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Olympic Values and North Korea’s Crimes Against Humanity

In the current Olympic Charter, the “Fundamental Principles of Olympism” state that the Olympic values seek to create a way of life based on “social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,” and “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Yet when it comes to the crimes against humanity committed and continuing by the North Korea totalitarian state, and documented in a United Nations report in February 2014 too many are willing look the other way on such fundamental principles and human dignity.

In 1936, Nazi Germany held the Olympic Games in Berlin. The Olympic Charter at that time in 1933 did not address such fundamental ethical principles, and human dignity, which is also an inherent part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), agreed to by the charter nations of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. The UDHR was created after the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers in the second World War, with the charter nations calling for universal human rights and human dignity in response to “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.”

At the time of Nazi Germany’s hosting of the Olympics, Hitler had already begun the concentration camp system and Anti-Jewish racial laws had been enacted. The world began to know about The Holocaust in 1942, but the danger of “normalizing” Nazi Germany was clearly understood by those who sought to protest the U.S. and other nations’ participation in the 1936 Olympics, and called for a boycott. This call for a boycott failed, and U.S. and other nations of the world made a historic mistake in legitimizing a criminal regime, by their participation. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) reports about the immediate consequences of the failure of the boycott of the 1936 Olympics: “Once the boycott movement narrowly failed, Germany had its propaganda coup: the 49 nations who sent teams to the Games legitimized the Hitler regime both in the eyes of the world and of German domestic audiences…. With the conclusion of the Games, Germany’s expansionist policies and the persecution of Jews and other ‘enemies of the state’ accelerated, culminating in World War II and the Holocaust.” We could have taken a stand with Nazi Germany in 1936 on the Olympics, and refused to “normalize” Hitler’s Germany. But the world nations decided to look the other way at an aggressive fascist, dictatorship, in its desperation for peace. We must take responsibility for that failure and learn from it.

We must Choose Courage, and refuse to make the same mistake regarding Communist totalitarian North Korea’s continuing crimes against humanity. On January 9, 2018, South Korea representatives decided to invite totalitarian North Korea to join the February 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. The decision by South Korea to invite North Korea, in view of North Korea’s continuing crimes against humanity and global aggression, to join the 2018 Olympics rejects the fundamental principles of Olympism described in the Olympic Charter, which the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is responsible for upholding. On January 10, 2018, the IOC stated that IOC president Thomas Bach was host talks on January 20, 2018 in Lausanne, Switzerland, between the national Olympic committees of totalitarian North Korea and South Korea, as well as the IOC.

What must it take for the nations of the world, the United Nations, and international organizations such as the IOC, which claim to uphold values of human rights and dignity, to choose the courage to judge that the crimes against humanity by another nation’s leadership are simply unacceptable?

In 1936, we did not choose courage when faced with Nazi Germany and the Olympics.

Now again, in 2018, we are not choosing courage when faced with totalitarian North Korea and the Olympics. But unlike 1936, there is no excuse for the IOC and the world nations, regarding the shared values under the UDHR, the Olympic Charter. There is also absolutely no excuse of any kind for those who claim that they “didn’t know” of the crimes against humanity by North Korea.

We know. The world knows. But it chooses not to speak out for fear of being unpopular, of being judgmental, and of questioning those who seek “peace” at any cost to human rights and dignity, even empowering and legitimizing a totalitarian regime whose unspeakable atrocities have shocked the weary conscience of a jaded world.

We can evade, avoid, and change the subject on this failure of our global moral conscience, but the long arm of history and responsibility will come back to haunt those who fail to speak out in outrage.

In the case of totalitarian North Korea, the world cannot claim such ignorance regarding North Korea’s crimes against humanity, nor can the world pretend to ignore the global threats that the emboldened North Korea regime has made against the world. For many decades, the world and human rights organizations, including Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.), have reported about the human rights atrocities and crimes against humanity by the North Korea totalitarian regime. Leading organizations like the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC) and the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) have spent many years organizing public information campaigns in the U.S., South Korea, and around the world to inform the public and to gain international resistance to the crimes against humanity by North Korea.

Since 2004, the NKFC has been reporting on “an estimated 3 million North Koreans have perished under North Korea’s brutal dictatorial regime since the mid-1990s,” the North Korea starvation tactics against its own people, and how the North Korea totalitarian leadership “arbitrarily detains, tortures, and executes its citizens, including children, in a large network of prison/labor camps.” Since 2003, the NKFC has been reporting on the “The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps” of totalitarian North Korea’s concentration camps, and numerous other reports on North Korea human rights atrocities.

