Speak up on North human rights

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Speak up on North human rights

Arrests so far in relation to the brazen assassination of Kim Jong-nam, half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, point to the Pyongyang regime for ordering the killing. The young leader is in the international spotlight for being ruthless enough to eliminate anyone — his uncle and now his brother — if they pose the slightest threat to his authority and wealth.

Pyongyang has posed a threat for its nuclear arms. We chose to turn blind eyes to the testimonies about the inhumane conditions North Koreans were in, including the torture and labor camps.

But seeing how blatant and merciless the ruler can be, we must no longer keep our mouths shut about human rights conditions in the North. If someone can order an assassination of a brother who does not pose an immediate threat to his power, we can imagine how ruthless he can be to others. There had been reports of a purge under the rules of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il. But Kim Jong-un seems to be much more ruthless than his grandfather and father.

The daylight murder in an international airport should raise awareness of the dire state of human rights conditions and be used to add international pressure on Pyongyang. Seoul authorities should do what it can to raise the issue in a United Nations review on a resolution on North Korean human rights next month.

Kim may have eliminated a potential threat, but at the same time aggravated international distrust of the reclusive regime and pushed his country further away from the international community. Beijing again would have been startled by the erratic ways of the young leader.

China on Saturday announced that it will stop importing North coal. North Korea under layers of international sanctions would become further isolated and face more hardship because of its ruler’s horrid ways. In today’s society, no state can survive on its own. No matter how it tries, the North too cannot stay self-sufficient.

Seoul authorities should actively get involved so that the body of the deceased is handled in a dignified way. Regardless of his blood relation, Kim Jong-nam’s corpse should be returned to his family. Malaysian authorities have reiterated that the body will be returned to the family, although the deputy prime minister indicated that the corpse could be handed over to the North. Diplomatic efforts should be made to prevent post-mortem abuse of the deceased by the North for propaganda purposes.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 20, Page 30
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