Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said in testimony to the U.S. Congress that “no totalitarian regime of the last century has exercised a greater degree of absolute control over its society” than that of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il.
Radios and televisions in Communist North Korea are built to receive only state-approved stations, and modifying a set to receive foreign broadcasts is a crime. North Koreans must get travel permits to move outside their towns and villages, and travel between provinces is severely restricted to prevent the spread of information.
For the slightest infraction, North Koreans can be sent to one of the regime’s ten concentration camps, which are thought to hold up to two-hundred-fifty-thousand prisoners. Some of the camps are for inmates that the regime considers “redeemable,” while other camps hold those deemed “expendable.” As Mr. Natsios said, “expendable” prisoners “are never expected to leave the camp and usually die of malnutrition, exhaustion, and abuse.” According to Felice Gaer, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, religious prisoners in North Korea are often beaten and sometimes tortured to death if they refuse to renounce their faith.
During the 1990s, the North Korean regime’s statist economic policies contributed to a famine that killed more than one million people. As U-S-A-I-D Administrator Natsios points out, so-called enemies of the regime were made to suffer disproportionately from the famine:
“In fact, they kept a food distribution [system] basically that fed people who were in the elite class that ran the country or people whose loyalty was not questioned. The people who came from ‘questionable’ backgrounds or were ‘disloyal’ or were former prisoners who survived the gulag, they died at higher levels.”
As Felice Gaer of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said, North Korea is “a humanitarian disaster of unimaginable proportions.”