The ICAS Lectures

No. 2003-1014-NSV


Human Rights Issues:
The Case of North Korea


Norbert Vollertsen



ICAS Fall Symposium &
Humanity, Peace and Security
October 14, 2003 12:00 NN - 5:45 PM.
U.S. Senate Dirksen Office Building Room SD 562
Capitol Hill
Washington, D. C.


Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Tel : (610) 277-9989; (610) 277-0149
Fax: (610) 277-3289
Email: icas@icasinc.org
http://www.icasinc.org






Biographic Sketch & Links: Norbert Vollertsen






Human Rights Issues:
The Case of North Korea


Norbert Vollertsen


Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Sorry for the delay and hopefully you enjoyed lunch time. Hopefully this is no coincidence or not intentionally, but during lunch nobody seems to care about human rights in North Korea. We try to raise awareness for North Korea, and when I'm talking about "we," I'm something like a spokesperson for human rights activists worldwide, mainly in South Korean, mainly in United States, in Japan, in Europe, Germany, and I want to share my special viewpoint of this whole issue.

I am a German emergency doctor and lived in North Korea for one-and-a-half years. I took care of ten different hospitals, a several dozen orphanages and several hundreds of kindergartens all over the countryside. I traveled a lot in one-and-a-half years - nearly 70,000 kilometers, mainly by car, but also by airplane, also by train. I saw a lot of the countryside of North Korea. When you're talking about North Korean hospitals you have to think about empty buildings. There is no power, there is no running water, there is no energy, there is nothing. There's no heating system in winter, and in North Korea in wintertime it's awfully cold. There is no medicine, there is no food even to feed the doctors. There's nothing. It's only the concrete. It's a fake. It's a showcase. In winter there are no patients because there's no medical treatment at all. There's no need to go to such a hospital. They are dying at home.

As a medical doctor, it's always quite easy to get closer to the people. There are some mishaps, there are some accidents, there are some difficulties on the roads and in North Korea there are always difficulties on the road, as you will see in one short video. The ordinary North Koreans whom I learned about when I was taking care of them are very nice human beings, like you and me. They are no devils. They do not have any red horns on their heads because they are evil communists. No, they're human beings who are suffering. They're very brave, especially the women in North Korea. They're trying very hard to overcome the hardships. They're trying their best to get some food for their families, to feed their children at home. They are brave people. I like them very much. I was not the enemy of the ordinary North Korean people. And therefore, I liked even to get closer, and there was one huge opportunity to get closer.

Because they do not have any medical supplies, they do not have any artificial whatever treatment - no IVs, nothing - what they are doing there, they are not only donating their own blood, but also their own skin and even bones. So we were so impressed when we saw something never seen before. The whole hospital lined up in Haeju in the southern part of North Korea in order to donate their own skin. All the nurses, all the doctors, all the surgeons, and the first in line was the female director of this hospital. And when she uncovered her skirt, I saw there were 20-25 old scars where she donated her skin again and again and again, so this was not a one-time showcase. This is ordinary there in North Korea. It's happening all the time. And all the young North Korean nurses, they did the same with a very brave attitude. And to be honest, in Germany, my home country, I never saw any director of any hospital donating his own skin to one of his patients. So we were very much impressed, and we wanted to show something. We wanted to show that we are not only humanitarian aid workers, that we are not only donating food, but that we are real friends. That we want to be a member of the family. So we offered also to donate our own skin. And this was accepted. There was a huge propaganda show about this because it was the first time that I learned about North Korean propaganda. They used this - our quite innocent intention to do something, to show friendship - they used this as their sort of propaganda. They made it up in order to create a story that we were donating our skin in favor for Kim Jong Il, as a tribute to worship Kim Jong Il and his socialist system. And there were even some stories, and I was upset in the beginning, but I learned this is North Korean propaganda. They think that all of the food coming from South Korea and United States is a tribute for Kim Jong Il, in order to worship Kim Jong Il. So that was the first time that I was confronted with the North Korean style of propaganda. I was shocked, I was upset, I was fed up. But I got some very nice honor. The Friendship Medal. The North Korean Friendship Medal -- my colleague and I - my colleague who also donated his skin - we got his high honor maybe as the first Westerners ever to get the so-called VIP Friendship Medal passport, which indicates that we are the owners of the Friendship Medal, and a private driving license. And with those both items we were allowed to go free on our own without any driver, without any translator, without any minder, and normally in North Korea, there are always minder; there's always surveillance, there's always somebody who will take care of you. And the translator will get it right - he will look for the right translation, so that there are no secrets - that when you're talking to ordinary people, there are no secret informations transmitted.

So I took the opportunity. I traveled a lot without any minder. I just took it [for] granted. I thought, I'm unstoppable. Nobody can hinder me. Whenever I showed that, it worked out. Whenever there's a military post or policeman, and in North Korea, they are at every corner - there's a policeman - so I showed this Friendship Medal passport and ....... "go through," and I was free to travel. I took a lot of pictures, I took a lot of videos, and I experienced one thing. Because of this Friendship Medal, this VIP passport, I was something like a VIP. I was invited to the fashionable dinner parties there. I was there when Ms. Albright was there. I was there when Kim ...Jong was in town. There were a lot of nice parties, and I learned about the lifestyle of the military elite in Pyongyang, I learned about the lifestyle of the ....... party members in Pyongyang. They are enjoying fashionable restaurants, they are enjoying diplomatic shops like in former Russia and former East Germany, they are enjoying even a casino, a Chinese nightclub, and other nice facilities, but only for the elite in Pyongyang and for the member of the ...... party.

