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Human rights in North still 'grim'

US report paints continuing bleak picture as South activist questions sources

Human rights in North still 'grim'
A North Korean child (photo courtesy of Open Doors Korea)
Stephen Hong, Seoul

April 12, 2011

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North Korea's human rights situation remains 'grim', according to the latest US human rights report. But a Catholic human rights activist questioned if it is really trustworthy. The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released April 8 by the US state department, covers human rights conditions in 194 countries as of 2010. The report pointed out that non-governmental advocacy organizations were on the increase in 2010 but the world also witnessed the continuing escalation of violence, persecution and discrimination. Regionally, the negative trend in human rights continued in China, Myanmar, North Korea and Vietnam, said the report, while Indonesia was highlighted for notable positive human rights developments last year. Especially in North Korea, the human rights situation remained "grim", said the report. Severe and systematic human rights abuses occurred throughout the country's extensive network of prisons and detention centers. Citing North Korean refugees, it indicated that in some instances the North government executed political prisoners, opponents of the regime and repatriated refugees with no judicial process. There continued to be reports of severe punishment of some repatriated refugees and their family members, it said, adding that in January 2010 the North authorities executed three citizens who attempted to defect and sent the attempted defectors' families either to political prison camps or rural provinces. But Andrew Kim Duck-jin, secretary general of the Catholic Human Rights Committee, noted the report talks about  North Korea's human rights situation, usually citing refugees or NGOs, without fact finding research or visits, which "leaves room for doubts". Most of North Korean refugees came from remote areas in the North, Kim noted. He wondered how well they know about the whole country's human rights situation. "I can't say the report is not trustworthy" but "it is also true that it leaves room for doubts", he noted, KO13941.1649

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