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San Diego Researcher Reacts To Damning North Korea Report

Above: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a gun during an artillery firing drill of the Korean People's Army.

Aired 2/19/14 on KPBS News.

"The level of detail in the report is really quite staggering," said Stephan Haggard, professor of Korea-Pacific Studies at UC San Diego.

The world must act. That’s the conclusion of a 400-page report on North Korea, compiled by a United Nations panel during a year-long inquiry.

Testimony from defectors include women who said they were forced to drown their babies, children imprisoned from birth and starved and families tortured for watching foreign soap operas. The panel held public hearings in Tokyo, London, San Francisco and Seoul, South Korea.

"The level of detail in the report is really quite staggering," said Stephan Haggard, professor of Korea-Pacific Studies at UC San Diego, who has written extensively on famine and the political economy in North Korea.

"My colleague and I, Marcus Noland, we’ve done work on the food situation and famine, but there’s been work on the prison camps, there’s been work on discrimination, there’s been work on the use of food -- so there are a variety of components of the human rights picture which have now been pulled together in one place," explained Haggard, "and I think that’s what’s distinctive about the report."

Haggard said one important detail is that China, the North's main ally, might be aiding and abetting the crimes.

"Refugees that cross into China are not treated as refugees by the Chinese government, and they are turned back to North Korea," said Haggard.

Haggard said some of the documented prison camp abuses and murders occurred when refugees were rejected by China.

The U.N. panel issued a notice to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that he may be personally held liable in court for crimes against humanity committed by leaders under his direct control.

Haggard said those accusations make the report hard to ignore.

"Because this isn’t just a U.S. issue as the north Koreans have argued," said Haggard. "The European countries and developing countries' democracies have also been supportive of this investigation – so this is not something which was launched or driven solely by the United States and South Korea and Japan."

Haggard said an important reaction is going to come from Europe.

"Because it’s going to be harder for the North Koreans to ignore what the Europeans choose to do if they do something," said Haggard. "We don’t have many trade relations or investment relations because of the various sanctions that have been place on North Korea, but a number of them have recognized North Korea."

The U.N. panel will present its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 17.

Comments

Avatar for user 'xwagner'

xwagner | February 19, 2014 at 8:13 a.m. ― 8 months ago

Um... sure. Where's the UN report on US-caused deaths in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Glass houses and all that. Does North Korea have the largest prison population on Earth? No, wait, that's the US. I don't see North Korea flying Playstation drones over other countries and blowing up wedding parties at random. Are we certain this doesn't have more to do with the UN aching to get at North Korea's natural resources and the fact that North Korea doesn't enjoy a Rothschild-centric central bank? It's odd that our "enemies" have that feature in common: no central bank. Will the UN recommend humanitarian aerial bombing of civilian targets like they did in Libya?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 19, 2014 at 8:48 a.m. ― 8 months ago

xwagner why don't you move to North Korea since you seem to think it is a bastion of liberty and freedom compared to the US?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 19, 2014 at 9:53 a.m. ― 8 months ago

A complex situation. What do professors Haggard and Nolan suggest the UN do?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 19, 2014 at 10:22 a.m. ― 8 months ago

Complex is a good word to describe the situation in North Korea. A lot of ignorant people say things like "Nuke them!" but why would you want to do that when 99.99% of the population are merely victims of a ruthless regime?

We can't just "take out" the leadership, because the neighbors of North Korea would face severe problems with floods of immigrants trying to enter their countries. China and South Korea would be very upset if another country "saved" the North Korean population by killing the leadership.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | February 19, 2014 at 10:22 a.m. ― 8 months ago

xwagner,

What are you? Some kind of non-hypocrite?!?!

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | February 19, 2014 at 10:28 a.m. ― 8 months ago

There seems to be a lot of ramping up with troops and the "news" media lately over the N.K. Maybe our banking buddy China could lend a hand...............

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 19, 2014 at 10:48 a.m. ― 8 months ago

xwagner,

I agree with everything you said.

BUT, I don't think that means NK doesn't deserve attention being shed on them for their human rights abuses.

Are the accusers including the U.S. hypocrites? Yes, indeed. The U.S.A. IS the world's prison state, not NK, not Iran, not Russia, and not China - you are absolutely 100% correct there.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the accusations against Jong-Un are false.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 19, 2014 at 10:50 a.m. ― 8 months ago

The San Diego Military-Industrial complex loves the North.

It means excuses to "build the Pacific fleet" a.k.a., spend hideous amounts of tax money on military-related goodies for all the people who profit off of such a thing here locally.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 19, 2014 at 11:26 a.m. ― 8 months ago

North Korea is the least of our reasons for building the pacific fleet... China is the big one.

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Avatar for user 'xwagner'

xwagner | February 20, 2014 at 8:56 a.m. ― 8 months ago

@jeanmarc -- xwagner why don't you move to North Korea since you seem to think it is a bastion of liberty and freedom compared to the US?

I didn't say anything about North Korea not being some kind of hellhole -- have you ever seen that YouTube video of very young North Korean kids playing guitar on stage with terrifying fixed smiles? My comment had far more to do with the UN somehow perpetually overlooking the habit of the US to invade or attack other countries. The list is quite long, and that's just since 1980. With 9/11/01 as an excuse, that famous painting of Jupiter eating his children comes to mind. The notion of complaining about a hundred-pound gorilla in the room when there's an eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room seems... quite bizarre.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | February 20, 2014 at 10:53 a.m. ― 8 months ago

You know that game where you try to locate "Waldo" in a picture? (Where's Waldo?) You can easily play the same game with "Uncle Sam" wherever there's violence, revolutions or overthrowing of democratically-elected governments.

We have plenty of money to destabilize governments and foment violence all over the globe. Education and health care? Not so much.

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