Anju Links for June 5th

*   Richardson has some interesting updates on the North Korean family that defected by sailing  hundreds of  miles to Japan in an open boat.  The possession of “personal use” amounts of methamphetamine by one family member suggests that what we’ve heard is true — that drugs are increasingly available to ordinary North Koreans.  What I don’t know is whether the son was a user, or whether the meth was part of their elaborate preparations, in this case,  to help keep them awake during the journey.

*   I don’t have Times Select and don’t plan on getting it, but if you have it, Nick Kristof has written an article about North Korea’s underground railroad.  Let’s hope its tone is less ambivalent than other things Kristof has written on the subject, which have been full of gratuitous contempt for the conductors’ religious beliefs.

*   Here’s a final reminder on the Freedom House panel tomorrow:

Washington , D.C.– Freedom House released a new report detailing crimes against humanity taking place in North Korea ‘s political prisoner camps in late May. Based on recent interviews with former North Korean political prisoners in the kwan-li-so or “control zone” labor camps, the report carefully details the criminal acts prohibited by Article 7 of the (Rome) Statute of the International Criminal Court that are being carried out in North Korea on a massive scale. Written by David Hawk, author of the acclaimed study Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps, the report also outlines the international forums where other states and non-governmental organizations can seek to persuade North Korea to improve its human rights record.

WHAT:                    Panel discussion, titled Concentrations of Inhumanity: A Discussion

WHO:                        Panelists include:

                                              David Hawk, author, Concentrations of Inhumanity

                                              David Scheffer, former US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues

                                              L. Gordon Flake, Executive Director, Mansfield Foundation

                                              Jae H. Ku, Director, US-Korea Institute at SAIS

                                              Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Executive Director, Freedom House

WHEN:                   Wednesday, June 6, 2007,  1:30-3:30pm

WHERE:              National Press Club,  529 14th Street, NW,  13th Floor, Holeman Lounge

Freedom House sponsored the writing and publication of this report in order to increase international recognition that the severe human rights violations taking place in North Korea constitute crimes against humanity. North Korea is the only country to have received Freedom House’s lowest possible scores for both political rights and civil liberties throughout the 35 years in which the organization has published its annual global survey, Freedom in the World.

Freedom House is an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world.  To learn more about Freedom House’s North Korea program, visit


  1. The point about possibly having meth as a part of their preparations is well taken; if I were going to risk my life in such a situation and knew that being awake/alert/having energy could save everyone’s lives, I’d do the same.

    Let’s just hope he’s not a dirty hippie on the inside.


  2. I’ve heard that under the Park Chung Hee regime, managers in the garment and other industries used meth to keep the workers producing at a high rate. It isn’t hard to imagine authorities in NK might have made the move from just producing meth for export to using it to make up for shortages in equipment by pumping up workers – who when gain a need for the drug…


  3. Well, judging from this, Kristof’s article is less about the conductors than it is about the escapees:

    Now those returned by China are often sentenced to prison for several years, and repeat offenders or Christians can be sent with their entire families to labor camps for life.

    Some North Koreans told me that their government now holds regular sentencing rallies, at which the punishments are publicly announced — or in extreme cases, such as those who became Christian evangelists while in China, the accused are executed in front of the crowd by firing squad.

    One Christian I spoke to had been beaten so badly after his return by China that he tried to commit suicide by swallowing a handful of pins. The prison, not wanting to have to dispose of a corpse, freed him — and he eventually made his way back to China.

    “If he is sent back again,” said his wife, “he’ll be beaten to death.”