Nightlife in Pyongyang, by Justin Rohrlich

[CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner and Brain Trust member Kathi Zellweger were among former residents and frequent visitors to North Korea that were interviewed by a New York City based journalist Justin Rohrlich about nightlife in North Korea. The resulting article was published on 19 April 2013 in The full text, with NKNews photo, follows. –CanKor]

North Korea’s Nightlife Scene: The Pyongyang Perspective

Justin Rohrlich speaks to former residents and regular visitors to learn more about nightlife in North Korea

Pyongyang-NightlifeThough it sounds like the start of a bad joke, North Korea does, indeed, have a nightlife.

“It’s not just going to rallies,” says Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based travel outfitter specializing in North Korea. “There is such a thing as leisure time, at least for people in Pyongyang and in certain other parts of the country. North Koreans are not the Taliban; they do things that most westerners can relate to: having too many drinks, having a singsong, having a night out — these types of things do occur.”

A night on the town wasn’t always so easy for Pyongyangites — or the 200 or so resident foreigners living there; diplomats, aid workers, and the odd European or Asian investor. Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner on “Russia Today”

[Earlier this month, CanKor Editor-in-Chief Erich Weingartner was interviewed on “Russia Today”. According to its self-description, “RT is a global news channel broadcasting from Moscow and Washington studios. With a global reach of over 530 million people, or 25% of all cable subscribers worldwide, RT news covers the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more. Our team of young news professionals has made RT the first news channel to break the 500 million YouTube views benchmark.” The interview took place live on 5 March 2013, and may be viewed here. The following article was published 6 March 2013 and is taken from the Russia Today website. –CanKor]

N. Korea vows to scrap ceasefire if South, US continue military drill

North Korea has threatened to scrap the armistice which ended the 1950-53 Korean War if the South and US continue with an ongoing military drill.

“We will completely nullify the Korean armistice,” the North’s KCNA news agency said, quoting the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Supreme Command spokesman.

Pyongyang warned it will cancel the Korean War ceasefire agreement on March 11 if the US and its “puppet South Korea” do not halt their joint drills.

“We will be suspending the activities of the KPA representative office at Panmunjom (truce village) that had been tentatively operated by our army as the negotiating body to establish a peace regime on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA quoted the spokesman as saying. Read the rest of this entry »

6 North Korean professors in Canada to study free market

[The following Yonhap news agency article datelined San Francisco, 20 July 2012, appeared in The Korea Times of South Korea. –CanKor]

University of British Columbia Rose Garden

Six professors of leading North Korean universities are staying in Vancouver to study capitalism at a Canadian university on a six-month program, the program director said Friday, drawing fresh attention to the North’s possible transition under its Swiss-educated young leader.The economics professors from three North Korean universities arrived in Canada earlier this month to take courses at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the fall semester, which begins in September, after a two-month language course, Professor Park Kyung-ae, director of the Center for Korean Research, said.

“They will mainly study international business, economics, finance and trade,” Park told Yonhap News by phone, without giving further details of their identifications.The elite universities include Kim Il-sung University, the top university named after the country’s founding leader, the People’s Economics University and the Pyongyang Foreign Language College, Park said. All the institutions are located in the North’s capital, Pyongyang. Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor Brain Trust Members Interviewed on Radio Canada International

[CanKor Brain Trust member Charles Burton and Editor-in-Chief Erich Weingartner were interviewed by Radio Canada International’s columnist Lynn Desjardins about the recent US-DPRK agreement. Clicking on the image below will take you to the RCI website, where the interviews can be heard. –CanKor]

Radio Canada International, 1 March 2012

Canadian analysts wary of North Korean promise to suspend its nuclear programme

In a new deal with the United States, North Korea has agreed to suspend its nuclear activities in exchange for food aid. But Canadian analysts warn against reading too much into the new agreement. The Link’s Lynn Desjardins tells us what might or might not work to change the situation in North Korea.

Click on image to listen.

