Statement by Rep. Ed Royce

WASHINGTON, D.C. – – On Monday, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-40) participated in a general meeting of the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for the North Korea Refugees and Human Rights. The event was held in Tokyo and was attended by parliamentarians from the United States, South Korea, Japan and Mongolia. As a co-chairman of the group, Royce issued the following opening statement at the event:

“I would like to thank our Japanese hosts, Representative Shu Watanabe, Representative Yoshihide Suga, Representative Akihisa Nagashima and Senator Kazuya Shimba. I would also like to thank Mr. Woo Yea Hwang for his hard work and dedication in organizing the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights [IPCNKR]. Two years ago, I led a congressional delegation to Seoul, where we participated in the inaugural IPCNKR event, on April 16 of 2003. Today – as we were then – we are joined by Parliamentarians from many countries who share the IPCNKR’s commitment of improving the dismal human rights conditions of the North Korean people. I am particularly proud that later on we will be joined by a distinguished delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives, led by the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

“My brief message to you today is that the IPCNKR, and the North Korean human rights agenda in general, has made very significant progress in the last several years. As those of us in this room know, the human rights catastrophe in North Korea – virtually ignored five years ago – is gaining greater and greater attention. For example, it is now U.S. policy to put it on the Six-party talks’ agenda. This attention, I believe, over time, will make a difference for the suffering North Korean people.

“Of course, progress cannot come soon enough. In a society where information is so tightly controlled, as it is under Kim Jong Il, we do not know the full extent of the suffering in North Korea, but we do know that most of the 22 million North Koreans live in nightmarish conditions. We also know that millions have perished from starvation and related diseases, very preventable, while nearly 50 percent of all North Korean children are malnourished to the point that it threatens their physical and mental health. We also know that 200,000 North Koreans are held in detention camps, where they suffer unimaginable abuse. Of course, this dire situation has forced many North Koreans to risk their lives by fleeing into China. If returned to North Korea, they face torture, imprisonment, and even execution. This is the drama so poignantly portrayed by ‘Seoul Train,’ the award-winning documentary that has done so much to catalyze attention on this crisis. [link here –OFK] ‘Seoul Train’ is scheduled for a showing later on today.

“I would like to share with you some of the actions the U.S. Congress has taken regarding North Korean refugees and human rights abuses, and hopefully offer some insight into how we – legislators from around the world – can help.

“I have served on our Committee on International Relations since I entered Congress 12 years ago. Over the last six or so years, our Committee has held many hearings focusing on the abusive human rights conditions in North Korea. We have heard from North Koreans who have escaped this fate, hearing gripping accounts of their suffering, and from NGOs that have tried to address the humanitarian crisis in the North. We have also called on the Clinton and Bush Administrations to come before us and report on their efforts to address this crisis. These hearings have helped to bring attention to the situation, and build momentum for policy changes.

“The Committee’s most recent hearing was in April, when we looked at the implementation of the bipartisan North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. We pressed about when a Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights would be appointed, and brought attention to the weak performance of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Beijing. That organization simply must get energized in recognizing and aiding those North Koreans who reach China.

“Many efforts laid the groundwork for passage of the North Korean Human Right Act. In 2001, I authored a resolution calling on the Chinese government to honor its obligation under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which is part of the Human Rights Act. We passed several other resolutions drawing attention to the North Korean regime’s mistreatment of its citizens, and conducted the oversight hearings, as I mentioned. I should stress that these efforts were supported by both our political parties – Republicans and Democrats. These years of work culminated when President Bush signed the North Korean human rights bill last year.

“We are legislators, and the focus of this conference is on legislative action, but I should say a few words about President Bush. Early on, President Bush was sensitive to the plight of the North Korean people. In 2002, he said this about his North Korea policy to the Washington Post in a very candid interview, ‘Either you believe in freedom, and want to – and worry about the human condition, or you don’t.’ I feel very good that President Bush worries about the human condition in North Korea. Last October, he signed the North Korean Human Rights Act. And of course, in June, President Bush invited to the White House Kang Chol-hwan, who wrote ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang,’ who was sent to a North Korean prison as a nine-year-old boy.

“The Administration appears days away from appointing a Special Envoy on human rights in North Korea, as required by the North Korean Human Rights Act. Encouraged by the Act, the Administration gave Freedom House funding for what turned out to be a very successful North Korean human rights conference, held in Washington last month. Some in this room attended that, I imagine. Also, the National Endowment for Democracy has been given a grant to help South Korean NGOs monitoring the human rights conditions in North Korea.

“The Act also supports more broadcasting hours by Radio Free Asia. Every time I meet with North Korean refugees and defectors, I am further convinced that it is vitally important to bring news and information to North Korea. It is encouraging to see some similar efforts in South Korea, including FreeNK Radio. Information is power.

“I should add that information about the Act is contained on the U.S. Department of State website. And, I am pleased to learn that the Japanese Diet and the South Korean National Assembly are considering similar legislation. We legislators are doing our part.

“It is regrettable that some are opting for ‘quiet diplomacy.’ The South Korean government this year again skipped a vote on a U.N. Commission on Human Rights resolution condemning Pyongyang’s litany of human rights abuses. Two years ago, during the time of the IPNCKR conference in Seoul, South Korean government officials, in explaining their government’s abstaining from the first such resolution, said ‘North Korea may misjudge our attending the voting.’ Another official added that there was no need to discuss human rights and irritate Pyongyang at this ‘important time.’ I agree it is an important time; it is always an important time – an important time to speak-up about human rights abuses in North Korea.

“It is now U.S. policy to raise human rights concerns at the Six-party talks, making the issue of how North Korea treats its people a central part of any dialogue about normalization of relations. This policy was part of the North Korean Human Right Act. Yes, there are those who say: why focus on, why even mention, human rights abuses. They say that bringing up the North’s human rights record only gets in the way of disarming it of its weapons of mass destruction.

“Do not get me wrong; let’s have a dialogue with North Korea, as we are doing. But, let’s have a dialogue based on a clear understanding of what type of government we are dealing with – ignoring human rights issues gives us a false sense of who we are talking to. I see no evidence that overlooking these abuses will get us any closer to an agreement on nuclear disarmament, or that raising them keeps us any further away. Pyongyang’s screaming about us speaking-up about human rights does not persuade me. Add to that – ignoring this issue, keeping silent, is morally indefensible. I do not think we have a choice. I have been long convinced that a concerted, international focus on the North Korean regime’s human rights violations, in fact, is the best way to bring us closer to peace and stability in this region.

“The IPCNKR has achieved much in a very short time. Motivated by the continued suffering of the North Korean people, we must commit ourselves to even greater efforts. I think we are doing that today, and I look forward to continued work with all of you in the months and years ahead.”

Continue Reading

Response to Ralph Sato / NKZone comment

They did not reactivate the reactor until George W Bush unwisely terminated the AF in 2002.

The reactor remained intact and fully able to resume reprocessing whenever N. Korea declared itself sufficiently provoked, which it did when North Korea admitted violating the Agreed Framework (which called for North Korea’s complete denuclearization) and Bush refused to simply tolerate it and keep paying up. Meanwhile, N. Korea was perfecting a massive chemical arsenal by testing it on prisoners, lobbing missiles over Japan, buying more artillery to point at South Korea, and enriching uranium, which it later transferred to the A.Q. Khan network and Libya.

Bush’s decision to terminate the AF and his emotional State of the Union speech naming NK as a member of the “axis of evil” though NK does not have any affiliation to the Moslem Middle East . . .

Exhibit A, North Korean technical assistance to the Iranian nuclear program since the 1990s.

Exhibit B, a report that Iran recently sold Russian-made cruise missiles to North Korea.

Exhibit C, North Korean missiles intercepted on the way to Yemen in 2002.

Exhibit D, a New York Times report that North Korea and Pakistan jointly tested a nuclear weapon in Pakistan in 1998.

Exhibit E, consensus that North Korea was the source of Syria’s SCUD-C missiles and a report that North Korea has traded dual-use equipment with Syria that could be used for biological weapons.

Exhibit F, Saddam’s plan to buy North Korean SCUDs with a range exceeding U.N. limits, stopped only when the invasion was imminent and North Korea opted to keep Saddam’s down payment.

Exhibit G, a complete North Korean missile factory intercepted on the way to Libya.

Exhibit F, uranium hexafluoride made in North Korea, found in Libya. Ad nauseum.

Who’s really being emotional here? Is there any amount of evidence that would persuade you that North Korea is a real proliferation threat?

. . . so angered the NK that they then pulled out of the NPT . . . .

Actually, they originally pulled out of the NPT on March 12, 1993. Does that make this Bill Clinton’s fault?

The question of uranium enrichment processing being done at another hidden site has never been proven with any evidence or convicing argument. The NK official who supposedly bragged about it to James Kelly has denied that he made such a categorical statement.

You don’t consider the statement of a U.S. diplomat relating the N. Korean admission to be “any evidence?” What evidence supports the North Korean version? Why do you consider their story be more credible than Kelly’s, particularly given that we’ve actually found some of the uranium, and presumably acquired knowledge about it by exposing the A.Q. Khan network?

Continue Reading

Won Joon Choe Responds

Dear Joshua,

I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write such a provocative response to my op-ed and also apologize for my own rather tardy response. While I had planned to respond earlier, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and they do so with ever greater frequency when you are taking care of a sick mother.

Be that as it may, as should be the case whenever thoughtful men engage in a dialogue, I hope our exchange will force both of us to re-examine and sharpen our own positions. In fact, this response itself is a product of such a meditation. In particular, I may have overstated the numerical strength of the conservative voting bloc in the South Korean electorate during the 2002 presidential election. The data show that, in sharp contrast to the 1997 presidential election and most of the other election years I have examined, the conservatives were in fact outnumbered by “liberals” during the 2002 election. Nonetheless, the data also shows that the main conservative opposition candidate Lee Hoi Chang would still have won the election but for the pro-American Hyundai mogul Chung Mon Jun’s alliance with Roh Moo Hyun, given that the two conservatives seem to have monopolized the moderate voting bloc between them.

Now to your objections, and I will try to respond to them sequentially. You begin by contesting two of the main premises of my op-ed. First, that there is no stable leftist, anti-American electoral majority in South Korea today; and second that the election of Roh was due to his rather politically shrewd but ideologically-discordant alliance with Chung Mong Jun, rather than the emergence of such a leftist electoral majority. Naturally, you urge me to “cite some objective factual support” to buttress these premises. In the same vein, you argue much later that there is a contradiction or “tension” between my assertion that co-opting Chung won Roh the election and my supposed later concession that (your words) “there was real sentiment behind Roh’s victory.

I am not as big a fan of polls as you seem to be a variety of reasons, but they do appear to indicate that my analysis of Roh’s victory is correct. The poll numbers throughout the 2002 election year demonstrates that Roh trailed Lee by huge margins before his pact with Chung, with the exception of a “convention bounce” that Roh received for a few months after the MDP convention in March (see Table 1 in http://www.asiasociety.org/publications/AU2003.pdf ).

Roh and Chung themselves even explained that they joined forces precisely because various polls showed that they had no chance of beating Lee singly. The formula worked like magic. Roh essentially absorbed Chung’s conservative/moderate base without losing his hardcore leftist base. In fact, this was an almost identical repetition of the deal that brought Kim Dae Jung and the ultraconservative Kim Jong Pil together earlier in the previous presidential election (though that was even a stranger marriage, given that Kim Jong Pil had pretty much created and ran Park Chung Hee’s dreaded KCIA that twice attempted to kill Kim Dae Jung, and the two men had harbored intense personal animosities toward one another). At any rate, Roh’s popularity skyrocketed immediately after the announcement of their alliance, leapfrogging that of Lee in the polls and never looking back. Of course, the problem is that the mainstream foreign press–which are largely liberal and anti-Bush–find it more convenient and probably sexier to explain the election result by inventing stories about some momentous “generational shift” or ideological realignment (that naturally disadvantages Bush), rather than through plain old backroom wheeling and dealing among politicians.

Before I am done with the Roh-Chung alliance, let me stress another important aspect about it that seems to have now become lost in the Western press. This alliance could have easily produced Chung as the presidential candidate, rather than Roh. Unlike the earlier coupling of Kim Dae Jung and Kim Jong Pil–where the former was clearly the dominant partner from the very beginning–Roh and Chung had actually agreed to decide on a presidential candidate among them purely on the basis of a series of polls to determine who would do better v. Lee in a two-man race. Roh won by a threadbare margin, and South Korea narrowly escaped having a presidential election between two ultra-establishment conservatives. Imagine how different the election debates, esp. in regard to South Korea’s posture toward Pyongyang and Washington, would have been if the latter scenario had actually materialized?

If Roh was not elected on the back of a new leftist electoral majority, he seems to be utterly incapable of creating and nurturing such a majority now. Many of his signature leftist domestic reforms–repealing the National Security Law, establishing a truth commission to punish colonialist era collaborators, moving the capital south to weaken Seoul-based elites, relaxing Seoul University’s stringent admissions standards–have created a major backlash in the electorate. The upshot of all this? Roh has been extremely unpopular throughout his presidency (see http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/nation/200506/kt2005063018520211990.htm ). In fact, I believe the approval rating of around 20 percent he registered earlier this year is a historic low for any South Korean president. Further, that seeming unpopularity has translated into his own Uri Party suffering a crushing defeat in the most recent by-election. Needless to say, these are hardly signs that the South Korean electorate has lurched left. If anything, the data may lead one to entertain hopes that the South Korean electorate has become chastened about the limits of South Korea’s leftist agenda.

Now you raised a very fair objection in pointing out that I may be contradicting myself by arguing that (in my own words) Roh “won the presidency by exploiting an ugly wave of anti-Americanism following the accidental death of two teenagers in a collision with a U.S. military vehicle” and at the same time maintaining that reports of anti-Americanism in South Korea is greatly exaggerated. To quote you again, I had “[conceded] that there was real sentiment behind Roh’s victory.

I plead “not guilty” to your charge of contradiction here, and perhaps my analysis of that particular episode of anti-American eruption is emblematic of how I understand anti-Americanism in South Korea. While the protests were nasty and widespread, they were still a manifestation of passing emotions rather than fundamental beliefs. Unlike, say, anti-American protests in the Middle East, they were not motivated by serious policy differences with Washington or an aversion toward American values, but caused by anger at the way the deaths of the two girls were perceived to have been mishandled–an impression that both then president Kim Dae Jung and the ruling party candidate Roh played critical roles in encouraging.

That these sentiments were passing and neither permanent nor deep-seated is demonstrated by looking at the comprehensive poll data that Rand put out in its wide-ranging 2004 study titled “Ambivalent Allies?” The authors of that study examined polls tracking South Korean attitudes toward the U.S. from 1988 to 2003. Throughout that time frame, South Korean views toward the U.S. were generally favorable, and there were only three recorded downturns. December 2002 was–voila!–one of the only three periods where the U.S. was viewed more unfavorably than favorably during those 15 years (chapter 3). The other two occasions? During June 1995 and during February 2002.

Further, that these sudden, transitory upswings in anti-Americanism are driven by emotionalism rather than serious policy or value differences with the U.S. is punctuated by a rather revealing poll taken during one of the three downturn periods, February 2002. When asked to cite the biggest reason for their diminishing regard for the U.S., a whopping 65 percent cited the Apollo Ohno incident! Now this is pretty trivial stuff, an incident where South Koreans believed that one of their speed skaters was wrongly disqualified in that year’s Salt Lake City Winter Olympics on behalf of the American Ohno, who was awarded the Gold Medal (p. 69). Far behind the Ohno incident in importance were President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech (18.8 percent) and the U.S. war against Afghanistan (8.1 percent). I would think that a genuine anti-Americanism would have emerged from sterner stuff.

Of course, chatter about culture or national character makes many enlightened Westerners squirm, but in the end I must turn to the cultural context to explain much of the above. The fact of the matter is that Koreans are an extremely emotional, volatile people; many have compared them to the Irish. Aidan Foster-Carter says South Koreans are primarily driven by the spleen; the political scientist Seung-Hwan Kim, in a revealing essay about anti-Americanism, points to the dominance of “ki-bun” (“a combitnation of mood, feelings, and emotions) as the motor of South Korean politics (see “Anti-Americanism in Korea, The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2002).

Certainly, no analysis of South Korean anti-Americanism is complete without incorporating this cultural context. The wild, (your term) “mercurial” gyrations you acknowledge in the South Korean public opinion is an outcome of the dominance of this ki-bun. So is the violent character of South Korean public life. In fact, to those who were born and raised in South Korea like myself, the incidences of random violence against American servicemen that you decry are not primarily “[expressions] of anti-Americanism. Rather, they are better interpreted simply as expressions of South Korea’s violent culture.

