Americans are rightfully concerned about ISIS’s rampage across the Middle East. But one thing that even ISIS has not yet accomplished is what the president, the director of the FBI, and the director of the NSA all insist Kim Jong-un's hackers did last year -- suppress the release of a major motion picture by threatening terrorist attacks on movie theaters across America.
And yet, incomprehensibly—and two months overdue—the State Department's recent Friday news dump of its annual "Country Reports on Terrorism" still clings to the tendentious, perennial boilerplate that North Korea "is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Air Lines flight in 1987." Coming so soon after North Korean threats drove The Interview from theaters, this statement puts the world on notice that the Obama Administration is unserious about protecting Americans' most fundamental liberties from terrorism by the world's worst despots.
North Korea was placed on the list for the 1987 bombing of Korean Air Lines Flight 858, an attack that killed 115 people. Both this atrocity and a 1983 bombing in Rangoon, which killed several ministers in the South Korean government, were the work of the Reconnaissance General Bureau of the Workers' Party of Korea. In 2007, near the end of his beleaguered presidency, President Bush agreed to remove North Korea from the list in exchange for Kim Jong-il’s promise to disarm.
Two nuclear tests later, the results of this bargain speak for themselves. But what of Pyongyang's promises about terrorism? Under U.S. law, and according to the precedents of the State Department's past "Country Reports," international terrorism includes both material support for terrorists and terrorist organizations, and also the use of a state's own clandestine agents to commit violent, politically motivated acts against noncombatants, across international boundaries, that are unlawful in the place where they are committed, with the intent to influence the conduct of a government or members of the civilian population.
North Korea has recently engaged in conduct that plainly meets both standards. Since 2008, at least three shipments of weapons, including artillery rockets and man-portable surface-to-air missiles, have been intercepted on their way from North Korea to Iran and its terrorist clients. North Korean agents are believed to have assassinated one South Korean human rights activist, and attempted to assassinate at least three others in China and South Korea, using syringes disguised as pens, and loaded with a powerful toxin, neostigmine bromide. In the last decade, three federal district court judges, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and at least two South Korean courts have held North Korea and its agents responsible for either supplying weapons and training to terrorists, or attempting to kidnap or assassinate dissidents and human rights activists.
One of these activists was the Rev. Kim Dong-shik, a permanent U.S. resident who lived in Illinois. In 2005, a South Korean court convicted a North Korean agent for Rev. Kim's abduction to North Korea, where he is believed to have died from starvation and torture. In a letter to North Korea's U.N. Ambassador, then-Senator Barack Obama, along with other members of Illinois's congressional delegation, likened Rev. Kim to Harriet Tubman and Raoul Wallenberg, and promised not to support North Korea's removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism until the North accounted for Rev. Kim's fate. But in 2008, Senator Obama discarded his promise to Rev. Kim's family and supported the rescission of North Korea's listing.
Since its removal from the list in 2008, North Korea has accelerated its campaign of assassinations against dissidents in China and South Korea.
The terror campaign has worked. For example, when a U.N. Commission of Inquiry was preparing its landmark 372-page report on North Korea's crimes against humanity, 240 North Korean refugees in South Korea only agreed to speak to the Commission on condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisal against themselves or their relatives in the North.