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Benedict Rogers

The Kim-Putin summit should worry rest of the world

Deepening bonds between the world’s most brutal dictators suggests the emergence of a new ‘Axis of Evil’
Published: September 18, 2023 05:45 AM GMT

Updated: September 20, 2023 04:13 AM GMT

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (center left) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (center right) seen during their visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur region in Russia's Far East on Sept. 13, in this pool photo distributed by Sputnik agency, ahead of talks that Russian news agencies reported could lead to a weapons deal

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (center left) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (center right) seen during their visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur region in Russia's Far East on Sept. 13, in this pool photo distributed by Sputnik agency, ahead of talks that Russian news agencies reported could lead to a weapons deal. (Photo by Mikhail Metzel / POOL / AFP)

North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-Un returned home to Pyongyang on his armored train at the end of a six-day visit to eastern Russia on Sunday. It is widely believed that at a summit with Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport the two tyrants agreed to an arms deal.

At their banquet together, Putin spoke of “possibilities” for military cooperation, while Kim promised that North Korea would “always support the decisions of President Putin.” The deepening bonds between two of the world’s most brutal dictators suggests the emergence of a new “Axis of Evil.”

If China’s Xi Jinping and Myanmar’s General Min Aung Hlaing had been at the Vostochny Cosmodrome too, it would have been a quartet of atrocity crime perpetrators.

Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Myanmar are financed, fueled and facilitated by China and Russia, and there are now reports that Myanmar is looking to strengthen with Pyongyang.

This should not come as a surprise. Murderous, genocidal, criminal tyrants tend to stick together, especially when isolated from the rest of the world. It is a sign of their desperation that pariah regimes such as those in Naypyidaw and Moscow turn to Pyongyang for help, with Big Brother in Beijing pulling strings behind the scenes.

Yet while it is not a surprise, it must be a concern for the rest of the world. Any transfer of arms and technology between North Korea and Russia should trouble both Kyiv and Seoul.

Kim is not a comic act, but the Supreme Leader of the world’s most brutal, repressive and murderous regime

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol said: “Military cooperation between North Korea and Russia is illegal and unjust” and “contravenes UN Security Council resolutions and various other international sanctions.” Not that this bothers either Putin or Kim.

While Kim was in Russia advancing his complicity with Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, I was in Seoul, at a conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea.

Too often, the media portrayal of North Korea’s 41-year-old totalitarian ruler is of a smiling, corpulent, almost cartoonish character whose pink leather sofas and stocks of red wine in his personal train — his preferred mode of transport for rare forays abroad — make us laugh or roll our eyes at this absurdity.

Yet Kim is not a comic act, but the Supreme Leader of the world’s most brutal, repressive and murderous regime, and we should never forget that. That is why the UN Commission of Inquiry is so important, and why we would do well to remind ourselves of its findings.

In 2007, the human rights organization, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), with which I have been associated for almost 30 years, published one of the first major reports titled titled — North Korea: A Case to Answer, A Call to Act — which set out the prima facie case of crimes against humanity and called on the UN to establish a Commission of Inquiry.

At the time, we were almost a lone voice, and as momentum built, we helped form, together with others, the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), bringing together more than 40 human rights groups from around the world to campaign for this goal.

In 2013, two years after the ICNK was formed, the UN Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry (COI). Ably chaired by distinguished Australian judge Michael Kirby, the COI held public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington, DC a decade ago, and heard testimonies from dozens of survivors of human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean regime.

In its 372-page report, published on Feb. 7, 2014, the inquiry concluded that “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been, and are being, committed” by the regime, many of which “constitute crimes against humanity.”

"Anyone importing or distributing materials that are not approved by the State will face arrest and public trial"

The report said that these “are not mere excesses of the state” but are “essential components” of North Korea’s political system. “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” it noted.

