If you were given the chance of visiting North Korea, would you grab it? You may be interested in visiting the country. In fact, North Korea is offering chances for many foreigners to travel around the country and many foreigners are visiting North Korea – the only communist country left in the world – every year. However, it is hard to see North Korea just as a tourist attraction. Any behavior or word that goes against their ideology can place tourists under detention for a long time. You might have heard of the story about an American university student who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor because he tore a poster. Why does North Korea sentence this kind of inhumane punishment and intern foreigners? Nobody can guess how the student feels with the situation while waiting for America’s help. Let’s know more about similar cases and the reasons for North Korea doing this while going through criticism from all over the world.
1. Detention of Foreigners in North Korea
Detention of foreigners in North Korea started during the Kim Jong-il regime. They arrested foreigners who entered their territory illegally because they judged that they could harm the system of North Korea. During the current Kim Jong-eun regime, these kinds of cases have increased. It seems that he is following the previous regime’s policy, but it is different from the policy of Kim Jong-il. In his regime, any foreigner that visits North Korea legally can be the target of detention and arrest. Also, they can become arrested even if they cannot surely be defined as harming North Korea. They are arrested for trivial reasons and were put under detention for a long time in jail in North Korea. The reasons have been things such as getting out of line or taking pictures, which clearly aren’t things that harm national security.
The event that occurred recently is the American university student’s case mentioned above. A student named Otto F. Wambier went to North Korea to travel through an introduction by a travel agency specializing in North Korea. Then he was arrested by the authorities because he tried to steal a poster that was hung up on the hotel he stayed in and they sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor judging the situation as an alleged plot to subvert the state. North Korea usually sentences hard labor for political prisoners, economic prisoners, or violent offenders. They send the prisoners to jail and make them do hard labor. The labor in this term is an excessive amount of labor and most of the prisoners with this punishment usually can’t last longer and die.
There is also the case of Matthew Todd Miller. He went to North Korea in April 2014 and he was arrested because he damaged his identification card while traveling. The authorities regarded him as doing a hostile action to North Korea and suspected him as a spy from the US. They also noted that he intentionally got himself arrested so that he could identify the situation of North Korean jails, so they sentenced him to six years of hard labor. And in Kenneth Bae’s case, he was arrested because he left his Bible on the toilet in the washroom of a store. He was under detention for about three years. Both of them were released as the US government asked the North Korean government to release them.
2. Detention of Foreigners in Other Countries
There are also a lot of cases where foreigners are arrested in countries other than North Korea. The reason the countries arrest foreigners is greatly related to the two countries’ diplomacy. If a country makes another country’s citizen under detention in its country, it makes a bad influence on their diplomacy, so every country became judicious with it. So we can explain this as a possibility of international trouble.
- Chinese Sailor under detention in Indonesia
On March 19, 2016, a Chinese fishing craft was fishing illegally near the Natuna Island of Indonesia, so Indonesia tried to arrest the craft, but it failed because the Chinese coast guard intervened in the situation. The Chinese sailors were caught before the intervention of the Chinese coast guard. Recently, China and Indonesia have been in disagreement over the territorial limits in the South China Sea. According to the insistence of China, the nine-dash line of the South China Sea is overlapped with the EEZ of Indonesia, so it is natural to have a troubled area. As the South China Sea is considered to be a central area for transportation, tension between the two countries is now rising.
- British Reporter under detention in IS
British reporter John Cantlie was kidnapped in Syria in November 2012. He went to Syria to report about the civil war there, and he was kidnapped while reporting the war. While under detention in IS’s occupied territory, IS made him appear in a video clip of IS promotional material in a role of reporter or host. He delivered his insistence that America’s air attacks weren’t appropriate (following the direction of IS). He is still under detention in the IS area.
3. Reaction of International Society
International society is critical about North Korea, which doesn’t offer a chance to have fundamental human rights. They also critique North Korea offering an improper environment and using foreigners as hostages to make deals with other countries.
- United States of America
The US government says that it is clear that North Korea arrested US citizens to use them politically. A White House spokesman said that if the citizens there get through the trial, they should release the citizens as soon as possible as a particular pardon. Also, the State Department noted that these cases of detention show international society the dangers in traveling to North Korea, so that the department highly recommends not to travel to North Korea. Additionally, they said that US citizens must read the traveling warnings.
- Republic of Korea
Korea also had as many cases as the US had. So every time North Korea put Korean citizens under detention, the government asked to release them because there are no chances of visiting them or checking their health. So the government considered North Korean jails as a place that doesn’t guarantee fundamental human rights.
Canada also showed their worries about detention in North Korea. The government noted that the system of politics and jurisdiction has a lot of problems, so it are worried that Canadian citizens cannot get proper treatment in North Korea. The government said that it is their goal to help Canadians get proper treatment anywhere in the world, including North Korea.
4. Intention of North Korea
What is the reason that puts good people under detention and sentenced to harsh punishments? We can guess North Korea’s intention from the comparably large number of US citizens under detention. There is an analysis that North Korea interns US citizens to use them as hostages to make tension in their relations with the US. Also, North Korea is now being excluded from international society and has no chance of conversation with any other country. So, we can say that they interned foreign citizens and sentenced them to improper punishment to get the attention of other countries. In fact, these cases get huge attention from other countries and maybe that was what North Korea wants. While in detention, North Korea met high-ranking officials from the US to make deals releasing their citizens. They also had a long conversation with diplomats from Canada when it was Canadians they caught. It is repeated every time they release Americans. We can know that their goal is to talk with other countries.
North Korea is now getting opportunities to get foreign currency from tourists. However, if North Korea continually interns foreigners, the number of tourists will definitely decrease. This will make a bad influence in terms of the profit from foreign currency and will influence the whole economy badly. Of course, North Korea also knows what it means, so we can see that North Korea urgently wants to talk to the US even if their profits decrease. North Korea is so urgent for it. However, it cannot be permitted if they torment good people as hostages.
Their unusual anxiety with the national security of North Korea and the unusual ways they use to get attention from international society make a contradiction. They should find a new way not to be excluded from international society and talk freely to the US. It cannot be accepted that the tormenting of good people and making their families and their whole countries worry about them be allowed to continue. They should stop taking foreigners as their hostages and stop using them as political propaganda. The diplomacy with other countries cannot be accomplished through childish methods, such as taking hostages. They should become aware that it cannot be justified to intern other countries’ citizens.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >