North Korea’s propaganda victory at the Winter Olympics

The Olympics has been a PR dream come true for the murderous Kim Jong Un dictatorship. South Korea’s Moon administration claims to be using the games to foster goodwill, but the reality is that the Hermit Kingdom has taken this opportunity to stage one of history’s great whitewashing operations, where the breathless focus is on the fashion style of the Dear Leader’s sister instead of his forced labor camps and police state.

North Korea is the worst human rights violator on our planet. Its leaders — including the smiling Kim Yo Jong — are active participants in a totalitarian state that starves, abuses and brainwashes millions of people. The Kim regime keeps tight control over its population through outright violent oppression, but also relies heavily on an elaborate system of censorship, propaganda and indoctrination. North Koreans grow up hearing creation myths about their godlike rulers alongside a warped version of history that places North Korea as both the strongest and most noble nation in the world, and as a victim of “American bastards.” According to Jieun Baek, author of “North Korea’s Hidden Revolution,” “children learn to add and subtract by counting dead American soldiers” and learn to use rifles “in case the ‘Yankee imperialists’ attack.”

The brainwashing works. As defector and human rights activist Yeonmi Park explains, before she decided to defect, she “was not aware, like a fish is not aware of water. North Koreans are abducted at birth, so they do not know the concept of freedom or human rights. They do not know that they are slaves.”

For decades, the regime has tried to maintain a strict censorship of all foreign news, books, movies, TV shows and more, and imposes severe punishments on anyone found consuming forbidden media. Individuals found consuming outside media can face long stints in the country’s reeducation centers, where they are worked nearly to death, tortured and abused by guards and underfed to the point of eating locusts and rats found on prison floors. In some cases, those caught with prohibited media are executed and, typically, such events are done in broad daylight with the local population forced to attend.

[From Washington Post Opinion piece by Garry Kasparov]

North Korean defector in the South arrested for sending 130 tons of grain north

South Korean authorities have arrested a North Korean defector who fled the country in 2011 …for sending 130 tons of rice back to Pyongyang.

The 49-year-old defector was indicted on suspicion of violating the country’s National Security Law and attempting to return to North Korea, which is illegal under South Korean law. According to the authorities, the woman arranged to send two deliveries of 65 tons of rice each to North Korea’s State Security Ministry with the help of a Chinese broker, worth a total of 105 million won ($98,700).

The woman is also accused of sending an additional 80 million won ($75,200) to the broker in preparation for new rice deliveries shortly before she was arrested by the authorities in Suwon, a city in northwestern South Korea approximately 20 miles south of the capital, Seoul.

The defector told the authorities she made contact with the regime because she wanted to go back home to her son and was sending the rice as a sign of loyalty to North Korea in order to avoid being punished for defecting. The woman ran a private business in South Korea but sold her house and personal belongings in preparation for her return to the North, local media reported.

North Korean defector Kim Ryen Hui has staged various public demonstrations of her wish to return to Pyongyang, disrupting a U.N. press conference organized in Seoul in December to accuse South Korea of violating her human rights. The 47-year-old appeared at a border crossing last week as the North Korean art troupe that performed in the South for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics was heading back. She waved a united Korean Peninsula flag and told the puzzled performers of her desire to go home as government officials blocked her from their view.


How to cope with a North Korean refugee crisis

In the event of conflict breaking out in North Korea, analysts expect a large human toll. With a 1,670 kilometre shared border with North Korea, there would undoubtedly be a mass refugee spillover. To be prepared, both China and South Korea need to learn from other refugee emergencies by making three key policy decisions.

1. Adopting a temporary protection regime – Since 2011, the Turkish government has been providing asylum to Syrian nationals under a temporary protection scheme, which provides them with a set of rights, including the right to protection from forcible return, until a solution to their situation is reached. To benefit from this regulatory scheme, Syrian nationals must register themselves with the authorities within a designated time, and are issued identity cards, without which they cannot access vital services such as health care.

2. Allowing them choice of settlement – China and South Korea can emulate the Jordanian model, where Syrian refugees were given a choice to self-settle or stay in one of the designated refugee camps.

