Tuesday, October 31, 2006

North Korea pledges return to nuclear talks

• Pyongyang says it will return to negotiations on nuclear program

• Six-nation talks on North Korea could resume by year end, U.S. official says

• Bush says he is pleased by N. Korea's decision to resume nuclear talks

• U.S. envoy says Pyongyang has not promised to stop nuclear testing

[CNN]

North Korea and United States re: Press Freedom

Reporters Without Borders has issued its fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index and North Korea has won the distinction of being the worst violator of press freedom (listed at the bottom of the Index at 168th place). Not a surprise.

The United States is at 53rd place, having fallen nine places since last year. And this is after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index (2002).

Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts, which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognize the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

Among them, freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

“The steady erosion of press freedom in the United States, France and Japan is extremely alarming,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Monday, October 30, 2006

China erects North Korea border fence

China increased security along its border with North Korea by building fences in and near Dandong, Liaoning Province, its largest city on the border. Locals said the fences seem to be to prevent North Koreans from illegally crossing the border into China.

A border guard official in Dandong told Asiaweek, a Hong Kong news magazine, that it was possible at least 500,000 North Korea refugees could flow into Liaoning and Jilin provinces, which border North Korea. The official predicted this could happen if food and daily necessities from China to North Korea are stopped due to closure of the border or other incidents.

According to other sources, about 10,000 residents in Dandong are employed in the trading of goods between China and North Korea. A growing number of government officials also engage in trade with North Korea because its economy has been increasingly reliant on China in recent years.

[Excerpt of an article by Masahiko Takekoshi, Yomiuri Shimbun]

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Open Up China to North Korean Refugees

If China is to assume what it considers to be its rightful place as a great power, now is the moment. The world is looking to Beijing as the only government with a measure of influence over its lunatic nuclear ward in the Hermit Kingdom. The question is, will it use it?

No one is speaking publicly about Beijing's biggest source of influence: the 900-mile border it shares with North Korea. Opening the frontier to refugees would put pressure on Kim Jong Il to give up his nukes or watch his regime implode. As Mark Palmer, U.S. ambassador to Hungary in 1989, has noted, the East German refugees who passed through that country en route to West Germany sped the collapse of the Soviet Union.

If Beijing wants to send a message to Pyongyang about its nuclear program, it could announce that, effective immediately, it is taking several steps: It will stop deporting North Koreans, allow the United Nations to set up refugee camps, and permit the resettlement of refugees in third countries, from which they could go to South Korea, whose constitution codifies its moral responsibility to accept its Northern cousins, or to other countries willing to take them in. The U.S., which so far has accepted a mere eight North Koreans, could step up to the plate here.

Winter is coming, and there are already reports of food shortages [in North Korea]. Allowing the world to help the North Korean refugees in China would help Beijing deal with a problem that is likely to get worse.

[Excerpt of Opinion written by Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page]

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hunger driving North Korean refugees

Hunger is driving increasing numbers of North Koreans to risk their lives fleeing over the border in a humanitarian tragedy overshadowed by the nuclear crisis, a leading think-tank said.

The Brussels-based group the International Crisis Group said the numbers fleeing the Stalinist state were likely to grow amid threats of a new famine, and "humanity demands" a proper global response. It said the "humanitarian challenge ... is playing out almost invisibly as the world focuses on North Korea's nuclear programme."

The ICG said China and South Korea were not putting maximum pressure on the North to scrap its nuclear programme because they feared a torrent of refugees if the economy collapsed.

The ICG said hunger and lack of economic opportunity, rather than political oppression, was prompting North Koreans to leave.

The ICG called for action to help refugees, "both because humanity demands it and because if the international community cannot quickly get a handle on this situation, it will find it considerably harder to forge an operational consensus on the nuclear issue."

[AFP]

Friday, October 27, 2006

400,000 North Korean refugees have entered China

The plight of North Korean refugees hiding in northeastern China is a humanitarian crisis that has received scant global notice. No one knows how many are in hiding or how many Beijing has deported back to North Korea in violation of its obligations under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Now, three official Chinese government documents--obtained privately and smuggled out of the country--show that the humanitarian crisis may be more dire than widely believed and the burden on China heavier. The documents were obtained by a U.S.-South Korean group that helps North Korean refugees navigate the underground railroad to safety out of China.

[One document states:] "To date, almost 400,000 North Korean illegal immigrants have entered China and large numbers continue to cross the border illegally." And, "As of the end of December 2004, 133,009 North Korean illegal immigrants have been deported."

[Another document reports:] "A report was received from the public of several corpses floating in the Yalu River. Officers from the Precinct immediately responded and organized personnel and 56 corpses had been recovered. … There were 36 males and 20 females, including seven children (five male and two female). After examination of the personal effects it was determined that the dead were citizens of the DPRK [North Korea]. Autopsies confirmed that all 56 had been shot to death. It is estimated that the dead were shot by Korean border guards while attempting to cross into China."

[Excerpt of Opinion written by Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Refugee disaster a risk of North Korean crisis

North Korea's flow of refugees to China and the world could become a torrent fed by isolation and starvation, an international think-tank warned in a new report urging governments to avoid a catastrophe.

The North's nuclear test, the revival of inflexible controls on farming and trade, and its rejection of aid meant "the perfect storm may be brewing for a return to famine in the North", said the International Crisis Group (ICG).

"Concerned governments can and must do more to improve the situation of the refugees and asylum seekers before it leads to catastrophe," it said in the report.

China, where many North Koreans fleeing economic misery and political repression first head, should stop forcing them back and ease restrictions on North Koreans marrying locals or visiting relatives, said the Brussels-based non-profit group.

But China rejected the report's suggestions, saying it saw the North Koreans not as refugees but illegal immigrants.

China repatriates between 150 and 300 North Koreans every week, the ICG added. "The plight of North Koreans seeking refuge in China ... is likely to get much worse until greater pressure is placed on China to adjust its practices."

[Reuters]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More North Korean Refugees Detained in Thailand

Dozens of North Korean defectors were arrested Tuesday in Thailand after entering the country illegally to seek refuge from their impoverished homeland.

Chun Ki-won, director of the Durihana Mission group that helps North Korean defectors, said 86 refugees were arrested in Bangkok, following the detentions of 10 people there Friday. Ten additional people were picked up Friday, but they had already registered as refugees and were released. Another four defectors eluded capture, Chun said.

