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South Korea's Spoilers

Thursday, July 13, 2006 Posted: 12:37 PM JST

(by Norbert Vollertsen) - SEOUL -- For five years now I have been active in lobbying for human rights in North Korea. My associates and I provide detailed information to Western journalists. We organize protests at the Panmunjom border with North Korea, help North Korean refugees rush past guards and enter Western embassies in China, and coordinate the flight of North Korean "boat people." We also attempt simple, utilitarian projects such as the sending into North Korea -- by balloon -- of small radios, which those lucky enough to retrieve might use to learn about the world outside their Gulag-state.

Some of these projects have failed, many of them have succeeded. But never could I have imagined that the most difficult part of creating an awareness of human rights abuses in North Korea would be to raise a voice in South Korea.

Here in Seoul, I get around 1,400 hate-e-mails per day. As a result of an e-mail campaign organized by South Korean students, my e-mail account is often sabotaged. I am caught in the middle of an Internet campaign titled, ominously, "How to get rid of Norbert Vollertsen." Suggestions include "Execute him," "Kill him," etc. People -- South Korean people -- shout and even spit at me on the street. My activities to help the enslaved people of the North --such as my boat-people project -- are sabotaged by South Korean intelligence. My telephone is tapped, and I have minders following me the whole day. All in all, although I'm here in Seoul, I feel like I'm still in Pyongyang!

Yet for all the horrors I witnessed in North Korea, where I once worked for 18 months as a medical worker for Cap Anamur, a German aid organization, I was never beaten by the police -- not even in my last days there as persona non grata, just before my expulsion for the expression of pro-human rights views.

Here, in South Korea, I have been beaten by the police -- among others.

During our balloon-launching attempt on Aug. 22,2003 a young South Korean (well-fed, wanting for nothing) attacked me, threw me to the ground and escaped with a bundle of radios intended for his starving, destitute brothers across the border -- an assault carried out right under the noses of the riot police. Then I was attacked by the police themselves. One officer jumped on my twisted knee while I was lying on the ground. But even that was not as painful as the incident in March this year when some riot policemen kicked me in the groin while I was standing in the middle of their crowd during a protest in front of the Chinese embassy here in Seoul.

On another Sunday, I was attacked by North Korean "journalists" at the World University Games in Daegu, while holding a peaceful press conference in front of the convention building there. The South Korean newspapers reported that I "exchanged punches with the North Koreans." In reality, I was standing on my crutches, still suffering from my injuries from the balloon-launch assault, and could barely stay upright. I was also wearing a neck-brace, and so was unable even to swivel my head to face my North Korean attackers.

Afterwards, the same newspapers called me an "extreme ultra-right-wing activist," even "fascist," which is ironical, given that I am doing what I am doing for the North Koreans mainly to atone for the shameful fascist history of my home country, Germany. The local government in Daegu apologized to the North Korean delegation for my "grave offence," and promised to punish me and get me expelled.

In Beijing, where the next round of the so-called six-party talks shall take place again to my consternation, the talks are only focusing on nukes. But the human right abuses of regime of Kim Jong Il is the real cause of all the military problems.

Kim Jong Il has to fight for survival like the leader of a religious cult, like the head of a family mafia clan -- he can only do so by blackmailing the whole world: "Feed me or I will kill you with my nuclear weapons." He will never abandon these weapons, his only real "security guarantee."

And there is only one security guarantee for the starving children in North Korea: When there is no more security for Kim Jong Il and his regime and he has to face justice at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The only way to get rid of the North Korean nukes and missiles is to get rid of Kim Jong Il, and the best way to do that is by creating an inner collapse of the North Korean regime.

In order to achieve this inner collapse we first of all have to inform the ordinary North Korean people about the outside world. Because they do not have any access to foreign media they do not know anything about Western societies. They are brainwashed into believing that we are all homeless, drug-addicted and depraved.

Because of this non- and misinformation there are no uprisings like those in former East European countries and no defections on a mass scale. That is why our project to send radios by balloon is so potent -- and why friends of Kim Jong Il in South Korea are determined to foil us.

Seoul is proving to be the real external obstacle to freedom for North Korea. Many people in foreign countries wonder about the general South Korean attitude toward Pyongyang, the increasing anti-Americanism here, and the perverse likelihood of pro-North Korean diplomacy by Seoul during the six-party talks and the whole nuclear discussion.

The truth is, South Korea is infiltrated by Pyongyang's agents. According to the NIS, the South Korean intelligence, there are up to 6,000 secret agents from North Korea operating in South Korea's establishment; and the main targets, besides the government, are the NIS itself, the military, the student organizations, the workers' unions -- and the media.

Until now I have been talking about human-rights violations in North Korea, and the need for regime change there. Maybe it is time now to talk about rights violation in the South too -- and even regime change as well, by the power of the people, by election of course.

Here in South Korea basic civil rights, the freedom of speech and mainly the freedom of the press, are endangered by the current administration. The government of President Roh Moo Hyun is cracking down on critical journalists.

I will continue my activities here in South Korea even after I got expelled from this Korean nation too and only was allowed to reimmigrate under the "final order" not to engage in any "political activities" at all. No speeches, no shouting, no publicity stunts. So I will try a new approach...

(An updated version of my article in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 22, 2003)

Norbert Vollertsen is a German doctor and human rights activist. He practiced medicine in North Korea and received a medal from the North Korean government for his humanitarian assistance. He was given a pass that allowed him to travel the country freely, which is very unusual for a foreigner. He became convinced that the North Korean government was evil and began campaigning against it, which resulted in his being forced to leave the country. He later became one of the most prominent activists protesting perceived human rights abuses in North Korea, as well as what he considers the apathy of outside, particularly South Korean people, towards North Korean suffering. (Source: Wikipedia)

Keywords: opinion_item

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