International Law

North Korea’s Gulag Crimes Against Humanity

The North Korean regime feels shamed today after its long-range rocket malfunctioned during a test flight last week. And while the world focuses on whether this rogue nation will detonate a nuclear bomb to remind everyone that it is a military force to be reckoned with, these acts of political gamesmanship serve to distract the international community from the massive human rights violations taking place in North Korean gulags.

The Committee For Human Rights in North Korea just issued a report (PDF file) that reveals at least 150,000 North Koreans are being held as political prisoners in gulags. For most, it is a death sentence.

They are placed on starvation diets and work until they die. Some are executed for their conduct within the camp, such as attempting to get extra food rations. Torture and forced abortions frequently occur.

What these prisoners have in common is that they have committed political "crimes" that the regime considers a threat to its existence. There are no trials; due process and the rule of law are nonexistent.

Now is the time for the international community to band together to bring those responsible to justice for crimes against humanity. To wait enables North Korea to develop the technology for threatening the world with nuclear missiles, thereby precluding action against the regime.

The question remains as to whether China will support action to end the gulags and prosecute the culpable. If diplomatic focus is on the mass human rights abuses occurring, instead of geopolitical warfare between East and West, perhaps China will do the right thing.

As a fallback position, China and the international community should consider a scenario where all North Korean political prisoners are exiled to South Korea and the gulags are permanently closed.

Recommended Reading

Report sheds fresh light on North Korean gulag, BBC News (Apr. 10, 2012)

Turning a blind eye to North Korea's 'hidden gulag', Washington Post (Apr. 12, 2012)

Over 150,000 people living in secret North Korean gulags, Global Post (Apr. 11, 2012)