North Korea is arguably one of the world’s most racist societies, so it’s with no small measure of irony that the country’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday bashed the United States for the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri, which has been gripped by unrest following the death of a black teenager at the hands of a white police officer.
According to North Korea, Michael Brown’s murder and the police’s response reveal "a country wantonly violating the human rights where people are subject to discrimination and humiliation due to their races and they are seized with such horror that they do not know when they are shot to death." In his parting shot, the Foreign Ministry spokesman called the United States "a graveyard of human rights."
North Korea, of course, is one of the world’s worst human rights violators. The country sends entire families to labor camps, brooks no political dissent or pluralism, and regularly tortures and executes citizens to keep them in line. Somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 North Koreans reside in government gulags, calling the country’s nonexistent "credibility" on human rights into laughable question.
In addition to that dark irony, the communist nation is also built on a deeply racist ideology. One tenet justifies the Kim dynasty’s continuation with the notion that Koreans are members of the world’s most pure, innocent race. As such, they require a strong, paternal leader to shelter them from a chaotic world. North Korean propagandists bolster this belief by pointing toward Korea’s long history of foreign invasions and the Kim dynasty’s track record of repelling its enemies.
That same line of thinking has also cultivated an enormously racist society. When in 1965 the Cuban ambassador to the country, who was black, was showing some visitors around Pyongyang, "locals surrounded their car, pounding it and shouting racial epithets," B.R. Myers writes in his book The Cleanest Race. Police had to beat back the crowd. When Dennis Rodman and a group of basketball players visited the country in January, the website Daily NK reported that many North Koreans were asking one another, "Where did they find that group of goblins?"
But in its official propaganda, North Korea would have you believe that it remains committed to ideals of socialist equality. "The protests in Ferguson City and other parts of the U.S. are an eruption of the pent-up discontent and resistance of the people against racial discrimination and inequality deeply rooted in the American society," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
The spokesman’s statement ends not with a plea for racial tolerance but with a castigation of the United States to stop lecturing other countries on their human rights records when it doesn’t have its own house in order. North Korea, the statement implies, would really just like to be left alone. "The U.S. should know that it is bound to get itself into a big trouble unless it behaves with discretion, not knowing where it stands," the spokesman said.
That too is a lie. The Kim regime needs a turbulent world and the existence of persistent enemies in order to justify its continued existence.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |