U.N. General Assembly Adopts Resolution on North Korean Human Rights

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday expressing for the first time deep concern about the human rights situation in North Korea.

|TOP|Religious freedom advocates had urged Democratic member states of the United Nations to pass resolutions condemning a number of nations, including North Korea, for their unchanging poor human rights records. US-based Freedom House also made a statement on Tuesday pressing the resolutions forward.

In an 84-to-22 vote with 62 abstentions, the assembly approved the European Union-sponsored resolution expressing "serious concern at continuing reports of systemic, widespread and grave violations of human rights, including torture, public executions, the existence of a large number of prison camps and the extensive use of forced labour."

Searching for ways to help improve the human rights conditions in the North while at the same time fearing that a vote in favour of the resolution could damage inter-Korean ties, South Korea abstained from voting.

Similar resolutions have been passed in previous years at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. However, Thursday's decision marks a landmark vote as it was brought before the full U.N. membership.

"CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) welcomes this step by the international community to recogniue the seriousness of the human rights concerns in North Korea," said Elizabeth Batha, International Advocate for the human rights group, in a released statement. "It is one of the most serious violators of human rights in the world and we cannot turn to a blind eye to the excessive suffering being inflicted upon the country's population."

|AD|The European Union submitted the U.N. resolution to address the religious freedom restrictions and human rights abuses in North Korea. It also called on the North to cooperate with U.N. human rights investigators and to ensure that humanitarian organisations "have full, free, safe and unimpeded access to all parts of the country" to deliver aid.

After its submission, North Korea ordered non-governmental European aid groups to halt their aid activities and leave the country by Dec. 31.

"That North Korea is seeking to penalise the EU by punishing its own people through the withdrawal of EU aid only reinforces the concerns expressed by the resolution," stated Batha. "North Korea has placed itself in this position of censure by persistently refusing to co-operate with the U.N., thus propelling this issue into the General Assembly.

"North Korea should take seriously the unprecedented level of this broad censure by the full international community and invest its efforts in attacking the problems rather than the international community for recognising them."

Concerns over the severe persecution and freedom restrictions around the world heightened this week after the release of the U.S. Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report and a number of groundbreaking studies by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, including Christian persecution accounts in the most recent report entitled Thank You, Father Kim Il Sung.

Lillian Kwon
Christian Today Correspondent