Aware of Washington's recent overture to Iran, Kim Jong-il may believe that provocative actions will induce the US to offer better negotiating terms to North Korea. Regardless of whether a test occurs, Pyongyang has accomplished its objective of regaining international attention...
But North Korea will be careful not to overplay its hand. The current US administration would see a launch of a Taepodong 2 missile as vindication of its hardline policy and press Beijing and Seoul for stronger measures against Pyongyang. Washington has already reduced Pyongyang's legal and illicit economic transactions by targeting North Korean firms and foreign banks, but could seek to freeze Kim's personal assets in overseas accounts.
About 18 RAK members and their families came out to the first (most likely annual) RAK spring picnic. Thanks to all the RAK members who came and contributed something the cook-out. Special thanks go to George Geddes, who did his usual fine work at the grill. We had plenty for everyone and even had enough left over to share some with a group of elementary school girls who were having their own picnic on the same grounds.
Republicans Abroad-Korea members getting ready to eat. Master Chief George Geddes is at the Grill.
After eating (well, the first two rounds of eating), we got down to some business. RAK Chairman John Lee reported on his trip to the RA Asian regional meeting in Hong Kong a few weeks earlier. We also discussed our plans for voter registration this summer and fall.
Republicans Abroad-Korea Chairman, John Lee (left) talks with RAK members.
Having bellies full of meat (and, in some cases, beer) did not prevent a few of us some trying to show off our athletic prowess by playing a volleyball for an hour or so. The team of Peter Laver and Andy Jackson held their own against the power of Bob Gilbert and Manny Lee/George Geddes. In case anyone was wondering the grass stains came out of Andy's clothes pretty well with a little scrubbing.
Of course, cigars were on hand (thanks once again to George).
Cigars are always welcome at RAK events, except when they are not.
I think we are looking at a pretty set schedule of RAK social events: Thanksgiving dinner, spring picnic and September picnic. We are also looking into doing some kind of sports challenge with the Democrats and/or Libertarians.
As you may have heard, some NK refugees recently captured in Laos has apparently been put in Korean custody. That is certainly good news. However there are apparently 12 North Koreans in the custody of authorities in Thailand.
Hopefully, the refugees will soon be released to Korean or American officials. Until they are, you may wish to share your concern about their fate with the Thai embassy in Seoul. Here is their email. This page also has their phone and fax numbers. If you contact them, remember to be polite and respectful.
I got the letter below from the local chapter of LiNK. Obviously, you should write your own letter, but this can give you some ideas (UPDATE: Spelling errors have been corrected.).
His Excellency Mr. VASIN TEERAVECHYAN
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Republic of Korea
I am writing to express my grave concern for the fate of twelve North Korean refugees who are being held at a local jail in your country. As you may know, hundreds of thousands of people have fled severe political persecution in North Korea. Common forms of persecution there include arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture, and the political manipulation of food supplies that uses food as a weapon. Many of these refugees are hiding in China, and others have gone so far as to travel all the way through China and the nations of Southeast Asia in search of refuge.
North Korea considers all of these people to be criminals for fleeing this oppression. Those returned to North Korea against their will are certain to face severe conditions in North Korean prison camps. Others will be executed immediately, often publicly. If any of the refugees are pregnant women or women with infants, recent reports from refugees, published in reputable news media, suggest that the children, both born and unborn, will be murdered. Citing some of these concerns, U.N. Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn recently deemed the North Koreans to be "refugees sur place" and opined that involuntarily repatriating them to North Korea would violate the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention and its 1969 Protocol.
I urge your government to immediately release these twelve people, all of whom are legally citizens of the Republic of Korea under Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic of Korea Constitution, and grant them safe passage to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Thailand. If the Republic of Korea Embassy refuses to meet its constitutional and international obligations to accept all twelve of these refugees, I am confident that the U.S. Embassy in Thailand will do so pursuant to the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004, which requires U.S. embassies to allow North Korean refugees to present applications for political asylum. U.S. consular facilities in Southeast Asia are complying with these legal requirements, in part because the human rights of North Koreans are a matter of great concern to the American people.
We thank you in advance for the use of your good offices to save the lives of these innocents. Any adverse reaction by the North Korean government will be fleeting. It is the gratitude of the Korean and American peoples that will endure. Thank you.
(All below is from LiNK-Seoul. Scroll down for English.)
프로젝트 선샤인을 준비하는 과정에서 여러분들이 주신 많은 도움에 진심으로 감 사드립니다. ^^
LiNK가 벌이는 여러 활동들과 관련해서 언론, 국회, 협조적인 NGO 단체들, 그리고 수많은 사람들로부터 긍정적인 피드백을 받고 있습니다.
비록 몇몇의 프로젝트 선샤인 멤버들은 서울을 떠났지만, 남아 있는 멤버들이 이번 토요일 LiNK Seoul 의 모임에 함께해 그간의 활동에 대한 보고를 들려줄 예 정입니다.
6월 10일 이번주 토요일 LiNK 모임은 서울대에서 가질 계획인데요, 서울대입구역 (지하철 2호선) 3번 출구로 4시까지 오시면 서울대학교 내의 회의 장소로 함께 이동하도록 하겠습니다.
