Archive for June, 2000

The other side of the DPRK

Saturday, June 17th, 2000

From The Economist
June 17th, 2000

About 100,000 northerners are believed to have crossed into north-eastern China, where some 2m ethnic Koreans have lived alongside the Chinese since the mid-1800s. Recently, the numbers crossing the river have slowed down, partly, it is thought, because the famine in North Korea has eased. But the North Korean guards have also doubled the bribe they demand from those they let pass.

Some people return home after scavenging for food, but many remain, hoping to better their lives or to escape persecution. They face a perilous existence, in constant fear of being caught and deported. It is from these refugees that a picture of the grim existence of North Koreans emerges. They also give a glimpse of the extent of the opposition to Kim Jong Il’s rule.

That opposition is feeble. Some of it comes from Christian groups, especially those established by South Korean missionaries who look after some of the refugees. A mission in Yanji, for instance, helps to care for 100 or so North Korean children and 50 adults. Missionaries say they convert about one in five to Christianity and some are then sent back to North Korea to spread the word.

There are said to be about 50 underground churches in North Korea, usually houses where people go to pray and read the Bible in secret. Although there is little sign of it yet, some people think that the Christians could one day openly stand up for their rights, as the Falun Gong movement has in China.

Other refugees seem more determined to overthrow rather than challenge the North’s leaders. A group of armed North Korean soldiers sneaked into China in May to join a resistance group hiding in the mountains, according to one missionary. This, he claims, has made China strengthen its frontier controls.

A North Korean academic, who came to China two years ago to carry out a survey of the refugees, says he decided not to return home: after experiencing life in China and learning about South Korea, he felt betrayed by the North’s regime. Now he says he is determined to help overthrow it.

Some people talk of attempted coups. One is supposed to have been staged by the 6th Army Corps in the north-east of the country in January 1996, but was quickly put down. Officers were executed and the unit has since been dissolved, recalls a former lieutenant in a North Korean special-forces unit who crossed the Tumen river with his wife and son three years ago.

A woman who fled a year ago says one of the North’s big problems is a lack of food-processing skills. Only when she came to China did she realise that canned fish could be sold for more money than raw fish. She plans to use this valuable piece of capitalist knowledge if warmer relations ever allow her to go home.


Pyongyang, I love you

Tuesday, June 13th, 2000


South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s emotional plea for solidarity ahead of the unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il —–

“Honourable citizens of Pyongyang and North Korea, I am truly glad to meet you. I came here because I wanted to meet you.

“I came here because I wanted to see the mountains and rivers of the North that I have yearned to see even [in] my dreams. It has been too long. I have finally come after going around and about over that long period of time.

“It was not just once or twice that I plunged into deep despair thinking that I would never be able to step on the soil of the North in my lifetime. But now, I have attained my lifelong wish.

“The 70 million Korean people in the South and North are also ardently hoping to attain their wish as soon as possible.

‘Just a beginning’

“More than anything, I wholeheartedly thank Chairman Kim Jong-il for inviting me and my delegation. I also thank all of you who are welcoming us so warmly like this. And I convey warm greetings from your compatriots in the South.

“As president of the South, I came to Pyongyang to lead the effort for peace, co-operation and unification in accordance with the will of your compatriots in the South.

“I believe the expectations which our compatriots in the North have in the summit between Chairman Kim Jong-il and I are as great as those of your compatriots in the South.

“This is just a beginning. Since the inter-Korean summit, which was just a dream, is now reality, we will solve problems one at a time.


“Together with Chairman Kim Jong-il, I will give my all in searching for ways for all Koreans in the South and North to live peacefully and lead a better life.

“Honourable citizens of Pyongyang and North Korea, we will not be able to resolve all at once the bitterness that has accumulated over the past half century.

“But well begun is half done. I wholeheartedly hope that all the Korean people will have hopes for reconciliation, co-operation and peaceful unification on account of my visit to Pyongyang.

“We will do our utmost to resolve the problems that can be solved one at a time.

‘I love you’

“We will surely solve those issues which we do not solve this time by meeting for a second and third time.

“I hope that the citizens of Pyongyang and North Korea will give Chairman Kim Jong-il and me strong support and encouragement.

“Compatriots in the North, we are one people. We share the same fate. Let us hold hands firmly. I love you all. Thank you.”