Yesterday, u.$. strongman Donald Trump thanked NK leader Kim Jong-un, “who really was excellent” to the three amerikans he ordered released from detention. Kim decided to release the amerikans, two of whom had been involved with work at the private, protestant-run Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), and none had served out their terms for various offenses including espionage, “hostile acts”, and other, undisclosed charges. The oldest detainee, Kim Dong-chul, who had been detained since 2015, made a public confession to spying for South Korean conservative elements. The DPRK government also later elaborated that he had bribed several Pyongyang residents for information about the country’s nuclear weapons program. The men were released as a gesture of good faith ahead of Kim’s summit with the erratic u.$. president.

By all accounts—those of the u.$. regime, the North Korean government, and the detainees themselves—they were treated well. Kim Dong-chul, the oldest and presumably least vigorous of the men, who also faced the most serious charges, told reporters that he “had to do a lot of labor. But when I got sick, I was also treated by them.” This is nothing new. A well-meaning, but ever so slightly kooky, amerikan by the name of Arturo Martinez, who attempted to defect to the DPRK in 2014, said he was treated “extremely well” by authorities, but was repatriated nonetheless. And besides the faux hysteria and Time Life melodrama of the Laura Ling incident, Ling had indeed been treated well in North Korea, despite her charges, and besides being given medical treatment for ulcers, was admittedly able to teach her guards yoga poses of all things. Kenneth Bae, the tourist-proselytizer who admittedly attempted to form some sort of underground christian dissident network in the country, was sentence to work on a soybean farm, where he received treatment for his diabetes and enlarged heart. Matthew Todd Miller, a man with far too many double consonants in his name, and far too many ridiculous ideas in his head, reported that he had been “prepared for the torture. But instead of that, I was killed with kindness.” The 85 year old amerikan Merrill Newman, who was detained for 42 days in 2013, was constantly waited on by physicians, and had his blood pressure and pulse checked four times a day. Obviously there’s a conspiracy afoot to treat detainees decently. In light of this, it is clear that Otto Warmbier, the carceral tourist who returned to the u.$. in a coma, and upon whom the family refused to have an autopsy performed to prove or disprove mistreatment, was an outlier, and most likely a self-induced case.

The above is only expected from humane captors, but we find it necessary to mention amidst the ridiculous hyperbole and outright defamation of People’s Korea. And the attention to the health of prisoners in the DPRK stands in stark contrast to u.$. prison regimes. The u.$. incarcerates more people, real and per capita, than any other country on earth. At 750 inmates per 100,000 citizens, it is seven times higher than the next highest industrialized country, Spain. Despite constitutional protections “guaranteed” by Supreme Court ruling in Estelle v. Gamble in 1976, treatment in u.$. prisons is lacking, shoddy, inconstant and expensive. In most states, prisoners are expected to pay copays to get treatment, sums insignificant to the correctional budgets of these states, but prohibitively high to people who can make as little as 12 cents an hour in prison jobs, where basic necessities like toothpaste and deodorant represent several days labor for each item.

According to the public policy initiative at Wharton, Trump’s alma mater, lack of access to healthcare in prisons has become “its own form of capital punishment.” Denying inmates basic treatment for common diseases like Hepatitis C, or mental health treatment of any kind, as well as punishing inmates who make repeated requests for hospital access, are all used by the carceral state to torture, dehumanize and police a mostly colonized population. Settler colonialism is always willing to cut off its nose to spite its face, and it has done just that by incubating an epidemic of Hep C behind bars, where 17% of inmates are exposed to the disease, compared to 1% of the general population, putting its own population at risk.

And of course the u.$. doesn’t limit its barbarism to prisons. As we speak, Gina Haspel, former CIA blacksite coordinator who oversaw the systematic torture of u.$. captives, as well as destruction of evidence related to that torture, is awaiting confirmation to become the high inquisitor of the u.$. apparatus. Haspel, and the u.$. intel machine, oversaw horrific tortures that have never even crossed the imaginations of the critics of the DPRK, including forcing food into the anuses of detainees, combining in dystopian fashion two of the most important tools of repression employed by the imperialists; namely force feeding and rape. Besides the usual fare of simulating drowning, exposing inmates to extreme temperatures, and depriving them of sleep, Haspel and her colleagues forced their captives to stand on broken limbs in stress positions, froze at least one captive to death, and admitted to repeated sexual assaults against detainees.

Make no mistake, any u.$. mainstream publications that attempt only now, after decades, to correct much of their defamatory and, frankly, dehumanizing and racist line regarding People’s Korea, it is only because they are run out of the State Department, and are forced at this moment of possible detente to dance to Pompeo’s tune, as they always have. u.$. media is loyal only to power, and no amount of self respect, “journalistic integrity” or any moral inkling will get in its way.

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Asia, Imperialism, Media & Culture, News and Analysis, Uncategorized, US/Canada

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