Tag Archives: North Korea

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The Mystery of Kim Jong-un’s Disappearance May Be Solved

by REERA YOO

South Korea’s spy agency claimed Tuesday that it has solved the mystery behind Kim Jong-un’s six-week public absence, reported Yonhap.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) told legislators in a closed-door briefing that Kim underwent an operation between September and October to remove a cyst from his right ankle, according to Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri party and Shin Kyong-min of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

“Give his obesity and excessive activities, the trouble could recur despite the surgery, said Lee, referring to Kim’s frequent inspection tours of military units, factories and construction sites.

The NIS added that a European doctor was specially invited into the communist country to perform the operation.

North Korea has a long-standing relationship with a small group of French doctors, according to the New York Times. These doctors have previously treated top North Korean officials and have even treated Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il.

After disappearing from public view on Sept. 3, Kim reappeared on Oct. 14, supporting himself with a cane, ending wild speculations about Kim’s critical illness and a possible military coup.

The NIS also disclosed that North Korea has expanded five of its political prisoner camps, including the Yodok camp, said Lim Dae-seong, Lee’s aide who also attended the briefing.

Lim added that the NIS also believes that North Korea recently executed several people who had been close to Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was suddenly executed in December 2013 for treason.

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Amid UN Scrutiny of Its Human Rights Record, NKorea Lodges Rape Allegation at Activist Shin Dong-hyuk

by STEVE HAN

In what appears to be a stab at character assassination, the North Korean government accused North Korean defector and human rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk of rape, stating that he left the country to escape the alleged sexual assault charges.

In a statement titled, “Scumbag Shin Finally Exposed!” the North Korean embassy accused Shin of raping a 13-year-old girl in 2001, and alleged that he had fled the country to escape charges. The statement also dismissed Shin’s testimony about his experiences in North Korea’s prison camps, calling them “lies.”

Shin Dong Hyuk  himself subjected to rape a 13-year-old girl … in the village of Bonchan, and in 2002 he was arrested by Chinese border guards for illegal border crossing,” read the statement, which named the girl.Thereafter, he was transferred back to our law enforcement agencies, but instead of showing genuine regret and trying to redeem his crime, he again made an ​​illegal border-crossing to the South.”

North Korea’s accusations against Shin came after the United Nations released a report in February based on testimony from defectors. The report estimated that North Korea’s brutal prison camps hold up to 120,000 people.

“The dictatorship in North Korea has never been honest or truthful for the more than six decades it has been in existence,” Shin said in a statement, responding to the accusation. “Our fight fight begins now. And this fight is a very difficult one … [but] not saying a word to challenge the North Korean dictatorship … and saying that [the defectors'] testimonies are lies, is acting just as bad as the regime, and it is truly unjust.”

North Korea has often used bizarre or vulgar language to criticize defectors in the past, calling them “human garbage” or a “man who’s more worthless than a dog.” The rape allegation represents a different tack, and it’s difficult to know what to make of the allegations given the lack of evidence and the unlikelihood of due process.

“[Shin] expected the regime to come out with these sort of accusations and attacks,” said Henry Song, the U.S. director for Inside NK, Shin’s advocacy group. “I doubt these attacks will have any negative effect on our work, both personally for Dong-hyuk and for our organization. Most likely, it will just highlight how ridiculous the regime can get in its attacks against North Korean defectors.”

Since the UN released its report, North Korea has been uncharacteristically active in engaging with the rest of the world to downplay the issue of human rights abuses, going so far as to deny the existence of prison camps altogether.

Currently the only known prisoner to have escaped North Korea’s notorious Camp 14, known as the “total control camp” from which inmates never leave, Shin has worked diligently to raise awareness worldwide on the need for humanitarian relief in North Korea since defecting in 2005. The New York-based international organization Human Rights Watch is honoring Shin this year with its Alison Des Forges Award for his efforts, crediting his outspokenness about the atrocities in his native country in helping to bring about the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry. Shin’s story was the subject of the book, Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West, by former Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden.

