Tomas Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea, spoke on Friday highlighting both human rights concerns in the country and the need for cooperation from North Korea.
Ojea Quintana called on the nation to allow him to enter and visit their country, or even exchange views through letters or by meeting in person, as he has requested.
“This year 2019 will represent a crucial test for peace and denuclearization, but also for the prospects of a new stance to human rights by DPR Korea. … The fact is that with all the positive developments the world has witnessed in the past year, it is all the more regrettable that the reality for human rights on the ground remains unchanged, and continues to be extremely serious,” said Ojea Quintana.
In addition, the Special Rapporteur expressed serious concerns about the system of political prison camps in North Korea.
“Fear about being sent to these political prison camps are very real and deeply embedded in the consciousness of the ordinary North Korean people—as real is the control that is exercised over the people,” he said. Thousands of people “accused of committing crimes against the state are sent, [without] due process guarantees or fair trial, in a manner that amounts to enforced disappearances with the family not knowing their whereabouts.”
The expert noted what he called a breakthrough at the beginning of 2018, which was able to “eas[e] tensions on the Korean peninsula, which was followed by key milestones for the advancement of the peace process, the denuclearization agenda and inter-Korean relations.” The UN expert said in a statement that he saw the country’s recognition of economic and social hardships of ordinary people, which “represents an important first step towards taking action to address the challenges.”