April 02, 2013

The Holocaust Pt II

It’s been a while, so my apologies for that.
Gang Rim Jin

I’ve been busy, finishing a course of study, so forgive my delay in writing anything in here.

I’m ill today too, with a bout of ‘flu (well I was when I originally started to write this, a couple of weeks ago). Hence, I’m sitting at home today with time on my hands.

I've wanted to blog about this particular subject for a few weeks, but due to the studying mentioned above, I really haven’t had time. Add to that that the subject matter for today’s entry is rather depressing and therefore I have had some doubts about actually posting it at all.

It concerns North Korea. I currently live and teach English in South Korea, so maybe more than many back home I take an interest in what goes on north of the Korean border.

A Little Background

About fifteen years ago I took it upon myself to read The Diary of Anne Frank, because I happened to see it in a book shop, had never read it, and I’d heard that it’s one of those books that everyone should read.  So I read it. Of the book, I was very surprised at how posh their family was. Otto Frank, Anne’s father was a banker, and their family was very upper-middle class, and this shines through in the text. They could afford to build their ‘secret annex’ and fund themselves to live there – many everyday Jews in
Europe at that time would not have been able to afford such things.

Here is a sweet little girl, full of the chirpiness of youth; and with every revelation of her persona, in every page, you know that she will eventually die a horrible death in a concentration camp. It’s a heartbreaking read for anyone with even the slightest smattering of human compassion. Anne was a very high-spirited girl, not shy of an argument or a bit of back-chat. She was pretty and full of life - cheeky and cheerful. This is, of course, what makes the book so heart-rending, the effervescence of youthful life, contrasted with the knowledge of her death. You would have had to have been in a coma for the last seventy years to not know Anne Frank’s fate, so all the while, with every bubbling page of the typical trials and travails of a teenage girl, you’re confronted with horror. It’s like watching children die. At once she is brought vividly to life, and simultaneously starved to death. It’s what makes the book so powerful.

I was very moved by this book. I researched endlessly about the holocaust afterwards, found out everything there is to know about Anne Frank, watched every documentary, read every book, listened to and read every witness statement. To this day, there is something I do almost daily to remember it, and what it meant, and how moved I was by its words.

You may be wondering what this has to do with
North Korea. Well I think North Korea now has its own Anne Frank. This girl. I don’t know too much about her other than like Anne, she’s dead before the story starts. But just watch this video and tell me your heart doesn't break at her condition, her small voice, the desperation and hunger in her eyes. Her name was Gang Rim Jin. And she’s DEAD.

I had few feelings for the North Korean government before this. But I positively loathe them now. How can a country starve its own people? A quick scout around the internet will reveal all manner of human rights abuses taking place up there. It’s akin to the holocaust – millions have died through torture, starvation and overwork in concentration camps. There are Anne Franks dying all over the country. We know it’s happening. And we should do something to stop it.

Anne Frank’s diary, and countless other testimonies, have taught us and reminded us what we as a race are capable of, that we should never forget the past, and that if we have the power to stop these things happening in the future, then we most certainly should.

North Korea enslaves, tortures and starves thousands of its own people every year. If we’d have known (and some say that we did know) what was happening in Auschwitz in the 1940s, we’d have stopped it. Well we know what is going on in North Korea, and it’s very similar to what happened in Auschwitz and other camps. A great many people are starved, tortured, murdered. People are killed because of who they are, who they are related to, or what they believe.

I had high hopes the change of North Korea leadership a couple of years would herald a change akin to that in Russia or China over the last few decades, but he seems as bad as the previous leaders – far more concerned about playing political games than feeding his own people.

Look at this girl’s face. This needs to end.
North Korea could easily be as prosperous as its neighbours, with a well-fed and happy populace. War definitely is not the answer here, that country needs a sea-change in its outlook – a huge change in the alignment of its priorities. Feed your people and stop making bombs. It really is that simple.

If you want to do something, send a link of this video to your local MP, or representative in your country. Ask them to ask questions. Thousands and thousands of Anne Franks are dying every year, and we’re letting it happen.