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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  • I hate to say this, but a lot of North Americans probably don't care. It's extremely Rousseau-esque. With laws and so-called "civilization" and "society", we have lost our sense of pity toward our fellow man, and people are hesitant, and will even refuse to offer assistance to someone in need. So many are too self-interested and self-involved and we have reality shows and MTV culture to distract us.

    It seems that if it doesn't immediately effect North Americans, they don't care; if it's not a direct threat, they don't feel the need to mobilize. Hotel Rwanda, as you mentioned, exemplifies this completely: Colonel Oliver and Jack made the point that the Western powers wouldn't come to the aid of the Tutsis because this was a Rwandan conflict. The West was too removed, didn't feel the damage, and even in the UN, they tried to prevent the situation from being called a genocide so that they wouldn't have to get involved.

    It's absolutely appalling.

    History always repeats itself because people refuse to learn. If they are ashamed of something they did or allowed to happen, they bury it, don't talk about it, so the next generation never hears about it and continue to make the same mistakes. And even then, people who don't experience the pain of war or oppression themselves may never understand.

    Sorry; this rant is an incredible downer.

    There needs to be some action in North Korea, no doubt. I hope we won't need another Romeo Dallaire to rally support, that the UN will prove themselves, jump in and just do something about this.

    Pearson made a great case for this (altered, of course, by the US to be more low key) - a supranational force controlled by the UN, which could go in without the country's consent. I don't know if it's a step we're ready to take, though.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:42 AM  

  • Sudan rejects Canadian military offer
    CBC News
    OTTAWA - Sudan won't be taking Ottawa up on its offer to send troops to the troubled Darfur region, according to the country's ambassador to Canada.

    On May 12, 2005, Prime Minister Martin announced an additional $170 million dollars in aid for Darfur and said Canada would send 100 military advisers to help African Union peacekeepers in the war-ravaged region of western Sudan.

    The Canadian team would include military intelligence officers, strategic planners and logistics experts.

    But Faiza Hassan Taha, the Sudanese ambassador, said Khartoum doesn't want any non-African troops in the country.

    Sudan does, however, welcome talks on foreign humanitarian and technical assistance programs, Taha said.

    Independent MP David Kilgour has said he won't support the government's budget bill when it comes up for a vote on Thursday unless Canada substantially boosts aid to Sudan.

    Two years of war in Darfur have left about 300,000 people dead and more than two million driven from their homes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:42 PM  

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