#1
The Evidence that Every Accusation against the DPRK in Robert Collins' and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea's “Marked for Life: Songbun – North Korea's Social Classification System” is False*

*or at least unreferenced, unverifiable and of suspect providence


In June 2012 a paper was published that rewrites the history of the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea). Its title is “Marked for Life: Songbun – North Korea's Social Classification System” by Robert Collins, published by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

It has spawned numerous newspaper articles, think-pieces, hot takes, serious geopolitical analysis and the wikipedia entry on songbun, going from story of the day into accepted truth about the DPRK. The paper is the number two result on google.com for “songbun” after the wikipedia article on songbun (checked 25 May 2016), itself based almost entirely on the paper. Google scholar lists the paper as having been cited 31 times.





And yet it is a complete fraud, false from beginning to end. It is no exaggeration to say that Robert Collins' "Marked for Life" is a litany of falsehoods. And what’s more it was produced and is promoted by a small group of people working for United States think-tanks and organisations with numerous links to the U.S. and RoK government.

The original paper is available here: https://www.hrnk.org/uploads/pdfs/HRNK_Songbun_Web.pdf


Acknowledgements
This article is dedicated to Grover Furr the Third, Joseph Stalin, the free peoples of the DPRK, t H E r H i z z o n E and the bottle of Jonny Walker, half ounce of cannabis, handful of opiates & benzos and the immortal science of Marxism-Leninism that were required to fuel its production.


Readers note
This is a work in progress, information may be revised as I gain access to further sources and continue to investigate Songbun. Access to further information, leads, pdfs would be greatly appreciated. This constitutes part 1 & 2, part 3 onwards should follow, covering the majority of the text “Marked for Life” - part 1 & 2 are provided before the completion of the whole document for advanced reading, advice, criticism, help with access to sources, whatever.



What is Songbun, according to “Marked for Life”

Marked for Life – Forward, p.ii posted:

North Korean totalitarianism is maintained through several powerful means of social control, the most elaborate and intrusive of which is the songbun classification system. The songbun system in some ways resembles the apartheid race-based classification system of South Africa. Songbun subdivides the population of the country into 51 categories or ranks of trustworthiness and loyalty to the Kim family and North Korean state



and

Marked for Life – Introduction, p.1 posted:

“Marked For Life” is not an exaggerated term for the socio-political classification conditions under which every North Korean citizen lives out his life; it is a cruel and persistent reality for the millions who must experience it on a daily basis. North Korea’s socio-political classification system, or “songbun,” has an impact on human rights in North Korea that is incalculable and interminable in its highly destructive and repressive effects on the vast multitude of the North Korean population. Focused on origin of birth, this party directed “caste system” is the root cause of discrimination and humanitarian abuses. The grim reality of North Korea is that this system creates a form of slave labor for a third of North Korea’s population of 23 million citizens and loyalty-bound servants out of the remainder.




The burden of proof falls upon the report to establish a number of claims:

1. The Songbun Classification System exists as “a powerful means of social control” and is “elaborate and intrusive”

2. The Songbun Classification System is similar to Apartheid

3. The Songbun system is extensive and precise, subdividing the population of the DPRK into 51 categories (not 50, not 52)

4. Songbun is a system in part specifically designed to rank citizens of the DPRK on their loyalty not just to the DPRK state but to the Kim family

5. The songbun system is a hereditary “caste system”, “focused on origin of birth”


As I will show show, NKHR is a resolutely anti-DPRK organisation, with numerous links to the United States government which "naturally" maintains a firmly anti-DPRK stance, it is therefore inconceivable that the author would omit any “damning” evidence or “smoking guns” from their report on the “Songbun” system as it is their aim to prove the above 5 statements, and demonstrate that the peoples of the DPRK live under a strictly enforced hereditary classification hierarchy. If they cannot present sufficient supporting evidence to back up these claims it is only logical to assume that they did not have access to them, and if they do not have access to them it is logical to assume that this evidence does not exist; until such a time in the future as such evidence may present itself. This analysis is not intended to prove or disprove the existence of the songbun system in the DPRK nor an attempt to justify a songbun system, it is simply presented as an analysis of “Marked for Life: Songbun – North Koreas Social Classification System” in an attempt to show how the accusations in this paper are lies.



PART ONE: What background information is available when considering “Marked for Life: Songbun – North Korea's Social Classification System”

When considering any document it is important to not only consider the contents but also the Author, the Publisher, the Funder and so on to gain a full picture of how and why such a document was produced. I have conducted a brief and certainly non-exaustive investigation into the material circumstances that surround “Marked for Life”, as more information comes to life this section may be expanded.


Who is Robert Collins?




Robert Collins talking at the launch of “Marked for Life” 06 Jun 2012 at an event sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) (above and video below)



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvXyYNyIKb4

“Marked for Life”, About the Author, p.i posted:

Robert Collins, who has lived and worked in South Korea for over three decades, has met with and interviewed North Korean defectors and refugees since the 1970’s. Mr. Collins received his Master’s Degree from a Korean-language program in international politics from Dankook University in Seoul in 1988. He is a 37-year-veteran of the U.S. Department of Defense. His professional focus during that period was political analysis of North Korea and Northeast Asian security issues. After retiring from the Department of Defense, Mr. Collins continued conducting research on the Kim regime’s political structure using Korean-language sources at major Korean libraries and think tanks, as well as through interviews with over 75 North Korean refugees. This report is based on that research. The author dedicates it to those refugees.





Robert Collins, a retired Army master sergeant and now a civilian area expert for the American military in South Korea



http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/10/when-north-korea-falls/305228/


Robert M. Collins is a 37-year veteran employee of the U.S. Department of the Army and served 31 years in various positions with the U.S. military in Korea, including several liaison positions with the Republic of Korea military. Collins is a freelance writer focusing on Korean security issues and US interests in Northeast Asia. He is the author of Marked For Life: Songbun – North Korea’s Social Classification System, published by the Committee on Human Rights in North Korea, Washington, DC.



http://warontherocks.com/author/robert-collins/


An interview with Robert Collins for HRNKinsider.org:

HRNK insider interview with Robert Collins, March 08, 2016 posted:

Q1: What was your motivation to be a leader on North Korean human rights?

Robert Collins: When I decided to retire from the army six years ago, I felt that my knowledge could be useful in writing materials that would contribute to an overall understanding of how North Korea makes its decision and to how they carry out their policies. And so, since retirement, I’ve just continued with what the army taught me to do over those decades at the end of the 20th century and doing it unilaterally. And now I’m doing it in support of HRNK.

(…)

Q6: What do you believe is the most compelling human rights issue elucidated from your interviews with North Korean defectors?

Robert Collins: Well, when you do a number of these interviews, you quickly learn that life in North Korea is very, very difficult and much of it is based in sorrow. And during these interviews, it’s compelling to watch the sorrow come out of their life story about how they got from what kind of lives they led in North Korea, how they escaped, and how they came to South Korea. These are very compelling and a lot of sorrow and unhappiness that is related to malnourishment, starving to death of family members, basic denial of human rights, and not even understanding that some of those human rights are denied. And so, over the years, one can see that these stories become even more and more sorrowful or even more and more compelling and sad. That drives one to believe that situations are just getting worse in North Korea for individuals—for populations in North Korea. The quality of life continues to deteriorate in North Korea for those that live in the provinces, particularly those in the northeast.



http://www.hrnkinsider.org/2016/03/an-hrnk-interview-with-robert-collins.html


Robert Collins and the American Enterprise Institute:





https://www.aei.org/events/kim-jong-uns-pyongyang-republic-inside-north-koreas-totalitarianism/

(it is worth noting the names of the other panellists, they will crop up again)


A few things become immediately obvious:

1) Robert Collins was a long term employee of the United States Department of the Army with a top rank of master sergeant

2) Robert Collins spent 31 years as part of the U.S. Military in South Korea, including working with the RoK military

3) Robert Collins was involved in interviewing defectors from the DPRK

4) Robert Collins now works as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Military as a “specialist” on the DPRK e.g. the Strategic Studies Institute: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/people.cfm?authorID=770

5) Robert Collins has connections to various U.S. neo-liberal think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute promoting U.S. imperialist interests overseas

6) Robert Collins is considered an expert on the DPRK and has written numerous papers on the subject


Who are the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea?

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), formerly the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, is a US based think-tank specializing on Human Rights in North Korea

About HRNK section – HRNK.org posted:

In October of 2001, a distinguished group of foreign policy and human rights specialists launched the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) to promote human rights in North Korea.



http://www.hrnk.org/about/about-hrnk.php


Where is HRNK based?
Offices are located in central Washington D.C in the USA, not in South Korea as you might initially assume. Address is 1001 Conneticut Avenue, in central Washington D.C.- 600m from the White House, in the heart of an area filled with Think-tank and Lobbyist offices





Who is the Executive Director of HRNK?



https://www.hrnk.org/about/staff-interns.php





https://www.linkedin.com/in/greg-scarlatoiu-338211a


Fron his time at KEI:



http://keia.org/staffmember/greg-scarlatoiu



Who is on the HRNK Board of Directors



From “Marked for Life” unpaginated page (page 4 in pdf), 2012. For the latest information on the BoD of HRNK see here: https://www.hrnk.org/about/board-of-directors.php

This should speak for itself with links to USAID, the Brookings Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Centuary Foundation, Peterson Institute for National Economics, the National Endowment for Democracy, the American Enterprise Institute, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, the Lanto Foundation two investment companies and ties to the State Department I will also draw special attention to name which should be familiar: Helen-Louise Hunter


Funding for “Marked for Life”

Marked for Life – acknowledgements, p.i posted:

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea had the support of a major private foundation, which made this extensive research project possible. No funds from any government were used in the preparation of this report. The Committee also benefited from a number of generous private donors, some of whom are members of our Board, and others who are not.



Note that the paper was funded by a secretive “major private foundation”, no further information is provided. It seems immediately odd that a report into “human rights” in the DPRK would not disclose its major funding source. There were also a number of private donors “some of whom are members of our board” - The list of board members is provided above. Again these “private donors” remain anonymous, again strange for a paper such as this not to declare the source of its funding.

Further,

Marked for Life – acknowledgements, p.i posted:

The printing of this report was paid for by private contributions made in memory of a member of our Board of Directors, Jaehoon Ahn, a North Korean defector whose distinguished career included the extraordinary achievement of being the founding director of the Korean service of Radio Free Asia. His personal dedication to revealing the truth about North Korea continues to inspire his colleagues in Washington and many of his fellow defectors in Seoul.




Is there any other information to be gained about about funding for “Marked for LIfe”?

A whois search through https://whois.icann.org turns up the following information:





https://whois.icann.org/en/lookup?name=hrnk.org

The domain regestration Date: 04 Oct 2001, which matches with the “October 2001” date in the “about HRNK” section of HRNK.org

Note the listed mailing address for the domain is not 1001 Connecticut Avenue, but 1025 F Street, the location of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), supported by the listed admin email address: chris@ned.org

this refers to Chris French, current Senior Helpdesk Analyst/VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) Engineer at NED:







https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-french-7728266

We see that on 04 Oct 2001 Chris French was a Network Engineer for NED, exactly the sort of person who might be registering a domain for a new website. But why was Chris French, working for NED, registering the domain for HRNK?


What is the NED?

About section NED.org posted:

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, NED makes more than 1,200 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.
Since its founding in 1983, the Endowment has remained on the leading edge of democratic struggles everywhere, while evolving into a multifaceted institution that is a hub of activity, resources and intellectual exchange for activists, practitioners and scholars of democracy the world over.


http://www.ned.org/about/

It seems that NED is a Foundation that supports various non-governmental organisations. Well, HRNK is one of those, are there any further links?

There is another link to NED, on the HRNK Board of Directors (quoted above) is Carl Gershman, President of NED since its founding.

Further,



Journal of Democracy, Volume 24, Number 2, April 2013 pp. 165-173 | 10.1353/jod.2013.0027 #

http://www.ned.org/docs/GershmanJOD032013.pdf

(as an aside 1):this report focuses on the defector testimony of Shin Dong-hyuk, author of “Escape from Camp 14” who later confessed to making up “parts” of his story. See here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/19/north-korea-defector-change-story-shin-dong-hyuk also see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P82aad8QQW4 for the release “Lie and Truth” by the DPRK on Shin Dong-hyuk in which it is revealed he was in a prison(-“camp”) because he raped a 13 year old girl.

As an aside 2: Carl Gershman “oversaw the creation” of this journal (http://www.ned.org/experts/carl-gershman/) which is published by NED (http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/))


So we see that not only is Carl Gershman, President of NED on the HRNK BoD since its conception, but was a “founder” of HRNK. This is the “above ground” link, the “below ground” link is with Philip French and the domain registry of HRNK.org. It seems logical to extrapolate that the HRNK website was set up by staff at NED.

As a final piece of evidence, Carl Gershman is a recipient of the “Order of Diplomatic Service Merit (Heung-In Medal) of the Republic of Korea” (http://www.ned.org/experts/carl-gershman/) awarded for “For meritorious service to the extension of national prestige overseas and to the promotion of friendship with other nations”



http://www.medals.org.uk/south-korea/south-korea007.htm

He received this medal in 2012 very shortly before the publication of
“Marked for Life”:

Gershman Honored by NKHR Community - Mok Yong Jae 2012-02-16 - DailyNK.com posted:

A reception was held in Seoul this lunchtime to congratulate the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gershman, on receiving the Order of Diplomatic Service ‘Heungin’ Medal from the South Korean government in recognition of his work for North Korean human rights.

“The people from North Korean human rights groups in this room today are my friends and they are friends of the North Korean people,” Gershman, whose long fight for democracy worldwide has not dimmed his enthusiasm, commented in his speech.

Yoo See Hee, the head of NKnet, commented of the NED head, “At the end of the 1990s, a time when nobody had an interest in it, President Gershman actively worked for North Korean democratization and human rights improvement. When the international community and even the Korean government were turning away, President Gershman never scrimped in his support for North Korean human rights groups.”

Park Sun Young, a Liberty Forward Party lawmaker agreed, adding, “The NED’s activities made international human rights groups and governments and legislatures in each country take an interest in North Korean human rights. For this service, I bow my head in respect to the recipient of the Heungin Medal, President Gershman.”

The reception was organized by 12 North Korean human rights groups that receive funding from the NED, including Daily NK.



http://www.dailynk.com/english/read_print.php?cataId=nk00100&num=8830

Here we see refence to “12 North Korean human rights groups” that received funding from the NED. While no direct evidence has been found showing a funding link, it appears inconceivable that the organisation which Carl Gershman was a “founder” and current BoD member – NKHR – has not received some funding from NED and I haveshown that staff at NED were directly involved in setting up the HRNK website.

See here for a list of “above ground” funding for anti-DPRK organisations from NED:

http://www.ned.org/region/asia/north-korea-2015/


This is all very well, but is it relevant?


Who else have NED funded?

Well for starters, Ukrainian fascists:

When the revolution came to Ukraine, neo-fascists played a front-center role in overthrowing the country’s president. But the real political power rests with Ukraine’s pro-western neoliberals. Political figures like Oleh Rybachuk, long a favorite of the State Department, DC neocons, EU, and NATO—and the right-hand man to Orange Revolution leader Viktor Yushchenko.
Last December, the Financial Times wrote that Rybachuk’s “New Citizen” NGO campaign “played a big role in getting the protest up and running.”

