North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un gives 'field guidance' at a key weapon factory in this image released by the North's Korean Central News Agency on Aug. 6.
/ August 28, 2023
By John J. Metzler
Most countries politely prefer to look the other way when it comes to confronting widespread reports of North Korean human rights violations. After all what can you do about what goes on in one of the world’s most closed and repressive communist regimes [headed by the dynasty of Kim Il-Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong-Un]?
Well, the UN Security Council, under the American presidency for August, ran with the diplomatic ball and scored a major multinational condemnation of ongoing rights violations in the quaintly titled Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), aka North Korea.
Albania, Japan, South Korea, and the United States co-sponsored an open briefing which focused on what the United Kingdom described as “the appalling human rights situation in the DPRK. It is clear that human rights violations remain widespread, systematic and completely lacking in accountability.”
A joint statement supported by fifty-two countries including most European states along with Australia, Canada, and Costa Rica, highlighted the following:
The DPRK government’s violations and abuses have been well-documented by credible accounts, including numerous UN experts, and have been condemned through many General Assembly resolutions adopted by consensus over the past years…which include arbitrary killings, harsh and life threatening prison conditions.
The Joint Statement added, “these human rights violations and abuses demand the Council’s attention. But they are also inextricably linked with the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile advancements in violation of Security Council resolutions.”
Significantly the Statement underscored, “the DPRK’s repressive political climate allows the government to divert resources to weapons development, at the expense of the welfare of the people in the DPRK who suffer from severe economic hardship and malnutrition.”
Such a joint statement, agreed to by consensus by over fifty countries, is in itself a diplomatic achievement especially within the halls of the United Nations. Yet nations like Argentina, Brazil Chile and New Zealand declined to endorse the document.
China was naturally opposed to the meeting which criticized Beijing’s North Korean ally.
Addressing the Council, Volker Turk the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned, “The persistence of severe, widespread and long-standing human rights violations in the DPRK cannot be seen in isolation from peace and security issues on the peninsula and within the wider region.”
Commissioner Turk chided, that along with North Korea’s increasing militarization there is also “the widespread use of forced labor, including labor in political prison camps; forced use of schoolchildren to collect harvests; the requirement for families to undertake labor” as to provide for government quotas. Equally the regime confiscates wages from overseas workers as a way to collect cash.
U.S. Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield stated powerfully, “The modern world has no place for the DPRK government’s brutality. And the international community, and this Council, this Council, must continue to speak out against this injustice and its destabilizing impact on regional and international peace and security.” She stressed, “Reports indicate the DPRK continues to hold more than 80,000 individuals in political prison camps,” where reportedly “they are widely subjected to arbitrary or summary executions, torture, starvation, gender-based violence, forced abortions, and forced labor.”
Naturally the wider issue becomes the Kim Jung-Un regime’s profligate missile proliferation and ceaseless nuclear weapons development. Pyongyang’s primary focus remains building a credible and lethal offensive weapons capacity at the expense of its population’s wellbeing.
Clearly the DPRK regime stresses neutrons over nutrition for its own impoverished people.
ROK delegate Joonkook Hwang stated that “Instead of addressing its critical food shortages, the regime has continually squandered its scarce resources on a dangerous show of force.”
North Korean defector/dissident Kim Il-Hyeok told the Council, “The government turns our blood and sweat into luxurious life for the leadership and missiles that blast our hard work into the sky.” Kim added, “the money spent on just one missile could feed us for three months. But the government doesn’t care and is only concerned with maintaining their power.”
Shortly after the UN meeting, the United States separately hosted a Summit at Camp David where President Joe Biden welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Kishida and South Korean President Yoon to an historic trilateral meeting. In response to widening North Korean and Chinese communist military muscle flexing, the Summit Communiqué stated, “The United States unequivocally reaffirms that its extended deterrence commitments to both Japan and the ROK are ironclad and backed by the full range of U.S. capabilities.”
A memo added, “We recognize that we are stronger, and the Indo-Pacific is stronger, when Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States stand as one.” This remains unquestioned.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).
Free Press International
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