All the “Never Agains,” all the Holocaust memorials, all the anguish over starvation in Biafra, killing fields in Cambodia, horrors in Bosnia, machetes in Rwanda, murder in Darfur, cannot hide the ugly truth: Humanity does not respond to mass murder.
Item: Just last week, the UN issued a massive, 400-page report on mass murder in North Korea.
Item: Already this week, the report is all but forgotten.
Even as Armenians are about to commemorate the century mark of the Armenian genocide, even as Congress each year hosts “Days of Remembrance” of the Holocaust, even as the UN has now created an international Holocaust memorial day (Jan. 27, the liberation of Auschwitz) — even so, genocide rages on, as we write, as we speak, as we read, as we live.
The author of the UN report on human rights abuses in North Korea, Australia’s Judge Michael Kirby, amended his report in a radio interview. The report opened a window onto the “gravity, scale and nature” of human rights abuses in North Korea that do not have “any parallel in the contemporary world.” Alas, Kirby said in an interview, he needed to add a word to “gravity, scale and nature,” and that word is duration. Decade in and decade out, North Korea’s evil continues unabated — and we sit. We do nothing.
The report was based on the testimony of 80 witnesses and 240 additional private interviews. The report was under the auspices of the normally timid, controlled United Nations. The reports shredded every excuse of “we didn’t know” or “we couldn’t prove.” The report is chilling. The report describes, not the years, but the decades (“duration”) of camps for political prisoners. The report lists the crimes of the prisoners, including such trivialities as spelling the name of the Leader wrong. The report demonstrates the misnomer of the word “prison” and “imprisonment.” These are torture camps, killing camps, not simply prisons.
One line from the report: “An old woman who had no shoes and asked for shoes in order to work was told by the SSD agents that she did not deserve shoes because the detainees were animals and should die soon.” And they did die soon, countless hundreds of thousands of people.
The Nazis had their “vermin.” Jews were subhuman, were bugs, vermin. The North Koreans have their “enemies of the people,” which might mean they are, or are descended from, Christians, landlords and who knows what else. Whatever the variation in “enemies of the people” might be, they exhibit a common denominator: enemies of the people are not people. Not human beings. Not deserving of rights or even of life.
North Korea has its own lexicon of dehumanization: songbun. This is the word for the North Korean bifurcation of the human race into the permitted and the forbidden.
The Nazis called themselves Aryans; Jews (and others) were non-Aryans, i.e., subhuman. The North Korean regime, so far as we can enter into its mind, uses songbun to classify, by race, religion, ancestry or some other curse, who is good and who is not, who shall live and who shall die.
The camp populations in North Korea have dropped, observers guess, because so many have died there.
Less trivial crimes include a total ban on free speech and even free listening. Want to listen to a foreign broadcast or see a foreign film? Bam. This can land you in a political prison [see above, definition of prison].
What to do? Trial of the leaders of North Korea in the International Criminal Court will do nothing to save a single soul or punish a single criminal. Regime change is the only answer, if, that is, “never again” is meant sincerely. It is not enough to mourn the genocides of the past. It is not enough to cry. The objects of concerted action must be the leaders of North Korea.
And not only they. Among the other shocking findings in the UN report is the complicity of China. This, of course, should elicit no surprise, given that the largest violator of human rights on the planet is China. Remember the St. Louis, the ship of Holocaust escapees turned away from our shores? Remember the “White Papers” that kept would be Holocaust escapees out of Palestine, and the American restrictions that kept other would be Holocaust escapees out of the US? Well, this time, the primary embodiment of callousness is China, which regularly returns escapees from North Korea back to North Korea.
One point in the complexities of immigration policy that is generally agreed upon is this: Do not return a refugee to his home if he or she will face death or severe persecution there. This is precisely the fate that awaits North Korean escapees. And this is precisely the practice of China — send them back. Oh yes, there is an exception. Rather than send all the young girls back to North Korea, sell some into prostitution or forced marriages — with Chinese men, of course, since the Chinese, with their wicked practice of killing babies, especially, females, face a shortage of potential female spouses. How kind of North Korea to accommodate: deny human rights; ergo, encourage escape; ergo, make unwilling females available to Chinese men. Evil embraces evil.
Please, do not tell us about the next negotiation, this time with North Korea, for the demise of its nuclear program. For the sake of humanity, for the sake of truth, North Korea’s regime must be sanctioned, attacked, deligitimated — whatever works — until it comes crashing down. Until the camps are liberated. Until the prisoners (those still alive) are freed. Until the full truth comes out.
Until “never again” means something.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News