Human Rights,  The Left

British Marxists Who Defend North Korea

Friends of Korea appears to be a front group for the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). The RCPB(M-L) have a flyer on their web site that advertises a public meeting at 3.00pm today in London.  The talk, hosted by Friends of Korea, is entitled “Defence of the DPRK is a Must!”

Readers of the flyer can note the following claims:

  • “The DPRK is in no way a threat to peace.”
  • “The DPRK points out what is in fact the case, that the main threat to world peace and security is the striving by the United States for domination and dictate.”
  • “The people of the DPRK are forging ahead with building a prosperous country.”
  • “The disinformation about the so-called ‘human rights issues’ and the ‘nuclear issue’, and the smearing of the DPRK as a ‘hermit kingdom’, as a ‘failed’ or ‘illegal’ state, must be opposed by all democratic forces.”
  • “Kim Jong Il is the General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Chairman of the National Defence Commission, and the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. In these capacities, he has led the Korean people in solving crucial tasks in building the DPRK as a powerful socialist society, in formulating significant concepts and programmes which put the Korean people in control of their own destiny, and in building the military defence of the DPRK which sets in motion the initiative of the Korean people in making the DPRK impregnable against imperialist aggression.”

The spokesperson of the RCPB (M-L) is Chris Coleman. He was interviewed on BBC Radio 4  in 2004 by Matthew Parris. The following exchange occurred:

Matthew Parris:

Q: I see part of your programme is a movement for the peaceful unification of Korea. Do you support North Korea?

Chris Coleman:
A: Very much. I have been there three times. There are the most dreadful lies told about North Korea. I think the North Korean people have a great history – against the Japanese, fighting for their independence. And if you went there I think you would be surprised at the level of the standard of living, despite all the difficulties – of natural disasters, blockade, American threats.

Matthew Parris:
Q: Would you like to see the United Kingdom living under a government like that of North Korea?

Chris Coleman:
A: If – and I am sure the time will come – we develop socialism here, the people here will decide what type of socialism it is.

Matthew Parris: Are you sure the time will come?
Chris Coleman: I am sure, yes.

For some reason, those who wrote the flyer for today’s meeting left out the following information provided by Human Rights Watch:

The North Korean government ranks among the world’s most repressive, and it respects hardly any basic human rights. Pyongyang denies its citizens the freedoms of information, association, religion, organized political opposition and labor activism. The regime arrests and tortures them arbitrarily and runs large-scale prison camps for those who are accused of having committed a political offense.

The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps: Prisoners’ Testimonies and Satellite Photographs is an interesting report on North Korea’s prison camps. It was written by David Hawk of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea  in 2003. The preface was written by Anne Applebaum who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book that documented the Soviet prison camp system, Gulag: A History. In her preface to Hawk’s report, Applebaum compares the North Korean prison camp system to that of Stalin’s Gulag:

As in Stalin’s time, North Koreans are arrested for trumped-up political “crimes,” such as reading a foreign newspaper, singing a South Korean pop song, or “insulting the authority” of the North Korean leadership. As in Stalin’s time, North Korean prisoners — even children — are given ludicrous and impossible work “quotas” to fulfill and are subjected to brutal, irrational punishments. And, as in Stalin’s time, North Korea’s leadership doesn’t want anyone to know any of these details, since such revelations not only will damage their foreign reputation but also put their own regime at risk.

For those still keen to attend this public meeting supported by the RCPB (M-L), the flyer informs readers that they can travel on “British Rail.” I guess that this  is a comparatively minor error in the leaflet.  British Rail was privatised in the mid 1990s and ceased to operate any services by 1997.