All posts filed under: North Korea

Answer 2. Can you tell South and North Koreans apart?

South and North Korean soldiers depicted by Hankyung Daily.   Yes. First by their height (and physical build), then by their accent. Usually. Many younger defectors become fluent in the South Korean accent (I’ve witnessed them quickly change back into North Korean with their friends, but I do this too when I meet my friends from Busan). But the height difference – harder to change. One thing I noticed when meeting North Korea defectors was that the women were always wearing high heels. I didn’t initially give this much thought. “Well, they’re young women who grew up in or are currently living in South Korea, so of course they have to care about their looks”, was my logic. Heels are everyday wear in Seoul. The women were also very fashionable and wore impeccable makeup, so that ended there. Then came a day when I was gathered to talk with four different defectors on the same day. And it hit me – they are wearing heels because they don’t want to be a head (or more) shorter than everyone else! …

“I Am a North Korean Millennial”

  Young North Korean defector Yeonmi Park gives an informal talk at LiNK. She talks about the Jangmadang Generation – the NK millenials who grew up with the illegal but widespread market system. The elder generations experienced the “good times” – The North was much better off than the South after the Korean War (1950-53) since it experienced fewer bombings. Within years, the North collapsed and its communist distribution system failed, leaving the people hungry – while the South rebuilt all its infrastructure, becoming the world’s 12th biggest economic power today. Here is a short summary of Yeonmi’s talk: North Korean millennials have little, if any, loyalty to the Kim regime. They have access to foreign media, including South Korean and Hollywood movies. They see the regime as an obstacle to private wealth and are starting private businesses. Yeonmi’s family was part of the social elite and of the Communist Party in North Korea, and she was only 13 when she escaped. She currently studies Economics at Columbia University.   Edited on June 15th for …

EAHRNK conference on UN Inquiry into North Korea’s human rights violations

North Korea denies 2014 COI report, accuses witnesses and COI members of conspiracy I was in London earlier in March to attend the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK)‘s conference on the Commission of Inquiry. The conference was attended by South Korean diplomats, North Korean exiles (the EAHRNK chose the term’exile’ over ‘defectees’, which I find to be more appropriate), journalists (British and Korean, including the BBC and YTN – Dan Damon was there!) , diplomatic and NGO representations (including UN Women), and of course, students. Commissioner Michael Kirby, lead author of the 2014 COI report gave a moving speech – I highly recommend you take a look at his speeches on NKHR. Dr. Lee Jung-hoon, Human Rights Ambassador of the ROK and professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies gave the keynote speech – very moving, I wish there was a recording of this somewhere. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales was also supposed to give a speech – but did not attend. The EAHRNK prides itself in including exiles in its organisation, and …

North Korea Human Rights Act

There’s a US NGO, called Human Rights Foundation, (HQ: New York City) which works on improving and promoting human rights in North Korea. One of HRF’s ongoing projects is called Disrupt North Korea, which in September 2015 created the Global Coalition for the North Korean Human Rights Act – a group of activists, academics and policymakers and technologists (including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales) whose goal is to encourage South Korean lawmakers to pass the law. The North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA) has been held up at the National Assembly in South Korea for 10 years now. In fact, there is no NKHRA – it hasn’t been passed yet and different political parties have put forth varying versions. However, both Saenuri (majority) and New Alliance versions contain similar ideas – to systemise North Korea human rights programs by creating new government agencies and archives specifically designed for this purpose (in coordination with the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of Justice). The US Congress, on the other hand, has enacted the North Korean Human Rights Act (USA) in 2004. Japan …

KBS Family Reunion Broadcast nominated to UNESCO Memory of the World Register

This post originally contained a YouTube video, which was later removed by the uploader. The Archives of the 1983 KBS Special Live Broadcast “Finding Dispersed Families” – the longest live broadcast in history is nominated to UNESCO’s International Memory of the World Register. “Originally planned to run for 95 minutes, the programme was soon overwhelmed by the stories of South Korean families separated by the chaos of the Korean War, and ended up running for a record-breaking 138 days (450 minutes/4 months). People filled the walls and floors around the KBS building with their stories, and some managed to miraculously find their family” It is notable that this 1983 programme reunited family members within South Korea only – and have no relation to the South-North families reunions the Pyongyang regime uses as a political lever these days. After the Korean War ended in 1953, South Korea as a nation was a mess. Most of its infrastructure had been bombed, people had migrated here and there, mostly towards the South (Busan) from Seoul, and on their way …

Update on NK related censorship

I recently visited a professor of history and he had some real copies of North Korean history books circulated inside the country. Thought it might be interesting to share. I am guessing the books are not illegal for possession if it’s for academic and research purposes. Complete History of Kim Il-sung History of Joseon (note: North Korea refers to them as “Joseon” while South Korea uses “Hanguk”) Kim Il-sung In the New Century

Answer 1. Do (South) Koreans Really Want Reunification?

Photo source: Yonhap News (Feb 22nd, 2014) Short answer: No. To be precise, it’s “Don’t really care“, not “Don’t want”. Reunification doesn’t carry the note of passion it used to in my parent’s generation – back then, if you were asked “Do you want tongil?”, and you said no, you were a complete treacherous, unpatriotic, heartless brat. But now, we’re too busy thinking about other things, the memories of having once been a single nation are fading, and most of all, Koreans most definitely do not want to carry the economic burden reunification will entail. Despite the avid propaganda from the South Korean government – Reunification will allow us to tap into the North’s invaluable mineral resources, we will gain direct access to cheap and disciplined (disciplined, for lack of a better word…) labour force, we are of the same blood and are one people – People’s enthusiasm has grown thin with the crazy outbursts of “We will see Seoul burst in flames if you don’t give us what we want and respect us” tantrum …