You also offer a lengthy summary of various polls that have persuaded you that “a clear majority [in South Korea] dislike “˜America.'” I will try to be quick here, but suffice to say I do not read those very data you cite the same way:

“¢ There is the matter of the reliability of these polls–which you too pronounce “dubious. Two polls you cite that took place in the same year and same month actually show different results. For instance, in the April 2005 Joongang Ilbo poll that asked to name the country that posed the greatest threat to South Korea, the U.S. is far behind both Japan and North Korea. But in the Frontier Times poll that took place at the same time, the U.S. leads all countries for that dubious distinction. It would be interesting to hear what could possibly cause such a discrepancy. For myself, I think your data tells me more about the inherent difficult of attempting to capture South Korea’s wildly volatile public opinion through static polls than anything else.

“¢ Second, I see no persuasive poll data that shows a “clear majority dislike “˜America.'” The only possible candidate here is the Pew Global Attitudes Project poll data that indicated that a minority of 46 percent held a “favorable” view of the U.S. But the question is how many held “unfavorable” view? Besides, the Rand study I cited earlier show that the “favorable” view rebounded to 50 percent by September 2003, four months after the Pew poll (p. 46). Again, the problem is that a historical context is lacking with these data, even if some of them do confirm your point.

“¢ Third, I see a lot of data you cited that really does not have much to do at all with anti-Americanism.

For example, again you make a great deal of June 2003 Pew poll data that purportedly show that–compared to other Asian nations surveyed–South Koreans put less emphasis on certain fundamental democratic or liberal values such as competitive elections, free press, fair judiciary, religious freedom, and free speech.

To begin with, if I were nitpicking, I could argue that the 48 percent South Koreans who thought free press was very important was a number higher than all other Asian countries surveyed except Bangladesh, not “among the lowest survey results in Asia” that you claim.

Next, in a more serious vein, I am not sure if the data says what you think it says on the surface. I assume you are trying to say that South Korea has a less democratic or liberal culture or institutions than other Asian countries surveyed. While I am a fan of cultural explanations and wholeheartedly agree that South Korean politics can be better understood through a Confucian or authoritarian lens (see an Asia Times essay I published last year titled “South Korea’s Retrograde Politics” http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/FI04Dg01.html ), it would take a lot more to persuade me that South Korea is less democratic or liberal than some of these Asian countries surveyed.

Consider, say, the question of religious freedom. Could it be that South Koreans deem it less important simply because religious conflict was one of the few conflicts that contemporary South Korea has been thankfully free of for most part? In contrast, in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan (which is for some reason considered part of the Middle East by the Pew Center)–all of which have been wracked by religious conflict in recent times–religious freedom is judged to be far more important. Another outlandish data, which to me clinches it (and you omit among the same group of questions about values), is the data that says South Koreans deem economic prosperity the least important among Asian nations surveyed! Pardon? Again, maybe the data simply shows South Koreans take prosperity for granted since that they are already prosperous?

Further, I don’t see how all this relates to anti-Americanism even if you are right that South Korea is less democratic or liberal than other peer Asian nations surveyed. I suppose a convergence of culture can help countries to grow closer together, but that is not always so. Although I don’t know if data are available, I suspect that the number of South Koreans who believed that the aforementioned list of democratic or liberal values were “very important” were lower than they were in December 2002 or May 2003 throughout those decades where South Koreans’ opinion of the U.S. were “favorable” for most part. Certainly, democratization in South Korea has been blamed for anti-Americanism in many quarters.

I have probably already written too much, so perhaps it’s time to wrap up. I obviously read the data that I have presented here and you have countered with differently than you do. I think they say that South Korean public generally has favorable views of the U.S., with a few highly publicized downturns owing to passing emotions that get out of hand for a time. The impression of widespread anti-Americanism is instead due to the fact that the Western media suddenly becomes transfixed by South Korea only during one of these downturns–or worse yet, when a particularly rambunctious minority does something outrageous that persuades the Western media that one of those downturns has arrived. And to the extent that anti-Americanism has in fact gained some “real” ground in recent years, it is due to a comprehensive propaganda effort of Roh’s leftist government–which can be countered by a new conservative government, which seems to be an increasingly greater likelihood in 2007 given Roh and his Uri Party’s immense unpopularity.

On the basis of all these factors, it seems to me rather myopic to give up on South Korea so soon.

Continue Reading

Won Joon Choe Responds

Dear Joshua,

I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write such a provocative response to my op-ed and also apologize for my own rather tardy response. While I had planned to respond earlier, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and they do so with ever greater frequency when you are taking care of a sick mother.

Be that as it may, as should be the case whenever thoughtful men engage in a dialogue, I hope our exchange will force both of us to re-examine and sharpen our own positions. In fact, this response itself is a product of such a meditation. In particular, I may have overstated the numerical strength of the conservative voting bloc in the South Korean electorate during the 2002 presidential election. The data show that, in sharp contrast to the 1997 presidential election and most of the other election years I have examined, the conservatives were in fact outnumbered by “liberals” during the 2002 election. Nonetheless, the data also shows that the main conservative opposition candidate Lee Hoi Chang would still have won the election but for the pro-American Hyundai mogul Chung Mon Jun’s alliance with Roh Moo Hyun, given that the two conservatives seem to have monopolized the moderate voting bloc between them.

Now to your objections, and I will try to respond to them sequentially. You begin by contesting two of the main premises of my op-ed. First, that there is no stable leftist, anti-American electoral majority in South Korea today; and second that the election of Roh was due to his rather politically shrewd but ideologically-discordant alliance with Chung Mong Jun, rather than the emergence of such a leftist electoral majority. Naturally, you urge me to “cite some objective factual support” to buttress these premises. In the same vein, you argue much later that there is a contradiction or “tension” between my assertion that co-opting Chung won Roh the election and my supposed later concession that (your words) “there was real sentiment behind Roh’s victory.

I am not as big a fan of polls as you seem to be a variety of reasons, but they do appear to indicate that my analysis of Roh’s victory is correct. The poll numbers throughout the 2002 election year demonstrates that Roh trailed Lee by huge margins before his pact with Chung, with the exception of a “convention bounce” that Roh received for a few months after the MDP convention in March (see Table 1 in http://www.asiasociety.org/publications/AU2003.pdf ).

Roh and Chung themselves even explained that they joined forces precisely because various polls showed that they had no chance of beating Lee singly. The formula worked like magic. Roh essentially absorbed Chung’s conservative/moderate base without losing his hardcore leftist base. In fact, this was an almost identical repetition of the deal that brought Kim Dae Jung and the ultraconservative Kim Jong Pil together earlier in the previous presidential election (though that was even a stranger marriage, given that Kim Jong Pil had pretty much created and ran Park Chung Hee’s dreaded KCIA that twice attempted to kill Kim Dae Jung, and the two men had harbored intense personal animosities toward one another). At any rate, Roh’s popularity skyrocketed immediately after the announcement of their alliance, leapfrogging that of Lee in the polls and never looking back. Of course, the problem is that the mainstream foreign press–which are largely liberal and anti-Bush–find it more convenient and probably sexier to explain the election result by inventing stories about some momentous “generational shift” or ideological realignment (that naturally disadvantages Bush), rather than through plain old backroom wheeling and dealing among politicians.

Before I am done with the Roh-Chung alliance, let me stress another important aspect about it that seems to have now become lost in the Western press. This alliance could have easily produced Chung as the presidential candidate, rather than Roh. Unlike the earlier coupling of Kim Dae Jung and Kim Jong Pil–where the former was clearly the dominant partner from the very beginning–Roh and Chung had actually agreed to decide on a presidential candidate among them purely on the basis of a series of polls to determine who would do better v. Lee in a two-man race. Roh won by a threadbare margin, and South Korea narrowly escaped having a presidential election between two ultra-establishment conservatives. Imagine how different the election debates, esp. in regard to South Korea’s posture toward Pyongyang and Washington, would have been if the latter scenario had actually materialized?

If Roh was not elected on the back of a new leftist electoral majority, he seems to be utterly incapable of creating and nurturing such a majority now. Many of his signature leftist domestic reforms–repealing the National Security Law, establishing a truth commission to punish colonialist era collaborators, moving the capital south to weaken Seoul-based elites, relaxing Seoul University’s stringent admissions standards–have created a major backlash in the electorate. The upshot of all this? Roh has been extremely unpopular throughout his presidency (see http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/nation/200506/kt2005063018520211990.htm ). In fact, I believe the approval rating of around 20 percent he registered earlier this year is a historic low for any South Korean president. Further, that seeming unpopularity has translated into his own Uri Party suffering a crushing defeat in the most recent by-election. Needless to say, these are hardly signs that the South Korean electorate has lurched left. If anything, the data may lead one to entertain hopes that the South Korean electorate has become chastened about the limits of South Korea’s leftist agenda.

Now you raised a very fair objection in pointing out that I may be contradicting myself by arguing that (in my own words) Roh “won the presidency by exploiting an ugly wave of anti-Americanism following the accidental death of two teenagers in a collision with a U.S. military vehicle” and at the same time maintaining that reports of anti-Americanism in South Korea is greatly exaggerated. To quote you again, I had “[conceded] that there was real sentiment behind Roh’s victory.

I plead “not guilty” to your charge of contradiction here, and perhaps my analysis of that particular episode of anti-American eruption is emblematic of how I understand anti-Americanism in South Korea. While the protests were nasty and widespread, they were still a manifestation of passing emotions rather than fundamental beliefs. Unlike, say, anti-American protests in the Middle East, they were not motivated by serious policy differences with Washington or an aversion toward American values, but caused by anger at the way the deaths of the two girls were perceived to have been mishandled–an impression that both then president Kim Dae Jung and the ruling party candidate Roh played critical roles in encouraging.

That these sentiments were passing and neither permanent nor deep-seated is demonstrated by looking at the comprehensive poll data that Rand put out in its wide-ranging 2004 study titled “Ambivalent Allies?” The authors of that study examined polls tracking South Korean attitudes toward the U.S. from 1988 to 2003. Throughout that time frame, South Korean views toward the U.S. were generally favorable, and there were only three recorded downturns. December 2002 was–voila!–one of the only three periods where the U.S. was viewed more unfavorably than favorably during those 15 years (chapter 3). The other two occasions? During June 1995 and during February 2002.

Further, that these sudden, transitory upswings in anti-Americanism are driven by emotionalism rather than serious policy or value differences with the U.S. is punctuated by a rather revealing poll taken during one of the three downturn periods, February 2002. When asked to cite the biggest reason for their diminishing regard for the U.S., a whopping 65 percent cited the Apollo Ohno incident! Now this is pretty trivial stuff, an incident where South Koreans believed that one of their speed skaters was wrongly disqualified in that year’s Salt Lake City Winter Olympics on behalf of the American Ohno, who was awarded the Gold Medal (p. 69). Far behind the Ohno incident in importance were President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech (18.8 percent) and the U.S. war against Afghanistan (8.1 percent). I would think that a genuine anti-Americanism would have emerged from sterner stuff.

Of course, chatter about culture or national character makes many enlightened Westerners squirm, but in the end I must turn to the cultural context to explain much of the above. The fact of the matter is that Koreans are an extremely emotional, volatile people; many have compared them to the Irish. Aidan Foster-Carter says South Koreans are primarily driven by the spleen; the political scientist Seung-Hwan Kim, in a revealing essay about anti-Americanism, points to the dominance of “ki-bun” (“a combitnation of mood, feelings, and emotions) as the motor of South Korean politics (see “Anti-Americanism in Korea, The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2002).

Certainly, no analysis of South Korean anti-Americanism is complete without incorporating this cultural context. The wild, (your term) “mercurial” gyrations you acknowledge in the South Korean public opinion is an outcome of the dominance of this ki-bun. So is the violent character of South Korean public life. In fact, to those who were born and raised in South Korea like myself, the incidences of random violence against American servicemen that you decry are not primarily “[expressions] of anti-Americanism. Rather, they are better interpreted simply as expressions of South Korea’s violent culture.

You also offer a lengthy summary of various polls that have persuaded you that “a clear majority [in South Korea] dislike “˜America.'” I will try to be quick here, but suffice to say I do not read those very data you cite the same way:

“¢ There is the matter of the reliability of these polls–which you too pronounce “dubious. Two polls you cite that took place in the same year and same month actually show different results. For instance, in the April 2005 Joongang Ilbo poll that asked to name the country that posed the greatest threat to South Korea, the U.S. is far behind both Japan and North Korea. But in the Frontier Times poll that took place at the same time, the U.S. leads all countries for that dubious distinction. It would be interesting to hear what could possibly cause such a discrepancy. For myself, I think your data tells me more about the inherent difficult of attempting to capture South Korea’s wildly volatile public opinion through static polls than anything else.

“¢ Second, I see no persuasive poll data that shows a “clear majority dislike “˜America.'” The only possible candidate here is the Pew Global Attitudes Project poll data that indicated that a minority of 46 percent held a “favorable” view of the U.S. But the question is how many held “unfavorable” view? Besides, the Rand study I cited earlier show that the “favorable” view rebounded to 50 percent by September 2003, four months after the Pew poll (p. 46). Again, the problem is that a historical context is lacking with these data, even if some of them do confirm your point.

“¢ Third, I see a lot of data you cited that really does not have much to do at all with anti-Americanism.

For example, again you make a great deal of June 2003 Pew poll data that purportedly show that–compared to other Asian nations surveyed–South Koreans put less emphasis on certain fundamental democratic or liberal values such as competitive elections, free press, fair judiciary, religious freedom, and free speech.

To begin with, if I were nitpicking, I could argue that the 48 percent South Koreans who thought free press was very important was a number higher than all other Asian countries surveyed except Bangladesh, not “among the lowest survey results in Asia” that you claim.

Next, in a more serious vein, I am not sure if the data says what you think it says on the surface. I assume you are trying to say that South Korea has a less democratic or liberal culture or institutions than other Asian countries surveyed. While I am a fan of cultural explanations and wholeheartedly agree that South Korean politics can be better understood through a Confucian or authoritarian lens (see an Asia Times essay I published last year titled “South Korea’s Retrograde Politics” http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/FI04Dg01.html ), it would take a lot more to persuade me that South Korea is less democratic or liberal than some of these Asian countries surveyed.

Consider, say, the question of religious freedom. Could it be that South Koreans deem it less important simply because religious conflict was one of the few conflicts that contemporary South Korea has been thankfully free of for most part? In contrast, in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan (which is for some reason considered part of the Middle East by the Pew Center)–all of which have been wracked by religious conflict in recent times–religious freedom is judged to be far more important. Another outlandish data, which to me clinches it (and you omit among the same group of questions about values), is the data that says South Koreans deem economic prosperity the least important among Asian nations surveyed! Pardon? Again, maybe the data simply shows South Koreans take prosperity for granted since that they are already prosperous?

Further, I don’t see how all this relates to anti-Americanism even if you are right that South Korea is less democratic or liberal than other peer Asian nations surveyed. I suppose a convergence of culture can help countries to grow closer together, but that is not always so. Although I don’t know if data are available, I suspect that the number of South Koreans who believed that the aforementioned list of democratic or liberal values were “very important” were lower than they were in December 2002 or May 2003 throughout those decades where South Koreans’ opinion of the U.S. were “favorable” for most part. Certainly, democratization in South Korea has been blamed for anti-Americanism in many quarters.

I have probably already written too much, so perhaps it’s time to wrap up. I obviously read the data that I have presented here and you have countered with differently than you do. I think they say that South Korean public generally has favorable views of the U.S., with a few highly publicized downturns owing to passing emotions that get out of hand for a time. The impression of widespread anti-Americanism is instead due to the fact that the Western media suddenly becomes transfixed by South Korea only during one of these downturns–or worse yet, when a particularly rambunctious minority does something outrageous that persuades the Western media that one of those downturns has arrived. And to the extent that anti-Americanism has in fact gained some “real” ground in recent years, it is due to a comprehensive propaganda effort of Roh’s leftist government–which can be countered by a new conservative government, which seems to be an increasingly greater likelihood in 2007 given Roh and his Uri Party’s immense unpopularity.

On the basis of all these factors, it seems to me rather myopic to give up on South Korea so soon.

Continue Reading

Freedom House Press Release

FREEDOM HOUSE CONFERENCE TO FOCUS
ON NORTH KOREA HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS

WASHINGTON, DC, July 8, 2005 — North Korea’s horrific human rights crisis will be the focus of a first-ever international conference, to be held July 19, 2005 in Washington, DC, Freedom House announced today.

The conference, titled “Freedom for All Koreans,” will feature Kang Chol Hwan, a defector to South Korea and author of “The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag,” and Natan Sharansky, former Soviet dissident, political prisoner and Israeli cabinet minister, and author of “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.”

The conference will take place at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. The gathering is part of Freedom House’s new Human Rights in North Korea Project, a year-long campaign to galvanize world opinion and alleviate the plight of the 20 million Koreans suffering under the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il.

Conference details, including an agenda, are available online here. The agenda also follows below this alert.

This day-long event will highlight the work of many dedicated individuals championing the cause of human rights in North Korea. Participants will include leaders of non-governmental organizations, human rights groups, religious leaders and government and civic leaders from across the United States, the Korean peninsula, Japan, and Europe. The goal of the conference is to generate awareness of ongoing, egregious human rights abuses occurring daily in North Korea, and to plan concrete and effective actions to alleviate the humanitarian crisis there.

