Monday, July 20, 2009

News and Human Rights 4: North Korea

For the first time ever, this News and Human Rights blog will come to you in two parts. First the news, then the human rights.
North Korea has been making the news a lot lately because on May 25 of this year they decided to test some nuclear weapons. It wasn't a surprise to the world that they had nuclear weapons, of course, because they announced to the world that they had them back in 2005. To me, they basically said to the US as it continued the War on Terror, "Come and get us, you fucks." Not surprisingly, the US did not go and get them. First of all, North Korea doesn't have nearly as much oil as Iraq, and second of all, it's much harder to attack a country who is capable of kick-starting the end of the world in nuclear holocaust. As I may or may not have mentioned in the first Noam Chomsky blog, countries like Iran and North Korea would be absolutely crazy to not have nuclear weapons right now. At a time when the US invades whoever it likes for barely any reason at all (or for completely false reasons) it makes perfect sense that other countries in the so-called Axis of Evil would defend themselves by any means necessary. Going back to a previous point, we are the drunken, gun-toting, psycho hillbillies of the world right now, and we're making everyone extremely nervous by throwing our big American beer-gut weight around.
When you fully settle into the frame of mind that North Koreans must be in when considering our country's power, (a frame of mind that I'm sure is nothing short of utter paranoia) it is totally understandable to hear North Korean officials say things like "Further sanctions against North Korea will be perceived as threats," and "We will wipe America off the globe." I imagine a scared man backed into a corner by a starving lion, except the lion and the man both have guns. It's not an extremely good metaphor, but you get the point.
While I understand North Korea's want and need to have nuclear weapons, I still think they shouldn't be allowed to have them. In the first place, I don't think any country should be allowed to have nuclear weapons, because all they serve to do is threaten to completely blink our entire race out of existence in a matter of minutes. Other than that, North Korea has been consistently aggressive, refuses to comply with the UN, and is all together not cooperative in developing a more peaceful world. (You'll notice, by the way, that all three of these traits can also describe the US, which is why we shouldn't have nukes either. I mean, seriously, what country in the world is responsible enough to wield such supreme power? If you look at even the most recent history of any country, you'll find the answer is no one.)
That's the news on North Korea. They have nukes that they're testing, and the problem with nukes is that once a country has them you can't just go steamroll them and dismantle their government because they could potentially do a lot of damage in retaliation. Nukes actually might do the world some good by forcing everyone to resort to *gasp* diplomacy, but it seems more likely to me that we'll just blow each other up.
Human Rights:
"North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship and one of the most restrictive countries in the world. Every aspect of social, political, and economic life is tightly controlled by the state. The regime denies North Koreans all basic rights, subjects tens of thousands of political prisoners to brutal conditions, and maintains a largely isolationist foreign policy." - Freedom House, a US human rights group.
The human rights situation in North Korea is absolutely awful. Apparently, North Korean defectors have reported such heinous activities as torture, starvation, rape, medical experimentation, forced labor and forced abortions as perpetrated by the North Korean government. It is also reported that .85% of the population, about 200,000 North Koreans, are inmates in the country's prison and detention camps.
Just last month two US reporters by the names of Euna Lee and Laura Ling were sentenced to 12 years forced labor in North Korea after a sham trial accused them of unspecified "grave crimes." As is the case in Burma, it would be extremely helpful is China would become involved because pressure from China has extreme influence in Asia, but of course China couldn't care much less about human rights so basically the battle is lost before it begins.
There isn't much you can do about impending nuclear holocaust, or the way North Korea treats its citizens, but it does help to be aware of these things, I think, mostly because they are the truth and understanding them will add depth to your perception of the world.
However, there is something you can do you for two fellow Americans currently trapped a few thousand miles from home in solitary confinement in one of the worst prison systems in the world, even if it amounts to nothing more than a small gesture.
In the usual fashion, Amnesty International has supplied a pre-written letter to help with this cause, and this one is meant to put pressure on China to speak out against North Korea's imprisonment of these two innocent reporters. It's not much, but it's something.

Help free Euna Lee and Laura Ling.

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