Australian National University professor labels Otto Warmbier ‘a liar’ and ‘a convenient actor’

21 03 2016

Otto Warmbier_2016(News.com.au MARCH 18, 2016) Fighting through tears and his own quivering voice, 21-year-old American Otto Warmbier never broke character.
“My mother needs me,” Warmbier said, before reaching into his pocket for a tissue. “My father needs me. My younger brother, my younger sister need me. I have made the single worst decision of my life but I’m only human.”
For his efforts and for his confession — Warmbier was filmed stealing a poster on January 1 — he was sentenced to 15 years hard labour.
But maybe, just maybe, they were crocodile tears. One expert says “Warmbier is a clever boy” and “a convenient hostage” who, despite begging to see his family again, actually wants to stay in Pyongyang.
Dr Leonid Petrov, a Korean Studies researcher at the Australian National University, told news.com.au he doesn’t buy Warmbier’s story for a second.
“He’s acting, you can see if you watch the videos,” Dr Petrov said. “One video after another show he’s obviously acting.
“(He) plays his theatrical role exclusively for the North Koreans to make them feel proud and powerful. He is a convenient hostage and will be rewarded for that. Welcome to a new form of A year in Korea: Self-imposed field work.”

Warmbier arrived in Pyongyang on December 29 last year. The University of Virginia student was in the country to see the sights and had organised a tour with a guide.
On January 1, he entered a restricted area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel and removed a poster featuring North Korean propaganda. He thought he had escaped without detection but CCTV cameras captured his every move.
On January 2, he was arrested at Pyongyang airport preparing to leave the country. That’s when the meetings began. That’s when Dr Petrov believed the American hatched a plan to become as valuable to North Korea as possible.
“It looks to me like he is interested in staying there. He presents himself as a victim (but) I think he’s simply trying to get the media attention and get the experience of being detained there,” he said.
“He is trying to get as deep into the situation as possible. Maybe he’s curious, maybe he’s doing field work.”
Warmbier’s speech, delivered a month after his arrest, has been watched around the world. In it, he expresses absolute regret.
“I beg that you find it in your hearts to give me forgiveness and allow me to return home to my family. I also beg that journalists accurately and objectively report my story.”
In a second video, Warmbier confessed to his crimes. He labelled himself a “severe criminal” and explained his motivations.
“I committed my crime of taking out the important political slogan from the staff-only area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel, aimed at harming the work ethic and the motivation of the Korean people,” Wambier said.
“After committing my crime against the people and government of the DPR Korea, I was detained. I have been very impressed by the Korean Government’s humanitarian treatment of severe criminals like myself and of their very fair and square legal procedures.
“I understand the severity of my crime and I have no idea what sort of penalty I may face but I am begging to the Korean people and government for my forgiveness and I am praying to the heavens so that I may be returned home to my family.”

Dr Petrov said Warmbier is smarter than people realise. The Theta Chi fraternity brother is on the university’s Dean’s List for outstanding academic achievement.
“He was in North Korea, he obviously knew the place. He went to a restricted area, an area a lot of people don’t know exists. He’s not naive, he’s not a victim.”
He said Warmbier knew “more about North Korea than any of America’s previous detainees” and could be trying to find out as much as he can before he’s kicked out of the country.
“He is a victim in the eyes of Americans,” Dr Petrov told news.com.au.
“He’s trying to portray that he’s not a sympathiser but he also wants as much access to the system as possible. A foreigner who knows too much is a threat to the system so he may not stay there long. They may trade him (for a North Korean prisoner in America) but sooner or later they will release him on some conditions.”
If Warmbier is acting, the White House doesn’t know it or won’t acknowledge it. In a statement, White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Thursday called for the immediate release of the prisoner.
“We strongly encourage the North Korean government to pardon him and grant him special amnesty and immediate release,” Mr Earnest said.
“The allegations for which this individual was arrested and imprisoned would not give rise to arrest or imprisonment in the United States or in just about any other country in the world.”
Warmbier is not the first American to be held in North Korea but his sentence is on the extreme end of the scale. Previously, American missionaries and journalists spent time in detention under the watch of the Kim family.
An Australian even made the list for leaving a bible in a temple. John Short left the religious material in a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang.
The 75-year-old was sent to prison but released after 15 days.





