Week in Review
Adolf Hitler was a monster. His Nazi regime was a killing machine. But he was just one of many monsters (see Revealed: the gas chamber horror of North Korea’s gulag by Antony Barnett, The Observer, posted 1/31/2004 in the Guardian).
In the remote north-eastern corner of North Korea, close to the border of Russia and China, is Haengyong. Hidden away in the mountains, this remote town is home to Camp 22 – North Korea’s largest concentration camp, where thousands of men, women and children accused of political crimes are held.
Now, it is claimed, it is also where thousands die each year and where prison guards stamp on the necks of babies born to prisoners to kill them.
Over the past year harrowing first-hand testimonies from North Korean defectors have detailed execution and torture, and now chilling evidence has emerged that the walls of Camp 22 hide an even more evil secret: gas chambers where horrific chemical experiments are conducted on human beings.
You read that right. Genocide. In North Korea. Not Nazi Germany. Under the stewardship of Kim Jong Il. The Dear Leader. Not the Fuhrer. Adolf Hitler. Different men. But the same contempt for humanity.
Of course, some have a different opinion of him. After meeting him in person. And spending time with him. Like Madeleine Albright in the Clinton administration. The administration that gave him the technology for intercontinental ballistic missile guidance systems. She said he wasn’t peculiar. He was intelligent. Well-informed. “I found him very much on top of his brief,” she said.
This about a man who brought North Korea down to her knees (see Kim Jong Il: Road to ruin by Nicholas Eberstadt posted 12/21/2011 on The Los Angeles Times).
He was also the first ruler of an urbanized, literate society to preside over a mass famine in peacetime: The Great North Korean Famine of the 1990s, which erupted shortly after his father’s death, is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of his subjects, and perhaps more. (Outsiders cannot know the precise toll; that figure remains a state secret.)
Since the very late 1990s, when North Korea’s famine apparently subsided, the food situation in the country has remained desperately precarious: Resumption of famine has been forestalled only by humanitarian food aid, Western economic assistance and Chinese largesse. Thus Kim Jong Il also earned the lifetime achievement award for overseeing the first industrialized economy ever to lose the capacity to feed itself.
God help the North Koreans. For their leaders surely aren’t.
Kim Jong Il is dead. Now the North Koreans can suffer Kim Jong Un. Considering what Kim Jong Il did after inheriting power from his dad, Kim Il Sung, their future doesn’t look any better. For the young sons seem to want to outdo their dads in tyranny and oppression.
Sadly, Camp 22 will likely have a prosperous future under Kim Jong Un. For all dictators have their camps. Unless Kim Jong Un is a closet capitalist. It’s unlikely. For brutal dictators don’t hand off power to nice people. But one can always hope. And that’s about all the North Koreans have these days. Besides genocide and famine.