Who cares about North Koreans’ human rights? China, Russia spurn UN Security Council consensus

Special to WorldTribune.com

By John J. Metzler, June 19, 2024

North Korea’s ongoing human rights violations have been slammed and shamed by most members of the UN Security Council.

In a powerful briefing by both diplomats and a high profile North Korean political defector, the fifteen-member Council underscored the noxious relationships between the regime’s massive military buildups at the expense of both its population’s human rights and physical wellbeing, namely the access to sufficient food and nutrition.

Mr. Geum Hyok-Kim, while a North Korean student in China in 2011, became increasingly disillusioned about his country’s communist regime. Though a privileged student studying abroad, he recounted, “I realized that the Kim family that I had wanted to serve were not my heroes, but dictators denying countless people’s freedom just to build their own power,” he said, speaking “on behalf of millions of North Koreans who are denied humankind’s most basic freedoms.”

After he and a group of like-minded dissident students were discovered, he decided to escape to South Korea for freedom. The others in his group never made it.

He told delegates, “If they developed the economy instead of missiles, there would be no need for any North Koreans to starve to death.” He added that “if North Korea were a normal state, it would contribute to world peace rather than threatening it.”

North Korean defector Guem Hyok-Kim

Guem Hyok-Kim implored the international community, “Please stand on the side of the North Korean people, not the dictatorship.”

Political repression, control on people’s movement and a suffocating surveillance state remain the cornerstone of the Pyongyang regime, under Kim Jong-Un’s leadership.

Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed the “unmitigated suffering” in this East Asian country. “Today the DPRK is a country sealed off from the world,” he stressed. “A stifling claustrophobic environment, where life is a daily struggle devoid of hope.”

High Commissioner Turk described the DPRK as a “landscape of misery, repression, fear, hunger and hopelessness in the DPRK [that] is profoundly alarming.”

South Korea, the president of the Council for June, put forth a number of social political initiatives; The political trials and tribulations of their fellow Koreans in the quaintly titled Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, aka North Korea, was a key human rights theme.

China and Russia opposed discussing human rights in the Council meeting, calling for a vote to block this proceeding. However, their motion was procedurally defeated by the other members. Nonetheless the blocking moves by Moscow and Beijing all but assured that any formal Council resolution or even a watered-down presidential statement would be vetoed.

South Korea’s Amb. Joonkook Hwang warned, “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s obsessive pursuit of nuclear weapons and its Orwellian control of its people have one single root cause: The survival of its peculiar regime, regardless of the cost.”  He went on to say that the country is run by “a bizarre family cult dynasty.”

Amb. Hwang added, “North Korea is like a two-headed chariot driven by nuclear weapons and human rights violations.  If human rights violations stop, nuclear weapons development will also stop.”

North Korea’s nexus of political repression, weapons proliferation and threats to international peace and security was well stated by U.S. UN Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield who said, “This repression and totalitarianism, proliferation and gamesmanship, makes each and every one of us less safe.” She added, “The efforts by both Russia and China to block this meeting today is another effort to support the DPRK and is also emboldening their actions.”

‘The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s obsessive pursuit of nuclear weapons and its Orwellian control of its people have one single root cause: The survival of its peculiar regime, regardless of the cost.’

Japan’s delegate Yamazaki Kazuyuki asserted, that food security for the North Korean population remains dire; He noted that nearly half of its population, a staggering 12 million people, is under-nourished.

There’s a glaring human and political rights chasm on the divided Korean peninsula, between the dictatorship in the North and the democracy in the South.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin visited Pyongyang to reinforce the political and military relationship with the isolated DPRK.

Russia has rekindled the once close strategic ties between the two rogue regimes. North Korea already sends conventional artillery munitions and missiles to support Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Yet beyond the handshakes and comradely hugs, there’s the widening danger of Russia’s scientific, satellite and nuclear technology cross pollination with the DPRK.

But it’s the provocative and witheringly expensive nuclear and ballistic missile program which has put the DPRK’s pampered military ahead of its downtrodden population.  The North Korean regime has long stressed neutrons for military development over nutrition for its own people.

Pyongyang may now get a needed technology boost from Moscow.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]