Category: China

Chinese pastor shared his faith with North Koreans then executed, defector claims

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A pastor on the China-North Korea border, Rev. Han Chung-Ryeol, shared his faith with at least 1,000 North Koreans in the Hermit Kingdom before he was assassinated in 2016, a defector claims. Rev. Han, a Chinese pastor of Korean descent, who ministered on the border town of Changbai since the early 1990s, was reportedly on Pyongyang’s most-wanted list as early as 2003 for his faith-based charitable work.

Rev. Han fed and sheltered thousands of North Koreans over the years — many of whom had fled the famine-stricken country in search of food and jobs. One of them, Sang-chul, shared his story in a short documentary from The Voice of the Martyrs: “In primary school, we were taught that all missionaries were terrorists,” Sang-chul shares in the video through a translator. “They told us that a missionary will be nice to you at first, but when they get you into their homes, then they will kill you and eat your liver.”

The North Korean said he didn’t have work or food in his village so he had snuck across the mountain border into China, picking mushrooms along the way in hopes of selling them in a market. He ran into Han, who offered to sell them and give him the money. Sang-chul knew something was different when the pastor didn’t cheat him out of any money, and wondered why a Chinese citizen would help him, knowing the danger.

“It is because I am a Christian,” Han reportedly said, causing the North Korean to be fearful of him.

And then one day Han told him: “God is real. There is hope for every person.” Sang-chul recalls, “I could not believe he would say that word, ‘God.’ Nobody says that word. … It is an act of treason…and can lead to soldiers coming in the night.”

Eventually, Sang-chul asked Rev. Han for a Bible, and then shared the gospel with his wife and best friend, who both found hope before he received the tragic news that Han was stabbed and axed to death by North Korean assassins. “Pastor Han gave his life, but he gave hope to me and to many other North Koreans,” Sang-chul said. “And despite the ever-present danger, many of us will continue to share the message that God is real.”

 [AP]

North Korean defectors decry autopsy for woman and her child

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North Korean defectors living in South Korea say the government is evading responsibility for the death of a North Korean woman and her infant son in their apartment in southern Seoul, following an autopsy result that did not confirm the cause of the deaths.

Defectors shocked by the deaths of members of their growing community say the result of the autopsy last Friday is a sign South Korean agencies do not want to be blamed for the neglect of the woman with the surname Han, and her young son, Yonhap reported.

Defectors with a group, Hongik Humanity for the World, are demanding a better response while a funeral for the deceased is being postponed, according to the report. The delayed funeral is a cause for concern, said Park Jin-hye of Hongik Humanity. Park said the postponed funeral prevents the dead from resting in peace, a reference to local spiritual beliefs.

“They were neglected for two months after their death [in their apartment], and are being prevented from leaving [this Earth] for 90 days,” Park said.

Han resettled in the South in 2009 and temporarily returned to China before coming back to the South with her second son. They was found dead on July 31, when her building’s technician noticed something odd with her water meter. The woman and her son may have died of starvation at least a month before local authorities entered their apartment to find their decomposing corpses.

Defectors have said South Koreans remain indifferent to their plight despite increased efforts in Seoul in the area of inter-Korea engagement.

[UPI]

North Korea defector’s death highlights plight of trafficked women

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The deaths of a North Korean defector and her young son in their apartment in Seoul have shocked Korea. And the incident is also shedding light on the difficulties faced by South Korea’s overwhelmingly female population of North Korean refugees.

Jung Gwang-il, founder of activist group No Chain in Seoul, said the refugee mother Han slipped through the cracks of South Korea’s support system for resettled North Koreans while struggling with domestic violence and a disabled child.

Han met her “husband,” a Chinese citizen whom she later divorced, after her initial escape to China where she was the target of human trafficking. After Han was granted residence in the South in 2009, her husband followed her, and the couple had a second child. The child was born with disabilities because Han’s spouse beat her during her pregnancy, Jung said, recounting conversations he’s had with other defectors.

Human-and sex-trafficking practices in northeast China explain why the majority of defectors in the South and in China are women. First of all, North Korean women defectors are able to leave their country easier, because women are less noticed when they go missing, defectors have said. And in China there is a high demand for women of reproductive age in rural areas, where male Chinese nationals buy undocumented “wives”.

Jung, who survived abuses at a North Korean prison camp, said “almost all” North Korean women fall prey to trafficking or choose to be trafficked due to poverty. Han was no exception.

Han was found dead in Seoul on July 31. The woman and her son may have died of starvation at least a month before local authorities entered her apartment and found their decomposing corpses, South Korean media reported.

“These are people who left North Korea because they were hungry,” Jung said. “To come all the way to South Korea and then to starve — that doesn’t make any sense.”

[UPI]

Starvation death of North Korean defector and her child shocks South Korea

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The death of a North Korean woman and her child in their apartment in Seoul is raising questions about South Korean state support for defectors who resettle in the South, according to a local press report.

The woman, who was found dead with her 6-year-old son in her home in late July, may have died from starvation.

The woman, only identified by her surname Han, was in her early 40s, according to Seoul’s Gwanak District police. She may have no longer been eligible for a monthly stipend from the South Korean government at the time of her death.

After resettlement, Han the woman defector had apparently left South Korea, and married an ethnic Korean man from China. Han later returned to the South in 2018 after a divorce.

A South Korean unification ministry official said current law provides support for defectors up to the fifth year of resettlement. The official also acknowledged that Han’s death indicates a “blind spot” is posing problems for defectors who continue to face difficulties adjusting to South Korea’s capitalist society.

[UPI]

Hungry North Korean soldiers reportedly caught stealing food in China

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Two hungry North Korean soldiers were caught scrounging around for food in China, according to a report.

The guards, assigned to protect North Korea’s border, were spotted by locals stealing food from a house in the city of Dandong after crossing into China earlier this month, a source told DailyNK, a Seoul-based website that covers the North through a network of informants.

The soldiers, reported to be in their early 20s and wearing military uniforms, were then arrested and sent back across the Yalu River into North Korea.

“I’ve never heard of low-ranking soldiers crossing over into China… because they’re hungry,” the source said. “The Chinese authorities believe … droughts last year and this year are the reason for the lack of food.”

DailyNK reports that North Korean border guards have been under increasing financial strain due to international sanctions that have been placed upon the Hermit Kingdom, leading to a decline in smuggling. The guards, the website says, rely on bribes from smugglers and defectors as a source of income.

[Fox News]

Statistics on North Korea: Sanctions bite

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North Korea is heavily reliant on China, which accounts for about 90% of the country’s trade. And Beijing’s decision to support tougher international sanctions against North Korea following its sixth nuclear test in September 2017 has put severe pressure on the economy.

  • China’s imports from North Korea have slowed to a trickle, falling about 90% year on year in 2018, according to the Korea International Trade Association.
  • The drying up of hard currency due to plunging trade is potentially creating an “economic crisis” for Kim, the state-run Korea Development Institute in Sejong, said earlier this month.
  • Exports of food and fuel from China to the North have also tumbled. The fuel crunch has exacerbated decades of economic stagnation. North Korea’s oil consumption has fallen by about 80% from 1991 to 2017, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
  • Less fuel has meant less diesel to run farm tractors and irrigation pumps, hitting farms already affected by droughts last summer. Last year, farmers had a little less than 90 milliliters (3 fluid ounces) of fuel a day to farm an area about the size of two soccer fields, according to calculations based on WFP data.
  • The sanctions have led to shortages of other necessary agricultural items, including machinery and spare parts, and farm output has dropped in the provinces that make up North Korea’s southern and western breadbaskets, the World Food Program and Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations said in a May assessment.
  • Paddy production declined at least 17% last year in South Hwanghae and North Pyongan provinces, regions that together account for half of North Korea’s rice.

In April, Kim Jong Un replaced his prime minister and leading technocrat Pak Pong Ju with Kim Jae Ryong, a veteran overseer of one of North Korea’s most impoverished provinces whose reputation for weathering tough times suggests leader Kim may also see a need to dig in rather than experiment should the sanctions continue.

[Bloomberg]

Chinese leader urged Trump to ease North Korea sanctions ‘in due course’

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Chinese President Xi Jinping urged U.S. President Donald Trump last month at the G20 summit in Osaka to show flexibility in dealings with North Korea and ease sanctions on the country “in due course,” China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

China signed up for strict U.N. sanctions following repeated North Korean nuclear and missile tests but also has suggested they could be eased as a reward for good behavior.

A senior U.S. official said U.S. policy continued to be to maintain sanctions on North Korea until it gives up its nuclear weapons.

After Trump recently met Kim at the Demilitarized Zone along the North’s border with South Korea, Trump announced that both sides would set up teams to push forward stalled talks aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said they would likely happen “sometime in July.”

[Reuters]

“Denuclearization Lite”

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Over the past couple of weeks, there have been increasing signs that the Trump administration – and particularly the president himself – is moderating its position on North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. Gone are the adamant statements that the U.S. will only accept complete, immediate and irreversible denuclearization.

No serious observer of the Korean situation in general and Kim Jong Un in particular would bet that the impetuous young leader would ever willingly surrender his nuclear weapons. They are obviously his best guarantee against U.S.-imposed regime change. As the certainty of this has sunk in for the Trump team, they are seeking another path to a demonstrable foreign policy “win” that can be touted in the run-up to the 2020 election.

While the ultimate shape of what might be termed “denuclearization lite” remains unclear, one can envision the general outline. For starters, the U.S. would likely demand a full, verifiable accounting of North Korea’s active nuclear and missile programs, with specific geographic positions identified. The U.S. could also push for a reduction in the total stockpile to a number that international inspectors could keep under permanent observation, say 50 warheads of a specified level of kilotons each. The warheads would be held in a small number of locations, three or so, each with a technical oversight system (cameras, electronic monitors) to alert inspectors if the facilities were breached. There could be a similar plan for the launcher systems, but they would be based different parts of the country than the warheads. All of this would be verified by international teams, which would have a mandate to inspect the facilities at any time.

In exchange, the North would receive sanctions relief and a large amount of development aid, although perhaps not of the kind Trump famously proposed for North Korea’s beaches in his first meeting with Kim: “Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?”

There are plenty of valid objections to such a scheme. One is that Trump wouldn’t be delivering fully on the problem he has correctly identified: Making sure Kim can’t attack the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. On the other hand, America and its allies live under that threat from Russia and China, and are “comfortable” with other nuclear-armed nations such as India, Israel and Pakistan.   

[Read James Stavridis’ full Opinion piece in Bloomberg]

In game of diplomatic chess, Kim Jong Un is proving to be the more astute player

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Standing side by side with US President Trump on North Korean soil is a tremendous propaganda boost to help secure is Kim Jong Un’s leadership at home.

And Trump got want he wanted: another history-making photo opportunity.

Of the two of them, many say it is Kim Jong Un who is getting the most from these meetings. In exchange for all this, Kim has had to suspend his nuclear and long-range missile tests. But not much else.

Some say the US-led sanctions against Kim’s regime are biting. But there is open acknowledgement from the White House that China — far and away North Korea’s biggest economic partner — isn’t rigorously enforcing them anymore.

Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un tour in an open-top limousine waving to Pyongyang crowds

And although it received less international media coverage, Kim only days ago hosted the world’s other most important political leader: Xi Jinping. The Chinese leader made his first visit to North Korea since becoming President six-and-a-half years ago. The pair toured Pyongyang in an open-top limousine waving to adulating crowds in a style only two communist leaders could pull off. The message was clear — China has North Korea’s back —and it is easy to forget that just over a year ago, ties between the two allies were at their lowest point in decades. What a difference a year makes.

So Kim Jong Un has played host to both the US and Chinese presidents within a week. He is on good terms with the South Korean leader. He has goods flowing across the Chinese border again — and he still has his nuclear arsenal as leverage.

In this game of diplomatic chess, Mr Trump and Chairman Kim are both making bold moves. But it is the youthful dictator who is proving to be the more astute player.

[ABC]

Human rights related to North Korean nuclear talks Part 1

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Young-jun Park recalls life in North Korea as defined by deprivation. Food shortages that wrought starvation. The lack of health care that brought more death. Park and his family eventually found their way to Seoul. In the ensuing years, he finished high school and graduated college, and he now works at a nonprofit funded by the South Korean government that assists North Korean refugees. “North Koreans are struggling so much,” Park says.

Reports from Human Rights Watch and the U.N. show that little progress on human rights has occurred in North Korea since Mr. Park fled in 2009, or in the five years since a U.N. investigation found that its government had committed “a wide array of crimes against humanity.”

The state-imposed violations include forced labor for adults and students, torture and execution of political prisoners, and pervasive abuse of women, children, and people with disabilities. Civil liberties enshrined in the country’s constitution – freedom of speech, religion, and the press – remain a mirage.

The funneling of state resources into weapons programs, coupled with a poor harvest season and the impact of international sanctions, has created a food crisis for some 10 million North Koreans, 40% of the population. Human rights advocates warn of a recurrence of the mid-1990s famine that killed as many as 3 million people if conditions fail to improve.

North Korea has enlisted China’s help to stop the flow of refugees – the Chinese government sends back defectors as a matter of policy – and those arrested face punishment ranging from indefinite prison terms to the death penalty. Even so, desperate to find freedom, thousands attempt to flee every year.

“They know there’s no future in North Korea,” says Gyoung-bin Ko, president of the Hana Foundation. “They want to give a better life to their children.” Read more