Basic human rights denied in the DPRK
This past October, Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the DPRK, made a request to visit the country to assess its human rights situation. That request was denied. Remaining in the region, Mr. Darusman instead made official visits to the Republic of Korea and Japan. Upon his return, UN Radio’s Dianne Penn asked him about the situation of human rights in the DPRK:
Darusman: The situation being an across-the-board denial of basic human rights, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and speech and the whole range of political freedoms. And the impact of the severly restricted situation with regard to the human rights in North Korea has resulted in a rise in defections from that part of the country to China and to South Korea. And this of course understandably impacts on the situation on the situation in these neighboring countries. In terms also of the aggravation of trafficking and people-smuggling, but also abuse of women at the borders, and in the process of these people coming out from North Korea on their journey to settle finally in the southern part of the peninsula, I went to visit a rehabilitation centre that was established by the South Koreans to ease the defectors adjustment to the new life in South Korea, and statistics have shown that during the last period there has been a steep rise in the inflow of people from the North.
Penn: And sir, did you get to speak with any of the defectors. And if so, what did they tell you?
Darusman: I met with the defectors at the rehabilitation center and was able to converse with them and ask questions how they finally made that decision to leave North Korea to go to South Korea and the severe conditions that they had to go through to cross the border and to address the fact that they had to go through this transition via China. And in some cases, they were forced to in fact to settle there and marry because that was the only way to avoid being repatriated by the Chinese back into North Korea.
These were people that had family members in South Korea and they were the ones that were able to initially leave the country because they had also resources, being sent out from South Korea, to enable them to go through the route that brought them to South Korea. The other issue that was high on the agenda was the family reunion processes that had been taking place for the past few years organized by both the South Korean and the North Korean Red Cross organizations. But these were also every now and then suspended because of tightening tensions between the two governments. And I was there at the moment when the attack on the island took place, which impacted of course on the suspension of south Korean aid to the North.
But I thought that over and above these recurrent tensions that happen now and then, the international community should stay the course of being ready to provide humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable groups in North Korea and to focus on that with a view of accessing further into North Korea and eventually then address the human rights situation when we feel that the North Koreans are ready to recognize that it would only be in their benefit to engage with the international community.
Marzuki Darusman is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, ending today’s programme.