Conference program highlights include:

— Opening remarks by Congressman Jim Leach, followed by the screening of the documentary films “Seoul Train” and “Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story;”

— North Korean defectors forum, including testimony from women victims of human trafficking in China;

— Luncheon keynote address by Natan Sharansky, distinguished senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem;

— Conversation with Natan Sharansky and Kang Chol Hwan, moderated by Senator Sam Brownback;

— Remarks by Congressman Frank Wolf.

The conference will conclude with a concert organized by LiNK (Liberation in North Korea), a university students group with over 70 chapters worldwide.

For more information on the Human Rights in North Korea Project and to register for the conference, click here.

EVENT DETAILS:
FREEDOM FOR ALL KOREANS
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
8:30am – 9:00pm

The Mayflower Hotel: Grand Ballroom

1127 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

AGENDA (draft)
8:30am-7:30pm
Pre-Registration and On-site Registration Check-in

Located at the Promenade in front of the Grand Ballroom.

9:30-10:00am
Opening Session:

The opening remarks will be given by Ambassador Mark Palmer, Freedom
House Board Member.

Opening Statement: U.S Congressman Jim Leach

10:00-10:45am
Documentary Presentations:

SEOUL TRAIN. Introduced by Jim Butterworth, producer and director. With
its riveting footage of a secretive underground railroad,Seoul Train is the gripping documentary expose into the life and death of North Koreans as they try to escape their homeland and China.

Special Guests: Tim Peters and Ki-Won Chun (to be confirmed).

ABDUCTION: The Megumi Yokota Story. Introduced by Directors Chris
Sheridan and Patty Kim. Japan, 1977. A young girl walks home from school on a dark lonely road that leads to the windswept shores. She says goodbye to her friends. They turn a corner. Then, 13-year Megumi Yokota vanishes without a trace. Years later, the shocking truth is revealed. In a stunning announcement, North Korea admits it kidnapped Japanese citizens to train North Korean secret agents. The true story of one family’s fight to find the truth. And a nation’s struggle for justice.

Special Guest: Norbert Vollertsen (to be confirmed)

11:00-11:50am
North Korean Defectors’ Forum

Moderator: Carl Gershman, President of National Endowment for Democracy.

The session will include testimony from women victims of human trafficking in China.

12:00-12:20pm
Luncheon Keynote Address by Natan Sharansky:

Speech Title (TBA)

Natan Sharansky was born in Ukraine in 1948 and studied mathematics in
Moscow. He worked as an English interpreter for the great Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, and himself became a champion of Soviet Jewry and a worker for human rights. Convicted in 1978 on trumped-up charges of treason and spying for the United States, Sharansky was sentenced to 13 years in prison. After years in the Siberian gulag, he
was released in a U.S.-Soviet prisoner exchange in 1986 and moved to
Israel, where he founded a political party promoting the acculturation of
Soviet immigrants. He is the author of The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror and currently a Distinguished
Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center.

12:20 -1:20pm
Lunch Break
1:30-2:15pm
Conversations: Life in a Gulag–Natan Sharansky and North Korean defector and author, Chol-Hwan Kang.

Moderator: U.S. Senator Sam Brownback

2:30-2:50pm
Remarks on Trafficking of Korean Women in China

Ambassador John R. Miller, Director, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons.

3:00-3:30pm
Interfaith Panel Discussion on North Korean Human Rights

Panelists: Rev. Richard Cizik (Vice-President, National Association of
Evangelicals) (to be confirmed), Rabbi Abraham Cooper (Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center), Dr. Richard Land (President, Southern Baptist
Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) (to be confirmed), Rabbi David Saperstein (Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism) (to be confirmed), and Suzanne Scholte (President, Defense Forum
Foundation).

3:00-5:00pm
NGO Working Meeting

This is a closed working group meeting at Freedom House’s Ballroom.
(1319 18th St., NW)

3:30-5:15pm
Freedom Sessions: Organized by KCNK

KCNK (Korean Churches for North Korea) will host short lectures and multi-media presentations in a non-denominational and welcoming setting.
Featured musical guests, Glorious Lampsa choir from the Philadelphia area
will perform.

4:30-5:30pm
Book Signing (Room TBA)

– Natan Sharansky, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, (Korean Language Version).

– Kang, Chol Hwan, Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean
Gulag. Speak with the author who has recently met with President Bush to discuss human rights abuses in North Korea.

5:30-7:30pm
Reception

Master of Ceremonies: Peter Ackerman, Freedom House Board Chairman
VIP Guests to be announced . . .

7:30-9:00pm
Concert and Presentation: Organized by LiNK

LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) is a grassroots human rights organization
with over 70 chapters world wide.

The concert will feature dynamic groups including The Ides, Kevin So, and Culture Shock Dance Troupe, as well as special presentations by LiNK featuring recent footage from North Korea and China, and a general presentation on how the younger generation of students and young professionals has stepped up to take part in the movement for North Korean human rights worldwide.

Continue Reading

Freedom House Press Release

FREEDOM HOUSE CONFERENCE TO FOCUS
ON NORTH KOREA HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS

WASHINGTON, DC, July 8, 2005 — North Korea’s horrific human rights crisis will be the focus of a first-ever international conference, to be held July 19, 2005 in Washington, DC, Freedom House announced today.

The conference, titled “Freedom for All Koreans,” will feature Kang Chol Hwan, a defector to South Korea and author of “The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag,” and Natan Sharansky, former Soviet dissident, political prisoner and Israeli cabinet minister, and author of “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.”

The conference will take place at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. The gathering is part of Freedom House’s new Human Rights in North Korea Project, a year-long campaign to galvanize world opinion and alleviate the plight of the 20 million Koreans suffering under the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il.

Conference details, including an agenda, are available online here. The agenda also follows below this alert.

This day-long event will highlight the work of many dedicated individuals championing the cause of human rights in North Korea. Participants will include leaders of non-governmental organizations, human rights groups, religious leaders and government and civic leaders from across the United States, the Korean peninsula, Japan, and Europe. The goal of the conference is to generate awareness of ongoing, egregious human rights abuses occurring daily in North Korea, and to plan concrete and effective actions to alleviate the humanitarian crisis there.

Conference program highlights include:

— Opening remarks by Congressman Jim Leach, followed by the screening of the documentary films “Seoul Train” and “Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story;”

— North Korean defectors forum, including testimony from women victims of human trafficking in China;

— Luncheon keynote address by Natan Sharansky, distinguished senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem;

— Conversation with Natan Sharansky and Kang Chol Hwan, moderated by Senator Sam Brownback;

— Remarks by Congressman Frank Wolf.

The conference will conclude with a concert organized by LiNK (Liberation in North Korea), a university students group with over 70 chapters worldwide.

For more information on the Human Rights in North Korea Project and to register for the conference, click here.

EVENT DETAILS:
FREEDOM FOR ALL KOREANS
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
8:30am – 9:00pm

The Mayflower Hotel: Grand Ballroom

1127 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

AGENDA (draft)
8:30am-7:30pm
Pre-Registration and On-site Registration Check-in

Located at the Promenade in front of the Grand Ballroom.

9:30-10:00am
Opening Session:

The opening remarks will be given by Ambassador Mark Palmer, Freedom
House Board Member.

Opening Statement: U.S Congressman Jim Leach

10:00-10:45am
Documentary Presentations:

SEOUL TRAIN. Introduced by Jim Butterworth, producer and director. With
its riveting footage of a secretive underground railroad,Seoul Train is the gripping documentary expose into the life and death of North Koreans as they try to escape their homeland and China.

Special Guests: Tim Peters and Ki-Won Chun (to be confirmed).

ABDUCTION: The Megumi Yokota Story. Introduced by Directors Chris
Sheridan and Patty Kim. Japan, 1977. A young girl walks home from school on a dark lonely road that leads to the windswept shores. She says goodbye to her friends. They turn a corner. Then, 13-year Megumi Yokota vanishes without a trace. Years later, the shocking truth is revealed. In a stunning announcement, North Korea admits it kidnapped Japanese citizens to train North Korean secret agents. The true story of one family’s fight to find the truth. And a nation’s struggle for justice.

Special Guest: Norbert Vollertsen (to be confirmed)

11:00-11:50am
North Korean Defectors’ Forum

Moderator: Carl Gershman, President of National Endowment for Democracy.

The session will include testimony from women victims of human trafficking in China.

12:00-12:20pm
Luncheon Keynote Address by Natan Sharansky:

Speech Title (TBA)

Natan Sharansky was born in Ukraine in 1948 and studied mathematics in
Moscow. He worked as an English interpreter for the great Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, and himself became a champion of Soviet Jewry and a worker for human rights. Convicted in 1978 on trumped-up charges of treason and spying for the United States, Sharansky was sentenced to 13 years in prison. After years in the Siberian gulag, he
was released in a U.S.-Soviet prisoner exchange in 1986 and moved to
Israel, where he founded a political party promoting the acculturation of
Soviet immigrants. He is the author of The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror and currently a Distinguished
Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center.

12:20 -1:20pm
Lunch Break
1:30-2:15pm
Conversations: Life in a Gulag–Natan Sharansky and North Korean defector and author, Chol-Hwan Kang.

Moderator: U.S. Senator Sam Brownback

2:30-2:50pm
Remarks on Trafficking of Korean Women in China

Ambassador John R. Miller, Director, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons.

3:00-3:30pm
Interfaith Panel Discussion on North Korean Human Rights

Panelists: Rev. Richard Cizik (Vice-President, National Association of
Evangelicals) (to be confirmed), Rabbi Abraham Cooper (Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center), Dr. Richard Land (President, Southern Baptist
Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) (to be confirmed), Rabbi David Saperstein (Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism) (to be confirmed), and Suzanne Scholte (President, Defense Forum
Foundation).

3:00-5:00pm
NGO Working Meeting

This is a closed working group meeting at Freedom House’s Ballroom.
(1319 18th St., NW)

3:30-5:15pm
Freedom Sessions: Organized by KCNK

KCNK (Korean Churches for North Korea) will host short lectures and multi-media presentations in a non-denominational and welcoming setting.
Featured musical guests, Glorious Lampsa choir from the Philadelphia area
will perform.

4:30-5:30pm
Book Signing (Room TBA)

– Natan Sharansky, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, (Korean Language Version).

– Kang, Chol Hwan, Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean
Gulag. Speak with the author who has recently met with President Bush to discuss human rights abuses in North Korea.

5:30-7:30pm
Reception

Master of Ceremonies: Peter Ackerman, Freedom House Board Chairman
VIP Guests to be announced . . .

7:30-9:00pm
Concert and Presentation: Organized by LiNK

LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) is a grassroots human rights organization
with over 70 chapters world wide.

The concert will feature dynamic groups including The Ides, Kevin So, and Culture Shock Dance Troupe, as well as special presentations by LiNK featuring recent footage from North Korea and China, and a general presentation on how the younger generation of students and young professionals has stepped up to take part in the movement for North Korean human rights worldwide.

Continue Reading

111963656430388633

Excerpts from The American Enterprise, July/August 2005

To read the articles in full, buy your own here. Just seven bucks. If you found this article interesting, consider that it caused South Korea to pull its funding for AEI (scroll down). I’m renewing my AEI membership as a small token of my disapproval of any foreign government trying to control what I read, especially this one, and also because the magazine is always interesting reading and well worth a hundred bucks a year. Similarly inclined?

Excerpts from Daniel Kennelly:
Time for an Amicable Divorce with South Korea

Repositioning and trimming our troops in South Korea is a signal that we are preparing seriously to deal with the danger posed by North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il.

____________________

The current government in Seoul is the most anti-American in the short history of the Republic of Korea. It is a left-wing administration that has fanned public sentiment against U.S. troops. Yet suddenly this government issued statements making it clear it wanted to keep the U.S. garrison in place more than the Americans themselves did.

____________________

Moving U.S. troops away from the DMZ tripwire, and out of the reach of North Korea’s artillery and tactical missiles, is a sensible move if hostilities might be on the way.

____________________

In the carrots-and-sticks approach we have taken toward North Korea, the sticks are strategic bombers, such as the ones the Pentagon moved to Guam in the weeks before the Iraq war in spring 2003. . . . By contrast, our nearly 37,000 soldiers in South Korea–and the alliance that keeps them there–are purely defensive. . . . Yet the presence of these U.S. Army brigades allows the North to hold us hostage, because the North would likely respond to any U.S. air strikes by firing thousands of missiles at our bases in the South. Simply put, therefore, our troop presence in South Korea no longer deters the North. It deters us. (emphasis in original).

____________________

Besides, the South Koreans are now grown-ups fully capable of taking care of themselves. . . . Today, the situation is completely different [than it was during the Cold War]. [South Korea] has the industrial, technological, and demographic basis to field a military that would rip North Korea’s million-man paper tiger to shreds. It’s time we let the South Koreans defend themselves.

Author Daniel Kennelly is managing editor of The American Interest.

Excepts from Gordon Cucullu:
A Stiff Test for America

It would be entirely in keeping with North Korea’s character to sell weapons of mass destruction to non-governmental terror organizations. Hard cash, not morality or legitimacy, carries the day in Pyongyang.

_______________

With this new development, why focus on just another stop-gap measure against North Korean scheming? Could the United States join with its regional partners to get rid of an atrocious dictator and his nuclear threats once and for all? Lifting the pall of a nuclear war, while liberating the oppressed North Korean people and reuniting the Korean peninsula under a democratic government and a free-market economy is a worthy goal. But is it realistic?

_______________

Because of the Souh’s craven politics, Kim Jong Il in the North has been under little pressure to reform or abide by his nuclear weapons agreements. . . . South Korean politicians have moved toward a bizarre neutral stance that presumes to mediate between Pyongyang and Washington, declaring both sides must make “concessions. The North Koreans have thus made progress toward their longstanding objective of splitting South Korea from the U.S. To their shame, many South Koreans have responded positively to blatant North Korean appeals to “Han” ethnic chauvinism. The South Korean public needs to be made aware of the consequences of their surrender.

____________________

What may end up convincing China is the possibility of a nuclear Japan.

____________________

By far the gravest risk to China of a miscalculation in North Korea is the specter of millions . . . of North Koreans fleeing across their border to escape a collapsing Kim Jong Il regime. . . . There is a model we can learn from. Thailand went through a similar but smaller crisis following the fall of Vietnam and the takeover by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. . . . The solution that worked in Thailand was a string of tightly supervised and controlled U.N. camps. Establishment of a similar safety zone where abused North Koreans could revover their mental and physical health, and participate in education and job training programs to bring them into the twenty-first century, would allow the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il to collapse without creating a humanitarian and political crisis.

____________________

Is China up for this level of responsibilty? Many observers say no. This could be a test of China’s new strength and maturity as an international power.

Gordon Cucullu is the author of Separated at Birth, which I reviewed here, if you’re interested. In his book, he discusses the refugee camp idea is much greater detail, along with his decades of experience with Korea during his time in the Special Forces and in the corporate world. Gordon is also a fellow made member of the North Korean Freedom Coalition, complete with diamond pinkie ring.

Excerpts from Victor Davis Hanson: No Easy Choices

More likely the ascendant Chinese are amused by the sheer blood sport of seeing their crazed vassal tie an exasperated America in knots. Is North Korea really out of control, and thus a threat to the breakneck development of China, or is it a useful surrogate to remind the Japanese and South Koreans who really holds the leash of this rabid dog?

____________________

South Korea suffers increasingly the postmodern maladies of the affluent–and cynical–West. Its citizens want pan-Korean solidarity, but not to the point of losing the one-sided benefits of their American alliance. University students demonstrate for Americans to get out of Seoul. But they don’t really want us to leave the Demilitarized Zone. We are supposed to say on the DMZ and endure the increasingly cheap and bothersome anti-Americanism of the “friends” we protect. We could leave in a huff, but we might then watch a successful democracy be blackmailed or shelled, sacrificing a half-century of achievement that cost billions of dollars and thousands of American lives.

____________________

There are no good choices now–just the hard lesson not to allow a maniacal regime to acquire nuclear weapons in the first place.

Author and historian Victor Davis Hanson is a regular contributor to The National Review and blogs here.

Update:

Read Norbert Vollertsen’s article, “A Depraved Society We Can’t Ignore,” here.

Excerpts from Ambassador James Lilley:
Don’t Count on China or South Korea.

Ambassador Lilley begins with a discussion of China’s long history of involvement in and influence over Korean affairs, leading up to China’s decision to send a team to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, establish diplomatic relations with the South in 1992, and “deftly manage” the entry of both Koreas into the United Nations.

China now seeks to increase its influence on the Korean peninsula and gradually reduce the U.S. military presence there. But North Korea’s adventurism with weapons of mass destruction adds a volatile element. China depends on America as an important commercial partner, while also facing the U.S. as a strategic competitor over issues like Taiwan. China sees North Korea as a buffer, and as a useful distraction that keeps U.S. military power preoccupied.

