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Gordon Cucullu- Contributor


Former Green Beret lieutenant colonel, Gordon Cucullu is now an editorialist, author and a popular speaker. Born into a military family, he lived and served for more than thirteen years in East Asia, including eight years in Korea. For his Special Forces service in Vietnam he was awarded a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Commendation. After separation from the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian affairs at both the Pentagon and Department of State as well as an executive for General Electric in Korea. His first major non-fiction work, Separated at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin, is based in large part on his extensive experience in Korea and East Asia as a governmental insider and businessman. [website] [go to Cucullu index]

Separated at Birth : How North Korea Became the Evil Twin
Gordon Cucullu

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The Forgotten People
Trapped in a prison state…

[Gordon Cucullu] 11/12/04

Veterans of the Korean War bitterly refer to it as the Forgotten War. It is their perception – far too often correct – that their fellow citizens overlook their sacrifices and successes in a conflict that was lost between the popularity of World War II and the protest marches of Vietnam. Yet today more than 50 million citizens of South Korea live in a free market democracy because of the tireless efforts of these veterans. Unfortunately Korea seems to dwell outside of our awareness. Very few among us, for example, are aware of the horrors that lurk north of the misnamed Demilitarized Zone that separates North Korea from the South. If the War was the Forgotten War, then truly the citizens of North Korea are the Forgotten People.

Homogenized and Sovietized under an unprecedented cult of personality, the people of North Korea labored unceasingly to produce Kim Il Sung’s ideal communist state. Succeeded after his death in 1994 by his erratic son, Kim Jong Il, the personality cult became entrenched in North Korea to a degree that Mao and Stalin would have envied. The elder Kim had based his regime on the much touted but hollow juche policy – that implied total self-reliance by the North Korean state. The bankruptcy of the policy matched that of a collapsing North Korea when, after the demise of the Soviet Union, it was discovered that the supposed policy of self-reliance was a shallow cover for a bidding war that a clever Kim used to solicit vast amounts of economic aid first from the Russians then from the Chinese. When the auction suddenly devolved to a single bidder the worthlessness of North Korea became all too obvious.

As the economy slid into abject poverty on a starvation scale the Kim Jong Il regime continued to pamper the dumpy dictator and his sycophants. Two million North Korean people are estimated to have starved while the regime was the single largest importer of expensive French cognac in the world. Kim Jong Il’s Japanese chef flew to Malaysia to procure special lobster and Iran for caviar to delight the dictatorial palate while hundreds of thousands of North Koreans worked as slave laborers in concentration camps reminiscent of the Soviet gulag amidst conditions of torture, deprivation and starvation. Unable to produce more than meager exports of low-quality goods, the North Korea regime turned to narcotics, missiles and nuclear weapons as means of acquiring scarce hard currency. As the masses starved North Korean farmers were ordered to convert thousands of hectares from rice and food production to opium that could be refined into heroin for export.

Untold millions were poured into R&D programs for guided missiles that were marketed to rogue regimes around the world. Several were discovered in Saddam’s Iraq by US forces. Another load was intercepted in a North Korean freighter marked for delivery to Yemen. Undoubtedly many more were missed. Meanwhile, in arrogant disregard for a treaty brokered by the Clinton administration that called for massive US and coalition assistance in return for halting a nuclear development program, North Korea continued at a feverish pace to produce an unknown number of weapons. In 2000 when confronted by representatives of the newly installed Bush administration the North Koreans admitted their violations of the Agreed Framework but refused to cease operations. Since that time the Bush policy has been to squeeze the North Korean regime through Six Party talks designed to put a united front against Kim Jong Il and back him down from WMD production. In mid-2004 the North Koreans delayed action while waiting for the results of the US presidential election. Now that they know that they will have to deal with an administration that classifies them as a charter member of the Axis of Evil we may expect to see some response.

Meanwhile, in a rare moment of unanimity, the US Congress passed and the president signed the North Korean Freedom Act, insisting among other things that human rights for the oppressed citizens of North Korea be taken into consideration as part of any assistance or dealing with the regime. Predictably this brought forth shrieks of hysterical protest from North Korea. But there is little hope that without pressure the North will ameliorate its ingrained policy of brutal suppression of its own people. Among those most terrorized by the regime are the pitiful few who manage to escape its clutches and flee into China. Once inside China they join the estimated 200,000 plus refugees whose presence frightens the Chinese. Incapable of absorbing the current refugee flow, China fears that internal collapse of the North Korean regime will trigger an order of magnitude increase in refugees. In the face of a tidal wave of a population that is chronically malnourished, brutalized and demoralized, probably wracked by a variety of illnesses, Chinese officials are near panic. Unable to contemplate what they consider an economically affordable solution, China enforces a policy of forced repatriation of North Korean refugees.

Those few escapees relate that upon return to North Korea they are asked two questions: did you come in contact with any South Koreans? Did you come in contact with any Christians? If the answer to either is affirmative they are sent to the most horrific prison camps from which few return alive. All are tortured, often to death. Pregnant women suffer forced abortion with pressurized salt-water injections. If they bring a baby to term the child is strangled or stomped to death in front of the pleading mother. Men who are not killed outright are place in forced labor conditions that virtually guarantee a slow, painful death. This is the fate to which North Korean refugees are subject. All are aware of the danger and yet many continue to defy the brutal dictatorship of Kim Jong Il and flee. A solution is for America, along with our coalition partners Japan, South Korea and Russia, to establish a series of refugee camps along the China-North Korea border. There refugees could be nursed back to health, educated in the modern world, and prepared to eventual repatriation to a third country or eventually back to a free North Korea. A similar solution proved efficacious in Southeast Asia in dealing with refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam. It could work here also and be infinitely more humane and less expensive than war.

We must assist the oppressed peoples of North Korea. The situation has gone on for far too long and is far too awful to ignore by people of conscience. North Koreans and no longer be the Forgotten People. CRO

copyright Gordon Cucullu 2004




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