It’s Liberation Day in Korea

August 15th is a public holiday in both North and South Korea and signifies the date Korea became free from Japan. This date  – August 15, 1945 – marks Japan’s surrender to the Allied forces and the end of World War II. In North Korea, Liberation Day is commonly known as Jogukhaebangui nal, whereas in South Korea it is called Gwangbokjeol.

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The Kim Regime {pre-Kim Jong Un}

Introduction 

Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung

Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung

North Korea’s previous leader, Kim Il Sung, was heavily influenced and trained by his neighbor state, the former Soviet Union. As is indicative of a totalitarian regime, Kim Il-sung molded the North into a country that depended on him for everything. He came to be revered by his people as a god, incapable of death and intolerant of criticism. He emphasized Communist principles and ideology and “dreamed of making his country a nuclear power.”[1] Kim Il Sung was “The Great Leader” of North Korea and “The Great Successor,” his son Kim Jong Il, boosted the nuclear and weapons programs to deter a perceived American “aggression.” When Kim Il Sung died in 1994, the reign of Kim Jong Il began and continued until his death in December 2011.

Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un, the country’s current dictator, spent a significant amount of North Korea’s treasure on these nuclear programs. Eventually, when North Korea showed no sign of paying its debt, its communist allies and lenders stopped their ‘friendship prices.’[2] “Without cheap fuel oil and raw material, NK couldn’t keep the factories running, which meant it had nothing to export. With no exports, there was no hard currency, and without hard currency, fuel imports fell even further and the electricity stopped.”[3]

And so the cycle of poverty began. “North Korea started running out of food, and as people went hungry, they didn’t have the energy to work and so output plunged even further.”[4] North Korea’s economy spiraled downward and caused much suffering for its people. For the North Korean population taught to rely on their leaders in the Workers’ Party, they were at the mercy of their communist dictator every second of every day.

NK is a Communist regime that values its state sovereignty above all else, including the welfare of its own people. Because of Kim Jong Il’s obsession to dictate over a self-reliant country that takes no abuse from outside “aggressors,” such as the United States (US) and Japan, millions of North Koreans have suffered a fate that is unable to be persuaded by Kim Jong Il’s propaganda and juche[5] ideals: a complete break-down of human rights.

Commonly referred to as one of the most oppressive states on Earth, NK regularly defies the international community’s call to respect human rights. NK is a party to four international human rights treaties,[6] including the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), but has a human rights record that remains “deplorable.”[7] A US State Department 2009 country report on human rights practices stated that citizens had no right to change their government, and the “government subjected citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives. … Citizens were denied freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association, and the government attempted to control all information.”[8]

Despite this behavior, NK operates under an entirely different perspective than the US, for example, and many other countries that practice some degree of democracy. In fact, “[t]he NK Government has stressed that human rights should be primarily based on the protection of national sovereignty and collective rights, and that the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the State should be likewise emphasized.[9] Not surprisingly, Kim Jong Il’s Communist regime has taken a harsh outlook toward states that request it be held accountable for violations of human rights. As is characteristic of the juche philosophy and propagandist-oriented ways, the NK Government has gone so far as to state that “there was ‘a plot of propaganda fabricated and persistently pursued by hostile forces’ as part of their psychological warfare to ‘overthrow the State system of the country.’”[10] NK persistently communicates to the world its priority of state sovereignty over anything else.


[1] BARBARA DEMICK, NOTHING TO ENVY: ORDINARY LIVES IN NORTH KOREA 66 (Spiegel & Grau 2009).

[2] Id. at 67

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] “Juche (or ‘self-reliance’) was formulated to justify Kim Il Sung’s dictatorship and succession of power to his son, Kim Jong Il, emphasizing peculiar aspects of the North Korean environment. … the ideology also serves as a tool that justifies the leader’s demand for the populace’s unquestionable loyalty. … juche ideology is the ultimate paradigm that guides State activities.” Dae-Kyu Yoon, The Constitution of North Korea: Its Changes and Implications, 27 Fordham Int’l L.J. 1289, 1291 (2004).

[6] See Morse H. Tan, A State of Rightlessness: The Egregious Case of North Korea, 80 Miss. L.J. 681 (2010). (stating that NK is a party to the following treaties: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (ICESC), Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), and Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)).

[7] DOS, 2009 Human Rights Report: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135995.htm.

[8] Id.

[9] In Sup Han, The 2004 Revision of Criminal Law in North Korea: A Take-Off?, 5 Santa Clara J. Int’l L. 122, 130-31 (2006).

[10] In Sup Han at 131.

Korean Creation Myth: The Legend of Tangun

Brief Notes on The Legend of Tangun 

Welcome to my blog! I chose the name ‘the bear and the tiger’ because if refers to the creation myth of Korea – one Korea – before the Peninsula was divided into two sovereign states, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Here are some quick notes about Korea’s creation myth to help shape the rest of Korean history and subsequent conflict!

The Legend of Tangun from http://legend-of-tangun.tumblr.com

The Legend of Tangun from http://legend-of-tangun.tumblr.com

  • Female bear + male tiger wanted to become human
  • Went to a cave, could only eat garlic and mugworts
  • Female bear endured and married son of the god and had a boy named Tangun
  • Bear is a symbol of courage, patience, and wisdom
  • Tangun chose Pyongyang as his residence, which is very important to North Korea
  • Tomb of Tangun was “discovered” in NK
  • NK emphasizes the myth because it legitimizes the State as the more representative state of the entire Korean people
  • Each side claims it’s the sole, legitimate government
  • Koryo = North Korea
  • Silla = South Korea
  • Koreans go back in history and try to find any credence to their claim that they are the rightful leader of the whole population
  • NK emphasizes the history of Koryo and South emphasizes Silla
  • Koreans tend to be obsessed with history and hierarchy

More info: http://koreanhistoryproject.org/Ket/TOC1.htm

Note: Any mistakes, omissions, or inaccuracies are my own and are unintended. Opinions are my own.