Monthly Archives: June 2019

North Korean defectors deserve an international response

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In the past year, the number of North Korean defectors has declined by approximately 17% with even fewer making it to South Korea. This is largely due to the increase in security monitoring on the Chinese border and an increase in police patrols in some of North Korea’s metropolitan cities. As it stands, the majority of defecting refugees escape from the North Eastern provinces (roughly 80%) as these are less militarized and provide easier access into China.

The repatriation policy of the Chinese government owes to the fact that defectors are considered “illegal economic migrants.” Given that the preservation of this relationship takes precedence over the rights, protections and freedom of North Korean refugees it is incumbent on the U.S. and the extended international community to respond to this crisis in an appropriate way. China, itself negligible when it comes to human rights, won’t change its policy soon.

There are however many not-for-profit organizations based in South Korea that actively promote the rights and freedoms of North Korean defectors which is cause for hope.

On the international stage, U.S. President Donald Trump has met with Kim Jong Un in relation to denuclearisation and the lifting of economic sanctions. These meetings have also included a brief focus on human rights. There remains an opportunity for U.S. foreign policy makers to instigate change in relation to the situation by way of incorporating human rights dialogue into the talks and future relationship of the U.S. and North Korea.

In July 2018, The North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017  outrightly condemned the treatment of North Korean citizens by the oppressive regime and called upon the regime to respect the rights of its citizens. On top of this, it also supported the allocation of funds to support a special envoy on North Korean human rights at an international level. As a result, the meetings between Kim and Trump have followed on from this renewed legislation which ought to give the international community cause for more hope. While denuclearisation is important, human rights dialogue must factor into the North Korean strategy.

[The Organization for World Peace]

Status of ‘executed’ North Korean nuclear envoys

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Kim Hyok Chol – North Korea’s top nuclear envoy who was reportedly executed is actually alive and in state custody, CNN reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Kim Hyok Chol, who led working-level negotiations for the February summit in Hanoi between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un, is being investigated for his role in the failure to reach a deal, CNN reported Tuesday. A conservative South Korean daily, Chosun Ilbo, sparked global intrigue over the fate of Kim Hyok Chol when it reported Friday he had been executed by firing squad after being charged with espionage as part of an internal purge.

A career diplomat from an elite North Korean family, Kim Hyok Chol made his international debut a few weeks before the Hanoi summit as Pyongyang’s new point man for nuclear negotiations, taking diplomats by surprise. As to his personal “failure” in the summit, South Korea’s former top envoy to international nuclear talks with North Korea commented, “I cannot imagine that Kim Hyok Chol misinterpreted the U.S. position and misled his bosses into believing that sanctions relief is possible. He is not senior enough to make such a judgment.”

Kim Yong Chol – Recently, another key player Kim Yong Chol appeared in public attending an art performance alongside Kim Jong Un. An invitation to join to join the North Korean leader in public would likely not be extended to someone who had fallen out of favor. However, sources said Kim Yong Chol had seen power “almost deprived” since the Hanoi summit. The sources add Kim, who previously served as North Korea’s spy chief, was not sentenced to forced labor, but instead “kept silently in his office writing statements of self-criticism.” Trotting him out publicly was a signal to Washington that Kim Jong Un was “not breaking off negotiations over denuclearization,” despite escalating tensions in recent weeks, one source said.

Sin Hye Yong – Kim Jong Un’s translator at the failed Hanoi talks, Sin Hye Yong, also is in custody and under investigation, sources said.

The above North Korean officials join other senior North Korean officials who South Korean media over the years has reported they had been executed, only to have proven false.

Diplomats and officials from Pyongyang have been known to disappear from public view only to resurface after a period of so-called reeducation, analysts and former diplomats say.

[CNN / Bloomberg]

North Korea warns America their patience is wearing thin

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North Korea has issued its latest demand that the U.S. work harder to find common ground on sanctions relief and denuclearization, warning leaders in Washington that patience in Kim Jong Un’s regime is wearing thin.

A statement issued Tuesday by the North Korean foreign ministry said the U.S. must abandon its “current way of calculation” if it wished to revive talks between the two nations. The statement was carried by the Rodong Sinmun newspaper—the official publication of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. It said an adjustment to America’s approach would be the “correct strategic choice” to keep alive the joint statement signed by Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018, in which both committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The message—attributed to a ministry spokesperson—said the survival of the agreement depends on how America responds to “our fair and reasonable stand.” If the response is inadequate, the spokesperson said the Singapore statement would become “a mere blank sheet of paper.”

“The U.S. should duly look back on the past one year and cogitate about which will be a correct strategic choice before it is too late,” the official continued. “The U.S. would be well-advised to change its current method of calculation and respond to our request as soon as possible. There is a limit to our patience.”


Sister of Kim Jong-un makes appearance at mass games

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While attending North Korea’s Mass games, leader Kim Jong-un openly criticized his country’s “irresponsible work attitude”.

Apart from this, in attendance at the opening of the games was Mr Kim’s sister, who had not been seen publicly in nearly two months.

Kim Yo-jong has over the past two years become an close aide to her brother and was part of his diplomatic mission during the two US-North Korea summits in Singapore and Hanoi. She has been absent from the public eye before, but her recent absence was by some observers linked to the failure of the negotiations with the US. Reports suggested that Kim had ordered his sister to keep a low profile after the failure of his recent nuclear summit with Donald Trump.

There were reports last week that several of North Korea’s top officials had been purged or possibly even executed after the Hanoi summit. One of them has since reappeared in photos alongside Mr Kim, while the other’s fate remains unclear.

With none of the reports verifiable, analysts have to read official photos and seating patterns for clues as to who might have fallen out of favor. For example, some suggest Kim Yo-jong appears to no longer be member of the Politburo, as some official photos show her too far from Kim Jong-un to still be part of that powerful body.

Kim was also accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol-ju, along with senior North Korean officials.


North Korea defectors send anti-Kim flyers into London embassy compound

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A group of North Korean defectors, Fighters for Free North Korea, a South Korea-based group of activists, recently had a confrontation at the North Korean Embassy in London.

The group initially requested to be let in to deliver a message to the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Embassy staff did not issue a response or make an appearance, according to the activists.

When no one showed up, the activists began to paste dozens of anti-North Korea flyers to the embassy gate. Lastly, they tossed the 500 remaining flyers across the gate, according to Yonhap.

The flyers included condemnations of Kim as the “demon who killed his brother,” and read, “Kim Jong Un, butcher of humanity,” in Korean.


Pompeo says the US is investigating if Kim Jong Un executed a North Korean official

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is looking into a report that North Korea executed a top envoy after the summit between North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump collapsed.

According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the US, was executed after the summit ended early. The report said he was executed in March for “being recruited by US imperialists and betraying the supreme leader.”

Chosun Ilbo reported that the execution was part of a purge of top officials that saw four other officials executed.

It reported that a senior official was part of Kim’s team for both of his summits with Trump was sentenced to hard labor and ideological “re-education.” The official, Kim Yong Chol, met Trump at the White House in 2018 and was photographed with him.

It also reported that an interpreter from the summit was imprisoned for what the newspaper said was an interpretation error at the February summit. It said that North Korea felt the error “damaged the authority” of Kim.

South Korea said that “it’s inappropriate to make hasty judgments or comments” about the report. There have been cases where South Korean media or intelligence officials said that an individual was executed, only for them to re-emerge months later. But some reports have also been accurate.