Since Bill Clinton began the “engagement” with North Korea more than a decade ago, nothing done by its regime has been thought of as punishable. Even since the resumption of the so-called “six-power” agreement in Beijing in February 2007, North Korea has violated it in the nonminor form of nuclear testing and the production of weapons-grade plutonium and has simply ignored all the relevant U.N. resolutions. These aggressive and arrogant policies have been advanced at exactly no cost. And meanwhile, the civilian population of North Korea is kept at the slavery and starvation level, with emergency food aid from overseas exacted by blackmail to make us complicit in the sickening business, while the civilian population of South Korea is threatened with obliteration in the most bloodthirsty terms if any resistance is offered to the nuclear blackmail that keeps the whole horror going in the first place.

As of last week, and as the result of a huge investment of time and energy and prestige and forced politeness, we can now claim to have reduced the North Korean prison population by exactly two, and they were going to be released anyway. In return, we have immensely gratified and flattered the man who kidnapped them and who makes a daily mockery of international law. There was even “remorse” expressed. But guess by whom? Not by the slave master who makes his territory impossible to enter and impossible to leave. A lousy day’s work.