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John Metzler Archive
Friday, December 19, 2008

UN slams N. Korean on rights; Defending regime were China, Cuba, Iran, Burma, Russia, Venezuela, Syria

UNITED NATIONS — The General Assembly has slammed North Korea for its civil and political rights abuses, and called on the reclusive communist regime to “immediately put an end to the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights.” In a landmark resolution, the full Assembly voted 94 in favor, with 22 against, and 63 abstentions, the document “strongly urges the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Australia, Canada, the 27 European Union states, Japan, Ukraine and the United States, supported the resolution censuring North Korea. Among those opposing the resolution were China, Cuba, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Myanmar (Burma), Russia, Syria and Venezuela. Abstentions included Brazil, Singapore and Thailand.

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Significantly, in a break from past years, South Korea backed the resolution. While it would seem only logical that a fully democratic South Korea would wish to support human and political rights for its ethnic cousins in the North, earlier Seoul government’s quiet diplomacy thought it prudent not to “offend” the Pyongyang regime by taking such a politically principled stand. Now with President Lee Myung-bak’s, new administration, reality has returned to inter- Korean policy.

The quaintly titled “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (DPRK) remains one of the worlds most brutal regimes with a kind of Marxist monarchy run by the elusive despot Kim Jong-il, self-styled “Dear Leader.”

The resolution “Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s republic of Korea,” specifically, “expresses very serious concern at: the persistence of continuing reports of systematic, widespread grave violations of civil, political, social and cultural rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea including torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of punishment…the death penalty for political and religious reasons…all pervasive and severe restrictions on the freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression,…limitations on every person who wishes to move freely within the country…violations of economic, social and cultural rights which have led to severe malnutrition and widespread health problems…continuing violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women in particular the trafficking of women for the purpose of prostitution…forced abortion…violation of workers’ rights.”

The abovementioned violations present a dictionary definition of a totalitarian state, which in the case of North Korea is presided over by the messianic Marxist political cult of Kim, both the deceased “Great Leader,” and current ruler “Dear Leader.” The contemporary DPRK dictatorship evokes the darkest days of Maoist China in the 1960’s.

Needless to say the DPRK has blocked and hindered access to UN human rights officials.

The document calls on the Pyongyang regime to “respect fully all human rights and fundamental freedoms” and to extend full cooperation to the Special Rapporteur on human rights “by granting him full, free and unimpeded access to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. ” Significantly the resolution calls for the DPRK authorities to “ensure, full, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian aid and take measures to allow humanitarian agencies to secure its impartial delivery to all parts of the country.”

This naturally refers to the DPRK stonewalling on humanitarian food relief and often diverting such aid to regions favored by the regime. Both the World Food Program and international aid agencies are currently providing emergency food aid for approximately forty percent, of North Korea’s entire population!

Despite earning the vitriolic ire of the DPRK regime, the Assembly resolution is not legally binding.

Just a day before the vote, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, himself a South Korean, told correspondents in a year-end press conference, “Our record on human rights is on trial — in many places, in many ways. In this 60th anniversary year, we must stand strong for the universal declaration of Human Rights.” So very true.

John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He writes weekly for World
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