The Corner

Man Is Wolf to Man

Two very striking features of the modern world are the sensational brutality of the North Korean government towards its own people, and — with some honorable exceptions — the lack of outrage in South Korea.

When South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was elected last year, only 3 percent of voters named North Korea as a primary concern. They were overwhelmingly interested in economic growth and higher salaries.

That is from a Washington Post story about a guy who was born in a Nork labor camp and spent the first 23 years of his life there. He is like a feral child, with no childhood experience of normal life. At age 14 he watched his mother and brother being executed …

This horror has been going on for decades. The first Nork labor-camp memoir I read was Ali Lameda’s, back in the 1970s. Lameda did six years in the Nork camps, 1967-73, and told very similar tales. Chol-hwan Kang’s memoir, The Aquariums of Pyongyang, tells the same story about his own incarceration, 1977-87. Will it ever end?

Somehow the thing is made doubly awful by the knowledge that sitting here at my desk I can look down on the camp Shin Dong-hyuk was in. At any rate, there is a complex of buildings in the middle of nowhere around where the Post says Shin’s camp is. What a horror.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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