Tag Archives: North Korea

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Another American Tourist Detained In North Korea

by STEVE HAN

(Photo via Reuters)

North Korea’a state-run media announced Friday that it has detained an American tourist and is investigating him for unspecified acts, the New York Times reported.

The Times identified the detainee as Jeffrey Edward Fowle, who reportedly entered the country on April 29 and, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, “perpetrated activities that violated the laws of our republic, which did not fit his stated purpose of visiting our republic as a tourist.” Fowle is the third U.S. citizen being held in the isolated country.

Japan’s Kyodo News Agency said Fowle was part of a tour group and was arrested in mid-May as he was about to leave the country.

U.S. officials are said to be communicating with the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang. The European nation acts as a liaison in these cases because Washington has no official diplomatic ties with the totalitarian regime.

Korean American missionary Kenneth Bae remains in North Korea after 19 months. Pyongyang accused him of attempting to overthrow the government with his religious activities in the country and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor, despite his serious health issues. “Kenneth Bae must not be forgotten,” the Seattle Times recently wrote in an editorial. Bae is a former Washington resident.

Robert King, Washington’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, had two planned trips to meet with North Korean officials over Bae’s case, but Pyongyang canceled both times.

Also still in North Korean custody is Matthew Todd Miller, who was detained in April for what the government deemed improper behavior. While entering North Korea on a tourist visa, Miller reportedly ripped his passport into pieces at the airport and sought political asylum there.

Last year, another American tourist, Merrill E. Newman, a Korean War veteran, was held for a month by the North because of his “war crimes.” The 85-year-old was released, however, because of his age, North Korean officials said.

The U.S. State Department has warned its citizens not to travel to North Korea due to “the risk of arbitrary detention or arrest.” The advisory also says not to “assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrests or detention by North Korean authorities.”

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On Children’s Day, NKorean Kids Shot Arrows At Pictures Of President Obama

by JAMES S. KIM

Children’s Day is celebrated all around the world, even in North Korea. Of course, it wouldn’t be a DPRK holiday without some sort of twist to it.

One of the many activities planned for children this past Sunday included shooting arrows at crudely drawn pictures of Barack Obama, as well as what looks like a horrendous depiction of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the background.

None of this is particularly shocking. North Korea’s official news agency called President Obama “juvenile and delinquent,” as well as a “clown,” “dirty fellow” and “a crossbreed with unclear blood.” As for President Park, they’ve called her “a dirty comfort woman for the U.S.” and a “despicable prostitute.”  Children also reportedly attack dolls that look like American soldiers for fun.

Photos by Kim Kwang Hyon/Associated Press

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Jesse Jackson: “We Need To Remember Kenneth Bae”

by STEVE HAN

Amid the rising tension between the two Koreas, Rev. Jesse Jackson is reminding those caught up in the political tug-of-war to not forget Kenneth Bae, who has been detained in North Korea for 18 months and has serious health issues.

In his column for the Huffington Post, Jackson wrote, “Rather than mediation, there is mutual agitation and antagonism … The Korean peninsula remains the only part of the world still divided as a result of post WWII agreements.”

Jackson, who created the “Rainbow Coalition” of minority groups which includes Asian Americans, is best known for being the progressive voice for racial minorities. He stressed that Americans should continue to fight for the release of Korean American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in North Korea almost two years ago for allegedly trying to overthrow its totalitarian government after entering the country as a tourist.

The 72-year-old continued in his column: “In the meantime, an ill man languishes in a North Korean prison … Kenneth Bae has been in prison for 18 months with poor health and in need of medical attention.”

Last year, Bae was placed in a hospital due to deteriorating health, but North Korean authorities put him back in a hard labor prison camp this past January. North Korea has continuously rejected demands from the U.S. government and Bae’s family to free him, even though officials recently released a 75-year-old Australian missionary, John Short, who was arrested in March.

“It is difficult to travel into North Korea and many people are unable to visit whenever they wish,” Jackson wrote. “In addition to limited access, North Korea does not welcome journalists as freely as other countries and as a result it has become a challenge for the rest of the world to follow the shifting rules and regulations within the region.”

Bae’s son, Jonathan Bae, has started a petition to free his father from North Korea. There is also a Facebook page asking for his release.

“When the lights go off, people suffer in silence. This is a when evil grows … We need to remember that Kenneth Bae’s life is precious and important. His health is precarious and we must seek his release on humanitarian grounds. When one Asian American family hurts, we all hurt.”

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NKorea Sentences SKorean Man To Life Of Hard Labor

by STEVE HAN

North Korea has sentenced a South Korean man to life of hard labor for committing “hostile acts” against its people, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Kim Jeong-uk reportedly “repented his crimes” after attempting to set up an underground church inside the country. North Korea’s Supreme Court charged Kim with state subversion, anti-state propaganda, agitation and illegal entry into the border.

South Korean officials remain skeptical with North Korea’s ruling on Kim’s alleged crimes as the country has a track record of pushing detainees to make false confessions.

“North Korea did not respond at all to our request for the family and the legal counsel to access Kim,” the South Korean Unification Ministry spokesperson Kim Eui-do said.

Kim was reportedly arrested last October in North Korea. In February, he appeared before foreign journalists in Pyongyang and apologized for his “anti-state” activities.

Speaking to foreign media, Kim said he worked for years as a Christian missionary on the Chinese side of the border of North Korea while running a church for North Korean converts. Independent religious activities are illegal in North Korea because its totalitarian government considers religion a political threat.

A Korean American missionary Kenneth Bae, 46, is also held captive in North Korea after getting arrested in November of 2012. North Korea sentenced him to hard labor last May for attempting to overthrow the North Korean government by bringing religious activities into the country.

North Korea also detained a 75-year-old Australian missionary named John Short in February for “secretly spreading his Bible tracts around a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang.” Unlike Bae and Kim, Short was released after issuing a public apology.

Image courtesy of CNN: A North Korean soldier looking through binoculars inside a sentry post near Yalu River, which separates the North Korean town of Sinuiju from the Chinese border town of Dandong.

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NKorea to Reopen Investigation on Japanese Abductees

by RUTH KIM

Twelve years after admitting to the abduction of 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and ’80s, North Korea is reportedly reopening a previously hampered investigation into the fates of the abductees.

“As a result of the Japan-North Korea talks, the North Korean side promised … that it will make a comprehensive and overall investigation into all the Japanese, including abduction victims and missing people whose possibility of being abducted cannot be ruled out,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The two countries’ officials recently held talks in Stockholm. Abe called North Korea’s move the “first step” toward resolving the issue of the abductions, an affair that is not only a distressing subject to Japanese citizens but also a key factor in Japan’s political relations with North Korea.

In response to North Korea’s willingness to reopen the investigation, Japan plans to lift bilateral sanctions against the regime. After the special investigation committee is assembled and set up, Japan agreed to consider giving humanitarian aid to the secluded country “at an appropriate time,” according to the Korea Herald.

Tension has built up for years over this contentious, unresolved issue. Thirteen Japanese citizens were allegedly abducted by North Korean agents between 1970 and 1980, supposedly kidnapped in order to “school North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs, so the agents could more easily slip into Japanese society.” In 2002, five of the abductees and their children were allowed to return to Japan. North Korea stated that the other eight abductees had died of illnesses or natural causes, a claim, without any evidence provided and one that the Japanese refuse to believe as truth. And, although Pyongyang admitted to the abduction of 13 Japanese nationals, Japan maintains that there was a larger number of people that went missing during that time.

The most well-known profile of the eight abductees who allegedly died in North Korea is Megumi Yokota. She was only 13 years old when she was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1977. While in North Korea, Yokota supposedly married a South Korean abductee with whom she had a daughter; however, she allegedly hanged herself shortly after in 1994, according to North Korean officials.

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Inconsistency and perhaps blatant fabrication on North Korea’s part also add insult to injury. North Korea sent to Japan what was claimed to be Yokota’s cremated remains, but several DNA tests revealed that the remains contained another person’s DNA. Inconsistencies were also found in her death certificate, which first stated that the year of her death was 1993, which was then changed to 1994, after Japanese media reported that she was still alive in 1993.

A website titled “Abductions of Japanese Citizens by North Korea” lists a record of “points of contention with the North Korean position.” The website states that there have been “no ‘remains’ of the victims”, “no genuine documents” that prove the abductees’ deaths, and that North Korean explanations of the deaths are “unnatural,” “ambiguous” and contradictory.

The website further voiced, “Until this issue is resolved, there can be no normalization of relations with North Korea.” Prime Minister Abe also expressed a resolve to get to the bottom of the issue. “Our job will not end until every parent can embrace their children with their own arms,” he said. “We have tackled the problem with this determination and we hope that this will be the first step towards an overall solution.”

Photos via AP Yonhap and ReACHdc.net

 

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Tuesday’s Links: NKorea Building Disaster; New SKorean PM; Dan Matthews at UW

North Korea building disaster reveals regime vulnerability
Japan Times

It may have taken the collapse of an apartment block in an exclusive district of the North Korean capital to reveal the Achilles heel of young leader Kim Jong Un’s secretive regime.

Last week’s accident killed the families of people important enough for North Korea to issue an obsequious and unprecedented public apology in a bid to quell public anger, some analysts said.

The 23-story building in Phyongchon, central Pyongyang, was part of a construction boom driven by Kim that includes apartment blocks, roads, bridges and the Masik Ski Resort that has become synonymous with his policy of finishing projects at lightning speed.

