The Interview: If a film being cancelled is an outrage, what does that make the 200,000 North Koreans living in death camps?

We say "never again", but we don't actually mean it

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The Independent Online

So The Interview is cancelled. Hold the front page and cue an army of angry tweets and talking heads (myself included). Hollywood is outraged, celebs take to Twitter to air their disapproval.

The share price of major cinema chains has gone into free fall. After weeks of leaks including the new Bond script and salacious emails between execs on their leading actors, the film is too toxic to touch.

We’ve been fixated by the emails about Angelina Jolie, but little has been said on the hackers behind this act, or their motives. Sony internal pay scales have gathered more international attention than hackers (probably) emanating from North Korea, a secret state that tortures its citizens and threatens its neighbours with catastrophic nuclear war. The cancellation of The Interview is more important to us than the 200,000 North Koreans living in gulags.

We say it every Holocaust Memorial Day. “Never Again”. A statement by humanity to repent the worst crime of the twentieth century, if not all human history. We don’t really mean it. What we mean is, “never again, unless the state in question has nuclear weapons or is of short-term strategic importance”. Which is why we feel free to criticise Hollywood executives for their failure to defend the 1st Amendment right to free speech, but we have little to say about the murderous regime of Kim Jong-un.


The North Korean leadership, in part thanks to films such as The Interview and Team America: World Police (featuring Kim Jong-un’s dad) has become a pantomime villain. A pudgy figure of fun. We don’t want to engage our minds beyond this, our minds flit elsewhere at the thought of the 150,000 to 200,000 North Koreans who are living right now in concentration camps.

Each concentration camp in North Korea has its own favoured method of torture. At Yodok Camp, which is currently being expanded to hold new prisoners, a favoured method is forced water ingestion. Guards strap prisoners to tables, force them to drink pint after pint of water and then jump on a board laid on their swollen stomach to force the water out through any orifice it can escape through.

"Rats eat the corpses of dead starved prisoners, those who survive, eat the rats" A drawing by a former prisoner of the North Korean regime













At Hoeryong concentration camp, guard violence is so pervasive 30 per cent of inmates have physical deformities from torn ears and facial deformities to missing limbs. The prison camps have become self-sustaining.

Prisoners from Hwasong concentration camp dug tunnels into the mountain at Mantapsan to allow North Korea to test its nuclear weapons. With the bomb, the regime now believes it is invincible. Forced incest and rape are commonplace. Rats eat the corpses of dead starved prisoners, those who survive, eat the rats.

We know this because the United Nations Human Rights Committee has labouriously documented what it describes as “crimes against humanity” in a near 400 page report released in February this year. The Human Rights Committee is highly legalistic and deeply conservative. When it condemns violations, it’s worth listening. The UN estimates hundreds of thousands have been deliberately killed by the state, in a way that resembles "the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century."

We said never again. We failed.

There was no rolling news coverage about the UN’s report or social media outrage. Instead, travel agencies encourage Western tourists to take a trips to the gulag-state. TripAdvisor now has a North Korea section where visitors can swap favoured restaurants and hotels. Their cash is helping to pay for the concentration camps. Some Western businesses, ignoring sanctions, have compared the situation to that of China before its rapid industrialisation hoping that investing early will reap them great rewards.

The Interview should and must be shown. Anything we can do to undermine this vile regime is worthwhile. In the meantime we must take our responsibilities seriously. One day, the iron curtain around North Korea will fall. The mass graves of the political prisoners will be exposed and scenes of human skeletons reminiscent of the liberation of Treblinka and Belsen will once again haunt us. I hope those who visit North Korea enjoy their trip.