Obama ‘Pivots’ Positions on N. Korea Terror De-Listing

The New York Sun picks up the story of Kim Dong Shik and Barack Obama’s first broken promise:

In an interview yesterday, the executive director of the Korean Church Coalition for North Korean Freedom, Sam Kim, said he traveled to Congress in early June to remind Illinois legislators of a 2005 letter signed by Senator Obama, among others, that called on the North Korean regime to provide details about the case of the Reverend Kim Dong-Shik. Rev. Kim, who helped North Korean refugees flee to China, was abducted by North Korean agents in China in 2000 and believed to be in one of the regime’s gulags.

After President Bush announced last week that he would begin the process of removing North Korea from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, both Senator McCain and Mr. Obama said in statements that they would wait to see whether North Korea met its disarmament requirements before endorsing the move. But neither candidate said his support for adjusting North Korea’s status was contingent on the fate of Rev. Kim.

This was not Mr. Obama’s position in his first year in office. The January 28, 2005, letter he signed, sent to North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Pak Gil Yon, said: “We will NOT support the removal of your government from the State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism until such time, among other reasons, as a full accounting is provided to the Kim family regarding the fate of Reverend Kim Dong-Shik following his abduction into North Korea five years ago.”

The letter compared Rev. Kim to Harriet Tubman, who helped slaves escape to the North before the Civil War, and to Raoul Wallenberg, who helped save Hungarian Jews from Nazi concentration camps. “We view Reverend Kim Dong-Shik as also being a hero who assisted with the escape of the powerless and forgotten,” Mr. Obama and 19 of his Illinois congressional colleagues wrote in the letter.  [N.Y. Sun, Eli Lake]

Obama’s campaign is now pivoting, which is a good thing for the immediate issue,  though it’s hardly encouraging as a predictor of Obama’s consistency of principle:

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, Tommy Vietor, said: “Senator Obama believes we should not lift sanctions on North Korea until North Korea has met its obligations to provide a complete and accurate declaration about all its nuclear weapons programs and clarified the allegations about its proliferation activities, including to Syria. He also remains deeply concerned about North Korean abduction of foreign citizens and expects a full accounting of their circumstances.”

Sam Kim said he was frustrated by Mr. Obama’s silence on Rev. Kim. “We are talking about a human rights worker who was kidnapped, abducted from China by two North Korean agents, one of which was ultimately convicted in South Korea by the Roh administration, and the congressional representative from the state of Illinois, where the wife resides, is refusing to comment on the issue. Everybody is saying they don’t remember it,” he said.

Mr. Kim said he met with a member of Mr. Obama’s staff June 6 to raise the issue. He said in an e-mail that he told the staffer the senator “would lack credibility to the world and his management of foreign affairs would be put into question and show weakness, when in dealing with a terrorist country like North Korea, the Senator one day declares that he will oppose any delisting of North Korea, and then later, simply changes his mind and supports delisting, without North Korea ever complying with any of his prior demands.”

Suzanne Scholte of the North Korean Freedom Coalition expressed disappointment, both at Obama and at President Bush:

She added, however, that she was also disappointed in Mr. Bush. “Our feeling with President Bush is that this is a regime whose cruelty knows no bounds,” she said. “The things this regime is capable of are beyond human understanding. That we would fail to account for someone like Reverend Kim Dong-Shik, who is really a modern-day hero, is unconscionable.”

BELOW THE FOLD, a must-read: an eloquent statement by Mrs. Kim Dong Shik on her husband, his fate, and the politicians of both parties who forgot about their promises to help resolve it.

Statement of Mrs. Young-Hwa “Esther” Chung Kim
Wife of North Korean Abductee Reverend Kim Dong-shik
U.S. Citizen and Resident of Skokie, Illinois
Released Through the North Korea Freedom Coalition
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Washington Post and to its journalist, Mr. Glenn Kessler, for bringing to the attention of the American people, in an article published June 19th, the story of my husband, the Reverend Kim Dong-shik, and of his abduction into North Korea by North Korean agents. Myself, my children, and members of my current Church, Good Shepherd Christian Assembly of Chicago, Illinois and of my former Church, the Reformed Korea Presbyterian Church of Skokie, Illinois, had lost almost all hope that public attention would be paid to the indescribable agonies and hardship caused by the loss of our loving husband, father and spiritual guide. We had placed hope in the leaders of America that justice would be done and that my husband and his work to save North Korean refugees would not be forgotten. These leaders, however, have disappointed us.

In early 2005 some of us traveled to Washington to meet with the late Congressman of Illinois, Henry Hyde. He arranged a letter to be sent by the Illinois Congressional Delegation to the North Korean UN Mission. In that letter our Honorable Senator, Barack Obama, joined his fellow Illinois Members of Congress in telling the North Korean government that “we will NOT support the removal of your government from the State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism until such time, among other reasons, as a full accounting is provided to the Kim family regarding the fate of the Reverend Kim Dong-shik following his abduction into North Korea five years ago.” We believed that the Honorable Senator Obama is a man of his word. Now, however, the Washington Post article quotes aides of the Senator as stating that “Obama does not want to stand in the way of the agreement (removing North Korea from the terrorism list) by focusing on one individual (my husband.)”