Fire At South Korean Bus Terminal Kills 6
Associated Press

A fire in a construction area at a bus terminal near Seoul killed six people and injured 38 on Monday, emergency officials said.

The fire was suspected to have started during welding work in the basement of the building in Goyang city, just north of Seoul, said Ha Jong-keun, an official at an emergency office in Gyeonggi Province which governs the city.

The terminal building also has a multiplex movie theater and a shopping mall, but witnesses told local media that not many people were at the scene at the time of the fire, reported about 9 a.m. Ha said the fire was put out in 20 minutes.

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Ferry disaster overshadows South Korean elections
Yahoo News

South Korea’s opposition parties are expected to reap an election bonanza from seething public anger over the government’s mishandling of the ferry disaster as campaigning for next month’s local polls opened on Thursday.

The June 4 polls are the first nationwide elections since President Park Geun-Hye took office 16 months earlier and are widely seen as a referendum on her performance.

Prior to the April 16 ferry disaster which left more than 300 dead and missing, the elections were seen as a walkover for her ruling Saenuri Party as many middle-of-road voters threw their weight behind the conservative party on hopes it would improve the sluggish economy.

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Can new PM give Pres. Park a way out of the Sewol crisis?
The Hankyoreh

President Park Geun-hye’s nomination of former Supreme Court Justice Ahn Dae-hee for Prime Minister on May 22 is raising questions about whether the choice can save her and the ruling Saenuri Party from the crisis over the response to last month’s Sewol ferry sinking.

Ahn himself is seen by many as a potential rudder for the “human reforms” Park has declared, and a key presence for spearheading a future drive to reform government.

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What Korea can learn from Japan’s lost decade
The Korea Herald

South Korea can avoid possible economic risks by seeking to gradually transform its economy through structural reforms, rather than depending solely on monetary policies, according to a senior Japanese economist.

Such is the lesson that Korea can learn from Japan, despite their complicated historical ties, said Naoyuki Yoshino, professor of economics at Keio University, in a recent telephone interview with The Korea Herald.

“Korea can learn from Japan’s mistakes in the past,” he said from Tokyo, where he now heads the Asian Development Bank Institute, a policy-oriented think tank focused on development issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Japan contacted by North Korea’s secret police before Stockholm summit
Japan Daily Press

As Japan and North Korea prepares for their second bilateral talks in 16 months, it was reported that the communist state’s intelligence agency has already reached out to Japan. The move by the State Security Department to contact Japan is welcomed as a sign of its country’s willingness to reopen the investigation on abducted Japanese nationals decades ago.

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Keeping (And Losing) Faith, The Asian American Way
AAPI Voices

Are Asian Americans in a state of religious confusion? And are Asian American Protestants fleeing their religion?

Consider the example of Lisa, a 20-year old second-generation Vietnamese American from Houston: “I really don’t think I have a religious preference,” she says “I believe that someone is up there, and I’m pretty much screwed up in the head,” she continued with a laugh. “You know ‘cuz I went to Catholic school until I was in 8th grade, and when my parents got divorced I went to [Buddhist] temple for like about 5 or 6 years. So I got the aspects of both religions, and I think that both of them have good aspects, and both of them have bad aspects. And I do what [my parents] ask me to do, but in my own mind I really don’t have like a set religion y’know?”

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Farmed Out
The Economist

IN THE mid-1990s posters plastered on the subway in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, exhorted local girls to marry farmers. Young women had left their villages in droves since the 1960s for a better life in the booming city. Sons, however, stayed behind to tend family farms and fisheries.

The campaign was futile. Last year over a fifth of South Korean farmers and fishermen who tied the knot did so with a foreigner. The province of South Jeolla has the highest concentration of international marriages in the country—half of those getting married at the peak a decade ago. In those days, the business of broking unions with Chinese or South-East Asian women boomed, with matches made in the space of a few days. Not long ago placards in the provinces sang the praises of Vietnamese wives “who never run away”. Now, on the Seoul subway, banners encourage acceptance of multicultural families.

Adam Carolla, Has-Been Comedian, Says Asians (And “Chicks”) Aren’t Funny
Dame Magazine

“Where are the Asian comedians? Maybe there just aren’t any!” said comedian Adam Carolla, formerly of The Man Show, in a recent interview with Salon. In Carolla’s America, humorless Asians nonetheless “beat the rigged system” and now “pass white people” in every other area of life except comedy. Which they have no business trying. Because, you know: unfunny.

“How did Asians pass white people? They got lucky?” he told Salon’s Daniel D’Addario, in an interview in which he also bemoaned “the gay mafia.” Carolla added, “I would go ahead and say: The Asians beat the rigged system and did better than white people. You don’t think that’d be something to look into? Do you think we decided to rig the system against certain ethnicities?”

