"We have told of many public executions [in the North]. But officials in Seoul always ask us for material evidence," says Pak Sang Huk, an escapee from the North. "Now that we have evidence, they don't want to see it.... The people who brought this tape through China were speechless when they visited KBS [Korean Broadcast Service] studios, and were shunned." Mr. Pak claims those who filmed the executions risked their lives to do so.
Seoul's effort to avoid broadcasts of negative images or facts about North Korea is part of a larger strategy dating to the Sunshine Policy and Korean summit of 2000. In this view, unification of North and South can't be achieved if the South criticizes or acts in a manner that the North deems hostile.
"Kim Jong Il holds public executions to show the Kim family is omnipotent," says Jae Jin Suh of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. "It is naive to think that Pyongyang will respond to a push by Seoul to change and treat its people better. We need to focus on what is effective, not what we think we should say."
Of late, the South has stopped raising the North's abuses in international bodies. In 2003, South Korea withdrew from a UN Geneva process when it required a vote on North Korea's human rights record. In 2004, Seoul abstained from voting. A new South Korean defense white paper released this month after a three-year delay, deletes a former reference to the North Korean Army as the "main threat."
Critics say that to stifle or disallow comment about the unpredictable Kim leaves the South in the position of being influenced or governed by Kim's own whims. Supporters of Sunshine say that patience is needed, and a return to hostile accusations could create a standoff that would slow foreign investment in the South. Critics say millions are suffering now.