The Day After, by Bill Keller

[CanKor Brain Trust member Hark Kroll alerted us to this opinion piece published in The New York Times on 29 April 2012. Op-Ed Columnist Bill Keller begins with the now familiar rehearsing of DPRK human rights violations, mentioning several books published recently, including CanKor Brain Trust member David Hawk’s updated “The Hidden Gulag”. But the more interesting part of this article is contained at the end, where Keller reviews the questions posed by the “engagement camp” and the “regime-change camp”, concluding that both are missing the most pertinent questions about what is to happen after an eventual collapse in North Korea. –CanKor]

Bill Keller (photo by Tony Cenicola, The New York Times)

THE one thing everyone knows about North Korea is that we know very little about North Korea, except that it is miserable, totalitarian, nuclear and erratic. It is the hermit kingdom, the dark side of the moon.

But thanks to many thousands of refugees who have reached freedom by way of a long underground railroad through China, we know a lot more now about the grim reality. We understand better how the government sustains its dreadful power, and where that power could be faltering. Among people who follow the country closely, there is fresh discussion of whether this most durable of monster-states could be nearing its end days, and what we should do about it.

In recent weeks the news spotlight has focused on the 29-year-old novice tyrant Kim Jong-un, performing his family’s time-tested repertoire of bellicose bluster. Like a lunatic waving an assault rifle as he dances on a high window ledge, Kim galvanizes our attention.

But the more interesting story is down below. Read the rest of this entry »

North Korean Gulag Conference to be held in Washington DC

The US-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) has announced that a one-day conference will be held in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, 10 April 2012, entitled “Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Political Prisoner Camp System & Calling for Its Complete, Verifiable, and Irreversible Dismantlement”. The conference is organized together with the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, and will be hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics at the C. Fred Bergsten Conference Center (1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036).

Two CanKor Brain Trust members have prominent parts in the proceedings. As Chair of HRNK, Roberta Cohen (Non-resident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution) will make opening remarks. David Hawk, author of “Hidden Gulag” (First & Second Edition), will be the first presenter in the first panel of the conference.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sifting through the golf sands for a hint of North Korea’s future

[Many of the CanKor Brain Trust members have been inundated by the media for interviews in the past weeks. For this article, John Barber of Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail interviewed Hartmuth Kroll, Paul EvansDavid Hawk and CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner. “Your Brain Trust was a lifesaver!” John Barber wrote in an email to the editor. “I was very happy to talk to Canadians.” The article appeared in the 30 December 2011 edition of the Globe and Mail. –CanKor]

In keeping with his orderly ascension from ranking army general to top political official to supreme leader of the last hard-line Communist country on earth, North Korea’s chubby young Kim Jong-un is expected soon to take up golf, where he will challenge his father’s record of scoring almost a dozen holes-in-one on his first try at the game.

Afforded little else in the way of information on the internal doings of the secretive country, observers will be reduced to parsing news of the young leader’s score, speculating on what it might mean should he fail to match his father’s 38-under-par.

Such is the fantasy scenario of North Korea’s notorious – often ludicrous – propaganda machine, which is operating at full throttle after the death of the country’s last demigod ruler. Observers question whether the regime can maintain the barrage of lies big and little it has used for so long to mislead and repress its citizens.

In particular, they wonder how long it will be before the flood of information loosened by the digital revolution, which helped destabilize and wash away repressive regimes throughout the Middle East this year, finally leaks through slowly widening cracks in the Kimchi Curtain. Read the rest of this entry »

Dissenting view of David Hawk’s “Pursuing Peace While Advancing Rights”

Posted by CanKor Brain Trust Member Paul Evans:

It may appear churlish to offer a dissenting view of David Hawk’s informed and thoughtful report, Pursuing Peace While Advancing Rights: The Untried Approach to North Korea,” that is featured in CanKor Report #325 and on this blog. I share his sense of outrage at the state of human rights in North Korea and his commitment to encouraging positive change. I agree that North Korean violence against migrant women and the existence of prison camps (“managed places”) are pivotal issues that should not be ignored. It indeed seems almost certain that full normalization of relations with North Korea by the United States and many other countries (Canada included) will depend upon improvements in human rights in that country. And it is difficult to disagree with his general comment that there has been very little progress in advancing either nuclear and missile disarmament or human rights in the past seventeen years.

But the report makes four mistakes that undermine its prescriptions. Read the rest of this entry »

Publication: Bridging the chasm between human rights and peace

Pro-engagement activists have often argued that the pursuit of peace and reconciliation with the DPRK requires that human rights take a back seat in negotiations. At the other end of the spectrum have been anti-engagement activists who have argued that negotiation for peace and reconciliation is futile in the absence of human rights.

In May 2010 the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) published a report entitled, PURSUING PEACE WHILE ADVANCING RIGHTS: The Untried Approach to North Korea, by David Hawk. To my knowledge, this is the first serious attempt to bridge what have been assumed to be irreconcilable positions. Read the rest of this entry »

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