Third Way refugees, East and West

Special to WorldTribune

Robert Morton, April 28, 1999

The vacuum of power in the post-Soviet western world has been filled by three men whose past should have disqualified them.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair discuss ‘Third Way.’

Bill Clinton, Britain’s Tony Blair and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder once marched against using military force to stop communist aggression. The Cold War ended and the communists apparently lost. But as proponents of something called the “Third Way,” Clinton, Blair and Schroeder have not only survived but prospered.

The “Third Way” is a con that allows left-wing politicians to lose their discredited ideological baggage and reap the political and economic benefits of free-market democracies. Unburdened by shame, they continue to posture as morally superior humanists.

“Third Way” politicians present themselves as “moderates” not radicals, and “caring” leaders to boot. They are also pragmatic – nothing wrong with that.

And these are shrewd political tacticians, all – these wagers of the Third Way War.

When they decided military force was in their interest, they played the passion card. Taking to the air waves, they decried the plight of the refugees and explained why bombing Yugoslavia back to the dark ages and later building her back up again – and all with U.S. taxpayers’ dollars – was “the right thing to do.”

North Korean Prison Camp. / FPI

Distracted from enjoying a record windfall in an economy that continues to boom while most others around the world are failing, Americans can’t help but be moved by those heartbreaking visual images from Kosovo. They felt pangs of conscience at the sight of hardy but homeless refugees – with women and children featured front and center.

But what about other refugees around the world – the hungry ones? What, for example, about those tens of thousands of North Koreans who have recently been fleeing the famine in their bizarre homeland at the risk of their lives. Crossing the Tumen river and seeking shelter in the homes of ethnic Koreans in Manchuria, they have been sought out by the not-so-“caring” Chinese communists and sent back to what by all reliable accounts is a living hell.

Official U.S. estimates put the death toll in North Korea since the famine began in the mid-1990s at two million. Relief organizations and South Korean agencies say the real number is closer to 3 million. This is more than ten percent of the population in a nation of 25 million.

But, there are no visual images of these people. This genocide might as well be happening on another planet. Reporters are denied access to North Korea and few American journalists are inclined to seek out refugees near the Tumen River in China. One reporter who did described in the International Herald Tribune how the famine had taken over every aspect of life in North Korea. All had witnessed public executions of citizens accused of theft and other crimes directly related to hunger, including attempts to flee the country.

One would think that the government of South Korea would be strongly protesting China’s blatant rejection of refugees in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948. After all they are Koreans and therefore family. But this “Third Way” disease doesn’t seem to be limited to the North Atlantic community.

Kim Dae-Jung, the current president of South Korea, was exiled by President Park Chung-Hee in the 1970s and accused of being soft on communism. As the perennial opposition candidate in succeeding elections, he is now viewed by many as the right man to facilitate unification with North Korea, a la East and West Germany. Thus his government is promoting tourism to closely-monitored and scenic areas of North Korea and is encouraging a more diplomatic approach to coping with a Stalinist regime that is in its death throes, nuclear-armed, and dangerous.

Chul-Seung Lee was also exiled by President Park, but no one has ever accused him of being a communist-sympathizer. The 77-year-old co-chairman of the National Council for Liberty and Democracy has even directly discussed with President Kim his criticism of the president’s “Sunshine Policy” towards North Korea which he fears is leaving starving refugees in the dark in terms of public awareness of their plight.

In a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, Mr. Lee asked why Augusto Pinochet can be arrested in England for extradition to Spain for his government’s crackdown on communists in Chile, while South Korean political leaders avoid even making an issue of the plight of the North Korean refugees in China. Seoul is also mum, he said, about the estimated 50,000 South Korean POWs still being held by the North in addition to 80,000 other detainees who were abducted during and after the Korean War.

Mr. Lee criticizes making the conciliatory “Sunshine Policy” toward North Korea a higher priority than ending the reign of terror under the dynastic tyranny of Kim Il-Sung and his son, Kim Jong-Il. His and other private Korean organizations are trying to call attention to a humanitarian tragedy of mind-bending proportions.

According to isolated reports in the International Herald Tribune, the London Times and the Washington Post:

* A generation of North Korean children in the region are stunted with grown men and women the size of pre-teenagers,

* Many families have sold their daughters as brides in China to save their lives and buy food for those staying behind;

* In one battery factory, there were funerals for 300 of the 4000 employees in one month. Other factories have been dismantled and all materials sold for food;

* Even soldiers have joined roving bands of thieves scavenging for food, and farmers have had to guard their fields at night;

* Jobs and families have been abandoned in the all-out search for food, and crowds of children huddle in train stations to stay warm and steal food.

Mr. Lee came to the United States this month and met with Kofi Anan at the United Nations and State Department officials in Washington to present a petition calling for the protection of North Korean refugees in China. Earlier this year, he had sent the petition to China’s President Jiang Zemin.

His is a valiant effort in a world rapidly forgetting what little it knew of the realities of communism. But in the age of spin and lacking CNN live coverage, the miracles of the Third Way are failing the proletariat across the Tumen River in North Korea.

The above column was published in the April 26 – May 2, 1999 edition of the National Weekly Edition of The Washington Times. Robert Morton is managing editor of that newspaper and a media fellow at the Hoover Institution.


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