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N.K. human rights conditions little improved: monitor

Despite global monitoring efforts led by the U.N., the human rights situation in North Korea appears to have barely improved, a Seoul-based think tank said Monday, pointing to unabated torture, public executions and political oppression.

The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights unveiled its findings after analyzing 52,735 cases included in its archive according to nine areas specified in the U.N. Commission of Inquiry report, seeking to find any development over the two years following the completion of the panel’s activities in 2012.
The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights holds a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights holds a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
The organization has concluded that the Kim Jong-un regime had further contravened its people’s rights to life and carried out torture, inhumane treatment and public and clandestine executions, despite some signs of progress in such areas as food distribution and imprisonment. 

The analyzed cases include: violations of the right to food; violations associated with prison camps; torture and inhuman treatment; arbitrary detention; discrimination; violations of freedom of expression; violations of the right to life; violations of the right to movement; and enforced disappearances including the abductions of foreign nationals.

In total, more than 25,000, or 48.2 percent, of cases constituted arbitrary detention, followed by violations of the right to free movement with 13.7 percent and violations of the right to life with 11.5 percent.

Between 2013 and 2014, violations of the right to life accounted for 22.1 percent, or 87 out of 394 cases, up 7.3 percentage points from the previous two years. Almost 18 percent marked violations of the right to movement over the same period, compared with 11.4 percent in 2011-12.

“The shares have substantially increased for the rights to life and movement and enforced disappearances, while the Kim regime continues to commit mass executions of core elites by firing squad and their vanishings,” the analysis said.

“The U.N. report and human rights regime has failed to significantly contribute to reducing such cases.”

Amnesty International, a London-based rights watchdog, estimates that up to 200,000 people are locked in six sprawling prison camps across the communist country. The bulk of the inmates were incarcerated for minor political offenses, including singing and watching soap operas from South Korea, according to Seoul’s National Human Rights Commission and North Korean defectors here.

The launch of the COI has been deemed a milestone in international discourse on North Korea human rights issues. The panel unveiled a comprehensive report in February 2013 detailing “systematic, widespread and gross” rights breaches there.

Pyongyang has rebuffed accusations of its rights abuses, calling it an attempt to topple its system.

By Shin Hyon-hee (