Since establishing itself as a nation in 1948, North Korea, by many accounts, remains one of the most oppressive and closed off countries in the world. Under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, the self-proclaimed Supreme Leader of the small east-Asian country, nearly 100,000 North Koreans remain political prisoners within their own land while the rest of the population face hunger, violence, and extreme repression of speech and information.
But change is coming according to Bernadette Asuelime, a representative of Liberty in North Korea, or LiNK, a Los Angeles based organization dedicated to assisting North Koreans in freeing themselves and their country from the oppressive political regime.
In a CLP event given last Monday in Johns Hall 101, Asuelime and other LiNK representatives gave a presentation to over 100 Furman students and faculty highlighting the many challenges North Koreans face in the fight to end the oppression. The presentation was opened with an address by Furman Asian Studies and Political Science professor, Kate Kaup, Ph.D., who gave a brief overview of the situation in North Korea and the role of the international community in aiding the country’s people.
“What’s going on in North Korea should not be tolerated by any society,” said Dr. Kaup, referring to the numerous human rights violations perpetuated by the regime, such as torture, rape, and government forced starvation.
But, according to Asuelime, North Koreans are actively weakening the hold of the dictatorship over the country. Through the development of an underground, black market micro-economy, North Koreans are able to depend on each other, rather than their government for resources such as food and are also able to access information through illegally imported devices such as radios. This increasing independence from government resources is weakening the power it has of many of its people.
“It is the North Koreans themselves that are the truly making the difference,” says Asuelime. “Change is inevitable simply because the system of control is unsustainable.”
For Asuelime and the other LiNK associates, providing help such as resettlement assistance and career development for North Korean refugees is just a small part of the movement to bring peace and stability to North Korea.
“North Korean people will be free in our lifetime,” said Asuelime.
At the end of the presentation, it was announced that Liberty in North Korea would be opening a chapter at Furman, LiNK-FU.