“Neither War Nor Peace” Regime in Korea in Untenable

21 06 2017

LP @bevvo14(ABC TV The World, 2017.06.20) Otto Warmbier has become the most recent victim of the continuing Korean War, where the most adamant participants (DPRK on one side and ROK and US on the other) still refuse to recognise each other and systematically threaten each other with preemptive strikes and nuclear retaliation.

Otto bore the brunt of unending hostility and continuing thirst for vengeance, which dominate politics on and around the Korean peninsula. His tragic death is a reminder to all of us that the “neither war nor peace” regime is unacceptable and is fraught with new dramas and victims. Tourism may help to heal the conflict, but it’s also most susceptible to political football and puts innocent or reckless people at a heightened risk. That’s why the zones of inter-Korean economic cooperation and tourism have been shut down one after another in the last decade. Unless the war is officially over, the Koreans, Americans and anyone involved in this conflict will be in real danger of arrest, abuse or even execution.

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North Korea atrocities exposed, but what next?

9 11 2015

NK GULAG(SEOUL, Agence France Presse, February 18, 2014) Defectors and activists welcomed Tuesday a UN-mandated inquiry’s searing indictment of gross human rights abuses in North Korea, but analysts questioned the international community’s ability to act on its recommendations.

Pyongyang’s grim rights record has already been well documented by specialist monitors. But the size, breadth and detail of the report compiled by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea – and the UN imprimatur it carries – set it apart.

Kim Young-Soon, one of the many defectors who provided harrowing testimony to the COI, said she was grateful to the commission for recording the “nightmares we went through” for posterity.

“North Korea has not and will never admit the existence of prison camps and this report won’t change anything overnight,” Mrs Kim told AFP.

“But that does not mean sitting back and doing nothing. We need to keep collecting testimony so that someday it can be used as undisputed evidence to punish those behind the atrocities,” she added.

Now 77, Mrs Kim was a well-connected member of the North Korean elite in 1970, when she was suddenly dragged off to a labour camp as part of a purge of people who knew about the then-future leader Kim Jong-Il’s affair with a married actress.

So began a nine-year ordeal in what Mrs Kim described to the COI as “the most hellish place in the world” where inmates worked from dawn to dusk, supplementing starvation rations with anything they could catch, including snakes, salamanders and rats.

‘My heart still aches’

Family contacts managed to get Kim released in 1979. In 2001, she bribed her way across the border with China and eventually made it to Seoul in 2003, where she works as a dance teacher and lectures on life in North Korea.

“My heart still aches and I still wake up at night sweating just thinking about the prison camp I was in and family members I lost,” she said Tuesday.

The COI report detailed murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence in North Korea, which chairman Michael Kirby said carried echoes of the Nazi Holocaust.

A key conclusion was that many of the violations “constitute crimes against humanity”.

Hong Soon-Kyung, a defector who now heads the Seoul-based Committee for the Democratization of North Korea, told AFP that no report could truly reflect the brutality of the regime in the North.

Although the COI’s findings were nothing new to those working on North Korean rights issues, Hong said their publication was a “very meaningful step” with a UN mandate that would help pressure Pyongyang and its few backers.

North Korea refused to cooperate with the commission, claiming its evidence was “fabricated” by “hostile” forces.

The COI panel said that North Korea’s leaders should be brought before an international court for a litany of crimes against humanity – a recommendation that many observers suggested was wishful thinking.

Any substantive action on the part of the world community would require the participation of the North’s key ally China, which has made clear it opposes any move to refer the Pyongyang leadership to the International Criminal Court.

Perpetual emergency

Noted North Korea watcher Leonid Petrov said there was no simple solution in the current context of a diplomatically isolated, totalitarian state whose leadership is intent on survival at all costs.

The issue of rights abuses “cannot be resolved unilaterally, nor swiftly, without transforming the political climate of the whole region”, said Mr Petrov, a researcher at Australia National University.

