Cool Heroes of the Day: The People of North Korea

If there’s one day we ought to deprive Kim Jong-il of attention, it’s today, the day of his death. Let’s give one day to the people of North Korea, whom Kim Jong-il starved, oppressed, imprisoned and executed.

There is no dissident movement in North Korea. It’s snuffed out before it can even begin. The North Korea Freedom Coalition sums up the situation:

North Koreans lack almost every human right.  The government regulates speech, opinion, thought, press, information, employment, movement, location of residence, food rations, assembly, association, religion, and even the right to life. Petty crimes and any type of perceived disloyalty to the dictator can land a North Korean citizen in a prison camp along with all family members up to three generations.  It can even lead to immediate execution.  Arbitrary arrest, detention, and lack of fair and public trials are commonplace.  Further, torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment are experienced frequently by detainees in prisons.

There is a massive network of prison camps where up to three generations of families may be sentenced at one time to forced labor. The government maintains an incredible lock-down on information from the rest of the world, not even permitting transistor radios. Most people probably didn’t know about the Arab Spring–the popular uprisings in the Mideast and North Africa earlier this year.

Most of the population lives in rural area outside of the capital of Pyongyang. Economic mismanagement, self-imposed isolation, discrimination and natural disasters have led to periodic famines and chronic hunger and malnutrition. Due to a poor harvest in 2010, World Food Program (WFP) analysts are warning that North Korea could face its worst food crisis since the famine of the 1990s that claimed more than 1 million lives.

Elites who might challenge the succession of Kim Jong-un were periodically purged. The repression in North Korea has been so complete that there is no civil society or dissident movement which can which can rise up against the regime.

Forget Kim Jong-il today. The Dear Leader got too much attention while he lived. It’s North Koreans who deserve our attention, compassion, support, energy and resources.

“The more freedom we enjoy, the greater the responsibility we bear, toward others as well as ourselves.” – Oscar Arias Sanchez


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