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From Beijng to Tokyo, from Seoul to New Delhi, LinkAsia takes viewers into media about Asia – from Asia – offering unfiltered insight into one of the most diverse, fast-paced regions of the globe.

 

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UN Report: North Korea's Human Rights Abuses Are 'Systematic and Widespread'
NK Rights

Reporter:

The panel members heard testimony from 240 witnesses including several defectors from North Korea. The commission concluded, based on the evidence, in many cases the country committed crimes against humanity.


Michael Kirby:

It’s a unanimous report, it’s a report which speaks of the great wrongs that have been done to the people of North Korea, and which calls for attention from the international community.


Reporter:

UN investigators say political prisoners are subjected to torture, rape, and other forms of violence. They estimate the number of people in political prison camps is between 80-thousand and 120-thousand, even though leaders in Pyongyang deny their existence. The report also recognizes the abduction of foreign nationals by North Korean authorities is systematic. They believe agents may have abducted more than 200,000 people including more than 100 Japanese citizens. The commission acknowledges officials use land, naval and intelligence forces for abduction. They say operations were approved at the level of the supreme leader 


Members of human rights groups in Japan welcomed the report. They held a news conference in Tokyo. Shigeru Yokota and his wife Sakie attended. Their daughter Megumi was abducted to the North in 1977 when she was only 13.


Sakie Yokota / Abductee's mother:

I think whether the UN Security Council sincerely discusses this issue and takes action is crucial. It took many years for us to see the world starting to understand the situation.


Kanae Doi:

We continue to push Japanese government, as well as other key governments who sit at the Human Rights Council to adopt the very strong resolution to put this human right situation on North Korea at the Security Council.

 

Reporter:

Japanese Abduction Issue Minister, Keiji Furuya, called the report unprecedented. He said the findings are in depth. North Korean leaders have rejected the report. Their UN representative said they have been no cases of human rights abuse in the country. Investigators are now advising the UN they should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

 
 

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Japanese Pro Wrestler Turned Politician Pays Visit to North Korea
Antonio InokiWhat is it with retired pro athletes visiting North Korea? Just a week after Dennis Rodman's trip to Pyongyang, a Japanese former professional wrestler turned politician is paying Kim Jong-un a visit. Here's Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.

Reporter:
Antonio Inoki of the Japan Restoration Party is on his second visit to North Korea in as many months. He is expected to meet with senior North Korean officials. Among them is the secretary in charge of international relations in the Worker's Party. Inoki is a former star of Japanese pro wrestling. Before his departure for Pyongyang, he spoke of the purpose of his visit.

Antonio Inoki:
I want to see for myself where North Korea is heading. I hope discussions with leaders in Pyongyang will benefit both countries.

Reporter:
During his previous visit in November, Inoki met with Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of the country's leader Kim Jong-Un and Vice Chairman of the National Defense Commission. Jang was executed for treason in December.
 
 

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Pyongyang: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
North KoreaBefore it closed, Kaesong was bringing the North Korean government about a hundred million dollars a year. Re-opening it seems to indicate the regime is anxious to concentrate on economic renewal. And, there are signs the North's economy is getting better. At least in the capital, Pyongyang. Japan's public broadcaster NHK was able to send a crew to North Korea in August and early September. It found some changes -- and some things that haven't changed at all.

Reporter:
This is becoming an increasingly popular way to get around Pyongyang. Just a few years ago the number of taxis were few and far between. But this driver tells me they are now on the rise.

Taxi driver:
Our supreme leader Kim Jong-un says he wants to increase the number of taxis in Pyongyang to 1,000. There are already more than 500 on the streets.

Reporter:
A six kilometer ride costs just three dollars. It may not sound too expensive, but for the average citizen here it's about one-tenth the monthly wage. Taxis are still very much reserved for the rich. But the government says more and more people are becoming members of the upper class. This residential area of Pyongyang is covered with high-rise buildings where only the most privileged classes can afford to live and many more towers are currently under construction. The city plans to build enough condominiums to house 100,000 newly wealthy citizens, people who have made fortunes as the central government started allowing small-scale private businesses a decade ago. Most have capitalized on foreign investment, mainly from China. They can be seen buying imported goods by the bag full. And even buying North Korean made tablet computers. Even though one unit costs five times the average monthly salary.

North Korean citizen:
Pyongyang has changed a great deal. Our comrade Kim Jong-un's initiatives are producing fruitful results.

Reporter:
But then there's the North Korea the government doesn't want you to see. Driving out of the capital is like going back in time. The road turns from paved to bumpy. A steady stream of cars replaced with ox-pulled carts and vehicles that run on charcoal. Most people still rely on bicycles to travel around. But North Korean officials don't talk about these issues. They'd rather focus on what they say is the country's rising rich, and government policies that have stimulated economic growth like this ski resort about three hours from Pyongyang. Currently being built by some ten thousand soldiers and students, officials say it's expected to be completed this year. It will boast 11 ski slopes, a high class hotel and a heliport.

Won Kil-u, Physical Culture and Sports Vice Minister:
This resort aims to be profitable. But it's also a place where the North Koreans, including the young can enjoy skiing.

Reporter:
And there's this project, already complete. A suite with an ocean view at this beach resort costs USD$262 for a night.

Resort Guest #1:
We came from Pyongyang.

Resort Guest #2:
I feel very good. People can enjoy themselves at resorts like this thanks to the profound love of our leader Kim Jong-un.

Reporter:
A luxury getaway for North Koreans lucky enough to benefit from the government's economic reforms. Officials want to give the impression the entire country is booming. But the contrast between the capital and the countryside are just a different story.
 
 

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Panama Busts Ship Smuggling Weapons from Cuba to North Korea
Panamanian authorities are crowing about seizing a North Korean freighter on its way from Cuba. They found missile and rocket parts among sacks of Cuban sugar in the hold. The freighter was trying to enter the Panama Canal, presumably on its way back to North Korea when it was stopped and searched. So what's with the missiles? Japanese public broadcaster NHK is all over the story.

--

Reporter:
Cuban officials have met a stash of weapons on the North Korean cargo ship came from their country, but they say the Soviet era arms were being sent to the North for repair. Authorities policing the Panama Canal discovered the weapons hidden in a shipment of sugar. Panama's president Ricardo Martinelli announced a seizure in a radio interview. He said authorities have found what he called sophisticated missile equipment. The thirty-five members resisted the efforts to redirect the ship into port. Investigators have detained them. They said the ship's captain tried to commit suicide. Defense consultants with IHS Jane's Intelligence analyzed military hardware. They identified the equipment as high-performance radar for surface to air missiles. US State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said the ship has a history of involvement in drug smuggling. He said US officials strongly support Panama's decision to inspect the vessel.
 
Officials at the Cuban Foreign Ministry released a statement on state-run TV. They said that the ship was carrying the obsolete weapons for repair in North Korea. Those weapons included Soviet-era missile systems, fighter planes, and spare parts. The official insisted they are committed to nuclear disarmament and they that have respect for international law.

The war leaders have long been trying to control North Korea's military ambitions. The UN imposed sanctions including strict regulations on arm shipments, following the country's first nuclear test in 2006. The sanctions were strengthened after the third test this February. But in spite of the international pressure, the reclusive nation has been found to be illicitly exporting military equipment to other countries.

A security council expert panel reported on the North's attempt to transport missile propellant in 2007 and gas masks and chemical protection suits in 2009. Joining us now is Choi Jong-kun, professor at Yongsei University in Seoul. He's an expert on international relations. Professor, thank you for coming in. North Korean leaders appear more conciliatory in the past few months trying to renew dialogue with the international community, but still they continue to transport military equipment. What do you think Kim Jong-un's strategy is here?

Professor Choi Jong-kun:
I don't think that Kim Jong-un has a grand strategy at this juncture. If we all know, North Korea has been severe in the United Nations sanctions. I think that North Korea will engage in any economy activities that will make them money. So I think what they've been trying to do is to engage in commercial activities that makes them money. So I don't see any grand rational overall strategy. Just North Korea is trying to survive.

Reporter:
Professor, the international community is increasing pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Even its longtime ally China has stepped up economic sanctions.  Does the location of the seizure tell us anything about the position that North Korea finds itself in?

Choi Jong-kun:
Obviously, it's a bad time for North Korea. North Korea is trying to engage in dialogue. It confirms their rogue image, transporting and spreading weapons. However, if you look at what they have found now is that it's really old obsolote defense weapons owned by the Cuban government. The Cuban government argued that they tried to send these weapons for repair. And from the perspective of North Korea this is a nice cash cow activity.
 
 

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State-Owned Bank of China Cuts All Ties with North Korea
DPRK TradeIn the latest evidence of deteriorating relations between China and North Korea, the state-owned Bank of China has stopped dealing with North Korea's Foreign Exchange Bank. This is in accordance with US financial sanctions imposed last March. The US will not deal with any financial institution that does business with North Korea. On this past week's episode of LinkAsia, we aired a piece from Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, who covered the story on May 7.

--

Reporter:
Reuters News Agency says the state-owned Chinese bank notified North Korea's foreign trade bank that it was stopping all transactions. US officials hit the North Korean bank with sanctions in March banning any exchanges with US firms or individuals. They accused the bank of helping to finance Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. Officials at Bank of China gave no reason why they were closing the North Korean account, and state run media have not reported on the story.
 
 

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