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Why do people talk about the Holocaust saying 'we must never forget' and spend money on programmes

to ensure this, yet they say and do nothing about the similar things that are happening right now?" - Former North Korean prisoner. Barely a decade on from the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, the very atrocities and crimes against humanity that precipitated its creation were replicated in kind and ferocity in a country of which little is written or known about: North Korea. Yes, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the so-called hermit country occupying the northern half of a peninsula on which the first skirmishes of the Cold War were played out to a stalemate; an armistice which confirmed its ultimate division along the 38th parallel into two parts: North and South Korea. However, while the South has prospered, embraces a degree of openness and modernity and has evolved into a relatively free society, the North on the other hand has developed into one of the most oppressive and repressed societies where its founding leader, Kim Il Sung is venerated as a quasi-deity and where any infringement or perceived crime against his ideology is punished with brutality and inhumane treatment; the most atrocious of which is incarceration in a system of political concentration camps reported to hold up to 300,000 prisoners in total. These concentration camps are also reported to have been created in the 1950s and by all accounts still exist and are expanding today in the 21st century. It is particularly disheartening that despite the outrage and widespread indignation that followed the uncovering of the worst excesses of the Holocaust in Central Europe, in the following decade, a virtually similar system of incarceration was secretly established 5000 or so miles away in North Korea. The camps, initially built to house prisoners of war (South Korean mainly), now hold an number of arbitrarily detained prisoners ranging from the political (perceived traitors to the regime, collaborators with the previous colonial Japanese regime, allies of the Soviets (previous occupants of North Korea), victims of army purges, repatriated defectors and religious leaders) to the seemingly mundane (those who do not take proper care of photographs of Kim Il Sung, listen to South Korean radio and many other seemingly trivial offences). In addition, as a result of a policy promulgated by Kim Il Sung known as guilt-by-association (yeon-jwa-je), up to three generations of the family of the offenders are often forcibly incarcerated along with him/her. So, grandparents, parents, siblings and children are rounded up often without any knowledge of which of their family members has erred and sent to prison camps without trial or any judicial process (the word of a Korean Workers' Party official is considered enough). The justification for this, is a bid to supposedly remove the bad seed of the offender from the rest of the population. Amnesty International, amongst other NGOs has recently published satellite images which detail the extent and increasing expanse of four of the six known concentration camps in North Korea. The North Korean government imposes stringent access restrictions on its land borders, territorial waters and its airspace, however it has no jurisdiction over the miles of space above the Karman line (the limit of controlled airspace) in which commercial satellites can roam and scan with freedom, capturing aerial views of the secretive camps situated in North Korea's expansive mountain ranges. In the absence of openness and the persistent intransigence of the DPRK government with regards to UN resolutions and statements on this issue, these images coupled with numerous corroborative testimonies provide the only reliable evidence of the human rights abuses consistently denied by the North Korean government. From these testimonies, evidence has been acquired of the use of torture cells, conditions of permanent semi-starvation (reminiscent of Soviet gulags), public executions, forced labour (predominantly mining and farming), child labour, prisoner brutality, forced abortions, baby killings amongst other human rights abuses. According to former detainees at the infamous prison camp at Yodok, prisoners are forced to work in conditions approaching slavery and are frequently subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane,

and degrading treatment. Most stark of all are the testimonies (from former prisoners and prison guards in Camp 22) obtained by the BBC and the Guardian in 2004 confirming the existence of gas chambers and experimental facilities in which biological and chemical weapons appear to be tested on inmates. The International Community (post-2nd World War) with all the best intentions hoped the formation of the UN and the adoption of the UDHR would ensure future international peace and security and to a certain extent, 60 years on it has largely succeeded in achieving this. But on grave intranational issues such as human rights abuses occurring within a UN member state such as North Korea is, its Conventions and instruments of enforcement have proved toothless and benign. This sentiment was articulated succinctly by a question posed by a former North Korean prisoner quoted in a Christian Solidarity Worldwide (an NGO highlighting the persecution of Christians in North Korea) journal, reproduced below: "Why do people talk about the Holocaust saying 'we must never forget' and spend money on programmes to ensure this, yet they say and do nothing about the similar things that are happening right now?" Despair and resignation are the most natural reactions to one individual's powerlessness to effect an improvement in the circumstances of fellow human beings, but I am minded to recall as a counterweight, the eminent Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Weisel who once said: "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest" Dr Kenny Latunde-Dada