In a chilling lecture at the Michigan League yesterday, a former North Korean citizen and current George Mason University professor described problems with North Korea that go far beyond a lack of food, electricity and running water.
Hyun-Sik Kim, who served as a tutor to the country’s ruling family during the Korean War, called current North Korean leader Kim Jong Il a “monster” who has suppressed the human rights of the country’s citizens while brainwashing them to believe that they are “the happiest people in the world.”
“There is no such thing as humanity in North Korea – or human rights,” Hyun-Sik Kim said at the event. It was hosted by Liberty in Korea, a University student group.
He described the country’s thorough political indoctrination as leading citizens to believe that the country’s first communist ruler Kim Il Sung is God, his son Kim Jong Il is Jesus, and the People’s Party is the Holy Spirit. The few radios still available to the North Korean public are permanently set to government channels so citizens have no access to information from the outside world, the professor said.
Many of the nation’s problems derive from the rule of Kim Jong Il, Hyun-Sik Kim argued. Despite his criticisms of the former leader, he described Kim Il Sung, the Communist leader who led North Korea from 1948 until his death in 1994, as a man with “a warm heart.”
Kim Jong Il’s nuclear program has made North Korea an object of concern on the world stage. The country conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, and claims to have made several more nuclear weapons.
Hyun-Sik Kim said he didn’t expect the North Korean nuclear threat to disappear in the near future. With North Korea’s disastrous economic situation, a nuclear arsenal might be the only way Kim Jong Il could withstand political pressure from abroad.
“That’s the last card he has,” Hyun-Sik Kim said.
Hyun-Sik Kim said he was especially concerned about the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology because it has actively recruited nuclear engineering and physics professors. He said he suspects that the university’s professors are working nuclear bomb technology.
Although the country is functionally closed to the United States, Hyun-Sik Kim said he hopes University students will visit North Korea to teach and rebuild the country’s infrastructure once the country is reunified with South Korea or overthrows its government. He wouldn’t say how safe he thought it would be to try teaching there now.
Hyun-Sik Kim said his greatest hope is to become a teacher in North Korea again. He is currently working to compile a North Korean-English dictionary.