I would respectfully remind Honorable Senator Obama that, in the letter he signed to the North Korean UN Mission in 2005, he compared my husband to not one but to two individuals. Senator Obama said then that “Reverend Kim, in his selfless efforts to assist refugees escaping in an underground network to third countries, brings to mind two great heroes held in high esteem in the United States. The first is Ms. Harriet Tubman who established an underground railroad allowing for the escape from slavery of those held in bondage before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation; the second is the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who, during the dark days of the world conflict against fascism in the Second World War, rescued Jewish refugees trapped in Hungary.” Are Ms. Tubman and Mr. Wallenberg two other individuals who can be easily forgotten?

I believe that to be a good President one should first be a good Senator. And I believe that a good Senator is one who listens to the pleas of his constituents. I am an immigrant woman from Korea who came to this great country with my husband and family seeking the American dream. But now I am a citizen through naturalization and I ask my Senator to hear the pleas of myself, my church members and my children.

I ask that the Honorable Senator Obama arrange a meeting with me and my good friend and supporter, Mr. Hakkeun Chang, when Senator Obama is back visiting Illinois, and explain to us how he can help obtain information from the North Korean government on the fate of my husband. I ask further that, if my husband is dead and his body is at a North Korean military base, as some have reported, that Senator Obama help us arrange with the North Korean government for the return of his remains so that he can receive a Christian burial at our church in Illinois.

In November, 2007, I traveled again to Washington to meet a delegation which came from Japan to represent the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea. They invited me to join a meeting with the Honorable Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. The Congresswoman welcomed us and, as a former refugee from Communist Cuba herself, listened with a warm heart to the story of my husband, his work with refugees, and his kidnapping. I told her that I had prepared a letter for the Honorable Ambassador Christopher Hill of the State Department regarding my husband’s case. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said she was meeting Mr. Hill later that day and would be happy to personally hand my letter to him.

I was therefore very disappointed to read in the Washington Post that, according to the State Department, Mr. Hill “has no memory” of receiving my letter. How can this be possible? Mr. Hill received two copies of my letter, one from the Honorable Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the other from Professor Shimada who accompanied the Japanese delegation to a meeting with him. The Washington Post also reported that the State Department said they would answer my letter if I re-sent it. With so many officers in the State Department working on human rights and Korean issues, how is it possible that they cannot locate a copy of a letter provided by the Honorable Congresswoman and the Honorable Japanese delegation? In that letter I asked the Honorable Ambassador Hill “how can it be true that North Korea is no longer a terror-sponsoring nation when a family member of U.S. citizens is kidnapped and his fate is still not known to us? In addition, the North Korean regime kidnapped many citizens from other countries like South Korea and Japan. If kidnapping innocent foreign nationals is not terror, what is?” I never received an answer to my letter.

The State Department Spokesman, Mr. Tom Casey, however, said at a press briefing on June 19th that “the United States has made it clear that it would drop North Korea from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list and cease to apply the sanctions of the Trading with the Enemy Act.” He added that “the terms and conditions under this particular phase do not require the absolute resolution of every and all outstanding issues, including this particular case” (meaning my husband.) I would respectfully remind Mr. Casey that my husband, Reverend Kim Dong-shik, is not just “a case;” he is a devoted husband and a loving father deeply missed every day by his family, a spiritual adviser whose loss is mourned by his church, and a “hero”, according to Senator Obama and other Illinois Congressmen, for his tireless work in seeking to save the people of North Korea from tyranny.

Finally, I feel disappointment in President Bush. President Bush once called North Korea part of “an axis of evil”, especially for its persecution of Christians. He met at the White House with North Korean defectors and Japanese abductee family members. His interest and concern gave us all hope that he would be our champion who would not abandon us and our lost family members. But now those words appear empty to us as Mr. Bush’s government prepares to say that Kim Jong Il is not a terrorist, that his regime which stole our family members and broke our hearts is not a sponsor of terrorism.

When another family of U.S. citizens had their family member kidnapped through treachery, held against his will, abused, and finally murdered, President Bush had strong words. When Mr. Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002, President Bush said that “the brutal killing” would only steel his country’s resolve “to stamp out terrorism.” Our honorable President also said that “those who threaten Americans, those who engage in criminal, barbaric acts need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause, and only deepen the resolve of the USA to rid the world of these agents of terror.” Honorable President Bush, if the men who kidnapped, tortured, and killed Daniel Pearl are terrorists then is it not also the case for those in the regime who kidnapped, tortured, and possibly killed my husband? We may be just a Korean-American immigrant family who are new to this great country, but our hearts break as much as the Pearl family at our loss.

I ask President Bush to seek an apology from the North Korean regime for the kidnapping of my husband, an accounting from the North Korean regime of what happened to him, a pledge to hold accountable those responsible, and, if he is dead, that North Korea return his body so that he may be laid to rest in the free soil of America and not in the prison soil of North Korea.

Hak-Keun Chang
USA Coordinator
“Life Saving Movement for Rev. Dong Shik Kim”
[I removed  Mr. Chang’s  telephone number, but can provide that on request]