Thursday, January 16, 2003

Discussions of North Korea stress the “weirdness” of the regime, its isolated character and its peculiar obsessions. Questions are raised about the sanity of Kim Jong-il, and the “cult of personality” is offered as evidence of the strangeness of the North Korean government. But is the regime really so unfamiliar?

The collapse of communism left four vicious regimes still standing China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea. Despite their partial embrace of capitalism, China and Vietnam retain their communist character: They are police states wherein conformity is mandatory, liberty nonexistent and cruelty triumphant. Cuba and North Korea are among the worst places on earth.

Analysts struggle to place North Korea among the post-Cold War challenges to the United States, like Islamofascism. It doesn’t fit. North Korea is a live virus left over after the plague of communism was over. But even a virus preserved only in a petri dish retains the power to kill.

By stressing the weirdness of North Korea we obscure matters. It really isn’t so difficult to understand the regime. It is a hard-line Stalinist state, bred on Marxism/Leninism, willing to kill and torture millions of people (mostly its own), and implacably hostile to the United States. (No, not because America supports Israel.)

South Korea is a dynamo of economic activity. North Korea’s people are literally starving. An estimated 2 million (of a total population of about 21 million) have starved to death within the past five years (according to the Population and Development Review, June 1, 2001).

The regime as all communist regimes do when confronted with evidence of the horrific human toll their absurd pseudo-science called Marxism/Leninism has wrought cite floods and tidal waves as the reason for so much starvation. But the truth is that collectivized agriculture did to North Korea what it had previously done to the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Vietnam and many others. It made the proper allocation of resources for the agricultural sector impossible and led to widespread failure. It is unlikely any human idea has ever cost quite so many human lives as communism.

The floods may have been real enough, but as the editors of the “Black Book of Communism” point out, “Large-scale errors, including the deforestation of entire areas and the hasty construction of badly planned terraces on orders from the very top of the party, contributed to the seriousness of the flooding.”

North Korea has been called the “hermetic kingdom,” but stories do emerge from refugees. One escapee, An Myung Chul, who reached Seoul in 1994, gave the following description of conditions within one of North Korea’s many concentration camps:

“Who carried out the executions? The choice was left to the discretion of security agents, who shot when they did not want to dirty their hands or killed slowly if they wanted to prolong the agony. I learned that people could be beaten to death, stoned or killed with blows from a shovel. Sometimes the executions were turned into a game, with prisoners being shot at as though they were targets in a shooting competition at a fairground. Sometimes prisoners were forced to fight each other to the death and tear each other up with their bare hands. Women rarely died peacefully. I saw breasts slashed with knives, genitals smashed in with shovel handles, necks broken with hammers. In the camps, death is very banal. And political criminals do whatever they have to do to survive. They do anything to get a fraction more corn or pig fat. “

This last ember of the communist fire remains dangerous. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, they did their best to arm any and all enemies of the United States. North Korea offered training and support to the Japanese Red Army, communist insurgents in the Philippines and various Palestinian terrorist organizations. More recently, they have served as chief missile supplier to Iran, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya.

The fools will urge that North Korea is trying to use its nuclear program as a bargaining chip and suggest that more concessions and “talk” from the United States should satisfy them. It should be obvious that the North Koreans are brutal and aggressive, and that only the sternest possible response from the United States and the rest of the world will inhibit their belligerence.

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