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[Op-Ed] Radio Free North Korea

Posted December. 06, 2008 10:04,   


Joy and sorrow crossed the minds of North Korean defectors and anti-North Korea activists struggling to let the North Korean people know about their leader Kim Jong Il’s totalitarianism. The Paris-based Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans Frontières) has awarded its media prize this year to Kim Sung-min of Radio Free North Korea, the founder of the Stalinist country’s first dissident radio station, along with 2,500 euros (3,194 U.S. dollars). Park Sang-hak, head of the Fighters for a Free North Korea that disseminates anti-North Korea leaflets to the North, pledged to stop the practice for the time being. Kim received his award in Paris to global fanfare, while Park made his decision at the headquarters of the ruling Grand National Party in Seoul.

The French group said its jury chose Radio Free North Korea to pay tribute to its courage to broadcast news and information in North Korea, along with other winners such as a Cuban journalist and two Burmese bloggers. The media advocacy group apparently considers Kim Sung-min’s activities despite North Korea’s threat to kill him as fighting for freedom of the press. This is in stark contrast to ruling party leader Park Hee-tae, who asked Fighters for a Free North Korea to stop sending anti-communist leaflets to the North for the time being. So Reporters without Borders encouraged North Korean defectors to alert the North Korean people of their situation, while the ruling party chief did the exact opposite.

Both leaders of the two anti-North Korea groups, who are also defectors from the North, have received more encouragement and support from abroad than at home. U.S. President George W. Bush invited them to the White House to praise their commitment. The U.S. government and civic groups have also offered significant financial support, especially to Radio Free North Korea. The radio station’s award should make people think about progressive forces in South Korean society, which have ignored anti-North Korea activists and defectors who try to tell the truth to those in the North.

Progressive or left-wing groups who physically confronted members of the Fighters for a Free North Korea and the Family Assembly of those Abducted to North Korea four days ago welcomed the measure to stop sending the leaflets. The People’s Solidarity for Social Progress praised the ruling party’s measure, and urged a complete suspension of sending the leaflets. The group probably knows that Radio Free North Korea won the award. Though different in form, broadcasts and leaflets have the same purpose of telling North Korans the truth about the Stalinist state. So one cannot help but ask if the progressive groups criticize the award by Reporters without Borders as a hostile activity against the North.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)