Thursday, January 26, 2006

All the News You Can Use

The Long Road for NK Refugees
The Korean government is right about one thing when they talk about the NK refugee situation: they take in the vast majority of refugees (almost 1400 last year). This is to the shame of the US State Department who still drags its feet on the refugee issue and has yet to set up a system to begin facilitating the acceptance of NK refugees. However, beyond the US and the Koreans, other nations are beginning to join in. The Norwegians (sorry, no link) allowed in a small number and just recently a group of defectors were allowed into Belgium. An unfortunate truth about the NK refugee situation is that reaching safe haven is not always a garauntee that things will be all sunshine and flowers. It is very hard for NKers to assimilate into a rather exclusivist S. Korean society, and on top of that NKers understandably carry a lot of baggage. The success stories are more anamolies than they are the norm. Luckily, there are compassionate groups that help out, educating, befriending and providing for NKers in an effort to afford them a brighter future.

Looks Like I Should be an Analyst
It seems that i was not the only one to recognize the link between Hu Jintao's message to Kim Jong-Il and Kim's visit to China's economic centers. After KJI returned to NK, there has been a flurry of guess work as to what the meetings will bring about. A return to the six-party talks? An admission to the money laundering charges? Or, what some analysts are predicting, a shift in NK policy to start following that of the "China Way" of reform. Now, we should all not jump to conclusions, but the possibility is there, and i would heartily welcome it.

NKHR On and Off the Agenda in SK
After earlier talk from within Korea about the need to change tactics on NKHR and recognizing the existence of abuses in NK, there has been a flurry of statements in the last week. It began with a S. Korean panel deciding to not make any judgment of NK human rights issues. This was followed Seoul Mayor and presidential hopeful Lee myung Bak making a few political statements, one of which called out the government for not doing anything about NKHR. Then, Chosun Ilbo came out with an editorial critcizing the way that Roh Moo Hyun's administration has "maneuvered to the sidelines" of the issue. This, as i take it, is not only refering to the actual move to not address NKHR as much as it is refering to the growing irrelevance on S. Korea in regards to the NKHR issue. The question is, will Roh do anything to save face on this issue in the international community (where he simply has none).

Crime Doesn't Pay
After China and Japan both confirmed the culpability of NK in the "Super Bill" scandal, the US Treasury Dept. sent officials to S. Korea to brief them on the situation (read: try to get them to stop being stoopid). Apparently, the briefing some extent. However, when the US asked that SK take measures to deal with the problem, it ended up causing a stir (note: the Chosun Ilbo's titles for both of those articles are simply rediculous. They are so one sided it is unbelievable.) Apparently, S. Korea doesn't like "meddling".

Links Galore

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Always Stranger Than You Think

It has been a whirlwind week and many of these stories are still in the midst of fully unfolding.

Death of KEDO
The development program that was the product of Clinton's agreed framework has finally met its brought suit against the US for intentionally ending the program. But a recent article points out that there were major flaws in the way that the framework was written up and that it had little hope for success from the beginning.
What the international community, namely the U.N. Security Council, should do is strengthen the IAEA's inspection authority, he argued.

The 1994 agreement with North Korea "sowed the seeds of the present potentially dangerous stalemate" because it allowed limits to IAEA inspections, according to Goldschmidt.
Needless to say, this is beating the horse we all can see is dead everytime S. Korea, N. Korea, Russia, China, Japan, and the US get together and produce their quota of hot air.

Follow the Traveling Dictator
Reports have been flying all over the place about Kim Jong-il's current trip to China. This has brought out a flurry of speculation as to the reason for the trip. As I mentioned in the last post, there is the possibility that the trip might have something to do with President Hu's comments about reforming NK in the "China Way." That this may be China's hope (or at least they are going through the motions like they care) can be seen by the plethora of economic/development/market sites that KJI has visited during his stay. But of course, the trip is likely also meant to jump start the stalled six way talks. The primary cause for the stall has been the US sanctions against NK because of a dirty little money laundering scheme. NK has denied any wrong doing, but the thin ice they may be treading in regards to China's patience can be seen in the Chinese support of the US's conclusions about the money laundering ring. That prolly was sufficient incentive for KJI to come all the way down to Beijing.

