north-korea-flagWe attach here a speech by Fiona Bruce MP given just before Christmas last year on life in North Korea.  The group has campaigned on several occasions concerning life in this country and this has included a video on YouTube as well as petitions.  We feel Fiona’s speech is worthy of a wider audience and we include most of it here:

Life in North Korea is not a joke. It is not a joke that desperate women wade across the frozen Tumen river to escape to China, only to be caught by Chinese men, sold into sexual slavery and then, when used up, sent back by the authorities to face torture in North Korea and the forced abortion of their unborn children.

north koreaIt is not a joke for those hundreds of thousands who live in concentration camps reminiscent of the Nazi era, many for uttering a few words against the North Korean regime — or, worse, under the regime’s atrocious “guilt by association” rule, not for something they have done, but for something their relatives have done to offend the regime. Prisoners are told they are not humans but animals and indescribably tortured: steam-rolled to death; killed by having hot molten metal poured over them; frozen to death; starved to death; worked to death in factories; hung upside down to have water poured into their nostrils, like so much beef hanging from hooks in a slaughter house; deprived of clothing and sleep, then mercilessly pummelled with wooden bats; kept in cells with two holes in the door for them to stick their feet out to be horrendously tortured; and frequently forced to watch executions, including of their blood relatives. As my co-chair of the all-party group on North Korea, an increasingly active group, Lord Alton, said:

Christmas spent in a North Korean gulag will be just another day of grotesque suffering.”

Life in North Korea is not a joke outside the concentration camps either. It is not a joke for the thousands of stunted, parentless children—the so-called wandering swallows—who eke out a living on the streets. The problem of malnutrition in North Korea is so bad that the minimum height for a member of their armed forces is just 4 feet 2 inches. It is not a joke for the disabled in North Korea either. Just when we thought that reports from North Korea could not get any worse, this week we heard at first hand from an escapee at a meeting of the all-party group in the UK Parliament about how disabled people, including children, were sent:

for medical tests such as dissection of body parts, as well as tests of biological and chemical weapons. Dwarves are castrated. Babies with mental and physical handicaps are routinely snatched from hospitals and left to suffer indescribable things until they die. The disabled in North Korea are simply disappeared.”

We were told that by a disabled escapee, Ji Seong-Ho, who, at 14, lost his left hand and leg after passing out from hunger while scavenging for coal on railway tracks and was run over by a train. He was told by North Korean Government officials:

disabled people like you hurt the dignity of North Korea and you should just die.” He told us, “That really hurt.”

At Christmas time, let us remember that living in North Korea is not a joke for the many brave Christians who every day fear incarceration simply for owning a Bible. One lady has told the all-party group that if soldiers suspect that someone is a believer, they will ransack their home until they find what they are looking for. In her home, they did: they noticed a brick slightly out of position, and behind it they found her Bible, so she was taken to prison.

I have mentioned just two of many escapees who have spoken to our group this year and who are now finding sanctuary in the UK and increasingly giving testimonies of their suffering to Members of Parliament.

For the rest of my speech, however, I want to speak not to fellow Members, or even to our constituents, but to the people of North Korea. When I first spoke about North Korea in the House, I was amazed to receive a letter from supporters in South Korea saying, “You are being heard” so I know that when we speak here, many of you in North Korea hear what we say—and that is increasingly the case with modern means of communication, such as smuggled-in USB sticks.

I want you, the people of North Korea, to know that your suffering is being heard. Do not think that no one cares. Do not think that no one is speaking out for you. In the UK Parliament, more and more people are speaking out and showing that they care. We have compassion for you in your suffering, and this Christmas remember that our compassion is as nothing compared with that of Christ. One day, this too will end. Kingdoms rise and fall. We are praying for you and for your freedom.

In addition to praying and speaking out, more and more people are acting. This year, a 400-page UN report by Mr Justice Kirby catalogued the brutal atrocities you experience. The world now knows of them and cannot stay silent. Increasingly, people in the free world are calling for action on your behalf. Only last week in this Parliament, the all-party group on international freedom of religion or belief issued a report that can be found at http://www.freedomdeclared.org which added to demands made last month at the UN by no fewer than 111 countries that those responsible for human rights violations in North Korea be brought to justice by the International Criminal Court.

We also called for all appropriate justice mechanisms to be considered to bring the North Korean Government to account for their terrible atrocities against their own people. Here in the UK Parliament, as MPs we continue to press for the BBC World Service to broadcast to you, the people of North Korea, in the Korean and English languages, and we MPs continue to press for an increased dialogue with China to stop its policy of forced repatriation and for humanitarian aid to the people of North Korea.

So, at Christmas time our hearts go out to you, the North Korean people, from the UK. Know that we are with you; know that we are supporting and working with your relatives and friends who have escaped to this country and know that they have a voice; and know that we shall continue to speak out for you and to press for action on your behalf until the day comes, which it surely will, when your country is free again and your suffering is at an end.

The Shadow Leader of the House, Thomas Docherty responded saying:

“As ever, the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) made an impassioned and knowledgeable speech about the situation in North Korea. She has a tremendous track record in relation to the persecution of Christians, and—again, as ever—she made a hugely important contribution. I know that her work has the support of all Members.”

Fiona Bruce MP

North Korean film


Kim Yong-Un
Kim Yong-Un

Sony Picture’s film The Interview, which was not screened due to the alleged hacking attack by North Korea, attracted considerable publicity at the end of last year.  It represented a flagrant attempt by North Korea – if indeed they are the culprits – to silence the screening of a film about the fictional attempt to assassinate the leader of that country, Kim Jong-un.

Amnesty International has released The Other Interview which features the story of Park Ji-hyu who fled starvation in North Korea and was then trafficked into China and sold as a slave to a farmer.  She was reported to the Chinese authorities as a defector and was forcibly returned to North Korea.  She was sent to one of their hellish prison camps where she faced starvation and torture.  She eventually managed to escape.

Amnesty International’s UK Director Kate Allen said ‘Sony has every right to make a comedy about North Korea.  We should all be worried when blackmail, threats to cinemas, and the hacking of private data are being used to censor and silence.

‘In reality, many people in North Korea are subjected to an existence beyond nightmares.  The population is ruled by fear with a network of prison camps a constant spectre for those who dare step out of line.

‘Thousands of people in the camps are worked to death, starved to death [or] beaten to death.  Some are sent there just for knowing someone who has fallen out of favour.

‘Amnesty is releasing The Other Interview so that people all over the world can hear first-hand how people in North Korea are suffering appallingly at the hands of Kim Jong-un and his officials.

‘They don’t want you to see it which is precisely why you should.’

preview can be seen on YouTube.  We do not know if this film will be shown in Salisbury but we will see if we can arrange a viewing somewhere.

This is being written while the dreadful events are playing out in France following the assassination of journalists and cartoonists in the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.  This is another attempt – this time by violent means – to silence criticism and the particular kind of satire that this magazine goes in for.

The Salisbury group’s North Korean YouTube video clip can be see here.

#NorthKorea video

Amnesty group makes YouTube video.  The #Salisbury group of Amnesty International broke new ground today when they prepared

Jooil Kim at the signing
Joo il Kim at the signing

a short YouTube video clip to highlight the appalling situation in the North Korean prison camps.  Fifteen members held up cards which spelled out the message ‘Close the Camps’ to mimic the huge displays which take place in Pyongyang.  It was part of a morning spent collecting signatures which unfortunately had to be curtailed because of the heavy rain which made it impossible to continue.   Despite this, in the hour or so we were able to operate, 84 people signed.

Jooil Kim (pictured) an escapee was able to attend and take part and we were pleased to have a member of the South Korean Embassy come and sign as well.

Thanks for all who came and made this a success and especially to Karen (and husband) who did all the work preparing the cards. Now watch the video …!

UPDATE: revised YouTube video

UPDATE II: link to a newspaper interview with Joo il Kim

Link to the New Malden North Korean site

North Korea event

Amnesty logo
Amnesty logo

The group ran a short event in the Library passage on Tuesday 15 April 2014 to ‘celebrate’ the birthday of Kim Jong-un of North Korea.  Not really a celebration of course but to highlight the terrible situation in the camps in that country.  People are sent to them for the slightest reason and sometimes they might not know the reason.  If a member of their family is arrested, then other family members can be arrested without knowing why.

The worst of the camps are in effect a death sentence.  Some do escape but the usual route is via China who often sends them back as they do not wish to upset the status quo.

The Salisbury group wanted to highlight the situation in the camps and asked people to sign a petition which achieved 128 signatures.  There is a brief item and a photo in the Salisbury Journal – see the link below.  Thanks to Karen for leading on this. We were joined by two members of the Ringwood group and we are grateful for their help and support.

North Korea pops up in the news occasionally and a few weeks ago there was some shelling of an island in the south.  There was a story that all men in the north must have the same haircut as Kim Jong-un the current leader.  This is probably a rumour although it does appear all male students have to have one.  In any event, a hairdresser in London put up a poster with a photo of Kim Jong-un as part of a promotion campaign only to receive a visit from two sinister men from the North Korean Embassy asking them to take the picture down.  This made it onto the BBC’s Radio 4 PM programme with a rather bemused proprietor of the salon being interviewed about the visit.

Of course this is to our eyes ludicrous but it does reveal the intense paranoia and sensitivity of the country and its leader to criticism.   Many people when asked to sign a petition say it probably isn’t worth it as nothing would ever make a difference.  This suggests it might not be a total waste of time.

The Guardian newspaper is commendably taking a wider interest in the affairs of North Korea and has supplied some useful links to sites providing further information about this secretive country.

North Korea News

Peterson Institute

Choson Exchange


Group members at the North Korean signing
Group members at the North Korean signing















Salisbury Journal

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: