Monthly Archives: March 2014

China reiterates it will not allow war or instability on Korean Peninsula

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China will not allow war or instability on the Korean Peninsula, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday. “The Korean Peninsula is right on China’s doorstep. We have a red line, that is, we will not allow war or instability on the Korean Peninsula,” Wang said at a press conference.

“I believe this is also fully in the interest of the South and North of the peninsula and in the common interest of the whole region,” Wang added.

The minister also called for an early resumption of the six-party talks. “If I may use some metaphors, I believe, we need to climb a slope, remove a stumbling block and follow the right way.” Describing the nuclear issue as the “crux of the matter,” Wang said, “First, we need climb the slope of denuclearization. Only with denuclearization can the Korean Peninsula have genuine and lasting peace.”

Secondly, the parties need to work hard to remove the stumbling block of mutual mistrust, said Wang. There is serious lack of mutual trust between the parties, especially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States, he added.

Third, the parties must follow the right way forward, which is dialogue, said Wang, pointing to the six-party talks as “the only dialogue mechanism acceptable to all the parties. … As the host country, we hope there can be an early resumption of the six-party talks. Some dialogue is better than none, and better early than later.”


A visible Choe Ryong belies reports of another North Korean purge

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A senior North Korean official, believed to be the No. 2 in the country after leader Kim Jong Un, has reappeared in official television footage, belying reports he had fallen victim to a fresh purge in the isolated nation.

Choe Ryong Hae is the influential head of the political wing of North Korea’s military and appears to have risen to become the second most powerful person in the country after the execution of Jang Song Thaek, Kim’s uncle, last year.

Speculation in recent weeks that Choe had also been purged triggered a wave of speculation that Kim was intent on shaking up North Korea’s elite and that competing factions around the 31-year old leader were a destabilising force in the North.

Choe’s father was a partisan who fought alongside the young Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea.

In addition to the public title as the chief political operative for the North’s 1.2-million-strong army, Choe holds a seat in the powerful standing committee of the ruling Workers’ Party politburo shared only by Kim himself and two figurehead old guard members.

Choe is also one of the two vice chairmen of the ruling Workers’ Party central military commission, a post that encompasses two of the most powerful institutions, the party and the military. He was made a vice marshal of the military this year.

In June, Choe was Kim’s special envoy to meet President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea’s only major ally. The meeting followed displeasure expressed by Beijing after North Korea launched a missile last year and conducted a third nuclear test.


Testimony of a North Korean prison camp survivor

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One witness at the public hearings of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea said that young male inmates in North Korean prison camps became so desperate for food they would eat live worms or snakes caught in the field to feel something in their stomachs.

“Because we saw so many people die, we became so used to it,” one prison camp survivor told the commission. “I’m sorry to say that we became so used to it that we didn’t feel anything. In North Korea, sometimes people on the verge of dying would ask for something to eat. Or when somebody died we would strip them naked and we would wear the clothes. Those alive have to go on, those dead, I’m sorry, but they’re dead.”

Jee Heon A told the commission of her time in a North Korean prison. She was sent there after being repatriated from China. She befriended a young girl, named Kim Young Hee and became like a sister to her. While they were forced to work in the fields, they looked for a type of grass to eat, as their prison rations were not enough.

“We finished our work and we were about to pick up this grass or the plant that we knew we could eat,” Jee told the commission. “And then the guards saw us, and he came running and he stepped on our hands and then he brought us to this place and he told us to kneel.”

They were forced to eat the grass along with the root and the soil as punishment. Kim became increasingly sick with diarrhea after eating the soil.

“There was nothing I could do,” Jee said. “I could not give [Kim Young Hee] any medicine. And when she died, she couldn’t even close her eyes. She died with her eyes open. I cried my heart out.”

She wrapped Kim’s body in a plastic bag and the other prisoners buried her and about 20 other bodies from the prison on a hill.


Insights into North Korean treatment of Australian missionary John Short

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After his release from North Korea, 75-year-old Australian missionary John Short reported that he was interrogated for four hours a day and kept under 24-hour guard during his 13 days in North Korean captivity.

“There were two-hour sessions each morning, which were repeated again in the afternoons,” he said.

He said he “openly and honestly” admitted his crime as worded in the indictment: that he distributed Bible tracts with the purpose of making North Koreans become Christians.

“I strongly protested that I was not a spy, nor working with any South Korean organizations nor was I hostile to the DPRK,” he wrote, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Short said in a statement to Australian Associated Press on Wednesday that recounting Biblical scriptures helped him endure the “long and grueling investigation.”

He said he was told that he faced 15 years in prison for distributing religious pamphlets at a Buddhist temple and on a crowded train.

“I confessed that I had knowingly broken the law in what I believed is my God-directed duty and as I do in every place and country I visit,” Short said.

Short, an enthusiastic walker, said his confinement in a room in Pyongyang under constant guard was stressful. “This I found to be most painful physically as an active senior person,” he said. “I missed my freedom to walk very much.”

Has Kim Jong Un purged his deputy Choe Ryong Hae?

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choe ryong hae_ri yong ho_kim jong un
[L – R] Choe Ryong Hae and North Korean military’s General Staff Chief Ri Yong Ho with Kim Jong Un in happier days
The South Korean Government is investigating reports Kim Jong Un has imposed another purge, after rumors of North Korea’s number two leader Choe Ryong Hae’s disappearance.

The statement was made by the South Korean Government on Monday after mounting speculation since last week that Choi was in jail and being interrogated.

It is assumed Choi held several top positions in the North Korean leadership after Kim ordered the high-profile execution of Jang Song Thaek, the previous incumbent and Kim’s uncle and mentor.

Rumors about Choi’s disappearance have intensified since his no-shows at public events he normally would have attended with Kim in February.

[The Times]

North Korea deports Australian missionary

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North Korea on Monday deported an Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity in the country, saying he apologized for his anti-state religious acts and requested forgiveness.

Authorities in North Korea had arrested 75-year-old John Short for secretly distributing Bible tracts near a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang on February 16.

KCNA said North Korea decided to expel him in part out of consideration for his age.

North Korea’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government. Defectors from the country have said that the distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution.

North Korea typically frees foreign detainees after they’ve admitted their crimes, but many say after their releases that their confessions were given involuntarily and under duress.


Moral outrage and action needed on North Korea

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Twenty-five million people today live in the world’s largest concentration camp – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – entombed in a totalitarianism so complete that nary a whisper about their sufferings is shared in the warm daylight we on the outside take for granted.

We teach our children the heavy legacies of humanity’s grave past injustices: Auschwitz. The Killing Fields. Rwanda. Srebrenica. Darfur. Implicit in such education is the belief that had we been alive, or had we been in positions of influence while the great atrocities of the past century had been perpetrated, we would’ve acted decisively to stop them.

But the moral clarity with which we judge those who preceded us is elusive when we see our world today. Museums and memorials to the fallen victims of yesterday’s tyrants are meaningless if they do not translate to stands against the perpetrators of brutality today.

Over the past decade, the body of evidence detailing North Korea’s criminal treatment of its citizens and others has steadily grown – first dismissed in disbelief by many, now undeniable. Last month’s report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea declared, “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” The report documents forced abortions, infanticide, mass starvation, torture, public executions, and oppression on an unfathomable scale.

In an age of satellite imagery and eyewitness testimony from concentration camp survivors, we can no longer plead ignorance. Now we have the chance to get on the right side of history, and to speed the day when children might be born free in North Korea.

[Excerpts of Christian Science Monitor article by Adrian Hong]