News / Asia

Pyongyang Defends Record Before UN Human Rights Council

FILE - U.S. Ambassador Robert King, Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Issues, looks on before a session of the Human Rights Council on the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea at the United Nations in Geneva, March 17, 2014
FILE - U.S. Ambassador Robert King, Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Issues, looks on before a session of the Human Rights Council on the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea at the United Nations in Geneva, March 17, 2014
Reuters
— Western powers called on North Korea on Thursday to dismantle its political prison camps and a caste system that ranks citizens based on family loyalty to the ruling dynasty. North Korea defended its human rights record in a debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, continuing to deny the existence of such camps, believed to hold up to 120,000 inmates.

The Rights Council examined the record of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) as part of its scrutiny of each U.N. member state every four years. North Korea is to say on Monday which recommendations it accepts.

U.N. experts said in February that North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities that might amount to crimes against humanity.

Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, voiced concern on Thursday at the commission of inquiry's findings of "systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations" committed by officials and institutions.

"We are alarmed by the widespread use of forced labor, including child labor in detention facilities, and we remain concerned about instances of violence against women, forced abduction of foreign nationals, and reports of torture and abuse in detention facilities," King told the Geneva forum. He called for Pyongyang to shut political prison camps and to release all inmates.

Former prisoners who defected, including Shin Dong-hyuk, gave harrowing accounts in testimony to the U.N. inquiry, whose members were barred from entering North Korea. South Korean envoy Ahn Young-jip also urged Pyongyang to close the camps and to "seriously address" the issue of foreign abductees, prisoners of war and separated families.

Ri Kyung Hun of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly said: "I'd like to reiterate that there is no political prison camp in our vocabulary nor prison camp in law or in practice." 

"State-Sponsored Discrimination"

King also called for North Korea to end what he called "state-sponsored discrimination" based on the "songbun" system, which rates citizens based on their family's political background as "loyal", "wavering" or "hostile".

"This is based largely on what their parents, what their grandparents did 50 years ago. And people are put in these social categories and...it determines whether they can attend university, what opportunities they have, what housing they have. It is a system of brutal discrimination," he said in remarks posted on the website of the U.S. diplomatic mission.

Karen Pearce, Britain's ambassador, said that crimes against humanity were still being committed with impunity. Fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and of religion were denied. 

"We call again for the DPRK to take action on the commission's recommendations, particularly by closing prison camps and investigating alleged violations," Pearce said.

So Se Pyong, North Korea's ambassador, said his country was taking positive steps, including improving legal guarantees, education, and the rights of women, elderly and the disabled.

"Certain forces obsessed with ingrained repugnance towards the DPRK are pursuing   confrontation and pressures, deliberately ignoring the real human rights situation on the ground," So said.

Economic sanctions - imposed on North Korea due to its contested nuclear program - threaten its people's right to existence and hurt the country's peaceful development, So continued.

North Korea's delegation said that Christian groups were trying to recruit North Korean migrants along China's border.

"There are in the northeastern area of China so-called churches and priests exclusively engaged in hostile acts against the DPRK. They indoctrinate the illegal border crossers with anti-DPRK ideology and send them back to the DPRK with assignments of subversion, destruction, human trafficking and even terrorist acts," it said.

China's envoy, Chen Chuangdong, praised "progress" by North Korea in the human rights field, but urged its ally to construct more health facilities and housing in rural areas.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid