The Commonplace Horror Of It All.

March 9, 2009

20th Century Democide

I find it more revealing to read the reports or biographies of escaped refugees and political dissidents from an evil dictatorship than what the country-experts write about it. This way I get a sense of the commonplace horror of it all. I just finished reading Kang Chol-Hwan’s The Aquariums of Pyongyang. Kang, you may recall, spent about 45 minutes with President Bush giving him a briefing on his experience. Taken in by North Korean propaganda, his whole extended Korean family emigrated from Japan to the “paradise of North Korea.” Of course, coming from a highly developed and free country to the bankrupt, rigidly control North Korea, his family was loose lipped. Eventually they were all arrested and sent to a forced labor camp when Kang was ten-years old. He and those of his family who survived spent ten awful years there.

This book as mainly about Kang’s experience in the camp, but enough about North Korea itself is described to show that life inside and outside the camps is a matter of degree. Trying to escape the camps means execution if caught; similarly, trying to escape the country means a fast death by execution or a slow one in the camps. A returned escapee is then one of the so-called irredeemables who along with those who spoke out against the regime, or the “revered Great Leader,” are purposely worked to death. And their children with them.

Some things that stick in my mind:

One is that it seems so easy for people’s minds to be so swayed by propaganda as to give up their freedom and wealth in a democracy to enter . . . hell.

Also, as in South Vietnam when it was taken over by the North, everything is a matter of bribes. They are not the lubricant, but the basis of order. Whatever one needs or wants to be done in North Korea was possible if one had enough money or precious goods to barter. Up and down the communist hierarchy, the currency was Omega watches, color TV sets, Japanese Yen, food, and anything else of material value.

Third, are the deaths. Deaths from malnutrition, deaths from lack of medical treatment, deaths from accidents, deaths from everyday beatings, deaths from overwork, deaths from the cold in winter, and deaths from executions. One vignette that sticks in my mind is of three boys that were put to work in a gold mine setting off explosives without adult supervision. They would light the fuses and run. Once they were not fast enough, and two were killed in the explosion and one had half his face blown off.

Fourth is the food, always inadequate, such that painful hunger would cause people to lose their decency, and even take food from their children’s mouths. The ever-present hunger stimulated creativity in catching and nurturing rats for food, catching insects, or finding something to eat in the woods around the camp.

Finally, is the ease with which people were sent to these gulags. No trial, no hearing, no interrogation. Perhaps word from friends or insiders that one was under surveillance would be a first clue of what was to come. But one day, the security police would arrive and haul a whole family, even babies and children, off to one of the camps with virtually no time for preparation or explanation. Or, one might be arrested at work without any chance of one’s family finding out what happened, even when it was separately arrested.

Is this gulag worse than Stalin’s? It’s like asking which is worse, torture with a burning hot iron, or with a knife.

Quite understandably, Kang condemns the South Korean government’s refusal to make human rights in the North an issue, and reluctance to help North Korean refugees, who when caught in China are returned to Kim Jung Il’s loving arms to be executed or worked to death in one of the camps.

His book should be widely read. But, it won’t be by those who need to be educated by it the most.

Link of Note

“N. Korea defector seeks help from Bush” (7/19/05) By Bill Gertz. In The Washington Times

Gertz says:

A North Korean defector who survived 10 years in a prison labor camp said he told President Bush last month that the United States should do more to help those who flee the communist regime. 
    “The people who are at the camps, the [North Korean] government wants to kill them all,” Kang Chol-hwan said in an interview with The Washington Times. “Instead of executing them, they kill them slowly, making them work in forced labor. That was the hardest part.”

What gets me the most about this horror is that it is happening now. Not 60-years ago under the Nazis, or Stalin, or 50-years ago under Mao, or 30-years ago under Pol Pot, but now.

Handling Kim With Kid Gloves

January 26, 2009

On the right, North Korea vs. South Korea at night.

[First published june 23, 2005] Robert Marquant has a fasinating article in The Christian Science Monitor (No link available) on”Tips for Proper Disposal of ‘Dear Leader’s’ Photo.

He says.

In Pyongyang, the rules are very specific about how physically to handle the Kim image.

No one is permitted to point casually at a portrait of Kim Jong II or his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. [RJR: he didn’t found North Korea, Stalin did and watchfully handed it over to Kim Il Sung to rule] If you find yourself holding a book with a picture of a Kim on the cover, you’d best carry it with two hands, face up, in a dignified manner. And no thumb or fingers are ever allowed to touch or cover Kim’s face.

The image and name of the Kims are deeply Ingrained as the sacred goods of North Korea, and a special etiquette has evolved in dealing with them. Rules exist for handling, carrying, hanging and, even. disposing of Kim faces and portraits. There also are rituals for their printed names.

