South Korea announced its official support for an in-depth investigation by the United Nations into human rights violations in North Korea on Wednesday. The resolution only needs majority support from the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council.
South Korea’s deputy Foreign Minister for Global affairs, Kim Bong Hyun, told the council that South Korea would “actively” support the resolution, and remarked that the human rights situation in North Korea has “continued to deteriorate.”
The resolution comes on the heels of a damning report issued earlier in the month by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, Marzuki Darusman. In his report, Darusman said that human rights violations in North Korea “may amount to crimes against humanity, committed as part of systematic and/or widespread attacks against civilian populations…”
Darusman, who was not allowed to visit North Korea, called for an inquiry that “should examine the issues of institutional and personal accountability for such violations…and make appropriate recommendations to the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and international community for further action.”
He also drew attention to the issue of forced labor camps in North Korea, saying that “even the mere existence of such camps, with slave like conditions for political prisoners, may qualify as crimes against humanity…”
New satellite photos, released Monday by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), reportedly show that Camp 25 has expanded in the past eleven years.
A separate analysis states that much of the expansion likely came in 2009 and 2010, as the path for Kim Jong Un to succeed Kim Jong Il was being laid. The authors say “Such transitions within the power-holding elite and internal security organizations have historically been accompanied by purges…result[ing] in the imprisonment or execution of a significant number of individuals.”
They also speculate that “there is an even chance that the prisoner population has increased or that the camp is preparing for growth in the near future.”
Momentum for a resolution has been building since the beginning of the year. In January, Navi Pillay, the U.N human rights chief, said that “an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst – but least understood and reported – human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue.”
North Korea lashed out at the charges made by Pillay and Darusman. After Pillay’s statement was made, Ri Jang Gon, the deputy ambassador at North Korea’s mission to the U.N. in Geneva, “totally rejected” the news release, and shot back that Pillay should focus on “the king of human rights abuses, the United States.”
Later in January, after Darusman’s report was released, North Korea’s U.N. ambassador, So Se Pyong, released a letter saying “The ‘special rapporteur’… is none other than a marionette running here and there in order to represent the ill-minded purposes of the string-pullers such as the United States, Japan and the member states of the EU.”