Walter Judd Freedom Award 2010 Suzanne Scholte’s Acceptance Speech
I am deeply humbled to accept this award from the Fund for American Studies. I am very grateful for the North Korean defectors who have inspired me in my work. When I think about Dr. Walter Judd and the past recipients of this award, as well as the people associated with the Fund for American Studies, I am truly overwhelmed. All of the past recipients from President Ronald Reagan to Ambassador John Bolton to Dr. Lee Edwards have been a great source of inspiration in my life and certainly their example led me to this advocacy.
Of course, the greatest inspiration in my life was the same source of inspiration for Dr. Walter Judd and that is Jesus Christ as we share this Christian faith. People always ask me, especially Koreans, why did you get involved in North Korea? And the truth is that many years ago, I cried out to God why have you burdened me with this issue because to be involved in this issue for these many years since 1996 has been enormously difficult, spiritually and physically draining, and sometimes seemingly an endless struggle. God gently reminded me that I had once prayed that He would break my heart for what was breaking His heart.
Now, I am receiving this award because of my work for North Korea’s freedom and human rights and I plan to speak briefly about what the world is facing right now and how North Korea fits into this global struggle. But also point out why the work of The Fund for American Studies is perhaps more crucial today than in its history.
Right now the world is involved in a great conflict all around the globe between the ideals of freedom, democracy and human rights against totalitarian states that support terrorist ideologies that deny these rights to their own citizens and wish to enslave the world.
On the one side, you have people who believe that we are born with God-given rights that each life has value and meaning and each person has the right to pursue their dreams simply because they are human beings.
On the other side, you have people who have no regard for human life - it does not matter if you are talking about communism, marxism, or radical islam, – this side shares a same common theme – and that is their disdain for human life.
For example in North Korea, people can be shot simply for worshiping God or simply for daring to try to flee the hell on earth Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-Sung have created for the North Korean people.
In Afghanistan, they will call for a teacher to be killed by beheading for having the boldness to teach girls as well as boys at his school; and shoot and kill missionaries who, inspired by love and service, come to their country with medical aid and assistance.
In Iraq, they will use children and grandmothers and special needs people and strap them with bombs to take innocent lives.
In China, those who call for reform are arrested and disappear and millions are held in political prison camps while hundreds of thousands are being persecuted whether Tibetan monks are Uighyers, Christians or Falun Gong practitioners.
As you know, Dr. Walter Judd was a passionate anti-communist and especially worked to stop the expansion of Communism in China. He believed it went against human nature, against the innate desire of the individual for the God given right of freedom.
This global clash of ideologies is perfectly and vividly illustrated for us on the Korean peninsula. Just look at a photo of the Korean peninsula at night – you will be shocked at the vivid contrast with this dark band between South Korean and China, this blackness that is North Korea contrasted with the bright lights of South Korea.
On the one hand, you have a country that is a land of darkness and enormous suffering where 23 million people are enslaved and isolated by a dictator and another country that is full of light and hope and known for sharing that light and hope with the rest of the world.
In fact, North Koreans are the only country in the world that do not enjoy one single human right that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now, rather than focusing on North Korea’s human rights abuses: its political prison camps in which 200,000 are enslaved including children who are born in these camps, its abduction of South Korean, Japanese and other citizens, its continuing to hold POWS from the Korean War, and its use of food as a weapon to kill 3 million of its own people just since the 1990s, the administrations of Bill Clinton and George Bush decided to focus their North Korea policy on negotiating with North Korea to reach a deal on the nuclear issue. Both administrations sidelined human rights concerns to make the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
But as Dr. Walter Judd warns us from history “We always project our code of American sportsmanship and decency into the minds of people who reject these codes. And, then we are outraged when they live according to their codes of trickery...not ours of decency.”
Now, I know both Bill Clinton and George Bush cared deeply about the suffering in North Korea. In fact, Bush met on at least three occasions with North Korean defectors while he was President. But during his administration, while he focused on the 6 party talks to resolve the nuclear issue, the US constantly gave in to North Korea’s demands: we de-listed North Korea from the terrorism list, for example. And the Bush administration actually used our own Federal Reserve Bank to launder back to Kim Jong-il money that had been seized from North Korea’s illicit activities. All of this to reach an agreement that would ensure that North Korea would not develop nuclear weapons.
But Kim Jong-il never intended to abide by any agreement with the United States. In fact, North Korea never stopped developing nuclear weapons and helped Syria build its own nuclear weapons facility which thankfully Israel had the courage and conviction to destroy. And what has been the result of these 6 party talks to end North Korea’s nuclear program? North Korea is now a nuclear power and continues to proliferate nuclear technologies to other countries. In fact, just in the last six months, they murdered 46 sailors in an unprovoked attack on a South Korean ship; sent two assassins to kill North Korea’s highest ranking defector, Hwang Jang-yop, and were caught shipping weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah.
As Dr. Walter Judd would remind us and President Ronald Reagan proved to us, you cannot stop communism and have it fall apart unless you resist it all along the line. Now, I do want to point out that there are some encouraging signs coming out of North Korea and this is not because of anything we have done, but to me is a result of that God-given, innate desire that Dr. Walter Judd believed was a part of every human life.
Things are dramatically changing in North Korea and as one reporter noted – “pinpricks of light are breaking into the darkness there.” Two major ways in which Kim Jong il maintains power are gone: the public distribution system and his ability to isolate North Korea from the rest of the world.
