear of being perceived as weak, Petrov suggested.

It is also possible Kim is afraid of assassination. Late last year he reportedly arranged for his uncle’s execution, because he feared he was disloyal to the North Korean regime.

This year’s release of the American film, The Interview, a comedy about journalists on an undercover mission to assassinate Kim, has further fuelled rumours Kim fears for his life.

Petrov isn’t convinced, noting Kim’s many public appearances in the first part of 2014.

In early January, visiting former-US basketball star Dennis Rodman sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Kim, publicly cementing the unusual friendship between the two.

But the North Korean leader didn’t show during Rodman’s third visit to North Korea.

“That shows that he is getting a bit cautious about his meetings and public appearances,” Petrov added.

Without Kim or his family in power, the North Korean regime would probably struggle.

“The system would need to find some sort of figure head to replace him,” Petrov said.

His sister Kim Yo-jong is rumoured to be now running the show, but Petrov isn’t convinced she is, given North Korea’s perception of women.

“Women are not supposed to occupy the central position in power politics,” he said.

What of other rumours, like Kim being under house arrest or even dead?

Until Kim makes an appearance soon, Petrov believes the most likely scenario is that the North Korean dictator is unwell.

“Maybe incapacitated. Yes, it is possible, he may have had a stroke and is in bad shape.”

This article is from the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific





Kim Jong Un, out of sight for 37 days, is a no-show at ceremony

11 10 2014

North Koreans on 10.10.2014 (By STEVEN BOROWIEC, Seoul, 10 October 2014) Speculation over the health and whereabouts of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un grew Friday after he apparently did not attend ceremonies marking an important national holiday. The young head of the reclusive country has not appeared in public since he was seen at a concert Sept. 3.

Oct. 10 is the anniversary of the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party, and in his first two years in power, Kim marked the occasion by making midnight visits to the mausoleum in the capital, Pyongyang, where the bodies of his father and grandfather, both former leaders, are kept in state.

But in its reports on the holiday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency did not make any mention of Kim, believed to be 31, participating in events. He also missed a celebration for Foundation Day on Sept. 9, another important holiday on the North Korean calendar.

“Today was a crucial day for him to return. More and more questions are mounting and his absence inevitably leads to uncertainty about who’s leading the country,” said Leonid Petrov, a researcher in Korean studies at Australian National University.

Kim is overweight and has become noticeably heavier since he came to power in December 2011. He is a smoker and reputedly has tastes for liquor and high-calorie food.

Earlier this year, he was filmed walking with a noticeable limp at a state function, and in a rare admission of vulnerability, North Korea’s official media reported in late September that he was struggling with unspecified physical “discomfort.”

On Friday, an unnamed source told Reuters that a leg injury was keeping Kim out of public view. The source said Kim pulled a tendon after joining a military drill he had been inspecting.

On Oct. 4, a delegation of senior North Korean figures, believed to be the most powerful officials in the country after Kim, made an unexpected visit to South Korea to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games. They borrowed Kim’s plane for the trip, and Kim’s regards were reportedly conveyed to South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Analysts have said that in North Korea’s totalitarian system, such a trip could not have gone ahead without the top leader’s approval.

Though Kim is young and far less experienced than the men of his father’s generation who make up the government’s top ranks, he has the unmatchable legitimacy of being part of the ruling Kim bloodline as grandson to founding leader Kim Il Sung.

His uncle by marriage, Jang Song-thaek, was widely considered North Korea’s second most powerful figure and a possible threat to Kim’s control, until Jang was suddenly purged and executed last year. Jang’s ouster was carried out in an unusually visible manner, with him being handcuffed and dragged out of a large meeting, possibly as an implicit warning to anyone else in North Korea with ambitions of building power to challenge Kim’s control of the country.

Though Kim’s prolonged absence has spurred rumors of a power struggle in Pyongyang, there is no clear sign that a serious challenge to his rule has emerged. On Friday, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, its body for relations with the North, said in a briefing that, according to the South Korean government’s intelligence, Kim’s rule has not been disrupted.

“There’s no sign of any political upheaval in Pyongyang. Just the opposite, all the evidence shows that things are going along normally,” said John Delury, a North Korea watcher at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Still, the extended absence is out of character for Kim, who has been a highly visible leader whose moves are usually closely reported in the North Korean state media. “This is very unusual for Kim Jong Un, as he’s been this hyperactive young leader who tries to show that he’s involved in everything that’s going on,” said Adam Cathcart, a lecturer of East Asian history at the University of Leeds.

Though Kim’s absence is unusual for him, it’s not unheard of in the history of North Korea’s ruling dynasty. His father, Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011, regularly did not appear in public for months at a time, often due to his deteriorating health.

Also Friday, South Korea’s military announced that North Korea fired machine guns at activists in South Korea who were releasing balloons filled with propaganda leaflets over the border.

A source in the South Korean military, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity, said no casualties or damage occurred, and that the South did not return fire but fired warning shots and broadcast a message over loudspeakers imploring the North to refrain from firing.

The balloons are usually filled with leaflets critical of the North Korean government, as well as socks and chocolate snacks. Pyongyang routinely objects to such criticism, and has recently called on the South Korean government to take action to prevent the activists, often North Korean refugees, from sending the balloons. Seoul has responded that it cannot prevent the release of the leaflets because they represent free speech.





North Korea feeling victimised by the West.

1 07 2014

Seth Rogen_James Franco_The Interview (2SER FM107.3 June 31, 2014) North Korea is back in the headlines again, this time taking pot shots at our own Foreign Minister as well as Hollywood.

Following Julie Bishop’s interview on a radio station in America, North Korea released a statement threatening to “punish anyone who dares slander the dignity of its supreme leader”. This statement was followed by a promise to retaliate mercilessly if the Hollywood film ‘The interview’ which plots the killing of Kim Jong-un is released. Should North Korea feel threatened? And what is North Korea trying to achieve by releasing such statements?

Dr Leonid Petrov joined us on the line from Canberra to help us understand North Korea a little better.

http://www.2ser.com/component/k2/item/9659-north-korea-feeling-victimised-by-the-west





Do of the day no joke

30 03 2014

NKOREA-POLITICS-KIM(By James Giggacher, ANU Asia & Pacific, 28 March 2014) North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has again caught the attention of international media, but not for the usual sabre-rattling or Dennis Rodman roadshow he’s known for. This time it’s his hair that’s made the headlines.

According to reports from Radio Free Asia, a state-sanctioned directive requiring male students to cut their hair in the same style as their leader has been rolled out across the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The guideline was introduced in the capital Pyongyang two weeks ago. But in a place known for its secrecy and subterfuge, questions have been raised about whether the story is even true.

According to North Korea expert Dr Leonid Petrov from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, it’s “nothing sensational at all”. “Back in 2004, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s state TV launched a propaganda campaign called ‘Let us trim our hair in accordance with socialist lifestyle’,” says Petrov.

“It recommended a relatively generous range of 28 hairstyles for its citizens, claiming that they are ‘the most comfortable’ styles and capable of warding off the corrupting effects of capitalism.” Petrov adds that young men were more restricted; their hair had to be less than five centimetres long and they were required to have a haircut every 15 days.

“Longer hair apparently takes away nutrition from their brains,” says Petrov. “Older men, whose brains are presumably in decline anyway, were allowed to rock out with hair as long as seven centimetres.”

The ‘socialist lifestlye’ haircuts are tied closely to North Korea’s philosophy of Juche, or self-reliance, which the regime uses to distance itself from ‘the West’. “And while North Korea enforces haircuts, some foreigners choose the Juche-style voluntarily,” says Petrov.

So who knows; the next time the leader is in the media it may not be as agent provocateur, but rather for a perm. It’s a hair-raising issue either way you look at it.





N Korea will ‘use Aussie as pawn’

22 02 2014

john_short(RICK WALLACE, THE AUSTRALIAN, 21 FEBRUARY 2014) An Australian missionary detained in North Korea faces the prospect of a stint in prison as the totalitarian state is likely to use his arrest as leverage in its quest to reopen an embassy in Canberra.

Academic Leonid Petrov, who has run tours to North Korea, says John Short will have to make a public confession to avoid a long spell in prison, but given his Christian stance against the regime, he may refuse, turning the issue into a diplomatic stand-off.