 

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LINK ATTACK: Naomi Ko, Jeremy Lin Goes Undercover, ‘World War Z’ North Korea

North Korea’s Ebola Response Mirrors World War Z
Although the current Ebola outbreak is far from a zombie apocalypse, many readers have been comparing North Korea’s closure of its borders to the events in Max Brooks’ 2006 dystopian novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

Korean Adoptee Heather Schultz Starts the Search for Her Birth Family
“I remember thinking this is what mothers do — they leave you,” said freelance writer and editor Heather Schultz. Schultz, who is currently on a three-week trip to South Korea, discusses her early childhood as a Korean adoptee and how she came to discover her birth family’s stories.

heatherschutlz(Photo credit: Heather Schultz)

South Korea Launches “Happy Education” Policy to Shorten Study Hours
President Geun-Hye Park launched a “Happy Education” policy that aims to prevent students from measuring their success solely based on academics by placing a one semester ban on exams for 13-year-old students.

The South Korean Ferry Tragedy Has Exposed a Political Divide
More than six months after the Sewol ferry disaster, extreme right-wing groups are now protesting against Sewol victims’ families’ ongoing sit-in protests.

Why K-pop Idols Flee From Their Groups
The Joongang Daily explores the numerous reasons why K-pop idols choose to depart from their groups.

Why I Changed My Korean Name and Why I Changed It Back
“Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, I loved my name. … Butchered in foreign tongues, ‘Seonjae’ did not have the beauty and power that accompanied it back in Seoul.”

Rainbow House Aids Abused Women
Rainbow House, a shelter for abused women in Flushing, was founded by a Korean pastor, Rev. Keumhyan Yeu and provides meals and a full-time social worker to families struck by domestic violence.

 

Naomi Ko of Dear White People on Avoiding the Asian Representation Trap
Visibility Project interviews Naomi Ko, who talks about what it means to be a millennial of color and how the feature film Dear White People deconstructs racial stereotypes.

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Japan Could Deploy Minesweepers off SKorea in War with North, U.S. Admiral Says
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to let Japan’s military fight overseas could open the way for the country to deploy minesweepers in South Korean waters in the event of a war with North Korea, a senior U.S. admiral said on Friday.”

 

Top 10 Weirdest Places in South Korea
Korea Observer compiles ten bizarre places in South Korea, including the Suwon Toilet Museum and Love Castle, a sex museum in Gyeongju.

Whistle-blower Sees Little Change in South Korea 10 Years After Exposing Cloning Fraud
Whistle-blower Ryu Young-joon, who exposed groundbreaking cloning research as fraud, speaks for the first time about the fallout he faced from his tip-offs and discusses how South Korea is still tied down by values that allowed cloning fraudster Woo Suk Hwang “to become an almost untouchable national hero.”

 

Conductor Kristjan Jarvi on Giving ‘Gangnam Style’ a Classical Spin
Grammy-nominated conductor Kristjan Jarvi programs the viral song “Gangnam Style” to Pablo de Sarasate’s late 19th-century classic song “Zigeunerweisen.”

Cured of Ebola, Nina Pham Gets a Hug From Obama
Nina Pham, a nurse who caught Ebola while caring for a diagnosed patient in Dallas, was released Friday after making a complete recovery from the deadly virus. She met with President Barack Obama at the White House, where she received a thank-you for her medical service as well as a hug.

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Jeremy Lin Goes Undercover as Adidas Store Employee
NBA star Jeremy Lin is back with another prank. In his latest video, Lin poses as an Adidas store employee in Taipei and interacts with several unsuspecting customers.

As Decades of Korean Adoptions Dwindle, Identity Issues Remain
“What I hope the legacy of Korean-American adoptees is,” Korean adoptee Joy Lieberthal said, “is that we’ve elevated the level of conversation of what it means to be Asian, Asian-American, Korean, Korean-American.”

Defense Secretary Hagel Meets With Korean Defense Minister At Pentagon

U.S. to Indefinitely Maintain Wartime Control of South Korean Military

The United States agreed to delay returning its wartime control of the South Korean military until its ally is determined fully equipped to fight North Korea, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

During the Korean War in the early 1950s, the U.S. assumed control of South Korea’s military to fight North Korea and to stand opposed to communism. Although the U.S. returned the peacetime control to South Korea in 1994, it still holds obligations to control the South Korean military in the event of another war.

Many South Koreans, mainly postwar generations, began protesting against the pledge, highlighting that allowing the U.S. wield such power is a slight to their national pride.

The opposition prompted the U.S. to initially accept South Korea’s request in 2007 to return its power by 2012. But in 2010, the handover of wartime control was postponed to 2015 after a South Korean warship was allegedly torpedoed by North Korea. South Korea requested another delay after North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket in 2012, followed by its third nuclear test earlier this year.

In Thursday’s meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and South Korean defense minister Han Min-koo agreed to take a “conditions-based approach” that will “focus on South Korea achieving critical defensive capabilities against an intensifying North Korean threat.” South Korean officials said the return of wartime control of the military is now expected to take place in the mid-2020s.

The new delay, which is essentially indefinite, will likely evoke heavy criticism from South Korea’s liberals. Many in South Korea have argued for years that further delaying the transition of wartime military control will be detrimental to inter-Korea relations.

Photo courtesy of AFP

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North Korea Bans Tourists Over Ebola Concerns

by STEVE HAN

North Korea announced that it will ban foreigners from entering the country as tourists due to worries over the Ebola virus, which has already killed at least 4,877 people around the world.

A China-based travel agency, Koryo Tours, which arranges trips to North Korea for international tourists, confirmed that the hermit country has decided to close its border for tourism until Ebola concerns are eliminated. The agency initially had three tours scheduled for the remainder of 2014, according to Nick Bonner of Koryo Tours.

North Korea reportedly didn’t provide a timeline for the duration of its closure for foreign tourists.

The World Health Organization reported that at least 4,877 people died of Ebola, but the death toll could soon triple as nearly 10,000 cases have been recorded by Oct. 19. Last month, North Korea’s state-run media KCNA said that officials began running border quarantine and awareness campaigns to prevent the virus from entering their country.

Up to 6,000 tourists per year reportedly visit North Korea as the communist regime has been organizing efforts in recent years to boost tourism to generate revenue.

This isn’t the first time North Korea closed its borders to tourists over an epidemic. In 2003, the reclusive country placed a similar closure due to fears over the threat of SARS, a severe respiratory disease.

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North Korean Defector’s Tearful Speech Receives Standing Ovation

Somewhere along the line, many of us have become somewhat numb to the countless stories of North Korean defectors, all of whom escaped the repressive country by risking their lives. But a tearful, eight-minute speech by a 21-year-old North Korean defector, who witnessed a public execution of her friend’s mother for watching a Hollywood film and saw her own mother get raped by a Chinese broker after fleeing the country, is once again reminding the world of just how dire life is in the Hermit Kingdom’s brutal Stalinist regime.

Park Yeon-mi, who escaped North Korea when she was just 13, recently spoke at the One Young World conference in Dublin, Ireland about her traumatizing experiences. She and her mother had no option but to escape by walking across the Gobi Desert and look for her older sister who fled the country earlier.

“North Korea is the only country in the world that executes people for making unauthorized international phone call,” Park said.

“When I was 9 years old, I saw my friend’s mother publicly executed. Her crime? Watching a Hollywood movie … I saw my mother raped. The rapist was a Chinese broker. I will never forget his face. The rapist had targeted me. I was only 13 years old.”

In her speech, Park also recalled how she had to secretly bury her father in China at 3 a.m. when she was 14 years old, afraid of being discovered and sent back to her home country.

“Death or dignity … We were prepared to kill ourselves if we were going to be sent back to North Korea. We wanted to live as humans.”

Park was among a group of defectors who attended the event to share their stories with the audience. Watch the video below to listen to the full speech that evoked a standing ovation in Dublin.

Image courtesy of Voice of America

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North Korean Detainee Reunites With Family in Ohio 

Above: Jeffrey Fowle is greeted by family members upon his arrival, early Wednesday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS and LARA JAKES, Associated Press

An American arrested and held for nearly six months in North Korea for leaving a Bible at a nightclub returned home to Ohio on Wednesday to tears of joy and hugs from his wife and surprised children.

A plane carrying Jeffrey Fowle landed Wednesday morning at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, where he was reunited with his family. Fowle was released with help from a retired diplomat and former Ohio congressman.

Moments after Fowle, carrying two bags, stepped off a plane just after 6:30 a.m., his three children and wife ran from a nearby airplane hangar and shared hugs.

Base Col. John Devillier said Fowle had a tearful reunion, and that Fowle was happy and seemed thrilled to be back in the U.S.

“We had a great reunion for an American citizen coming home,” he said.

Devillier said Fowle’s family hadn’t told the children why they were being brought to the base and that it was a surprise for them to see their father walk off the plane.

“The reaction from his children was priceless,” Devillier said. “They hadn’t seen their dad in some time. The expectation would be that they would get teary eyed and they did, and I did, too. It’s great to welcome him home.”

Tony Hall, a retired diplomat and congressman who used his connections with North Korean officials to discuss Fowle’s case, said he was excited about Fowle’s release.

A lot of people were involved, he said, but he declined to name any of the officials in Pyongyang to whom he reached out. He said he was never asked by either the U.S. or North Korea to go to Pyongyang on Fowle’s behalf.

The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, along with China and Japan and envoys from Mongolia, which has relations with North Korea, were also involved, Hall said.

Hall said he got involved at the request of Fowle’s family and attorney, as well as the State Department, which led the push for Fowle’s release.

“So I spent a lot of time communicating and trying to use some of the relations I’d built up over the years,” Hall told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Outside the family’s home in rural southwest Ohio, family attorney Timothy Tepe said Fowle had been treated well by the North Korean government and needed time to adjust to life at home.

“The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind for Jeff and his family. Jeff needs some time right now to get adjusted to his life at home,” Tepe said, flanked by Fowle, his wife, Tatyana, and their three children.

Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29 and was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at the nightclub, something Fowle acknowledged in interviews with the AP. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea.

He had been awaiting trial — the only one of three Americans held by Pyongyang who had not been convicted of charges.

The two others were each sentenced to years in North Korean prisons after court trials that lasted no more than 90 minutes. The three Americans entered North Korea separately.

The Fowle family, despite their joy, is mindful that two other Americans continue to be detained by North Korea and they understand the disappointment their families are experiencing, Tepe said.

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There was no immediate explanation for the release of Fowle, who was whisked to the U.S. territory of Guam, where doctors declared him in good health, before heading back to Ohio.

A report released by the Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday said Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, took “a special measure” by releasing Fowle, who was referred to as a “U.S. criminal.” The report said Kim took “into consideration the repeated requests of U.S. President Barack Obama.”

In Berlin, Secretary of State John Kerry said “there was no quid pro quo” for the release of Fowle.

The government welcomed Fowle’s return.

“The release of all of these individuals is a top priority and something that the U.S. Government has long advocated for, both publicly and privately,” said National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell. “We have followed these cases closely in the White House.”

Some analysts believe that North Korea’s calculus in releasing Fowle may reflect several larger concerns, including the regime’s efforts to counter criticism of its human-rights situation following the release earlier this year of a groundbreaking U.N. report laying out the regime’s widespread abuses against its own citizens. The European Union and Japan have been pushing a U.N. resolution to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court, and Pyongyang doesn’t want the issue to even get to a vote.

Additionally, relations between Washington and Pyongyang are particularly bad, raising the possibility that the U.S. could strengthen its sanctions against the North or call on its allies to clamp down harder.

Fowle’s release could thus be seen as an attempt to feel out Washington and see if there is any possibility of broader talks.

Analysts say North Korea has previously used detained Americans as leverage, a contention that Pyongyang denies. Washington, too, has floated the possibility of a diplomatic opening should North Korea free the detainees.

U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf would not say whether any American officials had intervened directly with the North Koreans.

“We’ll let the North Koreans speak for themselves about why did they decide to do this,” Harf said. “But we are pleased that he was able to leave, and urge the immediate release of the other two.”

The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and strongly warns American citizens against traveling to the country.

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Jakes reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and Associated Press journalists Eric Talmadge and Maye-E Wong in Pyongyang, North Korea, and Jim Kuhnhenn, Deb Riechmann and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Jeffrey Fowle

American Jeffrey Fowle Released From North Korea

by LARA JAKES, AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released, the State Department said Tuesday.

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was on his way home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. Fowle is from Miamisburg, Ohio. Harf said the U.S. is still trying to free Americans Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae.

Associated Press journalists in Pyongyang spotted the U.S. government plane at the capital’s international on Tuesday.

Washington has tried for months to send a high-level envoy to North Korea to seek release of the three men.

Analysts say North Korea has previously used detained Americans as leverage in its standoff with the U.S. over its nuclear and missile programs, a charge that Pyongyang denies.

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Associated Press reporters Eric Talmadge and Maye-E Wong contributed to this report. Photo courtesy of Wong Maye-E/AP. 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.