I just started reading Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea recounting the lives and experiences of Koreans who have escaped the north for elsewhere.

It’s fascinating. I’m only about 70 pages into it, and don’t normally recommend a book until I’m finished or close to it, but this is excellent. Written like a novel, author Barbara Demick does a great job of making their stories easy to jump into.

It raises this question for me: What is our responsibility for the plight of North Koreans?

After World War 2, a lot of questions were asked about what we (the Allies) knew about the concentration camps, and what we should have done.

What about now? The average North Korean lives in an existence that is somewhere between a dystopian 1984 style flick, and a horror movie. Paranoia, material deprivation and worshipping the false gods of the Kim family are every day experiences.

Why?

What is our responsibility for the plight of North Koreans?

The Cold War is over, but North Korea is still useful to China. North Korea exists as a buffer between prosperous, free and capitalist South Korea, and the Chinese hybrid of Communism, one-party rule and state controlled capitalism.

Only China can affect North Korea, some say. But what about American  consumers who buy goods (like my iPhone) made in China?

I don’t know what the solution is. I’m certainly not advocating an invasion and our economic measures haven’t helped. Is it possible to pressure China?

The problem is that we don’t necessarily care about the people in North Korea. We typically discuss the (real) threat North Korea poses to the US. But do we talk about the people inside of North Korea? And even if we talked about them more, what’s the solution?

I’m posing questions, without answers. I’m typing as I think. But I wonder, when North Korea is eventually free, if they’ll ask why we didn’t do more, and how we will answer?