This would require, he argued, formally ending the Korean War – which concluded in 1953 with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty – as well as diplomatic recognition of North Korea and the lifting of sanctions imposed for its nuclear programme.

Otherwise the North would remain in a “perpetual and assiduously cultivated state of emergency” in which human rights were sacrificed on the altar of regime survival.

“Without the goodwill of regional policy makers to address the problem of the Korean War especially, the issue of human rights in Korea is unlikely to be resolved,” Mr Petrov added.

Bill Richardson, a former US ambassador to the UN and a regular visitor to North Korea, said China would “probably” veto any attempt by the UN Security Council to give the “devastating” COI report any binding legal weight.

But he questioned the notion that North Korea is impervious to such criticism.

“It’s an isolated, unpredictable country,” Mr Richardson told the BBC, but the shockwaves from the report “could be a source of pressure for moderates in Pyongyang who realise that there have to be some changes”.





Brainwashed Youth of North Korea

28 08 2015

NK children in PY subway(News.com.au, AUGUST 25, 2015) If there’s one thing you wouldn’t expect Gen-Y to do, it’s rise up in support of a “sacred war” and pledge their “faith and will to annihilate the enemies”. One million North Korean millenials have vowed to defend their country as tensions with the South boil over, at least according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. We’re used to antagonistic rhetoric and displays of strength from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but the strangest aspect of the latest confrontation is the visible enthusiasm of the country’s teens.

This positivity abounded in the capital, Pyongyang, yesterday, with truckloads of young soldiers singing martial songs driving around the city and large crowds materialising for impromptu rehearsals of activities planned for the ruling Workers Party’s 70th anniversary in October. By evening, people had gathered around televisions in public places — not to learn the outcome of crisis talks with the South, but to watch the debut of Boy General, a popular cartoon revamped for the first time in five years at the order of Kim Jong-un. It may seem like unusual teenage behaviour, but experts say it’s no surprise. It’s what they’ve been trained for since birth.

COMING OF AGE
Citizens in North Korea live in a bubble sealed off from the rest of the world, where they have no choice but to adhere to the status quo. They are expected to show the unerring devotion to their leader that was demonstrated when Kim Jong-il’s subjects took to the streets wailing and tearing their hair after his death, in scenes that baffled the world. Young people growing up under the totalitarian regime have little freedom of movement, means of communication or economic independence. Foreign film and literature are banned and they are taught a revised version of history in school, learning songs of worship that praise the ruling Kim family.

“The young generation don’t know much about life outside,” Dr Leonid Petrov from ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific told news.com.au. “They’re curious about what’s going on but constantly brainwashed that the world is hostile.”
Kim Jong-un has made a great show of being a progressive young leader, introducing new freedoms including letting people eat fast food, allowing them to own mobile phones and permitting women to wear pants and jewellery and ride bicycles. But the regime continues to exercise control over these changes.

“Life in North Korea is pretty artificial,” said Dr Petrov. “There’s access to fashionable clothes in Pyongyang, where people can see, but in rural areas, even if you have a mobile phone there’s no electricity, or access to the web. People eat a little better now but life is pretty difficult.” For most young people, there’s little time to think about politics before they begin their mandatory service in the Korean People’s Army at 17. It can last as long as a decade for men, while women serve for around seven years.

IN-BETWEENERS
With young people not leaving the military until their mid-20s, many commentators see the slightly older generation of “in-betweeners” as the state’s best hope for rebellion. Middle-aged people, known as jangmadang, have little interest in a revolution after surviving the Great Famine of the 1990s, focusing on becoming pioneers in a more capitalist market, explains Professor Kim Sung-kyung, from the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, South Korea.