(…)

According to the Kyiv Post, Pierrie Omidyar's Omidyar Network (part of the Omidyar Group which owns First Look Media and the Intercept) provided 36% of “Center UA”’s $500,000 budget in 2012— nearly $200,000. USAID provided 54% of “Center UA”’s budget for 2012. Other funders included the US government-backed National Endowment for Democracy.



https://pando.com/2014/02/28/pierre-omidyar-co-funded-ukraine-revolution-groups-with-us-government-documents-show/


And,


who funds NED?

Put simply, the U.S. Congress:

From its beginning, NED has remained steadfastly bipartisan. Created jointly by Republicans and Democrats, NED is governed by a board balanced between both parties and enjoys Congressional support across the political spectrum. NED operates with a high degree of transparency and accountability reflecting our founders’ belief that democracy promotion overseas should be conducted openly.



http://www.ned.org/about/



http://www.ned.org/about/faqs/

“an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress through the Department of State”


While there is no evidence that NED provided the funding for the paper “Marked for Life”, they are certainly a “Foundation” with both above and below ground links to HRNK. Further research may elucidate additional links wetween United States government money, HRNK and the report “Marked for Life”


Onwards,


Key figures mentioned in the “Marked for Life” Acknowledgements

The acknowledgements section of “Marked for Life” provide a cornicopia of evidence or the key figures surrounding HRNK and the publication of “Marked for Life”


Stephen Solarz



Democrat New York Congressman Stephen J. Solarz, d.1993, former Co-chair of HRNK


Marked For Life – acknowledgements, p.ii posted:

The Committee is particularly grateful for the contribution of the late Congressman Stephen J. Solarz, its former Co-Chair. He understood that, in order to comprehend the nature of North Korea’s deeply entrenched pattern of human rights violations, one had to grasp the true nature of songbun. Few politicians knew the term songbun, but Stephen Solarz did.



Here we see another link to the U.S. Government in the form of a Congressman to whom the HRNK is “particularly grateful”




From the “In Memoriam” section of HRNK.org: http://www.hrnk.org/about/in-memoriam.php


He also provided the forward for Helen-Louise Hunter's Kim Il-song’s North Korea, 1999, two years before the establishment of HRNK. We've already seen the name “Helen-Louise Hunter” and “Kim Il-song’s North Korea” is a key songbun source which will be extensively discussed later.


Other figures with key roles in HRNK and the Songbun report:

Marked for Life – Acnowledgements p.ii posted:

The contributions of time and effort of Members of the Board of Directors are not usually mentioned in our reports, but Co-Chair Roberta Cohen and Helen-Louise Hunter deserve special mention here, because their close reading and study of the text helped make it the important exposé it is. Appreciation also goes to former Co-Chair and founding Board member Richard V. Allen, who strongly promoted the songbun report and gave priority attention to reviewing it. The report was completed under the management of Chuck Downs, former executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, whose contributions were essential to the success of this endeavour.




Roberta Cohen



non-resident senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She is a specialist in human rights, humanitarian, and refugee issues, and a leading expert on the subject of internally displaced persons and on human rights conditions in North Korea.



http://www.brookings.edu/experts/cohenr?view=bio includes full biography

The Brookings institute is a lobbying group with an extensive number of government clients, including, interestingly, large payments from the RoK:



from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/07/us/07thinktank-docs1.html and associated New York Times Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/us/politics/foreign-powers-buy-influence-at-think-tanks.html?_r=0


Chuck Downs



Author of “Over the Line: North Korea's Negotiating Strategy”, 1998, AEI Press (i.e. American Enterprise Institute press)







24 year 11 month employee of the United States government, including 18 years working for the Department of Defence in senior roles. During this time two years were jointly spent working for AEI, during which time he published his book on the DPRK while also being Dep Dir East Asia and Pacific Region, OSD/ISA.


Richard Vincent Allen



The amount of dirty connections of R. Allen are staggering. Brief research indicates that:

White House National Security Advisor 1981-82 (Reagan), fired for accepting bribes

Richard Nixon's foreign policy coordinator

Founder and Chairman of the heritage Foundations Asian Studies Center (ASC)

Links to Oliver North and Iran-CONTRA

Senior fellow at the Hoover Institute

A full article could be written about Allen and I would like to expand and properly reference this section, but the most pertinent aspect is his apparent role as a pro-South Korean lobbyist and the money he and the ASC has received from South Korean interests. More research would be needed to uncover more than speculative evidence, but: *research fatigue*


Who is Helen-Louise Hunter? What is in “Kim Il-song's North Korea”, 1999?



Helen-Louise Hunter On February 9, 2016, HRNK launched its newest report, Pyongyang Republic: North Korea's Capital of Human Rights Denial, written by Robert Collins https://www.hrnk.org/events/image-gallery-photos.php?album=63

Institute for Corean-American Studies Biography posted:

Helen-Louise Simpson Hunter, ICAS Fellow, received A.B. from Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, an M.A. from Yale University in International Relations, and a J.D. from Georgetown Law Center. She worked for over 20 years in the C.I.A. as an economist and political analyst specializing in the world Communist movement and then later in the Far East. Her book Kim Il-song's North Korea is based on research and writing that she did then. From 1979-81 Helen served as the Assistant National Intelligence Officer for the Far East while Professor Nathaniel Thayer was the National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for the Far East.

After her mid-career switch to the law, she served as law clerk to two federal judges on the U.S. District Court for Maryland: the Honorable Paul V. Niemeyer, who is now a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals (Second Circuit) and the Honorable Peter J. Messitte, U.S.District Judge for Maryland. Before re-joining Judge Messitte as his permanent law clerk, Helen worked for five years as an associate in the Washington office of the international law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue- doing antitrust law in the health care field.

Helen-Louise Hunter is presently retired from the U.S. Government, concentrating on the publication of several other books. Praeger is about to publish her book on the Indonesian Coup of l965, also written while she was at C.I.A. She is doing a little law work and is active in various organizations dealing with Korean issues.



http://www.icasinc.org/bios/hunter_h.html


ICAS Mission statement:

ICAS Mission Statement posted:

Institute for Corean-American Studies (aka ICAS) was established in 1973. It is a non-profit, non-partisan, and private educational and research organization incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. ICAS is not an agent of any government and/or a foreign principal, and solely supported by voluntary contributions. Its activities and programs rely on the private donations of the general public, i.e., individuals, foundations, and corporations. Its purpose is to engage in wide range of issues and affairs of importance. ICAS promotes pertinent relations and conducts appropriate activities to enhance cooperation and to pursue peace and prosperity in association with people of mutual interests, with a special emphasis on multilateral relations between the United States and Asia-Pacific rim nations. Its membership includes individuals from varied sectors embracing academic, corporate, cultural, educational, international and other related fields. Presently, ICAS maintains a roster of one-hundred thirty-nine Fellows from around the world and cherishes a circle of friends of the Institute. All ICAS staff, officers and directors are non-paid volunteers. ICAS strives to provide public services pro bono publico.



http://www.icasinc.org/mission.html


ICAS fellows listed here: http://www.icasinc.org/roster.html

A quick scan will reveal that Helen-Louise Carter is rubbing shoulders with fellows from the Cato Institute, Marine Corp, US state department, the IMF, Center for a New American Security etc


Kim Il-song's North Korea – Helen-Louise Hunter, 1999



Kim Il Song's North Korea – Helen Louise Hunter, 1999, Praeger Publishers

Google Books extracts available here: https://books.google.nl/books?id=lrz5OJvCkmIC&pg=PR3&hl=nl&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false


from the blurb:

Donald P. Gregg, Ambassador to Korea 1989-1993 posted:

For many years I have referred to North Korea as America's longest-running intelligence failure. This was because I did not know about Helen-Louise Hunter's seminal study, Kim Il-song's North Korea. With its declassification and publication, a quantum leap forward has been made in raising our national knowledgeability of the Pyongyang regime. This book will be of great assistance to all those who will be working carefully to bring North Korea out of its dangerous isolation and into more normal relationships with the outside world. This is a work that the CIA can truly be proud of.



