Showing posts with label North Korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label North Korea. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

North Korea: Belligerence vs 'Smart Policy'

The following article is an expanded version of
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 248| Wed 19 Feb 2014


NORTH KOREA: BELLIGERENCE VS 'SMART POLICY'
By Elizabeth Kendal

UN Commission of Inquiry Report Confirms Horrific Abuses

On 21 March 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed Resolution A/HRC/RES/22/13 which established the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).  The Resolution gave the Commission a 12 month mandate to investigate systematic and widespread human rights abuses in North Korea. North Korean Ambassador So Se Pyong denounced the Resolution as "an instrument that serves the political purposes of the hostile forces in their attempt to discredit the image of the DPRK," adding, "those human rights abuses mentioned in the resolution do not exist in our country".

The Commission of Inquiry's report was released on 17 Feb. It documents "a wide array of crimes against humanity" and details "unspeakable atrocities" to conclude: "The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world." As noted in the report: "The State considers the spread of Christianity a particularly serious threat, since it challenges ideologically the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State. Apart from the few organized State-controlled churches, Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted. People caught practising Christianity are subject to severe punishments . . ." (article 31)

Office of the High Commission on Human Rights Press release
North Korea: UN Commission documents wide-ranging and ongoing crimes against humanity, urges referral to ICC (17 Feb 2014)

Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

MANAGING INSTABILITY
-- North Korea balancing reform and risk


The UN Commission of Inquiry report also remarked on what is without a doubt the key dynamic of North Korea today: "Strengthening market forces and advancements in information technology have allowed greater access to information from outside the country as information and media from the Republic of Korea and China increasingly enter the country. The State’s monopoly on information is therefore being challenged by the increasing flow of outside information into the country and the ensuing curiosity of the people for "truths" other than those provided by State propaganda. Authorities seek to preserve their monopoly on information by carrying out regular crackdowns and enforcing harsh punishments". (article 30)

The Kim Jong-un era

Groomed to rule, Kim Jong-un assumed power after his father (the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il) died in Dec 2011. At his father's funeral, Kim Jong-un accompanied his father's casket along with the 'Gang of Seven' -- an inner circle of elites tasked with guiding and mentoring the young ruler.

By the end of 2013, four of the seven had been purged -- including Kim Jong-un's hugely influential uncle, Jang Song-taek -- and one had been demoted. Kim Jong-un is consolidating power and establishing a new order that he hopes will provide him with a better chance of holding on to power through the challenging times ahead. According to analysts, 'the upper ranks of North Korean leadership are now sprinkled with people who hold a known interest in reform'.

Kim (who did his secondary schooling in Switzerland) and his younger clique know that the information seeping in will generate anger and dissent as North Korea's impoverished masses become aware of their plight relative to the outside world. So, in a race against time, the regime is implementing agricultural and economic reforms designed to raise the living standards of ordinary Koreans. The regime is also easing the way for foreign investment and undertaking major infrastructure projects -- highways, theme parks and resorts -- designed to make North Korea more attractive to North Koreans as well as to tourists.

Reforms

In line with the June 28 [2012] New Economic Management Measures, known informally as the "6.28 Policy", agricultural production units may be reduced to between 4-6 people (i.e. family-sized). While set quotas are still in place, the state now takes 70 percent of the quota (rather than 100 percent for central redistribution - military first). The remaining 30 percent is left for the family who are free do with it whatever they wish: eat, trade, store etc. Furthermore, if the family produces more than the quota, they also get to keep the surplus. This actually reverses Kim Jong-il's Songun (military first) policy.

North Korea Pushes Ahead on Agricultural Reforms,
The Diplomat, 17 May 2013

North Korea making visible progress towards reforms.
Institute for Far Eastern Studies, 7 June 2013

Building

". . . to build foreign investor trust, the country has considered allowing 'international law supersede domestic North Korean law regarding investments' . . ."

INSIGHT-Kim Jong Un, North Korea's master builder
Reuters, 23 Nov 2013

Mounting Problems (The Masikryong Ski Resort)
The Economist, 14 Feb 2014 
see also: NK Economy Watch

Recommended articles:

Kim Jong-Un dismisses powerbroker uncle as North Korea inches toward reform
Nathan Vanderklippe in BEIJING, The Globe and Mail, 3 Dec 2013

Kim purges for a new economic dawn
By Sascha Matuszak, 10 Jan 2014

North Korea’s rolling economic reforms
By Ruediger Frank, University of Vienna, 24 September 2013
Excerpts:
Now comes the tough part: finding ways to foster economic development while maintaining the stability of the political system. Reform is the only option for Kim Jong-un, but implementation will not be easy, because he must accomplish many tasks simultaneously. . .

Like painting a masterpiece, reforming North Korea may seem easy in theory but it will be highly complex in reality. Thus, a smart policy by the international community is needed. The obvious strategy for Seoul would be to support positive trends by expanding trade and investment. The many negative and frustrating experiences of the past should be a lesson not to expect (or promise) too much too soon. Transforming a systemically failed socialist economy has never been easy, in particular if it is supposed to take place gradually. Reconciling two parts of a nation that once fought a bloody civil war and have lived separately for almost 70 years is a gigantic task. Accepting that successful reform means prolonging the current regime is a bitter pill for many, but what are the alternatives?


The above paragraph by Frank addresses the very heart of the matter: how to move forward. As Frank states, transforming North Korea is going to be a highly complex and exceedingly delicate operation for which "smart policy" and great patience will be required. The regime will be constantly balancing reform and risk.

Frank's closing sentence is key: "Accepting that successful reform means prolonging the current regime is a bitter pill for many, but what are the alternatives?"

I have long maintained "that an all-round positive outcome for North Korea (reform without bloodshed) can only be achieved through gradual openness alongside a strategy for maintaining stability" (RLM Aug 2007). As unpalatable as this "bitter pill" may be, the alternatives are a return to isolation with unprecedented repression OR a descent in civil war and massive bloodshed.

As one who has been monitoring religious liberty in North Korea for over 15 years now, the current situation leaves me with a strong sense as déjà-vu. What can we learn from history?

Kim Jong-il era

In 2002, Kim Jong-il enacted economic reforms, moving North Korea towards a free-market economy. [Actually, the markets had risen during the famine as people sought means to survive. When Kim Jong-il endorsing them in 2002, he was merely endorsing a trend he could not stop.] Knowing the risks attached to any degree of openness, the regime simultaneously amended the criminal code to stiffen penalties for anti-State crimes. This strongly resembles today's situation.

However, once the darkness is breached, the situation can quickly become very difficult to control. By 2004 the regime was looking for ways to turn the clock back.

See: North Korea's balancing act.
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 16 December 2004
Excerpt
Paik Hak-soon, director of North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, told the Korea Times [8 Dec 2004] that, "Kim Jong-il is now trying to prevent social problems from drastically undermining his regime."

The free-market reforms have also brought many North Korean traders into contact with the outside world. As noted in a recent Washington Post (WP) article entitled, "For North Korea, Openness Proves a Two-Way Street" (13 Dec 2004), "...diplomats, analysts, intelligence sources and recent defectors say that the once airtight lid on information in what is known as the Hermit Kingdom is gradually loosening."

The WP article states, "Asian intelligence sources estimate that as many as 20,000 North Koreans -- particularly those trading in the newly thriving border area with China -- now have access to Chinese cellular phones, from which they can make undetected international calls in large areas of northern North Korea." Also, at the new Kaesong Industrial Park near the border with South Korea, and the tourist resort at Mount Kumgang, South Korean firms are directly employing and paying North Korean workers for the first time.

The WP quotes Sohn Kwang Joo, managing editor of the North Korea Daily (a Seoul-based website) as saying, "North Korean people and the elite bureaucrats all want more reform. But the faster the doors open, the more vulnerable becomes Kim Jong Il's tight grip of the nation. Kim Jong Il will therefore try to control and limit the opening. But as more people cross in and out of the border, there are more mobile phones, and more flows of information, the North Korean people will begin to realize the truth about Kim Jong Il." . . .


