North Korea: ". . .though your footsteps were not seen".

General August 24, 2007

By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

In June 2000, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung met with North Korean
dictator Kim Jong-il in a historic inter-Korea summit. It was the first
rapprochement between the North and South since the border closed in 1953. At
that June 2000 meeting in Pyongyang, the leaders signed a landmark document
committing the two states to work toward reunification by (amongst other
steps) facilitating the reunions of families separated by the Korean War,
improving economic cooperation and building a railway line across the heavily
patrolled border.

The situation improved to the point that when the then US Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang in October 2000 she was able to report:
'Kim Jong Il said I hope you'll figure out a way to send us some English
teachers and if they're Korean-American, that's fine.' (Albright press
briefing 26 Oct 2000: Link 1)

However, through 2002 US - North Korea relations soured and the North Korean
regime retreated into a defensive posturing position, from where it has since
been maintaining isolation and belligerently using the threat of nuclear
weapons to ensure its survival and to extract concessions from the West.

Whilst North Korea is rated as the world's most severe abuser of religious
liberty, there can be no question that, despite the souring of US - North
Korea relations, North and South Korea have made significant strides towards
fulfilling their historic commitment of June 2000.

* Family reunions have occurred.

* North Korea scrapped its centralised state rationing system and moved to a
market economy. Public markets have been operating since 1 July 2002. Most
significantly, this has enabled cross-border trade with China. (Link 2)

* During the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics, North and
South Korea competed as separate nations but entered the stadium together
under their 'Unification Flag'. At the 2006 Asian Games they competed as a
single nation, as they will do again in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

* In May this year, two rail lines that now cross the demilitarised zone (DMZ)
were given a test run. On Thursday 17 May, two trains carrying 150 passengers
each - one train from each direction - crossed the border for the first time
in over 50 years. A South Korean official said the test signified
"re-connecting the severed bloodline of our people". A North Korean official
said both nations "should not be derailed from the tracks" towards
unification. (Link 3)

* Economic co-operation has also gone ahead with the opening of the Kaesong
Industrial Park (Link 4) and the near-completion of the Christian-funded,
English-language, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (Link 5)
(Also see North Korea Economy Watch < http://www.nkeconwatch.com/about/ >.)

FLOODS

A second inter-Korean summit scheduled for 28-30 August 2007 in Pyongyang has
been postponed to 2-4 October due to the severe floods that have devastated
North Korea. Associated Press quotes UN Assistant Secretary-General Margareta
Wahlstrom, the deputy emergency relief coordinator, as saying (17 August):
"'There are approximately 300,000 people who are homeless. About 58,000 houses
(are) destroyed. We've seen over 90,000 hectares of farmland which is flooded
and about 60 missing, 83 dead so far. About 10 percent of the population in
the provinces in the south are affected.'

"In North Hwanghae, she said about 70 percent of arable land has been affected
and 50 percent of the health clinics destroyed. According to an overview by UN
relief officials in the region, more than 800 public buildings, 540 bridges,
70 sections of railway and more than 500 high voltage towers were destroyed,
and more than 30 reservoirs and 450 agricultural structures were damaged. In
addition, the heavy rains have ruptured river banks in more than 800 places
and dikes in 10 places, the UN said." (Link 6)

Whilst this is not North Korea's first major catastrophe, it is the first time
the regime has chosen not to hide it. Aid agencies have been surprised by the
regime's new-found willingness to swiftly reveal information and seek
assistance so that suffering may be relieved. (Link 7)

Of course sceptics would be forgiven for wondering if this response could be
one of sheer political expediency. It could indicate merely that internal
discontent is so palpable the regime is desperate to ensure suffering is
alleviated quickly before there is a revolt! However, it could also indicate
that the regime is waking up to reality, accepting the inevitable and
beginning to "test the water" (so to speak) of openness.

INTERNET

There have been other tentative steps towards increasing openness and
connection to the outside world. Koh Yoo-hwan, a professor at Dongguk
University, Seoul, recently told the Korea Times that the Internet will be the
first gateway to the outside world for North Korea when the tension on the
Korean peninsula eases after the South-North summit. "Kim Jong-il has great
interest in the information technology sector. Pyongyang has kept its network
closed from the outside because it was concerned about the Web's possible
influence on its regime. But if it wants to come out to the international
society, it is inevitable to utilise the Internet, first of all.'' (Link 8)

Koh told the Korea Times that there already are broadband networks set up in
North Korea and that Kim Jong-il has already established and opened a computer
technology centre.

