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Issue #1628      February 26, 2014

Editorial

Demonising the DPRK

From the day of its foundation, the DPRK (North Korea) hasn’t had a moment’s rest from outside interference. Sabotage, invasion, mass destruction, germ warfare, nuclear threat, encirclement and crippling economic blockade have all been used in the US-led attempt to remove this impediment to regional domination. All of these efforts have failed. Naturally, the major capitalist powers subject such enemy or “rogue” states to an unrelieved campaign of vilification in order to enlist public opinion for aggression or at least neutralise opposition.

The latest salvo in this ongoing psychological war is the Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the UN General Assembly. Notable for Australians is the leading role retired High Court Justice Michael Kirby played as chairman of the commission. He has been very vocal in supporting the findings of the commission that the violations of human rights in the DPRK are crimes against humanity and that they may equate to political genocide.

Michael Kirby said that the claimed violations parallel in many ways the crimes of the Nazis before and during World War Two and that, while world leaders may not have been aware of the extent of the Nazis’ crimes, his report supposedly removes any such lack of certainty about the “regime” in the DPRK. The leaders of that country should be brought before the International Criminal Court or a special, ad hoc UN tribunal, according to Mr Kirby. Clearly, that would require “regime change” and, presumably, a war.

The involvement of former Justice Kirby seems at odds with his reputation as a voice of reason on the judiciary. His dissenting opinions on the High Court were consistently for a more progressive position. The “reasonable grounds” test for the evidence given by defectors from the DPRK, however, is shaky at best. Many of the 80-odd witnesses live in South Korea where it is an offence to promote friendship with the DPRK and where a hate industry against the north churns out its lurid product unceasingly.

Trying to get an objective impression of conditions in the DPRK in those circumstances would be like making an assessment of the leadership of Cuba from the testimony of the Cuban expatriates living in Miami. The Cuban Five know just how impossible it is to obtain justice in those rabidly anti-Communist circumstances.

Mr Kiby’s parallel with the Nazis draws a monumentally long bow. Hitler’s government used the resources of a powerful, developed country to annihilate whole populations that it did not approve of. Six million Jews alone perished in that project of extermination that was conducted on a massive, industrial scale. And, contrary to what Michael Kirby claims, the leaders of the Western allies were aware of the human rights situation in Nazi Germany and the countries it occupied but weren’t particularly concerned until the Third Reich began to encroach on their interests. Likewise, the heads of the leading capitalist countries today know full well the gruesome human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and similar compliant countries but choose to ignore it. No need for regime change there.

The DPRK’s defensive response to relentless attack is understandable as is their decision not to cooperate with the UN’s commission. The lessons from Iraq’s cooperation with UN’s investigators looking for evidence of non-existent weapons of mass destruction would have been well and truly learned. And while the DPRK’s reaction to threats can appear exaggerated, it should be noted that it recently initiated talks with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in order to establish better relations. The dialogue takes place in the shadow of looming US-South Korean military exercises that regularly raise tensions and promote mistrust in the region.

The DPRK is not just a thorn in the side of a declining power seeking to shore up its position in the Asia Pacific. Its territory, which borders the People’s Republic of China, is eyed off jealously by the US military for the location of its troops and nuclear weapons. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed last week that “resolving human rights differences should be through constructive dialogue and cooperation based on equality and mutual respect.” That won’t happen unless world opinion insists upon it and demands that the US halts its aggression towards the DPRK and China.

Next article – Alf Sharp

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