Getting Down to Business
I hope that this is not a lot of rhetoric to throw us off for the next few months. Lefkowitz, and Ambassador Vershbow for that matter, have been rather upfront about seeking the improvement of human rights in NK, so I am hopeful. Till the present date, S. Korea can easily claim to be the main recipient of NK refugees, though they had tried to slow the process down under Chung Dong Young. Norway recently allowed in a pair of refugees, calling on the US to live up to their laws (enumerated in the NK Human Rights Act). Insiders will point to internal struggles about exactly which road to take on the issue of refugees as the reason for the delay in allowing NK refugees into the states, but it seems that this may no longer be the case. I had heard from reliable sources that the excuse up til now had been a product of a lack of definition as to who NK refugees are and how they will be admitted and that the other reason was that the US didn't want to take in refugees who would otherwise go to S. Korea where they have a better chance of adapting, given that none speak English. If Lefkowitz can tackle this issue successfully, it will create a swell of confidence concerning not only his ability, but his resolve as well.

Other News

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NK in the News

The last week or so has been a big one for North Korea in the news. I will hopefully be keeping a consistant (read: weekly) update on key issues connected to NK and of course human rights there. (appologies for the lack of citations...i am new to this. lost a lot of the links.)

WFP Calls it quits
Earlier in the year, based on what they claim is a good harvest (but which is actually due more to the amount of aid coming in, without the WFP observers, from S. Korea and China), the N. Korean government demanded that the WFP and other Western NGOs all leave by the end of the year. This even included European groups who usually aren't hit by as heavy an attack as are US groups. NK demanded a shift from humanitarian (emergency) aid to development aid. In compliance with the demands of the NK government, the WFP phased out their operations over the last few months and officially pulled out on the first of January. The WFP had been providing food to approximately 6.5 million N. Koreans. For more information on their operations in NK go here.

Kim Jong Il in China?
Rumors abound pointing to a visit by the often sedentary NK ruler to China. This seems to be a rare occasion as the NK ruler has only been out of the country on seven different occasions. The meeting most likely concerns the stall in the Six Party talks. (background: the US has sanctioned NK over a money laundering scheme and NK has cited this as the reason for not resuming the talks). However, I hope that it has more to do (though this is purely wishful thinking) with a little noticed comment made by President Hu Jintao during his visit to N. Korea:
In unusually direct language, Hu recommended the so-called Chinese Way of openness and reforms, but although North Korean leader Kim Jong-il offered polite praise of China's success, he stopped short of announcing any plans to emulate the country, leaving observers guessing what changes the North’s economic reforms will bring.
Though I am not a big fan of much that the Chinese government has done, the "Chinese Way" of reform has been utterly remarkable, especially when compared to most former Soviet and Block nations. It would be incredible if China took on the role of the reformer and pushed N. Korea to reform in a similar way to the Deng Xiaoping reforms. It wouldn't bring us the whole way, but it would be miles closer than today.

Changes in the Unification Ministry
Chung Dong-young, the former Unification Minister who had courted the wrath of every NKHR activist the world over has stepped down to pursue his presidential ambitions. This leaves room for the new minister, Lee Jong-seok, to begin sitting in the drivers seat of North-South relations. Given his position as a key advisor to Roh Moo-hyun over the last few years, one must wonder whether this will represent even a ripple of policy change. We'll see.

Defining Irony
In the most interesting twist I have ever seen, N. Korea decided to sue the S. Korean government over the treatment of POWs and dissidents who were recently returned to N. Korea. This is quite the claim given the nature of human rights in the NK and some other issues including, oh, abductions, money laundering, drug laundering, and some other not so commendable activities that N. Korea has adopted as standard operating proceedure. Thankfully (or else this would have confirmed for me that the world has gone crazy) some S. Koreans justly responded. S. Korea plans on ignoring both claims.

and that is your NK week. and then some.