In the countryside, there's some way a different picture. These are children in North Korean children's hospitals. They are starving and dying. They were dying under my hands. Most of the time I was too late. There was no food. There was no heating system, no running water, no soap, no baths, no blankets, nothing. And these are no pictures out of German concentration camps. This is not Auschwitz, Dachau or Treblinka. These are North Korean children's hospitals. This little boy he was dying the next day. And when I saw those pictures, I thought I have to do something. Look into those eyes. How sad! These children - they can't cry anymore. They can't laugh anymore because there is no future. There is no hope. They know there will be no change. They're desperate, and I never saw so emotionally stunted people. They do not react anymore because they are not used to any gift, even when there were toys or some food or some cookies or some sweets, they can't cry and they can't laugh anymore. I was shocked and I gave something like a promise that I have to do something. And to make it even more impressive, maybe we can start a short video here and you will see something about the countryside.

Much more impressive than ..... words are some pictures. These are dirt roads in the North Korean countryside. This is one of our jeeps, and this is a North Korean transport facility, the only one - military trucks, sometimes crowded with 20 or 30 people on the back. We were going to the countryside, north of Pyongyang, the capital city, 20- 25 kilometers to the north. Quite nice landscape, but there are no more trees. There is no more forest. There are no more animals. Everything is killed, just because they do need some food.

This is the country hospital in Sunchon, and what you are looking at in the background is the operation facility. There's actually no more door. You can't enter this building. You have to enter through the window. There is an operation facility which is so out-dated, and you will see the pictures. There's an operation table from 1946, from old Czechoslovakia - blood stains all over. This is the ambulance car. No kidding. The only way to get some patients to the hospital, sometimes crowded with 20, 30, 40 patients, and you can imagine what happens when there is a certain break or block of the road.

Inside are main assistance was technical assistance. Our technician, he took care of the running water, for the heating system. He took care of everything because there is nothing. There's no isolation, there is no equipment at all. I sneaked out here - sorry for the bad pictures - I sneaked out here with a small hidden camera, secret camera, in order to document the facilities and the operation room. You will see the laboratory. This is the so-called sanitation in North Korea. There is nothing. Always - think about this - this was a hospital. This is a showcase. This is something good they wanted to show to the foreigners. There are much more worse things in North Korea.

The operation facility does not have any equipment at all. There is no medicine, there is no bandage material. There is only some donation from French organizations. On the other side, you can see the patients' rooms, and there are no baths, there are no blankets, there are no facilities. This was the laboratory, again without any running water, without any chemistry, without any laboratory check at all - only the concrete. Only the empty building. In the back you see some mountains in North Korea. They are deforested. There are no more trees left because they are all burned up.

This was the operation room without any running water. And then imagine you are operating on such a table. This is from 1946, and covered with all the bloodstains and whatever you can imagine, and you can catch everything in such a hospital - every bacterium you can imagine.

Whatever you are seeing there in the back, all these things are donations from foreign countries, from the United States, from Japan, from South Korea, from European countries. Some is left, most is missing. I was always wondering - where has all the medicine gone to? Where are all the donations? Where is all the food? Where is all the medicine? I discovered that some was sold in some diplomatic shops, in some pharmacies, and again, imagine to get an operation on such a table. It's unbelievably dirty. It's unbelievably cold. It's unbelievable that those people are living there under such conditions.

I wondered what happened to our donations when we made a huge clothing donation, huge donation of German medicine. It was all gone after one week, and I could say so because I was an emergency doctor, and you know, emergency situations would happen without any pre-announcement. So whenever I rushed into a hospital with a bleeding patient on my back, there was no preparation, and then everything was missing. I asked my colleague, "Hey, didn't you donate something the very week before? Well - well, where is it? Where can I find it?" because there was nothing. It was an empty building. So we were shocked and we were wondering about food monitoring in North Korea. The doctors' rooms - there are some doctors scrubs, but nothing else. They do not have any instruments. They do not have any equipment to check blood pressure or any laboratory check, nothing. And they are using old beer bottles - and imagine, they do not have any running water to give an IV. They will call this an IV, and don't think about what's inside such an old beer bottle. This is a doctor's room and the facilities there - they are unspeakably dirty. There is no sanitation, no hygiene at all. The people, they do not have any baths. They are lying on the floor. In winter there are no blankets at all, not enough for all the patients. The children are starving and dying. Look at the walls of this building - it's covered with dirt and mushroom (?), whatever you can imagine - bacteria. Most of those children are not only starving, but they are emotionally stunted. They do not have any reaction at all anymore. As I told you, they cannot cry anymore, and they are not used to any food. They are suffering from any skin disease what you can imagine. They are suffering from any emotional disease you can imagine. There is all over sadness, and that was my main medical diagnosis. Those people are depressed, and they are depressed not because of a natural disaster but because of the political system.

This is going on in North Korea, not because there is a natural disaster, but there is only one natural disaster, and that's Kim Jong Il and his government. And look at those little children. This little boy, he will die soon. He's in a very bad situation, and all these flies and those insects around him - he does not care anymore. He's forgotten by the world and nobody knows about the misery of those North Korean children.

These are ordinary pictures. This is the situation all over North Korea. In every country hospital you will have these images. Our main duty there was to explain how to use the technical facilities. They are not used to anything. They do not know about the power supplies so we donated the generators. We donated everything what was needed in such a hospital. We got this material from China mainly, from Europe, and then we installed all those facilities. We have to start at zero in North Korea because there is nothing, and that was our main duty. And then we started with some medical assistance, and in the end I was able to do some operation, and do some medical work. But first of all we have to build up the whole equipment and the whole building. And again, we always wondered where all the material had gone, where all the medicine, all the food supply, all the clothes are gone.

