North Korea and South Korea have recently voiced their intentions to jointly host the 2032 Olympic Games, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Kim Jong-Un engaged in talks with South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, and there is possibility of discussion with U.S. President, Donald Trump. These talks should be applauded as a progression towards world peace. This comes after decades of instability and high tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Denuclearization is a desirable outcome from the talks and is crucial to avoid warfare, which would be catastrophic for both populations.
However, peace is not just about diplomacy and nuclear disarmament. Peace is also treating every person without malice or harm, regardless of who they are. The absence of war does not always mean a peaceful environment, as the international community is learning. Labeled by Human Rights Watch “one of the world’s most repressive States,” North Korea is well-known for its human rights abuses, which include concentration camps, persecution of Christians and Buddhists, media and travel restrictions, public executions, and forced labor. However, it seems the world is so desperate for denuclearization that human rights in North Korea are no longer a top priority.
There is no sign that North Korea will denuclearize. They may say so but not mean it. Asking the international community to believe the words of the dictator is insulting. North Korea’s nuclear weapons allow them to install fear in places such as Seoul and Tokyo and it is unlikely North Korea would give this up.
While peace is always worth promoting, one must be careful in assessing North Korea. International actors are so caught up in their desire for “peace” that they forget what it means. Building peace is more than simply not waging wars, as peace is the deliberate promotion of human rights. There is no indication that North Korea is seeking to improve the lives of its citizens. That is why we, as the international community, must remain cynical even when hopeful.
If a country cannot show peace to their own citizens, there is no reason to believe they can to the rest of the world. Whilst we should continue to applaud these talks and encourage more discussion, we should also be aware of North Korea’s continuing human rights abuses.