BBC World Service Korea

A group of young Koreans have started a campaign to persuade the BBC World Service to broadcast to the Korean peninsula. They have a Facebook page to which anyone wishing to support their campaign can link:

This link takes you to a short film which examines the human rights situation in North Korea:

Click here for Shin Dong Hyok’s first speech in English describing his experiences in Camp 14 where he was born:


Led by the senior Conservative MP, Gary Streeter, 15 MPs from all political parties have tabled a House of Commons Motion calling for the extension of BBC World Service Broadcasts to the Korean Peninsula. Mr.Streeter is Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea. You can ask your MP to add their name.

• Session: 2012-13
• Date tabled: 07.02.2013
• Primary sponsor: Streeter, Gary
• Sponsors:
o Bottomley, Peter
o George, Andrew
o Meale, Alan
o Russell, Bob
o Shannon, Jim
That this House endorses the recent calls made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to the BBC World Service that World Service transmissions should be extended to the Korean Peninsula; welcomes the recent remarks of the hon. Member for East Devon and Peter Horrocks of BBC World Service, made at meetings in Parliament, which rightly recognised the role which the BBC can play in promoting human rights, democracy, culture and language; and believes that an extension of transmissions to the Korean Peninsula would be an appropriate way to celebrate both the 80th anniversary of the BBC World Service and to recognise Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which upholds the right of all citizens to freely listen to broadcasts and to exchange ideas.
Total number of signatures: 15
1. Show:
Supported by:
A list of all MPs that have signed and support the motion.
Showing 15 out of 15
Date Signed

Bottomley, Peter
Conservative Party Worthing West 07.02.2013
Bruce, Fiona
Conservative Party Congleton 13.02.2013
Caton, Martin
Labour Party Gower 13.02.2013
Dodds, Nigel
Democratic Unionist Party Belfast North 13.02.2013
Field, Frank
Labour Party Birkenhead 14.02.2013
George, Andrew
Liberal Democrats St Ives 07.02.2013
Hancock, Mike
Liberal Democrats Portsmouth South 13.02.2013
Leech, John
Liberal Democrats Manchester Withington 12.02.2013
McDonnell, John
Labour Party Hayes and Harlington 12.02.2013
Meale, Alan
Labour Party Mansfield 11.02.2013
Osborne, Sandra
Labour Party Ayr Carrick and Cumnock 13.02.2013
Russell, Bob
Liberal Democrats Colchester 07.02.2013
Shannon, Jim
Democratic Unionist Party Strangford 12.02.2013
Sharma, Virendra
Labour Party Ealing Southall 12.02.2013
Streeter, Gary
Conservative Party South West Devon 07.02.2013


Most British people, me included, have long been proud of the role the British Broadcasting Corporation
plays in facilitating free flow of information. The BBC, with its 188 million listeners, has been instrumental to upholding the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights around the world. I am convinced that this service must also be extended to over 70 million inhabitants of the Korean peninsula in their language and in English, so that our dialogue over shared beliefs can become a truly global one.

The BBC has proven its commitment to neutrality and freedom of press over its long history of excellent reporting. It strives to provide news coverage that eschews a particular point of view, whether political, social, or national. It has the courage and resources to address events that others may be unwilling or unable to. It embodies the best of what modern Britain has to offer.

South Korea is a major player in global trade, cultural production, and technological innovation. It has succeeded in becoming one such despite insurmountable odds, and now serves as a model for other countries who wish to emulate its “Miracle on the Han River”. It is my strong belief that a Korean language broadcast of the BBC World Service will be in not only South Korea’s interest, but that of Britain as well.

In the case of North Korea, where free press does not exist and unbiased facts are difficult to come by, offering objective news coverage of global affairs in a language understandable to North Korean citizens will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the political standoff that has lasted almost six decades between the two Koreas. This task must be a priority for the BBC, whose stated purposes include sustaining citizenship and civil society.

I am confident that together we will make the Korean language broadcast of the BBC World Service a reality. The campaign, “BBC for Korea”. has my full support and I hope many others will endorse it at:

Calls for BBC World Seervice To Broadcast To Korea

Calls for BBC World Seervice To Broadcast To Korea

John Lee Tae-Sok: Korean Schweitzer among Sudan’s lepers – “Don’t Cry For Me Sudan”

A few months ago I hosted a delegation from North Korea which included the Speaker of their national Assembly, Choe Tae Bok. During the visit each member of the delegation was presented with a DVD celebrating the life of a remarkable Korean who has become known as “the Albert Schweitzer” or “Fr.Damian” of Sudan.


