On August 17th, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, brought attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in North Korea. The country's decision to close its borders in response to COVID-19 has worsened an already dire situation.
Labelling the current circumstances as an "alarming and unsustainable situation," the pandemic-induced shutdown of markets has led to a stricter criminalization of trading activities. This unfortunate move has not only deprived individuals of their main food source but has also pushed a part of the population into extreme hunger. Additionally, the government's increased surveillance measures have undermined essential rights such as freedom of expression, privacy, and movement.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in DPRK, Elizabeth Salmón, has expressed serious concern about the challenges faced by women and girls in North Korea. She highlighted the difficult conditions they endure, including mistreatment, forced labour, and gender-based violence at the hands of state authorities.
During the session, the Security Council also had the chance to hear the testimony of Ilhyeok Kim, a civil society representative and a North Korean escapee. He vividly described the harsh realities of life in North Korea and the numerous human rights violations he personally experienced. He stated, "The Government turns our blood and sweat into a luxurious life for the leadership and missiles that blast our hard work into the sky."
NKDB welcomes the continued efforts of the international community in addressing the issue of North Korean human rights and bringing it to the forefront. The representative of the United States, who holds the Council Presidency for August, emphasized the need to "give a voice to the voiceless." This aligns with NKDB's mission, as we strive to create meaningful change by advocating and raising awareness about the pressing human rights concerns in North Korea. The situation in North Korea demands our collective attention and action. By shedding light on this pressing human rights issue, we can collectively work towards a better future for North Korean citizens.