Kristof: Christians Can't Help North Koreans, Only Liberals Can
Having just come back from a week-long visit to North Korea--where he was led around on a leash by his communist minders--Nick Kristof is shocked that Amercian liberals haven't taken the human rights situation in North Korea seriously. But most disturbing to Kristof is the fact that Christians (yeah, those crazy people that believe in Jesus Christ) have taken the lead in making the North Koreans' plight known to the rest of the world.
Don't be misled by Kristof's false praise of conservatives in his latest op-ed, "Where the Right is Right". That's just Kristof's baiting readers accustomed to his liberal ranting. Once again, Kristof takes a 180 degree turn somewhere in the middle of his op-ed and ends up blaming "Conservative Christians" for making the situation in North Korea even worse. It's kind of like blaming the United States for the gulags in the Soviet Union. Here is Kristof's lead:
Liberals took the lead in championing human rights abroad in the 1970's, while conservatives mocked the idea. But these days liberals should be embarrassed that it's the Christian Right that is taking the lead in spotlighting repression in North Korea.Kristof seems to have forgotten that Northern Korea was once a hotbed of Christianity. With the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) in 1945, all vestiges of Christianity were annihilated with a ruthlessness unmatched in the history of communism. All churches were closed, known Christians shot, and the Bible banned and burned.
So can anything be done to help North Koreans? Yes, if liberals stop ceding the issue to conservative Christians. Ultimately, the solution to the nuclear standoff is the same as the solution to human rights abuses: dragging North Korea into the family of nations, as we did with Maoist China and Communist Vietnam.
Try as he might, Kim Il Sung was never able to eliminate Christian thoughts from the minds of his people. North Korean defectors report that underground Christian Churches are alive and well, providing the starving people with a glimmer of hope for deliverance from the Kim regime. Many escapees from North Korea are Christians, and they are believed to be at the center of a growing resistance movement against the communist regime.
Accordlingly, Christians are specifically targeted for persecution by the North Korea government. Just owning a Bible will get one sent to a concentration camp, and preaching Christianity will usually result in the death penalty. Thus, we should not be surprised that Christians are at the forefront of the North Korean liberation movement. They are merely helping their own, and yet this is baffling to the Harvard-educated Kristof
After his initial slap at Christians, Kristof throws up a smokescreen of alleged conservative policies, of which I have never heard:
The problem with the conservatives' approach is that it's great at calling attention to the issues, but some of its methods are flawed and counterproductive. There's talk, for example, of proposing a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods unless China protects Korean refugees - but a tariff wouldn't help Koreans and would undermine the world economy. Likewise, a campaign by well-meaning activists to help North Korean refugees in China has so far only set off a Chinese crackdown that forced some 100,000 refugees back to North Korea. The conservative approach has generally been a mix of fulmination and isolation, which hurts ordinary Koreans, amplifies Korean nationalism and cements the Dear Leader in place.Kristof's rant contains no concrete specifics, and is utterly meaningless. I've never heard of this 25% tariff on Chinese goods, and somehow he blames the Christians for getting refugees sent back to North Korea. I read every bit of information coming out of the region about North Korea, and I've never heard of this alleged tariff proposal or the Chinese "crackdown" being caused by Christian activists. Googling these terms yields absolutely nothing.
Not surprisingly, he completely ignores the Christians' greatest accomplishment: the creation of an underground railroad in East Asia that has allowed thousands of North Korean refugees to hide from the authorities and brought hundreds of them to the West. There's plenty of documentation about these brave people helping the North Korean refugees. You can read about their efforts in this article in the National Review, which includes links to these Christian groups. Googling this issue will also yield hundreds of valuable links on the work of these Christians.
Kristof lists some of the deprivities of the current North Korean government, and then suggests that they can change if we engage in dialogue and trade with them. Actually, we've been talking with these wackos for 50 years, and they're not going to change. As long as Kim Jong-Il is in power, there's absolutely no reason to believe that this thug will turn another leaf.
The rest of Kristof's column consists falsehoods and pathetic liberal mush. For instance:
"Free markets are popping up." - For all the hoopla surrounding these "free markets", they are absolutely tiny when considering that North Korea has 23 million citizens, and very few of them can actually afford the high prices the merchants charge. Some merchants have been seen selling the donated food aid given to North Korea by the US and South Korea. One Free Korea has an excellent report on one such market here.
"Two tightly controlled Internet cafes have opened." - That's right: two internet cafes in the entire country. I think Kristof's grasping at straws here.
"Cellphones have been introduced, with restrictions." - The few cell phones in North Korea belong to high-ranking government officials. Privately-owned cell phones were recently banned because of suspicions that they were linked to an assasination attempt on dictator Kim Jong-Il.
"Plans are under way for a new Orthodox church." - That's right: one new church in a country of 23 million people. There are currently three (3) official state-approved churches in all of North Korea.
Two internet cafes and a new church. I guess Kristof is looking at the bright side of things, however dim. For a clearer perspective, Kristof should read Barbara Demick's latest reports on North Korea in the LA Times. Her dispatches show a decaying economic infrastructure and a society on the verge of collapse. Evidently, she did not go on the same tour group as Nick Kristof.