Now, it was through the public distribution system that Koreans received their food and material goods. This system made the entire population dependent on Kim Jong-il. This system stopped functioning in the 1990s which led to millions of people to starve to death, but its continued failure has given way to an explosion of private markets throughout North Korea to such an extent that the majority of the population now survives on these markets to get by. There are now over 200 markets observable by satellite in North Korea and capitalism is alive and well and thriving as North Koreans cope the best they can with trading and selling among themselves utilizing these markets.
Over the years the regime has tried to clamp down on these markets by placing certain restrictions on them but it has not been able to stop them from functioning which is why in December the regime devalued the currency attempting to wipe out everyone’s savings and shut down these markets.
A few unprecedented things happened: public outcry and people complaining – something that is unheard of .
The outcry led to the regime apologizing - something also unheard of -- and the regime announced just recently that they would allow these markets to function – an amazing development
Now in addition to the North Koreans no longer dependent on Kim Jong-il’s public distribution system, another powerful tool of Kim Jong-il to maintain control is also gone ---isolation. His ability to cut the North Korean people off from the rest of the world is no longer possible. Decades of propaganda which convinced the North Korean people that they were the most advanced nation, lived in a wonderful paradise, and were far better off than their South Korean neighbor is unraveling as information is getting into North Korea.
More and more North Koreans are listening to foreign radio broadcasts risking the chance that they could be arrested and sent to a political prison camp. Futhermore, when DVDs became the new video technology, thousands and thousands of VCRs were dumped into the North Korean market by savvy Chinese businessmen -- about the only place where these VCRs could have had a market. As a result, North Koreans began watching South Korean soap operas and western films and soon came to realize that the regime had been telling them many lies and distortions about South Korea and the rest of the world. In fact, the film TITANIC became so widely watched in North Korea that the regime felt compelled to inform the people that the movie was not a love story but a depiction of the failure of capitalism -- the great ship, Titanic sinking being the symbol of capitalism's failure.
It has been reported that 60% of North Koreans now have access of some form of outside information whether films, or listening to radios, or using cell phones. Furthermore, over17,000 North Korean defectors are now residing in South Korea and many have been able to communicate with their family members back in North Korea providing yet another source of information about the outside world.
This growing knowledge and awareness inside North Korea makes it even more critical that those of us living in free societies raise our voice on behalf of the people of North Korea and call for their freedom and human rights. We have to let the North Koreans know that the source of their misery is not the “Yankee Imperialists Wolves” Americans who occupy South Korea, but the source of their misery is Kim Jong-il and his regime.
In fact, my foundation, DFF works with the defectors themselves and we also have a coalition of groups that work together on rescuing refugees out of China, raising awareness of these issues internationally, and perhaps most importantly, utilizing all means to reach the North Korean people directly from radio broadcasting to balloon launches.
In fact, our last balloon launch contained a special message from Americans and North Korean defectors about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights pointing out that the document was written in reaction to the horrors and atrocities of World War II. The document held that all people had God given rights and no “dear leader” or “great leader” could take them away. We also said in our message that the document was adopted in 1948, the same year Kim Il Sung came to power to ensure that North Koreans would have none of these rights. It pointed out that where people have rights, people prosper.
We also included money in the balloon launch, our “economic stimulus package” for the North Korean markets.
Now, we know these balloon launches and radio programs are effective because of the way that the Kim Jong-il regime reacts – the regime condemns them vehemently and has threatened the lives of those brave North Korean defectors who are carrying out these activities.
Although North Korea is vastly different from East Germany, there are three lessons that the Germans remind us about their re-unification. I believe these three lessons can be applied to North Korea and the dream that Korea will finally be reunified as a free and democratic country.
These three lessons are:
Never Give Up
It May Happen Sooner than you Think
Now, I want to close with a brief story. Several years ago, I arranged for three North Korean women to participate in a conference we organized with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. The panel I moderated focused on what was happening to the North Korean refugees in China and I introduced three women to tell their stories of the public executions, the trafficking and enslavement of North Korean women in China, the separation of their families, the starvation, and the horrors that are faced when one is forced back to North Korea. As we left the podium, we were all in tears and the audience was shocked into silence at what they had just heard. The audience was numb in disbelief at the testimonies, except for one elderly lady.
She walked right up to us and told her story: Her name was Magda Bass and when she was 17 years old, she and her family were taken to Auschwitz to be exterminated in gas chambers. Because she was strong and healthy, the Nazis decided to spare her life and make her a slave laborer. When she resisted being separated from her mother, they beat her and broke her collarbone and shoulder. No one in that Los Angeles audience understood more what these women had faced except this one lady who had also been victimized by a great evil and survived but lost her entire family, her home, her childhood and her innocence. Magda Bass decided after the war to come to the United States and she told us that when she applied for entry, the authorities complained that she had failed to list her nationality. She had written for her nationality: HUMAN BEING.
Now, this is what you face in this year 2010: you face the same fight for humanity to which Dr. Walter Judd devoted his life.
I remember when I was young like you – I was in High School and a volunteer for Reagan for President in 1976. I was able to attend the Republican National Convention as a volunteer for Youth for Reagan. We knew the odds were against us but we still had hope that Reagan would defeat Gerald Ford in the nomination for President. The saddest, most disappointing moment of my life came when West Virginia announced their votes: West Virginia announced twenty votes for Gerald Ford securing the nomination for him over Ronald Reagan, and I was totally devastated and crushed that Reagan had lost the nomination. Of course, four years later he would be elected President of the United States.
So, I remind you:
Never Give Up,
What you are fighting for may come sooner than you think, and
So , Be Prepared.
I once again thank the Fund for American Studies for this tremendous honor and for the work they do in defending and passing on to the next generation the core American values of freedom, individual responsibility and free markets.
To all of you students, I welcome you to this fight.