North Korean Gulag survivors call on Switzerland to freeze Kim Jong Un’s slush funds (Alternate title: Cursed are the Cheesemakers).

Switzerland has always been there for North Korea. When North Koreans were starving to death in heaps, Switzerland was there to receive Kim Jong Il’s personal shopper and sell him millions of dollars’ worth of its finest timepieces. When North Korea needed creative new ways to make money — literally! — Switzerland sold it the very same intaglio presses and optically variable ink our Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses to make money. When Kim Jong Un needed a place to spend his formative rumspringa torturing small animals, masturbating to bondage porn, flunking his classes, and developing the personality profile of a school shooter — a school shooter with nuclear weapons — his daddy picked Switzerland. Thanks to Switzerland’s narrow interpretation of U.N. sanctions on “luxury goods,” His Porcine Majesty is now eating himself into a mobility scooter on Emmental cheese.* And when the Treasury Department sanctioned North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank for its involvement in WMD proliferation, it was the Swiss who yodeled that Uncle Sam was starving North Korean babies.

Above all else, when Kim Jong Il needed a place to stash somewhere between $1 billion and $4 billion in personal slush funds, Switzerland and its bankers received his money launderers with open arms. But for one regrettable violation of North Korea’s human rights last year, when Switzerland refused to sell North Korea $7 million in ski lift equipment,** Switzerland has always been there to provide North Korea the watches and numbered bank accounts that starving people need so desperately (and the finest cheeses, of course). Switzerland’s refusal to sell the ski lifts may have delayed the opening of the Masikryeong Ski Resort by several days, but the Swiss people can still take comfort in knowing that, thanks to their government’s laissez-faire policies, the death certificates of 2.5 million expendable men, women, and children (might, possibly) record the hour and minute of their sacrifice with Swiss precision.

The Swiss government has also done its share. Every year, as a token of appreciation for North Korea’s patronage, it refunds the equivalent of 0.7%*** of North Korea’s slush funds to the North Korean government … as humanitarian aid. It’s all part of a reputation for impeccable financial ethics that dates back to the Holocaust. You could say that Switzerland is to kleptocrats what Cambodia is to pedophiles, if this wasn’t so grossly unfair to Cambodia.

For a while, it was fashionable for North Korea watchers to suggest that Kim Jong Un’s Swiss education might have influenced him toward a more libertine style of governance, but things haven’t quite worked out that way. It may be that these scholars were working from a flawed model of Switzerland as a liberal European utopia — a land of cuckoo clocks, alpine meadows, open-air heroin-shooting galleries, and drive-in brothels. This, of course, is a crude stereotype. The real Switzerland**** is the home of Europe’s answer to Gitmo, except that it holds more people (476 men, women, and children) and kills one of them now and then (sound familiar?). It’s a land that values simple things, like racial purity (sound familiar?), and that tolerates all religions except the ones that it doesn’t (hello!).

Actually, until this moment, I’d never realized just how much Switzerland and North Korea have in common. There may be enough similarities that, with a little imagination, you could view Switzerland and North Korea as moral equals.***** One logical reaction to this would be to reject everything that any Swiss person says about North Korea — ever — regardless of its substantive merit.****** Another possible response would be to call for Switzerland to use its financial power to alter how Kim Jong Un uses North Korea’s wealth and rules over its people.

This latter view is now advanced by U.N. Watch, a Swiss NGO. Despite the fact that they are Swiss, perhaps we should suspend logic briefly and hear them out. After all, U.N. Watch is really just publishing a call “by 20 North Korean defectors,” including several survivors of North Korea’s prison camps, for the Swiss Government to block Kim Jong Un’s slush funds. I’ve reprinted the letter in full below the fold, but here is the gist of it:

In conclusion, based on international law and Swiss domestic law, prior Swiss precedents, and the basic principles of morality and humanity, we respectfully urge Switzerland to immediately freeze all assets of the North Korean leadership, whether held in their names or those of their associates, that are located within its territory.

