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A United Nations report on North Korea confirms that things are as bad within the totalitarian nation as the world feared.
There is a "complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association." Citizens cannot travel without permission from authorities.
"The State operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machine that takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to the Supreme Leader," baby-faced, 31-year-old Kim Jun-un.
Police and security forces create a climate of fear that preempts any challenge to the system of government and the ideology underpinning it, the investigatory commission found.
Christians, citizens suspected of political opposition, and those found in possession of information from outside the nation either disappear or face public executions. The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in prison camps. Between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners are detained.
The regime's "crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence … the forcible transfer of populations … and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation," states the report.
"We can't say we didn't know," said the panel's chairman, Michael Donald Kirby, a retired Australian judge.
What can the world do? Little, it seems. The North Korean regime is unmoved by international condemnation and dismissed the report as a fabrication.
North Korean ally China, which called the report an "unreasonable criticism" that inappropriately politicizes human rights issues, would likely block the commission's recommendation that the United Nations Security Council refer the allegations to the International Criminal Court. In any event, North Korea would not recognize the authority of the international tribunal. Any economic sanctions would only intensify the suffering of the North Korean people. The elite would still feast.
The best hope is that modern communication technology will make North Korean's iron curtain ever more penetrable, a reality recognized in the report. In time, the regime's authoritarian system may collapse from within or be split by internal power struggles.
While providing the potential for change, such developments could also create a humanitarian crisis and raise fears of a military action by a desperate, nuclear-armed regime.
As things stand, there is little prospect for helping this bleak land of sorrows.