Defend Socialistic North Korea!
FREE CHAN HAN CHOI!
Free a Pro-North Korea Political Prisoner in Australia!
14 March 2018: Like in other capitalist countries, the government and mainstream media in Australia make wild claims about supposedly gruesome “prison camps” in North Korea (the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea – the DPRK). Yet, there is little evidence for this. The main supposed “evidence” are the stories of a few of the defectors from North to South Korea. Yet only a small percentage of the defectors make such claims. Moreover, even though these defectors represent that tiny proportion of North Korean citizens who think that life would be better in the capitalist world – if only because North Korea’s people have been so squeezed by severe UN sanctions – hundreds upon hundreds of these defectors actually end up going back to North Korea because they find life in the capitalist South so harsh and unfriendly! And that is very telling. Because for a defector to return they have to undergo great risk to sneak past a brutal South Korean regime that actually jails any person who is caught trying to return to North Korea. The few defectors who do make claims about “human rights” atrocities are those eager for the celebrity status and the resulting fortune that their tales of “suffering” can bring them in a South Korean society ruled by an ultra-rich capitalist class eager to demonise the socialistic DPRK. Moreover, many such high profile defectors have famously slipped up by accidentally contradicting their own earlier accounts; thus proving that their tales are indeed inglorious works of fiction (see for instance: http://thediplomat.com/2014/12/the-strange-tale-of-yeonmi-park/).
Yet, while most of the claims against North Korea are bogus, there is something that is patently true: and that is that there is right now a supporter of North Korea who is a political prisoner in Australia. This pro-DPRK person who is being jailed by the Australian regime is 59 year-old, Chan Han Choi. He is an outspoken sympathiser of the DPRK. Chan Han Choi is a working class Australian who rents a dwelling in Sydney and worked as a hospital cleaner until his arrest by the Australian Federal Police last December. Neighbours describe the now imprisoned man as “polite”, “nice” and “softly spoken.”
However, Chan Han Choi faces decades in jail after Australian police arrested him on charges of attempting to raise money for the DPRK – in violation of UN sanctions – by trying to broker the sale of North Korean coal to private buyers in Vietnam and Indonesia. They also claim that he discussed the sale of North Korean technology and expertise to overseas buyers, which they allege could have been used for missile componentry and guidance. Thus, they claim that he violated Australia’s hypocritical weapons of mass destruction act. Australian Police admit that he did not actually sell anything, just supposedly planned to. We have no way of knowing whether the claims are based on fact. But given the racist, anti-working class and pro-capitalist bias of Australia’s legal system we wouldn’t be surprised if Chan Han Choi is simply being persecuted for what, basically, amount to thought crimes. Yet, even if the claims against him turn out to be partially or fully true, he is no criminal from the standpoint of the Australian – and, thus, international – working class. Quite the opposite! In that case, Chan Han Choi was simply trying to help people being ground down and potentially starved by some of the most severe sanctions ever imposed on any country. These sanctions imposed at the behest of the U.S., Japanese, Australian, South Korean and other capitalist regimes ban 90% of all North Korean exports – including her main exports coal, textiles and iron ore and other minerals. They also ban all North Koreans from working abroad, freeze out the DPRK’s financial entities and limit North Korean people’s import of crude oil and refined petroleum products. Similar UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in a thirteen year period from 1990 are estimated to have caused the death of up to two million Iraqis (!!) due to increased rates of malnutrition, lack of medical supplies and diseases from lack of clean water. The U.S., British, Australian and other imperialist countries that pushed these sanctions actually killed even more people from the sanctions than they did from their subsequent brutal invasion of Iraq. Even the UN’s own agency, UNICEF, estimated that the first eight years of the sanctions alone had caused such an increase in infant and child deaths in Iraq that it led to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five (https://www.unicef.org/newsline/99pr29.htm). If what the Australian regime allege Chan Han Choi did turns out to be true, he was laudably trying to save the children of North Korea, their mothers and the other people of the country from meeting a similar fate.
However, what Chan Han Choi allegedly tried to do was not only a selfless act of humanitarianism. If he, indeed, did try to enable the North Korean people to sell items to raise money he was, importantly, standing by a workers state. The DPRK is a socialistic state based on public ownership. The system of collective ownership of the means of production in North Korea means that the DPRK is, even when faced with the most extreme sanctions, able to provide jobs for all its workers as well as genuinely free education, free health care and almost free housing to all its people. To be sure, the workers state in North Korea is bureaucratically deformed – mainly as a result of intense imperialist pressure and isolation in a capitalist-dominated world. Nevertheless, the socialistic state that was formed from the overthrow of capitalist and landlord rule in the northern part of Korea at the end of World War II is a huge advance from capitalism. It represents a historic gain for the world’s working class in their struggle against the capitalist exploiters; just like a workers victory in a big strike does – but in a much bigger way. Working class people of the world must, therefore, defend to the hilt this conquest. In standing by the DPRK workers state, in whatever way that he did, Chan Han Choi should be considered a hero to the toiling classes of not only Korea but to the working class and all downtrodden of Australia and, indeed, the whole world.
For the very reason that he has heroically stood by working class interests, the Australian capitalist regime is imprisoning Chan Han Choi in especially harsh conditions. He has not been granted bail since his arrest some three months ago. Even though he has not been convicted of any crime and is still in the early stage of court proceedings, the Australian regime has outrageously detained him in a maximum security jail. Moreover, they have classified him as an Extreme High Risk – Restricted (EHR-R) prisoner which is the harshest, highest security classification that can be given to any prisoner. The EHR-R category was sold to the public as a measure reserved for those considered to be an extreme risk to others and “a threat to order and security within jails” (https://www.smh.com.au/news/national/baddestofthebad-convicts–ehrr/2008/10/17/1223750306676.html). It was said to be reserved for crime bosses and suspected terrorists. Yet, Chan Han Choi not only has no violent history but is not even accused of conducting or planning any violent act.
EHR-R prisoners receive the lowest stipend to buy food and are not allowed to receive money gifts from friend and family outside prison. They are allowed less phone calls than other prisoners and these phone calls and any postal mail must be in English. All EHR-R prisoners have their phone calls listened to and mail opened, read and copied. The inhumane system is designed to make it very hard if not impossible for friends and family to visit as prospective visitors must first go through a weeks long security check and then wait to have their visit approved by the prison warden. Those that make it through to a visit are locked in a sheet metal-lined box without adequate ventilation. Chan Han Choi’s detention in the most gruesome conditions possible in an Australian prison camp are clearly an attempt to break his spirit and isolate him.
Australian Working Class: Stand by the DPRK Workers State! Oppose the Sanctions!
Precisely because the maintenance of the workers state in North Korea is in the interests of the Australian and whole world’s working class, the U.S., Australian, South Korean and other capitalist ruling classes are hell bent on destroying the DPRK. They see the existence of socialistic rule anywhere as a threat to their capitalist rule at home. And they are right! The existence of workers states – in however a tenuous and distorted form – necessarily sends a message to the working classes still subjugated under capitalism that another alternative is possible; that capitalism is not inevitable. And this terrifies the imperialist ruling classes of the U.S., Australia and Japan. Furthermore, they have a particular fixation on targeting the DPRK because over six decades ago during the 1950-53 Korean War, the North Korean masses did the unthinkable. Incredibly, they faced down and beat off a combined attack from the most powerful imperialist countries in the world: including the U.S., Britain, Australia, France and even the apartheid South African regime of that time. Ever since then, the U.S. and its allies have had a particular obsession with crushing the DPRK alongside their usual hostility to all workers states. That is what the extreme sanctions that they have imposed on the DPRK are all about. They want to weaken the DPRK workers state and starve its people into submission.
In order to deter public opposition to their threatening campaign against the DPRK, the U.S. and Australian regimes – and the big business or government-owned Western media – have been portraying the DPRK as a dangerous “threat” to peace. They even make out out that the DPRK is hell-bent on attacking Western countries with a nuclear first strike. This is a ridiculous assertion. The DPRK has made itself very clear that its nuclear weapons program is purely for self-defence. If one believes the notion that a country’s mere acquisition of nuclear weapons makes it a grave threat, what does that say for the U.S. which has nearly 7,000 nuclear warheads … as opposed to the DPRK which has less than ten and those not yet fully operational. What is more, the U.S. regime, with the support of Australian imperialism, is the only government to have ever actually unleashed nuclear weapons on human beings. We should never forget their horrific war crimes in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In contrast, although Western media have themselves stated that North Korea has long had enough conventional missiles to quickly destroy Seoul as well as other cities in South Korea and Japan, she has never even started to make such an attack. This despite all the provocations she has faced. Indeed, the DPRK has actually never attacked a foreign country. The only war she has ever been involved in is the 1950-53 Korean War when her people with the backing of hundreds of thousands of Chinese communist volunteers defended the socialistic state against the imperialist godfathers and the capitalist regime that rules the south of the country.
Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that it is not North Korea that twice attacked Iraq, that totally destroyed Libya and that devastated Serbia in the 1999 war on Yugoslavia. It is not North Korea that is committing an ongoing series of war crimes by murdering tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan (and more recently Syria and northern Iraq) through air strikes which the bombers knew would kill many civilians. No: all these crimes were the foul handiwork of the U.S. rulers and always with the direct or indirect assistance of their Australian, British and other junior imperialist partners. It is these capitalist powers that are the real threat to the world’s peoples and not at all the DPRK. What the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program does “threaten” to do is to make the North Korean people less intimidated by the menacing military “exercises” that the U.S., Australian and South Korean capitalist regimes regularly stage on her doorstep. Most importantly, North Korea’s highly effective weapons program “threatens” to make it harder for the capitalist powers to launch a new Korean War against her. That is why the Western capitalist powers are so obsessed with stopping the DPRK acquiring a nuclear missile capability.
In targeting the DPRK, the imperialist powers have in their mind an even bigger target. That target is the DPRK’s neighbour and ally, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC): the world’s largest socialistic country. Although decades of pro-market measures by China’s government has dangerously allowed capitalists to gain a foothold in China, these capitalists do not hold state power there. China remains a workers state whose key economic sectors are dominated by socialistic state-owned enterprises. It is this that has enabled the PRC to spectacularly lift hundreds of millions of its people out of the terrible poverty of its capitalist days. However, the greedy ruling classes of the capitalist powers know that the presence of such a socialistic power as China is a threat to their “right” to bully and exploit most of the world. That is why they are working feverishly to contain China’s rise and foster capitalist restoration there. The assertion that China’s development is “challenging Australia’s interests” that’s contained in the Australian regime’s foreign policy White Paper unveiled in November and the increasingly frequent government and media scare campaigns alleging that China is “aggressively influencing” Australian affairs show the efforts that the capitalist rulers are going to in order to mobilise the population behind their anti-PRC campaign; just as they manufacture the bogey of a “North Korean nuclear threat” to deceive the masses into accepting their war drive against the DPRK.
A key method that the Western capitalist rulers use to tighten the military, diplomatic and economic screws on the PRC is to menace its socialistic neighbour, the DPRK. That is why the PRC government’s policy of seeking to meet the imperialist powers half-way over the DPRK is harmful to socialistic rule in China itself. The PRC should recall the internationalist spirit of its heroic support to the DPRK during the Korean War. She must immediately end participation in all sanctions against the DPRK and, instead, strongly stand by her socialistic neighbour – including by defending the DPRK’s development of a nuclear deterrence.
Should the imperialists powers succeed in using some combination of military power, intimidation and extreme sanctions to bring down the socialistic order in North Korea they would be able to greatly embolden the forces of capitalist counterrevolution in China as well. And if the, currently fragile, workers state in China were to be smashed by capitalist counterrevolution it would be a terrible disaster for the working class and downtrodden of the world – on a par with the 1991-92 destruction of socialistic rule in the former USSR. Capitalist restoration in China would lead to hundreds of millions of Chinese people being plunged back into poverty while the country would be turned into one huge sweatshop for exploitation by not only local Chinese capitalists but by Western and Japanese ones – just like in the pre-1949 capitalist-feudal China. This would then be used as a giant wedge to drive down the wages and conditions of workers around the globe – including in Australia. Meanwhile, triumphant capitalist rulers from the U.S. to Mexico to Britain, Germany, Egypt, India, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia would be emboldened to attack the rights of workers and the oppressed in their own countries, just as they did after the overturn of socialistic rule in the USSR. That is why it is doubly important for the working class and all the downtrodden of Australia and the entire world to stand by socialistic rule in China and North Korea and to also defend the other workers states in Cuba, Vietnam and Laos. By standing by the DPRK in whatever way that he did, Chan Han Choi has taken the side of the international working class in this crucial battle. For this stance he is being persecuted by the Australian regime. The working class and downtrodden of Australia and the world must stand by him. We must demand: Free Chan Han Choi! Drop all the charges now!
Chan Han Choi should be considered a working class hero. However, we do not advocate that other working class people politically aware enough to understand the need to defend socialistic states like the DPRK do what he is alleged to have done. The reason is that the chances of getting caught are too high. Australia is a police state where the authorities engage in massive spying on the population for the sake of enforcing the interests of the big end of town. As the 2013 unveiling of classified documents provided by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, Edward Snowden, proved, the Australian spy agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), is part of a sinister global surveillance apparatus involving the American NSA, the UK’s GCHQ and Canada’s CSEC. These Five Eyes partner agencies are harvesting email contact lists, searching email content and tracking and mapping the location of cell phones of millions of everyday internet users as well as secretly accessing Yahoo and Google data centres to collect information from hundreds of millions of account holders. The Sydney Morning Herald of 29 August 2013 also reported that:
The nation’s electronic espionage agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, is in a partnership with British, American and Singaporean intelligence agencies to tap undersea fibre optic telecommunications cables that link Asia, the Middle East and Europe and carry much of Australia’s international phone and internet traffic.
Meanwhile the powers granted to the ASD, ASIO, the police and other repressive police and spy agencies are being ever increased. Therefore, covert activities to support working class interests and workers states are not the best strategy. What we need to do is to openly appeal to the interests that the Australian working class and downtrodden have in defending socialistic states in order to mobilise these layers in solidarity with the workers states as part of the fight for the workers’ own liberation.
Why a Working Class Immigrant from South Korea Living in Australia Would Want to Stand By the DPRK
When the Federal Police (AFP) announced the arrest of Chan Han Choi, the Australian media got itself all excited and jumped on the story. They made this headline news and pointed to it as “evidence” of the “North Korean security threat.” Yet, before long they realised that this story could punch a hole in their narrative about North Korea. They have spun the lie that everyone in South Korea is fearful and hostile to the North and that North Koreans themselves are desperate to escape to capitalist South Korea. Yet here is a man who grew up and worked in South Korea – and what’s more then lived in “democratic” Australia – and then allegedly took a huge risk to support North Korea in a way that, the cops admitted, sought no personal gain. On ABC current affairs programs, reporters and anti-DPRK “Korea experts” twisted themselves in knots trying to “address” this question. One expert admitted that there are people in South Korea who do support North Korea. Of course, they didn’t go into why. So let us fill in the blanks here. The reality of South Korea is that working class people there face a harsh life in that cut-throat, dog-eat-dog capitalist society. A very high proportion of workers in South Korea work as casuals with no job security whatsoever and minimal rights. Yet even with a large number of part-time workers, South Koreans endure one of the highest average working hours in the world. The brave trade unionists involved in organising to fight for workers’ rights face brutal repression. Currently, at least nine leading South Korean trade union activists are languishing in jail. Among those are the leader of the country’s biggest oppositional trade union federation, the KCTU. KCTU head Han Sang-gyun is currently serving a three year jail sentence for … organising a series of street marches that blocked traffic! Far from being the “democracy” portrayed by the mainstream Australian media, South Korea is a brutal capitalist dictatorship. Just over three years ago, the South Korean regime banned the left-leaning Unified Progressive Party (UPP) and stripped its MPs of their parliamentary seats for not being hardline enough against North Korea. This party had been the third biggest party in parliament with a vote share slightly larger than that which the Greens receive in Australia. With the aid of such repression, the South Korean regime is able to impose cruel living conditions on the working class. For example, there is no universal old-age pension in South Korea and there are large numbers of homeless people forced to sleep in train stations every night (see: http://www.trotskyistplatform.com/an-eye-witness-account-of-capitalist-south-korea/). Little wonder that the country has the fourth highest suicide rate in the entire world.
Given this harsh reality of life for working class people in capitalist South Korea, it is no surprise that there are people there sympathetic to the DPRK. Indeed, in the mid-1960s, the Western imperialists were terrified about how much sympathy there was for the DPRK in South Korea. Since, at that time, North Korea had better levels of health care, education and working conditions than the South, the U.S. was so fearful for the stability of their Cold War frontline state that they started pouring massive subsidies into South Korea. It is this aid which underpinned South Korea’s supposed “economic miracle.” Nevertheless, there continued to be a large degree of sympathy for North Korea amongst the South Korean masses up until the 1991-92 destruction of the USSR that left the DPRK isolated and led to a large drop in living standards there. Even today, the most politically aware working class people in the South remain sympathetic to the DPRK at some level. North Korea is seen by some in the South as the real, independent Korea whereas South Korea is viewed as a lackey of U.S. imperialism, founded by former collaborators with the much hated previous Japanese colonial occupiers of the whole Korean peninsula.
If the lavishly paid journalists in the mainstream media were struggling to explain why a person who had grown up in South Korea would risk his freedom to support North Korea, they were completely unable to deal with the fact that this person who had allegedly harmed Australian “national security” interests for the sake of North Korea was also someone who had lived here for almost three decades. After all, they could not pass him off as someone brainwashed by religious zealots – as they could with ISIS supporters – as sympathy for the DPRK is not based on religion. Yet, if one looks at the reality faced by working class people in Australia, especially those from Asian and other non-white ethnicities, then why someone like Chan Han Choi would want to stand by a socialistic state opposed by the Australian ruling class is not really such a mystery after all. Even as the profits of corporations go through the roof and the likes of Andrew Forrest, James Packer, Gina Rinehart, the Lowy family and all their ilk amass ever more billions, the income of most workers are not keeping up with price increases and many workers face the reality of casualisation and having almost no job security. Meanwhile, especially with governments slashing public housing, landlords are charging exorbitant rents which means that low-income workers living in urban areas are being squeezed tight. As a cleaner, Chan Han Choi would face both low pay and poor job security. In the suburb where he rents a house, the average rent for a two bedroom house is $510 per week – that’s more than 80% of the after-tax minimum wage! Who can then blame a low-income worker renting in Sydney for being sympathetic to a state like the DPRK. In North Korea, even though sanctions and threatening military encirclement severely constrict the economy and hence people’s wages, at least rent is almost free and workers don’t have to face the indignity of being bullied by greedy capitalist bosses and high-handed landlords and their agents.
Furthermore, like other Asian-descent residents of Australia, Chan Han Choi would likely have experienced the racist hostility that this capitalist society engenders. It is Aboriginal people who have always suffered the brunt of White Australia racism. In a society which churns through the unfortunate targets of racism, one after the other, almost according to the changing whims of fashion, it is Muslims who are currently the number two victim. Over the long term, however, it is Asians who have been second only to Aboriginal people in being subject to racist oppression in Australia. Asian-origin residents – especially the majority who are not wealthy enough to shield themselves somewhat from the brunt of racist hostility – face threats or even real acts of violence from rednecks on the streets, abuse on public transport, bullying of their children at school and discrimination in employment. Chan Han Choi had a lot of good reasons not to have loyalty to the Australian ruling class and the socio-political order that they have created. Indeed, so do, ultimately, all working class people in this country!
Political Prisoners and Persecution in Australia
Chan Han Choi is certainly not the first person in Australia jailed for standing by the interests of the working class and oppressed. In 2004, Victorian secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Craig Johnston was jailed for nine months for leading a completely justifiable, militant protest of dozens of union activists through the offices of two companies that were involved in the union-busting sacking of 29 workers. In the same year, several Aboriginal people and their supporters were jailed for periods ranging from a few months to up to two years for their involvement in a brave resistance struggle in Redfern that responded to the racist police murder of 17 year-old Aboriginal youth, TJ Hickey, and subsequent continued police intimidation of the Redfern black community. Then nine months after the Redfern resistance struggle, several Aboriginal people on Palm Island, off the coast of Queensland, were persecuted for their participation in a hundreds-strong uprising on the island that responded to the bashing to death of 36 year-old Aboriginal man, Mulrunji Doomadgee, by a racist cop. Several of the arrested community members were jailed including the leader of the struggle, Lex Wotton, who spent in total three years in jail. Meanwhile, the murdering policeman, Chris Hurley, got off completely free! The authorities had intended to jail Lex Wotton and the other Palm Island and Redfern Aboriginal resistance heroes for considerably longer but a spirited on the streets campaign in support of the persecuted people – culminating in a stop-work action by Maritime Union of Australia-organised waterfront workers in Sydney in support of Lex on the day of his sentencing hearing – made the ruling class and their courts realise they could not get away with even more severely, unjust sentences.
Two peace activists are also amongst the people who have been political prisoners in Australia in recent years. David Burgess and Will Saunders were each jailed for nine months of weekend detention for simply painting the words “No War” on the Opera House in March 2003, in protest at the then impending U.S. and Australian invasion of Iraq. That brutal invasion murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people and was sold on the now notorious lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. However, unlike the jailed peace activists, those who ordered and implemented the blood-soaked invasion and perpetrated the “weapons of mass destruction” hoax were never brought to justice.
Aside from jailing some of the people who have taken firm stands for the interests of the oppressed, the Australian regime carries out daily repression against many others participating in pro-working class and leftist struggles. Over the last few years, they have persecuted in the courts well over a hundred trade unionists from the CFMEU construction workers union as well as other unions. Many of these union officials and activists have received hefty fines and other punishments for the “crime” of standing up to greedy bosses or leading industrial action. Two participants in last year’s ten thousand-strong, Invasion Day protest against the Australian regime’s brutal oppression of Aboriginal people have also been fined and given criminal records. Outrageously, they were convicted for rightly attempting to protect the crowd against a dangerous and unprovoked police charge into the rally which ended up with the marauding police barging over a woman so forcefully that she was knocked into a coma and sustained a level of permanent brain damage. Of course, no police were charged or disciplined over their riotous behaviour. Meanwhile, in a few months time, four pro-working class activists will be on trial after heavy-handed riot police arrested them following their involvement in a spirited, eighty-strong union/community/leftist protest occupation of public housing dwellings in the inner city suburb of Millers Point. The struggle rightly demanded that these homes, from where the NSW state government had driven off the working class tenants, be again made available to those on public housing waiting lists or the homeless rather than be sold off to wealthy developers and speculators as the government plans. Police have also arrested dozens of activists during protests against the Australian government’s brutal treatment of refugees. In December, five activists from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance were fined a combined $20,000 for hanging banners on top of the Opera House that read “Australia: World Leaders in Cruelty #BringThemHere” and “Evacuate Manus”.
The fact is that the Australian state is far from a “democracy” where every person has an equal say in shaping its direction. Instead, it is ultra-rich business owners who through their ownership of the media and their greatly disproportionate ability to fund political parties, pay for political advertising, finance NGOs and use financial and career inducements to sway politicians and bureaucrats alike who monopolise the “democratic process” and the agenda and outcomes of elections. Moreover, the state machine which Australian parliaments administer is itself tied by thousands of threads to the capitalist elite. This racist, rich peoples’ state was originally founded to murderously uphold the dispossession of this country’s first peoples and to subjugate the poor. Ever since, whenever this state machine attacks the resistance of the masses to their own oppression – like when police attack union picket lines, courts ban workers’ strikes (as they did when they banned the Sydney rail workers strike that was to take place on January 29), the justice system persecutes union activists and the riot cops attack worker, anti-racist and leftist struggles – the institutions of this repressive machine and its enforcement personnel become ever more hardened in their role as enforcers of the current, anti-egalitarian social order. The imprisonment of political prisoner Chan Han Choi in inhumane conditions is simply a particularly cruel example of this capitalist state in action. It is notable that just two months before Chan Han Choi was arrested, the very same agency that arrested him, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), was busy intimidating the union movement. The AFP conducted heavy-handed raids on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Workers Union over trumped up allegations about union donations to political campaigns more than twelve years ago.
This capitalist nature of the Australian state conditions its “human rights” practices. Today, due to the rampantly racist nature of Australia’s justice system and continuing discrimination against Aboriginal people in every aspect of their lives, Aboriginal people are the most imprisoned people in the entire world. Meanwhile, the Australian regime locks up innocent refugees and migrants branded “illegal” in hell-hole prison camps in Nauru, Manus, Christmas Island, Villawood and elsewhere. Let’s never forget too the horrific crimes of the Australian capitalist regime in the PNG-controlled island of Bougainville. When the people of Bougainville rose up in 1989 against the arrogant destruction of their land and the refusal to pay any decent compensation by Australian owned mining giant CRA (which later merged with a British company to form Rio Tinto), the then ALP-led Australian government directed its puppet PNG government to brutally put down the resistance. They provided arms, intelligence and helicopter pilots flying as “mercenaries” to aid the war. Then they helped to enforce a cruel years-long blockade of the island. As a result, in all, some 15,000 to 20,000 people on the island were killed as a result of either gunfire or the lack of medicines and food caused by the blockade. Later, the Australian government and Australian-owned corporations Woodside Petroleum and BHP so savagely plundered the oil wealth of East Timor that the people of that resource-rich country have the highest rate of child stunting in the entire world! Figures from the United Nations Children Fund, WHO and World Bank show that 57.7 % of all children under five in East Timor have stunted growth due to malnourishment (see page 120 of Global Nutrition Report 2016, https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/130565-1.pdf )! All this due to the greed of the Australian regime and the corporate bigwigs that this regime serves.
