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.
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.”
SEOUL, South Korea — South Koreans paid tribute to the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster today in central Seoul, one year after the ferry sank, causing the deaths of 304 people April 16, 2014.
The Sewol ferry was heading to Jeju Island from Incheon International Port Passenger Terminal, carrying 476 passengers. Of those, 325 were high school students on the way to a field trip. The 6,800-ton vessel suddenly started leaning to port when it was passing Jindo Island. Within 10 minutes, the overloaded ferry capsized and sank in the sea near the southwestern province.
Two hundred fifty students were killed among the 304 victims, after listening to an announcement on the ship warning that “students shouldn’t move.” There were only 172 survivors, including 73 students and the captain of the ferry, and nine bodies still remain missing. The disaster was recorded as South Korea’s worst maritime tragedy.
The ferry captain, Lee Jun-Seok, was sentenced to 36 years in prison for abandoning his ship and passengers. Fourteen other surviving crew members also faced jail terms of five to 30 years.
The 73 students returned to school in June, 71 days after the tragic incident.
The families of the victims are continuing to make demands for a transparent investigation after salvaging the ferry.
SEOUL, South Korea — Nongovernmental organization Justice for North Korea (JFNK) launched a street campaign last Saturday in Insadong Street, Central Seoul to bring attention to the North Korean crisis.
Founder of JFNK and activist Peter Jung and street campaign coordinator Aaron Peterson held the campaign with four volunteers. Three people handed out flyers which explained about the organization and North Korea’s situation briefly in Chinese, English and Korean, while the remaining volunteer helped Jung and Peterson to role-play as an arrested defector, Chinese and North Korean soldiers.
The main purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness of human rights violations in North Korea and to protest against China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees.
“The reason why we are role-playing is to give a more specific idea about how North Korean defectors are treated inhumanely, as well as to call on the Chinese government to stop the policy of repatriation. We also collect donations to support the process of bringing them over to South Korea safely,” Peterson explained.
Peter Jung founded JFNK in May 2007, when he staged a demonstration alone against Chinese authorities for 444 days, beginning May 23, 2007. He continued the protest until the first day of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Aug. 8, 2008.
“There are still many defectors who are in need of help. I still contact with them, so I can’t abandon this campaign,” he said.
According to a White Paper published by the South Korean think-tank Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) in 2011, China and North Korea have been cooperating in the strict controls over North Korean refugees near the border under a “Bilateral Agreement on Mutual Cooperation for the Maintenance of State Safety and Social Order.”
The UN Commission’s report states that Chinese authorities started to oppress North Korean refugees more severely by tightening border security and cracking down at the end of 2013. The report condemns China for breaching international human rights and refugee laws, as North Korean refugees’ lives are threatened in their country once they are sent back.
The 1951 Refugee Convention describes a refugee as one who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
Despite the international community’s criticism, China has been sticking to its position, considering defectors as illegal immigrants.
Jung emphasized that the South Korean government has to discuss North Korean defectors with China as soon as possible. “If they are forcibly repatriated to North Korea, they will either face the most severe punishment in the political prison camp or be publicly executed. Therefore, the South Korean government should urge the Chinese government to stop it through diplomatic negotiations. Also, the South Korean embassy needs to accept them,” Jung said.
Peterson started to get involved in JFNK two years ago. “I first heard about the North Korean crisis through a National Geography documentary, I was completely shocked — when I watched how North Korean people were brainwashed and isolated from the whole world. This made me become a North Korean activist, because I didn’t feel like enough people knew about what is happening in North Korea,” Peterson said.
The American activist said that he has felt some changes since he began the street campaign. “I can see more and more people are starting to pay attention. Of course, some South Koreans don’t seem to care much, but a lot of them are starting to take pictures of our demonstration and ask for flyers. Most people are very supportive. We would like to see more of that. I’m sure that it will become something that the world leaders have to address in the future,” he said.
Jung and Peterson said that they will not stop this campaign. “We will continue it until North Korean refugees settle down in South Korea or third-party countries, not being repatriated,” Jung said.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean defector Dong-Hyuk Shin has revealed photos of scars on his body, which he says were suffered in a prison camp in the hermit kingdom. Shin published the photos to his Facebook page last week after admitting to several inaccurate accounts in his autobiography in January.
Shin is famous for being the only survivor to have escaped from a North Korean political prison camp.
Between Feb.27 and Mar. 3, he posted photos to his Facebook page of scars and other marks on his ankles, back, left hand and fingers, which he says he received during his time in the camp.
He wrote in the first post that he showed these wounds because he decided not to be afraid of fighting against North Korea any longer. He wrote that the scars on his ankles were received due to being handcuffed and hung upside down.
The following day, he continued to post photos, displaying his back, also burned from during torture. He added that, “I feel embarrassed to show such a photo and it’s shameful. But I must reveal the evil of the dictator and his regime.” Shin’s reference to North Korea’s leader as “the evil of the dictator” was notable, as such an utterance is an unthinkable remark for ordinary citizens of the secretive state.
In the last post, he concluded that, “If I don’t share these photographs, I have no other way to explain how horrible and vicious the N. Korean regime is!” This message was accompanied by photos of his left hand and little finger, still bearing the aftereffects of mistreatment by prison guards.
The photos could support Shin’s testimony about the violation of human rights in North Korea, regardless of the accuracy about “which prison camp” he was tortured in.
Shin acknowledged his inaccurate details in his autobiography, “Escape from Camp 14,” in January. According to the book, he underwent torture in the most notorious political prison camp, no. 14, at the age of 13. He however later corrected this to say that it was in Camp 18, known to be less controlled, when he was 20 years old, after moving out of Camp 14 at age six.
The writer of the book and former Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden told the Washington Post that “he is still saying that all of this [torture] happened at different times and places.” He added that Shin’s confusion about experiences is totally understandable, as he has suffered from trauma for a long time.
Despite the controversy, Harden will not fix the story, because, he said, “Even the new disclosures in the revised forward may not reveal the whole truth.”
Shin made a public apology about the errors in his accounts on his Facebook page on Jan. 18. He also alluded to discontinuity in North Korea’s human right campaign, writing that, “These will be my final words and this will likely be my first post.”
He restarted activity on his social media page last February, and indicated his will was to keep it up until the day when the regime would be overthrown, amid continuous refutation of him from North Korean authorities.
North Korea has been strongly denying Shin’s story and the existence of Camp 14. Its propaganda television channel Urimizokkiri produced a video, “Lie and Truth,” at the end of October 2014, and showed interviews of his father and relatives who still remain in the country, in order to contradict Shin.
“We never lived in a so-called ‘political prison camp’,” his father said in the video. “You [Dong-Hyuk Shin] will regret forever if you don’t come back to your country.”
The video described Shin as a criminal who fled to South Korea to avoid punishment for his crime. Moreover it strongly blamed him for taking the initiative in fabricating the human rights situation in North Korea.
Who is Dong-Hyuk Shin?
His real name was In Gun Shin. He was born inside Camp 14. He made his escape from the prison camp in 2005. He arrived South Korea via China in August 2006 with the aid of a South Korean journalist. Later, he changed his first name to Dong-Hyuk, named after the journalist.
In 2013, he gave evidence of North Korea’s human rights violations, based on his memoir in the prison camp, in front of the UN Commission of Inquiry. He became a key witness who fostered calls for the North Korean government to be charged with crimes against humanity.
SEOUL, South Korea — US Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert underwent a surgery after being slashed in his right cheek and left hand with a knife by a Korean activist during a breakfast meeting in central Seoul Thursday.
Lippert, being bleeding from wounds, was removed from the Sejong Centre for the Performing Arts with the aid his entourage while the assailant was apprehended. He was taken to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment, and then he was transported to Shinchon Severance Hospital, where he received stitches.
“I’m OK. Hey guys, don’t worry,” he told officials of the US Embassy when he got out of a car in front of the hospital. Lippert, who had changed into a patient’s gown walked out of the hospital by himself.
Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs Robert W. Ogburn said in a briefing that Lippert’s injury is not life-threatening, and he was in a stable condition after surgery.
According to witnesses, the ambassador was preparing for his speech at the table in the meeting, organized by the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation (KCRC). A man offered his hand for Lippert to shake and then suddenly attacked him with a 10-inch fruit knife, after shouting “South and North Korea should be reunified!”
The man expressed his hostility towards the joint US-South Korea military exercises that has begun this week, and he had handed out leaflets opposing the war exercises just before he approached Lippert. Police who arrested him identified the attacker on location as 55-year-old Kim Ki-Jong, and he was taken to a police station.
Kim is a head of the pro-Korean unification group “Woori Madang,” police said. The activist had been sentenced to a three -year suspended prison term over another attack in 2010, after throwing two pieces of concrete at a Japanese ambassador. The police are inquiring into his specific motive for the attack.
It was revealed that the official of the KCRC, who had an acquaintance with Kim, allowed him to take part in the meeting, although a security officer restricted his access, as he was not on the guest list of the meeting.
The KCRC made a public apology, and the chairperson expressed his resignation, taking responsibility for the incident.
US President Barack Obama has called Lippert to wish him “the very best for a speedy recovery,” the White House sad.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in a statement during her Middle East tour that what happened was “an attack on the Korea-U.S. alliance and we will not tolerate it.” She was also attacked similarly nine years ago.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Mark Lippert has updated his condition on his Twitter account, after having an operation over two hours and 30 minutes.
SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean teenager who disappeared near the Syrian border in Turkey last month has been found to be receiving training from the Islamic State (IS), South Korea’s spy agency said Tuesday.
The head of the National Intelligent Service (NIS), Byung-kee Lee reported during a closed-door parliamentary meeting that the 18-year-old, surnamed Kim, officially became the first Korean to join IS. Lee, however, added that his whereabouts are still unknown.
According to a senior official, although the spy agency sent a message to the Muslim militant group to let him return to his parents, the demand was rejected.
Police have concluded that Kim has not gone missing, but attempted to smuggle himself into Syria, based on the examination of his social media and computer records.
Kim’s mother told Yonhap News Agency that she has not heard from him since he left for Turkey in January. “I just hope that my son comes back home safely as soon as possible,” she said.
As more and more people started to follow his Twitter account after the news broke out, the South Korean government expressed worry about the possibility that young people might imitate Kim’s behavior. Fortunately, his Twitter account has been suspended since Feb. 4, but, at the same time, the deactivation could hamper the investigation of Kim’s recent and future situation.
Meanwhile, three missing British teenagers are also believed to be heading to Syria via Turkey, and one of the girls indicated her support for IS on her Twitter profile, as Kim did.
Foreign members who join IS will get training from the organization, including military exercises, Islamic doctrines and Arabic language class for more than one month.
Who is Kim?
The 18-year-old was a home-schooled student since he dropped out of middle school due to bullying. Kim was preparing for a qualification exam as a high school graduate when he disappeared with a man in a black car in Kilis near Syrian border with Turkey.