Five Myths About North Korea, by Joel S. Wit & Jenny Town

[This article appeared in the 29 March 2013 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Joel S. Wit is a visiting fellow with the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and founder of its North Korea website, 38North. Jenny Town is a research associate at the Institute and the editor of its website. –CanKor]

It’s Not a Hermit Kingdom, and 4 Other Myths About North Korea

Yes, we should be taking Kim Jong Un’s recent threats seriously. But first, we have to lose the comic-book caricature of his country.

(Photo by Erich Weingartner)

(Photo by Erich Weingartner)

Every day the media is filled with reports of North Korea threatening to attack the United States and its close allies. An escalating cycle of threat and counter-threat has been going on for the past few months. It started with the North’s partially successful long-range rocket test in December, was followed by its third test of a nuclear bomb in February, new U.N. sanctions in response to those tests, U.S.-South Korean military exercises, Pyongyang’s bellicose threats to launch strikes against the United States, and now the temporary deployment of long-range U.S. B-2 bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, to South Korea.

Americans should be deeply concerned about these events. While the North may eventually be able to put a nuclear weapon on top of a long-range missile and attack the United States, Pyongyang’s bombs can already reach our friends in South Korea and Japan. There is also a danger that North Korea may export nuclear technology to other rogue states, like Iran and terrorist groups. Remember that the North did send a nuclear reactor for producing bomb-making material to Syria — luckily Israeli warplanes destroyed the unfinished facility in 2006. The danger of exports will grow in the future if the North’s nuclear arsenal continues to grow. Read the rest of this entry »

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Time to Address North Korea’s Prison Labor Camps, by Roberta Cohen

[CanKor Brain Trust member Roberta Cohen is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution. She is a specialist in human rights, humanitarian, and refugee issues and a leading expert on the subject of internally displaced persons. CanKor reproduces here a statement made by Ms Cohen at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies‘ Washington Forum 2013 and subsequently published by them as Issue Brief #60. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. –CanKor]

Roberta Cohen with Shin Dong Hyuk

Roberta Cohen with Shin Dong Hyuk

It is time for the international community to address itself directly to the most serious of North Korea’s human rights violations – the prison labor camps. Situated in the mountains of North Korea, the camps are estimated to hold some 100,000 to 200,000 prisoners, including whole families, many of whom are not expected to survive.

The issue has come to the fore through the combined efforts of human rights NGOs and former North Korean prisoners who have escaped the country. For several decades, NGOs, academics and journalists from the United States, Western Europe and the Republic of Korea have conducted painstaking research to unearth verifiable information about the camps and North Korea’s overall human rights situation. They have come up with persuasive evidence despite the regime’s efforts to conceal its conduct through denial of access. Read the rest of this entry »

North Koreans in Toronto: The NGO Predicament

It is no secret for anyone living in Toronto that persons of North Korean descent are living in Canada, and that most of them end up settling in Toronto. Also, for anyone who has devoted any effort to North Korean issues in Toronto, it is obvious after only a bit of time that most, if not all of them, have spent some considerable time in South Korea. You don’t have to notice that the first thing that many North Koreans do is obtain a smartphone, or that they stop needing your assistance after two weeks in Canada, or that the clothing they choose to wear is remarkably South Korean. Some will simply openly tell you that they came from South Korea and chose to live in Toronto.

Unfortunately, that is not the story they tell the Canadian immigration authorities. Doing so would spell doom to a refugee claim, which all North Koreans lodge upon entering the country. Rather, the typical North Korean refugee claim starts in North Korea and goes straight through China to Canada, omitting the South Korean leg of the journey. This is for obvious reason. Being honest and upfront about coming through a country that welcomes North Korean refugees with lavish subsidies would lead to an outright dismissal of their refugee claim.

There is a further wrinkle now that a lie has been told: the laws surrounding misrepresentation. If found to have misrepresented themselves to the government under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the claimant would then find themselves unable to enter Canada for two years, with legislation now in the House of Commons that would expand that period to five.

Although I have written in the past how the Canadian government should respond to this issue, what has been neglected is how civil society should cope with this recent phenomenon. How should non-governmental organizations that deal with North Korea specifically respond to the North Koreans arriving on our shores? Read the rest of this entry »

A Call for Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula

koreapeace[The Korean United Methodist Church of Atlanta was the site of an ecumenical Korea peace conference from 15 to 17 May 2013. Theme of the event was “Embrace Peace, Pursue It: From Armistice to Just Peace on the Korean Peninsula.” Keynote and plenary speakers included The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church USA, The Rev. Dr. Syngman Rhee, former president, National Council of Churches USA and a former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, The Rev. Dr. Jaejung Lee, professor at the Sungkonghoe University, Seoul, former South Korean Minister of Unification, and Dr. Christine Ahn, Executive Director of the Korea Policy Institute. Sponsoring organizations were the United Methodist Korean American National Association; Committee on Korean Reunification & Reconciliation; General Board of Global Ministries; United Methodist Women; United Methodist Korean Ministry Plan; and the National Council of Churches, South Korea. Workshop theme were: Building a Case for Peace Treaty: Steps for Advocacy; Women & Militarism; Humanitarian Mission & Building Solidarity in North Korea; The suffering of North Korean defectors and their survival in the South Korean society and church; and Nuclear Armament & Peace in the Korean Peninsula. Following here is the statement issued by conference participants. –CanKor] Read the rest of this entry »

