(De)Nile River Flows Through South Korea–Who Knew?

Today, the Korea Times carried this story; a popular South Korean actress is embarking on a guided tour of North Korea, complete with state chaperones–sorry, journalists. The subject of this prop-a-mentary? North Korean food. Once you can watch the North Korean government talk about cooking skills with a straight face, you have officially been swept away by the currents of denial. So while South Korea gulps down more of North Korea’s Kool-Aid about the bounty of North Korea’s feast, four million of Kim Jong-Il’s less-favorite subjects are starting another long, hungry winter. Amnesty International isn’t fooled by the apparent inconsistency here. Quite obviously, it’s no accident that in North Korea, some people live very well, while others don’t live through the winter. Thanks to Chris at freenorthkorea.net for bringing this to light.

Continue Reading

A Crackpot Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

My main site is still one of the first to accuse North Korea of falsely declaring a famine to cover up its political cleansing of its own population. Others are now joining in this stunning conclusion. Amnesty International is now accusing North Korea of depriving those in the “wavering” and “hostile” classes of food. Those caught stealing food are shot in front of schoolchildren. It’s a chilling read, but not a new tactic. Stalin killed ten million unwanted people the very same way in the 1930s. It’s all documented in Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow. Of course, inquiring minds have been wondering why North Korea had ten consecutive years of unprecedented natural disasters, every one of which somehow either missed or barely grazed South Korea.

Continue Reading

Guess Chosun Ilbo Won’t Print This One!

The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, has gone out of the business of printing angry letters from angry Americans–that much is apparent if you scroll through its “letters” page. In spite of the paper’s “conservative” reputation, it has not gone out of the business of printing columns taking unfair digs against the United States. This column by Kim Dae-Joong (similar name, different guy, no relation) blames the breakdown in the U.S.-Korea relationship on American “callousness.” I served three tours and four years in Korea, all voluntary, so I felt the need to respond. Since they won’t publish it, I will:

**************
The general theme of Kim Dae-Joong’s recent column, America Is Changing, Too, was correct; Korea has chosen to be “independent” of the United States, and the manner in which South Korea made that choice has made it a certainty by alienating the American people. But Mr. Kim then makes the stunning accusation that the deterioration of the U.S.-Korean alliance is the result of American “callousness” and self-interest. On the contrary, we are paring back the alliance because we can see that Korea does not want it, and because we do not wish to impose it. I wonder if Mr. Kim can answer the following questions, which have been on many American minds lately:

1. Why do Koreans consider the United States–which has wanted to withdraw its forces since the 1970s–to be a greater threat to them than North Korea, which keeps a million-man army and a forest of artillery just north of Seoul? Are they not intimidated by its admitted possession of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, its infiltration tunnels, its missiles, or its vast network of concentration camps, which hold 200,000 people today? Isn’t it at least slightly scary to live next to a country that sets boxes of newborn babies in the cold to die, tests biological weapons on female prisoners, kills Christians by pouring molten iron over them, and shoots people in front of young children for stealing food? How can you seek common ground with Kim Jong-Il after he starved two million of his people to death and forced his people to resort to cannibalism to survive, all while he diverted millions of dollars and tons of food aid to his military and his luxurious lifestyle? What kind of mind can forgive this? Or ignore it? Or deny it, in the face of all the evidence? (click here for more links to published stories on these topics)

2. Koguryo is dead; 300,000 North Korean refugees in China are still suffering. Why do the same South Koreans who fly into a rage over Koguryo display complete apathy when China sends thousands of refugees back to a living hell (and probable death) in North Korea, or when it imprisons brave South Koreans like Choi Bong-Il for trying to help them?

3. Why does South Korea unleash its bitterest emotional bile on a country that gave up 34,000 young lives and billions of dollars to make it free and prosperous? Have South Koreans forgotten that the United States saved the life of Kim Dae Jung three times–once from North Korea, and twice from South Korea itself?

4. Why was America called a capitalist exploiter when the IMF bailed out South Korea’s economy in 1997, but demanded the adoption of basic sound economic and accounting practices? Did Korea realize that although the money was mostly American, the man in charge was French? Why is South Korea not a capitalist exploiter for moving its factories to North Korea, where workers earn just a few cents an hour, can’t organize unions, can’t even think about demanding more pay or better working conditions, and would probably be shot for breathing the word “strike?”

5. Does Korea expect us to subject our soldiers to trials in a legal system that even Koreans know is primitive, corrupt, politicized, and unfair? Do Koreans think our government fails to realize that Korean police torture suspects, even to death on occasion? Don’t South Koreans think they deserve such rights as the right to trial by jury, the right to competent legal representation, the right to confront and cross-examine a witness in court, or the right of a defense counsel to at least see the prosecution’s files before trial? Are these simply “Western” values, and if so, then why is Japan considering adopting them? Do Koreans expect us to believe that the same judges who express “understanding” for violent attacks on our military bases can give our soldiers a fair trial? What about the fact that in Korea, it’s perfectly legal for many businesses not to allow Americans through their doors, or even to put “No Americans Allowed” signs in their windows? Or the fact that those who stab, spit on, or attack our soldiers on the streets are seldom prosecuted? Which part of this suggests that our soldiers will be treated fairly in your legal system? (webmaster’s note: I spent four years as an Army judge advocate in Korea, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney; I interacted extensively with the Korean legal systems, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese system.)

5. Why do Koreans have the right to burn our flag, particularly just before an election, but risk arrest if they burn the North Korean flag? Why restrict the right to burn either one? Why does South Korea ban publications that criticize Kim Jong-Il? Why did its police join forces with both pro-North Korean thugs and North Korean secret police (masquerading as journalists) to beat and arrest Norbert Vollertsen, who tried to peacefully protest the horrific human rights situation in the North? Is that a preview of the new vision for unification?

6. Why does the value of human life increase so dramatically when there is an American to blame? Why does a tragic accident that cost two lives bring angry mobs into the streets, while Koreans remain ignorant, apathetic, or endlessly forgiving of the fact that North Korea starved two million of its own people to death? Where were the angry mobs after the first million died, and when the second million could have been saved? Where are they now, when they could still save the third million, or the fourth? Why do dozens of South Korean accident victims go unnoticed by the media every week, unless the driver of the other vehicle is American?

