A new United Nations report has found that crimes against humanity – with strong resemblances to those committed by the Nazis – are occurring in North Korea. Surly, suspicions of this have existed for decades, but this 400 pages report concludes that there is truly evidence of it and calls for an international court investigation.
“Only when I left North Korea I understood what life is supposed to be” said Ahn Myung-chul, a former prison guard among the 80 refugees who publicly testified before the UN Commission for Human Rights. Along these 80 refugees, more than 240 victims were also confidentially interviewed as they fear the consequences for their family members who are still in North Korea. You can watch some of the testimonies in this Human Rights Watch video.
The UN report is written is extraordinary detail and reveals a gruesome list of cruelties occurring in the country’s political prison camps, which exist since 1953 following the signature of the ceasefire with South Korea. ‘Among the regime’s main targets are those who try to flee the country, political prisoners, Christians, and those promoting other “subversive beliefs”’.
The UN describes a totalitarian State, sustained by prison camps and by the fear of being guilt by association. Indeed, one who is accused of treason in North Korea sees his entire family condemned as the law of guilt by association extends to three generations of the defendant’s family. At the same time, public executions are standard procedures and as Lee Young-Kuk (Kim Jong-il’s former personal bodyguard) “every North Korean has witnessed them. If family members or friends of the condemned cry at the execution, they are arrested on the spot and send to be executed.”
North Korea has evidently denied the UN’s accusations, it has refused to grant permission for the UN Commission to enter the country, and denied the existence of its kwanlliso, the political prison’s network. Sadly, China also refused to let the UN Commission visit its border with North Korea and continues to send back refugees who were able to escape to China.
Many think that this report changes very little. But as stated by The Economist this week, “Now the international community does know. There will be no excusing a failure of action because we didn’t know. It’s too long now. The suffering and the tears of the people of North Korea demand action.”