As noted by the Korea Times : " '.kp' has been allocated as North Korea's
country code domain. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN) clarifies: "At the present time there is no delegated operator for the
.KP domain, but ICANN has received a request to delegate the domain. This
request was discussed by the ICANN Board at its meeting on 14 August 2007 . .
. the minutes will be published shortly." (Link 9)

As Professor Koh told the Korea Times, "Using of the domain suffix indicates
that North Korea is now ready to jump into the ocean of information and it
wants to prepare for the change. The opening can only be possible when the
political climate gets warmer in the Korean peninsula. If the North Korea - US
relations improve, reforms and opening will follow.'' (Link 8)

SECOND INTER-KOREA SUMMIT: 2-4 OCTOBER

The 2-4 October inter-Korea summit in Pyongyang is hugely important. South
Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will travel to Pyongyang through a reconnected
cross-border road. Reunification could and probably needs to take a long, long
time. However if trust and confidence can be built - confidence that South
Korea will not be swamped with destitute refugees and confidence for Kim that
his position is secure - then openness and liberty need not be so far away.
(Democracy, with its emphasis on equality, rule-of-law, separation of powers
and such principles, has its roots in biblical Christianity; it grew out of
the Reformation and is a fruit of Biblical truth. Religious liberty needs to
come before democracy so that the foundations for democracy can be established.)

North Korea is presently the world's worst abuser of religious liberty, with
extreme repression and Christian suffering. But the people of God have a lot
of "handles" to take hold of in prayer for North Korea. This should not
surprise us and we should not be too discouraged. Over the past 54 years the
predominantly local (Korean) chorus of prayer for North Korea has grown into a
global symphony. Why should we not expect great things from God?

"Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though
your footprints were not seen." Psalm 77:19 (NIV)

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]

Links

1) Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. 26 October 2000
Press Briefing on plane en route Washington, DC from Seoul, Republic of Korea
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, US Department of State
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB164/10_26_00%20Albright%20Press%20Briefing%20on%20plane%20en%20route%20Washington,%20D.C.%20from%20Kor.pdf


2) North Korea: Reassessing self-reliance?
By Elizabeth Kendal. 31 July 2002
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
http://old.worldevangelicalalliance.com/persecute/persec_korea_31jul02.html

3) BBC. Korean trains in historic link-up.17 May 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6664091.stm
ALSO Korean trains in historic link-up. 17 May 2007
http://www.korea-is-one.org/spip.php?article2877

4) A Capitalist Sprout In N. Korea's Dust
Industrial Park to Broach Free Market
By Anthony Faiola, Washington Post Foreign Service, 23 May 2004
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48491-2004May22.html
ALSO North Korea Economy Watch, Kaesong category:
http://www.nkeconwatch.com/category/economic-reform/special-administrative-regions/kaesong-industrial-park/

5) Pyongyang University of Science and Technology http://www.pust.or.kr/eng/
ALSO: On a mission for God. By David McNeill. 15 Aug 2007
A Christian-funded, English-language university is being built in Pyongyang,
writes David McNeill. "NORTH Korea seems set to take a giant leap out of the
intellectual cold with the development of an English-language university, in
which academics from across the world will teach the best of the country's
graduate students."
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22245921-27702,00.html

6) UN official says 300,000 homeless, 58,000 houses destroyed, 83 dead in
North Korea floods. 17 Aug 2007
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/08/17/news/UN-GEN-UN-NKorea-Floods.php
For more on the floods see: DPRK hit by floods
http://www.korea-is-one.org/spip.php?rubrique5

7) North Korea Opens Up Over Flooding
By Jennifer Veale, Seoul. 15 Aug 2007
http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1653130,00.html
ALSO: N Korea changes tune on aid amid floods
By Jennifer Macey. 16 Aug 2007
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/16/2007215.htm

8) N. Korea to Connect to Rest of World via Web
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2007/08/123_8472.html

9) Clarification Regarding .KP Country Code Top-Level Domain.17 August 2007
http://www.icann.org/announcements/announcement-2-17aug07.htm

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