News / Asia

UN Urges Probe Into 'Atrocious' N. Korean Crimes

UN Commission Accuses North Korea of Crimes Against Humanityi
February 18, 2014 12:31 AM
A United Nations commission says North Korean officials - and possibly even North Korean leader Kim Jong Un - should be tried for crimes against humanity. A report released Monday by the U.N.’s Commission of Inquiry on North Korea compared many of the abuses to crimes committed by the Nazis during World War II. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Watch related video by VOA's Jeff Seldin
Daniel Schearf
A new United Nations report accuses North Korea of  “unspeakable atrocities," many of which amount to crimes against humanity. 

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea is calling for an international tribunal to investigate the alleged crimes and to bring those most responsible to justice. 

The chair of the three-member commission said Monday that the panel gathered abundant evidence from more than 80 witnesses and satellite images. Many of the witnesses were defectors who survived prison camps and escaped across the border and through China.

“We had testimony, which is quoted in the report, which tells the stories of the prison camps -- of the starvation, of the great famine and of the deployment of inadequate resources … of the babies who are born stunted and who remain stunted … of abductions, of the public executions, and of the fact that many people simply disappear -- they disappear either into the prison camps or into public executions or private and secret executions,” he said.

Even before details were released Monday on the panel's historic one-year investigation, leaks to the media showed it found gross violations.
They include summary executions, rape, torture, forced abortions and enslavement.
The U.N. report said religious minorities and political dissidents suffer the most, with up to 120,000 living in town-sized prison camps.
Lee Jung-hoon, South Korea's Ambassador for Human Rights, said the U.N. report is the first reliable and legal evidence of atrocities in North Korea.

He said the report also specifies that North Korea’s crimes can be labeled as genocide, which means the crime can be applied to the leadership of North Korea, including Kim Jong Un.

There are no exemptions to this crime, Lee said. So, even if the two Koreas are reunified within 5, 10 or 50 years, the leaders of North Korea can still be punished.
North Korea refused to allow U.N. investigators to visit the country and rejected the panel's formation as slander against it. 
Despite the call for prosecution, there is little chance North Korean leaders will face justice.
A U.N. Security Council decision would be needed to send the case to the International Criminal Court, and North Korea's main backer, China, has veto power.
During the investigation, Beijing ignored the U.N. panel's  request to visit its border area with North Korea.
China's Foreign Ministry Monday said submitting the U.N. report to the ICC would not help resolve human rights in North Korea.
However, Lilian Lee, with the Citizens Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, is still optimistic.  She pointed out that the mere existence of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) was once dismissed as impossible.
"So I don’t think that we can count out any legal mechanism taking place because of one or two specific countries. You know of course it may not happen right away.  And, just like it took many years for the COI to establish itself for North Korea, we can probably assume that it can take many more years for any sort of justice system to take action," Lee said.
The commission sent the report to Pyongyang in January but never received a reply.
The report's findings will officially be presented March 17 to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The report is being made public as relations between the two Koreas are improving and will come out just days before renewed cross-border family reunions.
Seoul convinced Pyongyang on Friday to resume the reunions despite its joint military drills with the U.S.
Ambassador Lee said the timing of North Korea's concession just ahead of the U.N. report is not likely a coincidence.
Lee said North Korea knows how strong the U.N. panel's recommendation is. In other words, he assesses that North Korea did not change sincerely but is taking a quick strategy to try to avoid criticism by the international community.
The two sides also agreed not to slander each other so Pyongyang will be closely watching Seoul's comments on the U.N. report.
VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim and Lisa Schlein in Geneva contributed to this report.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Harry Kuheim from: usa
February 17, 2014 2:42 PM
This is a laugh...the UN empowered/ legitimatized/created the PRNK in 1953...everyone knew it would become a repressive Communist Police State right out of George Orwell's 1984 Novel...Now they "Get it"? This beyond pathetic...
In Response

by: Al from: Ottawa
February 17, 2014 4:31 PM
Ummm... the state was established in 1948. And it's DPRK, not PRNK. It wasn't the UN that empowered/created the DPRK.... that was Russia. The UN was responsible for the establishment of South Korea (aka ROK... or PRSK for you). How about you let folks who actually know stuff do the commenting? Pathetic? You bet.

by: Jerry Gerber from: San Francisco
February 17, 2014 2:38 PM
Without minimizing the above named crimes committed by North Korea--these are serious crimes to be sure--I am nevertheless bothered by the equally serious crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by my own government, the United States. Some of these crimes include: Torture, assassination of both foreign nationals and American citizens without charges or trial, the systematic murder of women, children, innocent men (drone strikes, U.S. officials call it "collateral damage"), violations of our own 4th amendment via the NSA, the rape culture of the U.S. military, bombing and invading countries that were not capable of, or planning, war against us (Iraq)--the list goes on. These are also war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Just as politics is first and foremost the abuse of language, nationalism is first and foremost the practice of hypocrisy. The United Nations is, hopefully, the precursor to real world law, which means that the people who lead the most powerful nations are held to the same legal and moral standard as those leaders of weak and poor countries. That's the kind of world I wish to live in, and so do billions of other human beings.