1. LiNK 티셔츠를 주문하신 분들께서는 티셔츠값 \10000 을 준비해주세요
2. 북한 인권을 옹호하는 입장에 있는 YGK 단체에서 우리 LiNK Seoul 멤버들을 YGK 정기모임에 초청했습니다. 관심있으신 분들께서는 11시까지 연세대학교 정문 앞으로 오세요.
오늘도 좋은하루 되시고, 곧 만나요! ^^
Thanks so much for all of your help in preparing for Project Sunshine! LiNK has been getting positive feedback from the press, Congressmen, supporting NGOS, and others for the work we have been doing.
Although most of the PS team members have left Seoul, those who remain will be joining us at our debriefing meeting this Saturday.
We will be meeting this Saturday, June 10th at Seoul Dae Ip Gu (Line #2) exit 3 by 4pm to walk to our potential new meeting place at Seoul National University.
1. If you ordered a shirt, the cost will be 10,000 won.
2. Young Guardians of Korea, an organization that supports North Korea human rights have invited the members of LiNK Seoul to attend their meeting this Saturday. If you are interested, please meet at the front entrance of Yonsei University by 11am.
The FTAs "snuff out opportunity," Kaptur said. "Indeed, they snuff out the opportunity for free life. The support for these FTAs is narrowing and narrowing and narrowing."
The Yonhap piece does not make it clear if the other congressmen were at the protest or just giving moral support.
In the meantime, what are their Korean allies doing back in the old country? (Yonhap again):
Protesters stomping on the American flag to show their opposition to Korea accepting American products.
I am not sure if any of those Congressmen know how their new buddies act in Korea, but this would be a good chance for readers to help them find out. If you click on the names of the Representatives above, you will get their contact information. Feel free to send them an email or give their offices a call. Even better, contact your own representative. Here is the Congressional directory. If you do not know who your Congressman is, just enter your zip code here and find out. The basic message; don't hang out with American flag stompers.
BTW, you may want to point out that the professional protesters in DC do not represent the opinion of the majority of Koreans, who support the FTA 59% to 29%.
I was going to wait for a final update on Project Sunshine on LiNK's blog before I posted these pictures, but I might as well get them up. They were from a small protest on May 31.
From what I have been able to gather, the LiNK lectures and symposiums were successful and the street actions a little less so. I also heard that there was a bit of nastiness at one lecture when some pro-Kim Jong-il students raided it (I certainly hope to hear more on that.
Here are the pictures (click for a larger view):
LiNK's May 31 protest in Seoul drew about 80-120 onlookers.
This banner roughly says "Their blood our responsibility is." In other words "Their blood is on our hands." I had to look up 책임 in my dictionary.
Nice street theater. They put on the KJI faces to demonstrate our culpability for what is happening to North Koreans if we choose to do nothing.
The friendly local plain clothes policemen were on hand.
I want to add that, if passion were all that is needed to help the people of North Korea, Hannah Song (I believe she is the woman in the ball cap in the third picture) would be able to do it all by herself. Of course, it is not enough and I hope LiNK continues to grow so they can help get human rights on the front burner in international dealings with North Korea.
I just wanted to share a few things I saw during the recent election (my post on the election itself is over at the Marmot's Hole).
First up, we have pamphlets. The local government mails election pamphlets in a packet, which means that any candidate who can cover printing cost can get his propaganda to voters in the appropriate district. That would be a nice addition to American campaigns, IMHO. Also, I don't recall having seen any ads on TV. They may be illegal although, with strict campaign finance laws, they would be prohibitively expensive even if they were not illegal. There were 10-minute public service announcements for candidates for major offices during the two-week campaign period.
Anyway, here are some samples of the pamphlets Lady Yangban got in the mail.
These are from Hannaradang or the Grand National Party (GNP). As you can see, the GNP's color is blue and its ballot number is 2. I believe that all the guys you see won as the GNP swept Ansan and Kim Moon-soo got the Gyeonggi-do governor's position.
Here are pamphlets from the Uri Party (#1). Their traditional color is yellow, but you see very little yellow is these pamphlets. I suspect the party's low popular explains that.
These are pamphlets from the Democratic Labor Party (#4, orange) and the Democratic party (#3, green). The two on the left are guys who ran for Mayor. Mr Kim (#5) ran with the new People First Party while Son Dong-geol (#7) ran as an independent. As you may expect, Son's pamphlet was the thinnest of the mayoral candidates in the packet. Whoever was number six on the ballot apparently could not afford to print any pamphlets.
Banners like these were a common sight during the campaign. The short official campaign period made using billboards impractical.
These posters where put up by the local government. This group included all the candidates for whom people in the local dong could vote. Anyone defacing or taking down any of the posters could be fined up to $4,000. Yard signs are impractical for Korean campaigns since the short campaign period makes timely distribution a problem and (more importantly) most Koreans do not have yards.
Here is Park Myeong-hun. The mysterious #6 who did not have a pamphlet. I guess he spent all his money on this supper-cool poster.
And don't forget the tape-blasting campaign trucks. Here is another truck from the 2004 National Assembly campaign. The Uri Party was #3 that year, I presume because they have the third-largest delegation in the assembly.