[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea [JURIST news archive] Vitit Muntarbhorn [UN appointment release] said Monday that he found there to be a "broad range of egregious human rights violations" [press release] in the country. In a report to the UN Human Rights Council [official website], he criticized the country for using access to food as a method of controlling its population and for using torture in its prisons despite a formal ban. He also cited several areas in which the country needed to improve in both the short and long term, and called on the country to cooperate with the UN to improve the situation:
Of special importance for the country, in the short term, is the need to ensure effective provision of and access to food and other basic necessities for those in need of assistance, and to enable people to undertake economic activities to satisfy their basic needs and supplement their livelihood without State interference; to end the punishment of those who seek asylum abroad and who are sent back to their country; to terminate public executions and abuses against the security of the person, and other violations of fundamental rights and freedoms; to cooperate effectively to resolve the issue of foreigners abducted by the country; and to respond constructively to the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.
In the longer term, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should seek to modernize its national system by instituting reforms to ensure greater participation of the people in the process and compliance with international human rights standards; reallocate national budgets, including military budgets, to the social sector; take more extensive food security-related measures; and guarantee personal security and freedoms by dismantling the pervasive surveillance and intelligence system, reforming the justice and prison system, and abiding by the rule of law.
Sang Il Hun, a North Korea representative to the Council, rejected Montarbhorn's conclusions, saying the country did not recognize [JURIST report] the UN General Assembly resolution [text] that created his position. Sang said the report was a politically motivated attack on the country, and that North Korea adequately protects human rights.
In December, the UN World Food Programme [official website] estimated that approximately 40 percent of North Korea's population, or 8.7 million people, will need food assistance [press release] this year due to a deficit in domestic cereal production. In October, Muntarbhorn urged North Korea to improve their rights record [JURIST report] because of their treatment of prisoners, unsuccessful defectors, and their failure to cooperate in locating kidnapped foreign citizens. In January 2008, Muntarbhorn made similar comments during his visit with a special UN envoy to Japan [press release; JURIST report] to assess the impact of the North Korean rights situation on that country. North Korea has frequently been accused of human trafficking, press repression, and "actively committing crimes against humanity" [JURIST reports].