(Footsteps In The Dark series)
(From My Personal Visit To South Korea)
If the wire came down tomorrow and the DMZ was dissolved overnight South Korea would be overrun. Without the landmines and hostile armies guarding the gate to hell on earth the prisoners of the world's largest open air prison would rush toward freedom. This is the fact that most of the world ignores or denies. We claim that we don't know what happens behind the darkness of North Korea's veil. We pretend that we don't see the torment in which the North Koreans have lived for over 60 years. In this aspect we believe the propaganda that the Kims have dictated to us. We, a world of so called humanitarians, swallow the lies willingly so as to avoid the fight that would come with the fall of a tyrannical dictatorship.
Every since I became aware of the fact that there were two Koreas I have been told how evil the North is. This wasn't entirely false in the sense that the ruling class of North Korea is in fact evil. However the generalization has always been that All of North Korea is evil. It has been fed to me over the course of 15 years or so that if the wire came down the North Koreans would grab their guns and sweep over Seoul. It never occurred to anyone that told me these things what might happen if the North just simply ceased to be. What would happen if North Korea's ruling class just happened to be deposed?
For now we may never really know.
But I have always speculated that the vast majority of Koreans in the North would happily welcome the freedoms that the South enjoys today. Sure, Koreans raised on a steady diet of propaganda would most likely be skeptical of the current American military presence in the South. And sure there would be a massive struggle as governments and armies all rushed to fill the power vacuum that the fall of Kim would bring about. But in the end the Koreans of the North would all rather liberty over tyranny. No matter how steady the diet of propaganda might be, no matter how long one has lived under a repressive regime, the natural desire of man to long for freedom always rises to the surface eventually.
For nine young North Korean refugees this desire for freedom came to the surface as they defected from their brutal homeland. They are believed to be orphans between the ages of 15-23 that had been traveling thousands of miles in hopes of reaching Thailand. Then, just as the end was in sight, the government of Laos slammed the door shut on the dreams of freedom that these refugees had been chasing.
In their final hours in Laos the nine detained refugees held out hope that the Laotian government would do the right thing. They could almost taste their freedom as they waited. However this all ended as the Laotian officials decided to play politics with the fate of nine orphans. Instead of allowing the North Koreans to flee from certain death, Laos damned the nine refugees as the Laotian officials chose appeasement of North Korea over humanity.
So why did these orphans flee in the first place if North Korea is telling us the truth? Everything in North Korea is perfect right?
A permanent underclass in North Korea's perverted form of classical communism. The ggotjebi are orphans that are often abandoned by their parents or loose their parents through the direct and indirect oppression of the North Korean government. They have no hope for the future if they stay in North Korea. They are reduced below what the upper class in the North consider to be human. Instead of incorporating these members of society into the fabric of society like Marx supposedly taught his pupils, Korean communist leave the ggotjebi to die of starvation and exposure to the elements.
Life for the ggotjebi becomes a life of begging for food and seeking work at very young ages. Many orphans that escape this life of simply existing by fleeing North Korea report that they had resorted to eating grass and tree bark to survive. They tell of being beaten by other Koreans as a result of being defenseless and vulnerable to abuse. Others are simply arrested and sent off to one of North Korea's concentration camps (these victims are almost always never heard from again).
This is the life that the nine refugees that Laos betrayed had fled from in North Korea. They were fleeing some of the most inhumane conditions that North Korea could provide. And yet now they face almost certain death as both China and Laos violate international law (which bans forced repatriation of defectors from North Korea).
Lambs To The Slaughter
North Korean refugees that are about to be forcibly repatriated almost always know what is waiting for them back in Kim's prisons. It isn't easily ignored when you grow up in a country where people vanish all the time. After all, North Korea is a country where children are literally born in prisons only to be kept as prisoners themselves. These nine refugees knew exactly what was awaiting them as well.
In North Korea it is a "crime against the state" to defect. This crime is almost always punished by endless torture that ultimately ends with the execution of the victim. The defector is tortured as long as they can be kept alive so that they might "name names" and hand over other "traitors" and runaways. The information they give is most certainly flawed in the fact that torture only elicits what the tormentor wants to hear... not the truth. And yet despite this, these nine refugees will be subjected to the standard punishment for defection from a police state.
So why did the world remain silent? We have known (even if most don't admit it) that the North uses these tactics since the day it first sealed the country off. So why hand over the nine orphans?
China has long practiced a policy of forced repatriation as a method of maintaining control over North Korea. Through appeasement and bribery, China keeps the Kim dynasty in power and thus preserves it's puppet government. This allows China to maintain a proxy war with the American military complex in South Korea. It keeps the cold war hot.
With the awakening of China's sleeping economy the world has become dependent upon an under-payed and repressed labor force. Free markets across the West rely upon China for the importing of cheap goods while using Chinese loans to pay for their excesses. American debt, for example, is paid for by the communist Chinese. All of this has led to a weakened "free world" as the repressive Chinese government grows more unruly and bold.
Puppet regimes like North Korea may flaunt their "staunch independence" and ideological differences (as minute as they might be) with China, yet they rely upon China for almost everything. This is evident when China can use it's disproportionate leverage when dealing with North Korea's "independence" by simply withholding cash or food. It is with this muscle that China forces it's neighbors back in line with Beijing.
The silence of the West when dealing with forced repatriation is just another sign that China is calling the shots when it comes to North Korea. When world leaders, such as President Obama, will no longer stand up for the freedoms of others and basic human rights then our own come into question. If oppressive regimes like that of China are allowed to take their oppression beyond their own borders (in this case crossing countless borders) then just how safe are we? And where has the bastion of liberty gone? Are we meant to accept the suffering of others simply because their oppressors tell us to do so?
North Korea's oppression must be challenged at every opportunity. China's violations of international law must be challenged every time they occur. We can no longer accept these crimes so that we might appease tyrants. It is long past time that the world grow a spine and start listening to its conscience more than its pocket book.
Nine lives lost to the brutality of a tyrant are nine lives too many.
(note: not all sources listed)
PRI's The World