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North Korea at the Dawn of a New Global Era

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North Korea is once again making public statements concerning what it perceives as “warmongering” from a joint U.S., South Korean naval exercise that will take place soon. Though this reaction is nothing new, the odds of North Korea maintaining its current diplomacy style are decreasing as international pressures are stacking against them. Kantathi Suphamongkhon, serving as Thai foreign minister, has gone on the record that if the U.S. were to withdraw from the South Korean border, the North would view it as an act of destabilization, and that the U.S. was planning to attack soon. This shows a remarkable amount of paranoia on the part of Pyongyang and reflects the general distrust between our nation and their own.
Frayed Roots
Some trace the worst breakdown between our two nations in the post cold war era to have occurred during the Bush administration. South Korean journalist, Soomin Seo, said that years of trust built between the west and Pyongyang were diminished when Bush declared North Korea a member of the “axis of evil.” This rhetoric broke down communications that had been developed during the Clinton administration. Suphamongkhon added that the invasion of Iraq only furthered this tension. Though the North Korean nuclear program did not start with the Bush administration, its activity has coincided with the U.S. war on terror escalation, though North Korea had no ties to the attacks of September 11th. This however, does not make the North Korean government an innocent victim of western aggression.
Why Korea is an Offender
Human Rights watch groups have recently turned to Google Earth to expose the crimes committed by the North Korean government. utilizing satellite technology, Google Earth has revealed a nation that is literally checkered with internment camps. While Pyongyang will not acknowledge this claim, it is estimated that around 200,000 prisoners are kept in these locations. And while that may not seem like much compared to the U.S. prison population, one must also keep in mind the conditions that exist in these camps that have been testified to by survivors. Individuals who are deemed a threat to the state can be locked up for life, along with three generations of their family members. Some have claimed that as many as 40% of the inmates die of malnutrition. Other ways to die include
disease, sexual violence, torture, abuse by the guards, and being overworked to death. Work days can last up to 16 hours in dangerous conditions, often in mines or logging camps. The looming threat of being sent to one of these camps serves as a never ending source of fear and paranoia for the North Korean population, and allows the regime to control the population with a clenched fist.
International Pressure for Change
Due to the nations troubled history with foreign diplomacy and a human rights record that screams for attention, the situation in North Korea may at first seem hopeless, and that this cycle could continue indefinitely, but thanks to the United Nations, Japan, The United States, technology, and even China, there is an ever growing possibility to rectify the situation.
Navi Pillay, the United Nations human rights chief, has called for an international investigation in to North Korea’s crimes against humanity saying
“Because of the enduring gravity of the situation, I believe an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst – but least understood and reported – human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue,” 
but the United Nations will be powerless to stop these offenses without support from the key influences in the region. Fortunately, that is what they are receiving more of. The use of technology, though the aforementioned Google Earth images, to the effects of social media in creating public awareness, have encouraged nations like Japan and China to become more invested in the future of North Korea as it relates to their own national security. One of the greatest conglomerates of social media (and physically/verbally direct) human rights activists, The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), which consists of over 40 leading human rights organizations and activists, recently welcomed Japan into the fray. Japan has been a long time ally of the U.S., especially concerning North Korea, and any governmental aid from them can only serve to strengthen their nation as well. But the big question in this scenario is China, the North’s longtime financial ally. Fortunately for the world, towards the end of January, 2013, China voted alongside the U.S. on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the North’s latest rocket launch. This shows the opening of cracks in the relationship between Pyongyang and the leading Chinese authorities, and these are cracks that we must take advantage of while they are still present.
Perhaps the greatest weakness of the U.N. is the inability of the Security Council to work together to solve issues like this one. Most notably, the U.S., China, and Russia have a tendency to commit to shooting each other down on resolutions that could save hundreds of thousands of lives in countries that are not our own. Getting all three of these nations to agree on something as practical as North Korea would be a major step in the right direction for world peace. I often lament in these articles about the nebulous nature of al Qaeda and how difficult it is for the U.N. to create resolutions for nations that are affected by an influence that seeps in, destroys, then slimes out to regroup and cause havoc elsewhere, but North Korea is not a hydra like organization that can escape its own borders. North Korea is a target that has isolated itself from the world and will soon have to face the crimes that it has forced its citizens to endure, so long as the Security Council can work together. Though much distrust still looms after the cold war, and the wars for economic and strategic resource control, the major contenders of the Security Council can still use this one opportunity to express a willingness to work together for a common good. With technology on our side, and an international recognition of North Korea as a belligerent government populated by a suffering citizenry in need of aid, the opportunity to end this oppression is one that we can witness in our lifetimes.

1 COMMENT

  1. That “axis of evil” nonsense did so much harm, and for what? A cool slogan? Hope the North Koreans get a little relief in the future, like you’re saying.

  2. Thank you for your feedback. I think that some relief for the North Koreans would be a great relief for all of us.

  3. Well written
    It will be hard to find common ground when a real solution is discussed. There aren’t many options. There isn’t much room for middle ground. The near future is going to bring a new beginning, but for who..
    Kinda scary to think about.

    • Thank you, Chris. I really appreciate that. I hope that the new beginning that you speak of is one that the citizens of North Korea can prosper in without the regime breathing down their necks, and that Americans can breathe easier as well. Unfortunately, this recent underground nuclear test may have undone much of the potential for goodwill that I tried to speak of in this article. I cannot comprehend the stress levels that this causes for diplomats.