The President said he was willing to meet the North Korean leader if the right circumstances presented themselves.
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Mr Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
In the interview, Trump also said that while “most political people would never say” they’d be willing to meet with Kim. “I’m telling you, under the right circumstances, I would meet with him. We have breaking news.”
As part of America’s elevated response to North Korea’s military expansion, the THAAD missile defense system installed in South Korea has been completed, less than 2 months after the equipment arrived there, according to the U.S. military.
The move to install the shield was made last July during the Obama administration.
Nuclear shelters and radiation-blocking and chemical gas air filters have seen higher sales in recent weeks as North Korea continues its nuclear program, including nuclear and missile tests, and America and China take a tougher stance on the nation’s military activities. Some stores have sold out.
Three North Korean missiles landed in Japan’s waters, 300-350 kilometers from shore, last month.
Japan is also urging local governments to hold evacuation drills.
North Korea, the only country to test nukes this century (60 tests so far), poses a growing threat to Hawaii, U.S. Pacific Forces Commander Admiral Harry Harris Jr. testified to Congress this week. He advised that the U.S. consider deploying new anti-ballistic missile defense systems to shield Hawaii from any possible attack. He said that current defenses are sufficient to protect today, but the defenses “could be overwhelmed.”
A significant force of U.S. Navy craft is making their way towards the Korean Peninsula and is set to arrive in days. The force held routine exercises with Japanese craft in the Philippine Sea this week.
According to the White House, the President invited the president over the phone this week, but didn’t give further details about a meeting. The White House also said the two leaders talked about concerns about North Korea on the phone.
Trump is also scheduled to visit the Philippines in November.
Following the lead of Germany, more and more European countries are accepting asylum seekers who are mostly from war-torn Syria. The countries, including the United Kingdom and France, are to set out plans to resettle refugees.
In 1990s, South Korea faced similar issues regarding refugees, as the number of North Korean residents who defected to the South drastically increased due to famine and the economic crisis in the North.
Currently, there are about 280,133 North Korean defectors living in the South, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Unification, issued in June 2015.
When North Korean residents arrive in South Korea, first they have to go through investigations and interviews, conducted by the South Korean Intelligence Service, in order to clarify their identity. They stay at the Defector Protection Centre during that period. It usually takes a minimum of four weeks, but it can be extended if a defector confesses false truths. After the investigation processes are completed, they are finally able to reside in the South.
The government arranges a rental apartment for every North Korean defector. The rental deposit fee of an apartment is up to 13 million Won (US$11,000). Although the government pays a significant amount of the fee for them, they need to bear their monthly rental fees and utility bills.
They also receive 7 million Won (about US$5,900) as the initial resettlement fund, apart from housing expenses. However, defectors do not receive this fund at once, just in case that they lose it in a short time before settling down. Therefore, firstly 4 million Won is provided to those who finish the 12-week education program at Hanawon and then they later receive the remaining 3 million Won, at a rate of 1 million Won every three months.
However, the 7 million resettlement fund is only offered to defectors who come to South Korea without any family members. If he or she brings a family member to the South, less than 7 million Won is paid to each person. Also, a bigger apartment is prepared for them.
Moreover, they can obtain up to 25.1 million Won (about US$ 21,100) from the encouragement fund. In the past, it was also included in the resettlement fund, but from 2005 defectors who are looking for a full-time job through a professional job training school have also been eligible. People over sixty and with impairments are also able to get extra fund to the tune of a maximum 15.4 million Won (US$13,000) for treatment.
Hanawon (the Settlement Support Center for North Korean refugees) is a facility where defectors are educated about life in the South. It was established in 1997, and has a 392-hour course that spans 12 weeks.
“Hanawon is the first place where North Korean defectors start their life in South Korea. Through education, we help them to be part of South Korean society not only physically, but also mentally,” Kim Joong-Tae, former head of Hanawon, told Daily NK.
In general, the course consists of social adjustment and occupational education, but it is customized by each age group. For example, teenage defectors focus on a local school curriculum, as they will be sent to a South Korean school three months later, while adults spend more time on studying an employment system. Also, there are programs and counselors to take care of the newcomers physical and mental health.
Despite Hanawon’s education offerings, many young North Korean defectors still have difficulties in adjusting to a competitive local South Korean school system. Therefore Hankyoreh High School, a specialised school for teenage defectors, was founded in 2006. It assists young defectors to catch up on the regular school curriculum and to understand democratic society, South Korean culture, and the local language which includes many English words, compared to the Korean used in the North. If they want, they can transfer to a regular high school later on.
In 2008, the Ministry of Education organized an academic deliberation committee for North Korean defectors who finished their high school in the North, in order to evaluate their secondary academic ability. If they pass the examination, they are able to enter a South Korean university. National and public universities offer free tuition to defectors under age 35 if they enroll in a university within five years after their high school diploma is recognized. There is no age limit to study at colleges and online universities without fees.
Most North Korean defectors say that the biggest challenge after they arrive is to find a job in South Korea, as they have a lack of occupational skills and understanding of capitalism. To resolve these problems, the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of Employment and Labor introduced a basic job adaptation training program at Hanawon in 2006. Defectors are able to have practical training as well as field experience at a company through the program. Furthermore, the South Korean government pays half of the wages that each North Korea defector worker receive.
Although the South Korean government continues to improve policies and laws to improve the lives of North Korean defectors, many are still left wandering.
North Korean prison escapee Dong-Hyuk Shin said that it is very difficult for North Korean defectors to fully adjust to the capitalist system.
“In the North, we are just happy if we don’t starve. However, here we should compete consistently to achieve what we need and want. It is a totally different lifestyle between the two Koreas, so it is kind of understandable that some of North Korean defectors came back to the North again,” Shin said.
Moreover, discrimination against defectors is rampant, particularly in the workplace. According to research data from the Ministry of Unification and the Korea Hana Foundation, defectors’ average wage per week is 760,000 Won (US$638) lower than that of South Korean citizens, even though they work more hours. Also, their unemployment rate is four times higher.
For improvement of defectors’ human rights in the South, most of all it is important that South Korean citizens should accept them as members of their society, in order to prepare for the two Koreas’ unification. Also, North Korean defectors should acknowledge the different social systems of the two countries, and put more effort into following a new lifestyle.
Dong-Hyuk Shin, the only North Korean prison camp escapee, revealed that the inaccurate details in his autobiography “Escape from Camp 14” were neither lies nor confusion about his memories following his traumatic experiences. He just wanted to keep some painful experiences to himself.
“First of all, let me tell about the controversial issues surrounding my book, as some people are still regarding me as a liar. For what and how would I make up those horrible memories? I just wanted to hide a part of my life in the book. Isn’t that a choice I am free to make?” Shin said.
According to the book, Shin underwent torture in North Korea’s most notorious political prison camp, No.14, at the age of 13. He later corrected this claim, however, to say that it was actually in Camp 18, known to be less controlled, when he was 20 years old, after moving out of Camp 14 at age six. Shin was transferred back to Camp 14, again, so he escaped from No. 14 in the end.
He said that he also had to correct the inaccurate report about his confession from United States media. The author of his book, Blaine Harden added in a new forward of the e-book that, “Trauma experts see nothing unusual in this.”
Shin, however, strongly denied the loss of memories, as Harden explained. “I didn’t forget any of the memories of my life. In reality, I couldn’t forget them even if I tried. Every time I tried to erase those terrifying moments, they remained in my head more clearly,” he said.
The prison camp survivor has undergone a tough time since the end of last year, when he arrived in South Korea. Last October, North Korean authorities produced a video called “Lie and Truth” to attack Shin, who had given evidence of North Korea’s human rights violations in front of the UN Commission of Inquiry. In the video, Shin’s father — whom he believed to be dead — contradicted his story.
“I found out that my father was still alive when I watched the video. I believed that he died in the prison camp where he was transferred. When I saw him in such a ridiculous video for the first time, I wasn’t happy at all, but I felt despair. I thought that he would’ve rather died than lived, because I can imagine how much he suffered and is still suffering tortures in the country because of me.”
“If I knew that my story would have gained this much fame at that time, I would’ve disclosed every single detail to the writer.”
The video and the presence of his father ultimately made him reveal what he did not explain in the book. Amid condemnation from many people, he could not stand the criticism of other North Korean defectors.
“I didn’t care about the South Korean media that only focused on the numbers, such as Camp 14 and 18 and my age, while ignoring the scars of prison camp torture on my body. But I was very sad and even enraged because of other defectors who had suffered in North Korea like me,” he continued.
“Some of them denounced me by showing the video produced by North Korean government. I felt miserable, as they didn’t know my true intention, which was to save the dying. I think that they might be jealous of my fame and money. But to be honest, I didn’t earn any money while working for human rights. And the fame had nothing to do with my life, since many North Koreans are still being killed. If I knew that my story would have gained this much fame at that time, I would’ve disclosed every single detail to the writer.”
He alluded to discontinuity in the campaign on his Facebook page this January, but a month later he restarted it.
The prison camp survivor has been involved in North Korean human right activity since 2007. But recently he has felt that everything that he has done was in vain, as nothing has changed yet compared to eight years ago.
“I started this campaign desperately to save tens of thousands of maltreated North Korean residents, because I was also one of them. I didn’t have time, as people were dying every second.”
He was particularly skeptical about the UN’s inquiry into the human rights situation in North Korea, launched in 2013.
“For what did the United Nations establish the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea? What did they do for North Korean residents? It took more than one year for the UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee to adopt the resolution. What is next, then?
“I gave all evidence to them in order to save my family and friends — not to lay flowers on their graves. I don’t think that the officials of the UN would understand how serious the real situation in North Korea is, because most of them have not lived that kind of a desperate life.”
The 33-year-old activist begged people to see the invisible reality: “When I told my story to the UN, at first they asked me whether I could prove it,” he said.
“Six million Jews died in the Holocaust over the course of about three years. Who imagined that many people were killed in that short a time? It is exactly same as 70 years ago. We can’t see what is happening in North Korea, but the fact is that people are being publicly executed at this very moment.”
“I felt miserable, as they didn’t know my true intention, which was to save the dying.”
Despite of his sense of futility over his human rights campaign, he said that he will never give it up.
Currently, Shin is planning two projects for the near future. “I’m thinking to publish a magazine about ordinary South Koreans’ lives and to send them into North Korea through the Chinese border with North Korea,” he said.
Similarly, South Korea’s activist groups, led by North Korean defectors, have sent anti-North propaganda leaflets, attached to large balloons, from near the border for several years. This activity, however, escalated tensions between the two Koreas, and North Korean authorities even threatened South Korea with military action.
“North Korea’s sensitive reaction indicates that these flyers are quite influential in society. I chose to produce a magazine to describe South Korea more specifically. I would like to feature photos of couples holding hands, drinking coffee in the cafe, and walking freely in central Seoul. And I wish North Koreans could realize that they also have a right to live like that.”
“I found out that my father was still alive when I watched the video. I believed that he died in the prison camp where he was transferred.”
He said that the second project is a bit more personal. “I’m aiming to make a video that rebuts every part of the video ‘Lie and Truth,’ before a conference at the United Nations in Geneva this September,” he said.
Through the video, he is hoping to send two messages to the North Korean government. “My ultimate goal is to enter North Korea with a delegation to the UN, and I want to visit Camp 14 where I was born and lived. If I can do that, no one will dispute my life, and finally I can prove the human rights violations,” he said.
The other message seems to be more important for In-Gun Shin — that was the original name of human rights activist Dong-Hyuk Shin.
“I’ll request the authorities let me meet my father either in North Korea or in a third country before he dies. And firstly, I’ll ask him why I was born in the prison camp. I then will say ‘I love you’ to my father for the first and last time.”