Sunday, April 30, 2006

First North Korean granted U.S. Asylym

The Los Angeles Immigration Court has granted asylum to a North Korean defector after he awaited a decision in the U.S. for the past 20 months, his lawyer said Friday.

The final ruling came Thursday for the defector, Seo Jae-sok, a pseudonym, who entered the U.S. through the Mexican border in 2004, according to Miriam Kang of Human Rights Project, a California-based non-profit corporation.

Seo is a former North Korean military officer who came to the U.S. with his wife and two children.

[Yonhap]

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Christian Activity in North Korea

Overseas religious relief organizations have been active in responding to the country’s food crisis; however, they have been denied access to many areas of the country and their movement restricted and closely monitored.

According to some defectors, the regime has increased repression and persecution of unauthorized religious groups in recent years. These defectors reported that persons engaging in religious proselytizing, persons with ties to overseas evangelical groups operating across the border in China, and specifically, persons repatriated and found to have contacted Christian missionaries outside the country have been arrested and subjected to harsh unishment.

Religious and human rights groups outside the country continued to provide numerous unconfirmed reports that members of underground churches have been beaten, arrested, detained in prison camps, tortured, or killed because of their religious beliefs. Members of underground churches connected to border missionary activity were regarded as subversive elements.

-- Excerpt of latest State Department’s Human Rights report, country section on North Korea

Friday, April 28, 2006

14 South Korean missionaries disappear

The South Korean Foreign Ministry and Seoul police are searching for 14 Christian missionaries after receiving a report saying they were kidnapped in China. Seoul's Mapo Police Station said that it received the report from two missionaries who left for Dalian in China's northeastern Liaoning province with 14 others late last month.

The two missionaries who called the Mapo police said the 14 missionaries were kidnapped and were being kept as hostages in that area of the country. The ministry and police are asking for cooperation from Chinese public security authorities.

The work of foreign missionaries in China is often to serve the around 400,000 North Korean illegal immigrants, who cross the north-east border in search of food and work. For them, repatriation means prison, torture, prolonged interrogation and forced labor. Prison terms are so tough in North Korea, due to mistreatment and lack of food, that a large number of prisoners do not survive them.

In recent years, Beijing and Pyongyang have enacted even more repressive measures to hunt down refuges and those who help them.

[AsiaNews.it]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bush anger over refugee sent back to North Korea

The British Telegraph reports that President Bush did indeed put Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader, on the spot about North Korean refugees in China when Hu visited the States, highlighting the case of Kim Chun-Hee.

“Urged on by a powerful church group from his childhood home of Midland, Texas, Bush raised her plight with Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader.

“Predictably, Mr Hu listened blankly to Mr Bush's comments during talks in the Oval Office, offering no response or comment - the standard Chinese approach when Western governments raise human rights concerns.

"Kim Chun-Hee is a symbol for thousands and thousands of other refugees we don't know about, and that's why she is so important as an example for us all," said Deborah Fikes, the executive director of the alliance, based in the town where Mr Bush was raised.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Long Walk to Freedom

For the Christian activists who staff the Seoul Train, nothing has been more deflating than the actions—or, more precisely, inaction—of the Bush Administration.

The activists viewed Bush as one of their own, a conservative Christian committed to human rights, unafraid to speak the truth about North Korea and its dictator. ("I loathe Kim Jong Il," the President famously said in 2002).

Last year, [Tim Peters] believes, Bush showed his true colors when he spent more time in the Oval Office with Kang Chol Hwan, the author of a shattering memoir of life in the North Korean gulag, than he had with Roh Moo Hyun.

In October of 2004 Congress passed the North Korean Human Rights Act, and in the summer of 2005, Bush appointed Jay Lefkowitz, a former domestic-policy advisor in the White House, as a special envoy to deal specifically with North Korean human-rights issues. Though Bush called for $24 million a year to accept refugees from North Korea and broadcast news and information there, Congress has yet to appropriate any funding to carry out the policies.

TIME has learned, however, that the Administration, under Lefkowitz's prodding, is studying whether the United States might be able to take in a small number of North Korean refugees each year—something which, if it happened, would no doubt anger North Korea.

