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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Superpower failures

You've probably all seen this updated image of the Korean "peninsula" by night, taken from the International Space Station. It adds colors to previous versions, but the "island of Pyongyang" remains the biggest speck of light in South Korea's "North Sea":

Pyongyang-do by night (the Korean peninsula from the ISS, North Korea still dark)
picture and video link via @northkoreatech
(incl. link to the video below)

A closer look reveals that, in spite of global warming, more islets and rocks keep emerging around "Pyongyang-do".
  • According to Seoul (the blinding supernova radiating 120 miles South of Pyongyang), this archipelago officially belongs to the Republic of Korea. 
  • According to China's most radical group of revisionists (Northeast Project), the whole archipelago (which indeed, also includes South Korea) forms a perennial Province of the Middle Kingdom. 
  • According to the guys supposedly in charge of said islets, this archipelago is the only world superpower not only capable of kicking Uncle Sam's ass, but also capable of using nuclear power just to get his attention ("these grotesquely forged satellite pictures may fool you into believing that we're experiencing a power failure but to the contrary, our perfect control of energy consumption demonstrates the sustainability of our Juche regime").
  • According to the international community, this place should indisputably be called the Gulag Archipelago*.

Gravity (not the movie, but the situation in North Korea, not only electricity-wise)

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*  reminder: "North Korea, Beware - Rest Of The World, Be Aware"

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Madang Blues ("The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly")

We all keep very strong images from a few cherished books and animation movies of our childhood, and the most powerful ones are often the worlds we built in our heads as readers, sometimes fueled by a gem seeded by some talented illustrator along our paths.

For instance, I remember very well an apparently very simple illustration of a forest at the bottom of a page from a tale - I forgot which story, but that was very early in the narrative. It simply depicted a small grove's canopy from above, almost as a cute and round bouquet, and I wondered what marvels and threats could hide behind these innocent leaves. To me, this forest looked at the same time tiny and infinite, beautiful and scary, harmless and lethal, open to all possibilities and claustrophobically hermetic. Compared to that simple illustration, all others in the book felt dull, overly explicit, an insult to the story and its readers. For the first time, I realized the sheer power of illustration as a catalyst for imagination... and as a potential downer.

Much later, I realized that the animation movies that had left the strongest impression on me were all clay animations, and that their imperfections served as asperities for the viewer's imagination to take hold and to claim if not control, at least some room for manoeuvre. I didn't necessarily enjoy these movies, but I enjoyed that upsetting feeling, these unanswered questions, and I appreciated much more the artist's effort, as well as their respect for their young audience. I did enjoy Disney movies, but like you enjoy an industrial ice cream: yes that's what I wanted, but was it what I needed?

When the animation movie "Leafie, a hen into the wild" was released, three years ago, I learned that it was an adaptation from a very popular children's book boosted by a star-laden ro(o)ster (e.g. CHOI Min-sik). The film quickly became a hit, but I really didn't like its Marketing 101 / "what kids want" downer of a trailer. I found much more inviting the cover of the English translation of the book, published last year as "The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly" by Penguin Books (note that penguins can't fly either, but this one knows how to make books fly off shelves - particularly when the said book has already done it in several languages before).

I know you should never judge a book by its cover or a film by its poster, but check this contrast (speaking of forests...):

The Penguin's take at The Hen (get the book!)
The animated movie adaptation ("Leafie, a hen into the wild")

HWANG Sun-mi's bestseller "마당을 나온 암탉" could be translated as "The hen who came out of the yard", which conveys much fewer levels of universality than "The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly"... and much fewer levels of action than "Leafie, a hen into the wild" (NB: in Korean, the original title remains), but echoes the author's self-confessed, low-key approach: you can't reach for the universal without accepting the trivial*.

The title character, "잎싹", becomes "Leafie" in the film, "Sprout" in the book. I prefer the second translation: closer to the original in meaning, the word also sounds more like her, the frail but determined hen who refuses to remain a slave in a battery cage, and longs for a better life in what she believes to be the best and safest place on earth, the barnyard. Sprout will manage to escape her prison, but also struggle to adapt to a foreign environment, and fight to fulfill new responsibilities. Note that in French, the title is "La poule qui voulait vivre sa vie" ("The hen who wanted to live her life" - Chan Ok - Flammarion), and the hero Petite-Feuille (a trifle more poetic than Leafie).

Yesterday, thanks to Barry Welsh's 10 Magazine Book Club, we had the opportunity to buy the book, watch the movie adaptation, and meet the author. I did just that, regretting that, ever the lazy bird, I hadn't read the book before.

HwangSunmi and Barry Welsh about "The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly" at 10MagBookClub

As I flipped through the pages ahead of the screening, I noticed with satisfaction that the illustrator (Kazuko Nomoto a.k.a. Nomoco) didn't draw actual portraits of the protagonists, leaving that up to the author and her readers. I didn't expect much from the film, but I tried to forget my 46-year-old-cynic self, and to switch back to my six-year-old-candid mode, and I enjoyed it much more than a Disney movie because the story hasn't been disneyfied all the way. I bet the audience didn't need that Korean cartoon classic, the overly swimming eye artifice, to sob noisily**...

Warning - spoiler alert: this is not a Disney ending, and in this life, except maybe through that ephemeral yet eternal marvel called love, there is no such thing as a comfort zone. The author wrote her story when she was on her father's deathbed, and death was the only outcome for her main character. So yes, Sprout/Leafie is her father (NB: nothing to do with Anakin, Luke). And no, the book is not about motherhood; Hwang said that she just needed a female character. The actual mother happens to be the least suspected character: 족제비 the weasel. Overall, "The Hen" is more about growing mature, expanding horizons, accepting death, and/or whatever the reader/viewer sees and feels, because...

... this story is not wrapped up hermetically, and along with its darker sides, that's what makes it so powerful. 

The author enjoys the sometimes guilty pleasure of writing, and fully respects her readers. It may have something to do with how, for her, reading and writing have always been entwined. HWANG grew up in the rural Korea of the seventies, where and when children's books were not commodities. An elementary school teacher put her in charge of the library's key, a key that could open doors beyond cages, barnyards, and even the real wide world. Back home, the young Sun-mi would write to remember the stories. She logically started with children's book, a genre and a joy she rediscovered as she raised her own kids.

And today, even with her international success, HWANG Sun-mi keeps a refreshing frankness, a profound respect for fellow children's book authors***. Of course she's very happy to see her books take new forms (musical, film), and to be translated in so many languages, but she's also not totally comfortable with the idea that she can't tell what her stories have gained or lost in translation.

HWANG Sun-mi
She does know that the film adaptation is very different, but since I didn't read the book, I couldn't expect one of the movie's pivotal characters to have been created for the screen****.

Now that I have the book (and glasses**!), I really have no choice but to jump and spread my reading wings.



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* KTLIT's Charles Montgomery made a parallel with Yi Mun-yol (whom, by the way, we also followed across wintery landscapes in a recent RASKB book club, about "Winter that year").
** Were my own eyes swimming? Naah... 'twas only old age, plus smartphone/laptop abuse: I just came to term with the idea that I needed glasses, and bought my first pair today.
*** she listed many Korean and international authors, and I bet this little red riding hood wolfed down all the classics (speaking of bird migrations, she answered yes when I asked if she read Selma Lagerlöf's adventures of Nils Holgersson).
**** The Falstaffian otter Dalsu (달수/수달) struck me as a modern oddity in an otherwise timeless cast, and I wondered how the real estate corporation reacted to the caricature.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Seoul's New Town and Redevelopment Plan Update

Seoul updated its New Town and Redevelopment Plan after two years of probation*. Citizens are still being surveyed and their comments collected to facilitate key decisions: go/no go, and the allocation of resources and support (including in case of cancellation). The whole process is being monitored and doubled with conflict management teams to prevent the usual bubbles and rumor mill frenzies, but also to learn from best and worst practices.

For the cases without promotion, 266 of 286 surveys have been completed, and the rest shall be done by the end of June 2014.

148 out of these 266 cases are on the hot seat, and three projects have already been cancelled: 
  • Cheonho-Seongnae (Cheonho-dong and Seongnae-dong, Gangdong-gu), 
  • Mia Gyunchok (Mia Sageori, Gangbuk-gu), 
  • Banghwa (Banghwa-dong, Gangseo-gu)
The final cancellation of 16 other projects shall be decided by June: 
  • Hapjeong (Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu), 
  • Cheonho (Cheonho-dong, Gangdong), 
  • Sangbong (Sangbong-dong, Jungnang-gu), 
  • Geoyeo-Macheon (Geoyeo-dong and Macheon-dong, Songpa),
  • Junghwa (Junghwa-dong, Jungnang-gu), 
  • Guui-Jayang (Guui-dong, Jayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu), 
  • Sanggye (Sanggye-dong, Nowon-gu), 
  • Ahyeon (Ahyeon-dong, Mapo-gu)
  • Singil (Singil-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu), 
  • Susaek-Jeungsan (Susaek-dong, Jeungsan-dong, Eunpyeong-gu), 
  • Jangui (Jangwi-dong, Seongbuk-gu)
  • Mia (Mia-dong, Gangbuk-gu), 
  • Sinjeong (Sinjeong-dong, Yangcheon-gu), 
  • Imun-Hwigyeong (Imun-dong and Hwigyeong-dong, Dongdaemun-gu), 
  • Gireum (Gireum-dong, Seongbuk-gu), 
  • Heukseok (Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu).
The 19 potential red lights (the first 3 are already goners - note that Mia used to be a red light district anyway!)

No big surprises here. As I explained in "Inhuman, all too human Seoul", the New Town model belongs to the past, and it lost momentum in the Capital even before PARK Won-soon claimed City Hall. His bottom-up, collaborative approach was the only way of defusing potential outcries in a city where real estate speculation remains pervasive.

New Towns are not dead yet, and among the projects that will go on, some are already well "advanced", Buk-Ahyeon New Town much more than Donuimun New Town (a.k.a. Gyonam New Town).

And they're only part of Seoul's urban planning problems.

