Even in a world where the stifling of man’s natural rights is numbingly common, North Korea stands out for its ghoulishness, cruelty, and total disregard for human dignity. That’s what made me want to learn about it in the first place, the sheer scale of the atrocity happening there. One night on my first visit to Seoul a year and a half ago the enormity of it became distressingly real. I was standing outside the apartment where I was staying when I realized that, hypothetically, I could drive just a few hours north and find a fully functioning analog of Buchenwald; an active concentration camp in the 21st century. At the very moment that I was bundled up in a warm parka with a full belly enjoying a cigarette, over a hundred thousand people just like me were shivering, starving, and doomed to hopelessness and slow death [in prison camps]. Millions more struggled to survive knowing that the slightest error in speech or act would send them there too. I knew then that I could no longer be a mere observer to this.
Seven months after that night I was in Seoul again as an exchange student and got my chance, first by volunteering at NKSC’s speaker series and then moving into the internship a few months later. Not everyone can do the glamorous hero stuff, especially in this twilight struggle. Somebody needs to maintain the websites, write and edit the reports, raise the funds, and do all of the administrative and logistical tasks vital to the main effort. I wasn’t the guy swimming across the Tumen with a ziplock bag full of USBs dodging border guards. I was the guy making sure that the swimmer got what he needed to do the job and making sure that the rest of the world knew why he was doing it.
The Kim Regime’s days are numbered. North Korea’s moribund economy and its subjects’ increasing independence of mind will bring it down within my lifetime. One day, when Korea is whole and free once again and the camps are shuttered, those of us who worked to make it happen will look across the opened DMZ knowing the satisfaction of having done our part. I’m proud to count myself amongst them.