by: onefeather from: USA
February 17, 2014 2:12 PM
Any leader or person who controls a country or nation that does these crimes should be taken out. No person deserves or should have to live in fear and hate and control.
This should be a subtle wake up call for how governments become and then get total control, seems a wake up call for what some governments do slowly to gain control. When you are told you have No rights then it becomes dangerous..hummm seems our government is slowly doing just that. We need to look in our own "backyard".

by: Patrick from: America
February 17, 2014 2:11 PM
If only there was a way to rescue the hundreds of thousands of N. Koreans before they are subject to near-future pains as well.. It is 2014, our world could be so much more advanced and productive if we could just unify and put aside these bullshit differences. Take out the idiot leaders who got 'lucky' and born into leadership positions they obviously can't control, but abuse. The inevitable will happen, one day North Korea will be free, but how many more lives need to be ended? I understand many Asian countries have long-lived traditions of rape, murder, kidnappings, anti-freedoms, etc. but how can the world stand for it? It's save them now, or wait many years and allow 'scum' like Kim Jung Un to continue his family traditions of otherworldly leadership.. What can we do to help? Is there nothing? Are we really allowing this to happen?

I was lucky enough to be born in the US, how about you? ANY of us could have been placed in their shoes.

In Response

by: Sasha from: America
February 18, 2014 3:45 AM
When you say "save them now" you are euphemistically referring to a full-blown war in Korea.

How do you think that will affect the welfare of the people who are suffering?

Which people do you think will be put out front for our soldiers to kill? Most of the country is formally part of its army.

What about all the millions of civilians in DPRK's range who will die in minutes in Seoul and possibly Japan after such an engagement begins?

Don't you think China would be drawn into the client state that is in its sphere of influence, where the US last fought China? And don't you see that Russia would also be drawn in? And do you understand what this means for our soldiers and for the world?

Don't demand any-old-action, right now. You might just get what you wish for, and besides killing a lot of people all it will do is satisfy your personal whims.

by: Kelly from: Florida
February 17, 2014 2:10 PM
If Kim gets any doubt over anybody he executes them. Is he elected leader of NK? No he is a dictator. His crimes in just 2 years is mind boggling that too in a cruellest way. He is more threat to NK and it's people than others. Unless he is removed there will be any hope for NK people. His supporting nation must be suspended from UN for violating maritime law and space law and trying to encroach international space and water based on clumsy basis which has had no significance and purportedly followed by imperials who the same imperials made this nation imperial country for century. The colonial establishments has had no meaning at all in UN otherwise the same country should be part of imperials. Therefore strong action on this supporting main threat is essential to take action on NK which is beneficial to whole Asia.

by: Cranios from: USA
February 17, 2014 2:10 PM
This is just one more bit of evidence that the UN is a toothless, castrated entity. How can you have an organization bring anyone to justice if it has despotic regimes like China holding veto power? How absurd. If the UN had been in charge, Hitler would still be running death camps - because that's exactly what N. Korea is doing and we're standing idly by, doing nothing in response.
In Response

by: Cranios from: USA
February 18, 2014 2:10 PM
John: I understand that the UN wasn't in existence during Hitler's time. That's why I said "IF".
So IF the UN had been in charge, Hitler would have won.
In Response

by: onefeather from: USA
February 17, 2014 11:02 PM
Well said.
In Response

by: John from: USA
February 17, 2014 3:10 PM
Dude, UN did not exist when Hitler was bulling the world. Get your history straight.
In Response

by: jj from: usa
February 17, 2014 2:44 PM
Another laughable example of the "power" of the UN

by: Kenneth from: California
February 17, 2014 2:02 PM
A step in the right direction. Hopefully can put an end to slave labor and these atrocities

by: Deborah Beaudoin-Zaki from: Providence, RI
February 17, 2014 2:02 PM
Why was Crimes Against Humanity not charged against all who invalided Iraq (especially USA and England)? This war was about control of another nation's resources by foreign politicians and mega corporations. Watch the PBS Documentry: Frontline; Bush's War can google and watch on line.
In Response

by: Stoshy from: Pakistan
February 18, 2014 5:45 PM
No, it was about a crazed dictator who threatened America and its allies. He committed equally atrocious acts against his own people. He was brought to justice because of it. He threatened the oil supplies of Saudi Arabia and other neighboring nations.
Do I even need a source? This was common knowledge pre-war. How was it forgotten post-war?
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 17, 2014 5:07 PM
Q. Guess who isn't getting any of the oil coming out of Iraq?
A. The USA
The problem with these supposed war crimes is most of them are unfounded. But I am sure your ok with Uncle Saddam gassing his own people. Your argument is invalid. Sorry, but not really.
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