A long time North Korea human rights champion is unimpressed by the second-ever summit between North and South Korea slated for later this month.
Suzanne Scholte, president of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, said she believes the meeting is an attempt by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il to influence the upcoming elections for the Republic of Korea (official name of South Korea) and encourage the continuation of the Sunshine Policy – South Korea’s political strategy for relations with North Korea that emphasizes peaceful cooperation and reconciliation in hopes of reunifying the peninsula.
Scholte, who has spearheaded countless North Korean freedom campaigns in Washington, listed several important questions that must be asked about the summit:
• Who will represent the North Korean people?
• Will South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun ask for the political prison camps to be closed?
• Will Roh ask for the return of the South Korea abductees and prisoners of war as well as the abductees from other nations?
• Will Roh ask for North Koreans to be granted freedom of movement and travel so they can avoid starving to death?
• Will Roh ask Kim to stop torturing, imprisoning and executing the refugees who are repatriated from China because they were simply trying to feed their families?
“Unless [South Korean president] Roh is planning on raising these issues and/or arresting Kim Jong-il for crimes against humanity, then this summit will simply allow Kim Jong-il to continue to interfere in South Korea’s elections, so that he can stay in power and continue to build nuclear weapons, produce massive amounts of drugs to poison the youth in free nations, counterfeit U.S. dollars and work aggressively to destroy South Korea’s democracy, which is already weakened terribly by Roh’s administration,” said Scholte, to The Christian Post.
South Korean officials announced Wednesday that leaders of North and South Korea are planning to meet in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, Aug. 28-30 to improve the regional situation, according to The Associated Press. However, there has been no specific agenda, causing some to say no progress is likely to be expected.
“At this point, there is nothing to expect from the summit,” the conservative opposing Grand National Party spokeswoman Na Kyung-won said Wednesday, according to AP.
Rather, some have criticized the summit as a political ploy to help the public image of Roh’s embattled party before he leaves office in February.
It was in June 2000 in Pyongyang that the two Koreas first met since the Koreas split after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire. Technically, the two countries are still at war because no peace treaty was signed.
Since the split, North Korea has become one of the most repressive regimes in the World and is ranked by the ministry Open Doors as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians for a number of consecutive years. Citizens of the communist state are forced to adhere to a personality cult revolved around worshipping current dictator Kim Jong Il and his deceased father, Kim Il Sung.
There were about 300,000 Christians in 1953 but the number has shot down to a few thousand who secretly practice their faith, according to Voice of the Martyrs.
“It (North Korea) is a miserable place. It is a closed society. They don’t care what the international community thinks,” Michael Cromartie, chair of he U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told The Christian Post in April.
“They don’t read our reports; they don’t care about our recommendations; they don’t care about their own people. So how do you penetrate the conscience of a totalitarian regime that doesn’t have the slightest concern about its own people much less international opinion? It is like hitting your head against the brick wall,” said the religious freedom advocate.
Estimates indicate that some 2 million North Koreans have died in the 1990s as a result of a severe famine coupled with the regime’s mismanagement of foreign food aid. The government is accused of using food aid to bolster its military instead of feeding its citizens.
A decade later, North Korea continues to face severe food shortage.
Earlier in March, a World Food Program spokesman warned that North Korea faced one of its biggest food shortages in the past decade with millions of people in danger of going hungry because of poor harvest and a huge drop in donor, according to The Associated Press.
A bad harvest in 2006, disastrous summer flooding and a 75 percent fall in donor assistance have left the impoverished nation in critical condition, warned Anthony Banbury, the Asian regional director for the World Food Program, according to AP.
"[U]ntil all the people of North Korea are treated as human beings rather than as animals, until they are treated as free people instead of serfs in Kim Jong Il's feudal kingdom, we will not have finished the job," Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said at a North Korea rally in July, according to the Baptist Press.
"I join with you in calling on the United States and every civilized nation in the world to make human rights an inextricable part" of any negotiations with North Korea.