3. Including them in the formal economy – While needs in the early emergency phase mainly revolve around relief assistance, as time goes by refugees’ needs change. When refugees do not have a source of livelihood, they resort to negative coping mechanisms, such as child labor and street begging. China and South Korea can get inspiration from the Ugandan model if a refugee influx occurs. In this model, refugees work, pay taxes, and use their entrepreneurial skills to boost the formal economy.

[Read full article at The Conversation]

The North Korean defector’s Hanawon experience

Most defectors from North Korea undergo security questioning by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service for a few days up to several months in extreme cases, before being moved to the Hanawon resettlement center. At Hanawon, they then receive a mandatory three-month education on life in the capitalist South, from taking public transportation to opening a bank account to creating an email address.

“It’s where you would get to see the outside world for the first time, as they take you out to meet people on the streets and learn how to access the social service network. These days, you can also do a home stay with an ordinary South Korean family,” said Ji Seong-ho, a 35-year-old defector who heads Now, Action and Unity for Human Rights (NAUH), a group that rescues and resettles North Korean refugees.

Such training can be more useful for some people than others, said Kim Jin-soo, a 29-year-old former member of the North Korean secret police who defected to the South in 2011. “Looking back, it would’ve been really useful if they taught …how to prepare for a job fair and find a suitable workplace and why it’s important to lose the North Korean accent,” he said. “Fresh off Hanawon, you’re like a one-year-old baby. But those are the things that would pose a real obstacle when you actually go out there on your own,” said Kim, who now works at a advertising firm in Seoul.

After leaving Hanawon, central and local governments provide defectors 7 million won ($6,450) in cash over a year – barely a fifth of South Korea’s annual average income – as well as support in housing, education and job training. Police officers are assigned to each of the defectors to ensure their security.

[Business Insider]

South Korea halves the time it will interrogate North Korean defectors

South Korea will cut the time it spends interrogating North Korean defectors in half. The country’s Ministry of Unification confirmed to Business Insider it will shorten the questioning period — from up to 180 days down to 90 — for all defectors who arrive to South Korea.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) leads the screening process into defectors’ backgrounds and motivations, partly to ensure they are not North Korean agents. There were no limits on screening periods before 2010, when the 180 day window was introduced. A “joint interrogation center” was opened by NIS in 2008 but after claims of mistreatment the name was changed to a “refugee protection center” and open-door interrogations are now required.

The questioning process usually takes a few weeks, though some escapees are held for several months. Defectors are then sent to Hanawon, a center south of Seoul that provides a three-month mandatory education on life in South Korea. New arrivals learn how to take public transport, open bank accounts and can even do a homestay with a local family. Democracy and capitalism can be the hardest topics for defectors to grasp.

Once they enter society, defectors are provided with $6,450 a year and help with housing and employment. The new limit on interrogations was announced as part of a restructure to help more North Korean arrivals find work.

[Business Insider]

The three Americans who remain detained in North Korea

Just miles from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea — where some observers continue to fawn over Kim Jong Un’s sister and North Korea’s “smile diplomacy” — a trio of Americans remain detained in the Hermit Kingdom.

Concern has only grown for the three Korean-Americans — Kim Hak Song, Kim Dong Chul and Tony Kim — since the death of American college student Otto Warmbier last June after the he spent 17 months locked away in North Korea. The State Department noted that Ambassador Joseph Yun, the special representative for North Korean policy, met with the three Americans in North Korea last June, when Warmbier was released. No U.S. representative has seen them since.

The three detained Americans, ranging in age from 55 to 64, are being held on a variety of vaguely described offenses:

Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang Duk, 59, was detained by North Korean authorities at Pyongyang International Airport on April 22, 2017. Kim was teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Tony also engaged in humanitarian work in the North, helping orphanages. In May 2017, Tony Kim was allegedly accused of “committing criminal acts of hostility aimed to overturn [North Korea].”

