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The North Korean Holocaust By: Judith Apter Klinghoffer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, February 21, 2005


Did you know that the South Korean government is involved in a willful cover-up of evidence both of the true extent of the atrocities perpetrated in North Korea’s Gulag and also of any signs of internal opposition to its Stalinist government?

Well, here goes:

“There is no shortage of stories these days suggesting that the North Korean regime is coming apart at the seams. There's even talk of the "A" word - not "assassination", but rather "asylum" or "amnesty." It would free the oppressed Korean people, but it also would free Dear Leader Kim-Jong-il from the justice he has denied to his subjects.

First there were the stories of Kim Jong-il's portraits being removed from public places in Pyongyang. Then an increase in anecdotal testimony by recently escaped North Koreans suggesting a growing underground movement of dissent. Last Monday, a South Korean website operated by North Korean refugees living in Seoul, posted a link to a video purportedly smuggled out of North Korea. The video, the first half disjointed shots of a cold, desolate-looking city in what certainly looks like North Korea, seems designed to confirm to the viewer that this has not been staged in a Chinese border town, where life is more prosperous and livelier.

The videographer entered a warehouse and filmed a sign taped to the wall that said "Overthrow (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-il. Comrades, let's fight ...." Later the camera moved to a picture of the Dear Leader himself, with the words "Kim Jong-il, we demand freedom and democracy ..." written in red script across his beaming face.

The South Korean authorities were quick to cast aspersions upon the film's authenticity. After all, the video seemed to be depicting some sort of organized opposition to the Dear Leader's rule, assertions his supporters in South Korea's Blue House refuse to acknowledge because they are seeking entente and eventual reunification with their misunderstood and much-maligned brethren to the North.

The risks taken by those who smuggled the video out are not hard to fathom. In the best-case scenario, to be caught filming such a defacement would mean certain death, and if the criminal were lucky, a quick death. However, defiling the image of the Dear Leader in such a way as depicted in the video, would very likely mean a slow and painful exit from this world, as a lesson to other dissidents, lest they underestimate the cost of discord.” For the rest, see
Asia Times Online: Korea News and Korean Business and Economy, Pyongyang News.

I am sorry to admit that the news did not surprise me. As Korean University professor, Shin-wha Lee, has recently informed me, any mention of North Korean atrocities is politically incorrect in South Korea because it is seen as unwarranted anti-Communism. Apparently, history has taught Seoul nothing. In South Korea we are back to the good old days when the Stalinist atrocities were meticulously covered up. The Moscow trials were treated as just. Robert Conquest was dismissed as hard line anti-Communist, and Noam Chomsky airily dismissed evidence of the Cambodian genocide.

And let us not be sidetracked by all the talk about crazy/not so crazy indeed, artistic leader. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a willful all powerful tyrant (the son of a tyrant) may be the primary world concern but it cannot be expected to the primary concern of South Koreans or human rights activists. For there a Holocaust is going on in North Korea and I am not using the term lightly and neither are those you will find if you click on. "North Korea's Auschwitz" -- the inside story on the No. 14 detention center. There you will find Kim Yong-sam's report which begins thus:

We regularly use the word 'hell' to describe things in our lives. We talk about "examination hell" and we use the term "hell-way" to describe an overcrowded subway. Yet few people know that they have only to step over the truce line to discover that a real hell exists in which the only purpose is to exterminate human lives. North Korean detention camps are places where once you are taken there, not even your remains ever make it out again. (In North Korea, detention camps are called control camps.) The detention camps are places where lives are drawn out on 20-30 pieces of corn and salt per meal. They are places where people slave for 15 hours a day in mines; where guards can shoot inmates dead at their discretion, or beat or starve them; where the bodies of inmates are dragged like animals to be buried. They are places where death is a matter-of-course. It wouldn't seem so wrong if these people had been dragged off because they'd actually committed a crime. Instead, most of the crimes were things like being the child of a landowner, an expatriate from Japan or damaging a picture of Kim Il-sung. And it wasn't just the alleged perpetrator who got dragged off. Even innocent family members right up to the second and third generation, including children and babies still on the breast, have been taken to the camps and lost their lives. That's because Kim Il-sung and Kim Jung-Il's doctrine to "terminate three generations of the seed of reactionaries" is taken literally. In late March, this reporter met with Kim Yong, who escaped from the No. 14 and No. 18 detention centers, which are generally considered to be the most feared detention centers for political prisoners in North Korea, and then defected to South Korea.

In other words, just as it was more important for the Nazis to kill Jewish children than adults, so it is more important for the North Korean regime to kill the children of “reactionaries” than “reactionary” adults. This is the acknowledged ideology. Indeed, former guards admit that they so sure were they that their well-being depends of cleansing the country of such bad seed, that they felt no mercy murdering mothers and their babies. If this is not enough to send shivers down your back, read this Boston Globe article entitled "An Auschwitz in Korea" by Jeff Jacoby:

“I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber. The parents, a son, and a daughter.” The speaker is Kwon Hyuk, a former North Korean intelligence agent and a one-time administrator at Camp 22, the country’s largest concentration camp. His testimony was heard on a television documentary that aired last week on the BBC. “The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save the kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing.”

Like other communist officials, Kwon was not bothered by what he saw. “I felt that they thoroughly deserved such a death. Because all of us were led to believe that all the bad things that were happening to North Korea were their fault. . . . Under the society and the regime I was in at the time, I only felt that they were the enemies. So I felt no sympathy or pity for them at all.”

Soon Ok-lee, who spent seven years in another North Korean camp, described the use of prisoners as guinea pigs for biochemical weapons.

“An officer ordered me to select 50 healthy female prisoners,” she testified. “One of the guards handed me a basket full of soaked cabbage, told me not to eat it, but to give it to the 50 women. I gave them out and heard a scream. . . . They were all screaming and vomiting blood. All who ate the cabbage leaves started violently vomiting blood and screaming with pain. It was hell. In less than 20 minutes, they were dead.”

Gas chambers. Poisoned food. Torture. The murder of whole families. Massive death tolls. How much more do we need to know about North Korea’s crimes before we act to stop them? How many more victims will be fed into the gas chambers before we cry out “never again!” – and mean it?

This month for the first time and following a special investigation, there was this new development: Rights of North Korean Defectors Defended as UN Declares them Refugees. Perhaps, China will no longer be able to return them to Kim’s butchers. The U.S. congress passed its own North Korean Human Rights Act:

If you think that South Korea is leading the Human Rights charge, you are sadly mistaken. The opposite is true. “Surprisingly the most vocal criticism has come not from North Korea, but from South Korea. Some members of South Korea’s ruling Uri Party were indignant, claiming that the new law would increase tensions on the Korean peninsula and damage relations between South Korea and North Korea, writes Balbina Hwang, Policy Analyst for Northeast Asia in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, .

Clearly, there is no price too high for the Seoul appeasers. They value their comfortable lives too much to risk to follow the West German example. They prefer détente to unification. It’s cheaper. The young even think of the Northern nukes as their own. So, they bury their heads in the sand and merrily go along pretending that their countrymen are not dying. One day, I am sure, they will be asked to explain their shameful behavior. All one can hope is that it will be sooner, not later.




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