Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’


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.

 


Annual Evensong held in the Cathedral

Update: 14 March.  Ben Rogers has kindly sent us the text of his talk which is attached at the bottom of this post.

The Salisbury group is grateful to the Cathedral for holding an Evensong once a year marking the work of Amnesty International and enabling us to nominate a speaker during the course of the service.  About 60 attended last nights service.  For many years the Cathedral has provided space for the group to display each month an appeal for a Prisoner of Conscience.  This month it is Ahmed Mansoor a human rights defender and POC who is in prison in Abu Dhabi.  The Cathedral has a window dedicated to the work of Amnesty.

We were delighted to invite Benedict Rogers (pictured) to speak who, among other things, has a particular interest

Ben Rogers at Salisbury Cathedral (picture, Salisbury Amnesty)

in North  Korea.  Ben is East Asia Team Leader of CSW, a Christian charity which promotes religious freedom around the world.

He said that the UN regards North Korea to be in a category all of its own as far as human rights are concerned.  It violates every single human right.  As a member of CSW, they were the first to call for a commission of enquiry and two years later in 2014, the UN did so.

The gravity, scale and nature of abuses has no parallel in the modern world he said.  The report found that:

North Korea had committed crimes against humanity and manifestly failed to uphold its responsibility to protect. These crimes entail “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.  Source, Wikipedia

In 2007, CSW produced a report A Case to Answer.  A Call to Act which concluded that the human rights situation in North Korea was a crime against humanity.   Although things seem bleak, he said there were some glimmers of light.  In a recent report, Movies, Markets and Mass Surveillance, it was noted that North Koreans were getting more information about the outside world.  They were beginning to realise that life south of the border was better.  There was anecdotal evidence that prison guards did realise the world was watching.

The regime saw Christianity as a particular threat.  Anyone caught practising it faced severe punishment or could be executed.  If a carol was allowed it would only be ‘We three Kims of Orient are!’

Those who did manage to escape to China were sent back to face severe punishment in the prison camps.  There were around 200,000 thousand people in the prison camps he said.  He ended with the famous quotation mistakenly attributed to Edmund Burke:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

Ben Rogers talk (Word)

 

 

 


Lively meeting this month and we were pleased to welcome another new member.  We discussed the death penalty report; North Korea; the UK government’s possible changes to the Human Rights Act and forthcoming events.  We also discussed the closure of the neighbouring New Forest group which we hope may not be permanent.  Next meeting on 13 February.

January minutes (Word)


If you are interested in human rights and would like to join us you would be very welcome.  You will see our events at the end of the minutes so making yourself known at one of those would be a way to join.  It is free to join the Salisbury group.  One of our concerns is the new government’s plans to possibly weaken human rights especially when we leave the EU so helping us with that would be appreciated.

 


The next monthly meeting is on May 9th at Victoria Road as usual starting at 7:30.  Supporters are very welcome to attend.


Minutes of the group meeting held on 11 April 2019 are attached thanks to group member Lesley for compiling them.  We discussed North Korea, the death penalty report, future events including a film night, a market stall and a talk by the author and journalist Paul Mason in June.  There are also some statistics of our social marketing showing quite a busy month.

If you are interested in joining the local group and live in the south Wiltshire area then coming along to one of our events is the best thing to do and you will find a list at the end of the minutes.

April minutes (Word)

 


The minutes of the group meeting in March 2019 are available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling them.  A full meeting with several events planned, see the end of them for the list.  You can also follow us on Facebook,  Twitter and Tumblr.

March minutes (Word)


The next group meeting is on Thursday 14th March at 7:30 but in Attwood Road number 28.  It will be a busy agenda as we have a lot of things planned at present.  All supporters welcome but to note it is a working meeting so there won’t be a speaker.  Last month’s minutes are available here.


Minutes of the February 2019 meeting are now available thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them.  It was a full meeting and we discussed a wide variety of topics including refugees, the death penalty, North Korea, the threat to human rights in the UK, and future events including a film.  At the end of the minutes is a list of forthcoming activities we are planning and if you live in the Salisbury, Amesbury, Downton or Wilton areas and are interested in getting involved, coming to one of these events and making yourself known is the best way to do that.

February minutes (Word)

 


TV producer held for 50 years

Hwang Won, a former TV producer from South Korea, was not allowed to return to his home country after arriving involuntarily to North Korea on a hijacked plane on 11 December 1969.  Despite repeated requests from his family, the North Korean authorities have refused to disclose information regarding Hwang Won’s vital status or whereabouts for the last 50 years.  South Korean authorities must call on the North Korean authorities to provide accurate information on Hwang Won, who will turn 82 this year.

It is almost unimaginable that someone should be in prison for half a century and there would be concerns about their ability to cope with life outside.  The Salisbury group has campaigned for human rights in North Korea and we are hopeful that, with a seeming desire for the regime to engage with the world outside, things might change.

Details are as attached

North Korea Urgent Action (Word)

 


Minutes for the October meeting are attached and thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them.  We discussed the death penalty, North Korea, urgent actions, and future events.

October Minutes (Word)