Michael Williams, Baron Williams of Baglan

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea are saddened by the death of Michael Williams, Baron Williams of Baglan. Michael was a committed humanitarian, an insightful and authoritative giant of international politics, and great friend of the APPG.

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Lord Williams of Baglan [Credit: British High Commission, New Delhi]
Michael began his career at Amnesty International before joining the BBC World Service as an editor in 1984. From there he moved to the United Nations where he was served in Cambodia as Deputy Director for Human Rights; in former Yugoslavia as Director for Information; Geneva as Adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and New York as Director, Office for Children and Armed Conflict.

Between 2000 and 2005 he was Special Adviser to two Foreign Secretaries and then served as Under-Secretary General, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon. Michael was appointed to the House of Lords in October 2010 and joined the BBC Trust in December 2011.

Michael was a long-standing supporter and advocate for a BBC World Service for North Korea. We will greatly miss his friendship and passion for promoting freedom and knowledge across the world.

Update: Change of Venue for 2017 International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights

Owing to the pre-election parliamentary recess, the 2017 International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights has changed venues. The Symposium will now take place at Central Hall Westminster (not the Houses of Parliament) from 10:00-18:00 on 18th May 2017.

Methodist Central Hall
Central Hall Westminster [credit: Chris Chabot]
Located directly opposite Westminster Abbey, Central Hall Westminster is a short walk from two underground stations: Westminster (exit 6) or St. James’s Park (exit Broadway) and a 10 minute walk from Victoria train station, a 15 minute walk from Charing Cross train station and a 20 minute walk from Waterloo train station.

The address for Central Hall Westminster is: Storey’s Gate, London, UK, SW1H 9NH. Please proceed directly to the Aldersgate Room.

 

2017 International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights

2017 International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights

On May 18th 2017, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea will co-host the 2017 International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights at Central Hall Westminster (not the Houses of Parliament).

Due to the upcoming UK general election, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea will not be active from 3rd May 2017 to 8th June 2017. It has, therefore, handed over its duties concerning the conference to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea.

The conference will bring together politicians, policymakers, civil society representatives, North Korean exiles, scholars, and members of the public to discuss three themes:

1). The role of information inflows and outflows for North Korea;

2). Children’s rights in North Korea with a focus on the UN human rights protection mechanisms; and

3). Strategies for accountability for crimes against humanity.

Hosts

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Republic of Korea) is an independent organization working to contribute to an improvement of North Korean human rights through monitoring and promoting the execution of international human rights standards. NHRCK has been holding annual international symposia on North Korea since 2004 to inform the international community about the severity of the human rights situation and to encourage discussion of practical solutions and the roles of related actors in the improvement of North Korean human rights.

The European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea is a UK-based NGO which raises awareness of ongoing human rights violations in North Korea and empowers North Korean people, inside and outside of their country, by providing a platform for their voices and a means for their agency. EAHRNK was established in 2013 by a group of human rights advocates, scholars, and North Korean exiles.

Registration

Registration is required for all who wish to attend the 2017 symposium. To register, please email events@eahrnk.org and include your name and relevant institutional affiliation by 14th May 2017. Attendance is free of charge and lunch will be provided to attendees.

Date, Time, and Location

The 2017 International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights will take place from 10:00-17:30 on 18th May 2017 at Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, London, UK, SW1H 9NH. Please proceed directly to the Aldersgate Room.

Central Hall Westminster is a short walk from two underground stations: Westminster (exit 6) or St. James’s Park (exit Broadway).

Underground: https://tfl.gov.uk/
Train services: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

Airport – City Airport as the closest easy access from Gatwick and Heathrow by train or taxi.

Train stations – Victoria (10 mins walk), Charing Cross (15 mins walk) and Waterloo (20 mins walk).

