North Korea

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From left to right, Soo Jeong Kim, Asian cultures and languages and finance senior, theatre graduate student Yong Min Lee and David Nielsen, Asian cultures and languages and finance senior, perform in an art piece about a family that leaves North Korea as part of Liberty in North Korea’s Awareness Day. The event aims to raise awareness about the human rights violations that are taking place in North Korea.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The UT chapter of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) urged students to send letters of solidarity to the North Korean people during its biannual day of awareness for the human rights violations occurring in North Korea. 

The event Friday aimed to educate the University community about the human side of the political crisis in North Korea, according to Sarah Choi, UT LiNK chapter’s vice president and cellular and molecular biology junior. The current turmoil started in 1945 when Cold War geopolitics split the peninsula into North and South Korea.

“We wanted to emphasize the people side of North Korea, instead of the politics,” Choi said. “There is an abuse of human rights that is going on in North Korea apart from the nuclear issue and the dictatorship.”

The national organization focuses its efforts on using the funds University chapters raise to rescue refugees. Otherwise, Chinese officials would send these refugees back to North Korea, where they would face likely imprisonment in concentration camps, Choi said.

“When North Korean refugees leave the country, they cross the [Yalu] River to enter China, a country that does not recognize their refugee status,” Choi said. “LiNK headquarters sends rescue teams to China to help the refugees get refugee status through the U.S. or South Korea. Basically, we are an underground railroad.”

Most of the $3,500 it takes to rescue a refugee is used to convince officials in China and North Korea to release the refugees into the hands of LiNK rescue teams, according to Kirstin Helgeson, UT LiNK chapter’s social media chair and linguistics and mathematics sophomore.

“3,500 sounds like it is a lot of money for just one person, but really most of it is used for bribery, which is sad,” Helgeson said.

The UT LiNK chapter has helped save a total of 12 refugees since its founding in 2006.

LiNK uses $500 of the funds to help provide educational scholarships to the refugees, said Amy Kridaratikorn, LiNK member and advertising junior.

Kridaratikorn said the way LiNK clearly outlines how the organization intends to use the funds makes her confident about its philanthropic efforts.

“For LiNK, you raise a set amount of funds, and then you save a refugee,” Kridaratikorn said. “Later on, they send you [the refugee’s name] and a thank you note from them, so I know exactly who my efforts are helping.”

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Liberty in North Korea, or LiNK, an on-campus humanitarian organization, held an awareness event at Gregory Plaza on Friday to raise funds for North Korean refugees.

According to Hamaila Qureshi, nutrition senior and the organization’s president, LiNK seeks to raise awareness about the living conditions of refugees from North Korea.

“We want to focus on what the people are going through,” Qureshi said. “We do a lot of fundraising to rescue refugees hiding in China because China doesn’t recognize them as economic migrants.”

Qureshi said LiNK is an international organization that will take refugees to undisclosed shelters in places such as North America or South Korea, depending on where the refugees want to move.

“We saved a mom, Haejung, and her daughter Su,” Qureshi said. “They are currently residing in South Korea. One of our members, [a UT alum], actually goes to South Korea and keeps up with her and Su. It’s really nice how we get to stay in touch with them.”

The organization is currently raising funds for its ninth refugee. According to Qureshi, it takes around $3,000 to rescue a refugee.

“Right now, we’ve made $1,800,” Qureshi said. “On campus, we do have a lot of people who are interested. We raise about $1,000 for each event, so it does make an impact.”

The event Friday focuses on Jangmadang, the North Korean black market. To educate the students about conditions for the people in North Korea, the organization set up a mock black market.

Lizzy Barbaree, unspecified business freshman and LiNK member, said the group’s original aim was just to raise awareness about the conditions in North Korea, but, with the items they sell, they can also save lives.

“We are selling notebooks, bracelets, lip balm and key chains,” Barbaree said. “A lot of stuff is actually handmade, and we also designed the T-shirts.”

Amanda Wong, Biology sophomore, purchased a food product called “Choco Pie” because she believes in the organization’s cause.

“I read the news and know what’s going on in North Korea,” Wong said. “[North Korea] stopped giving Choco Pie, and South Korea sent over a lot of Choco Pie in retaliation. I think it’s wrong for them to not allow them to have Choco Pie; that food gives them a sense of hope.”

Bruce Cumings, professor at the University of Chicago, speaks on the relationship between the U.S and Korea on Friday.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Although the U.S. and North Korea signed the Korean War Armistice more than 60 years ago, the potential for nuclear violence and other threats is still a large part of the relationship between the two countries, a University of Chicago professor said in a speech Friday.

