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…

North Korea criticises ‘reptile media’ for saying Kim Jong-un ordered executions

24 09 2013

NK public-execution(by Tania Branigan in Beijing and Justin McCurry in Tokyo,, 23 September 2013)

Independent experts warn that rumours and deliberate misinformation about the regime are rife, partly because it is impossible to verify or disprove most stories about the tightly controlled country’s elite. The editor of a Japanese magazine said a North Korean contact had told him of a mass execution in late August, possibly involving celebrities, but suggested that it could be related to other issues.

Ri Sol-ju was a singer with the Unhasu Orchestra before marrying the North Korean leader. Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper claimed at the weekend that members of that group and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe were executed because they were suspected of making a pornographic video and that Kim feared his wife’s reputation might be damaged.

A similar story, published by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo a few weeks ago, did not mention Ri but claimed that a singer, Hyon Song-wol, rumoured to be Kim’s ex-lover, was among a dozen performers executed for violating pornography laws.

Pyongyang’s state news agency KCNA criticised media in the South for quoting the Asahi Shimbun story – without giving any details of the reports – saying it was an attempt to tarnish the leadership’s image. It blamed “confrontation maniacs” for “[making their] servants of conservative media let loose a whole string of sophism intended to hatch all sorts of dastardly wicked plots and float misinformation”.

John Delury, an expert on North Korea at Yonsei University in Seoul, noted numerous eye-catching stories in South Korean and Japanese media about the regime and particularly Kim that relied on an anonymous, single source, often from intelligence services.

“This stuff gets planted regularly in media outlets and then quickly goes viral,” he said. “There’s a global appetite for any North Korea story and the more salacious the better. Some of it is probably true – but a great deal of it is probably not.

“The normal standards of journalism are thrown out of the window because the attitude is: ‘It’s North Korea – no one knows what’s going on in there.'”

The Asahi Shimbun report said it was based on information from a high-ranking defector, although it did not appear that the individual had spoken directly to the newspaper.

Leonid Petrov, a North Korea specialist at the Australian National University, said he had not heard of any high-level defections since 1997 and that while there was now much more information on the lives of ordinary North Koreans, through defectors and people working abroad, there was very little knowledge about the elite. He added: “Whether this [particular event] happened in August, or earlier, or it never happened … is it likely that such an ugly thing may happen in North Korea? Everyone would say yes. There are simply no checks on the totalitarian power of the leader,” he said.

Jiro Ishimaru, editor of Asia Press – a magazine based in Osaka, Japan, which has a network of informants in the North – said: “One of our contacts in North Korea has confirmed that a mass execution took place on 20 August, but we’ve also heard about several sightings since then of Hyon Song-wol [Kim Jong-un’s ex-girlfriend].”

Ishimaru, identifying his source only as a male who had made contact with the North Korean public security officials, said the regime might be using a crackdown on “obscene materials” launched by Kim in early June as a pretext for neutralising potential threats to his authority.

The possible cause of Kim’s rumoured execution order is an unflattering 2010 documentary about him produced by the South Korean broadcaster KBS which has been copied and smuggled into North Korea from China. Ishimaru’s source said he had watched the documentary in North Korea.

Kim may have ordered the confiscation of copies of the video under the guise of a crackdown on pornography, Ishimaru said. “If the documentary becomes widely available in North Korea it could cause huge problems for the regime,” he said.

While Chosun Ilbo said those executed were well-known figures, the identities of most of those involved remain a mystery.

Ishimaru said his contact had been able to confirm the identities of only two people, believed to be celebrities, adding that neither was Hyon. “There is still a lot we don’t know, such as why North Korean celebrities might have been targeted for political reasons,” Ishimaru said. “But as far as we can tell this doesn’t look like a straightforward campaign against pornography.”

The Asahi Shimbun claimed that, according to the defector, North Korean security services had wiretapped conversations among the performers and overhead one saying that Ri had “played around” before she met Kim.

A website carrying footage of Unhasu Orchestra performances has been closed down and both groups have been disbanded, according to media reports in Japan and South Korea. “That suggests that something involving performers really has happened,” Ishimaru said.

Those Who Hurt Dignity of DPRK’s Supreme Leadership Will Pay Dearly: KCNA Commentary

Pyongyang, September 22 (KCNA) — These days the south Korean authorities let reptile media run the whole gamut of vituperation hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK.

The south Korean conservative media including YTN, quoting a report of Asahi Shimbun of Japan on Saturday, spread rumor about “punishment” and “covering” in a bid to hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK.

On the same day south Korean CBS aired a false story that the DPRK forced all people to write reflection letter pledging renewed loyalty to the leader and the Workers’ Party of Korea.

On Thursday the conservative group slandered even the autograph of Marshal

Kim Jong Un, a proof of his noble love for the people, as “the one to emphasize the meaning of the leader for people”.

This is an unpardonable hideous provocation hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and thrice-cursed crime which can be committed only by the confrontation maniacs.

No matter how mad the puppet group goes with confrontation with compatriots, there is the red line of recklessness it should not cross.

The supreme leadership of the DPRK is ardently revered by all Koreans and enjoys deep respect from all peoples. How can the group dares slander its highest and greatest dignity with such sheer lies?

This is barbarism and thrice-cursed treason which can hardly be imagined by human beings.

The world knows no such hooligans as the puppet group going so reckless, feeling no fear of thunderbolt and groundlessly hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership.

The hideous provocation perpetrated by the group is nothing but death-bed frenzy of those taken aback by the dynamic advance of the service personnel and people of the DPRK ushering in a new era of prosperity, holding the peerlessly great man in high esteem. It is also the last-ditch effort to tarnish its image and break its single-minded unity.

As a crow’s croak cannot but sound hoarse, only silly talks can be heard from the confrontation maniacs bent on hatching plots against the DPRK. No one would lend an ear to the outbursts of such psychopaths.

No matter how desperately the group may try to hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK, it will only more saliently reveal its true colors as dyed-in-the wool confrontation maniacs.

The inter-Korean relations have faced again a grave situation because the group made its servants of conservative media let loose a whole string of sophism intended to hatch all sorts of dastardly wicked plots and float misinformation.

The service personnel and people of the DPRK are now shaking with resentment and pledge to seek revenge upon the group of traitors who hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership.

Nothing can prevent the sun of Songun from shedding its brilliant rays just as the sun cannot be covered up with a palm.

The group is bound to meet the same miserable end as that of those who were thrown into a dumping ground of history for going reckless to hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK.

All the service personnel and people of the DPRK will never pardon those who commit such a hideous crime but mete out a stern punishment to them as it has already declared.

They will have to pay a very high price for such thrice-cursed crime.

Nachtmerries uit Noord-Korea

30 08 2013

Kim Hyuk(by Bas Verbeek − 25/08/13 Trouw) Voor het eerst onderzoekt een commissie van de VN de mensenrechtenschendingen in Noord-Korea. Omdat dit ter plekke niet mag, spreken vluchtelingen deze week op hoorzittingen in Seoul. Korea-onderzoeker Leonid Petrov denkt dat het officiële VN-eindrapport best verschil kan maken.

“Ik werd in dat kamp gemarteld op manieren die uw inbeeldingsvermogen te boven gaan”, vertelt een anonieme vluchteling aan onderzoeksleider Michael Kirby, een Australische oud-rechter. Vijf dagen op rij horen hij en twee collega’s van negen tot zes de horrorverhalen aan van gevluchte Noord-Koreanen van divers pluimage. Opgejaagde christenen, werknemers bij media die een minuscule maar fatale fout begingen, gediscrimineerde gehandicapten en mensen die uit pure honger hun land zijn ontvlucht. Ieder verhaal tijdens de publieke hoorzittingen in een collegezaal van de Yonsei universiteit in Seoul is intens.

In maart besliste de mensenrechtenraad van de VN dat er een onderzoekscommissie moest worden ingesteld. De verhalen van de getuigen zijn dan al wel lang en breed uitgemeten in media en boeken, Kirby onderstreept dat het belangrijk is dat een onafhankelijke groep de zaak onderzoekt, volgens juridische richtlijnen. “Wij overstijgen de politieke situatie op het Koreaanse schiereiland. Wij voeren onze missie uit namens de mensheid over de hele wereld.” Kirby vertelt dat het onderzoek van de commissie in Zuid-Korea gevoelig ligt, omdat de angst bestaat dat de met kernwapens experimenterende noorderbuur zich erdoor geprovoceerd zal voelen.

Politieke truc

Ook een plan voor invoering van een wet voor mensenrechten in Noord-Korea is een heet hangijzer in de Zuid-Koreaanse politiek. Conservatieven pleiten er al jarenlang voor, maar de linkse oppositie vreest dat het de relatie met Noord-Korea verder verstoort. Bijvoorbeeld omdat de wet conservatieve groepen die agressief tegen Noord-Korea protesteren steunt met subsidies en meer protestvrijheden.

Met het VN-rapport, dat in maart 2014 af moet zijn, is er voldoende basis voor de VN-lidstaten om actie te ondernemen, stelt Kirby. “Ik hoop dat het rapport – waarin we alle partijen kansen bieden – overtuigend zal zijn voor de wereld.”

Bij de oprichting van de commissie reageerde Noord-Korea boos. Het zou een politieke truc zijn om de internationale gemeenschap op te warmen voor actie tegen de Volksrepubliek. De commissie hoopt inderdaad op een verandering van de situatie door actie van de VN. Kirby: “De VN is niet tandenloos. Binnen het handvest zijn er wel degelijk middelen tot actie beschikbaar.”


Volgens Korea-onderzoeker aan de Nationale Universiteit van Australië Leonid Petrov moeten we dan niet aan militaire actie denken, maar aan een diplomatieke deal: “In de jaren zeventig kreeg de Sovjet-Unie aangeboden dat sancties zouden worden opgeheven in ruil voor het garanderen van bepaalde mensenrechten. Omdat de economie leed onder het extreme isolement, accepteerden ze dat. Hetzelfde is nu denkbaar met Noord-Korea.”

Volgens Petrov versterkt het rapport de onderhandelingspositie en kan het een win-winsituatie opleveren. “Noord-Korea kan in ruil voor het stopzetten van wapenprogramma’s en het verbeteren van mensenrechten de broodnodige diplomatieke erkenning, voedselhulp en veiligheidsgaranties krijgen.”

Voor het verbeteren van de mensenrechten kijkt Petrov ook naar het Sovjet-scenario. “In de SovjetUnie lieten ze tegenstanders van het regime toen van de goelags naar het buitenland gaan. Een moeilijke, maar eerste stap voor Noord-Korea zou zijn om iedereen die geen voorstander is van het regime te laten gaan.”

Een ander scenario is dat Noord-Korea de deur volledig dichthoudt en de onderhandelingen niet aangaat. “Dat kan. De kans is fifty-fifty. Maar als de prijs voor de deal aantrekkelijk genoeg is, zou dit wel eens goed kunnen uitpakken.”

Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll in North Korea

20 08 2013

DPRK flag_Sex,Drugs and Rock'n'RollJoin a free event featuring two internationally preeminent scholars in North Korean studies: Professor Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University, Professor Seok-Hyang Kim of Ewha Womans University, and a panel of Australian experts to discuss North Korea’s quiet transformation.


University of Technology Sydney,
Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre,
Level 3, MaryAnn House, 645 Harris Street, ULTIMO, NSW 2007.
9:30am -12:00 pm
Thursday, 29 August 2013


North Korea is often described as the world’s last Stalinist country, but this description is misleading in several important ways: the country is now an emerging market economy and undergoing significant cultural change. While the Stalinist facade remains, de facto private enterprises (ranging from small markets and private plots, all the way up to large pseudo-state coal mines and trading companies) have come to dominate the North Korean economy. The cultural landscape is also experiencing significant change.

In this workshop the panel of experts, who conducted numerous interviews with North Koreans, will outline some of the key changes that are occurring in this country in transition. A particular focus will be directed to economic and social change, including changes in consumption patterns and the spread of popular culture. These issues will be discussed in the context of the emerging market economy. This workshop will also include presentations on the lives and rights of North Korean immigrants in Australia, and the depiction of North Korea by the Australian media.


09:30-10:00am Coffee and welcome

10:00-10:30am Introduction and “Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll in North Korea: new phenomena in the land of ‘no change’” (Dr. Leonid Petrov)

10:30-11:00am North Korean Restaurants: the new economy in North Korea (Prof. Andrei Lankov)

11:00-11:30am Everyday life in North Korea: From the lives of women to the impact of drugs (Prof. Seok-Hyang Kim)

11:30am-12:00pm North Koreans in Australia (Dr. Kyung-Ja Jung);
North Korea and the Australian media (Dr. Bronwen Dalton)

The workshop is funded by the Australian Research Council and the University of Technology, Sydney’s Centre for Cosmopolitan Civil Societies (CCS)

Andrei LankovProf. Andrei Lankov was born in 1963 in St. Petersburg. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Leningrad State University (PhD in 1989). Between 1996 and 2004 he taught Korean history at the ANU, and since 2004 he has been teaching at Kookmin University in Seoul. His major English language publications on North Korea include: From Stalin to Kim Il Sung: The Formation of North Korea, 1945-1960 (Rutgers University Press, 2003); Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956 (University of Hawaii Press, 2004), North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea (McFarland and Company, 2007), The Real North Korea (Oxford University Press, 2013).

김석향_1Prof. Seok-Hyang Kim worked at the Center for Unification of the ROK’s Ministry of Unification. Since 2005, she has been a Professor at the Department of North Korean Studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.  Her research topics include the everyday life of ordinary people in North Korea and defectors’ lives after leaving North Korea. She has recently published: People from  Hyeryong, North Korea, Let  Others Know Their Own Stories. (Seoul: Kookmin University Press, 2013); ‘Study on the Consumption Trend Phenomenon in North Korea after 1990: Based on the Experiences of North Korean Defectors,’ in North Korean Studies Review (2012); and ‘Public and Private Discourse on Human Rights in North Korea,’ Ewha Journal of Social Science (2012).

kyungja-jungDr. Kyung-Ja Jung ‘s academic interests are grounded in and inspired by her involvement in women’s activism in Australia and Korea. Her areas of expertise include women’s movements, women’s policy, North Korean female defectors, migrants, sex workers, and violence against women. Dr. Jung’s research has been published in academic journals (Hecate, Asian Survey, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, and International Review of Korean Studies) and as book chapters in Women’s Movements: Flourishing or in Abeyance (Routledge, 2008) and The Work of Policy: an International Survey (Lexington, 2006). She has also published a co-authored book Sex Trafficking or Shadow Tourism? (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010). Her most recent book Practicing Feminism in South Korea: Sexual Violence and the Women’s Movement (Routledge, 2013).

Bronwen Dalton_1Dr. Bronwen Dalton has a BA degree from the ANU, an MA from Yonsei University, and a PhD from the University of Oxford (2001). She is the Director of the Masters of Not-for-Profit and Community Management Program at the University of Technology, Sydney; the Board Member of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs’ Australia-Korea Foundation; and Regional Vice-President, Oceania of the International Council of Voluntarism & Civil Society. Dr. Dalton has conducted extensive research in the field of North Korean Studies and published a number of journal articles on North Korean defectors, gender relations, and international NGOs in North Korea. Together with Dr. Kyung-Ja Jung, she co-authored the book Sex Trafficking or Shadow Tourism? (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010).

LP_photo_2007_minimizedDr Leonid Petrov graduated from the Department of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg State University in 1994, where he majored in Korean History and Language. Between 1996 and 2002, Leonid Petrov worked on a doctoral thesis “Socio-economic School and the Formation of North Korean Official Historiography” at the ANU. Between 2003 and 2007, Dr. Petrov taught Korean History at the Intercultural Institute of California in San Francisco, and Korean Economy at Keimyung University in Daegu; he acted as Chair of Korean Studies at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) in France. Between 2009 and 2012, he taught Korean History and Language at the University of Sydney. Currently, Dr. Petrov teaches Cross-cultural Management and other business-related courses at the International College of Management, Sydney. He is also a visiting fellow at the Australian National University.

Cheat sheet for Michael Kirby on abuses in North Korea

20 08 2013


Michael Kirby UNCIHR DPRK(By AMBER JAMIESON, The Crikey, 08 MAY 2013) Former High Court judge Michael Kirby will lead a UN inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea. He says he has no preconceptions, but the evidence is already damning.

“I have no preconceptions about the government of North Korea and I’ll proceed as one should: with impartiality and just giving them the opportunity to have their say and to respond to testimony,” Michael Kirby said this morning after being tasked by the United Nations to examine human rights in the secretive dictatorship.

That may be so, but there’s plenty we already know about what the UN calls ”systematic, widespread and grave” abuses in the Hermit Kingdom

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is currently refusing to work with UN; it’s believed the inquiry will rely mainly on the testimony of dissidents. There’s plenty of that. The Human Rights Watch report for North Korea for 2013 offers a damning assessment of the current regime:

“The government has ratified four key international human rights treaties and includes rights protections in its constitution, but does not allow organised political opposition, free media, functioning civil society, or religious freedom. Arbitrary arrest, detention, lack of due process, and torture and ill-treatment of detainees remain serious and pervasive problems. North Korea also practices collective punishment for various anti-state offenses, for which it enslaves hundreds of thousands of citizens in prison camps, including children. The government periodically publicly executes citizens for stealing state property, hoarding food, and other ‘anti-socialist’ crimes, and maintains policies that have continually subjected North Koreans to food shortages and famine.”

The report matches up closely to the terms of the UN inquiry, which states it will investigate:

“1) violations of the right to food; 2) violations associated with prison camps; 3) torture and inhuman treatment; 4) arbitrary detention; 5) discrimination; 6) violations of freedom of expression; 7) violations of the right to life; 8) violations of the right to movement; and 9) enforced disappearances, including the abductions of nationals of other states.”


Between 1 and 3 million North Koreans died from starvation or starvation-related illnesses during the “silent famine” of the 1990s. ”We believe it was engineered by the irresponsible actions of the government,” Leonid Petrov, a researcher at Australian National University’s School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, told Crikey. He notes former leader Kim Jong-il allowed no access to information, kept borders shut and refused to seek foreign aid until a year after the famine had begun.

Although not currently in famine (the latest was in 2011), food insecurity remains an issue.

Prison camps:

Earlier this year North Korea’s infamous remote prison camps were spotted on Google Earth, despite Pyongang always dismissing their existence. According to activists, 40% of inmates die from malnutrition, while others survive by eating rats and scraps from animal faeces. Several generations of families — men, women and children — are often kept inside the camp and are expected to work 16-hour days of manual labour.

One prisoner who escaped overseas after spending 23 years inside Camp 14, a slave labour camp which supposedly houses up to 200,000 people, told reporters: “People think the Holocaust is in the past, but it is still very much a reality. It is still going on in North Korea”.

The account of one North Korean defector, who was tortured by authorities for eight months before being placed in a prison camp, outlines the grim conditions:

“They performed meaningless and arduous labor tasks from sunrise to sundown, and suffered from not only physical torture, but also excruciating mental pain. People whispered to him that they did not know what crimes they were being sentenced for, yet they did not have the strength to complain. One day, he was sent to the prison ‘hospital’, where people laid on wooden boards shoulder to shoulder… After a bedmate would pass, Paul would not report his/her death because he would be able to eat the corpse’s food ration. He would continue to sleep next to corpses and eat their food until nurses noticed the rotting bodies, after which patients would be tasked with carrying the stiff corpses out into a mass open grave.”

Right to movement:

North Korean citizens have very limited access to wider information and are rarely allowed to leave the country. “You’re not free to move around the country or go outside the country because freedom of movement is also not respected,” said Petrov. “Freedom of information is not respected: if you’re starving in North Korea you cannot just pick up the phone and call your relatives in the south of the demilitarised zone, because the telephone lines don’t allow you to make calls. You cannot write a letter to anyone outside of your country. Until recently people could not travel around the country without permission from the domestic security police.”

Freedom of expression:

In 2010 dissidents from North Korea released a video to The Telegraph in Britain, showing a young emaciated sick woman working in a field and another man talking about how someone was arrested for distributing anti-government material. The footage is not dated.

And it may not be the most grievous of human rights abuses, but it’s certainly a crime against fashion: North Koreans can pick from just 28 government-approved hairstyles, with this poster apparently found in hair salons across the country …

But relying on dissidents for evidence has its own issues. “Refugees tend to be excessively critical of North Korea,” said Petrov. “They try to represent the situation in much grimmer tones than it is.”

The Commission of Inquiry — chaired by Kirby and including Marzuki Darusman, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea and Serbian human rights campaigner Sonja Biserko — will report findings in September.

UN panel set to begin hearings into human rights in DPRK

(UN Information Centre, Canberra, 19 August 2013)

A United Nations-mandated commission looking into the human rights situation in North Korea will begin a series of public hearings in Seoul next week aimed at gathering information from a variety of witnesses, including those who recently fled the Asian nation.

The public will be able to follow the hearings through media reports and regular updates on the commission’s website at The website will include video which will be posted following the public testimonies. Anyone wishing to provide information to the commission of inquiry can do so by email to the following address:

The Seoul hearings will be held from August 20 to 24 on the campus of Yonsei University and are expected to involve some 30 witnesses. The members will also hold meetings with senior government officials, non-governmental organizations and research institutions. A similar round of hearings is also scheduled for Tokyo later in the month.

The commission of inquiry was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March in Geneva. It was given a one-year mandate to investigate alleged systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In May, the council announced the three members of the commission, with Mr. Kirby as chair and joined by Ms. Sonja Biserko, a Serbian human rights campaigner, and Mr. Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia. In addition to his appointment to the inquiry, Mr. Darusman is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a post he has held since 2010.

The creation of the commission followed important advocacy work in recent years by the Special Rapporteur and by South Korean and international non-governmental organizations. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has also been a strong supporter of the inquiry.

Possible violations to be investigated by the group include those pertaining to the right to food and those associated with prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, the right to life, freedom of movement and enforced disappearances, including abductions of nationals of other states.

Under its mandate, the commission will also investigate to what extent any violations may amount to crimes against humanity. Mr. Kirby said the inquiry will pay special attention to the issue of accountability.

“We are determined to shed light on the different aspects of various alleged human rights violations,” he said. “To the extent that we establish that such violations have occurred, we will also seek to determine whether crimes against humanity have occurred and who bears responsibility among different state institutions and officials. But it is not possible at this moment to envisage the level of detail that the commission will be able to achieve in establishing lines of responsibility, if any.”

The commission is scheduled to present an oral update to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September in Geneva, and to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in October. A final written report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council in March 2014. The council has already committed itself to refer the final document to appropriate United Nations bodies for follow-up. Mr. Kirby said it is impossible to say at this stage how any follow-up process will unfold.

“It will mostly depend on the findings of our investigation, the conclusions and the recommendations that will be reached and the decision of the competent organs of the United Nations and other international institutions in implementing — or not — our recommendations,” he said.


US Citizen Jailed in North Korea Makes Fresh Plea for Help

14 08 2013

Kenneth Bae_hospital(The Voice of America News, 13 August 2013)

A Korean-American imprisoned in North Korea has made a fresh appeal to the United States, saying Washington should send a high-ranking official to Pyongyang to request his release.

Kenneth Bae made the plea in an interview conducted last week and published Tuesday by the Chosun Sinbo, a Japan-based newspaper known for its pro-North Korean stance.

In the interview, Bae said he has been transferred to a hospital from a prison camp, where he had only just begun serving 15 years of hard labor after being convicted of state subversion.

The 45-year-old said his health has deteriorated, specifically mentioning that he was under-nourished and had back problems. The paper said he has lost 23 kilograms. His family said he also suffers from kidney stones, vision, heart and liver problems.

The U.S. State Department on Monday again appealed for the immediate release of Bae, who was convicted in April of trying to topple the Pyongyang government.

Korea analyst Leonid Petrov said that in the current political climate, North Korea is unlikely to simply release Bae on humanitarian grounds, as the U.S. has requested. ‘It theoretically is possible, but practically I doubt it is going to happen without any clear prospects of improvements in relations with the United States,’ he said.

North Korea has in the past tried to use the plight of jailed Americans to convince the U.S. to make diplomatic concessions. Despite the North’s insistence it will not use Bae as a bargaining chip, some regional analysts think he is being used to coax the U.S. into dialogue.

But Bae’s case comes at a tricky time diplomatically, with Washington tightening sanctions against North Korea in response to its latest nuclear and missile tests. Petrov, who is with the Australian National University, said the U.S. is unlikely to move away from this posture.

‘The U.S. government is not interested in improving relations with the rogue state, with the self-proclaimed nuclear power, the one who threatens peace and stability in the region, looking at it from the Washington perspective,’ said Petrov.

Last month, there were rumors that ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter may travel to North Korea to secure Bae’s release, as he did with a jailed Christian activist in 2010. A Carter spokesman later said there were no plans to make such a trip.

Stephen Noerper with the Asia Society tells VOA that Carter might, in fact, be able to win Bae’s release. But he says such a trip is unlikely, in part because it would obviously serve the interests of North Korean leadership. ‘That’s what the North Koreans are looking for in terms of a legitimizer for their new leader Kim Jong Un. And the Americans, I think, are very reticent to provide that,’ he said.

In the past, North Korean state media have portrayed visits by high-ranking U.S. officials and former presidents as trips to pay respects to the country’s authoritarian leaders.

Bae was visited by last week by a diplomat from Sweden, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea. The Swedish Foreign Ministry said Bae was well, ‘under the circumstances,’ and promised to keep checking regularly on his health.