Worsening Situation in North Korea: “We Must Think about our ‘Neighbours!”
From the Tokyo Newspaper.
FOOD shortages are becoming more common, plus political prison camps where it is difficult to return alive.
Then there is a surveillance society unlike any other in the world … North Korea’s poor human rights situation, which has been pointed out for a long time, has recently come under renewed harsh criticism from the international community.
This summer, the United Nations Security Council held a public meeting on human rights issues in North Korea for the first time in six years, and there was a series of criticisms that North Korea is proceeding with its nuclear and missile development at the expense of the welfare of its people.
South Korea’s Yun Seok-Yeol administration has positioned denuclearization and human rights improvement as the two pillars of its policy toward North Korea.
North Korean media praises Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, as a “benevolent father who loves the people first” (Korea Central News Agency), but in reality, the people are not the only ones who seek compassion. It seems that we are far from enjoying the situation.
Ruling by oppression and fear
According to a person familiar with North Korea’s internal affairs, public executions have increased since North Korea declared the end of the coronavirus pandemic in August 2022.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, there were only a few dozen public shootings each year, but after the coronavirus subsides, the number has increased to over 100.
“I am also concerned about the future of North Korean residents (defectors) who risked their lives to cross the border and escape to China.”
There are said to be multiple facilities in north-eastern China that house detained North Korean defectors, and in October, a South Korean human rights organization announced that approximately 600 people detained at the facilities had been repatriated to North Korea.
There are also speculations that the number of North Korean defectors being repatriated will increase as North Korea allowed its citizens to return from overseas in August.
North Korean defectors risk torture and severe punishment after being repatriated. We strongly urge China not to forcibly repatriate them from a humanitarian standpoint.
The Frog and the Scorpion Fable!
A scorpion, about to cross a river, asks a frog to put it on its back. The frog refuses, fearing the scorpion’s sting, but the scorpion convinces him to let him ride, saying, “If you do that, you’ll drown too.”
The scorpion sticks its poisonous sting in the middle of the river and sinks with the frog. When the frog asks, “Why are you dying too?” the scorpion replies, “I can’t help it. This is my nature.”
“The nation of North Korea is like the scorpion in the fable.” The North Korean official mentioned earlier says this.
The system of government, which forces people to submit to authority by suppressing human rights and instilling fear, has not changed since the days of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. Reigning through fear is the “nature” of North Korea’s supreme leader.
If there is no hope that North Korea’s human rights situation will improve in the future because of its gender, I can’t help but feel gloomy.
Is there really anything outside of North Korea that can be done to improve the human rights situation in North Korea?
“It is by no means easy. We must persistently investigate and record the actual state of human rights violations, continue to issue warnings to North Korea, and actively utilize international forums such as the United Nations to put pressure on the North Korean regime. It is important.”
Kim Kwang-Jin is the director of the North Korea Human Rights Research Center at the Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank affiliated with South Korea’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service, argues as follows.
“The most pressing issue is resolving the food shortage that North Korean residents are currently suffering most from. We must put pressure on (North Korea) to guarantee the people’s right to eat and live.”
“The people who are the ones who are going to change North Korea must be the residents. It is important for them to know the actual situation in their own country, and to do that, it is important to take measures that allow them to widely access outside information. It is important.”
Kim is a former North Korean economic official. He himself had the experience of seeking asylum in 2003 while stationed in Southeast Asia, and his words are powerful.
Unforgivable human rights and disrespect for life
In July, North Korea published a pamphlet called “Human Rights Frozen Zone” criticizing the human rights situation in South Korea.
It states, “Human rights are the autonomous rights of human beings and must not be violated under any circumstances, and it is the duty of all countries and peoples in the world to guarantee them.”
That’s right at all. If Kim Jong-un really thinks this way, he should face the human rights situation in his own country.
Nowhere should the dignity and lives of people be disregarded. North Korea is a country with close ties to Japan both historically and geographically. I strongly feel that we need to think about our “neighbours” who have no choice but to surrender to their cruel fate.