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Hosted by Harvard Human Rights in North Korea (HRiNK) and Korean Association (KA)
in support of Mulmangcho, a school for North Korean refugee children living in Seoul.
HRiNK is planning on raising $10,000 for them by the end of the semester.
Friday, April 4th, 2014
8:00 PM at Ticknor Lounge
Dessert and drinks provided
Cocktail attire requested
RSVP to email@example.com by April 1st
Can you imagine abandoning your family and all you know, without the guarantee of ever seeing them again? That idea scares me immensely. As I read the New York Times article by Choe Sang-Hun North and South Koreans Meet in Emotional Family Reunions today, I felt a pain in my heart. Separated by war, political tensions, petty arguments made by unjust dictators and irrelevant international policies are hundreds of Korean families. When I think about it, the divide created between the Koreas is merely a subjective border, but thousands of families have been torn apart by these arbitrary lines.
My parents raised me to value family above anything else, and it broke my heart to hear of the over six decades of separation that tore relationships apart. Many were forced to flee from North Korea in the wake of the Korean War, and many were forced to leave entire families behind.
“Graying sons and sisters hugged and collapsed in tears on the laps of their parents and brothers, many of whom were so old and weak that they had to make the trip across the border in wheelchairs.”
Those were the pure reactions of the many families and loved ones that were reunited after decades of separation in the series of brief family reunions sponsored by the North and South Korean governments in an effort to appease and rebuild trust between the Koreas. Over the years, more than 20,000 Koreans have participated in this family reunion program, though many more remain on the waiting list.
Let’s try to take a second from dwelling completely on the nuclear proliferation and political tension that comes to mind when we think about North Korea, and remember that the people are at the center of this “North Korean conflict.”
I usually check CNN a few times a day to make sure I’m all caught up on my news. Lately, the headlining stories have all been about either the Olympics or another Obama scandal. However, today I was surprised to see that North Korea was front and center.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea released a report revealing a plethora of human rights abuses in the country such as slavery, sexual abuse, imprisonment, murder, torture, persecution and starvation. According to the report, this “does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” Also, the International Criminal Court (ICC) could become involved in prosecuting Kim Jong Un for crimes against humanity.
However, it won’t be easy moving forward. Although this report is a huge win for human rights activists, there are a lot of challenges. For one, North Korea adamantly denies everything in the report and calls it “nothing more than an instrument of political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system by defaming the dignified images of the DPRK and creating an atmosphere of international pressure under the pretext of ‘human rights protection.’” Also, although prosecuting Kim at the ICC sounds relatively easy, in order for this to happen, the UN Security Council must show its approval. This includes China, North Korea’s ally.
Regardless, the fact that the media is covering this so extensively gives me hope that the public can now become more aware of the atrocities that occur in this country. During his press conference, the commission chairman Michael Kirby told reporters that “the suffering and tears of the people of North Korea demand action.” It is shocking that nothing has been done to right these wrongs. HRiNK’s efforts are only a small drop in the grand scheme of things. To truly make an impact, everyone must care.
In the words of Michael Kirby: “Now is a time for action. We can’t say we didn’t know.”
To find out how you can help, please visit http://beyondnk.causevox.com/
We are excited to say that this semester we will be focusing our efforts on supporting the Mulmangcho School in Seoul, South Korea, a school that provides education to North Korean refugees. To learn more, visit their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/mulmangcho522
On Monday, the sixth of January, South Korean President Park Geun-hye had proposed a reunion for families who have been separated from each other by the Korean War in 1950 for over 60 years. President Park Geun-hye made this proposal since the best time for reunion, Lunar New Year, is drawing near, so she wish to give a chance to elderlies in South Korea to finally meet their siblings, children, and relatives on that blessed day. I think this is a great proposal, one that is in the best interests of both North Koreans and South Koreans. Between 1985 and 2010, 22,000 Koreans participated in 18 rounds of government-arranged reunions, but these precious times were ended when the relation between South Korea and North Korea turned bitter. Due to animosity between two political sectors of the same country, thousands of families were ripped apart, children from their parents and siblings from each other. Since the 1950s, sixty years have passed, and many of the survivors from the war are now elderlies, whose deepest desire in their hearts must be to have a family reunion after so many years of no exchange of letters, phone calls, or emails. Specifically, about 73,000 South Korean, half of whom are over 80 years old, are still on the waiting list to meet their loved ones. Not to be pessimistic, but this reunion might be their last one. However, like always, North Korea never agreed with anything South Korea says, not even when President Geun-hye has already promised increased humanitarian aid and labor help to the North.
The North blamed the South for having military exercises with the United States and labeled it as drill rehearsals for invasion. In addition, North Koreans also justified by saying the mood in North Korea now is not fitting for reunion because of several scathing criticisms, which were directed at Kim Jong-un, from South Korea. Nevertheless, I feel that these reason are not strong enough to justify North Korea’s rebuttal of the proposal. Furthermore, the proposal for reunion impacts the people, so the people should have a say in this matter, but the North Korean government simply went ahead and decided on their own. Not only in Korea, many of the Korean immigrants in America must have relatives in South Korea, so they must want to fly back to meet their long separated kins. However, due to North Korea’s strong will, hopes were struck down in many Koreans’ hearts. Although I am not a Korean, I know the pain of being separated from my family because I have to go far away for college. Although the distance is great between my family and me, we can call, email, and message each other, while the Koreans can’t use any of the modern technology to express a New Year’s greeting.
Now, the only ounce of hope for the proposal to be passed is South Korea agreeing to North Korea’s condition by resuming tours of the lucrative Diamond Mountain resort in North Korea. On Thursday, 9th of January, South Korea confirmed that they would discuss the tours only after the inter-Korean relations have improved significantly. In other words, the date for the next reunion is obscure, hidden away into the future with no clue. My heart goes out to all the elderlies in Korea, those who long for their last family reunion. I hope the result of an negotiation between North Korea and South Korea will always be in their favor.