7. Why does Korea accuse us of being a colonial occupier at one moment and plead for us to keep our troops there the next?

8. Why should we suffer this expense, discrimination, violence, abuse, and hate for the sake of South Korea’s tax rates, share prices, and investment climate?

The problem with America’s perception of South Korea is not callousness; it is an excess of love for our soldiers and compassion for the suffering people of North Korea. It is fatigue that our sacrifices have earned no appreciation and much inexplicable hatred. It is confusion that you can ignore, dismiss, or forgive the hellish crimes being perpetrated against your northern countrymen today, and which openly wishes to devour you tomorrow. It is, ultimately, the realization that we were never working from a single, common set of values. Americans cannot understand the illogical double standards that favor the most repressive regime on earth over South Korea’s most loyal benefactor. Like an adolescent who has lived too long in his father’s basement, South Korea needs to become independent to learn to make sound decisions with the knowledge that bad ones will have real consequences. We do not wish for Seoul to become Kim Il Sung City, but we have realized that Korea will not mature until it assumes responsibility for itself.

Joshua Stanton
Washington, D.C.

Continue Reading

A Crackpot Conspiracy Theory Goes Mainstream

My main site is still one of the first to accuse North Korea of falsely declaring a famine to cover up its political cleansing of its own population. Others are now joining in this stunning conclusion. Amnesty International is now accusing North Korea of depriving those in the “wavering” and “hostile” classes of food. Those caught stealing food are shot in front of schoolchildren. It’s a chilling read, but not a new tactic. Stalin killed ten million unwanted people the very same way in the 1930s. It’s all documented in Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow. Of course, inquiring minds have been wondering why North Korea had ten consecutive years of unprecedented natural disasters, every one of which somehow either missed or barely grazed South Korea.

Continue Reading

Guess Chosun Ilbo Won’t Print This One!

The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, has gone out of the business of printing angry letters from angry Americans–that much is apparent if you scroll through its “letters” page. In spite of the paper’s “conservative” reputation, it has not gone out of the business of printing columns taking unfair digs against the United States. This column by Kim Dae-Joong (similar name, different guy, no relation) blames the breakdown in the U.S.-Korea relationship on American “callousness.” I served three tours and four years in Korea, all voluntary, so I felt the need to respond. Since they won’t publish it, I will:

**************
The general theme of Kim Dae-Joong’s recent column, America Is Changing, Too, was correct; Korea has chosen to be “independent” of the United States, and the manner in which South Korea made that choice has made it a certainty by alienating the American people. But Mr. Kim then makes the stunning accusation that the deterioration of the U.S.-Korean alliance is the result of American “callousness” and self-interest. On the contrary, we are paring back the alliance because we can see that Korea does not want it, and because we do not wish to impose it. I wonder if Mr. Kim can answer the following questions, which have been on many American minds lately:

1. Why do Koreans consider the United States–which has wanted to withdraw its forces since the 1970s–to be a greater threat to them than North Korea, which keeps a million-man army and a forest of artillery just north of Seoul? Are they not intimidated by its admitted possession of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, its infiltration tunnels, its missiles, or its vast network of concentration camps, which hold 200,000 people today? Isn’t it at least slightly scary to live next to a country that sets boxes of newborn babies in the cold to die, tests biological weapons on female prisoners, kills Christians by pouring molten iron over them, and shoots people in front of young children for stealing food? How can you seek common ground with Kim Jong-Il after he starved two million of his people to death and forced his people to resort to cannibalism to survive, all while he diverted millions of dollars and tons of food aid to his military and his luxurious lifestyle? What kind of mind can forgive this? Or ignore it? Or deny it, in the face of all the evidence? (click here for more links to published stories on these topics)

2. Koguryo is dead; 300,000 North Korean refugees in China are still suffering. Why do the same South Koreans who fly into a rage over Koguryo display complete apathy when China sends thousands of refugees back to a living hell (and probable death) in North Korea, or when it imprisons brave South Koreans like Choi Bong-Il for trying to help them?

3. Why does South Korea unleash its bitterest emotional bile on a country that gave up 34,000 young lives and billions of dollars to make it free and prosperous? Have South Koreans forgotten that the United States saved the life of Kim Dae Jung three times–once from North Korea, and twice from South Korea itself?

4. Why was America called a capitalist exploiter when the IMF bailed out South Korea’s economy in 1997, but demanded the adoption of basic sound economic and accounting practices? Did Korea realize that although the money was mostly American, the man in charge was French? Why is South Korea not a capitalist exploiter for moving its factories to North Korea, where workers earn just a few cents an hour, can’t organize unions, can’t even think about demanding more pay or better working conditions, and would probably be shot for breathing the word “strike?”

5. Does Korea expect us to subject our soldiers to trials in a legal system that even Koreans know is primitive, corrupt, politicized, and unfair? Do Koreans think our government fails to realize that Korean police torture suspects, even to death on occasion? Don’t South Koreans think they deserve such rights as the right to trial by jury, the right to competent legal representation, the right to confront and cross-examine a witness in court, or the right of a defense counsel to at least see the prosecution’s files before trial? Are these simply “Western” values, and if so, then why is Japan considering adopting them? Do Koreans expect us to believe that the same judges who express “understanding” for violent attacks on our military bases can give our soldiers a fair trial? What about the fact that in Korea, it’s perfectly legal for many businesses not to allow Americans through their doors, or even to put “No Americans Allowed” signs in their windows? Or the fact that those who stab, spit on, or attack our soldiers on the streets are seldom prosecuted? Which part of this suggests that our soldiers will be treated fairly in your legal system? (webmaster’s note: I spent four years as an Army judge advocate in Korea, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney; I interacted extensively with the Korean legal systems, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese system.)

