Amid the euphoria surrounding the North/South Korea summit last week, North Korea’s human rights record must remain front and center during any negotiations or talks, says David Maxwell, a fellow at the Institute for Corean-American Studies.
Speaking on The John Batchelor Show, Maxwell noted the roughly 250,000 prisoners who populate the rogue nation’s gulags and emphasized that human rights is a primary national security issue.
“It is the prisoners who are mining uranium; it is the political prisoners, the prisoners in those gulags who are supporting the nuclear program, supporting the military,” Maxwell said. “It is enslaved Korean people from the north who are overseas foreign workers, who are working under slave conditions to gain hard currency for the regime.”
He also cited the 2014 United Nations commission of inquiry that recommended Kim Jong-un’s referral to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
“Our focus on human rights undermines the legitimacy of the regime,” he said. “The more we talk about the nuclear program, the more it enhances the legitimacy of the regime.”
As for the celebratory climate and optimism behind the meeting between Kim Jong-un and South Korea President Moon Jae-in, Maxwell is skeptical on many levels.
“We need to determine whether Kim Jong-un has abandoned the key parts of his strategy—the Kim family regime strategy—which is, of course, the vital national interest and survival of the Kim family regime,” Maxwell said. “The strategic aim is unification of the peninsula under the Kim family regime control—under North Korean control—and the three lines of effort to achieve unification are subversion of the Republic of Korea, coercion of the Republic of Korea, and the use of force.”
Cultural and generational influences are big factors as well. Maxwell noted the fact that Moon Jae-in is part of the 386 Generation—those born in the 1960s who were behind the democracy movement in South Korea in the 1980s. It was a movement heavily infiltrated by the north, he said, promoted communist organizing techniques, and took hold of everything from government institutions to the press.
“[N]ow those people are in power, to include Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff, who has pledged his loyalty to North Korea and has never disavowed that loyalty that he pledged back in his younger days,” Maxwell said. “We need to be very concerned with the subversion of the ROK government.”
He also noted that 75 percent of South Koreans view Kim Jong-un positively—higher approval than their Moon Jae-in enjoys.
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