Imagining the Catastrophic Consequences of a New War in Korea

27 09 2017

New War in Korea(Leonid Petrov for Daily Telegraph, 23 September 2017) The 1953 Armistice Agreement brought a sustainable halt to the Korean War, but has never ended it. Nor did it transform into a peace regime. During the last sixty four years the North and South Koreans live in the conditions of neither-war-nor-peace, which has certain advantages and downsides for both regimes separated by the Demilitarised Zone.

For the communist government in the North, the continuing war provides legitimacy and consolidates the masses around the Leader, who does not need to justify his power or explain the economic woes. For the export-oriented economy and steadily democratising society of South Korea, the continuing war against communism provides broad international sympathy, which is translated into the staunch security alliance and economic cooperation with the US. Any change (intentional or inadvertent) in the current balance of power or threat on the peninsula would lead to immediate re-adjustment or re-balancing of the equilibrium.

Military provocations of the North, does not matter how grave or audacious (i.e. 1968 guerrilla attack on the Blue House in Seoul, 1968 the USS Pueblo incident, 1976 Axe Murder Incident, 2002 naval clashes in the West Sea, the 2010 ROK corvette Cheonan sinking or Yeonpyeong Island shelling), have never led to the resumption of war. Similarly, peace and reconciliation-oriented initiatives (i.e. the 1972 Joint North-South Korean Communiqué, the 1991 Joint Declaration of South and North Korea on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, or the 2000 North–South Joint Declaration) inevitably end with a bitter disappointment. It seems that both Koreas are destined to live in the perpetual fear of war without really experiencing it.

Regional neighbours find this situation annoying but acceptable because the reunification of Korea can be potentially dangerous for some and advantageous for others. The Cold War mentality persists in Northeast Asia and dictates to its leaders to exercise caution in any decisions related to the Korean peninsula, which is known to be the regional balancer. After the WWII, Korea was divided by the great powers for a good reason – to separate the communist bloc from the capitalist democracies. Seventy years later, Korea still serves as a buffer zone which separates the economic interests of China and Russia-dominated Northeast Asia from the US-dominated Pacific Rim.

Should any of the actors start changing the equilibrium in Korea, the stabilising forces of reasoning and good judgement will inevitably return the situation to the original and steady balance of threat. Neither the UN intervention in Korea nor the Chinese counterattack in 1950 could help Koreans to reunify their country. Similarly, North Korea’s progress in building their nuclear and rocket deterrent (independently from what is promised by the alliance with China) will be counterbalanced by the return of US-owned nuclear weapons to South Korea or by the resumption of Seoul’s indigenous nuclear program, which was abandoned in the 1970s. When the balance of threat is restored, a temporary period of improved inter-Korean and DPRK-US relations will follow. Peaceful or hostile co-existence in Korea serves the interests of the ruling elites in both Koreas and benefits their foreign partners too.

Imagining the catastrophic consequences of a new war in Korea is pointless because everyone (in Pyongyang and Seoul, Washington and Moscow, Beijing and Tokyo) understands the risks associated with imminent nuclear retaliation. After the 2006 nuclear test North Korea is a fully-fledged nuclear power and what was previously possible (or at least hypothetically imaginable) with regards to a military action against Pyongyang is simply out of question these days. Whether Washington admits the reality or continues to produce the self-deceitful blandishments of a surgical strike against North Korea, a new hot war in Korea is not feasible simply because it serves no ones’ interest.

First, it would be suicidal for the aggressor and equally catastrophic for the victim of aggression. Second, when the nuclear dust settles the presumed victor would not know what to do with the trophy. The Kim dynasty would not survive another war for unification. Democratically elected government in Seoul would not know how to rule the third of its (newly acquired) population who is not familiar with the concept self-organisation. The cost of damaged physical infrastructure rebuilding will be dwarfed by the long-term expenditures required for maintaining social order in the conquered territories, re-education and lustration of the captured population. Survivors would prefer to seek refuge in a third country out of fear for revenge and reprisals. The exodus of Korean reunification is not something that regional neighbours are ready to welcome or absorb. It will take years and trillions of dollars before Korea can recover after the shock of violent unification.

Even a peaceful unification is likely to pose threat to Korea’s neighbours. The windfall of natural resources and economical labour force, if combined with advanced technologies and nationalism-driven investments, will help Korea outperform the industrial powerhouse of Japan and enter into open competition with China. A narrow but strategically located Russo-Korean border corridor will link the European markets and Siberian oil with Korean industrial producers. An underwater tunnel, once completed between Korean and Japan, will undermine the Sino-American duopoly and link the peninsula with the islands.

If the North and South are unified, the presence of US troops will be questioned not only in Korea but in Japan as well. US security alliance structures across the Pacific will crumble, followed by economic and technological withdrawal from the region. Even the new Cold War against China and Russia won’t help Washington to prevent the major rollback of American influence in Asia and the Pacific. Russia and China, as well, upon losing the common adversary will need to resume competition and power struggle for regional hegemony. Thus, the unification of Korea will open a new era of regional tensions, which nobody is really prepared to endure.

Korea today, however divided and problematic, is a capstone of regional peace and stability which must not be touched by political adventurists. The balance of Northeast Asian regional security architecture has been hinging on the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which proved to be sold and robust enough to survive many international conflicts. Even the acquisition of nuclear armaments by North Korea is not going to change the inter-Korean relations or Koreans’ relations with neighbours. However, if North Korea is deliberately targeted or attacked and destroyed, as has been threatened from the UN podium, that would trigger the processes far beyond of our imagination and control and inevitably lead to tectonic shifts in politics, security and economy of the region, which collectively produces and consumes approximately 19% of the global Gross Domestic Product. Surely, nobody will play with fire when so much is at stake.

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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





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.

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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

“SEX, DRUGS and ROCK‘n’ROLL in NORTH KOREA”

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.

Program

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.





North Koreans Always Ready for War

23 05 2013

Soldiers of the Korean People's army in military training(Tania Branigan, The Guardian, 22 May 2013) Pyongyang’s angry rhetoric sparked fears abroad but its people are taught at an early age that they live in the shadow of conflict…

It might not be immediately obvious from her neat wool jacket, black frock and smart perm, but 55-year-old Kim Su-yeong is, she insists, “very good with weapons” – trained in throwing grenades and firing machine guns.

Her expertise is the legacy of the regular military training that she underwent in her youth in North Korea. “When I was there I believed that the US and South Korea were every day, all the time, trying to eat us up,” said Kim, who now lives in the South Korean capital, Seoul. “When I came out, I couldn’t believe that everything was so peaceful.

“Then I realised everything was a lie and felt terrible … Once you are here, everything is different, by 180 degrees. When I look at the news, I think war will not happen.”

The furore over Pyongyang’s angry rhetoric and possible missile launch, and its nuclear programme may have raised tensions internationally, but like the vast majority in Seoul, Kim said she did not believe there was any risk of a military conflict.

But the idea of an impending clash is nothing new to the North, a society structured around the belief that it is still at war. Technically, that is true. No peace treaty was signed when the Korean war ended in 1953, only an armistice. More pertinently, say analysts, the rhetoric of being under siege is used to explain and justify its straitened circumstances.

“This kind of regime can only exist under the conditions of isolation and crisis,” said Leonid Petrov, an expert on the North at Australian National University in Canberra.

The struggle against the enemy is imbued in people from the earliest age. Tatiana Gabroussenko, an expert on propaganda at Korea University, said a recent North Korean magazine showed under-fives at a kindergarten using wooden clubs to whack dummies of South Korean leaders.

Even maths books for primary schools include – among examples based on train timetables and children’s games – calculations of the number of “American imperialist bastards” killed by the Korean people’s army.