5. Why do Koreans have the right to burn our flag, particularly just before an election, but risk arrest if they burn the North Korean flag? Why restrict the right to burn either one? Why does South Korea ban publications that criticize Kim Jong-Il? Why did its police join forces with both pro-North Korean thugs and North Korean secret police (masquerading as journalists) to beat and arrest Norbert Vollertsen, who tried to peacefully protest the horrific human rights situation in the North? Is that a preview of the new vision for unification?

6. Why does the value of human life increase so dramatically when there is an American to blame? Why does a tragic accident that cost two lives bring angry mobs into the streets, while Koreans remain ignorant, apathetic, or endlessly forgiving of the fact that North Korea starved two million of its own people to death? Where were the angry mobs after the first million died, and when the second million could have been saved? Where are they now, when they could still save the third million, or the fourth? Why do dozens of South Korean accident victims go unnoticed by the media every week, unless the driver of the other vehicle is American?

7. Why does Korea accuse us of being a colonial occupier at one moment and plead for us to keep our troops there the next?

8. Why should we suffer this expense, discrimination, violence, abuse, and hate for the sake of South Korea’s tax rates, share prices, and investment climate?

The problem with America’s perception of South Korea is not callousness; it is an excess of love for our soldiers and compassion for the suffering people of North Korea. It is fatigue that our sacrifices have earned no appreciation and much inexplicable hatred. It is confusion that you can ignore, dismiss, or forgive the hellish crimes being perpetrated against your northern countrymen today, and which openly wishes to devour you tomorrow. It is, ultimately, the realization that we were never working from a single, common set of values. Americans cannot understand the illogical double standards that favor the most repressive regime on earth over South Korea’s most loyal benefactor. Like an adolescent who has lived too long in his father’s basement, South Korea needs to become independent to learn to make sound decisions with the knowledge that bad ones will have real consequences. We do not wish for Seoul to become Kim Il Sung City, but we have realized that Korea will not mature until it assumes responsibility for itself.

Joshua Stanton
Washington, D.C.

Continue Reading

Guess Chosun Ilbo Won’t Print This One!

The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, has gone out of the business of printing angry letters from angry Americans–that much is apparent if you scroll through its “letters” page. In spite of the paper’s “conservative” reputation, it has not gone out of the business of printing columns taking unfair digs against the United States. This column by Kim Dae-Joong (similar name, different guy, no relation) blames the breakdown in the U.S.-Korea relationship on American “callousness.” I served three tours and four years in Korea, all voluntary, so I felt the need to respond. Since they won’t publish it, I will:

**************
The general theme of Kim Dae-Joong’s recent column, America Is Changing, Too, was correct; Korea has chosen to be “independent” of the United States, and the manner in which South Korea made that choice has made it a certainty by alienating the American people. But Mr. Kim then makes the stunning accusation that the deterioration of the U.S.-Korean alliance is the result of American “callousness” and self-interest. On the contrary, we are paring back the alliance because we can see that Korea does not want it, and because we do not wish to impose it. I wonder if Mr. Kim can answer the following questions, which have been on many American minds lately:

1. Why do Koreans consider the United States–which has wanted to withdraw its forces since the 1970s–to be a greater threat to them than North Korea, which keeps a million-man army and a forest of artillery just north of Seoul? Are they not intimidated by its admitted possession of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, its infiltration tunnels, its missiles, or its vast network of concentration camps, which hold 200,000 people today? Isn’t it at least slightly scary to live next to a country that sets boxes of newborn babies in the cold to die, tests biological weapons on female prisoners, kills Christians by pouring molten iron over them, and shoots people in front of young children for stealing food? How can you seek common ground with Kim Jong-Il after he starved two million of his people to death and forced his people to resort to cannibalism to survive, all while he diverted millions of dollars and tons of food aid to his military and his luxurious lifestyle? What kind of mind can forgive this? Or ignore it? Or deny it, in the face of all the evidence? (click here for more links to published stories on these topics)

2. Koguryo is dead; 300,000 North Korean refugees in China are still suffering. Why do the same South Koreans who fly into a rage over Koguryo display complete apathy when China sends thousands of refugees back to a living hell (and probable death) in North Korea, or when it imprisons brave South Koreans like Choi Bong-Il for trying to help them?

3. Why does South Korea unleash its bitterest emotional bile on a country that gave up 34,000 young lives and billions of dollars to make it free and prosperous? Have South Koreans forgotten that the United States saved the life of Kim Dae Jung three times–once from North Korea, and twice from South Korea itself?

4. Why was America called a capitalist exploiter when the IMF bailed out South Korea’s economy in 1997, but demanded the adoption of basic sound economic and accounting practices? Did Korea realize that although the money was mostly American, the man in charge was French? Why is South Korea not a capitalist exploiter for moving its factories to North Korea, where workers earn just a few cents an hour, can’t organize unions, can’t even think about demanding more pay or better working conditions, and would probably be shot for breathing the word “strike?”

5. Does Korea expect us to subject our soldiers to trials in a legal system that even Koreans know is primitive, corrupt, politicized, and unfair? Do Koreans think our government fails to realize that Korean police torture suspects, even to death on occasion? Don’t South Koreans think they deserve such rights as the right to trial by jury, the right to competent legal representation, the right to confront and cross-examine a witness in court, or the right of a defense counsel to at least see the prosecution’s files before trial? Are these simply “Western” values, and if so, then why is Japan considering adopting them? Do Koreans expect us to believe that the same judges who express “understanding” for violent attacks on our military bases can give our soldiers a fair trial? What about the fact that in Korea, it’s perfectly legal for many businesses not to allow Americans through their doors, or even to put “No Americans Allowed” signs in their windows? Or the fact that those who stab, spit on, or attack our soldiers on the streets are seldom prosecuted? Which part of this suggests that our soldiers will be treated fairly in your legal system? (webmaster’s note: I spent four years as an Army judge advocate in Korea, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney; I interacted extensively with the Korean legal systems, and to a lesser extent, the Japanese system.)

5. Why do Koreans have the right to burn our flag, particularly just before an election, but risk arrest if they burn the North Korean flag? Why restrict the right to burn either one? Why does South Korea ban publications that criticize Kim Jong-Il? Why did its police join forces with both pro-North Korean thugs and North Korean secret police (masquerading as journalists) to beat and arrest Norbert Vollertsen, who tried to peacefully protest the horrific human rights situation in the North? Is that a preview of the new vision for unification?

6. Why does the value of human life increase so dramatically when there is an American to blame? Why does a tragic accident that cost two lives bring angry mobs into the streets, while Koreans remain ignorant, apathetic, or endlessly forgiving of the fact that North Korea starved two million of its own people to death? Where were the angry mobs after the first million died, and when the second million could have been saved? Where are they now, when they could still save the third million, or the fourth? Why do dozens of South Korean accident victims go unnoticed by the media every week, unless the driver of the other vehicle is American?

7. Why does Korea accuse us of being a colonial occupier at one moment and plead for us to keep our troops there the next?

8. Why should we suffer this expense, discrimination, violence, abuse, and hate for the sake of South Korea’s tax rates, share prices, and investment climate?

The problem with America’s perception of South Korea is not callousness; it is an excess of love for our soldiers and compassion for the suffering people of North Korea. It is fatigue that our sacrifices have earned no appreciation and much inexplicable hatred. It is confusion that you can ignore, dismiss, or forgive the hellish crimes being perpetrated against your northern countrymen today, and which openly wishes to devour you tomorrow. It is, ultimately, the realization that we were never working from a single, common set of values. Americans cannot understand the illogical double standards that favor the most repressive regime on earth over South Korea’s most loyal benefactor. Like an adolescent who has lived too long in his father’s basement, South Korea needs to become independent to learn to make sound decisions with the knowledge that bad ones will have real consequences. We do not wish for Seoul to become Kim Il Sung City, but we have realized that Korea will not mature until it assumes responsibility for itself.

Joshua Stanton
Washington, D.C.

Continue Reading

A Marmot in the Ghetto

No, not really, but it fits nicely into an exchange I’ve had with The Marmot over which of us has the goofier conspiracy theory (his, mine) or links to the more dubious stories about what’s going on in North Korea these days. I say we both lose, but I think I’m having more fun. Me, I’m not worthy of journalistic angst. I don’t link stuff I think is crap, I just link stuff I think will interest the readers and stimulate thought.

Oh, and I’m pretty open about my agenda.

There’s no denying that both of us have caved in to the temptation of Kremlinology, and we’re both probably one unnamed source away from bending the trajectory of Oswald’s bullet again. At this post, I kidded Marmot for suggesting that the CIA was behind some of the reports. Now, he’s not promoting his theory as fact anymore than I am with mine, but he takes me to task for calling some of the reports out of NoKo “reasonably credible,” notwithstanding my weasel-word (no pleasing some people!). Here’s what Marmot says:

I’m not sure if much of what we’ve been reading so far can be fairly characterized as “reasonably credible.” I mean, it MIGHT be credible, but given some of the sources — defectors, the Japanese press (the Sankei in particular), Cho Gap-je and the Wolgan Chosun (or the regular Chosun, for that matter, which tends to reprint stories run in the Sankei), nameless sources in China, etc. — credibility questions do come into play. Don’t get me wrong — I’d like to believe some of the stuff coming out of North Korea as of late is true. Some of it certainly is — the removal of the portraits has been confirmed, even by North Korea itself (even if it later went back on this admission). Some of the other stuff, well, I just don’t know. Ultimately, you are right of, course — this is ultimately Kim’s fault for running a complete information block..

As for this being all CIA and stuff, again, I don’t think it all is. Some of the stories are probably legit, and some of the ones that aren’t might be just the Japanese and Korean press being the Japanese and Korean press. I do get the feeling though that some of the stuff coming out is being manufactured/spun in a way that’s not accidental, and should that be the case, I’d have no problem with that at all. The North Koreans play mind games all the time, especially with the South Koreans, and if the CIA were playing “spook the Nork,” more power to them. If creative story telling starts planting doubts in the minds of the North Korean leadership as to their own stability and/or gives some NPA officers the belief that KJI could be taken out, well, tell away. ““The Marmot

Fair enough. His subtitles read, “He’s guessing,” and so do mine. We’re both guessing because we can’t not guess, and of course, we can’t actually verify any of this stuff. But guess we do:

Hey–me too! And he’s not representing this as fact, so all it does is get a good discussion going.

Reasonably credible? Depends on the context. Let’s back away and look at this story in its own context. We’re Korea bloggers, which means we do this stuff from our homes in our hamboks (rather than pajamas). We report a little, but mostly, we comment on what others report. This is a story about what’s happening in North Korea, which means (1) it’s of interest to our readers, who can click the links and judge for themselves, and (2) we’re not talking about a courthouse in Modesto, so ironclad confirmation isn’t coming. We still don’t know what happened in Ryongchon. We have what we have, which is a lot of mostly unverifiable Kremlinology we’re feeding to fairly sophisticated consumers. The consumers of this blog, for example, include folks who’ve been to North Korea fairly recently and were able to largely discredit the story about the Kim Jong Il pins. The blogosphere is a big, happy, dysfunctional, self-correcting family.

And then again, there are some things about this story that most people would consider credible enough to print:

1. The before/after pictures, with “after” having no KJI.

2. The reports of foreign diplomats, including one who went on the record. Admittedly, other travelers saw nothing unusual, but that’s the old “absence of evidence v. evidence of absence” argument.

3. There is something to be said for cumulativeness. Could it be an excellent example of the “Big Lie” theory in action? Maybe, but a lot of different sources telling (hopefully) competent reporters the same thing enough times gives the proposed fact more weight.

Back to speculating on the facts–there’s also a sense of fair play here. The New York Times is speculating. All the papers are speculating. Why not us, too? Just because we’re smart enough not to believe most of it doesn’t mean we should deprive ourselves the pleasure of positing credible theories and sticking on the appropriate warning labels. I say embrace the pleasure, just don’t embrace any of the swirling theories any longer than you’d embrace the Chinese ambassador’s trophy wife at the big embassy dance.

A bookI kid Marmot (What ever possessed him to choose that name?) for his CIA conspiracy theory while openly hoping that it’s true. In fact, his theory and my favorite-by-a-nose–and neither of us is representing them as anything more than that–are not mutually exclusive. What I don’t like about his theory is that some of the reports do indeed appear to be true, plus the fact that this is also the mainstream Pyongyang version.

What I do like about it is that sowing panic can work wonders against closed regimes. My favorite “panic and rumor” story takes place in Buon Me Thout, South Vietnam, in 1975. The North Vietnamese Army started its dry season offensive with an attack on the city, a dirty little town set in beautiful hill country near the Cambodian border–still, I’ll always have an affectionate memory of any town that reeks of plump sacks of inky black coffee as much as Pyongtaek reeked of decomposing brine shrimp–the SVN government decided to announce an “orderly strategic pullback” to more defensible areas. That made military sense, but at the time, the SVN press was tightly controlled and widely distrusted, and rumors spread like grassfires. Worse, the ARVN troops all had their families with them. “Strategic retreat” became “panic, rout, massacre, and collapse” almost instantly.

You know how that one ended, right?

Continue Reading

North Korean Human Rights Symposium

북한인권
왜 중요한가? 의미가
무엇인가?

어떻게 북한 인권상황을 개선할수 있을것인가
북한 인권에 관한 국제 심포지엄
11월27일 (토) 9:30- 16:30
연세대학교 새천년관(국제학대학원)대강당

참가신청 및 문의 linkseoul@gmail.com 02-732-6710
알림

링크LiNK (Liberation in North Korea)와 남북자유민주청년회는 “˜ë¶í•œ 인권에 관한국제 심포지엄’을주최하며, 한국의시민단체와대학생들을초청합니다.

이번 행사는 27일하루동안에 북한문제를 전문적으로연구하는 전문가들,북한의 상황에 관심이있는 운동가, 그리고북한 정치범 수용소출신 탈북자들과북한, 남한, 미국, 중국유학생 등을초청하여 발표와토론의 형식으로진행됩니다.

이번 행사의참여단체로는세계시민기구,정토회, 좋은벗들,북한인권시민연합,북한인권정보센터,북한민주화운동본부와 “˜í‰í™”포럼’ 등이있습니다.

세부계획

10:30 기조 연설: 곽영훈평화 운동가/수석건축가- 서울 올림픽공원, 올림픽 경기장,올림픽 평화의 불, DMZ 통일평화시 설계

Part I: 북한 인권 위기에대한 증언

11:00 북한의 기아:좋은벗들강제 노동 수용소증언: 강철환(북한민주화운동본부)탈북자: 김상헌 TIME Asian Hero 2003(북한인권정보센터이사장)

Part II: 북한 인권위기에의 대응

1:30 토론회: 북한인권의의미와 접근방법토론자:자유민주남북청년회박일환 대표원재천 교수 (한동대국제법율대학원)북한인권시민연합참여연대 박정은 간사좋은벗들; 이승용평화인권부장

3:00 북한인권을 위한국제대학생 연대LiNK (미국, 캐나다, 영국의대학생 모임)대표 Adrian Hong (예일대학생)자유민주남북청년회(북한의 자유를 위한남북한 대학생모임)대표 박일환 (고려대법학과 탈북자)

4:00 Seoul Train 서울 기차 상영(한글자막)중국에서 고생하는탈북자의 모습을 다룬다큐멘터리

Continue Reading

Colder Weather Gathers Over Washington

(continued from here)
The event, held at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, was modestly attended by about fifty people, mostly NGO representatives, activists, and Korean media types. It began with a screening of Seoul Train, which documents the efforts of North Korean refugees to escape to South Korea through China, despite the constant risk of being caught and sent back to the North Korean gulags, where they could face starvation, torture, forced abortion, infanticide, or even summary execution.

The WG Review of Seoul Train
Seoul Train is a powerful and unashamed work of propaganda, all the more so because it presents the Chinese side of the story in all of its anti-persuasive, cold-hearted contempt for both the refugees and China’s own treaty obligations toward them. The real emotional power of the film, however, comes from its interviews with the refugees themselves, when it shows us the faces, aspirations, and humanity of a people we so seldom see in images other than scowling DMZ guards or controlled interviews with hand-picked citizens. Accented by a dark and moving score, the camera follows them from their hideouts to the moment they make their final dash for freedom, often without success. One cannot help but be moved by the teenage girl who calls a relative in South Korea, telling her not to worry, or the refugee woman who smiles as she admits that she’s “eating for two,” not yet knowing what the audience already senses–that it is their fate to be caught and sent back to North Korea. By then, the film has already told us what has probably happened to her child.More debatable are the tactics of Norbert Vollertsen, Chun Ki-Won, and other conductors in the Chinese “underground railroad,” and the film doesn’t gloss over the price many of the refugees (and not a few of the activists) pay for their controversial tactics. It’s hard to deny that the activists have put these refugees in the greatest possible danger–and done so partially for the sake of media attention–a fact that clearly weighs heavily on the souls of some of the activists. It’s equally hard to deny that without that media attention, there would be far less impetus to hold North Korea and China accountable for their suffering. The refugees themselves convey to the audience that they knowingly confronted the risks, but it’s not much comfort to the viewer. If there is anything that can justify the price so many of them paid, it will be the effect watching this film has on its audience (in this case, some influential people). It’s also difficult to see how the debate about tactics advances beyond the question of what other alternatives exist to help these refugees. Not all of them have time to wait for conditions in their homeland to improve. So should they take their chances hiding out? Steal a boat? It’s at least fair to ask critics to suggest a better idea.

Seoul Train
also hit the U.N. High Commission for Refugees hard enough to leave a mark, although this part of the message was obscured when the film took its only unfair shot. One activist interviewed on camera suggested that UNHCR officials might be criminally liable for failing to assist North Korean refugees. I was persuaded that the UNHCR has fecklessly sacrificed principle for accomodation and consensus. The U.N. isn’t doing its job and wasting our money. Why not stop there? Unworthy of employment? Yes. Corrupted? Possibly. Criminal? Even to me, an avowed believer that the U.N. should stick to vaccination programs, that charge seemed excessive, even reminiscent of Michael Moore’s recent work.