Ezra F. Vogel, Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences posted:

North Korea remains the world's most closed Stalinist society. We know very little about life in North Korea. It has only been possible to gain in-depth, detailed study of life in North Korea by working with defectors, and few people have had access to such defectors. Helen-Louise Hunter, then working for U.S. intelligence, conducted a very detailed, nuanced analysis of life in North Korea through defector interviewing. Happily her manuscript has now been declassified and is available to the public.




Content of Kim Il-song's North Korea, 1999

I am unable to verify any of the outlandish statements written in this book because (of what I have read – I need a copy of this book to fully investigate) it is completely unreferenced, claiming to be “secret declassified material” from the C.I.A. archives, consisting of information apparently gleaned from defector interviews. The parts I have been able to access read more like a rpg lore book about the North Korea faction than any sort of serious scholarship. It is “apparently” based entirety on information given by defectors that Hunter was privy to.

Much has been written about the inaccuracy of defector testimony in reference to other socialist states, notably the USSR. As a relevant example I will refer to this mainstream news article 13/10/2015 from the Guardian, a well respected Western Liberal news source, reproduced from NK news, an anti-DPRK news source, explaining exactly why DPRK defector testimony is suspect (note reference to Shin Dong-hyuk, accused rapist of “Camp 14” fame).

The Guardian 13/10/2015 - Why do North Korean defector testimonies so often fall apart? - Jiyoung Song for NK News posted:

In January, the DPRK government released a video claiming to show Shin’s father denouncing his son’s stories as fake. When questioned, Shin confessed that parts of his account were also inaccurate, including sections on his time in Camp 14, the infamous labour camp for political prisoners, and the age at which he was tortured.

Shin is not alone. Another North Korean, Lee Soon-ok, offered testimony to the US House of Representatives in 2004, describing torture and the killing of Christians in hot iron liquid in a North Korean political prison.

But Lee’s testimony was challenged by Chang In-suk, then head of the North Korean Defectors’ Association in Seoul, who claimed to know first hand that Lee had never been a political prisoner. Many former DPRK citizens on the website NKnet agreed Lee’s accounts were unlikely to be true.
Similarly, Kwon Hyuk told the US Congress that he was an intelligence officer at the DPRK embassy in Beijing and had witnessed human experiments in political prisons – a critical factor in the US decision to pass the North Korea Human Rights Act in 2004.

Kwon’s account, retold in a BBC documentary back in 2004, was later questioned by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, which argued that he never had access to such information. Many years later, Kwon has since disappeared from the public eye.

(…)

Cash payments in return for interviews with North Korean refugees have been standard practice in the field for years.

Initially, the payment was to cover the cost of meals and local transport, which was approximately $30 in the late 1990s when I first began interviewing in China and South Korea. However, the fees had risen to $200 per hour by the time I attempted to interview people from North Korea in May 2014.

A government official from the South Korean ministry of unification told me the range of fees could vary wildly, from $50-500 per hour, depending on the quality of information.
But this practice raises a difficulty: how does the payment change the relation between a researcher and an interviewee, and what effect will it have on the story itself?

This practice also drives the demand for “saleable stories”: the more exclusive, shocking or emotional, the higher the fee.

(…)

But many refugees say they feel pressured for defector stories. Ahn Myung-chol, a former prison guard at Camp 22, said people liked shocking stories and these so-called “defector-activists” were merely responding to this desire. Chong Kwang-il, a former prisoner at Camp 15, said the fame brought by media exposure trapped them, forcing them to reproduce a certain narrative.



http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/13/why-do-north-korean-defector-testimonies-so-often-fall-apart


A few samples from the text:-

Statistics on Songbun “classes” are cited with no basis:

Although different sources might use slightly different percentages, it would seem that North Korea's population can be broken down into three main groups, roughly equal in size. The preferred class, consisting of some 30% of the population, is given every advantage; with hard work, individuals of this group can easily rise to the top. The middle 40 percent of the population – the ordinary people – hope for a lucky break, such as a good assignment in the military that will bring them to the attention of party cadres and get them a better job. There is no hope, however, of a college education of a professional career. The bottom 30 percent of the population – the “undesirables” - are treated like a pariah class; all doors to advancement, the army, and higher schools of education are closed to them. They can expect little except assignment to a collective farm or factory.



1. based on un-cited, unverifiable defector testimony (at best)

2. Spurious use of statistics. Unless the author had access to the testimony of defecting population statisticians it seems unlikely that any “average” defector would have a remotely accurate knowledge of the statistical breakdown of such detailed population statistics.

Subsequently the author concedes that Korea under capitalist exploitation “might” have broken down into “roughly” the same groups, the author “brushes this away” this off by saying:

it must be remembered that the elite of today are yesterday's poor working class and their descendent, while those discriminated against are the former privileged class and their descendants- the educated, sophisticated elite or pre-communist days. The implications, in terms of the educational level and experience of the top leadership, are overwhelming.



This is indicative of the content of Hunter's book, a blanket statement of the inability of the working class to educate itself to the “sophisticated level” of the rich speak for itself. (further investigation of this book is ongoing, updates to this section may appear)



PART TWO: Marked for Life” Chapter I – Introduction, with specific attention paid to source analysis where possible

Introduction

Page 1 of the introduction begins with a list of “every-day trueisms” about the Songbun:

Marked For Life – Introduction p.1 posted:

“Marked For Life” is not an exaggerated term for the socio-political classification conditions under which every North Korean citizen lives out his life; it is a cruel and persistent reality for the millions who must experience it on a daily basis. North Korea’s socio-political classification system, or “songbun,” has an impact on human rights in North Korea that is incalculable and interminable in its highly destructive and repressive effects on the vast multitude of the North Korean population. Focused on origin of birth, this party directed “caste system” is the root cause of discrimination and humanitarian abuses. The grim reality of North Korea is that this system creates a form of slave labor for a third of North Korea’s population of 23 million citizens and loyalty-bound servants out of the remainder.



This is the paradigm which this entire report is based on, however no evidence is provided to back up such extreme claims as Songbun having an impact that is “incalculable and interminable” or that it exerts “highly destructive and repressive effects on the vast multitude of the population of the DPRK.


Further,


Marked For Life – Introduction p.1 posted:

As former Congressman Stephen J. Solarz observed in his foreword to Helen-Louise Hunter’s book, Kim-Il-song’s North Korea, North Korean society exists “somewhere between subservience and slavery.”2 Ms. Hunter’s book was one of the first English language books to identify the rigid stratifications in North Korean society and provide an English language catalogue of human rights abuses based on the songbun socio-political classification system. This report is designed to build upon that ground-breaking work.

2. Stephen J. Solarz, Foreword, in Helen-Louise Hunter, Kim Il-song’s North Korea(Connecticut: Praeger, 1999), p. ix



Here we see 1. Reference to Stephen J. Solarz and 2. the beginning of what is a heavy reliance on the work of Helen-Louise Hunter, CIA agent and HRNK director who's “close reading and study of the text helped make it the important exposé it is”

The introduction continues by contrasting un-cited, baseless and unproven accusations about the DPRK against “The Universal Deceleration of Human Rights”, “The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and “The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights” - naturally unfavourably, including an obligatory reference to how this is “reminiscent of Stalin’s efforts”

Onwards,

Marked For Life – Introduction p.3 posted:

Though the North Korean regime denies that such a discriminatory societal stratification system exists, the evidence proves otherwise. The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea has obtained a copy of the 1993 Manual issued by North Korea’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) that instructs its investigators and officials on how to investigate their fellow citizens’ songbun. Entitled, “Resident Registration Project Reference Manual,” it consists of instructions on whom to enfranchise and whom to disenfranchise. Each section begins with the personal instructions of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on the importance of differentiating people on the basis of loyalty. This Manual, never before translated into and described in English, is discussed at length in Part IV, and demonstrates clearly how deeply entrenched the institution of songbun is.



