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- A Stuijt
- Retired South African medical journalist, ex-Sunday Times of Johannesburg.
May 1 2009 – SEOUL. North Korea has launched a vitriolic public attack against a young jailed South Korean worker, arrested at his job in the border-stradling Kaesong joint industrial estate on March 30. The regime on Friday accused the worker, Yu Song-jin, who works for the south's Hyandai Asan company, of 'encouragng a woman worker to defect, and for 'criticising the communist state's system."
Picture left: a petition campaign has been launched in South Korea by human-rights activists for the release of Yu Song-jin, languishing in a North Korean jail since March 30.
The North Korean government also hinted that the young man 'could face severe punishment unless Seoul stops its criticism of his detention." [i]For our previous story on North Korea's giant concentration camps which can be seen from space. see He was arrested on March 30 at the border-crossing Kaesong joint industrial estate -- widely referred to as The Zone and being built as a 'symbol of reconciliation' by the now financially-troubled South Korean company Huandai Asan, just north of the border.
Also, two United States journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, accused by North Korea of crossing into the country illegally from China and committing "hostile acts" will be tried on criminal charges, North Korea announced Friday.
The two journalists work for the San Francisco-based Current TV, a media venture founded by former Vice President Al Gore. They were arrested March 17 near the North Korean border while reporting on refugees living in China.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency confirmed their detention late last month, saying indictments were being prepared as an investigation into suspected illegal entry and unspecified "hostile acts" continued. Informed sources claim however that Ling and Lee’s Chinese driver was a North Korean operative who led them into a trap — a suspected North Korean plot to take American hostages. Such a plan could only have been approved by leader Kim Jong Il himself, it is believed.
However, the underlying reasons for these three arrests of three foreigners are the complicated tensions which continue to grow in this ‘political fault line’ in Asia between North Korea, South Korea and China, which triggered the young man’s arrest and is prompting this vicious war of words between the two economic zone's leaders. This is not about a young man trying to smuggle a pretty girl out of the country at all, political analysts in South Korea say.
South Korea now threatens to raise the human-rights issue of the detention of one of their citizens by North Korea with the United Nations -- warning that Yu Song-jin's detention ' jeopardizes the Kaesong industrial estate's future'. Civil rights groups in South Korea have also mounted a protest- and petition campaign. see Meanwhile, north Korea refers to its southern cousins as 'a den of criminals' which i’s plunging the south into financial ruin’, and yesterday, they even threatened to lob a nuclear device into the atmosphere.
Picture left: Kaesong, the border-stradling industrial estate in North Korea, being built by the Hyundai Asan company.
Roaring trade in North Korean girls to Chinese farmers and brothels
North Korean girls have become valuable commodities in China. Thousands of desperate young North Korean women ‘are being convinced ' to cross the border into China each year.
And North Korean males earn valuable foreign cash for their government by working for $75 a month in South Korean factories under an agreement between these two countries - and in which the workers' pay is sent directly to the government n the north, where most of it is creamed off for the state coffers, with the workers having to work long hours of overtime, trying to survive on just a few dollars a week.
Thus North Koreans have steadily been turned into valuable 'people-smuggling' commodies because of the north-south economic divide: their young men are sent to work as virtual slave-labourers in the factories of the South and at the Kaesong estate, earning valuable foreign cash for their leaders; and its young women form an increasingly sought-after, lucrative source of income for North Korean and Chinese border guards and other smugglers. The young females of North Korea are so valuable because of the growing shortage of females in China. These girls, fleeing from the constant grind of poverty and hunger in the north, often find themselves sold to local farmers as 'wives', and if they flee, their only other alternative to survive is to turn to prostitution.
China, with its emphasis on one-child families and the traditional preference for male children, has a severe shortage of marriable females - 118 boys were being born for every 100 girls in 2005. If this trend continues, China will have 30 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020, making it difficult for them to find wives, according to China's State Population and Family Planning Commission. It found that around 118 boys were born to every 100 girls in 2005. In some areas of southern China, such as Guangdong and Hainan, the figure was 130 boys to 100 girls. The report also said that China's current 1.3 billion population would grow by 200 million by 2033.
And the number of 60-year-olds and over will jump from the current 143 million to 430 million by 2040, 30% of the total population. The country will need to improve its social security and retirement system, as well as its family planning policies and education and health services, the report concludes. The BBC's Daniel Griffiths, in Beijing, says the one-child policy has already led to other major problems, with many single children facing the prospect of supporting two parents and four grandparents well into their old age.
- These undocumented Korean girls have no rights whatsoever inside China and thus can be kept in permanent bondage by the Chinese farming families who often use all the family's financial resources to purchase them. A BBC documentary, broadcast on April 6 2009, "This World: Escaping North Korea" tells the dramatic stories of North Koreans who are risking everything, including torture and execution, to escape the their homeland and reach safety in the South.
