PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) – After an American was released from North Korean custody, the attention has now focused on two other US citizens still in its jails, and at least one North Korean legal expert has some unusual advice to offer: let Washington formally apologise to Pyongyang, and the country’s leader will consider pardoning them.
The suggestion on Thursday by Sok Chol Won, a professor of international law, offers a look at North Korean thinking – academics, government officials and ordinary people alike. While the idea of an apology may appear ludicrous to outsiders in democracies, autocratic North Korea assumes that a government is responsible for its citizens’ actions.
“In order to return the prisoners to their country, the United States must make an official apology and request their release,” said Sok, who teaches at Pyongyang’s Academy of Social Sciences, in comments to The Associated Press.
Sok’s advice also fits into North Korea’s version of international diplomacy and propaganda that aims to get a big power like the United States – seen as an imperialist bully – to bow to a proud nation and say sorry for its perceived faults.
“It’s not a matter of individuals. It’s between countries,” said Ri Kyong Chol, another law professor at the academy. “Between the US and our country there is no political channel … If there were diplomatic relations between our two countries this kind of problem wouldn’t happen.”