A senior U.S. diplomat says the North Korean regime lacks legitimacy because of the hardship it causes to its citizens.
At a conference on North Korea this week, Robert King, the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, said the communist country continues to make human rights violations despite international concerns.
“When you look at North Korea, what it has done, and the lack of support it has in the international community, there is no question it does not have the legitimacy it seeks and claims that it has,” King said.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, hosted the conference Tuesday to mark the one year anniversary of a report by the United Nation’s Commission of Inquiry (COI), which accused North Korea of committing crimes against humanity.
The conference in Washington drew strong protests from Pyongyang. The North Korean Permanent Mission to the U.N. issued a statement condemning the event, calling it a “political human rights plot” against the country.
Recently, Pyongyang launched an aggressive campaign to counter international criticisms over the country’s human rights record. It has also challenged some of testimony given to the U.N. panel, which prompted a prominent North Korean defector to retract part of his story. Shin Dong-hyuk, a former inmate of a North Korean political prison camp, admitted publicly that part of his story about life in prison was not completely accurate.
Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge who headed COI investigation, said the U.N. report still stands despite controversy over Shin’s testimony, stressing Shin’s actions are “immaterial” to the report’s overall conclusion.
Kirby called on the U.N. Security Council to refer the North Korean human rights issue to the International Criminal Court. Last December, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the council to consider referring the issue to the international court.
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Public Affairs Kurt Campbell, South Korea’s Ambassador for Human Rights Jong-Hoon Lee and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK Marzuki Darusman also spoke at Tuesday’s event. Two North Korean defectors told their stories.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service