The Spectacle Blog

Otherworldly Defense of North Korea

By on 12.22.11 | 3:36PM

There's a lot that can be said about North Korea.  But little good.  It is a totalitarian state, with as many as 200,000 people thought to be locked up in deadly labor camps.  In the late 1990s at least 500,000 and as many as two million people died in a famine, largely caused by Pyongyang's collectivization of agriculture.  Religious liberty does not exist, with the regime targeting believers in any god other than the Kim family.  Back in 1950 North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung started a war which killed millions and devastated both Koreas.  His son, Kim Jong-il lived lavishly while begging the world for aid to feed his people.

Quite a record.

But no matter.  On the Daily Kos Niccolo Caldararo wrote a truly remarkable defense of the North.  Sadly put upon by the West and victimized by all the usual suspects, the communist monarchy "today is the result of [North Korea's] history, and especially its most recent history with America."  Indeed, he added:

While North Korea may behave in a strange fashion at times, its political history is no less responsible toward its own citizens than the history of the South, especially the recent history that was dominated in the 1960s to 1980s by dictatorial regimes that practiced torture and mass arrest.  While we hear of starvation and torture in North Korea, these are far less well documented than the recent history of the South.

Whew!  (H/t to Tim Graham.)

There is much to complain about South Korea under military rule.  But, in case the professor didn't notice, the South Koreans escaped repression and achieved freedom.  It turns out that nasty dictator Park Chung-hee (and he was nasty!) followed economic policies which allowed his people to avoid famine and escape poverty.  And dictator Chun Doo-hwan responded to mass protests by holding an election.  Silly fellow.  He was later convicted and originally sentenced to death for his crimes.  His successor, a former general and ally named Roh Tae-woo, allowed another election in which former dissident Kim Young-sam was elected.  Roh also later was convicted and sentenced to prison.

These guys were amateurs compared to the Kims.

There also is much to complain about U.S. policy, including its support for dictatorship, and I have.  Indeed, I have made myself unpopular in Seoul by proposing the withdrawal of American troops from a nation well able to protect itself.  However, the U.S. eventually did the right thing.  Indeed, Kim Dae-jung, the long-time dissident turned president, credited Washington with saving his life after the South Korean KCIA kidnapped him intending to murder him.

But really, wrong-headed U.S. policy in the past is beside the point today.  The difference between authoritarian South Korea and totalitarian North Korea long ago turned into one of kind, not degree.  And today there is no comparison.  The North has more than "problems."  It is a national prison camp for 23 million people.

And yes, to answer Professor Caldararo's question:  I have visited both North and South Korea.

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