Killing a tourist

To remind us that North Korea is an oppressive totalitarian regime, they shot a tourist dead near the Mount Kumgang resort today. A 53-year old South Korean housewife went out for a walk alone, and somehow ended up in a restricted military area. After running away in panic when she was warned to stop, probably being terrified at the big guns being aimed at her, she was shot and killed.

It's not known how this happened, but if the North Koreans did their job properly and made sure that no one could wander outside the tourist area without warning, then she showed very poor judgement. This wouldn't be too surprising, since in any tourist group large enough there is bound to be those who have a poor sense of safety. And it's hardly an obscure fact that North Korea is an extremely oppressive nation to its own citizens, and their treatment of foreigners is not so hot, either. Of course, it's also entirely possible that the North Koreans screwed up and neglected to fence off certain portions of the tourist resort.

However, regardless of whose fault it was, there should not have been any deaths! Why couldn't they have just warned her back to the tourist resort? At worst, they should have just detained her. I don't see any justification for a shooting. It's not like a 53-year old housewife would have been armed to the teeth, leaving the North Korean guards no alternative. Even if she ignored their warnings and ran away, it wouldn't have killed the guards to run after her or get some vehicle to chase her.

Are North Korean soldiers so used to shooting any of their own citizens who show any sign of defiance? Have they forgotten how to detain harmless people intact, or have they never known such skills in the first place? The political oppression and rampant disregard for human life in North Korea has always been at intolerable levels, and there is no sign of any improvement. North Korea is politically and economically isolated for a reason, and that reason lies with themselves, no matter how much they would like to blame someone else.

This shooting incident will also bring nothing but harm to North Korea's own interests. It could derail economic aid from South Korea and the United States, plans by the United States to remove North Korea from its list of terrorist nations, and the six-party talks concerning its nuclear program. Without a significant show of goodwill, be it in the form of reforms or a meaningful apology with matching levels of action, North Korea stands to lose a lot from this incident. Or at least I hope the rest of the world treats the way this incident deserves to be treated and not sweep the entire affair under the rug. For now, all tourism to the Kumgang resort has been suspended.

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