Ending the Korean War: conference report by Peggy McInerny

[CanKor editor Erich Weingartner spoke at a recent UCLA Center for Korean Studies conference, which brought together a wide range of speakers to reconsider how to end a war that never technically ended. Peggy McInerny, the author of the article which follows, is Director of Communications at the UCLA International Institute. A full conference summary may be read here: The Heartbreak of a Divided Nation by Peggy McInerny. –CanKor]

Podium and first row, left to right: Paul Liem, Korea Policy Institute; Dorothy Ogle, former Methodist missionary to South Korea; Pilju Kim Joo, Agglobe Services International; Indong Oh, M.D.; Jeong Young-Hee, farmer and peace activist from Gangjeong, Jeju Island; Christine Ahn (back turned), Global Fund for Women and Oakland Institute, and daughter. Top row, left to right: Moon Jae Pak, M.D., U.S.-North Korea Medical Science Exchange Committee; historian Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago; Erich Weingartener, CanKor; Rev. Syngman Rhee; James Chun, One Korea Movement; Hosu Kim, City University of New York. (Photo by Peggy McInerny)

Podium and first row, left to right: Paul Liem, Korea Policy Institute; Dorothy Ogle, former Methodist missionary to South Korea; Pilju Kim Joo, Agglobe Services International; Indong Oh, M.D.; Jeong Young-Hee, farmer and peace activist from Gangjeong, Jeju Island; Christine Ahn (back turned), Global Fund for Women and Oakland Institute, and daughter. Top row, left to right: Moon Jae Pak, M.D., U.S.-North Korea Medical Science Exchange Committee; historian Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago; Erich Weingartner, CanKor; Rev. Syngman Rhee; James Chun, One Korea Movement; Hosu Kim, City University of New York. (Photo by Peggy McInerny)

The UCLA Center for Korean Studies hosted a conference entitled “Ending the Korean War” on May 9, 2013. The meeting brought together a wide range of speakers — historians, sociologists, former missionaries, peace activists, Korean War survivors, and people currently engaged in humanitarian projects in North Korea — to reconsider how to end a war that never technically ended. Instead of a peace agreement, the United States and North Korea signed an armistice agreement in 1953 on behalf of their allies on each side.

Sixty years later, the Korean Peninsula remains heavily militarized, the United States has still not recognized North Korea, and acute tensions between the two states earlier in 2013 threatened to lead to military conflict.

Historian Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago, where he is Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the history department, served as keynote speaker. In his view, U.S. policy toward North Korea over the past 60 years, which has consisted mostly of nuclear threats, has been a complete failure. Not only does North Korea now have nuclear weapons, as well as long- and medium-range missiles, the two nations are no nearer to a peace agreement than they were in 1953. Read the rest of this entry »

What Park Geun-hye actually said about North Korea in Washington

Remarks by President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea to a Joint Session of Congress

Location: House Chamber, The Capitol, Washington, D.C., Time: 10:39 a.m. EDT, Date: Wednesday, 8 May 2013

ROK President Park Geun-hye addresses a joint meeting of Congress in Washington 8 May 2013. (Photo from Ebru News)

ROK President Park Geun-hye addresses a joint meeting of Congress in Washington 8 May 2013. (Photo from Ebru News)

PRESIDENT PARK GEUN-HYE:

Speaker Boehner, Vice President Biden, distinguished members of the House and the Senate, ladies and gentlemen, I’m privileged to stand in this chamber, this hallowed ground of freedom and democracy, to speak about our friendship and our future together.

After I arrived in Washington the day before yesterday, I went to the Korean War Memorial, near the banks of the Potomac. I read the words etched in granite. Our nation honors the sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met. Time and again, I’m moved when I read those familiar words. (Applause.)

Let me express on behalf of the people of the Republic of Korea our profound gratitude to America’s veterans. Their blood, sweat and tears helped safeguard freedom and democracy. (Applause.) Read the rest of this entry »

What Park Geun-hye should say about North Korea in Washington, by Victor Hsu

[From time to time we reproduce posts from our partner site 38North, for CanKor readers who may not receive 38North updates. In this case, CanKor Brain Trust member Prof. Victor Hsu offers his take on what should be South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s message to a joint meeting of the US Congress on Wednesday, 8 May 2013. –CanKor]

North Korea: Danger and Opportunity for Park Geun-hye’s Presidency

By Victor W.C. Hsu, 5 May 2013

President Park Geun-hye waves before leaving for the United States from Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. During her first foreign trip after becoming president, Park is scheduled to have a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, Tuesday. (Korea Times photo by Koh Young-kwon)

President Park Geun-hye waves before leaving for the United States from Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. During her first foreign trip after becoming president, Park is scheduled to have a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, Tuesday. (Korea Times photo by Koh Young-kwon)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s speech to the Joint Session of the United States Congress will be a great opportunity to signal that the Korean peninsula is headed toward a new era of inter-Korean cooperation, test the rough waters with policies for a breakthrough on the North Korea policy conundrum and dispel much of the jitteriness that has surrounded Korea since the beginning of the year. More importantly, her message can be an invitation to North Korea to grasp her outstretched hand and prove to the international community that it’s not an empty gesture but that she means business.

I am not President Park’s advisor, nor am I her speechwriter, but as an American citizen living in South Korea, here is what I would like her to say in Washington: Read the rest of this entry »

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