Like Tony, Kim Hak Song, 55, also worked at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology before his detention on May 6, 2017 over unspecified crimes. The school is the only privately funded university in North Korea and is unique for having a large number of foreign staff. He was detained on suspicion of committing “hostile acts” against the country’s government. Pyongyang University of Science and Technology said Kim was doing agricultural development work with the university’s agricultural farm.

Korean-American, Kim Dong Chul, 64, was arrested in October 2015 and is now serving a 10-year term with hard labor for alleged espionage. It’s been reported that Chul was a pastor, and in his public “confession,” Kim said he was a spy for the South Korea intelligence service and was trying to spread Christianity among North Koreans.

[Fox News]

Meet the North Korean defector honored by Trump

During his State of the Union address, President Trump honored North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho.

Ji entered his teens during the famine and mass starvation in North Korea in the 1990s. In 1996, Ji was on a train trying to steal some coal to trade for food. He passed out from hunger and fell off the train onto the tracks. His left leg and parts of his left hand were pulverized as the train wheels plowed through them. Doctors amputated Ji’s leg and hand in a four-and-a-half-hour surgery with no anesthetics.

A decade later, Ji and his brother made a daring escape across the Tumen River into China. From there, Ji trudged on his hand-made crutches all the way to Laos and then Thailand. From there, he was sent to South Korea and reunited with his mother and sister who had escaped there prior. (Ji’s father died after a failed attempt to escape North Korea. Authorities tortured him severely, and he died from his injuries a few days later.)

While still living in North Korea, Ji met Christians during a temporary food-finding trip to China. When he returned, the North Korean authorities tortured him and wanted to know if he met any Christians. After escaping, Ji eventually converted to Christianity.

During an exclusive interview with the Daily Caller, Ji said of Communism, “Simply put, it is a horrible thing. Communism is a Hell.” When asked what he would say to North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un. Ji said he would tell the Communist leader, “In the land I lived in, you could choose life or death. I chose life. I chose to live in a land of freedom. I won. I achieved victory.”

In April 2010, Ji established Now Action and Unity for Human Rights (NAUH), an NGO dedicated to fighting the human rights violations in North Korea.

[Church Militant]

North Korean defectors tell Trump what it’s like to escape

Last Friday, President Trump met with several North Korean defectors in the Oval Office. Among the guests: Ji Seong-ho, who Trump lauded at his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. Ji lost a leg and an arm while scavenging coal as a boy, and later fled to South Korea.

Trump used Ji’s story to illustrate what he called the “depraved character of the North Korean regime” and the kind of threat it could pose to the United States and its allies if it obtains nuclear weapons.

During the meeting, Trump asked the defectors to tell their stories.

Hyeonseo Lee, another defector who met with Trump, said escaping from North Korea is not like leaving another country.  “It’s more like leaving another universe. I will never truly be free of its gravity no matter how far I journey.”

“The world knows about the terrible things being done to his own people – it has to stop,” said Greg Scarlatoiu, the executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. “Every time human rights comes up, the very legitimacy of (Kim’s) regime is undermined.”

[USA Today]

Former US intelligence chief reveals North Korea’s ‘kryptonite’ which could topple Kim Jong Un

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.

While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former US Navy admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons. “The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

But Blair said the US could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones. About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.” Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the US could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The US used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, agrees: “Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said. Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.” “Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

[Business Insider]

Trump honors North Korean defector in his State of the Union speech

During last night’s State of the Union address, President Trump highlighted the inspiring stories of several individuals, one of whom was a man who defected from North Korea, Ji Seong-ho.

As a boy, Ji was run over by train as he tried to collect coal for his struggling family. He endured multiple amputations, and his siblings ate dirt so that he could have their allotment of food as he recovered.

Later, after a brief trip to China, Ji was tortured by North Korean authorities wanting to know if he had met any Christians. “He had,” Trump said, “and he resolved, after that, to be free.”

Ji traveled thousands of miles on crutches, across China and southeast Asia, to freedom. Ji now lives in Seoul, where he works to rescue other defectors. “Today, he has a new leg,” the president added. “But Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those old crutches, as a reminder of how far you’ve come.”

[National Review]