(CCU Student) Recently Kim Jong-un was deemed the prospective heir to replace the aging Kim Jong Il. Reading over the article on bbc.uk titled, “Boy Meets World”, I could not help but ask, “What IS the Obama administration’s plan for North Korea?” On November 23, 2010 the Korea DPR fired missiles onto a disputed territory (island) off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, and again on the 26th—yet our President appears to not have an elaborative and definitive response.
Lately it appears coverage of North Korea is seemingly decreasing in popularity—unless of course lives are lost: e.g., Yeonpyeong island (2010), Rangoon bombing (1983), shooting down Korean flight 858 (1987), or the ROKS Cheonan sinking (Mar. 2010).
Unfortunately, people forget this is the only sovereign nation using concentration camps. Chol-hwan Kang describes his life testimony in ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang’, where he spends nearly a decade in Camp #2915. Here, besides undergoing coerced self-ridicule, wearing uniforms identical to Holocaust inmates, witnessing executions, and foraging for rodents, he meets one of the football players from the 1966 Korea DPR national football team. After defeating Italy 1-0 in group-play, the team lost 5-3 against Portugal in the quarterfinals (despite taking a 3-nil lead after the first 30 minutes).Popular media has the team listed as, “Having been welcomed home as national heroes”, but that appeared to be quite the opposite.
According to Chol-hwan Kang, he met one of these footballers in camp #2915. The man briefly told several inmates (Kang being one of them) that the entire team was welcomed; Kim il-Sung coerced the media to fabricate stories portraying them as heroines and then sending them to concentration camps. Interestingly enough, the 1976, 2006, and 2010 teams received reasonable amounts of media attention—none of which pertained to topics insinuating concern for the players’ safety.
Popular media covering and responding to the current attacks have forgotten two key elements as they devise plans to ‘come alongside’ South Korea’: (1) listening to defectors, (2) understanding their Juche system.
For starters, last week according to this article in BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11755258) the number of defectors successfully reaching South Korea just hit 20,000. Of these, the majority of whom are alive and talking—why does our administration not listen? I ask people ignoring the defectors, “Now that you understand the catastrophic event of the Holocaust more clearly, if you were to have met an escapee of Auschwitz in 1942, how would you have acted?” When Kim Yong, author of ‘Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor visited the National Holocaust museum and saw the uniform worn in NAZI concentration camps, he said, “That is what I wore”. Although the conditions mimic gulags and not death camps, we have similar scenarios playing out in real-time (and in case you do not recall—MORE people died in Soviet Gulags than the entire Holocaust). We have 20,000 people to ask questions to—let’s utilize and learn from the important input they can provide.
Second, people creating any sort of plan must understand the true nature of the Juche ideology. What we see in North Korea is something never seen before (at least to this extent) in human history. Kim Jong Il, Kim il-Sung, and Kim Jong-un are literally viewed as deities. The 22 million citizens of the isolationist dictatorship view each of these men as gods! Recently there was a documentary filmed by National Geographic where a Nepalese cataract surgeon was permitted to enter Pyongyang to perform as many surgeries as he could in ten days. After completing his goal and curing the sight of just over 1,000 people, NOT ONE of these thanked him. In fact, the first thing each and every one of them did was stare at the portraits of Kim Jong Il and Kin il-Sung, weep, yell hysterically, and thank them (and only them) for restoring their vision. If you do not believe how passionate these citizens are in their beliefs, watch their reactions of the death of Kim il-Sung: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbM8Iu-547k.
I have been regularly watching news covering the North Korean situation for several days now, reading articles, and asking people their opinions. So far no one has suggested we take note of this. We arguably are dealing with 22 million people who will be hysterical and uncooperative if we do anything to disturb their ‘gods’. In addition, we have 20,000 defectors who for the most part will be extremely cooperative.
In conclusion, here are a few simple steps we could take to better insure this matter is handled more promptly and properly. Naturally, this is not a surefire panacea—but some basic principles one might want to keep in mind. Many current actions have actually followed several of these—so this is not by any means a criticism. There are obviously more than are just on this list:
1) Remember that they have nuclear capabilities and have no moral regard for anyone or anything outside of their isolated country. Anything one does, says, or does not do to them will be irrationally taken into consideration and then acted on—whatever that means is unclear to anybody.
2) Read: “Under the Loving Care of a Fatherly Leader”, “The Aquariums of Pyongyang”, and “Nothing to Envy”. They are books describing life inside North Korea—the life tourists are shunned from on privately guided tours—or witnessed by foreign embassies in Pyongyang.
3) Interview both concentration camp survivors and defectors (many people merely defect because the government wants them for petty crimes such as listening to South Korean radio, spreading a rumor, leaving their ‘area’ without a permit, etc.)
4) Have talks with L.I.N.K. (Liberation In North Korea)—a great organization who has done everything from follow media, interview defectors, and spread awareness of the horrors occurring in North Korea.
5) China! Keep talking with them and keep pressure reasonable (don’t aggravate them). Remember they are still communist. Additionally keep in mind where the defectors go first—China! Right now, they have repatriotism agreement with North Korea. The DMZ is impossible to cross; causing 99% of defectors to first go through China. They are also virtually the only allies of North Korea!
6) Most important to the Christian community: this country does not welcome Christianity. Of the 22 million citizens, we would be accurate to assume over 99% do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In North Korea, even suggesting there are any other deities is punishable by death. This could mean a prison sentence, public execution, torture, or a myriad of any of such punishments. I implore Christians to PRAY!