Now we begin to find mention of some actual evidence to support the claims in this report. This “Manual” is claimed by “Marked for Life” to be the “smoking gun” that proves the existence and specific repressive nature of Songbun, many claims hinge entirely on the contents of this “Manual”

Momentarily jumping ahead to Chapter IV we see that this document is:

Marked for Life – Chapter IV, Footnote 68, p.28 posted:

Kim Sang-son and Ri Song-hi (edited by Ri Pang-sun), “Resident Registration Project Reference Manual,” Social Safety Department Publishing House, 1993. Social Safety Department (Sahoe Anjeonbu) is the former designation of North Korea’s Ministry of Public Safety



It seems strange that if an organisation as dedicatedly anti-DPRK and anti-communism should come into possession of a “smoking gun” regarding Songbun such as they claim this “Manual” is that they would not publish the text in full, both in Korean and with a translation into English for people to see for themselves the damning evidence that once and for all proves that the DPRK operates an extremely oppressive hereditary class system which has “highly destructive and repressive effects on the vast multitude of the North Korean population”. As stated at the beginning of this investigation, it is inconceivable that an anti-DPRK, anti-communist paper such as “Marked for Life” would omit existing evidence that backed up their claims, so it is certainly suspicious that this “Manual” apparently remains unpublished by any anti-DPRK organisation. This casts doubt on 1) the existence of such a document, if it exists then 2) if the “manual” is legitimate and genuine, if it exists and is genuine 3) the way in which selected quotes are taken and interpreted devoid of the wider context of the document as a whole.

A search of the HRNK website (hrnk.org) does not turn up the text of this “Manual”, searching on the internet has also turned up no text to this Manual, and little to it beyond “Marked for Life” and articles and discussion about “Marked for Life”

In fact one has to go to the Korean Institute for Human Rights (KINU) White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2015, p163-164, footnote 205 to find further reference to this “Manual”

White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea 2015 – KINU posted:

footnote 205) It has been previously known that North Korea had three classes: the core class, the wavering class, and the hostile class. The Reference Book for Citizen Registration Projects (Strictly Confidential), published in 1993 by the Press of the Ministry of Social Security (currently called the Ministry of People’s Security) shows that it uses the three classes of the basic masses, the complex masses, and remnants of the hostile class, which are then subdivided into 56 categories. Twenty-five songbuns are also used for classification purposes (Kim Sang-son & Ri, Sang-hui, The Reference Book for Citizen Registration Projects (Strictly Confidential)(Pyongyang: Ministry of Social Security Press, 1993). This book became the basis of Hyun In-ae’s thesis, “A Study on North Korea’s Citizen Registration System” (master’s thesis, Department of North Korean Studies, Ewha Women’s University, 2008), which this White Paperhas referred to in discussing issues regarding songbun and class, as we have been unable to have direct access to Kim & Ri’s book



http://www.kinu.or.kr/eng/pub/pub_04_01.jsp?page=1&num=42&mode=view&field=&text=&order=&dir=&bid=DATA04&ses=

First note there are numerous inconsistencies between “Marked for Life” and the KINU report

The KINU report claims “56 categories” while “Marked for life” claims “51 categories” (Marked for Life – Forward, p.ii). Which is it? Perhaps Chapter IV will give more clarification?

Can anything be made of the department issuing this “Manual” being “North Korea’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS)” in the text of “Marked for Life” while being the “Social Safety Department (Sahoe Anjeonbu)”, the former designation of North Korea’s “Ministry of Public Safety”?. In the KINU report this department is the “Ministry of Social Security”, currently called the “Ministry of People’s Security”? Perhaps these are translation variances?

Now compare what is said about the contents of the “manual” in the two references: the KINU report describes the “basic masses” the “complex masses” and the “remnants of the hostile classes” which are then “subdivided into 56 categories”

This magically translates to the “core class” the “wavering class” and the “hostile class” with no reference of the “remnants”, implying what remains of the hostile class. First masses does not in any way imply a defined class, secondly basic and complex do not correspond to core and wavering, the translation seems outlandish – especially, how would complex become wavering?


Onwards,


“Marked for Life” gives the title of this document as “Resident Registration Project Reference Manual” while the KINU report gives it as “The Reference Book for Citizen Registration Projects (Strictly Confidential)” . Note the tone differences in translation. The KINU report describes this as a “Reference Book” for “Citizen Registration Projects

Speculation requiring confirmation from someone with knowledge of the Korean language: while translations are always subject to various choice of words by the translator it seems odd that the word “projects”, plural in the KINU report is the word “project”, singular, in “Marked for Life” implying that there is a single “Resident Registration Project” - the songbun “system”, rather than numerous “Citizen Registration Projects”. I speculate without confirmation that as distinguishing between singular and plural is fundamental to most languages that Korean uses signifier to distinguish between the two, so it is impossible to translate a work in the plural to one on the singular by mistake. This implies one of these two translations is incorrect.

It could be said that a single, overarching “Residence Registration Project” has a more ominous tone to it than multiple “Citizen Registration Projects”.

Also, looking at the exact words used in the name of this document, what is so ominous about either a “Resident Registration Project” or “Citizen Registration Projects”? One could find numerous “manuals” in English for UK or USA registration projects: passports, voter registration, ID cards, drivers licences, land registries, income tax returns. Could one say of the UK income tax system “a ranking of all citizens of the UK according to their ownership of wealth”? And would the UK government not produce a “reference manual” or “guidelines” for administering such a dictatorial citizen ranking system?


Anyway,


It appears the KINU White Paper songbun information is dependant on the master's thesis of Hyun In-ae, a North Korea defector, for knowledge of the “Manual” - again it all comes back to defectors. This so called “manual” is a ghost, where is it? Who has it? Why couldn't even KINU, the RoK funded Korean Institute of National Unification not obtain access to this “smoking gun”?

While there is no prejudice against the work in a master's thesis, it seems odd that this is the key (secondary) source that KINU use. I am left wondering did Robert Collins ever see the “Manual”? or was it taken at face value what it contained, either through secondary sources such as the “Master's Thesis” or third hand through KINU reports?

Text quoted from this document will be examined in detail in the investigation of Chapter IV


Continuing,


Marked For Life – Introduction, p.3 posted:

The regime itself produced a movie entitled “Guarantee” that explains the songbun system. Produced in 1987, the movie portrays the suffering a poor worker faces because of his poor songbun classification due to having family members living in South Korea. 6

6. 1996 White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea(Seoul: Korea Institute of National Unification, 1996).



The referenced is the 1996 White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea (Seoul: Korea Institute of National Unification, 1996), available here: http://www.kinu.or.kr/eng/pub/pub_04_01.jsp?page=2&num=2&mode=view&field=&text=&order=&dir=&bid=DATA04&ses=

It immediately seems strange that a report into Songbun written in 2012 is quoting a KINU paper from 1996 (the first such paper produced by KINU) when they are produced annually with the latest being 2015. This immediately bears investigation.

