North Korean defector floats leaflets with Kim Jong Nam news

A North Korean defector is packing balloons with information about Kim Jong Nam’s death and floating them north from South Korea.

Park Sang-hak, who says he defected in 1993 after picking up a leaflet sent from South Korea, told CNN he wants to show ordinary North Koreans the true nature of the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim Jong Nam was the eldest half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Malaysian authorities allege North Korean agents killed Kim Jong Nam by wiping the highly toxic VX nerve agent on his face at an airport in Kuala Lumpur on February 13.

“Even South Koreans were shocked to hear the news of Kim Jong Nam’s assassination,” Park said. “Can you imagine how North Koreans will react?”

News of the killing has likely gone unreported in North Korea, where the press is tightly controlled by the government.

Park hopes the leaflets, SD cards and USB drives will offer people inside North Korea a glimpse of the outside world, including Kim Jong Nam’s death.

Pyongyang considers it a hostile act and tells its citizens the leaflets are South Korean propaganda, defectors say.

[CNN]

Chilling challenge faced by female North Korean defectors in China

“In China, tens of thousands of North Korean women are hiding and living in fear of capture by the Chinese authorities,” said Lee So-yeon, a former soldier who fled her country in 2008 and is now a leading activist in South Korea.

Many of the women, she said, are sold to men in China with prices ranging from US$4,000 for women in their 20s, to US$2,000 for those in their 40s.

“The greatest fear for women who are forced to leave is deportation to North Korea,” she said. Those who are caught by the Chinese authorities and sent back face the prospect of punishment meted out in prison camps, correctional training centers or labor training camps.

Life is especially harsh for women who have become pregnant by Chinese men, with some of them facing execution, she said.

Lim Hye-jin left her country in 1998 during the famine crisis. Once she crossed into China with a broker she was forcibly married to his brother, before becoming pregnant and was later rounded up by Chinese officials while working at a market. After repatriation she escaped back into China, but was brought back to the North once again. Eventually, she made a third escape and arrived in South Korea in 2002, but without her daughter.

[South China Morning Post]

UN sanctions disrupting humanitarian aid to North Korea

International sanctions on North Korea are taking a serious toll on humanitarian aid activities, according to the latest United Nations report. The report was put together by five U.N. agencies, seven international non-governmental organizations and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

The report said “chronic food insecurity, early childhood malnutrition and nutrition insecurity” continue to be widespread in the North, which it noted ranked 98th out of 118 countries in the 2016 Global Hunger Index. More than 10 million people — or about 41 percent of the North Korean population — are undernourished, it said.

The report also noted sanctions are making it harder to conduct aid activities. In particular, it said the “regular disruption” of banking channels since 2013 has made it difficult or impossible to transfer funds into the country. It also cited the additional requirements for licenses and the time it takes to determine what is or is not a potential sanctions’ violation as the cause of considerable delays that have forced agencies to “reprioritize” their aid activities.

It said the sanctions also have the psychological effect of making donors reluctant to provide funds for projects in the North.

The report, which was released online this week, noted that despite the need for better information and sufficient access to certain areas of the country, aid agencies operating in North Korea believe monitoring mechanisms are sufficient to ensure aid does indeed go to those who need it.

[AP]

UN Human Rights Council opens door to prosecuting North Korea

The United Nations Human Rights Council has brought North Korea another step closer to accountability for human rights crimes, Human Rights Watch said Friday. A resolution, passed without a vote on March 24, 2017, strengthens the UN’s work to assess and develop strategies to prosecute grave violations in North Korea.

The resolution provides for strengthening the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Seoul by including international criminal justice experts. The experts will be able to develop plans for the eventual prosecution of North Korean leaders and officials responsible for human rights crimes.

“The Human Rights Council spoke with one voice today by condemning North Korea’s horrific rights abuses and supporting efforts to bring leading officials in Pyongyang to account,” said John Fisher, Geneva director. “The overwhelming support for this resolution shows the resounding commitment of the international community to ensure that Kim Jong-un and North Korea’s rights-abusing authorities don’t escape justice.”

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), underlined in his latest report to the council in February that the “investigation and prosecution of serious crimes are indispensable, as are measures to ensure the right of victims and societies to know the truth about violations, the right of victims to reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence of violations.”

“The Human Rights Council demonstrated with its new resolution what can be achieved when member countries stand behind their promises to hold to account recalcitrant, rights-violating governments,” Fisher said. “This not only brings North Koreans one step closer to justice for human rights crimes they have suffered, but should also make North Korean government officials think twice before inflicting more abuse.”

[Human Rights Watch]

UN to step up against North Korean human rights abuses

The U.N. agreed to ramp up its investigations on crimes against humanity committed by North Korea for use in future prosecutions on Friday, on the final day of a four week session.

The U.N. office in Seoul currently employs six people to interview defectors about human rights abuses, as some 1,400 North Korean defectors arrive each year into South Korea, mainly via China, Reuters reported.

In 2014, Michael Kirby, Chairman of the U.N. Commission on North Korea said : “What we have seen and heard so far—the accuracy, the details and the shocking personal testimony—will beyond a doubt require follow-up measures by the world community, as well as consequences for those responsible on the part of the DPRK”.

In 2014, the International Society for Human Rights, (ISHR), stated that North Korea’s crimes are “without parallel” in the contemporary world, documenting examples of widespread torture recorded in North Korea, with orders for brutality often coming from the most senior members of society.

However, North Korea “ categorically and totally rejects” the resolution adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council, responding in a statement on KCNA—North Korea’s national news agency.

John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch said : “The overwhelming support for this resolution shows the resounding commitment of the international community to ensure that Kim Jong-un and North Korea’s rights-abusing authorities don’t escape justice.”

[Newsweek]

Nearly half of North Koreans are going hungry due to food shortages

Nearly half of North Koreans are going hungry due to food shortages, a damning UN report has warned. More than 70 per cent of citizens in the secretive nation rely on food aid while most lack even basic healthcare provision or sanitation, the report found.

The shocking report emerged as Kim Jong-Un outlined plans to ‘accelerate’ his nuclear and ballistic missile program amid heightened tensions with the South and the US.

The report suggests diarrhea and pneumonia are the top two causes of death among children under five. More than 10 million in are undernourished in the country of 25million people while the humanitarian situation has been worsened by ‘recurrent natural hazards’ including drought and floods, the report says.

Pyongyang is said to have restricted its rations of cereal and potatoes from 380g per person per day to 300g at one point in 2016. Government targets are said to be closer to 573g, according to the report.

Sweeping sanctions imposed in a bid to curtail the country’s nuclear ambitions are said to have affected attempts to improve the humanitarian picture.

A North Korean envoy recently told Reuters his country had nothing to fear from any U.S. move to broaden sanctions aimed at cutting it off from the global financial system and will pursue ‘acceleration’ of its nuclear and missile programs.

[Daily Mail]

Two South Korean pastors arrested in China for assisting North Korean defectors

Two South Korean pastors have recently been arrested by Chinese police for providing protection for North Korean defectors in China.

One pastor was arrested on Feb. 18 with his wife and two children at an airport in the northeastern Chinese city of Qingdao prior to a flight to South Korea, according to the activist group “Justice for North Korea.”

The other minister was arrested with his wife at a hotel in the city of Qinhuangdao in China’s northern province of Hebei, it said.

“The arrested pastors are known to have insisted that they helped North Korean defectors as they were at risk of being repatriated to the North where human rights violations are serious,” said an official in the group.

The ministers were detained for helping North Korean defectors leave China, though their families were all released after two days of interrogation, he added. They are currently being held at a detention center in Liaoning Province in the country’s northeast, an official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said.    See also

[Yonhap]

North Korean defectors urge China to help people fleeing hermit state

Three North Korean women joined activists at a panel discussion in New York with the goal of pressuring Beijing to help defectors from the reclusive state rather than sending them back to face severe punishment.

  • Lee So-yeon, a former soldier who fled her country in 2008 and is now a leading activist in South Korea.
  • Lim Hye-jin originally defected from North Korea in 1998 during the famine crisis.
  • Grace Jo also fled North Korea, and wound up in the United States with her mother and older sister in 2008 after facing repatriation by the Chinese authorities.

The three North Koreans were among some 20 people who walked to China’s UN mission from the Armenian Church in Manhattan, where they had gathered for a panel discussion connected with the United Nations’ annual two-week Commission on the Status of Women.

The group attempted to deliver a letter addressed to President Xi Jinping, but was unable to do so as no one answered the door to accept it. The letter asked Xi to provide refugees coming into China from North Korea “safe passage to a third country”, urged him to cease returning them to North Korea and to work with the UN Human Rights Council to safely resettle them.

[South China Morning Post]

US says diplomacy with North Korea has failed while Pyongyang warns of war

Diplomacy has failed and it’s time to “take a different approach” to North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Tokyo, as the North Korean Embassy in China warned that American military threats were bringing the region to the brink of nuclear war.

Tillerson’s comment–that 20 years of diplomacy have been unable to persuade the regime in Pyongyang to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons–alluded to a 1994 deal between the United States and North Korea. Under it, Pyongyang would have received aid and two proliferation-resistant nuclear power plants in return for freezing and eventually dismantling its nuclear weapons program. That deal collapsed in 2002, and years of stop-start efforts to reach a new deal have amounted to little, with North Korea actively pursuing nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to deliver them.

In the meantime, the United States gave North Korea a total of $1.35 billion in assistance “as an encouragement to take a different pathway,” Tillerson said, but the largesse was met with continued weapons development.

He declined to go into specifics about what a different approach might entail. The Trump administration is now conducting a review of North Korea policy, and some in Washington are advocating “kinetic options”–a euphemism for military action.

There are sharply different views in the region about how to achieve that goal, with China in particular unwilling to do anything that might destabilize its ally and neighbor.

[Washington Post]

China arrests more than a dozen North Korea defectors

China may have arrested as many as 14 North Korean defectors in the last two weeks, according to multiple sources.

An activist who works with refugees told Yonhap news agency Friday that Chinese “traffic police” in the northeastern city of Shenyang detained seven defectors and one Chinese “broker” traveling in the same vehicle. They were arrested after an “inspection,” the activist said.

The arrests come at a time when China introduced a new requirement for intercity bus travelers, who must now provide their real names and proof of identification in order to purchase tickets, according to the source. The North Korean refugees were detained as they traveled in a small van and are at risk of being repatriated to their country of origin, the report stated.

A second source identified as a South Korean activist with a human rights group told Yonhap another group of three defectors was apprehended at the China-Laos border as they traveled in a private vehicle that may have been lent to them by South Korean missionaries. The activist said checkpoints beyond the immediate vicinity of the China-North Korea border have been “strengthened,” posing challenges for North Koreans who are trying to reach safety without proper identification.

A third source, who represents a North Korea defector group, said Chinese authorities arrested four refugees, including a child, at a city motel in Tianjin. “The police infiltrated their room, after tracking down their whereabouts, although it’s not clear how,” the source said.

In February, China may also have arrested two South Korean Christian pastors, according to Peter Jung, head of Justice for North Korea in Seoul.

[UPI]