And here we are in another patient's room. We tried to sneak out sometimes and to make secret videos, video images, because as you can imagine, we were not allowed to do so. So my colleague sometimes took the camera - it was hidden in a way - and we tried to get some documentation. They are no amused about any journalists there, about any photos, about any video documentation, about the real picture in North Korea. So we always tried to sneak out and get some secret images. Whenever there were German journalists or some other international journalists and they asked for some footage, and they asked to get clearance to go to the countryside, this was denied and they were not allowed to get this free access.

Maybe we can speed up now a little bit. I want to show - only show something else, and this was the situation in a children's hospital. We're now going to a children's hospital in P....., also very close to Pyongyang, and what you can see here is - we were talking about one hour to the authorities of (about) the state of the hospital, to get our food donation to those starving children. We were not allowed to do so in the beginning. They will take care of it. They will look for the children. They will donate it to the children. But we were upset. We wanted to give it to them, and we wanted to see that they are getting this food, so we were very eager to get closer to the children, and then we took these pictures. And now look at those children. They are not only looking like children in German concentration camps. They were behaving like those victims. And we were feeling like an Auschwitz or Dachau, and when I looked at all those pictures here in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, I was so moved about those pictures, and I was feeling so terrible and ashamed to be a German. Whenever I am here in Washington, the Holocaust Museum - I think I have to hide myself, my accent, and nobody of those little school children there will discover that I'm a German, because we Germans failed to act. We failed to speak out during Nazi crimes and during all those rumors about concentration camps in Germany, and then I, as a German, was standing in front of those children, confronted with their misery. Then I have to think about my history, about the guilt of my grandfather's and father's generation, that we failed to act. And I gave a promise to those children, that I will do something. That I will speak up - speak out because silence is killing in North Korea, and we have to help those children. Look into those eyes and try not to care. This is the situation all over the countryside, and maybe we can stop this here now because it's ongoing, ongoing, ongoing misery there.

All these children are hostages of the North Korean government, of Kim Jong Il. They are not evildoers. They are definitely not. North Korea, out of my experience, is a huge prison camp. All the people are afraid. All the people are in a desperate situation. My main medical diagnosis was that they were depressed and afraid. Everybody is everybody's watchdog. There is surveillance all over. Our telephones were tapped. We were under minders every day, every minute of the day, and Kim Jong Il, as you can see in those hospitals in the countryside, is using food as a weapon against his own people, against his own opposition. He's starving his opposition. He's starving his own people in order to get rid of the opposition. Whole countrysides and whole provinces will not get any food anymore when there's any rumor about an uprising - then the whole countryside is blocked from any food donations from WFPO or any other relief organization.

I would call this genocide. What else? North Korea - I think North Korea - they are the Killing Fields of the 21st Century and we have to do something. And as I told you, there's only one natural disaster, and that's what the North Koreans told me. That is not my decision. There's only one natural disaster in North Korea and that's Kim Jong Il. They do not like him. They are in no position (?) to Kim Jong Il.

Kim Jong Il is fooling the world. He is blackmailing the whole world. "Feed me or I will kill you with my weapons of mass destruction." And we are responding. We are behaving quite naively in the eyes of the North Koreans. Those children in the hospitals - I wondered - when this is the condition of the children in the hospital - how might it look like in those so-called "reform" institutions, concentration camps? There were so many rumors. And then I got something like an evidence. I got an original copy of the criminal law of North Korea, and there in Article 46 and other Articles, it's written: "A person who encourages others to attempt the overthrow, the disruption or the undermining of the Republic, or to commit other anti- state criminal acts, shall be committed to a reform institution for up to seven years, and there he will reform through labor." I think that means "labor camp."

And in Article 47: "When the person commits an extreme grave offense, he or she shall be given the death penalty." That means execution.

I do not know about those concentration camps. I am not a politician, and as you can imagine, I was never allowed to go to those areas. Unfortunately, I do not have any video about the concentration camps. Unfortunately, I do not have any evidence. Unfortunately, I cannot show you any photo of mass execution, of raped women, of biological experiments, but I got the information about some rumors. And according to German law, I learned that whenever there's a rumor about a mass murder in my neighbor's home, I have to call the police to investigate. Otherwise, I am responsible that I failed to act. So I just want to call the International Police to investigate what's going on in North Korea if all those rumors about concentrations or reform institutions are true.

As a German, I know about many, many failures in German politics, but I also know about German refugees and East German and German Reunification. So finally, after I tried to engage - finally, after I tried to open up North Korea by donating food, by donating medicine, by donating even my own skin, I think that proves a little bit that I'm also a little bit of a "Sunshine politician" - I tried very hard. I tried to call the German Foreign Minister to come to North Korea. I tried to open up a good institute. Finally they succeeded to do so. I tried to engage in cultural affairs and sports affairs. I tried my best to open up. But I learned that they cannot change because there are too many dirty secrets. They cannot really open up. They are afraid about that. And the first question raised by one of my translators was: "Hey, Norbert, do you think that can happen something like in East Germany - peaceful reunification, silent collapse? Or might something happen like in Romania with Cherchesko (?) and are we all executed then?" That's their main concern. They know about what can happen there. They're afraid about this.

So I tried very hard and then I changed my attitude. I'm an emergency doctor. I saw those children. I'm very impatient. As an emergency doctor, you have to be. I'm not a politician. I learned that they are starving, that they are dying. So I cannot wait for reunification in ten years. I have to do something right now. I sometimes even cross the road when there's a red light. I do not wait for the green light. I'm an emergency doctor. So I changed my attitude. Out of a "sunshine politician" which I called myself in the beginning - I became something like a "rainmaker," because I believe in biology; only when there is a balance, only when there is sunshine and rain, that will create a healthy nature.

