After WWII, the world recoiled in horror at the revelations of the Nuremberg trials and endless film from the death camps. Some of the most revolting pieces of evidence against both the Nazis and the Japanese were the so-called "medical experiments" that were conducted against helpless prisoners. These involved all manner of horrors including testing for effectiveness of diseases and poison gasses. In consequence, international treaties were crafted outlawing use of poison gas for military purposes and against civilian populations and resolutions were passed regarding genocide and mass murder. Never again! So the world said.
But today reports indicate that these despicable experiments continue, hidden in remote, inaccessible North Korea. Much of the credit for publicizing this evidence belongs to acclaimed BBC producer Ewa Ewart, who has released two films on the subject. One, a standard length documentary titled Access to Evil, was screened on Capitol Hill in June and shown on BBC World. The second is a brief, follow-up piece featuring an interview with a defector scientist. Unfortunately neither film has yet been made available for US viewers. Yet it is critically important that Americans understand and appreciate the depth of the horror uncovered.
The experimentation, according to defectors, is designed to forecast exactly how much lethal agent would be required to kill the entire population of Seoul, South Korea. By current estimates that would mean the death or incapacitation of approximately 14 million people. Incredibly many people, including those most concerned, debunk these defectors' testimony. It is common, they say, for North Korean defectors to ‘exaggerate’ or ‘misstate’ what they heard or did. In a bizarre twist some South Korean analysts claim that the poison gas experiment stories are intentionally leaked by North Korea in order to use them as additional fear-producing control measures against its own citizens.
When North Korean defectors report about human beings killed so scientists can make better chemical and biological weapons, many listeners close their ears. South Korean officials, to their shame, brusquely reject testimony by North Korean defectors. They dismiss the North Koreans as unreliable sources not concerned with the ‘larger picture’ of improved relationship between the North and South. If that is the case, then why does the South Korean intelligence service try to silence both of the men who provided the poison gas testimony?
One man was a North Korean research chemist. He defected in 1979. He remains anonymous in order to protect family members still in the North. He discusses in intimate detail the layout of the facilities used to experiment on the prisoners and even writes out the complicated chemical formulae for manufacture of the lethal substances. These formulae were reviewed by British scientists and confirmed to be lethal agents. The other defector, a former prison camp commander who fled the North more than a decade later than the scientist, also sketches the death chamber in chilling similarity to the scientist even though the two have not met. From the film it is clear that the pain and frustration level of both men is growing. ‘Why will they not believe us?’ reads a hand-painted sign in Korean language that the former camp commander displays publicly on his parked car as he tried vainly to stimulate public outrage.
There is an unreasonably heavy leavening of denial built into South Korean analysis. South Korean officials pretend publicly that for the past several years the relationship with North Korea has been improving. Representatives from both countries meet frequently, they say. North Korea has allowed reunions of separated families, once rare, to occur more commonly. South Korean firms have established manufacturing facilities in North Korea and at meetings the North Koreans speak with increasing assurance of their positive intentions toward their South Korean brothers and sisters. Just expel the Americans, the North Koreans say, and all will we well again. We are all Koreans, they reassure.
The incumbent and immediate past presidents of South Korea both eagerly drank from the tempting appeasement cup offered by the North. They were joined at the bar by such worthies as Americans Jimmy Carter, Madeline Albright and Ramsey Clark. The Clinton administration, easily distracted from complex foreign affairs issues, seemed willing to disregard untoward North Korean activities as long as the pretense could be maintained of ‘regional stability.’ The shallowness of the North Korean deception was clear when their secret nuclear program was uncovered. The horror intensifies as the human poison gas experimentation becomes public.
Surely there is heavy irony in the fact that those in South Korea most threatened by the North’s chemical warfare arsenal are most blasé about it. It begs the question if they are not concerned, why should we in the US be? South Korean cynicism and willingness to sacrifice the welfare of their northern brethren in order to appease North Korea repels concerned observers. It is long past time for responsible world leaders to force action to demand justice for the people of North Korea.
If more justification for US intervention is needed it arises from the terrible threat that these chemical and biological weapons pose to free countries if sold to terrorists. North Korea has shown contempt for international order by selling outlawed missile systems and pushing illegal narcotics. It would readily sell WMD to a well-heeled terrorist buyer for the hard currency it lacks. No longer is this problem one of ‘if.’ It has transitioned to ‘when.’ American self defense and freedom of the oppressed peoples of North Korea provide sufficient reasons for the US to begin to close the noose around the neck of the Kim Jong Il regime.