|“Koreans’ own interests in their own united country had been sacrificed to power positions elsewhere -- especially to those in Japan.“|
- Gregory Henderson, US Foreign Service 1947-64 (1974)
“Americans and Russians both must remember that the Koreans did not ask us to divide their country, did not request that we occupy and rule them, did not solicit the governments we unleashed over their heads. Nor, unlike the Germans, had they given us the reasons for doing what we did.”
- Gregory Henderson (1976)
US President Donald Trump’s remarks on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly -- threatening a nuclear holocaust of 25 million North Koreans if provoked -- merely conveyed in layman’s terminology (“totally destroy North Korea”) what has been insinuated repeatedly by Trump and prominent American figures throughout this year.
Threatening genocide of tens of millions of innocents -- for Kim’s agents of oppression, in sum, amount to a very small clique -- is inexcusable, cowardly and self-defeating.
As The Baltimore Sun underscored in a recent editorial, “Speaking from a prepared speech in front of leaders and diplomats from more than 100 countries, the president of the United States pledged to wipe an entire nation off the face of the Earth.”
The newspaper went on to underline the perils and senselessness of threatening an “entire nation and its 25 million people” rather than focusing on neutralizing Kim Jong-un.
“President Trump has made the fight all the more difficult and dangerous by proclaiming that our aim would be not just regime change or an end to the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs but what sounds an awful lot like genocide,” voiced the newspaper.
If North Korea’s political prisoners and tens of millions of innocents are abandoned to be exterminated as “collateral damage” of indiscriminate nuclear strikes, whatsoever United Nations resolutions, a nearly-400 page UN-mandated report, whatsoever utterances by prominent personages referencing a “responsibility to protect” (R2P) norm, assurances of “never again,” lofty rhetoric citing “universal human rights” and the like -- will have amounted to hogwash. Or, if you prefer, as enunciated by Carla Del Ponte -- who resigned in protest from a UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria -- just “alibis” deployed expediently in lieu of obligatory, needful and life-saving measures.
The Baltimore Sun stressed, “Trump is both threatening even greater harm to the North Korean people than its own government has inflicted and is only increasing the likelihood that the Kim regime will consider it necessary to maintain its nuclear program or even launch a first strike.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has specified that Kim’s escalating center-stage tussle with the US over his nuclear and missile projects is the world’s worst crisis. Guterres, South Korea and the global community must sternly prohibit nuclear attacks -- sleazily being cited as an “option” to interdict Kim’s acquisition of an operational ICBM -- and unfailingly preserve the lives of both North and South Korea’s inhabitants.
Our common humanity is on the line. Moreover, we mustn’t forget that innumerable South Koreans, virtually all North Korean refugees, many Korean-Americans and countless others throughout the worldwide Korean diaspora have been violently separated from their family members in the North -- including the President.
South Korea and the global community must elevate their voices in a clarion manner and undertake efficacious measures for the protection and expedited release of some of the world’s most systematically violated and heinously oppressed populations -- who are entrapped within North Korea’s prison camp apparatus.
In a Nov. 2016 lecture, Bruce Bennett of the RAND Corporation advocated “flooding” Kim’s nuclear facilities with leaflets -- a corresponding procedure should take place forthwith to safeguard the lives of North Korea’s political prisoners.
Bennett concluded in an analysis published earlier this year that the “safest and most realistic way to sheath North Korean nuclear weapons and safeguard the American people” cardinally involved “proposing a deal that gives the North Korean elite an alternative to its murderous and unstable leader.” He recommended for “Seoul to propose favorable terms for Korean reunification ... negotiating a peaceful end to the 60-year-standoff on the peninsula.” The indigenous ousting of Kim Jong-un and Korea’s peaceful reunification is an “opportunity worth pursuing” he indicated, and is far more viable a framework than popularized “dead-ends” such as military strikes - which would precipitate an altogether unwarranted, unlawful and unprecedented human catastrophe.
The historical case for reconciliation between southerners and northerners -- whilst necessarily excluding the ruthless tyrant, who has perpetrated wanton carnage against our people in the North -- is overwhelmingly compelling.
Trump’s threats of indiscriminate nuclear holocaust conjures up analogous horrors which actually happened over the still-unresolved 1950-53 proxy war -- which could never itself have materialized had Korea been permitted to remain one country with freely-selected leaders.
The US Air Force “bombed and napalmed cities, towns and villages across the North. ... The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless” noted American author Blaine Harden in a 2015 commentary. These bombings were criticized as “racist and unjustified” around the world; the pitiless and overkill air campaign was a “major war crime” Harden wrote.
“Over a period of three years or so, we killed off -- what -- 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay relayed to the Office of Air Force History. Ex-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said the US bombed “everything that moved in North Korea” -- including numberless frail innocents, both advanced in years and tender ones; many were simply stuck in the North owing to diverse mishaps as being too sickly, slow, uninformed or destitute to flee swiftly enough.
At the 2013 UN hearings in Tokyo on North Korea’s human rights emergency, a Japanese witness testified about Korean residents and their Japanese spouses who had naively traveled to North Korea -- but never were able to escape thereafter. Just as he stated:
“The greatest issue from my opinion is that between 1950 and 1953 during the Korean War, the North Korean capital was reduced to ashes and the war had killed a total of 3 to 4 million people and also caused 10 million families to split up. I think that is the true root cause and the starting point.”
Unquestionably, external responsibility for the present crisis in North Korea is enormous. In Aug. 1945, communists comprised an insignificant minority presence in the North (ironically, greater influence was held by them in the South). The pre-eminent leader in the region, Cho Man-sik (killed in Oct. 1950), was a pacifist hero who helped organize March 1919’s sublimely peaceful peninsula-wide demonstrations for emancipation.
As Gregory Henderson aids us to remember in “The Politics of the Vortex” (1968):
“The Independence Declaration was truly eloquent and moving, especially the Korean gesture of signing and reading it in full acceptance of coming arrest. There was dignity and pathos also in the unarmed demonstrations of thousands throughout the country. ... A peaceful movement, fully justified ... without any touch of selfishness.”
Much of the leadership for the national movement, which actually consisted of millions, came from Pyongan Province in northern Korea.
The north was clearly on a peaceful trajectory (that is, it wasn’t a threat to anyone); the region’s savage reorganization into the most militarized, repressive and human rights violating area on earth was exclusively the product of racist and undemocratic external impositions. The despotically-imposed Kim dynasty, never voluntarily elected by any Koreans, has unaccountably and undeservedly ruled over territories of which the precise limits were wholly prescribed by strangers who, distressingly, couldn’t care less. Reparations and unification are accordingly in order, not yet another holocaust.
By Robert Park
Robert Park is a founding member of the nonpartisan Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocie in North Korea, minister, musician and former prisoner of conscience. -- Ed.