Panel Discussion
With the film over and the audience primed for the taste of red meat, former South Korean President Kim Young Sam addressed the group to denounce North Korea’s cruelty and South Korea’s appeasement of the regime. President Kim gave a perfectly fine speech, even after the obvious decimation of his words in translation. From everything I have heard, he was as fine and honest a man as one finds in South Korean politics, and I suspect his legacy deserves a better label than as Korea’s Herbert Hoover. Still, one couldn’t help but think to one’s self that his South Korean constituency is losing what little power it has with each passing year. That doesn’t reflect badly on President Kim, but it does make you wish that his generation had built a stronger political and social foundation for today.

Doug Anderson, Counsel to the House International Relations Committee, spoke of the famous scene of the North Korean woman and child who were seized inside the Japanese Consulate. If it looked bad in pictures, it looked far worse on film, to see this woman screaming and fighting three Chinese guards for her child, and for both of their lives.

Anderson related how much this picture had incensed a State Department offical–not because of what the Chinese did, but because of what the official described as the political and financial motives of the underground railroad workers. By that moral calculus, Raoul Wallenberg should have stood aside and trusted in the good offices of the Hungarian Red Cross. Foggy Bottom, indeed.The most powerful speaker was Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute, and I couldn’t help thinking that in another incarnation, he would have made a superb trial lawyer in spite of his apparent contempt for my chosen profession. Before an audience, Horowitz is as riveting as the best of them; privately, well, he sometimes seems so full of himself that you expect his skin to grow crinkly and translucent before he emerges, cicada-like, from his exoskeleton (granted, it’s an epidemic condition in Washington). Yet there’s no denying the forcefulness of his advocacy on this issue, particularly as a drafter, tweaker, and coalition builder for the North Korean Human Rights Act, and I already feel just terrible for kidding him this way, so please forgive me, k? His most interesting statement was his claim that the mood in Congress and the Administration had reached the point that there is now “no chance whatsoever” of the North Korean nuclear crisis being resolved through another 1994-style agreed framework. Horowitz wears the neoconservative label proudly (and for that matter, so do I for the most part), so presuming he speaks for that movement, you then turn to the questions of whether either the neocon faction’s domination of Washington or the rigidity of its doctrine are as absolute as Le Monde declares, or as Horowitz implies. I suspect both may have their own reasons to overstate the case, and that a new agreement, though unlikely, is much more likely to fail over the pragmatic issue of North Korean intransigence on verification than on ideological principle.

Still, it’s probably fair to call Washington’s shift away from dialogue and accomodation with North Korea decisive, and the dog that did not bark at this event was the disclaimer, so often repeated by congressional speakers at the North Korea Freedom Day rally last April, that Washington’s goal for North Korea is not regime change. This time, there was open discussion before the media of encouraging a coup d’etat (Chosun guy: “Hasn’t Roh ruined relations with America?”). On the issue of regime change, the election and the growing divisions between Washington and Seoul have removed the burden of that necessary pretense. The mood in Washington has visibly changed. Today, smart people all over town are, or should be, phoning their brokers to buy shares in companies that make solar-powered radios, GPS chips, and UAVs.

The Big Winner: LiNK
The real star? Again, and by universal acclaim, it was the twentysomething kids from LiNK, ably and modestly led by the unseemingly effective Adrian Hong. Adrian seems to be eternally traveling and organizing, although his apparent exhaustion only made him seem even more sympathetic–the kind of martyr you can still like–as he bravely battled through it. The straightforward, daring, not-for-hire compassion of all of the LiNK activists stands out in Washington like a clean set of teeth in a British union hall.
And the Big Loser Is . . .
If America’s North Korea policy hints at having found its direction at last, proponents of changes to our China policy have at least begun tracing their fingers over the map. Republican congressman Ed Royce, who looks like he will become an important player in Korea issues, went so far as to suggest that Congress was considering imposing a 25% tarriff on Chinese products, under the combined pressure of human rights activists and labor unions. Royce didn’t exactly say that he would vote for that provision or predict its passage, but the signal certainly wasn’t subtle. Hopefully, someone in Beijing will hear it (Hey! Look over here!) even if such a measure would be iffy in the face of a WTO challenge.At the end of the day, it was China that came out wearing the horns and tail. There’s no question that China has made very determined enemies among constituencies that are feeling their power, and it was interesting to note that this group of Chinese religious freedom activists had a full-page ad in the Washington Times (yes, yes . . . I know) today, sponsored by a collection of conservative, religious, and human rights groups, and by what looks like just about every church in Midland, Texas. The print ad isn’t available online, which is unfortunate because it’s far better than anything on the China Aid Web site, and because one of the imprisoned activists pictured is Choi Yong-Hun, caught and jailed a year and a half ago while trying to help North Koreans escape. This may be the worst news of all for China. Her enemies are plotting against her. As they are known to say in Foggy Bottom–damn neocons!

(Back to My Main Page, where you’ll find more rich ‘n linky goodness in every bite!)

Continue Reading

LiNK Press Release

On Friday, November 12th at 2:00 pm EST leading human rights groups for North Korea will rally in New York City and Los Angeles in front of the permanent Chinese mission to the UN and the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, at the second rally in two weeks organized by Liberation in North Korea (LiNK). They will be protesting China’s arrest and repatriation of 70 North Korean refugees, 62 who were arrested on October 26 at safe houses near Beijing, along with another eight North Koreans who failed to gain entry into the South Korea Consulate in Beijing on October 25. Activists nationwide will also coordinate a simultaneous email, fax and telephone protest campaign to the Chinese diplomatic officials in the US.

Liberation in North Korea (www.linkglobal.org), a nationwide movement that includes several thousand American college students and professionals, will be joined by a coalition of leading American and South Korean organizations to protest China’s treatment of internationally recognized refugees, and its repatriation of the 62 to North Korea, despite international pressures.

