By Nicholas Eberstadt
Feb. 18, 2014 7:15 p.m. ET
In the past there were excuses for those inclined to ignore or deny the horrors
the Democratic People's Republic of Korea routinely visits upon its
subjects. Defectors have an ax to grind, we were told. American
intelligence is making up stories, and Pyongyang's foreign enemies stand to
profit from these tales.
There is nowhere for North Korea's apologists to hide now. The
200,000-word, nearly 400-page report released Monday by the
"commission of inquiry" for the United Nations Human Rights
Council, led by the Australian jurist Michael Kirby, in effect presents the
world with the black book on North Korean communism.
The report is a careful but shocking document, the result of a year-long
investigation, based on public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London and
Washington, public testimony from more than 80 witnesses and an additional
240 private interviews. Much of the material is based on firsthand
testimony of escapees from this hell on Earth.
"The gravity, scale and nature of these violations . . . does not have
any parallel in the contemporary world," the report says. It charges
the North Korean government with "crimes against humanity" and
urges international action. The question to those of us beyond the reach of
the North Korean regime is: Now that we know this terrible truth, what do
we do about it? 이보고서는, “북한정권이저질러온끔찍하고포악한짓거리는그참혹함, 그방대한규모, 그악독한방법이현재지구어디에서도유례를찾아볼수없는것들”이었다고고발했다. 이특별위원회는북한정권을 “인류에대한범죄’를저지른정권이라고규탄하면서국제사회는이정권을그냥내버려두어서는안된다고주창했다. 이제북한정권의마수가미치지않는곳에사는우리들이우리들자신에게물어야할것은, “이런끔찍한진실을알게되었는데, 우리는이참극에대하여무엇을어떻게해야한단말인가?”이란질문이다.
Just as the Soviets had the gulag system of political prison camps, so too
does the rule-by-terror Communist government in Pyongyang maintain a North
Korean version with dozens of camps. 소련정권이예전에굴라그시스템이라고불린정치범수용소들을가지고있었던것처럼, 테러로자국민을다스리는평양공산정권도북한식정치범수용소를전국에지어놓았다.
Some of the most chilling passages concern the North Korean penal
system—especially its dreaded kyohwaso (prison camps) and even more brutal
kwanliso (political prison camps). The horrors begin with detention and
interrogation centers, where people are initially detained after being
accused of crimes against the state by the security services. (North Korea
has more than one set of secret police.) 이보고서에서제일가공할증언은북한의감옥안에서당한일들인데 – 그중에서도모두가끔찍해하는교화소(죄수들수용소)나그보다더최악으로잔인한관리소(정치범수용소) 안에서일어난일들이다. 이가공할고문과악몽은보위부요원들에게잡혀서반국가사범이란죄목으로구치소에갇혀취조고문을받으면서시작된다.
The charges are often of the most trivial or arbitrary variety—one witness
said he was arrested for the crime of misspelling Kim Il Sung's name when typing.
The detainees are routinely brutalized, with cruelties large and small.
"An old woman who had no shoes and asked for shoes in order to
work," the report says, "was told by the SSD agents that she did
not deserve shoes because the detainees were animals and should die
soon." Then she was beaten until bloody.
In the prison camps, conditions are still more sadistic and dehumanizing.
Starvation and torture are the norm, sexual abuse of women routine. Most
who are sent to these camps can expect to perish there. Concludes the
report: "According to the Commission's findings, hundreds of thousands
of inmates have been exterminated in political prison camps and other
places over a span of more than five decades."
The report suggests that North Korea's prison-camp population has fallen in
recent years—from perhaps 150,000-200,000 in the 1990s and early 2000s to
perhaps 80,000-130,000 today. (The latter estimates and some other findings
mentioned in the U.N. report come from Human Rights in North Korea, an
organization that I helped start.) The cause of the drop isn't clear, but
the report speculates that one reason is that tens of thousands sent to the
camps have died there over the decades.
Many will wonder how the North Korean regime can treat their countrymen as
if they were little more than insects. Readers of the U.N. report will
understand: Such disregard of human life is encouraged by the deep logic of
Alone among the world's governments, Pyongyang oversees a system known as songbun:
a practice that assigns a class background to North Koreans with exquisite
care, stamping them with one of over 50 gradations. The top groups are
considered "core" and are highly favored by the state.
