Irecently had a conversation with a good friend of mine about, of all things, vegetarianism. Neither of us, to be clear, are vegetarians, nor have we ever been. However, we both expressed a certain moral squeamishness with eating meat. After a long conversation in which we explored that squeamishness, we came to the conclusion that it is in fact wrong to eat meat. But even after acknowledging that, we continue to eat meat. Neither of us has taken any action to realize our moral conclusions. The reason is that we both enjoy eating meat, and it is an inconvenience to do anything. The global community is doing something very similar with regard to North Korea. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is committing some of the worst human rights abuses in recorded history. The world recognizes this, and further recognizes that it should be outraged. Yet our outrage has failed to translate into action, the reason being that any sort of intervention in North Korea would be very difficult, very inconvenient. The hypocrisy of outrage with no action is too much to handle; it is time that the world does something to help the plight of the North Koreans, or abandon its outrage.



The UN recently released a report detailing North Korea’s myriad human rights abuses. The regime has numerous gulag-style labor camps where political dissidents, Christians, defectors, and individuals deemed subversive are tortured and forced to work. An escaped dissident made several sketches depicting various methods of torture that prisoners were made to go through. You can look at them here, although I most caution, they are extremely disturbing.

Even those who are fortunate enough to stay out of the torture camps are still subject to arbitrary rule. There is virtually no food security, and more than 10% of North Koreans are under-nourished. Between 1994 and 1998, there was a famine so severe that it starved between 220,00 to 4,000,000 people to death.

In so many words, I am trying to communicate that life for so many North Koreans is miserable. Indeed, unless one is privileged to be a member of the party elite, life is a horror. The UN report, referenced earlier, said that North Korea’s crimes are “a shock to the conscience of humanity.” The atrocities were said to be unparalleled today in the world, and are comparable to Nazi crimes in World War II.

After WWII, when the world knew the extent and magnitude of the Holocaust, many said that if only they had known what was happening, they could have acted earlier to put an end to it. Today, those words ring false. When the world says, “never again,” does it mean anything? Strongly worded letters of condemnation and moral outrage will do nothing to alleviate the suffering of millions of Koreans.

North Korea is a nuclear power with the world’s fourth largest army, so any sort of military action should not be considered lightly. However, we must not be afraid to engage them. Moral outrage, if it is to be anything more than posturing, demands willingness to act, and, even more, to sacrifice. When did America and the West begin to shy away from things that were hard and painful? Obviously, any military conflict with North Korea will be costly, both in terms of blood and wealth, and long. But we should weigh that cost against the crimes of the regime.