Doug Bandow: North Korea: The Gulag State

Roundup: Media's Take

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and the Senior Fellow in International Religious Persecution at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics (Crossway).

North Korea is, to put it mildly, a "problem." The so-called Democratic People's Republic of Korea devotes much of its time to threatening other nations. Pyongyang spends money that it doesn't have on nuclear weapons, missiles, and bizarrely choreographed and synchronized propaganda ceremonies. It has pioneered a system of monarchical communism, passing power from one idiot son to another.

Worse, at least for the North Korean People, the DPRK has created a genuine gulag state, with a smaller but still murderous "gulag archipelago," as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously called Joseph Stalin's creation. The most important political challenge facing Washington remains the North's nuclear program. But the ultimate objective is to relax Pyongyang's grip over the suffering population.

That the DPRK is repressive is hardly news. However, it is difficult for anyone in the West to imagine the full extent of repression in the North....

The DPRK was a Cold War creation, established after Japan's surrender in World War II left the Korean peninsula divided between hostile U.S. and Soviet client states. Moscow tapped Kim Il-sung to run the Soviet zone, which became formally independent in 1948. Kim learned well from Stalin, out-maneuvering internal opponents to win supreme power and creating a system of pervasive social control to terrorize the population. Kim's horrifying twist to Stalin's style was to punish three generations of a family for the "crimes" of any member. Children, parents, and grandparents routinely ended up in the North Korean gulag....

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