The armistice, signed after the Korean War in 1953, established a demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea and called for all hostilities between the U.S. and North Korea to stop until a peaceful settlement had been achieved. According to Bruce Cumings, a history professor at the University of Chicago, that goal still has not been reached and tensions between the two nations remain strong.

“The armistice was just a cease-fire — not a peace treaty,” Cumings said. “The war never officially ended. And now we have a series of threats by the U.S. and North [Korea] and South Korea to do it all over again.” 

Cumings said the relationship between the two countries has evolved into a series of war games, with each country trying to intimidate the other through atomic blackmail.

“In March of 2012, Obama sent B-2 bombers to the Korean peninsula to show the Koreans that our bombs were still ‘nuclear capable,’” Cumings said. “I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the amount of long-running violence between the two countries. It’s almost as violent today as it was after the armistice in 1953.”

Economics graduate student Jing Lee said she attended Cumings’ talk because of her interest in how the armistice affects global economics.

“Korea has important trade relations with the U.S., so it’s interesting to see how the tension in their relationship plays out on the world stage today,” Lee said.

The U.S. has tried to negotiate several times with North Korea about its nuclear development. The two countries, along with many others, passed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, which forbade non-nuclear states from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. The treaty was negotiated again in 1994, when North Korea agreed to freeze its plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid.

Cumings said, although the war has faded into the past for the U.S., it still has a major impact on Koreans today.

“Americans treat it as this ‘forgotten war,’ but North Korea is still fighting it in its boneheaded ways,” Cumings said. “You go to North Korea and people start talking about it right away: about their grandfather or brother who died in the bombings.”

According to Cumings, Korea’s unstable future and nuclear potential still pose a threat to the U.S. today.

“We remain steeped in denial about a conflict that is both almost 70 years old, and always within an inch of breaking out again,” Cumings said. “If we don’t try to get it under control, I think we could wake up one morning and have war break out in Korea, and people would say, ‘How the hell did that ever happen?’”

Ana Ramirez, global policy studies and Asian studies graduate student, said the talk shed light on issues not prominently featured in U.S. policy.

“A lot of people don’t know that the war hasn’t technically ended,” Ramirez said. “It’s good to know how the armistice still affects us today.”

South Korean army soldiers walk on the empty road after South Korean vehicles which were refused for entry to North Korea at the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, South Korea, near the border village of Panmunjom, Wednesday, April 3, 2013. North Korea on Wednesday barred South Korean workers from entering a jointly run factory park just over the heavily armed border in the North, officials in Seoul said, a day after Pyongyang announced it would restart its long-shuttered plutonium reactor and increase production of nuclear weapons material.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

PAJU, South Korea — In past deadly confrontations between North and South Korea, a jointly operated industrial park stayed open, churning out goods.

But in the latest sign that North Korea’s warlike stance toward South Korea and the United States is moving from words to action, the North on Wednesday barred South Korean managers and trucks delivering supplies from crossing the border to enter the Kaesong industrial park.

It’s an announcement that further escalates a torrent of actions that analysts say is aimed at pressuring the U.S. and South Korea to change their policies toward North Korea.

The Kaesong move came a day after the North said it would restart its long-shuttered plutonium reactor and a uranium enrichment plant. Both could produce fuel for nuclear weapons that North Korea is developing and has threatened to hurl at the U.S., but which experts don’t think it will be able to accomplish for years.

The North’s rising rhetoric has been met by a display of U.S. military strength, including flights of nuclear-capable bombers and stealth jets at annual South Korean-U.S. military drills that the allies call routine and North Korea says are invasion preparations.

The Kaesong industrial park started producing goods in 2004 and has been an unusual point of cooperation in an otherwise hostile relationship between the Koreas, whose three-year war ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

“Hello world from comms center in (hash)Pyongyang.”

That Twitter missive, sent Monday from Koryolink’s main service center in downtown Pyongyang using my iPhone, marked a milestone for North Korea: It was believed to be the first tweet sent from a cellphone using the country’s new 3G mobile data service.

Later, as we were driving through Pyongyang, I used my iPhone to snap a photo of a new roadside banner referring to North Korea’s controversial Feb. 12 nuclear test while AP’s Chief Asia photographer David Guttenfelder shot an image of a commuter walking beneath a bridge at dusk. We uploaded these images to Instagram geotagged “Pyongyang.”

Pretty ordinary stuff in the world of social media, but revolutionary for North Korea, a country with an intricate set of rules designed to stage manage the flow of images and information both inside and beyond its borders.

