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North Korea: history repeating

This is truly, horrifyingly frightening:

Report: N Korean prison camp has gas chamber

Witnesses say North Korea operates poison gas chambers at its largest concentration camp, Camp 22, media sources reported Sunday.

“I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber,” said one defector, former military attache at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing and chief of management at the camp. “The parents, son and and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing.”

The defector, Kwon Hyuk, is to appear on the BBC’s This World program. He says he wants the world to know what is happening.

“The glass chamber is sealed airtight,” he explained. “It is 3.5 metres wide, 3m long and 2.2m high. [There] is the injection tube going through the unit. Normally, a family sticks together and individual prisoners stand separately around the corners. Scientists observe the entire process from above, through the glass.”

Hyuk explained how he had believed this treatment was justified. “At the time I felt that they thoroughly deserved such a death. Because all of us were led to believe that all the bad things that were happening to North Korea were their fault; that we were poor, divided and not making progress as a country.”

The article goes on to describe other horrors, such as poisoned cabbage and “medical experiments”. I don’t use comparisons to Nazism lightly, but what other conclusion is there to be drawn here other than that the past is repeating itself in the worst possible ways?

Where is the public outcry over this? Where are the demostrations in the streets? Where are the plans of the governments of the civilized world to stop it? Where is the reaction from all of the people who spent their lives saying “Never Again”?

I don’t know. But it’s high time to find out, and to do something to stop it.

Update: The BBC has more about the information coming to light from a defected intelligence agent on Camp 22. His account of torture, chemical experimentation, and the massive bureaucracy built to support it is absolutely chilling. Almost as chilling is how little remorse even he seems to feel:

“For the first three years” he explained ” you enjoy torturing people but then it wears off and someone else takes over. But most of the time you do it because you enjoy it.”

One of the big questions about the Nazi regime was, why didn’t the Allies bomb Auschwitz? Why, with all the information that came to light in the middle years of the war, was no action taken that could have spared millions of innocent lives?

Well here we are, in 2004. Sixty years later, where is the action in North Korea? Who will step up to stop what’s going on there?

Oh, I know it’s not that simple. Attacking North Korea could risk all-out nuclear war. The United States has a president with a worldwide reputation for being a war-monger, and he’s trying to get re-elected. The European Union is gutless. The United Nations is even more gutless – when it’s not being controlled by despots and dictators. There are a million excuses. And besides, North Korea just seems so far away, doesn’t it? There are people dying every day in other horrible ways all over the world. People do what they can.

So here I am, wondering what one lone person can do in light of news that was always suspected but is now being shockingly confirmed. I don’t know exactly, but I think that we need to start somewhere. I’d like to begin by urging people reading this, including other bloggers, to publicize these reports and raise awareness online. It may be a woefully inadequate first step, but at least it’s something.

Update #2: For those of you looking for further information, a couple of good links are freenorthkorea.net and the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, which has an October 2003 report on the prison camps that should make any normal human being’s skin crawl.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • bwas1 02.02.04, 3:18 PM

    You know the answer as well as I do Sari, there are not any groups with a political agenda whose agenda would be advanced by taking action in support of the North Korean people. That includes such so called enlightened organizations such as Amnesty International and other similar groups.

  • Desmond Jones 02.02.04, 9:01 PM

    “When the U.S. drew up plans for a possible military action against North Korea in 1993 — again over its suspected nuclear weapons program — a Pentagon estimate suggested four months of high-intensity combat would be required, using more than 600,000 South Korean troops and half a million U.S. reinforcements to the personnel already stationed in South Korea.

    In 1994, advisers to then President Bill Clinton predicted 52,000 U.S. casualties in the first 90 days of combat alone, Don Oberdorfer, a former Washington Post reporter, wrote in his book The Two Koreas.

    To put that figure in perspective, 55,000 U.S. military personnel were killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, and about 58,000 in the 1957-75 Vietnam War.

    Some estimates went as far as forecasting a million casualties, not to mention economic damages and war-related costs that ran into trillions of dollars.”

    Sari: Will you be leading the charge into NK or are you planning to stay at home and catch it on the “telly”

  • segacs 02.02.04, 10:16 PM

    So by your logic, Desmond, a person has two choices: become a front-line infantry soldier, or shut up and say nothing.

    Well, I’m not ashamed to admit that I think it’s better to speak out than stay silent. Even at the risk of being called a hypocrite by someone like you.

  • Spin killer 02.02.04, 10:40 PM

    I have added my bit…like anyone who reads this info. I am at a loss.

  • Spin killer 02.03.04, 12:47 AM

    P.S. I have added you to the Spin Killer blogroll….

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