Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Who Will Stop North Korean Crimes Against Humanity

One time or another, everybody has had to defend an action they disagree with or even find reprehensible. But it is hard to understand how anyone or any country can overlook or excuse the human rights abuses freshly documented this week by a United Nations report.

A North Korean defector cries as she prays during a service at Saetu Church in SeoulDennis Rodman, who has pursued a bromance with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, might be able to look past extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, rape and racial, gender and religious persecution, but China shouldn’t.

Yet there was the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson bad-mouthing the frightenly detailed report as “unreasonable criticism.” Hua Chunying said it was counterproductive to politicize human rights and described carting off Kim Jong-un to International Criminal Court as unproductive.

That begs the question of what would be productive? It also raises the more fundamental question of what is China – or the United States – going to do to stop the abuses.

North Korea, which denied access to the UN panel members working on the report, issued a statement denying any human rights violations. They said such claims were “an instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system.”

That would be news to the North Korean refugees, escapees and asylum seekers who provided the UN panel with vivid, first-hand views of daily life in North Korea. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Maybe North Koreans could take solace in that the report stopped short of saying it was committing genocide. The report says the North Koreans just execute people for their beliefs.

The report, in staggering detail, described “crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.” It also challenged the manhood of the international community in letting those crimes continue with impunity, even when the crimes involve the abduction of foreign citizens in South Korea and Japan.

Before Kim assumed control in North Korea, many people hoped he would usher in a new day. Now only Rodman harbors that view, as he tries to con former NBA players to go there and play a game to amuse the young despot.

Political prisoner camps are a prime example of North Korea’s unique, intense style of oppression. When someone commits a “crime against the state,” his or her entire family is hauled off to work in forced labor camps. Unlike camps we are used to, these have poor sanitation, rotten housing, little food and no medical care. Prisoners mine, log and farm, using rudimentary tools in unsafe work conditions, resulting in high death rates. The unlucky people who survive are subjected to torture.

Switzerland-UN-North-Korea-Human-Rights.JPEG-0f4fc-870x588The 3-member panel who spent a year interviewing 320 witnesses, survivors and experts before writing a 36-page report  were thoughtful enough to offer a roadmap for Kim on how to reform. They included creating an independent judiciary dismantling the state security apparatus, releasing political prisons, reforming the criminal code to delete “anti-state” crimes, practice religious tolerance and abide an independent press. The report also suggest checks and balances on Kim himself.

If Kim’s uncle were still with us, perhaps he could have added a few words about how likely those reforms are under his nephew.

Or maybe Rodman, who is experimenting with drive-by therapy, could give us his take on his buddy who condones prisons where guards are trained to wipe out all inmates quickly and leave no tracks, so the evidence of the camps themselves vanishes.

2 comments on “Who Will Stop North Korean Crimes Against Humanity

  1. Ashley Henry
    February 21, 2014

    It’s so horribly sad. What should the international community do? How do you deal with something like this?

    • Gary Conkling
      February 21, 2014

      Thanks, Ashley, for commenting. I wish I had a ready answer. I don’t. However, it is untenable to stand by and do nothing. It is worth exploring options.

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