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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Celebvocates for human rights

by | April 25th, 2012 | 06:21 am
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The Reliable Source column of the Washington Post runs a weekly roundup of celebrities in town to advocate, often on Capitol Hill, on behalf of various causes.  Richard Gere on Tibet, George Clooney on Darfur, Angelina Jolie on, well, I forget what it was about, but she definitely caught my attention. Some “celebvocates” are real stars, but some are B list television actors or slightly-past-their- sale-date models and musicians. Some are actually quite articulate advocates for their causes, other seem slightly clueless.

In a recent conversation a South Korean government official bemoaned the lack of celebvocates for North Korean human rights. He dismissed actors such as Cha In-pyo, who had turned out for the recent public protests in Seoul on China’s repatriation of North Korean refugees, as has-beens. No, what we need, he observed, is Lady Gaga.

Apart from personal conviction, it is not obvious why a celebvocate would gravitate toward North Korea human rights: it is unlikely that you will be able to visit the country for photo-ops, the crowds will be small, and you will have to deal with backstabbing by regime apologists.

But just when you think hope is lost, the following Yonhap story rolls across your screen.  I reproduce it in full:

Boney M Urges Beijing to Be Lenient on N. Korean Defectors (Yonhap)

“A lead vocalist of the well-known disco group Boney M said on Tuesday that North Korean defectors detained in China should be given a chance at freedom, calling for Beijing to show leniency.

“There should be some kind of leniency, giving these people (defectors) a chance to live a life they have chosen,” Liz Mitchell said at a press conference in Seoul before playing a concert on Saturday.

Boney M’s three other members also showed support for North Korean defectors, according to Howard Kim, the manager of the concert organizer.

The four-member disco group, who achieved massive popularity during the disco era of the late 1970s, has voiced support for North Korean defectors in China who face deportation back to their communist homeland, where it is feared they will receive harsh punishment and even execution.”

Granted, even in their heyday Boney M did not carry the pop culture throw weight of Lady Gaga.  But you have to start somewhere and the government of South Korea would probably make you a Citizen Ambassador and give you a small budget for your efforts.   Does anyone have Angelina Jolie’s number?  I bet Trevor Neilsen does…