North Korea defended its human rights record in a debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Rights Council examined the record of the DPRK as part of its scrutiny of each U.N. member state every four years.
Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, voiced concern at the commission of inquiry’s findings of “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations” committed by officials and institutions. “We are alarmed by the widespread use of forced labor, including child labor in detention facilities, and we remain concerned about instances of violence against women, forced abduction of foreign nationals, and reports of torture and abuse in detention facilities,” King told the Geneva forum.
King called for Pyongyang to shut political prison camps and to release all inmates. Ri Kyung Hun of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly said: “I’d like to reiterate that there is no political prison camp in our vocabulary nor prison camp in law or in practice.”
The North Korea’s delegation also said that Christian groups were trying to recruit North Korean migrants along China’s border. “There are in the northeastern area of China so-called churches and priests exclusively engaged in hostile acts against the DPRK. They indoctrinate the illegal border crossers with anti-DPRK ideology and send them back to the DPRK with assignments of subversion, destruction, human trafficking and even terrorist acts,” it said.
King also called for North Korea to end what he called “state-sponsored discrimination” based on the “songbun” system, which rates citizens based on their family’s political background as “loyal”, “wavering” or “hostile”.
So Se Pyong, North Korea’s ambassador, said his country was taking positive steps, including improving legal guarantees, education, and the rights of women, elderly and the disabled.
China’s envoy, Chen Chuangdong, praised “progress” by North Korea in the human rights field, but urged its ally to construct more health facilities and housing in rural areas.
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