I chose the DVD because it says nothing about the fierce hostility and enmity between North and South Korea and I chose the DVD because it celebrates the story of a remarkable man whose heroism and self sacrifice should unite the people of the north and south, both in admiration and pride in the life of John Lee Tae-Sok.


I also chose the DVD because Catholic priests have been banned from North Korea for sixty years and John Lee Tae-Sok was a Catholic priest, a Salesian, and a medical doctor. Perhaps the DVD – “Don’t Cry For Me Sudan” – will help the North Koreans to see the Church and the work of its priests in a different way. The Sudanese he helped christened Fr.John “Fr.Jolly” because of his winning smile and gentle humour.


The story of his life has certainly had a phenomenal impact in South Korea, where newspapers reported that audiences have been leaving the cinemas in tears, having been so affected by Fr.John’s outpouring of love. 300,000 people have now seen the film.


Fr.John was born into a poor Catholic family in 1962, the ninth of ten children – another of whom has also been ordained.  John’s father died when he was aged nine and John would also die at too early an age – succumbing to cancer of the colon in 2010.


After his father’s death John’s mother brought up the family by herself, counting the pennies earned from her work as a seamstress. They lived in the St. Joseph parish of Song Do in Pusan:  a parish built for the poor and needy of Pusan, after the Korean War, which had left many Koreans destitute and unemployed.


John was helped through his studies by his mother who encouraged him to read medicine. On qualifying, he practised as a surgeon in the Korean army but repeatedly he felt the call to be a priest. His mother felt she had already given one son to the Church – his brother is a Capuchin friar – and initially she tried to deter John from entering the priesthood but ultimately gave her blessing. He was ordained in 2001.


It was while he was training for the priesthood that John visited the Salesian mission in southern Sudan. It was the first time he had been in a colony of lepers – men and women with Hansen’s disease. He was so disturbed by the rotting limbs and squalor that in a state of shock he went off into the bush to get the disturbing encounter out of his sight and mind. The Salesians working there did not expect to see the young army doctor again.


They were wrong.


On his return to Seoul the memory of the lepers never left him and in 2001 he announced that he would “be a better missionary among the lepers than anywhere else.”   Alarmed that he should want to go to Southern Sudan – where two million people had lost their lives during the civil war waged by Khartoum’s despotic government, his mother and family were deeply distressed but once again they finally accepted and endorsed his decision.


Arriving at a place called Tonj, Fr.John began the arduous task of erecting a medical clinic. Using the same hands that would treat 300 patients daily, he personally constructed the building to which desperate Sudanese would bring their illnesses. In his jeep he went out searching for the lepers.


A memo written by Lee Jae-hyeon, a policy director for South Korea’s Environment Ministry, who visited Tonj while working for the United Nations, and who was one of Fr.John’s sponsors graphically described the working conditions in the village:


“The heat wave was deadly. It was 55 degrees Celsius. I didn’t realize thermometers had more than 50-degree markings until the priest showed me. I felt like my clothes were burning. The river in Tonj was a muddy puddle. Children splashed in the water, and instead of dabbling in it, they gulped up the water.”


After the clinic came classrooms for a school and other facilities. In the absence of anyone else to do it he would teach the children maths and music.  A gifted musician, Fr.John persuaded Korean friends to send a crate load of instruments and uniforms and he founded and trained the Don Bosco Brass Band.


News of his work spread and a South Korean film maker came out to make a documentary.  Following Fr.John on his rounds they recorded the social developments and the health programmes which he had initiated.


This phenomenal out-pouring of energetic love and commitment inevitably took its toll and it was during a short break in 2009 that cancer was discovered.  In Seoul he underwent chemotherapy but on January 14th 2010, aged 47, his life came to an end.


This, however, was not the end of the story.


The film-maker, Koo Soo-Hwan, returned to Sudan and interviewed many of the families of the Dinka warriors whose lives had been so profoundly touched by Fr.John’s humanitarian work.   The film that emerged was “Don’t Cry For Me Sudan” – taking its title from the Dinka boys who weep as they carry a picture of “Fr.Jolly” through the village of Tonj as they hold their own funeral in his memory. They are members of Fr.John’s brass band. Not much given to public displays of emotion these young people and their families are tearful as they describe the acute loss they experienced in learning that their priest and doctor would not be returning to them.  A copy of the Korean movie has now been made with English subtitles and extracts may be seen on You Tube at


The film’s director recently came to see me in London.  He had been intrigued to learn that I had given a copy of his movie to the visiting North Korean delegation. What had I hoped to come out of this? “An appreciation that one man’s life can change a world, and that all Koreans should be inspired by and celebrate the life of a remarkable and truly wonderful man.”