~ 1 ~
Nicholas Eberstadt has written something for The Wall Street Journal that is so cogent, so poetic, that I envy him for writing it (hat tip: Sung Yoon-Lee).
Never again should Western humanitarian aid be given to North Korea to hand out at its own discretion, as if Pyongyang were a government like any other.
Never again must Beijing—which like Pyongyang refused to cooperate with the U.N. investigation—be given a free pass for financing, enabling and protecting this most odious of all regimes….
Never again must South Koreans avert their eyes from the catastrophe that is befalling their compatriots across the demilitarized zone. And never again must Seoul forget that it is legally bound to grant citizenship to refugees from the nightmare to the North.
Never again must the rest of us live comfortably with the knowledge of what is happening right now to ordinary people in North Korea.
~ 2 ~
North Korea’s repressions and killings have been ignored by too many for too long. The Kirby report says “the gravity, scale and nature” of these human rights violations have no parallel in the world today.
Perhaps the time has come to make this Topic No. 1 when we think about North Korea. We must take seriously our responsibility to protect as long as there is still something resembling Buchenwald or Perm-36 on the face of the planet.
~ 3 ~
“The key question remains, however, when will the world powers led by the United States and China take practical measures to stop a regime whose serial inhumane treatment of innocent people conjures up the Soviet Gulag and the Nazi regime of the 1930’s?” Rabbi [Abraham] Cooper asked, adding, ‘”It’s time for the civilized world to respond to the silent cries of the North Korean people.”
Rabbi Cooper also urged private firms, including banks and travel agencies, to choose to stop doing business with the North Korean regime even when such activities are not technically illegal.
~ 4 ~
Perhaps there’s not much that can be done short of regime change, but the civilized world should do what it can. That means continuing to document the horrors, denying international legitimacy to the regime through economic sanctions and other means, and calling out its enablers. At some point, the tide of history will turn against Kim and his murderous thugs.
I suspect this is where a lot of people are now — wondering what, short of war, we can really do about any of this.
~ 5 ~
Which is why the good professor Lee and I make our own contribution to the discourse in the pages of the Washington Post, in an effort to explain how the COI report can be a first step toward forcing change in North Korea, even if China blocks the path to the ICC:
Financial sanctions should aim to force the regime to make better decisions about North Korea’s wealth, to add an additional deterrent to protect the United States and its allies and to present Kim with a clear choice between reform and collapse.
I hope my friends who are struggling with the question of the COI’s relevance will give it a read. China clearly hopes that in a few weeks, we’ll forget all about it and the border guards will just keep right on shooting, out of sight and out of mind.
~ 6 ~
NORTH KOREA JUST STOPPED BEING FUNNY, writes a former editor of The Economist. That’s a welcome change, but it’s going to make my work here much more difficult.
~ 7 ~
THE WHITE HOUSE, WHICH HAS HARDLY UTTERED A PEEP about human rights in North Korea since 2009, wants you to know that it is “extremely critical” of Kim Jong Un’s crimes against humanity. Duly noted, White House.
~ 8 ~
SOMEONE AT REUTERS IS, to borrow Brian Myers’s phrase, stuck in the 90s:
The unprecedented public rebuke and warning to a head of state by a U.N. inquiry is likely to further antagonize Kim and complicate efforts to persuade him to rein in his isolated country’s nuclear weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and the West. [Reuters]
Aww … and we were this close, too! The same story carries a great quote from Myers himself:
“The world is finally waking up to the fact that North Korea is a far-right state, in that the regime derives its right to rule from a commitment to military might and racial purity,” said Brian Myers, a South Korea-based North Korea expert. “But for that very reason, the regime has never felt very embarrassed by criticism of its human rights record, and has reported sneeringly on that criticism to its own people. Perhaps it will realize that it cannot keep attracting investors and collaborators without making more of a pretence to progressive or leftist tendencies.” [Reuters]
We should all make a note to ourselves to get past this outdated left-right spectrum some day. As a practical matter, statist regimes always migrate toward totalitarianism, militarism, war, mass murder, and famine, just not necessarily in the same order. Another pattern history confirms is that states that begin as at least nominally socialist invariably develop yawning economic and class disparities. It’s depressing to consider that the natural state of modern could be fascism.
~ 9 ~
My favorite reaction, however, has to be that of the Government of Botswana, which severed diplomatic relations with North Korea over the report:
“The deplorable acts catalogued in the United Nations’ report are startling and warrant strong condemnation by the international community. As a member of the international community of nations, North Korea has the responsibility for the welfare and wellbeing of its people and respect for human rights which have unfortunately for too long been seriously lacking in that country,” it said.
“Botswana wishes to convey its heartfelt sympathies to the people of North Korea who are currently subjected to inhuman treatment under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.” [Kyodo News]
It’s both wonderful to see Botswana taking this brave stand, and sad to see faraway little Botswana so far ahead of the world’s great and middle powers on this important issue. If you read KCNA regularly, you’ve no doubt seen the large number of tributes to North Korean leaders from African nations it publishes, but I doubt KCNA will print this one.
I drove across Botswana a little more than 20 years ago, and thought it was a lovely place. The people were proud but friendly, the countryside dry and stark (if a bit monotonous after a few hundred miles), with many upscale safari parks and resorts and all the baobab trees you care to see. The main roads were mostly good, and the currency was very strong (thanks to huge diamond and platinum mines), and no one assigns you a minder. Please slow down — the roads are full of kids and goats.
~ 10 ~
I close by offering you this translation of a German-language piece written by Felix Abt, a Swiss businessman who is heavily invested in North Korea, and who has emerged as one of the regime’s more shameless apologists. Abt argues that the COI report is all a big exaggeration, because (1) he never saw anything that bad, (2) defectors all lie, and (3) oh, by the way, America has prisons, too. I won’t even graf it for you — I’m just going to paste the whole thing below the fold.
Every place and time, unfortunately, has enablers like this. I’m sure that in 1942, there were equally ethical men stalking Eichmann on the very steps of Wannsee, hoping to ink the first contract to sell him crystallized prussic acid. If you have something to say to Mr. Abt, here’s his Facebook page. Fisk away, but please abstain from threats and profanity. (Hat tip to a reader for the screenshot and the translation.)