Dr Petrov, a Korea specialist at the Australian National University, said the fact the recent UN inquiry into North Korea’s human rights was led by an Australian (former High Court judge Michael Kirby) might also count against Mr Short in Pyongyang.

The 75-year-old missionary, who reportedly once served in the Australian military, was detained in his hotel lobby in Pyongyang at the end of a tour to North Korea organised by a Chinese travel agency.

It’s believed he was carrying a Bible and other Christian materials translated into Korean, all of which are banned in North Korea, where there is no religious freedom, even though some token churches are allowed to operate primarily for show.

Dr Petrov said the Australian government, which is relying on Sweden to handle consular matters in this case, would be hampered by the fact it doesn’t have an embassy or consulate in Pyongyang.

“Hundreds of Australians go to North Korea each year both for business and pleasure — sooner or later this was bound to happen,” he said. “It would much better in this case if we had an ambassador in Pyongyang.”

He said North Korea was likely to use Mr Short’s arrest to push for concessions from Australia, including the right to reopen its Canberra embassy, plans for which were scotched in the wake of a nuclear test last year.

North Korean authorities would try to force Mr Short into a videotaped “confession” — as they did with an elderly US ex-serviceman temporarily detained last year, Dr Petrov said.

“But I doubt that a missionary such as John Short is likely to succumb to pressure by a regime which he abhors,” he said.

So far, Pyongyang has said nothing about Mr Short’s detention, which was revealed after his wife, Karen, released a statement in Hong Kong, where they have lived for 50 years.





South Australian man John Short detained in North Korea, now facing 15 years in jail

20 02 2014

John Short(CRAIG COOK EXCLUSIVE THE ADVERTISER FEBRUARY 20, 2014) A South Australian man detained in North Korea for allegedly distributing religious material could be “very difficult to protect”, former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says.

John Short, 75, a former member of the Unley and Elizabeth Global Hall Brethren, was arrested by the public security bureau of North Korea on Sunday and faces 15 years in jail under the harsh regime of Kim Jong-un.

He has since been questioned in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital and its largest city, about religious pamphlets printed in the Korean language and believed to be in his possession.

“It’s a fascist state and they would take a very dim view of anyone distributing information that doesn’t concur with the state ideology,” Mr Downer said. “A worse place to be caught doing something like that is unimaginable.

Mr Short, who was born in Barmera in the Riverland, lives in Hong Kong with his wife and three children, but is a regular visitor to Adelaide…

…A DFAT spokeswoman said the Government was aware of Mr Short’s arrest. “Australian has no diplomatic representation in North Korea and our capacity to deliver consular services there is extremely limited,’’ she said.

“Australian interests in North Korea are currently represented by the Swedish Embassy. We are in close contact with Swedish officials in Pyongyang to seek their assistance in confirming the well-being of Mr Short and to obtain more information.”

Mr Downer said he was believed the Australian government could work with Beijing to try to help. “Or the Swedes or the Brits could get involved but he could have a very difficult time of it,” he said. “It would depend on how he was looking to distribute material but it’s a very dangerous place to be doing something like that — we can only hope for the best.”

North Korea has several sanctioned churches in Pyongyang, but frowns on the distribution of Bibles and other religious materials by foreigners. Interaction between North Koreans and foreigners is strictly regulated.

Dr Leonid Petrov, who teaches North Korean political history at the Australian National University in Canberra, said Mr Short’s situation “could be complicated” by the release of a UN report on Monday detailing regime crimes against humanity.

Releasing the report, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urged world powers to refer North Korea to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“If he was found to be networking directly with North Koreans to spread religious material it could be very bad for him and them,” Dr Petrov said. “For locals, the whole family would be sent to the Gulag (forced labour camps) with little chance of ever being released unless they repent (their religious views). “For the foreigner, they could face a similar sentence to Kenneth Bae of 15 years with 16-hours-a-day hard labour.”

Mr Bae, a South Korean-born US citizen , was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in April , 2013 for attempting to topple the Korean regime. “They do treat white foreigners with some dignity compared to Korean born ‘foreigners’,” Dr Petrov added. “And foreigners are normally deported if they are distributing religious material. “But I would expect them to videotape a confession and then hold a press conference before they let him go.”

Mr Petrov said religions were sanctioned in the country, but people were too scared to participate and Koreans had no idea about Christianity. Christians suffered most in North Korea on the sole basis of their faith…

See the full version of this article here…

 





Kim Jong-un could face prosecution for ‘crimes against humanity’

18 02 2014

NK prison drawing(Peggy Giakoumelos, SBS Radio, World News Australia, 18 February 2014)

A United Nations report says senior North Korean officials should be brought before an international court for crimes against humanity that include exterminating, starving and enslaving its population.

The report also accuses the North Korean government of denial of basic freedoms of thought, expression and religion, and abduction of citizens of neighbouring South Korea and Japan. The 400-page report was prepared by a Commission of Inquiry on North Korea set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

It comes after a year-long investigation included hearing public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.

Chairman of the inquiry, former Australian High Court judge Michael Kirby, says North Korean security chiefs and possibly even leader Kim Jong-un should face international justice for crimes against humanity.

“We indicated that he should be aware of this, he should be aware of the international crime of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, even if not himself involved in the actual perpetration of those crimes and we informed him that he himself may be responsible in any subsequent prosecution that occurs.

“And all of this is contained in the letter that is being sent with the authority of the Commission of Inquiry to Kim Jong-un informing him that that is a possibility that he must consider and that the international community must consider.”

The North Korean government refused to co-operate in the investigation, and did not allow the inquiry team to visit. Instead, the report is based on testimony from 320 North Korean exiles. The report says political prison camps in the country are widespread and believed to hold up to 120,000 people.

The North Korean government denies the existence of the camps, but the report says this claim was disproved by testimony from former prisoners, guards, neighbours and satellite imagery.

Generations of whole families are believed to be held in the camps, and hundreds of thousands of people have reportedly died as a result of starvation, torture, forced labour, forced medical experiments and widespread executions.

Michael Kirby says the world can longer feign ignorance about what is happening in North Korea.

“At the end of the Second World War, so many people said ‘If only we had known, if only we had known the wrongs that were done in the countries of the hostile forces. If only we had known that.’ Well now, the international community does know, the international community will know. There will be no excusing a failure of action because we didn’t know. We do know.”

The report adds that for those outside the camps, public executions and the fear of imprisonment are a constant part of life. It says daily life is marked by constant surveillance, coercion, fear and punishment, to suppress expression of any dissent.

Dr Leonid Petrov is an expert in Asian and African studies at the Australian National University. He says after decades of secretive rule, the population of North Korea isn’t sure what to believe any more.

“The country is traumatised. The population live on the verge of a state of mind where the population simply cannot distinguish reality from an imaginary state of things which the country and leadership tries to impose on people. And basically that’s what the leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic is trying to achieve to detach the population from reality and force them to live in an artificial world where the survival of the regime is the main purpose of the existence of North Korea.”

Felix Patrikeeff is Associate Professor of International Politics at the University of Adelaide. He says what to do next is a difficult proposition but he believes helping South Korea is important.

“One of the things that we can focus on more is to offer South Korea greater support in its initiative in actually negotiating and dealing with North Korea. We can encourage it to open up a broader conversation with that state, because clearly international voices don’t count that much.”

Dr Leonid Petrov from the ANU says North Korea is likely to ignore the UN report, a move that should prompt the international community to take a different approach.

“The issue of North Korean human rights has to be resolved in a holistic way, where an understanding of the context of the reasons of human right abuses is extremely important.

“We can’t expect that North Korea unilaterally disarms. Equally we can’t expect North Korea would improve human rights records without changing the atmosphere in the whole of North-East Asia. Inter-Korean relations are extremely important and at the moment there is simply no communication between Pyongyang and Seoul. Relations in North East Asia in general must be improved first before we expect that the North Koreans will humanely treat their people.”

Korea was split in two at the end of the Second World War, and remained split after the Korean War in the early 1950s. Since 1948 North Korea has been under the control of the communist Korean Workers Party, ruled by three generations of the same family.

Transcripts of all witnesses’ testimonies (in Korean and English) see here… http://www.ohchr.org/…/CoIDPRK/Pages/PublicHearings.aspx








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