These 62 North Korean refugees will certainly be imprisoned, and likely tortured or executed. The refugees were reportedly planning to seek asylum in a foreign embassy in Beijing. Intent to defect and contact with South Koreans are considered severe treasonous crimes in North Korea, punishable by execution or detention in a forced-labor camp. Defection itself is a crime punishable by death according to North Korean law. China’s forcible repatriation of these 62 North Koreans. China has in the recent years repeatedly and blatantly violated refugee conventions by forcibly repatriating thousands of refugees to North Korea. (China is a signatory member of the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees)

China has also imprisoned foreign humanitarian aid workers. In the most recent public statement, the Chinese foreign ministry referred to these aid workers as “snake-heads” and warned of grave punishment for the two South Korean activists in custody, whose fates remain unknown. These activists are members of a South Korean human rights group, the Democracy Network Against the North Korean Gulag (NKGulag). Their work, sheltering refugees and providing humanitarian aid, is protected by UN mandates that safeguard human rights defenders.

China cannot avoid international scrutiny for her treatment of North Koreans and their human rights defenders. On November 12, 2004, we ask that those of conscience voice their outrage at this grave and tragic injustice.

Protests:
Friday, November 12, 2:00 pm [U.S. Eastern Standard Time]
Chinese Permanent Mission to the UN
350 East 35th Street, New York, NY 10016

Friday, November 12, 11:00 am [U.S. Pacific Standard Time]
Chinese Consulate Los Angeles
443 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Virtual World-Wide Protest:
2:00 pm [U.S. Eastern Standard Time]
11:00 am [U.S. Western Standard Time]

Information: 917.923.5950
www.linkglobal.org
www.xanga.com/linkorea
adrian@linkglobal.org

Continue Reading

Names, Addresses, Telephone Numbers of Chinese Officials

Chinese U.N. Permanent Representative: H.E. Mr. Wang Yingfan
Deputy Permanent Representative: H.E. Mr. Zhang Yishan
Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations
350 East 35th Street
New York, NY 10016
Telephone:+1 (212) 655-6100
Telefax:+1 (212) 634-7626
E-mail: chinamission_un@fmprc.cn

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the Peoples’ Republic of China
c/o Minister Li Zhaoxing
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2 Chao Yang Men Nan Da Jie
Beijing 100701
People’s Republic of China
Email: webmaster@FMPRC.gov.cn

Ambassador Yang Jiechi
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 328 2582
Email: chinaembassy_us@fmprc.gov.cn

United States Embassy of Beijing, China
Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr.
Xiu Shui Bei Jie 3, 100600
Phone (86-10) 6532-3831
Email: BeijingWebcomments@state.gov
Public Affairs
Public Affairs Officer Donald Bishop
Fax (86-10) 6532-2039

Continue Reading

LiNK Press Release (Continued)

Liberation in North Korea (www.linkglobal.org), a nationwide movement that includes several thousand American college students and professionals, will be joined by a coalition of leading American and South Korean organizations to demand China’s release of the 62 North Korean refugees and 2 South Korean activists who were arrested on Oct. 26, 2004 at 4am.

These 62 North Korean refugees are in danger of being sent back to North Korea,where they may be executed. These refugees were reportedly planning to seek asylum in a foreign embassy in Beijing. Intent to defect and contact with South Koreans are considered severe treasonous crimes in North Korea, punishable by execution or detention in a forced-labor camp. If China forcibly repatriates these 62 North Koreans, they will knowingly return the refugees as China has in the recent years repeatedly and blatantly violated refugee conventions by forcibly repatriating thousands of refugees to North Korea. (China is a signatory member of the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees.)

China has also imprisoned foreign humanitarian aid workers. In the most recent public statement, the Chinese foreign ministry referred to these aid workers as “snake-heads” and warned of grave punishment for the two South Korean activists in custody. These activists are members of a South Korean human rights group, the Democracy Network Against the North Korean Gulag. Their work, sheltering refugees and providing humanitarian aid, is protected by UN mandates that safeguard human rights defenders.

China cannot avoid international scrutiny for her treatment of North Koreans and their human rights defenders. On November 2, 2004, thousands from around the world will speak out on behalf of the imprisoned North Koreans seeking refuge.

Please join LiNK in our protest against this grave situation by–

1. Participating in a physical protest in front of the China Mission to the UN office in NYC on November 1, 2004 at 1:00 PM.

2. Participating in a simultaneous virtual protest from your home or office by calling, faxing, and emailing the offices below, beginning at 1:00 pm US Eastern Standard Time and 3:00 am Greenwich Mean Time.

Let the concern of the international community for the welfare of the 67 be heard!

Press contacts for this protest:
Jennifer Jun 267.243.7302 jennifer@linkglobal.org
Adrian Hong 203.980.6543 adrian@linkglobal.org

Continue Reading

Names, Addresses, Telephone Numbers of Chinese Officials

Chinese U.N. Permanent Representative: H.E. Mr. Wang Yingfan
Deputy Permanent Representative: H.E. Mr. Zhang Yishan
Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations
350 East 35th Street
New York, NY 10016
Telephone:+1 (212) 655-6100
Telefax:+1 (212) 634-7626
E-mail: chinamission_un@fmprc.cn

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the Peoples’ Republic of China
c/o Minister Li Zhaoxing
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
2 Chao Yang Men Nan Da Jie
Beijing 100701
People’s Republic of China
Email: webmaster@FMPRC.gov.cn

Ambassador Yang Jiechi
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 328 2582
Email: chinaembassy_us@fmprc.gov.cn

United States Embassy of Beijing, China
Ambassador Clark T. Randt, Jr.
Xiu Shui Bei Jie 3, 100600
Phone (86-10) 6532-3831
Email: BeijingWebcomments@state.gov
Public Affairs
Public Affairs Officer Donald Bishop
Fax (86-10) 6532-2039

Continue Reading

LiNK Press Release (Continued)

Liberation in North Korea (www.linkglobal.org), a nationwide movement that includes several thousand American college students and professionals, will be joined by a coalition of leading American and South Korean organizations to demand China’s release of the 62 North Korean refugees and 2 South Korean activists who were arrested on Oct. 26, 2004 at 4am.

