Thursday, Aug 21, 2014 12:20 am est

North Korean crimes constitute genocide

Posted on February 26, 2014 | by Peter Keffer

A commission at the United Nations accused the North Korean government of committing crimes against humanity in a report released on Feb. 17. The investigation documented an extensive list of crimes — “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” It is important that the phrase “crimes against humanity” never loses its meaning. It refers to acts so monstrous that they devalue the dignity of every single human being — living, dead and not yet born. Despite the propriety of this comprehensive phrase, it fails to capture the crushing expanse of the Kim dynasty. There is, and has been, a genocide in North Korea. The UN is too timid to acknowledge it.

The 1947 draft of the Genocide Convention defined genocide as the “destruction of racial, national, linguistic, religious or political groups of human beings.” Joseph Stalin objected to the inclusion of political groups, and the phrase was deleted. Accordingly, the U.S.S.R. was not held accountable for the murder of 20 million innocents during the Great Purge. The document now defines genocide as an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Those who think that this definition shields North Korea from prosecution for genocide are mistaken. The phrase “in whole or in part” closes the gap available to Stalin in the years after World War II. A literal interpretation of the document allows for political killings to be considered genocidal, and they should be.

The North Korean government holds around 180,000 people in gulag-like political prisons where they suffer enslavement, torture and rape. A million people are thought to have died in this captivity. A further 3.5 million have died during a famine caused by government policies. The comparisons to Nazi Germany are appropriate and the parallels are direct. Still, there is no mention of the word genocide in the entire report from the UN commission. Its absence prompts further questions.

There is a legal duty embedded in the convention to “prevent and punish” genocide. This duty can be, and has been, easily avoided by misleading words. Former President Bill Clinton knew that genocide had engulfed Rwanda in April 1994 but his administration labeled it “black on black violence” to justify his inaction. Leaked minutes show that American and British diplomats used the term genocide in private.

Clinton apologized to the Rwandan people from the steps of Air Force One. He said, “never again must we be shy in the face of evidence.” There is an omission in the UN report and the world’s superpowers cannot shy away from acknowledging it.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 26 print edition. Peter Keffer is opinion editor. Email him at pkeffer@nyunews.com.

Comments

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next