Rarely has the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea been “more painfully closed” to the outside world than it is today, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, as several members opposed the organ’s consideration of the human rights situation in that country, as it does not pose a threat to international peace and security.
Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the 15 member Council that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s policies, initially linked to containing the COVID-19 pandemic, have grown even more extensive as the pandemic has waned. Information collected indicates increasing repression of the rights to freedoms of expression, movement, the persistence of widespread forced labour practices and a worsening situation for economic rights.
Elizabeth Salmón, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that, while 2023 marks the seventieth anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement signed in 1953, there is no visible sign of peacemaking. The country’s leadership has caused the systematic abduction of its people and other nationals, notably from the Republic of Korea and Japan, creating cycles of separated families, and triggering economic sanctions, with a detrimental impact on its own people.
Ilhyeok Kim, a representative of civil society, shared his personal story of having been born and raised in a small village in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He recalled being forced to do unpaid labour from a young age, adding: “The Government turns our blood and sweat into a luxurious life for the leadership and missiles that blast our hard work into the sky.” The money spent on just one missile could feed the people of his country for three months, but the Government “is only concerned with maintaining their power”.
In the ensuing discussion, many Council members expressed deep concern over the humanitarian situation facing the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They urged the Government to comply with human-rights-related Council resolutions and UN instruments.