North Korea ridicules Trump threat as the ‘sound of a dog barking’

North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, has issued a withering riposte to Donald Trump, likening his threat to destroy the regime to the “sound of a dog barking”.

Trump had said on Tuesday the US would be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea if Washington was forced to defend itself or its allies against the country’s missiles.

Speaking to reporters outside his New York hotel, Ri cited a Korean proverb when asked to respond to Trump’s vow to destroy his country. “There is a saying that the marching goes on even when dogs bark,” Ri said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

“If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that’s really a dog dream,” he added. In Korean, a dog dream is one that makes little sense.

Asked what he thought of Trump’s description of Kim Jong-un as rocket man, Ri replied: “I feel sorry for his aides.”

 [The Guardian]

Trump tells UN delegates US may have to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the United States will be forced to “totally destroy” North Korea unless Pyongyang backs down from its nuclear challenge, mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.

Unless North Korea backs down, he said, “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

“Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” he said.

 [Reuters]

North Korean defector: “Do not let others’ thoughts rule over you.”

Hak Min grew up in Onsong, a town near the Chinese border. It was images of the world outside of North Korea, picked up on TV signals from China and bootleg videotapes and DVDs that sparked his desire to escape.

The risks of watching these shows were very real. Hak Min was caught with DVDs and sentenced to prison, where he and his friends were tortured. He eventually raised money to pay a black market broker to help him get across the border to China, and from there made his way to Thailand and eventually South Korea.

When Kim Hak Min lived in North Korea, every home prominently displayed a photo of the isolated nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, as well as his son and successor, Kim Jong Il.

Now, having successfully defected and running his own iPhone repair shop in the bustling South Korean capital, the 30-year-old defector has hung a very different portrait on the wall: Apple icon Steve Jobs.

Hak Min was given a biography of Jobs when he escaped to South Korea in 2013, and the late Apple founder became a hero to him.  “When they brainwash students in North Korea they say: ‘We can read your words, actions and thoughts,’” he said. “If you have bad thoughts about the Kim family they will know.

“But,” he continues, “In his book, Jobs said: Do not let others’ thoughts rule over you. Do what you want. Be yourself.”

For Hak Min, the dream is to finish his engineering studies in Seoul and make his way to California’s Silicon Valley to invent world-changing products of his own.

[USA Today]

How many North Korean defectors are there in the United States?

According to Lindsay Lloyd, deputy director of the Human Freedom Initiative at the Bush Institute, there are around 225 “direct” North Korean refugees who have received asylum in the United States following the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. These defectors usually go through China and then to Southeast Asia, where they apply for asylum.

Another 250 North Koreans in the United States arrived as legal immigrants after spending several months or years in South Korea, and obtaining a South Korean citizenship. Despite being born in North Korea, they are registered as South Koreans on America’s doorstep, Lloyd said.

As for undocumented immigrants from North Korea, they are “all over the map,” Lloyd said, estimating they are fewer than 1,000.

A 2014 Bush Institute research revealed North Koreans have conflicting feelings regarding their assimilation and opportunities in the United States.

“In many cases, the support provided to refugees in the United States was stellar and participants believed the help they received, despite the challenges they faced, allowed them to very quickly achieve economic independence,” the report stated.

“For others, however, outside help was scarce and it was not only a struggle to acclimate to their new surroundings, but to achieve a minimal standard of financial independence,” the report said.

[CNN]

Information, interaction and engagement with North Korea

Many North Korean defectors are a far cry from the images that usually make their way out of the tightly controlled nation: expressionless North Koreans lockstepping in military parades and extravagantly choreographed public performances.

In fact, many refugees who escaped to Seoul describe a North Korea that is being transformed, if very slowly, by greater access to the outside world.

Hak Min, who grew up a North Korean town near the Chinese border, picked up on TV signals from China and bootleg videotapes and DVDs, that sparked his desire to escape. “Their culture, their language — everything intrigued me.”

As tensions rise with President Trump over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, many analysts believe information — rather than military force — can be the key to bring about change in North Korean society from the inside..

While the regime’s nuclear and military threat must be taken seriously, an overly confrontational approach by Trump plays into dictator Kim Jong-un’s hands, said Sokeel Park, country director of Liberty in North Korea, an organization that helps rescue and resettle refugees.

“North Korea is strong on traditional security stuff,” Park said. “That’s what they want us to focus on, that’s what they bring the attention to, and then we play right into it. Whereas they’re very weak on their soft underbelly of economy, information, society, culture. For not a lot of money, we could do a lot better on various forms of interaction, engagement, and information access programs.”

[USA Today]

North Korea launches missile over Japan

In a major show of defiance to the international community, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido Friday.

The launch is the second to fly over Japan in less than a month, and the first since North Korea’s sixth nuclear test and new United Nations sanctions on the country.

North Korean state media has yet to reference the launch, but a commentary published in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper Friday said “no matter how strong the pressure is, it doesn’t work on us.”

Tokyo and Washington will be seeking to up that pressure at the United Nations Friday, with the two governments calling a snap meeting of the Security Council for Friday afternoon, ahead of the General Assembly next week.

