Thursday, March 6, 2008

Looking at North Korea

I have a personal fascination with North Korea. I don't go into it alot, because thinking about life in North Korea is like thinking about armageddon or life after death, it's mysterious, frightening and somewhat unthinkable. I have a suspicion, which is all mine and doesn't have validity in hard evidence, that North Korea may be the worst place on earth.

From the few holes in the society that we have had access to, we have been able to analyze that it is not a fun place to be:

North Korea has been in the news lately, in part because the New York Philharmonic went there, to play a concert. I wrote about this event in the National Review of February 11. You may read that piece here.

In it, I canvass some people whose judgment I respect tremendously: Richard Pipes, Paul Hollander, John Bolton, Harry Wu, Armando Valladares, etc. Some of them were in favor of the visit (the concert took place on February 26); most were not. I came down against the visit: while recognizing the merits of the other side of the argument, and hoping I was wrong.

I also want to draw your attention to an op-ed piece published in the New York Times back in October. It is by Richard V. Allen, the onetime Reagan national-security adviser, and Chuck Downs, a North Korea specialist, among other things. You will find that piece here. And I wish to highlight one passage relating to music:

“During a party on Christmas in 1992, one of the regime’s former propaganda officers, Ji Hae-nam, made the mistake of singing a South Korean song. She was sentenced to three years in jail and, as she testified to the United States Congress after her escape, beaten so severely she could not get up for a month.”

Dick Allen and his friends are doing vital and necessary work. Their organization is the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, whose website is here. The group, and the site, shine a light on one of the earth’s most hideous corners. Maybe it is the most hideous of all.

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