PN's Voice 65

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PN's Voice 65, 17-12-2015
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PN's Voice No. 65  17. 12. 2015 
Small steps, Road to peace

North-South Korea Negotiations Break Down

Two-day long marathon talks between North and South Korea broke down on Saturday without any agreements or resolutions as negotiators failed to agree on how to bring about a thaw in their long-strained relations.

At the talks, held in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, the South urged the North to aid the thousands of aging separated families learn of one another’s whereabouts, exchange letters and be reunited temporarily, said Hwang Boo-gi, the chief South Korean negotiator. However, Mr. Hwang told reporters that North Korean delegates insisted that it would consider those requests only if the South resumed tours to the Geumgang mountain range in the south-east of North Korea. The joint tourism program had been an important source of cash for the North until it was suspended in 2008 after a South Korean tourist who wandered into a restricted area was shot to death by North Korean soldiers.

North Korea blamed the South for the collapse of talks and claimed that the South Korea declined to discuss resuming tours to Mount Geumgang without the consent of the United States; the South Korean government has publically denied this claim.

The collapse of the talks means relations between the two Koreas will remain frosty going into the 2016. Fear of an armed clash, as recently as August, seemed very real after the South accused the North of planting land mines that maimed two of its border guards. The two sides later agreed to negotiations, and in October, arranged a new round of reunions in which hundreds of war-separated family members were allowed to meet their relatives for the first time in more than six decades. South Korea wants such reunions to be held on a regular basis so that separated family members, most of them in their 80s and older, can meet with long-lost relatives before they die.
Source : The New York Times, KBS News, KBS News


Ban Still in Talks with N.K. over Visit

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that discussions are still under way with North Korea to set up what would be his first trip to the reclusive nation as U.N. chief. Ban also said he's ready to use his role as secretary-general in any way possible for peace and stability and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

Ban added that there have been positive developments in relations between the two Koreas, including a peace agreement in August that defused a tense military standoff and October's reunions of families separated by the Korean War. Ban said that although last week's high-level talks failed to produce progress, "We should not be frustrated…I sincerely hope that the parties will continue to engage in talks so that they can, first of all, expand the political space through dialogue and exchanges and cooperation, so that they can, first of all, build reconciliation between the two parties."

Should Ban's trip come to fruition, he will be the third U.N. secretary-general to visit North Korea after Kurt Waldheim in 1979 and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993; both met with North Korea's founding leader, Kim Il-sung, during their visits to Pyongyang.

In May, Ban planned to visit the North Korean border city of Kaesong, where South Korea runs an industrial complex, however the trip was called off at the last minute because Pyongyang abruptly withdrew its invitation for no clear reason.
Source : Yonhap News


Canadian Pastor Given Life Sentence in North Korea

A North Korean court has sentenced a Canadian pastor to life in prison with hard labour for what it called crimes against the state. Hyeon Soo Lim, from the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was given the sentence after a brief trial before the North’s supreme court on Wednesday. He had been in detention since February. Relatives of Lim have said he travelled to North Korea on 31 January as part of a regular humanitarian mission where he supports a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage. They said Lim, who is in his early 60s, has made more than 100 trips to North Korea since 1997, and that his trips were about helping people, not political. Some of the projects he had worked on, such as a noodle plant and flour mills, were linked to associates of Jang Song-thaek, the purged uncle of leader Kim Jong-un. Jang was dramatically arrested and executed for treason in December 2013. Pyongyang views foreign missionaries with deep suspicion, although it allows access to some who undertake humanitarian work.

In a video released in August, South Korean-born Hyeon appeared to read from a script as he addressed a sparse congregation at the state-operated Pongsu Church in Pyongyang. “The worst crime I committed was to rashly defame and insult the highest dignity and the system of the republic,” he said in the purported confession, posted on a state-controlled propaganda website. Other foreigners detained in North Korea and then released have said they were coerced into making similar statements and confessing guilt during their detention.

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he is “very concerned” about North Korea’s sentencing of a Canadian pastor to life in prison with hard labor. “We have tremendous concern about it,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “The issues of North Korea’s governance and judicial system are well-known and we are very concerned about someone being sentenced to life in North Korea.”
Source : The Guardian, The Guardian, NK News


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