The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Monday, Feb. 24:
The United Nations issued a scathing report on North Korea last week ...
Wait. How many times have you read a sentence like that? The U.N. or some other organization thunders about human rights abuses, starvation and torture in North Korea and ... everyone ignores or discounts it.
Humanitarian aid - including food - keeps flowing. Against all evidence and experience, the U.S. and its allies keep hoping that Pyongyang will negotiate in good faith to scrap its nukes. The times that North Korea has duped naive leaders in Washington and other capitals are conveniently forgotten. And China, the only country that could squeeze North Korean leader and Dennis Rodman fanboy Kim Jong Un, gives the North a wink and a nod.
That tacit global tolerance will be much harder now that a U.N. Human Rights Council panel has released a major, stomach-churning document that depicts, as The Economist succinctly sums up: "Humanity at its very worst."
The list of North Korea's crimes against its own population, compiled from the harrowing testimony of more than 80 witnesses and experts:
-Forced abortions and sexual violence
-Persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds
-Forcible transfer of populations
One gruesome excerpt from the Los Angeles Times:
A 43-year-old North Korean woman who said she was released from custody in 2012 after serving four years for a failed defection attempt described sleeping in a room with 100 people. "It was so crowded you couldn't sleep with your legs straight," she said. "If somebody got sick, 10 or 20 would get sick and so many would die. They would take the bodies away in a truck. Women would pick up little pieces of human flesh that would fall from the bodies. You could use it as a medicine to put on burns and cuts or sometimes eat it."
"I hope the international community will be moved by the detail, the amount, the long duration, the great suffering and the many tears that have existed in North Korea to act on the crimes of humanity," U.N. human rights panel chairman Judge Michael Kirby told reporters. "Too many times in this building there are reports and no action. Well, now is a time for action. We can't say we didn't know."
We can't say we didn't know.
With the report came a warning to Kim: You may be held responsible in the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed by state institutions and officials under your direct control. Is Kim worried? Probably not. Such a move would require a vote by the U.N. Security Council. China, Kim's trade partner and enabler, is likely to veto any such move.
So ... what now?
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, political economist Nicholas Eberstadt writes, "Now is the time for the never agains: Never again should Western humanitarian aid be given to North Korea to hand out at its own discretion, as if Pyongyang were a government like any other. Never again must Beijing ... be given a free pass for financing, enabling and protecting this most odious of all regimes. Challenge China to veto the referral for crimes against humanity on the U.N. Security Council, and let Beijing go on record defending state-sponsored mass murder. Make the Chinese veto it 20 times if they dare."
Kim Jong Un richly deserves to spend the rest of his days with a criminal indictment hanging over his head, if not in a dank cell somewhere. His country richly deserves a new, humane regime. "The gravity, scale and nature of these violations ... does not have any parallel in the contemporary world," the U.N. report says.
North Korea has nukes. It has brutally suppressed and starved its own people for years. Nothing looks likely to change. Except one thing:
Never again can anyone say, we didn't know.