Friday, July 31, 2009

Would You Vacation in North Korea?

Also See: Nervous? North Korea Launching a Ballistic Missile! (27 March 2009)
Woman executed for distributing Bibles in North KoreaAP
Sat, 25 Jul 2009
A Christian woman accused of distributing the Bible, a book banned in communist North Korea, was publicly executed last month for the crime, South Korean activists said Friday.
The 33-year-old mother of three, Ri Hyon Ok, also was accused of spying for South Korea and the United States, and of organising dissidents, a rights group said in Seoul, citing documents obtained from the North.
The Investigative Commission on Crime Against Humanity report included a copy of Ri's government-issued photo ID and said her husband, children and parents were sent to a political prison the day after her June 16 execution.
The claim could not be independently verified Friday, and there has been no mention by the North's official Korean Central News Agency of her case.
But it would mark a harsh turn in the crackdown on religion in North Korea, a country where Christianity once flourished and where the capital, Pyongyang, was known as the "Jerusalem of the East" for the predominance of the Christian faith.
According to its constitution, North Korea guarantees freedom of religion. But in reality, the regime severely restricts religious observance, with the cult of personality created by national founder Kim Il Sung and enjoyed by his son, current leader Kim Jong Il, serving as a virtual state religion. Those who violate religious restrictions are often accused of crimes such as spying or anti-government activities.
The government has authorised four state churches: one Catholic, two Protestant and one Russian Orthodox. However, they cater to foreigners only, and ordinary North Koreans cannot attend the services.
Still, more than 30,000 North Koreans are believed to practice Christianity in hiding - at great personal risk, defectors and activists say.
The US State Department said in a report last year that "genuine religious freedom does not exist" in North Korea.
"What religious practice or venues exist ... (are) tightly controlled and used to advance the government's political or diplomatic agenda," the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a May report. "Other public and private religious activity is prohibited and anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious practice faces official discrimination, arrest, imprisonment, and possibly execution."
The report cited indications that the North Korean government had taken "new steps" to stop the clandestine spread of Christianity, particularly in areas near the border with China, including infiltrating underground churches and setting up fake prayer meetings as a trap for Christian converts.
Ri, the North Korean Christian, reportedly was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon - near the border with China.
"North Korea appears to have judged that Christian forces could pose a threat to its regime," Do Hee-youn, a leading activist, told reporters Friday in Seoul.
The South Korean rights report also said North Korean security agents arrested and tortured another Christian, Seo Kum Ok, 30, near Ryongchon. She was accused of trying to spy on a nuclear site and hand the information over to South Korea and the United States.
It was unclear whether she survived, the report said. Her husband also was arrested and their two children have since disappeared, it said.
The US government commission report cited defectors as saying an estimated 6,000 Christians are jailed in "Prison No 15" in the north of the country, with religious prisoners facing worse treatment than other inmates.
In Seoul, the rights group said it would try to take North Korean leader Kim to the International Criminal Court over alleged crimes against humanity.
Activists say such alleged crimes - murder, kidnap, rape, extermination of individuals in prison camps - can't take place in North Korea without Kim's knowledge or direction since he wields absolute power over the population of 24 million.
North Korean Camps - North Korea
Tourist Facade - North Korea
North Korean Refugees
What if Kim Jong Il is the one who’s sane?
Mental health of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s “Dear Leader”
By Klaus Rohrich, Thursday, June 11, 2009
For nearly two decades the world’s media has been speculating about the mental health of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s “Dear Leader” and card-carrying member of the Axis of Evil. Most recently the Dear Leader has been exciting the international community by conducting underground nuclear tests, launching ballistic missiles, threatening to invade South Korea, throwing foreign reporters into prison and flipping the world the bird.
This isn’t the first time a leader of North Korea has undertaken such shenanigans, as is evidenced by the pirating of the US Navy vessel “Pueblo” on the high seas back in 1968 under the rule of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il’s father. It appears the younger Kim learned well from his father as a few years into the Clinton Administration he began firing off ballistic missiles through Japanese air space and bragged about developing a nuclear weapon. Each and every time the Dear Leader flexes his diminutive muscles and blows the West a raspberry, the world has expressed “umbrage” and demanded that North Korea conform to the mores and values of civilized nations worldwide. Endless meetings and resolutions by the UN Security Council resulted in “strongly worded” diplomatic letters being delivered to Kim, which presumably wound up being used to kindle the fireplace at Kim’s residence.
At the same time, the Dear Leader has somehow managed to gain concessions, particularly from countries like the US in the form of financial aid, food shipments and free oil. One is given to wonder what is so “insane” about a leader who can perform these kinds of shenanigans and consistently come out smelling like a rose at the end of it. One is even driven to wonder, whether it’s the world leaders who are really insane, given that they keep doing the same things in their interactions with the Dear Leader, yet expect that there be different results.
The most recent flare up resulted in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning the Dear Leader that North Korea might be put back on the list of nations that sponsor terrorism. OOOH, scary stuff. One can just see the Dear Leader quaking in his platform shoes as the prospect of something so dreadful as being added back onto the list of terrorist states looms large. What’s next? Condemnation at the General Assembly? Taking “strong action”? A time out?
It seems to me that the world has all this backwards. Kim Jong Il is perfectly sane because he knows every time he rattles his nukes or publicly exposes his No Dong, there is “dismay”, “umbrage”, “concern” and the threat of “grave consequences”, followed by a whole lot of goodies finding their way into the Dear Leader’s coffers.
The so-called world community, on the other hand, needs to have its collective head examined for believing that any deal they make with the Dear Leader will be honored for any length of time and all the threats currently being made will have any affect on his behavior. Instead of threatening to put North Korea back on the poop-list, the world might want to look at alternatives, like naval blockades and resolute military action. But the Dear Leader understands that it’s a lot easier to huff and to puff than it is to actually blow his house down.