The border between the two Koreas is so heavily guarded that refugees are forced to flee into China, at times dodging but usually bribing border guards and risking freezing to death crossing the icy river that divides the two countries.
Once in China, these girls are forced to live secret lives -- the women are often sold into forced marriages or prostitution, because if discovered, the Chinese authorities will send them back, to face years in prison in their homeland.This BBC documentary followed two such women who embark on the next stage of their courageous journey: a desperate attempt to reach South Korea from China. For one, it involves a four thousand mile journey through the jungles of Laos and Thailand, to claim asylum in Bangkok. For another,, it means buying a fake passport and risking arrest at any moment. For both women, it is a moving story of leaving their loved ones behind in the biggest gamble of their lives. see
[b]North Korean workers' $75 monthly pay goes straight to their government:[/b]
The North has also recently been stepping up its demands for 'better pay'for its 38,300 citizens who work at 101 South Korean firms, producing items such as garments, kitchen ware and watches. These men's official 'pay' averages around $75 a month including insurance -- however their pay goes directly to state bodies in the North, which then returns a portion to the workers.
Thus mainly because of the country's division into two opposite economic zones, the entire North Korean population also is becoming a valuable source of 'human material' for both Chinese farmers and South Korean industrialists.
[b]Did Yu Song-Yin try to smuggle out a North Korean girl?[/b]
The accusations against Yu-Song-jin had according to his North Korean captors 'encouraged a woman worker to defect'. What is only certain at this point however is that the young South Korean worker clearly has become a helpless political pawn in the decades-long economic tug-of-war between the communist North- and the capitalist South, ever since their 1950-1953 civil war, which split the country in half.
The Kaesong industrial estate where he works is being developed by the South Korean company Hyundai Asan just north of the border. It has been embroiled in controversy and many accusations of high-level fraud.
The company was even accused of ‘being a vehicle’ for illegally transferring US$ 100 million to North Korea from the government of ex- South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. The money was supposedly used to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to attend the inter-Korean summit in 2000.
- Hyundai Asan is not only building the Kaesong http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaesong_Industrial_Region joint industrial estate, but also building border-crossing roads and railway lines in North Korea. The delay of these projects -- due to political difficulties inside and outside the company -- has put severe financial strains on the company – but also on North Korea, which country always is desperate for foreign cash. The head of Hyundai Asan, Chung Mong-hun, was even tried on charges of manipulating company accounting records to hide the secret transfers and embezzling more than twelve million dollars of company funds to pay bribes.
The North Korean spokesman who is overseeing the Kaesong Industrial Zone, and who also identified the arrested man as Yu Song-jin, said in a press release:
- "Yu (Song-jin) malignantly slandered the dignified system in the DPRK (North Korea) after entering the KIZ, perpetrating grave acts in infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK and violation of the relevant law."
"A competent institution is now carrying on a deep-going investigation into the case."
Civil rights infringed:
The South Korean government says that under the existing agreements between the two governments, North Korea doesn't have the right to detain the young worker:"The North only has the right to warn, fine or expel a South Korean for any infringement at Kaesong, and his civil rights have been infringed."
A war of words, laced with often very salty insults, has now erupted about this young worker's arrest, with North Korea issuing an unprecedented second press release on the issue within a month, warning that "The North's law does not show any mercy to anyone violating its dignity and sovereignty as its people consider them as their life and soul," he added.
- "If the South Korean authorities and the conservative media go reckless, distorting the essence of the case, they will be held fully accountable for all the ensuing consequences."
The South reiterated through its Unification Minister Hyun In-taek , who urged the North to free the young man, warning: "It is a very serious matter which will have very important consequences for the stable development of Kaesong."
North Korea usually refers to the South Korean government as the "Lee Myung Bak group of traitors." In its latest news release on April 30, they accused ' the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors"of turning south Korea into mayhem of economic bankruptcy and people's deteriorated livelihood." A day earlier, they threatened to lob a nuclear device into the atmosphere. see
They claim that 'the south Korean economy is one increasingly dependent on foreign monopoly capital as it is a colonial and crippled one which can not keep itself afloat without relying on others."
- "The gap between the rich and the poor has widened, the people have been further impoverished in south Korea and it has been ridden with greater social evils since the group of conservatives came to power.
"Housing shortage is getting worse and commodity prices and taxes are skyrocketing. Prices of medicines and doctor's fees are also rising, making it hard for the sick people to receive treatment. Young people and children are denied the opportunity of learning due to the snowballing tuition fees and hard living. South Korea has earned ill fame not only as a "den of criminals" but "the worst land plagued with suicides," their statement claimed. see
Also sourced for this story was material from Dow Jones Newswires 04-30-092359ET and http://news.morningstar.com/newsnet/ViewNews.aspx?article=/DJ/200904302359DOWJONESDJONLINE001111_univ.xmlt=_blank]