The youngest members of society are increasingly influenced by trends from the outside world, she told the NK News, such as fashionable clothes and eating pizza — but these advances are “superficial” and carefully managed by the government.
Prof Sung-kyung says the real subversion comes from those in their late 20s taking the opportunity to “punch holes in the regime in their everyday lives” through “secretive experiences they can share each other, without being caught by the government”. As young people start to share ideas, smuggling videos and USBs in from South Korea, there is an opportunity for freedom: which is exactly what the state is so working hard to suppress.

NO BASIC RIGHTS
It’s when citizens dissent that the harshest side of Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship is revealed. Park Ji-hyun left North Korea with Chinese traffickers during the famine, forced to leave her dying father behind. After six years, she was reported to the authorities and sent back. Classified as a defector, she was sent to a labour camp and worked to the bone, clearing mountainsides with her bare hands. “You could say the whole of North Korea is one big prison,” she told Amnesty International.

Eventually she was discharged with tetanus in her leg and, homeless and sick, managed to make a second escape. Her story shows how hard it really is. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of North Koreans, including young children, are enslaved in prison camps, and arbitrary arrests and public executions are commonplace, according to Human Rights Watch. The organisation says it’s this, along with the lack of political opposition, independent labour unions, free media or civil society that constitute the real challenge to youth empowerment.

“It’s very easy to manipulate people when they’re locked in a country without information,” said Dr Petrov. “They blame the outside world’s blockades for lack of food and so on. “North Korea has been mobilising people since the Korean War in the 1950s. Creating a crisis is part of the game. It’s a country frozen in time and needs mobilsation for something to change. People are prepared to go to extreme lengths.”

POWER OF PROPAGANDA
When we hear stories about defectors or progressive material slipping into this repressive society, it’s tempting to think it’s only a matter of time until the regime is overthrown. The young people who swore allegiance this weekend somewhat dispel that notion. Propaganda is key. Defector Jang Jin-sung, formerly one of Kim Jong-il’s poets, said he fully believed the rhetoric he helped to spread. That was, until he obtained special permission to visit to his hometown and saw corpses piled on the pavement, realising for the first time that the famine rumours were true.

The propaganda is psychological and emotional, he told The Guardian. People are not willing to risk the lives of their families by speaking out, and they are so isolated they have “no concept of basic human rights” anyway. Jang himself had to flee execution. “If anyone thinks North Korea is opening up, they are completely mistaken,” he said. While the state recently started allowing some tourism, such industries are controlled by the elite. “If there was any hint of real change,” added Jang, “ … the whole thing would collapse.”

The current atmosphere illustrates that. The stand-off began with explosion of landmines south of the heavily fortified border, which Seoul said had been planted by the North. The South responded by blasting a barrage of world news, pop music and criticism of Kim Jong-un’s oppressive government from loudspeakers along the border. The North denied involvement in the mines and demanded it cease this “psychological warfare” or face attack.

By Saturday, the DPRK had mobilised more than 70 submarines and undersea vehicles, according to Seoul’s Defence Ministry, and artillery fire has been exchanged. It’s unclear what will come of the talks. Analysts in Seoul say the North fears the broadcasts could demoralise its frontline troops and inspire them to defect. This forceful response shows it knows only too well the power of propaganda, and is determined not to let its young people hear it.





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





What action will the world take on North Korea?

18 02 2014

Image(ABC Radio’s Eleanor Hall reported this story for “The World Today” program on February 18, 2014)

ELEANOR HALL: As he released this report accusing the North Korean regime of horrific crimes against its own people, Michael Kirby called on the international community to act, saying, “We can’t say we didn’t know.”

So what action can the international community take?

Dr Leonid Petrov is a Korean specialist at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and he says Justice Kirby’s recommendation that the North Korean leaders be tried before the International Criminal Court is likely to be far less effective than using the report as a bargaining chip with the regime.

LEONID PETROV: Even if Moscow and Beijing decided to go ahead and join the international community, I very much doubt that Kim Jong-un himself is going to react to one more resolution.

So human rights is a minor issue for Pyongyang leadership but I believe that the report which has been produced by International Commission of Inquiry is actually a perfect bargaining chip in grand bargaining, grand discussion with Pyongyang.

