A United Nations expert described North Korea’s serial human rights abuses as creating an “extremely serious” situation in the communist country during a visit to South Korea on Friday, urging Pyongyang to allow U.N. inspections and the world to resolve the current sanctions situation on the country.
The repressive Kim regime blocked U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea Tomás Quintana from entering the country. Despite this, Quintana traveled to Seoul to attempt to round up as much information as possible from the area for an upcoming U.N. investigation on human rights in the North. According to Reuters, the report is meant for the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose membership includes serial human rights violators and North Korea allied states such as China, Cuba, Burkina Faso, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The fact is, that with all the positive developments the world has witnessed in the last year, it is all the more regrettable that the reality for human rights on the ground remains unchanged, and continues to be extremely serious,” Quintana said at a press conference on Friday. “In all areas related to the enjoyment of economic and social rights, including health, housing, education, social security, employment, food, water and sanitation, much of the country’s population is being left behind.”
He went on to say “the whole country is a prison,” citing a source who had experienced it and particularly condemn the “continuing pattern of ill-treatment and torture” of attempted refugees who China returned to North Korea, fully aware they would endure torture and possibly execution at the hands of the Kim regime.
“It will be a missed opportunity if in 2019 human rights is not addressed by all the parties, including more importantly the government of DPR Korea,” Quintana added, hinting at potential meetings between dictator Kim Jong-un and American President Donald Trump. Trump has suggested that talks are underway to find a venue for a second meeting between the two this year.
Kim may also soon meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a leftist who has encouraged the world to embrace Pyongyang despite its refusal to end its illegal nuclear weapons program or stop threatening its neighbors with a nuclear attack. Kim met with Moon on several occasions last year.
Most recently, Kim returned from a trip to Beijing on Friday, spending his birthday with Communist Party leader and main North Korea ally Xi Jinping. The Chinese government confirmed the visit and that Xi threw a lavish dinner party for Kim in the capital’s Great Hall of the People, but few details about the political issues the two discussed have surfaced.
Quintana also reportedly urged the international community to “address” the unprecedentedly tough sanctions regime currently imposed on North Korea through the United Nations Security Council. The South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo quoted Quintana as claiming that the sanctions have “an influence on that dire economic and social situation,” though he failed to provide any evidence that average North Koreans were suffering more because of the sanctions than they were before their imposition.
“In my view, the issue of sanctions will have to be addressed as soon as possible,” he told reporters. He then warned the North Korean government, “We must recognize that development and human rights go hand in hand, and that one cannot be realized without the other.”
Many human rights experts consider North Korea the world’s most prolific violator of basic human rights. Pyongyang maintains sprawling torture and labor camps for citizens it considers a threat to the Kim dynasty, including suspected political dissidents, Christians, and individuals caught possessing foreign movies, music, or other media. International human rights groups estimate that as many as 200,000 people live in North Korean labor camps, many without having committed any alleged crime – arrests last generations, meaning many inmates are born in the prison and spend their entire lives there.
Prisoners the regime does not wish to keep alive often suffer brutal executions by stoning or public executions to intimidate the population.
North Korea also engages in a systematic practice of forced abortion and infanticide. Some defectors have testified to seeing pregnant women forced to toil in fields for hours in the hope for inducing an abortion or having their infants fed to dogs after birth.
Despite the evidence, North Korea claims it is a “flower garden of human love” and the envy of the world, particularly the West. Last month, the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun condemned the U.N. General Assembly for passing a resolution urging North Korea to end its “systematic, widespread and gross” human rights abuses.
“The U.N. Security Council should not be misused as a platform again where US’s high-handedness and arbitrary practice would prevail, and should remain true to its mission and duties as enshrined in the UN Charter,” the newspaper demanded. “The wicked intention of the U.S. and its followers in getting vocal about the non-existent ‘human rights issue’ of the DPRK [North Korea] is to broaden the scope of the sanctions and pressure and escalate them.”
Rodong Sinmun has referred to the United States as the “world’s most serious violator of human rights.