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Posts tagged ‘Korea’

Lamentation To The Cows Of Bashan – By Izuchukwu Okeke.


By Izuchukwu Okeke

It is 9 am as I stepped finally into the long-stretched passage. It was empty; no teacher, no students; only me. I was late, quite unfortunately. The lectures start at 9 am, and it is expected everyone be in the class at least 8:55 am. And, surely, here, once it is 8:55 the lecturers all file out to the various classes. And once it is 9 am, the classes start. If you arrive a minute past 9, you are late, as I was this day.

The reality of this empty passage sent my mind back to the country I was coming from. I was not even comparing the punctuality of the academic cadre or the standard of education itself. I was thinking of the massive collapse of its essence, its availability and the poverty of its prospects.

The night before, I read it on the Internet that lecturers in the Polytechnics were still on strike. They had been before the University lecturers joined in the middle of last year and continued till early this year. University students sat through 6 months dining with the two worst devils of life: idleness and boredom. The Polytechnic lecturers took few months break and had resumed strike again. And, as it seems, politicians are busy carpeting and cross carpeting; somehow they are not interested in the rants of these distracting academic hordes. So when will the students in Polytechnic go back to class? It is not even known.

I live in Korea, and in this country education is everything. I think it is not necessary to blow anymore horn about the strength of this nation’s economy, standards of their infrastructure and quality of their living standards; all hinged on the power and value of their education system. But it is worth mentioning what I found to be the major discrepancy between these two nations. Here, psyche is the central and most respected national resource; human resources are the strength of the government, the economy and the society, which is why education is everything. Every effort is invested and legitimately dispensed at developing the individual to become a global brand, to earn the capacity to compete with his mates anywhere they are found in the globe.

This country situated on the peninsula betwixt China, North Korea and Japan squat on a total of 100,210 km sq area of land. But unfortunately 72 percent of this land is hills, plateaus and mountains. Meaning that their populations of a little over 50,000,000 people live within the remaining clusters, in relatively higher density, 501.1/km2, higher than most nations of the world. From the shackles of Japanese domination in 1950, this country has risen in leaps and bounds. Among its endearing statistics is the fact that within these decades that followed its independence South Korea economy has been transformed into a G-20 major economy and has the second highest standard of living in Asia, having an HDI of 0.909.

Yes, South Korea is Asia’s fourth largest economy and the world’s 15th (nominal) or 12th (purchasing power parity) largest economy. But Korea has no Crude Oil, Tin, Iron Ore, Gold or Diamond Mines. This economy is export-driven. South Korean corporations like Samsung and LG (ranked first and third largest mobile phone companies in the world in the first quarter of 2012 respectively) dominate world markets, among the many beautiful, yet daunting stories of their transformation.

Behind this testimony of exemplary 50 decades of industrial development is an educational and social philosophy that underscores, perfectly well, that the true wealth of a nation is not its natural resources as much as it is its human resources. And each new day as I walk towards the class in Sunkyunkwan University, I am reminded of this philosophy. And also of wholly dedicated, hard-working, cheerful teachers who can go to any length to impart knowledge to the students. How many times I pity the extent of their personal sacrifice to advance the academic goals of their students. But they all work according to this country’s educational philosophy.

The classes are fully equipped with advanced learning infrastructure. The chalkboard a long time ago had given way to a board fully equipped with Power Point presentation facility, digitalized and connected to the Internet. Our test books are online and everything we have to do is online based and of the best standards compared to anywhere in the world.

Here, sadly, a 60 mark/grade after an exam is just a pass! Not even a credit. So any score less than 70, you have to go through a review to step you up and you have to write an exam to prove the review produced the expected result. And this and other factors have driven this nation from the brinks of poverty to industrial heights.

But, somehow, as I entered the class with these thoughts, I began, once again, to nurse that deep gorge of guilt that comes to me when I remember my country, Nigeria. That feeling also comes along with a certain gnawing pain of the advanced nature of ignorance spawned by our system on both the leaders and the lead that seems to suggest nothing will change soon. Since I was born the story has always been that the situation is bad for the common man. It had gone from worse, to worst, until there is no relative adverb to describe the situation now.

I did not cause Nigeria’s problem. I did not steal anybody’s money to be here. My father until his demise was a poor village farmer. My mother is still living off her labour in the farm. I am only a fortunate candidate of a scholarship programme. But this feeling when it comes doesn’t leave me soon. It keeps digging deep hole on my moral fibre. I keep wondering if there is a way I may have contributed to making Nigeria what it is. Leaving over 70 percent of her human population disillusioned and gasping for life, not knowing how and from which source the next meal will come. Seeking miracle in anything mentioned to possess divine power.

I was also keep wondering how Nigerian students abroad whose parents are part and parcel of this system that created the rot feel. How do they feel knowing their parents have left many of the nation’s youths disoriented and confused? How do they feel when their parents pay so much for them to study in this kind of environment, and knowing that this money, by every legitimate standards their parents cannot earn it? How do they feel when they remember that having messed up the system and exported them abroad to acquire the best education their parents left the system back home in total pell-mell. How do they feel to learn that their mates down in the villages are giving up legitimate endeavors and making career prospects in kidnapping and robbery? How do they really feel? Worse than I do? Or maybe they do not feel anything at all?

In the last one-month a drama has been playing out between the Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi on the one hand and Ministries of Finance, Petroleum and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, on the other. As it were the whole nation focused on it, because of the whopping amount of money involved. And as that drama played out, the reality of the hopelessness of the Nigerian situation dawned so much on me. That drama defines us in the mean time. Nobody in Nigeria’s governance system has an alternative thinking—or may be just a tiny minority of wayward thinkers who do not even possess the gut and grit to make it to the positions of governance.

To many of them there now at the corridors of power, be it political or bureaucratic, all they want is money. Everyone is talking money, oil money; how it is stolen, how it is not stolen! No one else is thinking. To Nigeria and Nigerians this oil money is everything. You have it, you have everything, you don’t have it, and you don’t have anything. That charade at the House of Assembly also defines the 2015 and the slapsticks of cross-carpeting that have become a daily news menu. Because everybody, everybody politician, wants to place himself at the vantage position to have a bite of the piece of the cake come 2015. They have been eating, and they want to keep eating.

Google, two regular guys’ idea is about to worth more than our oil. The Facebook founder is just 24 years old. But where are Nigerian youths? Is anybody concerned at the mess we left him or her? Of the frustration we are building up among them? Just education! Give them education, a qualitative one, so that they can on their own change their world, compete with their fellows elsewhere. No! Nigerian politicians do not see the resource in the youth. They are only tools used and dumped during elections.

In this generation Nigerian leaders are wired in pursuit of oil blocks and loots because in our clime ideas do not sell and if ideas sell, regular guys will become threats to Nigerian politicians. May be that is the fear. Because I do not see the big deal in investing 30 percent of our resources in revamping the educational system, and establishing it on the best standards and employ it to eliminate this endemic poverty in our clime.

As I sit in the class this day carrying this feeling and thinking these thoughts, the pain gnaws even harder that nothing will change. What will I write more than have been written these years, and what will I say that that has not been said? Like Amos in the bible called their likes, they are cows of Bashan. But we will keep lamenting to their ears. Even when they refuse to change, heaven will bear witness that we told them, as our fathers did.

Izuchukwu Okeke Job
KGSP Scholar
Sungkyunkwan University
Suwon, South Korea

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

2 Years Into Kim Jong Un’s Reign, Deeper Darkness Settles Over North Korea.


Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party politburo in Pyongyang. (Reuters/KCNA )

It began with a media frenzy. Six months into Kim Jong Un’s new reign over North Korea, the Internet was filled with images and video of the smiling new leader waving to his beloved people.

ABC news reported the “youthful supreme leader” was “attempting to forge a new image for himself and his country” by allowing women to wear pants and endorsing banned foods like French fries and pizza. A few months before, on Jan. 1, 2012, the newly minted leader of the world’s most militant regime had publicly called for an end to the almost-50-year-old confrontation between the two Koreas.

The facade was not to last. Even as International Christian Concern (ICC) pointed out, the lack of any significant reforms to the regime’s despotic policy toward religious minorities, the Kim Jong Un government was pumping more resources into expanding its horrific system of political prison camps, known as “Kwan-li-so.”

On Dec. 4, Amnesty International released new satellite images of the camps where generations of families, many of them Christian, are sent to starve or work themselves to death. The images revealed that rather than close or curtail the growth of the nightmare camps, Kim Jong Un was working on their expansion.

All of this news, though, paled in comparison with the sheer brutality of the report ICC received last month on Nov. 11. According to a South Korean news source, at least 80 people were publicly executed in seven cities across North Korea on the same day. Their so-called “crimes” included watching South Korean movies, distributing pornography and the “possession of Bibles.” At least one of those Bible owners was tied to a post in the center of a sports stadium, a bag placed over their head, as they were torn apart by machine gun fire until their body was “hard to identify afterwards.” Families of the “criminals” were reportedly sent to the Kwan-li-so.

