Tag Archives: North Korea

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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

NKorean Building Collapses, Death Toll Believed To Be In The Hundreds

Hundreds of North Koreans may have died in a building accident after a 23-story apartment complex housing reportedly collapsed on May 13 due to slipshod construction.

North Korean officials issued an apology Sunday via the state-run Korean Central News Agency, taking responsibility for the collapse of the building in Pyongyang. An apology is extremely rare for the hermit nation which has total control over the information that’s available to its citizens, most of whom have no access to the internet.

KCNA, which virtually operates for the sole purpose of glorifying the communist regime, expressed its “profound consolation” for the tragedy and also heavily criticized Choe Pu Il, the minister of people’s security. The agency called Choe “can never be pardoned” for his crime and added that the country’s leader Kim Jong Un “sat up all night” in grief.

Although no photos of the accident site were published, Sunday’s newspaper showed an official bowing to a crowd of people in apology.

Attributing an anonymous report, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the collapsed apartment complex wasn’t complete, but that it is not unusual in North Korea for people to move into a building while construction is underway.

North Korea didn’t issue a death toll, but because North Koreans generally have families of four and 92 families reportedly resided in the building, hundreds are believed to have died in the accident. An “intensive” rescue operation was launched after the accident, which ended Saturday, according to the North.

Those who defected North Korea in recent years say that construction accidents aren’t uncommon in labor sites located outside Pyongyang, but a collapse of a residential complex in the capital city is rare. Pyongyang is available exclusively to the country’s “loyal” class as its limited resources are pulled to decorate the city as the showpiece of the communist regime.

The recent tragedy in Pyongyang occurred while North Korea has been criticizing South Korea for its response to a capsized ferry which contained more than 300 people who are either confirmed dead or still missing.

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Dennis Rodman Says NKorean Leader’s Uncle Is Still Alive

Photo by Alexander F. Yuan/AP

Eccentric former basketball star Dennis Rodman says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man and uncle, who was reportedly executed, is still alive.

In an interview with fashion and culture magazine DuJour, Rodman said that Kim didn’t execute his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and that he even met him during his latest trip to the communist country in January. North Korea’s state-run media confirmed last December that Jang was executed for his “anti-state acts.”

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“You could say anything here about North Korea and people would believe it,” Rodman said. “The last time I went there, when they said they killed his girlfriend, they killed his uncle, they just fed him to the dogs … They were standing right behind me.”

 

When asked to clarify, Rodman repeated, “He was standing right there.”

The 52-year-old developed a friendship with Kim when he first visited Pyongyang last year. He has made several trips to the secretive state since and even took a group of retired NBA players there. They hosted an exhibition game earlier this year for Kim’s birthday. Rodman even sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim.

Kim reportedly became an avid fan of basketball and the Chicago Bulls as he grew up watching Rodman win three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s when he was studying abroad in Switzerland.

Rodman added that the North Korean leader, whom he calls his “lifelong friend,” is eager to speak to U.S. President Barack Obama and that he “loves Americans.”

“He really, really wants to talk to Obama. He can’t say it enough,” Rodman said. “He’s saying that he doesn’t want to bomb anybody. He said, ‘I don’t want to kill Americans.’ He loves Americans.”

This isn’t the first time Rodman stirred controversy with an unexpected comment about North Korea. In January, he told CNN that North Korea shouldn’t be blamed for detaining Kenneth Bae, a Korean American man who has been imprisoned in the country for over a year.

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North Korea Unveils No. 2 Man To Replace Leader’s Executed Uncle

North Korea has named Hwang Pyong-so as the de facto No. 2 man in charge and replacement for leader Kim Jong-un’s executed uncle, Jang Song-thaek who was purged last December.

KCNA, North Korea’s state-run media, reported that Hwang is the newly appointed head of the army’s political department and will serve as the second-in-command in North Korea after Kim.

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It was previously believed that Choe Ryong-hae, not Hwang, would assume the role of the communist regime’s unofficial No. 2 after he became the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission following the execution of Jang, who was once a political mentor of Kim Jong-un.

However, Choe disappeared from public sight in recent months, which prompted rumors that he has lost his trust of the leader. But KCNA reported he is suffering from serious health problems.

Just days before the newly announced appointment, Hwang was promoted to the rank of vice marshal, a rank shared with Choe and four others.

Hwang’s appointment is the latest in an ongoing leadership reshuffling in North Korea. In February, North Korea promoted a number of key military officials, including the chief of its rocket unit, a department that oversees and operates the country’s missile program.

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