The defectors had been sheltered in Thailand with the aid of South Korean missionaries, Chun told The Associated Press from Washington.

Before the latest arrests, about 200 North Korean refugees had already been in custody in Thailand, Chun said. In August, Thai authorities arrested 175 North Korean refugees in Bangkok for illegal entry, the largest known such detention.

[AP]

[Search this blog (see top right) for more on Chun Ki-won]

Relative Insignificance of North Korean Nukes

The following is by Helen Caldicott, president of the Washington-based Nuclear Policy Research Institute:

It is difficult to underestimate the problems associated with North Korea's recent nuclear weapons test. Following a small atomic explosion of less than 1 kiloton -- the Hiroshima bomb was 13 kilotons -- the U.S. administration [has encouraged] economic sanctions against a desperately poor country where millions of people are malnourished and that will further ostracize a paranoid regime, while the rest of the world looks on with horror as the nuclear arms race threatens to spiral out of control.

While lateral proliferation is indeed an incredibly serious problem as ever-more countries prepare to enter the portals of the nuclear club, one consistent outstanding nuclear threat that continues to endanger most planetary species is ignored by the international community: In fact, the real "rogue" nations that continue to hold the world at nuclear ransom are Russia and the United States.

Of the 30,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, the United States and Russia possess 96 per cent of them. Of these, Russia aims most of its 8,200 strategic nuclear warheads at U.S. and Canadian targets, while the U.S. aims most of its 7,000 offensive strategic hydrogen bombs on Russian missile silos and command centers.

Each of these thermonuclear warheads has roughly 20 times the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, according to a report on nuclear weapons by the National Resources Defense Council, a U.S. environmental group.

U.S. Nuclear Weapon Capabilities

With all the [recent press] about North Korea, we're forgetting that the world is still staring down the barrels of thousands of U.S. and Russian ICBMs.

Of the 7,000 U.S. strategic weapons [aimed at Russia], 2,500 are deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles that are constantly maintained on hair-trigger alert ready for immediate launching, while the U.S. also maintains some 2,688 hydrogen bombs on missiles in its 14 Trident submarines, most ready for instantaneous launching.

According to the Center for Defense Information, a group that analyzes U.S. defence policy, in the event of a suspected attack, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Command has only three minutes to decide if a nuclear attack warning is valid. He has 10 minutes to locate the president for a 30-second briefing on attack options, and the president then has three minutes to decide to launch the warheads and to consider which pre-set targeting plan to use.

[Excerpted from an article by Helen Caldicott, president of the Washington-based Nuclear Policy Research Institute]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Russia's Nuclear Weapon Capabilities

Unlike the combined U.S. and Canadian NORAD early-warning equipment, the Russian system is decaying rapidly, its early-warning satellites are almost non-functional and it now relies on a relatively primitive over-the-horizon radar to warn it of an imminent secret first-strike attack from the United States.

The Russian military and political leaders are suitably paranoid about this extraordinary post-Cold-War situation. So much so that in January 1995 president Boris Yeltsin came to within 10 seconds of launching his nuclear armada when the launch of a Norwegian weather satellite was misinterpreted in Moscow as a pre-emptive U.S. nuclear attack.

Most towns and cities with populations over 50,000 on the North American continent are targeted with at least one hydrogen bomb. Just 1,000 bombs exploding on 100 cities could induce nuclear winter and the end of most life on earth. (There are fewer than 300 major cities in the Northern hemisphere.)

A U.S. Foreign Military Studies Office report states that New York City is the single most important target in the Atlantic region after major military installations. A U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment report estimated that Soviet nuclear war plans had two one-megaton bombs aimed at each of three airports that serve New York, one aimed at each of the major bridges, two at Wall Street and two at each of four oil refineries. The major rail centers and power stations were also targeted, along with the port facilities.

[Excerpted from an article by Helen Caldicott, president of the Washington-based Nuclear Policy Research Institute]

North Korean labor camps: Newborn baby killings

On May 30, 2000, a North Korean refugee, Mr. Lee, was arrested by the Chinese law enforcement authorities while looking for a ship to South Korea. [Those who escape from North Korea and apprehended in China] are sent to concentration camps for seven years for compulsory labor.

In these labor camps, pregnant women are also not allowed to bear their children. Mr. Lee said: "In the camp, there were 94 women, 24 of them pregnant. When I was sent there, eight pregnant women received an injection. They groaned and started going into labor."

Mr. Lee remembers what happened there vividly. The name of the doctor was Lee Min Chol. The doctor asked Mr. Lee to assist with the childbirths.

Mr. Lee recalls: "I was told to place the newborn babies into a table-sized white wooden box. I saw two dead babies in the box. He also told me to throw the umbilical cords into a garbage can. Two newborn babies were still alive. The doctor told me to separate them from their mothers. When I placed them into the wooden box, they were crying and moving their hands and feet. Then, an old doctor came in and hit them in the head with a scissor. The babies died immediately."

Mr. Lee fainted. He was injected with a restorative and ordered to continue work. The remaining six babies were killed. At 8:00pm, the work was over and a security guard removed the wooden box, which contained 10 dead babies.

Mr. Lee adds: "After the forced births, the women were moved to work on cutting grass without even being treated for bleeding."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Deformed babies killed for North Korean super race

The North Korean regime's obsession with racial purity has led to the killing of disabled infants and forced abortions for women suspected of conceiving their babies by Chinese fathers, according to a growing body of testimony from defectors.

The latest description of Kim Jong-il's policy of state eugenics came from a North Korean doctor, Ri Kwang-chol, who escaped last year and told a forum in Seoul that babies with deformities were killed soon after birth. His account added to the evidence that the Kim family dictatorship is founded on mystical notions of Korean racial superiority rather than Marxism - a reality that explains its deepening estrangement from China.

North Korean women refugees have emerged with stories that speak of the regime's preoccupation with "deviant" sexual relations and its predisposition to violence in dealing with them. One such account came from a 30-year-old woman who calls herself Han Myong-suk. She escaped twice and reached a safe haven in an undisclosed third country within the past year thanks to Helping Hands Korea, an American Christian group. She said she was sold by traffickers to a Chinese farmer near the Great Wall, and was five months pregnant by him when she was caught by the Chinese police and deported back to North Korea.

