President Trump’s astonishing words about the people of North Korea

In his post-summit interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, President Donald Trump said something quite astonishing about how the citizens of North Korea view their supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said: “His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.”

To believe that the majority of North Koreans, many of whom are teetering on the edge of survival, are happy is nothing less than a gross exaggeration.

According to the latest UN humanitarian appeal, a staggering 41% of the population — or an estimated 10.3 million people — continue to suffer from under-nutrition. So it is equally astonishing that in the joint statement both leaders signed there is no mention of alleviation of the suffering of vulnerable North Korean citizens.

The situation is so dire that hundreds of thousands of children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers don’t have enough to eat on a daily basis. While aid agencies operating in North Korea need to be restrained in their reporting of the situation on the ground, eyewitness accounts from dissidents and others support evidence that many outside privileged circles have difficulty surviving.

The UN’s World Food Program, which has some of the best access in the country, says that about one-quarter of children in nurseries it supports are stunted, meaning that they’ve received such poor nutrition in their first few months of life that their growth has been affected.

While natural factors such as floods, drought and bitterly cold weather set people back, international sanctions have had the knock-on effect when it comes to the health and well-being of ordinary people, too. Earlier this year, an influenza outbreak was blamed on sanctions that prevent easy restocking of basic medicines.

[CNN]

What happened in the Trump-Kim meeting

A breakdown of 10 major takeaways from the Trump-Kim summit and why they matter.

(1) The simple act of talking changes North Korean and American behaviors and perceptions in ways that make conflict far less likely. That’s a big deal.
(2) The joint statement signed by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim contains polite diplomatic platitudes but is otherwise largely empty. It doesn’t resolve any issues, but it keeps the countries engaged.
(3) Later, Mr. Trump made a concession with significance: The United States will suspend its joint military exercises with South Korea.
(4) Trump may have made the concession on South Korea’s behalf without its consent or advance knowledge which sends the message that South Koreans cannot always count on the United States.
(5) The United States staged the summit meeting in a way that handed Mr. Kim some symbolic but meaningful concessions. For one, the two countries and their leaders were presented as equals.
(6) It costs the United States little to make those concessions. Still, they can be given away only once, and the United States received relatively little from North Korea in return.
(7) The meeting sends important messages to other adversarial states. Mr. Kim appears to have forced Mr. Trump to the table by developing nuclear weapons and missiles that can reach the United States. But Mr. Kim’s human rights record, considered among the world’s worst, did not appear to be an issue.
(8) If the point of the meeting was to bring the world demonstrably closer to resolving the North Korea crisis, then that didn’t happen.
(9) By tearing up the Iran nuclear deal despite sustained indication of Iranian compliance, and by reneging on agreements even with long-term allies, the United States has deepened suspicion that it cannot be trusted to make arms-control agreements. So don’t expect talks to produce much of verifiable substance.
(10) Still, it’s worth reiterating that first point: Almost any talks, even if they elevate Mr. Kim and grant him concessions for little return, significantly reduce the risk of war.

[New York Times]

North Korean defector hung upside down and/or water-boarded for ten unbearable months

North Korean defector Jung Gwang Il was accused of collaborating with a South Korean while on business in China, and arrested as he returned home to his wife and two young daughters.

Detained without trial, he was tortured daily by electrocution, and put in the “pigeon position” where a prisoner’s hands and legs are tied before being hung from the ceiling.

For ten unbearable months, Jung Gwang Il was hung upside down or waterboarded until he confessed to being a spy. He was then forced into hard labor at North Korea’s notorious Yodok detention camp for another three years.

“In that first ten months, I dropped from 75kg (165 lbs) to 36kg (79 lbs). I tried to hold out for my family as I knew they would be punished if I confessed,” he said.

But after almost a year he could bear it no longer. His torturers promptly shipped him to Yodok, a grim camp about 65 miles north of Pyongyang.

While others died due to the hard labor, Mr Jung fought to survive. “We willed each other not to die, to believe that we might make it out,” he said of his fellow inmates. Three years later he was released, and casually told he had been found ‘not guilty’.

By that time his home had been destroyed and his family hounded into hiding. They were finally reunited in China after he swam across the Tumen border river to escape.

[The Telegraph]

Trump-Kim Jong-un summit set for Singapore on 12 June

US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June.

The pair had previously exchanged insults and threats. A breakthrough came after landmark talks between North and South Korea.

No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader. The White House said the release of three Americans was a gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit, which Mr Trump earlier said he thought would be a “big success”.

“I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful,” he said.

The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme – over which Mr Trump and Mr Kim furiously sparred in 2017. The US wants Pyongyang to give up its weapons programme completely and irreversibly.

But analysts caution that Mr Kim is unlikely to easily abandon nuclear weapons that he has pushed so hard to obtain, and that “denuclearisation” means something quite different to both sides.

[BBC]

Trump greets 3 American hostages freed by North Korea

Three American prisoners freed from North Korea arrived in the US  early Thursday to a personal welcome from President Trump, who traveled to an air base in the middle of the night to meet them.

Waving their hands and flashing peace signs, the freed prisoners — Kim Dong-chul, Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song — descended the stairs of their plane, flanked by the president and senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had flown to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, to secure their release.

Their return to the United States removed a delicate obstacle as the president prepares to sit down with the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, for a landmark nuclear summit meeting on June 12 in Singapore.

But as Mr. Trump basked in the glow of floodlights and TV cameras, he indicated that the most difficult part of the negotiations, which include persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, still lies ahead.

Eminent release of detained Americans by North Korea?