The executions were widely viewed as a move by the only 30-year-old leader to consolidate his grip on the populace.

One source intimately familiar with the reclusive nation told ICC, “It just shows that Kim Jong Un is still trying to consolidate power, and I think this is an indication of his failure to do so.”

As to why Christians were among those executed, the source said, “I am sure all those executed knew information from the outside and [among them] were certainly Christians. The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea] has always considered Christians their greatest threat.”

Any doubts remaining that Kim Jong Un was determined to secure his position at all costs died last week when the state-controlled media announced that Kim’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been publicly removed from his position of authority and executed only days later.

Jang was widely believed to be untouchable as the second most powerful figure in the country. Within a week of his execution, massive purges were erasing all references to Jang Song Thaek from North Korea’s history books.

What all of this repression means for Kenneth Bae, a U.S. missionary who recently became the longest-serving American prisoner in North Korea since the end of the Korean War, is anyone’s guess.

Bae is serving out a 15-year sentence of hard labor after being arrested in late 2012 for allegedly trying to overthrow the hyper-paranoid state. Bae, who has been described as a “devout Christian,” was providing legal tours into North Korea while conducting quiet humanitarian work. Of course, in a nation where as many as 70,000 Christians are interned in the modern-day equivalent of concentration camps for simply being Christians, Bae’s sentence is tragically unsurprising.

Yet even as a deeper darkness appears to be settling over North Korea, there is some cause for hope. For the first time ever, and thanks in part to Christian advocates, the United Nations has a “Commission of Inquiry” into the atrocities being committed in the country. Its ultimate goal: to conclude if North Korea has committed “crimes against humanity” (a foregone conclusion for many).

Testimony given to the commission this year by defectors and survivors of the Kwan-li-so has already raised the profile of North Korean crimes substantially, giving hope that significant international pressure on the regime will soon be brought to bear.

Most notable, and perhaps even more significant in this author’s opinion, is that after 65 years of total war directed at Christianity, an unbelievably determined remnant of believers still free inside the country continues to hold fast to their faith.

In late October, new and exceedingly rare footage of underground believers quietly praying and singing in their homes was released by a Christian nongovernmental organization. The footage, which may have cost some believers the ultimate price to obtain, is emphatic proof that no amount of totalitarianism has been able to completely extinguish the fire that faith ignites.

If China’s current unprecedented revival is any indication, the final death knell of the modern world’s most evil regime (whenever it comes) may herald in an era of spiritual renewal led by a core of Christian leaders whose faith survived insurmountable odds. One day, Pyongyang may even earn again its old title, “Jerusalem of the East.”

This article originally appeared on persecution.org.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

US Hints at More Sanctions on NKorea After Iranian Deal.


TOKYO — Washington’s point man on North Korea Monday hinted at more sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program in the wake of Iran‘s nuclear deal with world powers.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said he hoped quickening diplomacy examining when to resume stalled six-party talks would bear fruit.

The talks are designed to push the reclusive state to abandon its nuclear ambitions, but have been in limbo since December 2008.

“Pyongyang’s attempts to engage in dialogue while keeping its program running are completely unacceptable,” Davies told reporters after a meeting with his counterparts in Tokyo.

“If we do not see signs of the North Koreans‘ sincerity, if they do not act to demonstrate that they understand they must fulfill their obligations and give up their nuclear weapons, then there is more pressure that will be brought to bear on them,” he said.

North Korea is currently pushing for a resumption of the six-party talks, but the United States says it must first demonstrate a commitment to denuclearization.

President Barack Obama’s administration has repeatedly voiced frustration over its dealings with North Korea, but critics have said the issue has faded from U.S. priorities.

Analysts have also expressed doubts over the effectiveness of the six-party framework, which critics say allows Pyongyang to make promises it feels free to renege on later.

During Davies’ week-long tour of Northeast Asia, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program for the next six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a preliminary accord led by the United States.

Davies warned that it was difficult to draw direct comparison between North Korea and Iran, but highlighted the fact that the use of sanctions led to success with Tehran.

Davies said the United States was in close consultation with China to examine the right “threshold” to allow the resumption of six-party talks, which group the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

“We believe sanctions and pressure are key in sharpening choices that Pyongyang faces,” he said.

“Given North Korea’s continued flouting of its international obligations and international law, given its testing of nuclear devices, given its repeated threats of nuclear attack, its elevation of its nuclear weapons programs and pursuit to its highest national priority, we will continue to keep pressure on North Korea, to keep the screws to North Korea,” he said.

If North Korea fails to comply with the demands of the international community, “we will have to amp up that pressure in order to continue to try to bring home to them that this is a mistake,” Davies said.

“There is still a room for diplomacy,” he added. “That’s why the pace of diplomacy has increased to see if we can agree on an appropriate threshold for six-party talks.”

“North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons and agree to begin that process. We are looking for concrete indications from Pyongyang of its commitment to do that,” Davies said.

© AFP 2013
Source: Newsmax.com

NKorea Warns of ‘Merciless Firing’ Against SKorea.


Image: NKorea Warns of 'Merciless Firing' Against SKorea

North Korean defectors and refugees release balloons with leaflets condemning North Korea during a rally near the Unification Observation Post in Paju, South Korea on Oct. 4.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea Monday warned of “merciless firing” against the South if it goes ahead with a reported plan to develop shells to carry anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

The South’s Joong-Ang Ilbo newspaper reported last week that South Korean troops were developing non-explosive hollow shells capable of carrying such leaflets deep into North Korean territory. There has been no official confirmation.

South Korean activists including defectors from the North already regularly launch anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border by balloon, despite North Korean threats to shell the “human scum” involved.

“This is another intolerable challenge to the DPRK [North Korea],” the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by the North’s official news agency.

“We will never tolerate the foolish act of the puppet warmongers but wipe out the provokers with merciless firing,” the state body added.

“We will deal a telling blow at the [South Korean] army to make it pay a very high price for its foolish provocation as it is keen on staging ‘psychological warfare against the North’ in alignment with human scum,” it said.

Tensions between the two Koreas had appeared to cool down after soaring in February, when the North carried out its third underground nuclear test in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

But relations have soured again in recent weeks, with the North stepping up its bellicose rhetoric after Seoul and Washington agreed on a joint strategy to address what they call the mounting threat of a North Korean nuclear attack.

© AFP 2013

Source: NEWSmax.com

China: NKorea Willing to Work to Resume Nuclear Talks.


HONG KONG — North Korea is willing to work with China to resume six-party talks aimed at curtailing its nuclear program, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan told China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting Tuesday that his country would work toward resumption of the talks “to fundamentally ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” according to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.

Kim was in China for a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the start of the six-party process, which aimed to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid.

The talks began after North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and stepped up efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The country has since tested three nuclear devices and extended its ballistic missiles’ range.

The Chinese comments come amid signs that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is trying to ease tensions with the South.

The two Koreas agreed in August to reopen the jointly run Kaeseong industrial park and those talks paved the way for an accord to renew reunions of families separated by the Korean War. Kaeseong, which was shuttered in April when the North pulled out its 53,000 workers, opened Sept. 16.

NUCLEAR TEST

Little has come of China’s previous signals that North Korea was willing to revive the six-party talks, which involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia.

North Korea quit the process in 2009, a month before its second nuclear test. North Korea held its third test in February and threatened a nuclear first strike against the United States and South Korea in March, complicating efforts to revive negotiations.

North Korea may have restarted its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, a site capable of producing enough plutonium to make one atomic bomb every year, the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies said this month. That reactor was mothballed in 2007 as part of the six-nation process.

Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, on Sept. 10 ruled out a quick resumption of the talks unless the North first showed signs of reversing its nuclear program.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: NEWSmax.com

North Korea Underground Church Leads Worldwide 100 Days of Prayer.


prayer
Seoul USA is asking Christians to join the 100 Days of Worship campaign.

Starting next Monday, the North Korean underground church will lead Christians around the world in 100 days of worship in the common places.

Daily, through Dec. 31, Christians are invited to follow the lead of their North Korean Christian brothers and sisters to do what led to their persecution in the first place: gathering together in small groups for daily public worship in the common places of life—their homes, schools, workplaces, parks, libraries, bus stops and more–using the historic four pillars liturgy of the North Korean underground church.

Rev. Eric Foley, CEO of Seoul USA, says while Americans are pledging to join in the effort, their goal is not to evangelize others.

“These will be outwardly modest and unremarkable gatherings,” he says. “There will be no megaphones, no shouting, no political messages, no recruitment, no voices of concern about the state of religious freedom in America. Neither will the liturgy be conducted in hushed whispers in private corners when no one else is watching.”

