[In order to bring up-to-date our website readers who are not CanKor Report subscribers, we are posting the introductions of the last three issues for your information. Here follows the introduction to the last CanKor Report #350, dated 27 July 2013, the 60th Anniversary of the Armistice Agreement. –CanKor]
Exactly 13 years after the first CanKor newsletter was sent out to a handful of subscribers on 25 July 2000, we have reached the end of the road with this CanKor Report number 350. Cordial expressions of thanks and regret about the closing of CanKor continue to reach us. Many of them are directed towards me personally. I wish to quote two of them here, because each author has been an important mentor of mine.
The first is from David B. Dewitt, currently Vice-President of Programs at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo. David was my faculty advisor when I did my fellowship year at York University in Toronto:
“I, too, am saddened by the pending termination of CanKor. You provide an important contribution and service to those interested in not just the Korean Peninsula but also in the larger Asia Pacific context. And you and your team have done this with focus, determination and integrity for so many years. Just at a time when some mix of both rhetoric by some and indifference by others seems to be emerging, your lens would have been all that much more important. Although CanKor may be winding down, I trust that it doesn’t mean that we won’t regularly or at least occasionally be hearing from you.”
The second comes from Baldwin Sjollema, who was a role model for me when he headed the highly controversial World Council of Churches’ Programme to Combat Racism in the 1970s:
“What you and your wife have done over these past years through CanKor is exactly what I think the ecumenical movement is about: serving with conviction and compassion the wider human community in its almost endless struggle for justice and peace. The Korean issue is one of the toughest in today’s world. You have set in motion something, and something will have to take its place! With your service you have made a real contribution, which is appreciated by many people like myself, especially because nobody else did it. I am most grateful to you and express my special gratitude to you.”
As much as I take pride in such heartfelt approbation, I cannot in good conscience take all the credit for what CanKor is and was. Some of those who were involved in the past are mentioned in “CanKor history” on our website. We had powerful moral and material support from many friends, colleagues, contributors, volunteers and donors. Let me just mention a few of them here:
Paul Evans at the University of British Columbia came up with the idea of a Canadian news bulletin on matters related to North Korea. CanKor was launched and financed as an initiative of his Northeast Asia Cooperation Project (NEACP) based in the Programme on Canada-Asia Policy Studies at UBC.
When the NEACP ended its work in 2002, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) agreed to continue funding CanKor. We should in particular mention the strong support we received from David Spring, then Director General of CIDA’s China Division.
Although CIDA funding ended in 2006 (the year Stephen Harper became Prime Minister), we continued publication with the help of many individual and several institutional donors. Among the latter: Mennonite Central Committee, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, American Friends Service Committee, Christian Friends of Korea, World Vision International, and the Iara Lee & George Gund Foundation. Although behind each donation there was a person who believed in what we were doing, for a variety of reasons they cannot be named here. But you know who you are!
When we became web-based at www.CanKor.ca, I learned that having an ethereal Internet address is pointless without a physical home on a tangible server.
Cameron Ortis and Jeorg Messer assisted in the technical department to establish CanKor’s original web home at UBC. David Seguin, a CBC web developer with intensive South Korean experience, donated his time to design the first CanKor website in July 2002, thereby increasing significantly CanKor’s reach and value.
When it became too cumbersome and labour-intensive to maintain the website due to UBC’s stringent security requirements, Kevin Wright offered a new home for CanKor on the servers of KaizenDenki, Inc.
For a number of years, the Nautilus Institute offered its newsletter mailing services for distributing the CanKor Report to subscribers and provided archive space for CanKor editions. Thanks are due to Nautilus staff Peter Hayes, Scott Bruce, John Withers and Jonathan O’Donnell for going the extra mile for us.
Our website relaunch, with an entirely new look, together with a new CanKor logo in 2008 was the work of Jen Potts and her SOMA E-group. Unfortunately, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the DPR of Korea (1 February 2010), hackers disrupted the SOMA website destroying two years’ worth of CanKor archives and making it impossible to continue to publish on the site.
Up to this point we had received thousands of dollars’ worth of web-related services free of charge, thanks to the generosity of our “techie” friends, who believed as passionately in CanKor as we did. Now we had little choice but to transfer as quickly as possible to a paid-for service — in our case WordPress.com for the web content, and MailChimp.com for designing and mailing the CanKor Report. Fortunately for us, the pricing for these commercial services had dropped to a point where we could afford them, with the help of our individual donors.
Although technology has made our work easier, it certainly hasn’t done our work for us. I would like to recognize and thank all those who over the years have expended many hours of work in research and production. At the top of the list is my own family, beginning with my wife Marilyn, who not only assisted me directly in the first two years of production, but also tolerated my obsession with CanKor when the income plunged to zero. My daughter Miranda, our Managing Editor, has been the production powerhouse without whom CanKor would still be an analog scribble in my personal outbox. If I am to be given credit for the content, she must be given credit for pretty much everything else related to CanKor. In the past couple of years her partner Molly Reeder has spared me the drudgery of posting word and images on the CanKor website.
Our Human Factor editor Jack Kim has been a most refreshing collaborator, expanding our reach to a younger, more enthusiastic and activist audience by offering his carefully reasoned but passionate concern for North Korean human rights and refugees. His provocative, enlightening, and sometimes humorous articles are always among the most-read according to online statistics. I may be disclosing a secret, but I have heard talk of a post-CanKor website that he might be parenting. If so, we will keep you apprised.
One relatively recent addition to the CanKor line-up that is sure to be missed is the monthly business report edited in Beijing by Paul White. We give Paul a hearty thanks for letting us incorporate his monthly publication into CanKor. He advises me that anyone who would like to continue receiving the DPRK Business Monthly should write him directly to his email address: email@example.com.
Many other names need to be acknowledged. Numerous volunteers have helped us over the years, giving us their time, either unpaid or for the odd pocket change. All have felt the allure of the idea that CanKor acts as a lifeboat of rationality in a sea of sophistry. Their names are: Marion Current, Ihor Michalishyn, Hark Kroll, Timothy Savage, Danielle Goldfinger, Ilene Solomon, Liam Roberts, and Dana Lynch.
Over the years we have picked the brains of many persons knowledgeable about North Korea in a variety of fields and professions. By lending us their names, their reputations, their ideas and their work, they have added gravitas to our efforts, something we cherish and respect. A profound “thank you” goes to the CanKor “Brain Trust”, whose names, photographs, titles and descriptions can be found on our website here.
To all who have contributed their articles for publication in CanKor (or have not sued us for re-posting their articles from elsewhere), please accept our gratitude in lieu of payment. We have a good idea how precious your contributions were by the number of clicks on our website.
Finally, a tip of the hat to you, our faithful subscribers and followers. Website statistics show that we have had 39,678 unique visitors from 179 countries during only the past 3 years, for which we have statistics. This includes 65 North Koreans from inside the DPRK (not counting foreigners living there). 716 subscribe to our blog, which means they get a notice every time there is a new post online. And then there is you, one of the over 900 recipients of the CanKor Report. As CanKor subscribers and clients you have kept us on our toes, have encouraged us to persevere to the best of our abilities. We are grateful for your accompaniment on this adventure and can only hope that we have met your expectations.
Although we are putting CanKor to rest, we encourage you to continue your interest and engagement for peace and human security on the Korean Peninsula. As we have benefited from the work of others, we recommend to you some of the sources of information and analysis that we have drawn from:
Our Canadian partner at CCIC, the Asia-Pacific Working Group or Groupe de travail Asie-Pacifique, available in both English and French languages.
Our American partner-website 38North.
For a weekly summary, we recommend the Nautilus Peace and Security Weekly.
For a daily dose of North Korea-related news, analysis and human interest stories, check out NK-News.
Or if you prefer to get news directly from the DPRK, refer to North Korea’s Central News Agency KCNA.
There are many UN-related websites that give news on various aspects of the DPRK, but we recommend a relatively new service that covers both UN and NGO news out of Pyongyang: United Nations DPRKorea.
For a source in South Korea, we have always appreciated Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, which has three English-language information services about the DPRK: NK Briefs, IFES Forum and ICNK Forum
For well-reasoned American perspectives that sometimes grate on my nerves, but nevertheless challenge me to deeper thought on North Korean issues, I recommend two services:
Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard’s blog North Korea: Witness to Transformation is available online.
Finally, we would like to remind you of our own Canadian humanitarian and human rights organizations that continue to do fabulous work in, with or about North Korea, often operating behind the scene:
Some books have a postscript that comes after the final chapter. There may be opportunity for a CanKor postscript as well. We have already paid the annual website fees, so we intend to keep the CanKor website “alive” as an archive resource, at least during the coming year. If any new Canadian initiatives come to light during the coming year, we will post links to those resources.
There are numerous friends who have already indicated that they wish to remain in touch. My plan is to open a personal website and blog, although not necessarily Korea-related. Let me know if you wish to be invited to join me there once it is up and running.
In the meantime, I encourage you to continue to keep the people of North and South Korea close to your hearts, and to do your part in promoting peace and justice in this tragic corner of our world.
With fond regards,