Bush also raised the plight of North Korean refugees directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao during their meeting in Washington last week, seeking, a White House official said, "a more transparent process" in how Beijing deals with those who come across its border.

It is, says Peters, about time. "Who but [Secretary of State] Condi Rice, an African American, could better understand the absolute necessity of helping these refugees? The underground railroad is named after the network that helped the slaves, for heaven's sake."

[Excerpt from TIME magazine article “Long Walk to Freedom”]

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

North Korean Underground Railroad

Tim Peters runs the Seoul-based charity Helping Hands Korea. More than any other Westerner, Peters has become the public face of a network of activists, many motivated by their Christian faith, who have devoted their lives to helping North Koreans, including many living illegally in China, escape to freedom in South Korea.

Peters formed Helping Hands Korea in 1996, and within just two years, as refugees tried to escape the famine, the beginnings of the underground railroad took shape. The organization's mission became more focused: helping North Koreans in crisis, people who really needed help getting out.

He and others in the network compare it to the Underground Railroad which took African-American slaves from the South to freedom in the North. The activists are convinced that their cause is as urgent as the abolitionists' was. "When we look back at this era, at what North Korea has done to its people, I'm convinced the civilized world will be shocked and also shamed," Peters says. "In the meantime, we do what we can."

A successful operation needs money, a meticulous plan and reliable people. The operatives working in China are critical. Peters and [other activists] prefer to depend on fellow Christian activists but will work with trustworthy brokers. There's no magic formula for knowing how many people or how much money is needed. Nor can the route be specified in advance, although right now there are two hot roads out of China--one through Mongolia, another through Laos.

[TIME magazine excerpts]

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tim Peters in TIME magazine: North Korean Refugees

Today's TIME magzine has an aricle on the escape of a North Korean refugee, "Running Out of the Darkness", in which Tim Peters and Helping Hands Korea is featured. This is derived from the Asia edition of TIME, in which Tim was featured in the cover story "Long Walk to Freedom":

"On a winter's day in late 1998, Kim Myong Suk, 20, lay shivering and weak from hunger on the cold concrete floor of a cell in a prison camp in North Korea, not far from the Chinese border. She was five months pregnant and was about to lose her unborn child. Of all the horrors she recalls from that day, she says, two stand out. One is that her sister, who lived in a nearby town, had been brought in to watch what was about to happen to her. The other is the name of North Korean guard, the man who she says killed her unborn child.

"It's just before dawn, the daily chaos of noise and traffic still hours away. Kim (a pseudonym she used to protect her family in North Korea) is about to meet, for the first time, the men responsible for saving her life. One is Kim Sang Hun, a lay Christian from Seoul. The other is the Rev. Tim Peters, a soft-spoken evangelical Christian pastor.

Read full article

Read international version

For more on Helping Hands

Events supporting North Korean refugees

Stay in touch with events going on to do with North Korean refugees and those fighting for their cause.

The 7th International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees in Bergen, Norway.

North Korean Freedom Week in Washington, DC

Also in the States:
West Coast: a series of events on the campus of UC Berkeley between April 24 and May 1. Georgia: a fundraiser in Duluth, Georgia for underground orphanages in China that help North Korean children.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

North Korean Refugees Await U.S. Asylum Decisions

Fifteen to 20 North Korean defectors are said to have requested political asylum in the United States.

Judy Wood, a lawyer from the American human rights group Human Rights Project stated the above on April 13 in an interview on Radio Free Asia (RFA) in Washington.

Wood stated in the interview that “The group, which also has a number of adolescents, was living in South Korea before defecting to the U.S. through Mexico, and a few entered the U.S. with a tourist visa,” and added that “currently they are living a free life" [while waiting for the final court decision.]

David Kim, a Korean-American lawyer in New York, stated in a phone interview that “a final court decision will be made by this month on the request for asylum for Ma Young-ae, a North Korean defector residing in New York.”

[donga.com]

Saturday, April 22, 2006

No Questions Asked

For Hu Jintao, the substance of his summit meeting with President Bush will occur before it ever begins -- with the 21-gun salute the Chinese president received on the White House lawn. Broadcast back to China, the reception will be offered by the communist regime as proof that Mr. Bush regards Mr. Hu as a strategic partner in managing global affairs.

