Archive for the ‘Pscore’ Category

Some North Koreans signal frustration with succesion

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

According to the Washington Post:

Almost every night, seeking to gather opinion from a country where opinion is often punishable, Kim Eun Ho calls North Korea. He talks mostly to people in Hoeryong city in Hamgyong-bukto province, and the conversations never last long. Hoeryong city employs 14 men who monitor the region’s phone conversations, Kim believes, and typically they can tap a call within two or three minutes. Kim says he knows this because, as a North Korean police officer before he defected in December 2008, he sometimes monitored the conversations.

But these days, with Pyongyang preparing for a Workers’ Party convention that could trumpet the rise of leader Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, Kim Eun Ho and other defectors who speak regularly to North Koreans hear plenty of opinions reflecting what he described as a broad sentiment against hereditary succession.

“Of 10 people I talk to,” he said, “all 10 have a problem with Kim Jong Eun taking over.”

Just as North Koreans know little about their potential future leader, the rest of the world knows almost nothing about North Korean opinions. Recent academic research, based on surveys with defectors, suggests that North Koreans are growing frustrated with a government that allowed widespread starvation in the early 1990s and orchestrated brutal currency reform in 2009 that was designed to wipe out the private markets that enable most residents to feed themselves.

The defectors are motivated to emphasize the worst-case scenario in their homeland. There are some who think that Kim Jong Eun will take power and gradually lead North Korea to Soviet-style reforms. Some defectors say that even though the younger Kim is largely unknown, they hope he’ll allow for a free economy after his father dies.

Still, in South Korea, an emerging patchwork of mini-samples suggests that many North Koreans view their government as a failed anachronism, and they see the young general, as he’s called, as a sign of the status quo. They associate Kim Jong Eun with the December 2009 currency revaluation. They don’t know his age – he’s thought to be in his late 20s – but they think he’s too young to be anything more than a figurehead.

Sohn Kwang Joo, chief editor of the Daily NK, a Seoul-based publication focusing on North Korea, receives frequent reports from stringers in four North Korean provinces. Those ground-level reporters, gathering information mostly from intellectuals, farmers and laborers, suggest to Sohn that “eight or nine out of every 10 people are critical of Kim Jong Eun.”A recent report from PSCORE, a Seoul-based nongovernmental organization promoting harmony on the Korean Peninsula, suggested that two party officials were sent to a gulag last month for slandering the chosen heir. Kim Young Il, a PSCORE director who was in China during Kim Jong Il’s recent trip, said: “Criticism of Kim Jong Eun is very strong. . . . What you see now is face-level loyalty, but it’s not genuine.”

Kim Eun Ho, the former North Korean police officer, works as a reporter for Seoul-based Free North Korea Radio. The nightly routine testifies to the difficulty of gathering information from within the world’s most reclusive state.

Kim first calls a friend who lives close to the Chinese border, where a smuggled foreign cellphone receives a clear signal. When Kim reaches his friend, the friend uses a second phone – a North Korean line – to call one of Kim’s police sources in Pyongyang. The friend then places the North Korean phone and the Chinese phone side-by-side, volume raised on the receivers, allowing Kim an indirect, muffled connection.

For extra caution, the conversations rely on code words.

“For general citizens, Kim Jong Eun is vastly unpopular,” Kim says. “People cannot take him seriously, in reality. He just suddenly appeared, and he’s too young.”

A defector-based survey released in March, co-written by North Korea experts Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard, provided the first sharp indication of growing discontent with Kim Jong Il’s regime, linked in large part to an information seal that no longer keeps everything out. North Koreans have access to South Korean television shows. Some travel to China for business.

For now, though, experts and U.S. officials see little likelihood that North Koreans’ closely guarded skepticism about their government will pose a threat to the government. Without churches and social clubs, North Koreans have few places where opinion can harden into resistance.

“They’ve almost perfected the system of social control,” says Katy Oh Hassig, an expert on North Korea at the Institute for Defense Analyses, which does research for the Pentagon.

Like Kim Eun Ho, Jin Sun Rak, director of Free North Korea Radio, calls his old country almost every night. His wife and 14-year-old daughter live in North Korea. He decided to defect – telling nobody but his brother – in 2008, after traveling to China and seeing the relative wealth. The first time he went, hoping to sell 80 grams of unrefined gold, he bribed a border guard and carried a dagger, tucked near the lower part of a leg. His first night in China was “beyond imagination.” He said he went to a restaurant, had some drinks and ended up at a karaoke bar where he knew none of the songs. Days later, he returned to North Korea with some money and a new frame of reference.

“Whenever they say something,” Jin said of the government, “they’re lying. They’re as worthless as barking dogs.” As for a greater cynicism about the government, Jin said: “I think it’s something unstoppable now. People’s minds have been changed. Young people know the value of money. They don’t want to be party members anymore. They’ve been exposed to the private markets.”

Jin, who lives in Seoul, rarely talks to his wife and daughter. He doesn’t think it’s safe to tell them his opinion.

Read the full story here:
N. Koreans may be frustrated with government and likely rise of Kim Jong Eun
New York Times
Chico Harlan


PSCORE offers Google Earth locations

Friday, April 16th, 2010

PSCORE (People for Successful COrean REunification) is a non-profit, non-religious, non-partisan NGO based in Seoul & Washington, DC. According to their web page, they “strive for mutual understanding and harmony between the two Koreas and aim to provide a platform to discuss topics such as democratization, human rights and social issues.”


