At a press conference on June 14, 2012, Secretary Clinton had this message for Kim Jong-un:
“Regarding the new leader in North Korea, I believe leaders are judged by what they do to help their people have better lives, whether they create stability and security, prosperity, opportunity. And this new young leader has a choice to make, and we are hoping that he will make a choice that benefits all of his people.
And we also believe strongly that North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only continue to isolate the country and provide no real opportunity for engagement and work toward a better future. And so we hope that the new leadership in Pyongyang will live up to its agreements, will not engage in threats and provocations, will put the North Korean people first. Rather than spending money on implements of war, feed your people, provide education and healthcare, and lift your people out of poverty and isolation.
This young man, should he make a choice that would help bring North Korea into the 21st century, could go down in history as a transformative leader. Or he can continue the model of the past and eventually North Korea will change, because at some point people cannot live under such oppressive conditions – starving to death, being put into gulags, and having their basic human rights denied. So we’re hoping that he will chart a different course for his people.” (Emphasis added).
On the same day (but on the other side of the world) Ambassador Robert King, U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, added that “breaking the information blockade is the key to positive change in North Korea.”
“Ultimately, a more open information environment contributes to more conscious North Korean citizens.”
“In the North Korean context, small but significant changes in the media landscape are under way, and the United States remains committed to increasing information to the DPRK.”
“The United States broadcasts news and other information into the North, in an effort to break down the isolation of the people there and to make available independent sources of information.”
King also said that human rights conditions in North Korea appear worse today than they were in the Soviet Union four decades ago, but that the North’s strict restriction of information is one reason why there is less of an outcry.”
Put together, these comments represent a perspective that the regime must change its ways or it will eventually be changed out, and also that breaking the information blockade is the key to bringing forward that change.
SOKEEL J. PARK | Research & Policy Analyst