The years of reform and gradual openness had yielded several positive changes, including: family reunions, the move to a market economy, cross-border trade with China, trains crossing through the demilitarised zone, the opening of Kaesong Industrial Park enabling economic cooperation with South Korea, and the establishment of the Christian-funded, English-language, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

See: North Korea: Changes
". . . though your footsteps were not seen".
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 24 August 2007

However, by the end of 2008, it was all over. All positive steps had been reversed and North Korea had returned to isolation. For Kim Jong-il, reform had proved too difficult, too threatening. Things had changed and the risks had begun to out-weigh the benefits.

Lankov concluded: "It seems that North Korean leaders believe that their system cannot survive major liberalisation. They might be correct in the pessimism. . . . Were North Korea to reform, the disparities with South Korea [a rich and free country that speaks the same language and shares the same culture -- i.e. is not 'foreign'] would become only starker to its population. This might produce a grave political crisis, so the North Korean government seemingly believes that in order to stay in control it should avoid tampering with the system. Maintaining the information blockade is of special importance, since access to the overseas information might easily show the North Koreans both the backwardness of their country and the ineptitude of their government."

See: North Korea returns to isolation
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 2 December 2008

BELLIGERENCE VS "SMART POLICY"

There is no doubt in my mind that the US North Korea Human Rights Act (Oct 2004) -- signed into law by President G.W. Bush -- directly contributed to North Korea's return to isolation. The law, which was  effective from 2005 to 2008, granted $2 million a year to pro-democracy and human rights groups actively working to undermine the regime.

I wrote at the time: "The North Korean Human Rights Acts is wonderful in principle. . . [But] the implementation of the Act will need to be as sensitive as the defusing of a bomb. . . [For] an all-round positive outcome for North Korea (reform without bloodshed) can only be achieved through gradual openness alongside a strategy for maintaining stability."

Kathi Zellweger of the Catholic aid organisation Caritas shared my concerns: "Regime change is what some groups of people hope for. But I believe what is happening is that very slowly the nature of the regime is changing, albeit at a very slow pace." Zellweger expressed the widely-held fear that the North Korea Human Rights Acts would lead to a tightening of the government's control of the people and of NGOs.

And indeed it did. Though "wonderful in principle" the NKHR Act (2004) might not have been "smart policy", for it caused risk to elevate to the point that Kim Jong-il's only option -- as a survivor -- was a return to isolation, centralisation and severe repression.

See: Reforming North Korea.
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 19 November 2004

In the above Nov 2004 posting I suggested the following: "Those things Kim jong-Il desires most of all, survival and prestige, appear to be on shaky ground . . . Maybe this is the biggest bargaining chip of all. To avoid catastrophe on the Korean Peninsula, would the US be willing to ensure Kim's survival and prestige in exchange for reforms for which Kim would of course take all credit? This would involve great humility on the part of the US. It would involve leaving justice, regarding Kim, in the hands of God. It could only be done by looking past the man, Kim jong-Il, and keeping eyes firmly fixed on the goal: the liberation and reform of North Korea, for the sake of North Korea's suffering and oppressed millions."

Like it or not, the reality is, the UN Commission of Inquiry report (Feb 2014) can only be used as leverage to get prisoners released and human rights improved if the regime is assured it will not be threatened.

So while it is commendable that the UN Commission of Inquiry report is shining a spotlight on the horrific situation inside North Korea, great wisdom -- "smart policy" -- is required. For if the situation is handled belligerently rather than with great care and wisdom -- i.e. if too much pressure is applied or if "hostile forces" use the report to fan the flames of revolution for their own political, economic and geo-strategic ends -- then we could see reforms rolling back and repression escalating to unprecedented levels. Or worse, we could see the State descend into an absolute bloodbath.

END
---------------------------------------

Breaking News:

South Australian man John Short detained in North Korea, now facing 15 years in jail

CRAIG COOK EXCLUSIVE
The Advertiser, February 20, 2014
excerpt
Dr Leonid Petrov, who teaches North Korean political history at the Australian National University in Canberra, said Mr Short’s situation “could be complicated” by the release of a UN report on Monday detailing regime crimes against humanity. . .

“If he was found to be networking directly with North Koreans to spread religious material it could be very bad for him and them,” Dr Petrov said.

“For locals, the whole family would be sent to the gulag (forced labour camps) with little chance of ever being released unless they repent (their religious views).

“For the foreigner, they could face a similar sentence to Kenneth Bae of 15 years with 16-hours-a-day hard labour.”

Mr Bae, a South Korean-born US citizen, was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in April last year for attempting to topple the Korean regime.


--------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

North Korea: tensions mount as hunger hits army.

Jiro Ishimaru has been continuously observing food and economic conditions in North Korea for more than 15 years. He regards the present situation as the worst he has seen since the famine of the late 1990s.

Ishimaru organised secret filming of conditions inside North Korea. The footage confirms what we already know: there is poverty, starvation, despair and fear; there are scavenging, homeless, orphans whose parents have died either of starvation or in concentration camps; and work is being done by malnourished slave labourers.

However, the footage also reveals something quite new. Many uniformed soldiers are weak from hunger and malnutrition. This is significant, because if the regime cannot sustain its "military first" policy -- feeding its military to secure its loyalty -- then the regime's grip on power could be tenuous.

As Ishimaru notes: "This footage is important because it shows that Kim Jong-il's regime is growing weak. It used to put the military first, but now it can't even supply food to its soldiers. Rice is being sold in markets but they are starving. This is the most significant thing in this video."

As the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Mark Willacy rightly observes: "Kim Jong-il's grip on power depends on the military and if some of its soldiers have growling, empty bellies that's bad news for the dictator and his hopes for a smooth transition to his son."

See:
North Korea Food Shortage:
Not a matter of absolute shortage, a matter of distribution and access
ISHIMARU Jiro/Chief Editor/Rimjin-gang, 20 June 2011

N Korean children begging, army starving
By North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy, 27 June 2011
includes a slideshow of still images from the footage.

Tensions escalating

Traditionally, whenever North Korea needs aid, it threatens war or acts belligerently and then offers to negotiate. But South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is tired of playing Pyongyang's game.

See:
North Korea threatens 'sacred war' against South
AP, 29 June 2011
AND
South Korea braced for North Korean 'provocation' as tension mounts
South Korean military preparing new rules of engagement for troops as Seoul threatens tough response to any attack.
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, 28 June 2011

The Guardian quotes long-time North Korea analyst Andrei Lankov, a Russian professor at Seoul's Kookmin University, as warning: "We are now in the most dangerous moment in Korean history over the last 25 years," said. "South Korea has already committed itself to a strong reaction to a future North Korean provocation so many times and so loudly that if they don't do it they will lose elections and be shamed.

"So they will probably react. North Korea is not getting what they want [diplomatically] so they will probably use their usual trick of rising escalation. [. . .]

"Both sides are afraid of war and if they see that the probability is real they will go to a lot of highly humiliating concessions to prevent it," Lankov said.

"That is because North Korea knows that it is going to lose, and South Korean knows it is going to win but at a cost that is unacceptable, and it doesn't know what to do if it does win."

Under the Kim regime, hundreds of thousands of Korean Christians suffer the some of the most severe expressions of religious persecution known.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

North Korea: Is Kim Jong-il losing it?

Recommended reading on North Korea:

Is the Dear Leader losing his grip?
By Andrei Lankov
Asia Times 5 March 2010

As Lankov notes: "Contrary to oft-stated accusations, Pyongyang leaders are neither irrational nor ideology-driven; they are a bunch of brilliant Machiavellians, very apt at exploiting the fears and controversies of their enemies and their partners alike."

North Korea has been playing the game brilliantly for a long time: perfectly timed provocations, perfectly timed negotiations, perfectly in control. However, two recent miscalculations, which amount to real strategic errors by the regime, might indicate that it is not business as usual in Pyongyang. In fact, the serious nature of these strategic errors leads Lankov to question whether Kim Jong-il is losing his grip.

"Over the past year or so," writes Lankov, "something strange has begun to happen in Pyongyang. The North Korean leadership has taken some actions that have clearly damaged the interests of the ruling clique. It seems that the once formidable manipulators have for some reason lost their ability to judge and plan."

The two strategic errors in question are: (1) serious miscalculations in Pyongyang's currency reform, which led to unforseen (by the regime) and undesirable results – in particular, massive inflation; (2) serious miscalculations in the recent round of concession-seeking provocations, whereby unusual haste may have caused the plot to backfired and blown Pyongyang's game out of the water, possibly forever (or at least for a while).

Helpful links:
Daily NK
North Korea Economy Watch

------------------------

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 043 | Wed 17 Feb 2010

NORTH KOREA: WORLD'S WORST PERSECUTOR

Tuesday 16 February was North Korean president 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il's birthday. As very little news makes it out of the 'Hermit Kingdom' to 'trigger' a prayer bulletin, we will take this opportunity to focus on the unsurpassed suffering in North Korea. The isolated state follows an ideology known as 'juche' which is essentially Stalinism mixed with the cultic, idolatrous adulation of the 'Eternal (but dead) Leader' Kim il-Sung and his son, the ruling 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il.

Like his father before him, Kim Jong-il has perfected the art of maintaining power. According to a recent report in the Guardian (4 February) up to 40 percent of the State's income is derived from illegal activities such as drug-trafficking, sales of weapons and missile technology, and the production of counterfeit US dollar bills. Much of that income is spent buying the loyalty of party officials and the military. Meanwhile the masses are kept isolated, ignorant, brainwashed, impoverished, dependent, starving, weak and terrorised. So any effort to stir up a popular uprising would be doomed, as those with power have too much to lose and those with everything to gain are powerless.

The State runs a gulag of concentration camps / penal labour colonies. Built according to the Stalinist model and housing some 200,000 prisoners, they rival anything the Soviets or the Nazis ever ran. Christianity is a political crime because it recognises an authority greater than Kim and advocates the worship of Someone other than Kim. Merely possessing a Bible risks public execution. Open Doors estimates that as many as 70,000 Christians may be incarcerated. To ensure that the contaminant of a political criminal is totally expunged, their whole family to three generations will also be incarcerated. Many don't survive more than a few years as prisoners are worked, tortured and starved to death. Prisoners, including family units, are even used as guinea pigs in chemical weapons testing. (Click here for the 2004 BBC documentary on North Korea, Access of Evil)

In 2002 famine, the result of regime mismanagement, led to the spontaneous rise of markets. Whilst illegal, the markets flourished because of corruption. By 2004, the regime had given up trying to control the markets and so it announced it would be moving to a market economy. However, it didn't take them long to realise that the openness and independence that came with market activity could undo decades of myth-making and propaganda. By 2006 the regime was clamping down and re-Stalinising the State, closing markets, shutting down communications and forcing people back into totally unprofitable mines and industries solely for the purpose of control and indoctrination. By 2008 North Korea had returned to deep isolation. Starvation loomed in 2009 and markets sprang up again. So this time they changed the currency. North Korea expert Kim Young Hwan told Daily NK (20 January) that he sees the re-denomination as the regime's attempt to 'deal a blow to people's thinking', lest they think they can act spontaneously, solve their own problems, and not be dependent on Kim Jong-il.

Kim Jong-il is presented to the North Koreans as a divine, Messiah-like figure. Whilst he was actually born in the former Soviet Union in 1941 during his father's exile there, the myth is that he was born in 1942 in a log cabin on the top of North Korea's highest mountain, Mt Paektu, under a double rainbow and a bright star. There is (supposedly) nothing this 1.57m (5ft 3in) god-man cannot do. Though Western media frequently portray Kim as a crazy, vain, spoilt playboy (which he is) he is also an exceptionally cruel, master manipulator who knows exactly what he needs to do to stay in power and is prepared to do it.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the Soviet regime was spread wafer-thin, while the people had been enlightened, strengthened and emboldened through glastnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). In the end, the Wall fell because, due to prayer -- not just circumstances, the Soviets knew it was over and the guns fell silent (no massacre). Pyongyang 2010 is the opposite: the regime is concentrated, fortified and confident, while the people are physically weak and without options or hope. But despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, there can be no doubt that divine power is capable of anything the divine imagination determines. 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.' (Jesus in Luke 18:27 ESV.)


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:
  • God's unrestrained mercy will spill over North Korea, frustrating the wicked (Psalm 146:9b) and delivering the oppressed. (Psalm 40:11-13)

  • Jesus Christ will build (Matthew 16:18) sustain (1 Corinthians 1:8) and perfect (Hebrews 12:2) his Church in North Korea.

On behalf of the Church in North Korea we pray: 'So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.' (Isaiah 37:20) -- the prayer of Hezekiah king of Judah, right before the Lord, in answer to his prayer, defended and saved Jerusalem (v33-37).

---

This RLPB was written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (AEA RLC) by Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate, and a member of the AEA RLC team.

You may receive future weekly issues direct by sending a blank email to join-rlpb@hub.xc.org

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

North Korea returns to isolation

Date: Tuesday 2 December 2008
Subj: North Korea returns to isolation
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


In August 2007 WEA RLC News & Analysis released a posting: "North Korea: ' . . . though your footsteps were not seen' "(LINK 1), which detailed several steps being taken on the path of north-south reconciliation towards re-unification. The purpose of that posting was to bring some positive thinking into a debate often characterised by provocative and belligerent rhetoric.

WEA RLC has long maintained that an all-round positive outcome for North Korea (reform without bloodshed) can only be achieved through gradual openness alongside a strategy for maintaining stability. The State is highly militarised and its civilian population, particularly outside Pyongyang, is terribly weak due to starvation, isolation, brainwashing and repressive State-terror, making it highly unlikely that a "people's revolution" would ever be attempted, or if it were, could ever be successful. WEA RLC therefore viewed every step that increased openness, equity and engagement with the outside world as a positive step towards building a foundation upon which a brighter future could be built.

These positive steps -- such as: proliferation of public markets and cross-border trade; Korean unity under the unification flag at the Olympic Games; the May 2007 opening of the north-south cross-border rail link; and the benefits (both economic and relational) of the Kaesong Industrial Park -- were presented as "'handles' to take hold of in prayer for North Korea".

Sadly, virtually all the positive steps listed in that posting have now been reversed.

In its efforts to regain total control over people's lives (particularly their minds), the regime has been increasingly cracking down on public markets and is attempting to re-Stalinise the state. In August 2008 escalating north-south tensions led to the two Koreas competing in the Beijing Olympics under separate flags. On Monday 1 December 2008, the regime closed the north-south rail link, put an end to South Korean tours to the Mount Kumgang tourist resort, and sent about half the South Korean staff of the Kaesong Industrial Park home to South Korea.

North Korea has returned to isolation.

---------------------------------------

North Korea expert Andrei Lankov explains that North Korea's Stalinist system collapsed during the early 1990s after the fall of Communism in Europe and the break up of the USSR. Not long after North Korea lost its Soviet patron, the state lost its leader when Kim Il-sung died in 1994. The result was "unprecedented social disruption and economic disaster culminating in the Great Famine of 1996-99, with its 1 million dead". (Link 2)

According to Lankov, it was during this time that "all economic activity moved to the booming private markets. . . . The Stalinist system imploded and a new grassroots capitalism took over." The regime, says Lankov, did not approve, but could not control it, especially as high level corruption flourished.

Lankov sees the 2002 policy shift on decriminalising markets, not as a "reform" but as a simple belated tacit approval of something the government could not eradicate. But, he says, by 2004 the regime was beginning to crack down, looking for ways to turn the clock back.

Lankov concludes: "It seems that North Korean leaders believe that their system cannot survive major liberalisation. They might be correct in the pessimism. Their country faces a choice that is unknown to China and Vietnam. . . . It is the existence of South Korea . . . a rich and free country that speaks the same language and shares the same culture" (i.e. it cannot be discounted as "foreign").

Lankov writes: "Were North Korea to reform, the disparities with South Korea would become only starker to its population. This might produce a grave political crisis, so the North Korean government seemingly believes that in order to stay in control it should avoid tampering with the system. Maintaining the information blockade is of special importance, since access to the overseas information might easily show the North Koreans both the backwardness of their country and the ineptitude of their government." As Lankov notes, aid has been used to bolster internal security by feeding the "politically valuable parts of the population -- such as the military or the police".

Lankov regards the real "backward movement" as starting around October 2005 when the regime re-introduced the Public Distribution System and outlawed the sale of grain in the markets. Since December 2007 only women over the age of 50 have been permitted to trade in markets. The men and younger women are being pushed back to the factories -- most of which are unprofitable or dead -- primarily, Lankov says, for the purpose of surveillance, indoctrination and control.

Border security has been stepped up. Venues where information could be exchanged are being raided and closed. There has been a crackdown on mobile phones (Link 3). In September 2007 Daily North Korea reported that a crackdown had been launched to halt the spread of religion amongst North Korean soldiers. (Link 4 - must read!)

The crackdown against the Kaesong Industrial Park is tragic. Kaesong Industrial Park -- which opened in Kaesong, North Korea, in December 2004 -- housed 88 South Korean firms and provided jobs for some 35,000 North Koreans.

Tensions escalated in mid-October around a month after rumours started to circulate about Kim Jong-Il's health (i.e., that he has suffered a stroke: Link 5). The regime in the north complained to the government in the south about South Korean NGOs sending leaflet-laden balloons across the border. The regime in the north made it clear that if the government in the south did not stop the NGOs then the North would retaliate by closing down the Kaesong Industrial Park.

Lankov believes the northern regime is using its supposed indignation over the South Korean NGO balloon-transported leaflets as a mere pretext to crack down on Kaesong after having determined that the considerable economic benefits that Kaesong provides to North Korea are not worth the risk that Kaesong presents to regime survival.

Lankov regards Kaesong as something of an anachronism: a survivor of the days of unprecedented relaxation between 2002 and 2004. "Now it seems this anachronism is not going to last, it has become too dangerous; the era of openness is well and truly over. The measure is likely to prolong the agony of North Korea . . ." (Link 6)

Lankov laments: "Hawks in Washington might hope that the decision will deprive the North Korean regime of revenue, thus bringing its end closer. But they are wrong. The regime can survive in isolation -- actually, it can survive only in isolation. Starving people do not rebel; they just die, especially when they have no idea that a different way of life is possible.

"Kaesong offered a glimmer of light, but now this is being snuffed out, to the peril of the long-suffering people of North Korea."

According to Daily North Korea (DNK), from January 2009 North Korea's markets will only open once every ten days. Sources told DNK they expect "resistance of North Korean citizens will be strong" and "the possibility of actual policy implementation is deemed low" primarily due to high-level corruption. (Link 7)

It remains to be seen if Kim Jong-Il and/or the military regime around him can successfully drag North Korea back a decade. Not everyone will submit. Will there be revolt? Will there be conflict? There will certainly be a massive increase in violent repression and death. Religious liberty is not coming to North Korea any time soon.

By Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) North Korea: ". . .though your footsteps were not seen".
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 24 Aug 2007
By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

2) North Korea dragged back to the past
By Andrei Lankov, 24 Jan 2008
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/JA24Dg01.html

3) North Korea's Regulation of Mobile Phones Led by National Security Agency
By Choi Choel Hee, 22 Feb 2008
http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=3286

4) Committee for Democratization of North Korea Launches an Indoctrination Document within the Army
By Kim Yong Hun, 10 Sept 2007
http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=2641

5) N Korean leader suffered stroke: Seoul intelligence
SEOUL (AFP), 9 Sept 2008
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5j2zReXndGtxbEQ9gsY3SWxImKHHw

6) Pyongyang puts politics above dollars
Andrei Lankov, 25 Nov 2008
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/JK26Dg01.html

7) North Korean Authorities Order Markets to Open Every 10 days, from 2009
By Jeong Jae Sung, 21 Nov 2008
http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk01500&num=4301

Friday, August 24, 2007

North Korea: Positive Changes

Date: Friday 24 August 2007
Subj: North Korea: ". . .though your footsteps were not seen".
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


NORTH KOREA: ". . .THOUGH YOUR FOOTSTEPS WERE NOT SEEN"

In June 2000, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il in a historic inter-Korea summit. It was the first rapprochement between the North and South since the border closed in 1953. At that June 2000 meeting in Pyongyang, the leaders signed a landmark document committing the two states to work toward reunification by (amongst other steps) facilitating the reunions of families separated by the Korean War, improving economic cooperation and building a railway line across the heavily patrolled border.

The situation improved to the point that when the then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang in October 2000 she was able to report: 'Kim Jong Il said I hope you'll figure out a way to send us some English teachers and if they're Korean-American, that's fine.' (Albright press briefing 26 Oct 2000: Link 1)

However, through 2002 US - North Korea relations soured and the North Korean regime retreated into a defensive posturing position, from where it has since been maintaining isolation and belligerently using the threat of nuclear weapons to ensure its survival and to extract concessions from the West.

Whilst North Korea is rated as the world's most severe abuser of religious liberty, there can be no question that, despite the souring of US - North Korea relations, North and South Korea have made significant strides towards fulfilling their historic commitment of June 2000.

* Family reunions have occurred.

* North Korea scrapped its centralised state rationing system and moved to a market economy. Public markets have been operating since 1 July 2002. Most significantly, this has enabled cross-border trade with China. (Link 2)

* During the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics, North and South Korea competed as separate nations but entered the stadium together under their 'Unification Flag'. At the 2006 Asian Games they competed as a single nation, as they will do again in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

* In May this year, two rail lines that now cross the demilitarised zone (DMZ) were given a test run. On Thursday 17 May, two trains carrying 150 passengers each - one train from each direction - crossed the border for the first time in over 50 years. A South Korean official said the test signified "re-connecting the severed bloodline of our people". A North Korean official said both nations "should not be derailed from the tracks" towards unification. (Link 3)

* Economic co-operation has also gone ahead with the opening of the Kaesong Industrial Park (Link 4) and the near-completion of the Christian-funded, English-language, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (Link 5) (Also see North Korea Economy Watch.)

FLOODS

A second inter-Korean summit scheduled for 28-30 August 2007 in Pyongyang has been postponed to 2-4 October due to the severe floods that have devastated North Korea. Associated Press quotes UN Assistant Secretary-General Margareta Wahlstrom, the deputy emergency relief coordinator, as saying (17 August): "'There are approximately 300,000 people who are homeless. About 58,000 houses (are) destroyed. We've seen over 90,000 hectares of farmland which is flooded and about 60 missing, 83 dead so far. About 10 percent of the population in the provinces in the south are affected.'

"In North Hwanghae, she said about 70 percent of arable land has been affected and 50 percent of the health clinics destroyed. According to an overview by UN relief officials in the region, more than 800 public buildings, 540 bridges, 70 sections of railway and more than 500 high voltage towers were destroyed, and more than 30 reservoirs and 450 agricultural structures were damaged. In addition, the heavy rains have ruptured river banks in more than 800 places and dikes in 10 places, the UN said." (Link 6)

Whilst this is not North Korea's first major catastrophe, it is the first time the regime has chosen not to hide it. Aid agencies have been surprised by the regime's new-found willingness to swiftly reveal information and seek assistance so that suffering may be relieved. (Link 7)

Of course sceptics would be forgiven for wondering if this response could be one of sheer political expediency. It could indicate merely that internal discontent is so palpable the regime is desperate to ensure suffering is alleviated quickly before there is a revolt! However, it could also indicate that the regime is waking up to reality, accepting the inevitable and beginning to "test the water" (so to speak) of openness.

INTERNET

There have been other tentative steps towards increasing openness and connection to the outside world. Koh Yoo-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University, Seoul, recently told the Korea Times that the Internet will be the first gateway to the outside world for North Korea when the tension on the Korean peninsula eases after the South-North summit. "Kim Jong-il has great interest in the information technology sector. Pyongyang has kept its network closed from the outside because it was concerned about the Web's possible influence on its regime. But if it wants to come out to the international society, it is inevitable to utilise the Internet, first of all.'' (Link 8)

Koh told the Korea Times that there already are broadband networks set up in North Korea and that Kim Jong-il has already established and opened a computer technology centre.

As noted by the Korea Times : " '.kp' has been allocated as North Korea's country code domain. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) clarifies: "At the present time there is no delegated operator for the KP domain, but ICANN has received a request to delegate the domain. This request was discussed by the ICANN Board at its meeting on 14 August 2007 . . the minutes will be published shortly." (Link 9)

As Professor Koh told the Korea Times, "Using of the domain suffix indicates that North Korea is now ready to jump into the ocean of information and it wants to prepare for the change. The opening can only be possible when the political climate gets warmer in the Korean peninsula. If the North Korea - US relations improve, reforms and opening will follow.'' (Link 8)

SECOND INTER-KOREA SUMMIT: 2-4 OCTOBER

The 2-4 October inter-Korea summit in Pyongyang is hugely important. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will travel to Pyongyang through a reconnected cross-border road. Reunification could and probably needs to take a long, long time. However if trust and confidence can be built - confidence that South Korea will not be swamped with destitute refugees and confidence for Kim that his position is secure - then openness and liberty need not be so far away. (Democracy, with its emphasis on equality, rule-of-law, separation of powers and such principles, has its roots in biblical Christianity; it grew out of the Reformation and is a fruit of Biblical truth. Religious liberty needs to come before democracy so that the foundations for democracy can be established.)

North Korea is presently the world's worst abuser of religious liberty, with extreme repression and Christian suffering. But the people of God have a lot of "handles" to take hold of in prayer for North Korea. This should not surprise us and we should not be too discouraged. Over the past 54 years the predominantly local (Korean) chorus of prayer for North Korea has grown into a global symphony. Why should we not expect great things from God?

"Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen." Psalm 77:19 (NIV)

Elizabeth Kendal


Links

1) Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. 26 October 2000
Press Briefing on plane en route Washington, DC from Seoul, Republic of Korea
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, US Department of State
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB164/10_26_00%20Albright%20Press%20Briefing%20on%20plane%20en%20route%20Washington,%20D.C.%20from%20Kor.pdf

2) North Korea: Reassessing self-reliance?
By Elizabeth Kendal. 31 July 2002
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis

3) BBC. Korean trains in historic link-up.17 May 2007

4) A Capitalist Sprout In N. Korea's Dust
Industrial Park to Broach Free Market
By Anthony Faiola, Washington Post Foreign Service, 23 May 2004
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48491-2004May22.html
ALSO North Korea Economy Watch, Kaesong category:
http://www.nkeconwatch.com/category/economic-reform/special-administrative-regions/kaesong-industrial-park/

5) Pyongyang University of Science and Technology http://www.pust.or.kr/eng/
ALSO: On a mission for God. By David McNeill. 15 Aug 2007
A Christian-funded, English-language university is being built in Pyongyang, writes David McNeill. "NORTH Korea seems set to take a giant leap out of the intellectual cold with the development of an English-language university, in which academics from across the world will teach the best of the country's graduate students."
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22245921-27702,00.html

6) UN official says 300,000 homeless, 58,000 houses destroyed, 83 dead in North Korea floods. 17 Aug 2007
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/08/17/news/UN-GEN-UN-NKorea-Floods.php
For more on the floods see: DPRK hit by floods
http://www.korea-is-one.org/spip.php?rubrique5

7) North Korea Opens Up Over Flooding
By Jennifer Veale, Seoul. 15 Aug 2007
http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1653130,00.html
ALSO: N Korea changes tune on aid amid floods
By Jennifer Macey. 16 Aug 2007
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/16/2007215.htm

8) N. Korea to Connect to Rest of World via Web
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2007/08/123_8472.html

9) Clarification Regarding .KP Country Code Top-Level Domain.17 August 2007 http://www.icann.org/announcements/announcement-2-17aug07.htm

Thursday, December 16, 2004

North Korea's balancing act.

Date: Thursday 16 December 2004
Subj: North Korea's balancing act.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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NORTH KOREA'S BALANCING ACT
- plus two articles on two kidnapped South Korean pastors.
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NK AMENDS CRIMINAL CODE TO ASSIST MARKETS AND CRUSH DISSENT

Park Song-wu reports for the Korea Times, "North Korea has strengthened legal measures to protect private property in a recent revision of its criminal law, while stiffening penalties for anti-state crimes, according to a copy obtained by a local broadcaster.

"North Korea experts in Seoul said the revision, the fifth since 1950, can be understood as Pyongyang’s efforts to achieve two goals at the same time – safeguarding its communist regime and boosting its impoverished economy." (Link 1)

While prison sentences for theft, counterfeiting, evading tax and infringing copyright have been increased, so too have sentences for "anti-state crimes". Instead of facing a prison sentence of 5-10 years, those participating in armed riots will now receive "more than 5 years" – the ceiling has been abolished. Instigators of armed riots will face life imprisonment or the death penalty. Likewise, defectors who flee North Korea in an act of betrayal will also face "more than 5 years", instead of 5-10 years. Those who have defected, but are willing to declare loyalty to the regime and confess to being "economic migrants" will be pardoned upon their return. In future, those who flee for "non-political reasons" will receive two years in prison instead of three.

One new subject for punishment under the revised criminal law is keeping or distributing "anti-state broadcast materials". A person found guilty will receive a 2-5 year prison sentence. According to the Korea Times, "Experts believe the clause was created to prohibit North Koreans from listening to U.S.-funded radio broadcasts that will be bolstered next year with the endorsement of the North Korean Human Rights Bill in October."

Another new subject for punishment is the distribution of culturally "obscene" materials such as CDs, videotapes and music.

The Korea Times reports that Professor Ryoo Kihl-jae of the Graduate School of North Korean Studies at Kyungnam University questions Pyongyang’s intentions for the revisions of the criminal law. He believes that criminal law is not important in North Korea and the authorities will punish whoever they want using other means. Professor Ryoo believes the purpose of the revision is purely to make the world aware of North Korea's criminal law and of the penalties law-breakers will suffer. It is designed to give confidence to investors, and deter reformist agitators and "anti-state" agents.

MARKET REFORMS PRODUCE OPENINGS

The Kim jong-Il regime introduced market reforms in July 2002. The reforms, however, sent inflation soaring and drastically widened the income gap. Paik Hak-soon, director of North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, told the Korea Times that, "Kim Jong-il is now trying to prevent social problems from drastically undermining his regime."

The free-market reforms have also brought many North Korean traders into contact with the outside world. As noted in a recent Washington Post (WP) article entitled, "For North Korea, Openness Proves a Two-Way Street" (13 Dec 2004), "...diplomats, analysts, intelligence sources and recent defectors say that the once airtight lid on information in what is known as the Hermit Kingdom is gradually loosening."

The WP article states, "Asian intelligence sources estimate that as many as 20,000 North Koreans -- particularly those trading in the newly thriving border area with China -- now have access to Chinese cellular phones, from which they can make undetected international calls in large areas of northern North Korea." Also, at the new Kaesong Industrial Park near the border with South Korea, and the tourist resort at Mount Kumgang, South Korean firms are directly employing and paying North Korean workers for the first time.

The WP quotes Sohn Kwang Joo, managing editor of the North Korea Daily (a Seoul-based website) as saying, "North Korean people and the elite bureaucrats all want more reform. But the faster the doors open, the more vulnerable becomes Kim Jong Il's tight grip of the nation. Kim Jong Il will therefore try to control and limit the opening. But as more people cross in and out of the border, there are more mobile phones, and more flows of information, the North Korean people will begin to realize the truth about Kim Jong Il."

David Wall, an associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, recently traveled along the China-North Korean border and wrote a report that was published in the Japan Times. (Link 2)

He notes that Koreans have been crossing the frozen border rivers for generations and at least 2.3 million Koreans now live in China along the North Korean border. He says there have been between 200,000 to 300,000 recent illegal arrivals and, "The Korean communities are easy to identify by the many Christian churches, complete with spires and crosses on top." Wall believes that the immense vastness of the refugee/illegal immigrant situation makes it simply unmanageable for Chinese police who, he says, tend to leave the "migrants" alone unless they engage in criminal activity or publicly expose themselves in media stunts.

Wall says, "There is growing legal and even cross-border investment in which the Chinese Korean community is active. Every day hundreds, sometimes thousands, of traders and tourists cross the borders. They are not closed. It is easy for the migrants to move between the communities and send goods and money back."

MAINTAINING A TIGHT GRIP

North Korea is following China and Vietnam and gingerly opening up and reforming, to some degree, under a dictator who will not permit his rule to be threatened and who will, in any way, be propped up and supported by China in the event of any threat. The reforms are threatening the regime, so to ensure that situation does not get out of control, the regime (especially when it feels threatened) slows the process down and tightens its oppressive grip in a perpetual give and take balancing act.

Hamish McDonald reported to the Melbourne AGE (Australia) on 29 November that Pyongyang has asked the United Nations aid agencies to cut their foreign staff in the country by half. The regime has also said that it wants all international non-government organisations to quit once current programs are ended. There are five UN agencies, with about 64 foreign staff, operating inside North Korea. McDonald writes, "A narrowing of the world's main window into North Korea - through international aid organisations - could fit with the scenario of a hardliners' backlash, some UN officials speculate."

North Korea specialists in South Korea and China are positive that Kim's grip on power is rock solid, and that there is no imminent threat of regime collapse. However, Cho Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification told Reuters recently (26 Nov 2004), "I think there will be a drastic change to the Kim Jong-il regime at a certain point in time. But the change to the power structure is not likely to come from below. The change is likely to come from a high level, and once it happens, it's going to move very quickly."

Cho Min seems to believe that "change" (and he uses that term quite ambiguously) is inevitable, given the momentum now for openness and reform.

Next year – 2005 – will be the fifth anniversary of the signing of the North-South Joint Declaration at the historic 15 June 2000 Reunification talks in Pyongyang (see link 3), and the 60th anniversary of Korean independence (15 August 1945 – liberation from Japanese colonial rule). And we continue to pray.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) NK Adopts Market-Friendly Criminal Law
Korea Times 8 Dec 2004
http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/200412/kt2004120816030010440.htm

2) No witch hunt for North Koreans in China
By DAVID WALL, Special to The Japan Times, 6 Dec 2004
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/geted.pl5?eo20041206a1.htm

3) North-South Joint Declaration
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/791691.stm

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TWO ARTICLES ON TWO KIDNAPPED PASTORS
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South Korean pastor, the Reverend Ahn Seung-un (60), is believed to have been kidnapped from Yanji city while assisting refugees on the China/North Korea border in 1995. He has now emerged in North Korea, working for the official Korean Christian Federation and tightly controlled by North Korean guards.

Ex-South Korean Pastor Works for N. Korean Christian Federation
Korea Times, 7 Dec 2004
http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/nation/200412/kt2004120717520311990.htm

------------------------
South Korean pastor, the Reverend Kim Dong-shik (57) was kidnapped from Yanji in 2000. He remains missing. On Friday 10 December, a 35-year-old Korean national named Ryu was detained in South Korea and charged with pastor Kim's abduction. Ryu was trained in Pyongyang and worked with a team of 10 North Korean agents to abduct pastor Kim whose name was on a list of those targeted by Pyongyang for abduction.

Government Urged to Press for Release of Kidnapped Pastor
By Reuben Staines, Park Song-wu
Korea Times, 14 Dec 2004
http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/nation/200412/kt2004121416470311950.htm
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Friday, November 19, 2004

Interview with a North Korean Christian leader.

Date: Friday 19 November 2004
Subj: Interview with a North Korean Christian leader.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
INTERVIEW WITH A NORTH KOREAN CHRISTIAN LEADER
-------------------------------------------------------------------

The following interview is with a Christian leader from North Korea, whom we will call "Pastor North" for security reasons. It needs to be said that it is impossible for anyone to evaluate fully the outlook in that nation. Pastor North however has excellent contacts and many personal channels of information.

*************************************

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN NORTH KOREA?

Global Voice (GV): How do you see the situation in North Korea today?

Pastor North (PN): It is becoming increasingly dangerous for several reasons. Our government considers the talk about "the axis of evil", the new US law on North Korea and the re-election of President Bush as real threats. 'We are on the same latitude as Iraq and the next country could be North Korea,' said one influential person. North Korea argues that they also must have "the right to strike first". So my understanding is that there is a real danger of war and that it would be a disaster for both North and South Korea. Demonstrations in the South against the changes to the National Security Law are also seen as a hostile activity.

GV: How then in your opinion should the West deal with North Korea?

PN: Our government has two faces. One is the face of a nation that does whatever we want without caring at all about international opinion. I understand this face has created a lot of negative reaction in the West. The other is the face of negotiating. This face is open for talks and suggestions but usually needs two or three months to give an answer. The difficulty is the two faces are on the same head and each affects the other.

GV: Do you see any positive changes in North Korea?

PN: Yes, I can see some changes. The government wants to open up just 'a little bit' for private enterprise. People can now for the first time sell their own produce. They cannot buy products to process and sell, but they can grow vegetables or fruit and sell them in the market place. This is a very small opening for private enterprise but we expect the door to open up more. There has also been a lot of cultural, economic and sporting exchange with South Korea in the last few years. Also, an industrial zone in the south of our country is being built in partnership with South Korea. That too will be an interesting project.

GV: What is the situation for the Christian Church?

PN: As you know, there are a few official churches and they have received a number of theological books in recent years. There are many people in these churches about whom we really know little, but there are also members who have been Christians for 40 or 50 years. Most Christians of course meet in their homes, but it is impossible to say more than there is a house-church movement in our country. Many Christians are in prison, but I also know many Christians who are not and I think the State knows they are Christians. The most common comment of course on this question and many others is "we do not know", as there is practically no communication.

GV: So, what can Christians in the West do?

PN: There are two important things. The first one is to pray for the Church in North Korea, and the other is to build bridges and help our country. It would be so important for our government to understand that Christians in the West want to be the friends of our people and not supporters of a hostile policy against us. So visits by church delegations bringing help would be a step in the right direction.

GV: Do you see any changes coming soon ?

PN: No, because there is no Opposition in this country and absolutely no network to co-ordinate any demand for changes. The strong feeling amongst people is that we are under threat of attack. That unites us, as well as the media giving just one version of both the national and the international situation. Radios are made so that we are able to listen only to North Korean radio stations.

GV: What if the leader should die?

PN: First of all we would not know about it for a long time. By then I am sure that the leading elite would have appointed a new leader. Our country is really based on a sort of caste system. The workers are the lowest caste and the highest castes are the generals and the political elite who have many advantages. They live a very good life with everything they need. They would not risk losing their position and in the common interest of that caste they would choose a new leader amongst themselves, to avoid any loss of privilege.

GV: What is your hope for the future?

PN: That has an easy answer - PEACE! Our country is very poor and people are suffering. Should war would break out, the terrible suffering that would bring to the Korean peninsula is inconceivable. And not only that - such a war could trigger an even wider conflict. What would China do in such a situation? [A South Korean military report presented to parliament on 5 October reported that China has said it would send 400,000 troops, 800 aircraft and 150 navy vessels to support its ally North Korea if war broke out on the Korean Peninsula. SCMP 6 Oct 2004 - EKendal] As followers of Jesus Christ we must all work for peace and for the well-being of the ordinary people God has created.

END

Reforming North Korea.

Date: Friday 19 November 2004
Subj: Reforming North Korea.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

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REFORMING NORTH KOREA
- Implementing the North Korea Human Rights Act

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On 18 October 2004, President G.W. Bush signed the North Korea Human Rights Act into law. The law, which will be effective from 2005 to 2008, grants $2 million a year to groups supporting human rights, democracy and a market economy in North Korea, and allocates $20 million a year to help settle North Korean refugees. The law also calls for doubling American radio broadcasting to North Korea to 12 hours a day and smuggling radios into North Korea. It will ensure that human rights are on the agenda when negotiating.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed the move. USCIRF Chair Preeta D. Bansal notes, "The human rights violations of the Kim Jong Il regime are among the most serious worldwide. The North Korea Human Rights Act makes improving human rights protections a priority in U.S. relations with North Korea. And, it gives U.S. policy-makers tools to act on that priority." (USCIRF, 19 Oct 2004)

However, not everyone has welcomed the North Korea Human Rights Act with enthusiasm. As was expected, the North Korean regime is unimpressed and has vowed not to take part in regional talks over its nuclear weapons program until the "hostile" law is repealed.

Tension over the Act is however, most acute in South Korea. Lee Bu-young, the Chairman of the ruling Uri Party, has expressed "grave" concerns, fearing that the Act is designed to hasten the collapse of North Korea and that could be catastrophic for the Korean Peninsula. After the Act was passed by the US Senate, Lee said, "I am looking at the issue with grave concern because it could negatively affect inter-Korean relations and the six-way talks. It's a foregone conclusion that the situation surrounding the Korean peninsula will be aggravated further." (Korean Times, 30 Sept 2004)

South Korea's main political opposition however, the Grand National Party (GNP), has embraced the ACT and harshly criticised Uri Party members for "placing inter-Korean ties ahead of human rights". The GNP has hailed the Act as a major step forward toward liberating oppressed and impoverished North Koreans.

The North Korean Human Rights Acts is wonderful in principle. However, the specific and unique realities of the tenuous "peace" on the Korean Peninsula and the unique nature of the North Korean regime – headed by a Communist dictator who came to power through dynastic succession, who is surrounded by an enormous military, and who might actually believe the myths and fantasies he spins and perpetuates – makes dealing with the regime an extremely difficult and delicate exercise.

The implementation of the Act will need to be as sensitive as the defusing of a bomb. North Korea cannot be treated the same as Belarus (for example), for with North Korea the risks are much greater and the stakes are much higher. It requires great urgency in prayer and great delicacy, patience, and intelligent, sensitive strategy on the ground.

SEARCHING FOR OPENINGS

After the horrific 23 April 2004 explosion in Ryongchon, a WEA RL Prayer bulletin was issued calling for prayer for the victims and for the tragedy to be a means by which the door into North Korea might be further opened. The final paragraph of that prayer bulletin states: "There is no civil society in North Korea, no political opposition, and after 50 years of anti-world propaganda the people are quite brainwashed. Most have known no other life and know NO truth. North Korean society no longer has any foundations, so that regime collapse could be disastrous. What the nation really needs is to open up and be transformed from within. God alone can work that miracle." (Link 1)

According to a 16 November Reuters report, Kathi Zellweger of the Catholic aid organisation Caritas believes North Korea is slowly changing and an entrepreneurial spirit developing but Pyongyang is presently in a "stop phase" while authorities assess how market reforms have affected the communist system so far. Zellweger says, "Regime change is what some groups of people hope for. But I believe what is happening is that very slowly the nature of the regime is changing, albeit at a very slow pace." Zellweger fears the North Korea Human Rights Acts will lead to a tightening of the government's control of the people and of NGOs. (Link 2)

Kaesong industrial park in North Korea is 10 km north of the de-militarised zone (DMZ) and 90 km by highway from South Korea's Incheon Airport. It is the invention of South Korean economic strategists who envisaged it as a means of pulling South Korea out of its economic doldrums. The South Korean government supports it because of its potential to increase cross-border ties, improve relations, and gradually lessen the economic disparity between the north and south, thus easing the way for reunification.

About 230 South Korean officials, businessmen, ruling and opposition lawmakers and journalists took part in the official opening of the Kaesong industrial park on 20 October 2004. Kaesong, which opened with 13 South Korean manufacturers, will be funded by the south but staffed by the north. As Straits Times Interactive notes, "North Koreans could be working in South Korean factories by the end of this year." Presently 130 Seoul companies are on a waiting list to open factories in Kaesong, which is expected to eventually draw billions of dollars in investments and employ 730,000 North Koreans and 100,000 South Koreans in more than 1,000 South Korean companies. (STI 21 Oct 2004)

The North Korean famine of the 1990s, which occurred as a result of poor governance, produced an immense amount of grief and suffering. An article by Andreas Lorenz entitled "Joyful Dancing", in the German publication Der Spiegel, reports that the people have grown tired of suffering and brutal oppression. Lorenz mentions a new, soon-to-be-published book about North Korea by Jasper Becker (48), a British author and journalist living in Beijing. According to Lorenz, Becker writes that factories, military units, and even entire towns have revolted against the leadership in Pyongyang during the years of famine and suffering. These rebellions have been brutally crushed and, according to Becker, "Resentment against Kim is deeply entrenched in the population," including amongst elements of the military. This is no doubt why 100,000 elite guards are required to guarantee Kim's survival. (Link 3)

Those things Kim jong-Il desires most of all, survival and prestige, appear to be on shaky ground according to even the most recent reports (see link 4). Maybe this is the biggest bargaining chip of all. To avoid catastrophe on the Korean Peninsula, would the US be willing to ensure Kim's survival and prestige in exchange for reforms for which Kim would of course take all credit? This would involve great humility on the part of the US. It would involve leaving justice, regarding Kim, in the the hands of God. It could only be done by looking past the man, Kim jong-Il, and keeping eyes firmly fixed on the goal: the liberation and reform of North Korea, for the sake of North Korea's suffering and oppressed millions.

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 271 - Wed 12 May 2004
NORTH KOREA: DESPERATELY NEEDS AN OPEN DOOR
http://worldevangelical.org/persec_northkorea_12may04.html

2) N.Korea is changing but in "stop phase" - aid worker
By Martin Nesirky in SEOUL. Reuters 16 Nov 2004.
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SEO337281.htm

3) Joyful Dancing, by Andeas Lorenz.
Der Spiegel. 30 Oct 2004
http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/english/0,1518,325971,00.html

4) Mystery as Kim title, posters go. CNN 18 Nov 2004
http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/11/17/kim.cult.ap/index.html

SEE ALSO

North Korea background and prayer request
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 236 - Wed 10 Sep 2003
http://worldevangelical.org/persec_korea_10sep03.html

SUMMARY OF H.R. 4011 - THE NORTH KOREA HUMAN RIGHTS ACT
http://www.nkfreedom.org/

Thursday, December 5, 2002

North Korea: Christians suffer as political prisoners.

Date: Thursday 5 December 2002
Subj: North Korea: Christians suffer as political prisoners.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


Hwang Jang-yop was once a spokesman for late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il. He has lived under the protection of South Korean intelligence since becoming the most senior defector from the North in 1997. AFP quotes Hwang as saying, "The suffering and pain of the North Korean people under the current dictatorial regime are much more severe and tragic than what we experienced during the 36 year colonial rule by the Japanese or what we went through during the Korean War." (Link 1)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report entitled "The Invisible Exodus: North Koreans in the People's Republic of China," November 2002. (Link 2) The HRW report makes no mention of religious freedom or religious persecution. Presumably HRW assumes that all
readers understand that religious belief and expression is a serious political crime in North Korea.

The HRW report, particularly sections II. "The Migrant's Story: Contours of Human Rights Abuse," and III. "A Well-founded Fear: Punishment and Labor Camps in North Korea," is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the suffering of Christians in North Korea. It is estimated that some 100,000 Christians are political prisoners in this nation that was once a land of revival, whose capital, Pyongyang, was once known as "the Jerusalem of the East."

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The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report covers all areas of experience, from escaped prisoners, defecting guards, and starving economic migrants. Through testimonies, it exposes the intolerable oppression and suffering in North Korea, the horrific, inhumane conditions in prison camps, the dangers involved in escape (such as the trafficking of women), the risks involved in assisting escapees (such as imprisonment), and the consequences for escapees who are caught and returned (imprisonment, torture and death). The report also looks at the responsibilities of China and the International community and offers recommendations.

