The CSS Blog Network

Human Rights of North Korean Defectors in Dire Straits

Dadong, North Korea. Image by Joseph A Ferris III/Flickr.

On August 3rd, South Korean human rights activist Kim Young-hwan and three colleagues held a press conference accusing Chinese authorities of detainment and torture due to their work with North Korean refugees. China has denied the allegations.

The activists were staying in Dalien, a major city in the southern Chinese province of Liaoning, assisting North Korean defectors and raising awareness of the dire human rights situation in North Korea (the original cause for their arrest). Mr. Kim said that he and his colleagues were beaten and tortured with electricity for “threatening the national security of China,” that both the Chinese and the North Korean governments were clandestinely engaged in their arrest and torture, and that the Chinese government intentionally delayed a consulate meeting.

Torture and harsh treatment for human rights activists such as Kim Young-hwan – who is a former supporter of North Korea’s first leader Kim Il-sung, but later became disillusioned with the regime’s absolutism and human rights abuses – highlight the tensions between South Korea and China as well as the ill treatment of North Korean defectors by the Chinese government. » More

The Logic of China’s North Korea Policy

DPRK: train from Pyongyang to Dandong

Train from Pyongyang to Dandong. Photo: kwramm/flickr.

US and South Korean analysts are annoyed and frustrated by China’s policy toward North Korea. In their eyes, Beijing’s policy not only jeopardizes the security of the US and the ROK and undermines international norms, but is detrimental to China’s own national interests as well. But judgments about whether China’s North Korea policy is illogical or self-defeating depend very much on what people see as China’s goals. Most Chinese analysts would argue that China’s policy has its own internal logic; whether the US and South Korea see that logic is a different matter.

The widely accepted assumption is that China has three goals when it comes to North Korea: stability (no implosion and no war), peace (diplomatic normalization between the US and North Korea), and denuclearization/nonproliferation. Among these three, China prioritizes stability over peace and denuclearization. The secondary status of denuclearization is a sore spot for Washington and Seoul, which see it as the most important goal (or should be). And while different priorities lead to different approaches, North Korean actions have been destabilizing. Therefore, China’s strategy is counterproductive in terms of its own priority, hence illogical. » More

Predictions on Power Structure and Policy Changes of the Kim Jong-un Regime

The new stage of North Korea’s leadership succession began with the rise to power of the third generation leader Kim Jong-un. On 15 April 2012, the newly-appointed First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Jong-un made his first public speech during a military parade to commemorate Kim Il-sung’s centenary. It was the official announcement of the opening of the Kim Jong-un regime toward the world.

A series of political events from the Meeting of Party Representatives to the Kim Il-sung centenary celebrations clearly show that the third generation of leadership is emerging as a new core power group backed by the second generation. This move means more than just a generational shift in North Korea’s power structure. It indicative of possible changes in policy lines on its internal and external affairs.

Kim Jong-un conducted political reshuffles before and after the Meeting of Party Representatives in April 2012, as part of actions to implement a moderate shift in generation and to firmly secure his control over the military. Since smoothly establishing the hereditary succession process, Kim Jong-un not only moved to-ward assuming political leadership but also swiftly acquired a firm grip on the power elites in the party, government, and military by reorganizing and uniting power elites. It would seem Kim Jong-un’s rule is stable, at least in terms of power structure. » More

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The Ghost of North Korea

North Korea's Unha-3 rocket ready to launch at Tangachai-ri space center on April 8, 2012. Image by Wikimedia Commons.

TOKYO – At 7:39 a.m. on April 13, North Korea fired a missile (which it called a satellite launch) in the face of opposition from almost the entire international community. In a perverse way, the world got its way, because the vehicle exploded a minute after takeoff, its debris falling harmlessly into the sea.

North Korea typically goes silent after such episodes: “failure” does not exist in its political lexicon, so it cannot be reported or discussed. The country’s media routinely meets any failure with outpourings of patriotic music and bombastic praise for the regime.

But this time was different. Behind the scenes in North Korea, failure does have consequences. In the coming weeks, we will most likely learn of a purge of those responsible. Indeed, the engineers and scientists involved in the launch probably put their lives on the line.

Moreover, North Korea could not deny failure this time, because the regime invited international media to attend the event – even allowing foreign reporters into the mission-control room – in order to legitimize it as a “satellite” launch and not a weapons test. The “failure” could not be concealed, so it was quickly admitted. » More

North Korea: What Not to Do

Watch out for policy mistakes in North Korea. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The announcement of Kim Jong-Un as Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army is one more step in the process of Pyongyang’s efforts to consolidate power as quickly as possible after the sudden death of Kim Jong-Il.  It is fairly certain that the proliferation of pronouncements and titles given to the young Kim are manifestations of a terribly rushed succession process.  Something that they hoped could be done over the course of a decade or more has suddenly been set in motion.

Many Western analysts believe the North has been planning such a succession for a long time and they are therefore methodically carrying out the power transition step-by-step.  I do not think this is right. » More

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