Ten years on, has anything changed? That was the reason I was in Seoul, to attend a symposium hosted by NKnet, titled “Reflecting on the Post-COI Era and Envisioning the Future,” and also to interview experts for a new report that CSW plans to publish early next year, focused on the 10 years since the COI.

The main finding is that very little has changed — and in many respects, it is even worse than ever.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a large factor, resulting in the complete sealing — until recently — of North Korea’s borders, making it almost impossible for North Koreans to get out or for information to get in.

In addition, Kim’s regime has introduced new repressive laws, in particular the “Reactionary Ideology and Culture Law” adopted in December 2020. This law, commonly known as the “anti-reactionary thought law,” tightens restrictions on the flow of information into and out of the country, and imposes a ban on ‘foreign published materials’ including the Bible. Anyone importing or distributing materials that are not approved by the State will face arrest and public trial.

This law targets South Korean materials and Christian resources, both of which had been distributed into North Korea from across the China border for years before the pandemic, either on DVDs, USB sticks, literature dropped by balloons and via radio broadcasts.

Anyone who “views, listens to, or possesses South Korean movies, video recordings, compilations, books, songs, drawings or photographs” or who brings in and distributes such materials, could face sentences of between five and 10 years of “reform through labor” in one of North Korea’s notorious kwanliso (political prison camps).

Anyone engaging with materials from “hostile countries” — including the Bible — faces up to a life sentence of “reform through labor” or even the death penalty.

“Forcibly repatriated individuals to the DPRK are at real risk of torture and other ill-treatment upon return"

At the symposium, I listened as the Director of the Daily NK, Lee Sang Yong, gave a chilling presentation on the increase in public trials, “criticism meetings,” secret executions and public executions.

North Korea is a state in which all 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are denied or violated. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the UDHR this year, this is a sobering thought and a vital reminder of the need to increase the spotlight on this dark corner of the world.

In examining North Korea’s atrocities, we must not forget China’s role. For many years the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime has propped up the regime in Pyongyang, financially and diplomatically.

China opposed the COI and objected to the recent UN Security Council discussion about North Korea’s human rights situation. Most disturbingly, Beijing has pursued a policy of forced repatriation of North Korean refugees found in China, in complete violation of international humanitarian law and the principle of non-refoulement.

During the pandemic, China was unable to send North Koreans back, as Kim’s regime had closed the border, but now there are real fears that it will resume repatriations. Right now there are an estimated 2,000 escapees in imminent danger of being sent back to North Korea.

As the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, Elizabeth Salmon said recently, she is "very concerned" that “forcibly repatriated individuals to the DPRK are at real risk of torture and other ill-treatment upon return.” Female escapees, she noted, “are subjected to strip searches and invasive body searches, aimed at searching for money hidden in their body cavities and genitals.”

As Lord David Alton, co-chair of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, said after a visit to Seoul last week, “China and North Korea fear that escapees … will use their freedom to tell the world their stories revealing the truth about life in Communist dictatorships.  That is far more dangerous to the survival of the dictators than arsenals of weapons. The 75th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is all the more reason for every free parliament and every democracy to speak out for the 2,000 North Korean escapees. They simply want to have the same freedoms and the same rights that we enjoy.”

As Kim and Putin strengthen their alliance, the free world must unite to speak up for the victims of their repressive dictatorships and prepare, one day, to hold them accountable for their crimes.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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2 Comments on this Story
DR.CAJETAN COELHO
Evangelization and conversion are ongoing and never-ending opportunities. With fearless minds and confidence in one's prayers, one needs to pray for the well being of Planet Earth, our common home.
JK CLARE
Ben Rogers continues to embarrass himself with his endless reserve of Colonialist rhetoric. He would have native Africans, Latinos and Asians undergo white skin transplants if he only could. War Criminals such as Tony Blair, George Bush, Barack Obama and Sleepy Joe Biden are what real leaders, such as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, bring to the table. Enjoying the fall of the current Empir immensely! Praise God!

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