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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
The UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted an annual resolution on Wednesday denouncing the condition of human rights in North Korea.
The move comes with just two weeks remaining before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s self-declared year-end deadline for new concessions from the U.S. arrives.
Wednesday’s resolution is almost certain to infuriate leadership in Pyongyang, which frequently condemns outside criticism of its human rights record.
The DPRK’s ambassador to the UN, Kim Song, said in a speech at the UNGA session that his delegation “totally rejects” the resolution, calling it a product of “hostile forces that obsess with inveterate hatred against us.”
The resolution “has nothing to do with the genuine promotion” of human rights, Kim said, adding that the human rights issues mentioned in the resolution “have never existed and cannot be allowed to exist in my country, where dignity and independent right[s] of human being[s] are most valued.”
Those issues include millions of undernourished children, lack of due process and rule of law, and “severe restrictions” on freedom of thought and conscience, according to the UNGA resolution, which passed without a vote.
A separate human rights report published Wednesday by the Washington-based organization Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) said that the DPRK “remains the most restricted media environment in the world and violates its citizens’ fundamental human right to information.”
The report’s author, Martyn Williams, wrote that the DPRK “is getting increasingly sophisticated in the way it controls and engineers digital technology” in the country.
Examples in the report include fixing TV and radio receivers so they “cannot be tuned away from North Korean stations,” installing tracking software on citizens’ cell phones that takes screenshots at random intervals and “insidiously forces North Koreans to self-censor in fear of a device check that might never happen,” and forcing people to listen to propaganda broadcasts through speakers in their own homes.
Wednesday’s UNGA resolution also came one week after the UN Security Council (UNSC) convened its own meeting, chaired by the United States, that focused on Pyongyang’s weapons programs.
That meeting did not include human rights on the agenda, notwithstanding protests from some other countries on the panel.
Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said before last week’s UNSC meeting that she is “concerned about human rights all over the world,” but did not directly respond to questions about why the U.S. had decided to exclude human rights from the meeting’s agenda.
Prior to that meeting, North Korean ambassador to the UN Kim Song wrote a letter to the panel warning that if the United Nations engaged in a discussion of human rights in the DPRK, “the situation on the Korean Peninsula would take a turn for the worse again.”
Featured image: United Nations