In the News – Defectors, activists hold rally to condemn rights abuses in N. Korea

In the News – Defectors, activists hold rally to condemn rights abuses in N. Korea

By Kim Kwang-tae
SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) — About 150 activists and North Korean defectors held a symbolic rally in central Seoul Friday to protest against human rights abuses in North Korea.

The protest is timed to mark the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 1.1 million Jews died during the Holocaust.

Human rights advocacy groups have long called for international efforts to stop genocide and crimes against humanity which they claim are being systematically carried out by North Korean authorities.

The communist country has been accused of human rights abuses for decades, ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners to torture and public executions. Pyongyang has flatly denied the accusations, calling them a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

“Every act defined as a crime against humanity is being committed on a systematic level in North Korea’s concentration camps today,” Robert Park, a Korean-American Christian missionary, told the crowd in front of Seoul Station at the center of the capital.

Park was tortured in North Korea during 43 days in detention for illegal entry in late 2009.

A crowd estimated by police at about 150 chanted “stop the genocide” as they marched a few kilometers on the sidewalk toward the Chinese Consulate to call on Beijing not to repatriate North Korean refugees back to their homeland.

Still, they were later stopped by dozens of police wearing florescent yellow jackets near the Chinese diplomatic mission. No clash occurred as they later peacefully dispersed.

Tens of thousands of North Korean defectors are believed to be hiding in China, hoping to travel to Thailand or other Southeast Asian countries before resettling in South Korea, home to more than 23,000 North Korean defectors.

China does not recognize North Korean refugees and sends them back to the North, where they face harsh punishments and even execution, according to defectors and activists.

Organizers said similar rallies were held or are scheduled to be held in Berlin, New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Jakarta in coordinated efforts to put pressure on the North to end its dire human rights situation.

The latest move comes as North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un appears to be consolidating the power he inherited upon the death last month of his father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Genocide Watch, a Washington-based international nongovernmental organization that seeks to end genocide, said in a report last month that North Korea has “committed genocide and political mass killings,” and is “a serial killer state.”

Tuvia Israeli, Israeli Ambassador to South Korea, said he believed that protest rallies may put pressure on the North over its dire human rights record, though he said Pyongyang is unlikely to change unless it feels the heat of the international community.

“The heat can come only from joint efforts by the powers in the region, powers of the world to exercise that kind of pressure,” Israeli told Yonhap News Agency. “Nobody must forget the people in North Korea.”

Original article can be found here

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