______________________

The South Koreans understand that a strong U.S. military presence in their region is necessary as a credible deterrent. They also welcome the economic stability created by the American umbrella. They share the U.S. objective of North Korean reform, but they care less than we do about monitoring it.

Both the Chinese and the South Koreans want to manage North Korea their way, not ours. Our expectations for their help in any collective talks aimed at influencing North Korea, therefore, must remain modest.

Not exactly incendiary stuff–and that’s actually as extreme as it gets–but when I ran into Ambassador Lilley two days ago, he told me that the South Koreans were not happy, to put it mildly. The most provocative language in the entire piece is its title.

James Lilley served at United States Ambassador to both South Korea and China.

Excerpts from Nicholas Eberstadt:
A Real and Present Danger

If South Korea was not happy with Ambassador Lilley, “royally pissed” might be a better way to describe their reaction to Nicholas Eberstadt’s piece. It may not have helped that the Chosun Ilbo misquoted him. First, some of Eberstadt’s key grafs:

The North Korean government did not join the world’s nuclear club suddenly, on a whim. This was the predictable culmination of decades of steady, deliberate effort in a multifaceted program of for building weapons of mass destruction–not only nuclear weapons but also chemical and biological munitions and ballistic missiles.

_________________

Yet after more than four years in office, the Bush administration still seems to lack an effective strategy for dealing with North Korea. Thus far, it has merely confronted Pyongyang with an attitude. And the problem continues to grow worse. . . . How have the U.S. and its allies responded? With six-party talks that merely resulted in calls for further rounds of talk. This reactive American approach may be leading Pyongyang to conclude that it can deter and manipulate the U.S. with nuclear threats. . . . To date, the United States, its Asian allies, and the rest of the world community have demonstrated to Kim Jong Il that he need fear no appreciable penalties for creating an atomic arsenal of his own.

Eberstadt goes on to list a long history of North Korean provocations that incurred no significant punitive response, noting Seoul’s “timid mutterings” and stating that “Beijing and Moscow paid Pyongyang to merely show up.

Until last year, many Western observers and policymakers seemed to feel that international trafficking in nuclear materials was the one red line North Korea would not dare violate. Now it appears that that line has also been crossed. The U.S. government has announced that North Korea provided Pakistan and perhaps even Libya with processed uranium after 9/11–possibly as recently as 2003.

_________________

Far from deferring or mitigating the peril of conflict, such Western fecklessness toward North Korea [as Colin’s Powell’s statement that “˜we don’t have any red lines’] only magnifies the scale of the expected disaster. For more than a decade, a combination of talk and bribery has been tried to no effect. We all know how the Clinton administration’s mid-1990s attempts to buy cooperation turned out: Pyongyang took the money and plowed it into new covert nuclear programs. The Bush administration’s passive-aggressive approach has hardly generated better results.

Among Eberstadt’s specific recommendations:

Define “success” and “failure” for North Korea negotiations. . . . The administration must not be shy about declaring the process a failure if in fact it is. Rewarding Pyongyang for merely showing up at the talks should not count as a good result.

________________

Work around the pro-appeasement crowd in the South Korean government. . . . The core of this new [Roh/Uri] government has proven implacably anti-American and reflexively in favor of appeasing Pyongyang.

Eberstadt calls its base “a coterie of leftist academics and activists. Nothing libellous there. He also calls for greater pressure on China, recommending that we convey some pointed threats, but not specifying what they should be. Finally, Eberstadt says that the United States must be ready for what he calls “extra-diplomatic action,” including “hard-line sanctions and military options.

Political economist Nicholas Eberstadt is author of “The End of North Korea” and is an AEI fellow. I read it, and I recommend it notwithstanding the fact that things haven’t exactly worked out that way yet. Read a review here.

Royally Pissed South Korean Government
Yanks AEI Funding

In the wake of this issue, the Korea Foundation, which the Chosun Ilbo calls “a body under the Foreign Ministry,” cut off all funds to that (clench teeth now) neocon think-tank called The American Enterprise Institute.

Ruling party officials dislike the direction of AEI activity. They seem particular [sic] allergic to senior fellow Nicholas Eberstadt, who told the Seoul Shinmun in November that Cheong Wa Dae and the Korean National Security Council viewed U.S. President Bush’s reelection as an emergency, adding he could name those who were praying for Bush’s defeat.

Cheong Wa Dae expressed displeasure at the time saying the statement was groundless, and the ruling party demanded an end to funding of the AEI.

In the recent edition of American Enterprise, Eberstadt said the core of the Korean government had demonstrated it was unforgivably anti-American and called Seoul a “runaway” U.S. ally. On June 6, he attacked President Roh Moo-hyun and his predecessor Kim Dae-jung, saying Korea’s last two presidents, two self-proclaimed fighters for human rights, ignored the plight of North Korean refugees.

Sorry, but this is flatly false. Eberstadt never used the words “runaway” or “unforgiveably. It would be fair, however, to quote Eberstadt as accusing Roh and Kim of ignoring the plight of North Korean refugees, however, because Roh and Kim have ignored the plight of North Korean refugees (one Anti-Unification Ministry official infamously compared human rights for the North Korean people to “pearls for a pig.”). It’s also fair to say that the TAE issue’s authors have a “hostile policy” toward the current South Korean government, which is itself a substantial obstruction to forcing North Korea to improve human rights conditions and relent on its nuclear ambitions.

It is also inaccurate to suggest that AEI is uniformly a neocon outfit: Ambassador Lilley is certainly no neocon, and it’s a small minority of conservatives of any variety who support bribing the North Koreans again without demanding some verifiable concessions, at least on nukes. The most “paleo” of conservatives, evangelical Christians, are a substantial–if not the largest–part of the human rights constituency; then again, this whole “paleo”/”neo” thing was always lost on me. Finally, a narrow majority of the Jewish supporters of the human rights constituency are liberals (Stephen Solarz, Tom Lantos, Joe Lieberman).

That said, I’m somewhat mystified that the South Korean government gave AEI money for this long. If they were expecting something in exchange for their money, they should be on the phone with Customer Service.

My reaction? As I said, I’m renewing my AEI membership. Join here if you’re similarly inclined. The magazine alone is worth the money.

(Back to OneFreeKorea)

Continue Reading

111963656430388633

Excerpts from The American Enterprise, July/August 2005

To read the articles in full, buy your own here. Just seven bucks. If you found this article interesting, consider that it caused South Korea to pull its funding for AEI (scroll down). I’m renewing my AEI membership as a small token of my disapproval of any foreign government trying to control what I read, especially this one, and also because the magazine is always interesting reading and well worth a hundred bucks a year. Similarly inclined?

Excerpts from Daniel Kennelly:
Time for an Amicable Divorce with South Korea

Repositioning and trimming our troops in South Korea is a signal that we are preparing seriously to deal with the danger posed by North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il.

____________________

The current government in Seoul is the most anti-American in the short history of the Republic of Korea. It is a left-wing administration that has fanned public sentiment against U.S. troops. Yet suddenly this government issued statements making it clear it wanted to keep the U.S. garrison in place more than the Americans themselves did.

____________________

Moving U.S. troops away from the DMZ tripwire, and out of the reach of North Korea’s artillery and tactical missiles, is a sensible move if hostilities might be on the way.

____________________

In the carrots-and-sticks approach we have taken toward North Korea, the sticks are strategic bombers, such as the ones the Pentagon moved to Guam in the weeks before the Iraq war in spring 2003. . . . By contrast, our nearly 37,000 soldiers in South Korea–and the alliance that keeps them there–are purely defensive. . . . Yet the presence of these U.S. Army brigades allows the North to hold us hostage, because the North would likely respond to any U.S. air strikes by firing thousands of missiles at our bases in the South. Simply put, therefore, our troop presence in South Korea no longer deters the North. It deters us. (emphasis in original).

____________________

Besides, the South Koreans are now grown-ups fully capable of taking care of themselves. . . . Today, the situation is completely different [than it was during the Cold War]. [South Korea] has the industrial, technological, and demographic basis to field a military that would rip North Korea’s million-man paper tiger to shreds. It’s time we let the South Koreans defend themselves.

Author Daniel Kennelly is managing editor of The American Interest.

Excepts from Gordon Cucullu:
A Stiff Test for America

It would be entirely in keeping with North Korea’s character to sell weapons of mass destruction to non-governmental terror organizations. Hard cash, not morality or legitimacy, carries the day in Pyongyang.

_______________

With this new development, why focus on just another stop-gap measure against North Korean scheming? Could the United States join with its regional partners to get rid of an atrocious dictator and his nuclear threats once and for all? Lifting the pall of a nuclear war, while liberating the oppressed North Korean people and reuniting the Korean peninsula under a democratic government and a free-market economy is a worthy goal. But is it realistic?

_______________

Because of the Souh’s craven politics, Kim Jong Il in the North has been under little pressure to reform or abide by his nuclear weapons agreements. . . . South Korean politicians have moved toward a bizarre neutral stance that presumes to mediate between Pyongyang and Washington, declaring both sides must make “concessions. The North Koreans have thus made progress toward their longstanding objective of splitting South Korea from the U.S. To their shame, many South Koreans have responded positively to blatant North Korean appeals to “Han” ethnic chauvinism. The South Korean public needs to be made aware of the consequences of their surrender.

____________________

What may end up convincing China is the possibility of a nuclear Japan.

____________________

By far the gravest risk to China of a miscalculation in North Korea is the specter of millions . . . of North Koreans fleeing across their border to escape a collapsing Kim Jong Il regime. . . . There is a model we can learn from. Thailand went through a similar but smaller crisis following the fall of Vietnam and the takeover by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. . . . The solution that worked in Thailand was a string of tightly supervised and controlled U.N. camps. Establishment of a similar safety zone where abused North Koreans could revover their mental and physical health, and participate in education and job training programs to bring them into the twenty-first century, would allow the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il to collapse without creating a humanitarian and political crisis.

____________________

Is China up for this level of responsibilty? Many observers say no. This could be a test of China’s new strength and maturity as an international power.

Gordon Cucullu is the author of Separated at Birth, which I reviewed here, if you’re interested. In his book, he discusses the refugee camp idea is much greater detail, along with his decades of experience with Korea during his time in the Special Forces and in the corporate world. Gordon is also a fellow made member of the North Korean Freedom Coalition, complete with diamond pinkie ring.

Excerpts from Victor Davis Hanson: No Easy Choices

More likely the ascendant Chinese are amused by the sheer blood sport of seeing their crazed vassal tie an exasperated America in knots. Is North Korea really out of control, and thus a threat to the breakneck development of China, or is it a useful surrogate to remind the Japanese and South Koreans who really holds the leash of this rabid dog?

____________________

South Korea suffers increasingly the postmodern maladies of the affluent–and cynical–West. Its citizens want pan-Korean solidarity, but not to the point of losing the one-sided benefits of their American alliance. University students demonstrate for Americans to get out of Seoul. But they don’t really want us to leave the Demilitarized Zone. We are supposed to say on the DMZ and endure the increasingly cheap and bothersome anti-Americanism of the “friends” we protect. We could leave in a huff, but we might then watch a successful democracy be blackmailed or shelled, sacrificing a half-century of achievement that cost billions of dollars and thousands of American lives.

____________________

There are no good choices now–just the hard lesson not to allow a maniacal regime to acquire nuclear weapons in the first place.

Author and historian Victor Davis Hanson is a regular contributor to The National Review and blogs here.

Update:

Read Norbert Vollertsen’s article, “A Depraved Society We Can’t Ignore,” here.

Excerpts from Ambassador James Lilley:
Don’t Count on China or South Korea.

Ambassador Lilley begins with a discussion of China’s long history of involvement in and influence over Korean affairs, leading up to China’s decision to send a team to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, establish diplomatic relations with the South in 1992, and “deftly manage” the entry of both Koreas into the United Nations.

China now seeks to increase its influence on the Korean peninsula and gradually reduce the U.S. military presence there. But North Korea’s adventurism with weapons of mass destruction adds a volatile element. China depends on America as an important commercial partner, while also facing the U.S. as a strategic competitor over issues like Taiwan. China sees North Korea as a buffer, and as a useful distraction that keeps U.S. military power preoccupied.

______________________

The South Koreans understand that a strong U.S. military presence in their region is necessary as a credible deterrent. They also welcome the economic stability created by the American umbrella. They share the U.S. objective of North Korean reform, but they care less than we do about monitoring it.

Both the Chinese and the South Koreans want to manage North Korea their way, not ours. Our expectations for their help in any collective talks aimed at influencing North Korea, therefore, must remain modest.

Not exactly incendiary stuff–and that’s actually as extreme as it gets–but when I ran into Ambassador Lilley two days ago, he told me that the South Koreans were not happy, to put it mildly. The most provocative language in the entire piece is its title.

James Lilley served at United States Ambassador to both South Korea and China.

Excerpts from Nicholas Eberstadt:
A Real and Present Danger

If South Korea was not happy with Ambassador Lilley, “royally pissed” might be a better way to describe their reaction to Nicholas Eberstadt’s piece. It may not have helped that the Chosun Ilbo misquoted him. First, some of Eberstadt’s key grafs:

The North Korean government did not join the world’s nuclear club suddenly, on a whim. This was the predictable culmination of decades of steady, deliberate effort in a multifaceted program of for building weapons of mass destruction–not only nuclear weapons but also chemical and biological munitions and ballistic missiles.

_________________

Yet after more than four years in office, the Bush administration still seems to lack an effective strategy for dealing with North Korea. Thus far, it has merely confronted Pyongyang with an attitude. And the problem continues to grow worse. . . . How have the U.S. and its allies responded? With six-party talks that merely resulted in calls for further rounds of talk. This reactive American approach may be leading Pyongyang to conclude that it can deter and manipulate the U.S. with nuclear threats. . . . To date, the United States, its Asian allies, and the rest of the world community have demonstrated to Kim Jong Il that he need fear no appreciable penalties for creating an atomic arsenal of his own.

Eberstadt goes on to list a long history of North Korean provocations that incurred no significant punitive response, noting Seoul’s “timid mutterings” and stating that “Beijing and Moscow paid Pyongyang to merely show up.

Until last year, many Western observers and policymakers seemed to feel that international trafficking in nuclear materials was the one red line North Korea would not dare violate. Now it appears that that line has also been crossed. The U.S. government has announced that North Korea provided Pakistan and perhaps even Libya with processed uranium after 9/11–possibly as recently as 2003.

_________________

Far from deferring or mitigating the peril of conflict, such Western fecklessness toward North Korea [as Colin’s Powell’s statement that “˜we don’t have any red lines’] only magnifies the scale of the expected disaster. For more than a decade, a combination of talk and bribery has been tried to no effect. We all know how the Clinton administration’s mid-1990s attempts to buy cooperation turned out: Pyongyang took the money and plowed it into new covert nuclear programs. The Bush administration’s passive-aggressive approach has hardly generated better results.

Among Eberstadt’s specific recommendations:

Define “success” and “failure” for North Korea negotiations. . . . The administration must not be shy about declaring the process a failure if in fact it is. Rewarding Pyongyang for merely showing up at the talks should not count as a good result.

________________

Work around the pro-appeasement crowd in the South Korean government. . . . The core of this new [Roh/Uri] government has proven implacably anti-American and reflexively in favor of appeasing Pyongyang.

Eberstadt calls its base “a coterie of leftist academics and activists. Nothing libellous there. He also calls for greater pressure on China, recommending that we convey some pointed threats, but not specifying what they should be. Finally, Eberstadt says that the United States must be ready for what he calls “extra-diplomatic action,” including “hard-line sanctions and military options.

Political economist Nicholas Eberstadt is author of “The End of North Korea” and is an AEI fellow. I read it, and I recommend it notwithstanding the fact that things haven’t exactly worked out that way yet. Read a review here.

Royally Pissed South Korean Government
Yanks AEI Funding

In the wake of this issue, the Korea Foundation, which the Chosun Ilbo calls “a body under the Foreign Ministry,” cut off all funds to that (clench teeth now) neocon think-tank called The American Enterprise Institute.

Ruling party officials dislike the direction of AEI activity. They seem particular [sic] allergic to senior fellow Nicholas Eberstadt, who told the Seoul Shinmun in November that Cheong Wa Dae and the Korean National Security Council viewed U.S. President Bush’s reelection as an emergency, adding he could name those who were praying for Bush’s defeat.

Cheong Wa Dae expressed displeasure at the time saying the statement was groundless, and the ruling party demanded an end to funding of the AEI.

In the recent edition of American Enterprise, Eberstadt said the core of the Korean government had demonstrated it was unforgivably anti-American and called Seoul a “runaway” U.S. ally. On June 6, he attacked President Roh Moo-hyun and his predecessor Kim Dae-jung, saying Korea’s last two presidents, two self-proclaimed fighters for human rights, ignored the plight of North Korean refugees.