But there's another signal moment of the day's events. Contrary to the standard protocol for visiting heads of state, there will be no news conference at which American and Chinese journalists can ask unscripted questions.

The White House's acquiescence to a Chinese demand that Mr. Hu not be subjected to possibly embarrassing queries about political prisoners, religious freedom or censorship of the Internet symbolizes a major element of Mr. Bush's policy -- his willingness to relegate China's worsening performance on political freedom and human rights to a back burner.

Mr. Bush is said to be particularly moved by China's suppression of religious freedom, both among its 70 million Christians and the Buddhists of Tibet; we're told he's also focused on Beijing's policy of forcibly repatriating refugees from North Korea, in violation of international treaties.

Maybe Mr. Bush [mentioned] some of this. But even if he [did], we'll never hear Mr. Hu's response, thanks to the administration's exquisite sensitivity to Beijing's aversion to press freedom.

[From a Washington Post editorial]

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bush meeting Hu: North Korean refugees

One corner of the U.S. government has worked to put on the table China's treatment of desperate North Koreans who slip across the border. They have been aided in that quest by a growing movement of Christian activists who lately have adopted North Korea as a cause, much as they earlier did Sudan, and pushed Congress into passing legislation intended to make human rights in Asia's last Stalinist outpost a higher U.S. priority.

"We just feel this is what we're commanded to do," said Deborah Fikes, executive director of the Midland Ministerial Alliance from the president's Texas hometown. "If you're a follower of Christ, this should be one of your number one priorities, speaking out for the oppressed, and I can't think of anybody more oppressed than the North Koreans."

Administration officials said Bush feels strongly about the situation. "He's taken a very personal interest and a fairly significant interest in the issue of human rights," said Jay Lefkowitz, whom Bush appointed last year as a special envoy for human rights in North Korea. "He fundamentally believes the character of the North Korean regime is defined by its human rights conduct."

Bush has expressed visceral distaste for North Korea's autocratic leader, Kim Jong Il, calling him a "tyrant" who runs "concentration camps" and saying he "loathes" him for the way he treats his people. Last year, Bush invited to the White House defector Kang Chol Hwan after reading his memoir, "The Aquariums of Pyongyang," recounting 10 years of eating rats in a North Korean prison.

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said: "The real question is whether the president [will] actually say anything to Hu.

[Excerpt of an article by Peter Baker, Washington Post]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

White House Puts Face on North Korean Human Rights

She showed up at a school in a coastal city in China nearly five months ago and begged for help. Instead, she was deported to her native North Korea and never seen again.

Now the case of Kim Chun Hee has made its way to the desk of President Bush, threatening to complicate the first White House visit of China's leader today and further irritate an irritable relationship.

Urged on by evangelical supporters from his home town and other activists elsewhere, Bush has taken a personal interest in human rights in North Korea and decided to make an example of Kim's asylum case. Alerted to her situation by a South Korean lawmaker, the White House issued a rare statement last month pronouncing itself "gravely concerned" about her fate and chastising China for sending her back.

[Excerpt of an article by Peter Baker, Washington Post]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

North Korea: “Missionaries are Spies”

The North Korean government is meditating about how to stop religion from affecting its regime. Meanwhile every year the ‘Religious Freedom Report’ prepared by the U.S. Department of State highlights North Korea as a nation violating religious freedom.

According to North Korean 'Lecture Materials', North Korea has stated, ""Let’s crush the crafty conspiracy of the enemies who are spreading religion in North Korea"

These 'Lecture Materials' criticized South Korea for maneuvering defectors, tourists and traders with all kinds of religious books, tapes, and videotapes to go into North Korea.

One case sited in the 'Lecture Materials' is a woman tourist with a Bible caught in customs on the way back to North Korea in Musan district of North Hamkyung province. Another is a missionary who had contact with a North Korean, in which missionaries are referred to as “spies”.

North Korea responded that “the U.S is the worst religion-suppressing country in the world”, adding "The U.S killed over 3,000 innocent Muslims in the Afghanistan War, and defames Islam in foreign prisons".

Moreover, North Korea refuted, "South Korean religious associations and Billy Graham of the U.S visited us and negotiated and cooperated with our religious associations in various ways. Is this seen to suppress religious freedom and restraining religious activities?"

