The White House’s Military Office just minted a new coin in advance of the upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
An image of the coin, tweeted by CNN’s Jim Acosta, shows the faces of the two men, with each country’s respective flag in the background. On the left side, next to Trump’s face, reads, “President Donald J. Trump.” On the right side, next to Kim’s face, reads, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un.”
There's now a White House Military Office coin for the upcoming Trump Kim Jong Un summit. The North Korean dictator is referred to as "Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un." pic.twitter.com/tFAmE813Y1
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) May 21, 2018
The coin is obviously a gesture of goodwill toward North Korea, which recently stated it may back away from the upcoming June 12 meeting with Trump in Singapore if the talks are going to be a “one-sided” discussion in which the U.S. pressures the North Korean regime to give up its nuclear weapons program without conceding anything in return.
While Kim Jong-Un reportedly stated he understands the needs of the annual joint military exercises with the U.S. and South Korea, the exercises may be one of the sticking points the Kim regime demands in exchange for any concessions on nuclear weapons.
Even though the White House’s new coin may help cool emotions leading up to the June 12 talks, it nonetheless marks the first time any U.S. president has honored North Korea with a commemorative coin. The coin will likely stir up controversy among both Americans and the international community, given that North Korea is one of the most brutal regimes in the world.
Last year, three renowned international judges called for Kim Jong-Un and other North Korean officials to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, based on the testimony of North Koreans who escaped from the country’s multiple concentration camps for political prisoners. One of the judges is Thomas Buergenthal, an Auschwitz survivor who later became a judge on the International Court of Justice.
According to the report from the judges, 10 of the 11 crimes against humanity listed for prosecution have already been committed. Many of the 80,000 to 130,000 inmates in North Korea’s prison camps are there simply for being related to people who have been accused of committing political crimes, according to the report issued by the judges. Defectors’ testimony used for the report shows the depth of brutality prisoners are routinely subjected to in the camps:
Among the abuses reported: starving prisoners are regularly executed when caught scavenging for food; abortions being performed by injecting motor oil into the wombs of pregnant women, according to a former North Korean army nurse; and firing squad executions of prisoners who attempt to escape.
In its 2018 report on North Korea, Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the so-called “hermit kingdom” as “one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world.” Despite hopes that the death of former dictator Kim Jong-Il in 2012 would prompt an improvement for human rights as Kim Jong-Un became the new leader of North Korea, HRW’s report shows that, if anything, conditions have gotten even worse for North Koreans in the sixth year of Kim Jong-Un’s rule:
The North Korean government restricts all basic civil and political liberties for its citizens, including freedom of expression, religion and conscience, assembly and association. It prohibits any organized political opposition, independent media and civil society, and free trade unions. Lack of an independent judiciary, arbitrary arrest and punishment of crimes, torture in custody, forced labor, and executions maintain fear and control.
The White House coin honoring Kim Jong-Un isn’t the first time President Trump has shown an affinity for dictatorships. Even though he was warned to not congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on winning a fourth term despite concerns of election rigging, Trump congratulated him anyway.
Last year, Trump congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on his philosophy, “Xi Thought,” being incorporated into China’s constitution, taught to government employees, broadcasted on state-run media outlets, and taught to schoolchildren, putting him on the same level as Chairman Mao Zedong.
President Trump has also lauded Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on his brutal drug war that has resulted in government death squads killing thousands of low-level drug dealers and users, saying the U.S. should try a similar strategy.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.