The Chinese believe that the US, not China, holds key to Korean reunification

Excerpts from an editorial in the China Daily:

“The US and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have been locked in a stalemate for some time: Pyongyang wants a peace treaty first and Washington demands that Pyongyang first abandon its nuclear weapons program. North Korea uses the US’ refusal to sign a peace treaty to conduct nuclear tests…. The US, in turn, uses the DPRK’s actions to beef up its missile defense system in Asia.

“By refusing to promise that it will not take any military action against the DPRK, the US has provoked it to build nuclear weapons and tried to drive a wedge between Beijing and Pyongyang. The US is playing the DPRK nuclear card also to create a rift between China and South Korea and keep the latter deeply entrenched in Washington’s camp, which could prove damaging for Beijing and Seoul.”

Kim Il Sung still casts a spell over North Koreans

Kim Il Sung, the founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was revered like a god in life — and after it. Two decades later, mythmaking is as important as ever for Kim’s grandson, dictator Kim Jong Un, who has just led the official memorial to the Great Leader.

North Korean propaganda casts the Kims as protectors of a country under siege. School children learn that Kim Il Sung was an exceptional warrior who, while camping at the base of Mount Paektu with his comrades, defeated a force of Japanese colonialists. He later repelled the imperialist Americans in the 1950–53 Korean War.

According to official history, his heir, Kim Jong Il, was born at the base of the same scared mountain, and the birth heralded by a rainbow. According to North Korean hagiography, Kim Jong Il grew up to become a master tactician, writer and filmmaker. Legend has it he shot 11 holes-in-one in his first ever round of golf.

Young Kim Jong Un prefers to bask in his grandfather’s, rather than his father’s, glow. South Korean analysts believe the young leader consciously emulates his grandfather’s look and public persona. Whereas his father avoided the public, Kim Jong Un, like his grandfather, is often photographed among, even touching, his subjects.

An actual conflict would almost certainly cost him his kingdom. But young Kim knows that for North Korea to survive he must convince his people that the enemy is at the gate — and that he, alone, can stop them. Grandad would have approved.

[TIME]

The North Korean component in the persecution of Christians

The normally diplomatic Pope Francis recently asserted: “The persecution of Christians today is even greater than in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs today than in that era.”

To those familiar with the history of early persecution — when Christians were habitually tortured to death, set on fire, fed to lions and dismembered to cheering audiences — his statement may seem exaggerated. But even today, as in the past, Christians are indeed being persecuted for their faith and even tortured and executed.

A January, 2014, Pew Research Center study on religious discrimination across the world found that harassment of Christians was reported in more countries (110) than any other faith.

Open Doorsa nondenominational Christian rights watchdog group, ranked the 50 most dangerous nations for Christians in its World Watch List. The No. 1 ranked nation is North Korea, followed by a host of Muslim countries. (Disturbing indeed is the fact that three of these countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya — were “liberated” in part thanks to U.S. forces, while in the fourth, Syria, the U.S. is actively sponsoring the “rebels,” many of whom are responsible for attacks and kidnappings of Christians.)

North Korea, amongst other Communist countries, is intolerant of Christians; churches are banned or forced underground, and exposed Christians can be immediately executed.

Nothing integral to the fabric of these societies makes them intrinsically anti-Christian. Something as simple as overthrowing the North Korean regime could possibly end persecution there — just as the fall of Communist Soviet Union saw religious persecution come to a quick close in nations like Russia.

To influence these situations, Western nations must make foreign aid contingent on the rights and freedoms of minorities. After all, if we are willing to give billions in foreign aid, often on humanitarian grounds, surely the very least that recipient governments can do is provide humanitarian rights, including religious freedom.

[Read full CNN article] 

North Korean man defects to the South through tense sea border

A North Korean man defected to South Korea on Thursday, using a small wooden boat in a rare and risky crossing of the heavily patrolled maritime border in the Yellow Sea, military officials said.

The man expressed his desire to defect after landing on the frontline South Korean island of Baengnyeong Island.  Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed military officer as saying the ship was “half-submerged” by the time it reached the island.

“The man is under investigation by security authorities,” a spokesman for South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff told AFP.

Intentional defections by individuals in small boats are rare and dangerous given the tensions along the disputed maritime boundary which has seen bloody clashes in the past.

While hundreds of North Koreans flee their isolated homeland each year, most of them go to China and then to a third country, such as Thailand.

[AFP]

Kim Jong-un’s siblings in top posts of North Korean government

North Korea is more than ever a Kim family business, with leader Kim Jong-un’s older brother Jong-chol playing a key role in ensuring the regime’s longevity, while his younger sister Yeo-jong manages its coffers.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s older brother, Kim Jong-chol (left) and sister, Kim Yeo-jong (right)

Kim Jong-chol, who is rarely spotted in public, is rumored to be in charge of Kim Jong-un’s security. There are claims that he led the operation to arrest Ri Yong-ha and Jang Su-gil, two close confidants of executed eminence grise Jang Song-taek, in December last year. And there is speculation that Jong-chol played a key role in bringing about recent negotiations with Japanese government officials to mend ties amid growing international isolation.

Kim Yeo-jong is reportedly in charge of an agency known as Room 38 under the Workers Party which manages the regime’s coffers and businesses that earn foreign currency. The agency used to be overseen by Jang’s widow, Kim Kyong-hui, who is also Kim Jong-un’s aunt, but Yeo-jong gained control after Jang was executed.

One bureau in the agency exports herbal medicine, rare plants and high-quality lumber, while another oversees a glitzy new department store in Pyongyang as well as 124 other department stores across North Korea. Due to Kim Yeo-jong’s influential position, business is booming, and modern coffee shops in these stores are apparently packed with customers.

North Korea experts say Kim Jong-un, who used to depend heavily on his uncle and aunt, feels he is safer entrusting his siblings with influential jobs.

His half sister Sol-song also apparently holds a key post. Kim Sol-song is the eldest daughter of former leader Kim Jong-il’s second wife, Kim Yong-suk, and majored in economics and politics at Kim Il-sung University. She has served in the Politburo as well as other key posts including the propaganda department. Ken Gause of CNA Corporation said recently that Sol-song has taken charge of the Workers Party secretariat, which would put her at the apex of the organization that controls information flow.

Only Kim’s older half-brother Kim Jong-nam was sidelined in the power struggle early on and lives in lavish exile.

[Chosun Ilbo]