Speakers

10:00-10:30: Tea & Coffee

10:30-11:00: Opening Ceremony
– Moderator: James Burt, Director of Research, EAHRNK
– Opening remarks: Sung-ho Lee, Chairperson, NHRCK
– Keynote speech: The Baroness Smith of Newnham

11:10-12:50: Session 1: Inflow and outflows of information and North Korean human rights
– Moderator: Alistair Coleman, BBC Monitoring
– Panel:
Broadcast Consultant
North Korean exile
Wee-soo Han, Chair of special sub-committee for North Korean Human Rights, NHRCK
Jieun Baek, Author of North Korea’s Hidden Revolution
Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Chairman, Global Partners Digital

12:50-13:40: Lunch

13:40-15:20: Session 2: Protecting and promoting children’s rights in North Korea with a focus on the UN human rights protection mechanisms
– Moderator: The Baroness Cox
– Panel:
Michael Glendinning, Director, EAHRNK
Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC, Queen Mary University of London
Sang-don Shim, Director of Human Rights Policy and Education Bureau, NHRCK
Jihyun Park, North Korean exile

15:20-15:45: Coffee Break

15:45-17:25: Session 3: Strategies for Accountability for Crimes against Humanity in North Korea
– Panel:
James Burt, Director of Research, EAHRNK
Jo Baker
Tom MacManus, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Queen Mary University of London
Mark Tokola, Vice President, Korea Economic Institute
North Korean exile

17:25: Closing Speech: Jihyun Park, North Korean exile

Freeing North Korea: a readiness for responsibility

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A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) test. CC: United States Missile Defense Agency

 

This year has and will deliver continental-sized shifts in the global political landscape. New administrations in the United States and the Republic of Korea, major changes to China’s Politburo Standing Committee, and ongoing political flux across Europe will reposition our known political compass points. But one of the biggest changes looks likely to come from a small corner of north-east Asia, namely North Korea.

Pyongyang’s recent tests of ballistic missiles and the suspected murder of Kim Jong Nam should come as no surprise to global policymakers. North Korea has been on a deliberate march toward nuclear deterrence since the 1960s, while its support and participation in acts of terror have grown in stature and frequency in recent years.

Given the current political condition in which South Korea finds itself, Pyongyang appears to sense an opportunity to cement itself as Asia’s immovable force. The terrorisation of its nationals abroad is a deliberate part of this strategy.

How will our changed world respond to North Korea? Diplomatic overtures in recent years have lacked the urgency, intimate knowledge, and policy coherence which has been required. I have seen first-hand how many states, particularly in Europe, appear to believe that North Korea’s nuclear weapons (not to mention its human rights violations) could be negotiated away for political or economic reasons.

But as Nicholas Eberstadt recently explained to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Sovereign governments simply do not trade away their vital national interests.” It is beyond the realm of reason to think that a North Korean Government that keeps millions in hunger and poverty, hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, violated two International Atomic Energy Agency agreements, two Agreed Frameworks, and six United Nations Security Council resolutions, would willingly negotiate away its only bargaining chip.

“Engagement and dialogue can and do work in many situations. North Korea is not one of those situations.”

Engagement and dialogue can and do work in many situations. North Korea is not one of those situations. North Korea’s rulers cannot put an end to their policies of human rights abuses. Nor can they relinquish their nuclear program. They are not ignorant of the costs of Libya’s rollback of its nuclear ambitions. Nor are they oblivious to the consequences that befell totalitarian regimes who initiated social and economic reforms or lessened their grips on violence.

Calls for negotiations with Pyongyang grow louder by the day, but we must not let reason yield to misplaced hope. The North Korean Government has repeatedly stated that it will not relinquish its nuclear weapons. Why doubt this? For North Korea’s elite, promises of personal wealth, immunity from war crimes, or foreign economic investment count for naught. They have the blood of millions of innocent people on their hands which cannot be washed away. They know that with reform will come retribution.

Given recent developments, the former UK Ambassador to North Korea, David Slinn, posed the question: “Is it possible to even think of negotiating with [somebody] who believes it is OK to use a deadly nerve gas in public in a foreign country?” North Korea’s new tools of lethal intent clearly demonstrate one point: that it will seek survival at any cost. The world cannot continue to endure such an existential threat. It is high-time that we adopt a new and radical approach.

