“Never Again” and North Korea

Last week, the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea released a harrowing report that claims that North Korea is a historically bad place in which to live. North Korea’s badness is “unparalleled in the contemporary world”, and the chairman of the UN committee, Michael Kirby, even went so far as to bring the Nazis into it:

At the end of the Second World War so many people said, ‘If only we had known, if only we had known the wrongs that were done in the countries of the hostile forces’…there will be no excusing the failure of action because we didn’t know–we do know.

The implication of his claim is that the world’s people are all complicit participants in the awful things that happen in North Korea because we allow those things to happen and do not take sufficient action to stop them. This claim, which I call the “Never Again” claim, is widely made whenever any great man-made violent tragedy occurs in the world. I’d like to challenge it.

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