Trump delivers scathing rebuke to North Korea regime
"I wanted to stand up from my seat and shout 'yahoo!'" said one South Korean lawmaker who heard Donald Trump's speech to the National Assembly yesterday. Lee Hyeon-seo, an escapee from North Korea who was sitting in the assembly hall Wednesday during Trump's address. "We just don't hear people talking about North Korea in this way in South Korea, so I was very emotional during the speech. I was very impressed."
Trump hammered everything about North Korea – especially its betrayal of the North Korean people.
Trump devoted a large part of his address to detailing the human rights abuses that the Kims have committed in North Korea, filling his speech with words like "twisted," "sinister," "tyrant," "fascism" and "cult."
What's interesting is that this kind of language directed at Kim Jong-un is not only rare in South Korea. It's rare in the West as well.
Trump noted the slave-like conditions that North Korean workers endure, the malnutrition among children, the suppression of religion, and the forced-labor prison camps where North Koreans endure "torture, starvation, rape, and murder on a constant basis."
Other advocates for North Koreans expressed hope that Trump's remarks would remind the outside world that the country is not just home to a dictator with nuclear weapons but 25 million people who suffer under him.
"President Trump spoke about human rights in North Korea more than any other previous U.S. president," said Jeong Kwang-il, who was held as a political prisoner in North Korea and now runs the "No Chain for North Korea" human rights group in Seoul. "I'm hopeful that American policy toward North Korea will focus more on improving human rights there."
Kim is not used to being addressed in this fashion by any world leader. But Trump wouldn't let up.
"North Korea is a country ruled as a cult. At the center of this military cult is a deranged belief in the leader's destiny to rule as parent protector over a conquered Korean Peninsula and an enslaved Korean people," he said.
The success of South Korea discredited "the dark fantasy at the heart of the Kim regime," Trump said.
It is hard to exaggerate the reverence with which North Koreans are forced to treat the Kim family. Every home and all public buildings must display portraits of Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il, that must be cleaned only with a special cloth. North Koreans must bow at monuments to the leaders and sing songs celebrating their supposedly legendary feats.
While Trump's stern lecture appeared to close off any thought of negotiations, some saw hope:
But others saw an opening from Trump, with his suggestion there was a way out of the current quagmire. "Despite every crime you have committed against God and man . . . we will offer a path to a much better future," Trump said, saying that this would require total denuclearization.
The president publicly offered a "diplomacy exit ramp" to the Kim regime, Victor Cha, tipped to be Trump's nominee for ambassador to South Korea, wrote on Twitter.
At a news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in the previous day, Trump urged North Korea "to come to the table" and "do the right thing, not only for North Korea but for humanity all over the world."
The speech was a huge success with the National Assembly, but how it played in the rest of South Korea is an open question. I'm sure the Koreans appreciated Trump's warm words of praise for their nation, their economy, and their culture. And he reminded them that American and South Korean soldiers had fought together and triumphed together.
But there is a large faction of South Koreans who will do almost anything to improve relations with the North. The election of President Moon, who somewhat embodies that feeling, shows that while Trump's rhetoric may be welcome, there is a strong desire for dialogue instead of war.
Trump was there to remind the South Koreans that they need to be realistic in their views of North Korea and the Kim regime. Whether there is war or peace is now largely up to the paranoid Kim, who has yet to demonstrate he understands the precarious position his regime is in.