The North Korean Government Essay
For hundreds of years, human societies have been struggling to establish utopia. However, there have been many conflicts between humanity and social power. Since the Renaissance, numerous people have fought and shed blood to achieve their basic human rights. For instance, United States of America, for last 200 years, went through many significant historical events, shaping into a nation of reserved civil rights. Back in 1953, when North Korea became communist country, the ideals of Communisms were appealing to many people because communism seemed to establish fair and equal society to all people without any discrimination. However, with human nature of selfishness and greed, North Korea transformed into tyrannical government full of oppression. Ironically, the North Korean government still declares itself as a democratic country while oppressing its people into ceaseless poverty and misery. Consequently, the nation was prone to be in great trouble in the present age.
Each day, tears never dry in the faces of many North Korean children and parents; fears overwhelm the people who are living with limited hope and dreams. For many in prison, torture is the common terror. Physical or psychological torture is often used for the "humiliation or annihilation of the dignity of the person" (Human Rights Violation Article) in North Korea. This degradation of self-respect and basic human rights eventually leads self-destruction. Moreover, the North Korean suppressers have been using such tortures to take away hope from the people. Additionally, they are suppressed so much that they will be mistaken into thinking that they are living in an ideal country. With so much restriction and strict laws, the people are excluded from the world.
United Nations for the past few decades declared that it can’t do anything simply because it can’t confirm the people’s situation. But with the evidence of the North Korean refugees, such conditions in North Korea shouldn’t be easily ignored. “This is still not a country where people have any political freedom at all,” said Armstrong, who has visited North Korea five times. Many refugees described their lives as living in hell. Refugees escaped from North Korea because they were desperate for liberty and bread. Human dignity means individuals have the right to choose the better future, so these refugees sought for their better lives. However, even this right is taken away by North Korean regime. When some refugees are caught, they are often executed or sent to an abominable prison.
One of the most famous North Korean refugees is Shin Dong Hyuk. Mr. Shin showed the world his life during imprisonment and perilous journey out of North Korea through the book, Escape from Camp 14. When Shin was child, he was brainwashed by the government to report any illegal actions. Innocently, he reported his mother and brother to the soldiers who later executed them for the attempt of escaping. For the remaining of his teenage life, he was...
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The Problems of Human Rights in North Korea
by Hwang Jang Yop (Former International-Scretary of KWP)
2. Human Rights Violations in North Korea
North Korea is currently a society where respect for human rights has yet to exist. Human rights cannot co-exist with absolutism of the Great Leader. Only the Great Leader has absolute human rights; all others are simply his vassals. An individual's fate and human rights belong not to the individual but to the Great Leader. How can the right to oppose the absolutism of the Great Leader exist in a society where the highest moral value is dedicating one's body and soul to the Great Leader? No matter how much the Great Leader and his agents infringe on the people's human rights, it is considered acts of blameless morality. In an advanced country, a president has to answer to the Congress for his sex scandals, but in North Korea, no one can question the Great Leader's behavior or his agents' infringement of human rights.
(1)Human rights violations in economic life
When we talk about 'human rights,' we usually think of social and political freedoms such as the freedom of speech and freedom of political participation. But human rights refers to 'the right to live as the common owner of one's society.' There is no human right more important than the right to life. Above all else, a human being must be guaranteed the basic conditions to feed, clothe, house and support himself in order to survive. So the most basic of human right would be the right to avail oneself to the above conditions for basic survival.
① The North Korean government does not guarantee its people's basic living conditions and is starving them to death
In North Korea, all means of production are owned by the state. They claim that the land is owned by the agricultural cooperative, but in reality, all land is owned by the party and therefore by the state. A member of the agricultural cooperative has no say in the use of the land. The only person who is allowed to manage the land is the secretary of the district party. So ultimately, all the land managed by the agricultural cooperative belongs to the Great Leader. But the North Korean rulers claim that all means of production belong to the people. If that is true, then the people should have free use of the means of production and the right to have products at their disposal. In reality, however, the North Korean people do not have such rights. The rulers of North Korea, who monopolize all means of production, do not even guarantee the people? basic living conditions.
② The greatest human rights violation of all is the starvation of millions of workers
In a situation where private ownership of land is acknowledged, people can go hungry if natural disaster or human negligence leads to a poor harvest. The problem in such a situation is different from the problem we are discussing here, but even in such a situation, the government has certain responsibilities. So it goes without saying that in a country where all factories and farms are owned by the state and the head of state monopolizes all state power and wealth, the top leader is entirely responsible for the tragedy of millions of people starving to death.
There are many differing opinions regarding the exact number of North Korean people who have starved to death. This is because the North Korean authorities cover up the statistics and forbid all surveys regarding the famine. What is more lamentable is that so-called "authorities" on North Korea make all sorts of subjective and personal comments without even surveying the actual situation in North Korea. Anyone with any conscience would not be so irresponsible as to make light of a problem as dire as mass starvation without conducting proper surveys first. What is more detestable is the considerable number of people who turn a deaf ear to the cries of their fellow countrymen and put their trust instead in the words of foreign "authorities." There can be no greater immorality than commenting carelessly on something that is a matter of life and death to others without even knowing all the facts.
I and my colleagues have not only lived in North Korea but also served in the top brain center of the nation, and therefore have the most accurate statistics on the famine in North Korea. The statistics we have are not based on hearsay but on data reported to Kim Jong Il himself, and were given to us by an official of the Organization Guidance Bureau of the Party's Central Committee.
According to the Central Party secretary in charge of the munitions industry, more than half of the workers lay starving at home, unable to report for work, when rations to the munitions factory workers were cut off for more than nine months in 1995. During that time, 2,000 highly-skilled workers, valued by the munitions industry for their skills, starved to death. For these workers, the government had taken special emergency measures to reduce the swelling caused by starvation, but when they continued to starve and their bodies swelled up again, there was nothing the government could do to save them.
When the secretaries of the Central Party gathered in November 1996 to take stock of the national food situation, they learnt that there was only 2.1 millions tons of grain left.
Alarmed by the situation, the secretaries had made inquiries about the situation to an official of the Organization Guidance Bureau, which was in charge of caring for the starving people and managing the food situation. That was in the middle of November, 1996.
According to the Organization Guidance Bureau official, more than 500 thousand people, including 50 thousand party members, had starved to death in 1995. And as of mid-November 1996, almost 1 million people had already starved to death. He went on to say that only 2.1 million tons of grain was produced in 1996. If the situation did not change, the official predicted that about 2 million people would starve to death in 1997. An official of the Organization Guidance Bureau would never have made irresponsible reports to the secretaries of the Central Party.
That more than 1.5 million people died of hunger from 1995 to 1996 is an irrefutable fact. We do not have accurate data about the situation from 1997 to 1998, but since the food supply did not improved much, it can be deduced that at least a million people have met their deaths every year. According to reports that Chinese telecommunications company Xinhua claims it received from officials of the Agricultural Committee in North Korea, a total of 2.8 million people have starved to death at last count at the end of 1997. From this and the irrefutable fact that 1.5 million had died by the end of 1996, we can deduce that another 1.3 million people died in 1997 to add up to a total of 2.8 million deaths by starvation. We have consistently said that more than 1.5 million died between 1995 and 1996 and that 1 million more probably died every year from 1997 to 1998. We never resorted to exaggerating the situation.
Despite this, some people say, "How can a society continue to exist when one out of five has starved to death?" These people openly say that they cannot believe our claims. If they are so unsure of the facts, the least they can do is contact us to ask. What could be more conceited than openly criticizing someone just because you have failed to understand?
We wonder if such people have accurate information about the North Korean population and its natural rate of increase. The North Korean rulers keep the actual population a secret and give out false figures, and deliberately exclude the number of military personnel. The North Korean population is known to be about 23 million, but the number of soldiers is top secret. So you have to add the number of soldiers to the figure 23 million to get anywhere close to the actual population of North Korea. Even if the North Korean population is 22.5 million as I heard someone say, the death of 1 million a year would mean the death of one out of every 22.5 persons, not one out of five! This someone is a famous ideologist and there is no way that he cannot do simple Math. So that leads us to question why this respected person is so "concerned" about our concern over the famine in North Korea. Until now, we had thought that the only people worried about word of the famine spreading around the world were the North Korean rulers.
We heard in 1996 that human meat was being sold all over North Korea, and even confirmed such a case in Pyongyang. But we were too ashamed to talk about it when we arrived in South Korea at first. But many other North Korean defectors have testified to acts of cannibalism in North Korea, and the humiliating stories were reported in Monthly Chosun.
The marketing of human meat was unheard of during Japanese colonial rule and even during the Korean War. If the situation has come to selling and eating human meat, one can imagine how serious the food crisis is. If it was not that serious, how do you explain the thousands of North Koreans who swim across rivers to enter China at the risk of getting shot by border patrol guards?
Who, then, has made millions of North Koreans starve to death and forced them to eat human flesh? Who has forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their beloved homes and risk their lives to cross the river into China? It is the rulers of North Korea, who have absolutely no regard for human lives, and the "Great General" Kim Jong Il, who holds all the power and wealth of North Korea in his hands.
③ The North Korean government has not only starved countless people to death but also taken away their freedom to search for ways to survive
The North Korean rulers are responsible for feeding the people, but if that becomes impossible, they should not block the people from searching for ways to survive, and the least they can do is guarantee the people's freedom to strike out on their own in order to survive. And in a situation where they are hoarding all the wealth and not even providing the people with enough to eat, the North Korean rulers have no right to demand loyalty of the people. However, the North Korean rulers prohibit the people from seeking ways to fend for themselves, and continue to subject the starving masses to forced labor.
The North Korean rulers use armed forces to stop the people from seeking out their relatives living in China to ask for help. Even if some of the people manage to cross the river and reach the Northeast region of China, the North Korean rulers dispatch security agents to arrest and drag them back home like escaped slaves and subject them to barbaric punishment. The North Korean rulers feel no shame in behaving like a charity case in the international community, but they do not allow their own people the freedom to beg for food.
Recently, the North Korean authorities cracked down on beggars on the streets of Pyongyang, and there was even a fiasco where low income families were purged from the city to live in the countryside. Kim Jong Il has long claimed that it is degrading to have disabled persons living in Pyongyang, the 'City of the Revolution,' and has chased all of them away to remote areas. And now, after ruining the economy and forcing his people to become beggars, Kim Jong Il is chasing beggars out of the city because he thinks they are unsightly.
Then what is life like for those privileged to live in Pyongyang because they are from acceptable classes and faithful to Kim Jong Il? With the exception of a handful of extremely privileged people, even those living in Pyongyang face hunger and great suffering.
Kim Jong Il has already squandered huge funds to build the 'Mt. Kumsu Memorial Palace' to preserve the body of his father. Not only that, he has forced workers already weak with hunger to work on the construction site on the pretext of 'mobilization of loyalty.' The people continue to be forced to supply their labor to build the Tower of Eternal Life for Kim Il Sung and other structures meant to laud the achievements of the two Kims.
In 1996, we keenly felt the suffering of the citizens of Pyongyang, who were forced to bring flowers to the huge bronze statue of Kim Il Sung atop the hill of Mansudae every eighth day of the month. (Kim Il Sung died on 8 July 1994, and so flowers are brought to his statue in Pyongyang on the eighth day of every month.) Even among the party officials, there are few who can afford to drive cars. Most of the ordinary citizens have to make the long trip to the Kim Il Sung statue on foot. An even greater hardship is procuring fresh flowers in the middle of winter. Looking on at this wretched and yet ridiculous situation with heavy hearts, we cannot help but question for whom the city of Pyongyang exists and for whom the citizens of Pyongyang live.
At the end of 1995, a party official who had been dispatched to a small factory along the west coast for party secretary training (a form of training for party secretaries where Central Party officials are sent to work for six months as factory party secretaries in the provinces in order to gain hands-on experience) returned to the Central Party to report on the business and living conditions of the region in his charge. According to the official, the factory workers managed to survive by catching fish and clams. But too many wandering people came begging for food, and a lot of the people were killed at sea. The residents in the region caught clams and bartered their catch for flour brought by Chinese fishermen, but the clams were getting scarce due to over-fishing. So the residents had to wait until the tide went out completely before digging for clams. Once, more than 300 residents drowned at one time because they were so caught up in digging for clams that they were unable to flee the incoming tide. The official also reported that parents chased their children out to beg for food, resigned to the fact that it was the only way to save at least the children from starving to death. So there were a lot of child beggars in the region, particularly in the train stations in the countryside, and a good number of them ended up dying of hunger.
Despite the severity of the situation, Kim Jong Il gave the party secretaries a new task of researching ways to grow grass for cattle-feed. Kim Jong Il had sent his most trusted subordinate in the party secretariat to serve as the ambassador to Switzerland. The reasons for this unusual act was unknown to us, but whatever the case, Kim Jong Il forbid other ordinary delegations from going to Switzerland after that. Some people said that it was because Kim Jong Il was depositing slush funds to a Swiss account, and others said that he had built a country house in Switzerland where his family lived and his children went to school.
The North Korean ambassador to Switzerland in 1996 was an old schoolmate of Kim Jong Il and a staff member of the party secretariat. While in Switzerland, he reported to Kim Jong Il that the Swiss reared sheep and cows on grass alone and recommended that North Korea follow suit in order to ease the food shortage.
Kim Jong Il relayed the ambassador's report to us secretaries and instructed us to come up with measures to carry out the ambassador's recommendation. The secretaries loudly praised Kim Jong Il's order as "another flash of creative genius by the Great Leader," and suggested that the secretaries take charge of one province each to grow grass to feed cattle.
How could they talk of making pastures to feed cattle when the people were starving to death like so much cattle or barely staying alive by eating things they should not be eating? The party secretary in charge of Jagang-do reported to the Central Party that food was so scarce in his region that he had to feed the residents coal and mud. Considering the dire straits the nation was in, if there was even a single patch of land left and enough labor to work that land, the rational thing to do would be to plant more corn or even more pig-feed potatoes (a kind of potato usually grown to feed pigs but which can be made suitable for human consumption by boiling a couple of times). How can people starving to death even dream of eating meat? How can anyone in his right mind give no thought to the starving masses and think only of rearing cattle to eat more meat? Despite this lamentable state of affairs, the 'Great General Kim Jong Il' is called the benevolent father of the people.
At the end of 1996, Kim Jong Il flew into a rage upon learning that the military had run out of rice to feed the soldiers, and ordered that the situation be remedied immediately. All the party organizations and government agencies were mobilized to follow Kim Jong Il's angry order. In the end, all the party officials in the rural areas right down to the counties and villages were mobilized to carry out a 'patriotic rice donation campaign' in which the farmers had to take three months' worth of grain they had retained for their own use and send it army. We could not just sit and watch this happening, and so all the central party secretaries went out and bought 200kg of rice each to send to the army.
Since Kim Jong Il himself thought nothing of forcing farmers to give up what meager stocks they had to feed themselves and keep for the next planting season, the army fearlessly plundered villages to grab the residents' precious food and cattle. In such a situation, the rise of serial killers and cannibalism simply cannot be coincidence. Even in Pyongyang where residents are considered relatively better-off, ordinary workers who do not belong to a privileged government agency say that they cannot continue to live like this, and wish that a war would break out to put an end to everything. This is the general mentality of the North Korean public. Such adverse living conditions are a testimony to the serious violation of human rights in North Korea.
(2)Human rights violations in political life
① Party bureaucracy and human rights violations
When we talk about 'party dictatorship,' people seem to think that the members of the party participate in the dictatorship and share in its privileges, but this is not true of all party members. The privileged few are the 'full-time party workers (whose full-time job is working for the party).' The Workers' Party is organized on the principle of centralization, from the Central Committee right down to each primary party committee and cell (the smallest unit of the party organization). The party committee at each level is a guidance agency, not an executive arm. The guidance agency encompasses not just the full-time party workers but all the party members. But the real movers and shakers of the party organization are not the party committees in charge of guidance but the full-time party workers in charge of actually carrying out the party committees' projects.
Within the Party Central Committee is the Political Bureau, which is like a scaled-down version of the Central Committee. This Political Bureau encompasses not only the full-time party workers but the representatives of all the classes and strata in North Korean society. But the Party Central Committee Secretariat consists only of party secretaries who are full-time party workers. Within the Party Central Committee are several executive departments such as the Organization Guidance Bureau and the Propaganda and Agitation Bureau. It is these bureaus that control the projects of the Party Central Committee, and these bureaus are in turn under the guidance of a few party secretaries.
In the Do(provincial) party committees, the provincial party's chief secretary and other secretaries supervise the projects of the provincial party. The same goes for Gun(county) parties. Some primary party committees or cells may not have full-time party workers. In cells with full-time party workers, the party secretary has full control of the cell. In cells without full-time party workers, the secretary follows the instructions of the party organization above his in carrying out party projects.
Even in such cases, the secretary exercises special authority as the de facto full-time party worker. In principle, a none-full-time party worker should give first priority to his full-time job, but in reality he neglects his job on the pretext of concentrating on his duties as a party secretary. In other words, he devotes his time to party projects while living on the salary provided by his full-time job.
Full-time party workers have the power to guide and control party projects as the Great Leader's agents, and naturally, bureaucracy is rampant. For example, in a university party committee, the president and vice-presidents of the university are all members of the committee, but the full-time party workers wield all the power in the committee. The full-time party workers who are not even members of the university party committee but just involved in university party committee projects have more power than the university administration staff.
This is an incident that occurred in Kim Il Sung University. A final-year student was given a post in the university party committee as a Guidance Bureau officer. As soon as he took up his position, the student summoned the professor who had been teaching him and reprimanded the professor for not greeting him first. These people regard university party secretaries as gods but look down on university presidents. If the situation is this bad in universities, one can easily imagine the extent of high-handedness and human rights violations by party workers in the factories and farms.
This is not to say, of course, that all full-time party workers are steeped in bureaucracy. In particular, the party workers who worked for Kim Il Sung consistently put up a struggle opposing bureaucracy. But as soon as Kim Jong Il took over the party, he abolished party democracy and turned the Great Leader's sole leadership system into a military command system. He turned the party election system into a mere formality and established a system where even the cell party secretary had to be appointed by the higher party organization. The status of the secretaries in the primary party committees and cells was determined not through elections but through the instructions of the higher party organization. Consequently, secretaries turned into sycophants, and bureaucracy and human rights violations became part and parcel of party life. And even if the corruption of a party secretary became known to the public, the guilty secretary almost always enjoyed the protection of his superiors in the higher party organization. Thus criticism of party secretaries by the members of the primary party committee or cell usually fell on deaf ears, and often led to petty revenge on the critics.
All residents in North Korea are organized into primary party committees or cells, and so the bureaucracy prevailing throughout the party organization undermines all individuals' independence and forces them to live like slaves. The party secretaries will control and interfere in the private lives of their committee or cell members, claiming that they have to report everything to the party. In the process, they commit countless violations of human rights.
In order to show their loyalty to the higher party organization, the secretaries in the primary committees and cells usually become overzealous in following instructions, and the ones to suffer for the secretaries?self-serving zeal are none other than the ordinary people.
For example, when the Party Central Committee gives instructions to finish rice-planting by June 20, the provincial party changes the deadline to the end of May while relaying the instructions, and the village or county party in turn orders the farmers to finish rice-planting by May 20. In the end, it is the masses that have to bear the burden and harsh labor and live in a wasteland of human rights.
② North Korea is a lawless land where laws are for show
In North Korea, the laws are for show, and the people live outside the protection of the law. The Constitution of North Korea guarantees democratic freedoms such as the freedoms of speech, press, association and assembly. The Supreme People's Assembly is supposedly the sovereign ruling power, and the Constitution makes it seem as if legislative, executive and judicial powers are all separate and politically independent of each other.
In North Korea, completely ruled by the sole ideology of the Great Leader, exercising the rights to freedom of speech is unthinkable. Even informal socializing, such as class reunions or gatherings of people from the same hometown, is prohibited, making the freedom of association and assembly quite meaningless. The laws provide for freedom of religious faith, but it goes without saying that any religion that runs counter to the Great Leader's ideology cannot exist in North Korea. All the churches in Pyongyang are fake churches built for show. The monks living in the Buddhist temples are of course fake monks. Genuine believers in North Korea cannot profess their faith; only fake believers are allowed to do so. Residents cannot move from one county to another without a travel pass. (But this has recently become meaningless due to the food crisis.)
The North Korean rulers claim that there is no freedom in South Korea, that the South Korean government suppresses the student movement and workers' strikes. But the difference between the two Koreas in terms of social freedoms is greater than the difference between heaven and earth. The North Korean rulers proclaim the fidelity of Lee In Mo, a North Korean war correspondent who refused to denounce his communist ideal despite 40 years of imprisonment in South Korea. North Korea uses the case of Lee to prove that there is no democracy in South Korea. But if a dissident in North Korea openly criticized the system, he would not be imprisoned for 40 years but arrested and shot to death within 40 minutes. In Kim Il Sung University, the students start harboring suspicions about the Great Leader's personality cult by the time they are in their second year, but none of them dare to voice their suspicions out loud. Student demonstrations calling for freedom on campus are unthinkable. If workers go on strike, they will immediately be arrested and executed for counter-revolutionary activities. Since all the factories in North Korea belong to the party and the Great Leader, opposing the factory management is tantamount to revolting against the Great Leader and is therefore unacceptable.
In 1995, food rations were cut off for more than nine months, even for workers in the munitions factories. More than half the workers stayed home weak with hunger and could not report for work. When the secretary from the Party Central Committee in charge of the munitions industry visited the homes of these workers, the workers, reduced to skin and bones from starvation, said to the secretary, "How is General Kim Jong Il? We trust that you, comrade, will take good care of the General." This incident shows that the North Korean government has erased even the slightest traces of independence from the workers and turned them into complete slaves.
The students are in an even worse plight. When Soviet politician Krushchyov criticized Stalin's personality cult in 1965, his actions influenced the North Korean students studying in the USSR, who made comments criticizing Kim Il Sung's personality cult. The North Korean authorities heard of this, and when the students returned to North Korea, they were subject to intensive interrogation that lasted for months. Those found the least bit suspicious were killed in secret.
A group of North Korean soldiers who had studied military affairs in a university in the USSR in the 1980s were found to have formed an anti-Kim Jong Il organization within the military. They were all executed in 1995. Not only that, almost all the people who had studied in the USSR were deemed to have been influenced by the anti-Kim Jong Il organization even if they were not soldiers. These people were not allowed to travel overseas, and anyone found to have the slightest connection to the anti-Kim Jong Il organization was executed, resulting in the death of almost all the students who had studied in the USSR in the 1980s. I used to supervise the Juche Science Institute, where I met a Russian Literature graduate of Kazan University in the USSR. The professor who had supervised his graduation thesis was the dean in charge of foreigners, and such professors usually had connections with the Security Bureau of the USSR. Based on this flimsy reasoning, the People's Army arrested the graduate and had him shot.
Kim Jong Il had an affair with Sung Hye Rim, a movie actress and daughter-in-law of famous writer Lee Gi Young. She even bore Kim Jong Il a son (Kim Jong Nam), but he sent her to live in Moscow for fear of gossip. Naturally, rumors started spreading amongst the North Korean students studying in the USSR. Kim Jong Il ordered the security commander of the People's Army to punish the gossipers. The commander interrogated the North Korean students living in Moscow, and executed all the students who simply replied that they knew that Sung Hye Rim was living in Moscow.
Kim Il Sung was also ruthless when it came to dealing with his political enemies. He accused all those who opposed him of 'anti-party, anti-revolutionary sectarianism' or of being 'spies for American imperialists,' and purged them from the party.
The concentration camp for political prisoners, called the 'control zone,' was originally built to house the families of Kim Il Sung' s political enemies in order to wipe out their family lines. Control zones are located deep in the mountains and surrounded by several layers of barbed wire. They are divided into the main area and the reserve area, and those sent into the main area spend the rest of their lives in there treated worse than animals.
Choi Seung Hee, a famous dancer, was purged during Kim Il Sung's time. Her husband had been chased out before her for having connections with the South Chosun Workers' Party. Choi was placed under surveillance for a long time after that, and finally purged by Kim Il Sung. Her daughter Ahn Sung Hee and son-in-law (both studied in the USSR), her niece Choi Ro Sa, a talented poet, and her husband (both Literature graduates of Kim Il Sung university) all suffered the same fate.
Baek Nam Woon, respected as the father of left-wing scholars, was purged by Kim Jong Il at the end of the 1960s. I heard Kim Byeong Ha, then Minister of National Security, boast that his men had taken Baek to the control zone. He said that he had a small house built for Baek, for which Baek expressed his gratitude. Deducing from what Kim had said, Baek was probably placed in the reserve area, not the main area.
As a scholar, Baek had not participated actively in the campaign against Kim Il Sung. He probably made a few comments that were picked up through wire-tapping and construed as complaints. Baek died in the concentration camp. The cunning North Korean rulers, aware of Baek's popularity among scholars, recently moved his grave to Shinmiri Patriotic Martyrs' Cemetery. The Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery in Daesungsan is only for the relatives of Kim Il Sung, but the Patriotic Martyrs' Cemetery in Shinmiri makes exceptions for persons who are well-known to South Korean nationalists. Anyone with some value in maintaining the sympathy of outsiders is buried here, even if he had died at the hands of the North Korean rulers.
The human rights violations committed by the North Korean rulers are more pronounced within the military. Young men in North Korea go through 13 years of mandatory military service. Until 30 years of age, they are forced to train to die for Kim Jong Il. This means that at an all-important period in their lives when they should be developing their talents and building up their hopes, most of the young men in North Korea throw away their lives for the sake of one Kim Jong Il. During their military service, these young men lose touch with humanity and become the vassals of violent power. By the time they leave the army, they become obedient slaves of Kim Jong Il, trained to kill and trample on human rights. Control and surveillance by the Security Command Headquarters in the army is too cruel to be true.
When the anti-Kim Jong Il organization was exposed in the 6th Army in 1995, entire families of all the officers ranking major and above were executed. Ever since the recent inspection in which the Central Party Organization Guidance Bureau labeled the Ministry of National Security an 'anti-party sectarianism group,' resulting in the forced suicide of the secretary in charge and the execution of numerous officials, the Security Command Headquarters of the military has gained greater power and has even taken over some of the National Security Ministry's duties.
Kim Jong Il is not concerned about general crimes such as theft and robbery, but takes swift and cruel action against even the slightest criticism of Kim Il Sung or Kim Jong Il. When such cases are reported by the Organization Guidance Bureau, Ministry of National Security or the Security Command Headquarters of the People's Army, together with plans to execute the critic and send his family to concentration camps, Kim Jong Il' signature endorsing such plans becomes the law, and the plans are executed immediately. Needless to say, no legal procedures are observed in the process.
The chain of events following Kim Il Sung's death made clearer than ever just how bad the human rights situation is in North Korea. For days following the leader's death, the entire country was swept up in a flood of tears. Most of the mourners were crying because they had been brainwashed by Kim Il Sung's personality cult, but there was also the fact that anything other than mourning was not allowed. The party conducted surveys to see who displayed the most grief, and made this an important criteria in assessing party members' loyalty. Patients who remained in hospitals and people who drank and made merry even after hearing news of their leader's death were all singled out for punishment. In the Juche Science Institute that I was supervising, Professor Hong Seung Hoon, the director of economic research, was demoted for remaining dry-eyed and busy repairing his bicycle. (The state is supposed to provide professors and doctors with cars, but fuel shortage has forced many of them to commute on bicycles.) This incident eventually took its toll on Dr. Hong? health and led to his death.
I witnessed the Russian people in Moscow weeping in sadness over the death of Stalin in 1953. But when Krushchyov exposed his corruption in 1956, people lost all sympathy for the dead leader. It is clear that the artificial idolization of Kim Il Sung is what generated the sea of tears upon his death. This trickery and enslavement of the people's senses is indeed the height of human rights violations.
Kim Jong Il has a morbid interest in terrorism and personally controls all terrorist attacks initiated by North Korea. Needless to say, the bombing in Myanmar and the bombing of the Korean airliner were all carried out according to Kim Jong Il's instructions. The Myanmar bombing may have been orchestrated as part of the so-called 'Class struggle' to assassinate important figures of the South Korean ruling class, but the bombing of the Korean commercial plane is evidence of the perverted character of Kim Jong Il, who has little respect for human life and loves to terrorize people.
Kim Jong Il gives free rein to his own passions and base instincts, but infringes on other people's privacy in ridiculous ways to give the impression that he is above reproach when it comes to women. He forbade women to ride behind men on bicycles when out searching for food because it offended public morals. He even forbade women from riding bicycles on their own because he said it was unsightly. (No one but Kim Jong Il can give such ridiculous orders. But when he gives orders forbidding certain acts, he always makes it seem as if the suggestion came from the masses.)
Woo In Hee was a talented and beautiful movie actress who had received the title 'people's actress,' the highest honor that can be bestowed on an actress. She was publicly executed for having inappropriate relationships with men. It is rumored that the main reason for deciding to kill Woo was that she had crumbled under interrogation and confessed to having slept with Kim Jong Il. Whatever the case, executing a movie actress for having affairs when he himself committed adultery with a married woman (Sung Hye Rim) and daughter-in-law of a famous writer cannot be considered the reasoning of a normal person.
③ Discrimination according to class and guilt by association
In North Korea, all landed capitalists are targets of political purges, and their children and descendents are all classified as 'dictatorship targets.' They cannot enroll in a university no matter how talented they are. Needless to say, they cannot work as party officials, and are subject to the worst kind of discrimination.
Why are the North Korean authorities so adamantly against the reunion of separated families and the visits to the graves of relatives who died in North Korea? Generally speaking, they say that the number of people in families split by the Korean division is about 10 million, but few of them are still surviving in North Korea. They have all been sacrificed for one reason or other. When the day of national reunification comes and the South Koreans get to visit their hometowns in the North, they will hear for themselves about the grievous suffering their relatives went through. Some families were banished altogether and completely wiped out, while others became 'dictatorship targets' harassed and eventually killed by the agents of the dictator whenever he ordered that surveillance on them be tightened.
Dictatorship agencies intent on showing off their accomplishments think nothing of executing dictatorship targets by making a big fuss over insignificant family affairs (families of landed capitalists, relatives of persons who escaped to South Korea, families of those who chose to return to North Korea, especially from Japan, families of Christians, and so on).
In 1995, a Korean living in the US contacted us in the hopes of meeting his mother and younger siblings in North Korea. He had gone to South Korea of his own accord, not as a fugitive with a criminal record. From South Korea he moved on to the US, where he became an excellent businessman and a proponent of the values of patriotism expounded by Ahn Chang Ho. We reported his case to Kim Jong Il and decided to invite the man to North Korea. We sent a security agent to his family living in the countryside, and arranged for his aging mother and his younger brother's wife to spend one week with him in Pyongyang. The Korean American pleaded with us to let him meet his two younger brothers as well. But we were not in the position to tell him what had happened to his brothers. So we said to him, "We are not sure of their whereabouts, but whatever the case, let's forget the past and cooperate for the future." The man returned to the US, where he sent us a message saying that he would not cooperate with us unless he learnt the whereabouts of his two brothers. After defecting to South Korea, we met the man again in Seoul last year (1998). He again asked us to tell him what had happened to his brothers.
The man's brothers had been killed by security agents. A crime had occurred in the region where the two brothers were living, and there were orders to catch the criminal post haste. The security agent in charge of the village was afraid that he would be held responsible if the criminal was not caught, and so he just claimed that the older of the two brothers was the criminal and had him executed. Both brothers had been 'dictatorship targets' because their oldest brother had escaped to South Korea. But soon after, the real criminal was arrested. And so the surviving brother went around complaining that his brother had been unjustly killed. Afraid of having their mistake exposed, the party secretary and security supervisor in charge of the village charged the man with anti-party thoughts and had him arrested and sent to the control zone for the rest of his life. Once a matter is dealt with in this way, even the Central Party secretary in charge of the Ministry of National Security cannot change the conclusion.
When someone commits a political mistake, punishment is exacted not only on him but also his family, relatives and friends. The higher his status, the bigger the number of those punished because of him, so as to erase any influence he might have had on those around him.
It is said that our families, right down to remote relatives who were not even aware that they were related to us, were all banished from their homes. Thousands of party officials and scholars who used to work closely with us have been sent to concentration camps or demoted to work in the countryside.
The North Korean rulers adamantly refuse to let international human rights groups survey the country's court procedures or prison conditions. Human rights records are kept a secret from even close allies. Until the beginning of the 1980s, the North Korean rulers lied that there were no prisons in North Korea and no guardhouses in the North Korean army. Since the entire nation is one big prison, one can imagine the inhumane conditions in the concentration camps and prisons within that huge prison.
When the party secretary in charge of the munitions industry reported to Kim Jong Il that a new weapon to be used by North Korean spies had been developed and was being tested on dogs, Kim Jong Il said that dogs were a poor substitute for humans and instructed the Political Security Bureau to supply political criminals to be used in the tests.
(3)Human rights violations in ideological and cultural life
In terms of human rights, freedoms in ideological and cultural life are just as important as the freedoms in economic or political life. This is because human dignity cannot be guaranteed by meeting physical needs alone.
① Turning people into slaves of ideology
The North Korean rulers deprive the people of their right to determine their own ideology and force them to adopt only one ruling ideology. An individual who cannot independently choose his own ideology can never be an independent individual. The most important element that determines a person's actions and behavior is his 'ideology.' Dominating a person's thoughts is the same as wholly dominating the person. By dominating the people's thoughts, the North Korean rulers are turning the people into slaves of ideology.
The ideology dominating each individual in North Korea is not an ideology born of self-determination but the ideology of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Therefore, the North Korean people do not act according to their own demands and interests but live to fulfill the demands and interests of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Il explicitly says that "the truth Korean people's reason for living lies in expressing their loyalty and filial piety to the Great Leader."
When Kim Il Sung died, all of North Korea went mad with grief, showing that the North Korean people are not ruled by their own powers of reasoning but consumed by the ideology of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. If Kim Jong Il cuts off food rations for more than nine months and causes entire families to starve, people would naturally regard Kim Jong Il as the enemy who has taken the lives of their loved ones. But instead, workers in munitions factories bless their Great Leader and wish him long life and good health. Who would believe that these people are in their right minds? Even if their bodies seem to belong to them, their minds are ruled by the ideology of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, and so their bodies and minds all serve the interests of the two Kims. In the end, nothing belongs to the people. They belong body and mind to the Great Leader. Anyone with any objectivity can see that the North Korean people are living as brainwashed slaves.
The North Korean rulers claim that the Great Leader ideology is the ideal reflection of the demands and interests of the masses. But how do you prove that the ideology of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il actually benefit the people? Who authorized Kim Il Sung to bequeath state power to his son? Is it really in the interests of the people to spend almost 900 million dollars in preserving the body of Kim Il Sung when millions of people are starving to death? Is it in the interests of young men and their parents to send them to the army for 13 years to become human bombs trained to protect the Great Leader with their lives? Is it in the interests of our nation to wage war on South Korea and bring about immeasurable suffering and misfortune on the Korean people?
Is it in the interests of the people to spend astronomical sums of money in developing nuclear weapons and rockets to wage another war on South Korea when the North Korean people are wasting away in hunger and poverty? Is it in the interests of the people to obstinately cling to the Kim Jong Il ideology when the only path to survival lies in reform and liberalization?
If the Great Leader really knows what is in the interests of his people and wants to base his political decisions on the people's interests, then should he not guarantee the people's rights to the freedom of thought and freedom of speech so that they can speak up on their interests and needs?
According to Marx, a revolutionary dictatorship by the working class is necessary to counter the backlash by the exploiting class that has been deprived by the revolution. But the land-owning class and capitalist class no longer exist in North Korea, and there is no political force aiming to overturn the regime. So what are the justifications for wiping out democracy and establishing a dictatorship by one individual?
The Great Leader monopolizes the government, the economy and even the ruling ideology. It is claimed that absolutism of the Great Leader is opposed to exploitation and oppression and aims to establish a classless society, but in reality, absolutism of the Great Leader has built a most inhumane class society ruled by the Great Leader and his followers who exploit and oppress the people.
The North Korean rulers did not stop at taking away the people's property and political rights but went on to turn them into mentally disabled people with no souls and only a slave's mentality. The rulers force the people to work, to obey unconditionally, to shout "Long live the Great Leader," to embrace only one ideology. In no other society but North Korea will you see people, languishing in hunger and misery, praise or be forced to praise the very leaders who have caused their misery.
② Cultural policies to keep the people ignorant
Kim Jong Il places more emphasis than Kim Il Sung on the importance of ideological and cultural life. He is the self-claimed creator of the 'theory of ideology,' and propagandizes that he is an 'arts and culture genius.' It is utter nonsense. Kim Jong Il emphasizes the importance of ideology not because he wants to develop the people's ideological capacities but because he wants to take away their ideological independence. In other words, his intention is not to imbue the people with the ideology of self-determination but to instill a slave's ideology of subservience in order to suppress awareness of their human rights. In his calculative mind, he probably thinks that it is more convenient and less costly to fool the people with empty words rather than to do something really beneficial for the people.
Kim Jong Il seems totally ignorant of the fact that arts and culture are supposed to feed the mind by exposing it to beauty, thereby empowering people to actually create beautiful lifestyles for themselves. Kim Jong Il only thinks of arts and culture as a means to idolize the Great Leader. Such a person cannot be called an arts and culture genius; he is a distorter and destroyer of arts and culture. All works of art and culture in North Korea are created for the sole purpose of idolizing the Great Leader.
There are not a few literary and artistic giants in North Korea. But their talents are dedicated solely to giving praise and adoration to the Great Leader, and none of their efforts are being channeled to creating works that will be the pillars of the history of Korean culture. So another unforgivable sin committed by the North Korean rulers is the oppression of North Korean writers' and artists' lives and the distortion of North Korean arts and culture.