Yet even if the world was not aware of decades of these and other global human rights campaigns to inform the world about the North Korea leadership’s crimes against humanity, in 2013, the United Nations undertook an active investigation of such atrocities against human rights and dignity. On March 21, 2013 the United Nations Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – North Korea). The COI was established based on U.N. Resolution A/HRC/RES/22/13, which mandated the body to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in North Korea. The U.N. COI on Human Rights in North Korea presented its written report (summary and detailed) with its findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council on February 7, 2014, which it discussed in a news conference on February 17, 2014.

In the release of the extensive United Nations COI February 7, 2014 reports on human rights violations by North Korea, the U.N. COI found the totalitarian Communist North Korea regime to be responsible for “crimes against humanity.” The U.N. COI concluded that “the commission finds that the body of testimony and other information it received establishes that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State.

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation. The commission further finds that crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.” “Persons detained in political and other prison camps, those who try to flee the State, Christians and others considered to introduce subversive influences are the primary targets of a systematic and widespread attack against all populations that are considered to pose a threat to the political system and leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This attack is embedded in the larger patterns of politically motivated human rights violations experienced by the general population, including the discriminatory system of classification of persons based on songbun.” “In addition, the commission finds that crimes against humanity have been committed against starving populations, particularly during the 1990s. These crimes arose from decisions and policies violating the right to food, which were applied for the purposes of sustaining the present political system, in full awareness that such decisions would exacerbate starvation and related deaths of much of the population.” “Lastly, the commission finds that crimes against humanity are being committed against persons from other countries who were systematically abducted or denied repatriation, in order to gain labour and other skills for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

The U.N. COI concluded that “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world. Political scientists of the twentieth century characterized this type of political organization as a totalitarian State: a State that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within.” Furthermore, the U.N. COI concluded “The fact that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as a State Member of the United Nations, has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community. The international community must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has manifestly failed to do so.”

During the news conference announcing the release of the report on February 17, 2014, Mr. Michael Kirby, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights said that: “These are the ongoing crimes against humanity happening in the DPRK which our generation must tackle urgently and collectively. The rest of the world has ignored the evidence for too long. Now there is no excuse because now we know.” “At the end of the Second World War, so many people said ‘If only we had known…!’ Now the international community does know…. there will be no excusing a failure of action.” The commissioners also wrote a letter to Kim Jong Un informing the North Korean ruler that they would be recommending referring his country to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This was “to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for the crimes against humanity referred to in this letter and in the commission’s report.”

As the world learned about the United Nations Commission report on North Korea’s documented “crimes against humanity,” North Korea did not participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, while it participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

With the 2014 Winter Olympics as its background, NBC News reported on the United Nations Commission report on North Korea, with NBC News stating “so there will be no mistake, that we are living in the midst of a modern day Hitler, we are talking about Kim Jong Un, the young leader of North Korea.”

Nor was the last of such reports of the human rights atrocities by totalitarian Communist North Korea leaders and their Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, which has shocked the world by extermination tactics, starvation tactics, murder, rape, mutilation, and terror, as well as threats of global nuclear bomb and Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attacks against nations across the world, including the U.S., South Korea, and Japan.

On December 12, 2017, NBC News also reported on continuing reports from War Crimes Committee of the International Bar Association (IBA) of human rights atrocities reported by North Korea defectors, describing “generations of forsaken North Koreans, that have “endured unspeakable crimes against humanity while the world community has sat on the sidelines, well aware such crimes were and continue to be committed.”

The IBA reported about the totalitarian North Korea regime’s routine practice of murder, executions after being raped or for being pregnant, executions for taking food, executions for attempting to escape concentration camps, executions for in order to set example, torture, infanticide of infant babies, extermination and mass killings, persecution, forced labor, starvation, deprivation of food, clothing, and medical treatment, rape, sexual violence, forced abortion, enforced disappearance, enslavement, and more. NBC News reported on December 12, 2017 that “Thomas Buergenthal – a renowned judge on the committee and a survivor of Auschwitz – told The Washington Post that North Korea’s gulags ‘are as terrible, or even worse’ than the Nazi camps he experienced as a child.”

The December NBC News report stated “North Korean defectors told the committee about some of the individual atrocities they witnessed. These included a prisoner’s newborn baby being fed to guard dogs, the execution of starving prisoners caught digging for edible plants on the mountainside, and a variety of violent measures designed to induce abortions, including injecting motor oil into women’s wombs.” NBC wrote that the “International Bar Association’s report described itself as an ‘unofficial follow-up’ to a landmark United Nations inquiry in 2014, which said North Korea’s atrocities were ‘strikingly similar’ to the crimes committed by the Nazis.”