N Korea will ‘use Aussie as pawn’

22 02 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

20 02 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the full version of this article here…

 





Rev. Kang Young-Sup dies at the age of 80

23 01 2012

Rev. Kang Young-Sup, the Chairperson of the Central Committee, the Korean Christian Federation in North Korea, passed away on the 21st of January 2012 at the age of 80.

Kang, a family member of late Kim Jong Il, was the son of Kang Ryang Wook, the sixth cousin of Kang Dong Wook, Kim Il Sung’s maternal grandfather.

The National Council of Churches in Korea sent its letter of condolence to the Korean Christian Federation. The following is the Letter of Condolence written by Rev. Kim Young-Ju, General Secretary of the NCCK dated January 23rd, 2012.

Dear Rev. Oh Kyung Woo, General Secretary of the Korean Christian Federation,

The National Council of Churches in Korea express its sincere condolences on the death of Rev. Kang Young-Sup, Chairperson of the Central Committee of the Korean Christian Federation, and send our deepest consolation to his bereaved family and the members of the KCF.

The NCCK expresses its deepest gratitude on his devotion and sincere commitment for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula through various exchanges and cooperation of christians between North and South Korea. Remembering of his desire, the NCCK will do our best in our journey toward peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula as the great task of our nation through continuous cooperation in solidarity of the KCF.

We pray that God’s consolation be with his bereaved family and member of the Korean Christian Federation who are in the midst of grieving and suffering.

Rev. Kim Young-Ju

General Secretary

The National Council of Churches in Korea

Rev. Kang Young-Sup attended the International Consultation on Peace, Reconciliation and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula: Towards an Ecumenical Vision beyond the Tozanso Process in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, 21-23 October 2009.

See the video clip of Rev. Kang Yong-seop (Head of NK Delegation) speaking there…

Also, see “통일위해 뜨거운 눈물로 기도하자”조그련 강영섭 위원장, 최초 CBS 단독인터뷰





The National Council of Churches of Korea calls to prayer over the Yeonpyeong Island Incident

27 11 2010

(NCCK Statement, Seoul, 26 November 2010) …For nearly three decades, the NCCK and the global ecumenical fellowship have worked together to these ends. We have slowly built bridges and established regular, productive contact with the Korean Christians Federation in the North and we have shared our common prayers for peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula with the global fellowship of Christian churches through the World Council of Churches.

We have sought to provide a model that governments, politicians and diplomats might follow, and we have therefore rejoiced at the successes of the two Inter-Korean summits of June 13-15, 2000 between President Kim Dae-jung and Chairman Kim Jong Il and of October 2-4, 2007 between President Roh Moon-hyun and Chairman Kim Jong Il. We are convinced that they provide a good basis and framework for the two sides to work together towards a shared future.

On 15 August this year, the NCCK, the KCF and churches in other parts of the world simultaneously prayed for peace and the reunification of Korea, using in part the following words: “We pray that mistrust and confrontation between the North and the South should die down, mutual trust should be built up through reconciliation, cooperation and exchanges. The June 15 unification mood that we have all enjoyed should be revived in full blossom, and therefore the warm atmosphere of unification should blow its way through all this peninsula.”

Given the current tensions, the NCCK further notes these important commitments in the October 2007 summit peace declaration:

1. South and North Korea committed themselves to work for mutual respect and trust in order to overcome differences in ideology, and system.

2. South and North Korea committed themselves to ease military tensions, hold ministerial defense talks in November in Pyongyang to discuss this and inter-Korean economic cooperation.

3. The two sides agreed on the need to end the current armistice and establish permanent peace.

4. The two sides agreed to create a special peace zone around Haeju in North Korea and nearby areas.

5. South and North Korea committed themselves to promote humanitarian cooperation and expansion of the reunions of separated families.

The tragic events in recent days underscore the importance of pursuing this course. We urge the parties to the stalled Six-Party Talks to follow this same path, to cease exploiting the divisions and differences and to put the welfare of the people at the center of their concern. The situation must not be allowed to deteriorate further and all military actions or retaliation must be avoided we urge all our partners to pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula. We would welcome our partner councils and ecumenical organizations to support us also by urging all governments to work together to help resolve the dangerous crisis through diplomacy and peaceful means.

The World Council of Churches has repeatedly asserted that the future of the Korean Peninsula is ultimately to be determined by the Korean people. We shall fulfill this calling despite the challenges and obstacles because we believe that God is faithful and will perform mighty acts on our land. We are immensely grateful for the solidarity, prayers and support of the churches around the world. We give thanks to God for you.





Spiritual Tradition, Presentation and Power in the DPRK

3 10 2010

by Konrad Mathesius (Renlai Magazine, 30 Sep. 2010)

Snooping around for information on the DPRK isn’t really rocket science, but you have to read between the lines. With the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, in bad shape, both international and domestic media have been quick to cover recent shifts in power and the promotions of his son, Kim Jong-un. Taking into consideration the amount of energy that was invested in building up Kim Jong-il’s reputation as a gifted, nurturing and obvious choice for his father’s successor, it’s unnerving to think that the state has neglected to strike up an equivalent propaganda campaign for his son in DPRK media, nor has his inherent genius been lauded to the point of conviction. Considering the high levels of ideological indoctrination in the DPRK, the state seems to be neglecting necessary prerequisites for a legitimate leadership.

The state ideology, Juche, is often simplistically translated by one-time analysts as ‘self-reliance’. Others have mislabeled it a state religion. Based on these perceptions, the fear of instability is warranted. But despite the lack of fanfare surrounding Kim Jong-un, the true mechanism of power is likely to remain unchanged.

The state claims that Juche is based upon concepts developed by Kim Il-sung during his time spent as a guerilla in Manchuria. However, Juche wasn’t standard vocabulary until the early-to-mid 1960s when Soviet relations with their North Korean brethren cooled and Kim Il-sung was obliged to seek friends in the Third World. These ideas were then later refined by Kim Jong-il who published his contribution, ‘On the Juche Idea’, in 1982. There is a significant amount of debate surrounding whether or not the works of the Kims are original; nevertheless, these ideas touch on a number of socio-political subjects, with arguments based in ad hoc interpretations of history. The dichotomy that analysts often neglect to observe is between what was originally written as a guide to Juche, and how media coverage of the leadership and publications of their ideas have since conveyed the purpose of the State. On the books, Juche is political and devoid of overtly religious statements, but its presentation and the tone of the media support claims that North Koreans are living in a politically religious state.

[…] Since 1994, Juche has become less and less commonplace in the media, even though the state’s style and presentation has remained consistent. In need of military support following the death of his father and waves of natural disasters that wreaked havoc upon the population, Kim Jong-il was obliged to introduce Seongun Cheongchi, or military-first politics. It has come to dominate the slogan banners around Pyongyang although the occasional reference to Juche still manages to makes its way into the limelight. Slogans and policies reflect the shift from the old guard of the Korean Workers Party to the military. In addition to this, the rift between the party and the military seems to be growing.

[…] Kim Jong-un might be the face for the new regime, but the real decisions will be made by the two men pinned to the gills with medals standing on either side of him. If they outlive the Dear Leader, from what little information we will be able to gather on them, Hyon Chol Hae and Ri Myong Su are two potential regents to watch.

The State will continue to utilize spiritual concepts to prop up the leadership. Although somewhat uncreative and excessively repetitive, propaganda in the DPRK works as a well-oiled machine. Its word choice and methodology stem back to pre-DPRK times and will employ the same strategy to prop up the leadership in the future. To the disappointment of both China and pundits predicting the imminent collapse of the DPRK following the death of Kim Jong-il, the state will putter along as it always has. Although the people will still be reading about the New Leader’s ability to instruct farmers how to grow more crops or, say, his gifted talent in foreign literature, Seongun Chongchi will continue to dominate the ideological arena and the military will continue to enjoy an internal position of strength in relation to the Party and the Kim Family.

