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PN's Voice 19, 10-11-2014
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PN's Voice 19, 10.11.2014
Small steps, Road to peace


N. Korea Releases Last Remaining American Detainees

North Korea has released detained American citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, meaning there are no more American citizens being detained in the North. The two returned to the United States on Sunday evening and were accompanied by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who is believed to have played a key role in securing their release. Bae has been held in the North for 2 years for unspecified crimes against the state and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, while Miller was arrested in April of this year on charges of espionage and “hostile acts”, and was consequently given a 6 year sentence.

President Obama described their release as “a wonderful day for them and their families… obviously we are very grateful for their safe return.” Obama was also quick to praise Clapper for his role in the process; “I appreciate director Clapper doing a great job on what was obviously a challenging mission." The US State Department also issued a statement thanking Sweden for its part in the release of Bae and Miller, just as it did after the release of Jeffrey Fowle just last month. Sweden often acts as a diplomatic intermediary for the United States in North Korea because Washington has no diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

The release of the prisoners isn’t a surprise as it was expected at some point, only the timing was uncertain. In September, Pyongyang allowed Bae, Miller and Fowle to be interviewed by US news outlets CNN and the Associated Press. The men said they were being treated humanely and appealed to the US government to push for their release. The interview was seen as being a sign that North Korea was seeking to open dialogue with Washington. The timing of their release can be interpreted as the North Korean regime offering the US an olive branch as President Obama prepares for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The US is seeking China’s help in referring a damning human rights report on North Korea to the International Criminal Court, as well as pressuring Pyongyang on its nuclear program.
Source : Channel 4 News, BBC News, 38 North


Notorious Yodok Prison Camp Abolished

The notorious Yodok prison camp, aka Camp 15, in North Korea has been reportedly been completely “broken up” so that “there’s not a trace of it left” according to a Daily NK military source. However, the breaking up of the camp at Yodok hasn’t brought any liberty for its inmates; former Camp 15 detainees have simply been transferred to two alternate camps, namely Camp 16 in North Hamkyung Province and Camp 14 in South Pyongan Province – infamously once home to defector-activist Shin Dong-Hyuk. The closing of camp 15 isn’t the first of its kind as Camp 22 was closed down in the summer of 2012
Yodok was particularly notorious as it was the most tightly controlled of the North’s camps and was were the most ‘ideologically unsound’ prisoners were sent; conditions in Yodok were widely reported to be horrific. Yodok, unlike North Korea’s other political prison camps, was divided into “revolutionizing” and “completely controlled” zones. People charged with relatively minor offenses were imprisoned in the former area, wherein whole families were able to live together. Those accused of grave offenses were detained in the latter area of the camp, commonly for decade-long or life sentences.

It is widely believed that reason behind the North Korean authorities’ decision to close down Yodok is to allow international observers to visit the site in order to popularize the notion that “North Korea doesn't have any political prison camps.” In keeping with this hypothesis, Pyongyang recently granted permission for the special rapporteur on North Korean human rights, Marzuki Darusman, to visit the country. Darusman had stated in an interview that any visit to North Korea would have to include an inspection of prison camps.
Source : Daily NK


S. Korea Launches Annual Defense Drill in Deterrence Against N. Korea

The South Korean military began its annual war exercise involving all branches of service today to bolster its defense posture against North Korea. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced that the 12-day exercise involving the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps will focus on “ways to establish supreme military defense capabilities against (North Korea's) possible regional provocations and all-out war.”

The JCS went on to say that the exercise will be conducted nationwide and will feature programs on joint landing drills, maritime infiltration defense drills and those to defend the northwestern islands on the Yellow Sea. While this drill will principally be executed by South Korea, US forces will join in with some of the drills. Some 330,000 military servicemen are due to take part in the drill, the largest ever number since the country first staged the drill in 1996. A JCS officer explained that the large scale involvement in these drills is in response to the North’s recent drills: “as North Korea is believed to have carried out intensive military drills in recent months, we've decided to launch the largest-ever scale of the drills in response in order to boost our capabilities.” Pyongyang lashed out at Seoul last Friday for the planned drill, claiming that the South has "sought a chance to ignite a war" and has become "more bellicose and provocative."

The two Koreas are technically still at war after the Korean War ended in an armistice, but not a peace treaty. About 28,500 US soldiers are stationed in the South.
Source : Yonhap News


Balloon Launches Responsible for Cancellation of High Level Talks?

Amid mutual mud-slinging and both sides blaming the other, it has been announced that the second round of high level inter-Korean are presumed to be cancelled, with the North citing the recent spree of leaflet-filled balloon launches as a determinant factor. A second-round of talks was set for the end of last month or the beginning of this month when a top-level North Korean delegation visited the South for the closing ceremony of the Incheon Games.

Amid mutual mud-slinging and both sides blaming the other, it has been announced that the second round of high level inter-Korean are presumed to be cancelled, with the North citing the recent spree of leaflet-filled balloon launches as a determinant factor. A second-round of talks was set for the end of last month or the beginning of this month when a top-level North Korean delegation visited the South for the closing ceremony of the Incheon Games.

Lim went on to say, “North Korea, through its three high-ranking officials, had shown a positive response to the idea of holding the second round of high-level talks late October or early November, but to our disappointment, it has failed to move forward on the issue by setting unjust preconditions,” the statement pointed out. It also added, “They need to think about how their irrational actions, which only keep in mind their so-called ‘highest dignity’ [Kim leadership], are viewed by the international community.”

Seoul said the second round of high-level dialogue has in effect been called off, but did leave room open for the possibility of them taking place in the future. Spokesman Lim said after reading his statement, “we believe the second round of high-level talks have been canceled,” when asked whether Seoul may propose a new date to Pyongyang, he answered “as of now, we do not have any additional measures planned in this regard.”

Lim’s comments were in response to a North Korean statement issued the previous day which laid the blame of the lack of progress on inter-Korean talks at the door of the South Korean government for allowing the balloon launches to go ahead. The statement said “how are we to hold talks and discuss improving inter-Korean relations with those who protect, support, and encourage leaflet spraying that insults our highest dignity instead of actually controlling it….as long as the leaflet spraying continues, the South should not even dream of sitting down with us at the table for talks.”
Daily NK’s Ahn Jong Sik wrote an interesting opinion piece in his column this week, which I’d like to recommend, debating whether high level inter-Korean talks have stalled due to the balloon launches, or if this is just being used as an excuse by Pyongyang.
Source : Daily NK, The Korea Times, Daily NK


Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Last weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event which was the precursor for the reunification of Germany. This anniversary has thrown the issue of Korean reunification into the spotlight and into forefront of many people’s minds. In that spirit, I’d like to recommend the following articles published this week which discuss this issue, as well as some other articles published earlier in the year which discuss the usefulness/uselessness of comparing the reunification of Germany with that of Korea.
Source : The Wall Street Journal,The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal, Yonhap News, The Diplomat, The Korea Times


38 North Oral History Videos & Transcripts

Last month marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Agreed Framework between North Korea and the United States. This agreement managed to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and avoid a crisis, thus opening up a near decade-long era of stability, and improving US-North Korean relations. To mark this anniversary 38 North have compiled a number of video interviews which reveal some of the details and hidden stories of the build up to the signing of the Agreed Framework. The videos, as well as a transcript of the videos, can be accessed at the link below:
Source : Peace Network

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