The Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
The mechanism for monitoring and improving human rights in all UN member states
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The Universal Periodical Review (UPR)
One of the core components of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UPR was established by Resolution 60/251, adopted by the General Assembly in 2006, and implemented in 2008. The UN-UPR periodically examines the human rights performance of all 193 UN member states on a four and a half-year cycle.
The UPR Process
Preparation of Submission Materials by Relevant Actors
(States, NGO, UN High Commissioner, etc.)
Preliminary Meetings at UPR-INFO in Geneva
Working Group Meetings and Writing the Report of Results at the UN Headquarters in Geneva
Adoption of the Outcome Document by the Human Rights Council
Follow-up to conclusions and recommendations adopted from the review
NKDB & The UPR
The North Korean Human Rights Watch Functions at the Database Center for North Korea Human Rights take a two-fold approach to monitoring North Korea's performance in implementing the UPR Recommendations. By reviewing the Criminal Code of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, government discourse, and official documents, and analyzing cases of human rights violations in the DPRK, NKDB takes an inclusive research approach to acquire objective information about the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
NKDB also conducts surveys as well as in-depth interviews with resettled North Korean escapees in South Korea. Interviewees are specifically questioned on their experiences during the period under review to reflect the human rights situation in North Korea between the two cycles.
Not only does this play a crucial role in the process of monitoring and drafting of new recommendations, but the UPR Working Group also submits summary reports to the Permanent Missions to ensure feasibility when implementing recommendations made by member states in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. These recommendations are reflected in the final report reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council for the improvement of North Korea's human rights situation.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was
the first country to immediately reject the Recommendations of the UPR;
Expecting partial implementation of 320 recommendations
accepted throughout the three cycles
The first cycle of the UPR began in 2008, with North Korea's first review in December 2009 with the 13th session of the UPR Working Group. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has participated in the sessions, as it values the mechanism of the UPR treating all United Nations Member States with different ideologies, systems, cultures, and traditions in an impartial manner. However, despite the public appreciation of the UPR, when given 167 recommendations as a result of the first cycle of the UPR in December 2009, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea immediately rejected 50 recommendations and withheld the adoption of the remaining 117 recommendations. This was the first time a state had immediately rejected the recommendations during the UPR.
A few days before the second cycle of the UPR process in 2014, the DPRK submitted a belated document that stated its position on the recommendations received during its first cycle. Regarding the remaining 117 recommendations, the DPRK accepted 81, partially accepted 6, noted 15, and rejected 15.
Reference: UN Human Rights Council, Democratic People's Republic of Korea: Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, January 4, 2010, A/HRC/13/13, paragraph 5.
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1st Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
Recommendations Received: 167 (2009)
81 (2014 Initial Report)
6 (2014 Initial Report)
15 (2014 Initial Report)
2nd Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
Recommendations Received: 269 (2014)
3rd Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
Recommendations Received: 262 (2019)
The UPR Mechanism in Practice
Despite a situation where it is difficult to actively and practically confirm the implementation of the accepted recommendations given the immediate rejection of some recommendations and denial of crimes against humanity, it can be confirmed that as a UN member state, North Korea is showing some responsibility and commitment to the UPR cycle that requires the participation of the state.
Submission of the second to fourth periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (Commitment to address discrimination against women and to reduce the maternal mortality rate)
Amendment of the Socialist Labor Law and Law on the Protection and Promotion of Women's Rights
Submission of the fifth to sixth periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Hosting of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (First visit of UN Human Rights Expert to North Korea)
Status of North Korea's Accepted Recommendations from the 3rd UPR
"Faithfully fulfill its obligations under the international human rights treaties to which it is a State Party, and [...] make positive contributions to the international efforts for the protection and promotion of human rights by promoting international cooperation and exchanges in the field of human rights based on the principles of impartiality, objectivity, and equality."
During the third cycle of the UPR held at the 8th meeting of Human Rights Council on May 9th, 2019, the DPRK received 262 recommendations to better the human rights situation drafted by 88 delegations, of which 132 were accepted and the remaining 130 were partially accepted or rejected. Immediately rejecting any recommendations concerning the human rights situation in North Korea, the DPRK argues human rights are state's rights; hence, the human rights issue is an internal state affair. Nevertheless, the DPRK has shown acceptance toward recommendations regarding the amendment and international cooperation, which indirectly influence the improvement of North Korean human rights. Therefore, the willingness of the DPRK to improve its reputation in the international community is still valid.
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Major Recommendations Accepted by North Korea (3rd UPR)
126.41 Facilitate cooperation and dialogue with the international community, with mechanisms and special procedures for the promotion and protection of human rights
126.3 Consider acceding to the core international human rights treaties to which it is not yet a party
126.74 Undertake a comprehensive review of the national legislation with a view to further strengthening the legal framework for the promotion and protection of human rights as required by the international human rights treaties to which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a party
126.106 Further strengthen programs to protect the rights of vulnerable groups including women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly
126.113 Fulfill treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and allow the population to exercise all civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, access to information, and ability to travel, within and outside the country
126.98 Publish the full text of human rights treaties that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has ratified, translated into Korean, on the national network service (Kwangmyong)
126.108 Continue to promote sustainable economic and social development in order to provide a solid basis for its people to better enjoy all human rights
Reference: The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, Amnesty Korea, https://amnesty.or.kr/campaign/north-korea-3rd-upr/
-Assessment of the 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the DPRK and the Ways to Improve Human Rights in North Korea, Ki, Sookyung, Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), https://www.kinu.or.kr/pyxis-api/1/digital-files/9a227828-a123-41c7-b12c-607ed7740133
View on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review
-Human Rights Council Session 42nd Agenda item 6, Addendum, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Democratic People's Republic of Korea A/HRC/42/10Add.1 28 August 2019
-Human Rights Council Session 42nd Agenda item 6, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Democratic People's Republic of Korea A/HRC/42/10 25 June 2019
Major Recommendations Immediately Rejected by North Korea (3rd UPR Cycle)
End the practice of forcing all married women to join the Socialist Women's Union of Korea
Implement the recommendations by the COI
Ensure the fair distribution of food and prioritize the human rights of its population over military expenditure and dedicate resources to eradicate hunger
Cease media censorship and ensure the independence of the press
Grant international humanitarian organizations access to provide assistance to detainees including political prisoners
Accept a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and cooperate with the Special Rapporteur
Elimination of the songbun system
Close down all political prison camps and release all political prisoners
Address the issues of abductees and prisoners of war
Decriminalize the possession and distribution of religious texts
Reference: Assessment of the 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the DPRK and the Ways to Improve Human Rights in North Korea, Ki, Sookyung, Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), https://www.kinu.or.kr/pyxis-api/1/digital-files/9a227828-a123-41c7-b12c-607ed7740133
NKDB Monitoring Reports on the Implementation of Accepted Recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review
Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) 북한인권정보센터
3rd Floor, 14 Gyeonghuigung-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
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