Features

Cruel and unusual punishment

"Cruel and unusual punishment" Continued...

Issue: "'Darkest moment'," April 28, 2007

Some examples of persecution that Dobbs learned about:

  • In one prison, a warden hung a Christian man upside down and ordered him to deny his beliefs. Eventually the warden stabbed at him and pushed him to the ground, ordering 6,000 prisoners to trample him to death.
  • Eight prisoners stayed silent when told to deny the existence of heaven, so an infuriated prison official ordered other inmates to pour molten iron over them.
  • Some reports say Christian prisoners are deliberately crippled so they cannot walk; others are left naked and so starved they eat the rats scampering in their prison cells raw.

For now Washington is too absorbed with Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament, grappling with a regime that has once again gummed up the diplomatic works. In February, the six nations involved in nuclear negotiations agreed that Kim would receive heavy fuel if he shut down his nuclear reactor in Yongbyon by April 14. Kim has not complied, and the deadline passed with little fanfare as the United States tries to cajole him further.

Kim has used an unrelated grievance to stall matters: a frozen $25 million in a North Korean bank account in Macau. The Treasury Department has ruled that Banco Delta Asia has been laundering Pyongyang's funds, and in 2005 ordered U.S. institutions not to do business with the bank. After that, banks across the world refused to deal with North Korea, leaving Pyongyang no access to the global financial system.

For Kim that problem has not gone away. U.S. negotiators have offered a concession: allowing the unfreezing of the Macanese account. North Korea wants the funds transferred to a bank in a third country so it can again access the world financial system: It picked the Bank of China, but even U.S. entreaties have not persuaded officials fearing a Banco Delta Asia fate to allow the transfer.

The only option now, says Heritage Foundation analyst Bruce Klingner, is to tell North Korea to "come and take your money in a bag back to Pyongyang." If Kim keeps pressing his point, however, the nuclear agreement is not likely to advance. In this scenario, human-rights advocates say it is more important than ever to remember Kim's human, as well as nuclear, crimes. Dobbs says that what struck him most about North Korea was its blandness. When he asked his minder what he hoped for the future, the man predictably replied: "To serve the North Korean government."

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