Sorry, but this is flatly false. Eberstadt never used the words “runaway” or “unforgiveably. It would be fair, however, to quote Eberstadt as accusing Roh and Kim of ignoring the plight of North Korean refugees, however, because Roh and Kim have ignored the plight of North Korean refugees (one Anti-Unification Ministry official infamously compared human rights for the North Korean people to “pearls for a pig.”). It’s also fair to say that the TAE issue’s authors have a “hostile policy” toward the current South Korean government, which is itself a substantial obstruction to forcing North Korea to improve human rights conditions and relent on its nuclear ambitions.

It is also inaccurate to suggest that AEI is uniformly a neocon outfit: Ambassador Lilley is certainly no neocon, and it’s a small minority of conservatives of any variety who support bribing the North Koreans again without demanding some verifiable concessions, at least on nukes. The most “paleo” of conservatives, evangelical Christians, are a substantial–if not the largest–part of the human rights constituency; then again, this whole “paleo”/”neo” thing was always lost on me. Finally, a narrow majority of the Jewish supporters of the human rights constituency are liberals (Stephen Solarz, Tom Lantos, Joe Lieberman).

That said, I’m somewhat mystified that the South Korean government gave AEI money for this long. If they were expecting something in exchange for their money, they should be on the phone with Customer Service.

My reaction? As I said, I’m renewing my AEI membership. Join here if you’re similarly inclined. The magazine alone is worth the money.

(Back to OneFreeKorea)

Continue Reading

Freedom House North Korean Human Rights Conference

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Freedom House is pleased to announce our first international event in a year-long advocacy campaign on North Korean Human Rights, to be held on TUESDAY, JULY 19th, 2005 at The Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

This day-long conference will highlight the work of many dedicated individuals who have championed the cause of North Korean human rights. The event will feature distinguished speakers (including a bi-partisan Congressional delegation), exhibits, documentaries, panel discussions, breakout sessions, cultural and spiritual activities and a rally in support of North Korean human rights. Our aim is to raise awareness of the egregious human rights abuses happening each day in North Korea and to plan concrete actions for the future.

We sincerely hope that you will be a part of this momentous occasion. If you or your organization would like to set up an information table at the conference, please contact Ms. Jessica L. Barnes at (202) 296-2861 ext. 203 or Mr. Yonghwa “Peter” Lee at (202) 296-2861 ext. 206 at your earliest convenience.

This message serves as a Save the Date and a formal invitation with the conference schedule will follow. Please feel free to forward this email message to other interested parties.

As a point of interest, we would like to bring your attention to a powerful new film entitled, North Korea, a Day in the Life. This film will be shown on June 17, 2005 at the AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival. Please see the announcement below for more detailed information.

Yours truly,

The North Korean Human Rights Team at Freedom House:

Jae Ku, Director
Jessica L. Barnes, Program Officer
Yonghwa Lee, Program Officer

_________________________________________
Flier for North Korea: A Day in the Life
Playing at SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival 2005 “The Preeminent US documentary festival. – Screen International
Pieter FleuryDenmark / North Korea, 2004, 48 minutes
Few places on Earth are as mysterious to outsiders as North Korea. Because its borders are closed to the outside world, Westerners have almost no sense of what everyday life is like there. Dutch filmmaker Pieter Fleury tracks a day in the life of an average family. This film is sure to make Kim Jong Il glow with pride. The rest of the world, however, may be shocked by this beautifully haunting documentary.
The day begins with a nutritious breakfast at the home of Hong Sun Hui, a female worker in a textile factory. Cameras follow as Mrs. Hong goes off to the factory, her brother goes to school to learn about an abstraction called “the internet,” and her daughter goes to kindergarten, where she learns that “flowers need the sun and she needs the love of the Great Leader to grow. At the end of the day, the three reconvene and share their stories as any normal family would, unaware of the massive amount of propaganda they’ve encountered in one short day.
Representatives from the North Korean film bureau were able to dictate much of what Fleury was allowed to record. But in a film with no narration, Fleury has presented as close to a subjective view as possible without being allowed to say a word. The result is a film that encourages viewers to interpret what they see for themselves.

Tickets: www.SILVERDOCS.com or 1.866.SLVR DCS
Press Inquiries: Jody Arlington, PR Manager, SILVERDOCSPh: 301.495.6759, jarlington@AFI.com (more here)

Editorial note: I had to pass up an invite to a special screening of this film at the Dutch Embassy because of work duties, but a fellow member of the North Korea Freedom Coalition raved about it. I recall reading excellent reviews from a left-of-center source as well, which is odd. I hope to get a chance to see for myself.

(home)

Continue Reading

Freedom House North Korean Human Rights Conference

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Freedom House is pleased to announce our first international event in a year-long advocacy campaign on North Korean Human Rights, to be held on TUESDAY, JULY 19th, 2005 at The Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

This day-long conference will highlight the work of many dedicated individuals who have championed the cause of North Korean human rights. The event will feature distinguished speakers (including a bi-partisan Congressional delegation), exhibits, documentaries, panel discussions, breakout sessions, cultural and spiritual activities and a rally in support of North Korean human rights. Our aim is to raise awareness of the egregious human rights abuses happening each day in North Korea and to plan concrete actions for the future.

We sincerely hope that you will be a part of this momentous occasion. If you or your organization would like to set up an information table at the conference, please contact Ms. Jessica L. Barnes at (202) 296-2861 ext. 203 or Mr. Yonghwa “Peter” Lee at (202) 296-2861 ext. 206 at your earliest convenience.

This message serves as a Save the Date and a formal invitation with the conference schedule will follow. Please feel free to forward this email message to other interested parties.

As a point of interest, we would like to bring your attention to a powerful new film entitled, North Korea, a Day in the Life. This film will be shown on June 17, 2005 at the AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival. Please see the announcement below for more detailed information.

Yours truly,

The North Korean Human Rights Team at Freedom House:

Jae Ku, Director
Jessica L. Barnes, Program Officer
Yonghwa Lee, Program Officer

_________________________________________
Flier for North Korea: A Day in the Life
Playing at SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival 2005 “The Preeminent US documentary festival. – Screen International
Pieter FleuryDenmark / North Korea, 2004, 48 minutes
Few places on Earth are as mysterious to outsiders as North Korea. Because its borders are closed to the outside world, Westerners have almost no sense of what everyday life is like there. Dutch filmmaker Pieter Fleury tracks a day in the life of an average family. This film is sure to make Kim Jong Il glow with pride. The rest of the world, however, may be shocked by this beautifully haunting documentary.
The day begins with a nutritious breakfast at the home of Hong Sun Hui, a female worker in a textile factory. Cameras follow as Mrs. Hong goes off to the factory, her brother goes to school to learn about an abstraction called “the internet,” and her daughter goes to kindergarten, where she learns that “flowers need the sun and she needs the love of the Great Leader to grow. At the end of the day, the three reconvene and share their stories as any normal family would, unaware of the massive amount of propaganda they’ve encountered in one short day.
Representatives from the North Korean film bureau were able to dictate much of what Fleury was allowed to record. But in a film with no narration, Fleury has presented as close to a subjective view as possible without being allowed to say a word. The result is a film that encourages viewers to interpret what they see for themselves.

Tickets: www.SILVERDOCS.com or 1.866.SLVR DCS
Press Inquiries: Jody Arlington, PR Manager, SILVERDOCSPh: 301.495.6759, jarlington@AFI.com (more here)

Editorial note: I had to pass up an invite to a special screening of this film at the Dutch Embassy because of work duties, but a fellow member of the North Korea Freedom Coalition raved about it. I recall reading excellent reviews from a left-of-center source as well, which is odd. I hope to get a chance to see for myself.

(home)

Continue Reading

Interview with Prof. Jae Ku, Freedom House’s New North Korea Director

OFK: Please tell us about your background–where you grew up, and what people, ideas, and philosophies influenced the shaping of your character.

Jae Ku: I lived in Korea during my first eight years. I have two older brothers and a sister, so there were six of us. I grew up in Midwest, but mostly in Kansas. I spent most of my childhood in the town of Salina. I voted for the first time in 1988, for Mike Michael Dukakis. My upbringing lacked the East-coast cynicism and pessimism I’ve seen in other places I lived. In Salina, I lived at the end of a dead-end streaet, where you could see wheat fields for miles . . . to the ends of the earth, it seemed. There was a sense of peacefulness and optimism that came with that environment. The combination of my traditional Korean conservative upbringing and the “Little House on the Prairie” setting made me less suspicious toward power, and specifically, less hostile toward American power. I consider myself patriotic, in a typically immigrant way. Later, I became and academic. Still, I’d would sum up my outlook in these words: optimism, opportunity, determination, and a willingness to work hard.

OFK: Where did you go to college?

Jae Ku: [Laughs] At a little college by a bend in a river. They call it Harvard University.

OFK: When did you graduate?

Jae Ku: In 1993.

OFK: What was your major?

Jae Ku: I have a B.A. in Government.

OFK: Where did you go to grad school?

Jae Ku: To the London School of Economics for my master’s, and to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies for my Ph.D.

OFK: When did you finish grad school?

Jae Ku: In 2003.

OFK: Have you ever been to North Korea? Do any of your family members come from there?

Jae Ku: No, but in college, I met some North Koreans in academic settings, and I actually aspired to be the first American to attend Kim Il Sung University.

OFK: You actually met North Koreans when you were in college?

Jae Ku: Yes, theyre were at a conference at Berkeley conference in the early 1990s. The North Koreans sent two academics there, but they were really diplomats. In Washington, the North Koreans would occasionally attend some Track Two meetings. Aside from that, none of my immediate family members are from there, but some extended family members or members of my wife’s family might be.

OFK: What are some of the jobs you did before coming to work for Freedom House?

Jae Ku: For the past three years until May, I was at Brown on a post-doctorate fellowship, teaching Korean politics to undergrads on a fellowship. I also spent two years at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as an analyst.

OFK: How did you find out about the opening at Freedom House, and what made you want to apply?

Jae Ku: I had been living in Providence, Rhode Island, which can seem as cold and irrelevant to the political world as Manitoba [laughs]. I hope no one in Providence reads this. I had been angling to come back to Washington. Providence isn’t actually very diverse, despite the amount of talk about diversity there. When the North Korean Human Rights Act passed, that’s when I heard about this position.

OFK: Prior to coming to work at FH, were you active on human rights issues?

Jae Ku: When I grew up, I was flaming liberal, politically speaking. That wasn’t always easy in Kansas. I actually started the first Amnesty International chapter at my high school. Some of the school authorities thought it was a communist-inspired organization, but I challenged them and eventually won. I headed the chapter for two years. In college, I worked at the North American Coalition for Human Rights in Korea, which was affiliated with the National Council of Churches and headed by Reverend Faris Harvey. They That group waswere mostly focused on South Korean human rights issues, during the time of the military dictatorship. By the 1990s, the rationale for the organization no longer existed, and I’m not sure if they still operate. After that, I left the Korean setting altogether and mostly focused on South Asia and Southeast Asia.

OFK: How is your Korean?

Jae Ku: It’s conversationally fluent, and I do use it every day in my job. It helps that my wife is from Korea. I occasionally run into difficulty with some Chinese words that come up in political conversations, but most native speakers think I’m Korean.

OFK: What to you consider to be your main goals during your tenure at FH?

Jae Ku: We need to finalize our strategy, but more generally, what I hope to accomplish is to improve human rights conditions for North Koreans in both North Korea and China. There are six central demands that will be the key to this: (1) pressure for immediate closure of the gulags; (2) allowing the ICRC [International Committee for the Red Cross] to inspect the camps; (3) an end to public executions; (4) an end to the torture and imprisonment of repatriated refugees; (5) increasing pressure China to end the repatriation of North Korean refugees; and (6) pressuring China to crack down on trafficking of refugees, especially of women. Within that general framework, we are developing an area-specific strategyies for different regions that can play a constructive roles, including the United States, Europe, China, and South Korea.

OFK: What do you consider to be the main target audience for FH’s activities?

Jae Ku: We want to increase awareness in Europe, to get European NGOs more excited about working on this issue, and to get them networked with South Korean and American NGOs. At the end of the day, however, the battlefront is really Korea. Given how opaque North Korea is, the more effective short-term strategy is to work on their South Korean brethren. They need to understand that we don’t oppose engagement, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring up the issue of human rights.

Jae Ku: At the end of the day, we all realizeknow that it’s the Koreans themselves who are going to have to resolve this. I want to change the structure of the debate in South Korea. As you know, there is this false dichotomy now, in which government officials and intellectuals believe that anything short of unconditional engagement will lead to war. They claim that anything less would make North Korea more isolated and belligerent, but that argument doesn’t exactly flow to that conclusion.

OFK: Explain why not.

Jae Ku: Since the beginning of the Sunshine Policy and all the time it’s had, after all the money that’s been exchanged, what results–what track record–can we point to? They [the Uri-ruled South Korean government] may think there’s a future payoff, but that depends on a lot of variables. The process is too complex for such a singular approach. And it’s just intellectually dishonest to suggest that war is only the other option. Some sectors of the government and intellectuals have used these arguments to frighten people.

OFK: What, if any, tangible effect do you expect those FH’s activities to have inside North Korea?

Jae Ku: It’s a big unknown, isn’t it? But we have a big event coming up on July 19th, and Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America’s Korean service will both be there all day doing live broadcasting. They’re even extending the normal amount of live broadcasting they usually do, just for our event. We will also webcast this event on the FH site, so people with Internet access will be able to tune in there, too.

OFK: But what makes you think that North Koreans will be able to hear you?

Jae Ku: I talked to some officials at VOA and RFA to get estimates on how many Northerners listen. RFA estimates that about 10% of North Koreans have heard them. VOA estimated, based on, I think, defector interviews, that 38% had heard their programs. I hope the message of hope gets through, and that it will give them a reason and the strength to endure. They must understand that history is on their side. Freedom and democracy is aare waves that will eventually reach their coast, too. When that historical tide moves in, I hope that we will have played a small part in that.

OFK: The World Food Program is reporting that North Korea is again on the verge of a worsening of famine conditions, along the lines of what we saw in the 1990s. The WFP is asking for $200M in donations, and yet the North’s military budget is reportedly over $5B per year. There have obviously been questions about the diversion of aid to the elites and the military. Do you personally support giving more food aid, and if so, under what conditions?

Jae Ku: This is a very tough issue, and such a morally and philosophically difficult one to answer. Personally, I think food aid programs have to be de-linked from political issues. Our government’s stated policy is that this is a strictly humanitarian issue. But that is not to say that this issue is an island unto itself, however, because the target for the food is average North Koreans, who need to be reached somehow. There has to be a better control of allocation of food aid. It has to be more transparent, and there has to be more of a political push from the donors to get North Korea to abide by the international community’s standards, as the NGOs have demanded. At times, the NGOs have been too flexible in providing food aid.

OFK: What do you mean?

Jae Ku: In the sense that they must demand that the food go to the right people, despite the fact that the Pyongyang regime controls the distribution system. Back in the late 1970s, Viet Nam experienced a man-made famine. At the time, the United States had just lost something like 57,000 lives. We had been defeated by them. Yet we provided food aid to our former enemies. I was in high school when I studied this issue. I couldn’t believe the generosity of this country. That’s the message we should send to the North Korean people–that we are a generous country.

OFK: Are you satisfied that the U.S. government is implementing the N.Korth Korean. Human Rights Act as Congress intended? What do you think of the suggestion by some that the NKHRA was an empty gesture?

Jae Ku: Certainly, I don’t think it’s an empty gesture. I found that a lot of very passionate individuals worked on this issue, and movements like that are always difficult to put together. Their good work has culminated in this human rights act. Many never thought this would get off the ground. Compared to other bills, this came out of Congress relatively quickly. That’s an indicator of the passion behind this. That passion is also shared by some very committed people in Congress, and the Administration is listening.

OFK: What do you make of Kang Chol-Hwan’s visit to the White House, coming as it did just days after South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun’s visit?

Jae Ku: Fabulous. I’m ecstatic. What Kang Chol-Hwan does for the movement is to provide a face and voice for hundreds of thousands of faceless and voiceless North Koreans. He humanizes their mass suffering. When we say that 400,000 people could be in these [prison] camps, the numbers get lost. I’d also note that the visit was not really “a few days after,” as you suggested. This was the next consecutive working day–the Monday after the Friday [when Presidents Bush and Roh met]. Certainly, I think there’s a political message being sent here. And the things that are being said are true–Bush’s reading of Kang’s book has probably reinforced his existing views, and this is going to affect U.S. policy by giving it a strong human rights component.

OFK: Did FH have anything to do with that meeting?

Jae Ku: I would love to take some credit, but I can’t. But Kang is coming to our July 19th event.

OFK: Within a day of that visit, Ambassadors DiTrani and Hill told the Senate that the U.S. would offer North Korea security guarantees even without improvements in human rights and openness in the North. Do you think that this really undermines the tangible meaning of Kang’s visit?

Jae Ku: No. Secretary of State Rice has said similar things in interviews–which is that there won’t be a full normalization of relations without progress on human rights. So has [Ambassador] Christopher Hill.

