President Trump praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos this week, claiming that the North Korean people loved him and were supportive of him, and suggesting that Kim “wants to do a great job for North Korea.”
The sit-down took place shortly after Trump joined Kim in Singapore for a diplomatic summit to discuss the idea of denuclearization on Monday, which Trump described as promising. Following that meeting Trump claimed that the North Korean dictator, who has antagonized much of the region with nuclear threats in recent years and has claimed in the past that attempts at denuclearizing the peninsula would be a non-starter for any peace talks, would immediately begin the process of “de-nuking.”
“It’s going to start very quickly,” said Trump, who has previously mocked Kim openly, nicknaming him “Little Rocket Man” and threatening to destroy North Korea with “fire and fury.”
When pressed on the kinds of “security guarantees” the United States had offered Kim in exchange for the promised scale-back, Trump declined to elaborate, but said Kim would “be happy” with the results.
“He’s going to be happy,” Trump responded. “His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor. They’re gonna put it together, and I think they’re going to end up with a very strong country, and a country which has people — that they’re so hard working, so industrious.”
— GeorgeStephanopoulos (@GStephanopoulos) June 12, 2018
The president’s comments stand in stark contrast to a 2014 United Nations report detailing “systematic, widespread, and gross violations of human rights” by the Kim regime.
That report, produced by a commission of U.N. investigators who faced off with non-cooperative North Korean leaders to obtain their findings, showed that several government entities were working on behalf of Kim to carry out ongoing humanitarian atrocities.
Those violations include frequent crackdowns on citizens’ freedoms of speech and religion; implementation of state-controlled media and a rejection of any independent press; discrimination on the basis of gender, class, political views, and disabilities; social isolation; and a ban on travel. According to investigators, “In an attempt to keep Pyongyang’s ‘pure’ and untainted image, the State systematically banishes entire families from the capital city if one family member commits what is deemed to be a serious crime or political wrong.”
The report also concluded that the country has experienced devastating food shortages and that the State uses food “as a means of control over the population” and had prioritized rewarding “those whom the authorities believe to be crucial in maintaining the regime over those deemed expendable.” Many of the country’s children are malnourished and the government has made a practice of arresting any children found to be migrating to the capital in search of food, institutionalizing them upon their return to their home provinces.
Officials frequently use deliberate starvation as a punishment for prisoners in their detention facilities, a practice which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people over the years.
This 2014 @UN report details the most egregious abuses by North Korea: Conditions of prisons and prison camps, persecution of religious believers, targeting of people who try to flee the country, and international abductions. https://t.co/Y0KovZdASo
— Elise Hu (@elisewho) June 6, 2018
Trump’s claim that the North Korean people show “great fervor” in supporting Kim is especially egregious when considered against the backdrop of the 2014 U.N. report.
According to investigators, anyone found to be in political disagreement with the Kim regime — as well as anyone with whom they might be associated — is in danger of being arrested and locked up in prison camps, and “disappeared,” meaning their whereabouts are kept secret from family members and loved ones.
Once locked up, prisoners are subject to brutal torture, forced labor, rape, forced abortion and infanticide, and execution.
“The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades,” investigators wrote. “The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century. Although the authorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea deny the existence of the camps, this claim was shown to be false by the testimonies of former guards, inmates and neighbours. Satellite imagery proves that the camp system continues to be in operation.”
Investigators noted that many political prisoners are executed publicly to instill fear in the general population.
Pressed on this reality during his interview with ABC News on Tuesday, President Trump appeared to shrug off the report’s findings.
“You say his people love him. Just a few months ago you accused him of starving his people,” Stephanopoulos said, citing comments Trump made before South Korea’s National Assembly last November. “Kim is a brutal dictator. He runs a police state, forced starvation, labor camps. He’s assassinated members of his own family. How do you trust a killer like that?”
“I’m given what I’m given, okay?” Trump responded. “I mean, this is what we have, and this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I met him, I’ve spoken with him, and I’ve met him. …I think that he really wants to do a great job for North Korea.”