North Korean executions and sex slaves

According to the claims of a 26-year-old female North Korean defector, Kim Jong-un had 11 musicians executed with anti-aircraft guns, and orders aides to pick out sex slaves from North Korea’s schools. She said she was among 10,000 people once forced to watch the execution of musicians accused of making a pornographic video, at Pyongyang’s military academy.

This week Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, “North Koreans who recently escaped to third countries or maintain contacts in the North told HRW that when girls are sexually harassed or abused, some guardians refuse to formally complain to police or other government officials because they believe government officials will not investigate, and the girl and the family will face stigmatization.”

An academic, Dr Colin Alexander, an Asia expert at Nottingham Trent University, told The Independent: “In some cases there probably will be some elements of slavery in North Korea.” Dr Alexander added that the latest revelations fit “a narrative that we’re almost becoming accustomed to hearing”.

He said it was possible that ”somebody with a vested interest has got hold of this defector and has decided that it’s within their interest to approach international media and to run a story about this within the current climate”. He added, “If they’re a defector, and they’ve lived all their lives in North Korea, they will not be very well versed in how the international media works.”

Dr. Alexander also said: “I’m in no way endorsing the Kim regime here. Behind the narrative is most likely somebody, or an organization, with an interest in putting pressure on the Kim regime.

[The Independent]

Trump’s statements play right into the North Korean narrative

Kim Jong Un’s regime tells the North Korean people every day that the United States wants to destroy them and their country. Now, they will hear it from another source: from the President of the United States himself.

In his maiden address to the United Nations Tuesday, President Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.” Analysts noted that he didn’t even differentiate between the Kim regime (as President George W. Bush did with his infamous “axis of evil” speech) and the 25 million people of North Korea.

“President Trump has handed the North Koreans the soundbite of the century,” said Marcus Noland of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and one of the authors of its “North Korea: Witness to Transformation” blog. “That footage will be used time and time and time again on North Korea’s state television channel.”

Since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953, the Kim regime has portrayed the United States as an “imperialist aggressor” pursuing to “hostile policy” to crush North Korea–again. To keep control of and unify the populace, the regime has kept alive the memories of the Korean War, when the U.S. destroyed 80 percent of all the buildings in the North and killed as many as 20 percent of its people.

“The Kim regime argues that only it is capable of protecting the country from the existential threat North Korea faces from ‘hostile foreign forces’ led by the United States,” Noland said. “All of the depravity and the denial of rights is all justified by this.”

The “threat” from the United States is the whole reason why North Korea needs nuclear weapons, the regime tells the people. Trump’s words feed right into that narrative.

[Washington Post]

Escalating verbal war between Trump and Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un warned U.S. president Donald Trump that the US would “pay dearly” for his address to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week.

“I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” Kim said of Trump. “Action is the best option in treating the dotard* who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wanted to say,” he continued, according to a translation of his statement.

Hours later, North Korea’s foreign minister threatened to drop a hydrogen bomb somewhere in the Pacific.

President Donald Trump then responded by calling North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un a “madman” who would be “tested like never before”.

The threat marks the latest attack in an escalating verbal war between the two leaders.

Days before at the UN, Trump had  called the North Korean leader a “rocket man … on a suicide mission,” and warned that he would “totally destroy” North Korea if Kim’s regime did not tamp down its nuclear development, later announcing new U.S.-imposed sanctions against North Korea on Thursday, which would force countries to choose between doing business with the U.S., an economic juggernaut, or isolated North Korea.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said Trump is “very serious” about holding other countries ― especially China ― accountable over their relationship with North Korea.

But experts have warned against U.S. leadership using bombastic language. “Describing North Korea as irrational and crazy [in the U.S.] might demonize the existence of the Kim Jong Un regime, or provide the rationale to criticize or kind of act more coercively towards North Korea,” Kuyoun Chung, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a think tank funded by the South Korean government, told HuffPost in August. “But that does not really help the security of the United States and the security of northeast Asia.”

Note: "Dotard", while not widely used today, is an insult centuries
old. Merriam-Webster defines the term as referring to "a state or
period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise."

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]

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]