Her account was taken down by Tim Peters, an American Christian activist who founded the group. "I defied the order to abort the fetus the prison authorities contemptuously called a 'Chinese Chink' and was badly beaten and kicked in my belly by a guard.”

One week later, said Ms Han, she was led to a prison clinic "where in a most blunt manner they extracted the dead child from my body".

[Excerpt of an article in The Australian, by Michael Sheridan]

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Humanitarian arguments for and against sanctions for North Korea

For aid-givers to North Korea, the overriding concern is keeping North Koreans from starvation regardless of sanctions.

"We take the news that the internal situation is deteriorating very seriously," says Kay Seok, North Korean researcher for Human Rights Watch. "The right of food is one of the most fundamental human rights. If you die of hunger, what is the point of talking about freedom?"

But others wonder about the degree to which food aid is alleviating suffering.

"Reports show the malnutrition rate did not improve very much" as a result of food donations, says Joanna Hosaniak, senior officer with the Citizens Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, which aids North Korean refugees.

"Refugees from the northern part of North Korea say they didn't receive humanitarian assistance, or it was diverted after the monitoring group was gone," she adds.

The only solution, she says, is for North Korea to "divert resources from developing nuclear weapons to feeding its people."

Erica Kang at Good Friends, a South Korean group that analyzes North Korean issues and advises on policies, summarizes the aid conundrum.

"Everyone wonders if they should go on with humanitarian aid," she says. "It's pretty much the ordinary people who suffer the most. This is a winter coming. Thousands of North Koreans are suffering the consequences of problems they didn't make."

[Excerpt of an article by Donald Kirk, The Christian Science Monitor]

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sanctions will cause starvation in North Korea

North Korea is facing a cold winter in which it is unlikely to be able to feed its people.

"There is relatively little humanitarian assistance going in now," says Anthony Banbury, the UN World Food Program's regional director for Asia. "The willingness of donors to meet those needs has not been very strong."

The WFP says it needs $100 million this year to fulfill its goals for North Korea. So far, it has received only 10 percent of that total.

The reluctance to try to stave off another famine contrasts with the response in 1995, when North Korea for the first time asked the World Food Program to help.

By 1997, aid shipments through the program crested at more than 500,000 tons a year, with the US leading all donors. But the WFP last year sent in less than 100,000 tons, half of it from the US.

South Korean officials oppose shutting off economic contacts, much less boarding and interdicting North Korean ships, but say they are in a quandary when it comes to donations of rice. "It's a kind of dilemma," says Kang Jong-suk, an official at the Unification Ministry, which had been avidly pursuing reconciliation. "South Korea wants to send some humanitarian aid, but there is a barrier because of the UN resolution."

Banbury opposes giving up. "Walking away would stop assistance to millions of people and would stop an avenue of dialogue," he says. "It's better to stay engaged than to not stay engaged."

[Excerpt of an article by Donald Kirk, The Christian Science Monitor]

Friday, October 20, 2006

Background leading up to North Korean starvation

When the Korean War ended in 1953, the Korean Peninsula was in much worse condition than Japan had been just after the Second World War. In North Korea, the carpet bombing was several times greater than Japan had seen in World War II.

North Korea received particularly generous help from East Germany and Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Mongolia and China …. In 1959, only six years after the war, North Koreans returning from Japan arrived at Pyongyang and were astounded by the high-rise apartment buildings lining the street in front of the station. This was a surprise to the entire world.

[However, the food situation] in North Korea has not been improved since the mid-1960s. It appears that Kim Il Sung and the top Labor Party members abandoned their efforts to improve the national economy; they gave themselves over to luxury. … Still, we heard nothing of the new "starvation hell" until the 1990s.

The starvation in North Korea became critical primarily due to several major external elements: the collapse of the Soviet Union; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the end of the socialist system in Eastern Europe; the recognition of South Korea by China; and the diplomatic ties with South Korea that China and Russia concluded.

Domestically, the farming methods failed, including terraced fields and high-density farming, as instructed by Kim Il Sung, who was an absolute amateur in the field. The personality cult system led to disapproval of engineers. At the same time, they had difficulty securing adequate transportation and storage, electric power, fertilizers, and petroleum. In addition, unfair distribution of profits discouraged people from working.

All these factors contributed to the worsening of their food situation. The current starvation was brought about by the external and internal factors mentioned above.

[northkoreanrefugees.com]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

North Korean children abducted for meat

A 54-year-old North Korean refugee named Lee escaped from his country with his granddaughter. He said:

"The day I discovered that my grandsons, ages 11 and 8, were missing, ... I asked friends of my grandson where he was. They said that my grandsons [were last seen] near the black market."

The next day, Mr Lee visited the black market. There he met other parents [also searching for missing children].

They told Mr Lee that their sons disappeared at a noodle restaurant near the black market. Mr Lee reported the problem to the police department.

The police raided the noodle restaurant and found human hands and feet in a pot of kimchi (Korean pickles). Police also found human bones in a garbage pit in the backyard.

The female owner of the noodle restaurant confessed that she had served free noodles to the children and had invited them to stand by a stove to get warm. When they fell asleep, she killed them with an axe.

The murderers were publicly executed by gunfire.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

North Korea and the Big Question

As crude as the North Korean blast was, it punctuated a scary fact:

The rules that governed the nuclear road during the cold war and its immediate aftermath have become irrelevant, replaced by the law of the jungle--every state, rogue or otherwise, for itself.

The risk now, says former Clinton Administration Defense Department official Graham Allison, is the emergence of a more dangerous nuclear age. Pyongyang's test, says Allison, threatens to set off a "cascade" of nations seeking the ultimate weapon. "The North Korean test blew a hole in the nonproliferation regime of Northeast Asia," says Allison. "I think this is bad news for the country, bad news for the region, bad news for the world."

What are the consequences for the U.S. and the rest of the world? Are we in an era of barely controlled proliferation, in which countless nations must at least consider the possibility of going nuclear? Or are those fears, in the wake of the North Korean test, overblown? Is there still time to manage the situation?

[TIME]

Human flesh sold in North Korean markets

<> Caution: Not for the faint-hearted <>
Due to severe famines, human flesh is reportedly being sold on the black market in North Korea. Starvation in North Korea appears to have reached a point where people are abandoning their humanity.

While meat is a luxury for North Koreans, on the black farmer's market, live pigs, goats, chickens and rabbits can be found. Sometimes, pork and mutton are also available. All such meats are expensive. Only privileged people such as local executives of the governing Labour Party and high-ranking military officials, or smugglers who make money from trade with China, can afford them.

In some corners of the black market, pieces of “special meat” are displayed on straw mats for sale. People know where they came from, however, they do not speak about it. One North Korean refugee said: "Oil from animal meat coagulates and becomes round in shape, however, that of human flesh coagulates and takes the shape of a diamond."

The sale of human flesh is expanding beyond the granary regions. The same witness said,
"If a funeral takes place during the day and the burial is performed that evening, the grave may be dug open and the body stolen before morning. Such incidents happen often. The stolen body is cut into pieces and sold on the black market. This is why people conduct funerals in the evening and bury the dead bodies at midnight. Thus people cannot steal the bodies during the day because other people are watching. Also, the dead bodies lose freshness over night, which makes it difficult to market them."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Are the North Korean starvation stories really true?

Q: Despite reports that the North Korean people are starving, on TV I saw black markets in North Korea and it looked like they had lots of goods there. Is the starvation an exaggeration by mass media, to gain audience ratings?

A: It is true that the black markets have become more active recently, since the authorities are no longer able to keep a tight lid on them after government rations were discontinued.

It is also true that you can get anything, if you have enough money. The prices are extremely high though. The average worker's monthly salary ranges from 60 to 70 won, and this will barely buy 200 grams of rice or one pack of cigarettes.

[To illustrate the degree that famine has had on North Koreans], some years back, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees invited a North Korean resident, Mr. Kang Chul Hwan who had been in a North Korean prison camp, to lecture meetings in several places in Japan.

Kang Chul Hwan [had been] confined in a prison camp … for ten years. … When he was released from the prison camp at age nineteen, he was only 153 cm (about 5 ft.) tall and weighed only 39 kg (about 86 lb.).

In the next ten years, he grew to 173 cm (about 5.8 ft.) and his weight increased to 75 kg (about 165 lb.) This demonstrates how malnutrition can affect growth.

[northkoreanrefugees.com]

Monday, October 16, 2006

U.N.: North Korea faces hungry winter

Millions of North Koreans face "real hardship" this winter due to cuts in food aid from foreign donors, the U.N.'s food agency said Monday, as the country sank further into isolation after its claimed nuclear test.

U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed after Pyongyang's purported nuclear test last week don't apply to food aid, which the impoverished country has relied on to feed its people for more than a decade. But South Korea, a key donor, stopped aid after the North fired a series of missiles in July, and supplies from China, the North's main foreign food donor, are one-third of last year's levels, said Mike Huggins, a WFP spokesman who just returned from a five-day visit to North Korea.

The aid shortages come on top of the North's decision to accept less food from the World Food Program. A decision that means about 4 million people fewer are being fed this year, Huggins said.

At this time of year, fruit and vegetables "are not available to the poorest people, and they become more reliant on food aid," Huggins said in Beijing. "If that food aid is not there, then there is going to be very real hardship." North Korea's grain harvests should show a shortfall of about 800,000 tons this year. WFP will donate about 75,000 tons, or less than 10 percent of the shortfall.

Huggins said children, mothers, the elderly and the infirm were at greatest risk. Some 37 percent of North Korea's children are malnourished and one-third of mothers are malnourished and anemic, he said. Huggins said those figures were likely to "look even more alarming" if more aid is not delivered soon.

The North has needed foreign donations to feed its 23 million people since its state-run farm system collapsed in the mid-1990s following the loss of Soviet subsidies.

[AP]

North Korea changed the subject for the Republicans

In one deadly moment, North Korea has succeeded in doing what no amount of backtracking by Speaker Dennis Hastert or his beleaguered Republicans could do: It has changed the subject of the national debate. With nuclear weapons in the hands of the most deranged regime in the world, e-mails to pages will have to fade from the forefront of the public’s attention.

Will Bush be able to deal with the North Korean crisis? This is truly the moment for a test of his leadership. If he is able to lead a strong global effort to face down the renegade nation and can set in motion a demonstrable process that could lead to a reversal of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, he will have pulled off a coup akin to JFK’s in the Cuban missile crisis and rescued his party from midterm election defeat in 2006 as surely as Kennedy saved it in 1962.

The key, of course, is China. … China has one major fear: a regional nuclear competition with Japan. With Japanese technological prowess and the mangled history between the two nations, Beijing cannot react impassively to the nuclear arming of Tokyo.

But Bush has to produce and has to do it in the next five weeks. Just like JFK did in 1962.

[From a commentary by Dick Morris, who was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years]

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Price of a broken deal in North Korea

Twelve months ago it seemed the west's nuclear confrontation with North Korea had reached an unexpectedly happy ending. In a deal brokered by China on September 19 2005, Kim Jong-il's regime pledged to give up its atomic weapons, abandon existing nuclear programmes and rejoin the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it had repudiated in 2003.

In return the US agreed to recognise North Korea's territorial integrity and eschew all hostile actions. The Bush administration thereby effectively withdrew its earlier threats of forcible regime change levelled against a founder member of President George Bush's "axis of evil".

The US also promised to move towards normalised relations if Pyongyang kept its side of the bargain. It even revived the idea of helping North Korea build a light-water nuclear reactor for civilian power generation, a scheme promoted by the Clinton administration in the 1990s but later dropped by Mr Bush.

The September deal brought sighs of relief across Asia and in Washington, where rightwing newspaper editorials hailed a "triumph of US policy". It spawned talk of a new era of strategic cooperation between the US and China, a denuclearised Korean peninsula, and the peaceful reunification of North and South Korea.

But the celebrations were premature. For reasons that remain unclear, the US treasury department chose almost the exact moment the deal was struck to move against a Macau-based bank called Banco Delta Asia. US officials announced the bank could face punitive action under US banking rules and Patriot Act anti-terrorism laws over suspicions that it was being used by North Korea for money laundering and counterfeiting.

Intentionally or not, the US had dealt the Pyongyang regime a major blow that years of bilateral aid, trade and export sanctions had failed to achieve.

Apparently facing financial strangulation, Pyongyang's leadership resorted to the only diplomatic weapon it had.

[Excerpt of article by Simon Tisdall, The Guardian]

Saturday, October 14, 2006

U.N. unanimously adopts North Korea sanctions

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on sanctions against North Korea in response to the country's nuclear test.