ELEANOR HALL: It sounds like you don’t agree with Justice Kirby that the UN should launch a crimes against humanity trials.

LEONID PETROV: You know I’m not a lawyer, I’m a historian, unlike Justice Kirby, and I propose to look at the history of North Korean history of region.

Actually I met with Justice Kirby just last week who, before he left for Geneva, and I proposed to him that we have to look at the issue of North Korean human rights as a by-product of colonialism, a by-product of world war, cold war, the result of the ongoing conflict, and the Korean War has never ended and in order to stop this violation of human rights, we have to stop the war.

North Korean regime is also expecting the diplomatic recognition, the lifting of sanctions, more engagement in economic reparation but there is simply no interest in seeing North Korea reformed.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, the North Korean leadership refused to participate in this UN inquiry and has now announced that it categorically and totally rejects the findings so if there’s no cooperation, what can world leaders do short of regime change? Is regime change the only answer?

LEONID PETROV: I don’t think so, that’s the only answer, but everything is being done to see the regime collapses is the only solution to this problem. I’m originally from Russia so I grew up in the Soviet Union behind the iron curtain and I remember that in 1970s things were changing – political prisoners were permitted to leave the country, soviet leadership was convinced and persuaded to engage with the West in exchange for certain actions in improving its human rights records, Soviet Union was permitted to deal more actively on the economic front.

I believe that the same grand bargain can be achieved in relations with North Korea.

ELEANOR HALL: You mentioned sanctions, are Western sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear actions contributing to some of the problems that are raised in this report like hunger? I mean how does the international community balance ensuring that the people of North Korea get food with applying sanctions to try to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions?

LEONID PETROV: Absolutely, I believe that sanctions involve both multilateral, bilateral sanctions against North Korea. They contributed to the aggravation of situation of human rights. Sanctions never work and sanctions hit only the population. They never make life of the cruel regime harder.

By continuing sanctions, by not diplomatically recognising the regime, by isolating them, we continue, we preserve the regime, we help the regime to keep the situation in North Korea and unchanged and justice Kirby just very graphically showed the world that the situation in North Korea is intolerable. People suffer from all possible violations of human rights.

The report which the Commission of Inquiry has produced is basically an encyclopaedia of human rights abuse so what can be done in relation to like improving it from our perspective? I think it’s more preparation, engagement and understanding as well.

So North Korea simply shouldn’t be blamed unilaterally for what is happening. I believe that inter-Korean relations must be improved first of all before we summon Kim Jong-un to the International Court of Justice.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, China’s government’s reaction to this report is of course critical. China’s leaders are not making particularly helpful noises at this stage about the referral to the International Criminal Court but what sort of role could the Chinese government play in addressing some of these human rights problems and the problems of starvation.

LEONID PETROV: China has very limited influence over North Korea and recently we just saw that North Korea’s resentment of Chinese influence, both economic and political, and the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle was the most telling example that North Korea is actually rejecting Chinese interference in domestic economic political matters. I don’t think that China, that the key to the issues of Pyongyang really lies in China.

ELEANOR HALL: You say that China has limited influence over North Korea but the economic links between the two surely give the Chinese leadership more leverage than many other international leaders?

LEONID PETROV: Yes but China is not interested in the collapse of the regime. China is still captivated by this Cold War mentality where they look at North Korea as a buffer state. They will implement certain resolutions of United Nations Security Council; they do so but in a very limited way. They understand that the disadvantages of North Korea’s collapse is going to hit Chinese national interest.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s Korea specialists, Dr Leonid Petrov from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

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





North Korea to return six detained South Korean citizens

24 10 2013

dmz-from-north-korea_1(BY CHAD O’CARROLL , NK News, OCTOBER 24, 2013) North Korea announced on Thursday that six South Koreans who had been detained for illegally entering North Korean territory would be soon be released via the DMZ Panmunjom truce village.

