1951 Refugee Convention — The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (and the 1967 Protocol thereto). The 1951 Refugee Convention sets forth the rights and responsibilities pertaining to refugee issues worldwide, and stemmed from the millions of refugees that still roamed Europe six years after the end of WWII. China acceded to both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol on 24 September 1982.
Asylum — The protection and immunity from extradition and refoulement granted by a host country to a political refugee from another country.
Confucianism — The political and social morality taught by Confucius and his disciples that forms the basis of jurisprudence and education in China and much of East Asia, including historic Korea. Chinese and Korean leaders found the standards-based principles of Confucianism to be an effective means to control large populations. The North Korean regime today uses Confucianism as the basis for why it punishes up to three generations of an alleged criminal’s family in order to rid society of bad elements.
Core/Wavering/Hostile Classes — Kim Il-sung reported to the Fifth Korean Workers’ Party Congress in 1970 that the North Korean population could be classified into three political groups: a loyal “core class,” a suspect “wavering class” and a politically unreliable “hostile class” based on how loyal or disloyal to the regime each person is presumed to be. These three groups are further divided into 51 sub-classifications, such as those in the wavering class who had been landowners before the communists came to power, or those who had resided in the southern half of Korea before 1945. People who fall into the hostile class, which constitutes approximately 25% of the population, are discriminated against in terms of employment, food, housing, medical care and place of residence.
Crime Against Humanity — An act of persecution against a group so heinous as to warrant punishment under international law. The term was first used in the preamble of the Hague Convention of 1907, and subsequently used during the Nuremberg trials as a charge for actions such as the Holocaust that did not violate a specific treaty but were deemed to require punishment. The 2003 treaty establishing the International Criminal Court defines “crime against humanity” as any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: (a) murder; (b) extermination; (c) enslavement; d) deportation or forcible transfer of population; (e) imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; (f) torture; (g) rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; (h) persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, (i) enforced disappearance of persons; (j) the crime of apartheid; (k) other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.
DMZ — The Demilitarized Zone. The DMZ is a 4-km (21/2-mile) wide swath that forms the 238 km (148 mile) border between North and South Korea, as defined in the Korean War Armistice Agreement of 27 July 1953.
DPRK — Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea. A country of northeast Asia at the northern end of the Korean Peninsula (population: 22.4 million est.). Inhabited since ancient times, Korea was a united kingdom since the 7th century AD. Korea was occupied by Japan from 1910 until the end of WWII in 1945. After the war the peninsula was divided into a Soviet occupation zone in the north and an American zone in the south. Soviet resistance to reunification led to the establishment in 1948 of two separate countries, with the Korean War leaving the peninsula divided along much the same line as before. Under Kim Il-sung, North Korea became increasingly isolated, especially after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Pyongyang is the capital and the largest city.
Economic Migrant — According to the UNHCR, an economic migrant normally leaves his or her country voluntarily to seek a better life elsewhere, and should he or she elect to return home they would continue to receive the protection of their government. An economic migrant should not be confused with a “refugee.”
Food Crisis — A food crisis stems from the exacerbation of famine conditions or a natural food shortage through man-made or government policies such as food distribution systems and agricultural policies.
Gulag — The term given historically to the network of state-run political prisoner camps in Stalinist Russia known for their arbitrary detention and harsh conditions, which included forced labor, torture and execution. North Korea operates its own gulag network that contains an estimated 200,000 prisoners.
Host Country — The country in which a refugee resides, whether legally or illegally. The host country has certain legal obligations to protect the rights of refugees as mandated by the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Juche — Kim Il-sung is credited with developing the idea of juche, a self-reliant and creative application of Marxism and Leninism to the specific conditions unique to Korea. Under this principle of self-reliance, Kim formulated what is known as the monolithic ideological system. This system encompassed the thought of self-reliance in ideological stance, independence in political work, self-sustenance in economic endeavors, and self-defense in military affairs. The idea is also known as “Kim Il-sung Thought.”
Kim Il-sung — Born on 15 April 1912 as Kim Song-ju; died on 8 July 1994. Known as the “Great Leader,” the “Eternal Leader,” “Suryong” (the “Supreme Leader”) and the “sun of the nation,” Kim Il-sung was the founder of North Korea, and president and general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea until he arranged for power to pass to his son, Kim Jong-il. In 1998, the younger Kim gave his father the posthumous title of “Eternal President.” In the mid-1970s, Kim began to train his son to take over the operation of the Party, and by the time of the Sixth Party Congress in October 1980, he had all but anointed his son as heir to the mantle of power in North Korea.
Kim Jong-il — Born as Kim Yuri on 16 February 1942 in the Russian army camp Viatskoe (or Viatsk) near Khabarovsk. The son of, and successor to, the founder and longtime leader of North Korea, Kim Il-sung. Known to North Koreans as the “Dear Leader.” While heir apparent, he had a reputation as a spoiled playboy who vainly wore platform shoes to appear taller. After his father’s death in 1994, Kim Jong-il managed to retain power, but did not assume his father’s titles until 1997, when he was named Secretary of the Communist Party. By that time North Korea had become one of the most isolated countries in the world, with an economy in a shambles and frequent famines.
