All posts tagged: North Korea

Parallel 38/Part III

Parallel 38/Part III Remember I told you I was split two ways: My grandmother’s father was a Freedom Fighter in colonised Korea When we were Korea Not Korea, South/North Not Korea, Republic of/Democratic People’s Republic of Not South Korea/North Korea Like we see on the census slips and dropdown boxes Just Korea He and his country fought back against the Japanese The people who told us We could not use our own names We could not utter our own language We could not wear our own clothes But we must dress like the white man Because that’s who they learned their tricks from A sadomasochistic cycle of submission and domination On 15th August, 1945 We were made a free country On 17th July, 1948 We declared our Constitution On 15th August, 1948 We became a Republic And when my country became a Republic my great-grandfather became a criminal Because he was A Communist One of Them Granny said, then they came and took all our land and our money Overnight I went from going to …

Parallel 38/Part II

  Parallel 38/Part II For three Christmases I had a German lover We spent Summers sitting on the balcony grilling Bratwurst Christmases eating deviled eggs and saying, Mahlzeit New Year’s Eve shooting firecrackers into the sky and screaming and kissing He told me Did you know It took twenty years For us West Germans and East Germans To marry amongst ourselves In the same numbers As we married foreigners We’ve been told our whole life, look at this country across the world Remnants of the Cold War, testaments to ideological warfare Your twin We know how it feels When people walk all over us with their dirty boots and say Thank us, beg us, revere us For pitting your people against your neighbours Because they’re wrong in the head And implant a seed of doubt for the coming three generations They tell us Look If the Germans can do it, you can You hardworking Koreans who rebuilt your country The only OECD foreign aid receiver turned donor, at the turn of the millennia But they …

Parallel 38/Part I

This is part one of three in a series I wrote while watching the Inter-Korea Summit broadcast on JTBC. Parallel 38/Part I It is only natural for me to be split Two ways It started when foreigners split the country of my mother and my father Two ways Took a yardstick and swung it across Arbitrary lines of their own science And called it Peace Order Necessary Told us we were free To run around in our little divided up cage Asked us to play nice and to obey In return we would get Democracy Freedom Reparations For what they did to us, raping our souls and pitting us against one another Threw money and milk and honey our way Put their feet up Told us This is freedom You have newspapers You have shipyards the size of mountains You have free elections and banks and delegations in The Hague Leaving out the part where they Split up mother and daughter, brother and sister, grandfather and grandson Dug up trenches along the heart of our …

Yeonmi Park becomes the first North Korean refugee to speak on Comedy Central

Follow this link to view the video at Comedy Central. Yeonmi Park is the first North Korean defector to speak on Comedy Central, on Jordan Klepper’s The Opposition (Link). No, she isn’t debuting her career as a stand-up comedian. The humour game is subtle and strongly lined with political messages. She discusses her disappointment at the Kim-Trump Singapore summit on June 12th, her life in North Korea being taught to “hate American bastards”, and feeling confused at the idea of people being able to love anyone else besides the Dear Leader when she saw the movie Titanic for the first time. When asked what pushed her to leave the country, she responds: “hunger”. She shows solidarity to displaced peoples by saying “Refugees are people too. No one should be punished for their birthplace”, and warns that “freedom is not free – we have to fight for our freedom”. Ms. Park has already expressed her disappointment at the June 12th summit on Foreign Policy: “He should have asked for some concessions from the North Korean side. If Trump …

2018 Oslo Freedom Forum

I was hired to work as an interpreter to the North Korean delegation at the Oslo Freedom Forum for the second time (the first time being 2016). This year also marked the 10th anniversary of the Oslo Freedom Forum. In a nutshell, OFF is a a forum and a community of people dedicated to protecting and improving fundamental human rights around the world. It’s fun: There’s always an art performance, and since a few years an ethical fashion show (whose models are human rights activists and speakers from past years), booths by tech companies who offer services which can be used to protect civil rights activists in repressive regimes, and lots of opportunities for people to connect. Human rights activists have a platform to voice their hopes, obstacles, and plans. Philanthropists come to learn more about projects activists are currently running, to ask in-depth questions about what they need, what they plan to do, and what their current challenges are. Entrepreneurs can pitch their technologies to activists and the general public. This year, I was …

Goodbye, Pyongyang Time Zone

[Image description: Two clocks on the wall, side by side. One reads 11:46 (Seoul), and the other reads 11:16 (Pyongyang). Source: Yonhap Agency] Today, Pyongyang’s 30-minute difference with Seoul (and Tokyo) time zone will cease to be, as Kim Jong-Un orders North Koreans to set the time forward to match that of South Korea. “To reconcile our history” seems to be a prominent reason. However, if the Korean peninsula wants to reconcile with its history, it should actually be be Seoul changing its time 30 minutes back, considering the current Seoul time zone was implemented by the Japanese colonial government. As I’m writing this, a Dutch friend tells me: “Well, the South can’t very well do that; makes it look like Seoul is ceding to a Communist Revolution”. Basically, I’d be a jongbuk for saying this. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/05/time-for-change-north-korea-moves-clocks-forward-to-match-south

S. Koreans. Germans. Reunification.

Picture: Kim Jong-Un is seen walking with an aid against the backdrop of a row of North Korean flags. The words “Kim kommt” is displayed across the screen. A screenshot from “Kim kommt: Kurswechsel in Korea? (Kim is coming: A Change of course in Korea?), a documentary by ARD TV’s Weltspiegel Extra. http://www.ardmediathek.de/tv/Weltspiegel/Weltspiegel-extra-Kim-kommt-Kurswechse/Das-Erste/Video?bcastId=329478&documentId=51930738 “It is a border we Germans still have memories of. With barbed wires, minefields, and orders to fire. Between brother cities which shoot each other. From firing drills by Kim Jong-Un in the North, and those by the South Koreans and Americans in the South. A border which has separated families for decades. Except for a few days of government-organised day meetings. Now the change is in the hope that this border may fall, like it did in Germany. As the two heads of heads of state will meet in no man’s land for a new start” (rough translation by self) Because of our shared history, South Koreans and Germans tend to know a fair bit about each other’s people, process of …

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 …