Activists push before Congress for awareness of North Korea human rights abuses

In a hearing before members of Congress, victims of North Korea’s human rights abuses and experts on the dictatorship’s harsh practices asked for support in bringing an end to the country’s harsh treatment of political dissenters.

Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee on global human rights, explained in a June 18 hearing that “in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we see a state that seeks to control all aspects of the lives of its citizens, not only their political lives, but also that innermost sanctuary we call conscience as well,” using starvation, torture, imprisonment and death against political and religious dissidents of the totalitarian, atheistic stance of the North Korean government. “Enough is enough. We need to do far more,” Smith urged.

The hearing, entitled “Human Rights Abuses and Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea”, featured testimony from Lee Jong-hoon, South Korea’s Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights; Andrew Natsios, co-chair of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea; Shin Chang-Hoon, director of the Center for Global Governance Asian Institute for Policy Studies; and Shin Dong-hyuk, a survivor of a North Korean prison camp.

Shin, who escaped from the North Korean prison camp he was born in, spoke of a life “not fit for human beings or even for animals”, where his first memories were of guards in uniform carrying guns, and being taught by those guards to distrust his parents, who were political prisoners.

“I was rewarded with terribly indescribable and cruel torture,” Shin said, and his mother and brother were publicly executed. The torture I bared, the scars I earned from that time, I still bear today.”

He said that specifically, the international human rights community should focus on increasing awareness about North Korea’s relationship with China. North Korea, Lee said, is “very dependent on China” for financial support, resources and food, and has the power to change the regime.

In addition, he noted, Chinese youth are starting to question their country’s support “of this state that’s an embarrassment to the world,” and the international community has a strong evidence to support saying that on the Korean Peninsula, a “peaceful and free unification is beneficial to China.”

Smith praised the accuracy of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry report on North Korea, adding, “We must summon the necessary conviction to address the sufferings of the people of North Korea.”

[Catholic News Agency]

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