North Korea, Trump and Human Rights

United Nations report on North Korea in 2014 described “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” and added that in this respect North Korea “does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

North Koreans have told me how the police periodically turn off all the power in an apartment building, thus locking any video or DVD inside the machine playing it. Then the police search unit by unit to see what is in the machines — and if it is, say, a South Korean soap opera, then the entire family may be shuttled off to a labor camp.

.. The Loudspeakers issued constant propaganda along the lines of:

On his first golf outing, the supreme leader shot five holes in one, not long after scoring a perfect 300 his first time bowling! The brigandish American war-maniacs are committing ever increasing crimes with their despicable flunkeyist puppet traitors in South Korea. A magical white sea cucumberthrew itself into a fisherman’s net to celebrate the wise rule of the Workers’ Party.

.. Radios and televisions can tune only to North Korean stations. On the black market, technicians can be found who will tinker with the devices so that they can receive South Korean or Chinese stations, but possession can get one’s family sent to a labor camp. Some 100,000 people are said to live in these prisons.

.. “In my opinion, conditions in North Korean labor camps are as severe and brutal as the Nazi camps were,” said Thomas Buergenthal, who served on an International Bar Association panel investigating North Korean prisons and is himself a survivor of Auschwitz.

.. On my first visit, officials denied that there were any prisons or labor camps. Now they acknowledge them but insist that Western reports about North Korean abuses are vastly unfair and exaggerated.
.. For example, triplets are regarded as auspicious in North Korea and so are given to the state to raise. To me, this is coercive.
.. Trump could encourage Kim to accept Red Cross visits to labor camps, or to release family members of those convicted (right now, the whole family is often sent to a camp). These are difficult issues and we don’t want to make the nuclear negotiations harder, but let’s never forget that North Korea is not just another nuclear state — and that what’s at stake is not just warheads, but also human lives.