The Gender Imbalance in People Fleeing North Korea

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

In the past decade an interesting phenomenon has occurred in South Korea: a small but steady flow of refugees from the northern end of the peninsula.

Here’s a graph.

These numbers can be found at the website for the South Korean Ministry of Unification (an English version can be found here). Interestingly, Wikipedia has a graph of the number of refugees before 2001 – although it doesn’t state the source.

Why this has occurred would be the subject of a fascinating study. Life in North Korea is better than it was during the early 1990s, when the country suffered a famine. Yet the flow of refugees in the early 1990s was practically non-existent. Perhaps the fact that South Korea is now a First World country has something to do with it. Perhaps North Koreans just didn’t think about fleeing to South Korea until the first few people started doing it, and then started telling their family and friends back home. It’s also worth noting that South Korea isn’t the only place with North Korea refugees; China has about an equal or greater number.

As more North Korean refugees enter South Korea, their nature has changed drastically. Previously, the vast majority of refugees were male.

Now, however, the vast majority of them are female.

The female-male ratio of North Korean refugees increased steadily from 1998 to 2008, when there were 3.59 North Korean females for every North Korean male. Since then the ratio has fallen to about 2.40 females per male refugee, as of 2012.

Actually, the number of male North Korean defectors has basically remained unchanged throughout the past decade. It’s the number of female defectors which have skyrocketed.

Here’s a graph showing this in more detail.

It’s a mystery why two to three North Korean females enter South Korea for every male North Korean. It’s equally a mystery how this gender imbalance affects the North Korean community in South Korea. Nobody, at least in the English-speaking world, is talking about this phenomenon or even aware of it. Migration does not necessarily have to be female-heavy; more often it’s the males who do the migrating. Mexican immigration to the United States, for instance, is tilted to the male side.

There’s one final interesting note. As of April 2012, the South Korean Ministry of Unification has indicated that 473 North Koreans renounced their country. If this rate of migration held up, by the end of the year only 1,419 North Koreans would defect by the end of 2012 – the lowest number since 2005. It’s worth noting that Kim Jong-un took power just at the end of 2011. Perhaps North Koreans are waiting to assess his rule rather than packing up and leaving.



North Korea: A Very Rational Country


By: inoljt,

It’s popular amongst the media to characterize North Korea as an irrational state run by a madman. North Korea continuously provokes the West, it is said, for no apparent reason. Proof that it’s an unpredictable, irrational actor that could do anything.

There are in fact very few states in history that could actually can be said to have behaved irrationally. I can only think of one state in the twentieth century which fits the description above. That was Germany just before and during the Second World War.

North Korea has in fact behaved quite rationally throughout the past few years. As a pariah state with only one ally, a very weak economy, and the enmity of the world’s superpower – the government of North Korea has to realize a way to protect itself. This is especially true given that said superpower has repeatedly used its military to strike down dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi who have earned its hostility.

Muammar Gaddafi is an extremely telling example. One unfortunate side-effect of the successful American intervention there is that the intervention has probably permanently ruined any possibility of North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons. Just look at Muammar Gaddafi to see what happens when countries hostile to America give up their nuclear weapons. And in fact, North Korea has done just this. The rational, logical conclusion: the only sure deterrence is nuclear weapons, especially with Seoul and Tokyo as hostages located so conveniently close to North Korea.

The death of Kim Jong-il also explains a lot of North Korea’s recent aggressiveness during the past couple of years. North Korea’s leaders knew that Kim Jong-il’s health was in dire straits after his stroke, and that he was probably going to die very soon. They were thus preparing hastily for his succession. The new leader needed a military accomplishment to add to his belt before entering power. Thus the artillery bombardment of a South Korean island, repeated nuclear tests, and the sinking of a South Korean ship. These were designed to be just enough for the new leader to boast about without actually getting North Korea in any danger of being seriously attacked.

North Korea is not another Nazi Germany. It’s just a very weak, very poor country whose government is trying its best to survive against the might of the world’s superpower.



Laura Ling on weeping North Koreans: ‘There’s such an intense level of fear’

Laura Ling and Euna Lee join Cenk to talk about the death of Kim Jong Il. The two journalists, who were held captive for five months while reporting for Current TV, say their time in prison there helps them understand the lifelong indoctrination many North Koreans experienced.

“There’s such an intense level of fear,” Laura explains. “Even if they do believe differently, people are hesitant to say that.”

Of news images showing North Koreans weeping over the death of their “Dear Leader,” Euna says, “Sometimes when you same the same thing over and over, when you hear the same thing over and over, it becomes true, whether you believe it or not.”

And it’s still unclear whether Kim’s son will hold onto that power. “There hasn’t been enough time for that propaganda around [Kim Jong Un] to really reach a fever pitch,” Laura points out. “It will be interesting to see what the people believe about him.”


What Does China Think About North Korea’s Aggression?

In discussing how America should respond to the North Korean artillery attack on South Korea, almost all the discussion invariably turns to what China will do. The only ally of North Korea, China is the only nation in the world which can effectively pressure North Korea.

There has been quite a bit of debate about what China is thinking right now. Many hope that China will value its commercial ties to the West above its ties to North Korea. Others point out, less optimistically, that China wishes to preserve North Korea – if North Korea fell, millions of impoverished refugees would flood into the country. Moreover, a reunified Korea would be aligned with the West, constituting a threat next to China’s border.

All this is very much speculation and guesswork. What does China really think about the North Korean attack?

Actually, it is very easy to find out what China thinks. In fact, the Chinese government has an official press agency: Xinhua. Most people probably don’t know this, but Xinhua can be read for free online in English.

So what does China think about the North Korean attack?

Well, what better way to find out than to go read the Chinese government’s official newspaper!

Xinhua has several articles covering the incident. Unfortunately, most of the stuff is fairly boring – a simple recitation of facts. Unlike newspapers such as the Times, there is little editorializing and little insertion of opinion. In general, more room is given to what North Korea is saying without the obvious disbelief present in Western newspapers. The frame is: South Korea says this, North Korea says that, we don’t know who’s right other than there was artillery fired by both sides.

Perhaps the most revealing section was this quote:

Though Seoul blamed Pyongyang for military provocations, there is still no way to confirm who started the shelling attack.

A statement issued by the DPRK army accused South Korea of setting off the exchange of fire, saying dozens of shells from the south fell in the waters of DPRK around Yonphyong Islet at 1:00 o’clock p.m. local time Tuesday afternoon. Ensuing shellings were countering measures of the DPRK, it said.

Acknowledging it did fire shots in the area, South Korea denied any of the test shots fell in the DPRK territory.

The incident came as South Korea was engaged in a massive annual military exercises involving some 70,000 troops, launched Monday and scheduled to last through Nov. 30. Pyongyang has repeatedly warned against such military drills, usually joined by U.S. soldiers, describing them as provocations and real threats to its security.

So here one gets a pretty clear sense of what China might say: either we don’t know who really started it, or North Korea’s attack was provoked by South Korea.

This is not very comforting for the West. For multiple times North Korea has launched military aggressions that could be construed as acts of war. Reading Xinhua seems to indicate that China still is not ready to out-and-out criticize North Korea for these attacks. The North Korean artillery attacks have not been the first time North Korea has killed South Koreans without much response. As long as China’s stance remains unchanged, it will probably not be the last.

(A note: Reporting in China can often be quite different between English-language and Chinese-language news. English reports in China generally have more freedom and leeway, and therefore may be more critical. For comparison’s sake, several articles in Chinese – translated by google – can be found here and here. The translation is pretty bad, but there didn’t seem to be too much difference between what the Chinese version and English version articles were saying.)

Exposed: Iran and N. Korea Pose Greater Threat to World Peace Than Previously Thought

Diplomatic Cables Based on U.S. Intelligence Reports -- Published by Whistleblower Web Site WikiLeaks -- Reveal North Koreans Sold 19 Nuclear-Capable IRBM Missiles to Iran Capable of Striking Targets Throughout Europe and in Russia; Documents Show Arab States Called for Attack on Iran's Nuke Facilities -- China Admits It's Fed Up With North Korea's Belligerence, Wants Peninsula Reunified Under Seoul's Control

(Posted 5:30 a.m. EST Tuesday, November 30, 2010)
(Updated 11:15 a.m. EST Tuesday, November 30, 2010)


Memo to Representative Peter King (R-New York):

Shut the hell up!

The ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee -- who will take over as chairman in January -- called on Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks, under the Espionage Act and for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to designate the site "a foreign terrorist organization,' in reaction to its posting on Sunday of more than 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

"This is extremely damaging to U.S. troops, U.S. interests and U.S. intelligence," King told Fox News on Monday. "They [WikiLeaks] are engaged in terrorist activity. What they're doing is clearly aiding and abetting terrorist groups. Either we're serious about this or we're not," adding that putting the Web site on the State Department's list of known foreign terrorist organizations would enable the U.S. to shut down WikiLeaks by seizing its assets and to stop other entities -- including news media outlets -- from cooperating with it.

Excuse us, Congressman King, but since when is it "aiding and abetting terrorist groups" to expose the fact that Iran and North Korea pose a dangerous threat to world peace -- a threat much more dangerous than previously thought -- to the point that even China is reportedly "fed up" with North Korea's belligerence?


The Guardian

LONDON -- China supports the "independent and peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula" and cannot afford to give the North Korean regime the impression it has a blank check to act any way it wants, Chinese officials based in Europe confirmed today (Tuesday).

