Editorial: What will it take to kick North Korea out of the U.N.?

With the abdication of the U.S. as the world’s policeman, there is no authority left to take on a pariah state


Kim Jong Un

It is testimony to suffering and terror on a massive scale. This week the United Nations’ commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea released an exhaustive examination of conditions within the Hermit Kingdom. Following numerous public hearings and nearly a year of investigation, the 372-page report provides a detailed look at the horrors inflicted on the people of North Korea by their own government.

“Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been, and are being, committed in [North] Korea,” it says, referring directly to the dictatorship of Kim Jong Un. “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

Separate chapters detail numerous examples of state-sanctioned torture, rape and murder; grotesque violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion; discrimination on the basis of social class, gender and disability; the use of starvation as a means of social control; widespread abductions of Japanese and South Korean citizens for intelligence purposes; as well as arbitrary imprisonment on a massive scale.

The political prison camp archipelago is estimated to contain up to 120,000 people, all of whom face a shockingly high death rate. One prison camp escapee told the commission that his job included burning the bodies of the dead and using the remains as fertilizer. A mother was forced to drown her own baby because the father may have been a foreigner, in violation of racial purity laws. And due to its dysfunctional political and economic structure, the country is utterly incapable of feeding itself: a third of the population is severely malnourished, wild food such as grasses and rodents comprise a significant portion of everyday food intake. Even within the army, starvation is so prevalent many soldiers survive solely on food stolen from poor farmers.

China, North Korea’s international guardian, is also strongly criticized for its complicity in returning refugees to North Korea without regard for their human rights.

At a press conference to introduce the findings, lead UN investigator Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge, acknowledged “many parallels” between North Korea and Nazi Germany. What’s different today, says Kirby, is that “there will be no excusing a failure of action because we didn’t know.”

Of course the world has long known about the conditions under the leadership of Kim Jong Un and his father, Kim Jong Il. Everything in this week’s UN report has been previously described by numerous NGOs, the U.S. State Department and countless other sources. As for the prospect of effective action against North Korea—don’t hold your breath.

The commission includes several pages of stern demands on the North Korean government, including that it open up its prison camp system, protect various fundamental freedoms and cease murdering its own citizens. It also calls on China to stop returning asylum seekers. None of this is about to happen, for obvious reasons. (China would rather share a border with a murderous dictatorship, it seems, than risk political instability.)

The report also makes many high-minded recommendations for the rest of the world. The UN Security Council should refer North Korea’s leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution. There’s a call for a permanent database of ongoing rights violations and periodic reports on how the above recommendations are being implemented. (However, further economic sanctions, as have been effective against Iran, are discouraged as this will make living conditions within the country worse.) The depressing reality is that nothing in North Korea is likely to change because of this report.

The ICC is powerless to prosecute the leader of a country that refuses to participate, and China’s permanent veto on the Security Council effectively insulates North Korea from anything the UN or the ICC might attempt with Kim Jong Un. As for calls for new reports and databases, we already know what’s rotten in North Korea and why.

Perhaps the most absurd aspect of the UN report is that it cannot even bring itself to recommend the expulsion of North Korea from the UN itself. Here is a country actively murdering its own citizens on a scale unparalleled in the postwar era; why is it still a member of the UN? Surely this ought to be the first step for any action-minded UN report writer.

The uncomfortable truth revealed herein is that international human rights have always been defined by military power and realpolitik rather than the pursuit of justice in any pure sense. And with the abdication of the United States as the world’s policeman, there is simply no authority left with the muscle and moral standing to take on a pariah state with powerful friends.

By all means we should bear witness to the horrors ongoing inside North Korea. But unless the people themselves rise up, or the outside world takes concrete steps to remove the current regime, these horrors will continue to pile up.


Editorial: What will it take to kick North Korea out of the U.N.?

  1. Let the North Koreans look after their own problems.

    • Agreed, we should just enjoy the show!
      Compassion is a right wing value, not a progressive one.

      • LOL Charlie….you make it so easy painting large targets on yourself like that!

        Been to a veterans affairs office lately? Or a reserve? Or maybe a refugee centre?

        • No need to change the subject, I agree with you.

          Let the North Koreans look after their own problems, just like we should have let Germany look after their own problems in WWII.
          If we are not the ones suffering, it’s not our problem!

          • Is North Korea invading Poland?

            Then leave them alone to solve their own problems.

          • Exactly, Had Germany simply exterminated German Jews, we would ok with that, That’s were you messed up Germany.
            Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, USSR please i’ve got better things to do, clean up your own mess. AM I RIGHT !!!

          • It is one thing to stop a country from warring on others…that’s self-defence….quite another to interfere in their internal affairs. That’s attacking.

            Had Germany been stopped at Poland, the rest would never have occurred.

            How many countries do you want us to invade? There are at least 50 possibilities. Gee, think of the taxes THAT would take

            Let’s stop being a busybody, and look after our own problems.

          • Woah!!! who mentoned invading!!! Chill,
            And i agree we shoudn’t even give a thought about North Korea, till they attack, not even kick them out of the UN, that’s way too extreme.
            Although … Emily … North Korea did attack the south, and keeps threatening them, and has nucleau weapons.
            EMILY are YOU suggesting we use self defence towards the North?????

          • Oh I see….we’re just going to preach at them are we?

            We want to moralize from our lounge chairs by the pool?

            I suggest we mind your own business Charles.

          • I agreed, but i don’t understand, why we even participate at the UN then, or bother with peacekeeping, or provide aid to other countries. I mean its not our business.

            Plus the argument that if we cant help all 50 possibilities, we should help absolutely no one, might be seen as weak by our more logical opponents. But hey if we focused on reason instead of emotions we would be progressives.

            We suggest spending more on ourselves, sure 95% of our budget in spent on ourselves, but we will be dammed if were gonna get one dying North Korean receive even a fraction of whats left.


          • We helped to start the UN to prevent WWIII…..it is not a license for us to go invading other countries.

            If we actually wanted to do something about North Korea, we would stop dissing the place, demonizing the leader and treating them as pond scum. All countries want RESPECT.

            ‘Aid and trade….never invade. And no isolating them!’

            We need business people over there…..and some of theirs over here……so they get to know what the world is like outside their borders. And how friendly it can be.

            We could give out swag too….iPods, iPads, cellphones….thousands of them all over the countryside.

            We now have the Outernet as well as the Internet…..so guess what they can get? Won’t be long.

            Not hard….just takes brains, not guns

          • This comment was deleted.

          • We already trade with Israel….and after Harpo is gone, we can go back to normal with them

          • Emily we can’t be seen fraternizing with occupiers,

            But when our boy JuTru become PM, watchtout, I heard he’s brought out his campaign slogan today.

            Immeasurable Hope and undefined amount of Change.
            It’s catchy!!!

          • Canadians are ‘honest brokers’ and eventually we’ll go single state.

            Justin’s slogan is actually ‘Hope and hard work’ . Not catchy….a challenge. Are we up to it?

          • Forget honest brokers, we just agreed were letting them solve their own problems.

            As for Hard work, we’ve been hardworking all our lives, it’s nice of JuTru to show up.

            By the way Obama wants his ambiguity back.

          • They’re not allowed to attack others Charles.

            Hard work….building a country and a future.

          • What would the shiny pony know about “hard work”?

          • Justine will not be the PM.

          • They’ve attacked South Korea in the past.

            Forgot about that, I see.

    • You sound like one of those Loony Libertarians.

      • She is.

  2. The UN is there so that countries can hopefully talk out their difference before they go and start world war three. The other stuff they do is nice, but it’s not the raison d’etre. If we kick out the people we don’t like so that it’s just a club of people we approve of, the channels of communication are closed and the UN can’t fulfill it’s primary goal.

    Mr. Whyte, you bungled this one pretty badly.

  3. What happened the the Right to Protect (R2P) citizens agains thier own governments? Who the hell is leading that campaign?

  4. Sending Dennis Rodman back there for a third visit could accomplish more than this useless bureaucratic exercise. This is not a sarcastic comment.

  5. CHINA….thanks to the support of the West (especially The U.S.A. and Canada )
    is rapidly becoming the world`s DOMINATING POWER.

    China has long been a supporter and ally of North Korea. China will deal with this situation as to whatever Chinese officials decide.
    Anyone who believes otherwise ..may be delusional.

  6. It would be easier for countries that get good marks from Freedom House, and Transparency International, to leave the UN; than it is to get North Korea, Mainland China, and the rest of the world that receives failing grades from Freedom House, and Transparency International, out of the UN.

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