It is all part of a culture of propaganda designed to ensure permanent collective devotion among the North Korean people. No portrait of Dear Leader or Great Leader is to be folded. No newspaper issued on the birthday of Kim Jong Il or his father, when the photo Is likely to be a full page, should be covered or used to wrap anything. Onc a newspaper with a major photo of Kim is old or worn out, it may not be tossed out, but must be brought to a special collection point where the image Is properly discarded

A few years ago, prior to a special festival attended by many foreigners a special 100‑note currency was issued, using the Kim II Sung face.

But it was quickly withdrawn from circulation after it was discovered that foreigners were casually folding the bills and putting them In wallets placed next to the derrière.

In writing about Kim, the name or character may not be casually deleted. In fact the editing of journals and books inostly still takes place on paper. Journalists and writers must not remove Kim’s name from a sentence by crossing it out. Instead, the name must be circled, and only then removed.

And in published material, direct quotes by Kim or his father should always appear in a manner similar to how many Bible publishers treat the words of New Testament figures in — in bold or illuminated type.

This would be pathetic were it not for the deadly consequences of disobeying these rules, and that this tyrant so treated with respect and honor exceeding that of the great emperors and kings of history is a megamurderer.

Link of Note

” U.S. donates food aid to keep North Koreans from starving “ (6/22/05) CBC News

It says:

The United States is to donate 50,000 tonnes of food aid to North Korea amid growing fears of a new famine.
U.S. officials say the move is a humanitarian gesture and not intended to lure Kim Jong-il’s regime back to stalled six-party talks on the North’s nuclear program. . . . The US supplied 50,000 tonnes of food aid to North Korea last year and 100,000 tonnes the year before, making it one of the largest single providers of aid to the country. The other main donors are the European Union and South Korea.

The “imperialist, war-mongering, greedy” U.S. is the largest food donor to North Korea.Theory
Of conflict/democide/freedom

Incredible! And The Horror Continues As The Threat Increases

January 8, 2009

[first published March 25, 2006] On the right, North Korea vs. South Korea at night. Also, consistent with this picture, read this from several years ago, which seems to apply today as well:

1. North Korea’s population requires about six million tons of food for each person to have a minimum diet. The regime controls all farming, all agriculture, and can only produce about four million tons. This causes a food shortfall of two million tons, or 33 percent below what is minimally required.

2. Kim has imposed rationing, and his handouts are the only way to legally obtain food. There are no independent channels of distribution, except for the black market. This means that people get food as Kim and his thugs’ desire.

3. Thus, Kim’s food distribution system is highly unequal. Food is put aside first for “patriotic rice” and “military rice.” This has resulted in Kim cutting the consumption of 700g of food a day per person by 22 percent, or to 400g a day, well below the minimum consumption of rice set by the World Food and Agricultural Organization.

4. This is not all. In this “classless” communist society, the regime has divided North Koreans into a rigid hierarchy of three classes, and fifty-one subdivisions, depending on a person’s status within the communist North Korean Workers Party and the military, their perceived faithfulness to communism, and family backgrounds. In other words, Kim uses the very food people need to live as a tool to reward and punish his subject slaves. Thus, vast numbers of people whose loyalties are questioned or may be deemed useless to the regime do not receive enough food to live long. The worst off are those people and families incarcerated in Kim’s concentration or forced labor camps. They receive the lowest food allowance of all, in spite of their being forced to work from 5 am to 8 pm.

5. There are no hospitals, doctors, or medical distribution and supply companies independent of the regime. All are nationalized. As with food, therefore, medical treatment and medicine is distributed as reward and punishment. Not surprisingly, medicine is in short supply and not available everywhere. Thus, the diseases associated with famine and malnutrition often get no medical treatment at all. Even a cold under such conditions can be mortal. And only half of the population is now inoculated for such diseases as infantile paralysis and measles.

6. Attempts on the part of the South Korea, the United Nations, and the United States, the major giver, to provide food aid have not worked well. In 2002 food aid was 62 percent under its target, but even if the target were reached , it would not substantially improve on the food available to the average Korean, because the food is not equally distributed. But it is not. The regime will not guarantee that food reaches those who need it most, it does not allow aid givers to carefully monitor who gets the food, and in some cases, it has redirected the food to its favorite classes or to the military.

7. Aside from the daily accumulation of dead, the effects on the living have been disastrous. Long-term malnutrition has affected about half the living, and caused underdevelopment in children–their growth is stunted and they are excessively thin. There is wide-scale dwarfishness and, most important from any humanitarian point of view, their brain development has been retarded. Moreover, malnutrition has fostered rickets, scurvy, nyctalopia, hepatitis, and tuberculosis, among other diseases. North Korea is one of the few countries in which population mortality rates have been increasing. The life expectancy has fallen to 66.8 years from 73.2; newborn mortality rate has increased from 14 to 22.5; and the rate for those less than five years of age has increased from 27 to 48 per thousand.

And so on.