Some American participants expect that like North Korean Christians, they may experience persecution as they publicly express their faith.

Rev. Chuck Huckaby, of First Protestant Church, New Braunfel, Texas, says his congregation will join in despite the risks.

“We are one with our suffering brothers and sisters both in North Korea and around the world. … We’re taking the 100 days to learn what they have to teach us!”

The 100 Days of Worship campaign features the four pillars of the North Korean church:

Those wishing to participate can visit the Seoul USA Facebook page to sign up.

Registrants will receive a package by priority mail containing the 100 Days of Worship booklet and communion packages (one for each week of the campaign) consecrated by North Korean Christians. They’ll be invited to view an online inaugural worship service for the campaign, led by North Korean Christians. They’ll also be asked to share their experiences on the Facebook page.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Koreas Reopen Kaeseong Joint Factory Park as Tensions Ease.


SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea reopened their jointly run industrial complex Monday, reviving a lone symbol of economic cooperation five months after it was shuttered amid the North’s threats of preemptive nuclear attack.

Thousands of North Korean workers were returning to the Kaesong zone, located north of the border. From the South, more than 500 trucks, vans, and cars formed a bottleneck at a checkpoint at the heavily armed border, carrying supplies and company executives to the site to restart factories.

More than 120 companies operate at Kaesong, including watchmaker Romanson Co., and Shinwon Corp., an apparel maker.

“My heart’s in a flutter now that Kaesong is restarting,” Lee Mun Yong, who works for South Korean cellular phone parts maker Jaeyoung Solutec Co. Ltd., said at a transit office near the checkpoint. “North Korean workers are looking both relieved to have their jobs back and determined to work harder. The past five months has been a time of crisis for them.”

North Korea pulled its 53,000 workers out of Kaesong in April, capping months of tensions after it conducted a third nuclear test in February and threatened preemptive attacks when the United Nations stepped up sanctions and the United States and South Korea held annual military drills.

Kaesong has provided Kim Jong Un’s regime with much-needed hard currency and been a source of cheap labor for South Korean companies.

“It would not have been easy for North Korea to give up Kaesong because it’s a valuable source of hard currency,” Choi Chang Ryul, a professor of liberal arts at Yong In University near Seoul and a political commentator, said by phone.

SEEKING DOLLARS

At the border Monday, a line of people formed at a currency exchange booth run by Woori Bank, changing South Korean won for U.S. dollars, the only currency that can be used at Kaesong. Other South Korean workers shook hands and laughed as they chatted in groups inside the transit office.

“I’m glad I’m finally returning after so many twists and turns,” said Shin Han Yong, president of Shinhan Trading, which produces fishing nets at Kaesong. “We didn’t get to fish at all this spring and summer, so to speak. But I held on to the hope that Kaesong would open again.”

Gross domestic product in North Korea increased 1.3 percent in 2012 after a 0.8 percent rise in 2011, according to calculations released by South Korea’s central bank in July. The North’s economy has contracted in four of the last seven years, the Bank of Korea data show.

LAGGING SOUTH

North Korea’s per capita income was about 1.37 million won ($1,270) last year, or one-nineteenth of South Korea’s, according to the BOK estimates. Foreign trade, excluding commerce with the South, rose 7.1 percent to $6.8 billion, with exports increasing 3.3 percent to $2.9 billion and imports rising 10.2 percent to $3.9 billion, the BOK said.

The agreement to reopen Kaesong paved the way for a separate accord to revive reunions of families separated by the Korean War.

The next round will be held at a mountain resort in North Korea between Sept. 25-30. South Korean tours to the Mount Geumgang resort on the eastern coast were another symbol of detente before being halted in 2008 when a North Korean guard shot and killed a South Korean visitor.

Relations between the Koreas have improved in recent weeks, even as international concerns mount that the North may have reactivated its 5-megawatt nuclear reactor capable of producing one bomb’s worth of plutonium every year.

NUCLEAR REACTOR

The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies said Sept. 12 that satellite imagery taken Aug. 31 shows white steam rising from a facility powered by the reactor at Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.

That reactor was mothballed under a 2007 agreement involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia. North Korea officially quit the six-party talks, which aimed to offer it aid in return for giving up its nuclear ambitions, in 2009 before conducting its second nuclear test.

In early August, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said the North had doubled the size of its uranium-enrichment facility at Yongbyon. Both plutonium and uranium can be sources of fuel for nuclear bombs.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

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