New Report Sheds Light on the Horror That is North Korea
North Korea poses a serious threat to the United States. So far, it’s mostly rhetoric and not action escalated by the DPRK. The regime declared that it would launch “an unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time” upon the United States. It has threatened to turn you into a “pile of ash.”
But did you know that same regime turns its own wretched citizens who die in political prison camps into piles of ash? It then uses them as fertilizer. In that appalling action, North Korea itself demonstrates the link between global/national security and human rights. Sadly, this is a link that in recent years has been undervalued in U.S. policy.
The Committee on Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) is the leading U.S.-based non-governmental organization in the field of North Korean human rights research and advocacy. The organization, under Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu, played a vital role in the decision of the United Nations Security Council to address the human rights situation in North Korea. The resulting U.N. Commission of Inquiry was heavily supported with evidence from HRNK.
On Monday, November 13, HRNK released a new report by Robert Collins and Amanda Mortwedt Oh, From Cradle to Grave: The Path of North Korean Innocents. It was launched at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., with the authors, Scarlatoiu, and other speakers.
The two have impressive credentials. Collins has written several groundbreaking publications on North Korea for HRNK. He completed 37 years of service as a soldier and a civilian employee with the U.S. Army. This included 31 years in the Republic of Korea. Collins interviews North Korean defectors and escapees for HRNK. He is now developing population and human rights data. Oh is an attorney in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps. She analyzes satellite images for HRNK. She was desk officer for the series of satellite imagery analyses of North Korean prisons and prison camps.
A press release said the new publication “documents the chain of political and administrative command and control responsible for crimes against humanity in North Korea.” Who is responsible for torturing and killing both political prisoners and the innocents arrested with them? The authors wanted to expose how many “innocent” North Koreans suffer and die in the prison camps. These poor souls are guilty only by association. Three generations of families are imprisoned with the “guilty.” It is HRNK’s hope that someday the evidence in this report will be used to convict those responsible for the crimes.
Who are the innocents? They are normal citizens, unfortunate enough to be born into the hell that is North Korea. They do their best to be loyal to the Supreme Leader. At the report launch Collins said that “every single North Korean starts loyalty training at birth.” All lullabies sung to babies in their mothers’ arms are about the Dear Leader. This is by government edict.
The report asks:
How do North Koreans, who committed their lives to serve the Kim regime’s supreme leader and who are innocent by commonly-accepted legal standards, become criminals in the regime’s eyes? How do these innocent North Koreans, who study loyalty to the supreme leader daily, end up in unmarked graves inside a political prison camp?
From Cradle to Grave shows that Kim Jong-un’s prison camps are a tool of political oppression and control of North Korean citizens. Both elements are necessary for the continuance of the regime itself. The Kim regime’s strategy for survival, the report says, is based on “ensuring the complete loyalty of the people to the Supreme Leader.” It has been said that North Korea itself is one big prison camp. The treatment of the citizens demonstrates that this is true. North Korean citizens cannot live for themselves. They have to live for the Supreme Leader. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of North Koreans die in prison camps. They are starved, worked literally to death, tortured and outright executed. This is not just a by-product of regime survival. It is the deliberate, intentional action of people who enjoy being cruel and inflicting pain.
Speaking at the launch, Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute said that “human rights is the flip side of the coin from North Korea’s behavior internationally.” “What North Korea wants to do to us is what they do every day to the people in the DPRK,” Eberstadt declared.
You may think that U.S. North Korea policy should only be focused on our national security. But another speaker at the report launch, former U.S. Air Force officer George Hutchinson, warned that “we get distracted by the nuclear threat.”
And all of the speakers at the National Press Club launch praised the speech given in Seoul by President Trump. Eberstadt called it a “watershed event … that documented the human rights nightmare in North Korea.” Another speaker, Mark Tokola, Vice President of the Korea Economic Institute of America, was pleased that Trump did not just single out Kim Jong-un, but talked about the crimes of “the regime.”
Perhaps U.S. North Korea policy is becoming less distracted. It’s once again linking human rights and national security. Let us hope so for the sake of our own most effective national security policy. But even more so for the sake of millions of innocents in North Korea who suffer from the cradle to the grave.