It is taboo, yet entirely reasonable to expect states to initiate policies that seek the demise of the North Korean regime in a controlled and non-violent manner. No status quo can last forever, especially one as catastrophic as that which exists in North Korea, and any effective foreign policy should acknowledge this point.

“No status quo can last forever, especially one as catastrophic as that which exists in North Korea, and any effective foreign policy should acknowledge this point.”

The rise of the Cheollima Civil Defense, an underground and seemingly powerful group that operates inside and outside of North Korea to save the lives of its vulnerable citizens, suddenly allows us place our hope in a revolutionary actor who tells us that change is not just conceivable, for it already exists. This group’s brave actions, which have been supported by the governments of the US, China, and the Netherlands, should be supported more widely.

As a member of the UK’s International Development Select Committee, I know it is vital for a network of international experts to commit to planning the rebuilding of vital infrastructure and services in North Korea. We must learn from cases such as Iraq and put in place rapid response strategies in the event of regime failure in North Korea for food and medical aid; and from Burma, where we have seen that democracy building is a slow, painful process, which requires persistent support over time in a coordinated manner by the international community to promote progress. The governments of the US, UK, South Korea, and European powers are in strong positions to begin this urgent task today.

“The time to speak out against North Korea has, to a certain extent, already been and gone. History will judge those who turned a blind-eye, appeased North Korea, or disempowered the exiled community. Soon, actions and not words may be crucial if millions of North Koreans are to be saved.”

The time to speak out against North Korea has, to a certain extent, already been and gone. History will judge those who turned a blind-eye, appeased North Korea, or disempowered the exiled community. Soon, actions and not words may be crucial if millions of North Koreans are to be saved. Unification, democratization, marketization — these can all come later. First, we must carefully consider how we can help free North Koreans.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the anti-Nazi dissident, proclaimed that “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” This is especially true in the case of North Korea. When change arrives, governments, civil society, and other stakeholders, including the United Nations, should be ready for the responsibility that Bonhoeffer described. Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenbürg concentration camp in April 1945, just one month before the liberation of Germany. The same fate must not befall those in North Korea’s concentration camps. We may only have one chance to help North Koreans reclaim their country; and it is a chance that we must not surrender.

Fiona Bruce is Co-Chair of the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, and a serving Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

*A version of this article was originally published in the Korea Times on March 28th 2017.

North Korean Diplomats: personae non gratae

Once again, the international community finds itself asking a perennial question: What to do about North Korea? A chain of events has unfolded in the past month-and-a-half which has proved as astonishing as it has belligerent, and the international community is now compelled to take immediate and resolute measures — not only to uphold numerous international laws and norms, but also to ensure the security of North Korean exiles and refugees.

On February 11th, North Korea launched a Pukguksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile aimed directly at Japanese waters, followed by the launch of four more ballistic missiles on March 6th which landed just 300 kilometres west of Japan’s Oga Peninsula. Both were acts designed to perfect weapons capable of inflicting death on an enormous scale.

Yet it is the calculated and cold-blooded murder of one individual, Kim Jong Nam, which appears to have exposed a new and deadly intent of the North Korean regime. Slain on February 13th in broad daylight at a crowded Kuala Lumpur airport with a highly toxic liquid nerve agent that has been classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction, the murder — if carried out by the Government of North Korea — would be one of the most brazen acts of state-sponsored terrorism and chemical warfare in recent memory.

Apparently orchestrated by a North Korean institution designed to network with foreign governments and non-government agencies, the External Liaisons Department, seven North Korean nationals have been suspected by Malaysian police of being involved in the murder. Four immediately flew to Pyongyang, while the remaining three suspects, one a North Korean diplomat, are still in hiding at the DPRK embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The refusal of the DPRK Ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, to release the North Korean suspects into Malaysian custody, combined with his unsuccessful attempts to impede Malaysia’s police investigations and a suspected attempt to gain entry at the morgue where Kim’s body was held, rightly led the Government of Malaysia to declare Kang to be persona non grata.