I believe in the power of information. I learned that there's propaganda, brain- washing, and manipulation, systematic manipulation in North Korea that they try to make all the people worship Kim Jong Il, to believe in Kim Jong Il like a god, and there's one other point. You know, here in Article 46 it was written about anti-state criminal activities. You know what that simply means in North Korea? To read the Bible, to listen to some South Korean Christian radio, to read some newspapers from South Korea. This is a very grave offense in North Korea where you can be executed because of that. And in former times, before the Korean War, Pyongyang was called the "Jerusalem of the Far East" because there were so many Christians. Now there are no more. They are all gone. Most of them are executed, most of them are imprisoned, they are eliminated. That's Kim Jong Il's policy, because he wants to be the only god of the North Koreans, and he knows about the power of Christianity and he's afraid about Christians. But unfortunately, the Christians in South Korea and U.S. and in Europe - they seem not to know about their power. They fail to act, to give assistance to their persecuted Christians in North Korea.

I tried a different approach then. Because I believed in the power of information, I took any opportunity to get journalists around, to pick them up and offer a private ride, and when Ms. Albright was in Pyongyang, I offered my jeep and my nice Friendship Medal in order to carry around those American journalists, and afterwards there were some stories in the Washington Post and some other U.S. newspapers like, "The Pyongyang Mrs. Albright Didn't See," some pictures about the countryside, and I got expelled. My Friendship Medal and everything couldn't help me anymore. I got finally expelled because of my outspoken attitude, because of this grave offense. I found an obviously tortured soldier in the middle of the road - sorry again - I do not have any photo. When I tried to make a photo of his back, where you could see all his cigarette burns where he was whipped and beaten, my camera was confiscated, and the film was destroyed, and my own driver tried to arrest me and tried to attack me. So, sorry, I do not have any evidence again.

When I wrote a statement of Humanitarian Principles, I handed it out to Congressman Tony Hall when he was in Pyongyang. I hoped that he would carry it to the United States and give it to the President, and immediately there would be some assistance and the problem is solved. I'm a very na´ve German doctor. And then I was expelled.

I fulfilled my promise. I just - instead of going home to Germany and doing business like usual, I went to South Korea. I published books about North Korea. I wrote some newspapers articles. I gave interviews about North Korea, and again I thought, "Now the problem is solved. Now the international community will speak out and help those children." I am an idiot!

I learned that I'm an idiot because of this international awareness, this campaign, this journalist - and I believe in the power of information - I was invited by some brave South Korean activist to join, to go to the North Korean-Chinese border and to look for the North Korean refugees who are hiding there. And there I learned that I'm an idiot, that I do not know nothing about North Korea at all. Despite all my access with the North Korean Friendship Medal and driving license - forget about all this - I am an idiot. You can stay 10 or 20 years in North Korea as a Westerner and you will not know nothing about the reality there, because 27% of North Korea are off-limits for any Westerner. For all those U.N., WFP officials, UN DP officials, WHO officials, these 27% of the country are off-limits because this is exactly the location all the concentration camps, of those so-called military restricted areas. We were never allowed to go there. No journalist is allowed to go there, and definitely no activist of Amnesty International or Human Right Watch, or UNHCR (?). This is off-limits. So how can we talk about monitoring? How can we talk about an open country?

I learned about the misery of the North Korean refugees, I learned about mass executions, about rape, about concentration camps, about biological experiments where human beings are used like guinea pigs. I saw those amputation wounds, I saw missing eyes, I saw whatever you can imagine, gruesome stories. I do not know if those people are exaggerating, if these stories are true. I'm not a police officer who can investigate. But I, again, ask the international community to investigate. I ask the international police to do something. I called the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate against Kim Jong Il, and to prove if those stories are true or exaggerated.

As a German, I know about the impact of refugees, I know about German reunification, and then we have the idea of North Korean refugees storming Western embassies in Beijing. Hey - it started with some hundreds of East German refugees in Hungary and in Prague at the Embassy there, and we were inspired to repeat history. We're very na´ve. Very stupid. Maybe you cannot repeat history, but you can try. So again, with journalists in front of media, in front of cameras, we managed to storm those embassies, and raise South Korean and American and Japanese activists who are now operating in China, and those are the real heroes. They were responsible to coordinate those activities and they are doing this under life risks right now. Many of them got arrested. Many are detained in China. They are tortured even, and many North Korean refugees also got detained and repatriated to North Korea and maybe executed. We know that in a way we are responsible for those mishaps, and we know that we are the ones who maybe created much more danger. But I think again, it's an emergency situation. That was the only way to catch the attention of the world, and nowadays world, it's so difficult to create some breaking news about human rights issues in North Korea, so that was definitely the only way to catch the interest of the world. And we will continue this activity. We tried to set up a next Boat People project on a much bigger scale. We tried to send radio balloons in order to inform the North Korean people. They do not know nothing about the outside world. They do not know nothing about you. They all think that you are homeless, drug-addicts, and that you are involved in riot police worker strikes and whatever. They do not know about skyscrapers and so on in New York. And we will try to - as you know, the South Korean Embassy in Beijing is quite over-crowded and even closed its gate for North Korean refugees, so we will try to turn more Western Embassies in China into temporary refugee camps, and we will create a new Boat People project, and we will try to set up a North Korean government in exile very soon here in Washington in order to coordinate those operations.

