UN calls on North Korea to end its ‘self-imposed isolation'

<p><em>(Anadolu photo) </em></p>

(Anadolu photo) 

HAMILTON, Canada – The UN on Wednesday warned about a "profoundly alarming" situation in North Korea and called for an end to its "self-imposed isolation" from the world.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk told the Security Council that the "precarious human rights situation" in North Korea is also "a factor behind instability with wider regional ramifications."

He emphasized the broader implications of the human rights crisis.

"Today, the DPRK (North Korea) is a country sealed off from the world. A stifling, claustrophobic environment, where life is a daily struggle devoid of hope."

Turk said the first of several critical issues exacerbating the dire conditions is the "deepening repression of the right to freedom of movement."

"We are witnessing a situation where people can no longer leave even when they are in the most desperate of circumstances or at peril of persecution," he said.

He said repression of freedom of expression, socioeconomic conditions and forced labor are also issues exacerbating the dire conditions.

Turk denounced the ongoing use of arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and the absence of fair trials.

He cited enforced disappearances, including citizens of South Korea and Japan, have vanished in the past 70 years.

"Painfully, the full truth as to the fate of these people -- which we estimate to be over 100,000 - remains unknown to this day," he said.

Turk demanded accountability for the "longstanding, serious and widespread violations," and stressed that the "landscape of misery, repression, fear, hunger and hopelessness in the DPRK is profoundly alarming."

"All paths out of this start with making a U-turn from the dead end of self-imposed isolation -- opening the country, re-engaging with the international community, enabling people-to-people contact, embracing international cooperation, focusing on the wellbeing of all people," he added.

Gumhyok Kim, a civil society representative who fled North Korea, said he realized the realities of his country when he went to China to study.

"I am nervous to speak in this Council, but I will take courage by thinking of my friends in my homeland, who dream of the freedom to say what I am about to say," he said.

Gumhyok said he had different opportunities in North Korea because he came from a wealthy and privileged family.

He survived and found freedom at a "great cost."

"It has already been 12 years since I departed, but I have still no contact with my family," he said.

He urged UN member states to give the same priority to the rights of North Korean people as is given to nuclear weapons and missiles.

"We need to make the North Korean authorities more accountable," he said.

Russia and China argued that there was no need for the issue to be discussed at the Security Council, claiming that "human rights violations" in North Korea did not pose a threat to international security and peace.

The two permanent members of the Council stressed the need to focus on "silencing weapons" in conflicts that require urgent worldwide attention, instead of human rights violations in North Korea. They requested the cancellation of the session.

The meeting took place when 12 out of 15 members of the Council voted in favor of holding the session. (Anadolu)