Konrad Methesius visitited North Korea as a member of the Internatiuonal Association for Contemporary Korea Studies delegation in 2007, and graduated from the Australian National University in 2008.

See the full text of this OpEd here…





NCCK Committee for Reconciliation and Unification met with the KCF in Shenyang

2 09 2010

On August 23rd, 2010, representatives of the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) Committee of Reconciliation and Unification met with Rev. Kang Young-sup, Rev. O Kyung-woo and Mr. Kim Hyun-chul from the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) in Shenyang, China. Rev. Jun Byung-Ho (Chair of the Committee), Rev. Kim Young-Joo, Rev. Chae Heawon (The Ecumenical Forum for Korea), Rev. Hwang Phil-Kyu were participating as the NCCK representatives.

1. Representatives from the South suggested they would make effort for Korean churches to mobilize humanitarian support in response to severe flood happened recently in the area of Shineuijoo. And Rev. Kang from the North said that he will inform more details about the situation attacked and victimized by the flood.

2. Both have agreed to prepare positively the Joint Prayer meeting of churches of North and South Korea pursuing the June 15 Summit Statement which is supposed to take place at the Bongsoo Church in Pyungyang, maybe after the middle of November, 2010. And the participation from overseas partner churches will be encouraged.

3. The invitation to the NCCK Annual Assembly on this coming November is offered to Rev. Kang Young-Sup, which is proposed by Rev. Jun Byung-Ho, the President of the NCCK.

4. It is mentioned by Rev. Chae Heawon (Coordinator for the EFK) that the steering committee meeting of the Ecumenical Forum for Korea is supposed to take place in Nanjing, on the beginning of November before or after the Amity Foundation round table meeting.

5. Regarding the supporting items to North Korea (flour amounted 17 tons donated by NCCK Unification Committee, PCK Social Service Department, PROK General Assembly, KMC Sebu Conference, the Ecumenical Forum for Korea), Rev. Kang Young-Sup expressed an appreciation for that.

Urging the government to support humanitarian aid with the excess stock of rice of South Korea to people victimized by the recent flood in the area of Sineuijoo

“BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK;” (Rome 12:20)

It was reported that the North Korean city of Sinuiju was struck by severe flood damage when the lower course of the Amnok (Yalu) River overflowed due to heavy rainfall started from August 7th, and in areas besides Sinuiju, lots of lives, homes, roads, and approximate 2458 ha of farmland are lost. Lot of people in North Korea who is already faced with severe food shortage is becoming vulnerable to death, and therefore North Korean government has unexpectedly requested the UN for emergency aid.

In this regard, both parties of South Korean government proposed the idea of humanitarian support to people victimized by the flood with the excess stock of rice of South Korea. The NCCK welcomes the move of this humanitarian support suggested by both parties.

The NCCK had already urged our [ROK] government as well as international society to support people in the North with necessary goods and food for their life on the principle of humanism on 5th of August. Now it, facing with the report of flood damage, urges again our government to support people victimized beside Shineuijoo with the excess stock of rice of South Korea before the full moon harvest season.

This year the expected amount of product is 4,810,000 tons and now we have 4,200,000 tons of rice in excess stock including rice produced by 2004, and therefore some part of the amount is getting rotten. According to this situation, the excess rice will be over 2,500,000 tons in the next year, and local governments are making every effort to find measures for expansion of consumption of rice by the harvest season and to adjust supply and demand. For this, it is expected that it costs a lot of millions. Even it is mentioned that the excess rice could be used for animal food.

Even in this moment when the North and South relation is getting more blocked since the Cheonan incident, to support rice to our brothers and sisters in the North who are starving due to the recent severe flood damage is one of our responsibility as one nation on humanitarian dimension. It could be an opportunity for our farming economy to be helped through sending the excess rice to the North.

We expect that through supporting humanitarian aid to people in the North suffering by severe flood it could be an opportunity for our government to recover its trust as one nation, and peace and reunification of this nation could be achieved on the basis of love, not of ideology.

August 26th, 2010

Rev. Kwon Oh-Sung, General Secretary
Rev. Jun Byung-Ho, Chair of Reconciliation and Unification Committee
The National Council of Churches in Korea