Unless you live under a rock or haven't checked your social media in the past few weeks, I'm sure you've heard about Sony Pictures being hacked. My social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram have been littered with commentary from my friends about the hacking incident as well as countless jokes aimed at Kim Jong Un's haircut, weight, limp, size, and other features. Don't get me wrong, Kim Jong Un might look funny according to western standards but don't let that fool you. He is one of the most violent and dangerous people in the world and is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people and committing countless other human rights violations.
Kim Jong Un is the leader of one of the most secretive and tightly controlled countries in the world and he maintains this secrecy and control through undeniably vicious tactics. The United Nations published a report in Feb. 2014 that outlined some of these brutal measures. The report found that the North Korean government is committing "systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations" against its own people.
Citizens of North Korea aren't allowed the freedom of movement and residence. Citizens can't travel within their own country unless granted permission from the regime and international travel for ordinary citizens is banned. Many citizens still try and escape to China or South Korea even though punishments for being caught range from torture, sexual violence, forced abortions for pregnant women, harsh imprisonment, execution, and other violent acts.
The regime also tightly controls the distribution of food to keep power. The scarce amount of food the country actually has is given to those that Kim Jong Un deems loyal and crucial to the state while those determined to be "expendable" are left to starve. It's frustrating because the country has enough resources to nourish and feed all of the North Korean people but he deliberately chooses not to. He spends the state's money strengthening his disproportionately large army and on weapons development, both nuclear and non-nuclear, with which he often threatens the United States.
Possibly the most shocking and gruesome feature of Kim Jong Un's regime is the existence of Nazi-like prison camps where prisoners are treated in unimaginable ways. The U.N. report even has an entire section titled "arbitrary detention, torture, executions, and prison camps" that details the horrifying acts committed by Kim Jong Un's military and police forces.
The standard prison system is characterized by multiple human rights violations including forced labor, starvation, torture, rape, and other cruel acts. The political prison system, where people accused of committing political crimes against the regime are taken, embodies the harsh nature of the ordinary prison camps but takes it a step further. The U.N. report states "the inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide." U.N. experts believe that there are between 80,000 and 120,000 people being held in these secret political prisons alone and that hundreds of thousands of people have died in these prisons in the last 50 years.
The process by which people are taken to political prison camps is possibly the most shocking twist. People accused of political crimes are unexpectedly abducted and completely vanish from society.The families of the victims aren't given any information about the camps and are left to live in fear of what is happening to their loved ones. There have also been cases where all family members and relatives of the accused are taken to secret prison camps as well simply on the basis of "guilt by association." There have been few survivors of these horrifying camps and some have chosen to share their stories. It is absolutely heartbreaking to read about their experiences.
The situation in North Korea is an incredibly difficult and complex one. I am not an expert on Asian affairs, North Korea, or Kim Jong Un and I don't know how to directly help the millions of North Koreans living under an oppressive regime. However, I do know that America's unbalanced and unhealthy obsession with Kim Jong Un is distracting everyone from the real tragedies occurring in North Korea. The first step in helping the people of North Korea is to stop focusing on the odd personality and funny looks of its vile dictator.