When North Korean refugee Soon-Ok Lee testified before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on 24 January 2002, she made it very clear that Christians were regarded as "political criminals". Soon-Ok Lee said that hundreds of the 6,000 inmates in the prison camp in which she was held were there because they were Christians. She said that guards would tell the Christians they could save their lives and be freed if they would refuse to worship God and instead worship Kim Il Sung, the deceased founder of the Marxist regime. She also said that Christians were regularly singled out for the most extreme treatment and toughest punishments. It was the love, grace and steadfast faith of North Korean Christian prisoners in the midst of the most extreme suffering that drew Soon-Ok Lee to Jesus.

(Soon-Ok Lee's prison memoir:
Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman )

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A FEW EXCERPTS FROM THE HRW REPORT
Page numbers are from the printer-friendly version (pdf)
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* From the testimony of a former prison guard:
(page 22)

"They investigated whether the repatriated people had any relationship with South Korea. If a person met South Koreans or reporters or wrote articles, or attended church or escaped after committing a crime in North Korea, they would be secretly killed, without even God knowing."
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* From the testimony of a refugee: (page 24)

"When we (HRW) asked if he had learned anything (about China or South Korea) from broadcasts, he denied watching foreign programs: 'Even watching Chinese television can be punished if discovered. If a person is found listening to South Korean broadcasting, he could be punished in a political prison or executed.' He recalled that such an execution had happened to a worker in his prefecture."
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* From the testimony of a former prison guard in a political prison:

(pages 24,25)

"The basic diet was soy sauce, a little fat, cornmeal, some salt water, and perhaps some kimchee (fermented cabbage). Men and women are separated, sometimes with 300 to 400 people sleeping crowded into one room, unable to stretch their legs.

"Those who attempted to escape were held in a separate place. They were often hung on the wall all day long. Sometimes their hands were tied behind their back and they were hung on the wall for three to seven days.

"If it was a political prisoner, his hands would be broken right after he was sent to the prison of the National Security Office. They would then be interrogated. During this, they would not be able to move at all. I witnessed these types of atrocities quite often."
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* From the testimony of a former prisoner:
(page 25)

"It was a savage's life, even though people there still had the minds of human beings. I cannot tell vividly enough how it was to be beaten. When our family moved there (prison), we were surrounded by one hundred people and beaten. The police led people to beat us -- newcomers must be broken in spirit this way. There are also professional 'beaters' at the town hall. They bring people there to be beaten who disobeyed the rules. Officials beat so harshly that many of those people became disabled, or their legs were paralysed, or they died.

"In these places, there are no human rights at all for women. What they call sexual harassment in South Korea is nothing. What was going on was beyond description. Everything is exposed; it was nothing to have sex openly. It may be better when a man is married, but as for women, they can't protect themselves in that situation."
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* From the testimony of a former imprisoned official:
(page 27)

"The 606 camp was designated for officials charged with economic and political crimes. Conditions were harsh and inmates were treated much like to political prisoners, with no visitors allowed. He gave the following chilling account:

'During my stay there, 1,200 people were sent to the facility and I saw only seven people who left without physical injury or harm. Many people died because of an epidemic, and many others were shot to death. The facility generally released people when they believed that the person would no longer survive. Many of the detainees suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis or other diseases.

'There were about three hundred people in the camp, with a group of thirty in each room. About one hundred people were sent each month, and about ten people were dead every day. If someone didn't receive one meal per day, he would be so weak from starvation that he could not move properly. Since there were no coffins, they put the bodies on a plank and carried them to a hill and buried them.

'I cannot describe the situation properly. Can you imagine expecting the person next to you to die, and when the person dies, taking the corpse's clothing off and wearing it? Since the roof leaks on rainy days, the mattress is always wet. Lice are crawling all over the corpses, but the inmates use the blankets of dead people as soon as they die.'"
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* From the testimony of a woman who escaped North Korea
, became a Christian in China, and then returned to North Korea to find her daughter in order to bring her out. According to HRW she "broke down several times as she related the ordeal": (page 10)

"I knew that after leaving North Korea and living in China, every step was dangerous. I was almost captured several times while staying at the hotel, being assisted by the church. I came to realize that God or some divine power existed after experiencing life [in China], even though it was not a very long period. So without that belief, I could not have gone back. When I crossed (the Tuman River), the water came up to my neck! I don't swim very well, and I was scared -- the water was black from flooding. Miraculously, someone came up in front of me and helped me across."
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- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) "North Korean defector savages Kim Jong Il regime" AFP
4 December 2002
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/021204/1/35dpa.html

2) Human Rights Watch
"The Invisible Exodus: North Koreans in the People's Republic of China,"
November 2002, Vol.14, No. 8 (C)

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

North Korea: Reassessing self-reliance?

Date: Wednesday 31 July 2002
Subj: North Korea: Reassessing self-reliance?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


North Korea is one of the world's most severe abusers of religious liberty and cruelest persecutors of Christians. The Reunification Talks that commenced in Pyongyang, North Korea, in June 2002, opened a window of hope that change may be possible in the previously impenetrable "Hermit Kingdom". However, the talks have constantly been frustrated and beset with difficulties.

In these testing times we should not forget that many believers, especially South Korean believers, have prayed consistently; even daily for some fifty years, for God to liberate North Korea.

Famine is the primary factor forcing North Korea to once again return to the negotiating table, and to reassess its policy of "Juche" or "self-reliance". While none of the diplomatic or economic changes outlined below relate directly to any religious liberty issues, they do however, give grounds for optimism that North Korea may truly be seeking to end its isolation and commence real engagement with the outside world - in which case, real opportunities to exert influence and leverage regarding religious freedom should also open up.

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Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who recently visited North Korea and met with Kim Jong-il, reports that North Korea is seeking constructive dialogue with Japan and the US to talk unconditionally about lessening its international isolation.

On 25 July 02, only days after Mr. Ivanov's visit, North Korea expressed "regret" to South Korea over the naval clash that occurred on 29 June in which five South Korean sailors were killed. What makes this so significant is that it is so out of character - it is only the third time North Korea has ever expressed remorse in a long history of attacks on South Korea. In this same message, North Korea also proposed the resumption of reunification talks between the North and South - an offer South Korea has accepted. South Korea's Unification Ministry has now offered to send a working-level team to North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort from 2 - 4 August to prepare for a ministerial meeting in Seoul.

But most remarkable, is the news that North Korea has scrapped its centralised state rationing system and is replacing it with public markets that have been operating since 1 July 02. Wages have been increased accordingly to accommodate the change. Factories and companies will also end their reliance on state subsidies and become self-supporting with profits linked to productivity.

A BBC correspondent in Seoul, Kevin Kim, says that recently the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, called for a new way of thinking, suggesting he was more open-minded about adopting capitalist systems in his country. (see link 1) Some observers have compared the steps to those China took in the late 1970s as China gradually opened up its economy.

BACKGROUND

Christians in North Korea have long suffered severe Communist oppression, firstly under the Soviets who controlled North Korea after WWII, and then under Stalin's handpicked successor, Kim Il-sung. It is estimated that some 2,300 North Korean Christian congregations with around 300,000 members have disappeared since the border closed in 1953 at the end of the Korean War. An estimated 100,000 Christians are amongst the one million North Koreans currently suffering as prisoners of conscience in North Korea's gulag of some 200 concentration camps where torture and starvation are commonplace.

It has been reported that in the camps and prisons, Christians are especially despised and singled out for the most severe treatment. Hundreds of North Korean believers found with Bibles have been executed. The government insists that the dead but "Eternal President" Kim Il-sung be worshiped as a god, and his son, the present ruler Kim Jong-il, to whom all manner of supernatural phenomena are attributed, be the object of "ardent worship".

Links
1) BBC "North Korea 'moves to market economy'" 19 July 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/world/asia-pacific/2137826.stm