This week the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released an extensive investigative report on North Korea’s heinous human rights record. In an unprecedented move UN investigators called for North Korean leaders to be referred to the International Criminal Court, comparing the regime’s torture, starvation and killing methods to Nazi-era atrocities.
Within the 372-page report are drawings provided by defector Kim Kwang-il, who spent years in a North Korean prison camp after being arrested in 2004 for crossing the northern border in order to sell pine nuts in northeastern China. While we have long heard about the atrocities committed inside the DPRK, images such as these provide a visual connection that people may not conceive of on their own.
Obviously the brutality of the regime’s crimes are one of the most concerning in the world today. Some skeptics may point out that these are “merely" drawings and not photographs—but satellite images of existing political prison camps have been widely published for years, and the growing amount of defectors have only provided more and more consistent information on the realities behind the DMZ.
These sketches not only exemplify the ironic horror of a land held hostage—nestled snugly between countries that boast soaring GNPs, no less—but also the basic steps that survivors must output in order to continuously ward off doubters. An interesting question: what is it about human nature that makes people doubt the accounts of survivors and innocent victims?