On 7 February Lord David Alton and Baroness Caroline Cox returned from a five day trip to North Korea. This week they published a report of their visit. This is reproduced in full below, with permission.
Seizing the moment for change in North Korea
A report by Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Cox of Queensbury,
Chairman and Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for North Korea
1.0 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Lord (David) Alton and Baroness (Caroline) Cox have returned from a five day visit to North Korea (February 3rd – February 7th, 2009). Lord Alton subsequently visited Seoul (February 7th-12th). They visited North Korea at the invitation of the Speaker of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), Choe Thae Bok.
Their principal recommendations include:
- a call to the incoming Administration of President Barack Obama to instigate a formal cessation of hostilities and normalisation of relations with the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea (DPRK). The United Kingdom established a diplomatic mission in the Pyongyang ten years ago; this would be an opportune moment for the United States to do the same.
- a recognition of the error of not linking human rights and security concerns in the six-party talks – constructive critical engagement with Pyongyang is recommended: a “Helsinki Process with a Korean Face.”
- a call for renewed concerted international pressure to grant access to Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn – the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights – access to the DPRK. He has estimated that 400,000 people have died in the camps in the last 30 years.
- encouragement of the DPRK to allow greater freedom of information for its citizens and access for aid agencies to carry out their work – in particular in the areas of capacity building and health care.
Their principal findings include:
- deep concerns over human rights, humanitarian and security issues – issues they raised during high level meetings with DPRK government ministers and officials.
- the consequences of deteriorating relations between North and South Korea which could jeopardise a historic opportunity for progress.
- observations about political and religious liberties, including some positive developments which were noted and appreciated.
2.0 BRIEF HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
From 1910 until 1945 Korea was forcibly annexed into the Japanese empire.
The fear of conquest by other powers and the intense patriotism felt by Koreans is crucial in understanding North Korea’s psychology.
In this period, the Imperial Japanese Army discriminated against, tortured, plundered, raped, summarily executed and mass murdered innocent Koreans. The Japanese mercilessly shot random people on the streets at times, and would torture anyone who had any kind of information leading to the capture of members of the independence movement.
Major cultural genocides by the Japanese include forced sex slavery and the kidnapping of Korean women for the Japanese army; human experiments on live Koreans; the burning down of Korean villages; the banning of the Korean language and religious faiths; complete censorship of media; the unjust confiscation of land, food and cultural assets; coercive assimilation through forced name changes and Imperial education. All of this led to an escalation of strong anti-Japanese sentiment, which is still extant, and to the burgeoning of Korean nationalism and patriotism. Japanese methods also became a role model for the emerging communist leaders of the North.
The genesis of today’s problems also lie in the unfinished business of the 1950 to 1953 war in Korea, which claimed between 2.5 million and 3.5 million lives, including those of 1,000 British servicemen. With the 1953 ceasefire, the country was severed along the 38th parallel and, technically, the principal combatants are still at war. The stand-off with North Korea is the longest-lived conflict that America has with any other nation.
All Koreans are acutely conscious that the border bristles with mines, artillery and troops. Anyone who travels in North Korea sees a state whose massive arsenal and resources are overwhelmingly geared to the protection and the survival of the regime.
In the aftermath of the Korean War, North Korea’s leaders implemented a policy of “Juche”—or self-reliance—which has led to decades of isolation. That, in turn has made it very difficult to engage or affect events within their territory.
Isolation has led to the state linking itself to criminal activities, including the narcotics trade, to abductions, to the testing, according to BBC allegations, of chemical weapons on civilians, to torture and execution, to alleged links with terrorism, to the development of a rogue nuclear programme.
Evidence of gross and systematic violations of human rights in prison camps have been presented in the UK parliament (see examples in Appendix 1)
An estimated 300,000 people have fled the country, many of whom have died as they make the perilous journey across the Tumin River. Those who survive face the constant danger of repatriation. If returned the DPRK it leads to their incarceration and unspeakable violations of human rights if they are caught. The 2008 documentary “On the Border”, screened by the BBC, is a harrowing account of their story.
It is often said that the North Korean regime has managed to exist behind a wall of secrecy; that it treats the international community with contempt by refusing to allow outside observers into the country. But first hand witness accounts like those of Shin and Ahn (which we have documented and cited in evidence to the relevant DPRK authorities) are a clue to the mass of evidence pointing to serial crimes against humanity.
A 142-page report commissioned by Vaclav Havel, Elie Wiesel, the Nobel peace prize laureate, and Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former Norwegian Prime Minister, entitled ‘Failure to Protect: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in North Korea.’
The report invites the United Nations Security Council to evaluate the egregious violations of human rights in North Korea; to consider using Chapter 6 powers rather than those in Chapter 7; and to adopt a non-punitive resolution urging the DPRK to allow open access for international humanitarian organisations to feed its people. It calls for the release of political prisoners, as well as insisting that the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea should be permitted to visit the country. It requires the United Nations to take seriously their declared doctrine of “the responsibility to protect”.
North Korea has scandalously used a third of its GDP on armaments and in developing nuclear weapons — resources that should have been used to develop the country’s economy. North Korean officials told us that they want to tackle endemic poverty and radically improve social conditions by 2012 but it is impossible to see how this can be achieved while such a large percentage of the country’s resources is diverted into military preoccupations. Meanwhile, despite a reasonable harvest in 2008, the fundamental state of agriculture and the economy is dire:
Professor Hazel Smith worked for the World Food Programme in North Korea. She said: “The under twenties have never seen anything other than hunger and if food doesn’t go in there will be another famine, and soon”.
More than 37 per cent of six year-olds in North Korea are chronically malnourished. Stunted growth among the population has even led to the height requirement for the North Korean army being reduced from 4 foot 11 to 4 foot 3. Its people are paying the price.
Malnutrition and a weakened population make the people especially vulnerable to disease. Conditions are right for pandemics. A compromised water system, the breakdown of sewage and piping, little soap, poor hygiene and a scratchy public health and immunisation programme, are a toxic combination.
In one recent year 220 of every 100,000 people infected died of TB, and in 2006 half of all children’s deaths were from diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Maternal deaths have increased substantially in the past decade. Poverty related diseases like cholera, scarlet fever and typhoid are all on the rise.
There are six members of Kim Jong Il’s Politburo – four are over 80 and one is 93. Many leading members of the military are no younger. It is the army who, under North Korea’s ideology of “the military first” determine the shape of the DPRK’s politics. Some of these military leaders are steeped in and conditioned by the patriotic struggles against Japanese occupation and the immense cruelty of the Japanese occupation of Korea.
They have spent all their lives hoping to see the reunification of the Korean Peninsula and an end to foreign troops on Korean soil. Those leaders are now well aware that to withstand China, North Korea needs to make its peace with South Korea and negotiate a settlement with the US. Changes in White House attitudes, that began in the last two years of the Bush Administration, now make this a real possibility and there are significant political elements in the DPRK who believe this opportunity should be seized. Failure to do so will undermine those in the DPRK who wish to normalise relations and see gradual change.
Five years ago, in our last report, we stated our belief that the DPRK was ready to take steps towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula. Subsequently, steps have been taken to decommission the nuclear reactor at Yongbyong and the cooling tower has been dismantled. The vexed issue of verification still has to be resolved. The DPRK is unlikely to give up its attempts to manufacture nuclear weapons until a comprehensive agreement has been reached on its right to exist and on the denuclearisation of the whole peninsula. China’s continued support in achieving these objective remains crucial.
3.0 MEETINGS AND ISSUES DISCUSSED
3.1 Ambassador Ri Jong Hyok – Member of the Supreme People’s Assembly and Chairman of the DPRK-UK Parliamentary Group at Mansudae Assembly Hall.
- Discussion commenced on the problems which have arisen following the stalling of the six party talks.
- Mr Ri told the delegation that 2012 marks the 100th birthday of the late President, Kim Il Sung. He insisted that the DPRK wants to create a strong national power with people able lead a happy life ‘with nothing to envy’.
- The DPRK’s three priorities would be: military and national power; a strengthened economy; and the enhancement of people’s living standards.
- Shortage of energy is an issue the DPRK need overcome in the shortest possible time. DPRK “has abundant natural resources which have not been exploited fully.” Electricity generation issue is at the heart of the problems with the USA. DPRK are commissioning large scale hydraulic power stations to ease this problem.
- They have initiated a five year science and technology plan – over which Speaker Choe Thae Bok has been given responsibility.
- Elections will be held on 8th March 2009 for the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA). In February, candidates from the Korean Workers Party will be selected and the new assembly appointed in March.
- There are 687 deputies to SPA – one candidate for every 30,000 people. These are not professional politicians as all deputies also have a full-time job. If their constituency is a farming community, then the representative will be a farmer or from a sector that reflects the complexion of their community.
- Ambassador Ri’s own constituency is a small fishing village. It has 10,000 residents and there are three other representatives – the other two are managers of fishing co-operatives or farming co-operatives.
- During the Cold War the Korean peninsula was an area of intense conflict but since 16th June 2000, the first Korean summit, Mr Ri felt there has been steady progress and problem has been de-escalating. He said that there had been “improved relationships with the USA and our neighbours.”
- For the past 7 years, there has been much dialogue on political, economic and military issues. There had been twenty or thirty inter-government discussion. Following the 2007 inter-Korean declaration there had been a further fifty five joint meetings. Practical measures in terms of reconciliation and understanding were taken. Two examples were the Kaesong industrial park and Kumgangsan tourism project. The Kaesong industrial park was initiated in 2004 and it attracted eight South Korean businesses and employed 40,000 North Korean workers. 1.3 million tourists have visited the mountains and tourist region of Kumgangsan.
- 16 rounds of family reunion programmes have taken place involving the reuniting of 16,000 Korean families. Special military were held to ease tensions on the western demarcation line and Mr Ri noted that both sides had agreed to “stop slandering one another.” “We used to do it in the past but they are doing it now” he said.
- He said that the DPRK believes that all these achievements are being undermined by the new government of South Korea led by President Lee Myung-bak. He claimed that they had tried to negate the previous June 15th 2000 declaration and Oct 4th 2007 declaration. He said that the DPRK’s condition for dialogue and the re-commencement of the earlier initiatives is that South Korea respects the agreements that were previously agreed by the leaders of both parties. These constitute the basis of harmonious inter-Korean relations. Although he accepted that there may be problems in implementation of some of the provisions he stated that opposition to the documents is symbolic of the new Government’s opposition to the reunification of Korea.
- He specifically criticised the South Korean government’s decision to downgrade the Ministry of Reunification to a department within the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
- He said the situation was being exacerbated by South Korean NGOs sending critical leaflets attacking the North and, in particular, their decision to send another huge batch of leaflets on the Feb 16th 2009, on the birthday of the Kim Il Sung. He said that the DPRK don’t understand why this is happening.
- Mr Ri claimed the DPRK feel very angry and “can’t go on ignoring provocation” and said that “we simply don’t understand” South Korea’s motives. He said that they no longer “felt bound” by previous agreements” but that a re-iteration of the earlier agreed documents would enable re-engagement.
- Discussions followed on the conditions necessary to re-start negotiations with South Korea. Mr Ri warned that no one can predict how bad this can get and that the DPRK doesn’t feel bound by the agreements with the South Koreans.
3.2 Mr Pak Gyu Hong – Chairman of Rungrado Trading Corporation and Deputy of SPA and member of the DPRK-UK Parliamentary Group at Mansudae Assembly Hall
- The delegation met members of the 8 separate trading entities of the Rungrado Trading Corporation
- Mr Pak is very keen to establish trading & commercial links with the UK, developing trade in IT, renewable energy, traditional medicines & other commodities.
- He said that tangible fruits would come with cultural and economic exchanges.
- We said that such trade links would be welcomed in the UK and will flow from a resolution of security & human rights issues.
- We discussed the opportunities to develop links between Chambers of Commerce in the two countries.
3.3 Meeting with Mr Ri Yong Chol – Chief of International Department Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea
- The delegation, accompanied by British Ambassador, Mr Peter Hughes, who also attended the following two meetings, heard that the ‘military first’ policy will be accompanied by economic growth.
- Science and technology is another area of focused activity in the coming year
- DPRK is increasing national defence capability to strengthen the military
- DPRK has agreed a slogan for this year: ‘dynamically advancing national reunification’. Promoting North and South relations and reconciliation are the two main priorities.
- ‘Well begun is half done’ is a Korean saying which DPRK are applying at the start of this year.
- David Alton asked Mr Chol how the DPRK could improve people’s living conditions while spending 30% of GDP on the military. Mr Chol said that strengthening of the military is related to fact that they are still technically at war with the USA – there is still only an armistice – and DPRK feels its still facing hostile acts on the part of the Americans. All along the DMZ, there is a very real tension. DPRK feel they have no other choice but to strengthen the military.
3.4 Meeting with Mr Choe Thae Bok – Speaker of the Supreme People’s Parliament
- Choe Thae Bok is proud of the friendships he has developed with the UK. He is highly appreciative of sincere efforts for the establishment of the All Party Parliamentary Group which is a milestone in improving bilateral relations.
- He greatly appreciated meeting Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, during his visit to London
- External principles of DPRK are independence, peace and friendship. Choe Thae Bok said DPRK is willing to be friends with any country as long as they are willing to be no threat.
- DPRK wants the bilateral relationship with the UK to go faster but it is making steady progress. His grand-daughter studies at the Foreign Languages Department of Kim Il Sung University where there are British Council teachers who, he said, do very good work.
- DPRK has changed its policy to teach English, as the country’s second language, in primary schools. There is now a greater emphasis on training teachers who can teach in the primary schools. The DPRK value the UK co-operation in supporting language development.
- The Oct 4th 2007 agreement was the basis of DPRK’s relationship with the South. Currently the situation is the worst case in history. It is a very regrettable situation. DPRK’s stand is very clear – they implemented the North and South declaration to the letter and noted that the entire world welcomed this. The Speaker requested that the delegation ask the South Korean Government to implement those agreements.
- Speaker Choe Thae Bok conveyed warm greetings to His Grace, The Archbishop of Canterbury. He repeated an official invitation for Dr Rowan Williams to visit the DPRK
- DPRK will consider the case for MERLIN to commence health work in the DPRK
3.5 Mr Kung Sok Ung – Deputy Foreign Minister – at The Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA)
- Mr Kung requested that longer term development assistance is provided to the DPRK that goes beyond emergency relief
- He welcomed progress made by other NGOs who were implementing seed and storing programmes, the importing of hundreds of tractors, potato farming projects and medical provision programmes.
- Mr Kung cited Condoleezza Rice’s comments that “the US has no permanent enemies” and enquired why a cessation in hostilities had not taken place
- Mr Kung confirmed that “the DPRK would not need a single nuclear weapon if we did not feel threatened by the US.” The delegation discussed ‘word for word and action for action’ steps to build confidence and contested the notion that the USA had any intention of attacking or invading the DPRK. He said “We will give up our nuclear weapons when relations are normalised. We still feel threatened. The bottom line is confidence.”
- Mr Kung recognised that the US has provided 1 million tonnes of heavy oil to the DPRK but complained that Japan had taken no action to assist them.
- The delegation also heard that no expressions of regret for the 40 years of Japanese rule had been made by the Japanese. We raised the issue of Japanese abductees but he claimed that this issue was simply “raised by Japanese politicians for their own poltical purposes.”
- The delegation raised the important evidence contained in the BBC film “On the Border” and especially the treatment of refugees who have been returned to DPRK from China
- Lord Alton described the evidence presented to him during parliamentary hearings at Westminster and asked why the DPRK has not allowed the UN Special Rapporteur, Dr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, access into the country
- Mr Kung claimed that allegations of human rights abuses reflect a double standard on the part of the West and are part of Western media propaganda
- Mr Kung said that there were some defectors from the DPRK due to the 100km border with China but these were only a handful and were hardened criminals
- Lord Alton recounted the case of Shin Dong-Hyok (see Appendix 1) who was born in Camp 14 to refute the notion that only criminals were leaving DPRK. The delegation also left a written record of witness statements which flatly contradict the Minister’s assertion.
3.6 Meeting with Mr Jang Jae On – at the Changchung Catholic Cathedral, Pyongyang
- The delegation were less than encouraged by our visit to Changchung Catholic Cathedral & our meeting with Mr Jang Jae On, Chairman of the Korean Consultative Society of Religious Believers.
- The delegation expressed their dismay at the continued failure to provide a resident Catholic priest and the lack of progress in normalising relations with the Holy See.
- The delegation emphasised to Mr Jang that if the DPRK wishes to send a positive message about its respect for religious freedom, as enshrined in its Constitution, it would address these two fundamental issues.
- Concerns were also raised about why the importing of Bibles should remain a serious offence, which has been treated in some cases as a capital offence. The delegation gave Korean Bibles to their hosts as a sign of respect and we hope these were received in the spirit in which they were given.
- Further discussion focused on how to respect intellectual freedom & the right to believe or not to believe and to encourage diverse intellectual, philosophical & religious traditions.
3.7 Meeting with Mr Son Hyo Sun – Protestant Church at Bongsu, Pyongyang
- 5 years ago, the parliamentary delegation visited Bongsu Protestant Church. This year, the delegation met with Mr Son and were happy to see that the church has been significantly enlarged
- We were told that approximately 300 people regularly attend Sunday services.
- We were especially pleased to see that the seminary, which had been promised 5 years ago, has been built, is operational, with 10 undergraduate and post-graduate students and with academic links to Kim Il Sung University & the Academy of Social Sciences. We were told that Chilgol Protestant church (where Kim Il Sung’s mother worshipped) is still in use as a church.
3.8 Meeting with Fr Theodore (Fr Kim Hoi Il) at Jongbaek Russian Orthodox Cathedral
- The delegation visited the new Russian Orthodox Church, consecrated last year by Patriarch Kiril
- The delegation met one of the 2 priests, Fr. Theodore, aged 39, who had studied at seminary in Moscow and who had been ordained by Patriarch Kiril. We were deeply encouraged by the beauty of the church and recognise that its construction is a positive sign of hope. There are few Russian orthodox in Pyongyang but the church is used by foreigners.
3.9 Visits were also made to Manggyongdae, Kamsusan, Kim Il Sung University, Hyangsan, two covered markets, and a horticultural exhibition.
4.0 Following the visit to the DPRK Lord Alton travelled on to Seoul where he held talks and addressed a Symposium at the National Assembly.
- At meetings with Assistant Foreign Office Minister Kim, attended by Mr Martin Uden, British Ambassador, and with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Hyeong-Oh Kim, Lord Alton raised the deteriorating relations between North and South Korea.
- Minister Kim regretted the present impasse but protested that personal attacks on President Lee, and unrealistic calls for him to be removed from office, had made the situation worse. He said that South Korea could not accept preconditions for the resumption of talks but was willing to re-engage in dialogue.
- He promised to consider the suggestion that the principles contained in the two previously agreed declarations might be revisited while some of the financial consequences are reassessed.
- It was suggested to him that efforts should be made to establish international agreement for the equivalent of a “Marshall Aid Programme” for North Korea, to be made available at the conclusion of successful agreement on security and human rights concerns.
- The Speaker, Hyeong-Oh Kim, said “I am willing to fly to London or Pyongyang or travel to Panmunjom to meet Speaker Choe Thae Bok to hold discussions about co-operation between members of our two Assemblies.” He said that he earnestly hoped for an improvement in relations.
- Mr Hoichang Lee, former Presidential candidate, former Prime Minister and leader of the third party in the National Assembly – said that he believed a “step by step” process was needed. Lord Alton cited the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process – especially the beneficial effects of appointing a mediator, Senator Mitchell, acceptable to both sides, and the role of General de Chastelain, in ensuring the transparency of disarmament and verification.
- Lord Alton also held talks with Cardinal Nicholas Cheung, visited social action projects including the new St Mary’s Catholic Hospital, the biggest hospital in Korea, and he gave two public lectures. He received the Mystery of Life Award.
- At the National Assembly Lord Alton led a symposium on human rights – including two talks, “Better to Build Bridges than Walls” and “Helsinki with A Korean Face” . The Symposium included contributions from Shin Dong-Hyok (who was born in a prison camp, see Appendix), the Reverend Peter Jung (who has worked with North Korean refugees in China), Fr Gerard Hammond (who has visited DPRK 35 times), Mrs Young-soon Kim (aged 74 and was banished to a political prison camp), Sang Hak Park (a North Korean defector), Mr Tim Peters (of Helping Hands Korea), and Professor the Hon Kyun-wook Kim, Member of the National Assembly. Among those attending were the Hon.Park Jin, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, representatives of the German, Norwegian, British, Swiss, and US diplomatic missions. The session was moderated by Mrs the Hon Young A Lee.
