Re­port: Hu­man mis­ery in N. Korea puts en­tire re­gion in peril

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By David R. Sands

North Korea’s hu­man rights record is so bad it con­sti­tutes a threat to re­gional peace that de­mands U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ac­tion, ac­cord­ing to a de­tailed re­port by a lead­ing hu­man rights group.

There­port,com­mis­sioned­by­former Czech Pres­i­dent Va­clav Havel, for­mer Nor­we­gian Prime Min­is­ter Kjell Magne Bon­de­vik and No­bel Peace Prize win­ner Elie Wiesel of the United States, warned that the North’s abysmal hu­man rights record could be­come even worse be­cause Py­ongyang’s re­cent nu­clear test has in­creased the regime’s in­ter­na­tional iso­la­tion.

With new U.N. sanc­tions in place, “the [North Korean] peo­ple may in­ad­ver­tently suf­fer more,” said De­bra Liang-Fenton, ex­ecu- tive di­rec­tor of the U.S. Com­mit­tee for Hu­man Rights in North Korea, which worked with the law firm DLA Piper to pre­pare the 140page re­port re­leased last week.

The se­cre­tive North Korean regime has long had one of the world’s worst hu­man rights records, but the re­port said in­ter­na­tional ac­tion has fo­cused more on Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and mil­i­tary threats.

South Korea wor­ries that an overem­pha­sis on North Korean hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions could un­der­cut its pro­gram of grad­ual rap­proche­ment, but Mr. Havel, Mr. Bon­de­vik and Mr. Wiesel said the North’s Oct. 9 nu­clear test, car­ried out in de­fi­ance of in­ter­na­tional warn­ings, showed that soft­en­ing crit­i­cism of the North’s hu­man rights record did not re­strain Py­ongyang on other fronts.

The re­port ar­gues that U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ac­tion is jus­ti­fied be­cause North Korea’s treat­ment of its peo­ple con­sti­tutes “a non­tra­di­tional threat to peace,” cre­at­ing in­sta­bil­ity that could spill eas­ily into neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

Al­though North Korea re­ceives in­ter­na­tional food aid, gov­ern­ment poli­cies have con­trib­uted to mul­ti­ple famines in re­cent years that have killed at least 1 mil­lion peo­ple, the re­port es­ti­mates. De­spite hard­ship and wide­spread mal­nu­tri­tion, North Korea blocks U.N. food pro­gram op­er­a­tives from trav­el­ing to more than 20 per­cent of its coun­ties.

The North also main­tains a vast net­work of po­lit­i­cal pris­ons, where up to 200,000 in­mates live in “nearstarv­ing con­di­tions,” the re­port’s au­thors said.

North Korea’s hu­man rights vi- ola­tions rep­re­sent a threat to its neigh­bors, which face a mas­sive refugee prob­lem if the regime weak­ens or col­lapses, the re­port says. With few le­git­i­mate means of earn­ing for­eign cur­rency, the North has re­lied on drug traf­fick­ing and cur­rency coun­ter­feit­ing to earn money abroad.

The re­port calls on the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to pass a non-puni­tive hu­man rights res­o­lu­tion de­mand­ing that the North open all its ter­ri­tory to U.N. aid agen­cies, re­lease all po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers and al­low a U.N. spe­cial rap­por­teur on North Korean hu­man rights to visit the coun­try.

If the non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion does not pro­duce re­sults, the au­thors say, the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil should con­sider a sec­ond, bind­ing res­o­lu­tion that could be backed by force.

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