Last week I held a press conference at The Korean-American Voter’s Council in New Jersey. I shared with them my strong feelings of affinity with the Korean community whose values and circumstances reflect those of the Jewish community in many ways. South Korea lives under the threat of destruction from a nuclear-armed North Korea, just as the Jewish people have always historically lived under the threat of annihilation, even up to this day, with a nuclear-ambitious Iran and its proxies who threaten to destroy the State of Israel. Yet both our communities have shown resilience under the ominous shadow of thug regimes. Many other parallels can be drawn. The Korean-American community exhibits hard work, entrepreneurship, and industriousness, with a strong emphasis on the centrality of education. They are devoted to the Bible and build devoted religious communities. They have an innate sense of identity and maintain the uniqueness and beauty of their culture. And recently, even ancient Jewish texts studied in Jewish religious institutions the world over, most notably the Talmud, have reached the attention of the South Koreans, who now study these works in an effort to learn from the timeless wisdom passed down from the Jewish Sages of old.
I have personally written numerous columns protesting the world’s relative inaction as Iran moves closer to attaining the bomb while continuously threatening to destroy a fellow UN member state and funding terrorists organizations who revel in murdering Jews. And I must also ask, how is it that the world has allowed an evil and murderous regime like North Korea to continue its policies of aggression towards its neighbors and its own people without hardly any word of serious consequences.
In our news outlets, we look at this subject almost comically when we read about the recent failure of North Korea’s missile test, that after launch broke apart and fell into the Yellow sea. The lighthearted tone taken to the subject was added by the fact that the failure of the test was unknown to the North Korean minders assigned over the foreign press, who were forced to ask the foreign journalists normally kept under tight watch whether the rocket had launched or not. Yet we must all realize the true evil we face from this nuclear-armed regime. Kim Jong-Un, the new Korean tyrant, seems intent as being as wicked as was his evil father. An LA times report already spells out the executions and tyranny that he has unleashed on his country in an effort to assert his power. Here we have a man in his twenties intent on being another Joseph Stalin and Bashar Assad.
Yet, there is a difference. We took the threat of Saddam seriously. A man who gassed his own people was never a joking matter. Likewise, there has been no comedic perspective over the slaughter of the Syrian people happening at this very moment. Yet, for some reason North Korea doesn’t come across as such a pressing matter that must be dealt with forthwith.
When we look at the figures we may want to think again. It has been estimated that between 2.5 to 3.5 million Koreans have died of starvation in the last twenty years alone. One can be forgiven if one sees these as genocidal numbers.
The WFP has estimated that 3.5 million North Koreans are today short of food. Widespread ailments and disease caused from malnutrition have effected huge segments of the population. And yet, the estimated cost of the latest failed rocket launch was $800 million. That sum in itself would have been enough to eradicate starvation from North Korea for years to come. And what we must come to realize is that what is occurring today in North Korean is caused directly by a brutal and murderous regime. The lack of food and starvation are easily preventable and only occur because they are organized and commissioned by the North Korean government itself.
This is reminiscent of the “holodomor” which translates literally as the “killing by hunger” that occurred under Stalin’s collective farming program that led to the deaths of an estimated 11 million people in the Soviet Union, most of whom were in the Ukraine. During these years the US along with the rest of the Western world sat by passively and allowed Stalin to commit this more passive form of mass murder. The United States under President Roosevelt even chose to officially recognize Stalin’s communist government, and Russia was inducted into the League of Nations by the West the very next year in 1934.
Even today history has repeated itself in how we’ve dealt with North Korea. In 1994 then President Clinton sent Jimmy Carter – a man who rarely met a tyrant he did not seek to appease – to North Korea on a peace mission to try to come to some accommodation with the North and have them stop their uranium enrichment. The mission met with “success” as then President Kim Il Sung agreed to dismantle his nuclear program in exchange for aid and other concessions from the US government. Yet these agreements fell apart under the Bush administration, who labeled North Korea a part of the “axis of evil” after having strong suspicions that the North had been enriching uranium, which it then used to eventually build its own nuclear weapons.
So why haven’t we done more to help the innocent people of North Korea who must live under fear and tyranny, and who suffer the specter of state-organized famines? Many will say that our hands are tied due to the fact that the North has nuclear weapons, which just reinforces how important it is to stop Iran from acquiring nukes lest we be forced into the same inactive posture. But there still must be more that we as a nation can do to stop millions of people from dying. As powerful as the United States is, we seem to sit back as the UN puts its flags at half staff when Kim Jong Il died, and it seems like diplomacy as usual when Jimmy Carter sent his condolences to North Korea’s newest dictator Kim Jong Un over the loss off his father. Carter, whose real condolences should have gone to the people of North Korea when yet another tyrant was placed over them to brutalize them, may be a national embarrassment. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to follow suit by remaining silent while a new and bloody bully slaughters his people.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi”, is the international best-selling author of 27 books and has just published Kosher Jesus. He is currently running for Congress from New Jersey’s Ninth District. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com.
Written in memory of Machla Dabakarov, the mother of a dear friend of Rabbi Shmuley, who passed away last year.