The officials, who asked not to be identified, spoke a day after The Guardian revealed that senior figures in Beijing, exasperated with North Korea behaving like a "spoiled child," had told their South Korean counterparts that China was leaning towards acceptance of reunification under Seoul's control.

One Chinese official said today reunification was not going to happen overnight and China's first priority was to calm down the situation, restart a dialogue, and maintain stability in the region. But Beijing had always backed peaceful reunification as a longer term goal.

The officials admitted to a sense of frustration in Beijing over North Korea's recent actions, including its nuclear and missile tests – which China opposed – and last week's lethal artillery bombardment of a South Korean island.

Instead of prosecuting Assange and attempting to shut down WikiLeaks -- which, by the way, would clearly violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantees under the First Amendment of a free and unfettered news and information media -- WikiLeaks should be honored for performing, for once, a vital public service by alerting the world to the mounting threat to world peace and stability posed by Tehran and Pyongyang -- a danger that has been building since 2003 and is now approaching a dangerous flashpoint on the Korean Peninsula.

The whistleblower site made public what the State Department should have told the world months ago: That North Korea sold to Iran 19 intermediate-range R-27 ballistic missiles -- missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads and, when fired from Iran, could strike cities throughout Europe.

Even the Russian capital Moscow could potentially be threatened by nuclear-armed Iranian IRBMs, the U.S. diplomatic cables show, based on intelligence reports. That revelation comes just four months after relations between Russia and Iran began to deteriorate over Iran's nuclear program.


According to the cables obtained by WikiLeaks -- accounts of which were published Sunday by The New York Times -- top Russian officials were alerted to the Iranian missile threat in February during a meeting in Moscow with a U.S. delegation led by Vann Van Diepen, a top official of the State Department’s nuclear nonproliferation division.

Van Diepen, while working in his previous capacity as a national intelligence officer, "played a crucial role in the 2007 assessment of Iran’s nuclear capacity," according to the Times account of the cables.

Iran's acquisition of the North Korean-built R-27 missiles -- which, ironically, were originally designed by the Russians during the Soviet era -- gives Tehran the capability of striking cities throughout Europe and that even Moscow lies within the missiles' striking range, the cables show.

The U.S. delegation warned their Russian counterparts that the missiles, which have an advanced propulsion system that the North Koreans developed, would bring Iran closer to developing its own arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at a time when the two former Cold War adversaries reached a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) -- yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate -- aimed at further reducing the U.S. and Russia's ICBM stockpiles.


The nuclear development program of Iran been the source of increasing alarm by the United States for the past half-decade. Now, it appears, the alarm has spread worldwide -- nowhere more so than in the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is so worried about Iran's nuclear program that he repeatedly called on the U.S. to launch a pre-emptive strike and destroy the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities -- as the Israelis did to Iraq's nuclear plant in a 1981 air strike, according to an account of the cables published Sunday by Britain's The Guardian newspaper.

And Saudi Arabia isn't alone, according to the cables. They reveal that Arab governments are just as suspicious as the U.S., Israel and the European Union are that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. One cable recorded King Abdullah as having "frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program."

According to Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., the king, in an April 2008 meeting in Riyadh with General David Petraeus, then the commander of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq, told him to "cut off the head of the snake," referring to Iran's nuclear program, the Guardian reported in its account of the cables.


Other Arab countries, notably Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, referred to Iran as "evil", an "existential threat" and a power that "is going to take us to war," according to the cables. Jordan and Bahrain have even gone so far as to openly demand that Iran's nuclear program "be stopped by any means necessary" -- including military action.

The Arab countries' demand for action against Iran marks a dramatic departure from widely-held perceptions that to attack Iran's nuclear facilities would have triggered a much wider war in the Middle East, with Tehran likely to retaliate with a massive missile strike against Israel.

For its part, Israel let it be known to American officials in June 2009 that it was prepared, if necessary, to "go it alone" and attack Iran's nuclear facilities unilaterally, according to the Guardian account of the cables. They quoted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying that there was a window of "between six and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable," beyond which any military action "would result in unacceptable collateral damage."

According to Barak's timetable, that window will close at the end of this year.

Iran lashed out at the WikiLeaks disclosures Monday, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissing the leaks as a "worthless" psychological warfare campaign by the U.S. against his country. "We don't think this information was leaked," Ahmadinejad said during a televised news conference in Tehran. "We think it was organized to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals."

Ahmadinejad insisted to reporters that Arab nations' demand for action against Iran's nuclear program would have no impact on his country's relations with them. "We are friends with the regional countries and mischievous acts will not affect relations," he said.


