Trib editorial: North Korea's other threat
North Korea's nuclear threat to the United States, its allies and the world loomed over President Trump's Asia trip. Yet Kim Jong Un's regime is not just a threat but an active menace to its own people, as a new report from the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea documents.
Incorporating satellite imagery, “The Parallel Gulag” details about two dozen “re-education” camps. Though North Korea falsely denies that its secret police confine political prisoners in separate facilities, its Ministry of People's Security admits running these “re-education” camps, falsely claiming it treats inmates well. The report's “realities cited by former prisoners” include “grossly inadequate food rations,” hard labor, “the absence of medical treatment,” high death rates, “widespread and wrongful imprisonment,” beatings and torture. Many inmates tried to leave North Korea; others committed what ex-inmates call “crimes that are not really crimes.”
The North Korean Criminal Code criminalizes “elementary civil and political rights involving opinion, expression, assembly and movement.” It also imposes “a large number of prohibitions on economic activity” that are “enforced sporadically at best” against participants in illegal local-level markets “from which most North Koreans get most of their food, clothing and consumer goods.”
This report is a valuable reminder that it's not just North Korea's apocalyptic external threat that must be reined in, but its brutal internal repression, too.