North Korea is a sinkhole so destructive, in so many ways, that even the United Nations has taken to producing some good reports on the myriad abuses of the Kim regime — going way beyond the UN’s usual diplospeak (“deeply disappointed”) to detail some of the appalling specifics. The latest such report comes from the UN Panel of Experts on North Korea sanctions, a small group of specialists appointed to monitor global compliance with UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea.
The UN has not yet officially released the panel’s new report (that waits upon the agreement of members of the Security Council), but copies have leaked to the press — 76 pages jammed with disturbing information on North Korea’s continuing ballistic missile and nuclear programs, and the smuggling, fronts and falsehoods with which North Korea slithers around sanctions.
There’s lots to absorb, including the failure by 94 of the UN’s 194 member states even to minimally comply with UN requirements that they file reports detailing whatever measures they are taking to enforce UN sanctions on North Korea. (You will no doubt be shocked! shocked! to learn that neither Iran nor Syria — big among Pyongyang’s partners of record in, respectively, missile and nuclear proliferation — has ever submitted any such report.)
But let’s focus here on what the UN’s own Panel of Experts unearthed about North Korea’s exploitation of the UN itself. Top-notch North Korea analyst Joshua Stanton broke this piece of news Thursday on his One Free Korea blog, reporting on the Panel of Expert findings: “North Korean spies infiltratred UNESCO, World Food Program.” As Joshua points out, and documents with an excerpt from the UN Panel’s report, officials of North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau — basically a Pyongyang clandestine intelligence outfit– ended up working at UNESCO in Paris and the UN’s World Food Program in Rome. More details in the Telegraph, which the next day picked up the story.
The prime problem here is North Korea. But a big dollop of blame should go to the UN as well, for promising culture and food to the world and then hiring nominees of the North Korean government to help make that happen.
When the UN hires international staff, the official UN stance is that these staffers are international civil servants, acting independently of the interests of their home countries. In practice, that is often a thin fiction. It is not crazy to guess that the UN is loaded with spies, manipulators and servants of the interests of individual member states. But there are some limits, and any UN agency that hires a North Korean spy, or any other kind of loyal servant of the Pyongyang regime, is stepping way over the line. (Note: They are all perforce loyal to Pyongyang, for the reason that any North Korean judged not loyal by Pyongyang can consider his career, and quite possibly his life, to be over.)
It is absurd to pretend that a citizen of North Korea, employed by the UN, has any chance of operating independently of Pyongyang. North Korea’s government — which, when it sends officials abroad likes to hold their relatives back home hostage to loyal behavior, and has a record of abductions and assassinations abroad — does not operate that way.
North Korea is a totalitarian state, run by a regime that is in gross and dangerous violation of UN sanctions, and was accused last year by a UN special Commission of Inquiry of “crimes against humanity.” Or, to put it in plain old common sense terms, North Korea’s regime is a monstrous affront to anything remotely resembling a civilized world order. If the UN charter — with all its talk of peace, freedom and human dignity — means anything, North Korea should not be a member of the UN at all.
And what that means is that the UN should, quite simply, never hire North Koreans. That was the lesson of the 2007 Cash-for-Kim scandal, in which the UN Development Program office in Pyongyang turned over the handling of its bank accounts and check books to North Korean staffers. That should have been a lesson of the UN’s Technology for Tyrants scandal in 2012 — in which the World Intellectual Property Organization, caught shipping high-tech computer systems to North Korea, brought a North Korean diplomat onto its staff. The list of UN agencies that should have known better just keeps growing: the UNDP, WIPO, UNESCO, WFP… what else is out there?
If this sounds unfair to North Koreans who might aspire to a job at the UN, surely it is more unfair, to the people of North Korea, and to the world in general, to offer the UN with all its privileges, immunities, money and global reach as a vehicle for the spies and servants of Kim Jong Un. The UN, via a few specialized panels, has been doing unusually good work lately in monitoring and reporting on some of North Korea’s abuses. The pity is that UN agencies such as UNESCO and the World Food Program have been undercutting that, willfully ignoring the realities to effectively abet — in the name of good works (and geographic “diversity”)– North Korea.