STORY: Travis King fled racism and abuse in America.
That was North Korea’s claim in a state media report that came after nearly a month of silence since the U.S. soldier disappeared over the border.
The statement throws a spotlight on North Korea’s long and complicated history of citing U.S. racism as a way to push back on Washington’s criticism of the North’s human rights abuses.
Let’s take a closer look.
In 1969 Pyongyang hosted American author and activist Eldridge Cleaver, leader of the Black Panther Party.
Cleaver wrote that North Korea and its “great leader” had – quote – “heightened our consciousness to a level that makes us equal to the task of dealing with our number one enemy, the U.S. imperialist aggressors”.
In 2018, Pyongyang released a “White Paper on Human Rights Violations in the U.S.” where it accused Donald Trump’s administration of aggravating the “racial discrimination and misanthropy,”
citing white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
During the protests after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, North Korean officials cited “extreme racists” in America and criticized authorities’ response to the protests.
But North Korean state media has its own history of issuing racially charged statements.
In 2014 the state news agency published a report, using a racially offensive term to describe then U.S.-President Barack Obama.
That same year, a landmark U.N. report on North Korean human rights concluded that the country’s security chiefs – and possibly leader Kim Jong Un himself – should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities.
That report included allegations that North Korea conducts forced abortions on women suspected to have been impregnated by men in China, driven by an underlying belief in a “pure Korean race” to which mixed-race children are considered a contamination of its “pureness”.