The 9th International Conference on NK Human Rights & Refugees

24 03 2009

mel-conference-posterMarch 20-21, 2009 – Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
Venue: Hyatt Hotel 123 Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia

Organizers: Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, The Australian Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

250 delegates from Australia and overseas attended the opening of the 9th international conference on human rights in North Korea at Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt Hotel (20 March), opened by Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith (click here). Carl Gershman, the Chair of the National Endowment for Democracy gave an overview of the campaign for human rights in North Korea to the opening of the conference. (click here).

Co-orginsers of the Conference, Michael Danby, Chair of the Commonwealth Parliament’s sub comittee on Foreign Affairs and Prof. Won of the Citizens’ Alliance told an Australia wide radio audience (click here) what had emerged at the Conference about the most recent developments on human rights in North Korea.

Senator Michael Forshaw Chairman of the JSCFADT chaired an intensive session for international experts at the Australian Insitute of International Affairs that included several South Korean, Japanese and Australian MPs.

Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan drilled down into the horrors of the 300 000 prisoners in Kim Jong-Il’s labour camps (The Australian 31/3 click here) and Thailand’s leading reporter Kavi Chongkittavorn attended and reported on the conference in Bankok’s leading newspaper The Nation (click here).

Delegates to the conference were taken aback by UN Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn’s powerful summary of his official report just delivered in Geneva derscribing the siutation of human rights in North Korea (for a Radio Australia interview with Mr Vitit click here).

Finally in a sign that the conference must have achieved some good, its aims were denounced by the DPRK newsagency (click here). The conference was also covered on SBS News (click here), and ABC International which will be put on Youtube soon.

The ninth International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees in Melbourne on Friday accused North Korea of grave abuses and discussed ways to improve the situation. The conference was organized jointly by the South Korean Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights and the Australian Committee for Human Rights in North Korea under the joint sponsorship of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, and the Chosun Ilbo.

One participant pointed out that international humanitarian aid to the North has not been properly distributed to the North Korean residents, children in particular. Joanna Hosaniak, the senior program officer for international cooperation for CANKHR, interviewed 40 North Korean children and juveniles and 10 adults in the South between 2001 and 2008 and heard that none of them had received rice sent by South Korea or the international community during this period. They said they had instead seen grain sacks marked “Republic of Korea,” “UN,” or “Red Cross” sold on the market.

They said food supplied by South Korea is given to the military on a priority basis and the rest sold to moneyed military officers or Party members in the market. Only a small amount of food is distributed to the general public at slightly lower than the market price.

Some 2.55 million tons of rice and 200,000 tons of corn were delivered to the North during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. None of the 50 said they had either received or seen meat or canned fish, which the UN had supplied to the North for children and pregnant women, between 2001 and 2007.

Chosun Ilbo (“CONFERENCE TOLD OF N.KOREA ABUSE OF FOOD AID”, Seoul , 2009/03/23)

The Conference also screened a documentary “On the Border”, which was produced by the Chosun Ilbo on North Korean refugees and has recently won the Prize award in the English-language TV category at the 13th Annual Human Rights Press Awards.

Chosun Ilbo (“N.Korea Film Wins Human Rights Press Awards”, Seoul, 2009/03/24)

Will Australia Help North Korea?

5 05 2008

Australia-DPRK negotiationsIn March 2008, before leaving for a 17-day trip to the United States, Europe and China, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared his foreign policy philosophy.

“The truth is that Australia’s voice has been too quiet for too long across the various councils of the world,” he told the Australian National University’s East Asia Forum. “That is why during the course of the next three years, the world will see an increasingly activist Australian international policy in areas where we believe we may be able to make a positive difference.” Rudd assured the audience that the new Australian government is committed to the principle of “creative middle-power diplomacy” as the best means of enhancing Australia’s national interests.

The twelve years of Howard government rule (1995-2007) were characterized by one-sided conservative foreign policy. Australian Liberals readily accepted from American neoconservatives a doctrine of global military pre-emption and armed democratic enlargement.

The Australian Labor Party, victorious at last year’s federal elections in November 2007, now proudly states that its foreign policy platform is based on the three pillars — alliance with the United States, active membership of the United Nations and comprehensive engagement with Asia — that manifest realism, liberal internationalism and regionalism.

Given this new approach, will Australia consider a more active approach in helping troubled nations in the Asia-Pacific region? See the full text of the article here…

Here is the official answer to this question:

Australia Will Not Resume Economic Aid for Nuclear-armed North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on May 7 that his country will not resume development assistance for North Korea unless it takes “substantial” steps towards denuclearization.

The minister, on a three-day trip in Seoul from May 6, however, said Canberra will continue providing humanitarian aid without attaching any conditions. He stressed that cooperation between the new Australian and South Korean governments is essential in addressing the nuclear crisis and other regional concerns.

“The nuclear weapons of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) pose a serious threat to regional stability. Both our countries are committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Smith said at a forum, using the official name of the communist nation. He took office five months ago following the Australian Labor Party’s win in elections.

He expressed support for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s policy on the North. “President Lee’s firm position on the DPRK – making economic assistance conditional on progress towards denuclearization and an improvement in the DPRK’s human rights record, while keeping humanitarian aid unconditional, aligns closely with our own policy approach,” he said. “Australia has suspended development assistance until the DPRK makes substantial progress towards denuclearization,” he added.

and the most recent story by Professor by Tessa Morris-Suzuku of the Australian National University:

“Another Disaster Looms in North Korea”

Sydney Morning Herald (May 12, 2008)

My friend in Japan can tell you what it feels like. First the bowls of gritty corn mixed with a few grains of rice get smaller and smaller. To satisfy your aching stomach, you boil the grains in water, making a grey watery gruel. This silences your hunger – for a while. Then the grain diminishes until the gruel is little more than water. You get cold and tired. Any effort seems too difficult. In the street the bodies lie like bundles of rags beside the road. No one does much about them. Everyone is too exhausted by the struggle to survive.

That was North Korea in 1995-97, during the famine that the authorities euphemistically call the Arduous March. It is estimated that 600,000 to one million North Koreans died of starvation. My friend survived, mainly because she lived near the Chinese border and slipped across it to trade on the black market. Now the nightmare is beginning again. But this time the border between North Korea and China is much more tightly controlled, and black market activities have become even more dangerous. Last month the South Korean aid organisation Good Friends reported that a second Arduous March was beginning and warned that it would be difficult to stabilise the situation if nothing was done by the end of the month. At the start of this month, when nothing had been done, Good Friends began reporting deaths from starvation, particularly around the town of Yangdeok, north-east of Pyongyang… Read the full story here.