Initial US assessments suggested North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile, similar to that fired over Japan last month. The missile flew about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) and reached an altitude of 770 kilometers (480 miles) before landing in the Pacific Ocean. Friday’s missile flew the furthest of any North Korean intermediate-range missiles.

[CNN]

Seoul’s assassination threat against Kim Jong-un

Reports that South Korea, in the wake of North Korea’s dramatic 3 September test of a massive thermonuclear bomb, has approved plans to establish a special forces unit to assassinate Kim Jong-un appear to signal a sharp change of direction in the foreign policy of South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.

Why would a progressive politician elected in May on a platform of engagement with the North and who, just a few months ago in Berlin in July, talked confidently of establishing a “permanent peace regime” on the peninsula, of avoiding the “collapse” of North Korea and “easing its security and economic concerns”, suddenly shift gears and appear to embrace aggressive regime change?

Seoul’s leaders are terrified by the apparent failure of military deterrence, and the inability of Donald Trump, through his confident “fire and fury” rhetoric, to stop Pyongyang from pressing ahead rapidly with its aggressive military modernization campaign.

More missile tests are a certainty and in the last day there have been reports of new activity at the North’s nuclear testing facility at Punggye-ri that suggest a seventh nuclear test may be being prepared.

Only by scaring Kim Jong-un into believing his life may be in imminent danger can Seoul hope to offset this risk by persuading the North to pause its tests and engage in constructive dialogue. But how realistic is such a threat?

[BBC]

North Korean labor camp experience

North Korea has been known to imprison its citizens for so-called crimes that include anything from speaking badly about the regime and its leader, Kim Jong Un, to distributing South Korean media or stealing rice.

Jun Heo was just a teenager when he was sent to one of North Korea’s prison camps. He told Fox News he would be beaten black and blue and tortured constantly. Cries and screams were a constant backdrop and prisoners were forced to perform hard labor for 14 hours straight.

A former camp guard, identified as Ahn Myong-chol, echoed the reports of brutal beatings, saying he and other guards were encouraged to view the prisoners as sub-human, and strike them repeatedly as punishment, according to the report.

Prisoners were assigned to intensive labor such as coal mining and cement making, and they often died due to work-related accidents. An unconfirmed report also indicated a nuclear test site was being constructed in a prison, the State Department said.

A report released by the Transnational Justice Working Group in Seoul in July explained that public executions carried out on “criminals” in schoolyards and fish markets in an attempt to instill an “atmosphere of fear” among the citizens.

[Fox News]

“We had already decided to kill ourselves rather than be sent back” to North Korea

North Koreans who escape from Kim Jong Un’s regime, by way of China, embark on a grueling journey that–best-case scenario–involves traveling almost 2,700 miles on buses, motorbikes and boats, in taxis and on foot over mountains.

For most, the journey will first pass through China, Vietnam and Laos, where they must be on the alert for police who might arrest them and send them back the way they came–to certain and brutal punishment in North Korea. Not until they cross a fourth frontier from Laos into Thailand are they finally safe.

The Thai authorities do not send them back. Instead, they will slap them with a minor immigration violation and alert the South Korean Embassy in Bangkok, which will start the process of transferring them to Seoul – not far from where many started their journey.

“I want to learn all about computers,” said a 15-year-old boy who had arrived in Thailand from Laos, just 12 days after escaping from North Korea. “I want to become a computer expert.”

“I want to be good at computers too,” chimed in his 8-year-old sister, who was playing with an imitation Barbie that a humanitarian worker had given her on arrival in Thailand. It was the first doll she had ever owned.

The brother and sister are two of the 11 North Koreans recovering from the last leg of their terrifying journey out of North Korea, which started with a dead-of-night escape across the water into China and culminated in a boat ride across a swollen Mekong, which washed them way downstream from where they were supposed to be dropped. After they had spent hours in the rain, not knowing where they were, the activist who had helped them escape finally found them.

[The Washington Post]

UN Security Council approves new North Korea sanctions

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to impose a new set of sanctions against North Korea after the United States compromised with Russia and China who opposed an even harder line sought by the Trump administration.

The new sanctions set a cap on crude and refined oil exports to North Korea at 8.5 million barrels per year, which represents a 30 percent reduction. The sale of natural gas will be prohibited and refined petroleum sales will be capped at 2 million barrels annually. The Security Council resolution also bans all North Korea textile exports, worth an average of $760 million over the past three years. The sanctions also prohibit nations from authorizing new work permits to North Korean citizens around the world. More than 90,000 North Korean workers employed abroad bring the regime about a half billion dollars a year.

But these measures fall short of the stronger sanctions the U.S. called for after the Pyongyang regime detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device last week. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had pressed for a total oil embargo. She also called for direct penalties, such as an asset freeze and global travel ban, against North Korean leader Kim Young Un. But that proposal was a hard sell to the Russians and Chinese, who hold veto power in the Security Council.

China, North Korea’s top trading partner, is not eager to endorse sanctions that could undermine Pyongyang stability and cause millions of refugees to cross its border.

[NPR]