Here is the quote, on page 78:

White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea, 1996, p.78 posted:

The film “Guarantee” produced in North Korea and screened there in 1987, clearly shows that this policy had been in force. The movie was produced with a view to publicizing Kim Jong-il's order to ease the classification system, and accents the need to rectify the discriminatory classification policy. The film vividly describes a worker suffering great social and psychological pain as he undergoes various disadvantages because his family is in the South.



Compare the selective quote in “Marked for Life” with the extended quote in “White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea, 1996”, bolding is mine.

If we take at face value the legitimacy of this defector testimony this quote actually shows that at some point prior to the screening of this movie in 1987 there had been an order to ease the classification system and “the need to rectify discriminatory classification policy”. This was the context for the suffering endured by the worker who had family in south Korea.

This key sentence was dishonestly omitted from “Marked for Life” where the film is put forward as a “regime” endorsed explanation of why this worker should have suffered due to relatives in south Korea.

No access to this film is available so (assumed) defector testimony is the only reference to this film. It is unknown how many defectors mentioned this film (as few as 1?) or the truthfulness of their testimony.

This anecdote also appears unreferenced in the reports for 1997 (p56), 1998 (p37) and 1999 (p47)
Finally in the 2000 report we find the same quote with the following reference (“Guarantee” quote on p.48, reference on p.49):

White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea(Seoul: Korea Institute of National Unification), 2000, p.49 posted:

46) Testimony during an interview at KINU on March 18, 1999



This confirms that this is based on a single interview, almost certainly with a single defector. No name is listed for the defector being interviewed. It is possible that this I related to the previous reference as the year (1999) is the same:

White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea(Seoul: Korea Institute of National Unification), 1996, p.48 posted:

45) Testimony of the defectors, Kim Myung-sub and Kim Yeong-im, during interview at the KINU. Also see National Intelligence Agency, Recent Situations of North Korea, vol. 180, 1999 pp. 42-43.



and it is possible that consulting National Intelligence Agency, Recent Situations of North Korea, vol. 180, 1999 would produce more primary evidence (the date – 1999 - certainly lines up). This is not available online and I can find no reference to an extensive (180+ volume) collection of documents entitled “Recent Situations in North Korea”. Please note a lack of Korean language knowledge is certainly a limiting factor.

HOWEVER, Note the date of the reference given for the “Guarantee” testimony: March 18, 1999. Why is this defector interview reference given for the “Guarantee” testimony, word for word the same as in the 1996, 1997 and 1998 White Papers, dated three years after this testimony first appeared in the 1996 report?

This quote or any mention of the film “Guarantee” is gone from the 2001 and 2002 reports, I ceased checking after that point except to confirm there is also no mention in 2015.

The full archive of White Papers on Human Rights in North Korea 1996-2015 are available here: http://www.kinu.or.kr/eng/pub/pub_04_01.jsp?page=1&field=&text=&order=&dir=&mode=list&bid=DATA04&ses=&category=

Here we have a perfect storm of idiocy:

1. “Marked for Life” omitted key lines from the full “Guarantee” story as first appeared in the 1996 White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea, KINU, changing the entire “tone” of the quote to be more and completely anti-DPRK

2. The original testimony when it first appeared in 1996 was uncited, again in 1997, 1998 and 1999, with no reference even to being defector testimony

3. The original testimony, if genuine, was defector testimony, a notoriously unreliable source of information

4. The reference for the testimony in the 2000 white paper is in a South Korean Intelligence Service (the National Intelligence Agency) publication, not generally available for verification and expected to be in Korean

5. the reference for the testimony in the 2000 white paper implies the testimony was give in an interview with KINU on March 18, 1999, three years after the testimony first appeared!


Anyways, onwards,


Marked for Life – Introduction, p.4 posted:

For their part, North Korean citizens are generally aware that they are classified into different social classes. When 100 refugees were asked by the Republic of Korea’s Korean Bar Association whether they were aware of the regime’s classification system, 89 of them responded yes. Not only that, but they were aware of which backgrounds make up the hostile class and were also aware that those are seen as enemies of the state.7

7. 2008 White Paper (KBA), 496-497



I believe this refers to White Paper on Human Rights in North Korea (Seoul: Korea Bar Association, 2008) Scant references to this exist online in English, I have been able to find the 2010 report (in Korean) with an executive summary in English at the end:

https://www.koreanbar.or.kr/pages/common/fileDown.asp?types=1&seq=5163


It is immediately noted that there is a link between the KBA and Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR), not to be confused with HRNK (p702):



and p716:



NKHR is in receipt of funding from NED:



http://www.ned.org/region/asia/north-korea-2015/


And again, similar to the “Guarantee” defectors testimony, it seems odd that despite the 2010 report having been published two years before “Marked for Life” the 2008 report was instead used.

Unfortunately there is no way to verify the circumstances and legitimacy of this survey of 100 defectors from the DPRK, the exact question asked, the accuracy of translation and as we have seen with the “guarantee” story, the potential “twisting” by the author of “Marked for Life”, without access to the 2008 paper and without Korean language knowledge or translation.


Continuing,


Marked for Life – Introduction, p.4 posted:

Dark humor and slang even have developed around the songbun classification system. It is common, for example, for individuals in the lower songbun class to tease one another that he or she is a “todae nappun saekki” or “songbun nappun saekki,” translated as “you rotten songbun S.O.B.” Those with higher songbun—the “core class”—are often referred to as “tomatoes,” which are red on both the outside and inside and are thus good communists; those in the middle songbun class, or “wavering class,” are referred to as “apples”, which are red on the outside and white on the inside and considered in need of political education; and those of lower songbun, the “hostile class,” are referred to as “grapes” and are considered politically unredeemable.8

8 Hunter, Kim Il-song’s North Korea, 4.




Here is the original text this cites:

Hunter, Kim Il-song's North Korea, p.4 posted:

Perhaps the only touch of humor in this otherwise deadly business of ranking people according to songbun is the party's terminology for the chosen versus the unchosen: the “tomatoes” versus the “grapes.” Tomatoes, which are completely red to the core, are considered worthy communists; apples, which are only red on the surface, are considered in need of ideological improvement; and grapes are considered hopeless




Notwithstanding the complete lack of verifiability of Hunter's “secret CIA files” based work, if we were to take her unreferenced claims at true we can still immediately see serious issues. The Hunter text references a joke: communists are tomatoes (red all the way through), those who are only superficially communist are apples (red on the surface) and those who are in no way communist are grapes (no red at all). The original “testimony” attempts to link this joking comparison to fruit to a formal songbun hierarchy by claiming this is “party songbun terminology”.

Collins takes this much further: Hunter at no point says “It is common, for example, for individuals in the lower songbun class to tease one another that he or she is a “todae nappun saekki” or “songbun nappun saekki,” translated as “you rotten songbun S.O.B.”” No reference is made to frequency of the use of this “terminology” - that it is “common”, not is there any reference at all to “you rotten songbun S.O.B.” either in Korean or English.

Furthermore note how Hunter's “and grapes are considered hopeless” magically becomes “and those of lower songbun, the “hostile class”, are referred to as “grapes” and are considered politically unredeemable

Hunter makes no link between this tomato-apple-grape joke and the “hostile class” as Collins does, nor does “hopeless” have the same meaning as “politically irredeemable” in these circumstances

The anti-DPRK “creep” between Collins work and Hunter's book is obvious. And lest we forget, Hunter made a “close reading and study of the text helped make it the important exposé it is”. It seems inconceivable that Hunter could in good faith allow quotes from her work to be over-exaggerated into hyperbole and furthermore reflects very badly on an evaluation of the veracity of the material in Hunter's unreferenced “Kim Il-song's North Korea” that the author appears happy to let her her words be blown out of proportion.


The rest of the introduction cites no sources making extensive fantastical claims about the DPRK that, if they were about any other country, bar perhaps the Soviet Union 1917 to 1953 would need iron-clad evidence to be accepted as true. However, an anti-communist paradigm makes these claims about the DPRK “truisms” that need no evidence to back them up.

