In the News – N. Korea’s human rights condition ‘extremely poor,’ U.S. gov’t

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In the News – N. Korea’s human rights condition ‘extremely poor,’ U.S. gov’t

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 24 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s human rights conditions remain “extremely poor,” the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

In an annual report on political freedom and civil liberties in 199 nations, the department again grouped North Korea with Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Belarus and China.

“Overall human rights conditions remained extremely poor in many of the countries that we spotlighted in our 2010 country reports,” said Michael H. Posner, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

The report said North Korea is an “authoritarian state led by the Kim family for more than 60 years,” referring to a recent leadership change in the communist nation to Kim Jong-un, the third son of late leader Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-un’s grandfather, the late founding leader Kim Il-sung, was granted the posthumous title of “eternal president.”
“The most recent national elections, held in March 2009, were neither free nor fair,” read the 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

“Citizens did not have the right to change their government. The government subjected citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives, including denial of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement and worker rights,” it added. “There continued to be reports of a vast network of political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh and life threatening.”

In the previous report, the department described the North’s human rights record “deplorable” and “grim.”

Responding to Yonhap News Agency’s inquiry over if the change of wording has implications, Posner quipped, “I may be running out of words.”

He emphasized that Washington is “deeply concerned that the situation remains poor” and without progress.

He cited a separate report by a U.S. nongovernmental group last month that as many as 200,000 people are held in the secretive nation’s political prison camps, where human rights abuses are prevalent.

He said the U.S. will continue to raise the issue and hopes that the burgeoning transition of Myanmar, or Burma, to democracy may “inspire” North Korea and other closed societies, including Iran, Uzbekistan, Eritrea or Sudan.

On South Korea, meanwhile, the department’s report again took issue with controversies over the National Security Act, which critics view as aimed at cracking down on dissidents and those who support North Korea, along with other laws designed to keep public order.

“The primary human rights problems reported were the government’s interpretation of national security and other laws to limit freedom of expression and restrict access to the Internet as well as incidents of hazing in the military,” the report said.

It added other human rights problems included some official corruption; sexual and domestic violence; children engaged in prostitution; human trafficking; societal discrimination against foreigners, North Korean defectors, persons with HIV/AIDS; and limitations on workers’ rights.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Myanmar Agrees Defector Release

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In the News – Myanmar Agrees Defector Release

Myanmar has agreed to release a North Korean defector imprisoned two years ago for entering the country illegally and declared its intention to comply with all UN resolutions covering nuclear and missile trade, reflecting the country’s recent tentative moves toward rejoining the international community of nations following years of economic and diplomatic isolation.

The imprisoned defector, whose identity has not been released, has been serving a five-year prison sentence following his 2010 conviction for illegal entry. Upon his release, the man is reportedly set to be transferred to South Korea.

The agreement came as President Lee Myung Bak met President Thein Sein in the new jungle capital of Napyidaw as part of the first visit to the country by a sitting South Korean president since a 1983 terrorist attack carried out in the former Burmese capital of Yangon by North Korean agents killed a number of government ministers and came within minutes of killing President Chun Doo Hwan himself.

For its part, South Korea has offered Myanmar a slew of different forms of development assistance matching the nature of its recent reforms, including loans and grants, scholarships and even help in establishing an economic think tank.

Today, President Lee is set to fly across from Napyidaw to the traditional capital, Yangon, to meet with democracy activist and newly elected lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

Original article can be found here.