The Fiction of the North Korean Refugee Orphan, by Christine Hong

[From time to time CanKor alerts readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article by Christine Hong has stirred a good deal of controversy. We believe it is an important analysis of a wrong-headed approach to human rights. Please follow our link to the current article on the 38North site., where we invite you to read also the comments that have been posted there, for example by LiNK, an organization that is referenced in this article. –CanKor]

Recently fast-tracked to the House floor, HR 1464 (“The North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2011”) has passed the House.[i] Exploiting the rhetoric of humanitarian rescue, the bill identifies North Korean hunger as the problem and proposes U.S. adoption of North Korean children as the solution, making the figure of the hungry North Korean orphan a matter of U.S. legislative concern. Yet this bill recklessly turns on the fiction of the “North Korean refugee orphan,” construing the latter as a child without nationality, in order to authorize the acceleration of U.S. adoption procedures through “alternative mechanisms.” Although the bill purports to help “thousands of North Korean children [who] do not have families and are threatened with starvation and disease if they remain in North Korea or as stateless refugees in surrounding countries,”[ii] its truth can be found in its preamble, which supposes that “thousands of United States citizens would welcome the opportunity to adopt North Korean orphans living outside North Korea.”

Suturing its loose definitional categories together, this legislation seeks to establish, as a precedent, the category of “statelessness” as a flexible definitional vehicle by way of which inter-country adoption can be expedited and international laws meant to safeguard the rights of children and families circumvented. Aimed not at resolving North Korean hunger, much less the well-being of the children whom it willfully misrepresents, this bill lays the task of “identify[ing] other nations in which large numbers of stateless, orphaned children are living who might be helped by international adoption” at the doorstep of the State Department. Read the rest of this entry »

38 North: Dealing with the Kims by Joel Wit & Jenny Town

[From time to time CanKor alerts readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by Joel Wit and Jenny Town. This article originally appeared on www.foreignpolicy.com, and has been reprinted with permission. The original can be found here. Please follow our link to this article on the 38North site. –CanKor]

This week’s meeting between U.S. Special Envoy Glyn Davies and North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan will be the first official encounter between the United States and North Korea since the death of Kim Jong Il two months ago. After endless speculation by the press and experts about the future of North Korea, this meeting will be an important reality check: an opportunity to take the pulse of the new management in Pyongyang, and particularly to discern changes or continuity in its efforts to build weapons of mass destruction.

Even on a good day, of course, we underestimate the difficulties of dealing with North Korea at our peril. Korea specialists are fond of calling it the “land of no good options” (although that is probably true for many foreign-policy challenges facing the United States today). The North remains the poster child for rogue states because of 60 years of bad behavior, including its more recent nuclear and missile tests in 2006 and 2009 and conventional military attacks on South Korea in 2010. If there is anyone who knows that, it’s those of us who have had direct experience dealing with North Koreans at the negotiating table, on the ground, or conducting any other business face-to-face with them. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: