Thursday, June 16, 2005

North-Korea: Amnesty needs no other causes

In my role as an emergency doctor, I also visited a number of other medical institutions besides the ten hospitals and three orphanages to which I was assigned. In every locale, I witnessed horrific conditions. There were no bandages, no scalpels, no antibiotics, no operating rooms—only ramshackle wooden beds supporting starving children waiting to die. Doctors used empty beer bottles as vessels for intravenous dripping. Safety razors were used as scalpels. I even witnessed an appendectomy performed without anesthesia. Meanwhile I found out, through my own investigations, about government storehouses and diplomatic shops carrying large stocks of bandages and other medical supplies for privileged classes.

There are two worlds in North Korea: One is the world of senior military officers, Communist Party members, and the country’s ruling elite. They enjoy a lavish lifestyle, fancy restaurants, diplomatic shops with European foods, nightclubs, even a casino.

The world for ordinary people in North Korea is completely different. In their world, one can see young children, undersized, undernourished, mute, with sunken eyes and skin stretched tight across their faces, wearing uniform blue-and-white-striped pajamas. Anyone who’s seen pictures of Dachau or Auschwitz would find the scene distressingly familiar.

Most of the patients in the hospitals suffer from psychosomatic illnesses. They’re worn out by compulsory drills, innumerable parades, mandatory assemblies beginning at the crack of dawn, and constant, droning propaganda. They are tired and at the end of their tether. Clinical depression is rampant. Alcoholism is common. Young adults have no hope, no future. Everywhere you look, people are beset by anxiety.

Everyday workers and farmers are starving and dying. Unwarranted arrest and detention are common, and one can only imagine what the conditions are like in the so-called “reform institutions,” where entire families are imprisoned when any member does or says something to offend the regime. These camps are closed to all foreigners, even to stringently non-confrontational organizations like the International Red Cross. If the main “medical” diagnosis of North Korea’s sick society is fear and depression brought about by a horrendous government, what is the cure?
But Amnesty International published its annual report with its outrageous focus on the US.

Read more on the world's worst human rights offenders
here. I would come to respect AI if they dedicated themselves to N-Korea, and its sponsor, China.


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