Now we are a tiny loose group of individuals. We do not have any funds, we do not have any support, but we will try to get it more organized, and we will try to get more ...... Regarding those six-party talks in Beijing, I would recommend seven-party talks. I would recommend to include North Korean refugees. They will know about the situation in North Korea. Always ask those people who know. Maybe they will know better than anybody else, than any scholars, so-called scholars, and Korea experts in Washington, in Europe or South Korea. Ask the refugees. And we - I would also even argue for 100- party talks. The more the better to create a little bit more confusion. I emphasize that there should be a Japanese government who will focus on human rights issues, even when it's only Japanese affairs and Japanese kidnapped people - but there should be a human rights issue. And I would like to encourage China to become the Hungary of the Far East - open your border for the refugees. Create some refugee camps. Maybe with a little helping hand from U.S., a little financial assistance, a little financial assistance from South Korea, from Europe - this could happen. Or ask the Russians to do so.

And we ask the U.S. government to grant asylum for the North Korean refugees. This would create a huge impact, maybe the same flood of refugees like in former East Germany who are still stupid and dreamers. We ask for access for UNHR at the North Korean-Chinese border to those refugees to get the real data - how many there are living, how many died, how many are dying inside North Korea. There is no real data because there is no real monitoring. So how can we talk about two million killed people, three million killed people, two hundred thousand refugees, when nobody can count them?

There is only way to get rid of North Korean's nuclear threat, and that's get rid of North Korean's leader, Kim Jong Il. That's the only possibility, and every one of those North Korean refugees will tell you so. Just ask him.

Our road to peace in the Korean peninsula will be - ask China to open its border, ask Russia to do so, and ask United States to pay for it - or Europe - or Germany or whatever. There will be soon a conscience (?) bill. We are lobbying here for the so- called North Korean Freedom Act. After Sudan, we are quite hopeful that there will be something, and also U.S. assistance, not only with balloon radio sending, but also with assistance, financial assistance for North Korean refugees, and NGOs (?) who are doing this. We're preparing an exile government here in Washington and after the experiments with some other failed attempts, we are now a little bit more sophisticated. We will try to set up a real organization - not a liberation army. Maybe I will call it an army - instead of an army of soldiers, we will try to fight with an army of journalists. We believe in the power of information - that simply maybe by exposure, we can prove that we can overcome, overturn a dictatorship. North Koreans ..... Kim Jong Il - he's the world champion in propaganda. He's so sophisticated to manipulate not only his own people, but the whole world with his media campaign. He is a movie-maker, and he is a world champion in propaganda. He's brain-washing not only the North Koreans, but sometimes I think the South Koreans, the U.S. and the Europeans, too. And we can only defeat him with his own weapons, anti-propaganda. Try to expose. Try to show those pictures. Try to create headlines. Try to create breaking news about human rights issues in North Korea. That's the only way to get the attention of North Korea and the world.

Include human rights issues in those six-party talks in North Korea. Try to get an agreement about nuclear weapons. But talk about human rights issues, and maybe this is the way to get something like a Helsinki Agreement in the '70s with the Soviet Union at that time. Open up the country for journalists, for Amnesty International, not only for weapons inspectors, but also for food inspectors and mainly for journalists who can prove with their cameras if those children are getting the food or the military is.

Stick and carrot. The State Department, refugee camps, hardliners, hawks and doves in the United States - I'm not a politician. I do not know about all this. I'm not so sophisticated. I'm a quite na´ve German doctor. I only know that those children need your help right now. They are starving right now. I'm dreaming about peaceful reunification in South Korea one day without any bloodshed, without any war. There is only one security guarantee for those children in North Korea, when there's no more security for Kim Jong Il, and as a German, I can tell you - there should be never any security guarantee for any dictator on earth. This should be the real message of the international community in the 21st Century.

I'm dreaming about freedom for those children because I gave a promise, as a German, to speak out, to do something, to learn out of history: don't make the same mistake twice. Speak out. Be tough. These children do not care about sticks and carrots, about left wing and right wing, about hawks and doves, about sunshine policy and rainmakers. They need your help right now. They are starving and dying, and it's an emergency situation, and the people in the United States and all over the world can help right now.

Thank you very much.


QUESTION: Claudia Rosett: I wonder if I could ask you to tell us something about ...... about government ........ and as far as you're able to disclose it, tell us a little bit about any conversations you have had in which either an official, government official from China or Russia has talked with you about why ......

VOLLERTSEN: It's a real hardship for me to talk to any officials from China because I'm also expelled from China after all my activities, so no way, and I never tried in Russia because when I tried to go to Vladivostok for another project, I got the message that I'm not welcome in Russia either. So I'm here in Washington again, and -

ROSETT: . . . . can you tell us what government -- ...........

VOLLERTSEN: I am a German citizen and I've been in Germany in those last three years, maybe two or three times, for family affairs, and I've been in Washington maybe 20 times. That's the answer. I think Washington and the U.S. government can do a lot with a little helping hand. I learned that after Powell's visit to China, there was a certain change of attitude in China. We learned that instead of a severe crackdown at the Chinese-North Korean border, there was a little change of attitude that, hmm, by mishap, maybe by a face-saving attitude of China, there were actually more North Korean refugees sneaking out of North Korea. There was not so much protection anymore. And we learned that maybe the Chinese will do something, even considering open up refugee camps, maybe considering even open up the border in a face-saving way, maybe by accident. And you all know about Germany - what happened there in East Germany. Some mishap, maybe some announcement on the radio that the border is open, and "Oh, it was a mistake. Sorry. It was a wrong statement here. I made a mistake." Something like that. We know that there are 150,000 Chinese soldiers now positioned at the North Korean border, and I think soldiers are supposed to fight. They are not policemen. They will not crack down on North Korean refugees. But they are supposed to fight, and there are nobody else than North Korean soldiers whom they can fight. And therefore, I think China takes care for some sudden mishap inside North Korea - a collapse, or a military coup, or some other unforeseen development, and China wants to take care of its interest in North Korea, even when they want to get rid of Kim Jong Il and his stubborn government in order to make more money and to think about business and dollars, what they are actually doing - they will try to secure their military interest in North Korea and therefore, I think there are 150,000 Chinese soldiers who will prepare for a sudden collapse. I'm not a politician. Ask the sophisticated scholars and politicians.

