Tag Archives: North Korea

korea-talks

North/South Talks Over Asian Games In Incheon Collapse

by TONY KIM

Though sports is often seen as a way to offer nations in conflict a way of reaching across the aisle, a recent breakdown in talks between North and South Korea over the upcoming Asian Games dealt a bit of a setback to the goals of sports diplomacy.

The North Korea delegation participating in talks with the South over the 2014 Asian Games to be hosted in Incheon, South Korea, reportedly walked out of the most recent session, accusing its Korean counterpart of being insincere, according to a report in the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“North Korea was not happy with the way the talks were conducted,” an official from the Unification Ministry was quoted as saying by the South Korean newspaper.

The first round of talks, proposed by North Korea, focused on logistical issues, such as transportation methods and determining the size of the athletic and cheerleading team Pyongyang wound send to the event.

Yesterday, Kwon Kyung-sang, secretary general of the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee, and Son Kwang-ho, vice chairman of North Korea’s Olympic Committee, met in Panmunjom, a village located in a demilitarized zone, as part of their respective three-member delegations. Not only did the two sides fail to hash out an agreement, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA indicated the country is considering boycotting the event. North Korea had planned to send 700 athletes and cheerleaders to Incheon.

One of the main points of controversy was choosing an agreeable transportation method for the athletes and cheerleaders. Traveling by boat may be ruled out, since South Korea has prohibited North Korean vessels from entering its waters after the North allegedly sunk the South’s Cheonan warship in May of 2010. The North’s officials have long maintained they were not responsible, though an investigation by the South implicated them.

Another possible issue may have been South Korea’s unwillingness to pay for the North’s travel expenses as it did during the Sunshine Policy administrations of former Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, according to the Ministry of Unification. The ministry suggested that the South this year would only a pay a portion, an amount that abides by international regulations for less-developed countries.

Additionally, the size of North Korea’s flags has also reportedly been an issue, as the South Korean delegates declared them to be too large. According to AP, an anonymous South Korean official said the objections were out of concern for the safety of the North Korean cheerleaders.

A follow-up meeting has not been set by either side to further discuss logistics of the Asian Games, which begins on Sept. 19.

Photo via AFP

BsKYm8w-660x400

In Amazing Reddit AMA, One Man Shares How He Escaped North Korea In The 1950s

by STEVE HAN

Social media has given voices to people of all backgrounds. One Reddit user started his own Ask Me Anything thread to share a deeply personal story.

DocKim, also known as Doctor Kim on Reddit, fled North Korea as a child during the Korean War in the early 1950s. He escaped to South Korea and eventually to the U.S. He now lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, where he works as a doctor.

“We walked, bussed, and took a train until we were close to the border,” said DocKim through his grandson. “When we tried to cross over we were stopped by soviet soldiers and my uncle bribed them with a wrist watch. They let us go. Many of the soldiers had no education and were very impressed by watches. I saw one soldier that had broken watches all up his arm.”

DocKim added that he never regretted fleeing North Korea, but that he never met his parents again since leaving the country.

“I don’t know what happened to them,” he said. “My mother and father were going to meet me in the south. My mother urged me to go with my uncle and they would meet me later … but they never arrived and I lost all contact with them.”

Although DocKim has very little memory of attending school in North Korea, he remembers using a tray filled with sand to practice write Korean characters.

“We didn’t have any paper so I would write the characters in the sand then shake the tray to start over again,” he said.

He said his worst memories are of the Korean War. “I was captured by North Korean soldiers when they were invading the south,” he said. “I was staying with a local teacher when I was captured. He actually knew some of my captors and was able to negotiate my release. I was lucky as I would likely have been executed.” Read the full transcript of DocKim’s Ask Me Anything session here.

Photo: Dr. Kim in Newfoundland with his new Volkswagen in the 60′s. Via Reddit

article_img

NKorea In World Cup Final, Says Fake News Clip That Further Distorts Public View Of Country

by TONY KIM

On Saturday, YouTube channel Korea News Backup posted what appeared to be a North Korean news clip of its national team advancing to the World Cup finals to face Portugal. Several news sites even initially reported that the video is an official North Korean state broadcast. The absurdity of the content (um, North Korea didn’t qualify for this year’s tournament), coupled with the public’s oh-those-crazy-North-Koreans view, was enough to make the video go viral. So far, it’s generated more than 5 million views.

In the clip, a female anchor takes viewers through North Korea’s historic run in the tournament. Apparently, the national team first advanced out of the group stage as the number one seed after beating China 2:0. Conveniently, North Korea then goes on to blow out the U.S. and Japan to finally face Portugal. Edited footage of Brazilian fans cheering for North Korea’s victory and its supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, was also shown.

Though we can’t confirm 100-percent, it’s very, very likely that the segment is fake.

Yahoo Sports points out that the anchor’s dialect is wrong and her voice is not in synch with her lips. More convincingly, The Telegraph reported around a month ago that North Korean citizens are actually able to watch the World Cup games, even though some games may be shown after a 24-hour delay. In its report, one North Korean viewer comments that although North Korea did not qualify, he was curious to see other national teams play.

Of course, such details don’t quite fit the simplistic narrative of North Korea as a “hermit kingdom.” With such a lack of information coming out of the closed society, even the most bizarre stories are often reported at face value.

 

stephen_kim

Ex-State Department Official Stephen Kim Begins Sentence Today In Government Leaks Case

by STEVE HAN

A Korean American preparing for his jail term over leaking classified intelligence on North Korea is saying he still intends on pursuing his “dreams” despite “incredible pain” and “shattered reputation” he suffered because of the case.

A former State Department contractor, Stephen Jin-woo Kim gave classified information about North Korea’s potential nuclear test to a reporter at Fox News in 2009. He was sentenced 13 months in prison in April. Kim said he will start serving the sentence on Monday.

“I don’t know whether it is proper for me to confront incarceration with calmness or trepidation,” the- 46-year-old  told Yonhap News Agency. “I am susceptible to the insecurity of the unknown.”

Kim’s case is seen as an example of how the Obama administration views espionage issues. Some have suggested that punishing Kim violates freedom of the press as the information he leaked did not pose a direct threat to national security.

“The social and personal damage to my family scarred deeply, but the pain does not stop there,” Kim said. “My reputation, a reputation that I had assiduously built over the years, was shattered. The betrayal and the abandonment of so-called friends were particularly cutting.”

However, Kim says that his experience has sparked a new dream for him to pursue. He plans to read world classics in theology, philosophy, literature and history while teaching other inmates who were “not as fortunate as I would be able to receive a high school diploma.”

Kim said: “I have been told by my closest friends to write a memoir of my unique government experience, as well as the novelties of prison life. I think I am still too young to reflect on life. It is yet to be completed. I still have some life to live. And there remain many things I would like to accomplish.”

After serving his 13-month term in prison, Kim wishes to return to South Korea to live with his family. There, he wants to launch a consulting business and leverage his “wide, varied and unique” experience. His ultimate goal is to launch a high school in Korea, he said.

choco pie

Choco Pie Goes Bye-bye at the Joint Industrial Complex in Kaesong

by TONY KIM

North Korean authorities have reportedly ordered South Korean businesses to stop handing out Choco Pies to the North’s workers at the countries’ join industrial complex in Kaesong, according to South Korean media.

The popular South Korean snack cakes were often used as bonus payments to workers from the South’s businesses in the Kaesong complex. For years, the businesses would give each worker around 10 to 12 Choco Pies, and the items would increasingly be used as valuable black market currency in the country, reported the English Chosun.

However, a South Korean Unification Ministry official reported this week that workers are now demanding other forms of payment, like sausages, instant noodles and chocolate bars.

Though no official reason has been given for why this apparent Choco Pie ban went into effect, the growing popularity of the snacks, which could potentially be used as South Korean propaganda, is suspected to be a factor. Just last month, a group of eight South Korean organizations sent large balloons carrying Choco Pies to North Korea. Kim Yong-hwa, the leader of one of the organizations, the North Korea Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea, told KBS that the organizations will regularly send the cakes to the North until the day the two Koreas are reunified.

As of April 2013, about 100 South Korean companies were employing some 53,000 North Korean workers and 800 South Korean staff at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a collaborative economic development that started in 2002. The industrial park is located about six miles north of the Demilitarized Zone.