It is also notable that this is one of the few places where any dissenting information to the “Marked for Life” narrative is presented:

Marked for Life – Introduction, p.4 posted:

Numerous interviews of defectors reveal that those who are young when they leave North Korea perceive songbun as being of decreasing importance—though not eliminated—whereas those who are older—late 30’s and above—emphatically insist that songbun does still matter. A youthful lack of life’s experiences could be expected to decrease a person’s awareness of the role songbun plays. Those who experience accumulated discrimination over a period of time, particularly if that discrimination affects one’s one’s education, employment and one’s dependants, will be more aware of the harm songbun has caused in their lives.



If we ignore the latter half of this quote as baseless pseudo-psychological hypothesising by the author about the reasons for the statement in the first half of the quote, it is stated that older defectors (late 30s+) “insist that songbun does matter” while younger defectors (although younger than late 30s is not “young” by any stretch, these defectors do not appear to be “inexperienced” and “unaware” children) “perceive songbun as being of decreesing importance”. If we take this quote at face value it appears to indicate that the concept of Songbun is of decreesing importance in recent times compared to historically in that only the older generations “insist” that it it “does still matter”.

Marked for Life – Introduction, p.4-5 posted:

Some analysts suggest that songbun has weakened since the famine of the 1990s and the collapse of the Public Distribution System (PDS), and that money and bribery have replaced songbun’s dynamics. There is no doubt that the general failure of the North Korean economy has created conditions for individual economic initiative and pervasive corruption. Tolerated market activity has provided alternatives to the regime’s PDS that once supplied most of the country with food and daily necessities. These burgeoning markets, born of necessity with the state’s inability to feed its people, have indeed provided new opportunities and individuals in most categories of songbun have been able to earn some money through their own initiative. Purchasing power and ability to bribe have helped those of the lower songbun classes to overcome—to a limited degree—restrictions placed upon them by songbun. Buying or bribing one’s way out of police trouble or into colleges, receiving better medical attention, purchasing better housing, or obtaining food has not eliminated the negative impacts of songbun, but it has provided some alternative avenues for survival.



First note the reference to “some analysts”, with no indication of who these analysts are or reference to their work for critical assessment. This “some analysts” statement allows the author to make statements such as “money and bribery have replaced songbun’s dynamics” attributed to “some analysts”. No evidence is presented either way that songbun has been replaced by “money and bribery”

Followed up by the statement “There is no doubt that the general failure of the North Korean economy has created conditions for individual economic initiative and pervasive corruption” - from where does this lack of doubt arise, where is the evidence of the “general failure of the North Korean economy” or that this has created “conditions for individual economic initiative and pervasive corruption”. It seems strange that knowledge of the economy of a state as insular and mysterious to the west as the DPRK extends to evidence of pervasive corruption or rising individual economic initiative as a result of economic failure.

“the state’s inability to feed its people” - again a “trueism” that the DPRK is in a constant state of starvation. (I will expand on the “famine” narrative in later sections)

Collins effectively states that famines and the collapse of the DPRK economy has led to a rise in the use of money and bribes by lower songbun people to “overcome” their hereditary class restrictions allowing “alternative avenues for survival” This is beyond laughable, If the author had evidence of any of this surely it would be referenced to provide weight to these statements. The author clearly wants to paint the DPRK as existing in a hellish famine-state and if he had evidence to this end it is inconceivable that he would not use such to lend greater weight and authority to this anti-DPRK propaganda.

Much of this information is expanded on later in the paper so I will leave investigation until the relevant chapter.



Addendum: A note on the origin of the Wikipedia article on Songbun

The first iteration on the Songbun article was written on: 16:48, 8 June 2012 referencing this article: http://www.nknews.org/2012/06/marked-for-life-songbun-north-koreas-social-classification-system/
also published 08 June 2012

It is behind a semi-paywall, you can highlight and copy the text before the paywall kicks in, I also have a copy saved which I will make available if requested.

Before this date Songbun did not exist as a concept to the wikipedia'd masses. Much thanks to wikipedia administrator Fred Bauder for doing us all a favour (aye fukking lmao thanks m8: https://encyclopediadramatica.se/Fred_Bauder )

“Marked for Life” was published Jun 06, 2012, the NKnews article was written two days later by one Matthew McGrath. A quick search turns up a Brookings Institute (remember them) seminar on June 19, 2015 “The next generation of Korea experts: The young and the brave” - http://www.brookings.edu/events/2015/06/19-korea-next-generation-experts



where Matthew McGrath was a panellist:



Transcript available here: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/events/2015/06/19-korea-next-generation-experts/20150619_korea_next_generation_experts_transcript.pdf

The most cursory internet search will further reveal that Matthew McGrath has written for NCNK and North Korea Stratergy Centre (NKSC) extensively



Google.com seach 24 May 2016


All this goes to demonstrate how a report filled with lies can very easily turn itself into a Wikipedia article and become accepted as truth.


edit 1: fixed youtube embeding and spelling mistakes
edit 2: fixed a link
edit 3: (drwhat) edited title/subtitle for consistency / non-redundancy, posted to front page
edit 4: corrected 1996 to 2000 when quoting the 2000 KINO report
Updated “Manual” analysis section
Corrected Marked for Life launch event date
Added text from the about the author section of “Marked for Life” into the Who is Robert Collins? section
Expanded section on Greg Scarlatiou

Edited by tears ()

#2
Nice one

Edited by swampman ()

#3
#4
Charles Armstrong, The North Korean Revolution: 1945-1950, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003)

if anyone has jstor access I need pages 72-74 and 174-180 of this book:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt32b4bg

plus any references cited on any of those pages.

or, like, the whole thing maybe,
#5
tfw your posting bud demolishes a massive load of anticommunist propaganda in a sick megapost

#6
good stuff, tears...see if you can link goatstein's wife somewhere in there
#7
Professor Thai Lee of Shinra Corp
#8

tears posted:

Charles Armstrong, The North Korean Revolution: 1945-1950, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003)


Fresh From The Secret Pdf Subforum

#9
Anti-DPRK propaganda is so fucking insane, and when you dare to be incredulous of it everyone says "BUT THAT'S HOW IT ACTUALLY IS" and you immediately get chastised for being naive and stupid and historically illiterate by a bunch of idiots who read some shit on buzzfeed.
#10
you should address the un commission too

5. The commission categorized the systematic, widespread and gross human
rights violations that had been and continued to be committed into six categories:
arbitrary detention, torture, executions and enforced disappearance to political
prison camps; violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion;
discrimination on the basis of State-assigned social class (songbun), gender and
disability; violations of the freedom of movement and residence, including the right
to leave one’s own country; violations of the right to food and related aspects of the
right to life; and enforced disappearance of persons from other countries, including
through international abductions.

http://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N14/587/55/PDF/N1458755.pdf
#11
#12
tears, please edit the op and check the 'frontpage ok?' box on the right side
#13

Panopticon posted:

you should address the un commission too

5. The commission categorized the systematic, widespread and gross human
rights violations that had been and continued to be committed into six categories:
arbitrary detention, torture, executions and enforced disappearance to political
prison camps; violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion;
discrimination on the basis of State-assigned social class (songbun), gender and
disability; violations of the freedom of movement and residence, including the right
to leave one’s own country; violations of the right to food and related aspects of the
right to life; and enforced disappearance of persons from other countries, including
through international abductions.

http://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N14/587/55/PDF/N1458755.pdf


That link doesnt work for me but is this what you mean? http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/ReportoftheCommissionofInquiryDPRK.aspx

Pretty upsetting for me because Michael Kirby is kind of legendary among leftist law nerds in Straya for many years of excellent dissenting opinions and stuff. Then he goes and does this, then when confronted by the counsel for the DPRK he gets on his high horse about how fairly he asked all the questions of the witnesses and how polite his letter to "your leader Kim Jong Un" was when he sent him a copy of the report, and how dare you insinuate that this is a political conspiracy, why would i be part of a political conspiracy?? two words mate: ego and hubris. sorry about the stain on your admittedly bourgeois liberal but still previously principled legacy

#14
Its terrible, the despotic north korean regime keeps detailed records on all its citizens *diligently fills out census, tax return, passport application, marriage register,*

(and thanks petrol)
#15

Since 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has engaged in the systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons from other countries on a large scale and as a matter of State policy. Well over 200,000 persons, including children, who were brought from other countries to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea may have become victims of enforced disappearance, as defined in the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. More information would have to emerge from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to provide a more precise estimate of the number of victims.