[Excerpt of an article by Park Young Cheon, The Daily NK]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Engaging Mr. Hu

The Chinese president comes to Washington bearing gifts, but he makes a weak strategic ally. If there was ever a serious debate within the Bush administration about whether it is best to "engage" or "contain" China, it is now over: When President Hu Jintao visits Washington this week, the two presidents will meet for the fifth time in under a year.

Though Mr. Hu will not get the state dinner or formal designation of state visitor that he wanted, he will get a 21-gun salute on the White House lawn, along with other high-protocol trappings. In practice the Bush administration already treats Mr. Hu's regime as such an ally, inviting its collaboration in curbing the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran and stabilizing the global economy -- and relegating concerns about its domestic repression to a back burner.

With its own energy interests in mind, China is blocking the administration's attempt to bring pressure to bear on Iran's nuclear program through the United Nations Security Council.

Similarly, it has used its enormous leverage over North Korea only to nudge that regime into participating in talks on its nuclear weapons, rather than to demand steps toward giving them up.

[Excerpt of Washington Post editorial]

Monday, April 17, 2006

U.S. criticizes China's repatriation of North Korean refugees

The Bush administration reasserted its "particular concern" at China's continuing repatriation of North Korean refugees and cited lack of progress on human rights in Pyongyang. In an annual report, "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2005-2006," released through the State Department, the U.S. pressed China to allow U.N. officials access to North Korean refugees seeking refuge in its territory.

The report highlights China's refusal to help the North Korean refugees. Among other abuses, the State Department notes testimony from North Korean defectors who claimed that up through the early 1990s, Pyongyang tested a variety of chemical and biological agents on human subjects.

The day after, the White House issued a statement about China's repatriation of female North Korean refugee Kim Chun-hee, who sought asylum at a Korean international school in November. Chinese police had arrested her, and months later Beijing said she had been sent back to North Korea.

It was the first statement by the White House denouncing China's action, preceding a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

[Excerpt of an article by Lee Dong-min, Yonhap News]

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The work of Helping Hands Korea

The work of Helping Hands Korea covers three main areas of concentration.

Focus # 1 - Refugee Shelters
1. Project addresses the plight of 300,000 North Korean refugees in China
2. North Korean refugees live in fear 24/7; stripped of any legal ID or rights in China
3. Repatriation to DPRK can mean detention, torture or execution

Focus #2 - Underground Railroad
1. Certain North Korean refugees face greater danger if caught & repatriated to North Korea.
a. “Repeat offenders”—border crossers who’ve been caught & sent back
b. Christians are considered dangerous political enemies of the State
c. Those who have relatives in prison camps
d. Weak or seriously ill refugees would probably perish if returned to North Korea.

Focus #3 - Feeding the Vulnerable
1. Begun in 1996 as North Korea’s famine grew gravely serious, our humanitarian food aid program concentrates on non-traditional delivery and monitoring methods.
2. Originating with a concentration on raw grain deliveries, esp. corn and rice, the project now focuses on actual food preparation in China, with direct deliveries to schools & orphanages inside North Korea.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Forgotten Korean agents in a clandestine war

Choe Sang-Hun writes in the International Herald Tribune of South Korea’s “dilemma left over from a war ceased but never put to rest.”

South Korean recruited and sent agents into North Korea for decades after the 1953 truce between the two countries. “For the two Koreas, acknowledging their agents' missions is tantamount to an admission of armistice violations.”

“Legislators, citing Defense Ministry data, have said that South Korea trained 13,000 armed agents between the beginning of the Korean War and 1994, and that 8,000 of them did not return from their missions. Since last year, 5,700 former agents or relatives have come forward.”

That’s roughly 2300 South Koreans unaccounted for --and possibly still detained in North Korea.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Forgotten soldiers of a clandestine war

Officially, guns fell silent in Korea when the armies signed a truce in 1953. But for decades afterward, the two Koreas continued a clandestine war, infiltrating armed agents across the Demilitarized Zone, according to former South Korean agents and recently declassified transcripts of armistice talks between North Korea and the UN Command.

South Korean agents from this hidden campaign now are speaking out. They say they were mistreated "pawns of a proxy war," or "soldiers without a dog tag," secretly trained and sent across a border bristling with high- voltage electricity fences, booby traps and mines.

