In 2003 I had, along with some American lawyers, members of the National Lawyers Guild, the good fortune to be able to travel to North Korea, that is the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, in order to experience first hand that nation, its socialist system and its people.
The joint report issued on our return was titled “The Grand Deception Revealed.”  That title was chosen because we discovered that the negative western propaganda myth about North Korea is a grand deception designed to blind the peoples of the world to the accomplishments of the Korean people in the north who have successfully created their own circumstances, their own independent socio-economic system, based on socialist principles, free of the domination of the western powers.
At one of our first dinners in Pyongyang our host, Ri Myong Kuk, a lawyer, stated, on behalf of the government, and in passionate terms, that the DPRK’s Nuclear Deterrent Force was necessary in light of US world actions and threats against the DPRK. He stated, and this was repeated to me in a high level meeting with DPRK government officials later on in the trip, that if the Americans would sign a peace treaty and non-aggression agreement with the DPRK, it would de-legitimize the American occupation and lead to reunification. Consequently there would be no need for nuclear weapons.
He stated sincerely that,
“It’s important that lawyers are gathering to talk about this as lawyers regulate the social interactions within society and within the world,”
and added just as sincerely that, “the path to peace requires an open heart.”
It appeared to us then and it is apparent now, in absolute contradiction to the claims of the western media, that the people of the DPRK want peace more than anything else so they can get on with their lives and endeavours without the constant threat of nuclear annihilation by the United States. But annihilation is what they in fact face and whose fault is that? Not theirs.
We were shown American documents captured in the Korean War that are compelling evidence that the US planned an attack on North Korea in 1950. The attack was carried out using American and south Korean forces with the assistance of Japanese Army officers who had invaded and occupied Korea decades before. The North Korean defence and counter-attack was then claimed by the US to be “aggression” which the United States manipulated in the media to get the UN to support a “police operation,” the euphemism they chose to use to carry on what was in fact their war of aggression against North Korea. Three years of war and 3.5 million Korean deaths followed and the US has threatened them with imminent war and annihilation ever since.
The UN vote in favour of a “police action” in 1950 was itself illegal since Russia was absent for the vote in the Security Council. The quorum required for the Security Council under its Rules of Procedure, is all member delegations so that all members must be present or a session cannot proceed. The Americans used a Russian boycott of the Security Council as their opportunity. The Russian boycott took place in defence of the position of the Peoples Republic of China that it should have the China seat at the Security Council table, not the defeated Kuomintang government. The Americans refused to do the right thing, so the Russians refused to sit at the table until the legitimate Chinese government could.
The Americans used this opportunity to carry out a type of coup in the UN, to take over its machinery for its own interests by arranging with the British, French and Kuomintang Chinese to back their actions in Korea by a vote in the absence of the Russians. The allies did as the Americans asked and voted for war with Korea, but the vote was invalid, and the “police action” was not a peace-keeping operation nor justified under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, since article 51states that all nations have the right of self defence against an armed attack, which is what the North Koreans faced and had reacted to. But the Americans have never cared much about legalities and they did not then for the American plan in its entirety was to conquer and occupy North Korea as a step towards the invasions of Manchuria and Siberia and the law was not going to get in their way.
Many in the west have little idea of the destruction carried out in Korea by the Americans and their allies; that Pyongyang was carpet bombed into oblivion, that civilians fleeing the carnage were strafed by American planes. The New York Times stated at the time that 17,000,000 pounds of napalm were used in Korea just in the first 20 months of the war. More bomb tonnage was dropped on Korea by the US than the US dropped on Japan in World War Two.
American forces hunted down and murdered not only communist party members but also their families. At Sinchon we saw the evidence that American soldiers forced 500 civilians into a ditch, doused them with gasoline and set them on fire. We stood in an air raid shelter with walls still blackened with the burnt flesh of 900 civilians, including women and children who had sought safety during an American attack. American soldiers were seen pouring gasoline down the air vents of the shelter and burning them all to death. This is the reality of the American occupation for Koreans. This is the reality they fear still and never want to repeat. Can we blame them?
But even with this history, Koreans are willing to open their hearts to former enemies. Major Kim Myong Hwan, who was then the main negotiator at Panmunjom on the DMZ line, told us that his dream was to be a writer, a poet, a journalist, but said in sombre tones, that he and his five brothers “walk the line” at the DMZ as soldiers because of what happened to his family. He said their struggle was not against the American people but their government. He was lonely for his family lost at Sinchon; his grandfather strung up a pole and tortured, his grandmother bayoneted in the stomach and left to die. He said,
“You see, we have to do it. We have to defend ourselves. We do not oppose the American people. We oppose the American policy of hostility and its efforts to exercise control over the whole world and inflict calamity on people.”
It was the opinion of the delegation that by maintaining instability in Asia, the U.S. can maintain a massive military presence and keep China at bay in its relations with South and North Korea and Japan and use it as a lever against China and Russia. With the continuing pressure within Japan to remove the U.S. bases in Okinawa, the Korean military operations and war exercises remain a central point of American efforts to dominate the region
The question is not whether the DPRK has nuclear weapons which it is legally entitled to have, but whether the United States, which has nuclear arms capability on the Korean peninsula, and which is now installing its THADD missile defence system there, a system that threatens the security of Russia and China, is willing to work with the North toward a peace treaty. We found North Koreans avid for peace and not attached to having nuclear weapons if peace can be established. But the American position remains as arrogant, aggressive threatening and dangerous as ever.
In this age of American “regime change,” “pre-emptive war” doctrines, and American efforts to develop low yield nuclear weapons as well as their abandonment and manipulation of international law it was not surprising that the DPRK plays the nuclear card. What choice do the Koreans have since United States threatens nuclear war on a daily basis and the two countries that logic dictates would support them against American aggression, Russia and China, join with the Americans in condemning the Koreans for arming themselves with the only weapon that can act as a deterrent against attack.
The reason for this is unclear since the Russians and Chinese have nuclear weapons and built them to act as a deterrent to an attack by the United States just as North Korea is doing. Some of their government statements indicate that they fear not being in control of the situation and that if North Korea’s acts of defence draw a US attack, they will be attacked as well. One can understand that anxiety. But it begs the question why they cannot support North Korea’s right to self-defence and put more pressure on the Americans to conclude a peace treaty, a non-aggression agreement, and to withdraw their nuclear and armed forces from the Korean peninsula. But the great tragedy is the clear inability of the American people to think for themselves, in the face of continual deceptions, and to demand that their leaders exhaust all avenues of dialogue and peacemaking before even contemplating aggression on the Korean Peninsula.
The fundamental foundation of North Korean policy is to achieve a non-aggression pact and peace treaty with the United States. The North Koreans repeatedly stated that they did not want to attack anyone, hurt anyone or be at war with anyone. But they have seen what has happened to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and countless other countries and they have no intention of having that happen to them. It is clear that any U.S. invasion would be defended vigorously and that the nation can endure a long, arduous struggle.
At another location on the DMZ we met a Colonel who set up field glasses through which we could see across the divide between north and south. We could see a concrete wall built on the South side, a violation of truce agreements. The major described such a permanent structure as a “disgrace for the Korean people who are a homogenous people.” A loud speaker continuously blared propaganda and music from speakers on the south side. The irritating noise goes on for 22 hours a day, he said. Suddenly, in another surreal moment, the bunker’s loudspeakers began belting out the William Tell overture, better known in America as the theme from the Lone Ranger. The Colonel urged us to help people see what is really going on in the DPRK, instead of basing their opinions on misinformation. He told us “We know that like us the peace loving people in America have children, parents and families.” We told him of our mission to return with a message for peace and that we hope to return someday and “walk with him together freely in these beautiful hills.” He paused and said, “I too believe it is possible.”
So while the people of the DPRK hope for peace and security the United States and its puppet regime in the south of the Korean peninsular wage war, carrying out for the next three months the largest war games ever conducted there, involving air craft carriers, nuclear armed submarines and stealth bombers, aircraft and large numbers of troops, artillery and armour.
The propaganda campaign has been taken to dangerous levels in the media with accusations that the North murdered a relative of the leader of the DPRK in Malaysia, though there is no proof of this, and no motive for the north to do it. The only ones to benefit from the murder are the Americans and their controlled media using it to whip up hysteria about the North and now allegations of the North having chemical weapons of mass destruction. Yes, friends, they think we were all born yesterday and that we haven’t learned a thing or two about the character of the American leadership and the nature of their propaganda. Is it any wonder that the North Koreans fear that any day these on going war “games” can be switched to the real thing, that these “games” are just a cover for an attack, and in the meantime to create an atmosphere of terror for the Korean people?
There is a lot that can be said about the real nature of the DPRK, its people and socio-economic system, its culture. But there is no space for that here. I hope people can visit as our group did and experience for themselves what we experienced. Instead I will close with the concluding paragraph of the joint report made on our return from the DPRK and hope that people take it in, think about it, and act to bring on its call for peace.
The people of the world have to be told the complete story about Korea and our government’s role in fostering imbalance and conflict. Action must be taken by lawyers, community groups, peace activists, and all citizens of the planet, to prevent the U.S. government from successfully generating a propaganda campaign to support aggression in North Korea. The American people have been subjected to a grand deception. There is too much at stake to get fooled again. This peace delegation learned in the DPRK a significant piece of truth essential in international relations. It’s how broader communication, negotiation followed by maintained promises, and a deep commitment to peace can save the world – literally – from a dark nuclear future. Experience and truth free us from the threat of war. Our foray into North Korea, this report and our on-going project are small efforts to make and set us free.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”