“The North sent an official notice that the six will be returned at the neutral truce village of Panmunjom Friday afternoon,” an anonymous Minister of Unification official was quoted as saying Thursday by South Korea’s Yonhap News.

Mysteriously, the unification ministry source said that four of the six detainees had been previously mentioned by North Korean state media in February 2010, suggesting that at least part of the group may have been in North Korea for several years.

“A relevant institution of the DPRK recently detained four south Koreans who illegally entered it. They are now under investigation by the institution,” a short Korea Central News Agency bulletin said on February 26, 2010.

[…]

One expert told NK News that the news could be Pyongyang’s way of indicating a desire to warm inter-Korean relations, which despite improving in summer have been cooling of late.

“North Korea’s decision to release 6 detained South Koreans is another test for ROK President Park Geun-Hye’s “trustpolitik”. Now it will be up to Seoul whether to reciprocate, using this initiative as opportunity for reopening dialogue, trade and reconciliation” Leonid Petrov, a researcher at Australia National University, told NK News.

“49 North Korean spies have been caught in South Korea in the last decade, 4 of them just this year. Park Geun-Hye could pardon and deport them to the North as a symbolic sign of trust-building aimed at improving inter-Korean relations,” Petrov added, also pointing out that, “South Korea claims that about 500 of ROK citizens – most of them fishermen – are being held by North Korea: If Kim Jong-Un is serious about mending bridges with the South, he should let those people go or, at least, permit communication with them.”

South Korea’s National Security Law makes it illegal for South Korean nationals to make unauthorized contact with North Korea or enter North Korean territory. Normally, North Korean law also forbids South Koreans from entering DPRK territory.

In July 2012 68 year old South Korean national Ro Su-hui was arrested after walking from North to South Korea at Panmunjom. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for illegally entering North Korea and ”benefiting the enemy”.

See the full text of this article here...





N. Korea claims S. Koreans are “committing suicide everyday”

14 10 2013

suicide-korea(NK News, by OLIVER HOTHAM , OCTOBER 3, 2013) North Korean state media labeled a Korea Institute for National Unification paper on human rights as an anti-DPRK “smear campaign” on Thursday, claiming that South Korea’s own human rights record is so poor that citizens there commit suicide everyday.

Pyongyang’s response to the White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2013 quoted a spokesperson from the DPRK Association for Human Rights Studies, who described the report as “slandering the dignity and social system in the DPRK” and alleged that the publication of the paper was “politically-motivated”.

“It is preposterous and ridiculous for the worst human rights abusers, who reduced south Korea to a tundra of human rights, a veritable hell on earth, to talk about “human rights” in the north,” the spokesman was quoted by North Korean media as saying.

North Korea’s strident response goes on to argue that South Korea has returned to the “Yusin” era of 1972 to 1981, when the late Park Chung-hee and his successors used a state of emergency to crush dissent and quell social unrest.

The white paper was published by the South Korean government funded Korea Institute for National Unification, an organization that publishes annual reports “on human rights and humanitarian issues including human rights of North Korean citizens, defectors, South Korean Prisoners of War (POWs), abducted South Koreans held in North Korea, and separated families”.

Dr Leonid Petrov of the Australia National University in Canberra told NK News that “it is…pointless to call upon Kim’s regime in North Korea to observe [the Universal Declaration of Human Rights] now”.

“Dictatorships turn “human rights” into invective used for attacking foreign critics and praise themselves as peace-loving and good-willed “peoples’ democracies. “Despite of all rhetoric the DPRK remains a feudal satrapy based on the slave-ownership and fear that make the ideas of humanism and freedom ephemeral,” Petrov explained.

North Korea’s response to the white paper comes as the Korea Central News Agency reported on Tuesday that two North Koreans who had re-defected to the north blamed a low standard of living and “deception” by South Korea as reasons for making their decision…

See the full text of this article here…