Monthly Archives: December 2013

North Korea looking for concessions similar to Iran?

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The U.S. government pleaded Saturday for North Korean authorities to release 85-year-old Merrill Newman, with a spokeswoman saying officials are “deeply concerned” about him and another American Kenneth Bae being held in the isolated East Asian nation.

So how did an elderly retired financial consultant and Korean War veteran become the central figure in an international dispute? Why is there such animosity still tied to a conflict, the Korean War, that ended six decades ago? And why is this all unfolding now?

University of California Berkeley professor Steven Weber characterized it as “highly scripted political theater.” Weber, a former consultant to the U.S. Commission on National Security, has a theory: “They are trying to get the Western media to pay attention.”

Largely shut itself off from the rest of the world, North Korea’s leaders and state media often use saber-rattling rhetoric to unite citizens against what Weber described as “nasty outsiders” — which, not coincidentally, are chiefly South Korea and the United States, just as during the Korean War.

The discord in recent years has centered mostly on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, with the international community taking punitive measures such as economic sanctions to hold Pyongyang in check.

North Korea hasn’t been alone. Iran, too, has long been an international target because of its nuclear program, though that landscape has changed with the recent diplomatic accord. That fact may not be lost on Pyongyang, said Weber, who surmised North Korea may be particularly eager to get the world’s focus and, ideally, concessions in the process.

Added Weber: “If the Iran thing gets settled peacefully, then guess who’s left?”

[CNN Wire]

North Korea’s prison camps according to Shin Dong-hyuk

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One of the most powerful accounts of North Korea’s prison camps comes from Shin Dong-hyuk, the only known surviving escapee from Kaechon re-education camp 14, into which he was born in 1983.

Shin tells of guards lighting a fire under his back and forcing a hook into his skin to prevent him struggling, when he was just 13. He still bears the scars. His arms are deformed from being hung upside down; he suffers nightmares.

Shin’s story is especially remarkable because he had no comprehension of life outside the prison camp – he thought the world was like that.

Children beaten and starved, used as forced laborers, working in freezing conditions in threadbare clothes, surviving on grass and rats, seeing their parents killed, made to act as informers against their own families.

The prisoners are treated lower then animals, women routinely subjected to sexual violence and, if pregnant, their babies killed.

In 2005, at 23, urged on by an older prisoner, he miraculously escaped and now works with human rights groups such as Liberty in North Korea to expose these atrocities.

This back-from-hell defector puts all of us to shame for closing our eyes to North Korea’s persecution and control of its people for so long. His story must become as well known as The Diary of Anne Frank.

[Canberra Times]