Now is an opportune moment to accelerate exchanges at a variety of levels, such as:
- a high level Ministerial visit to the DPRK;
- further parliamentary exchanges;
- an acceptance by His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury to visit the DPRK;
- an invitation to senior DPRK military figures to visit Sandhurst;
- an increase in educational exchanges (including a new initiative to fund British undergraduate students to teach in DPRK universities and schools);
- continued support for English Language programmes and the staging of a Festival of English Literature and Language in Pyongyang.
- the promotion of business and commercial contacts, including an invitation to the DPRK Chamber of Commerce to visit British counterparts;
- the renewal of attempts to promote humanitarian programmes
- an invitation to the Korean Workers’ Party to observe UK elections – both national and local, and to visit British institutions such as remand centres and prisons.
- an offer to provide a mediating and verification process.
- We urge President Obama to bring about a formal cessation of hostilities and normalisation of relations with the DPRK.
- During our visit, we met US State Department officials who detailed significant humanitarian work which they have undertaken in collaboration with the government of DPRK over last 15 months, particularly in the area of food aid. We hope the new US administration will continue and perhaps expand this programme.
- We urge the US to adopt a Helsinki style approach of constructive critical engagement with Pyongyang is recommended – ‘a Helsinki Process with a Korean face’ – which incorporates both security concerns and human rights
5.3 SOUTH KOREA
In view of the recent deterioration in North-South relations, we urge the South Korean government to do the following:
- Revisit bilateral agreements made by respective Heads of State on June 15th 2000, and October 4th 2007. South Korea should recognise that not to honour these agreements jeopardises the progress that has been made to reunify the peninsula
- Reconsider the decision to downgrade the status of the Ministry for Reunification in South Korea
- Desist from the use of provocative propaganda, hostile rhetoric and grandstand posturing
- Take opportunities to recommence the process of cross-border travel to reunite Korean families and the joint trade initiatives
- Encourage the international community to assist with the creation of a Korean “Marshall Aid Programme” to enable the reconstruction of North Korea’s degraded infrastructure once security and human rights issues are resolved.
- While welcoming the initial engagement in the 6-party talks and the dismantling of nuclear facilities, we would urge the government of DPRK to re-engage constructively in the talks and to accept international verification.
- We again welcome the DPRK’s explicit commitment to raise standards of living and create a more prosperous country by 2012, we are concerned that this will not be possible while up to 30% of GDP is spent on increasing the country’s military capacity.
- We appreciate the beginnings of market liberalisation in Pyongyang with the existence of several large covered markets and we recommend that they follow the example of market liberalisation in China.
- We strongly urge the DPRK to lift the prohibition on visits of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn and afford unfettered access
- Given the evidence we have received concerning the conditions in prison camps, we remain deeply concerned about abuses of human rights. We have formerly requested the opportunity to visit some of these sites.
- We urge the DPRK to facilitate greater access to international NGOS; in particular we request that sympathetic consideration be given to a renewed to proposal by MERLIN (Medical Emergency Relief International)
- We welcome the building and functioning of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the expansion of the Protestant church at Pong Su together with the opening and operation of a theological seminary in Pyongyang. We are saddened that there has been no resident Catholic priest in the DPRK for 50 years. We are also concerned that the churches and other religious bodies are under the control of the state-run organisation, The Korean Consultative Society of Religious Believers. We urge the DPRK to lift the ban on the import of the Holy Bible, to uphold the principle of religious liberty as enshrined in the constitution, and establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
- We welcome the Korean Workers Party’s desire to develop international links with other political parties but we urge the lifting of the ban on the establishment of alternative political parties inside the DPRK and we recommend that international observers be invited to monitor forthcoming elections
- We welcome the fact the decision of the DPRK to increase the number of domestic TV channels (initially at weekends); however, we believe it is unacceptable to deny citizens any access to international media including satellite television, internet and telephones
- We warmly welcome the teaching of English to primary school children and the adoption of English as the DPRK’s second language. We also welcome the employment of International English teachers together with the provision for DPRK students to travel to the UK. We recommend the establishment of an English Language and Literature Festival in Pyongyang under the patronage of Speaker Choe Thae Bok.
- We also urge the government of DPRK to resolve the unfinished business of South Korean abductees by re-commencing the programme of family reunification to restore lost relationships.
- We also call on the DPRK to re-open the joint business venture in Kaesong
- We urge the DPRK to take up the offer of dialogue with the South Koreans and for both sides to desist from gratuitous hostile polemics thus jeopardising this window of opportunity.
6.0 APPENDIX 1 – Prison Camp Escapees Testimonies (mainly given in evidence to the All Party British-North Korea Group at Westminster).
1. Yoo Sang-Joon is a North Korean Christian who had escaped from the DPRK. He described how he had seen his wife, and all bar one of his children shot dead by Kim Jong-Il’s militia. He subsequently escaped across the border to China with his one remaining son. The boy died en route.
2. Soon Ok Lee has described in detail the brutality and barbarism of the system in North Korea in her book Eyes of the Tailless Animals, with accounts of show trials, starvation, forced labour, degradation and rape of prisoners.
3. Lee Young-Kuk, graphically described the degrading situation in prison:
“From the very first day, the guards with their rifles beat me. I was trampled on mercilessly until my legs became swollen, my eardrums were shattered, and my teeth were all broken. They wouldn’t allow us to sleep from 4 am till 10 pm and once while I was sleeping, they poured water over my head. Since the conditions within the prison were poor, my head became frostbitten from the bitter cold. As I was trying to recuperate from the previous mistreatment, they ordered me to stick out my shackled feet through a hole on my cell door, and then tortured them in almost every possible way. Not a single day passed without receiving some form of torture and agonizing experience”.
4. Jeon Young-Ok is 40. When she was a little girl her mother took the family across the Tumen River to try and flee to China. They were caught and her father and brother imprisoned. Her mother died of a heart disease and left her three children alone. Years later, now married with three children of her own, Jeon managed to make furtive forays from North Korea into China to secure money and food for her children. Twice she was apprehended and jailed.
“I couldn’t bear to die with my children in my arms. As long as I was alive I couldn’t just watch them die.” Many of her compatriots were starving and dying. During the 1990s an estimated 2 million North Koreans starved to death.
In China Mrs Jeon remained at risk: “nowhere was safe.” If she was caught the Chinese would send her back. And this is exactly what happened to her. Caught in 1997 and again in 2001 – she was sent to Northern Pyong – a Detention Camp in DPRK.
“I was put in a camp where I saw and experienced unimaginable things. We were made to pull the beards from the faces of elderly people. Prison guards treated them like animals. The women were forced to strip. A group of us were thrown just one blanket and we were forced to pull it from one another as we tried to hide our shame. I felt like an animal, no better than a pig. I didn’t want to live.”
5. Shin Dong-Hyok, who is 25, spent the first 23 years of his life in North Korea’s Political prison Camp 14, where he was born. As a child, he described how he witnessed fellow child prisoners being killed through accidents and beatings. He told me that children and parents were required to watch and report on one another. He was forced to work from the age of 10 or 11.
His parents were sent to the camp in 1965 as political prisoners. Thirty years later, after family members tried to escape from the camp, Shin was interrogated in an underground torture chamber.
Following this failed escape attempt, he was forced, on April 6th 1996, to watch as his mother and brother were publicly executed.
Guards bound the hands and feet of the 13-year-old boy and roasted him over a fire. The burns still scar Shin’s back, the memories have indelibly scarred his mind.
“Afterwards, me and my father could not mingle with other prisoners and we had to work even harder than the rest,” he said. It was then that Shin encountered an inmate who had not spent his entire life inside Camp 14. He had lived for a time in China, and must have been a highly placed official who had fallen foul of the regime. “During the time I spent with him, I learned so much about the outside world. I realised that this life in the camp was not the ordinary life,” he said.
In 2005, having been tortured, mistreated and discriminated against as the son and brother of a declared traitor – and suffering from constant hunger – Shin and his newly acquired friend and mentor tried to escape. His compatriot died on the barbed wire – not realising that it carried a high electric current – but, although he was badly burnt, Shin managed to evade the hunt and eventually made it to China. He literally climbed over the dead friend who had made his escape possible. For 25 days he then secretly travelled towards the Yalu River and over the border into China. In Shanghai he found a way over the wall of the South Korean Consulate and, after 6 months there, he was allowed to travel to Seoul. Physically and emotionally Shin was deeply scarred by this shocking experience.
No-one who was born within a camp in what the regime call “the absolute control zone” has escaped to give testimony previously.