Photo via Steven Tom

The Interview

North Korea Blasts Seth Rogen And James Franco’s ‘The Interview’

Hollywood rarely portrays North Korea in a positive light (see Red DawnOlympus Has Fallen and Die Another Day), but James Franco and Seth Rogen’s upcoming movie, The Interview, has touched a particularly sensitive nerve with the regime.

A spokesman for Kim Jong-un told the Telegraph that the comedy, starring Franco and Rogen, showed the “desperation” of American society in its “ironic storyline.” Two talk show hosts are tasked by the U.S. government to kill Kim, played by Randall Park, when they are granted an exclusive interview with the leader.

“A film about the assassination of a foreign leader mirrors what the U.S. has done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine,” said Kim Myong-chol, executive director of the Centre for North Korea-US Peace. Though he also said that the dictator would probably watch the film.

“In fact, President [Barack] Obama should be careful in case the U.S. military wants to kill him as well.”

In addition, Kim dismissed Hollywood films as being “full of assassinations and executions” and said British films are better and more realistic. Discounting Die Another Day, which was immediately described as “dirty and cursed” by state media, 007 still apparently remains a staple in North Korea.

“James Bond is a good character and those films are much more enjoyable,” he said.

Previews of The Interview have apparently attracted mixed reviews, and many have raised concerns the premise of the film.

Joo Yang AMA

North Korean Defector Shares Eye-Opening Tales In Reddit AMA

by JAMES S. KIM

Plenty of political experts and researchers have discussed how to deal with the reclusive state of North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un. However, what often gets lost in that discourse is the state of the North Korean people.

Joo Yang defected to South Korea in 2011. Since then, she has worked as an activist with Liberty in North Korea (LINK), a nonprofit that helps rescue and resettle North Korean refugees, and as a participant on the television program “Now on My Way to Meet You,” which features North Korean women. She also participated in LINK’s two-day SUMMIT conference last weekend at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. KoreAm was able to attend, so look forward to our recap soon.

With the help of LINK, Yang participated in an “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” session on Reddit, providing honest and even a few eye-opening responses to the questions posed by Redditors. You can read read the full AMA here. Here are some highlights:

You say that your parents defected first. Did the North Korean government know about this and did you face any repercussions?
In North Korea, it’s very hard to know the weather forecast because of frequent power cuts, unlike in South Korea. So we made a cover story that my father had died at sea and my mother and other family members had left our house to try to find any remains of my father. So I was in our house my myself, but the secret police came to ask me questions. I stuck to the story and told them that my family had become separated, and stonewalled their questions. I knew that the secret police used people in the neighborhood to monitor my behavior, but I just pretended not to notice and carried on living my life.

Since crossing the border into south Korea, have you encountered any negativity or prejudice from the South Korean people?
South Korean people can be quite discriminating, for instance against Korean-Chinese people living in South Korea. When I speak, I have a dialect and to many South Koreans it sounds like how Korean-Chinese people from Northeast China speak. Sometimes people have asked if I’m from there, and I felt negativity in their tone. Also, one time my auntie was riding in a taxi when the driver asked where she was from. When she replied “North Korea”, he stopped the car and asked her to get out! Even so, for me personally, I think that being open with where I am from helps me to adapt to life here in the long run.

Could you share a personal moment from your past that, looking back now, influenced you (and your parents) to defect?
My grandfather always told us that our generation must find freedom. And he told us about modern technology and advanced countries. Also, my father listened to foreign radio illegally since I was 9 years old. That had a really big influence. South Korean radio, Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Asia (RFA) … we could hear news including news from people who had defected first so we got courage from that and were able to plan our defection strategy.

What was it like to go from a world with very little of today’s modern technology to a world with the Internet and its capabilities to connect you with people and information all over the world?
First it was kind of like arriving in the modern world in a time machine. There were so many things I didn’t know, but as I learnt one thing after another by trying them, that was really fun. Even typing on a computer was really novel and fun at first. It’s been three years, but even now there’s still a lot of new things.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to adjust to?
There were a lot of new culture shocks to get used to and understand, for instance toilets and ATMs, and using an electronic card to ride the subway… Escalators, elevators, all of those things. haha. And in South Korea they use a lot of “Konglish,” or borrowed words, so I had to get used to that.

