The U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and Article 6 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court define genocide as five specific actions committed with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
What is indisputable is that North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has employed each of the five acts characterized as genocidal through (a) executions and state-sanctioned murders, (b) the systematic use of torture, (c) state-induced mass starvation in political prison camps and elsewhere, (d) forcible abortions and infanticide and (e) the forcible transfer and enslavement of children.
The argument that North Korea has directed these attacks against the specific human groups protected under the Genocide Convention and Article 6 of the Rome Statute is also very strong.
Genocide on religious grounds
In 2007, Christian Solidarity Worldwide published a report based on seven years of research and written by international lawyers which concluded there are indicators of genocide taking place against religious groups in North Korea, specifically against Christians. Christian watchdogs such as Open Doors and Release International rate North Korea as the world’s most egregious violator of religious rights. But North Korea’s policy towards its indigenous religious population extends far beyond “persecution” ― religious believers and their families to three generations, including non-religious relatives, children and babies still in the womb ― are being exterminated.
Before the installation of the Kim Il-sung regime by the Soviets in 1945, the North was considered to be the center of Christianity in East Asia; 25-30 percent of Pyongyang’s population was Christian. Today all traces of this once-flourishing religious community and culture have been obliterated. Recognizing the inherent threat posed by faith to totalitarian rule and the Kim cult of personality, the DPRK regime has since its inception committed genocide against religious believers and their families.
There are many indications of the specific intent to destroy religious groups in North Korea. Former North Korean police and security agents who were tasked specifically to identify and “eliminate” Christian groups have testified that the DPRK regime considers religion, and particularly Christianity, to be the primary threat to national security. Accordingly, the harshest punishment is meted out to repatriated North Korean refugees who have had contact with missionaries and churches in China. Refugees after being forcibly returned are brutally tortured and interrogated specifically to discern whether or not they had any contact with religious groups. Those that confess to or are suspected of having met with missionaries in China or converting to Christianity are either killed or banished to concentration camps for life along with their entire families, including children, to three generations. Open Doors estimates between 50,000-70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s concentration camps today.
The aforementioned Christian human rights organizations believe that North Korean Christians who have not been publicly executed or killed by beatings or starvation in the prison camps have in many instances been used as guinea pigs in chemical and biological weapon experiments ― an allegation which is not by any means new. North Korean refugees, including former prison camp guards who played a role in these atrocities, have been speaking out in an attempt to get the international community to pay attention for over a decade, but to no avail.
Genocide on national, ethnical and racial grounds
Equally compelling is the case for genocide taking place on national, ethnical and racial grounds through North Korea’s fixed policy of killing the half-Chinese babies of North Korean women who have been forcibly repatriated by China.
Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have been forced to flee to China in order to survive famine and oppression. The majority of these refugees are women, 80 percent of whom have become victims of sex-trafficking or have been sold into forced marriages. Even if a North Korean woman is married to a Chinese citizen the PRC (People’s Republic of China) authorities will repatriate every North Korean refugee they can find per a 1961 treaty and a subsequent 1986 border protocol with the DPRK, also in flagrant contravention of its obligations under the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. When forcibly returned, refugees suffer torture, imprisonment in camps, and even execution, as North Korea criminalizes exit from the country.
China refouls over 5,000 North Korean refugees a year, a large number of which are North Korean women that have become pregnant through rape. These broken refugees are once again subjected to senseless and unrestrained brutality at the hands of DPRK officials once forcibly returned for “carrying foreign sperm.” Some North Korean refugees have stated that while in China they would always have a razor blade or arsenic on them in case they got caught by Chinese police. North Koreans would understandably rather commit suicide than face the cruelties of the DPRK after repatriation.
North Korea continues to systematically and brutally exterminate the children of North Korean women believed to be fathered by non-North Koreans (usually Chinese or Chinese-Koreans) through infanticide and forced abortions. According to the U.S. State Department, “The reason given for this policy was to prevent the birth of half-Chinese children.” The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has acknowledged officially North Korea’s “continued violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women, in particular the trafficking of women for prostitution or forced marriage, ethnically motivated forced abortions, including by labor inducing injection or natural delivery, as well as infanticide of children of repatriated mothers, including in police detention centers and labor training camps.”
Multiple reports over the last 10 years have indicated that infanticide and forced abortion on ethnic grounds is taking place systematically in North Korea’s prisons. This practice, which also constitutes ethnic cleansing, corresponds with the DPRK’s obsession with racial purity, and the intent to destroy racially mixed babies on ethnic grounds is clear and incontestable.
It is noteworthy that Genocide Watch, a reputable international NGO which “exists to predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide” and whose board of advisors includes many admirable anti-genocide activists such as Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire and Samantha Power (Special Assistant to President Obama and head of the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights); published a report on Dec. 19, 2011 which found conclusively that North Korea has indeed committed genocide as defined in Raphael Lemkin’s 1948 Convention, stating that “Genocide Watch has ample proof that genocide has been committed and mass killing is still underway in North Korea.”
By Robert Park