By Harihar Swarup
As the world hailed the Trump-Kim summit as successful and big event of the current year, there is a lesser known side of North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un’s rule. As talks between two leaders progressed, human rights activists were watching if Trump would bring up North Korea’s widespread crimes against humanity, but the US President disappointed them. Kim rules with extreme brutality, making his nation among the worst human rights violators in the world. In North Korea, these crimes entail“extermination, murder, enslavement, rape, forced abortion and other sexual violations, persecution on political……” concludes a 2014 United Nations report that examined the country’s human right records.
Here are some of the atrocities that have taken place in North Korea.
Many North Koreans live in fear. That is by design, and it is reinforced by the country’s ruthless police state. People, accused of political crimes, are arrested and sentenced to prison camp without trial, while their families are often kept in dark about their whereabouts. Up to 120,000 inmates were in the country’s four major prisons in 2014 and were subjected to gruesome condition, according to the UN report.
Prisoners are starved, forced to work, tortured and raped. Reproductive rights were denied through abortions and infanticide. Hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have died in camps over the past 50 years, the UN report found.
Since Kim assumed power in 2011, he consolidated his power through executions. In the first six years as the leader, he has ordered executions of at least 240 people, according to theInstitute of National Security Strategy, a think-tank arm of the national intelligence service.
In 2016, Kim Yong-jin, the deputy Premier for Education, was killed by a firing squad after showing “disrespectful posture” in a meeting. Hyon Yong-chol, a general of the armed forces, fell asleep in a meeting. He was executed with an antiaircraft gun.
Family is also not off-limits. One of Kim’s uncles, Jang Song-thaek, was convicted of treason. He was then executed with anti-aircraft machine gun and his body incinerated with flame-throwers. Kim Jong-nam, the estranged brother of the North Korean leader, was killed last year at Luala Lumper international airport in Malaysia.
Often human right violations Westerners ascribe to North Korea, aside from preventing North Koreans from leaving the country, are the lengths it takes to indoctrinate its citizens. According to a UN report, which was prepared by the commission of inquiry and is more than 300 pages long, North Korea “operates at an all-encompassing indoctrination machine that takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to Kim”.
Independent thought is bred out and propaganda glorifying the state is plentiful, the report said, as the propaganda is intended to ‘incite… hatred towards official enemies’ like Japan and the US (America is now a friend).
Two to three million people were believed to have died during the extended famine in North Korea in the 1990s, the New York Times reported. At that time North Korea used food as a tool to enforce political loyalty, prioritizing its distribution based on who was most useful to the nation’s political system, the UN report stated.
More recently, the inmate population in North Korea’s political prison camps have been culled through “deliberate starvation”, the report found, adding that suspects are also starved “to increase pressure on them to confess and to incriminate other persons”.
When UN report was conducted, it found that the hunger and malnutrition were widespread problems among the population, and details from starvation continued to be reported.
At the moment Kim and Trump meet in Singapore has been described as an unprecedented summit. It was only months ago that two leaders were trading barbs and threatening each other with nuclear weapons. But in Singapore they indulged in warm handshakes and exuded confidence about a new feature. Working towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a welcome development. But Kim is ruthless dictator and his human record is horrifying. History has shown that dreaded dictators do not last long. One does not know what will be his fate. What after Kim then?
Let us see the similarities and contrast between the personalities of Trump and Kim:
While Kim is in his mid-thirties, Trump has just turned 72. Kim is groomed for power but Trump has background of property and reality TV. Kim inherited power from his father while Trump is elected after a populist presidential campaign. Kim never travelled abroad as a leader until he went to China but Trump frequently travels abroad as the President.
Similarities: Both were born in luxury, went into family business, have trusted family members in key positions and display unbending demand for loyalty. (IPA Service)
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