Wednesday, May 04, 2005

North Korea: A tyranny of darkness

Lights out. Posted by Hello

This is a nighttime satellite image of the Korean peninsula taken on April 15. More, it's an astonishing image of tyranny. While lights burn throughout South Korea -- the white blotch on the west coast just south of the border is Seoul, one of the smaller blotches in the southeast is Pusan -- North Korea, where lights are turned off at curfew, lingers in seemingly absolute darkness.

Here's Christopher Hitchens's piece on North Korea in Slate. Though I generally find myself in disagreement with him these days -- I find his radical secularism mixed with pro-Bush hawkishness profoundly shallow -- he is right about North Korea. It amazes me... no. It saddens me that we don't seem to be doing anything to stop the horrific violence that is being inflicted upon millions and millions of people around the world, from North Korea to Darfur and in places that don't even register in the media, as if we've already forgotten the lessons of the 20th century. In Hitchens's estimation, North Korea is worse than Orwell's 1984 dystopia -- in some ways worse even than Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Maoist China. Simply, it's a slave state, one big concentration camp. And its people live in darkness. And not just at night.

(Hitchens links to the satellite image, but it's also available from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Check out its fascinating website.)

I realize that it's important to engage this most atrocious of regimes (see Fred Kaplan's arguments here and here; see also this report of an interview with a defector), but negotiation -- both bilateral (U.S.-North Korea) and multilateral (including South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia) -- ought to be supported by moral outrage and greater awareness of what's actually going on in a place where millions of our fellow human beings are enslaved.

We say never again, but it keeps happening. Shall we speak out and demand action, or shall we sit back and wait for the North Korean Schindler's List, The Killing Fields, or Hotel Rwanda to arouse our armchair (and retroactive) indignation?

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