Those who returned home lived with nightmares but little glory or compensation.

Thousands of South Korean armed agents remain missing, either killed or perhaps - according the armistice documents - still languishing in North Korean prison camps.

[Excerpt of article by Choe Sang-Hun, International Herald Tribune]

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Korean Government May Swap Aid for Abductees

The South Korean government is reviewing a plan to offer large-scale support to North Korea, such as investment in a Social Overhead Capital (SOC) program, plant building, and goods in return for the repatriation of some 1,000 civilian abductees and prisoners of war (POW) that are believed to be alive in North Korea.

If the plan is approved, the government will suggest it to the North at the inter-Korean ministerial meeting in Pyongyang from April 21-24.

In return for the aid, the government is also considering additional demands, such as regular reunion sessions and letter exchanges for separated families.

The government is also studying the case in which the U.S. paid North Korea for the excavation of the remains of some 220 U.S. soldiers who were killed in the Korean War from 1996 to 2005. The U.S. is known to have paid more than $15 million to North Korea during this period.

[DongA.com]

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“The worst case of the manipulation of humanitarian assistance in the world today is …. a huge open prison that is called North Korea.

"[North Korean refugees] say that food aid meant for famine victims is not getting to those who need it but is going to citizens deemed to be loyal to Kim Jong-il's regime.

“Refugee testimonies suggest that three million people died from starvation and related illnesses in 1995-1998 alone, and many continue to die today.

“It is terrible to think that North Koreans are starving to death while North Korea is the second largest recipient of food aid after Afghanistan.”

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Charles Jenkins: Prisoner of Pyongyang, Part 4

Charles Jenkins describes [North Korea as] a heavily militarized state where "everyone was in the army" and which reached deep into the lives of its citizens via "leaders" who controlled everything from loose talk to bedrooms. He claims people are not free to choose a sexual partner, to talk to others or even to invite others for a private drink at home.

"People get drunk and start talking," he says. "When Kim Jong Il first took over, about half a kilometer from where I lived was a scientific research center, and these educated people, doctors, professors; they had a party and started drinking and talking about Kim and one of them squealed and all of them disappeared. They got sent to a concentration camp."

Pyongyang operates "five to seven camps," he says, and the camps have swallowed up whole families. "They found all that person's relatives and sent them too. I asked why one time and they said because your relatives will be against the government, so we take them all."

Above all, though, it is his graphic descriptions of poverty that stay in the mind. "We had rice and you'd wash it four or five times and it would still come out gray, it was full of bugs, rocks, four or five years old. You cook it and still break your teeth on the rocks. When I came to Japan I cooked my own rice and it was clean. I couldn't believe it."

[Excerpt from an article by David McNeill, The Independent]

Monday, April 10, 2006

Charles Jenkins: Prisoner of Pyongyang, Part 3

The former sergeant served just 25 days in a US military brig in 2004 after being dishonorably discharged for desertion, and is thought to have bartered his freedom in exchange for information on North Korea.

Charles Jenkins says he was interviewed by the US military for almost two months, "every day from nine in the morning until five in the evening".

"They wanted to know where military installations were. I knew it all. I was told that they had an agent in North Korea for over 20 years who didn't give them one tenth of what I gave them."

In the 1990s, Chinese and Russian support fell, leading to famine in the North. Kim Jong Il called in the World Food Program, "which his father would never have done. That helped a lot of people." He claims Kim Junior also investigated the camps and freed many. "I say the son was better than the father."

It is hard to escape the impression of a man who is still not in control of his life, trapped this time not by the arbitrary demands of a nightmare Orwellian state but by the ties of the past, by mortality and of duty to the country that he believes saved him from dying in North Korea.

[Excerpt from an article by David McNeill, The Independent]

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Charles Jenkins: Prisoner of Pyongyang, Part 2

After half a lifetime being buffeted between Cold War rivals, Charles Jenkins and his wife were free, symbolized by a kiss in front of the media at Jakarta airport in July 2004. "In North Korea we didn't kiss in public," he says. "That's bad there."

Jenkins stayed behind [in North Korea] with his daughters when Pyongyang allowed his wife and four other Japanese to return home after admitting to its bizarre kidnapping program. It took 21 months to reunite the family.

