To eternity, and beyond!

So, the world is braced for a rocket launch, the countdown is on. This isn’t just any rocket launch, this is a North Korean rocket launch and the prevailing feeling from the watching world is sheer terror, generally.  Sometime over the next few days, a rocket will be launched, which will likely be sent on a trajectory heading between The Philippines and Japan, and landing somewhere in the ocean near Australia. Both Japan and South Korea have responded to the plans by saying they will shoot it down if it threatens their territory.

The North Koreans have claimed that this launch is simply to get a satellite into orbit, but the US has said the launch is a disguised test of long-range missile technology. Looking at the pictures from inside the control centre, which are all rather retro, it is no wonder that countries within range of the missile (including America) are bristling at that thought of this practice run.

The launch is part of a season of commemorating past leaders and flexing the muscles of the new in North Korea, since the death of Kim Jong-il earlier this year. Today it was announced that the deceased Kim Jong-il will be given the Python-esque title of General Secretary for Eternity, to add to his collection of hyperbolic titles which includes: Respected Leader, Unique Leader, Wise Leader, Dear Leader, Brilliant Leader, Peerless Leader, The Great Sun of Life, Glorious General Who Descended From Heaven, Guarantee of the Fatherland's Unification and Highest Incarnation of the Revolutionary Comradely Love, to name but a few.

The likely fall out from this launch is the resumption of sanctions and the decision to withhold food aid.  And this in a country where dire food shortages have resulted in a population which is riddled with health problems resulting from diet. We put out a press release today warning of the prolific and systematic human rights abuses in North Korea which continue under Kim Jong-un. There remain an estimated 200,000 inmates still suffering appalling treatment in North Korea’s prison camps,  there without a fair trial and facing torture, forced labour and possible execution.

For the ordinary, impoverished and underfed people inside the country looking on at this spectacle it must seem that proclamations about North Korea being a “strong and prosperous nation” made by the leadership today, are as close to reality as a walk on the moon.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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