The long hard slog to shine a light on North Korean human rights

What’s been did and what’s been hid: A look back at human rights accountability in DPRK
February 17th, 2014

Today, February 17, the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, set up last March by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC; not to be confused with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, whose acronym is very similar) held a live-streamed press conference in Geneva to mark the publication of

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About the Author

Aidan Foster-Carter

Aidan Foster-Carter is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea at Leeds University in England. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he taught sociology at the Universities of Hull, Dar es Salaam and Leeds from 1971 to 1997. Having followed Korean affairs since 1968, since 1997 he has been a full-time analyst and consultant on Korea: writing, lecturing and broadcasting for academic, business and policy audiences in the UK and worldwide.

Join the discussion

  • Greg Scarlatoiu

    Mr. Aidan Foster-Carter provides a comprehensive account of the history of human rights violations in North Korea as well as the individuals and organizations dedicated to improving the situation in that country. HRNK is grateful for the attention Mr. Foster-Carter pays to our work, and for his appreciation of the activities of HRNK.

    I feel compelled to provide a clarification: We are in no need of forgiveness for “blowing our trumpet.” Mr. Foster-Carter misreads the purpose of our timeline, otherwise clearly stated in the title. The intention of the recent HRNK posting and Prezi video entitled “A Timeline of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea and HRNK’s Role” is precisely that stated in the title: to provide our friends and
    followers (we consider ourselves lucky to count Mr. Foster-Carter among them) with a brief outline of key developments pertaining to the COI (established in March 2013), focusing on HRNK and some critical post-Rome Statute landmarks.

    To imply that HRNK’s intention was to diminish the importance of the critical role played by our friends and colleagues at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Human Rights without Frontiers, LiNK, The Defense Forum Foundation, or dedicated activists and experts such as Suzanne Scholte,Joshua Stanton, Ben Rogers, Hannah Song, Sokheel Park and many others, is just plain wrong. HRNK plays its part in a concert of voices that have the
    same ultimate goal in mind: bringing decency, prosperity, freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights to the people of North Korea. To acknowledge the contributions of all of these extraordinary individuals and organizations, we would need to produce volumes, and not a 3-minute
    Prezi video.

    Greg Scarlatoiu

    Executive Director
    Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

  • someone132

    OK, so the light is now shining: where do you go from there? Continue to pointlessly wait for collapse that never comes and unlikely to make things better for those outside camps? Trot out the statements of the commission every time there’s a new drill or someone questions US Foreign Policy and do nothing else? Add more meaningless sanctions to a country that already relies on China for most of its trade? Given the today’s response from mainstream media (including Guardian article “In North Korea you’re brainwashed when you begin to talk” and McCain’s statement that DPRK must be “punished”) this seems to be exactly where we are headed.

    I continue to read the NKNews because you generally offer insight, substance AND some vision as to where this leads or could go, like the excellent article on wind power in DPRK (many thanks for that one!) . Here, however, there’s simple restatement of what happened that leaves us in the dark about the future of this development.

    Personally, I wonder what would happen if, just for once, someone had tried the supposed carrot-and-stick mechanism with the prison camps: i.e. offering a set amount of aid only if a set number of prisoners would be released from the country for external resettlement. Right now, I don’t think there is any other realistic method of actually making things better for those people.

  • Aidan Foster-Carter

    Sincere apologies to my friend Greg Scarlatoiu. I wrote in haste. The fact that HRNK’s timeline began with Kang’s book – which as far as I know has no direct connection to either HRNK or the COI – led me to think that a wider chronology was intended. Again, my apologies. I am of course a huge admirer of HRNK’s invaluable work. Aidan FC

  • Greg Scarlatoiu

    Aidan, apology accepted. Thank you for your interest in HRNK’s work and mission. Best wishes, Greg S