The lowest groups are branded as "hostile" classes
("complex" classes, in more recent security-system taxonomy). These
unfortunates—who may bear such hereditary curses as relatives in South
Korea or ancestors who were landlords, or Christians—are held in permanent
suspicion as would-be "enemies of the people," a treasonous
condition in which one forfeits all humanity.
그와반대로최하층계급은 “적대계층”이라고불리며 (최근북한의보안시스템분류법은더복잡해져서이적대계층을 “복합계층”이라고불린다) 이들은남한에친척이있다든지, 조상에지주가있다든지, 기독교인이든지, 그런부류의주민들로서이들은그계층에서대대로벗어날수가없으며, 북한정권은이들을 “인민의적”이라고영원히적대시하여이들을사람으로보지않는것이다
The songbun system, carefully described in this report, helps to explain
the merciless starvation of the state's enemies within the prison camps as
well as in the population at large during the Great Famine of the 1990s:
Countless victims from that hunger were members of the "hostile"
classes, whose deaths the regime regarded as a matter of no concern.
이보고서에는성분시스템에관하여자세히설명했는데, 이것을읽으면북한정권이정치범수용소에서왜죄수들을잔악하게죽이나, 그리고 1990년대에는북한주민들이그토록많이죽어갔나, 다이유가있고설명이된다. 그당시굶어죽은사람들, “적대계층”에속한사람들은굶어죽으나마나, 국가가상관할일이아니라고생각했던것이다.
A state with so little respect for its own subjects might hardly be
expected to confer respect on citizens of other countries. And Pyongyang
does not, as the regime's extraordinary, routinized practice of kidnapping
foreigners attests. The U.N. report devotes nearly 50 pages to documenting
"abductions" and "enforced disappearances." At least
some victims of these modern-day slaving raids are spirited off to the
intelligence services to help agents with foreign-language skills. South
Korea and Japan are most often raided, but the U.N. report documents
abductions in China, Thailand, Malaysia and even as far as Lebanon and
One of the most grotesque details in the U.N. report is the documentation
of North Korea's policy of violent forced abortion. This unspeakable
atrocity is visited on women in prison camps—especially refugees who have
been forcibly returned from China, bearing a half-Chinese fetus. Here,
North Korean reality is even more gruesome than the report fully seems to
recognize. State-promoted race-hatred is taught alongside worship of the
Kim dynasty to every North Korean schoolchild from the earliest age of instruction.
The unforgivable crime that sentenced these women to involuntary
abortion—and their progeny to death—was their defiling of the sacred Korean
minjok, or race.
The U.N. report accuses many units of the North Korean government—including
its supreme leadership—of being responsible for state-sponsored crimes that
include "extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment,
rape and other grave sexual violence." Foremost among the report's
many recommendations is that the North Korean leadership be held
accountable for these crimes through prosecution at the International
Criminal Court in The Hague, or through a special international tribunal
established for this purpose.
Given the bombshell report, democratic governments and independent
organizations can no longer act as if they did not know. Their dealings
with Pyongyang must always be considered in light of this damning document.
Now is the time for the never agains:
이보고서가나왔으니, 이제는세상의민주정부든, 중립기구들은, 우린몰랐다고발뺌을할수없게되었다. 앞으로북한정권을대하려면, 이끔찍한보고서를항상염두에두고대해야한다. 이제 “다시는절대로! Never Again!” 를따져보기로하자:
Never again should Western humanitarian aid be given to North Korea to hand
out at its own discretion, as if Pyongyang were a government like any
Never again must Beijing—which like Pyongyang refused to cooperate with the
U.N. investigation—be given a free pass for financing, enabling and
protecting this most odious of all regimes. Challenge China to veto the
referral for crimes against humanity on the U.N. Security Council, and let
Beijing go on record defending state-sponsored mass murder. Make the
Chinese veto it 20 times if they dare. Beijing is highly sensitive to
public shaming, and it must be shamed and penalized for its indefensible
support of Pyongyang until it cuts its client-state loose.
Never again must South Koreans avert their eyes from the catastrophe that
is befalling their compatriots across the demilitarized zone. And never
again must Seoul forget that it is legally bound to grant citizenship to
refugees from the nightmare to the North.
Mr. Eberstadt, a political economist at the American Enterprise Institute,
is a visiting scholar at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul and
a founding member of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.