Human rights abuse by the hereditary dictatorial regime in North Korea has now drawn serious attention from all over the world. The 3rd International Human Rights Conference in North Korea was held in Brussels on March 22nd this year (the 1st conference in Washington D.C in July 2005, the 2nd in Seoul in December 2005). In the 3rd International Human Rights Conference, 11 moderate rightists from South Korea, including Yu Sehee (Citizens United for Right Society), Shin Jiho (Liberalist Alliance), Han Gihong (DNK Network), and 60 NGO members from Europe, the U.S. and South Korea have participated. On 23 March, two North Korean refugees bore witness to the atrocities of North Korean life in “the First Hearing on North Korean Human Rights” organized by the European Committee.
This is only a happy feature of a misfortune: it should have taken place much earlier. North Korean Human Rights abuse has long been neglected. It concerns us Koreans in the first place. No need to mention such grandiose concept as the nation or nationalism. North Koreans who suffer the murderous dictatorship of the Kim Jongil regime are our brothers and sisters, relatives, friends. What’s more, they are the Korean people according to the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. However, we have averted the agony of their lives. This, I believe, is to collaborate with Kim Jongil: negligence by non-action. The leftist Korean government not only averts this issue but also hampers our legitimate movement on the pretext of “not stimulating North Korea.” This is shameful indeed. About 100 Pro-North Korean regime activists have also gone to Brussels to oppose the International Conference. They argue that anti-North Korean policies of the U.S. and Japan have served the purpose of masking the claws of imperialism, and that they are now spreading around in Europe. They shamelessly formed anti-U.S. rallies in Europe. What do they mean by American imperialsim, or by unification by national independence and peace? The U.S. criticized human rights violence under the Park Jeonghee regime, which cannot even compare with brutal North Korean human rights abuse such as open public executions. Were they anti-American then?
I should ask: What if your parents were imprisoned in the Yoduk concentration camp? Will you still oppose the international accusation of North Korean human rights abuse? What if your parents fled to the other side of Tumon and Yalu Rivers, and were wondering around China in fear of getting repatriated to North Korea? Will you still hoist the banner of resistance against the International Committee on North Korean human rights abuse?
Their unprincipled outcry for independent and peaceful unification can never trump human rights issues. The fact of the matter is that North Koreans are deprived of basic human liberties. Nothing can be more important than that. Without considering this crucial problem, they simply repeat the cliché slogans like American supremacy, national independence. Korean people should never be hoodwinked by their outdated strategies.
The leftist establishment represented by Kim Daejung and Roh Muhyun have made a living off propagating human rights, and eventually took power. They habitually criticize Presidents Rhee Seungman and Park Jeonghee for suppressing human rights. How can they turn away from Northern Korean human rights abuse? This is a travesty.
History has always been on the side of human rights. This cannot be different for now. North Korean human rights cannot be an exception. The U.S. foreign policies toward North Korea has shifted from the nuclear weapons to national crimes by the Kim Jongil regime. Human rights abuse is an unjustifiable national crime. Those who avert this serious issue will be condemned by history.
It is encouraging indeed to see that many Christian organizations, especially Protestants, and rightist NGOs are rising up against the Kim Jongil regime in line with the International Conference in Europe.
At 9 AM, March 1st, 2006, over 6 thousand Protestants convened for “Weeping Prayer for North Korean Brethren in Seoul” organized by “Korean Church Coalition for Liberty in North Korea.” They prayed in unison that the Kim Jongil regime collapse soon and North Korean people could be saved. Minister Kim Jinhong emphasized: “The North Korean problem is a religious, rather than political, one. It is the problem of faith” in his sermon, “Will we do nothing about it forever?” He asked, “are those really human beings who tour in Mt. Keumkang when people are dying in North Korea?” “We should help North Korean people, but not the Kim Jongil regime. We Christians should first rise up.” “It won’t be long until the Judgment Day comes for Kim Jongil.”
The director Jeong Seongsan, a North Korean refugee, who staged the musical, “the Yoduk story”, also gave a talk at the convention, and received a hearty applause. The KCC announced that monthly rally will be held in five major cities in Korea, and that they will hold “Weeping Praying Rallies” in 84 countries which signed the U.N. decision on North Korean human rights.
In stark contrast with active Christians, Korean Catholics have remained silent on this issue. I believe Korean Catholics, laymen and Fathers alike, are not indifferent to North Korean human rights abuse. Last February, we, the Wheat Berry committee, founded the Internet Daily, AWARE. This will definitely serve as the template for expressing our enthusiastic concerns for North Korean human rights issues. The newly appointed Cardinal Jeong Jinseok, the concurrent head of Pyongyang Parish, gives us hope that We Korean Catholics will play an important role in solving North Korean human rights issues. I sincerely pray that our new Cardinal will take these issues seriously. It is regrettable indeed that some Fathers who are still caught up by force of habit in the old democratization movements of the 1970s might lead the anti-American movement. It is truly deplorable that they mistake leading anti-American rallies for pastorate. Please consider that Fathers have much more important missions elsewhere.
Wouldn’t it be more becoming of a Father to remonstrate against North Korean human rights abuse or to lead a Mass? It would be more appropriate for Fathers, both religiously and morally. Many Catholics would love to see Fathers work more actively on their mission in North Korea. It is only natural that we feel closer to honest and decent Americans who believe in God than those dictatorial communists who deny the necessity of religion itself. I believe the it is the genuine duty of us believers to pray for the day to come soon when our North Korean brethren will live in a liberal democratic society like ours. I also believe that God wants Fathers to devote themselves to ending human rights abuse in North Korea, and to work for its democratization.