The Death of Kim Jong-il and the Future of U.S. Relations with the Two Koreas
North Korean state-run television announced Monday that longtime leader Kim Jong-il died Saturday at the age of 69, after reportedly suffering a heart attack while traveling on a train. Under his leadership, North Korea became a nuclear state and was widely known as one of the most repressive societies in the world. Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, Kim Jung-un, is expected to become North Korea’s new leader, but it is unclear if his ascendancy will bring about any real changes, as Kim Jong-il ruled North Korea in concert with a large circle of regime insiders who remain at the helm. We look at how the Korean Peninsula is the most militarized region on earth and what this means in this transition of power. “Given the past history of animosity and confrontation between the two Koreas, our government has taken precautionary measures to stabilize the situation,” says Chung-in Moon, professor of political science at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and former government official who twice met with Kim. Meanwhile, “there’s a kind of reverence for Kim Jong-il by the people, because the North Korean people have a deep sense of needing sovereignty and independence,” notes Christine Ahn, executive director of the Korea Policy Institute. She says North Koreans recall 35 years of Japanese occupation and were proud of “joining the nuclear club” in order to prevent what they perceive as U.S. military occupation and the division of the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s Human Rights Record Assailed as Nation Prepares for Transition of Power
We look at the human rights legacy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and what may lie ahead as his 29-year-old son, Kim Jong-un, prepares to take power. “There are tens of thousands of North Koreans who are in labor camps, often working for around 12 hours a day, if not more,” says T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific. He notes more than one million people have died from starvation, not just due to famine, but also because the military has blocked food distribution to its political opponents. “The other issues are public executions and executions of political opponents and imprisonment of political dissidents. So the list goes on and on.” Amnesty International has called on the Obama administration to ensure future international food aid is not linked to ongoing policy negotiations and wants more international observers allowed into North Korea. We also speak with Christine Ahn, executive director of the Korea Policy Institute.
Police Crack Down on Occupy Wall Street Protesters, Journalists on Movement’s 3-Month Mark
Hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters gathered Saturday in New York City to mark the three-month mark of the now-global movement. More than 50 people were arrested as demonstrators spent the day trying to occupy a new space following their eviction last month from Zuccotti Park. While covering the protest for Democracy Now!, two reporters were harassed by officers with the New York City Police Department. After an officer “jammed his fist into my throat and yelled at me to get back,” Ryan Devereaux says he “was certain I was going to be hurt, or arrested, or both,” even though he was wearing Democracy Now!-issued press credentials. At the same time, another officer reportedly hit videographer Jon Gerberg, credentialed by the NYPD, three times in the kidneys as he filmed the protest. “It goes to show you that it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing the credentials that Democracy Now! has or you’re wearing the credentials that are supposed to protect you, the NYPD seems to think it’s OK to treat you as a second-class citizen,” Devereaux says. This comes after a number of journalists were roughed up by police as they covered the recent eviction of Zuccotti Park. Major news publications, including the Associated Press and the New York Times, have called on NYPD to treat reporters with more respect.
Crippling the Right to Organize: GOP Inaction May Leave National Labor Relations Board Inoperable
The National Labor Relations Board, the government body that oversees labor complaints, is on the verge of being shut down. Under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from last year, the NLRB must have a quorum of at least three of five members in order to operate. But one member’s term expires at month’s end, and Republicans have meanwhile refused to confirm President Obama’s two replacement nominees. Unless a solution is found, the NLRB would be frozen come January. Without the NLRB, workers would lose their legal recourse to defend their right to organize and to protect themselves against anti-union activity by employers. We speak with Stanford Law School Professor William Gould, former chair of the NLRB.