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U.S. gov't says N. Korea's human rights record still 'deplorable'

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Published : 2014-02-28 10:53
Updated : 2014-02-28 10:54

The U.S. government said Thursday that human rights conditions in North Korea continued to be "deplorable" last year, as Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated his criticism of what's happening in the reclusive communist nation.

"Human rights conditions in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea remained deplorable. The government was responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, and torture," the State Department said in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013.

It used North Korea's official name in the annual document mandated by Congress.

Introducing the report to reporters at the department's press briefing room, the secretary linked countries notorious for human rights abuses with those posing national security threats.

"The places where we face some of the greatest national security challenges today are also places where governments deny basic human rights to their nation's people and that is no coincidence. It's no coincidence in North Korea," he said.

He cited a far-reaching report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) earlier this month on North Korea's human rights situation.

It "recently found clear and compelling evidence of wholesale torture and crimes against humanity," said the secretary.

He also took note of reports of people who have been "executed summarily and fired at by artillery, fired at by anti-aircraft weapons, 122 millimeter aircraft weapons."

This year's report, however, did not directly mention the COI's findings, apparently because it was written ahead of the issuance of the U.N. panel's report.

The updated version of the department's global human rights report struck largely a similar tone with the previous one in condemning North Korea's human rights record. In last year's report, the department described the situation as "deplorable."

It again pointed out the lack of China's efforts to protect North Korean defectors.

"The government continued to consider all North Koreans 'economic migrants' rather than refugees or asylum seekers," it said. "The lack of access to durable solutions and options, as well as constant fear of forced repatriation by authorities, left North Korean refugees vulnerable to human traffickers."

On South Korea, the department again took issue with the government's interpretation of the National Security Law and other laws to limit freedom of expression and restrict access to the Internet, and the jailing of conscientious objectors to military service.

In particular, it noted allegations that the nation's state spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, and other state agencies attempted to manipulate voter opinion in the 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections in favor of the conservative ruling Saenuri Party, which was victorious in both elections. (Yonhap)

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