MODERATOR: Do you have a follow-up question, Claudia? If you have - use the microphone.

ROSETT: The thing I'm trying to get at here, and maybe you could tell us just a little more about this is - has officialdom, talking about governments or, say, the United Nations, anyone in an official capacity to help, done in fact anything that has translated into actual help?

VOLLERTSEN: I learned about the Belgian parliament, I learned about the European parliament, the Mr. Lubas (?), who are trying very hard to now to get UNHCR on track - that they will pressure China to get access to the North Korean refugees, that they will open the Chinese border for UNHCR, that there will be real data, that they have access, and even access for journalists, and this is on the way. And I only think when there are such discussions, that shows that there is some improvement, or a certain change of attitude in the Chinese government. But I know about your politics, I know about political affairs a little bit. Nobody will say this on the record. Maybe off the record. Maybe behind in his little secret chamber, but not in front of the television screen, and whenever I announce something, I was the blamed one the very next day who called me all an idiot what I'm talking about because nobody confirmed this. And then they were calling the State Department, and calling whatever - Hopson (?) Institute or other think tanks here in Washington, to confirm any information I was talking about, and nobody confirmed anything. So I'm the only idiot who's talking about this. (END OF SIDE A - SIDE BE CONTINUES) . . . I'm still creating spin and I will continue this because I believe in spinning and I believe that wishful thinking can become true because I learned this in North Korea about their propaganda, and when they are talking about not only two nukes, but maybe 100 nukes, they are the world champions in exaggeration and we have to counter-attack. We will talk about not a trickling escape of refugees, but a real flood of refugees, and we learned that the North Koreans know about this. They are scared, they are under pressure. Kim Jong Il is fighting for survival. Nowadays he's behaving like a leader of a religious cult, much more than any statesman. One comment of my former East German colleague who also quite recently was expelled from North Korea after four years of experience in North Korea - that the nowadays situation inside North Korean is much more than the situation in former East Germany half a year before the collapse. Why? Because there are so many high-ranking North Korean officials looking for business opportunities in the future. They are still thinking about a Blockbuster in Pyongyang, about a MacDonald chain the future. They are thinking about big money. And never before-there were so many North Korean officials with their nice ...... of Kim Jong Il and Kim .... Sung in Dandong, in Shenyang, in Shanghai, and D...... looking for some business opportunities, and that was exactly what happened in former Hungary and East Germany and all over when the people are leaving the sinking ship like the rats, and the rats are running in North Korea too. And they are under pressure and we have to think about this when we look at this news of nuclear threats and exaggerating - "We do not have only two - we have 100, and we can make it, not only with five kilograms of plutonium; no! We can do it with three or maybe two kilograms of plutonium." That's the real Koreans. This is the Korean style of exaggeration. They are like paper tigers but they are very sophisticated to threaten the whole world, to make us scared, and they know about our na´vetÚ. They know how easy it is to threaten those nice Westerners who are so full of human touch, so full of understanding, so friendly, so gentle, so na´ve. And I realize, that was my pain. That was my painful education in North Korea. Whenever I tried to be nice, I was not taken serious at all. They think I'm na´ve. They will not take me serious, and they will treat me like a little na´ve child. They will take advantage of my weakness, and that's my recommendation for any government to deal with North Korea. Unfortunately, the only language the North Koreans will understand is tough language.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Now the floor is open.

QUESTION: (inaudible for transcription)

VOLLERTSEN: Sometimes I'm wondering where I am. Today's article here in the New York Times - "Intelligence Puzzle North Korean Bombs." I wonder what's going on. What's going on with intelligence. As a little boy, I always liked those 007 James Bond stories and I liked about CIA here and KGB - the communist-Russians KGB and all these stories, and I thought these are tough sophisticated intelligent people who know everything. Now it seems that they know nothing. Nothing at all. There is no real data, even about those nuclear facilities, those bombs - two? One hundred? I do not know. But I doubt that they have even one. Why? Because I lived there for one-and-a-half years. I do not want to under-estimate, but I also do not want to exaggerate because I think they are threatening the whole world in this typical blackmailing style, and when I was living there for one-and-a-half years, I realized that there is one mishap after another. There are so many broken cars, so many broken trains, there is no power supply; then there is such a mishap that there is a whole town blacked out, not only for 24 hours like in New York, but for 24 weeks. That can happen in North Korea. The whole wintertime there is no power supply. Then the army - my colleague from East Germany - he's a technician. He always wanted to offer some technical advice, some technical support because there were so many broken tanks on the road, old, out-dated T-72 models, and he was laughing about this because they do not have any spare parts there. They do not have any fuel, they do not have anything to make them run. We never experienced any fighter jets in the air. We never experienced any activities at Wonsan, at the coastline, and so I do not know if they are so sophisticated to hide this all - and this is also a showcase, a fake. I can imagine everything about North Korea - that it's hidden deep down in the mountains and that they one day will attack with all their facilities. I simply do not know. But out of my observation in North Korea, I doubt that they are very sophisticated in this. Maybe they have a dirty bomb or some - I'm not so sophisticated either, but maybe they have some dirty bomb or some small facilities - what they can use for this blackmailing strategy. But I doubt that they can really place a missile on maybe Los Angeles. But who knows? Maybe they can, and that's the danger and that's the message of this and other articles. And I really, again, would call for more intelligence. There must be something to get intelligence, and to get whatever - some Japanese brave journalists to sneak into this country and get the photos of this underground facility, and I learned - this is all about corruption in North Korea for a little helping hand, for a little financial support, you can buy everything in North Korea. So I simply would encourage, for example, the U.S. government and CIA officials to invest a little bit more money in order to get the data.

MODERATOR: Thank you, before we proceed, Counselor Azizov from the Russian Embassy, do you think you can yield some of your time to this discussion ...... Can you yield some of your time?

AZIZOV: Yes, you can have all the time you need.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Counselor. Okay. Next question. Chuck.

CHUCK DOWNS: I'm a private consultant. Thank you, Norbert, for being here. I hope you're here another 20 times in the future. When will your book be available in the United States?

VOLLERTSEN: Thank you for the question. By the way, when I'm talking about North Korea's negotiation strategy, that is not my own whatever - not all my own observation, but also very careful studies of Chuck Downs' book, "Over the Line: North Korea's Negotiation Strategy." That was very helpful for me because it confirmed whatever I experienced myself for one-and-a-half years in North Korea - that was exactly what he was writing in his book. So I always appreciate that. And to answer his question, I do not know because of this ongoing story with North Korea, my editor, Peter Collier (?) in San Francisco, from Encounter Books, he asked me to write an additional chapter about the latest developments, but then he was also concerned and realistic about that. Maybe this is a never-ending story, and there will be never the last chapter of North Korea - then we can continue for the next ten years - Diary of a Mad Place (??) - but hopefully very soon, and as I got the notice at the end of Fall, and I will hurry up, and when I'm not talking and flying around the world, then I'll try to write and to make this last chapter. So Encounter Books, Peter Collier in San Francisco, and it's called "Diary of a Mad Place," and I'm mainly talking about what you saw today on my video and my observations of Korea.

MODERATOR: Thank you - Leonard (?)?

QUESTION: You were speaking earlier about the need to replace Kim Jong Il. And I think - would you comment on one difference that I think exists that makes Korea rather unique - North Korea rather unique. All other countries where governments have been in a significant transition, such as Eastern Europe, there were Diaspora populations in other countries, in the United States in particular, from all over Europe. There are Diaspora from Iraq, from Iran, from Cuba. I'm not aware of any North Korean exiles or refugees who speak from a position of exile to do this. Do you have thoughts that you could make on this issue?

VOLLERTSEN: Okay. Let's count. Here are in this audience - there are some Koreans, and as I know, there are also some people from former North Korea. And very soon to come, there will be even more. You know about this approach to get ..... Yang Yup (?), a very high-ranking defector, to Washington, and some other North Korean defectors, they will go to Washington also soon. There are some people who will speak out about North Korea, who will speak about their experience in North Korea. They will also testify about weapons of mass destruction, about concentration camps, about human rights issues, and as you can imagine, we hope that we can lobby among all those people, and also from North Korean defectors who will also hopefully get asylum in United States in the future that we can lobby among all those people to do something, because I'm a German. It's in a way not my business. It's the Koreans' business. They have to take care of it, and they have to look for their exile government for some opposite and so on, and therefore I would like - and thank you for this question - to encourage the South Korean population, the South Korean community here in the United States, but I also learned that there are many, many people who lived in North Korea before the Korean War here in Washington and Virginia and Los Angeles and San Francisco, and when those people all together will do something, set up something - even something like an exile government or a movement or an organization or some more sophisticated weapon against Kim Jong Il and his government, then I'm quite confident and quite sure that we can achieve something. You are absolutely right - right now, this is missing and this is - some mishap and some unfortunate development in all our attitude and in all our attempts to do something against the nowadays government, and again, I only can encourage the Koreans here to do something, and to get together and not to endure something and wait for something. I'm always sometimes - sometimes when I'm - especially when I'm in Seoul and in South Korea, I'm a little bit shocked or sometimes even disappointed that they will tell me, "Ah, you as a German, you take care, and you are doing what we should have done," and so something like that. But then I counter-attack in a way, "Hey, it's your business. Then do something. Go together - join and form some organization." And I learned that there's also a lot of money. That there are some wealthy South Korean businessmen here in United States. So let's do something. Let's get the intelligence. Let's check how many concentration camps there are in North Korea. How many weapons, how many nukes, how many whatever. Let's do it with a little helping hand from the Korean community in the United States.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We are running ........ Jay? Mark? ...... Quickly. The Counselor has been so gracious -

______: I just returned from Geneva where I was ............ The most recent crisis that we've been engaged in in the international community ...... this lobby ...... The problem wasn't necessarily so much .......... crossing national boundaries, as .... internally displaced. What can you say about that problem in Korea - in North Korea. Is there a large ...... displaced population, and is it true that all of these big international agencies are stymied because they don't have access?