Well the team at PSCORE just sent me some North Korea map locations to add to the next version of the Google Earth project.  I am looking forward to sorting these out over the weekend, but just so you don’t have to wait on me, I have posted them on line for you to download yourself. 

Click here to download the PSCORE Google Earth locations.

Click here to learn more about PSCORE.


North Korean Life: inside and out

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

March 27, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (Korean lunch will be provided.)
McShain Lounge in McCarthy Hall
Georgetown University
Washington, DC
RSVP and questions: [email protected] or 202-492-9631

Flyer here.

Have you ever imagined what life would be like living in the world’s most isolated country?  Moreover, have you wondered what it would be like to live as a North Korean under the ruling of Kim Jong-il?

Join us for a speedy synopsis of North Koreans life inside the reclusive country as well as a dialogue with two defectors about their escape and settlement in a new world beyond the reins of Kim Jong-il. Invest ONE afternoon and gain a fresh perspective of life inside North Korea.

For the detailed program and directions, please refer to the attachment.

This event is hosted by People for Successful Corean Reunification  and sponsored by Asian Studies Program at Georgetown University. PSCORE is a non-profit, non-religious, non-partisan NGO based in Seoul & Washington, DC. PSCORE strives for mutual understanding and harmony between the two Koreas and aims to provide a platform to discuss topics such as democratization, human rights and social issues. We hope to bridge the gap between South Korea, North Korea and the international community. We are not affiliated with any political organizations.

Read program flyer here.


Pscore’s got the word on helping new defectors

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Joong Ang Daily
Eldo Kim

Walking through the busy streets of metropolitan Seoul, Lee (an alias) seems no different than the hundreds of Koreans around her.

Stopping by a cafe, she purchases a cup of coffee and hurries out to the subway station. Following the everyday actions of millions of fellow urbanites, there is nothing unusual about her.

But there is something that sets her apart. Lee is a North Korean refugee who defected in 2005. Lee is also a student at People for Successful Corean Reunification, or Pscore.

Established in 2006, Pscore is a non-governmental organization consisting entirely of volunteers, with bases in Washington, D.C. and Seoul.

While it provides news coverage of North Korea and helping defectors become South Korean citizens, a unique aspect of this organization is that it offers educational programs for refugees. Tutors, a mix of foreigners and English-speaking Koreans, meet one-on-one on a weekly basis with individuals to teach subjects ranging from English to mathematics.

Although Pscore has only run its tutoring program for 20 months, at any given time there are around 60 to 70 refugee students registered.

According to the Ministry of Unification, in 2000, only 312 North Korean refugees escaped to South Korea. In 2008, the number of escapees rose to 2,809. In the past few years, the population of North Korean refugees in South Korea has grown so rapidly that the government is only offering $10,000 in resettlement money per refugee, instead of to the previous amount of $28,000.

Also, Hanawon, a government-sponsored training center for North Korean escapees, has reduced its program cycles from three months to two months.

Pscore seeks to fill the gaps in already existent assimilation aid for North Korean defectors.

One Pscore student, Chae, who asked to be anonymous, defected from North Korea in April 2006. After enrolling in college to study medical science, she was surprised that 40 to 50 percent of the lectures were in English. Looking for English lessons, Chae found Pscore through friends who were being tutored already. A year has passed, and she feels that her English lessons will be invaluable to her goal of becoming a nurse in the United States.

Like Chae, 70 percent of Pscore students seek help mostly in English as its usage has increased in South Koreans’ daily lives and the workplace.

“In the 21st century, the acculturation process of South Korea has been profoundly influenced by the West. The culture shock that North Korean emigrants experience when they settle in South Korea is worsened by the constant presence of English, a language that is restricted mostly to the elite in North Korea,” said Choi Hyun-chul, the president of the Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies.

As a young organization, there are still problems that the organization must fix.

“Frequently, there are tutors who are not very sincere about their work or do not put in all their effort in teaching refugees.” says Lee, a 35-year-old North Korean college student, citing several English tutors who frequently canceled meetings or didn’t show up. She said that perhaps Pscore should be more selective in choosing its volunteer tutors.

Score hopes that South Koreans would be more willing to welcome North Korean refugees with open arms, rather than a cold shoulder.

“On a societal level, the atmosphere in South Korea is not very supportive or encouraging of the refugees. The average citizen doesn’t care much about their issues,” said An Seung-woo, secretary general of Pscore.

Mary Anderson, an American teacher in Seoul who tutors for Pscore, commented likewise.

“Tutoring the students is simply delightful, and without a doubt, they’re some of the hardest working students I’ve ever seen. But, there is shockingly a lot of prejudice. I knew a North Korean woman dating a Canadian man in South Korea who desperately wanted to move to Canada because of how unwelcome she felt in South Korea.”

Pscore is looking forward to conducting research about reunification of the two Koreas and expanding their tutoring program in the future.

“Whenever a refugee gets accepted into college or achieves employment, we feel a sense of distinct accomplishment and pride,” says Pscore.