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

Aside

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 – North Korea Releases Chinese Fisherman

Aside

In the News – North Korea Releases Chinese Fisherman

BEIJING—A group of Chinese fishermen apparently detained by North Koreans nearly two weeks ago has been released, Chinese state media reported Sunday.

The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Jiang Yaxian, Chinese counselor to North Korea, as saying the detained vessels and fishermen were on their way back to China.

The Xinhua report provided few details about the fishermen’s detention, and it remained unclear why the vessels were detained in the first place and whether Chinese authorities had agreed to pay a ransom in exchange for their release. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea evading UN luxury goods ban to smoke, drink, drive: panel

Aside

In the News – North Korea evading UN luxury goods ban to smoke, drink, drive: panel

(Reuters) – Ten thousand rolls of tobacco, 12 bottles of Sake, and a handful of second-hand Mercedes-Benz cars are among the latest reported breaches byNorth Korea of a U.N. ban on luxury goods sales to the reclusive state, according to a confidential draft U.N. report.

Japan told a U.N. panel of experts that Pyongyang also imported thousands of computers and thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics and that almost all the goods were shipped through China, it was reported in the draft seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The five North Korean violations reported to the panel by Japan during the past year took place between 2008 and 2010. The panel was also informed of another two potential violations, but they have not yet been officially reported by Japan.

Two rounds of U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests ban the sale of luxury items to the state’s government. It was also hit with an arms embargo and is forbidden from trading in nuclear and missile technology.

The panel also said it was investigating reports of possible North Korean weapons-related sales to Syria and Myanmar, as well as other reports of arms-related violations.

The report, which was submitted to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee this week, said implementation of the luxury goods ban was “deeply problematic” because it was up to each country to create a blacklist and not all had done so.

“Also the DPRK (North Korea) is able to exploit differences between such lists, where they exist, to avoid bans in one member state by shopping in another – and the panel sees little evidence of information sharing between member states on what might be included on these lists,” the report said.

WHAT’S A LUXURY?

“Definitions of luxury goods by member states are not consistent. Chinese customs officials told the panel that most of the above mentioned goods were not considered as luxury goods by China,” it said.

The panel of experts wrote that Pyongyang residents and visitors said luxury cars were seen in the city and that luxury goods – both authentic and forgeries and including expensive liquors and cosmetics – were widely and openly available.

“All this indicates that the ban on luxury goods has not yet disrupted effectively the supply of such goods either to the DPRK elite or to the rising Pyongyang middle class,” it noted.

The U.N. panel also said it was collecting more information about media reports that the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization may have violated the sanctions by shipping computers and computer servers to North Korea.

The panel visited Italy to obtain documents on several cases of previously reported violations, including a foiled attempt by North Korea to import high quality U.S.-made tap dancing shoes valued at almost $200 a pair.

The experts also traveled to Switzerland to investigate sales of Swiss luxury watches to Pyongyang.

“The panel learned that hardly any watch sales to DPRK are in the luxury category,” the report said.

“The panel concluded that any luxury watches sold in the DPRK most likely are sourced elsewhere. Industry officials pointed out that manufacturers had little control over who purchased their watches once globally distributed,” it wrote.

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. House passes bill on N. Korean human rights

Aside

In the News – U.S. House passes bill on N. Korean human rights

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, May 15 (Yonhap) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday calling for bipartisan efforts to address North Korea’s human rights violations, according to a congressional source.

Members of the House approved by voice vote the legislation on extending until 2017 the authority of the North Korean Human Rights Act, added the source.

The act provides the legal ground for the U.S. government’s financial support for radio stations broadcasting to North Korea and the appointment of a special envoy on the North’s human rights issues.

The reauthorization bill notes that, “Although the transition to the leadership of Kim Jong-un after the death of Kim Jong-il has introduced new uncertainties and possibilities, the fundamental human rights and humanitarian conditions inside North Korea remains deplorable and North Korean refugees remain acutely vulnerable.”

It also urges China to immediately halt its forcible repatriation of North Koreans.

The Senate is also expected to approve the bill without a major dispute, the source said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Human Rights Body Details N.Korean Abuses

Aside

In the News – Human Rights Body Details N.Korean Abuses

North Korean defectors are seen at a prison camp in North Hamgyong Province in footage filmed by an activist group (file photo).The National Human Rights Commission unveiled its first report on North Korea’s rights violation on Sunday. The evidence was obtained in interviews with some 60 of the 800 North Korean defectors who arrived here since March last year.

The report details the horrific situation of those imprisoned in four political prison camps in Yodok, Kaechon, Pukchang and Hoeryong, and two concentration camps in Jeungsan and Chongori.

West Germany documented 41,390 human rights violations that took place in East Germany. The NHRC’s report is a similar attempt to catalog human rights abuses in North Korea indicating specific victims and compiled for the purpose of taking those responsible for crimes against humanity in North Korea to the International Criminal Court after reunification.  Continue reading

United Nations and North Korean Human Rights: Just an Opinion Piece

I receive several email alerts everyday on everything North Korea. Now, that’s a lot of emails to go through but what caught my eye today was the United Nation’s resolution on North Korean human rights. It’s a great thing and definitely necessary but it also got me thinking about some other things. But before I get into that, let me give you some details on the resolution.

The human rights committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that is supposed to pressure North Korea into correcting its human rights violations against its own people yesterday (November 21, 2011). Now, we all know about North Korea’s human rights violations: the torture, the political prison camps, the restraint against freedom of religion, the inability to travel freely, the malnutrition, the constant fear of being watched, and the list continues. Continue reading