The United Nations report on systematic North Korean abuses is both welcome and long overdue. It should finally alert governments about just who it is they are trying to do international business with. And it should warn apologists about the sort of regime they condone. The report also emphasises both the futility of words and the failure of action against entrenched regimes such as the one in Pyongyang.
There can be no doubt about the work produced Monday by the three-member Commission of Inquiry into current affairs in the self-styled People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. The commission was established and sanctioned by the UN’s human rights body, a group that never misses a chance to apologise or overlook a pathetic or brutal human rights record. It was headed by retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, conducted interviews with more than 80 victims and other witnesses in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington. He, his assistants and staff took a careful, long year to conduct interviews, assemble reports, check and double-check its work. The result is a factual 372-page accusation.
If the report is unassailable in its overwhelming and sad catalogue of abuses by the North Korean governments of recent years, it is also Sisyphian. Many of the sickening and shocking tales in the report are, in fact, old news. The UN as a group, its human rights body as an organisation and its individual members as responsible countries have long overlooked or, in some terrible cases, apologised for Pyongyang’s undoubted crimes on the international front and, especially, against its own people.
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