Excerpt from December 2017 NBC Report on North Korea’s Crimes Against Humanity

The IBA War Crimes Committee’s report states that “Former prison guard Ahn Myong-chol saw a prisoner’s baby – most likely fathered by a high-ranking official – fed to dogs and killed.”

Despite such inhuman atrocities against our fellow human beings, international affairs and “security” pundits including those that claim to speak for U.S. “intelligence,” seek to reassure the world that North Korea’s leadership is “rational,” and that we can and should have measured discussions and negotiations of matter of global and regional security…. as if we didn’t hear any of the horrific crimes against humanity routinely and frequently reported about North Korea.

We are expected to ignore the pattern of North Korea’s testing of nuclear bombs since 2006, and its September 3, 2017 latest nuclear bomb test estimated at 250 kilotons, as well as North Korea’s documented threat also on September 3, that it would also use nuclear bombs for “high altitude EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse)” attacks. At the same time, we are also supposed to ignore North Korea’s aggressive pattern of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests, which as of November 29, 2017, its Hwasong-15 ICBM can reach essentially almost all of the Earth, as well its aggressive submarine launched missile (SLBM) program, and recent reported testing with anthrax and chemical weapons.

Communist North Korea’s Continuing Global Threats to World Peace

So in the face of such continuing crimes against humanity and global aggression, what is the response of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and South Korea?

Their response is to invite North Korea to join in the Olympic Games in South Korea.

Surrender is Not Discussion

The “outrage exhaustion” of the world and the desperation for any avenue of peace is understandable. Every day, the world learns of new criminal acts of violence, hate, and contempt to our human rights, human dignity, and human lives. But for those who respect our shared human rights, there must be some boundary of moral integrity that we must judge actions and atrocities as unacceptable, regardless of our “disconnect” from “world events” or “politics.”

There are those who state officials in South Korea view North Korea’s potential participation in the Olympics as a “turning point” for talks on other security issues.

Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) sees the surrender in inviting North Korea to have participation in the Olympic games, despite its well documented crimes against humanity, as a “turning point,” as well, but not the turning point that some pundits and some South Korea officials might. R.E.A.L. sees the 2018 Olympics invitation to embolden totalitarian North Korea, despite its documented crimes against humanity and despite its nuclear and EMP threats, to be a “turning point” much like the 1936 Olympics was to embolden Nazi Germany.

Given the grave threats of weapons of mass destruction by North Korea against the world with nuclear, biological, chemical, and EMP weapons, the world understandably is looking for avenues to pursue peace. There is “no peace without justice.” The idea that we can turn a blind eye to North Korea’s crimes against humanity in the unrealistic hope that North Korea’s dictator will surrender his nuclear weapons and missile dishonors the credibility and integrity of world powers and international organizations. Turning a blind eye to North Korea’s crimes against humanity undermines the shared values of human rights and human dignity on which any genuine peace must be built.

There is always value in discussions, but we know from history what legitimizing a criminal totalitarian regime leads to.  We support discussions, but not surrender on moral integrity or security. The argument that we do not know about North Korea’s atrocities, or that the crimes of other nations are somehow equivalent to the inhuman crimes against humanity by the North Korea authorities fools no one. Make no mistake, we know it is wrong.

There are those who believe such Olympic participation to legitimize the infamous, totalitarian North Korea regime, will work to help further “peace in our time.” We have heard this before, and the pathway of moral relativism does not lead to peace, because its foundation rejects the human rights and human dignity on which the peace in a cohesive society must be built.

When we surrender on human rights in desperation for peace at any cost, to those responsible for crimes against humanity, we only empower those criminals who believe we do not have the courage to work for human rights and dignity, that is necessary for any lasting peace. Human rights and dignity cannot be honored with a relativism that blindly and deliberately ignores crimes against humanity.

South Korea, the IOC, the United States of America, the world nations, and the world’s athletes know better. The world athletes in the Olympics should not be forced to disgracefully compete against those from criminal nations that throw infant children to be eaten by guard dogs. If we have lost the ability to even judge THIS as wrong, then such refined principles as sportmanship and fairness in the Olympics or any other part of life are also long abandoned as well. As human beings, we must have the ability to recognize that crimes against humanity are unacceptable to all people, in every nation, and in every area of expertise.

Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) calls for the South Korea and the IOC to change their stance on the participation of totalitarian North Korea in 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang. R.E.A.L. also calls for the world athletes and world nations to boycott the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, if North Korea is allowed to participate, in violation of the Olympic Charter’s fundamental principles on “social responsibility” and “human dignity.”

We know better than this. We are better than this. Let us take a stand on moral integrity when it comes to the 2018 Winter Olympics and the crimes against humanity by totalitarian North Korea. Condemn North Korea’s crimes against humanity, reject its participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics, or boycott the 2018 Winter Olympics. The world must stand by its commitment to “Never Again.”

History will remember our choices.

Choose Courage.



Olympic Charter – September 2017 – English

Olympic Charter – 1933 – English

January 10, 2018 – Yonhap News: “S. Korea wants to hold working-level talks with N.K. on Olympics this week”

January 10, 2018 – Yonhap News: “PM: N. Korea expected to send 400-500 people to PyeongChang Olympics”

January 10, 2018 – Reuters: “IOC to host talks on North Korean participation on Jan 20”

North Korea at the Olympics

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

United Nations – Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

February 17, 2014 – U.N. Commission of Inquiry Press Conference – Video Except

Report of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea -­ A/HRC/25/63 – English (summary, 36 pages)

Report of the detailed findings of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea -­A/HRC/25/CRP.1 – English (detailed, 372 pages)

NBC News – February 17, 2014 – (Broadcasting at Sochi Olympics): “UN Documents North Korea’s ‘Unimaginable Cruelties'”

NBC News – December 12, 2017 – “North Korean gulags ‘as terrible, or even worse than Nazi camps, Auschwitz survivor says”

Washington Post – December 11, 2017: “North Korea’s prisons are as bad as Nazi camps, says judge who survived Auschwitz”

North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC)

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK)

HRNK: The Hidden Gulag – latest edition

International Bar Association (IBA) War Crimes Committee – North Korea: the international response

International Bar Association (IBA) War Crimes Committee – Report: Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korean Political Prisons

R.E.A.L. Blog Postings on North Korea

February 5, 2013 – New York Times: a “new propaganda video, posted Sunday on a Web site and a YouTube channel that serve as outlets for North Korean state media, shows a computer-animated representation of Lower Manhattan in flames as bombs rain down.”

July 29, 2014 – AFP: “North Korea threatens nuclear strike on White House”

May 7, 2015 – Independent: “North Korea threatens nuclear attack on US” – “A North Korean official claims the country has long range missiles”

September 9, 2016 – CNN: “North Korea’s nuclear tests are getting more powerful”

March 13, 2016 – Washington Post: “North Korea claims it could wipe out Manhattan with a hydrogen bomb” – North Korea: “If this H-bomb were to be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile and fall on Manhattan in New York City, all the people there would be killed immediately and the city would burn down to ashes”

March 26, 2016 – CNN: “North Korea threatens nuclear strike” – North Korea: “If the American imperialists provoke us a bit, we will not hesitate to slap them with a pre-emptive nuclear strike”

March 7, 2016 – North Korea Times: “North Korea nuclear war threat over US-South Korea military exercises”

March 27, 2016 – North Korea threatens nuclear strike on DC in video

September 3, 2017 – KCNA: “Kim Jong Un Gives Guidance to Nuclear Weaponization”

September 13, 2017 – Straits Times: “North Korea’s latest nuclear test yield estimated at 250 kilotons: US monitor”

September 13, 2017 – Reuters: “North Korea threatens to ‘sink’ Japan, reduce U.S. to ‘ashes and darkness'”

September 12, 2017 – North Korea States Nuclear War Acceptable To Destroy USA, Threatens Other Nations

November 5, 2017 – North Korea’s EMP Catastrophic Terror Threat Against The World

November 28, 2017 – Business Insider: “North Korea just tested a missile that experts say could reach anywhere in the US”

November 29, 2017 – Washington Post: “North Korea could now almost certainly strike London or Berlin.”

November 30, 2017 – Hwasong-15 missile est ability to hit targets within 13,000 kilometers. Image radius from Pyongyang.

November 30, 2017 – 38 North: “The New Hwasong-15 ICBM: A Significant Improvement That May be Ready as Early as 2018”

December 1, 2017 – 38 North: “North Korea’s Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile Program Advances: Second Missile Test Stand Barge Almost Operational”

December 19, 2017 – Bloomberg: “North Korea Begins Tests to Load Anthrax Onto ICBMs, Report Say”

USHMM – The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936

April 17, 2017 – The Independent: “Allied forces knew about Holocaust two years before discovery of concentration camps, secret documents reveal”