By Michael Rank
Pictured above on the left: Pak Kyong Son, Vice Department Director of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee. Pictured on the right: Glyn Ford, Member of the European Parliament.
Photo by Irina kalashnikova, firstname.lastname@example.org
LONDON – Britain is hosting the first ever delegation from the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) amid hopes that this will help to restart a dialogue between Pyongyang and the European Union on human rights, denuclearisation and other issues and lead to transfers of renewable energy technology to North Korea.
Labour Party member of the European Parliament (MEP) Glyn Ford, one of Europe’s top North Korea experts who has visited Pyongyang a dozen times, told NKEW that he was pressing the delegation to agree to reopen the dialogue that was broken off in 2005 after the EU sponsored a resolution at the United Nations in Geneva that was highly critical of North Korea’s human rights record.
He said it was hard to tell whether the four-member delegation would recommend reopening of the dialogue to decision-makers in Pyongyang. “It’s not the style of North Korea to make decisions on the spot,” Ford noted. He said he personally had opposed the resolution, which was supported by the US and Japan, because it was almost certain to result in suspension of the highly sensitive dialogue which had only just begun.
The four-man delegation is visiting Britain for a week and they are also going to Bristol and Cambridge. Ford accompanied the group to Bristol as this west of England city lies in his Euro-parliamentary constituency, and it is close to the possible site of a giant barrage across the river Severn which is currently being considered as a source of generating green electricity.
He said a deal on the nuclear issue and on reviving the human rights dialogue could result in the EU agreeing to provide wind, tidal and other renewable technology to North Korea, just as the EU has provided €500 million ($640 million) in humanitarian aid over the last eight years.
The delegation includes a scientist with a background in renewable energy, added Ford who has an MSc in marine earth science. He said the west coast of Korea has a tidal range of 11 metres (36 feet), which could make it highly suitable for an electricity-generating barrage. The Severn has a tidal range of 14 metres, the second highest in the world.
Tidal barrages are an attractive means of generating electricity because tides, unlike wind, are highly predictable, but the environmental cost of building a barrage over the Severn, up to 10 miles long, could be huge and there is considerable public opposition to the plan. But such factors are likely to loom less large in North Korea.
Ford said he had met three of the four-man delegation on previous visits to Pyongyang, and that he knew two of them fairly well. He is hoping to visit Pyongyang again with a European Socialist delegation at the end of March.
The group have already had a meeting with Foreign Office officials, who Ford said had presumably also pressed the North Koreans on human rights and the nuclear issue.
Apart from the North Korean visit to the UK, Britain’s Lord Alton, a veteran campaigner for human rights in North Korea, is due to visit Pyongyang early next month. Alton, a devout Catholic, is scheduled to meet the chairman of Korean Religion Association and visit the Russian Orthodox church and the Jangchung Catholic church in Pyongyang. He will be one of the first Western visitors to the Russian Orthodox church, which opened in 2006 amid considerable official fanfare.
The WPK delegation’s visit to Britain has received little if any media attention so far. In fact hardly anyone would have known about it if the generally extraordinarily uninformative North Korean news agency KCNA had not announced on January 27 that “A delegation of the Workers’ Party of Korea led by Pak Kyong Son, vice department director of its Central Committee, left here today to visit the UK.”