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article imageNorth Korea's Human Rights Situation: Visions of Korea's future Special

By Andrew Moran     Mar 14, 2011 in Politics
Toronto - Canadian Member of Parliament Barry Devolin, Consul General Ji-In Hong and other Korean human rights experts joined HanVoice Saturday to discuss the present state of North Koreans, "crimes against humanity" and the future of human rights in the country.
In August, the 10th annual International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees took place in Toronto. The conference looked at the history of North Korea, the regime of Kim Jong-il, what the international community has done and Council on Foreign Relations members provided analysis on the geopolitics.
On Saturday, HanVoice and the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights and Refugees provided a discussion on what has transpired since the conference and where the future of the Korean Peninsula is heading.
Public and private officials, such as Consul General Ji-In Hong, Canadian Conservative Member of Parliament Barry Devolin, Chairman of the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, Reverend Yoon, and HanVoice Executive Randall Baran-Chong, delivered speeches where they touched upon the aforementioned issues.
Meanwhile, HanVoice representatives, Founding Director of Global Advocacy and Leadership Institute, Pam Shine, and President of the National Development Institute, Suk Woo Kim, took part in a panel discussion.
Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Toronto  Ji-In Hong
Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Toronto, Ji-In Hong
What has occurred since August in North Korea?
It was reported in October that Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong Un, will become the supreme leader in North Korea when his father either steps down or passes away. It has been well-known for quite some time that Kim Jong-il’s health has been deteriorating.
His son was chosen to become the vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Although Jong Un is 27 years old, it is expected that he won’t be any better than his father and that his reign as leader will be co-opted by many around him.
“It is difficult to judge anyone before seeing his decisions or results, but taking into consideration the characteristics of the system, there is no expectation that just because he is young and studied abroad, he will be any better than his family,” said Joanna Joanna of the North Korean Human Rights Organization. “After all, he has to maintain the system as it is.”
Up until a few months ago, the general public did not know what he even looked like. But a photo was released of the future leader. He was also reportedly seen at Chinese mass games where he was seated next to China’s domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang
It is generally believed that Kim Jong Un will inevitably gain more control in the country because of the “decline in trust” by the people. Furthermore, the 27-year-old is gaining considerable news attention and support from regional neighbors, including China.
For more information on the everyday conditions in North Korea, click here.
Canada’s involvement, MP Devolin’s Motion
A few years ago, Member of Parliament Barry Devolin was about to introduce a motion in the House of Commons that would ask the government of China to assist Canada and the international community to respect the human rights of North Korean refugees.
Unfortunately for some, the government dissolved and an election was called, therefore, he wasn’t able to introduce the motion. In the next couple of weeks, though, Devolin will introduce M-369: North Korean Refugees’ Human Rights.
Canadian Conservative Member of Parliament Barry Devolin
Canadian Conservative Member of Parliament Barry Devolin
The MP explained that M-369 doesn’t “scorn” the Chinese for their actions and still respects their sovereignty and domestic decisions. Instead, M-369, notes Devolin, just urges unity on the issue.
Devolin’s primary goal is to gain unanimous support. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon insisted on Devolin to get unanimous approval because then he can use it as leverage when traveling to other nations to discuss North Korea. Devolin and Cannon agreed that unanimous support would show that it’s not a political issue, but rather a human rights issue.
In a private meeting with Devolin, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Korean representatives that if they have any ideas “we will try it.” Although Harper was abrupt, he was direct and honest in his remarks.
The first hour of debate will occur at the end of March. Devolin expects that the Liberals, New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois will endorse the motion. However, if an election is called in the spring, any chance of the motion being passed is gone. “The plug is pulled.”
How did Devolin get involved in North Korea?
First of all, Devolin was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to represent Canada when it comes to Korean affairs. Secondly, Devolin lived in Seoul, South Korea for a year and a half.
“About four years ago, out of the blue, I received an invitation to attend a conference of the International Parliamentarian Coalition for North Korea and Refugees’ Human Rights (IPCNKR),” said Devolin. “I had a general idea of what was going on in North Korea because I lived in South Korea for about a year and a half. But I thought it was a good opportunity to go to Seoul. I decided before I went, I actually needed to get myself educated a little bit.”
What else can the world do?
During the panel discussion, the issue of foreign aid was brought up. President of the National Development Institute, Suk Woo Kim, said that he is viewed as a person with no heart or sympathy if he opposes food aid. But there have been so many instances, not just in North Korea but around the world, of dictators hogging the aid.
Randall Baran-Chong  Executive Director of HanVoice
Randall Baran-Chong, Executive Director of HanVoice
Devolin, who moderated the panel, brought up testimony from one North Korean defector. The woman spoke to a Parliament Subcommittee where she talked about her days in North Korea.
One of the most interesting things she said, according to Devolin, was that she urged governments around the world to send animal feed as food aid, instead of real food. The defector said this because any food aid that is sent to North Korea, the “elite and army” get. Meanwhile, the citizens get animal feed.
Founding Director of Global Advocacy and Leadership Institute, Pam Shine, suggested a three-year campaign from 2012-2014 because 2014 will be the 25th anniversary of the year of the child. This was brought forward because “crimes against humanity” were being committed against children as well.
Education of the average Canadian is a big step, notes Randall Baran-Chong and Devolin. This is why Devolin has sent out leaflets of his motion across Canada. The motion teaches the average Canadian about what is occurring in North Korea and to urge their representative to support M-369.
In the end, it was recommended by Consul General Ji-In Hong in his speech to take advantage of the rights and liberty we have in this world: “It is the duty of all of us to enjoy full freedoms and human rights.”
More about North korea, Human Rights, Kim jongil, hanvoice, South Korea
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