Monday, May 21, 2012

Never again, again

Jeff Jacoby has a disturbing post on the atrocities-- the holocaust?-- in North Korea.

When Shin was 14, he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother for attempting to escape. His chief emotion as he watched them die was not sorrow, but anger: He was furious at what they had caused him to be put through. Because of their infraction, he had been savagely tortured, suspended in mid-air over a charcoal fire as interrogators demanded information about where his mother and brother were planning to flee after their escape.

“Shin, crazed with pain, smelling his burning flesh, twisted away from the heat,” Harden writes. “One of the guards grabbed a gaff hook from the wall and pierced the boy in the lower abdomen, holding him over the fire until he lost consciousness.”...

But what excuse do we have [for inaction]? We who know what freedom and civilization mean, who live with law and justice and decency, who intone “never again” to accounts of genocide and holocaust — how do we justify our emotional paralysis? 
There is no cruelty so depraved that people cannot be induced to do it, or to look the other way while it is being done. “Escape from Camp 14” reconfirms what we have known for years: North Korea’s rulers brutalize their people with unparalleled and bloody barbarity. Why do we find it so easy to look the other way?
I'll refrain from atheist-baiting here. North Korea is an example of the worst humanity can be, on a par with the Holocaust and the Killing Fields and the Holodomor and the Great Leap Forward. There is much to say about the ideology that makes such horror possible, but not to be said now. The atrocity in North Korea is so appalling that it's beyond invective. Starvation, torture, summary execution, are the way of life (and death) for these tragic people.

How should the civilized world respond? War to overthrow the regime would kill millions of innocents. Sanctions probably merely make life even harder for the helpless civilians. International reproach falls on deaf ears.

I see no easy answers. Perhaps massive aid, food, medical supplies would make a difference. Most of it would probably go to the army and merely strengthen the monsters ruling the gulag. That might prolong the life of the regime. But maybe it would help.

Please pray for these poor people. This is a time for all people of goodwill to work together to end this horror, if we only knew how to end it.


  1. Dr Egnor,
    I cannot resist responding to this post, and the work load is beginning to ease after the summit.
    I have often wondered about this issue and the best recourse.
    If North Korea was not a nuclear power, I would say the military answer was simple: Strike the camps and the infrastructure that supports them (roads, rail links, water, hydro, factories etc).
    The horrible truth is that NK has a nuclear arsenal, and if even one of those devices were to hit the South, or say Japan or India(for example) the toll on our allies would be (as you note) in the millions. The situation could easily escalate from that point.
    Perhaps the best case scenario, then, would be a coup d'etat from within the regime, and that is not likely without guarantees of active support from BOTH the USA and China. In such a situation the danger is that the new regime would simply continue with the oppression and killing. Of course a regime that's goal was reunification with the South would be a VERY welcome change, but this would not gain the required Sino-American consensus.
    The current strategy seems to be wait and watch, while we hope for a collapse or some miraculous transformation in China that forces NK into it's own shift towards unification.
    I see no easy or morally acceptable solution from a military standpoint.
    I see none that would not carry the unacceptable probabilities of extremely high casualties and escalation.
    North Korea is a real dilemma; a living nightmare.
    As individuals awareness is the key. We cannot pretend this is not happening. Focus is required, and prayer (especially in communion/groups) is an excellent means to attain that focus. Having witnesses to these atrocities speak at Churches, schools, and other open/public venues would at least give some form of meaning to the current suffering. The public awareness of these horrible camps would help lift the veil of silence on this issue, and transform our shame of inaction into OPEN condemnation.
    Great post. Be back soon.

  2. “If North Korea was not a nuclear power, I would say the military answer was simple: Strike the camps and the infrastructure that supports them (roads, rail links, water, hydro, factories etc).”

    You’re the one who’s simple. North Korea does not pose a credible nuclear threat. But they do have thousands of artillery tubes and tactical rockets pointing at Seoul. Bombing infrastructure the way you describe would be atrocious for the North Korean civilians, and undoubtedly lead to the bombardment of Seoul. Bomb water!? What, to kill North Koreans by cholera epidemic? Crazy.

    Oh wait a minute, you seem to walk that right back and contradict yourself. What muddled thinking.

    I’ll make an exception in my atheistic beliefs to pray to God you never get a promotion.


  3. KW,
    Personal (and extremely lame) insults aside (99% of your response), I would point out to you that 'bombing' is not the only means to 'strike', or reduce an asset such as those I have listed. Nor do I suggest that anyone should 'bomb water' supplies for the general populace.
    You'll note I am referring to CAMP infrastructure and support.
    Further, if you're suggesting that NK has no Nuclear devices, means to deliver them, or allies with both capacities - you're just plain wrong.
    Then there is their conventional arsenal... but you do seem to be horrified by the prospect of an artillery or rocket bombardment on Seoul. This, at least, you acknowledge as realistic threat.
    Anyway, my comments are directed at the Doctor. If you care to comment on the substance of them, I may or may not respond depending on the time available to me.
    Continue with your childish 'trolling' and I will simply ignore them.
    Have a great day, and enjoy your prayer time.

  4. CrusadeRex,

    Yeah, right, prayer to end the dire situation in North Korea will do a lot of good ... Not.

    North Korea is unlikely to collapse until China stops supporting it. Why China supports such as an odious regime is a mystery. Whenever it sends any aid, it doesn't get much recognition. They sent a fully laden train with supplies and the North Koreans kept the train with locomotives, and just returned the crew.

    Perhaps China feels compelled to support an old ally, one for which it suffered huge numbers of casualties in the Korean War? Similar to an investor who refuses to sell his shares in a dud company because it concedes a mistake was made?

    Of course, China has much more important trade with South Korea. A reunited Korea would be of much greater benefit to China than the present situation. How China would come to recognize this is something I don't know.

    Anyway, North Korea doesn't have a creditable nuclear threat. If it ever was foolish to use it, it would, and knows it would, face an enormous retaliation. North Korea's leaders aren't mad after all. They're atheists, not Christians, and don't have the delusion of an afterlife. They know that dead is dead.

  5. Anon,
    Points of interest:

    "North Korea is unlikely to collapse until China stops supporting it."
    Agreed. There must be big changes in China before that would happen.

    "Why China supports such as an odious regime is a mystery"
    Only to you.
    Not to the Chinese regime, North Korea, or anyone else that matters.

    "A reunited Korea would be of much greater benefit to China than the present situation. "
    This is sheer conjecture.
    The truth is a reunited Korea is a massive power shift in a region where China is in a position of prime importance. Whatever the outcome of a United Korea, it would not be slight. For Western nations that is an interesting gamble. For a regional power it is far more serious.
    Whatever their reasons, China disagrees with your conjecture, Anon.
    They choose, currently at least, to refrain from aiding in the reunification of two Koreas. They do so knowing they prop up an evil, oppressive, murderous, and maniacal regime.

    "Anyway, North Korea doesn't have a creditable nuclear threat."
    Selfish and naive nonsense. You posit that from out of range.

    "If it ever was foolish to use it,"
    You mean use it's incredible, non existent threat to not attack a Southern Target?

    " would, and knows it would, face an enormous retaliation."
    Sure because these are sane, rational players with totally sane discernible motives that we may appease and/or manipulate. Right? (see below)

    "North Korea's leaders aren't mad after all."
    They are evil, and display all the trappings of mania. What do you call someone like that? 'Different'? Many would call that a 'mad' regime.
    Personally, I call them 'enemy'.

    "They're atheists, not Christians,"
    Roger that, Anon.
    Crystal clear. Totally obvious. But my thanks for the acknowledgement.

    "[...]and don't have the delusion of an afterlife."
    No, people like that generally do not believe in a moral purpose, judgement, or any sort of here-after.
    Instead they just have delusions about their own importance and grandeur, their need to be written into history (their only hope for immortality!), their national or ideological (ie 'party') destiny, 'progress', and dreams of utopia.
    Their 'delusions' (really what you call 'worldview' and I call beliefs) are of a decidedly non-theistic nature.

    "They know that dead is dead."
    I think everyone gets that, Anon.
    That's why we call it 'dead'.
    Up is up and round is round, too, you know?
    They 'know' (ie believe) death is not a merely a change in the flow of life, or a 'passing on' - it is the end of everything. To them death is to cease to exist, or ever exist again. The past is irrelevant to such a view, because to them the past no longer exists. So the dead do not exist there either.
    They are only directed forward in their beliefs.

    This is indeed a marked difference from their southern compatriots who are majority Buddhist, and many Christians who have beliefs ranging from reincarnation to those of heaven and hell.
    Consider: They believe in the past, purpose, some form of cosmic or divine judgement and what you term 'a delusion of an afterlife'. Yet they build no gulags or death camps.
    Instead, they prosper, feed their people and grow in in influence. These people who suffer from your delusion can freely move about and elect their leaders.
    The ones in the North who 'know dead is dead',[my emph] do make the camps, starve their people and impose a dictatorship that ENFORCES their views on others and punishes people for having the same 'delusions' of the prosperous and free South.