The End of the Beginning: Bringing About a Khrushchev Thaw in the DPRK

In the midst of Britain’s darkest hour, Winston Churchill famously remarked in 1942 that what the country faced was not “the end, it is not even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

If there is anything to describe the events of what we have witnessed in the DPRK in the past week or so, Churchill’s words could not be closer to the truth. We seem to be at a bridge that has never been crossed in the history of the country, and no one is quite sure how long, or even how sturdy, this bridge actually is. The fact that this bridge is now in the horizon may also help some of us to rethink positions we have had in the past as well.

For many of us, from the perspective of observing North Korea from the “outside in,” the DPRK presents some unique and difficult challenges. It is important to note that it is in fact not even a fraction of the country that is responsible for the challenges that we are faced with; our quibble is with the people in Pyongyang who seem to hold the reins of power in that country.

With Kim Jong Il’s death, there has been a renewed interest in what we on the outside should be doing about those folks in Pyongyang we seem to have this quibble with. After all, we seem to be back at square one when it comes to dealing with the regime. Ten years of the Sunshine Policy brought very little in practical progress when it came to forcing the North Koreans to take off the proverbial Aesopian jacket. On the other hand, the last five years of hardline policies have produced equally dismal results. Read the rest of this entry »

Releasing the 3Genie Out of the Bottle – North Korea’s Cell Phones

Cell Phone

Cell Phone by JonJon2k8 via Flickr

Toronto has become somewhat of a hub for things North Korean, and I was fortunate enough the other night to catch a kwan-li-so survivor speak about her experiences in the camps. Particularly heartening to hear were her experiences after her arrival in South Korea, discovering things about the DPRK that her own government dared not share with her. She especially praised a new fangled invention that she’d discovered called “the internet” for providing a treasure trove of human rights related data.

But North Korean defectors are not the only ones who seem to have been deprived of technology. One of the more elderly gentlemen in the room furrowed his eyebrows, confused, and interrupted the speaker. He demanded again the source of the human rights related data.

It was now the defector’s turn to be confused. After a pause of a second, she replied, in all seriousness:

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