North Korea

Refugees’ Fear in South Korea

This is a cross-post from A Rabbit’s Eye View of the Hyperborean North.

Anecdotal tales state that many refugees from the DPRK prefer to settle in countries such as Canada or America (although, in the past five years, only a few dozen are reported to have been granted US residency), despite being recognized constitutionally as ROK citizens.

One plausible explanation for this is that – assuming they are able to dodge snipers overlooking the Tumen in Jilin, China – there is a strong perception that South Korea is riddled with informers for Pyongyang. Here, refugees could be easily identified by their accent and modes of dress and, even, body language whilst in a cosmopolitan Western city they could safely slip into anonymity.

Such beliefs would have been bolstered by the arrest in April by ROK security services of a double-agent in the ROK acting as a bloodhound seeking refugees, and the beginning of court proceedings against two apparent refugees now accused of acting as a death-squad against Hwang Jang-yop, the highest ever ranking DPRK to defect. The fear of detection that instances like these has engendered led refugees to seek and recently win the right to remove details of their origin from identification papers.

Perceptions of a political ambivalence (at best) to repression by the DPRK can be seen in atrocious remarks from the emollient Chung Dong-young who, prior to being the United New Democratic Party candidate for the 2007 Presidential elections was the Minister for Unification between 2004 and 2005. With a moral failure which would have made British and French diplomats and politicians blanch during the Bosnian Wars, on being appointed he apparently rejected the principles of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees by stating organized defections were undesirable.

“To speak once again of the defector issue, the government clearly opposes organized defections,” Unification Minister Chung Dong-young told the South Korean media recently. “For the people in the North to live their lives in the North with their families is necessary both for individuals and for co-existence and co-prosperity.

“With this in mind, it is not desirable for anyone to organize defections, intentionally bringing people out of North Korea,” Chung said.

This was at the time when details of the Korean Holodomor were becoming public knowledge, let alone known to senior political leaders.

Chung now is involved with the ongoing revisions of the North Korean Human Rights Act which has been reported as following:

The tentatively-called “North Korean Human Rights Act” calls for, among other things, strictly regulating humanitarian aid with respect to delivery and distribution, making even the provision by private groups far more difficult than now. It also stipulates the establishment of a human rights foundation under the unification minister, which will likely hinder the ministry’s conduct of its foremost duty of improving inter-Korean relationships with a broader perspective.
Although the bill stresses the need for actively supporting private organizations engaged in promoting human rights in the North, critics point out these are the groups mainly involved in instigation and subversion activities by dropping anti-Pyongyang leaflets from balloons or planning organized defection.
Supporters of the bill may refute that mere criticisms and expressions of anger will be of little help to bringing about real changes. True, there will be clear limitations to sharply improving human rights situations without a fundamental change in their one-person rule and collective leadership.
But this is why it is more important to induce the reclusive regime to gradually change its system and join the rest of the world through ceaseless dialogue and the improvement of ties.

Now part of the United Democratic Party, Chung’s UNDP had originally formed from his Uri Party and related splinter groups. In October 2006, it emerged that through sympathizer groups, the DPRK had gained influential ears within the Uri Party and sought to direct mayoral elections in Seoul (original articles no longer online, but remain in blog-form). This attempt failed, and Grand National Party remained as Oh Se-hoon succeeded Lee Myung-bak (now ROK President).

The lackluster outgoing Japanese Prime Minister,Yukio Hatoyama undoubtedly had a shogun held to his head over popular opposition to the Futemna USMC Base and was not helped by its renewal (due, in no mean part, to the hightened sense of emergency following the sinking of ROK warship, the Cheonan). Yet, such discontent could be seen in the context of a major military base on a small island, and revulsion at rapes committed by American servicemen.

The many ways DPRK-led discontent in the ROK reminds of discontent orchestrated by East German and other Soviet bloc intelligence services against Western Europe; and with the assistance of ‘peace activists’ such as Vic Allen or Cynthia Roberts.

Greater popular protest occurs following accidental deaths during US military exercises (incidentally, where M*A*S*H* was set) or disputes over uninhabited rocky islands than engineered mass-starvation or execution of civilians for using mobile-phones.

Oh, hum.