Yemen: Our Future is at Stake

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 5th of March 2018. Panel/ Annual Discussion/ Debate on the rights of the child.

Mr. President, the Next Century Foundation wishes to express its concern about the rights of children in the Republic of Yemen. The situation in Yemen is the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster. Civilians are becoming victims of unrelenting violations of international humanitarian law. Most of Yemen’s children have neither security nor education and are exposed to inhumane challenges on a daily basis. The blockade led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is threatening millions and the international community should step in and stop this horror.

Yemen’s children are malnourished, many actually facing famine.

22.2 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, 60% of the population endures food insecurity, and an outbreak of cholera is putting vulnerable children at great risk.  Saudi Arabia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1996, and yet, their use of food and medical aid as a weapon against an already suffering people and their children should be condemned.

Every child has basic rights, including the right to life. Children have a right to be protected from violence especially from the sight of horrendous war.

The Saudi-led blockade in Yemen not only harms children’s right to live but also affects our right to know what is going on. This because of the difficulties faced by journalists who wish to enter the country. The UN could have made better progress by engaging more with the public and bringing more attention to bear on this issue. We hope that Mr. Martin Griffiths, the recently appointed UN Special Envoy to Yemen, will help bring peace to this arena, and if he fails to do so, will expose those responsible for this ongoing tragedy.

If we ignore the crisis in Yemen, we betray the Middle East. Indeed if we turn aside and fail to help Yemen’s children, we betray humanity. Thank you.

Lost Confucianism in Asia: South Korean Case

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 15th of March 2018. UPR Outcomes on the Republic of Korea.

Mr President. Human Rights in the Republic of Korea are often neglected because many think all is well in South Korea in light of the country’s economic affluence. However, according to the World Health Organization, South Korea has the second-highest suicide rate in the world as well as having the highest suicide rate for any OECD member state.

This is due to the significant level of suicide among our senior citizens, which is the major contributing factor to South Korea’s overall suicide rate. With the population among the elderly increasing, the NCF calls for urgent attention to be paid to the situation of our elderly in South Korea.

South Korea’s elderly are suffering from poverty and income inequality due to the insufficient pension system and poor welfare system. Poverty rate among the elderly reached 61.7% in 2015, the highest for any OECD country, and yet, there is still no adequate system to provide help for people as they prepare for their lives post-retirement. Public social expenditure is the second lowest among the OECD countries.

Mr President, elderly poverty is an urgent social problem in South Korea. A lot of the elderly are suffering from lack of adequate sanitation, heating, lighting and food, exposing them to a wide range of hazards. Some of them choose to suicide, and some even fall prey to criminal activities such as prostitution.

South Korea is known for its rapid economic growth and has been held up as an economic model for other developing countries. However, there is a serious gap between the nation’s exemplary economic development and the poor pension and welfare systems for the elderly. The Next Century Foundation suggests that immediate attention be paid to this situation by the UN and calls for systematic reform in South Korea. Thank you.

Korean Peninsula Crisis

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Item 4 ID on 12th March 2018, the special report on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

Mr President, my name is Be Sun Lee from the Next Century Foundation.

The Next Century Foundation recognizes that despite the positive signal given by the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeong-Chang, the underlying antagonism on the Korean peninsula persists. The Next Century Foundation feels that the United Nation has not been involved as actively or thoughtfully as it could have been on the issue.

North Korea has long been known for human rights violations. On 13 February 2017 Kim Jong-Nam was assassinated. On 19 June 2017 Otto Warmbier died at the age of 22 after 17 months of imprisonment with hard labour in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Furthermore in 2017 alone, 23 missiles were fired, threating to undermine international security and infringing the universal fundamental human right to freedom from fear.

Meanwhile, in response to the Korean crisis, the UN Security Council has adopted economic sanctions against North Korea. However, it was the welfare of the population that was negatively affected by the UN’s action, whilst the authoritarian elite in North Korea was smuggling resources from abroad. On 24th March 2017, the UN Human Rights Council adopted an “experts in legal accountability” process to assess cases and develop plans for the eventual prosecution of North Korean leaders responsible for crimes against humanity. But Mr President what practical effect have these measures had? The Next Century Foundation believes the United Nations has merely been provoking outrage in North Korea and made prospects for democracy even weaker by making the DPRK believe they are not part of our international community.

As a citizen of the Republic of Korea, I do not wish to see harm come to South Korea nor indeed to North Korea. Nearly 3,800 of the people who’ve been waiting to reunite with their relatives in North Korea died last year; however almost 60,000 South Koreans are still waiting desperately to see their separated families. We therefore appeal to the UN and the international community to collaborate together, rather than using this crisis to advance selfish political or economic interest, and to devise a thoughtful resolution of the problems facing the Korean peninsula. Only then can we genuinely invite North Korean leaders to denuclearise, protect human security, and promote human rights for all.

Populism and Nationalism vs. Globalisation

We are living in a world where globalisation and cosmopolitanism are the greatest. However, there has been surprising advancement of right-wing populist and nationalist parties such as the increased parliamentary representation of Marine Le Pen’s Front National. The election of Donald Trump and Brexit are similar phenomena. These clear manifestations of social exclusion within the western world prove that immigrants and local residents are not living in harmony and that this dichotomy is threatening our democracy. In order to better respond to the threat, we must clearly understand the reason behind the recent insurgence of populism.

“Make America Great Again” is a campaign slogan used by Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. I’ve always wondered what specifically President Trump and his supporters want to “make great again”. Since the supporters disfavour immigrants inflow, does this mean bringing back racial segregation and restoring complete white supremacy? What exactly are his concerns about the immigration? According to research provided by the CATO Institute, Americans feel alienated from their own government and community and feel that they are blocked from resources and opportunities. The CATO Institute further argued that immigrants are usually the target for blame for the alienation because their cultural unfamiliarity gives a sense of negativity which distorts perception of reality.

With the help of the right wing who sees this social chasm as an opportunity to further their political interest, many Americans and Westerners claim that they are discriminated against in favour of immigrants and minorities and that they are being treated unfairly. However, their claims of experiencing “reverse racism” are in fact very misleading and are becoming a huge hindrance when dealing with reality. Then what is the reality? What forced people into this alienation even from ones’ own country?

The answer is financialisation, and the shareholder value model.  As financial capitalism develops more and more, corporate business structure, governance, and strategies have been transformed to maximise shareholders’ profits regardless of social costs. The problem is that when the debt-to-equity ratio is increasing, there is less money available for the real economy. Inevitably, real income for all households in America decreased whereas corporate profits increased tremendously.  The feelings of alienation Americans and westerners are experiencing are real, but the causes are not from the immigrants, but from the careless advancement of capitalism.

Globalisation definitely has increased the wealth of every nation, but a fair spread of wealth allocation was not realised, unfortunately. Stagnating middle-class income and increasing income inequality are causing social unrest giving rise to nationalism, protectionism, racism and you name it. Therefore, to protect our value of democracy and promote social tranquillity, we must seek to modify economic structures altogether rather than focusing on the advantage of one social group. Although Clinton’s “Stronger Together” lost the battle against Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, we must promote social inclusivity and make globalisation great for everyone.

Rocket Man’s Last Resort, Winter Olympics 2018

It seems like Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean dictator, has run out of cards. Under the increasing pressure from the US and the international community to denuclearise, North Korea announced on Tuesday that it wanted to join the Winter Olympics 2018, in Pyeong-Chang, South Korea.

After two years of silence, Kim Jong-Un has reconnected the military hotline between North and South Korea to show a desire to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics and offered to meet with the South Korean government. As a result, South Korea and the United States have decided to delay their joint military exercises until the end of Olympic Games.

As a result of the dictator’s “infantile repartee” with US President Trump, international sanctions against North Korea’s weapons production were reinforced and caused huge job losses, leading to economic downsizing and reducing the dictator’s popularity in North Korea. As an effort to appease the public, North Korean media again put the blame on the US, publicly denouncing the US for being an obstacle to peace with South Korea and stating that South Korea should discontinue any joint military actions with the US.

Kim Jong-Un should be given credit for always coming up with a brilliant plan to preserve his power, but he has got to be stopped.

The relationship between South and North Korea has been used by China, Russia, and America in their effort to seize preeminence in the Northeast Asian arena. The cost of their power game is usually put on South Korea’s shoulders. The dehumanising and precarious human security in North Korea is already well known to us. However, South Koreans are also being threatened every day by the unpredictable relationship between the US and North Korea. The dictator’s suggestion that the US and South Korea’s joint military action is a hostile act rather than merely defensive should be criticised strongly by the international community. His decision to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics should not change any current course of action against North Korea. And once and for all, I just wish genuine “freedom from fear” and better human security would be realised both in South and North Korea in 2018.