Protecting Fundamental Freedoms

Essential Christmas reading for governments and policy makers

HLworldmapOn 10 December – international human rights day – the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) published the findings of its Parliamentary Inquiry into persecution in North Korea. The report, Religion and Belief in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, includes witness accounts of the horrific human rights abuses suffered by religious and belief minorities in the country, which often go unheard because of the secrecy of the regime.

It concludes: “The DPRK systematically oppresses freedom of religion or belief, and Christians in particular are targeted by the regime and subjected to chronic human rights abuses, amounting to crimes against humanity.”

The report makes a number of recommendations to the British Government, including that it continue pursuing the referral of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea to the International Criminal Court to account for its treatment of its citizens.

It also recommends that the UK invest in long-term strategic engagement with North Korea. Some of the practical suggestions include: educational exchanges, investing in the 30,000 North Korean people who have managed to escape, breaking the information blockade, critical engagement on human rights and the re-instigation of the ‘Six Party Talks’. Further, it urges the BBC World Service to establish a radio broadcast to the Korean Peninsula, in both English and Korean languages, giving citizens a window out of their closed world.

The report was launched at a meeting chaired by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Vice Chair of the APPG on North Korea. Those present heard of routine, horrific suffering at the hands of the DPRK state, with the Rev. Stuart Windsor, of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, sharing that “Between 1997 and 2007 an estimated one million North Koreans died or were killed in prison while the West has been silent”. The meeting also heard of the ingrained suspicion of religion from Kim, Joo-il, who told how “In North Korea, anti-religious education starts at six-seven years – people are taught to antagonise religion”. While Zoe Smith, of Open Doors UK & Ireland, highlighted a strong message of the APPG’s report, that the current situation in the DPRK “needs the ‘world citizen’ to step up to the table and say ‘enough’s enough’. Change is needed.”

Baroness Berridge, chairman of the APPG, commented: “For the past sixty-plus years, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has committed egregious human rights violations – the details of which would turn the stomach of even the most hardened person. This includes banishing those who follow a religion to remote places, incarcerating them, subjecting them to torture in labour camps, and murdering Christians for merely possessing a Bible…For many years North Korea has been viewed as an impossible case, but now the international community is finally beginning to afford the country the attention its people so desperately need.”

Lord Alton, chairman of the APPG on North Korea and Vice-chair of the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, highlighted that “Christmas spent in a North Korean gulag will be just another day of grotesque suffering”, concluding that “We who enjoy political and religious freedom; free to practice our faith; free to celebrate Christmas with our loved ones, must speak out and take practical actions to help bring the long winter of oppression to an end. This report should be essential Christmas reading for Governments, MPs, and policy makers”.

Download the Full Report (PDF) | Download the Executive Summary (PDF)

Newest member of UK Board of Directors shares personal thoughts on North Korea

Martin Uden is the former Co-ordinator of the Panel of Experts assigned to monitor sanctions against North Korea for the United Nations.

Martin Uden is the former Co-ordinator of the Panel of Experts assigned to monitor sanctions against North Korea for the United Nations.

Around the world, many wondered whether the disappearance of Kim Jong Un from public view meant that a regime change had occurred in North Korea. This fascination with the unknown typifies the lack of information that we have from Pyongyang. But in some areas we truly do know what the world’s most repressive regime is doing – and that is frightening enough.

From my time in the United Nations enforcing sanctions against North Korea, I know that their regime poses a serious threat to international peace and security. This threat goes beyond their testing of nuclear weapons and their development of missile technology designed to hold the civilian populations of other countries hostage to nuclear blackmail.

I know the North Korean regime has a history of partnering with rogue nations whose leaders threaten international peace and deny the fundamental freedoms of their own citizens. It is not an accident that North Korean weapons and personnel often turn up behind the scenes of some of the world’s greatest atrocities and wars and in the most unstable areas of the world.

I also know that North Korea has an extensive concentration camp system that is designed to eliminate entire families – men, women and children – through starvation, torture and extermination. Nearly 70 years ago, the world pulled back the curtain at Nuremberg on the most heinous crimes in modern history and swore that they would never happen again. But a slow-motion massacre, a continuing crime against humanity, has been underway in North Korea for most of the last half century.

Finally, I know that isolated, unpopular and murderous regimes are all doomed to fail – and it cannot happen quickly enough for those threatened by their nuclear weapons or trapped for generations in the living hell of their gulags.

For all of these reasons, I know that it is imperative to alert everyone who cares about human rights to the waking nightmare that is the North Korean regime.

That is why I am proud to serve as a board member of Human Liberty.

Five North Korean Activities More Threatening than Testing Missiles?


North Korean soldiers monitor the demilitarized zone.

Few doubt the threat to human liberty posed by the North Korean regime within the borders of North Korea. But what about the threat this regime poses to those outside its borders? This question often gets raised in the wake of the latest missile test or the most recent evidence North Korea is working on the bomb. And while the world focuses on these potential threats, the regime continues to carry out real threats to life and liberty beyond it’s borders and has done so for years.

Here are just a few examples of how the North Korean regime has not only threatened those outside it’s borders but actually committed crimes against human liberty:

1. Supplying Meth to the United States
The recent detainment and extradition last November of five foreign nationals for trial in the United States is further evidence of how the regime is directly attacking foreign borders by supporting and spreading the epidemic of methamphetamine use in other countries.

2. Providing Weapons to Syria
As the world works for a cease-fire solution to the atrocities on human life and liberty in the ongoing Syrian civil war, North Korea’s contribution to the effort is to provide those who repress human rights with weapons to sustain the repression.

3. Assisting Iran with their Proliferation
The North Korean regime has a history of partnering with like-minded nation-states who seek to deny the fundamental freedoms of their own citizens and who have a mandate to eradicate those who do not think or believe the way they do. North Korea’s collusion with Iran gravely increases the threat of both nations to the outside world.

4. Arms Smuggling
North Korea has a long track record of arms dealing and supplying parts for long-range missiles to other regimes that seek war with neighbors or themselves. Syria, Eritrea, Republic of Congo, Libya, Myanmar and more recently, Cuba, are among the countries of which the United Nations are aware arms dealing has taken place.

5. Kidnappings
North Korea added kidnapping to it’s many crimes against humanity after the Korean conflict in the early 1950’s and continue to kidnap foreign nationals to this day. The ones the world knows about are likely the tip of a very large iceberg, the scope of which we do not, and may never, fully know.

As mass media and world leaders continue wrestle with how much of a threat the Kim Jong-un regime poses to the free world, the crimes already committed and the threats already realized need to be part of the equation – perhaps more so than failed missile tests.

The Great Escape?

With the difficulty of seeking refuge to the South and seemingly no liberation on the horizon from the West, Many North Koreans chose to flee via China and its embassies in North Korea. As this documentary produced by ABC Australia and distributed by Journeyman Pictures reveals, the escape can be tantamount to leaping from the frying pan into the fire.