North Korea is vehemently resisting the U.N. Security Council’s fresh resolution calling for imposing more sanctions on the North. In a government statement under the nation’s official name of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Monday, August 7, Pyongyang said that it would fully reject the U.S.-led resolution and vowed retaliation against the U.S. “thousands of times.” It was North Korea’s official response to the adoption of the resolution the previous day. Here’s Professor Kim Yong-hyun from the North Korean Studies Department at Dongguk University to explain the statement in more detail.
The passage of the new resolution came eight days after North Korea’s second test-launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28, reflecting that the international community is taking the missile provocation seriously. The latest resolution is focused on blocking the inflow of foreign currencies into North Korea so the nation will be pressured to give up its nuclear and missile programs. The new sanctions are expected to reduce the nation’s foreign earnings considerably.
Right after the adoption of the U.N. resolution, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the resolution was the single largest economic sanctions package ever on North Korea, saying that the North will face great economic shocks. But the new sanctions do not cover crude oil, which is considered the most powerful means of sanctioning the North. In fact, the U.S. has strongly insisted on the suspension of oil supplies to North Korea.
In the meantime, on August 6, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa held a brief meeting with her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Regional Forum in Manila. During the meeting, Ri dismissed South Korea’s recent offer for talks as lacking sincerity, as South Korea and the U.S. are jointly pressuring North Korea. It seems difficult to resume inter-Korean dialogue anytime soon.
U.S. intelligence sources assume that North Korea has succeeded in developing a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on its intercontinental ballistic missile. After this report was revealed on Tuesday, North Korea threatened to attack Guam. With North Korea and the U.S. staging a fierce war of words, the international community is wondering whether the new sanctions will pressure Pyongyang to change its course.
[Interview] Honorary Professor Runs Scholarship Program for Students from N. Korea
Last month, a special exhibition was held by Hong Gi-seon, honorary professor at the School of Media and Communication at Korea University. The purpose of his exhibition was to help university students from North Korea with their studies. Let’s hear from the professor expressing his gratitude to sponsors.
The purpose of this fund-raising exhibition was to collect money to provide scholarships to North Korean university students. In our daily lives, there are numerous beautiful and interesting elements that we might miss. I drew paintings to depict the charms of everyday life, and I showed them at the exhibition. Thankfully, more paintings were sold than I had expected. I offered some drawings for free to those who have continued to support my scholarship program. Some people just made donations, not even taking the pictures they bought. On the whole, I raised some 18 million won, which is about 16-thousand US dollars.
At present, professor Hong provides 13 North Korean students with 300-thousand won a month each as a scholarship. It is roughly 270 US dollars. About 30 students have benefited from the scholarships over the last five years, and the total amount is nearly 200 million won or 180-thousand dollars. Before retirement, Hong saw some North Korean students at school and that’s why he decided to start the scholarship program.
The students who defected from North Korea had a hard time catching up with their peers in studies. It is pretty challenging for South Korean students to get into universities. On the other hand, North Korean students are admitted to school through special screenings. Unfortunately, many of the students I saw were wasting the hard-earned opportunity to study. It seemed they had not been very enthusiastic about studying in North Korea, as they simply followed the instructions of the party, which decided on their future careers. Even if they were interested in studying, they were not very good at English and other subjects. They had to put in more effort, but they often did part-time jobs to cover their living costs. I sympathized with their situation. So, I decided to help those who were willing to study so they can at least sign up for an English class at a private institute.
In the first year, Hong personally provided scholarships to four students. Soon, people around him began to join the drive. Currently, more than ten sponsors are contributing to the scholarship program. But sometimes, it was hard to collect all the funds, and he would suffer losses. However, Hong did not reduce the number of recipients but chose to hold an art exhibition instead. He was able to make up for the money he lost with the proceeds from the exhibition and also realize his childhood dream of becoming an artist. The July exhibition was the second edition, following the first one in 2014. Once the candidates are selected as the recipients, they can concentrate on their studies without having to worry about economic difficulties. But they should first meet the strict selection criteria.
First, I receive lists of North Korean students from organizations dedicated to supporting defectors. Priority consideration is given to students who live alone, students attending vocational schools, and those who study science and engineering. Those who received the scholarship in the previous semester must submit their report cards. They may not be entitled to the scholarship in the next semester if they didn’t do well in the previous term. One student had a bad report this term. Probably something bad happened to him, as he couldn’t concentrate on his studies. I decided to give him a second chance. I did offer him the scholarship, but I made it clear that he would be excluded from the scholarship list in the next term if he fails to get back on track. That’s my rule.
Hong recommends the recipients donate 50-thousand won, which is one sixth of their monthly scholarships, to the scholarship fund when they get a job after graduation. In doing so, the students can help out others with their own money and feel a sense of responsibility as members of society. Several people have already been putting this into practice since they landed jobs.
After finding a job, one student returned all the money he had received through the scholarship program. Another student who graduated from the department of Food and Nutrition at Ewha Woman’s University is now working at an organization in charge of providing support to North Korean newcomers. She sends us 50-thousand won each month. And there is a physically-challenged student who became an ice sledge hockey player and will represent South Korea at next year’s PyeongChang Winter Paralympics. He studied assistant devices for the disabled and got a job in a related field. He called me and asked me to let him know my bank account number, saying that he will repay his scholarship from this month. These are the moments when I find my work rewarding.
Hong began to engage in work related to North Korean expats ten years ago by taking part in a project supporting an alternative school for young newcomers from the North. After retirement, he interacted with academics from the North and helped launch a group called North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity to take the lead in informing the South Korean public of the reality of life in North Korea. Hong’s hometown is actually in the North. He doesn’t remember anything about his hometown because he came to South Korea when he was young. But his parents and relatives talked about North Korea and its people all the time, and he is very familiar with this subject.
My family came from South Pyongan Province. Right after Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, my father came to South Korea, carrying me on his back. I don’t remember that, though, as I was only four years old. My North Korean relatives used to speak in their unique Pyongan accent whenever they came round. I don’t know every single word, but I’m familiar with the North Korean accent and intonation. When I meet people from Pyongan Province, I find myself talking like a North Korean. As my family was from the North, I think I have naturally developed an interest in North Korea. I feel happy to see the expats. But sometimes, I feel sorry for them.
Hong hopes that other people will experience what he feels when meeting with North Koreans. He stresses that now is the time for people in South and North Korea, who have lived in different worlds, to meet, mingle and practice how to live together. He believes these experiences will lead to the unification of Korea.
We tend to talk too much about inter-Korean issues and unification, and the subject has become a superficial, grave topic that can only be discussed at political, economic or military level. But we could all do something, no matter how small it may be, to help contribute to unification. I hope many more people will show an interest in North Korea-related issues and look for something they can do. I don’t think it is a special task that requires their sacrifice. There is definitely something we can do easily in everyday life, just like breathing air and eating three meals a day.
The small meetings and get-togethers between people from South and North Korea should hopefully open the door to a unified Korea.