Leader Kim Jong Un has pushed science and technology as major policy directives, and we’re starting to see more laptops in offices. But the World Wide Web remains strictly off limits for most North Koreans. North Korean universities have their own Intranet system, although the material is closely vetted by authorities.

“Hello world from comms center in (hash)Pyongyang.”

That Twitter missive, sent Monday from Koryolink’s main service center in downtown Pyongyang using my iPhone, marked a milestone for North Korea: It was believed to be the first tweet sent from a cellphone using the country’s new 3G mobile data service.

Later, as we were driving through Pyongyang, I used my iPhone to snap a photo of a new roadside banner referring to North Korea’s controversial Feb. 12 nuclear test while AP’s Chief Asia photographer David Guttenfelder shot an image of a commuter walking beneath a bridge at dusk. We uploaded these images to Instagram geotagged “Pyongyang.”

Pretty ordinary stuff in the world of social media, but revolutionary for North Korea, a country with an intricate set of rules designed to stage manage the flow of images and information both inside and beyond its borders.

Leader Kim Jong Un has pushed science and technology as major policy directives, and we’re starting to see more laptops in offices. But the World Wide Web remains strictly off limits for most North Koreans. North Korean universities have their own Intranet system, although the material is closely vetted by authorities.

BRUSSELS — EU finance ministers, condemning the Feb. 12 nuclear test by North Korea, have imposed trade and economic sanctions on the Asian nation.

A statement by the 27 European Union finance ministers, who met Monday in Brussels, said they condemn the test “in the strongest terms” and demand that North Korea abstain from further tests. The statement also urged North Korea to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay.

Monday’s action brings the number of North Koreans subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze to 26, and the number of sanctioned companies to 33. The ministers also banned the export of components for ballistic missiles, such as certain types of aluminum, and prohibited trade in new public bonds from North Korea.

UNITED NATIONS — A North Korean minister says the Korean peninsula has become the world’s most dangerous hotspot where a spark could set off a nuclear war.

Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon lashed out at the United States in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly Monday, blaming Washington’s “hostile” policy toward North Korea for a “vicious cycle of confrontation and aggravation” that has brought the peninsula close to a nuclear conflict.

Pak also accused the U.S. of seeking to occupy the entire Korean peninsula by force and “use it as a stepping stone for realizing its strategy of dominating the whole of Asia.”

He said the United States has finalized scenarios for a new Korean War and is waiting to implement them but has been deterred by North Korea.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — An international film festival opens Thursday in what may seem the unlikeliest of places: North Korea.

Held every two years, the Pyongyang International Film Festival offers North Koreans their only chance to see a wide array of foreign films on the big screen — from Britain, Germany and elsewhere (but not America). And it’s the only time foreigners are allowed into North Korean theaters to watch movies alongside locals.

This year, festivalgoers will get the chance to see two feature films shot in North Korea but edited overseas: the romantic comedy “Comrade Kim Goes Flying,” a joint North Korean-European production, and “Meet in Pyongyang,” made in conjunction with a Chinese studio.

While it’s true that homegrown movies predictably tend toward communist propaganda with a healthy dose of tear-jerker, North Korea is a film-crazy country. Well-to-do residents pay as much as 500 won (about $5 according to official exchange rates) to see new releases from the government-run Korean Film Studio, as well as Russian and Chinese imports.

Those who don’t have the means to go to the theater tune into the Mansudae TV channel, which shows mostly Chinese and Eastern European films on weekends. Some recent offerings have included “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and the only western offering shown on state TV in recent memory, the British film “Bend It Like Beckham,” which aired in 2010.

This year, a huge screen in front of the Pyongyang train station has become another popular place to watch movies. On Monday, hundreds of locals stood transfixed by a North Korean drama in a plaza in front of the station.

The late leader Kim Jong Il, who died in December, was a notorious film buff.

He was 7 when he saw his first film — “My Hometown” — the inaugural film made at by the Korean Film Studio. The film, about a young man who returns to his village after Korea is liberated from Japan, made a lifelong impression on the future leader, according to Choe Hung Ryol, director of the studio’s external affairs department.

In 1973 Kim published a treatise called “On the Art of the Cinema,” in which he extolled filmmaking as a way to aid the people’s “development into true communists.”

“Creative work is not a mere job, but an honorable revolutionary task,” he wrote.

In 1978, Kim “recruited” a South Korean director, Shin Sang-ok, and his actress ex-wife, Choi Eun-hee. According to the late director’s memoirs, he was lured to Pyongyang to make propaganda films, but he and his wife slipped away from their bodyguards during a 1986 trip to Vienna.

Kim’s father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, also wrote a film called “The Flower Girl,” and current leader Kim Jong Un also has a keen interest in film, according to Korean Film Studio spokesman Choe .

In an interview with The Associated Press, Choe acknowledged that the main purpose of North Korean cinema is propaganda.

“Our films carry a different purpose than movies made in other countries,” he said. “We make films for the purpose of ideological education.”

And to play with the emotions of the audience, evidently.

“If you watch a lot of North Korean films, you’ll find yourself crying a lot,” he said. “If you don’t cry, you’re clearly a person without emotion.”

A visit to the film studio is a lot like going back in time, from the thatched cottages of a bygone rural Korea, to the ancient royal palaces of the Choson Dynasty, to a louche depiction of 1950s South Korea compete with brothels, pubs and pharmacies.

“American tourists who come here always tap the walls to see if the buildings are real,” Choe said. “They say the sets in Hollywood are just facades.”

For British filmmaker Nicholas Bonner and his Belgian co-producer Anja Daelemans, the upcoming North Korean premiere of “Comrade Kim Goes Flying” will be a moment nearly seven years in the making.

The film, a romantic comedy about a coal miner who dreams of becoming an acrobat, was shot in North Korea in 2010 with a local cast, directed by veteran North Korean filmmaker Kim Gwang Hun, and edited in Belgium.

“It’s not what you expect from North Korea, and it’s not something people have seen before,” Bonner said.

Writing the script took three years, as the North Korean and European members of the team worked to come up with a story line that was both entertaining and politically safe for showing in North Korea. Bonner credits his the Koreans with contributing some of the film’s funniest moments

“In the end, you’re dealing with professionals,” Bonner said. “They do their job. You’re in the film world, and we’re all making a film.”

But for sheer scale, “Comrade Kim” can’t possibly compete with the heavyweight of North Korean cinema, the 63-part epic “Nation and Destiny,” which began in the 1990s. Filming is already under way on part 64.

 Printed on Thursday, September 20, 2012 as: North Korea opens foreign film festival

North Korean guide Kim Won Ho, right, speaks to a foreign journalist near a photo depicting the 2009 satellite rocket launch at the Three Revolutions exhibition hall in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea accused the U.S. of hostility on Tuesday for suspending an agreement to provide food aid following Pyongyang’s widely criticized rocket launch, and warned of retaliatory measures in response.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry also rejected the U.N. Security Council’s condemnation of Friday’s launch of a long-range rocket as “unreasonable,” and reasserted the nation’s right to develop a civilian space program.

North Korea fired a three-stage rocket Friday over the Yellow Sea in defiance of international warnings against what the U.S. and other nations said would be seen as a violation of bans against nuclear and missile activity.

North Korean officials called the launch a peaceful bid to send an observation satellite into space, timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary Sunday of the birth of late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. The launch was a failure, with the rocket splintering into pieces less than two minutes after takeoff.

Condemnation was swift, with the U.S. and others calling it a covert test of rocket technology that could be used to fire a long-range missile fitted with a nuclear warhead.

Washington immediately halted a plan brokered in February to provide North Korea with much-needed food aid in exchange for a suspension of its nuclear and missile programs.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday it was difficult to say whether the North’s latest statement could indicate whether its “opaque regime” was readying a nuclear test.

“In the past there’s been a pattern of bad behavior,” he told a briefing in Washington. “We can’t preclude anything at this point.”

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council, including North Korea ally China, condemned the rocket launch as a violation of resolutions prohibiting North Korea from ballistic missile and nuclear activity, and directed its sanctions committee to strengthen penalties against the country.

Toner reminded North Korea of its obligations under the resolutions, and said the Security Council’s statement Monday made clear it was determined to take further action if North Korea conducts another rocket launch or nuclear test.

Responding to the Security Council’s condemnation, North Korea accused the U.S. on Tuesday of leading a campaign to deny its right to develop its defense and civilian space programs.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry vowed to press ahead with its space ambitions, and warned it would no longer adhere to the February agreement with the U.S.

“We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. “The U.S. will be held wholly accountable for all the
ensuing consequences.”

“Peace is very dear for us but the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country are dearer for us,” the statement said, without specifying what countermeasures North Korea might take.

North Korea also faced U.N. Security Council condemnation after launching a long-range rocket in 2009, and walked away from six-nation nuclear disarmament negotiations in protest.

Weeks later, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, its second, and revealed it had a uranium enrichment program that could give scientists a second source for building atomic weapons.