ILC2021-8 Session 7 - Presentation of Ms. Jung-mi Hwang

I visited North Korea in 2000. It was to cover the first inter-Korean summit between President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. All of the reporters had to cover and report on this historic event in an extremely restricted environment. They assigned one guide to each reporter and I was assigned a female guide. She said that she was an employee of the Pyongyang Publishing company, but I knew all guides, including her, were well-trained intelligence agents. They made it impossible for us to interview ordinary people there. For 3 days, I realized for sure how different we were. Although we spoke the same language, Korean, our views of the world, as well as our national systems, were totally different. What struck me the most was their blind praise for Kim Jong-il. They were living in the country of Kim Jong Il, by Kim Jong Il, for Kim Jong Il.

Balloons with freedom

I believe that the reunification of Korea should be achieved in the most peaceful way. One of the best ways is to tell the North Koreans the truth about the outside world. There are many human rights activists who take risks to tell the truth even at this moment. Some private human rights and missionary groups in South Korea have taken to flying balloons, dropping hundreds of thousands of anti-regime leaflets along with small radios, bibles, rice, medicine, USB sticks and cash.  The North Korean leaders frequently urge the South Korean government to stop it. In fact, just after Kim Jung Un’s younger sister, Kim Yeu Jung, criticized the balloon flights, the North-South Joint Liaison Office in the Kaesong Industrial Complex was blown up. In the end, the South Korean government and ruling party passed a law to prevent the sending of balloons to North Korea. This law is definitely a law that prevents freedom of expression, which is the essence of democracy. It also blocks North Koreans' right to know. It is also an anti-humanitarian punishment, since it blocks even the minimum amount of rice and medicine from being sent to the North. 

The hidden people of NK

I believe that the role of the media in fostering peace on the Korean Peninsula is to target the North Korean people with information about their government and the outside world and to let them choose how to act on that information. I know the reaching out to ordinary people is not easy, because the ordinary North Korean people still remain well hidden from us, as I felt when I visited North Korea 20 years ago. North Korea is not giving up its nuclear weapons, which are obstacles on the road to peace on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea's economic situation is very bad, due to the prolonged sanctions against North Korea and the lockdown policy related to Covid 19. North Korea’s economy in 2020 posted its sharpest drop since the deadly famine in the 1990s. That means that Kim Jung Un’s pledge to improve living conditions in the country has failed. 

The road to Reunification 

One thing I am concerned about is that the younger generation in Korea these days is not interested in reunification. According to the statistics published by Seoul National University last year, 30-35% of those in their 20s and 30s answered that unification was not necessary at all. The current government dismisses unification as a matter for the distant future. They usually say that coexisting with the North Korean regime is true peace on the Korean Peninsula. I think these ideas are a bigger problem. That’s because peace on the Korean Peninsula will be possible only when unification is ultimately achieved. For that to happen, the media should contribute towards reducing the quantitative and qualitative gap of knowledge and information between South and North Korean citizens.  The Co-founders of the Segye Times, Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak ja Han Moon, establish national reunification as the first goal of the Segye Ilbo. I’m sure that the Segye Times needs to encourage and educate South Koreans to pay more attention to reunification, especially for the younger generation. We also have to increase our efforts to awaken North Koreans to the reality of North Korea and the duplicity of their leader.

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