News / Asia

Small S. Korean Church Strives to Expose North's Secrets

Pastor Kim Sung-eun of the Caleb Mission
Pastor Kim Sung-eun of the Caleb Mission

 

 

A little-known South Korean Christian group is doing its best to expand what outsiders know about neighboring North Korea. The Caleb Mission has gained some recognition in recent months for releasing clandestine video of life inside the reclusive North. And now it has provided VOA with what it says is a secret North Korean military manual that regional security analysts consider authentic.

One of South Korea's smallest and most obscure religious communities is making a name for itself by providing rare glimpses of life inside North Korea, and revealing some of its secrets.

Reverend Kim Sung-eun runs the Caleb Mission in Cheonan, about 80 kilometers south of the capital, Seoul. His wife, he says, is a former lieutenant in North Korea's army. She is one of 30 or so defectors from the North who are frequently seen at the mission.  

Kim says he is in regular contact with collaborators inside North Korea. Some secretly videotape what is going on in the country, which is virtually sealed off from the outside world. Others, he says, smuggle out official documents.

The pastor gave VOA a partial copy of what appears to be a 2005 North Korean military manual that details electronic warfare countermeasures, such as using radar-absorbing paint to camouflage jets and ships.

He did not go into detail about how the Caleb Mission acquired the manual, but U.S. and South Korean officials who have seen it consider the document authentic.

A South Korean newspaper also has obtained part of the manual and has reported on its contents

Kim says they decided to release the manual because their colleagues inside North Korea are taking great risks by working on their projects. Thus, he explains, he wants to see some recognition for their efforts.

Daniel Pinkston, a long-time North Korea scholar and an analyst in Seoul for the International Crisis Group, considers the document important. "It's certainly useful for analysts on the outside. And I would agree anyone in North Korea, any KPA (Korean People's Army) soldiers or officers who would smuggle such a document out of the country, if they were to be caught, would suffer serious consequences. It would be a great risk to them, of course," he said.

In communist North Korea, those suspected of disloyalty face imprisonment. Convictions for treason or espionage - and many lesser offenses - usually mean a death sentence.

At Caleb Mission, Kim says he has or can gain access to other sensitive materials, including videos and documents, but he needs to provide compensation to those who risk their lives to provide it.

He hopes that by releasing the information more widely in South Korea, he can generate funds to pay his collaborators in the impoverished North.

Kim says he has information detailing North Korean-sanctioned manufacturing and exporting of illicit drugs and the country's extensive network of internment and re-education camps for political prisoners.

The U.S. State Department has warned in the past that North Korea was involved in drug trafficking.

Analyst Pinkston says the apparent willingness of North Koreans to provide such documentation - whatever the motives - could be a significant signal of societal change. "If we see more of these things coming out - materials, information, people - especially from the military, then that could be a sign of some breakdown in discipline and control. I'm not saying that's the case here," he states, "but when we do see these things coming out, that's something we have to think about."

North Korean media unfailingly praise Kim Jong Il and his father, the country's first leader, creating a personality cult that dominates the government. The state controls almost all aspects of life, including food supplies, access to the media and employment.

Human rights groups consider North Korea to be one of the most repressive nations in the world. The government also has struggled for nearly 20 years to feed its people. After the collapse of communist governments in Europe, which had supported the North financially, its economy has nearly collapsed and it relies heavily on international food aid to avoid mass starvation.

Change, however, could be coming to North Korea. A rare meeting of the ruling Workers Party is expected to start soon to fill leadership slots. Many North Korea experts believe supreme leader Kim Jong Il will name his third son, Kim Jong Un, to a prominent post as part of grooming him to be his successor. The son is believed to be about 27 years old and has yet held no official position.

There are reports, however, of growing dissatisfaction among North Koreans about passing power to a young, little-known member of the Kim family.

The country faces renewed food shortages and continuing economic instability. In addition, its people are increasingly aware - through clandestine exposure to outside news media - of the huge gap between their country and most of the rest of the world, especially neighboring South Korea.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid