from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Did President Carter Send Condolences to North Korea?

December 21, 2011

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According to the North Korean news agency, former president Jimmy Carter has sent condolences on the death of Kim Jong-Il.

Here  is the statement the North Koreans issued:

Pyongyang, December 21 (KCNA) -- Kim Jong Un, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, received a message of condolences from Jimmy Carter, ex-president of the U.S. on Dec. 19.

In the message Jimmy Carter extended condolences to Kim Jong Un and the Korean people over the demise of leader Kim Jong Il.

He wished Kim Jong Un every success as he assumes his new responsibility of leadership, looking forward to another visit to the DPRK in the future.

Let us hope for a quick denial from president Carter’s office. To express condolences to the people of North Korea over the death of Kim is truly like expressing condolences to the people of Iraq over the death of Saddam Hussein, to Italians over Mussolini, to Libyans over Gadhafi...there are many examples. It may seem impossible, and perhaps Carter sent something but he is being misquoted. And yet...the idea seems plausible as does the notion that Carter would seek to get back there soon and see the new guy.

In May the New York Times reported that there were 200,000 people in North Korean prison camps. One could fill a page just listing the reports on the monstrous nature of the Kim regime--torture, murder, mass executions, abductions, starvation...it does not end. All of which makes it unseemly for the former leader of a great democracy, a man who considers himself a champion of human rights, to express sadness at the passing of the ruling monster. And we must hope he wasn’t wishing the twenty-eight-year-old who just inherited power (or a share of power; we’ll see) "every success" either. Success at what? Maintaining the dictatorship in the family? Keeping those prisons full? Was it impossible to say we all hope North Korea moves toward respect for human rights?

Let’s hope Carter corrects the record. Let’s hope it actually needs correction.

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