According to media reports, North Korea has released three US detainees in the country, which meets some of President Donald Trump demands for Pyongyang to demonstrate sincerity before the historic meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Kim Dong-cheol, Kim Sang-deok, and Kim Hak-seong — three US citizens detained in North Korea for years — have been released from a suspected labor camp and given health treatment and ideological education in Pyongyang, according to the Financial Times.

“We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month. We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the US-North Korea summit or he can send an envoy to take them back to the US before the summit,” said Choi Sung-ryong, who campaigns for the release of detainees in North Korea.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly spoke with Kim about the detainees during the pair’s secretive meeting in April.

If North Korea has released the detainees and is preparing to release them to the US, it represents another in a series of concessions Pyongyang has agreed to make.

[Business Insider]

North Korean defectors urge President Trump to raise human rights with Kim Jong-un

For ten unbearable months, Jung Gwang Il was hung upside down or waterboarded until he confessed to being a spy. He was then forced into hard labor at North Korea’s notorious Yodok detention camp for another three years.

“In that first ten months, I dropped from 75kg to 36kg,” he said. “In camp 15 I worked from 4am to 8pm every day, either logging or farming maize. We were given daily three lumps of corn mixed with beans, and slept on the floors of tiny cells crammed with 40 prisoners.”

Jung survived and escaped to South Korea in 2004. On Saturday he, and other North Korean defectors, expressed sorrow that their homeland’s ongoing dire human rights situation was ignored in an unprecedented summit between Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Jung plans to appeal personally to US President Donald Trump to raise human rights violations at his own summit with Kim in May or June.  Jung, who represents the Association of North Korean Political Victims and their Families, once smuggled flashdrives of a Trump speech denouncing North Korean “tyranny” into the reclusive state. The president thanked him for doing so when the two men met in the White House in February.

A second meeting is slated for May. Mr Jung will give the president the names of ten North Korean prisoners, urging him to ask Kim for their release.

[The Telegraph]

China’s continued efforts to apprehend North Korean defectors

China’s continued forced deportation of North Korean defectors, who face imprisonment or even death upon return to the repressive state, has received muted international criticism, as diplomatic efforts have intensified to negotiate a denuclearization deal with Pyongyang.

In the first three months of 2018, China apprehended at least 41 undocumented North Korean migrants, who crossed the Sino-Korean border, and more than 100 others between July 2016 and December 2017, according to the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

The Chinese crackdown on these defectors, which has intensified in recent years, could get worse as relations improve between Beijing and Pyongyang, following Kim Jong Un’s recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“If relations between China and North Korea are good, North Korean authorities will be able to put pressure on the issue of North Korean defectors,” said Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector and analyst with the World Institute of North Korean studies.

Xi is likely to demonstrate greater solidarity on border security enforcement, with little regard for humanitarian concerns. “He’s using these defectors to say to Pyongyang that we are still your friend, we are committed to working with you, and we don’t want these people either,” said Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

Robertson says China’s forced deportation policy is in violation of a 1951 United Nations convention, which Beijing signed, recognizing the right of asylum for a people fleeing persecution.

[VoA]

Missionaries at the border spread Christianity to North Koreans

To the North Koreans gathered beneath a crucifix in an apartment in this northeastern Chinese border region, the 69-year-old Korean-Chinese woman is known as “mom.” She feeds them, gives them a place to stay and, on occasion, money.

Such border missionaries provide their North Korean visitors with room and board, and those escaping with places to hide. In return, they ask them to memorize the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed and other prayers. Some of the most trusted converts return home to North Korea and covertly share what they’ve learned, sometimes carrying Bibles.

It’s almost impossible to determine what happens when those North Koreans return home to evangelize. People involved in Bible distribution, secret prayer services and underground church networks are imprisoned or executed, according to activists and defectors.

Along the North Korean border, dozens of such missionaries are engaged in work that puts them and their North Korean converts in danger. Most are South Koreans, but others, like this 69-year-old woman, are ethnic Koreans whose families have lived in China for generations.

In recent years, 10 such front-line missionaries and pastors have died mysteriously, according to the Rev. Kim Kyou Ho, head of the Seoul-based Chosen People Network, a Christian group that runs a memorial hall in the South Korean capital for the victims. North Korea is suspected in all those deaths.

Hundreds of other missionaries have been imprisoned or expelled by China, which bans foreigners from proselytizing.

[AP]

Experiences of a 15-year-old defector in a North Korean labor camp

Charles Ryu said he’s one of only 275 North Korean defectors living in the United States.

With an easy smile and calm voice … Ryu shares how he managed to escape not once, but twice from the most repressive regime in the world.

Ryu was born in 1994 to a Chinese father, who abandoned Ryu at age 5, and North Korean mother, who died of starvation when Ryu was 11.

When he was 14, Ryu and his stepbrother escaped North Korea. They bribed border guards, swam across a river and met Ryu’s father in a taxi in China.

But Ryu’s joy was temporary. He was captured by Chinese police and was kept in a Chinese jail for two weeks before being sent back to North Korea. Upon reentering his home country, Ryu was interrogated for months by the North Korean government.

Fifteen-year-old Ryu was then sent to a labor camp where he was given 150 kernels of rice to fuel 12 hours of work every day. One morning, Ryu was so overcome by starvation that he ate rice from dry vomit he found on a roadside.

After nine months, Ryu couldn’t stand or even lift an arm. While others have to work until they die, Ryu was released after nine months because of his young age, physical weakness and relatively insignificant crime of trying to unite with his father.  Continued