A blog by Grant Montgomery, co-founder of Family Care Foundation, a 501c3 that provides emergency services and sustained development for families on 5 continents. This site highlights the plight of 300,000 North Koreans who have fled their country due to the brutal oppression of a Stalinist North Korean regime, as well as those still living in North Korea.
South Korea said Thursday it expelled two North Korean men after learning they murdered 16 crew members on their fishing boat before fleeing to the South.
The pair, both in their 20s, were questioned by South Korean authorities after being found on Saturday near the maritime border in the Sea of Japan, and concluded that the men had killed 16 fellow fishermen on their boat and then fled to South Korea, Seoul’s unification ministry said.
The two men were deported to the North via the truce village of Panmunjom after informing Pyongyang of the plan, ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min told reporters.
“If they had been incorporated into our society, it was judged they would pose a threat to the lives and safety of the people,” Lee said.
A group of 13 North Koreans recently arrived in Southeast Asia, after a grueling two-month journey which spanned 6,000 kilometers (more than 3700 miles), in a quest for asylum in South Korea.
Among the group that reached the Southeast Asian destination were a two-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, the rest ranging in age between their teens and 50s.
They were met by officials from the South Korean human rights group Now Action Unity Human rights (NAUH), who had been awaiting them.
Ji Seong-ho, founder of NAUH, who himself escaped North Korea in 2006, led
the effort to rescue the 13. Ji said the latest rescue was both nerve-racking
He told RFA that many people that attempt to leave North Korea are arrested
in China, as Beijing intensifies crackdowns on those who try to flee. He noted
that the number of North Koreans fleeing to Southeast Asia has declined in
recent years, but that many still make the journey hoping to escape to freedom.
A group of North Korean defectors recently arrived in Southeast Asia after lengthy
travels through China. Following are their responses as to why they left their
A female member of the group, explained she left North Korea in July because
she was being forced to join the military and had to give up her dream of
becoming a doctor. “It wasn’t hard for me because I kept thinking this is the
only way I can achieve my dream and [secure] my future,” she added.
Another woman in the group, in her fifties, said she decided to seek asylum because she hated the incompetence of North Korean authorities, who she said make strong crackdowns on minor infractions. She also disliked the rampant corruption in North Korean society and said it was her wish to travel to other countries as she pleased.
She said that even North Korea’s rich are looking for ways to get out. “People think that the state just drains money from us. It would be nice if the state would let us be in charge of our own business,” said Lee. “So it means that the people are all saying ‘Let’s leave. We will be able to be in charge of our own affairs in South Korea, We can enjoy freedom. Let’s go look for our freedom there.’ Many of the rich people want to come because [the authorities] are giving them a hard time,” she said.
Another female defector identified as Lee is the mother of a 2-year-old. Her
12-year old niece, small enough to pass for a much younger child, was also a
part of the group. Lee’s mother had escaped into South Korea 13 years ago. “Now
that I’m here, I break into tears just thinking of seeing my mother. It’s been
13 years. I have tears just thinking about meeting her for the first time in 13
years,” Lee said.
North Korean defectors in South Korea say they have decided to postpone a funeral for a North Korean woman and her infant son because Seoul’s Unification Ministry is not meeting their demands.
Activists with an “emergency response committee” established after the death of Han Sung-ok and her son said the Unification Ministry is responsible for a “breakdown” in negotiations regarding a list of their demands, Yonhap reported.
According to activists, the group requested Seoul “apologize” for
the incident, asked for the resignation of the head of the Korea Hana
Foundation, a government agency, and demanded a nationwide network be
established for North Korean defectors in the South. The activists also said
they are seeking the creation of a council that could negotiate between the
Unification Ministry and various defector groups.
The defectors added the Unification Ministry is “avoiding” the demands and making it appear the Hana Foundation is responsible for the delay, according to local news service Seoul Pyongyang News.
Han and her son were found dead in their apartment in southern Seoul in
July. The family may have died of starvation at least a month before local
authorities entered their apartment to find their decomposing corpses. Han was
granted residence in the South in 2009. According to defectors who spoke to UPI, Han had two sons and her second son had
died with her, while her ex-husband, a Chinese national, took her firstborn to
Kim Jong Un has made up his mind about the timing of the next U.S.-North Korea summit, Seoul’s spy agency said Monday.
Suh Hoon, the head of South Korea’s national intelligence service, told the National Assembly’s information committee the third official meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader could take place before the end of the year, News 1 and MoneyToday reported.
In preparation for the third summit, not counting the brief Trump-Kim encounter at the truce village of Panmunjom, working-level talks between Pyongyang and Washington could take place in November, or early December at the latest, the spy chief said, according to reports. (Last week, North Korea fired two projectiles as it warned of a “year-end deadline” for the United States.)
Suh also said Kim could visit China ahead of a third U.S.-North Korea summit, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of bilateral ties. Last week, sources in China told a South Korean newspaper that North Korea’s all-women’s Moranbong Band could tour Chinese cities in December, and that Chinese President Xi Jinping could attend a concert with Kim.
A new book claims to shed light on President Trump’s
relationship with North Korea. Author Doug Wead interviewed Trump on the issue
and was able to read some of the personal letters exchanged between the
president and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un.
The book, set for release on Nov. 26, comes at a time when the U.S. has
improved diplomatic relations with North Korea, but continues working for
concessions on the rogue nation’s nuclear development.
President Trump took the historic step of meeting in person with Kim after a
prolonged, international standoff that included fiery rhetoric and multilateral
sanctions. Kim has frequently attacked Trump’s mental stability while Trump
suggested that Kim was short and fat.
But despite the public bluster, the president told Wead that he and Kim had
good “chemistry” and they both wanted to avoid conflict.
When Wead discussed the letters with White House adviser Jared Kushner, Kushner suggested Kim had problems with Trump because of issues surrounding his own father. “‘It’s a father thing,’ Kushner observed.
‘You can see from these letters that Kim wants to be friends with Trump, but his father told him never to give up the weapons. That’s his only security. Trump is like a new father figure. So, it is not an easy transition.'”
North Korean defector Cho Jin-hye was resettled in the United States, but she’s never had it easy.
Cho lost her father during the catastrophic North Korean famine of the late
’90s. Her family was notified of his death with a letter from the North Korean
government, as he was in prison at the time …. His crime that he had gone to
China to search for food. “He passed away from hunger and torture,”
she said. “He had infections all over his body. They didn’t give him
medicine or water.”
In 1998, as a child she escaped North Korea with her mother. They had
relatives in China — her father’s stepbrother and his family — but they met
them only once. “When we crossed the border, they did not help my family,
so I never met with them again,” she said.
Out of options, Cho and her mother “stayed” with an ethnic
Korean-Chinese man, living with him for four years.
“He was a drunkard,” she said. “After he drank he would start
yelling at my mother, beating my mother, using a stick to beat me too, and my
sister. We had a really difficult four years with him.”
Cho, a naturalized U.S. citizen who resettled in 2008, said a nine-year battle for her reputation has led her to believe that an online antagonist could be collaborating with the North Korean regime. Pyongyang’s propaganda service Uriminzokkiri has targeted Cho with a video that includes a “testimony” from a North Korean woman who claims Cho faked her identity and that she was, in fact, Korean-Chinese. The story aligns with the rumors that Cho says was started by her opponent. The official statement from North Korea has been upsetting, Cho said. Read more
North Korean defector Cho Jin-hye who now lives in the U.S. in Georgia, remembers reaching a low point when she became the target of cyberbullying in online defector communities. The stinging accusations from other defectors, alleging Cho had feigned her North Korean identity in order to gain asylum in the United States, were so overwhelming she said she contemplated suicide.
That was 2014. Five years later, Cho is still struggling with unfounded rumors she is somehow not related to her mother and her younger sister, although they fled North Korea together and lived for a time in China. Cho, who is in her early 30s, said her troubles began when another U.S.-based North Korean defector began to fabricate stories about her background.
The row between the two defectors may be puzzling, but a sense of solidarity may not prevail among defectors, says Markus Bell, a North Korea expert and migration researcher based in Yangon, Myanmar. Bell, who has studied North Korean defectors in the South, said North
Koreans often don’t trust each other because of the political situation on the
Korean Peninsula. “There is often a wariness about who might be informing
for the North Korean government,” Bell told UPI by email. “This makes
it more difficult for new arrivals to forge meaningful relationships.”
Bell said lack of trust among defectors sometimes boils over into anger and bitterness. “Because of the mutual mistrust among North Koreans in exile, individuals like these can become focal points of resentment, susceptible to accusations that could have them sent to China or South Korea,” Bell said. “It’s absurd that Ms. Cho’s asylum in the United States could now be up for debate. She was granted asylum and that should be that.” Read more
Successful sanctions evasion, economic lifelines from China and U.S.
President Donald Trump’s impeachment woes may be among the factors that have
emboldened North Korea in nuclear negotiations, analysts and officials say.
Both Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continue to play up the personal rapport they say they developed during three face-to-face meetings. But North Korea has said in recent days that it is losing patience, with two missile launches on Thursday, giving the United States until the end of the year to change its negotiating stance.
“Still, I think that Pyongyang has concluded they can do without a deal if they must,” Andray Abrahamian, a visiting scholar with George Mason University Korea, said. “The sad thing is I think that will lock in the current state of affairs, with its downsides for all stakeholders, for years to come.”
Trump’s reelection battle and the impeachment inquiry against him may have
led Kim to overestimate North Korea’s leverage, said one diplomat in Seoul, who
spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
“Trump is all Kim has. In order to denuclearize, Kim needs confidence that
Trump will be reelected.”
Although United Nations sanctions remain in place, some trade with China appears to have increased, and political relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have improved dramatically.
A huge influx of Chinese tourists over the past year appears to be a major source of cash for the North Korean government, according to research by Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea. Estimates that as many as 350,000 Chinese tourists have visited this year, potentially netting the North Korean authorities up to $175 million. That’s more than North Korea was making from the Kaesong Industrial Complex – jointly operated with South Korea before it was shuttered in 2016.
For now, North Korea seems inclined to avoid engaging further with the
United States or South Korea until they make more concessions. “North Korea
appears to be interested only in a deal under its terms to the exact letter,”
said Duyeon Kim, with the Washington-based Center for a New American Security.
North Korea conducted a missile launch on Thursday, firing two projectiles into its eastern sea amid stalled denuclearization talks with Washington, military officials said. North Korea’s latest missile test, the second this month, comes two months ahead of an end-of-year deadline set by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to wrap up nuclear talks with the Trump administration as the Hermit Kingdom appeared to be losing patience.
U.S. officials had been watching North Korea prepare for this latest missile
test over the “past few days,” the U.S. official told Fox News, calling the
The missiles were believed to be “short or medium-range
ballistic missiles,” fired from mobile launchers outside North Korea’s capital
Pyongyang, a U.S. official told Fox News regarding an initial intelligence
Earlier this month, North Korea test-fired an underwater-launched ballistic missile, its first such test in three years.
North Korean senior official Kim Yong Chol said in a statement Sunday that there has been no progress in U.S.-North Korea relations. He warned that the cordial relationship between Kim and President Trump wouldn’t be enough to prevent nuclear diplomacy from failing, threatening that “there could be the exchange of fire at any moment.”
The stalled U.S.-led talks have also put a strain on relations between the