Now, incredibly, that Stalinist dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il–that warden of the world’s worst border to border, open air concentration camp; that overseer of mass starvation of his slaves while he loads his dinner table with delicacies procured by his chiefs from around the world; that mass murderer; that drug smuggler; that multimillion dollar counterfeiter of American currency; that material supporter of terrorism and supplier of nuclear technology and devices; that possessor of nuclear weapons and the missiles that could reach Hawaii and Alaska– is continuing to work on nuclear warheads for his missiles and on a longer range missile that could reach major American cities.

Were this evil man to appear to succeed with only reasonable credibility, the world would enter a new and most dangerous time. For then, Kim’s credibility about using his nukes would be absolute, and no American president could risk San Francisco or Chicago on the assumption that Kim did not have this capability, or was bluffing. And Kim would no longer be deterred from threatening Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. with his nukes unless we….

No threat that we would turn North Korea into a moonscape could be realistic, for it would be obvious to everyone that we would not risk the loss of several million American lives (along with economic, social and political chaos) that would follow Kim’s inevitable pre-emptive attack on the American homeland.

All political calculations are based on assumptions and a calculation of the risk of being wrong versus the probability of being right. Even if we had intelligence that cast doubt on Kim’s ability to create warheads from his nukes and to develop ICBMs with sufficient accuracy to hit an American city, the horrible human cost of being wrong would have to determine our policies

What to do? Assassinate him, as I have urged (here, and here). Now. There can be no moral inhibition here. He is the world’s most evil and dangerous man. The worst threat to all humanity.

Related links

“NKorea weapons ‘could not hit US'”:

North Korea does not yet have an operational missile that could hit the continental US, a US report says. But its weapons could target South Korea and Japan, and it is working on a longer-range solid-fuel missile.

RJR: Ahh, bad headline. Hawaii and Alaska are part of the U.S.

” North Korea Touts First-Strike Capability”:

North Korea suggested Tuesday it had the ability to launch a pre-emptive attack on the United States, according to the North’s official news agency. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the North had built atomic weapons to counter the U.S. nuclear threat…. The North’s spokesman said it would be a “wise” step for the United States to cooperate on nuclear issues with North Korea in the same way it does with India.

RJR: Just wait until they APPEAR to have such a capability for the demands Kim will make.

” KOREA: We’d Rather Starve”:

North Korea says it wants to end UN food aid by the end of the year. The UN World Food Program (WFP) has provided 300,000 tons of food to North Korea this year, 90 percent of which has been delivered. South Korea has sent 500,000 tons. That keeps about a third of the population from starving to death (by providing about half a pound of grain or rice per day per person.) Harvests were better in the north this year, but the real reason for getting the WFP out is the hundred or so inspections UN personnel make each week to insure that the food goes to the people who need it. The South Korean food comes with far fewer inspections attached. China has also offered 150,000 tons of food a year, and South Korea has been generous with contributions of fertilizer. The north would rather starve than be scrutinized. These inspections bring too many North Koreans into contact with foreigners, and this leads to more North Koreans finding out about the outside world, and that North Korea is not the workers paradise, and best run country on the planet. North Korea has received some $2 billion in food aid over the last ten years. As a result, the government has not had to buy and import any food. Despite that savings, much of the food donated has been diverted to military use, or for sale in the black market. 

“N.Korean defector says disabled newborns are killed”

“The Great Famine of 2006: A Long, Hungry Winter Sets In; The World’s Last Chance to Prevent It Slips Away”

“Up-to-date news on the food situation in North Korea :

LFNKR still receives stories about starvation like those heard back in 1996 to 1997. In one case, steamed bread was reportedly stuffed with human flesh. In another case, parents exchanged children with another family to eat them.

“Australia bombs impounded N-Korean drug ship”:

Two Australian fighter jets bombed and sank an impounded North Korean cargo ship on Thursday in what Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said was a strong message to Pyongyang about its involvement in drug running.

“Lawmakers prod US on N.Korean refugee act”:

The U.S. government has failed to implement 2004 legislation aimed at promoting human rights in North Korea and giving asylum to refugees from that communist state, senior U.S. legislators said.

RJR: This is a balancing act on the part of Secretary Rice. We are trying to get international control of Kim’s nuclear weapons development, and need China and South Korea in the process, but both side with Kim in opposing our implementing the refugee act.

“U.S. finds a new way to pressure N. Korea”:

Six months after the Bush administration blacklisted a bank in Macao accused of laundering money for the North Korean government, senior administration officials said the action had proved to be far more effective than anyone had dreamed…. In interviews, several present and former administration officials said that the administration had concluded that the six-nation talks intended to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear arms were unlikely to succeed unless they were accompanied by these direct, punitive actions.

RJR: Finally, but it takes being mugged by reality to do it. This is the sorry history of middle-level State Department officials dealing with thug rulers. But it is an intrinsic problem for democratic officials, who habitually project their democratic norms onto the thugs that rule by the smoking gun.

A novel about two lovers who travel in time back to 1906 to foster the democratic peace and prevent the world wars and mass democide. Free download in pdf.