These 62 North Korean refugees are in danger of being sent back to North Korea,where they may be executed. These refugees were reportedly planning to seek asylum in a foreign embassy in Beijing. Intent to defect and contact with South Koreans are considered severe treasonous crimes in North Korea, punishable by execution or detention in a forced-labor camp. If China forcibly repatriates these 62 North Koreans, they will knowingly return the refugees as China has in the recent years repeatedly and blatantly violated refugee conventions by forcibly repatriating thousands of refugees to North Korea. (China is a signatory member of the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees.)

China has also imprisoned foreign humanitarian aid workers. In the most recent public statement, the Chinese foreign ministry referred to these aid workers as “snake-heads” and warned of grave punishment for the two South Korean activists in custody. These activists are members of a South Korean human rights group, the Democracy Network Against the North Korean Gulag. Their work, sheltering refugees and providing humanitarian aid, is protected by UN mandates that safeguard human rights defenders.

China cannot avoid international scrutiny for her treatment of North Koreans and their human rights defenders. On November 2, 2004, thousands from around the world will speak out on behalf of the imprisoned North Koreans seeking refuge.

Please join LiNK in our protest against this grave situation by–

1. Participating in a physical protest in front of the China Mission to the UN office in NYC on November 1, 2004 at 1:00 PM.

2. Participating in a simultaneous virtual protest from your home or office by calling, faxing, and emailing the offices below, beginning at 1:00 pm US Eastern Standard Time and 3:00 am Greenwich Mean Time.

Let the concern of the international community for the welfare of the 67 be heard!

Press contacts for this protest:
Jennifer Jun 267.243.7302 jennifer@linkglobal.org
Adrian Hong 203.980.6543 adrian@linkglobal.org

Continue Reading

About This Picture

This NASA low light level image of the Korean peninsula was taken on the  night of  April 15, 2001.  I first saw this image when I was serving with the Army in Korea, and it became popular to put this image,  and perhaps  other similar images  you can find on the  Web, on soldiers’ farewell plaques.  I found this particular  image  here, at the Web site of the left-of-center Federation of American Scientists, after Christopher Hitchens linked it in his excellent article, “Worse than 1984:  North Korea, Slave State

One curious thing about the original is that you actually can see much more light off the coasts near Pohang and Pusan than you can on land in North Korea.  I believe those off-shore light sources are squid boats, which attract their catch with bright lights.  Anyway, that’s my working theory.

On  occasion, I get e-mails accusing me of altering this image,  suggesting that I dimmed or grayed out  the  lights of Pyongyang or other cities in the North.  If you examine the original, you can see that’s not the case; in any event, a small amount of light is visible in Pyongyang.   I did make other stylistic alternations to the image, most of them obvious.  I cut the Korean peninsula out of the original image, changed the surrounding areas to transparent, changed the eerie green boundary  lines  to gray, and restored  the extreme northeastern parts of North Hamgyeong Province, which had been cut out of the original image.  That’s it.

Continue Reading

Vollertsen Interview Part II, On Arirang, Food Aid, and the General Assembly Vote on N. Korean Human Rights

Q: So whatever happened with the planned demonstration at the Arirang Festival?

Just nature: The Kashmir earthquake – and some medical emergency call[s] – but maybe the timing will be even better during the APEC summit.

Q: What is your latest word on the food situation in North Korea?

Kim Jong-Il is using food as a weapon against his own people – there is enough food in North Korea for the elite – there is no need for hunger in the communities in the country side which will not get any more state rations when they are opposing Pyongyang.

Q: When we speak of peaceful solutions in North Korea, can you suggest one that doesn’t simply ask the people of North Korea to patiently die in place?

Freedom of press and travel guaranteed in some sort of Helsinki agreement during the 6-party-talks which will make it happen that [there] is real monitoring of any food-distribution – photographed by foreign correspondents.

Q: How do you think the Kim Dynasty will end?

Like the one in Roumania or Yugoslavia–at the wall in front of a firing squat or at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Q: What do you recommend that other nations, or their citizens, can do to bring about such a result?

Keep on the pressure with human right issues – get the emotional moving Hollywood blockbuster out and then the people worldwide will care.

Q: Do you think we’ll live to see the limit to their patience?

Yes – because it depends on us – and when we will hurry up it will end very soon.

Q: Do you have any comment on the reports that South Korea will yet again abstain on a U.N. Resolution–this one before the General Assembly–on human rights in North Korea?

Maybe the South Korean government can only act in this way under the current situation when they really want to implement a honest engagement or sunshine policy. But history will show if there was any hidden agenda.

[Separately, Dr. Vollertsen e-mailed these more extensive comments:]

The EU resolution on human rights in the DPRK has now been sent to New York and it is therefore appropriate timing to be approaching the voting countries to seek their support for the resolution. The voting on this resolution is significantly different from that in the UN Commission on Human Rights, as all 191 member states vote at the General Assembly, in contrast to the 53 states that vote at the Commission. This means that the majority of votes at the GA will be cast by countries which have not had to vote on this issue before.

It is therefore important to seek to ensure that all those that could be persuaded to vote yes do so and that all those that could be moved from a possible no are encouraged to abstain instead. We have seen tremendous success at the CHR votes and it is important that we seek to maintain or extend the broad level of support as the matter goes up within the UN.

We will stress the nature of the abuses and the complete lack of co-operation by North Korea, including the refusal to recognize the mandate of, or extend co-operation with, the Special Rapporteur and refusal to engage in technical co-operation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Operational paragraph 13 of the CHR resolution 2005/11 ‘urges other United Nations bodies, inparticular the General Assembly, to take up the question of the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea if the Government does not extend cooperation to the SpecialRapporteur and if improvement of the situation of human rights in the country is not observed’. This such lack of co-operation makes a General Assembly resolution virtually inevitable. Opposition or neutrality is morally inappropriate in the context of the very severe human rights violations.

The window of time is fairly narrow. The EU did not want lobbying done until the resolution was sent to New York. However, it is likely to be tabled on 2nd or 3rd November. The voting date appears to be uncertain, though we have been told that it could be as soon as a week after tabling.

Continue Reading