BBC: ‘Ordinary North Koreans dare to speak out despite fear’—by so doing, the need for HHK’s continued help to refugees is made clear……

 ‘Here there are a lot of government captures’

  • 29 May 2018

Speaking to ordinary citizens inside North Korea is almost impossible, with visitors heavily policed and communication with the outside world blocked. But two residents were willing to speak to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, despite the threat of death or imprisonment.

In North Korea, where leader Kim Jong-un has almost godlike status, to question him out loud is for many unthinkable.

Citizens are taught he is all-knowing, and told to inform on dissenters – including their own family members.

By speaking out, market trader Sun Hui – not her real name – knows she is putting her life at risk.

“Mostly, people criticise Kim Jong-un for being a businessman,” she says, reflecting wider discontent.

“People say that he acts the same as us, but takes away our money.

“[They say] the little man uses his head to suck up money like a little vampire.”

Over many months, the programme has been using a covert communications network to put questions to ordinary North Koreans. The BBC has taken steps to conceal their identities and to ensure their continued anonymity.

If the regime knew of Sun Hui’s real identity, she would face severe punishment – imprisonment in one of the regime’s hard labour camps or even execution.

And she may not be the only one to be punished – three generations of her family could also be sent to prison.

Sun Hui lives with her husband and two daughters, eating three meals a day when business is good. When it isn’t, the rice is mixed with maize.

At the markets where she works, street food, clothes and smuggled electronics are just some of the things sold.

More than five million people are either “directly or indirectly” reliant on such markets, according to Daily NK.

The Seoul-based media organisation reports on life inside North Korea and worked with the Victoria Derbyshire programme to facilitate the report using its network inside North Korea.

The market trade in North Korea directly contradicts the regime’s hard-line communism, but it also allows the population to feed itself amid a largely-defunct ration system and economic sanctions against the country.

The regime cannot afford another instance like the “the arduous march” – the name given to the mid-90s famine that left more than a million people dead.

Sun Hui says the number of local people who assess Kim Jong-un positively is increasing, because he leaves the markets alone and “doesn’t crack down much, no matter what we do”.

The markets, sometimes containing hundreds of stalls, can also be a breeding ground for gossip and rumour.

“I’ve heard at the market that the president of the US is coming,” Sun Hui says.

“People don’t know much about the meeting,” she continues, “but everyone dislikes America.

“We say the reason for us living in poverty is because America split us and sealed us off [from South Korea].”

Image captionNorth Korea blew up the tunnels at its nuclear test site last week

Information going into the country is strictly controlled by the North Korean regime, whose propaganda is heavily critical of the US and its southern neighbour, South Korea.

“But things are changing a little recently,” says Sun Hui.

“They say we should get along with the South.

“Recently they say we should be living in peace with America, for everyone to have a better life.”

It is a significant development.

While not unprecedented, this internal softening towards the West coupled with the supposed destruction of tunnels at a nuclear test site – which was seen as a goodwill gesture by the regime – points to Kim Jong-un being much more open to reconciling with the US.

Despite it being called off, there are moves which suggest a summit between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump may yet happen.

Chol Ho, who works in North Korea’s military, says his hope from life is simply “to live well without envy – until we die – without being sick”.

He hopes the same lifestyle will be afforded to his parents, and his children.

Chol Ho – not his real name – has also been speaking to the Victoria Derbyshire programme in secret, and says there is dissent within the country, from people who “complain about their everyday lives”.

“Sometimes people get caught by the state security department, the Bowibu, for saying the wrong things,” he explains.

“People do suddenly disappear, but it hasn’t happened here recently.

People do suddenly disappear, but it hasn’t happened here recently.”

Chol Ho

Chol Ho says he has only ever met fellow North Koreans

Those Chol Ho is referring to are often sent to the country’s prison camps – where it has been reported that detainees are subjected to torture, forced to dig their own graves, and rape is used as punishment.

A single camp can hold as many as 20,000 inmates, according to Amnesty International.

It is the “terror” of such camps that “keeps society going”, according to Sun Hui.

She says “there’s a lot of government captures” where she lives.

Chol Ho believes some people are sent there by the Bowibu because officials “make up stories for their own performance”.

“They make people say that they were planning to go to China, and then report them,” he says.

Watching films and TV shows smuggled in from abroad can lead to 10 years imprisonment in the country’s hard labour camps.

