Fox & Friends weekend host Pete Hegseth claimed this week that, although North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “has” to murder his own people, he probably doesn’t actually enjoy doing it.
“He wants a picture with the American president,” Hegseth said during a segment of the show on Wednesday morning, responding to a question about why Kim had agreed to meet with President Trump for a diplomatic summit to discuss denuclearization this summer.
Hegseth added, “The sanctions are having a massive effect there, there’s no doubt. The Chinese have put the screws to him on that. The Chinese are still playing a double game, absolutely. And I think there is probably a point at which the guy who wants to meet with Dennis Rodman and loves NBA basketball and loves western pop culture probably doesn’t love being the guy that has to murder his people all day long. Probably wants normalization. Let’s give it to him if we can make the world safer.”
Fox host and Trump adviser Pet Hegseth on Kim Jong Un: "The guy who wants to meet with Dennis Rodman and loves NBA basketball and loves western pop culture, probably doesn't love being the guy that has to murder his people all day long. Probably wants normalization." pic.twitter.com/YQAcY1BXh7
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) May 23, 2018
Aside from the obvious fact that “normalizing” Kim’s brutal reign over North Korea would do nothing to make the world safer, it’s foolish to suggest that Kim has been forced to murder or execute his own people. In fact, as several human rights organizations have noted in the past, Kim appears to either be indifferent to his regime’s crimes against humanity and may even relish the brutality.
As United Nations commissioners reported earlier this year, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has committed grave crimes against humanity over the years, including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence, and forced abortion.” Kim himself has punished citizens for making contact with the “outside world,” using execution, detention, and forced labor under harsh conditions to generate “fearful obedience” from his people.
Survivors of the brutal labor camps have told U.N. investigators in the past that citizens have been imprisoned for such simple things as watching western soap operas. Inside the camps, prisoners are tortured and punished with inhumane treatment. Prisoners are often forced to wrap and bury the bodies of the dead and those who have been executed. One man told Human Rights Watch that dogs would otherwise “gnaw” on corpses left out in the open during the winter months.
According to a U.N. report in 2014, prisoners in Kim’s labor camps see so much death, it’s almost become routine.
“I’m sorry to say that we became so used to it that we didn’t feel anything,” one survivor told U.N. investigators. “In North Korea, sometimes people on the verge of dying would ask for something to eat. Or when somebody died we would strip them naked and we would wear the clothes. Those alive have to go on, those dead, I’m sorry, but they’re dead.”
Hundreds of thousands of people — if not more — have died in Kim’s labor camps over the years, the report noted. Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge who led the U.N.’s inquiry into North Korean human rights abuses, called it “a very horrifying story, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen or read of since the Khmer Rouge [in Cambodia] and the Nazi atrocities during the second world war.”
North Korea has also captured citizens traveling from other countries as political hostages over the years, utilizing them as leverage in diplomatic negotiations. Recently, the country released three American prisoners being held in labor camps, after the men were detained on flimsy espionage charges. Trump later claimed the victory for himself, arguing that North Korea had bowed to pressure ahead of his summit with Kim, despite the fact that two of the mean had been imprisoned on his watch.
Trump has long wavered between threatening Kim with “fire and fury” over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions — while ignoring attempts at peace talks by his own Cabinet officials — and claiming that he alone is responsible for any diplomatic success in the Korean Peninsula.
Earlier in May, Trump claimed that “everyone thinks” he should receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the region, and was formally nominated for the award by a group of Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Mark Meadows (R-NC), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
A meeting between Trump and Kim was originally set for June 12 in Singapore, but plans have since stalled, with Kim stating that forced denuclearization would be a non-starter for any potential peace talks. Speaking with President Moon on Tuesday, Trump said there was a “substantial” chance the meeting “may not work out.”