The UN Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Monday released a report on the impact of forced disappearance and abductions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on victims and their families. Within the report, the UN called for the DPRK to acknowledge and end these violations by returning abduction victims and releasing those detained on political grounds.
The report expanded on a 2014 human rights inquiry into state-sponsored abductions and forced disappearances in the DPRK, which discovered that the state has carried out enforced disappearances of persons since 1950. The 2023 report examined the “ongoing suffering” of these violations and their “disparate” impact on women and children. The OHCHR retrieved data through 80 interviews between 2016 and 2022 of 38 female and 42 male victims, including relatives of abducted persons, people who escaped the DPRK and well nationals from other countries who escaped abduction by the DPRK. Consultations with victim groups and civil society organisations were also carried out to examine the impact of these human rights breaches.
The UN report highlighted that these abductions are clear violations of international human rights law. Two forms of abduction were reviewed in the report: (1) The continued enforced disappearances of the DPRK’s nationals and (2) Abductions of foreign nationals, which primarily took place between the 1950s and 1980s during and after the Korean War. The OHCHR called on the DPRK to acknowledge these enforced disappearances and take immediate steps to end them by returning victims to their families. They also called for investigations to be launched into these abductions to “hold those responsible to account.”
Commenting on the report, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk stated:
The anguish, sorrow and reprisals that families – across multiple generations – have had to endure are heart-breaking . . . The testimonies from this report demonstrate that entire generations of families have lived with the grief of not knowing the fate of spouses, parents, children and siblings.
In examining the effect on relatives, the report stated that victims “yearn . . . to know the truth regarding the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones” and desire “access to remedies and redress.” The OHCHR stated they will continue to monitor and support victims groups by “promoting possible strategies for truth, justice including accountability and reparations.”