WAMC APRIL 19TH
Steven A. Leibo
“Facing the Real North Korean Threat”
North Korea’s in the news again, but, as usual, for the wrong reasons. Sure they are again threatening another nuclear weapons test. Even as they just tested yet another long range missile, a missile, as we all know, that turned out to be yet another dud. While America, along with some many of Pyongyang’s regional allies are pulling out their usual talking points, Points well practiced given how many times we have been here to this well- trodden path of North Korea’s nuclear missile ambitions. Threatening us, even as they remain dependent on outsiders to keep their people somewhat nourished. No, there is nothing wrong with North Korea being in the news.
But it seems only fair that the world spend at least a little time considering whom the North Korean government really threatens; the vast majority of Korea’s 24 million people. And the hundreds of thousands of them in concentration camp like prisons scattered among a modern day Gulag that would have made Stalin proud. In fact, one camp is literally bigger than Los Angeles itself. All horrific labor camps so large they can be easily spotted from space – full of victims sent off without trail, guilty by association in a state that punishes the entire family of anyone who displease it down through three generations.
Sure we all know we have long had plenty of excuses for not considering the suffering of the Korean people. After all, North Korea until recently was far and away the most isolated of nations one that built up a wall so high around it neither the trapped citizens within it nor those of us outside could peer over. Making it enormously difficult until recently for those beyond North Korea to understand what was going on. Yes, a state to rival the worst of the 20th century’s nastiest regimes, and yet unlike its rivals from the Nazis to Stalin’s Soviet Union. Here is a state that has lasted for generations.
But that wall of isolation has broken down of late. North Koreans increasingly now know how incompetently their leaders function, unable to supply their people with even the most basic food stuffs let alone broader human needs from free speech to freedom from fear. While those of us beyond the reach of North Korea’s brutal leaders have increasingly more opportunities to stop ignoring what is going on. To stop obsessing about North Korea having a few nukes when we have thousands, and a lot more accurate ones — should they ever really start threatening us and focus for a change on the those North Korea most immediately threaten, the people of North Korea.
Because at last we finally have some extraordinarily accessible tools to do exactly that like the wonderfully impressive informational college tours being operated by Link — Liberty in North Korea, based in Torrance, California. An organization that not only helps North Koreans escape the horrors of life in North Korea but sends teams of dedicated young adults like Sara, Wyatt and Daniel who just traveled throughout our region visiting colleges from Boston University to Emerson College, from the Sage Colleges to SUNY Albany, from Amherst to Binghamton. Helping their college aged contemporaries raise money and understanding about the true fate of North Korea’s real victims.
Or the extraordinary new memoir — A memoir quite unprecedented, a memoir literally born in the North Korean gulag, North Korea’s own concentration camps, a community of victims who finally have their spokesperson; Shin Dong-hyuk, the first person ever born in the camps to escape and find freedom. Who painfully told his story to Blaine Harden a reporter for PBS’s acclaimed Frontline series. In the extraordinary book Escape from Camp 14, a memoir of the likes of Eli Wiesel’s Night or Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz.
No, with the possibility of inviting one of Links extraordinary student tours to your community, or the chance to read the just published Escape from Camp 14, we can end forever American’s excuse, for fixating exclusively on the minor threat North Korea might face us in the future rather than seeing the major threat if offers its own people right now.