No citations; no elaborations; presumably lots of these would have been from China? Presumably China would want to know where its 100,000 or whatever citizens are? Or maybe provide the name of one Enforced Disappeared person?

#16

tears posted:

Its terrible, the despotic north korean regime keeps detailed records on all its citizens *diligently fills out census, tax return, passport application, marriage register,*

(and thanks petrol)



The private lives of the citizens of the DPRK are constantly monitored in secret by the all-powerful state

*spotty intern at GCHQ blinks at automated keyword-detection alert on-screen and types "27/05/16, 15:00 GMT: POI makes further post RE: NK freedoms. recommend human monitoring to obtain additional SIGINT" into Excel spreadsheet*

#17

Ufuk_Surekli posted:

*spotty intern at GCHQ blinks at automated keyword-detection alert on-screen and types "27/05/16, 15:00 GMT: POI makes further post RE: NK freedoms. recommend human monitoring to obtain additional SIGINT" into Excel spreadsheet*



What the British deep state thinks it does:


What it actually does:

#18
Ignore my first post, songbun is real, and whats more Robert ConquestCollins has a baaaaad songbun, the worst one, number 51 of 51 (or is that 56 of 56, or 52 of 52, wait, 53 of 52). Him and his family, his children and parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, second cousins, co-workers, friends, neighbours, people he talked to once, people he made eye contact with, and the children of his children for a thousand generations will be forever marked with his sins and will toil forever in the prison camps for making me read all this crap
#19
The inherited nature of songbun classifications has led to a degree of bleak humor amoung the hostile (choktae) class. When pregnant, choktae women are known to joke that they have a "songbun in the oven"
#20
Similar to the american trend of having a bongson in the oven
#21
i'm pretty sad songbuns don't exist. if anyone could make a tasty bun that plays a song when you eat it, korea could

rip songbuns

edit: however i googled songbun and found this page, so now i have a new thing to dream about
http://i1os.com/Bun_Sak_Old_Song_Collection_Vol_1_Non_Stop_New_Collection_Old_Song_Khmer_Song1_by_khmer_mekong/OHwmRZFyDQc.video

edit 2: frontpaged. i hope you don't mind i jumped the gun a little tears but the front page is desperately in need. you should still be able to edit, don't check the right-side box that locks it (i have to tear that whole thing out, it's dumb)

Edited by drwhat ()

#22

drwhat posted:

you should still be able to edit, don't check the right-side box that locks it (i have to tear that whole thing out, it's dumb)



I agree that ppl should be able to edit their posts to be the goatman after they've been published to fp

#23
i tried to add the front page article as a citation to the existing wikipedia article and within one minute this guy



undid it. seriously

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Oshwah
#24
[account deactivated]
#25

tpaine posted:

do not fuckle with oshawott



Medina Ridge addition you said had no citation

The citation is me. I was the platoon sergeant of one of the 4, 1/1 Cav platoons abreast that led the attack that night. I was there and for 4 hours one single squadron of 37 Bradley maintained contact with those 3 Republican Guard Divisions, directed artillery, fired mortars, used direct fire from the Bradleys until the Tanks finally got refueled and made it to the fight, by the time they got there all that was left was the Medina on the ridge and why that's all they talk about is Medina Ridge for the "big" Tank battle. It's amazing no one ever says "what happened to the other two divisions in front of Medina ridge you mention before the battle". Anyway, leave it off, doesn't matter anyway, not like this would get 1/1 Cav any recognition at this point anyway. 37 Bradley faced off against 300 plus Republican Gaurd armored vehicles isn't as impressive as a division of M1's against one Brigade of Republican Guards...lol — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:485:4103:5CF0:7487:FFC1:14F6:5720 (talk) 01:59, 14 May 2016 (UTC)

#26

ilmdge posted:

i tried to add the front page article as a citation to the existing wikipedia article and within one minute this guy



undid it. seriously

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Oshwah


Articles I Reference Frequently:

  • Microsoft Windows Release Timeline
  • Penalty (gridiron football)
  • List of Super Bowl champions
  • NATO phonetic alphabet
  • List of HTTP status codes
#27
My friends and I in college got our whole co-op housing banned from editing Wikipedia bc we kept adding 'looks like' sections to celebrity and politician wiki's where we'd be like "it has been noted that Joe Lieberman looks like Palpatine in the Star Wars episodes I-3." Or "Rush Limbaugh has Ben described as looking like Archie Bunker"
#28

EmanuelaBrolandi posted:

drwhat posted:
you should still be able to edit, don't check the right-side box that locks it (i have to tear that whole thing out, it's dumb)


I agree that ppl should be able to edit their posts to be the goatman after they've been published to fp


true, this is a big threat to rhizzone's reputation for editorial gravitas

#29

ilmdge posted:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Oshwah





quick ilmdge, post to that user's talk page to clarify that it's ok for you to make that edit because you are Songbun

#30
I've updated and corrected some stuff in the op, including expanding the "manual" discussion with some overpedantic speculation about translation as either singular or plural. The sequel that no one really wanted is in the works

Also note that someone updated the ref on the wiki-page and it seems to have stuck so I guess now the citation is me
#31

tears posted:

The sequel that no one really wanted is in the works



i'm on a north korea reading binge so this better be true

#32
i love to over promise and under deliver, sorry
#33
Found out songbun is a lot more famous in Japan, as they think the zainichi Koreans who returned to DPRK, along with their Japanese wives, were placed in the lowest Songbun. Two main sources on japanese wikipedia about it are "Reading DPRK History Through Stamps" by postage historian Yousuke Naitou and a defector's memoir by Chung Ki Hae published in 1995. Yousuke Naitou takes an English description on a booklet coming with stamps commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Mangyongdae Revolution Academy to be a confession of the system's existence: "It is a school for bereaved children and a dependable base of training the core members of the Korean revolution." "Core members" being one supposed category of the songbun system. There's also some links in the article to right wing South Korean newspaper Chosun, describing defector interviews. Found a blog for the 関東脱北者協力会 ("Kantou North Korean Refugee Association") with a review of Chung Ki Hae's book and comparing it to their own experiences of discrimination. So far can't find anything in Japanese yet that puts into question the existence of songbun besides a tweet from the Red Army Faction Yodogo hijackers still in North Korea, who say that sort of discrimination doesn't exist there. Would be interested to hear what the discourse around songbun is like in Korean if anybody knows.
#34

marimite posted:

Two main sources on japanese wikipedia about it are "Reading DPRK History Through Stamps" by postage historian Yousuke Naitou and a defector's memoir by Chung Ki Hae published in 1995. Yousuke Naitou takes an English description on a booklet coming with stamps commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Mangyongdae Revolution Academy to be a confession of the system's existence: "It is a school for bereaved children and a dependable base of training the core members of the Korean revolution." "Core members" being one supposed category of the songbun system.


#35
edit

Edited by marimite ()