Those Claims About “Atrocious Human Rights” in North Korea
So what of the capitalist powers’ propaganda about “atrocious human rights” in the DPRK. Other than for dubious claims from certain defectors, the main “evidence” that capitalist politicians and media present for their assertions are restrictions placed on those who visit North Korea. Visitors do face some additional restrictions in the DPRK. For example, while North Koreans freely use mobile phones, visitors must leave their mobiles in lockers at the airport before picking them up on their way out. There is a level of paranoia in the DPRK about Western visitors. However, this is a paranoia borne out of reality. The North Koreans know that the capitalist powers really are out to destroy their socialistic system and will use any means possible to do so – including by sending in agents disguised as tourists or journalists to stir up trouble. For today, the DPRK is the most embattled country in the world. Not only do her people face the most grinding sanctions imposed on any country, they also face constant threat from the most fearsome military power in the world – the United States. The U.S. has close to 30,000 troops ready to attack the DPRK across the border in South Korea. Moreover, the hard right-wing, racist U.S. president, Donald Trump, has openly threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.” The people of North Korea know that this is no idle threat. During the Korean War, the U.S., Australian and other capitalist armies actually did all but “totally destroy North Korea” (but still failed to defeat her) as they dropped millions of litres of napalm to repeatedly burn Pyongyang and other North Korean cities to the ground. Long after the war, some U.S. war criminals boasted of their deeds:
Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,’ Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed `everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.’”
The Washington Post, 24 March 2015
It is with this background that we should look at the case of Otto Warmbier, an American who was imprisoned in North Korea and died a few days after his release. Warmbier’s tragic death has been used by Trump and the Western establishment as an excuse to escalate their war drive against the DPRK. The son of a wealthy company owner, Otto Warmbier, was a university student who had the self-declared aim of becoming an investment banker. While on vacation in North Korea, he was sentenced to jail after he snuck into a staff-only area of his hotel and attempted to steal a pro-socialist poster declaring: “Arm ourselves with strong socialism.” Security footage released by North Korea shows him ripping down the poster but then abandoning it because it was too large to carry off. He later confessed to the deed saying that a member of a Methodist Church in Ohio had made a large bet with him to take down a North Korean political poster and bring it back to the U.S. as a trophy. Warmbier added that the Z-Society – a shadowy, secret society in the university traditionally based on elite, upper class students – had encouraged him in this act. The Western media screamed at the severity of the sentence given to Warmbier. The sentence was on the harsh side. However, if one knows the mass murder that the imperialists committed during the Korean War, then one can understand how North Korean people would view Warmbier’s act with the same anger that Jewish people, Roma people, LGBTI people and leftists would view a German person taking down a sign at a memorial to victims of the Nazi holocaust or an Aboriginal person would look at a white Australian who defaced a site commemorating a racist massacre of Aboriginal people.
A month into Warmbier’s sentence, he suffered brain damage that according to North Korea was caused by an adverse reaction to medication given to treat an infection. The DPRK later released him on humanitarian grounds and he returned to the U.S. in an unconscious state. American doctors assessed that his brain damage had been caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by cardiac arrest. However, even the viciously anti-DPRK Western media reported that his American physicians found no evidence of physical abuse or torture and that scans of Warmbier’s neck and head were normal outside of the brain injury. Indeed, when Otto’s grieving parents falsely claimed that his body showed signs of torture, the American coroner who had investigated the matter denied that there were any signs of torture, even adding that Warmbier had been “well nourished” and that, “We believe that for somebody who had been bedridden for more than a year, that his body was in excellent condition, that his skin was in excellent condition” (https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/otto-warmbier-had-breathing-tube-n-korea-exam-shows-n805191). Warmbier’s death was indeed tragic: for although his deed in North Korea was that of an arrogant, American rich kid he did not deserve to die for that. Yet, the most likely root cause of his death was the extremely severe sanctions imposed on the DPRK. These make life and medical care more rudimentary in North Korea than they otherwise would be; and since, as in every other country in the world, conditions for prisoners are not as good as for other residents, this makes life for prisoners poorer as well and, thus, increases the probability of prisoners getting serious infections while reducing the range and quality of available medication. In a way, what Chan Han Choi was allegedly attempting to do – easing the effects of sanctions on North Korea – would have helped people like Warmbier as well.
