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UN: North Koreans Live in Pervasive 'State of Fear'

  • Lisa Schlein

The United Nations special investigator for human rights in North Korea says the country's government has created a pervasive 'State of Fear,' which strips the population of all rights and freedoms. The investigator, whose mandate ends in June, has just submitted a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which takes stock of the situation in North Korea during the past six years.

The U.N. Investigator, Vitit Muntarbhorn, presents a bleak assessment of the human-rights situation in North Korea. During the past six years, he says he has witnessed numerous harrowing and horrific abuses perpetrated against the population.

"Such as public executions, such as all kinds of malpractices in prison against women, asylum seekers, collective punishment, torture, etc. of which there are many, many reports," said Vitit Muntarbhorn.

Muntarbhorn says government policies are distorted in favor of militarization and the ruling elite. He says the government uses food to keep control over the people and to make them dependent on the State.

He says there has been a general decline in health care and education. He says children are forced to plow fields, cultivate poppy and engage in other slave-like work.

The U.N. investigator says he has interviewed scores of women, children and men who have sought refuge in South Korea. He says the stories he has heard are terrible, particularly those related by women.

"The majority of the interviewees, scores and scores that I had access to, have been women who have been through various, multiple traumas along the way," he said. "Trafficked, smuggled, having to pay $3,000, promised to pay upon arrival in the final destination country. Sometimes they are tortured, punished if sent back to the country of origin, then they leave again. Sometimes they end up in forced marriage and they are trafficked again, smuggled again before they arrive in a destination country."

The U.N. investigator says he has reports from different sources that indicate North Korea operates many huge camps for political prisoners and their families. He says they often are held there in perpetuity.

He says many people die through hunger and slave labor, through brutality and atrocity.

A North Korean representative accuses the United States, Japan and the European Union of being behind this hostile report. He says these countries are resorting to this despicable and sinister back-door approach to cover their own gross violations of human rights, such as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.