John C. Thompson
23rd September, 2017
North Korea: Some sort of US-led international resolve may soon emerge on the Kim Family’s monstrous “Revolution-land” theme park. One would hesitate to describe North Korea as a country, but it does hold 25 million enslaved hostages in isolation.
Conditions for ordinary North Koreans are bad enough but the nadir of existence in the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are for those confined in the Kwalliso Camps. These are the Nork equivalent of Stalin’s Gulags or China’s Laogai camps.
The Kim Dynasty firmly believes in what the Nazis called Sippenhaft – collective punishment for whole families who have committed ideological crimes against the state. A very few survivors of the Kwalliso camps have managed to escape over the years and testified about the spirit of depraved cruelty which prevails there.
Unfortunately, this testimony seems too fantastic to be believed. We’ve been here before.
In 1942, Witold Pilecki – quite possibly the bravest soldier of the Second World War – got his inside report about what was going at Auschwitz-Birkenau to the Polish Home Army. Their report “The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland” was released to Allied governments in December 1942. For the most part, the report was dismissed as being impossible.
By 1943, the Western Allies were informed about the Holocaust, but they really didn’t understand the enormity of what was going on until April 1945. There is often a wide gulf between knowing the facts and understanding them, and most of us are too decent to really comprehend the worst of what we can do to each other. Count your blessings.
The first reports and stories about Stalin’s Gulags were dismissed – the ‘Intelligentsia’ of the 1930s was largely unready and unwilling to believe that the Workers’ Paradise could be that monstrous. Only in the 1970s, with Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus on the Gulag Archipelago did some of us finally understand the full cruelty of the USSR. Even then, the Kolyma Camps have never gained the infamy they deserve.
The first reports about Mao’s Laogai camps – some of which were as vile as any Nazi Todeslager or a Gulag in the Kolyma – were dismissed. The first reports about Pol Pot’s minions and the death of at least a quarter of Kampuchea’s population were also dismissed as fantasies.
North Korea’s Kwalliso Camps are a law unto themselves, even in North Korea where the law is an ideological facade for the naked power of the ruling families. By now, we have no excuse for not knowing the deadliness of a combination of brutal work, starvation rations, and depraved indifference. Add the refinements of utmost cruelty and complete license and the picture gets far, far worse.
One hates to say it, but even Himmler recognized the effect that mass murder was having on his Totenkopfverbände and Einsatzgruppen and took pains to eventually isolate them from it. The Soviets farmed out truly vicious work in the Gulags to imprisoned criminals.
North Korea has found many ways to convince the human beings subjected to it to suppress or alter basic aspects of human nature. One wonders at what has been wrought with the Camp Guard Service.
There may come a day in which the light of the world finally penetrates the darkest recesses of North Korea. As has happened before, we may well find that the horror was worse than we imagined.
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