In a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly, President Donald Trump contrasted South Korea’s vibrant democracy -- which respects individual rights and is one of the world’s leading economic powerhouses -- with the prison state of North Korea located just 40 kilometers [25 miles] north of Seoul. In doing so, he outlined numerous human rights abuses by the North Korean regime.
Workers in North Korea labor grueling hours in unbearable conditions for almost no pay. Despite this backbreaking workload, more than a million North Koreans died of famine in the 1990s, and more continue to die of hunger today.
And yet, in 2012 and 2013, the regime spent an estimated $200 million -- or almost half the money that it allocated to improve living standards for its people -- to build even more monuments, towers, and statues to glorify its dictators. What remains of the meager harvest of the North Korean economy is then distributed according to perceived loyalty to the regime.
An estimated 100,000 North Koreans suffer in gulags, toiling in forced labor, and enduring torture, starvation, rape, and even murder.
Christians and other people of faith who are found praying or holding a religious book of any kind are detained, tortured, and, in many cases, even executed.
North Korean women are forced to abort babies that are considered ethnically inferior. And if these babies are born, the newborns are murdered. One woman's baby born to a Chinese father was taken away in a bucket. The guard said it did not deserve to live because it was impure.
The horror of life in North Korea is so complete that citizens pay bribes to government officials to have themselves exported aboard as slaves. They would rather be slaves than live in North Korea.
To attempt to flee is a crime punishable by death. One person who escaped remarked, "When I think about it now, I was not a human being. I was more like an animal. Only after leaving North Korea did I realize what life was supposed to be."
And so, it is a tale of one people, but two Koreas, said President Trump. “One Korea in which the people took control of their lives and their country and chose a future of freedom and justice, of civilization and incredible achievement, and another Korea in which leaders imprison their people under the banner of tyranny, fascism, and oppression.”
“Together,” said President Trump, “we dream of a Korea that is free, a peninsula that is safe, and families that are reunited once again.”