North Korea Rights Abuses
As a totalitarian state, North Korea is bombarded with criticism on its gross human rights violations on its people.
Today, the United States of America affirmed the reality of the fact that indeed North Korea has committed widespread human rights abuses.
In his testimony in Washington DC, Special Envoy Robert R. King
for North Korean Human Rights Issues said D.P.R.K. remains a totalitarian state, which seeks to dominate all aspects of its citizens’ lives.
“It is a regime that denies freedoms of expression, religion, peaceful assembly, association, and movement, as well as worker rights.” – Mr. King
He cited that numbers of North Koreas endure deplorable conditions in political prison camps, where government officials commit systematic and widespread human rights violations including extrajudicial killing, enslavement, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as those involving rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence.
UN Commission of Inquiry Reveals the Bad News
According to Mr. King, the release of final report by UN Commission of Inquiry in February 2014 has concluded that North Korea has committed “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations” have been and are being committed by the D.P.R.K., its institutions, and its officials.
Furthermore, the report also concluded “a number of long-standing and ongoing patterns of systematic and widespread violations . . . meet the high threshold required for proof of crimes against humanity in international law.”
Mr. King highlighted that the comprehensive 400-page report is the most detailed and devastating expose of North Korea’s human rights violations to date, and it laid bare a brutal reality that is difficult to imagine.
Where Did the Commission Gather the Report?
According to Mr. King, one of the most powerful elements of the extensive report was the detailed testimony of North Korean refugees.
It was noted that the Commission held a series of public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington, where it heard from North Korean refugees sharing first-hand accounts of the abuse and violence they suffered. Among those violations included denial of access to food, gender-based violence, and numerous other human rights violations in the prison camps, and their horrific experiences fleeing their homeland.
“The full proceedings of these hearings have been made available on the UN web site in video and in printed transcript.” – Mr. King
Increasing International Pressure Crucial to End North Korea Rights Abuses
According to Mr. King, since the release of the UN Commission of Inquiry report in February 2014, the global community made significant progress in its effort to increase international pressure on the D.P.R.K.
US human rights policy on D.P.R.K. focuses on giving voice to the voiceless by amplifying defector testimony, and increasing pressure on the D.P.R.K. to stop these serious violations.
In addition, to amplify more the human rights abuses of North Korea, the US and its allies worked with partners to adopt a strongly-worded resolution at the March 2014 UN Human Rights Council session, which welcomed the report and recommended that the General Assembly submit the report to the Security Council for its consideration and appropriate action. Through this, it will hold to account those responsible for human rights violations, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the D.P.R.K. to the appropriate international criminal justice mechanism.
The United States has since supported resolutions addressing the human rights situation in the D.P.R.K. in both the UN General Assembly and at the March 2015 Human Rights Council session.
US Still Concerned for Welfare of North Korea’s 25 Million People
While denuclearization remains an essential focus of U.S. policy, so, too, does the welfare of North Korea’s nearly 25 million people, the vast majority of whom bear the brunt of their government’s decision to perpetuate an unsustainable, self-impoverishing military-first policy.
One in three North Korean children is chronically malnourished, according to a 2009 UNICEF estimate.
An elaborate network of political prison camps in the country is reportedly estimated to contain 100,000-200,000 inmates, who are subjected to forced labor, torture, and starvation.
Even outside this prison-camp system, the North Korean government dictates nearly all aspects of people’s lives through a highly structured social classification system called “songbun,” which it uses to divide North Korea’s population into categories. This system, in turn, determines access to education and health care, employment opportunities, place of residence, and marriage prospects.
The US is working with international and non-governmental organizations to improve the situation on the ground for the North Korean people, including by supporting the flow of independent information into the DPRK.