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Crimes against humanity in North Korea’s hidden gulags

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on April 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
April 16, 2012 3:22 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program is a secondary issue. So is its effort to create intercontinental-range missiles, which flopped spectacularly last week.

The problem with North Korea is North Korea itself – the twisted, pathological nature of its dictatorship, which is what makes its possession of nuclear arms so dangerous. A newly released report, “The Hidden Gulag,” has given the world an unprecedented glimpse of the depravity at the core of the regime.

It’s been common knowledge for many years – though denied by the dictatorship – that North Korea runs a system of slave camps modeled on Josef Stalin’s gulags. “The Hidden Gulag,” published by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, documents that system in astounding and damning detail.

The report gleans a surprising amount of evidence – including satellite imagery – of what’s happening inside the obsessively secretive nation. It relies on extensive interviews with survivors of the camps who escaped and miraculously found their way to asylum in South Korea and elsewhere.

Totalitarian governments have routinely subjected their victims to unspeakable misery; that’s hardly news. Stalin, Adolf Hitler and their imitators almost inured the world to arbitrary arrests, mass enslavement, starvation, torture and systematic murder.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have suffered the same fates for such crimes as having the wrong ideas or knowing too much about South Korea.

North Korea has enlarged even Stalin’s expansive definition of political crimes. One such crime is being the parent or child of a supposed wrongdoer; the first of the country’s dynasty, Kim Il-Sung, had a policy of purging “class enemies for three generations.”

Another crime is being a pregnant woman. Perhaps the most shocking passages in “The Hidden Gulag” are descriptions of what happens to women who flee to China, are lured into sexual slavery by human traffickers, then caught by Chinese police and forced back to North Korea.

If they return pregnant, some are forced to abort. If the pregnancy is too advanced, the infants may be beaten to death by guards or literally buried alive. There are accounts of newborns being tossed into buckets or bins like garbage and left to die as more are tossed on top of them.

By comparison, Iran and other oppressive governments look positively humane.

These crimes against humanity can be ended in only one place: Beijing. The Chinese government stands in the way of any international sanctions that might force change in North Korea. China props up the North Korean regime politically, economically and diplomatically.

The Chinese communist party’s complicity in the horrors across the border is a reminder that it remains the organization founded by Mao Zedong, another Stalinist protégé who also presided over murder and slavery on a monumental scale.

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