April 2023

Don’t force North Korean refugees back into danger

Your magazine has been assiduous in highlighting the plight of people in North Korea. (‘Tightening the screws on Kim dictatorship’, Richard Gregson; ‘The new face of North Korea’, Duncan Bartlett, both March 2023 issue).

 It was horrifying to note that crimes committed by the state include ‘murder, enslavement, forcible transfer, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearances, apartheid, and other inhumane acts’, according to the International Bar Association’s report, which was quoted in Mr Gregson’s article.

The dilemma for the international community is how to help North Koreans who escape from the regime. Those who come to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) deserve compassion and need support to heal their physical and psychological harm. Civil society organisations play a role in raising awareness of the situation.

It is also vital that asylum seekers who fled North Korea are not forced to return to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution. China and the Russian Federation, in particular, need to uphold this important UN principle.

Seo-jun Park


Bridging the skills gap

Dear Sir

Pervez Hoodbhoy’s excellent article (‘Don’t blame the Chinese’, March 2023), is an honest appraisal of  Pakistan’s  skills shortage and its role in preventing Chinese inward investment. As he speaks about the failure of the education system to provide students with the necessary skills to hold down key roles in high tech projects, it is heartening to learn that plans are in place to address this problem. As the sixth most populous country in the world, with 64% of its population below the age 30 and a youth unemployment rate as high as 8.5%, Pakistan urgently needs to implement far-reaching measures to enable its young workforce to compete on the global stage. Inspired by the skills gap, a collaboration between the public and private sector named Parwaaz, has identified 6 priority areas to fuel economic growth. Let’s hope that this imaginative initiative will soon bear fruit.

K Kalpar

Lahore, Pakistan

Is war a price worth paying?

While Amit Agnihotri’s article (‘High cost of long wars’, March 2023) sheds light on the realpolitik at the heart of protracted conflicts, past and present, his report led me to question the rationale and practicality of these actions and consider whether it’s time for a radical rethink on ways of resolving conflict. These considerations are even more pressing given the nuclear capabilities of the world’s leading powers.

Rather than preventing war, does having a military actually increase the likelihood of it? Even where war is morally justified, should an entire institution be dedicated to it, given the financial and human costs? Are there better alternatives to war such as peaceful, non-violent resistance?

Indeed, the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, after an occupation lasting more than 20 years,  resulted in the Taliban emerging stronger and more brutal than when they were first toppled, and serves as a stark reminder of recent military failure.  Factor in the deaths of an estimated 176,000 people (of which 46,319 were civilians), the $2.3 trillion cost of funding the war, the decimation of a country’s economy, the profound and long-lasting psychological and physical trauma of an entire population, the emergence of ISIS and the rise in jihadi-inspired attacks upon NATO allies, the countless number of people who have been displaced as a result of this and other post 9/11 conflicts, and it is difficult not to question the wisdom of this decision-making.