In case you were wondering, no, I’m still not over that whole North Korea / state-sponsor-of-terrorism thing. The Weekly Standard has helped me nurse this old grudge by printing my fisking of the State Department’s latest annual country reports on terrorism. I’ll give you the first paragraph and let you read the rest on your own:
Even after a year of North Korean nuclear and missile tests, this year’s State Department “Country Reports on Terrorism” makes the risible claim that North Korea is “not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987.” It would appear that State’s definition of “acts of terrorism” no longer includes international assassinations, threats against foreign media, or arms sales to terrorists—all of which North Korea has done during Barack Obama’s presidency. Indeed, no one has refuted State’s assertion more convincingly than Obama himself.
Regular OFK readers will remember that President Obama preemptively refuted State’s obtuse assertion–one so ignorant of the facts that it must be willfully so–when he signed this letter in 2005 protesting North Korea’s disappearance of the Rev. Kim Dong Shik. The shelf life of Senator Obama’s promise was just three years, but let’s be fair about this–Obama’s predecessor didn’t perform any better at keeping his promise to another abductee’s family; he was just more careful to make his promise less explicit.
Sadly, the Kim family’s pursuit of justice suffered another setback recently. A District Court judge has dismissed a suit by his family against the government of North Korea for his abduction and disappearance (hat tip).
The result is disappointing but understandable. Courts must impose rigorous standards of evidence to render judgments, particularly when other nations will be expected to honor those judgments. Ordinarily, the courts lack jurisdiction to hear tort claims against foreign countries, but after 9/11, Congress created an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for acts of terrorism and torture. In Rev. Kim’s case, there would have been sufficient evidence of North Korea’s responsibility for the abduction; after all, two North Korean agents were convicted for it in South Korean courts (opens in pdf). After that, however, the evidence that Rev. Kim was actually tortured fades behind North Korea’s walls of night, fog, and fear, and we must rely on hearsay accounts from defectors. I can understand why a court might demand more. One hopes that if more reliable evidence ever arises, the action can be revived.
Of course, none of this gets State off the hook, because the evidence of North Korea’s involvement in Rev. Kim’s kidnapping is more than sufficient for State’s purposes, and transnational kidnapping of a political opponent is about as clear an example of terrorism as you could think of for purposes of this definition. Yet the finest minds in your State Department would have you believe that North Korea hasn’t sponsored any acts of terrorism since 1987.
Recent history has made me deeply uncomfortable with the very idea of martyrdom–and particularly religious martyrdom–but Rev. Kim’s quiet, selfless, peaceful, and principled self-sacrifice was heroic. It deserves to be remembered by Koreans and Americans alike. It deserves better than the burial in a shallow, unmarked memory hole it got from our State Department and our last two presidents.