Martin Luther King Jr. once said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. For more than 60 years, a great injustice has plagued the nation of North Korea, and the cries of its citizens have gone almost totally unheard abroad. Since the mid-1990s, an estimated two million people have died from malnutrition. The recent transfer of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-un, should be a reminder of the atrocities committed by the North Korean government and a call to action against it.
Kim Jong-un, who was almost unheard of until now, is even less popular than his father because so little is known about him. A parade was held with a large military presence and the two Kims present on Oct. 10. At the event, Kim Jong-un was formally confirmed as the heir apparent to his father’s position by Yang Hyong-sop, a member of the political bureau of the Workers’ Party. Kim Jong-il was impaired by a noticeable limp; it is believed he suffered a stroke in 2008. This could mean Kim Jong-un will take over sooner rather than later.
Despite being almost unknown even in North Korea, Kim Jong-un earned a promotion to four-star general and shortly after was chosen to be the next leader of the communist state. He is thought to be 28 years old and to have been educated in Switzerland. His inexperience raises a threat, considering he will take over a nation with large military and nuclear capabilities.
North Korea’s nuclear program is the most alarming of the nation’s actions. The debacle started in 2002 when North Korea threw out international inspectors to eliminate transparency. Shortly after, in January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and was able to build nuclear weapons without much grief from the international community. Testing of long-range nuclear missiles took place in 2006 and 2009 with widespread international condemnation. Sanctions were imposed and talks were held, but little progress was made.
North Korea’s censorship is among the most stringent in the world. Radios are fixed to one frequency and the state controls what is heard. A few people are able to obtain illegal radios and listen to broadcasts from South Korea, which are often meant to encourage defection and escape into China.
A rare exception happened earlier this year when the North Korean soccer team nearly upset Brazil during the World Cup matches, narrowly losing 2-1. The state allowed a live broadcast at the next game against Portugal. Their luck had been exhausted against Brazil, however, and North Koreans with TV sets watched their team get shut out 7-0. It is widely believed the team was harassed after losing all three games and being eliminated from the competition.
The atrocities committed by North Korea over the past six decades have received too little attention in the media. With the recent transfer of power being the largest news story since Kim Jong-il’s takeover 30 years ago, the time is ripe for more education and action towards North Korea and its government’s atrocities.