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US Envoy Rails at N. Korean Diplomats for UN Disruption

  • Eunjung Cho

North Korean defectors, left, argue with North Korean diplomats, right, at United Nations headquarters as the diplomats try to make a statement during a panel discussion on North Korean human rights abuses, April 30, 2015.

North Korean defectors, left, argue with North Korean diplomats, right, at United Nations headquarters as the diplomats try to make a statement during a panel discussion on North Korean human rights abuses, April 30, 2015.

The U.S. envoy to the United Nations on Thursday strongly criticized North Korean diplomats for disrupting a U.N. event on North Korean human rights.

The event organized by the U.S. mission to the U.N. in New York featured several speakers, including the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, and three North Korean defectors.

Three diplomats from the North Korean mission to the U.N. attended the event. One of them, Ri Song Chol, a counselor at the North Korean mission, unexpectedly read a statement after a North Korean defector spoke.

Power tried to stop Ri, reminding him he was informed before the event that he would be given a chance to speak. The North Korean diplomat ignored her plea and went on reading the statement, which rejected international criticism of Pyongyang’s human rights violations. He also accused the defectors of betraying “their parents, brothers and sisters and their homeland.”

The North Korean diplomats then left the meeting.

The U.S. envoy condemned the North Korean delegation, accusing them of trying to “drown out” the testimony of the defectors.

“I will say, it must be chilling for those of you who have been subjected to the terror of the regime to be confronted with bullying and disruption and the kind of behavior that we saw today,” said Power.

Power called on the international community to “collectively continue to ramp up the pressure” on North Korea to end human rights abuses and hold those responsible accountable.

The discussion was part of North Korea Freedom Week 2015, a campaign organized by the North Korea Freedom Coalition, a Washington advocacy group for North Korean human rights.

Suzanne Sholt, the group's leader, said this year’s campaign highlighted North Korean defectors’ role in raising the awareness of North Korean human rights.

The defectors, she told reporters, "are our greatest resource to bring about a change in North Korea.”

In March, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution against Pyongyang for its human rights record.

In December, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the Security Council to consider referring the North Korean human rights situation to the International Criminal Court.

The U.N. moves followed a U.N. panel report released early last year that detailed human rights violations by North Korea and accused the country of committing crimes against humanity.

Yeon Cheol Lee contributed to this report.

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