CanKor Editor Interviewed on Russian Television

‘Food shortage not No.1 priority for deal’

Russia Today, 1 March 2012

Erich Weingartner, a Canadian humanitarian affairs consultant, believes the food shortage and leadership change in North Korea are not primary driving forces behind the agreement.

The country’s always short of food,” he noted in an interview with RT, “Right now probably not as desperately in need as it was a year ago. They have just received in January some 500,000 tons of food from China, so this is not the number one priority for the particular action that’s happening right now.

Weingartner also pointed to the fact that the agreement was actually discussed by the US and North Korea prior to Kim Jong Il’s death. However, he also noted that the present deal is not a formal agreement, but is more in line with what North Korea likes to call “words for words” and “actions for actions.”“So it depends not only on North Korea and what they do, but it also depends on how the US is going to react in the next period of time and whether or not the six-party talks process gets back on track, and what happens in that regard.

He said the other five parties, namely South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States, had to do their part in the negotiations.

As for the drills recently conducted by the US and South Korea, Weingartner took note of the fact that North Korea isn’t the only cause of concern for America in the region.

The drills are an annual event and have to do partly with North Korea and the threat from North Korea, but also partly the US asserting its power in the region. And so it has as much to do with the US facing China and protecting its allies in Northeast Asia, as well as protecting economic interests there.

He said China was not likely to appreciate the exercises.

Related articles

National Post: the Significance of North Korea’s Prisoner Amnesty

[DISCLAIMER: The following article by Ross Johnston, entitled “Torture, executions are daily occurrences at North Korea’s ‘rehabilitation’ gulags” and published in the National Post on 3 February 2012 contains a number of factual and interpretive errors when referring to an interview with the Editor-in-Chief of CanKor. For example, Erich Weingartner did not receive North Korean citizenship. He also specified that the link between prison camps and the low incidence of crimes witnessed by foreigners in the late 1990s is purely speculative, and emphasized that prisoner amnesties are common during a change of leaders not only in North but also in South Korea. In neither case would the release of prisoners include those who might pose a threat to the incoming leadership. –CanKor]

Shin Sook-ja was imprisoned in a North Korean labour camp along with her daughters, Oh Hyewon and Oh Gyuwon, after her husband managed to flee the country. She and the girls were then forced to pose for this fake family portrait, which was sent to her husband as evidence of their capture. (Amnesty International)

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in Kwanliso 14, a “rehabilitation” camp 72 kilometres north of Pyongyang, North Korea.

For 23 years he knew only pain, hunger and despair, and like all prisoners was forced to witness the daily executions.

Even so, life was not without its hard-won, if shocking pleasures.

“One lucky day, I discovered some kernels of corn in a small pile of cow dung,” he said in a report released by Amnesty International in May.

“I picked them up and cleaned them with my sleeve before eating.”

Mr. Shin was one of about 200,000 prisoners held in five known prison camps scattered across the country.

These modern gulags include Kwanliso (Korean for prison camp) 15 at Yodok, 128 kilometres east of Pyongyang. With 50,000 political prisoners, it is one of the most rapidly growing camps in North Korea covering five valleys and approximately 146 square kilometres. (Inside Pyongyang’s Gulags view PDF)

For decades, the Pyongyang government has repeatedly denied the existence of the camps — though they show up on satellite maps. But there is little doubt about their purpose: It is to reform enemies of the state through a regime of hard labour and relentless propaganda. Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor editors are guests on Context with Lorna Dueck

Don’t miss CanKor editor-in-chief Erich Weingartner and CanKor Human Factor blog editor Jack Kim on Context with Lorna Dueck. The two participated as guests on this Christian television talk show that airs on a number of stations across Canada.

In an email after the show was taped, Producer Sannah Choi wrote the following:

“Thank you so very much for your outstanding contribution to the show last evening. Your expertise and perspective were so valuable and appreciated by many in the audience with whom I spoke last night. It left them thinking and more aware of the situation in North Korea.”

The show is expected to air on Sunday, 5 February on Global TV at 9:30 am EST and on Vision TV at 12:30 pm EST. Additional details on times and stations are posted here.

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North Korea could have used a Havel by Charles Burton

[This op-ed piece was written by CanKor Brain Trust member Charles Burton, and published in the Ottawa Citizen on 22 December 2011. Charles Burton is associate professor of political science at Brock University and a former counsellor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing. –Cankor]

Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-il, both of whom died this week, personified an extreme contrast in leadership styles. Each man oversaw a nation’s response to the dashing of the hope for human dignity and justice that the Marxist-Leninist paradigm once offered. But the ways each went about it could not have been more different.

Vaclav Havel

Both Czechoslovakia and North Korea were deeply affected by the decline of the Soviet Union that began in the mid-1980s and culminated with its collapse in 1991. But North Korea turned inward, replacing Marxist ideology with the even more stifling and arcane Juche doctrine, and intensifying its repressive politics of charismatic personality cult to new extremes. From the late 1980s on, North Korea became even more closed to the outside world, leading to a rapid deterioration of the national economy to the point that more than a million of its people died of starvation in the famine of 1995-’97.

Today North Korea is dependent on food and energy inputs from China, South Korea and the UN, which delivers food aid originating in the United States and other western nations, including Canada. Even so, about half the children in North Korea still suffer from stunted growth and disabilities due to prolonged malnutrition. Meanwhile, the North Korean politicaland military elite lives in high luxury with their Mercedes Benzes, munificent walled housing compounds, flownin supplies of lobster and cognac, jewelry and expensive perfume imported through China; all gifts of the Dear Leader to maintain their support for his domination of a miserably failed state. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio interview with Charles Burton and Erich Weingartner

CanKor Brain Trust member Charles Burton and CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner were interviewed on CJAD 800 AM News. Talk. Radio: Viewpoints, airing 14 January 2012 from noon onwards.

Viewpoints with Todd van der Heyden airs Saturdays, 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm. Van der Heyden is the co-anchor of the 12pm and 6pm newscasts on CTV Montreal. Before he started at CTV, he worked at CBC Radio. He has won awards for his investigative work for On Your Side on CTV and for the years he spent as a general reporter.

Each week Viewpoints examines the top stories of the week, from politics, to justice, to entertainment. This particular edition of the show discusses recent events in North Korea.

The Reality of Tears by Erich Weingartner

[This article by CanKor Editor-in-Chief Erich Weingartner was published by our partner site on 4 January 2012. –CanKor]

The question consistently asked by journalists over the past weeks is whether the weeping and wailing that accompanied the death and funeral of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is the product of stage management or a genuine outpouring of grief. In other words, how real are the tears?

Picture by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)

To our secular and cynical Western sensibilities, it seems inconceivable that a nation would be moved to tears at the death of what we believe to have been an evil tyrant who ate lobsters and caviar while his people starved, who squandered the nation’s wealth on nuclear weapons while soliciting humanitarian aid, who operated a network of brutal prison camps and kept the entire population isolated from the outside world. Why is there no nationwide rejoicing? Should we not see people dancing in the streets of Pyongyang? As is often the case when dealing with North Korea, our simplistic questions require more complex answers than time allows in journalistic interviews.

The way in which all humans respond to emotional events has a lot to do with our perception of history, politics, economics and the culture in which we are embedded. North Korea is not what we consider to be a modern, secular, capitalist society in which the individual reigns supreme. Although it describes itself as a revolutionary society, the DPRK is not revolutionary in the style of the French, the American or even the Russian revolutions. Kim Il Sung and his compatriots fought an anti-colonial struggle against foreign domination. There was never the sense of fighting against an indigenous corrupt or oppressive ruler, and North Korean propaganda continues to justify a “revolutionary” attitude and the need for a powerful military as one that is aimed against foreign domination. Read the rest of this entry »

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