Food truck king Roy Choi adds authentic flavor to ‘Chef’ film
The Salt Lake Tribune

If you’re going to make a movie about a food truck, then it makes sense to hire Los Angeles chef Roy Choi as your technical consultant.

Choi, 44, became king of the food truck world after launching his Kogi food truck, which fused Korean BBQ and Mexican flavors and created LA’s mobile food craze.

That’s why writer/director Jon Favreau called on Choi to help him with “Chef,” the story of Carl Casper (played by Favreau), who rediscovers his passion for food — and life — when he launches a food truck. (See review on XX).

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Daily life in North Korea
Al Jazeera

There is a popular saying, “Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance”. This oft-quoted statement might sound lofty and uplifting, but, alas, it is patently false. As experience of the 20th century politics demonstrates well, it is quite possible to organise a state in a way that precludes the existence of any visible resistance – at least, for a long, long time.

A good example of such a resistance-less regime is the Soviet Union at the height of Joseph Stalin’s rule, from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. While the government was highly repressive and executed about one million real and alleged political criminals (not including the many who perished in prison camps), the Soviet Union of this period saw no organised resistance to speak of – the uprising of the national minorities on the distant periphery was the only exception. Many were unhappy, but they were seldom willing to express their hostile attitude to the state.

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Korean American adoptee shares his journey with UW students
The Daily (University of Washington)

Dan Matthews, a Los Angeles-based rapper, visited the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Theatre (ECT) on Thursday. Matthews promoted his documentary about meeting his biological family in Korea, and performed for the UW students afterward.

The documentary, titled “aka DAN,” chronicles how Matthews’ pursuit for identity as an Asian American adoptee led to his music career and search for his biological parents.

“Although the documentary is a story about adoption, it also focuses on the meaning of family. You don’t need to be a Korean adoptee to understand or relate to the story,” Matthews said.

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The History Behind Korea’s Secret Gold Temple
Medium.com

Working in South Korea, I am not only lucky enough to fly over to neighboring countries like Japan and Taiwan without crossing hemispheres, but also able to compare heritage between the countries of East Asia, especially with regards to that of my new home on the peninsula. When travelling in the Kansai region of Japan for example, I was struck most by colours — the orange hue of Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) in Kyoto, the gold sheen of Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), and often wondered back to the red and green temples I’d see on a regular basis in and out of Seoul. Perhaps most temples in Japan look the same too, so the ones that stood out in Kansai were those different to the island nation’s usual brown and white style. These were the famous ones that drew in the tourists.

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North and South Korea Exchange Fire Near Yeongpyeong Island (Again)

by Steve Han

North Korean artillery fired two shots toward a South Korean navy patrol ship south of the two Koreas’ disputed maritime border on Thursday, but missed the vessel, according to a South Korean military official.

In response, South Korea fired back at the North Korean naval vessel five times, said the official. There were no known injuries from the exchange of fire.

The attacks occurred near Yeongpyeong-do, the island North Korea shelled in 2010. Four South Koreans were killed in the incident. This time, residents of the island evacuated to bomb shelters. No further firing took place after the initial exchange, South Korean officials said.

The so-called Northern Limit Line, the disputed waters off of the Korean peninsula’s western coast, was drawn up after the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953. For decades, both Koreas claimed the area by launching attacks across the border.

North Korea issued a warning earlier in the day, saying it will “blow up” South Korean ships after the South fired warning shots at North’s patrol boats for breaching the border a few days ago. The North accused the South of “a grave provocation.”

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Steven Yeun To Adapt And Star In ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang’

by RUTH KIM

In addition to killing off zombies in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead, actor Steven Yeun will take on a new role as North Korea defector Kang Chol-Hwan in a film adaptation of The Aquariums of Pyongyang.

Teaming up with Radar Pictures, Yeun will also executive produce the film, collaborating with producers Ted Field, Mike Weber, and Michael Napoliello, in partnership with Sean Lee, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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Based on true events, The Aquariums of Pyongyang is Kang Chol-Hwan’s memoir. It was originally published in French in 2000, and later translated to English and Korean. Set in North Korea during the Korean War, Aquariums illustrates the stark contrast between the right-wing government of the South and the extreme communist stronghold of the North Korean powers. The story details the lives of Kang and his family members, suspected to be dissidents during their imprisonment at the Yodok concentration camp #2915. Over a period of 10 years, they suffered through starvation, torture, disease and public execution.

Kang’s memoir is one of the first published accounts that reveal the harsh reality of the North Korean prison system. Blending elements of horror, history, narrative, and politics, Aquariums reveals mankind’s resolve to triumph over unimaginable hardships.

Aside from Aquariums, Yeun has other projects in the works, including a role in I Origins and working as the lead voice over in the animated adaptation of Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory.

Photo via The Hollywood Reporter