ICAS Special Contribution


North Korea's Criminal Regime

David Scheffer and Grace Kang

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.
965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422
Email: icas@icasinc.org

Links and Biographical notes for Grace Kang

Links and Biographical notes for David Scheffer

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution of this paper with written permission to ICAS of Grace M. Kang.
The paper original appeared as an editorial in International Herald Tribune, Tuesday, November 18, 2014 sjk]

The New York Times
July 6, 2006

North Korea's Criminal Regime

David Scheffer and Grace Kang

CHICAGO As the members of the United Nations Security Council grapple with possible financial and technological sanctions against North Korea in response to its launch of several missiles on Wednesday, they should add another sanction to the debate: a judicial intervention focusing on the catastrophic human rights situation in North Korea.

Kim Jong Il's regime is responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. From 150,000 to 200,000 people are now being held in gulag-like prison camps where they suffer enslavement, torture, rape and near starvation.

One million people are estimated to have died in these camps, adding to the one to two million deaths from the famine caused by government failures in the 1990s.

In addition, Christians and those who are part-Chinese are targeted for their religious beliefs and nationality. The regime has abducted thousands of South Koreans, Japanese and others since the Korean War, with hundreds still alive in captivity. More than 500 South Korean prisoners of war are also illegally detained.

These crimes reflect the North Korean regime's culture of criminality. The government is engaged in drug- trading and also produces counterfeit money, actions targeted recently by the U.S. government, with the cooperation of China, by the closure of a bank in Macao. North Korean embassies and diplomats abroad have also channeled funds from illegal transactions to Kim Jong Il's personal slush fund.

North Korea's weapons of mass destruction reportedly include chemical and biological, in addition to nuclear, capabilities. The threat is compounded by the possibility these materials could reach terrorists, particularly given North Korea's customers for missiles, such as Iran.

Despite this egregious situation, countries involved in the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons capability have avoided raising human rights. As the nuclear weapons crisis, which began in 2002, has dragged on, the regime has been able to produce more weapons; it is estimated that eight to 10 weapons are now in existence.

The six-party talks, involving China, South Korea, Russia, Japan, North Korea and the United States, seemed to offer advantages, including the involvement of states in closest proximity to the North Korean threat, the ability to accommodate bilateral side discussions between the United States and North Korea, and the promotion of the Chinese leadership as hosts. But the road to a solution has been strewn with obstacles. A day after the six parties' joint statement in September 2005 on commitments to achieve verifiable denuclearization, North Korea said that the United States "should not even dream" that it would dismantle its nuclear weapons before it received a new nuclear plant; the United States required the reverse.

The Security Council affords a new forum in which the human rights issue can be justifiably introduced. North Korea is undoubtedly a threat to peace, deserving Chapter VII action to address its multifaceted criminality and security risks. But any Security Council resolution condemning North Korea's weapons activities, even if primarily for the missile threat or for buttressing the six-party talks, should also condemn its human rights violations.

Among the actions the Security Council should consider is an investigation into the crimes of the North Korean regime, just as it did for the Darfur situation in Sudan. The secretary general should launch an International Commission of Inquiry with the prospect of referring the situation to the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal.

While Chinese support for such action is unlikely, merely raising the issue in the Security Council could create bargaining leverage for China over North Korea. As it did during the last nuclear crisis in 1994, China could quietly threaten to withhold its veto power if North Korea does not change course. If China protects North Korea by precluding the passage of a relevant Security Council resolution, these crimes should still be raised at the Security Council as the first step in a relentless mounting of political will until the Security Council is able to produce a resolution and launch an investigation.

Patiently waiting for North Korea to cooperate in the six-party talks has produced little - except, it appears, several more nuclear weapons. Recognizing the North Korean government for what it is - a criminal regime - would produce a better outcome.

The millions of North Koreans who suffer under the regime deserve this recognition and the hope that international judicial intervention may provide.

This page last updated November 22, 2014 jdb