Kidnapping of foreign nationals is yet another of many crimes yet to be repudiated by the North Korean regime.
North Korea is in the news again, preparing to test a missile. A new Kim may be in charge, but Pyongyang’s provocative policies remain the same.
Kim Jong-un is the nominal ruler of the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. A one-time Chicago Bulls fan, the 20-something “Marshal of the DPRK” now appears to be fascinated by Disney characters.
Alas, the system he represents is anything but entertaining. A rapacious elite holds an otherwise productive and entrepreneurial people in poverty and privation; malnutrition and even starvation are routine. A brutal system of prison camps awaits anyone who dissents. The worst punishment is meted out to the religious, who believe there is a god apart from the latest exalted “leader” in Pyongyang.
Yet this horrid system is not only inflicted upon those unfortunate enough to be born into it. After creating hell on earth, the Kim family forced as many outsiders as possible to live in it.
In 1950 North Korea’s “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung sought to conquer the entire peninsula through war. Although thwarted in that attempt, Pyongyang pressed thousands of South Koreans into service in the North. The DPRK also lured immigrants with promises of a socialist “paradise,” prevented visitors from returning, and kidnapped a variety of foreigners including South Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, and Europeans.
Pyongyang has made slavery state policy.
Yoshi Yamamoto detailed North Korean practices in Taken! North Korea’s Criminal Abduction of Citizens of Other Countries, a report released in 2011 by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. Yamamoto has worked with families of Japanese abductees. A decade ago their plight focused attention on the North’s many crimes.
On September 17, 2002, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang. In an apparent attempt to win Japanese financial assistance, DPRK “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il admitted that his nation had kidnapped several Japanese citizens “to enable Japanese language training in special agencies and for agents to obtain false identities to infiltrate.”
Nevertheless, Kim refused to acknowledge the magnitude of the practice. Explained Yamamoto, Kim’s “admission was not the whole truth, his government has provided false and unsubstantiated assertions since the admission, and demands for thorough bilateral investigations have repeatedly been denied by North Korea.” Japanese-North Korean relations remained stalled.
The scandal is far bigger than Japan, however. Wrote Yamamoto: “The information collected shows that North Korea’s policy of abducting foreigners was not limited to Japan or to small numbers of individuals. Of course, even a small number of abductees from Japan or any other country would be a severe violation of the rights of those abducted, a violation of international law, and a crime that would warrant international attention and concern. But North Korea’s practice of abductions was neither insignificant nor short-lived.”
The North may have seized as many as 180,000 people. Yamamoto counted 82,959 South Koreans forced north during the Korean War, 3,824 South Koreans, mostly fishermen, captured since the conflict’s end, more than 93,000 ethnic Korean migrants lured from Japan, roughly 100 Japanese kidnapped off of beaches and streets, 200 Chinese, mostly ethnic Koreans aiding defectors from the DPRK, taken from China, and at least 25 other foreigners held captive. There may be others.
The ruthless program was systematic and well-organized. Noted Yamamoto: “North Korea’s policy of abducting foreign citizens was intentional, directed by Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il themselves, executed by an extensive well-trained bureaucracy, and far-reaching in its scope and geographic reach.” At least four departments in the Korean Workers’ Party were involved and answered directly to the Kims. Wrote Yamamoto: “There is ample evidence that the regime had an official bureaucratic structure that employed, managed and monitored those abducted while they were in North Korea.”
In 1946 Kim Il-sung, installed as leader in the Soviet occupation zone in the northern half of the peninsula, announced: “In order to solve the shortage of intellectuals, we have to bring intellectuals from South Korea.” That could have meant creating a prosperous and free society to attract human talent voluntarily. However, Kim had very different intentions.
Yamamoto noted that only three days after invading the Republic of Korea, the KWP Military Committee issued instructions to capture “Southern political, economic, and socially prominent figures, reeducate them, and strengthen the military front line with them.” They ended up as de facto slaves. Soviet records reported that “the plan of transferring Seoul citizens to the North for their job placement in factories, coal mines and enterprises is being implemented in each related sector.”
There also was a concerted effort to attract ethnic Koreans from Japan with “the idea of helping to rebuild North Korea.” Tokyo’s tortured relationship with both Koreas grows out of turning the once independent kingdom into a colony. More than two million Koreans were living in Japan at the end of World War II.
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