UN chief says North Korea has increased repression of rights

Sep 1, 2022, 7:24 PM | Updated: 7:27 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea has increased its repression of the rights and freedoms of its people and the U.N. Security Council should consider referring the country to the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a new report circulated Thursday.

The report to the U.N. General Assembly said there has been no progress in ensuring accountability for human rights violations in the reclusive north Asian country and cited previously documented instances that may amount to crimes against humanity.

It also noted U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s update to the Human Rights Council in March that information her office received “continued to suggest that there were reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed … and may be ongoing” in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

Guterres said “it remains imperative for the international community to respond to the human rights situation” in the DPRK, including supporting accountability “if crimes against humanity are found to have been committed, in order to avoid impunity.”

“This includes the Security Council acting on its own or on the recommendation of the General Assembly to consider referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court,” he said.

The ICC was established to seek accountability for the world’s worst atrocities — war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, which Bachelet headed until Thursday when her four-year term ended, sent a note to the DPRK mission in Geneva on July 1 seeking comments on the draft report, but Guterres said it received no reply.

The 18-page report, covering the period from August 2021 to July 2022, said the further repression of human rights in the DPRK took place during COVID-19 restrictions which were subsequently increased and included lockdowns.

North Korea acknowledged its first coronavirus outbreak in May and subsequently reported about 4.8 million “fever cases” in its population of 26 million, but only identified a fraction of those as COVID-19. The country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, declared a widely disputed victory over COVID-19 on Aug. 10, but experts believe North Korea has manipulated disclosures of its outbreak to help him maintain absolute control.

Secretary-General Guterres said COVID-19 restrictions which closed the country’s borders and restricted freedom of movement and social interaction within the country, “have enabled the government to further suppress the flow of information and ideas among its people.”

These developments add to the country’s repressive political and security system “that uses surveillance, coercion, fear and punishment to suppress the will of the people, divide them, sow distrust and stifle the emergence of any collective will or authentic, home-grown culture,” he said.

The report cites the Reactionary Thought and Culture Denunciation Law enacted in 2020 which reportedly punishes anyone found to possess or distribute large amounts of media material from South Korea with life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

One man was reportedly executed in public in April 2021 after his neighborhood watch unit observed him selling USB and CD storage devices containing films, music and broadcasts from South Korea, the report said.

The law also criminalizes other acts including using slang and fonts, or typefaces, from South Korea, with penalties including job dismissal and fines, it said.

The report said North Koreans who managed to escape from the country expressed widespread fear in interviews of being sent to a political prison camp for expressing views or criticizing the government.

This remains “the most emblematic example of the gross violation of the right to freedom of expression in the country.” it said, adding that five such camps are believed to exist.

Underlying the widespread and systematic repression of human rights is a system in which the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea categorizes all people into one of three classes, based on its judgment “of their loyalty and acquiescence to its centralized rule,” the report said.

Escapees interviewed said this classification, known as songbun, affects a range of human rights including access to higher education, housing, food, employment, participation in public affairs, marriage and family life and places of residence, it said.

“Enforced disappearance to political prison camps continues to epitomize a system of governance that subdues and controls rather than represents the people,” the U.N. chief said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Republican presidential candidates, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, talking with forme...

Associated Press

The GOP debate field was asked about Trump. But most of the stage’s attacks focused on Nikki Haley

The four Republican presidential candidates debating Wednesday night mostly targeted each other instead of Donald Trump.

1 day ago

Law enforcement officers head into the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus after reports of an ...

Associated Press

Police say 3 dead, fourth wounded and shooter also dead in University of Nevada, Las Vegas attack

Police said a suspect was found dead Wednesday as officers responded to an active shooter and reports of multiple victims at UNLV.

1 day ago

President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, leaves after a court appearance, July 26, 2023, in Wilming...

Associated Press

Republicans threaten contempt proceedings if Hunter Biden refuses to appear for deposition

House Republicans are threatening to hold Hunter Biden in contempt if he does not show up this month for a closed-door deposition.

1 day ago

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., listens to a question during a news conference, March 30, 2022, in W...

Associated Press

Tuberville is ending blockade of most military nominees, clearing way for hundreds to be approved

Sen. Tommy Tuberville announced Tuesday that he's ending his blockade of hundreds of military promotions, following heavy criticism.

2 days ago

An employee works inside the Hanwha Qcells Solar plant on Oct. 16, 2023, in Dalton, Ga. On Tuesday,...

Associated Press

US job openings fall to lowest level since March 2021 as labor market cools

U.S. employers posted 8.7 million job openings in October, the fewest since March 2021, in a sign that hiring is cooling.

2 days ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Collins Comfort

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.

UN chief says North Korea has increased repression of rights