The regime fights hard to prevent the consumption of foreign media, as it undermines its anti-Western propaganda, but many are successfully brought in through China on USB sticks or counterfeit DVDs.

“Korean things are the most popular of course,” says Sun Hui, who admits to sometimes watching Korean dramas and foreign films at night.

“But the crackdown on them is strong.

“I’ve heard the cost of bribes if you’re caught is huge, but people still want to watch them.

“It’s easy to understand, and people are curious about how South Koreans live.”

TV

But while an increasing number of North Koreans are able to get a glimpse of life outside their country, many still do not know how they themselves are perceived.

Chol Ho admits he knows nothing of how citizens like him are viewed by the outside world. He has only met North Koreans.

But he insists while life “is difficult… our people are nice”.

“We have a saying that neighbours are better than cousins. If something happens to our neighbours we visit each other,” he says.

In some parts of the country, residents defect to South Korea via China, risking their life.

In recent years the number of people defecting has fallen, largely because of increased border security and a widely-criticised agreement with the Chinese to repatriate North Koreans found in the country.

Where Sun Hui lives, away from the country’s borders, defections “do not happen here much”, she says.

But when they do, those left behind do not refer to South Korea by its name.

“When a neighbour disappears we just say, ‘He went to Lower Town’,” she explains.

None of the people appearing in our videos were contributors or involved in any way.

Watch the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel in the UK.

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Trafficked North Korean ‘bride’ reveals her desperate flight from China–Helping Hands Korea in Action!

South China Morning Post
“Tim Peters, from Seoul-based Helping Hands Korea, said the effects of the tighter security were now being felt in the border areas between China and North Korea, with life for North Koreans in China more dangerous than ever.

“Due to the combined effort of the North Korean regime and China clamping down on border controls, the number of women coming across the Tumen and Yalu rivers is decreasing somewhat,” Peters said.

The Specter of Forced Repatriation from China                                                            “I wept bitterly. I knew the punishment that awaited me in North Korea would be severe since I’d left without permission.”

But with the help of Helping Hands Korea’s network of volunteers, Mi-young and another North Korean woman, fled China, slipped into Laos and crossed into Thailand by boat early last month, from where they hope to make the final onward journey to South Korea.

“My life in China was horrible,” she said. “[I want] to go to South Korea for [my] freedom.”
Read More       Below please find a PDF version of the article.  If you prefer to open the PDF in its own page, please click here.

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Tim speaks to China South China Morning Post on North Korean ‘slave labor’ in China

HHK is grateful to South China Morning Post for including Tim’s views in its coverage of North Korean ‘slave labor’ in China:

The UN’s recent sanctions will hurt North Korea’s citizens the most, according to Tim Peters, a prominent advocate of Helping Hands Korea, an NGO that assists North Korean refugees.

“As noble in intent as the UN sanction on North Korean workers in China and Russia may be, one of the unintended consequences will probably be pulling the rug out from beneath the livelihoods of the workers themselves who wait in line and volunteer for these cross-border jobs even at virtual slave wages,” he said.

“It’s a damning commentary on the plight of DPRK citizens that even when 70 to 80 per cent of their foreign wages are skimmed off for the military whims of Kim Jong-un, the paltry remains are better than wages available to them inside the secret state.” READ MORE:
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2105851/gaps-records-cloak-chinas-north-korean-slave-labourers

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URGENT:Change of Venue for Tonight’s NK Human Rights Conference in Seoul

Conference organizers have announced that due to robust RSVP response, this evening’s conference has been moved as follows:
The conference room is in the B1 level of the Minerva Complex It is really easy to find. Go through the main HUFS gate, then take the first right. The Minerva Complex will be on the left. Go down the stairs, then go down one more flight of stairs, toward the Obama Hall.

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CBS News in Anchorage records HHK ‘throwing down gauntlet’ to Kim Jong Eun

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Alaska Aid Initiative supports HHK’s rescues of distressed N.Korean refugees in NE Asia

4th of July, 2017, the very same day that Kim Jong-un successfully test-launched DPRK’s ICBM, Mr. Chuck Hawkins and the good people of Ninilchik, Alaska are welcoming HHK’s director and Mrs. Peters to Alaska to raise support through charity events for the safe evacuation of North Korean refugees from the Sino-DPRK border area. Can you help, too?                

 

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Financial Times follows HHK’s Christian rescue work of North Korean refugees in Northeast Asia

https://www.ft.com/content/8e0ba354-5229-11e7-bfb8-997009366969

Below is a PDF version of the article.  If you prefer to open the PDF in its own page, please click here.

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Tim’s Op-Ed in German Daily–Urgency of including a human rights dimension to sanctions on North Korea!

(English translation of Tim’s Op-Ed below)

tagesspiegel logo에 대한 이미지 검색결과

MENSCHENRECHTE IN NORDKOREA

Das wahre Problem ist die Situation der Menschen

Bild von Tim Peters

            Tim Peters        Helping Hands Korea_Catacombs         26. Mai 2017

Wir dürfen unsere Forderungen gegenüber Nordkorea nicht nur auf das Atomprogramm beziehen. Wichtig ist, dass wir auch an die Bevölkerung und ihre Rechte denken, die Tag für Tag von der nordkoreanischen Regierung verletzt werden. Wir müssen handeln, denn China wird die Probleme nicht für uns lösen.

“It’s the economy, Stupid!” Dieser Wahlslogan Bill Clintons wurde 1992 weltberühmt. Mit Blick auf Nordkorea könnte der Weckruf an die internationale Gemeinschaft im Umgang mit Nordkoreas rücksichtslosem Diktator Kim Jong Un “It’s Human Rights, Stupid!” lauten – “Es geht um Menschenrechte, Dummkopf!”. Seit Monaten laufen die Entwicklungen in Nordkorea auf Hochtouren: Nicht nur Nuklearwaffen wurden getestet, sondern auch die Möglichkeiten, diese mit Interkontinentalraketen tragfähig zu machen. Doch es scheint weitaus einfacher, die Problematik von Nordkoreas Atomprogramm zu beschreiben, als Lösungen zu finden.

Der Westen darf sich nicht darauf verlassen, dass China die Probleme mit Nordkorea löst. READ MORE in German:https://causa.tagesspiegel.de/politik/wie-nah-ist-nordkorea-an-der-atombombe/das-wahre-problem-ist-die-situation-der-menschen.html

ENGLISH:

“It’s Human Rights, Stupid!”–The Missing Component in UN Sanctions on the DPRK’s Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Programs

by Tim Peters, Founder/Director HHK_Catacombs

Just as the title above paraphrases presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s blunt criticismin 1992 of sitting President George H.W. Bush’s failure to focus on the sluggish American economy, I would argue that the international community needs a similar wake-up call in dealing with North Korea’s ruthless and mercurial young leader, Kim Jong Un. As countless breaking news alerts in the past 12 months have reminded us, the DPRK has clearly shifted into high gear to upgrade its nuclear arsenal as well as weaponizing that capability to sit atop its improved long-range ICBM’s. Describing this knotty problem, however, has proven far easier than finding a solution.

The history of negotiations with North Korea, with the goal of forcing the rogue state into abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, is hardly illustrious. In fact, for decades diplomatic efforts that have focused strictly on security issues by both Democratic and Republican US administrations, as well as UN efforts, to convince the Kim regime to denuclearize—or even slow— its weapons programs have resulted in abject failure. The familiar zig-zag trail of talks (including dead-end 6 Party Talks)— military ultimatums—then sanctions is reminiscent of the tongue-in-cheek definition of insanity: the continued repetition of the same behavior with the expectation that the outcome will be different the next time. Among the familiar components of the West’s sanction strategy is the tactic of relying on China to turn the screws on the DPRK, with the apparent underlying assumption that the West and China have overlapping geopolitical goals pertaining to North Korea. But do the facts on the ground support this assumption?

For a full two decades or more, China has forcibly repatriated North Korean refugees to the DPRk with full awareness that refoulment will result in certain incarceration, torture in some cases, and even forced abortion of some refugee women who, as human traffic victims in the PRC, have been impregnated by Chinese men. This policy of forced repatriation flies in the face of the 1951 Convention on the Protection of Refugees. Despite countless protestations from the West, Beijing has unapologetically continued this ruthless policy.

China’s President Xi’s recent straight-faced declaration to President Trump that the Korean Peninsula had been an integral part of China for over a thousand years is not an obscure message hidden in tea leaves.The Korean Peninsula, in the eyes of Chinese leadership, is clearly within its sphere of influence. If that is not enough, the PRC’s belligerence about the ‘islands’ it’s building in the South China Sea should provide another splash of cold water in the West’s face about how China views territory on its periphery—international conventions and maritime law be damned!. Michael Pillsbury’s The 100 Year Marathon lays out ample and unsettling evidence that China’s and the West’s geopolitical interests overlap very little indeed in 2017. Bottom line: China is not about to do the West’s dirty work in reining in North Korea, unless there is some direct benefit to Beijing.

Human rights abuses within the DPRK have been documented at an increasing rate in the past decade by various organizations and agencies. The UN’s own Commission of Inquiry Report on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (2014) chaired by Justice Michael Kirby set the high water mark for impartiality and professionalism in its data collection and recommendations. Justice Kirby startled the UN community by raising the distinct possibility that crimes against humanity have been and are being committed by the Kim regime in North Korea and that referral of Kim Jong Un to the International Criminal Court (ICC) may well be in order. Conditions inside the far-reaching archipelago of concentration camps and high security political prisons of North Korea are near the top of human rights concerns of UN human rights. UN sanctions that deal with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs could and should be linked to gaining access to the DPRK’s prison system to determine the full extent maltreatment of an estimated 200,000 inmates.

The human rights of roughly 70,000 North Korean foreign laborers are violated daily across the globe by the confiscation of 80-90% of their wages by on-site DPRK labor overseers, effectively turning those laborers into slaves of the state. Addressing these widespread abuses could easily be incorporated into and linked with UN sanctions aimed at longstanding security issues of the DPRK government. Perhaps taking as a template the Helsinki Accords in which President Ronald Reagan linked security issues with human rights concerns in the former Soviet Union, progress could move forward on both tracks. As Wilberforce Prize recipient Michael Horowitz has said, “a Helsinki focus on the human rights records of dictatorships is a means of making them more willing to make bargaining concessions in all policy areas.” This approach could dovetail well with the new UN Strategic Framework (2017–2021), one of the overarching themes of which is to employ a “human rights-based approach” throughout UN programs, including the DPRK.

Finally, the work of our NGO for the past two decades of assisting North Koreans in crisis, refugees, orphans and the famine-stricken inside the DPRK has more than convinced me that the plight of its entire enslaved population is the greatest North Korean emergency. In the words of former Prime Minister Tony Blair: “The biggest scandal in progressive politics is that you do not have people out in the streets in North Korea….The people are kept in a form of slavery, twenty-three million of them, and no one protests!”

HHK_Catacombs has for 21 years provided logistical assistance to many thousands of North Koreans in crisis: refugees, orphans, human traffic and famine victims. HHK_Catacombs’ Christian activism has been highlighted in a TIME cover story. Peters was the recipient of the Stefanus Prize in Oslo, Norway in 2008. More NGO information can be found at: www.helpinghandskorea.org

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Catacombs meetings will resume Tuesday, May 23rd

Dear Valued Friends of Catacombs in Seoul—Sun mi and I will be visiting family in three states in the US in the coming month. After some deliberation, we felt it best to give our meetings a rest for a few weeks. We very much look forward to resuming Catacombs on Tuesday, May 23rd. Looking forward to seeing each of you then!        Tim & Sun mi

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Gov’t stuns with $860,000 offer for DPRK secrets.REALITY CHECK–a tiny fraction of that reward would enable a multitude of refugee evacuations along NE Asia’s Underground Railroad!

HHK’s refugee rescue activities over nearly two decades are extensively covered in Melanie Kirkpatrick’s excellent volume, ESCAPE FROM NORTH KOREA: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad

Seoul to quadruple cash for Pyongyang secrets

Seoul (CNN)   South Korea is quadrupling its reward fee for defectors from North Korea who are willing to hand over classified information on the reclusive country’s military secrets.The Ministry of Unification announced Sunday that it would pay up to 1 billion won ($860,000) — eclipsing the previous maximum of 250 million won.

A bill outlining the changes is set to be submitted and would offer substantial financial rewards for those able to provide intelligence and knowledge, which could enhance South Korea’s security, according to the ministry.

The bill will be considered in the National Assembly between February 28 and March 9, a Unification Ministry official said. READ MORE:           http://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/05/asia/south-korea-reward-defectors/

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