In North Korea, I never saw a sit-down toilet. We always used squat toilets. So when I first saw a sit-down toilet when I was in China, I didn’t know what to do. I actually climbed up and used it as if it was a squat toilet.

When I was in the South Korean National Intelligence Service debriefing facility [that all NKorean defectors go through] the South Korean officials used to plead with the defectors not to climb up on the toilet seat, but many defectors still wanted to because they felt they couldn’t go to the toilet otherwise! hahaha

If you ask any North Korean defector, they will also know what you mean if you say “bidet shower.” That’s because we’ve all experienced making the mistake of using a bidet wrong the first time we saw one, and getting water all over ourselves. I did that once too. But now we have a bidet in my house!

There must have been a ton of (obvious) reasons why you defected, but is there anything you miss from North Korea?
There’s lots! First, my friends. My neighbors were like family back home too, so I miss them. Also from my hometown, the air, the water, even the smell of the earth. I miss all of those things.

How are North Korean weddings celebrated?
North Korean women really want to enjoy romance. In North Korea we wear traditional Korean-style clothes for wedding dresses (joseon-ot, or hanbok in South Korea), but more recently because of the effects of foreign media, some North Korean women want to wear a white wedding dress at their wedding! But that has not been possible in North Korea yet. So people are adapting the traditional style wedding dress and making it look more beautiful.

Another thing is that normally the wedding ceremony is done in the house of the groom and the bride, once each. But if it’s too expensive to get all the food for that, then sometimes they combine it and just do it once in one side’s house.

What kind of feelings did you have when you arrived in South Korea and saw the quality of life that many people have? How did you adjust to this?
When I got here I felt like South Koreans could eat the kind of food that North Koreans eat on special occasions every day. Most ordinary North Koreans eat “corn-rice” as their staple food, but that is rough. But on special days like Kim Il-sung’s birthday some people can eat white rice. In fact some people can’t even eat white rice on those special days. But in South Korea, even homeless people eat white rice!

As for how I adjusted … well it tastes pretty good, so I’m adjusting well! Even though sometimes I miss North Korean food too …

Do the people of North Korea really believe that Kim Jong-il and his father and grandfather actually have superhuman powers or do they just say they do out of fear?
I think that people believe it kind of like people believe in the bible. Well, that’s the case for children. But when you grow up, you realize those stories do not make sense, but you still have to memorize it well for the school tests in order to graduate from school well. More recently, amongst close friends, people will complain that this kind of ideological education will not actually help you in your life. I felt like that too.

Many people who travel to North Korea as tourists believe that, by engaging with North Koreans, they are able to humanize foreigners and perhaps help change North Korean’s minds about them. However, others believe tourism there is wrong because much of the money goes to support an oppressive government. In your opinion, do you think that tourism in North Korea is a positive force or a negative one?
Firstly, I think if there are chances for North Korean citizens to meet foreigners then tourism can be a good thing. This is because North Koreans are curious about foreigners, and if they can interact then they can feel more friendly towards them, and see them as normal humans. However I’m also personally not comfortable with the North Korean government making foreign currency from it. So there are pros and cons. So, I hope that if people are visiting North Korea and paying their way, then maybe they can make more requests to the government and see more than just the ‘good course’ around Pyongyang and so on.

Image via LINK

The Interview

FIRST LOOK: James Franco and Seth Rogen To Assassinate Kim Jong-un in ‘The Interview’

by JAMES S. KIM

James Franco and Seth Rogen are sent to North Korea to kill Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park. Wait, what?

That’s the premise of The Interview, an action comedy coming this fall from the people who brought you Neighbors and This is The End.

In the film, talk show host Dave Skylark (Franco) and his producer, Aaron Rapoport (Rogen), are somehow able to nail an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), whom they discover is a fan of their celebrity tabloid show Skylark Tonight. In order to legitimize themselves as journalists, they jump at the chance.

Their plans get turned upside down, however, when the CIA recruits them to kill the leader. As it turns out, the two of them turn out to be maybe the least-qualified men imaginable.

The Interview, written and directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is set to release on October 10. Check out the teaser trailer below: