North Korea Won’t Be Liberated in a Day

The writer, an idealist, discovers how difficult it is to figure out how to help with human rights issues in North Korea:

“Blaine Harden, author of the book about escaped prisoner Shin Dong-hyuk, has said before that North Korea’s diplomats ‘”go nuts” and leave the room’ when the subject of the camps in broached in any discussion of human rights. But Hawk says it’s essential, particularly since negotiations on nukes have been set back by North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. ‘The idea that you would keep human rights off of the agenda for 20-30 years while [North Korea] does economic development and allow the present prison population to die off is, to me, extraordinary.’ Harden estimates that up to 400,000 people have already died in the North Korean gulag.

“‘Few people outside of the pro-apartheid figures in South Africa argued to ignore apartheid for a generation until the economic situation of the South African population improved,’ Hawk said, sounding genuinely moved and outraged. I asked him what I could do to help. The best thing, he said, was to encourage my government—to send a letter urging my foreign minister to support U.N. resolutions on North Korean human rights.

“I’ll admit I was hoping he’d tell me to jump on a flight to Seoul tomorrow, decked out in camouflage gear with a knife between my teeth. Wasn’t writing letters to the government the kind of thing done by old people and crack-ups? Anyway, hadn’t those people heard of email?”

Published: Nov 14, 2012
Length: 19 minutes (4,905 words)
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