Thursday, April 17, 2003

North Korea's human catastrophe

This raises the third dimension of the human catastrophe, which is the North Korean gulag. It is estimated that the system of political prisons and labor camps in North Korea holds more than 200,000 people, and that, given the harsh conditions in these camps, some 400,000 prisoners have perished in the past three decades. In keeping with North Korean founder Kim Il Sung's dictate that class enemies "must be eliminated through three generations," parents, children, grandchildren and other relatives of prisoners are also sent to the gulag; and forced abortion and infanticide are standard practice, as prisoners are considered subhuman and are not permitted to have children. North Korea, of course, denies the existence of such camps, but in December the Far Eastern Economic Review published satellite photos of a camp in Hoeryong County that holds 50,000 prisoners, along with interviews of escaped prison guards who described what happened in the different buildings, including those where prisoners were tortured and executed.The famine, refugees and gulag are not isolated problems but rather illustrative aspects of the most oppressive system in the world today. North Korea is a remnant of Stalinist totalitarianism at its worst, and its extortionate behavior has no purpose other than to perpetuate its existence.

And Josh Marshall remarks, in relation to recent developments:

Bush administration Korea policy got an apparent boost a couple days ago when the North Koreans suddenly (a couple days after the fall of Baghdad) announced they were willing to engage in multilateral talks over their nuclear weapons program so long as the US was "ready to make a bold switch-over in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue." On Sunday, the president crowed -- not without some justification -- that his tough policy against Iraq had made the North Koreans cave.

But now there seems to be a catch. The North Koreans say they're okay with multilateral talks. But, according to an article in today's Korea Herald, North Korea -- and China -- say they don't want the Russians or the Japanese at table. We probably don't mind not having the Russians there. But according to Chris Nelson, at The Nelson Report, the US would find excluding Japan from multilateral talks "unacceptable under any circumstances."