Korean War — The war between the Communist North and non-Communist South Korea that started on 25 June 1950 when troops from the North invaded South Korea, and ended with an armistice (cease-fire) agreement on 27 July 1953. US and other UN forces intervened to defend South Korea from North Korean attacks supported by the Chinese. Casualties in the war were heavy; US losses were placed at more than 54,000 dead and 103,000 wounded, while Chinese and Korean casualties were each at least 10 times as high. After much difficulty, the armistice agreement was finally reached, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel, with the northern half coming under Communist domination and the southern portion becoming Western-oriented.
IGO — Inter-governmental organization. A permanent organization set up by two or more states to carry on activities of common interest, such as the various UN agencies like UNHCR and the WFP.
Internally Displaced Person — Not to be confused with the term “refugee,” an internally displaced person is someone that has been forced to leave his or her home but remains within the borders of his or her home country.
Manchuria — The area in present-day northeast China adjacent to North Korea that at various times throughout history has belonged to Korea, China, Japan, Russia, England and the Mongols. The area today has a very large ethnic Korean population.
Member States — A country that is a signatory to the UN Charter and other UN agreements (such as the 1951 Refugee Convention).
MoFA — The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible, among other things, for diplomatic relations and the granting of political asylum to persons, including refugees, residing in China.
Mutual Cooperation Protocol — The alleged 1986 border agreement between China and North Korea that provides, among other things, for the return of North Koreans to North Korea.
NGO — Non-governmental organization. An international organization made up of persons other than states, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières.
NKHRA — The US North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. The NKHRA is intended to help promote human rights and freedom in North Korea. The NKHRA was signed into law on 18 October 2004, after being passed unanimously by the US Senate and House of Representatives. In an earlier draft form, the NKHRA also existed as the North Korean Freedom Act.
Pyongyang — The capital of North Korea, and the historic capital and cultural center throughout much of the history of unified Korea.
Refoule (and refoulement) — The French word, meaning literally “drive back,” used by most international agreements (such as the 1951 Refugee Convention) to describe the forced return of refugees to their home country.
Refugee — The legal term defined by various instruments, but generally defined as a person outside of his or her home country or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, who is unable or unwilling to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Most refugees by definition are “illegal border crossers” since they are not able to avail themselves of the protection or diplomatic services of their home country, such as obtaining proper passports and visas. “Refugee” is a legal term and should not be confused with “internally displaced person” or “economic migrant.”
RoK — Republic of Korea, the official name of South Korea. A country of northeast Asia at the southern end of the Korean Peninsula (population: 48.2 million). Inhabited since ancient times, Korea was a united kingdom since the 7th century AD. Korea was occupied by Japan from 1910 until the end of WWII in 1945. After the war the peninsula was divided into a Soviet occupation zone in the north and an American zone in the south. Soviet resistance to reunification led to the establishment in 1948 of two separate countries, with the Korean War leaving the peninsula divided along much the same line as before. Ruled by a series of authoritarian military leaders, South Korea developed a prosperous economy on the strength of trade ties with Japan and the United States. Seoul is the capital and the largest city.
Six-Way Talks — The prevailing series of discussions over the security threat posed by the possession of weapons of mass destruction by North Korea. The six parties are North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the US.
Sunshine Policy — The Sunshine Policy was introduced in 1998 by then-president of South Korea, Kim Dae-jung, in order to underline the peaceful management of the division of the Korean Peninsula. It stands in great contrast with prior policies toward North Korea that focused on containment. The main aim of the policy is to soften North Korea’s attitudes toward the south by encouraging interaction and economic assistance. There are three guiding principles to the Sunshine Policy: (i) no armed provocation by the north will be tolerated; (ii) the south will not attempt to absorb the north in any way; and (iii) the south actively seeks cooperation. The Sunshine Policy is continued today by Kim’s successor Roh Moo-hyun. The term “Sunshine Policy” originates in an episode of Aesop’s fables.
Tumen and Yalu Rivers — The two rivers that form the 1416 km (880 mile) border between China and North Korea.
UN Charter — The constitution of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco on 26 June 1945 by the 50 original member states. It entered into force on 24 October 1945, after being ratified by the five founding members – China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the U.S. – and a majority of the other signatories. The UN Charter states explicitly that it trumps all other treaty obligations, such as the alleged Mutual Cooperation Protocol between China and North Korea.
Reunification — The reunification into a single country of North and South Korea. Korea had been a unified country since the 7th century AD until the end of WWII in 1945. Some experts estimate the economic cost of reunification to be 11 times the cost of German reunification due to the vast disparity between the capitalist south and Communist north.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights — The most fundamental of human rights and freedoms, as adopted and proclaimed by UN General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948.
UNCHR — United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
UNHCHR — United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Oversees the UNCHR.
UNHCR — United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency.
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations / Vienna Convention on Consular Relations — The international conventions on diplomatic intercourse, consular relations, privileges and immunities.
WFP — World Food Programme. Set up in 1963, WFP is the United Nations frontline agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2003, WFP fed 104 million people in 81 countries, including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people.