Gabroussenko said the longstanding militarism of North Korea was typical of a “national Stalinist” society and also reflected Kim Il-sung’s background as a guerrilla leader rather than an intellectual.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, propaganda shifted from presenting the North as “a people’s paradise” to showing it as “a paradise under siege”, she said, stressing the message: “We have to make a fortress of our country to protect ourself from these attacks.”

Because the North’s ideology is also heavily ethnocentric, “it is easy to believe the whole world is against you, because the whole world is different from you,” Gabroussenko added.

Other analysts suggest that the shift was exacerbated by the plummeting of trade as the Soviet Union collapsed, accelerating the disintegration of an economy that had once been one of the most advanced in continental East Asia.

For Kim – who did not want to give her real name to protect relatives still in the North – the rationale of leaders is simple: “When you are preparing for war, you will never complain about where you are.”

The North still holds regular military training for civilian militias, though these days they are more likely to involve drilling, marching with backpacks or practising evacuations, and air raid and blackout drills for the population as a whole.

Hazel Smith, an expert on North Korea at Cranfield University, recalled seeing people training with wooden guns, presumably to save on precious resources. Conscription was also introduced as the prestige and security of becoming a soldier declined, reflecting increasing disaffection with authority and the government’s inability to feed its own troops.

North Korean men are supposed to spend 10 years in the army, though soldiers are often used primarily as labour; last week, one visitor to Pyongyang saw them planting flowers around a monument. “I think the big change was from 1997, with the institutionalisation of the military-first policy,” Smith added.

“With the military being in control, the tendency is to adopt military solutions to political problems as the first thing you do.”

The problem for the regime, she noted, is that “North Koreans think the military leadership has failed to achieve anything good for North Korea … In Kim Il-sung’s day, people felt life was getting better. These days, I don’t think they believe in anything.”

That view is echoed by Kim, who recalls how she used to hope that the war would start quickly, assuming the North would win.

“We had certainty that when the Americans attacked the war would finish very quickly and no one would suffer any more and then we’d be able to stop tightening our belts. Now, when I look at it from outside, they do the same – but fewer people believe it,” said Kim.

It is not uncommon for North Koreans working in China to say they wish that war would come, but often they seem to expect neither victory nor defeat – they just want to get it over with, say those who work with them.

Those living away from the border areas, where information from the outside world spreads more easily, may have more faith in the government, Kim acknowledged.

But even so, external military threats seem less important these days, she said: “Their fears are much more focused on what they will eat.”





Real lives in North Korea: Three day film event in Australia

14 03 2013

voices-in-exile-poster_smallNorth Korea Film Event in Canberra (20th March, ANU) and Sydney (21st March, Sydney Cheil Church in Strathfield, and 22nd March, University of Sydney).

Panoptic Perspectives is the title of a two-day film event, organized by scholars from institutions in Sydney and Canberra, to be held in venues at the Australian National University, Cheil Church in Strathfield and Sydney University.

The purpose of this event is to offer different perspectives on a phenomenon much discussed in the popular media, but rarely considered beyond the singular, highly politicized and bi-polemic story of good and evil, right and wrong – North Korea.

Through the medium of film, and the discussion by guest speakers that will precede and follow each screening, it is hoped the audience will gain a more nuanced understanding of some of the issues surrounding ‘North Korea’ and the North Korean people.

OPEN WORKSHOP

Alternative Approaches to North Korean Issues. – 22 March 12 PM at Architecture Lecture Theater 3, Wilkinson Building, University of Sydney, co-hosted by Global Social Justice

FILM SCREENING SCHEDULE

The Journals of Musan (2011). Directed by Park Jungbum

– 20 March 05:30 PM, Coombs Lecture Theatre, HC Coombs Building (8a), Fellows Road, Australian National University

– 21 March 5:30 PM, Sydney Cheil Church (Sydney St & Concord Rd.)

– 22 March 5:20 PM, Old Geology Lecture Theater (next to Footbridge Theater), University of Sydney, co-hosted by Global Social Justice Network

Q&A with the director (Park Jung-bum) after the screening

A Schoolgirl’s Diary (2007). Directed by Jang In-hak

– 22 March 1:45 PM Architecture Lecture Theater 3, Wilkinson Building, University of Sydney, co-hosted by Global Social Justice Network. Discussion with Dr. Leonid Petrov after the screening

Yodok Stories (2008). Directed by Andrzej Fidyk

– 21 March 2:00 PM Sydney Cheil Church (Sydney St. & Concord Rd.) Discussion with Dr. Leonid Petrov after the screening

Each screening is preceded by a short talk introducing the key themes of the film. Each film will also be followed by a questions and answers session. Guest speakers include Park Jung-bum, director of The Journals of Musan

Admission (access per day): Student $5 Adult $10 (RSVP on the event webpage is recommended to secure your seat)

For more information, go to: www.northkoreafilmfest.wordpress.com
Inquiries: nkfilmfest@gmail.com

MOVIE TITLES

THE JOURNALS OF MUSAN
Journals of MusanReleased in South Korea 2011. Synopsis by Markus Bell
Director Park Jungbum said in interviews that he based the main character for The Journals of Musan (무산 일기) on a North Korean friend he met while at university in Seoul. The film highlights several important themes concerning the lives of North Korean refugees. Firstly, that arrival in South Korea is not the end of their struggle to find safety and security; secondly, for better of for worse, organized religion plays an integral role in the lives of these individuals; and thirdly, that ignorance is at the root of much of the prejudice that exists against North Koreans living in South Korea. The Journals of Musan is important in that for the first time, the South Korean public were offered a window into the lives of a few of the 24,000 North Koreans residing in South Korea, many of whom have been through indescribable hardships to arrive in their new home.

YODOK STORIES
Yodok Stories_Andrzej FidykReleased South Korea 2008. Synopsis by Christopher Richardson
For every artist whose career has advanced under the patronage of power, another risked life and reputation to present alternatives to the narratives of the state, whether through graffiti, subversive songs, paintings, or plays. In North Korea, where life is characterized by surveillance and control, such examples are rare. Yodok Stories, first staged in 2006, is perhaps the most famous example. This was a story crying out to be told: a concentration camp, in the early 21st Century, in the heart of East Asia. Although the idea for the musical came from Polish filmmaker, Andrzej Fidyk, its strength comes from the creative participation of so many North Koreans. Yodok Stories is a powerful corrective to the stereotype of defectors as passive victims. Although the bombast, blood and thunder of Yodok Stories might initially seem bizarre, or kitsch, the musical powerfully evokes the aesthetic of North Korean arts, notably the revolutionary operas The Sea of Blood and The Flower Girl. There are more than 24 million North Koreans alive today, and at least as many stories. Both at home and abroad, it is time they were told.

THE SCHOOLGIRL’S DIARY
Schoolgirl's DiaryReleased in North Korea 2007, in South Korea 2011. Synopsis by Dr. Leonid Petrov
One of the most successful films produced in North Korea, The Schoolgirl’s Diary is an attempt to resolve the growing conflict between selfish individualism and patriotic self-sacrifice. It chronicles a girl’s life through her school years: one that’s full of the peer pressure and family problems familiar everywhere. Echoing the Russian film Courier (Kuryer) (1986), which struck a chord in Perestroika- stricken Soviet Union, The Schoolgirl’s Diary views the grim realities of life through the eyes of a teenager. If something in the film turns out to be politically unpalatable, the immaturity of youth is blamed—not the film director. For a cash-starved North Korea, this film was an instant success. Viewed by some 8 million people in 2006, it received high praise at the international film festivals in Pyongyang and Cannes.

Local media coverage in Korean:

기획특집 – 노블레스 오블리주운동을 통한 북한이주민돕기 (상)

탈북자 및 북한 문제 관련 영화제 개최

영화 통한 ‘북한 문제’ 조명

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