Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.
We have all heard these words, in one form or another, for most of our lives. If nothing else, it is a warning for us not to be too naïve.
It would be nice if we could accept at face value the actions of people. After all, we want to believe in the good that people do.
However, we must also remember that we live in a cynical age. The good actions some take are sometimes an underhanded tool to get them one step closer to what they really want. And, many times, what they really want is self-advancement of their agenda at the cost of everybody around them.
Bob Dylan wrote a great song that he released in 1983 titled "Man of Peace," in which the refrain was: "Sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace."
I couldn't help but think of that song recently while observing the actions of the renegade government of North Korea. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran get most of the attention when it comes to international news these days, but the country we must keep our eyes on the most is North Korea.
They have been getting a lot of pats on the back recently for concessions they have made relating to their nuclear weapons program.
Earlier this year, they agreed to shut down their main nuclear reactor and made other concessions in exchange for oil in a deal with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia, according to published reports.
This eased a stand off that began in 2002 when North Korean officials admitted to having a secret uranium enrichment program. The urgency to neutralize their nuclear program reached its peak last October when they successfully performed an underground test explosion.
Recently, North Korea announced they have finally shut down their main nuclear reactor.
In some respects, this agreement should cause a big sigh of relief. The idea of a government as unpredictable and defiant as North Korea having nuclear weapons was scary enough to cause foes like the United States and China to work together toward getting some sort of resolution of this situation.
However, given the secrecy in which North Korea's government operates, we must make sure not to let our guard down when dealing with them. After all, these concessions could be just a trick to cause us to take our eyes off other treachery they are involved in.
An obvious example of this government's treachery is as it relates to human rights abuses. Simply put, North Korea is a tough place to live if a person is poor or wants to worship freely.
In the last couple of years, the government has been cracking down on citizens who cross the border into China in order to find food or make money. Human rights organizations have reported that only the elite in that country are provided for by the government, which claims to be socialist. The rest are left to fend for themselves, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The government won't help their people, but then brutally punishes them when they seek help elsewhere, according to HRW.
Kay Seok, a North Korea researcher for HRW, recently provided this example in an essay: "A 42-year-old woman...was deported from China in December 2003 and served 18 months in a North Korean labor camp. (She said) ‘Every day, I saw someone dying. We were given a fistful of powdered corn stalk, three times a day, and people had trouble digesting it. Many people died after having diarrhea for a week. They left patients in the hallway outside toilets. So many people died, they wrapped the bodies in plastic sheets and buried them in a mountain.'"
Or consider the plight of Korean evangelist Son Jong Nam.
He recently faced execution simply for preaching Christianity. According to the group Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Son was originally imprisoned and tortured for three years with 200 inmates, many of whom were Christians arrested for their faith. Most died within six months.
Recently, U.S. elected officials have become involved in the effort to have his life spared.
The bottom line is North Korea will likely continue to be a significant source of evil as long as the current government is in place.
Don't let them trick you just because they have made a few concessions recently.
Leopards can't change their spots.