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Date : April 7, 2015
Roadmap in implementing the COI recommendations


31 March 2015

Ambassador for Human Rights, Republic of Korea

In 1945, the sense of revulsion at what had taken place at Auschwitz, Treblinka, and the other concentration camps was manifest not only in the Nuremburg trials, but also in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Together, these two events ushered in a sea change in thinking about human rights.

Subsequently, the community of nations has drafted and adopted a number of additional human rights instruments. Whether through sanctions or armed intervention, steps were taken against regimes that have blatantly violated the Universal Declaration’s ideals. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Apartheid South Africa, and the genocide in Rwanda are cases in point.

One country that has largely escaped the world’s notice, however, is North Korea: A country that is arguably the world’s worst violator of human rights.

The concern of course is the unrelenting deprivation of fundamental human rights in North Korea. Our shared goal is to raise international awareness to extend hope for those languishing under the near seven decade-long tyranny of the ‘Kim Dynasty.’ The suffering can’t stop soon enough.

In a normal state, national security is pursued to ensure human security. In North Korea, however, national security ensures only regime security. The state takes no responsibility to protect its own people. It’s no wonder why North Koreans en masse resort to taking refuge across the border. Why? Because there’s no hope in a country ruled by political prisons, torture, hunger, and public execution, completely void of the fundamental right to adequate standard of living, not to mention life.

The question remains how to get at the main source of all problems – the Pyongyang regime itself. In March 2014, the Commission of Enquiry (COI) on North Korea, mandated to look at an extensive list of possible violations, unveiled its final Report at the UNHRC in Geneva. This Report represents a significant milestone in how the world views and deals with the human rights crisis in North Korea.

The COI Report characterizes North Korea as a “totalitarian state” that has committed serious human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity.

Since the release of the Report the international community has come together as never before on this issue. From Botswana severing its diplomatic relations with North Korea immediately after the release of the Report to the U.S. government hosting on September 23rd the very first ministerial-level conference on North Korean human rights on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly sessions, the pressure on North Korea to improve the appalling human rights condition is mounting fast. A respected major law firm based in London, the Hogan Lovells, went a step further to charge that the North Korean regime may be guilty of the crime of genocide.

During his presentation of the COI Report, Chairman Michael Kirby said, "These are the ongoing crimes against humanity happening in the DPRK, which our generation must tackle urgently and collectively. The rest of the world has ignored the evidence for too long. Now there is no excuse, because now we know.”

So the question to all of us is, now that we know, what do we do? How can we provide the beacon of hope for those North Koreans desperately yearning for freedom?

To bring about a real change it takes courage and the political will to confront the Pyongyang regime. What is required is worldwide mobilization. Ending the human rights abuses in North Korea will require a global campaign reminiscent of the international anti-Apartheid movement. In fact, global anti-Apartheid movement that we witnessed in the 1980s is something we should be benchmarking in dealing with the North Korean human rights violations. We should be asking, “What are we not doing on North Korea that the international community did to fight the apartheid system?”

I hope this ICNK conference can shed further light on this important question. I am fully aware of the instrumental role the ICNK has already played in bringing the North Korean human rights issue to where it is today. Who would have thought two years ago when the COI was established that the North Korean human rights issue would be on the Security Council’s agenda? Who would have thought that we’d be reading Kim Jong Un and ICC in a same sentence of many writings and documents? I, for one, on behalf of the ROK government, would like to express my sincerest appreciation to all those involved in the work of ICNK who have made a difference. Yet the work does not end here. In fact, the real work is just beginning. And I’m counting on the ICNK to continue to be the driving force in implementing the COI recommendations.

I’ve recently suggested in an article contributed to the inaugural journal by the Korea Institute for National Unification, a five-step roadmap for South Korea’s human rights policy towards North Korea. If I may summarize, the first step is for our National Assembly to pass the North Korean human rights law. Here, the suggestion that this law could damage inter-Korean relations is not only unconvincing, but down right ludicrous. Despite not passing the law, North Korea has not relented in its provocations that include nuclear tests and missile launches. The second step is to establish a Central Registry of Judicial Administrative Office a la Salzgitter Erfassungsstelle.

This should be done even without the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Law. The third step is to make sure that the work of the OHCHR’s Seoul Office is fully utilized at an optimal level. The Fourth step is to make a concerted effort to enhance our diplomatic efforts to convince the Chinese government to become more sympathetic and start using its vast leverages. And finally, the fifth step is to escalate the psychological warfare in order to pressure the regime while reaching out to the people.

At the international front, I’m hoping that this conference will be able to provide another set of roadmap in implementing the COI recommendations. I very much look forward to the discussions this morning, and again, my heart-felt congratulations and gratitude to all of you involved with the ICNK.

‘We're in this fight together!’
Thank you and God bless.

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