Previous winners of the award include Mahatma Gandhi and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, putting Kim in esteemed company.
Kim Jong-un may be famous for running North Korea with an iron fist, but one Indonesian organization seems to think that he is a good fit for a statesmanship award which rewards “peace, justice and humanity,” writes Kim Bellware for The Huffington Post.
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Peace award for repressive dictator raises questions
Since announcing that Kim would receive the award, the Sukarno Education Foundation was swiftly criticized. However some figures justified the decision.
Kim “should be honored for his fight against neo-colonialist imperialism,” said Rachmawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia’s first president. She went on to claim that alleged human rights abuses are “untrue.”
“That’s all just Western propaganda. Those Western governments like to put ugly labels on North Korea,” she continued.
The Kim regime has been consistently accused of carrying out human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. Living conditions for the population are desperately bad, and political dissidents are often sent to labor camps, where many die.
International investigation into human rights abuses
The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that a United Nations investigative office has been set up in neighboring South Korea, in order to investigate the allegations.
“Kim Jong-un’s power is built on the continued abuses inflicted on the North Korean people because he sits at the helm of a central government apparatus that uses public executions, extensive political prison camps, and brutal forced labor to maintain control,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Despite widespread criticism of North Korea, a select group of countries remain friendly with Pyongyang. According to AFP, Indonesia has maintained good relations with North Korea for decades.
The relationship is thought to have begun due to the building of a personal rapport between the late Kim Il Sung and former Indonesian President Sukarno, who ruled between 1945 and 1947.
Kim Il Sung passed away in 1994, and was later awarded the same award. Other signs of the friendship between the two nations are also evident. Rachmawati holds the honorary chairwoman position on the Korean reunification preparation committee.
Awards seemingly in spite of North Korean reality
The Sukarno Education Foundation, which is also called the Sukarno Center, is set to bestow the award on Kim Jong-un in September. It will not be the first time that Kim has received an award from an Asian neighbor.
HELP University, a privately-run institution based in Malaysia, awarded Kim an honorary doctorate in economics in 2013. Its directors apparently have not developed a sense of irony given that North Korea is among the poorest countries in the world.
While the general population lives in misery, conditions are not much better for Party officials. Although they may enjoy the benefits of Party affiliation in the short-term, they live with the constant fear of falling victim to one of Kim’s purges.
Even senior officials are not safe. In May, gruesome reports surfaced that Kim had had his defense minister executed using an anti-aircraft gun. In 2013, Kim executed his own uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, proving his ruthlessness in dealing with suspected disloyalty.
A number of foreigners live in Pyongyang, and those detained by North Korean authorities are often forced to read public confessions in order to be released. It is hard to justify a peace award for a ruler accused of such abuses.