Caring About North Korea

Originally posted on NGO Life Funds for North Korea website

When I was twelve, simply another angst-stricken, preteen lost soul, I discovered the concentration camps of North Korea and the inhumanity of the regime and have carried the grievous burden of having this knowledge and desperately wanting to help but having no way of knowing how or even where to start. Perhaps the most painful lesson of all to learn was that few listen and few care. The first time a child’s pleas for something unselfish are disregarded is the instant in which their innocence is torn away and they become aware of what our world has come to.

That it took nuclear missiles and the realization that this nation threatens security for the media to take notice speaks volumes about our world. It cries that we are willing to look the other way and ignore what is shoved under the rug. It screams that we will put political motives over human lives and that unless it affects us, it doesn’t matter. However, amidst all of his dramatic rhetoric and threats of an attack, this young dictator has also called attention to the scale of which his nation is laden with human rights violations. 

The twelve-year old in me rejoices. 

To understand this nation is alike to having a comprehension of the depths of the deepest seas; it is near impossible. We must stretch the berth of our investigation to the spans of history and geography, look to its neighbors, China and South Korea and to the USSR and the United States. Just a few days ago, I was in Seoul where life continues very much as normal, despite the threats, the urges for diplomats to leave both Koreas and the contingency evacuation plans from several governments. I visited the dentist - open as usual, I bought a banana milk from the mini mart across the street - fully stocked shelves, my uncles went to work and my grandmother went to the gym - no hysteria. The most reaction I got from the people around me were laughs and almost scoffs. This is not pride or ignorance, nor is it naivety or carelessness. It is experience. The people of South Korea have seen this same scene play on a reel, since the days of Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, the Great Leader, Kim Il Sung.

When I met Greg Simon in D.C., I asked him - in brief - how I could (theoretically, hypothetically, hopefully) save North Korea, he redirected my attention to China. He told me that they hold enormous power in influencing the potentially nuclear nation, as their only diplomatic (kind of) ally. I applauded China’s decision to join in on the UN sanctions against North Korea, following their third nuclear test. Now I ask of them, I implore them, on behalf of the twelve-year old who did not know what to do, to put pressure on North Korea to do what should have been done long ago: release the prisoners, feed their people, let relief workers in, bring medical aid, end the executions and the violent and devastating treatment of their people. Return to their people the life they stole, the liberty they withheld and the pursuit of a happiness that is not brainwashed and fabricated to be a hazy daze of portraits of their Fearless and Great Leaders.

I realize that with this country, there is little to fear but much to do. Ultimately, how much I care is irrelevant, but what I do with this care will speak volumes.