In the very worst case – and there is absolutely no evidence for this at all – it is possible that North Korea may not have provided an adequate quality of medical assistance to Warmbier in the early part of his incarceration (yet that North Korea was able to hand to the U.S. sets of MRI brain scans of Warmbier shows that North Korean doctors certainly did make valiant efforts to treat him later). However, even if one assumes that this worst possible variant occurred, the DPRK authorities’ treatment of Warmbier was not anywhere as brutal as the way Western Australian police treated 22 year-old Aboriginal woman, Julieka Dhu. Ms Dhu died in police custody in August 2014 just days after being imprisoned, so outrageously, for the late payment of fines! Unlike Warmbier, who the American coroner admitted showed no evidence of having been physically hurt in custody, Julieka Dhu was definitely physically harmed by police. In one case, video footage shows a police officer yank a very ill Ms Dhu violently by the arm and then cruelly leave her to flop down and smash her head on the concrete cell floor. The cop does not even then check to see if Ms Dhu had been further injured. And while DPRK authorities at least attempted to treat Warmbier’s medical condition, Julieka Dhu was cruelly denied treatment on multiple occasions – even when she cried out in pain from the severe infection that she was suffering. Yet the way the Australian media have handled the two cases could not be more different. They reported on Ms Dhu’s case as a tragic occurrence and in a small number of reports as a case of police neglect and discrimination. However, never did the mainstream media – and certainly never did any ruling class politicians – use the case to highlight the barbarity of the Australian regime. In contrast, the tycoon and government-owned Australian media railed that Warmbier’s death shows the “terrorist and brutal nature of the North Korean regime.” For Warmbier was a white American, yuppy rich man who died following imprisonment in a socialistic country. Whereas Julieka Dhu was a low income, Aboriginal woman killed by the criminal neglect and racist brutality of Australia’s capitalist authorities.
The truth is that Julieka Dhu’s case is hardly an exception in Australia. Police and prison guards here have outright murdered Aboriginal people both in and out of state custody. Eddie Murray, John Pat, Lloyd Boney, David Gundy, Daniel Yock, Colleen Richman, TJ Hickey, Mulrunji Doomadgee and David Dungay are the names of just a small proportion of the Aboriginal people who have been bashed, rammed, hung, suffocated, lethally injected or shot to death by Australian state authorities in recent years. Indeed, so many Aboriginal people have been killed in state custody that relative to the total current Indigenous population, approximately one out of every 1,200 Indigenous people have died in Australian prison camps or police cells since 1980. For the U.S. and Australian regimes to make accusations about North Korea based on the death of Otto Warmbier or based on highly contentious accounts from a handful of detectors is not only deliberately misleading, it is also the height of hypocrisy. Indeed, in U.S. prison camps the number of people dying in custody numbers from some 4,000 to 6,000 every year! This is in part because the U.S. regime is so biased against blacks, Hispanics and the poor of all races that the U.S. is by far the world’s biggest jailer. Indeed, the U.S. regime imprisons it population so much that the total number of people that it incarcerates, 2.4 million (!!), is more than three-quarters of the entire population of free-living residents in North Korea’s capital city, Pyongyang. Put another way, imagine if the overwhelming majority of the population of North Korea’s biggest city was locked up in jails – well that is what is happening … not at all in North Korea but in the United States of America!
There are a few people that the DPRK state does indeed deal ruthlessly with. These are mostly those that try to subvert its socialistic system and open the road to capitalist restoration. In this way, the DPRK workers state is acting just like staunch trade unionists on strike do when they take firm action against filthy scabs trying to cross a picket line; it is resolutely acting to defend the collective interests of the working class. In a sense, the DPRK can be thought of as one huge, more than 70 years-long strike against capitalism by its masses. It is a yet unfinished struggle because two-thirds of Korea still languishes under capitalist rule and because the workers conquest in the northern part of Korea is so threatened by imperialist powers. And just as the more up against it a workers strike is, the more harshly they must deal with strike-breaking scabs, so also the more embattled a workers state like the DPRK is, the more firmly they must deal with counterrevolutionary enemies.
Although the DPRK acts strongly against pro-capitalist threats to the workers state, it is very gentle in its treatment of the working class masses. Thus, while many Australian workers lucky enough to have a job spend a large proportion of their time worried about being bullied by their boss or about being the next one to be retrenched, the DPRK offers its masses a relaxed work life and a guaranteed right to full-time, secure employment. Indeed, this guaranteed employment, the tenderness of the DPRK state towards its masses and the society’s laid back work culture combine to mean that the North Korean state actually sometimes struggles to spur adequate productivity from its workforce!
There is, however, a more serious defect in the DPRK workers state. As well as rightly coming down hard against those trying to undermine socialistic rule, the state also represses genuinely pro-socialist elements who raise dissenting views to government leaders on various issues. It is possible – although not certain – that North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, was executed because he led a rival faction of the DPRK government (by contrast the claim made by Western Australian governments and media that the DPRK leader had his half-brother Kim Jong-nam assassinated at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport is far from proven and the killing is more likely to have been the work of Western or South Korean intelligence agencies desperate to further isolate the DPRK by poisoning her relations with Malaysia – the one capitalist Asian country that had friendly, diplomatic ties with North Korea). Suppression of alternate views from those loyal to the workers state is actually harmful to socialistic rule in North Korea – as it prevents the free discussion of ideas necessary to work out the most effective course for the embattled workers state to navigate. This lack of workers democracy reflects the fact that although the DPRK has an egalitarian system based on socialistic public ownership, there is a somewhat privileged bureaucratic layer who believe they know what is best for the country and who fear their, fairly petty, privileges being questioned by the masses. However, as long as the DPRK faces such intense threats from the capitalist powers, it will be hard for her to be re-directed onto the road of socialist democracy that the workers state needs to follow. For as long as such acute threats remain, much of her masses will be resigned to accepting the administration of a know-it-all, slightly privileged bureaucracy because they fear that any political turmoil could open the way for a far, far greater evil: capitalist restoration and the return of domination by imperialist powers. Moreover, just as any half-heartedness and weakness (even serious ones) in Australian union leaders – and even any corruption on their part – does not change the main point that trade unions are workers organisations that must be uncompromisingly defended from the capitalist bosses and their state, so too the lack of socialist democracy in North Korea does not change the fundamental fact that the DPRK is a socialistic state based on public ownership that must be unconditionally defended against capitalist military and political threats.