Rather than mandating stop and search operations, "the resolution will say to countries to inspect as necessary all goods going in and out of North Korea," CNN's Richard Roth reported. The aim is to stop materials and technology that could be used for nuclear weapons production from going to or from North Korea.

Diplomats from the five permanent council members plus Japan gathered in closed-door meetings Saturday morning to reach agreement.

While details of the draft resolution were incomplete, diplomats said it could prevent materials for weapons programs and luxury goods from being sold to North Korea.

The language is directed at North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who has a long, documented record of living a life of luxury while his people wasted away in famine. On Friday U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said, "The North Korean population's been losing average height and weight over the years, and maybe this will be a little diet for Kim Jong Il."

China has expressed concern that because the proposed sanctions fall under Section 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes them binding on all member states, they could lead to a blockade or even military action to enforce them.

[CNN]

North Korean collapse a nightmare scenario for China

A collapsing North Korea is a nightmare China hopes will never come true, as it could lead to military and political chaos on its doorstep, analysts say.

"China is opposed to any military action against North Korea," said Cui Zhiying, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at Shanghai's Tongji University. Any abrupt, large-scale change on the Korean peninsula would go against China's overall strategy, which targets the stability required for a rapidly growing economy.

"They don't want another Iraq or Afghanistan or Kosovo on their northeastern border," he said.

"If something cataclysmic were to happen, China would have a North Korea where Japan and the United States are big players, and they don't want that.”

The risk that a war in Korea would send massive flows of refugees across the border into China tends to be overstated, and probably does not figure high in deliberations in Beijing, according to analysts. With a population of 1.3 billion, a few hundred thousand North Koreans would be "a drop in the bucket" for China. "Recall the Korean War back in 1950s. The North Koreans did not escape into China in massive numbers. They would move into the hills," he said.

Ultimately, China would hate drastic change because peaceful development of the current status quo is a much more certain road towards greater influence on the peninsula.

[Agence France-Press]

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chinese Internet intervention: North Korean refugee women

Since the passage of the U.S. North Korean Human Rights Act, a couple of lucky North Korean defectors have successfully made their way to the U.S. And with more and more choosing to make their escape from North Korea, their first stop being China, Chinese authorities have stepped up their efforts to search for North Korean refugees, who are then sentenced to severe punishment, and forcefully repatriated to North Korea.

A recent article in a Chinese online newspaper, Renmin Daily ('People’s Daily'), an offshoot of the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper, has been circulating among Chinese bloggers. The article highlights the miserable life of a North Korean female about to be repatriated to North Korea. This article has now made its way onto numerous Chinese portals and blogs reaching thousands of readers.

The article, entitled “North Korean bride in China”, calls for direct action by the Chinese people, the author highlighting the plight of North Korean refugee women who are being sold through the slave trade.

The writer’s cousin paid 10,000 yuan (US$1,264) to acquire a North Korean woman to be his wife. The author goes on to explain “The North Korean woman matched with my cousin was apprehended by authorities at the time of their wedding preparations, and was already pregnant.” He then issues an appeal for this North Korean bride-to-be who “does not want to be forcefully repatriated back to North Korea, and has not eaten for 5 days.”

Highlights of newspaper article ‘North Korean bride in China’

Friday. As usual I called home to say hello. My mother told me … many people were taking North Korean women as brides. [Those who are] unable to acquire wives [turn to] the slave trade market.

North Korean women are very beautiful, can tolerate hardship and know how to [handle] pain. They are also very affectionate to the elderly. Within a few months, they can basically learn and speak the Chinese language. … As you all know, these women do not have any legal status in the country and so it is very dangerous for them to live as illegitimate wives. However, there is great acceptance amongst the villagers. Villagers say ‘No fuss, No control,’ (If the people don’t make a fuss, then authorities won’t take control either).

However, …some people informed public officials of my cousin’s North Korean bride and she was taken away. For a village family this is a fatal blow. My mother had thought that my cousin and his North Korean fiancĂ© would live a very happy life. Soon, they were to celebrate an official wedding ceremony and the North Korean woman was already pregnant with my cousin’s child. The moment the North Korean woman was captured by public officials she began a hunger strike.

The majority of Chinese people do not discuss political issues but rather wager their luck on fortune by trying to go and live in developed countries like the U.S. or Europe. … The reason North Koreans come to China is because they are starving. How severe must their hunger be that they cannot endure it and risk their lives by defecting out of their mother country? Also, why is it that they detest returning to their country so badly?

[Republished from the Chinese press in The Daily NK]

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Senator John McCain On North Korea

Korea doubts the world’s resolve. It is testing South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and the United States. They launched seven missiles in July, and were criticized by the Security Council, but suffered no serious sanction.

I am encouraged by the Security Council’s swift and strong condemnation of the act on Monday, but the permanent members must now follow up our words with action. We must impose Chapter 7 sanctions with teeth, as President Bush has proposed.

China has staked its prestige as an emerging great power on its ability to reason with North Korea, keep them engaged with the six party negotiations, and make progress toward a diplomatic resolution of this crisis. North Korea has now challenged them as directly as they challenge South Korea, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

The President is right to call on the Council to impose a military arms embargo, financial and trade sanctions, and, most importantly, the right to interdict and inspect all cargo in and out of North Korea. The worst thing we could do is accede to North Korea’s demand for bilateral talks. When has rewarding North Korea’s bad behavior ever gotten us anything more than worse behavior?

[Excerpt from a post at Captains Quarter from Senator John McCain]

North Korea diplomacy “a collective failure"

In his September 9, 2006, address to the 4th Global Strategic Review of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mitchell Reiss offered a remarkable observation:

"Perhaps the least-noted and most astonishing aspect of the entire diplomatic process involving North Korea during the past few years has been the almost complete inability of four of the world's strongest military and economic powers, including three nuclear weapons states and three members of the UN Security Council - the United States, China and Russia and Japan - to shape the strategic environment in Northeast Asia.

"They have proven thoroughly incapable of preventing an impoverished, dysfunctional country of only 23 million people from consistently endangering the peace and stability of the world's most economically dynamic region. This has been nothing less than a collective failure."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nuclear blackmail and other regional fears

North Korea has repeatedly agreed to junk its nuclear weapons provided the US does three things:
1. deal directly with Pyongyang, which Washington refuses to do;
2. provide security guarantees that the US will not attack North Korea;
3. provide economic aid. The Bush Administration’s hard-line neoconservatives refuse to ‘validate’ North Korea’s totalitarian regime through direct talks.

South Korea’s biggest fears are a US-North Korean war that would devastate it; and an economic implosion of North Korea sending millions of starving refugees to south. So Seoul keeps North Korea on life support, while trying to calm American militancy.

Japan wants to deter a united Korea as long as possible, rightly fearing it would one day constitute a major economic and military threat.

One thing is clear: money, lots of it, not war, is the most effective way of making North Korea behave.

Bribery is always far, far cheaper than war.

[Excerpt of an article by Eric S Margolis, a veteran US journalist and contributing foreign editor of the Toronto Sun]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Realities of going to war with North Korea

A senior US State Department official warned, "we are not going to accept a nuclear North Korea." But that, of course, is just what Washington has been doing ever since CIA disclosed in 2003 that North Korea had up to five operational nuclear weapons, and more in development.

In 2005, CIA’s then director, George Tenet, confirmed North Korea’s Taepo-dong ICBM was theoretically able to deliver a nuclear warhead to North America.

The Pentagon estimates that a US invasion of North Korea would cost 500,000 American casualties. Since North Korea has buried many vital industries and military facilities deep underground, US air strikes would have limited success.

Moreover, any attacks on North Korea would quickly make South Korea and Japan targets of North Korea’s medium-ranged missiles. Seoul’s ten million people are within range of North Korean long-ranged artillery and missiles batteries behind the DMZ.

Amid all the international hysteria over North Korea, it’s important to understand that the ‘Dear Leader’s’ nuclear programs are primarily defensive. Their goal is to protect North Korea from a long-feared US attack, not to attack the US or Japan. Kim Jong-il and his Politburo are not anxious to commit suicide or see their nation vaporised.

[Excerpt of article by Eric S Margolis, a veteran US journalist and contributing foreign editor of the Toronto Sun.]

North Korean thinking on nuclear arms

The point is not whether one agrees or not, but the insight that can be gained as to the reasoning and "rationale" presented by Kim Myong Chol, the “unofficial” spokesman of Kim Jong-il and North Korea, writing in the Asia Times, a condensation of which appears below:

The North Korean nuclear test … carries five messages.

1. Kim Jong-il is the first to equip Korea with sufficient military capability to take the war all the way to the continental US.

2. The sole reason for the development of nuclear weapons is more than 50 years of direct exposure to naked nuclear threats and sanctions from the US. The Kim administration seeks to commit nuclear weapons to actual use against the US in case of war, never to use them as a tool of negotiations. The US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan and Israel conduct numerous nuclear detonation experiments in legitimate exercise of their sovereignty.It is sheer illusion to think that sanctions and isolation will stop North Korea from the planned nuclear test. US hostility, threats and sanctions are the very engines that have propelled the development of nuclear weapons.

3. Nuclear-armed North Korea will be a major boon to China and Russia. The two countries are friendless in case of war with the US.

4. The main enemy to North Korea is the US, the sole surviving superpower in the world. North Korea does not care at all whether Japan goes nuclear, or that South Korea and Australia follow suit. Their becoming nuclear powers will signal that the US is no longer a reliable cop. At long last de-Americanization of the US allies and neutralization of the US in the rest of the world will be set into motion.

5. Had the Americans been steadfast in upholding the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty by reducing their nuclear weapons and respecting the sovereignty and independence of the non-nuclear states, North Korea would not have felt any need to defend itself with nuclear weapons. A nuclear test by North Korea will go a long way toward emboldening anti-American states around the world to acquire nuclear weapons. There is a long line of candidate states.

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea's nuclear program through two Administrations

North Korea's nuclear program has been a problem for US presidents going back to Reagan, and the conflict between North and South has been a key issue for US presidents going back to Truman. As recently as 1994, the US came far closer to war with North Korea than most Americans realize.

President Clinton eventually concluded a complicated and multipart agreement in which the North Koreans would suspend their production of plutonium in exchange for fuel oil, help building light water nuclear reactors (the kind that don't help making bombs) and a vague promise of diplomatic normalization.

President Bush came to office believing that Clinton's policy amounted to appeasement. Force and strength were the way to deal with North Korea, not a mix of force, diplomacy and aide. And with that premise, President Bush went about scuttling the 1994 agreement, using evidence that the North Koreans were pursuing uranium enrichment (another path to the bomb) as the final straw.

All diplomatic niceties aside, President Bush's idea was that the North Koreans would respond better to threats than Clinton's mix of carrots and sticks.

Then in the winter of 2002-3, as the US was preparing to invade Iraq, North Korea called Bush's bluff. And the president folded.

Threats are a potent force if you're willing to follow through on them. But he wasn't. The plutonium production plant, which had been shuttered since 1994, got unshuttered. And the bomb that exploded [this past weekend] was, if I understand this correctly, almost certainly the product of that plutonium uncorked almost four years ago.

Hawks and Bush sycophants will claim that North Korea is an outlaw regime. And no one should romanticize or ignore the fact that it is one of the most repressive regimes in the world with a history of belligerence, terrorist bombing, missile proliferation and a lot else.

But facts are stubborn things. The bomb-grade plutonium that was on ice from 1994 to 2002 is now actual bombs.

[Excerpts of an article by Josh Marshall]

North Korea says nuclear test successful

North Korea said Monday it had performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test, setting off an underground blast in defiance of international warnings and intense diplomatic activity aimed at heading off such a move.

An official at South Korea's seismic monitoring center confirmed a magnitude-3.6 tremor felt at the time North Korea said it conducted the test was not a natural occurrence. Australia also said there was seismic confirmation that North Korea conducted a nuclear test.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said the underground test was performed successfully. "It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the ... people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability," the KCNA statement said.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss the reported North Korean test on Monday, and the United States and Japan are likely to press for a resolution imposing additional sanctions on Pyongyang.

[Associated Press]

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Patriotic, loyal North Koreans no longer so

Until the 70-year-old North Korean woman was stripped, beaten, and charged with dissent, Park and her family were patriotic, loyal, ordinary. They were true believers in the ruling Kim family's "juche" ideology, which holds that Korea must be separate from all nations and that total obedience is owed to the Kim family. Mrs. Park's eight kids worshiped Kim Il Sung, the "father of their minds."

Yet today Mrs. Park (not her real name) is in South Korea, an escapee. Her family is broken. So are her ideals. She's been captured in China - sent home to the North, made to endure camps, and witness horrific acts.

The Park family left North Korea for China in 1999, when they got too weak to work. "I had the feeling if we didn't leave North Korea right away, we would die. I didn't leave out of disloyalty to [North Korean leader] Kim [Jong Il]. I left for the family."

Back in the North, Park expected only a rebuke. Instead, the family went to an interrogation center for 18 days, then 22 days at a police camp. The camp separated "political" from "ordinary" criminals. At every step the Parks were beaten and suffered torture designed to "break" them.

Park was told to strip her clothes in a large yard. She thought the police were looking for weapons or contraband. But it was money they wanted. Along the border Koreans hide money in body cavities. Prisoners had five rules: Work from 7:30 to 7:30. When not working, sit on your knees. Keep your head down. Never move, not a finger, or you will be hit. Finally, confess your mistakes constantly. "We were told to say over and over, 'I am sorry, I am sorry for what I have done.' "

Park eventually escaped to Seoul via an underground Christian group. Today she leads a refugee group for women. She is implacably opposed to the Kim regime. "I complain when Kim tests these useless missiles while we in the millions are poor, having nothing. This is something unforgivable."

[Christian Science Monitor]

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Insights to the North Korean Military

With reports of 60 shots being fired Saturday along the heavily armed no man's land separating the divided Koreas, this seems like a fitting time to touch on the North Korean military.

Following are highlights of a testimony by Han Young Jin, who defected from North Korea:

The combined North Korean military numbers 1.2 million, army, naval and air force, though some estimate the number as being closer to 1.7 million.

Military duty is compulsory: For men, it’s 10 years, and for women, it is 6~8 years.

Men used to be required to be taller than 148cm (4’10”) and heavier than 48kg (106 lbs). Nowadays they only have to be 145cm (4’9”) and 40kg (88 lbs).

This is because in the 1990s, many were stunted from lack of food. Many soldiers were at one time “kotjebi” (child beggars)”, wandering around in search of food.

Malnutrition is still a problem for those in the military. Before the food shortage, 800g of rice, and 200g of meat was the official amount provided for one day. For over ten years now, this has not been the case.

However, when it is announced that a military base will be receiving a visit from Kim Jong Il, vegetables and meat are borrowed from nearby villages for "food inspection", and later returned.

Kim Jong Il meets with his military commanders

This weekend is the anniversary of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as head of the Korean Workers' Party in 1997.

With tensions rising, Kim met hundreds of his top military commanders and urged them to bolster the nation's defenses, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported earlier Friday. Officers greeted him with rousing cheers of "Fight at the cost of our lives!"

North Korean state television showed still photos of the bouffant-haired leader waving to an assembled crowd of about 500 olive-suited officers in dress caps. Kim later posed for a group photo with his commanders in front of Pyongyang's sprawling mausoleum for his father and national founder, Kim Il Sung.

The meeting was the reclusive leader's first reported appearance in three weeks and the first since Tuesday, when his government shocked the world by announcing plans to test a nuclear device on its way to building an atomic arsenal.

It was unclear when the rally took place, or how many attended, but it could show that Kim is trying to polish his credentials with the military at a time when international pressure is mounting on Pyongyang.

[Associated Press]

Friday, October 06, 2006

North Korea believes bomb will deter US attack

While the rest of the world looks to Beijing to stop North Korea from exploding a nuclear bomb, a leading Chinese analyst says it is too late - China cannot act without doing worse harm to its own interests.

[North Korea] "considers its national interests to be greater than its relations with China," says highly regarded Shen Dingli, of Shanghai's Fudan University, in his remarkably frank commentary, circulated yesterday by a North Korea-focused think tank, the Nautilus Institute.

South Korea and China redoubled their efforts to persuade Washington to agree to separate, bilateral talks with the Kim regime, in order to secure its agreement to return to the six-party discussions it has boycotted since November.

An economic and security chaos accompanying a regime collapse is the most feared scenario in Beijing and Seoul.

In the UN Security Council, China resisted a condemnatory statement against Pyongyang's test threat because, Chinese ambassador Wang Guangya said, "if the six-party talks cannot do anything about it, I don't think the council is in a position (to do anything)".

In Mr Shen's analysis, North Korea now believes it needs to test a bomb because that will unmistakably demonstrate its nuclear capability which, in turn, will deter the US from any attack.

Mr Shen argues that the North Koreans are prepared to weather deeper trade and financial sanctions from the US, Japan and other Western countries because they believe that ultimately, the Americans will have to accept their nuclear-state status, as happened with India and Pakistan.

[The Australian]

North Korea Warned on Weapon Testing

The Bush administration delivered a secret message to North Korea warning it to back down from a promised nuclear test, and it said publicly that the United States would not live with a nuclear-armed Pyongyang government.

North Korea "can have a future or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill said in remarks at Johns Hopkins University's U.S.-Korea Institute. It was the toughest response yet from the Bush administration, coming two days after Pyongyang announced plans to conduct its first nuclear test.

Hill did not explain how the administration would respond to a test, but he said it is willing to sit with North Korean officials and diplomats from the region to discuss the crisis. "We will do all we can to dissuade [North Korea] from this test," he said. State Department officials said Hill is considering a trip to Asia to discuss options with key allies.

He said the United States had passed along a private warning through North Korea's diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York.

North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for as many as 11 nuclear bombs. It announced in February that it had succeeded in building a weapon, although intelligence analysts believe it is still years away from being able to deliver one.

[Excerpt of an article by Dafna Linzer, Washington Post]

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thought on North Korea Vowed Nuclear Test

An interesting post from Donald Gregg, a CIA official since 1951, and a liaison to President Carter's National Security Council and National Security Advisor to Vice President George H.W. Bush, as well as U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993. Mr Gregg is now chairman of the board of the Korea Society. In response to a Korea Liberator post on Washington Post's PostGlobal site, Mr Gregg writes:

My impression of the North Korea statement was how carefully it was was worded, and how free of bombast it was. It sounds as though North Korea is trying to establish its credentials as a responsible nuclear power.

It may hope that this statement will put pressure on the US to start talking with them bilaterally. This will not work with the Bush administration, and the gulf of suspicion and mutual hostility will only widen. I still believe that North Korea would rather talk seriously with the US than to conduct a nuclear test, but this latest move is another step away from dialogue toward greater estrangement.

Is there anything that could be done to stop a test from occuring? I think there is.

If the Bush administration would appoint a senior policy director for North Korean issues, as Congress wants it to, I believe that talks could be re-started. I fear that there is very little chance of this happening. I hope I am wrong, but I do not think I am.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

North Korea Vows First Nuclear Test

North Korea announced today that it plans to conduct its first nuclear test, sharply escalating its standoff with the United States and setting off ripples of alarm in Japan and South Korea.

A statement released by the North Korean state-run news agency declared that “the U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure” compel the country “to conduct a nuclear test, an essential process for bolstering nuclear deterrent, as a corresponding measure for defense.”

Until now, North Korea has never acknowledged having nuclear weapons, although intelligence officials have assumed for several years that it had produced enough plutonium to build a bomb. Analysts have said in the past that a test could destabilize the balance of power in the region, perhaps pushing Japan to develop its own nuclear weapons, and could raise the risk of a military clash between North Korea and the United States.

The statement gave no indication of when such a test might occur. Last month, Kim Seung Kyu, director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, told his country’s parliament that North Korea is capable of conducting an underground nuclear test at any time.

American officials have said that if North Korea were to conduct nuclear tests, the United States would seek Security Council sanctions through a procedure that carries the threat of military action.

[Excerpt of an article by Choe Sang-Hun (Seoul) and John O’Neil (New York), The New York Times]

US Aid to North Korea if "transparent distribution"

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is reportedly willing to provide food aid to North Korea if it guarantees transparent distribution.

Buddhist Priest Beobryun who chairs the domestic North Korean aid agency Join Together Society met with senior U.S. intelligence official Joseph DeTrani in the U.S. last week to brief him on flood damage in the communist state.

Calling the damage the worst in North Korean history, Beobryun said that recovery is impossible without outside help.

He quoted State Department officials as expressing willingness to offer large-scale food aid to Pyongyang if it's distributed transparently in line with American law.

The Agency for International Development is an independent U.S. agency that serves as the focal point for U.S. overseas assistance efforts, with guidance from the State Department.

[KBS Global]

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

North Korean refugee children

During the past four or five years, I have met probably one hundred people who have escaped from North Korea. Some of them … are children repeatedly crossing the border.

These children repeatedly crossing the border are in tragic condition. For example, a 20-year-old boy looks like he is only 15 years old, or a 17-year-old boy looks only 11. A 16-year-old girl who looked 11 didn't even know about menstruation. Her classmates and seniors looked like they had completely stopped growing.

One 10-year-old girl had crossed the border fifteen times. … If they are arrested, they are beaten and threatened, even tortured. One boy was attacked by a thief who left a sword scar on his face.

We clothed those children, who had neither underwear nor socks, and who had no alternative but sleep in open fields in temperatures of -30 degrees centigrade (-22 degrees Fahrenheit). We also bathed them (most looked like they had not bathed for five years, judging from the thickness of their grime). They had never seen shampoo. We fed them, and interviewed them to find out how their parents had died or been killed.

We found how limited our options were for helping those children; we could do nothing but shed helpless tears for the tragic circumstances of these children.

[Source: northkoreanrefugees.com]

Monday, October 02, 2006

An increase of wandering vagabonds in North Korea

[Beginning September 6th, I] traveled throughout the Sino-North Korean border area and met several North Korean residents who came to China.

In interviewing them, I [became aware of the] North Korean people’s complete loss of confidence on Kim Jong Il, especially since the missile launch incident, recent floods, and weakened Sino-North Korean relationship.

Most North Korean residents are despairing from a decade long famine and hopeless lives. … Interviewees agreed that North Korean society was doomed to collapse because of widespread corruption and starvation.

According to them, after the huge floods in July and August, the number of vagabond childrens increased. And adult wanderers volunteer to collect foodstuff on the street since it is even harder to work and earn money.

[Excerpt of an article by Choi Jeon Ho, Defector from North Pyongan province, writing in Daily NK]

More North Korean adults and children on the move

I met Choi, a 45-year-old North Korean resident in my recent trip to northeast China, in a border area in Changbai County.

Choi said that not only the number of beggar children [spiked after the July and August floods in North Korea] but also adult vagabonds increased, as it did in 1997 at the peak of the Great Famine.

The number of young wanderers, called ‘kotjebi’ (begging children), had been anticipated [but] it was the unprecedented that adult wanders appeared in such a large scale.

Choi concluded that being a wanderer is better, if not only the only way to survive, abandoning homes and occupations [in the trade-off].

Choi stated, “Although the state has never declared that it will not provide food rationing, people no longer believe in state rationing. Workers don’t expect salaries from their companies. Nobody asks for overdue payment. They just gave up any hope on that. Since there is no ration and no salary, there is no need to keep homes and jobs.”

[Excerpt of article by Choi Jeon Ho, Defector from North Pyongan province, writing in Daily NK]

Sunday, October 01, 2006

More on Rick Warren going to North Korea

Interesting insights into Pastor Rick Warren, who expects to be preaching in North Korea next year:

Interviewer: You've been criticized for your plan to preach in North Korea next year. The concern is that the Koreans will use you for their own purposes. How do you respond?

I'm not a politician. I'm a pastor. I don't make decisions based on politics.

If I'm not limited [by the North Koreans] in what I can say, I'll preach the good news of the Gospel. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the Pyongyang revival, and for some reason the leader [Kim Jong Il] decided to allow the first public preaching of the Gospel in 60 years. So when they invited me, I said, "Sure!"

Here are people who have been told for 60 years that there is no God, there is no purpose for your life.

Hey, I'm happy to go in there. There's risk, but I'm willing to take it.

Interviewer: But not everyone in the evangelical world seems happy about your choices, particularly your involvement in combating AIDS.

I'm kind of in a no-man's land, where I take heat from every side.

If I go to the International AIDS Conference, there are those there who want to validate their lifestyle, and I'm not going to do that. And there are others who want me to condemn everyone and not show up.

So, yes, you get misunderstood sometimes. That's just par for the course.

[Excerpt from Dallas Morning News interview]