Even better, the Swiss government could make every centime of those deposits available to buy food—provided the distribution of those purchases was better monitored than, say, the Oil-for-Food program, or the World Food Program’s current North Korea operations. There is a catch, of course. Funds that are blocked, as opposed to confiscated, still belong to the North Korean government. But surely Kim Jong Un wouldn’t deny starving people their fair share of his vast wealth out of spite alone.

~   ~   ~

* Or so say the unverified rumors. I guess you could verify the exports from trade statistics, but I hesitate to believe that anyone who knows what’s on Kim Jong Un’s table is telling.

** I wish this was a tasteless joke, but the North Koreans really did call this a “serious human rights abuse.” The value of the ski lifts, at $7 million, is almost exactly the same amount as what Switzerland donated to North Korea as humanitarian aid the same year.

*** Actually, it’s impossible to estimate that percentage without knowing how big the slush funds are or where they’re deposited, but if you divide $7 million by $1 billion, you get 0.007, or 0.7%.

**** Disclaimer: Author may not have actually been to Switzerland.

***** Especially if you’re really, really high.

****** Some might say that’s especially so of one who called the U.N. Commission of Inquiry’s report on North Korea’s crimes against humanity “a massive exaggeration.” The best thing that can be said of most Holocaust deniers is that they’re merely vicarious, post-hoc deniers. This cannot be said of Felix Abt.

19 September 2014

Open Letter to the President of the Swiss Confederation

to Freeze Assets of North Korean Leadership in Switzerland


We have experienced and witnessed the gross, systematic and widespread violations of human rights committed by the North Korean regime against its own people, which has been ongoing for many decades.

Because of these atrocities, and for the reasons outlined below, we appeal to you to place an immediate freeze on the financial assets located in your country, Switzerland, held by the North Korean leadership, who are directly responsible for the crimes against their own people.

We make this request based on the following:

(a) Findings of UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea

As you know, the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea’s human rights record found “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State for decades.”

These crimes entail “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

The UN further found that North Korea “displays many attributes of a totalitarian State: the rule of a single party, led by a single person, is based on an elaborate guiding ideology.”

Consequently, the UN has found that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un bears primary responsibility for these human rights violations. The commission of inquiry reported multiple indications of central government accountability.

(b) Switzerland endorsed creation and findings of UN Commission

Switzerland has a moral responsibility to act on the findings of the commission of inquiry because it played a leading role in its establishment and endorsement. As a member of the Human Rights Council for 2013, Switzerland actively supported the resolution that created the commission of inquiry (A/HRC/RES/22/13) and, moreover, Switzerland was a sponsor of the Council resolution (A/HRC/RES/25/25) which formally adopted the commission’s report on 28 March 2014.

Please note that Resolution 25/25 called on the General Assembly to request the Security Council to consider action to hold to account those responsible for human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The UN resolution specifically calls for consideration of “effective targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity.”

Switzerland has no legal or moral reason to wait before proceeding with these vital targeted sanctions. It is incumbent upon Switzerland to match its calls for action in the Human Rights Council by taking action in its own capacity, echoing the grave concerns that have been expressed and affirmed by multiple UN bodies.

(c) Swiss law and prior precedents support case for freezing North Korean assets

Switzerland has every basis in law and prior precedent to act for the people of North Korea. We recall that, acting on these laws, Switzerland in recent years has frozen the assets of several foreign leaders, including Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.

Switzerland did so in accordance with Swiss laws: the Embargos Act (2002), and the Act on the Restitution of Illicit Assets (RIAA/LRAI 2011). Moreover, in 2014, Switzerland adopted a new law on the issue, theFederal Act on the Freezing and Restitution of Illicitly Acquired Assets of Foreign Politically Exposed Persons, which only underscores the government’s commitment to address this important issue.


In conclusion, based on international law and Swiss domestic law, prior Swiss precedents, and the basic principles of morality and humanity, we respectfully urge Switzerland to immediately freeze all assets of the North Korean leadership, whether held in their names or those of their associates, that are located within its territory.


Kang Cheol Hwan

Because his grandfather was falsely charged with treason against the nation, all his family members were sent to Camp 15, as guilt by association.

Shin Dong Hyuk

He was born in Camp 14 and witnessed his mother and brother’s public execution. While he was imprisoned in Camp 14, he was subjected to many types of torture.

Ahn Myeong Chul

Because his father committed suicide, his family was sent to a political prison camp, as guilt by association.

Jeong Kwang Il

He was falsely charged with espionage and taken to Camp 15. In Camp 15, he received horrible torture such as pigeon torture, beating, and starvation.

Kim Young Soon

She and all her family members were taken to Camp 15 just because she was a friend of Kim Jong Il’s wife.

Lim Jeong Soo

His father was a prisoner of war, so all his family members were taken to a political prison camp. His father died in a camp from extreme torture. His mother and two brothers died in a camp because of starvation. Also, agents seared his belly with a hot iron. He lived in a camp for 22 years.

Lee Keum Ran

She escaped from North Korea but was caught in China and repatriated to North Korea. After repatriation, she was detained in Camp 15 and witnessed horrible torture committed to other detainees such as forced abortion, beating and so on. She also received horrible torture.

Kim Eun Cheol

He was detained in Camp 15 just because he escaped from North Korea. In Camp 15, he received torture such as beating and starvation. He also witnessed public executions of other prisoners.

Lee Soon Shil

She was repatriated to North Korea from China 9 times and received horrible torture in a labor training camp. Agents seared her body with a hot iron and beat her. Her daughter was trafficked in China.

Kim Tae Jin

He escaped from North Korea but was repatriated to North Korea from China. Then he was detained in Camp 15 and received torture such as beating and forced to sit all day without any movement.

Kim Dong Ram

His son was taken to a political prison camp without any trial just because he escaped from North Korea and interacted with Christianity.

Kim Kwang Hwi

Her family was related to Kim Il Sung’s second wife, Kim Sung Ae. During the 1970s, her family was politically purged and sent to a political prison camp.

Kim Hye Sook

She was taken to a political prison camp when she was only 13 because of guilt by association.

Park Soon Hee

Her co-worker’s family escaped from North Korea, but North Korean agents kidnapped them in China and brought them back to North Korea. They were later sent to a political prison camp just because they escaped from North Korea.

Jeong Hee Soon

She and her daughter escaped from North Korea to earn money in China. In China, her daughter wanted to go to South Korea, but on the way to South Korea, her daughter was caught by the Chinese police and repatriated to North Korea. Later, her daughter was taken to a political prison camp.

Kim Mi Hee

Her family was falsely charged with breaking the statue of Kim Il Sung and taken to a political prison camp. Almost 90 people who were related to her family were also taken to a political prison camp under false charges.

Kwon Young Hee

Her brother escaped from North Korea to earn money in China. However, that time was the national mourning period of Kim Il Sung’s death, so when he was arrested in China and repatriated to North Korea, he was sent to a political prison camp and treated more severely because he escaped from North Korea during the mourning period of Kim Il Sung’s death.

Shin Hye Sook

Her husband frequently crossed a river between North Korea and China to meet his sister in China. However, someone in her town reported him to the National Security Agency, and he was taken to a political prison camp. Also, Shin Hye Sook was forcibly divorced from her husband by the NSA.

Ji Seong Ho

His arm and leg were amputated because of a train accident in North Korea. Because of starvation, he escaped from North Korea but was repatriated to North Korea and received horrible torture. Since he had a physical disability, he was treated more severely than other prisoners in North Korea.

Ji Hyeon Ah

She escaped from North Korea and was repatriated back three times. While she was investigated in the National Security Agency, she received horrible human rights violations and was subjected to forced abortion without anesthesia. Also, when she was detained in a labor detention facility, she witnessed forced abortion and infanticide of other prisoners and prisoners’ babies.

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