OFK: North Korea has called broadcasts like those you are talking about attempts to subvert its regime. Do you think that “security guarantees” would also mean an end to broadcasts and other activities intended to promote democracy inside North Korea?

Jae Ku: I really doubt that—-especially with this President.

OFK: Privately, I’ve heard some say that the various groups promoting human rights in North Korea have lost focus and unity in the wake of the North Korean Human Rights Act’s passage. Where do you see this movement going, at least in the United States? Does it have a direction? Will it?

Jae Ku: I certainly want to have a hand in that direction. We need to do better at organize bettering the passionate individuals who make up this movement. We in the human rights community need to think outside of the box, too. And I think we could do a better job of marrying human rights work with capitalism. For example, some of us are getting Kang Chol-Hwan back here to do a book tour, and I’ve been in contact with his publisher.

OFK: Ultimately, this movement is about the people of North Korea, and putting the choices in their hands. Yet there are relatively few North Koreans participating in this movement at present. OFK: How can we do more to involve the North Koreans themselves in the process of opening their society?

Jae Ku: For now, it’s difficult. But on July 19th, at least 20 defectors, hopefully many more, will be here, representing at least two different coalition of defectors’ groups.

OFK: What can you do to advance thattheir participation?

Jae Ku: We have money for sub-grants, and plenty of groups have been asking for them. In some cases, what’s been requested is beyond what we can do. I don’t make the final decisions on the award of sub-grants, but I can tell you that my strong preference is to award them to organizations that are really at the forefront of human rights in North Korea. That means organizations in Korea that are doing this work now. And those groups also tend to need this kind of financial assistance.

OFK: Professor Ku, thank you very much for your time. Anything you want to add?

Jae Ku: Please tell everyone about our July 19th event.

Wish granted.

____________________

Some notes on how I did this interview:. I called Prof. Ku at his office and typed notes of what he said, making my best effort to type his exact words as he spoke them. In that, I failed. Since people tend to converse in sentence fragments more than they realize, I formed the fragments into complete grammatical sentences, but preserved the key words, phrases, and ideas as he said them. When I had cleaned up my notes, I forwarded them to Professor Ku and gave him the opportunity to review his statements and make corrections for accuracy, on the theory that these could be considered direct quotes by adoption. I suspect that real journalists probably do things similarly, but some of thema few skip that last part.

_____________

A few final editorial notes–an anonymous insider not affiliated with Freedom House wrote in to say that planning for FH’s human rights conference is going well. “Freedom House’s Jae Ku is doing a good job of learning on the job while trying to find middle ground between rather contentious agendas. The conference should take place at the Mayflower Hotel; Jay Lefkowitz, the newly selected Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, is expected to be one of the speakers. Some of the other groups that will participate include LiNK and Korean Churches for North Korea, headed by Rev. Seyku Chang.

Freedom House wants to prepare Koreans to take leadership roles, and Korean-Americans have set the trend by starting to take leadership roles in the United States. FH is also trying to keep the movement ideologically diverse, rather than a neocon echo chamber or another voice for unconditional engagement.

(home)

Continue Reading

Interview with Prof. Jae Ku, Freedom House’s New North Korea Director

OFK: Please tell us about your background–where you grew up, and what people, ideas, and philosophies influenced the shaping of your character.

Jae Ku: I lived in Korea during my first eight years. I have two older brothers and a sister, so there were six of us. I grew up in Midwest, but mostly in Kansas. I spent most of my childhood in the town of Salina. I voted for the first time in 1988, for Mike Michael Dukakis. My upbringing lacked the East-coast cynicism and pessimism I’ve seen in other places I lived. In Salina, I lived at the end of a dead-end streaet, where you could see wheat fields for miles . . . to the ends of the earth, it seemed. There was a sense of peacefulness and optimism that came with that environment. The combination of my traditional Korean conservative upbringing and the “Little House on the Prairie” setting made me less suspicious toward power, and specifically, less hostile toward American power. I consider myself patriotic, in a typically immigrant way. Later, I became and academic. Still, I’d would sum up my outlook in these words: optimism, opportunity, determination, and a willingness to work hard.

OFK: Where did you go to college?

Jae Ku: [Laughs] At a little college by a bend in a river. They call it Harvard University.

OFK: When did you graduate?

Jae Ku: In 1993.

OFK: What was your major?

Jae Ku: I have a B.A. in Government.

OFK: Where did you go to grad school?

Jae Ku: To the London School of Economics for my master’s, and to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies for my Ph.D.

OFK: When did you finish grad school?

Jae Ku: In 2003.

OFK: Have you ever been to North Korea? Do any of your family members come from there?

Jae Ku: No, but in college, I met some North Koreans in academic settings, and I actually aspired to be the first American to attend Kim Il Sung University.

OFK: You actually met North Koreans when you were in college?

Jae Ku: Yes, theyre were at a conference at Berkeley conference in the early 1990s. The North Koreans sent two academics there, but they were really diplomats. In Washington, the North Koreans would occasionally attend some Track Two meetings. Aside from that, none of my immediate family members are from there, but some extended family members or members of my wife’s family might be.

OFK: What are some of the jobs you did before coming to work for Freedom House?

Jae Ku: For the past three years until May, I was at Brown on a post-doctorate fellowship, teaching Korean politics to undergrads on a fellowship. I also spent two years at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as an analyst.

OFK: How did you find out about the opening at Freedom House, and what made you want to apply?

Jae Ku: I had been living in Providence, Rhode Island, which can seem as cold and irrelevant to the political world as Manitoba [laughs]. I hope no one in Providence reads this. I had been angling to come back to Washington. Providence isn’t actually very diverse, despite the amount of talk about diversity there. When the North Korean Human Rights Act passed, that’s when I heard about this position.

OFK: Prior to coming to work at FH, were you active on human rights issues?

Jae Ku: When I grew up, I was flaming liberal, politically speaking. That wasn’t always easy in Kansas. I actually started the first Amnesty International chapter at my high school. Some of the school authorities thought it was a communist-inspired organization, but I challenged them and eventually won. I headed the chapter for two years. In college, I worked at the North American Coalition for Human Rights in Korea, which was affiliated with the National Council of Churches and headed by Reverend Faris Harvey. They That group waswere mostly focused on South Korean human rights issues, during the time of the military dictatorship. By the 1990s, the rationale for the organization no longer existed, and I’m not sure if they still operate. After that, I left the Korean setting altogether and mostly focused on South Asia and Southeast Asia.

OFK: How is your Korean?

Jae Ku: It’s conversationally fluent, and I do use it every day in my job. It helps that my wife is from Korea. I occasionally run into difficulty with some Chinese words that come up in political conversations, but most native speakers think I’m Korean.

OFK: What to you consider to be your main goals during your tenure at FH?

Jae Ku: We need to finalize our strategy, but more generally, what I hope to accomplish is to improve human rights conditions for North Koreans in both North Korea and China. There are six central demands that will be the key to this: (1) pressure for immediate closure of the gulags; (2) allowing the ICRC [International Committee for the Red Cross] to inspect the camps; (3) an end to public executions; (4) an end to the torture and imprisonment of repatriated refugees; (5) increasing pressure China to end the repatriation of North Korean refugees; and (6) pressuring China to crack down on trafficking of refugees, especially of women. Within that general framework, we are developing an area-specific strategyies for different regions that can play a constructive roles, including the United States, Europe, China, and South Korea.

OFK: What do you consider to be the main target audience for FH’s activities?

Jae Ku: We want to increase awareness in Europe, to get European NGOs more excited about working on this issue, and to get them networked with South Korean and American NGOs. At the end of the day, however, the battlefront is really Korea. Given how opaque North Korea is, the more effective short-term strategy is to work on their South Korean brethren. They need to understand that we don’t oppose engagement, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring up the issue of human rights.

Jae Ku: At the end of the day, we all realizeknow that it’s the Koreans themselves who are going to have to resolve this. I want to change the structure of the debate in South Korea. As you know, there is this false dichotomy now, in which government officials and intellectuals believe that anything short of unconditional engagement will lead to war. They claim that anything less would make North Korea more isolated and belligerent, but that argument doesn’t exactly flow to that conclusion.

OFK: Explain why not.

Jae Ku: Since the beginning of the Sunshine Policy and all the time it’s had, after all the money that’s been exchanged, what results–what track record–can we point to? They [the Uri-ruled South Korean government] may think there’s a future payoff, but that depends on a lot of variables. The process is too complex for such a singular approach. And it’s just intellectually dishonest to suggest that war is only the other option. Some sectors of the government and intellectuals have used these arguments to frighten people.

OFK: What, if any, tangible effect do you expect those FH’s activities to have inside North Korea?

Jae Ku: It’s a big unknown, isn’t it? But we have a big event coming up on July 19th, and Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America’s Korean service will both be there all day doing live broadcasting. They’re even extending the normal amount of live broadcasting they usually do, just for our event. We will also webcast this event on the FH site, so people with Internet access will be able to tune in there, too.

OFK: But what makes you think that North Koreans will be able to hear you?

Jae Ku: I talked to some officials at VOA and RFA to get estimates on how many Northerners listen. RFA estimates that about 10% of North Koreans have heard them. VOA estimated, based on, I think, defector interviews, that 38% had heard their programs. I hope the message of hope gets through, and that it will give them a reason and the strength to endure. They must understand that history is on their side. Freedom and democracy is aare waves that will eventually reach their coast, too. When that historical tide moves in, I hope that we will have played a small part in that.

OFK: The World Food Program is reporting that North Korea is again on the verge of a worsening of famine conditions, along the lines of what we saw in the 1990s. The WFP is asking for $200M in donations, and yet the North’s military budget is reportedly over $5B per year. There have obviously been questions about the diversion of aid to the elites and the military. Do you personally support giving more food aid, and if so, under what conditions?

Jae Ku: This is a very tough issue, and such a morally and philosophically difficult one to answer. Personally, I think food aid programs have to be de-linked from political issues. Our government’s stated policy is that this is a strictly humanitarian issue. But that is not to say that this issue is an island unto itself, however, because the target for the food is average North Koreans, who need to be reached somehow. There has to be a better control of allocation of food aid. It has to be more transparent, and there has to be more of a political push from the donors to get North Korea to abide by the international community’s standards, as the NGOs have demanded. At times, the NGOs have been too flexible in providing food aid.

OFK: What do you mean?

Jae Ku: In the sense that they must demand that the food go to the right people, despite the fact that the Pyongyang regime controls the distribution system. Back in the late 1970s, Viet Nam experienced a man-made famine. At the time, the United States had just lost something like 57,000 lives. We had been defeated by them. Yet we provided food aid to our former enemies. I was in high school when I studied this issue. I couldn’t believe the generosity of this country. That’s the message we should send to the North Korean people–that we are a generous country.

OFK: Are you satisfied that the U.S. government is implementing the N.Korth Korean. Human Rights Act as Congress intended? What do you think of the suggestion by some that the NKHRA was an empty gesture?

Jae Ku: Certainly, I don’t think it’s an empty gesture. I found that a lot of very passionate individuals worked on this issue, and movements like that are always difficult to put together. Their good work has culminated in this human rights act. Many never thought this would get off the ground. Compared to other bills, this came out of Congress relatively quickly. That’s an indicator of the passion behind this. That passion is also shared by some very committed people in Congress, and the Administration is listening.

OFK: What do you make of Kang Chol-Hwan’s visit to the White House, coming as it did just days after South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun’s visit?

Jae Ku: Fabulous. I’m ecstatic. What Kang Chol-Hwan does for the movement is to provide a face and voice for hundreds of thousands of faceless and voiceless North Koreans. He humanizes their mass suffering. When we say that 400,000 people could be in these [prison] camps, the numbers get lost. I’d also note that the visit was not really “a few days after,” as you suggested. This was the next consecutive working day–the Monday after the Friday [when Presidents Bush and Roh met]. Certainly, I think there’s a political message being sent here. And the things that are being said are true–Bush’s reading of Kang’s book has probably reinforced his existing views, and this is going to affect U.S. policy by giving it a strong human rights component.

OFK: Did FH have anything to do with that meeting?

Jae Ku: I would love to take some credit, but I can’t. But Kang is coming to our July 19th event.

OFK: Within a day of that visit, Ambassadors DiTrani and Hill told the Senate that the U.S. would offer North Korea security guarantees even without improvements in human rights and openness in the North. Do you think that this really undermines the tangible meaning of Kang’s visit?

Jae Ku: No. Secretary of State Rice has said similar things in interviews–which is that there won’t be a full normalization of relations without progress on human rights. So has [Ambassador] Christopher Hill.

OFK: North Korea has called broadcasts like those you are talking about attempts to subvert its regime. Do you think that “security guarantees” would also mean an end to broadcasts and other activities intended to promote democracy inside North Korea?

Jae Ku: I really doubt that—-especially with this President.

OFK: Privately, I’ve heard some say that the various groups promoting human rights in North Korea have lost focus and unity in the wake of the North Korean Human Rights Act’s passage. Where do you see this movement going, at least in the United States? Does it have a direction? Will it?

Jae Ku: I certainly want to have a hand in that direction. We need to do better at organize bettering the passionate individuals who make up this movement. We in the human rights community need to think outside of the box, too. And I think we could do a better job of marrying human rights work with capitalism. For example, some of us are getting Kang Chol-Hwan back here to do a book tour, and I’ve been in contact with his publisher.

OFK: Ultimately, this movement is about the people of North Korea, and putting the choices in their hands. Yet there are relatively few North Koreans participating in this movement at present. OFK: How can we do more to involve the North Koreans themselves in the process of opening their society?

Jae Ku: For now, it’s difficult. But on July 19th, at least 20 defectors, hopefully many more, will be here, representing at least two different coalition of defectors’ groups.

OFK: What can you do to advance thattheir participation?

Jae Ku: We have money for sub-grants, and plenty of groups have been asking for them. In some cases, what’s been requested is beyond what we can do. I don’t make the final decisions on the award of sub-grants, but I can tell you that my strong preference is to award them to organizations that are really at the forefront of human rights in North Korea. That means organizations in Korea that are doing this work now. And those groups also tend to need this kind of financial assistance.

OFK: Professor Ku, thank you very much for your time. Anything you want to add?

Jae Ku: Please tell everyone about our July 19th event.

Wish granted.

____________________

Some notes on how I did this interview:. I called Prof. Ku at his office and typed notes of what he said, making my best effort to type his exact words as he spoke them. In that, I failed. Since people tend to converse in sentence fragments more than they realize, I formed the fragments into complete grammatical sentences, but preserved the key words, phrases, and ideas as he said them. When I had cleaned up my notes, I forwarded them to Professor Ku and gave him the opportunity to review his statements and make corrections for accuracy, on the theory that these could be considered direct quotes by adoption. I suspect that real journalists probably do things similarly, but some of thema few skip that last part.

_____________

A few final editorial notes–an anonymous insider not affiliated with Freedom House wrote in to say that planning for FH’s human rights conference is going well. “Freedom House’s Jae Ku is doing a good job of learning on the job while trying to find middle ground between rather contentious agendas. The conference should take place at the Mayflower Hotel; Jay Lefkowitz, the newly selected Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, is expected to be one of the speakers. Some of the other groups that will participate include LiNK and Korean Churches for North Korea, headed by Rev. Seyku Chang.

Freedom House wants to prepare Koreans to take leadership roles, and Korean-Americans have set the trend by starting to take leadership roles in the United States. FH is also trying to keep the movement ideologically diverse, rather than a neocon echo chamber or another voice for unconditional engagement.

(home)

Continue Reading

A Quiet Man, Heard Across Oceans: Dr. Jae-Joong Nam, 1945-2005

One of the founders of the movement for human rights in North Korea, Dr. Jae Joong-Nam, passed away in his home from a heart attack on June 6, 2005, at the age of 60. He is survived by a wife and two sons.

Dr. Nam was born at Andong, in present-day South Korea, in 1945. He graduated from medical school at Korea University and studied for his medical board certification at Georgetown University.

After the successful completion of his certification in 1986, he entered private practice in Falls Church, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

To Those Who Knew Him, A Gentle Influence

Dr. Nam’s son, Joon, recalls his father’s gentleness and modesty. Neither of Dr. Nam’s sons fully appreciated the importance of their father’s activism until some of Washington’s most powerful people came to his funeral. In fact, Dr. Nam was a small, soft-spoken man who was shy of personal publicity, even as he demonstrated an impressive capability to direct it toward North Korean refugees from behind the scenes.

In 1998, after visiting China and being moved by the plight of North Korean refugees fleeing their impoverished homeland, Dr. Nam founded the Aegis Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping North Koreans and publicizing the conditions in which they live, and often die. He divided his time between actively assisting North Korean refugees, meeting with representatives of influential Washington think-tanks, and carrying the message of North Korea’s suffering to the news media.

Dr. Nam financed most of Aegis’s efforts from his own pocket and dramatically scaled back his medical practice to devote more of his time to helping the North Korean people.

A Key Co-Founder of a Movement

Dr. Norbert Vollertsen (news links) remembers Dr. Nam as a source of cheerful encouragement in the darkest times. “‘You are in big trouble,’ he always smiled when I was beaten up or staged some other protests. It was his habit of appearing when most needed, and then quietly retreating into the background until needed again, that endeared Dr. Nam to those who worked alongside him. On some occasions, this included offering to pay for Vollertsen’s lodging, or his travel back to Korea to continue his activities.

In recent months, Vollertsen had noticed that the strain of the constant travel and activity was showing in Dr. Nam’s visibly deteriorating health. Vollertsen pleaded with him to cut back, but Dr. Nam refused.

Vollertsen credits Dr. Nam with introducing him to some of America’s most important activists for North Korea–Suzanne Scholte, Sin-U Nam, and Chuck Downs of the North Korean Freedom Coalition; and Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute. Dr. Nam worked tirelessly with these leading activists, dozens of others, and sympathetic government officials to bring Hwang Jang-Yop, North Korea’s highest-ranking defector, to Washington in November 2003. Hwang’s testimony before Congress was a milestone in the formation of Washington’s North Korean human rights lobby, a movement whose subsequent accomplishments include the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 and gulag survivor Kang Chol-Hwan’s recent visit to the White House.

Dr. Vollertsen added his energy, uncompromising dedication, and moral authority to the movement, along with his media contacts and his ability to attract needed publicity. In return, Dr. Vollertsen gained access to policymakers who could implement the policy changes he passionately urged. It was just one early example of Dr. Nam helping to form some of the movement’s most important interpersonal connections.

Capturing the World’s Attention

Another well-known activist, Rev. Douglas Shin (news links here, here, and here) (site), credits Dr. Nam with helping to bring the mass migration of starving North Koreans into China to the attention of The Washington Post in 1998.

Shin also attributes international media coverage for the reports of North Korea’s gas chambers to Dr. Nam’s efforts. The story resulted in a full-length BBC documentary, Access to Evil, which in turn resulted in prominent editorials in The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, among others, and which inspired Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to add his considerable voice to the movement. The reports virtually assured the unanimous passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act.

Like Vollertsen, Shin recalls Dr. Nam for his kindness, his dedication, and his omnipresent smile.

Dr. Nam’s partner in the Aegis Foundation, Sei Park, credits Dr. Nam with bringing human rights conditions in North Korea to the attention of Representative Henry Hyde and Senator Sam Brownback, the two most important congressional boosters of the North Korean Human Rights Act.

Park described how Dr. Nam “published countless articles . . . , organized and participated [in] numerous conferences, worked with government agencies, NGOs, and individuals who run covert operations in China and other countries to help [North Korean] refugees.

Working through the Aegis Foundation, Dr. Nam and Sei Park also secretly provided food, medicine, and shelter to refugees trying to reach South Korea through China. They also worked with other activists to help the refugees escape. Park described the danger of those operations and cited them as the primary reason the Aegis Foundation kept a low profile. In China, both the activists and the refugees were in constant danger of arrest.

One of the operations Aegis helped to fund, a secret orphanage and day care center for North Korean refugee children, was discovered by Chinese police. One activist was arrested and remains imprisoned in China.

How Dr. Nam Changed His World

It would not have mattered to Dr. Nam that in Aegis’s clandestine efforts, the secrets had to remain hidden while the tragedies were exposed to the world. It is for this reason that his efforts as an activist in Seoul and Washington will be those for which he is remembered.

The Reverend Tim Peters operates Helping Hands Korea, a charity that helps North Korean refugees as they make their desperate journeys through China. Peters also recalls Dr. Nam as a man who would arrive to marshal a well-cultivated network of friends and contacts when problems seemed insurmountable. Rev. Peters remembers a typical case in 2004 when Dr. Nam rescued a floundering, fund-starved project, receiving no recognition for his untiring efforts. “I don’t think that fazed him in the least,” Rev. Peters recalls, “[g]etting the message out and getting the job done: that’s what mattered to Dr. Nam. That will always be an enduring memory for me.

For Joon Nam, part of his loss was not having fully appreciated his father’s impact. It was on describing this realization that he became emotional and had to pause before continuing the interview.

Dr. Nam himself died without knowing the full measure of his own impact. He passed away a little more than a week before Kang Chol-Hwan, one of the North Korean defectors whose plight he had worked tirelessly to publicize and ameliorate, spent 40 minutes with the President and Vice-President of the United States in the Oval Office. That was approximately the same amount of time President Bush had spent with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun just a few days before.

After the meeting, President Bush reportedly put Kang’s book, The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, on the mandatory reading list for White House staff, a move that triggered unfavorable comparisons in South Korea. Dr. Nam’s efforts helped to lay the groundwork for that meeting, and probably played at least an indirect role in arranging it.

Dr. Nam believed that persuading other nations to abandon their support for the North Korean regime was essential to changing conditions inside North Korea itself. His efforts moved at least one of them, his adopted homeland in the United States, and it is likely that the North Korean people will eventually remember him for this. It is an idea that gives those of us who knew him some comfort, even knowing that Dr. Jae-Joong Nam did not live to see the hour of liberation he worked so tirelessly to bring about.

Continue Reading

A Quiet Man, Heard Across Oceans: Dr. Jae-Joong Nam, 1945-2005

One of the founders of the movement for human rights in North Korea, Dr. Jae Joong-Nam, passed away in his home from a heart attack on June 6, 2005, at the age of 60. He is survived by a wife and two sons.

Dr. Nam was born at Andong, in present-day South Korea, in 1945. He graduated from medical school at Korea University and studied for his medical board certification at Georgetown University.

After the successful completion of his certification in 1986, he entered private practice in Falls Church, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

To Those Who Knew Him, A Gentle Influence

Dr. Nam’s son, Joon, recalls his father’s gentleness and modesty. Neither of Dr. Nam’s sons fully appreciated the importance of their father’s activism until some of Washington’s most powerful people came to his funeral. In fact, Dr. Nam was a small, soft-spoken man who was shy of personal publicity, even as he demonstrated an impressive capability to direct it toward North Korean refugees from behind the scenes.

In 1998, after visiting China and being moved by the plight of North Korean refugees fleeing their impoverished homeland, Dr. Nam founded the Aegis Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping North Koreans and publicizing the conditions in which they live, and often die. He divided his time between actively assisting North Korean refugees, meeting with representatives of influential Washington think-tanks, and carrying the message of North Korea’s suffering to the news media.

Dr. Nam financed most of Aegis’s efforts from his own pocket and dramatically scaled back his medical practice to devote more of his time to helping the North Korean people.

A Key Co-Founder of a Movement

Dr. Norbert Vollertsen (news links) remembers Dr. Nam as a source of cheerful encouragement in the darkest times. “‘You are in big trouble,’ he always smiled when I was beaten up or staged some other protests. It was his habit of appearing when most needed, and then quietly retreating into the background until needed again, that endeared Dr. Nam to those who worked alongside him. On some occasions, this included offering to pay for Vollertsen’s lodging, or his travel back to Korea to continue his activities.

In recent months, Vollertsen had noticed that the strain of the constant travel and activity was showing in Dr. Nam’s visibly deteriorating health. Vollertsen pleaded with him to cut back, but Dr. Nam refused.

Vollertsen credits Dr. Nam with introducing him to some of America’s most important activists for North Korea–Suzanne Scholte, Sin-U Nam, and Chuck Downs of the North Korean Freedom Coalition; and Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute. Dr. Nam worked tirelessly with these leading activists, dozens of others, and sympathetic government officials to bring Hwang Jang-Yop, North Korea’s highest-ranking defector, to Washington in November 2003. Hwang’s testimony before Congress was a milestone in the formation of Washington’s North Korean human rights lobby, a movement whose subsequent accomplishments include the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 and gulag survivor Kang Chol-Hwan’s recent visit to the White House.

Dr. Vollertsen added his energy, uncompromising dedication, and moral authority to the movement, along with his media contacts and his ability to attract needed publicity. In return, Dr. Vollertsen gained access to policymakers who could implement the policy changes he passionately urged. It was just one early example of Dr. Nam helping to form some of the movement’s most important interpersonal connections.

Capturing the World’s Attention

Another well-known activist, Rev. Douglas Shin (news links here, here, and here) (site), credits Dr. Nam with helping to bring the mass migration of starving North Koreans into China to the attention of The Washington Post in 1998.

Shin also attributes international media coverage for the reports of North Korea’s gas chambers to Dr. Nam’s efforts. The story resulted in a full-length BBC documentary, Access to Evil, which in turn resulted in prominent editorials in The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, among others, and which inspired Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to add his considerable voice to the movement. The reports virtually assured the unanimous passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act.

Like Vollertsen, Shin recalls Dr. Nam for his kindness, his dedication, and his omnipresent smile.

Dr. Nam’s partner in the Aegis Foundation, Sei Park, credits Dr. Nam with bringing human rights conditions in North Korea to the attention of Representative Henry Hyde and Senator Sam Brownback, the two most important congressional boosters of the North Korean Human Rights Act.

Park described how Dr. Nam “published countless articles . . . , organized and participated [in] numerous conferences, worked with government agencies, NGOs, and individuals who run covert operations in China and other countries to help [North Korean] refugees.

Working through the Aegis Foundation, Dr. Nam and Sei Park also secretly provided food, medicine, and shelter to refugees trying to reach South Korea through China. They also worked with other activists to help the refugees escape. Park described the danger of those operations and cited them as the primary reason the Aegis Foundation kept a low profile. In China, both the activists and the refugees were in constant danger of arrest.

One of the operations Aegis helped to fund, a secret orphanage and day care center for North Korean refugee children, was discovered by Chinese police. One activist was arrested and remains imprisoned in China.

How Dr. Nam Changed His World

It would not have mattered to Dr. Nam that in Aegis’s clandestine efforts, the secrets had to remain hidden while the tragedies were exposed to the world. It is for this reason that his efforts as an activist in Seoul and Washington will be those for which he is remembered.

The Reverend Tim Peters operates Helping Hands Korea, a charity that helps North Korean refugees as they make their desperate journeys through China. Peters also recalls Dr. Nam as a man who would arrive to marshal a well-cultivated network of friends and contacts when problems seemed insurmountable. Rev. Peters remembers a typical case in 2004 when Dr. Nam rescued a floundering, fund-starved project, receiving no recognition for his untiring efforts. “I don’t think that fazed him in the least,” Rev. Peters recalls, “[g]etting the message out and getting the job done: that’s what mattered to Dr. Nam. That will always be an enduring memory for me.

For Joon Nam, part of his loss was not having fully appreciated his father’s impact. It was on describing this realization that he became emotional and had to pause before continuing the interview.

Dr. Nam himself died without knowing the full measure of his own impact. He passed away a little more than a week before Kang Chol-Hwan, one of the North Korean defectors whose plight he had worked tirelessly to publicize and ameliorate, spent 40 minutes with the President and Vice-President of the United States in the Oval Office. That was approximately the same amount of time President Bush had spent with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun just a few days before.

After the meeting, President Bush reportedly put Kang’s book, The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, on the mandatory reading list for White House staff, a move that triggered unfavorable comparisons in South Korea. Dr. Nam’s efforts helped to lay the groundwork for that meeting, and probably played at least an indirect role in arranging it.

Dr. Nam believed that persuading other nations to abandon their support for the North Korean regime was essential to changing conditions inside North Korea itself. His efforts moved at least one of them, his adopted homeland in the United States, and it is likely that the North Korean people will eventually remember him for this. It is an idea that gives those of us who knew him some comfort, even knowing that Dr. Jae-Joong Nam did not live to see the hour of liberation he worked so tirelessly to bring about.

Continue Reading

House Concurrent Resolution 168, Condemning North Korean Abductions

109th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. CON. RES. 168
Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the abductions and continued captivity of citizens of the Republic of Korea and Japan as acts of terrorism and gross violations of human rights.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 26, 2005
Mr. HYDE (for himself, Mr. CHABOT, Mr. SHIMKUS, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. PITTS, Mr. LYNCH, and Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on International Relations
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the abductions and continued captivity of citizens of the Republic of Korea and Japan as acts of terrorism and gross violations of human rights.
Whereas since the end of the Korean War, the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has kidnapped thousands of South Korean citizens and as many as a hundred Japanese citizens, including Rumiko Masumoto, Megumi Yokota, and Reverend Kim Dong-shik;
Whereas the forced detention and frequent murder of those individuals abducted by North Korea have caused untold grief and suffering to their families;
Whereas on September 17, 2002, after considerable pressure from the Government of Japan, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il admitted that agents of his government had abducted thirteen Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s and assured Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that this would never happen again;
Whereas despite assurances to the contrary, North Korea continues to order and carry out abductions, and, as recently as August 8, 2004, North Korean agents operating along the Chinese border kidnapped Ms. Jin Kyung-sook, a former North Korean refugee and South Korean passport-holder;
Whereas the abduction policy of North Korea has been integral to its espionage and terrorist activities, and abductees have been kidnapped to work as spies, to train North Korean agents in language, accents, and culture, and to steal identities, as in the case of Mr. Tadaaki Hara;
Whereas the Pyongyang regime used abductee Ms. Yaeko Taguchi as the Japanese language instructor for North Korean terrorist Kim Hyon-hee, who was caught carrying a Japanese passport after planting a bomb on Korean Air Lines flight 858 that killed 115 people in 1987;
Whereas many victims of North Korean abduction have been seized during terrorist attacks, as in the hijacking of South Korean planes in 1958 and 1969, and, decades later, Pyongyang continues to hold twelve passengers of a hijacked Korean Air flight, including passenger Mr. Chang Ji-young and flight attendant Ms. Song Kyong-hi, who has since been allowed a brief visit by her South Korean family;
Whereas North Korean agents have hijacked numerous South Korean ships and kidnapped the seamen and fishermen aboard the vessels, such as Choi Jong-suk, Kim Soon-keun, and ten other crewmen of the Dongjin 27, a ship that was seized in 1987, and Seoul estimates that hundreds of these abductees are still alive in North Korea;
Whereas boat hijackings and the kidnapping of fishermen have devastated South Korean fishing communities, such as Nongso village on the southern island of Geoje, a community of 210 people that lost 14 sons, husbands, and fathers when North Korea seized three ships in 1971 and 1972;
Whereas the North Korean authorities conspired with members of the Japanese Red Army, a group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State, to kidnap Keiko Arimoto, a young Japanese woman studying abroad;
Whereas according to the records of the Unification Ministry of the Republic of Korea, 486 South Korean abductees are still alive and being held in North Korea, and among these individuals are fishermen, seamen, airline passengers, teachers, students, and pastors;
Whereas North Korean agents have abducted children, causing unimaginable anguish to parents who live decades with the uncertainty of what has happened to their child, as in the cases of Takeshi Terakoshi, a thirteen-year-old boy kidnapped from a fishing boat with his two uncles, and Lee Min-gyo and Choi Seung-min, two seventeen-year-old friends abducted off a beach in South Korea;
Whereas North Korean agents kidnapped thirteen-year-old Megumi Yokota, as she was walking home from school, and subsequently reported that she married and had a daughter in North Korea before committing suicide in 1993, and that Megumi’s daughter remains there separated from her family in Japan;
Whereas the Pyongyang regime has abducted a number of South Korean ministers who were bravely working to rescue North Koreans escaping on the underground railroad through China, including Reverend Ahn Seung-woon and Reverend Kim Dong-shik, the latter of whose welfare is of particular importance to representatives of the State of Illinois;
Whereas on April 21, 2005, the Seoul Central District Court convicted Chinese citizen Ryu Young-hwa of assisting North Korean agents in the abduction of Reverend Kim and, further, that a Chinese court convicted a North Korean citizen of masterminding the abduction of Reverend Ahn, and deported the agent to North Korea in July 1997 following a two-year prison term;
Whereas some of the abductees have risked their lives in trying to escape North Korea, as in the case of South Korean fisherman Im Kuk-jae, who has twice attempted to escape since his kidnapping in 1987, and is now believed to be imprisoned in one of North Korea’s notorious labor camps;
Whereas the North Korean regime continues to deceive the international community regarding its ongoing abductions and has furnished false information concerning eight Japanese abductees, including suspicious accounts of their supposed premature deaths;
Whereas the Government of North Korea has never convincingly accounted for Ms. Rumiko Masumoto and Mr. Shuichi Ichikawa, kidnapped by Pyongyang agents from a beach in Japan on August 12, 1978, and claims that Mr. Ichikawa drowned in the sea, despite his dislike of swimming, and that the formerly healthy Ms. Masumoto died of a heart attack at the age of 27;
Whereas North Korea claims abductees Mr. Toru Ishioka and Ms. Keiko Arimoto, who were kidnapped separately in Europe and later married, supposedly died together with their small daughter of gas poisoning in 1988, two months after they were successful in getting a letter out of North Korea to family members in Japan;
Whereas although the Pyongyang regime claimed to return the alleged cremated remains of Mr. Kaoru Matsuki and Ms. Megumi Yokota to Japanese officials, both remains appear not to be authentic, and, according to Pyongyang, the bodies of the six remaining Japanese abductees have conveniently been washed away during flooding and cannot be recovered to verify the causes of their untimely deaths;
Whereas despite the efforts of the Japanese Government, the Pyongyang regime continues to deny any knowledge of the abductions of Mr. Yutaka Kume, Mr. Minoru Tanaka, and Ms. Miyoshi Soga, the mother of another acknowledged abductee, despite overwhelming evidence of North Korean collusion in their disappearances;
Whereas North Korean abductions have not been limited to northeast Asia and many documented abductees have been kidnapped while abroad, such as Mr. Lee Chae-hwan, a young MIT graduate student traveling in Austria, and Mr. Ko Sang-moon, a South Korean teacher kidnapped in Norway, making the issue of serious concern to the international community;
Whereas there have been credible reports that North Korea may have abducted citizens from many other countries in addition to South Korea and Japan, including persons from China, Europe, and the Middle East;
Whereas for more than fifty years, North Korea has held South Korean prisoners-of-war captured during the Korean War, in clear violation of Article III of the Korean War Armistice Agreement signed on July 27, 1953, and the South Korean Ministry of National Defense estimates that 542 captives are still alive in North Korea, according to testimony given before the National Assembly in February 2005;
Whereas according to the testimony of prisoners-of-war who have successfully escaped from North Korea, South Korean prisoners-of-war have been forced to perform hard labor for decades, often in mines, and are harshly treated by the Pyongyang regime;
Whereas after being forcibly held in North Korea for fifty-one years, South Korean prisoner-of-war Han Man-taek, age 72, escaped to China, was detained by Chinese police and forcibly repatriated to North Korea earlier this year, where he inevitably faced punitive measures and possible execution; and
Whereas these South Korean prisoners-of-war served under the United Nations Command, fighting alongside their American and Allied fellow soldiers, and therefore are the direct concern of the Allied nations who contributed forces during the Korean War: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress–
(1) condemns the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the abduction and continued captivity of citizens of the Republic of Korea and Japan as acts of terrorism and gross violations of human rights;
(2) calls upon the North Korean Government to immediately cease and desist from carrying out abductions, release all victims of kidnapping and prisoners-of-war still alive in North Korea, and provide a full and verifiable accounting of all other cases;
(3) recognizes that resolution of the nuclear issue with North Korea is of critical importance, however, this should not preclude United States Government officials from raising abduction cases and other critical human rights concerns in any future negotiations with the North Korean regime;
(4) calls upon the United States Government not to remove the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from the Department of State’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism until such time that North Korea renounces state-sponsored kidnapping and provides a full accounting of all abduction cases; and
(5) admonishes the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the forced repatriation to North Korea of Han Man-taek, a South Korean prisoner-of-war and comrade-in-arms of the United States, and for its failure to exercise sovereign control over teams of North Korean agents operating freely within its borders.
END

