North Korea rejects major UN recommendations on human rights

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North Korea rejects major UN recommendations on human rights

By Lee Min-hyung

North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. Han Tae-song
North Korea has declined to accept dozens of human rights-related recommendations from the United Nations, calling them an "insult to the country's dignity and a serious distortion of reality."

The North's reaction came after the U.S. Department of State ramped up criticism of the Kim Jong-un regime for "egregiously" violating human rights by running political prison camps. Some analysts claimed the U.S. may use the human rights issue to step up pressure on the regime in their stalled denuclearization talks.

The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted 262 recommendations Tuesda (local time) on the issue during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR). All U.N. member states are subject to the review every five years and they must address their human rights conditions during the session.

Among the recommendations, however, North Korea said it would "note" 63 of them. In diplomatic circles, the term is an indirect expression of refusal.

North Korea's Ambassador to the U.N. Han Tae-song took part in the session where he rejected recommendations such as the shutdown of the North's political prison camps which the U.S. took issue with.

The UNHRC has for years urged the North to close the camps and release an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners detained in them. But Pyongyang has so far denied the existence of such camps, stating it was the victim of "false propaganda."

Last week, the North's delegation to the U.N. claimed that only a few spies and terrorists sent from "hostile forces" were imprisoned there, to separate them from other prisoners.

"North Korea fully guarantees people's right to life and other fundamental freedoms, but sanctions are making it harder for them to live," Han said May 9 while attending the 33rd session of the working group on the UPR which runs from May 6 to 17.

The North's refusal to accept the recommendations comes at a time when tension is returning to diplomatic issues following the failure of the Hanoi summit with the U.S. last February.

At that time, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un failed to reach any consensus on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The rare dialogue momentum between the two has since come to a standstill.

Even if both sides opened the possibility of holding another summit sometime this year, they have in recent weeks engaged in a war of nerves over non-nuclear issues to step up diplomatic pressure on each other.

After the statement from the U.S. Department of State, Pyongyang reacted nervously.

Washington said about 100,000 North Korean people suffer in its political prison camps and those caught after trying to flee are "tortured and killed."

Amid the heightening pressure from the U.S. and international society, North Korea conducted short-range missile tests twice this month.

The launches were seen as part of the North's response to the deadlocked nuclear negotiations, and the sanctions imposed on the North.

Aside from the prison camps, the North declined to accept other recommendations such as the abolishment of forced labor of its citizens.

The North also rebuffed recommendations from the South over the repatriation of South Korean abductees in the North.

With the Hanoi summit ending up in failure, the recently warming inter-Korean relations have also shown no signs of progress.


By Lee Min-hyung

North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. Han Tae-song
North Korea has declined to accept dozens of human rights-related recommendations from the United Nations, calling them an "insult to the country's dignity and a serious distortion of reality."

The North's reaction came after the U.S. Department of State ramped up criticism of the Kim Jong-un regime for "egregiously" violating human rights by running political prison camps. Some analysts claimed the U.S. may use the human rights issue to step up pressure on the regime in their stalled denuclearization talks.

The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted 262 recommendations Tuesda (local time) on the issue during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR). All U.N. member states are subject to the review every five years and they must address their human rights conditions during the session.

Among the recommendations, however, North Korea said it would "note" 63 of them. In diplomatic circles, the term is an indirect expression of refusal.

North Korea's Ambassador to the U.N. Han Tae-song took part in the session where he rejected recommendations such as the shutdown of the North's political prison camps which the U.S. took issue with.

The UNHRC has for years urged the North to close the camps and release an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners detained in them. But Pyongyang has so far denied the existence of such camps, stating it was the victim of "false propaganda."

Last week, the North's delegation to the U.N. claimed that only a few spies and terrorists sent from "hostile forces" were imprisoned there, to separate them from other prisoners.

"North Korea fully guarantees people's right to life and other fundamental freedoms, but sanctions are making it harder for them to live," Han said May 9 while attending the 33rd session of the working group on the UPR which runs from May 6 to 17.

The North's refusal to accept the recommendations comes at a time when tension is returning to diplomatic issues following the failure of the Hanoi summit with the U.S. last February.

At that time, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un failed to reach any consensus on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The rare dialogue momentum between the two has since come to a standstill.

Even if both sides opened the possibility of holding another summit sometime this year, they have in recent weeks engaged in a war of nerves over non-nuclear issues to step up diplomatic pressure on each other.

After the statement from the U.S. Department of State, Pyongyang reacted nervously.

Washington said about 100,000 North Korean people suffer in its political prison camps and those caught after trying to flee are "tortured and killed."

Amid the heightening pressure from the U.S. and international society, North Korea conducted short-range missile tests twice this month.

The launches were seen as part of the North's response to the deadlocked nuclear negotiations, and the sanctions imposed on the North.

Aside from the prison camps, the North declined to accept other recommendations such as the abolishment of forced labor of its citizens.

The North also rebuffed recommendations from the South over the repatriation of South Korean abductees in the North.

With the Hanoi summit ending up in failure, the recently warming inter-Korean relations have also shown no signs of progress.


Lee Min-hyung mhlee@koreatimes.co.kr


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