North Korea crimes against humanity

A picture released by the North Korean Central News Agency in October 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he is welcomed by a group of soldiers picked to participate in a military art festival in Pyongyang. (KCNA / EPA)

Sometimes — as with North Korea and its despot of the moment, Kim Jong Un — I hate to admit it, but I miss the good/bad old days when we could just threaten to bomb someone back into the Stone Age to solve problems.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea released a 400-page report Monday detailing just how bad things are there; here’s the laundry list:

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

Which pretty much says it all, though, as Julie Makinen reported for The Times, the report further noted: “the ‘gravity, scale and nature of the violations’ in the totalitarian state over several decades do not have ‘any parallel in the contemporary world.’ ”

Then reality set in:

Makinen's story goes on to quote the chairman of the panel established by the U.N. Human Rights Council, retired Australian chief justice Michael Kirby, who said the findings reminded him of the extensive horrors committed by Nazi Germany and other Axis powers and fully revealed only at the end of World War II.

“I hope the international community will be moved by the detail" in the report, Kirby said. "Too many times in this building, there are reports and no action.”

Now, the phrase “never again” is often used when referring to the Holocaust. Never again will the world stand by and allow the systemic slaughter of people: That’s the promise. But, of course, it’s mostly just that: a promise. Rwanda and Sudan are prominent examples. North Korea too, obviously.

So what should the world do? What can the world do? Must we accept that in North Korea, basic freedoms — even such a simple thing as the right not to starve — are denied most people?

You already know the answer: Yes.

Diplomacy can’t fix North Korea’s problems. And we are not going to attack North Korea. And even if we did, as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, once we’ve broken it, we own it. And we don’t want to own North Korea’s problems.

So, “too many times in this building, there are reports and no action”? Yep, that about covers it.

Someday, North Korea will change. Someday, things will get better there. But it won’t be soon enough for millions of people. And it won’t be because of this U.N. report.

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