Wed, Feb 27, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Half of North Korean defectors suffered violence: poll

Reuters, SEOUL

North Korean defectors and South Korean protesters tear portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday during a rally urging the US to discuss North Korean human rights issues in the US-North Korean summit.

Photo: AP

About half of 451 North Korean defectors questioned in a survey endured physical violence at the hands of North Korean authorities, a rights group said yesterday, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un prepared to meet US President Donald Trump for a summit.

On Sunday, US lawmakers called Kim the “leader of perhaps the world’s most repressive regime,” but analysts say that as in the leaders’ first summit, human rights are unlikely to be addressed in their second.

Trump and Kim are due to meet in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, today and tomorrow, eight months after their historic Singapore summit.

On the top of their agenda is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and what concessions the US might offer in return for North Korea giving up its weapons.

North Korea’s poor human rights record is not likely to figure prominently, if at all.

The survey, conducted between 2015 and 2018 and released by Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group, found that three out of four North Korean defectors had, before they fled North Korea, experienced physical violence or the death of close family members, by execution or starvation, forced repatriation, arrest or detention.

About 48 percent of the respondents said that they had personally experienced violence perpetrated by the North Korean authorities, including beating, torture, rape and other sexual assault.

There has been dismay that rights seem to have been relegated down the agenda in dealing with North Korea.

In Seoul, protesters yesterday tore up photographs of Kim and threw them to the ground.

“We are skeptical of the US-North Korea summit without discussing human right issues,” said Ihn Ji-yeon, a leader of the anti-North rally and a spokeswoman for the Korean Patriots Party.

British Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations Tariq Ahmad on Monday told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, that human rights in North Korea had not improved.

“Despite some welcome signs on the political track, there has been no improvement in the human rights situation,” he said.

“Meeting the challenge of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, as well as addressing other issues such as North Korea’s systemic, gross violations of human rights, is of concern to all Americans and to our allies and partners,” US senators said in a letter to Trump on Sunday.

However, South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha told the Geneva council that “human rights cannot thrive in the absence of peace.”

She said that progress toward a “nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” which had started, would have enormous rewards, including an improvement in human rights.

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