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Date : December 23, 2013
UK House of Commons Discusses NK Human Rights
   http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131216/de… [1674]
An enlightening debate took place in the UK's House of Commons on Monday, following an urgent question from Fiona Bruce, a Member of Parliament from Congleton.  Bruce initiated the discussion by asking the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to make a statement following North Korea's execution of Jang Sung-taek, the deposed second-in-command official of the North Korean regime.  Mr. Hugo Swire responded on behalf of the Office, stating that the execution was "yet another example of the horrifying and surreal brutality of the North Korean regime," which he identified as having "one of the worst, if not the worst" human-rights records in the world.  He defended the UK's continued work to improve conditions in North Korea, citing the nation's support for the highly-anticipated Commission of Inquiry report at the United Nations, as well as the consistent presence of the UK's embassy in Pyongyang, which he described as a "chink of light" in an otherwise dark place.
 
Pressed further on the issue, Bruce specifically inquired about whether the BBC could offer its renowned World Service news broadcasts in North Korea, to help break the "information blockade," as has previously been done in the Soviet Union and Burma.  Swire responded that while the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been in touch with the BBC about expanding coverage to the Korean peninsula, the network "is not currently persuaded that a Korean language service would be an effective value-for-money use of available resources," and that the chartered network "makes the final decision on where it wants to broadcast."  So while world news coverage seems unlikely at this time, he said, BBC Worldwide is working with the UK's Pyongyang embassy on an effort to begin broadcasting its drama, nature, and science programs on North Korean television, which could "expose significant numbers of North Koreans to aspects of the outside world from which they are normally totally isolated."
 
China's role in the Korean peninsula also loomed large over the discussion, as Kerry McCarthy, MP of Bristol East, asked Swire to detail the discussions the UK and China have been holding about improving North Korean human rights.  Swire emphasized that North Korea was a significant part of the discussion during the Prime Minister's recent visit to China, as it was when the South Korean president, Park Guen-hye, recently visited the UK.  Similarly, responding to a question from Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP of The Cotswolds, Swire said that promoting UK-Chinese bilateral trade was a major component of the Prime Minister's recent visit, to encourage maximum diplomatic contact with China ahead of ongoing human-rights discussions.
 
 Summarizing the apparent power struggle taking place amongst the North Korean leadership, Swire said that "the implications of Jang's execution remain unclear," and that due to the regime's secretive nature, reports suggesting theories are purely speculative. "The answer is 'we do not know.'"

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