North Korea has been running an international summer camp for children and teenagers for almost 30 years. On Tuesday, it opened its doors to nearly 300 new campers.
It was originally intended to the strengthen the bond between North Korea and other communist countries. Now, though, the camp takes kids from everywhere — Ireland, Russia, Tanzania, even the United States. It's also open to North Korean children who receive particularly good grades.
Kids can swim at the camp’s beaches, tumble down its massive water slides, sleep in air-conditioned rooms, play video games and watch TV.
Image credit: Associtated Press
The AP writes, “The camp gives the participants an opportunity to see a country that remains a mystery to most outsiders, and North Korea a chance to show off the best it can offer ... a luxury most North Korean children can't normally experience.”
“A luxury most North Korean children can’t normally experience.” That is an understatement.
Image Credit: The Telegraph
According to a February report by the UN, North Korea’s human rights abuses “[do] not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”
The list of crimes includes the following: “Extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, [and] the enforced disappearance of persons.”
Image Credit: Amnesty International
The report’s lead author, Australian judge Michael Kirby, said that North Korea’s violations were “strikingly similar” to the war crimes carried out by the Nazis.
Health care is next to non-existent: According to a 2010 report by Amnesty International, the country is also plagued by a lack of access to proper health care.
The report described the case of a 21-year-old woman who went to the hospital for an injection: “The doctor took a used syringe and dipped the needle in boiling water for about ten seconds before giving me my injection,” she said. Major operations performed without anesthesia were also common, as well as a shortage of medication and necessary equipment.
Image Credit: The Week
The World Health Organization estimates that North Korea spent about 6% of its budget on health care from 2002-2009. For comparison, the U.S. spent about 22% of its budget on Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Image Credit: AP
Famine is also rampant. The New York Times reported that 84% of families in North Korea “had ‘borderline’ or ‘poor’ levels of food consumption in 2013.”
Yet with all of this, here's what ABC News had to say about North Korea's summer camp:
No, ABC News, North Korea should not be the destination kids think of when they think of summer camp.
The bizarre and carnival-like summer camp in North Korea is a fun thought — until you remember the mountain of human rights atrocities the country has committed against its own citizens.
Visitors are not getting to see the best North Korea can offer; they’re seeing a shoddily constructed facade of entertainment that attempts to distract the world from what’s really happening.
The country may be a mystery to curious outsiders, but it’s not a mystery to the people who actually live there. Foreigners shouldn’t be given the luxury treatment when millions of disadvantaged citizens can’t even feed themselves, and we shouldn’t be foolish enough to fall it.