Write it down. Write it. With ordinary ink
on ordinary paper; they weren’t given food,
they all died of hunger. All. How many?
It’s a large meadow. How much grass
per head? Write down: I don’t know.
History rounds off skeletons to zero.
A thousand and one is still only a thousand.
That one seems never to have existed:
a fictitious fetus, an empty cradle,
a primer opened for no one,
air that laughs, cries, and grows,
stairs for a void bounding out to the garden,
no one’s spot in the ranks.
– Wieslawa Szymborska, Starvation Camp Near Jaslo
How does one get the measure of Kim Jong Il’s legacy in North Korea? His victims, like those of his father before him, are so many, in lives ended and lives stunted, that they become faceless and formless in our minds, like those tens of thousands of dancers in the mass performances Kim liked to stage. An Egyptian protester beaten, a Burmese dissident imprisoned, a Chinese blogger censored—such singular injustices are easier to grasp, and thus more likely to make us angry, and to spur us to act. The North Korean regime has been protected by the sheer enormity of its crimes, which discrete images cannot easily capture.(...more)