As the international community reflects on this series of events, what is to be done about North Korea’s belligerence and the suspected wider problem of North Korean diplomats acting as agents of terror?

Continued missile launches pose existential threats to us all and North Korea’s military operations must be countered by direct and targeted disruption, in addition to the roll-out of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system and the imposition of yet further and far stronger sanctions. But the gruesome murder of Kim Jong Nam, which is just the latest in a long list of outrages suspected to have been coordinated by North Korean diplomatic personnel, requires a closer consideration of North Korean diplomats and agents across the world.

Operating as potential extensions of Pyongyang’s domestic arms of terror, corruption, and belligerence, North Korean diplomats have the capacity to move freely to conduct illicit activities, organise slave labourers, and execute North Korean exiles — even in Europe.

A recent United Nations Panel of Experts report found “diplomats, missions and trade representatives of the [DPRK] systematically play key roles in prohibited sales, procurement, finance and logistics.” Indeed, I have written in this paper before that such actions make it abundantly clear “that diplomatic relations with Pyongyang are effectively a façade.”

The latest United Nations Security Council Resolution calls upon Member States to “reduce the number of staff at DPRK diplomatic missions and consular posts.” The United Kingdom and other European Union states have submitted their initial implementation reports concerning this resolution to the United Nations Security Council, and we should expect many North Korean diplomats to face de-recognition and a return to North Korea in the coming months.

Of course, a return to Pyongyang is not the only option for North Korean diplomats. The example of Thae Yong Ho, who I met while he worked at the DPRK Embassy in London and who has provided valuable intelligence on North Korea’s illicit activities since his defection, demonstrates the pull of freedom and prosperity over tyranny and fear. The emergence of the Cheollima Civil Defence, a discrete organisation which rescues and evacuates high-level North Koreans, and the recent quadrupling of the reward given to elite North Korean defectors who share intelligence to $860,000 by the South Korean Government, suggests that many more North Korean diplomats may refuse to abandon the freedoms and living standards they and their families enjoy in Europe and across the world.

But for now, the murder of Kim Jong Nam has brought the actions of North Korean diplomats sharply into focus. For far too long, Pyongyang’s diplomatic personnel have acted as potential vehicles for terrorism, murder, sanctions evasion, illicit sales, and the procurement of weapons of mass destruction. The latest United Nations resolution provides states with an opportunity to uphold international law and better protect exiled North Koreans and refugees who now find themselves to be targets of this most brutal regime. Starting today, this is a task that must not fail.

Fiona Bruce is Co-Chair of the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, and a serving Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

*An edited version of this article was originally published in the Chosun Ilbo in Korean on March 28th 2017.

Business Not Quite As Usual

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UK Houses of Parliament (Credit: Long Road Photography)

In her Statement, in the aftermath of the attack at Westminster, the Prime Minister defiantly insisted that parliamentary business would today continue as usual. During the morning sittings in both Houses, there was a united and wholly unambiguous message that those who would destroy our democracy and fundamental freedoms will not succeed.

But in the sombre atmosphere that inevitably prevailed, it wasn’t quite business as usual. And we always need to remind ourselves that this is not the first, and will not be the last attack on Westminster – both on the buildings and on the values which are its foundation stones.

Nearly forty years ago, on March 30th 1979, on the day after I was elected to the House of Commons in a by-election, Airey Neave was murdered by the Irish National Liberation Army, blown up just yards from where P.C. Keith Palmer – a father-of-two and a member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Squad – was yesterday murdered by an Islamist terrorist.

Keith had worked at Westminster for fifteen years and he was one of our gallant band of men and women who protect us and every day greet us, and endless visitors, with great courtesy but who also know that Westminster is far more than a tourist attraction. It is an iconic building that stands for democracy and freedom and is therefore bound to be a target for those who wish to destroy those things and impose hate driven ideologies.

P.C.Palmer’s body lay just yards from the entrance to Westminster Hall – which was subjected to Nazi bombs at the height of World War Two. In 1940 a high explosive bomb fell into Old Palace Yard. In 1941 an incendiary hit the Victoria Tower and a police sergeant showed great courage when he climbed the scaffold and extinguished the burning magnesium with a sandbag. Then the western courtyard was hit and two auxiliary policemen were killed.

Next, the Commons Chamber was hit along with Westminster Hall – built by William Rufus in 1097. As the Commons burnt, firemen with axes broke down the doors of the Hall and as the medieval rafters burnt they pumped in water from the Thames to save the Hall.

P.C.Palmer stands in a long and heroic tradition of extraordinary bravery placed at the service of their country.

If the walls of Westminster Hall could speak they could tell this nation’s history – of its struggles for political and religious freedom, its belief in human rights and its belief in the rule of law. From its construction in 1097, and the first meeting of Parliament in 1265, to the trials of William Wallace in 1305, of St.Thomas More in 1535, and Charles I in 1649, to the lying in State of Kings, Queens and Prime Ministers, there is little that this Hall could not tell us about who we are and what we stand for as a nation.

My first visit to Westminster Hall was as in 1965, as a school boy, when we came to pay our respects to Sir Winston Churchill whose body had been brought to the Hall – and whose leadership saw this country through its darkest hours.

Yesterday, after being locked down for several hours in Central Lobby many of us were taken into the Hall – where hundreds of people waited as events continued to unfold. Here were Peers, MPs, secretaries, researchers, ancillary and catering staff and visitors to the House– the complete diverse mix that makes up the Westminster community on any working day. I wondered what some of the school children, who had been singing songs to keep up their spirits, would make of this their first visit to Westminster. Beyond the tragedy I hope they will be inspired and realise that in every generation the baton must pass to the one which follows.

As the attack was taking place I was meeting with the Egyptian Coptic Bishop, Angaelos. A few months ago he had spoken in Westminster Hall at the annual parliamentary prayer breakfast. During our meeting we had been talking about recent attacks on his church community – many driven out by ISIS killers from the Sinai Peninsula. We talked about the Copts who had been murdered by ISIS in Libya – who went to their deaths refusing to renounce their faith. We were recalling that the last time we had been together was to stand outside Westminster Abbey at a service of remembrance to mark the deaths of 25 people at Cairo’s Cathedral of St.Mark.

Then, one of our Doorkeepers urgently asked us to follow him – and he took us to Central Lobby. Among many we spoke to there was Lord Tebbit – who had survived the Brighton bomb and whose dear wife Margaret had been paralysed by the attack. Bishop Angaelos and I spent five hours in the lockdown in Central Lobby and Westminster Hall. Horrible but nothing in comparison with what happened to those who were killed, maimed or wounded.

At 4.00pm I had been due to chair a meeting on North Korea and I still don’t know if anyone hoping to come into the House for that hearing was hurt but I do know that South Koreans were among the casualties on Westminster Bridge. The intended speaker, who had escaped from North Korea, and his translator, sent me a text to say that they had got safely away.

Yesterday, London had a glimpse of the brutality and unforgiving hatred that fuels a global ideology. But, as Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, reminded us when we assembled in the House later in the morning, hatred need not win. Westminster has withstood far worse, and in displaying traditional British stoicism and resilience, Parliament must also inspire and encourage beleaguered communities, the world over, by displaying leadership and determination in resisting those who would destroy the values for which P.C.Palmer gave his life.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Event: The Indoctrination of Children and Incitement to Hate

A North Korean human rights activist and escapee, with direct experience of indoctrination, will speak about the indoctrination of children and incitement to hate in North Korean schools. The meeting will take place at 16:00 in Committee Room 4, the Houses of Parliament, on Wednesday March 22nd.

Attendance is free and open to the public. The Houses of Parliament can be accessed via the Cromwell Green visitor entrance.