currently reading

Currently reading: “The Ghost Writer” by John Harwood


Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 – North Korea

Human Rights Watch has issued its annual report, including its entry on North Korea. HRW does not have entries for Japan or South Korea. Unlike Amnesty International’s annual State of the World’s Human Rights, which solely looks at events that happened during the previous year, HRW’s report gives an overall picture of the human rights situation in the country including events of the past year. In the case of North Korea, the big event in terms of human rights was the release of Commission of Inquiry (COI) report and subsequent lobbying and resolution passing at the UN level – UN Human Rights Council, General Assembly and attempts to get it on the agenda of the UN Security Council.

In many instances, the violations of human rights found by the commission constitute crimes against humanity. These are not mere excesses of the State; they are essential components of a political system that has moved far from the ideals on which it claims to be founded. (CoI Report)

The main topics of the entry, in addition to the COI stuff, are:

    • Torture and Inhumane Treatment – which obviously focuses on treatment of individuals held in political prison camps;
    • Executions, a short blurb about the death penalty in law in North Korea. Information on state use of trials leading to death penalty and execution and prevalence of extra-judicial killings might have been more interesting;
    • Political Prison Camps – with accompanying video of testimony from some of the regulars such as Ahn Myung-Chul and Kang Cheol-Hwan;

  • Freedom of Information – telling about how North Koreans aren’t allowed to access unauthorised sources of news or media;
  • Freedom of Movement, Refugees and Asylum Seekers – including a bit on exploitation and risks for North Korean women living in China
  • Labour Rights – a short piece on how North Korea isn’t a member of the ILO and how crappy labour rights are for North Koreans working at Kaesong
  • International Actors – more on the COI and North Korea’s attempts to deflect attention away from its human rights record

Notably absent was any talk about the food situation in North Korea. I thought we could’ve skipped the out-dated information on Kaeson for perhaps an update on access to health and nutrition for ordinary North Koreans. But overall, a nice summary of the horrendous situation in North Korea.


Thirteenth Korea-U.S. West Coast Strategic Forum – boy, oh boy!

My twitter feed advised me that a summary report of the thirteenth Korea-US West Coast Strategic Forum was now available. I had not been aware of the event or waiting for the report but it sounded like it might be interesting. However, I did not read the report. I was just doing a quick scroll down to see how long the report was and how it was formatted when I saw a photo of the participants – all men! Not a single woman in the group. The report also includes a list of participants – I’m not going to claim to be an expert on Korean names but that list also seemed to show that all participants from both Korea and US were male. If that is truly the case, that all participants were men, then it is truly depressing. Perhaps there is an explanation, though its hard to guess one that would be acceptable.


Currently reading

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke


“No-one asked for the Un”

I had been planning to write a very serious, important, and insightful post about how the North Koreans had quickly returned the conversation from human rights and back to the familiar territory of missiles following the release of the UN Commission of Inquiry’s report on human rights abuses in North Korea. But then I too got distracted:

North Korean officials have complained to a hairstylist in London for using a picture of Kim Jong-un in a promotional poster in the window of the salon. Further proof, if needed that North Korean officials in UK really have very little to do. From all accounts, the North Korean officials spotted the poster by chance because the salon is near the embassy.  I wonder where the North Korean’s were going or coming from when they saw the poster.

Poster of Kim Jong-un in the salon

(Poster at M&M Hair Academy)

There is an interview on Radio 4 via the BBC London site. My favourite line in the interview was the hairdresser’s comment that, even though the poster had brought in some business, “No-one asked for the Un“. The Independent soon set this to rights by sending an intrepid reporter to get the Un. Personally I preferred his original cut – the Un looks a bit too boyish. But it looks better on the journalist than it does on Kim.

The update yesterday was that North Korean officials have now asked the UK Foreign Office to do something. The Evening Standard thought that the Foreign Office might refer the diplomats to the police. I hope they do because reports suggest that both the North Korean officials and the hairdresser have already reported the incident to the police. Some totally unhelpful advice from the UK government would fit perfectly into the narrative of an already ridiculous series of events.


Currently reading

The Crime of Father Amaro by Jose Maria Eca De Queiros

Front Cover


Today was the first day of classes. My class is full of Japanese students and only four non-Japanese, including myself. I already have several pages of new words that need to be absorbed. In the afternoon I joined a student tour of the Edificio de Universidad de Salamanca. It was in Spanish so I didn’t really catch very much – just a few words and phrases here and there. However, I did run into the two other students that I met yesterday including the French student who was so helpful. After the tour we concluded at the gift shop and I splurged on a pencil sharpener.

Amazingly I also went for a run (it would be more accurate to call it a ‘jog’ but I’m told that its not cool to say that anymore). I feared I would truncate the run that was planned due to chronic laziness but I managed to complete the circuit. However, I didn’t time the run very well as the last part through the old town was too crowded. I either need to run at a different time (during siesta) or I should run a longer circuit that goes around the old town entirely.

Below is a photo of the courtyard of the building where class takes place.


Below is a photo of the courtyard at the Edificio de Universidad de Salamanca


November 2015
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