Seoul’s Ministry of Unification confirmed last week that Kim Won-hong -- a monstrous figure who had overseen the North’s Ministry of State Security from April 2012 -- had been demoted and dismissed.
As the North’s state security chief, Kim, in his 70s, supervised the agency responsible for an extensive network of concentration camps where mass murder and Nazi-like atrocities have taken place -- essentially unanswered -- for decades.
“Ministry of State Security” is plainly a euphemism to obscure the criminality of this group’s horrifying misdeeds, having waged genocide and crimes against humanity against a captive population forced to worship and serve the Kim family dynasty as deity. Kim Won-hong’s discharge isn’t a surprise, though; both Kim Jong-un and his father have run State Security directly and, in light of the 30-something despot’s record, he is not likely to entrust this department’s leadership to any individual for very long.
South Korea has a singular, constitutional mandate to aid these killers’ victims, as Article 3 predicates, “The territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean Peninsula.”
Heightening the moral and legal obligation to “do something,” the greater number of those who’ve perished and are at present dying are being exterminated solely for in real or perceived ways favoring the South.
A North Korean WCSGNK interviewed, who defected in 2010, put it this way: “... prisoners are those who are falsely accused because of the term ‘South Korea.’”
In a 2007 analysis concentrated on the North’s prison camps, Ahn Myong-chol -- a former guard -- when asked if the system was responsible for as many as 1 million deaths, replied that the estimate was “too low.”
Ahn, who once contributed to atrocities and admits he had no sympathy for prisoners owing to excessive indoctrination, stated, “The purpose of the camps was to kill the prisoners. ... None of the prisoners in the camp survive. It is a killing field.”
He was referring to the “absolute control zones,” where the majority of slaves are held in conditions that meet the legal definition of “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” -- release is not an option. Former prisoners who have made it to South Korea or other countries are primarily from the “comparatively small revolutionizing re-education zones,” as described in the evaluation commissioned by Christian Solidarity Worldwide; “those sent to the absolute control zones are sent there permanently, to remain in the camps even after death.”
During the 2013 UN Commission of Inquiry into North Korea’s “human rights situation,” Ahn testified: “They (the prisoners) all told me that one night when they were in bed, suddenly (State Security Department agents) came to their house and they got arrested ... these people ... had no idea why they were there.”
In 2014 the independent international law firm Hogan Lovells found that North Korea may be committing genocide against three distinct groups supposed to be protected by the 1948 UN Genocide Convention: North Korea’s “hostile class” -- the most frequently targeted population for brutality within a caste system largely categorized by means of interrogating an individual’s family background -- religious groups and Chinese-Korean children; uncounted thousands of repatriated refugees’ babies have been viciously killed through infanticide and inhuman forced abortions.
Regarding the North’s treatment of religious groups, Ahn maintained in 2007 that, “The treatment of Christians precisely fits the genocide definition. The genocide definition fits the policy towards Christians 100 percent.”
Had my paternal grandparents not chosen to defect as refugees, my father’s family -- being northerners from a religious background -- would all have died.
An estimated one-third of North Korea’s prisoners are children murderously maltreated pursuant to the North’s barbaric and opprobrious policy of collective punishment “eliminating” three generations. They and their family members have been and continue to be ferociously assaulted, subject to “medical” experimentation and savage coercive abortions, raped and discarded, systematically starved, maimed, burned, made to do slave labor, tortured in diverse ways and both publicly and secretly executed.
Article 8 of the Genocide Convention stipulates that where there is a genocide finding action “appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide” is obligatory; yet the international community has -- commensurate to the emergency -- done little more than issue token denunciations amid political wrangling. Sanctions and seasonal reports alone -- while helpful -- cannot and have not saved a single life within the North’s “absolute control zone.”
Then there’s the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm, recognized at the 2005 UN World Summit, which solemnly endorses employing “appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means” to safeguard populations from “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” -- all crimes the Kim family dynasty has and continues to commit.
Tragically, the R2P principle has been selectively invoked and come to be associated with “military adventurism” -- obviously a distortion of the original stated pledge which calls for governments to exhaust all “peaceful” methods to halt atrocities first, not least considering credible risks of exacerbating the world’s foremost humanitarian disasters if failing to tread circumspectly.
At the UN hearing, Ahn Myong-chol bore witness that camp guards are commanded to “eliminate” all “evidence” of mass atrocity when war or an invasion seems imminent. He testified, “In case a war breaks out ... we are supposed to wipe out the prisoners. ... In each political prison camp there are tunnels. ... These tunnels were dug so that we can eliminate the inmates in the event that we had to erase any evidence of their existence. ... Every camp has artillery ... to annihilate all evidence should there be an attack or a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.”
Hence, Thae Yong-ho’s strong admonition against a surgical or pre-emptive strike on the North’s nuclear facilities holds commensurate gravity for the most voiceless and at-risk populations within the North. Thae warned at a Jan. 25 press conference such a military attack by the US would “only turn South Korea ... into ashes.”
There’s only one pathway to resolution.
When asked by KBS on what can be done about the North’s nuclear program, the former deputy ambassador of North Korea’s London embassy said: “Some people are now advocating for military options but I would say the military option should be the last and worst scenario. I think we have to reach the goal of elimination of Kim Jong-un peacefully by means of a people’s uprising inside North Korea.”
The solution to both the North’s mass atrocities and the nuclear threat is to, as Thae urged, eliminate Kim Jong-un “peacefully.” This can only be accomplished through the South’s leadership.
South Korea should initiate a robust program of conditional amnesty -- necessitating of would-be beneficiaries the cessation of all human rights violations and opposition to the person of Kim Jong-un -- and actively reach out to northerners, “moving their hearts” with an earnest appeal for reunification and genuine inter-Korean reconciliation which prioritizes the people and not the abominable “Dear Young General.”By Robert Park
Robert Park is a founding member of the nonpartisan Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea, minister, musician and former prisoner of conscience. -- Ed.