The twilight zone, a ghostly enigma that echoes chilling stories and near inescapable pain for the people living inside the North Korean state. Kim Jong Un, like his predecessors, has continued the legacy of war-mongering and the torture and imprisonment of thousands and perhaps the killing of thousands of his own people.
The 17th February report, written by a three-member panel led by Michael Kirby, is harrowing in both its extended detail and inhumane content as it describes a totalitarian state that is without comparison in our world. There is compelling evidence of torture, execution and arbitrary imprisonment, deliberate starvation and an almost complete lack of free thought and belief. This also includes the horrific abuse of women’s rights in the country and the destruction of generations of families. Kirby was particular in noting the evidence of one prison camp inmate who said his duties involved burning the bodies of those who had starved to death and using the remains as fertiliser.
Recent reports that have emerged from Pyongyang are ones that define humanity at its very worst. Gulags, imprisonment and torture at the hands of the state, crimes against humanity, images and sketches drawn by men that paralleled those I saw drawn by children in the Holocaust Memorial Museum and POWs who were tortured and beaten to death in many Japanese prison camps in World War II. These are not images you are accustomed to seeing, nor would hope would emerge again in the days of modernism and supposed humanity. Certainly the Western world has to come under severe scrutiny, their inaction enough to suggest that morally they are certainly culpable as they so frequently claim to champion the halting of genocide, humanitarianism and moral righteousness. Undoubtedly Western hypocrisy in the matter of treatment of prisoners is sometimes under the spotlight particularly when the United States refuses to close Guantanamo Bay and has been culpable in the torture of many POWs in recent years in the name of national security.
Incapacitated, dependent on the economic support and China’s propping of oil and food shipments, North Korea is the archetypal failed state. It is a god-forsaken place, secretive, and the reality falsified by sickening (almost laughable if the situation were not so serious) propaganda that glorifies war, aggression, the cult of the individual and ‘all-powerful’ nation of North Korea which can hardly feed its population. The latter is due to economic stagnation, poor planning, and the incapacity to modernise.
The reality is that North Korea is a satellite state, a buffer against the influence of South Korea and Japanese influence on Chinese Communist State. So long as China tolerates the North Korean atrocities, there is little the world can do but watch as Kim Jong Un beats his people into a submissive, catatonic state. China would lose nothing in the disappearance of Kim Jong Un and his unholy party, more a stain upon China’s reputation than anything rather than a useful or valuable ally. The fact of the matter is we are entering a world where China will ultimately become the leading economic and political powerhouse of the 21st century, it is hardly likely that this sorry regime is needed to protect them from the influence of more democratic regime’s such as Japan and South Korea. This also includes the influence of the receding United States who are shying away from their role as cumbersome world policeman.
Kim Jong Un is more an increasing headache for China, an embarrassment as he threatens the international community with archaic threats of nuclear arson and death. Not to mention the increasing fact that a more aware and enlightened Chinese public opinion will as the years go on step up the criticism of their government for propping up a violent state which abuses its own people. This is a difficult situation seeing as China has its own dislike of human rights investigations which the North Korean government responded to this week as mere ‘riff raff’ in face of near universal condemnation.
Nevertheless avoiding war with North Korea and its collapse is something truly perplexing in Chinese foreign policy, particularly if standards of training, discipline and equipment in the force are reported to be low in the North Korean army, despite all the hype over their parades. Parades don’t win wars, the satellite images portray a country that can barely stand on its feet as does the footage of the countryside seen in many daring ventures into this desolate land under the control of a manipulative, deluded and conformist military regime.
A state built on lie’s and deceit is a potent cocktail, the bigger the lie, the more likely people will believe it, the lie spreads like a wildfire, builds and consumes everything in its path until there is nothing left but ash. The ash is swept away in the gale, scattered, the victims voices stifled and near forgotten in this sinister world we can hardly fathom. North Korea must fall, its people must be saved. China is the key to this particularly troublesome lock.