Today, Jenkins lives on a five-year stipend from the Japanese government and on the proceeds of his Japanese book, which has sold more than 300,000 copies.

From the hotel where we conducted this interview, he can see the spot where North Korean spies snatched his wife and her mother while they were walking home from a shopping trip.

He says he still wonders whether something similar could happen to him now. "My life is not worth five cents, I know that. I don't think they have the nerve to come and get me, but they could assassinate me with a bullet through the head from a distance. But if it happens, everything I have written will come out."

[Excerpt from an article by David McNeill, The Independent]

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Charles Jenkins: Prisoner of Pyongyang

A shy man, Charles Jenkins' whole demeanor, from the sad, wary eyes encased in a heavily lined face to the apologetic body language, seems crumpled, as though worn out from the 39 years, six months and four days he spent as a Cold War trophy in North Korea and the daily effort of having to readjust now, aged 66, to a very different life.

"I got used to North Korea. You get beat in the face every day and you're expecting it. You don't care no more."

Jenkins' extraordinary life reads like a spy novel, and can be divided, like the best drama, into three distinct acts.

The first was his upbringing in a poor community in North Carolina, where he dropped out of school, aged 15, to join the US Army. Act One ended on a freezing January night in 1965 when, drunk and unhappy, he deserted his post in the Demilitarized Zone, which divides the two Koreas and defected to the North; one of the very few Americans to trade life under Uncle Sam for Uncle Kim. Today he calls that "the biggest mistake I ever made".

So began Act Two, behind the bamboo curtain, where he claims he was beaten, starved and robbed of his identity, eventually becoming Min Hyung Chang. He was saved, he says, by Hitomi Soga, the Japanese woman he married and who was 19 when Pyongyang’s spies abducted her with her mother in 1978.

Now Jenkins is in what seems certain to be the final act of his life, which began in September 2002, when an astonished world learnt of this Rip Van Winkle figure in the wake of a summit between the Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il.

[Excerpt from an article by David McNeill, The Independent]

Friday, April 07, 2006

American and British Prisoners of Pyongyang

You probably remember hearing about Charles Jenkins, who left his US Army post in 1965 and defected to North Korea. Over the next 40 years he was beaten, starved and lost his identity. In 2004 he was reunited with his wife and children, with whom he lives in Japan.

In fact, Charles Jenkins wasn’t the only American held in North Korea. A North Korean who defected, Yong Kim, testified in the late 1990’s that:

“There are ten political prison camps, and in Camp No. 14 alone 15,000 inmates were assigned to hard labor. Aside from the estimated 15,000, there were ... some British and American POW's who were captured near Jang-jin Lake in South Hamkyong Province during the Korean War.”

Thursday, April 06, 2006

U.S. may acccept first North Korean refugee

This week may end the refugee odyssey of North Korean defector Ma Young-ae, who after settling briefly in South Korea defected again to the U.S. Ma is seeking asylum in the U.S. as a refugee from what she says is “political oppression” in South Korea.

A source close to North Korean human rights activists in Washington said Ma will have her final interview with U.S. authorities on the matter shortly. The source added her chances look “extremely good.”

The Chosun mentions that Ma is actually a double refugee:
Ma came to South Korea in 2000. In April 2004, she went to the U.S. for the events of a North Korea Freedom Day organized there, but the South Korean government revoked her passport because of her anti-North Korean activities abroad. In response, Ma applied for asylum in the U.S.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

April 22 - 30 North Korea Freedom Week 2006

Make your voice heard in Washington DC to help suffering North Koreans, during North Korea Freedom Week April 22nd – 28th. Following is a list of scheduled events:

April 22, Saturday,
Concert and Program to appeal to the World to free all abductees held in North Korea

April 23, Sunday
Leadership of the North Korean Defectors Organizations visit area churches
Sunday Church Service focusing on North Korea - Capitol Hill Church

April 25, Tuesday (Holocaust Remembrance Day)
Opening of the North Korea Genocide Exhibit
Congressional Hearing focusing on North Korea (Senate)
Panel Discussion "How to Promote Information Flow to North Korea"

April 27, Thursday
Congressional Hearing focusing on North Korea (House)
Special Press Briefing by Exile Committee for North Korea Democracy
Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Korean War Memorial