VOLLERTSEN: I think in order to answer the last part first, it's true because there is no access for UNHCR, for any other relief organization. I know there was some data from Buddhist friends (?), I know that there was some data from MSF - Doctors without Borders. But no other organization, and as long as there is no real data, no real access, no real monetary - how can we talk about any refugee crisis when nobody for sure knows how many there are hiding? So that will be the first point. But I also learned, whenever I'm talking now here about the flood of refugees, I also learned about the experience in East Germany. Wasn't there really a flood of refugees? After all, before reunification, when the wall collapsed? No. There was not. And even nowadays when there's so much unemployment in East Germany, when there are so many mishaps, I - I'm a worldwide traveler. I like to go into the world, but I also learned about many, many people in Germany in my home country who are very much homebound, who like to stay at home, even when there's a hardship. I learned about my father's family and grandfather's family. They stayed at home even when the Russians were attacking, because they didn't want to leave their farm. They liked it in their home country. And I learned about many, many North Korean refugees who didn't encourage, or who didn't finalize to encourage their family members to join because they were scared, they were afraid. They were not willing to go - to go to another country, to China, where they cannot understand the language, or to Bangkok or to United States. They are homebound. And I learned about East Germans. My former colleague - he told me - when so many of this relatives, they wanted to go to the west, he didn't because his family - they were not satisfied. They were angry. They were in opposition of the government, but they were quite homebound. So I also doubt not only some nuke questions but I also doubt that there will be a real refugee crisis or a real collapse. And so I think that's also something that systematically - not brain-washing, but some manipulation in order to make the Korean nation as a whole scared about any collapse, scared about any reunification prospect, because "there will be millions of refugees crossing the streets in Seoul, and trying to get access to your nice car." That's bullshit! I don't believe this. They will not do so. I learned that the Koreans are even more homebound and used to not only Korean k....., and their nice cold noodles and ....., but they are homebound. They like it there. They will never cross the border even if there's a nuclear disaster. I do not know, but I learned that they are quite homebound so I doubt that there will be a real refugee crisis, a real collapse, and so much economic hardship for South Korea as always predicted. I think this is also manipulation, propaganda, something in order to make the people scared all over in South Korea about the coming collapse of North Korea, and therefore this is the best prevention to not make it happen, and we have to counter-attack, and therefore we will prove that there will be no crisis.

MODERATOR: Okay. Just one more question. Mark?

QUESTION: .........You've spent some time in North Korea, and in a lot of these strategic crises .... people accept help from someone they trust. The three big players, if you ........ Russia and China and the U.S., who do the people in North Korea either fear the least or trust the most?

VOLLERTSEN: Thank you for this question. I think they don't trust anybody anymore. First of all, they always are talking very critically about Russia. They are the betrayers, and they do not like that, and they do not like Gorbachev and whatever, and they don't like China, even when there was the liberation army and they now think there's a lot of corruption in two systems and one nation, and they do not like this. I learned that many North Koreans, the directors of some hospitals, the North Koreans who are mayors of a town, some members of the elite, they like - they would like to study in United States. Shocking? They like some economic success. They like some - whatever - future perspectives, and they are secretly thinking about the United States. Whenever we learn about this propaganda, hate enemy and imperialist and nukes and all this discussion - that's the official version, but when you ask North Korean kids, having their Nikes sneakers, and their Adidas t-shirts, and their ideas about Madonna and Michael Jackson and even Schwartzenegger, the Terminator - they know about this, and they would like to go. When you ask them, they know where they would like to spend their future. So I think it's a different picture, and in this case, the North Korean official version is "Don't trust anybody because they are all betrayers and North Korea is the only one, the only future, and self-reliance, and all this." You know about all this. So they try to make it on their own and they want to prove that they are the best - that they can do it on their own - they do not need any assistance. Maybe they are now a little bit disappointed about this six-party talks because they have the feeling that they're really cornered, that also China doesn't want to - would much more like to get rid of Kim Jong Il than anything else, and they feel very much betrayed by Russia, and they do not count on the European community, and okay - the official version about the United States - that's what you know. But when I learned about the unofficial version among the people, then I think there will be a lot of appreciation of the North Korean ordinary people to not fight America, but to welcome United States. They know about the opportunities and that's exactly what happened in East Germany. There were so many East Germans who were dreaming about success, about business, about money, about wealth, about not to be hungry anymore, and then they will look for a nice country, and some future perspectives, and a million possibilities, and there's no other country which is so nice in their imagination.

MODERATOR: Now, I must beg you - one question - do it very quickly. _______: .......... (inaudible for transcription) ........ refugee issues.

VOLLERTSEN: Good question. That's something which reminds me - what was it - Almighty - one actor who played God for two weeks, and he was - asked why do the people don't love me? In this case, God. And when you can give me the answer to this question, I would be very grateful for you. I do not know why it's so difficult. I'm na´ve. I thought - have to go out of North Korea, give one press conference, speak about those children, and then it will change. They will help. They will do something. And now I'm standing here after three years doing this - there is even more resistance. There is some resistance on the South Korean government, there is some resistance from my home country - in my home country, Germany, especially, I am called "The crazy doctor, the right wing, CIA, secret CIA agent, Rumsfeld friend, and I'm bashing North Korea," and blah, blah, blah. I know about politically correct Germans. I know about politically correct European parliamentarians. I do not know the answer to this question, but I know that it's all about geo-politics. I know that there is a lot of concern about Japanese missiles, about Taiwan missiles, about China's military approach, about South Korean economic affairs, a lot of concerns, a lot of manipulation. It's geo-politics, and again, I'm not a politician. I'm not so sophisticated to have the answer of this question. But I'm totally upset that there is such a question, and therefore I will continue my fight in order to make it an emergency case.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. ..... As a token of friendship, ICAS has brought for you this small Liberty Bell from Philadelphia.

END OF NORBERT VOLLERTSEN




This page last updated 11/3/2003 jdb



ICAS Home
Page
ICAS Fellow
Roster
Contact
ICAS
ICAS Speakers
& Discussants
Fall 2003
Symposium