Disclosure of North Korea's sale of the R-27 missiles to Iran could not have come at a more sensitive time, as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached a crisis stage after North Korea launched an artillery barrage on a South Korean island, killing four South Korean civilians and bringing the peninsula to the brink of war.

Among a second cache of U.S. diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks on Monday include a bombshell revelation that China, North Korea's longtime ally, is "fed up" with the increasingly belligerent regime in Pyongyang, with senior Chinese officials quoted as derisively branding North Korea "a spoiled child."

While Beijing publicly has refused to condemn Pyongyang for its November 23 attack on the South Korean island of Yeongyeong and has called for a resumption of the six-party nuclear talks, the cables reveal China's mounting private frustration with North Korea in the four years since Pyongyang's provocative underground nuclear tests and test firings of its long-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missiles.

In a February 17 cable, South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister, Chun Yung-woo, told Kathleen Stephens, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, that senior Chinese officials told him that Beijing "is fed up with the North Korean regime's behavior and would not oppose" the unification of the Korean peninsula under South Korean control.


Chun, who heads the South Korean delegation to the six-nation talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear program, said China "would not be able to stop North Korea's collapse" following the death of its ailing, 68-year-old dictator, Kim Jong-il, according to the cable. The North, Chun said, "had already collapsed economically and would collapse politically [within] two to three years" after Kim's death -- despite Pyongyang's apparent grooming of the dictator's 27-yer-old son, Kim Jong-un, to take over.

Chun dismissed South Korean media reports that Chinese companies had agreed to pump $10 billion into the North's economy, the cable said. "Beijing had 'no will' to use its modest economic leverage to force a change in Pyongyang's policies," Chun said.

In a sign of the deteriorating relations between Beijing and Pyongyang, the cable quotes Chun as saying that North Korea has a low regard for Wu Dawei, China's deputy foreign minister and chief representative at the six-party nuclear talks, with the North Koreans characterizing him as "the most incompetent official in China."

For his part, Wu is quoted in an April 2009 cable as telling U.S. officials that Pyongyang was behaving like "a spoiled child" to get Washington's attention by carrying out its missile tests -- which severely jangled nerves in Japan, where the government in Tokyo regarded the tests as a direct threat to Japan's national security.

Another sign of tension between the two countries has been a series of violent incidents along the Chinese-North Korean border -- the most highly publicized of which was the deadly shooting in July by North Korean border guards of three Chinese citizens and the wounding of a fourth.

The four Chinese were shot on the North Korean side of the border, after North Korean guards suspected them of "crossing the border for trade activities," according to Qin Gang, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry. Beijing filed a formal diplomatic protest to Pyongyang over the incident.


Congressman King and other politicians, in their condemnation of WikiLeaks, have forgotten the reason why WikiLeaks came into being in the first place: The refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 to review federal court rulings ordering two investigative reporters to reveal their confidential sources.

It has been a longstanding practice of investigative journalists uncovering corruption in and wrongdoing by the government and private entities to keep the identities of confidential sources secret to protect them from retaliation for their disclosures. The Valerie Plame affair undermined that practice, prompting many sources to remain silent, out of fear of discovery and retribution.

Courts ordered then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and then-Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to reveal their sources for information about the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame in apparent retaliation for the public challenge by her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, to the credibility of the Bush administration's claim of an alleged Iraqi stockpile of weapons of mass destruction as the rationale for invading Iraq in 2003.


As Peter Scheer, a journalist and practicing attorney who is also executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, writes in a November 16 blog posting on the coalition's Web site, "WikiLeaks emerged as a technological solution to this hole in the fabric of legal rules implementing the First Amendment’s free press and free speech guarantees."

WikiLeaks is designed "to foil subpoenas or other assertions of judicial power," Scheer wrote. "Because the Web site is not tied to any single real-world venue and apparently was built with layers of redundancy, court injunctions issued against WikiLeaks, whether directed to its Internet service providers (ISPs), its lawyers or other entities, are unlikely to disable it."

More important, Scheer wrote, "WikiLeaks claims to use technology that erases the fingerprints of sources, rendering leaked documents untraceable. By contrast, the same documents leaked to a newspaper, such as The Washington Post, whether by means of e-mail, 'cloud'-based Internet services or other electronic communications, would be vulnerable to interception and tracing.

"Even if the documents, instead, were hand-delivered to the Post, its reporter could be subpoenaed and forced to testify," Scheer added.

It is a both a tragedy and a disgrace that it took a Web site such as WikiLeaks to alert the world to the dangers to world peace and security that Iran and North Korea pose -- a job that the mainstream media should have done but has been intimidated by the court rulings in the Plame case into not doing.

WikiLeaks should not be prosecuted for that. It should instead be given a great deal of thanks for performing a vitally needed public service.

# # #

Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.





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