Continue Reading

House Concurrent Resolution 168, Condemning North Korean Abductions

109th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. CON. RES. 168
Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the abductions and continued captivity of citizens of the Republic of Korea and Japan as acts of terrorism and gross violations of human rights.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 26, 2005
Mr. HYDE (for himself, Mr. CHABOT, Mr. SHIMKUS, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. PITTS, Mr. LYNCH, and Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on International Relations
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the abductions and continued captivity of citizens of the Republic of Korea and Japan as acts of terrorism and gross violations of human rights.
Whereas since the end of the Korean War, the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has kidnapped thousands of South Korean citizens and as many as a hundred Japanese citizens, including Rumiko Masumoto, Megumi Yokota, and Reverend Kim Dong-shik;
Whereas the forced detention and frequent murder of those individuals abducted by North Korea have caused untold grief and suffering to their families;
Whereas on September 17, 2002, after considerable pressure from the Government of Japan, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il admitted that agents of his government had abducted thirteen Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s and assured Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that this would never happen again;
Whereas despite assurances to the contrary, North Korea continues to order and carry out abductions, and, as recently as August 8, 2004, North Korean agents operating along the Chinese border kidnapped Ms. Jin Kyung-sook, a former North Korean refugee and South Korean passport-holder;
Whereas the abduction policy of North Korea has been integral to its espionage and terrorist activities, and abductees have been kidnapped to work as spies, to train North Korean agents in language, accents, and culture, and to steal identities, as in the case of Mr. Tadaaki Hara;
Whereas the Pyongyang regime used abductee Ms. Yaeko Taguchi as the Japanese language instructor for North Korean terrorist Kim Hyon-hee, who was caught carrying a Japanese passport after planting a bomb on Korean Air Lines flight 858 that killed 115 people in 1987;
Whereas many victims of North Korean abduction have been seized during terrorist attacks, as in the hijacking of South Korean planes in 1958 and 1969, and, decades later, Pyongyang continues to hold twelve passengers of a hijacked Korean Air flight, including passenger Mr. Chang Ji-young and flight attendant Ms. Song Kyong-hi, who has since been allowed a brief visit by her South Korean family;
Whereas North Korean agents have hijacked numerous South Korean ships and kidnapped the seamen and fishermen aboard the vessels, such as Choi Jong-suk, Kim Soon-keun, and ten other crewmen of the Dongjin 27, a ship that was seized in 1987, and Seoul estimates that hundreds of these abductees are still alive in North Korea;
Whereas boat hijackings and the kidnapping of fishermen have devastated South Korean fishing communities, such as Nongso village on the southern island of Geoje, a community of 210 people that lost 14 sons, husbands, and fathers when North Korea seized three ships in 1971 and 1972;
Whereas the North Korean authorities conspired with members of the Japanese Red Army, a group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State, to kidnap Keiko Arimoto, a young Japanese woman studying abroad;
Whereas according to the records of the Unification Ministry of the Republic of Korea, 486 South Korean abductees are still alive and being held in North Korea, and among these individuals are fishermen, seamen, airline passengers, teachers, students, and pastors;
Whereas North Korean agents have abducted children, causing unimaginable anguish to parents who live decades with the uncertainty of what has happened to their child, as in the cases of Takeshi Terakoshi, a thirteen-year-old boy kidnapped from a fishing boat with his two uncles, and Lee Min-gyo and Choi Seung-min, two seventeen-year-old friends abducted off a beach in South Korea;
Whereas North Korean agents kidnapped thirteen-year-old Megumi Yokota, as she was walking home from school, and subsequently reported that she married and had a daughter in North Korea before committing suicide in 1993, and that Megumi’s daughter remains there separated from her family in Japan;
Whereas the Pyongyang regime has abducted a number of South Korean ministers who were bravely working to rescue North Koreans escaping on the underground railroad through China, including Reverend Ahn Seung-woon and Reverend Kim Dong-shik, the latter of whose welfare is of particular importance to representatives of the State of Illinois;
Whereas on April 21, 2005, the Seoul Central District Court convicted Chinese citizen Ryu Young-hwa of assisting North Korean agents in the abduction of Reverend Kim and, further, that a Chinese court convicted a North Korean citizen of masterminding the abduction of Reverend Ahn, and deported the agent to North Korea in July 1997 following a two-year prison term;
Whereas some of the abductees have risked their lives in trying to escape North Korea, as in the case of South Korean fisherman Im Kuk-jae, who has twice attempted to escape since his kidnapping in 1987, and is now believed to be imprisoned in one of North Korea’s notorious labor camps;
Whereas the North Korean regime continues to deceive the international community regarding its ongoing abductions and has furnished false information concerning eight Japanese abductees, including suspicious accounts of their supposed premature deaths;
Whereas the Government of North Korea has never convincingly accounted for Ms. Rumiko Masumoto and Mr. Shuichi Ichikawa, kidnapped by Pyongyang agents from a beach in Japan on August 12, 1978, and claims that Mr. Ichikawa drowned in the sea, despite his dislike of swimming, and that the formerly healthy Ms. Masumoto died of a heart attack at the age of 27;
Whereas North Korea claims abductees Mr. Toru Ishioka and Ms. Keiko Arimoto, who were kidnapped separately in Europe and later married, supposedly died together with their small daughter of gas poisoning in 1988, two months after they were successful in getting a letter out of North Korea to family members in Japan;
Whereas although the Pyongyang regime claimed to return the alleged cremated remains of Mr. Kaoru Matsuki and Ms. Megumi Yokota to Japanese officials, both remains appear not to be authentic, and, according to Pyongyang, the bodies of the six remaining Japanese abductees have conveniently been washed away during flooding and cannot be recovered to verify the causes of their untimely deaths;
Whereas despite the efforts of the Japanese Government, the Pyongyang regime continues to deny any knowledge of the abductions of Mr. Yutaka Kume, Mr. Minoru Tanaka, and Ms. Miyoshi Soga, the mother of another acknowledged abductee, despite overwhelming evidence of North Korean collusion in their disappearances;
Whereas North Korean abductions have not been limited to northeast Asia and many documented abductees have been kidnapped while abroad, such as Mr. Lee Chae-hwan, a young MIT graduate student traveling in Austria, and Mr. Ko Sang-moon, a South Korean teacher kidnapped in Norway, making the issue of serious concern to the international community;
Whereas there have been credible reports that North Korea may have abducted citizens from many other countries in addition to South Korea and Japan, including persons from China, Europe, and the Middle East;
Whereas for more than fifty years, North Korea has held South Korean prisoners-of-war captured during the Korean War, in clear violation of Article III of the Korean War Armistice Agreement signed on July 27, 1953, and the South Korean Ministry of National Defense estimates that 542 captives are still alive in North Korea, according to testimony given before the National Assembly in February 2005;
Whereas according to the testimony of prisoners-of-war who have successfully escaped from North Korea, South Korean prisoners-of-war have been forced to perform hard labor for decades, often in mines, and are harshly treated by the Pyongyang regime;
Whereas after being forcibly held in North Korea for fifty-one years, South Korean prisoner-of-war Han Man-taek, age 72, escaped to China, was detained by Chinese police and forcibly repatriated to North Korea earlier this year, where he inevitably faced punitive measures and possible execution; and
Whereas these South Korean prisoners-of-war served under the United Nations Command, fighting alongside their American and Allied fellow soldiers, and therefore are the direct concern of the Allied nations who contributed forces during the Korean War: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress–
(1) condemns the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the abduction and continued captivity of citizens of the Republic of Korea and Japan as acts of terrorism and gross violations of human rights;
(2) calls upon the North Korean Government to immediately cease and desist from carrying out abductions, release all victims of kidnapping and prisoners-of-war still alive in North Korea, and provide a full and verifiable accounting of all other cases;
(3) recognizes that resolution of the nuclear issue with North Korea is of critical importance, however, this should not preclude United States Government officials from raising abduction cases and other critical human rights concerns in any future negotiations with the North Korean regime;
(4) calls upon the United States Government not to remove the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from the Department of State’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism until such time that North Korea renounces state-sponsored kidnapping and provides a full accounting of all abduction cases; and
(5) admonishes the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the forced repatriation to North Korea of Han Man-taek, a South Korean prisoner-of-war and comrade-in-arms of the United States, and for its failure to exercise sovereign control over teams of North Korean agents operating freely within its borders.
END

Continue Reading

South Korea Expels Norbert Vollertsen

Here is the full text of Norbert’s e-mail:
__________________________________________________________

I finally got my exit order to leave South Korea before June 4. I will head to Tokyo in order to continue my activities regarding North Korean Human right abuses speaking to journalists, politicians, human rights activists and the family members of the abductees there – what I was no longer allowed to do in North Korea and now also in South Korea.

After several speeches here in South Korea about human rights in North Korea I was barred from reentering South Korea at Busan Port in November 2004. I complained about this and did not want to get sent back to Shimonoseki in Japan where I cam from by ferry. Afterwards I was detained in the immigration office there at Pusan harbour for around 10 hours without being allowed to call the German embassy, my family, some friends or, of course journalists.

The officials there – sometimes up to 10 people discussed the whole matter endlessly with their senior colleagues and afterwards confronted me with some written documents where I should confess that I violated the immigration law with my political activities. Most important they wanted me to sign a document – like back in Pyongyang. . . . And like back in Pyongyang I refused to do so. . . .

By chance – when none of the more and more upset officials was in the room I managed to figure out how to make an outside phone-call and contactet Donald Macintyre from “Time”. He arranged to get a “Chosun Ilbo”- journalist to the immigration office in Pusan and only when this happened I was allowed to enter the country without signing any document but with a written “notice” that I am not allowed to engage in any political activities as a foreigner.

In December 2004 and Jan. 2005 I kept a rather low profile mainly because of the holiday season and then because of a sudden shift of my attention to the medical emergency crisis in the Indian Ocean because of the Tsunami. I joined the KMA in order to give medical assistance in Band Aceh/ Indonesia and when I returned to South Korea I got the same “notice” again but was allowed to reenter the country at Incheon-airport mainly because we were followed by foreign journalists and our trip was widely covered.

On March 1, March 19 and March 20 I engaged again in “political activities” regarding North Korean human rights. Being a German I thought it was still my duty to continue to speak out against any crimes against humanity after the Holocaust-shame in my grandparents generation.

When my visa expired on April 15 I refused to get out again to Japan for a “visa-trip” because I was afraid that I might get barred on the way back and that this time there might be no new chance for some “journalists emergency call”.

On May 20, 2005 I was summoned to the Immigration office for violating the immigration law. When I turned up there at 1:00 PM I was again held by nearly six hours, questioned and pressured to sign a document which mentioned the three incidents that I violated the immigration law with politcal speeches on March 1,19, and 20. Again I refused to sign any document but told them that I was documenting the whole discussion and everything what was discussed should be in the newspapers of tomorrow . . . at around 6:30 I was released without signing anything but with an “exit notice” that I have to leave the country latest on June 4, 2005 and that I have to pay 200,000 Won as a penalty for overstaying.

The official finally told me that of course I am allowed to reenter South Korea but not with a tourist visa because of my activities but rather when I ask to apply for some “political visa” but of course foreigners are not allowed to engage in any political activities in South Korea, of course . . . .

Norbert Vollertsen
Seoul
June 3, 2005

Continue Reading

South Korea Expels Norbert Vollertsen

Here is the full text of Norbert’s e-mail:
__________________________________________________________

I finally got my exit order to leave South Korea before June 4. I will head to Tokyo in order to continue my activities regarding North Korean Human right abuses speaking to journalists, politicians, human rights activists and the family members of the abductees there – what I was no longer allowed to do in North Korea and now also in South Korea.

After several speeches here in South Korea about human rights in North Korea I was barred from reentering South Korea at Busan Port in November 2004. I complained about this and did not want to get sent back to Shimonoseki in Japan where I cam from by ferry. Afterwards I was detained in the immigration office there at Pusan harbour for around 10 hours without being allowed to call the German embassy, my family, some friends or, of course journalists.

The officials there – sometimes up to 10 people discussed the whole matter endlessly with their senior colleagues and afterwards confronted me with some written documents where I should confess that I violated the immigration law with my political activities. Most important they wanted me to sign a document – like back in Pyongyang. . . . And like back in Pyongyang I refused to do so. . . .

By chance – when none of the more and more upset officials was in the room I managed to figure out how to make an outside phone-call and contactet Donald Macintyre from “Time”. He arranged to get a “Chosun Ilbo”- journalist to the immigration office in Pusan and only when this happened I was allowed to enter the country without signing any document but with a written “notice” that I am not allowed to engage in any political activities as a foreigner.

In December 2004 and Jan. 2005 I kept a rather low profile mainly because of the holiday season and then because of a sudden shift of my attention to the medical emergency crisis in the Indian Ocean because of the Tsunami. I joined the KMA in order to give medical assistance in Band Aceh/ Indonesia and when I returned to South Korea I got the same “notice” again but was allowed to reenter the country at Incheon-airport mainly because we were followed by foreign journalists and our trip was widely covered.

On March 1, March 19 and March 20 I engaged again in “political activities” regarding North Korean human rights. Being a German I thought it was still my duty to continue to speak out against any crimes against humanity after the Holocaust-shame in my grandparents generation.

When my visa expired on April 15 I refused to get out again to Japan for a “visa-trip” because I was afraid that I might get barred on the way back and that this time there might be no new chance for some “journalists emergency call”.

On May 20, 2005 I was summoned to the Immigration office for violating the immigration law. When I turned up there at 1:00 PM I was again held by nearly six hours, questioned and pressured to sign a document which mentioned the three incidents that I violated the immigration law with politcal speeches on March 1,19, and 20. Again I refused to sign any document but told them that I was documenting the whole discussion and everything what was discussed should be in the newspapers of tomorrow . . . at around 6:30 I was released without signing anything but with an “exit notice” that I have to leave the country latest on June 4, 2005 and that I have to pay 200,000 Won as a penalty for overstaying.

The official finally told me that of course I am allowed to reenter South Korea but not with a tourist visa because of my activities but rather when I ask to apply for some “political visa” but of course foreigners are not allowed to engage in any political activities in South Korea, of course . . . .

Norbert Vollertsen
Seoul
June 3, 2005

Continue Reading