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Grim reality of North Korea's assault on human rights

Human rights - 12-04-2010 - 16:11
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  • Human rights hearing told of shocking abuses
  • EU sponsored UN resolution puts pressure on Kim Jong-il
Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean defector, shows scars on his leg during a press conference in Seoul, 29 October 2007. He said he was injured while fleeing a prison camp where he was born and spent 22 years. Korea. BELGA/AFP/JUNG YEON-JE

Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean defector, shows scars on his leg during a press conference in Seoul, 29 October 2007. He said he was injured while fleeing a prison camp where he was born and spent 22 years. Korea. BELGA/AFP/JUNG YEON-JE

Hunger and fear are a part of the daily lives of North Korea's 23 million people. Living in a State with one of the worst human rights records in the world is harsh for its people. A recent EU sponsored resolution at the United Nations has put pressure on the repressive dictatorship of Kim Jong-il and a hearing on North Korea by Parliament's Human Rights Committee was held on 7 April. A survivor of their vast Gulag system also gave a personal account of the terror.

Speaking at the Hearing Portuguese Socialist MEP Ana Gomes said that the international view is often "dominated by the nuclear issue, we tend to trade off with human rights, which is fundamentally wrong".
 
Also present was Robert King, the Obama Administration's special envoy for human rights in North Korea. He described the regime as "one of the worst human rights abusers in the world".  
 
The UN estimates that 200,000 people may be incarcerated in the country for "political crimes".
 
22 years in North Korea's Gulag
 
Forced labour, political repression, religious persecution, human trafficking, torture, rape and murder are just some of the abuses by North Korea mentioned during the Hearing.  It is the testimonies of the people that have managed to escape this nightmare who have provided an insight into the system.
 
North Korean refugee Shin Dong-hyuk was born and spent the first 22 years of his life in a political camp for people who have committed "anti-state" activities. He told the hearing that in the camps people effectively have no identity. They have no right to speak, to eat or to move around.  He went on to say that many inmates are put to work in mines even if ill and execution can take place just for a wrong word.
 
Describing this situation the Chair of the Human Rights Committee Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala said that up to 1 million people might have perished in the camps.
 
Hannah Song from international NGO "Liberty in North Korea" told those present that "in 2008 the World Food Program estimated that 40% of the population would need food assistance in the coming year". In the 1990's economic mismanagement led to a famine that killed between 500,000 and 2 million people.
 
North Korea - squeezed between the South and China

North Korea - squeezed between the South and China

World community should prepare for collapse of regime
 
The International community should prepare for collapse of the regime according to Polish Socialist MEP Janusz Zemke. He also proposed that five or six countries should monitor the regime.
 
Other ideas put forward included trying to provide more information for the people inside North Korea, an UN inquiry into human rights abuses and improving conditions for refugees. Many MEPs wanted the European Union to have a clear policy with one line on how to handle the North.
 
Romanian MEP László Tőkés of the European People's Party underlined that the US remains the most important partner for any EU action.
 
British MEP Roger Helmer for the Europe of Conservatives and Reformists was pessimistic about progress and said that dialogue did not seem to be yielding results.
 
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Parliament's delegation for relations with the Korean peninsula is due to visit North Korea in June.
 
 
REF.: 20100409STO72385