This is my monthly column for Kaf.online (originally in Dutch).
When on holiday in Vietnam last year, I read ‘The Girl with 7 Names‘. The book tells the true story of Hyeonseo Lee, a young woman who miraculously managed to escape from North-Korea. Not your usual, light holiday reading. A book however, that I couldn’t put down, mostly because it quite literally is an unbelievable tale.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t know all that much about the situation in North-Korea before I read Heyonseo’s story. Other than it being a communist country with a disturbing leadership of course. It was only afterwards that I started to read more about the country. And the more I read, the less I understood why the international community didn’t act.
As we speak, there are about 4 to 6 concentration camps in North-Korea. They were built following the Russian example, but while the Russian camps disappeared with the collapse of the Sovjet Union, the ones in North Korea still exist. Situations in which a man and a woman are forced to have sex to produce a child are part of everyday life. Children born in these camps are taught that it’s good to snitch on your parents and friends. Worse even, the more you tell the guards, the more you get fed.
Stories of ‘dissidents’ who somehow escaped from North-Korea are becoming more frequent (as are the books). Meaning we know what’s happening there. Hyeonseo Lee for example has shared her story with the UN Security Council. I’m sure the Council has written an extensive report about it. But other than that, barely anyone seems to care about the horrendous situation in which (hundreds of) thousands of innocent people find themselves in as we speak.
Recently, North-Korea has once again been all over the news. A bit of missile testing here, an innocent little bomb sent over Japan there, the Big Leader sure loves to play with his toys. The international community responds with a couple of extra sanctions, since North Korea is super impressed by such measures. While following the news, I instantly felt that same powerless rage I had after I read ‘The Girl with 7 Names’. What are we waiting for?! For thousands of people to die first, this time following a North-Korean bomb that ‘accidentally’ lands on an actual city?
What’s happening in North-Korea (and has been for the past 70 years) is one of the worst violations of human rights of the 21st century. And while I believe foreign interference should always be the final solution, I think we’re several decades past that point here.
Photo credit: http://www.pixabay.com