New data from a South Korean think-tank shows that despite minor progress in certain areas, UN efforts at improving human rights in North Korea have not led to real improvement. The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) [official website] analyzed 52,735 cases [Korea Herald report] according to nine categories specified by the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) report in order to track any developments in the past two years. Although there were signs of minor progress for access to food and imprisonment, almost half of the cases constituted arbitrary detention. Other areas saw increases under the continued Kim regime as well, including violations of the right to life, violations of the right to movement, and enforced disappearances. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a statement [text] last week discussing these matters:
Kim Il-Sung’s rule was based on ruthless rights abuses, including frequent use of enforced disappearances and deadly prison camps to inflict fear and repress any voices challenging his rule. … The man is dead, but his brainwashing and horrific abuses live on. Kim Jong-Un is following right along in his grandfather’s footsteps.
The COI is not the only way the UN has addressed this issue. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has also passed resolutions condemning the violations, and the UN Security Council [official websites] has formally addressed the issue on its agenda the past two years.
North Korea has been an international source of concern due to the country’s human rights record and instability. Last month UN human rights investigator Marzuki Darusman [official profile] urged [press release] the UNHRC to push for the prosecution of top North Korean government officials for crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. In February Darusman asked the UN to provide North Korea with notice [JURIST report] that Kim Jong Un may be investigated for crimes against humanity. The US House of Representatives [official website] in January approved [press release] legislation that would increase sanctions against North Korea for its continuation of nuclear testing [JURIST report]. Japan and the EU circulated [JURIST report] a draft UN resolution in November condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses and encouraging the UN Security Council to refer the country to the International Criminal Court [official website], noting reports of torture, limits on freedom of mobility, restrictions on freedom of speech, restrictions on freedom of religion, privacy infringement, arbitrary imprisonment, prison camps and more. Darusman expressed deep concerns [JURIST report] regarding human rights violations in the country just a month earlier. In November 2014 Darusman said that there is enough evidence to hold Kim Jong-un responsible for “massive” human rights atrocities [JURIST report] committed in the country. In response to these concerns, the UN opened a new office [JURIST report] in Seoul in June 2015 to specifically monitor human rights in North Korea.