April 28, Friday
North Korea Freedom Day Rally - U.S. CAPITOL - West Front
Members of Congress, Government and NGO leaders, North Korean defectors and special guests from South Korea and Japan will participate
Special Afternoon Event with defectors and activists
Visits by rally participants to their Members of Congress to urge full implementation of the North Korea Human Rights Act.
All Night Prayer Vigil at Chinese Embassy for North Korean Refugees, Jailed Humanitarian Workers and Repatriated North Koreans

April 29, Saturday
Conclusion of All Night Prayer Vigil at 7:00 am

April 30, Sunday
Special events at local churches focusing on North Korea

Further details

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Escape from North Korean concentration camp

On September 28, I made a miraculous escape from my concentration camp... I passed through various North Korean provinces, finally crossing the Tumen River in December escaping into China.
Click to continue
 

Monday, April 03, 2006

Treatment of 70-year-old North Korean prisoner

In May 1996, food was so scarce that my mother used to climb into the woods and bring back herbs and plant roots to make weed gruel.

Since the food situation was bad outside the camps, you can easily guess it was far worse inside the political prison camps! At Camp No. 18, food enough to last only ten days, was used as a whole month's supply. Prisoners practically lived on weeds with one or two grains of corn. Such were the circumstances when an accident befell my 70-year mother [who was imprisoned with me].

As usual, my mother had gone to the woods to gather whatever was edible. Weak with age and extreme malnutrition, she collapsed in the middle of the forest, waking hours later in darkness. Unfortunately, one of the guards making his night round found my mother [and] suspecting that she was trying to run away from the camp, he handcuffed and confined her in a prison cell thinking that [she was trying to escape].

When I heard of my mother's arrest I rushed to the security officer to beg for mercy. There I saw my mother's bony hands locked in cuffs, and her face covered with blood where the skin had been cut. I pleaded that being an old woman she did not know better. My supplication only earned kicks from the officer.

Even though in her seventies, my mother was condemned to a special cell for serious offenders. She was then forced to work by the riverside carrying rocks to heap them into a pile. Can you imagine what I felt at that moment, watching my own mother in anxiety and yet unable to do a single thing for the poor old woman?

-- Yong Kim, who escaped from a political prison camp in North Korea and after living as a refugee 1 year later arrived safely in South Korea, via China and Mongolia.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Yong Kim, North Korea Political Prisoner

It was in August 1993 when I first entered the No. 14 political prison camp under the jurisdiction of the North Korean State Security Department. I was taken in for a crime I did not commit and for being the son of my father, who I had never even seen.

There I was treated like a beast and experienced things that you cannot even begin to imagine.

[My first day in the concentration camp] I fell to my knees [and] someone pushed my head down onto the ground. I later found out that there was a regulation in Camp No. 14 about what the inmates must do when any camp authority was present or passing by. The inmate must sit on his or her knees with head glued to the ground and turned away from where the officer is. The prisoner must remain in that position until the officer is out of sight, and only then can he/she walk, keeping ones eyes fixed in the direction opposite of where the officer had gone.

There are ten of these political prison camps, and in Camp No. 14 alone 15,000 inmates were assigned to hard labor.

Aside from the estimated 15,000, there were children as well as some British and American POW's who were captured near Jang-jin Lake in South Hamkyong Province during the Korean War.

-- Yong Kim, who escaped from a political prison camp in North Korea and after living as a refugee 1 year later arrived safely in South Korea, via China and Mongolia.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

North Korea ability for pre-emptive attack on U.S.

North Korea suggested it has the ability to launch a pre- emptive attack on the United States. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the North had built atomic weapons to counter the U.S. nuclear threat.

“As we declared, our strong revolutionary might put in place all measures to counter possible U.S. pre-emptive strike,” the spokesman said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. “Pre-emptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States.”

The spokesman suggested it would be a “wise step” for the United States to cooperate on nuclear issues with North Korea in the same way it does with India.

In early March, President Bush signed an accord in India that would open some of its atomic reactors to international inspections in exchange for U.S. nuclear know-how and atomic fuel. The accord was reached even though New Delhi has not signed the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which North Korea has withdrawn from.

[Reuters]