EDITORIAL: Helping and hurting North Korea

As Seattle wishes for the safe return of Kenneth Bae from the North Korean labor camp in which he is currently held, it’s important to take a look at the current reality of working in North Korea and how it is increasingly becoming a nightmare.

Bae is the third American to be detained in North Korea in less than five years, and in each case, a prominent statesman has been sent to negotiate for the freedom of the detained citizen.

This is not a new thing. In 1996, Evan Hunziker was only released after then New Mexico Congressman Bill Richardson traveled to North Korea to negotiate. In 2009, Bill Clinton was needed to secure the freedom of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.

As diplomatic relations with North Korea continue to fail, it’s beginning to seem that the easiest way for the North Korean government to get any attention from the United States is by detaining American citizens. As North Korea’s new leader attempts to solidify his power base, it will only get more and more dangerous for American citizens in North Korea.

The desire to help the people of North Korea is very strong, but when American citizens are captured, no one benefits. When American citizens are captured, the North Korean government gets the attention it wants, the United States has to work to secure safe release, and the American families involved suffer undue anguish and fear.

We have to understand our limitations. The problems of North Korea are beyond just any one person. They require a complicated process to solve, and that process can’t begin if an American citizen needs to be rescued every two to three years.

We hope that Kenneth Bae returns home as quickly as possible.  That fact that he was detained at all is ridiculous and horribly unjust. Unfortunately, that’s now the reality of North Korea.

North Korea is not a rational government. If you visit North Korea, there is a good chance that irrational things will happen to you, and if they do, then you’re not helping anyone. (end)

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