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“Oh my country, Oh United Nations
Freedom – You are immortal
Leaving our homeland behind
An iron – curtained inferno
We are dragged towards hellish death
Oh my country, oh United Nations
That you will deliver us from this hell,
This death we have faith”

This is a poem, of an unknown abductee, which was found on a wall inside the Pyongyang Prison in 1950 during the Korean War.

70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set out fundamental human rights commitments that all United Nations member states were, and are, expected to observe. Now the Declaration is the most translated document in the world, and has become a criterion by which we measure right and wrong. It has given people everywhere a powerful tool in the fight against oppression, impunity, and affronts to human rights.

In spite of the efforts in the last seven decades, however, the unfortunate truth is that there are numerous situations in which the aspirations of the founders of the United Nations has failed. The atrocities being committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are among one of the worst cases.

Nonetheless, the world has until recently ignored DPRK’s appalling human rights record. Finally, in February 2014, the landmark Commission of Inquiry reported on a State which it found presumptively guilty of on-going crimes against humanity; The gravity, scale, and nature of the DPRK’s infringements on human rights reveal a state that has no parallel in the contemporary world. And yet the situations in the DPRK have been void of improvement. Nevertheless, throughout the three recent inter-Korean summit of April 27, May 26, September 18-20, and the first ever US-DPRK summit of June 12, 2018, Kim Jong-un is seen as the leader of a legitimate state by the international community, and it has been disregarded that previous UN resolutions designated him as a perpetrator of crimes against humanity. Furthermore, even though there is growing concern about whether the DPRK really wants nuclear disarmament and peace on the Korean peninsula, the issue of North Korean human rights was completely ignored, solely based on the assumption that denuclearization is so important that human rights issues should not become a precondition for negotiation.

However, in light of the 70th anniversary of the Declaration, the international community and the United Nations must acknowledge that the North Korean human rights abuses lie at the core of the denuclearization problem. It is for us to ensure that those people in the DPRK who are in dire need of human rights protection are made aware that this Declaration exist – and that it exists for them.

I sincerely hope that this report will contribute to garner greater interest in the DPRK’s human rightsissues amongst the international community, including the third Committee of the General Assembly at its seventythird session, and will assist in the discussion and activities aimed at improving the DPRK’s human rights situation.

October 2018
Kim Tae-Hoon
Chair, People for Successful COrean REunification (PSCORE)
President, Lawyers for human rights and unification of Korea (Hanbyun)


Read the full report here:

An Overview of the Human Rights Situation in the DPRK in light of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights