Posts Tagged ‘Kim Jong-un’


Speculation over health of Kim Jong-Un and his Nation

Kim Yong-Un

The unprecedented absence of North Korea’s leader from its most important state celebration, the Day of the Sun on 15 April, has fuelled speculation as to the health of Kim Jong-Un.   Suggestions from Daily NK – news supplied largely from defectors – is that the leader has recently received heart surgery.  No confirmation of this has been made to date however.  Another theory is that the leader is being protected from Covid-19, since Kim Jong-Un is often seen in close physical contact with people, offering handshakes and hugs, which make him vulnerable to the virus.

This secrecy surrounding his health inevitably extends to the health of the entire ‘hermit kingdom’.  While thousands have been quarantined, borders closed and tourists and foreign diplomats seen off, the government still insists there are ‘no cases in the country’.

Kim is however eager to be seen as pro-active in protecting the nation from the virus.  He recently chaired a public health meeting and has issued hygiene advice nationwide.  Pyongyang has received test kits from Russia and from China while various items of protective equipment have been donated by UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.

The ‘great leader’ would be reluctant in any case to admit to the arrival of the virus since any weakness might invite criticism of his regime.  It was fear of reporting the disease to central government that allowed it initially to spread in China but whether North Korea will learn from this lesson seems unlikely.  A defector who recalls practising medicine during the SARS outbreak of 2002/03 said that not only was medical equipment seriously lacking then, but deaths were going unrecorded.

Certainly the sheer length of the border between North Korea and China, and its regular use by smugglers and traffickers, would suggest that the virus might enter relatively easily. If it did, that would be a tragedy for the 40% of North Koreans reportedly undernourished. And while new hospitals have been built under Kim’s rule, experts say they mostly benefit the elite in this two-tier nation.

This month the defector Thae Yong-Ho made history by winning a constituency seat in South Korea’s government. Once deputy ambassador to the UK, he says he is determined to work for the freedom of his compatriots who live in virtual ‘slavery’.  The high price defectors pay (and there are on average 1000 per year) is the knowledge that their extended families will be detained, or worse, in one of the country’s many detention centres and labour camps.

Human rights, and the health care that these insist on, are sadly in very short supply in North Korea.

 

 

Sources: The Guardian, ABC News, TPM Seoul.

 


Group welcomes speaker on #Korea.  On Thursday 13 November, the group was pleased to welcome a Korean speaker as part of our activities to keep the problems in North Korea in the limelight.  Bona Shin is a member of a large community of Koreans who live in London, the largest such community in Europe.  There are thought to be around 32,000 living in the UK and 691 of whom from North Korea.

Bona Shin

Bona Shin

Other speakers have mentioned the difference between Pyongyang and the rest of the country.  People who live in Pyongyang are the elite and they are reasonably well fed by North Korean standards.  It is the rural areas which are impoverished and where people struggle to survive.  She said there are no disabled people in the capital either: they are all moved out to the rural areas.

She mentioned the propaganda initiative recently where the North Korean embassy hosted an art exhibition.  Developments in the last week or so at the UN where there are attempts to get the regime and Kim Jong un indicted for crimes against humanity.

There are reports of the infamous Yodok camp being closed and prisoners being moved to Camp 14 or Camp 16 as part of the propaganda by the North but this cannot be confirmed at the time of writing.  Bilateral talks may begin with the EU on the question of human rights.

There are still survivors from the Korean war which Britain contributed large troop numbers second only to the USA.  There is a British Korean Veteran Association


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