North Korea is the most odious regime on earth by an incredibly long margin. Iran, Zimbabwe and Turkmenistan are shining lights of freedom, prosperity, rule of law and moderation by comparison. Yet, for some reason, it gets precious little attention from the likes of Amnesty International, the left inclined protest movement (all too keen to care about Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan) or indeed the international community.
Hitchens notes how much propaganda from North Korea carries racist depictions of Japanese and Americans, akin to the imagery the Nazis produced in the 1930s about Jews (this new book apparently describes the racist dimension of North Korea). North Korea also bemoans the impurity of South Korea, which allows Koreans to breed with foreigners - North Korea forces local women who are pregnant by Chinese to have abortions. Of course nationalism is always an easy refuge for the totalitarian. It was seen vehemently in the Khmer Rouge, it is still seen in China, and was long seen in the Soviet Union. The fraternity of socialism didn't wash when African Marxists visited Maoist China, or indeed North Korea, both countries where black people are both rare and seen as being inferior. The kleptocracies in Africa today accepting Chinese money for minerals don't pause to think about how they see themselves.
North Korea is a slave state, a prison society where the average height is six inches shorter than in South Korea. It is dependent upon shutting the entire population away from comparing their lives with the outside world, except for a clique around the family that runs the place. They enrich themselves enormously by selling minerals, weapons and whatever else the enslaved masses can extract for them at high cost and little benefit. It is a society where the concepts of truth, honesty and openness have been so wholly bastardised that the psychological damage is incalculable.
By what means does one live knowing that when things go wrong, there is no one to complain to, that when injustice is done, it is better to agree with it and support it, than to challenge it. That no one must be fully trusted, and everyone is expected to spy on everyone else. You included are expected to engage in this monument of telling on your fellow citizens for "crimes" that may not have happened, because to fail to do so implicates you, and you may well be the receipt of such accusations.
How do generation after generation live in a constant state of near war, constantly told attack is imminent, as is victory against forces depicted as demons (Japanese, American and South Korean). That the constant sacrifice is due to this perpetual state of war, that never actually happens, except in news reports of fabricated skirmishes and atrocities.
Where does human creativity, innovation and intelligence go when you are raised and taught to treat two men (one dead) as virtual gods, for whom you are to be grateful for everything, and who know everything and are infallible. Whilst all art, culture, literature and indeed industry are dedicated to glorifying them, and in following their guidance. When all learn that everything you create is to be shared and used by all others, and you are to get next to no credit, but meanwhile all around you struggle to eat, stay warm in winter and live in conditions unchanged for decades.
Finally, where is humanity when it is clear that those who challenge, question or are unconventional, simply disappear. Where there is unrestricted power by the state and all its forces to arrest, torture, imprison, kill and intervene in all aspects of daily life. Where whole families including babies are sent to prison camps for alleged political or economic crimes of one, and where you are constantly told you are the luckiest people on earth, and the rest of the world is in chaos, crime ridden and starving. Where compassion and mercy are only ever granted by the two official gods, and going against the unlimited list of rules, laws and taboos deems one an enemy of the state, the party, society and by necessity, neighbours and family. It is long known, for example, that no disabled people are ever seen in the capital Pyongyang. Given the record of similar regimes in treating the disabled, and given this is a state that imprisons small children in gulags, there is nothing it is not willing to engage in.
So to expect change from this regime is absurd, until Kim Jong Il dies and there is a coup to defeat his successor. North Korea will not give up its store of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, it will not disarm and it will not allow transparent inspection of its nuclear facilities to enable a peace treaty with the USA, until the regime collapses or is dismantled from within.
Military action is futile and excessively dangerous, although it could never win a war against the technology, firepower and capability of South Korea, the US (and Japan if attacked), it could inflict damage on a scale that could take the lives of millions in South Korea and Japan.
It did not attack South Korea during the latter years of the Cold War, because it was so closely aligned to Moscow. Today it does not attack because it fears massive retaliation, of a kind that I would hope President Obama would be unafraid to inflict if North Korea tried.
That fear must be maintained, for a regime that has tolerated the deaths of millions of its citizens, and is willing to treat the remainder like insects. However, in the meantime it deserves to be humiliated and challenged for its treatment of its own citizens as guinea pigs and slaves in ways that would have been familiar to the Nazis and indeed the pre-1945 militarist Japanese.
This should be the number one human rights priority of all those who claim to give a damn about individual dignity, freedom and humanity. Finally, it would be nice if North Korea's useful idiots abroad were humiliated for what they are - supporters of one of the most blood thirsty cruel and dishonest regimes on the planet today. They should be ostracised like Nazi sympathisers, because in truth, they are worse - for the Nazis were defeated in 1945.