All the party and government agencies in North Korea stop work on Saturdays and spend the whole day on ideological and cultural activities. The workers spend their time studying the revolutionary history and writings of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, attending political lectures and watching films. All the works they are exposed to serve the purpose of generating a personality cult, and are filled with lies and trickery. So anyone who has some idea of the ulterior motives of the North Korean rulers finds Saturdays a torture.
From 12 December 1997 to 20 April 1998, when we arrived in Seoul, Kim Deok Hong and I lived in extreme discomfort in order to avoid being terrorized by North Korean agents. Whenever we were in danger, we would say to each other, "This is nothing compared to the torture of Saturday ideology and culture time in Pyongyang." In other words, ideological and cultural life in North Korea is not aimed at raising the cultural standards of the people but at keeping them blind and ignorant; it is not meant for enjoyment but for suffering and loathing.
The North Korean rulers strictly prohibit the people from reading foreign newspapers or magazines and watching or listening to foreign broadcasts. Meeting and talking to a foreigner without the permission and supervision of your superiors is also strictly prohibited, and you cannot travel abroad without the authorization of Kim Jong Il or the Party Central Committee Secretariat. So only a handful of the extremely privileged class has the opportunity to travel abroad and learn about the outside world. Most of the people are like frogs trapped in a well; their entire universe consists of North Korea, and Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are the greatest men in the world.
They say things have changed in recent years, but until a few years ago, propaganda painted South Korea as a colony of American imperialists, a land of hunger and poverty, and claimed that a capitalist country is unfit for human habitation. And until a few years ago, the party officials always said in their speeches to first graders, "The children of the Republic (North Korea) receive free education thanks to the benevolence of our Great Leader, whereas most of the children of South Korea have never stepped into a school and work on the streets as shoe-shiners." Until very recently, the Rodong Shinmun has continued to feature daily articles claiming, "Peoples all over the world praise the Great General Kim Jong Il as the sun of humankind, and the people of South Korea cry out that their dearest wish is to live for once under his political governance."
Kim Il Sung once said, "then all the people eat white rice and meat, wear clothes of silk and live in tile-roofed houses, then we can say that we have established a communist society, the ideal society for all mankind." He also claimed that "Pyongyang is the most beautiful city in the world," and that "Pyongyang is not a park within a city but a city within a park." The North Korean people take Kim Il Sung's comments at face value. They believe that eating white rice and meat, wearing clothes of silk and living in tile-roofed houses constitute the highest living standards imaginable.
Today, there are many countries that produce enough meat for every citizen to consume an annual average of more than 36kg. All the countries neighboring North Korea have reached those standards. 36.5kg of meat a year means a consumption of just 100g of meat a day. Also, demolishing all the thatch-roofed houses and replacing them with brick-walled houses is not a difficult task, and there are a lot of man-made textiles of the same quality as silk but much less expensive. The gap between haves and have-nots that exists in all capitalist countries notwithstanding, the average household in South Korea has long achieved the living standards described by Kim Il Sung. In North Korea, however, ordinary products such as telephones, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, color TVs, not to mention cars, are all 'special products' that only party officials can afford.
Quite some time ago, there was a project to widen the road linking Pyongyang and Gaeseong and cover it with cement for the first time. Back then, a North Korean tour guide, eager to show off how advanced North Korea was, asked a member of an Italian delegation, "Do you have such wide roads in your country?" The Italian took a while to respond because he could not understand the purpose of her question, and hesitantly answered, "Well, we might be able to find such roads in the countryside." Since all writers and artists are allowed the freedom to create works to idolize the Great Leader, they at least have the freedom to compete with each other in channeling all their artistic energy into worshipping the Great Leader more effectively. But for Social Science scholars, the only thing they are allowed to do is to interpret the Great Leader's writings and advertise the rightness and the greatness of his policies. If the ghostwriters of the Great Leader's writings go around saying anything different, they are harshly reprimanded for preempting the Great Leader's ideology. The freedom of creative thinking is completely forbidden to these writers, and so even if all around them people are starving to death by the millions and the real economy is in paralysis, they have to continue heaping lavish praises on the remarkable resilience of the socialist economy and the superiority of North Korea's self-reliant economy.
In the end, the North Korean regime built on absolutism of the Great Leader forces writers to generate propaganda based on falsehood, and allows the people to accept only this propaganda. Thus the more people are exposed to ideological and cultural life in North Korea, the more ignorant and unrealistic they become.
③ Absolutism of the Great Leader destroys love and morals
Kim Jong Il occasionally gathers party officials and tells them, "Take away the Great Leader's confidence in you and you will be nothing but lumps of meat." This is an accurate description of the reality in North Korea. If someone in North Korea loses Kim Jong Il's trust, he loses everything. So the confidence of Kim Jong Il is 'life' itself to everyone. Those whose lives are in the hands of Kim Jong Il make no scruples about going to any extremes to gain his confidence.
There is no end to the Great Leader's greed. Having control over each individual's life and property is not enough; he demands greater sacrifices. What is more valuable to a person than his life and property? The only thing more valuable would his 'love' and 'morals.' And the Great Leader wants to take away people's love and morals as well. When the lives of individuals come together to share a common fate, it creates a life form greater than each living individual. This great new life form is the common life shared by all the individuals who constitute the whole. The individual values this common life above his own, and therefore loves this common life more than his individual life.
This desire to combine individual lives to create and share a greater common life is called 'love.' The joy of love stems from the joy of fulfilling the desire to combine individual lives and share a greater common life. In contrast, the pain and sadness of solitude comes from the pain and sadness of being disconnected from the common life and being isolated as a weak individual life. The more individual lives come together, the greater the common life becomes, and the greater the common life the individual is connected to, the greater the value of the life of the individual. Individuals willingly give up their lives in order to protect the greater common life.
In this regard, the life of a family is more valuable than the life of an individual, and the life of a people is more important than the life of a family, and the life of humankind is more precious than the life of a people. So an individual loves his family more than himself, his people more than his family, and all humankind more than his people. This is compatible with the morals required of all people. This theory is based, of course, on the premise that the individual lives combine to form a 'community of love.'
Absolutism of the Great Leader, however, demands that everyone loves only one person, the Great Leader. The Great Leader is not family, not the nation, and of course not all humankind. The Great Leader is and always will be just one individual. And all individuals are equal. The Great Leader has no right to rule over an individual, a family or a people. Like all individuals, the Great Leader has the duty of working to advance the common life of the people.
The Great Leader has to take on more responsibility than the ordinary people, a greater role befitting his status as the leader. It is only when he fulfills his duties as a leader that he is fit to receive the love and respect of his people. If he is loved and respected by the people, it is not because he is the Great Leader but because he has made a greater contribution than ordinary folks in advancing the common life form called 'people.' Anyone who has made a great contribution to advancing the common life of the people deserves to receive the people's love, even if he is not the Great Leader. Unconditional loyalty, however, is a different matter. Just as it is unreasonable to devote unconditional loyalty to a great scientist or artist who contributed significantly to the nation and people, it is unreasonable to swear unconditional loyalty to an outstanding politician. What is more, forcing the people to swear loyalty to a far from outstanding leader who selfishly exploits the people is a typical violation of human rights.
Proponents of absolutism of the Great Leader claim that the people must love only the Great Leader, and that love for the Great Leader supercedes love for family, people, and humankind.
Absolutism of the Great Leader demands absolute subordination of even love among family members. For the sake of the Great Leader, spouses must be prepared to divorce each other and children and parents must be willing to spy on each other. Those who think of everything from a class point of view interpret all human relationships in terms of the class struggle, and so if there are differences between two persons in terms of how they view the class struggle, they must become enemies, even if they are parent and child. Those who believe in absolutism of the Great Leader regard dedication to the interests of the Great Leader as the highest moral good, and so if there are differences between people in terms of how they regard the Great Leader, love and morals between parent and child, husband and wife must be completely ignored.
One of Kim Jong Il's secretaries got drunk once and told his wife about Kim Jong Il's life of debauchery. The good wife, a woman of high cultural and moral standards, was genuinely shocked, and thought, "How can a leader who leads such an immoral life safeguard the happiness of his people?" After much thought, she decided to write a letter to Kim Il Sung asking him to reprimand his son. Needless to say, the letter went to Kim Jong Il, who threw a drinking party and had the woman arrested and brought before him. In front of all the guests at the party, he pronounced the woman a counter-revolutionary and had her shot on the spot. Kim Jong Il's intention was to issue a warning to those present that leaking whatever went on at drinking parties would be punishable by death.
The poor woman's husband actually begged Kim Jong Il to let him do the shooting. Kim Jong Il granted the secretary his wish, and gave him the weapon to shoot his wife.
The relationship between Kim Jong Il and his group of sycophants is not one of comradeship. He interferes in and lords over all their private and family affairs. The women who serve him get to choose their husbands, and the women are given as "gifts" to the chosen men. By continuing to "take care" of his harem in this way, he has full control over them and commands their loyalty. Those considered Kim Jong Il's closest followers have to report to him about who they are going to let their children marry and obtain his permission before proceeding with the wedding. Conditioned to put love for the Great Leader before love for family, these people are not allowed to even think about true love for family or the true value of love.
This kind of relationship between the Great Leader and his closest aides has influenced all other relationships, making it the norm between the party organization supervisors and members. The secretaries of the primary party committees and cells have full control over the personal and family affairs of their cell or committee members. They interfere in personal and family decisions such as children's marriages, parents' birthday parties, baby showers and so on. Needless to say, countless cases of human rights infringement occur in the process.
Kim Jong Il particularly dislikes party officials becoming related through marriages between their children. He goes as far as to kick Central Party officials out of their offices for striking matches amongst their children.
The son of the vice-director of the International Department of the Party Central Committee and the daughter of the Vice Prime Minister of the Cabinet were going steady and talking about getting married. The vice-director told his wife that party officials were not allowed to become in-laws through their children's marriages. But the young couple was in love and kept pleading with their parents to permit the marriage. In the end, the mothers of the couple went through with the wedding while the vice-director was on a month-long overseas business trip. When the case was reported to Kim Jong Il, he said it was nonsense that the wedding had taken place without the vice-director's knowledge. Kim ordered the poor man to be stripped of his title and banished to work in a lower party organization.
Any relationship that does not revolve around the Great Leader and any family relations or friendships that have nothing to do with the sole leadership of the Great Leader are frowned upon. Thus everyone has to guard against having a close-knit, happy family or becoming too close to a friend.
For example, even on a holiday, people have to think twice about taking their grandchildren to the zoo or park. Taking the family to the Kim Il Sung statue or the Revolution Museum is encouraged because it instills loyalty to the Great Leader in the children. But taking children on picnics or visiting a friend's home simply to have a good time is frowned upon. So if your grandchildren pester you to take them to the zoo, the safe thing to do is to take them to the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery first and visit the zoo on the way home. Needless to say, whatever the party officials do with their families is reported to Kim Jong Il.
I have a woman who is like an older sister to me. Eight years my senior, she used to look after me with great devotion when I was young. Unfortunately, her husband, who was an army truck driver during the Korean War, escaped to South Korea when the People's Army was retreating up North. So my sister lived a hard life with her two daughters in a district about 40km away from Pyongyang. I always wanted to help her out, but was unable visit her. Even when sending her gifts, I had to go through a third party. My sister had to obtain a pass in order to enter the city of Pyongyang. But even if she had gotten hold of a pass to arrive in Pyongyang, she could not stay in my homes, because only direct family (limited to married daughter and son-in-law) are allowed to enter the home of party secretaries. My older brother? wife and her children lived in Pyongyang, but I was not allowed to visit them. So I never had a chance to build a relationship with my close relatives. But if I make a political mistake, my relatives have to pay for it by becoming social outcasts.
One year, Kim Jong Il was in a generous mood and allowed the party secretaries to take our families (wives and grandchildren not old enough to work) to a resort on a month-long vacation. The resort was a beautiful place maintained by Kim Jong Il's guards. Four of us secretaries were assigned separate villas to stay in. Since I was a writer by profession, I spent the holiday writing, but the other secretaries must have found it stifling to stay in the same place for a whole month. So near the end of the vacation, two of the secretaries took their families on a sight-seeing trip to Mt. Kumkang. They would have definitely reported their plans to the party before taking the trip. But when they returned to work, they were openly denounced by their party organization. No one is allowed to criticize party secretaries without prior instructions from Kim Jong Il, so it follows that Kim Jong Il had ordered the party to denounce the secretaries' actions.
The situation is such for central party secretaries, considered special beings that follow no one's orders but Kim Jong Il's, the envy of all who believe that we are free to do as we please. So one can imagine the kind of lives ordinary people lead, oppressed by absolutism of the Great Leader. Telephones are 100% tapped. The homes of dictatorship targets, party officials and employees of important government agencies are all wire-tapped, and all their movements are closely monitored by surveillance posts. So anyone who has any common sense knows not to voice their innermost thoughts even at home. No one demands that the right to enjoy privacy at home be respected. It is the height of folly to even wish for such a thing in North Korean society.
In North Korea, one is lucky if a letter one sends reaches the intended recipient. Every letter is inspected by the National Security Ministry agents, and letters with contents the least bit suspicious or in need of further surveillance are not even returned to the sender. Even if this happens, there is nowhere you can go to lodge a complaint. The post office simply answers that the letter probably got lost somewhere along its way. Even letters sent to high-ranking officials like us secretaries occasionally 'get lost in the mail.' In particular, letters or books sent from overseas are intercepted by the Ministry of National Security or Board of Publication Censorship. And we cannot even inquire about what happened. If we insist on making inquiries, we become targets of suspicion, and the agents say, "Why is a high-ranking Central Party official obsessed with something unrelated to the revolution?" So even if an overseas friend sends word that he has sent me a parcel that I never got, I must never hurry the post office or complain that some government agency must have intercepted the parcel.
Every single correspondence with foreign friends must first be endorsed by the party. Officials holding important positions such as party secretaries must obtain approval directly from Kim Jong Il. When receiving foreign dignitaries, more than two people must be present. When the host is a Central Party secretary, the meeting is wire-tapped and recorded. The department in charge of meeting minutes at the International Bureau of the Central Party review the recording and report all important details to Kim Jong Il. If party secretaries want to invite a foreign friend home, they have to explain the reasons in a personally-written report and fax it themselves to Kim Jong Il and obtain his permission. The results of the visit must of course be reported through a written report or by fax. This rule applies not just to foreign guests but also to Jochongnyon (association of North Koreans living in Japan) officials and Korean living in China or the US. Having been involved in foreign affairs for a long time, I have many close friends who are foreigners or overseas Koreans. But I have not been able to invite really close friends to my home, for fear of what might befall them if it is revealed that they are close friends of mine.
Under the regime of absolutism of the Great Leader, it is impossible to share a close relationship with one's own family and relatives or a strong friendship with one's friends. People are forced to respect, love and praise only the Great Leader.
Absolutism of the Great Leader does not even allow love for the people. Kim Jong Il preaches the superiority of the Korean race, but what he actually means is that the people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea are superior because they are ruled by him. In the first place, it is wrong to claim that the Korean race is superior, whatever the grounds for such a claim. What is more, Kim Jong Il's claim that the Korean race is superior is grounded in absolutism of the Great Leader. He says that the greatness of the Korean race is determined by the greatness of its leader. He calls the Korean people the 'Kim Il Sung race' and says that he is the nation. He even has songs written along such lines. The man is truly shameless. What could be more arrogant and disrespectful of the people and nation than regarding an entire race as his chattel, branding them with his name, and calling himself the nation? How can a man who regards the people as vassals truly love the people? Such a thoroughly egotistical man does not love his people; he only loves himself and wants to make the people his personal slaves. Kim Jong Il's emphasis on the superiority of the Korean race is none other than an emphasis of his own superiority.
Kim Jong Il does not love the Korean people; his only intent is to rule the Korean people. He does not love the people of South Korea as people of his race but wants to enslave them the way he has enslaved the North Koreans. To this end, he needs to succeed in the military occupation of South Korea, and in order to occupy South Korea, he needs to first of all brainwash the North Koreans into regarding South Korea as the enemy. Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il regard the residents of the two Koreas as one people only on the premise that the South Koreans will eventually be ruled by them. But in the context of the inter-Korean confrontation and the North? intentions to conquer the South, the Republic of Korea is and always will be the enemy. South Korea is a colony of American imperialists, the South Korean government is a puppet regime, and the South Korean people are enemies in the class struggle because they are all land owners or capitalists or their descendents. That is what the two Kims have preached, and that is why Kim Il Sung waged a tragic war of fratricide on the pretext of eliminating the enemies of the class struggle living in South Korea.
To this day, Kim Jong Il shows no scruples in attempting to weaken South Korea' defenses and place it under his thumb. He is irrationally jealous of South Korea's economic growth, and no matter how dearly the South Korean people wish for peaceful co-existence, he would never let South Korea prosper on its own. He shows great pleasure in any situation that puts South Korea at a disadvantage, including natural disasters. He only thinks of ways to bring South Korea to ruin.
A few examples will be enough to prove just how hostile Kim Jong Il is towards South Korea. He prohibits people from using words or expressions popular among South Koreans. If someone goes on a business trip and makes the mistake of bringing back a product made in South Korea, Kim Jong Il not only confiscates and burns the product but has the errant person severely punished for lacking in 'class ideology.' The army, in particular, is brainwashed to harbor only feelings of hostility and vengeance against South Korea. North Korean soldiers are trained to turn the whole of South Korea into a pile of ashes on command, and it is drummed into them that their only purpose in life is to occupy South Korea and present Kim Jong Il with victory even if they have to massacre the South Korean people in the process.
Despite the territorial invasion and cruel massacre they suffered at the hands of the North Korean army, the South Korean people continue to harbor affection for their Northern brothers and sisters, believing that the Communist Party, not the North Korean people, was the culprit behind the Korean War. Naive and good-natured South Koreans even go as far as to think, "Kim Jong Il is a Korean like all of us, and part of the young generation and therefore different from his father. So there is no way that he is developing nuclear and biochemical weapons and missiles in order to wage another war of fratricide. He is probably using the weapons to guard his people and regime against American threats, not plotting against us South Koreans."
That Kim Jong Il does not love the Korean people is clearly proven by his attitude towards the North Korean people under his rule. A man who squanders all that money and materials in building a palace to preserve his father's body while millions of his people are starving to death cannot possibly love his people. A man who is obsessed with preparations for war and launching artificial satellites and building a 'powerful and prosperous nation' while millions of his people are starving to death cannot possibly love his people. Kim Jong Il banished his own uncle for 18 years, labeled his own half-siblings as 'side branches' and subject them to all sorts of discrimination, sent tens of thousands of innocent people to die in concentration camps for political prisoners, executed people who had crossed the Sino-Korean border to beg for food, and dispatched security agents to China to arrest and drag back home North Korean escapees. How can we expect such a man to love the Korean people? How can we expect a man who does not even show love for his close relatives to harbor any fraternal love for the South Korean people living far away?
We must never forget that North Korea is a country of a single ideology, ruled by the system of sole leadership of one dictator, dominated by absolutism of the Great Leader. Kim Jong Il's thoughts are the thoughts of the army and the thoughts of the North Korean people. This is not to say that the North Korean people are inherently bad; it is just that they are living in a society where they cannot survive unless they totally agree with the thoughts of the Great Leader. Even if there are a few exceptions to this rule, we must not deny that North Korea is ruled by absolutism of the Great Leader. There is absolutely no doubt that once Kim Jong Il gives the command, the People's Army of North Korea will rush into South Korea like crazed men in order to conquer the country. As long as Kim Jong Il remains the Great Leader, it would be foolish to expect fraternal love from the army and people of North Korea. We must not forget that Kim Jong Il's absolutism of the Great Leader has deprived the North Korean people of love - love for family, love for friends, even love for the Korean people.
Absolutism of the Great Leader has even taken away the North Korean people's love for humankind. Proponents of absolutism of the Great Leader claim that Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are the 'suns of humankind' who ought to be the rulers over all of humankind. North Korean people are not allowed to have any friendly feelings towards the people or leaders of any other country. The US and Japan are described as imperialist nations unfit for humans to live in, and even socialist China and Vietnam are denounced as capitalist countries obsessed with money. North Koreans cannot display portraits of Korean heroes or internationally famous figures, only portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il criticize the idea of humanitarianism or philanthropy as hypocritical ideas concocted by the capitalist class in order to paralyze the working class. In other words, Kim Jong Il derides great men of other countries in order to highlight his own importance by comparison, and denounces the peoples of other countries in order to make North Koreans despise humankind.
Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il do not allow the freedom of religion and despise all religious believers. They demand that the people love and respect only them, forbid the people from loving or respecting anyone else, and even deprive the people of the right to believe in and love God.
Absolutism of the Great Leader is nothing but egoism of the Great Leader. Egoism can never generate true moral values. Morals can be established only when individual interests are subordinated to the common interests of society, nation and humankind. By deifying the Great Leader, the North Korean rulers have made loyalty and filial piety to the Great Leader the highest moral value. The moral good of serving the interests of society, nation and humankind has value only if it is a part of loyalty to the Great Leader; no moral good can have any independent value. This is in reality a refusal to acknowledge all morals and conscience other than absolute loyalty and fidelity to the Great Leader. Because of absolutism of the Great Leader, the North Korean people have lost the moral ability to acknowledge universal or even national values.
Today, the North Korean rulers try to make the people forget their wretched reality by urging them to remember the past. They have produced numerous novels and films exaggerating the hardship and suffering the workers and farmers experienced in the past due to exploitation and oppression by the landed capitalists. The North Korean rulers call this 'class education' to ensure that people do not forget the enemies of the class struggle, but the hidden motive is to convince the people to endure the present hardship because it is nothing compared to the suffering of the past. The North Korean rulers never show the people the good life in other countries and only propagandize how poor other countries are. They particularly like to show the people scenes of misery in Russia and warn them that this is what befalls a country that abandons socialism in favor of capitalism. Kim Jong Il's pet phrase is Live today not for today but for tomorrow, and he admonishes the people to endure today's hardships for tomorrow's sake. But no other country in the world today has wretched conditions anywhere close to that of North Korea, and there is no doubt that as long as absolutism of the Great Leader rules the country, the North Korean people's tomorrow will be even more wretched than their today.
Kim Jong Il has inherited the government from his father and established a one-man dictatorship and deprived the people of their freedom. He is so thick-skinned that he calls himself the 'sun of the 21st century,' 'ever-victorious lord of steel,' 'teacher of God,' and so on. Even so, we would have refrained from calling him 'traitor of the Korean people' if he had not forced the North Korean people to starve to death by the millions, had not made fools of the people, had not been obsessed with waging a war of fratricide against South Korea. He has not only tricked the people in the name of the revolution, socialism and national reunification, but also schemed to murder the people and annihilate human rights. That is why the only viable solution is not compromise but a complete break from Kim Jong Il.