The U.S., South Korean and Australian governments and media have made much of the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle and the far from proven claim that he had his half-brother assassinated in Malaysia. However, we need to put any problems in North Korea in perspective. In the U.S. or Australia one does not need to be a factional rival to a political leader to be killed by the authorities. One only needs to be the wrong skin colour or a person living in poverty … and accused of being intoxicated or of infringing a traffic law! In 2016 alone, U.S. police killed 1093 people on the streets of America! (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database). Then there are the horrific crimes of the U.S. and Australian regimes abroad. Together in the anti-communist Korean and Vietnam Wars they slaughtered more than five million people, killed hundreds of thousands more in their two wars against Iraq, their invasion of Afghanistan and their more recent indiscriminate bombing campaigns in Syria and northern Iraq. Then there are the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – conducted with the support of joint U.S-Australia spy bases in Australia – which have killed thousands of civilians. The fact is that other than from the standpoint of the capitalist big end of town whom these racist, rich peoples’ states serve and that of a broader upper-middle class layer who are comfortable under the current social order, it is the U.S. and Australian regimes who are the most atrocious violators of the human rights of the world’s peoples. Compared with these regimes, the North Korean rulers come off as saints!
Australia’s Capitalist Rulers and
Their Obsession with Attacking the DPRK
It is not surprising that there is a pro-DPRK political prisoner jailed in an Australian prison camp. When it comes to attacking the DPRK, the Australian capitalist ruling class is not merely following the U.S. out of loyalty to the superpower that protects its own plunder in the South Pacific. Rather, the same motives that drive Washington’s hostility to the DPRK drive Canberra’s own enmity to North Korea. Thus, just as the U.S. ruling class is bitter that it was not able to crush a small, socialistic country during the 1950-53 Korean War, so too are Australia’s rulers. They had unleashed a massive force of 17,000 troops into the Korean War – nearly nine times what they later sent to participate in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Moreover, as an imperialist ruling class that considers the Asia-Pacific region as its “backyard,” where it should have the “right” to super-exploit darker-skinned workers and loot natural resources at will, Australia’s capitalists know that the existence of workers states in four Asian countries – China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos – is a big problem for them. For the mere existence of these truly independent, workers states in countries formerly subjugated by colonial powers sends a powerful message to the toiling masses in the Asian-Pacific countries still grinding under neo-colonial domination. It sends a message to the masses of Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, PNG and East Timor that by taking the road of anti-capitalist revolution you too can free yourself from imperialist subjugation.
This is why Australia’s right-wing government was so annoyed by the presence of North Korean athletes, cheerleaders and artistic performers during the recent Winter Olympics in South Korea. They feared that this would damage their regime’s efforts to falsely portray North Korea as a cold, cruelly oppressed society. Meanwhile, Australian warships and the Australian military continue to take part in threatening war games on the DPRK’s borders.
The Australian ruling class is also up to its neck in the imperialist propaganda war drive against the DPRK. Former Australian high court judge, Michael Kirby, was chosen to head the UN’s “Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights” in the DPRK. This 2013-2014 inquiry was meant to produce a report condemning the DPRK in order to justify further imperialist aggression against her. And Kirby duly delivered! He produced a thoroughly deceitful report based on “accounts” from gold-digging defectors and Western-backed NGOs. Kirby in the past had tried to cultivate the image of a small-l liberal. However, as a high court judge he was a top-level judicial enforcer of the racist, capitalist order. He has also been outspoken in defending the current social order in Australia. Thus, he is a raving monarchist who insists on maintaining the Crown in the Australian constitution and was one of the principal founders of Australia’s main pro-monarchy campaign group, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. Indeed, he is such a reactionary that none other than the hard right-wing, former prime minister, Tony Abbott, is not only an open admirer of Kirby but considers him a mentor (see this fawning article praising Kirby from Abbott: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/kirby-true-to-himself/news-story/1d080f4607675de6df618f3ed3a56bbb ).
As part of fighting for its own interests, the working class and oppressed of this country must stand against the all-sided campaign of the rich ruling class to destroy the DPRK workers state. Let us stand together to say: Down with the monarchist Kirby and his lying human rights propaganda against the DPRK – Down with the monarchy! U.S. and Australian troops get out of South Korea and surrounding waters! End all the war games threatening the DPRK! Close the joint U.S./Australia military and spy bases in Darwin, Pine Gap and Geraldton that are used to prepare imperialist military attacks against the DPRK and China! End all the sanctions against the DPRK! In the same way that we must always support a strike of fellow workers against capitalist bosses, we must unconditionally defend the DPRK workers state against all the military, economic and political threats that she faces. In whatever way that he did, Chan Han Choi bravely tried to do this. For this he is being cruelly persecuted. We must stand by him and demand that he be freed immediately.