Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dissent in North Korea?!

Can you name a single democratic dissident currently active inside North Korea? Just one? Is there any North Korean equivalent to Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi? Is there a North Korean Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa or Nelson Mandela? Is there any parallel to any of the dissidents who agitated openly for years in South Korea to bring about the 1988 switch from dictatorship to democracy in Seoul?

OK, it's a trick question. In North Korea, there is no one who can be named.

That's not because all North Koreans are happy with a government that brutalizes and starves them by the millions while building missiles and nuclear weapons. It's because anyone who might become known inside the country as a dissenter from the tyrannical Kim Jong Il and his gang would have to immediately flee or face oblivion. The alternatives would not include house arrest or high-profile prison time.

North Korea's government replies to any suspected lapse of total loyalty either with execution or consignment to the prison camps, where Kim Jong Il's enemies and their families disappear from the rest of human ken.

Reporters Without Borders, in its 2008 annual report, reminds us that for the deed of having made phone calls abroad without permission, a North Korean director of a state company was "executed by firing squad in 2007." The same report also mentions a journalist, Song Keum-chul, working for North Korea's wholly state-owned and controlled television network, who "was sent to a concentration camp at the end of 1995 for having set up a small group of critical journalists and nothing has been heard of him since."

[Claudia Rosett, Forbes]

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