PS: Michael, don't rejoice too soon: the potential end of Ahyeon New Town wouldn't necessarily mean the survival of your old hanok.

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* "뉴타운·재개발 수습방안」추진 2년 성과와 향후 방향 발표" (20140221)

Monday, February 17, 2014

North Korea, Beware - Rest Of The World, Be Aware

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK (UNCoI DPRK) released its first reports, unsurprisingly rejected even before their publication by North Korea, a nation that, to start with, rejects human rights altogether.

Here, the framework matters as much as the content. Unfortunately, we already knew the content: "unspeakable atrocities"*, crimes against humanity that put the regime on par with the worst ones in history, and its leaders in line for prosecutions by the ICC. That's where the framework marks a shift to a different plane: the UN is methodically building a case and paving the way for justice, exposing the full system for the whole world to see.

A lot remains to be done to drag the Pyongyang clique to The Hague, and Kim The Third will probably laugh at the final wishlist he's supposed to fulfill, but the message is as much for him as for the rest of us.

So far, we've all failed. Yes, international aid backfired at times, yes, "China has violated its obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement under international refugee and human rights law", and yes, tourists attending mass games do bring fresh currencies to the regime as they watch children victims of human right abuses perform for the glory of their own persecutors.

UNCoI report on human rights abuses in NorthKorea doesn't accuse tourists of complicity, but makes unawareness even more indecent

So yes:
  • "The international community must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity."
  • "The United Nations must ensure that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are held accountable."
  • "The Security Council should refer the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court for action in accordance with that court’s jurisdiction"
  • ...
  • And we must not tolerate denial or negationism from the regime and its supporters. And we must engage with full discernment and awareness.

All world citizens can download the reports and their annexes on
Among the documents available on the site, drawings by survivors


I added below the main findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the "Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea" (A/HRC/25/CRP.1):

Violations of the freedoms of thought, expression and religion: 

  • Indoctrination, propaganda and the related role of mass organizations: Indoctrination from childhood, The Mass Games and other compulsory mass propaganda events, Confession and criticism sessions, Compulsory membership in mass organizations, Ubiquity of propaganda. 
  • Control of information through tightly controlled State media and prohibition of any external information, including non-political information: Control of television and radio, Control of print media and the Internet, and other means of communication, Crackdown on foreign movies and mobile telephones. 
  • Suppression of freedom of expression and opinion through surveillance and violence: Monitoring and surveillance system. 
  • Denial of freedom of religion and of religious expression: Institutionalization of the personality cult, Religious persecution, Practising Christianity as a political crime. 
  • Principal findings of the commission: 
    • Throughout the history of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, among the most striking features of the state has been its claim to an absolute information monopoly and total control of organized social life. Based on witness testimonies, the Commission finds that there is almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information, and association. 
    • The DPRK operates an all-encompassing indoctrination machine which takes root from childhood to propagate an official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to the Supreme Leader (Suryong), effectively to the exclusion of any independent thought from the official ideology and state propaganda. Propaganda is further used by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to incite nationalistic hatred towards official enemies of the state: Japan, the United States of America, and the Republic of Korea, and their nationals. 
    • Virtually all social activities undertaken by citizens of all ages are controlled by the Workers’ Party of Korea. Through the associations which are run and overseen by the Party, and to which DPRK nationals are obliged to be members, the state is able to monitor its citizens as well as to dictate their daily activities. State surveillance permeates the private life of all citizens to ensure that no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. DPRK nationals are punished for any “anti-state” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes”. 
    • Citizens are denied the right to access information from independent sources as state-controlled media is the only permitted source of information in the DPRK. Access to television and radio broadcasts, as well as the Internet, is severely restricted, and all media content is heavily censored and must adhere to directives issued by the Workers’ Party of Korea. Telephone calls are monitored and mostly confined to domestic connections for its citizens, who are punished for watching and listening to foreign broadcasts, including foreign films and soap operas. 
    • Strengthening market forces and advancements in information technology have allowed greater access to information from outside the country as information and media from the ROK and China increasingly enter the country. The state’s information monopoly is therefore being challenged by the increasing flow of outside information into the country and the ensuing curiosity of the people for “truths” other than state propaganda. Authorities seek to preserve the status quo by carrying out regular crackdowns and enforcing harsher punishments, to halt the inflow of information and ideas. 
    • The spread of Christianity is considered by the DPRK a particularly serious threat since it ideologically challenges the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the state realm. Apart from the few organized state-controlled churches, Christians are prohibited from practising their religion. Christians caught practising their religion are subject to severe punishment in violation of the right to freedom of religion and the prohibition of religious discrimination.

Discrimination on the basis of State-assigned social class (songbun), gender and disability:

  • Discrimination based on social class and birth: the songbun system, past and present
  • Discrimination against women
  • Discrimination against persons with disabilities
  • Impact of discrimination on economic, social and cultural rights
  • Principal findings of the commission:
    • The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has presented itself to the world as a state where equality, non-discrimination and equal rights in all fields have been fully implemented. In reality, the Commission finds that the DPRK is a rigidly stratified society with entrenched patterns of discrimination, although these are being modified to some extent by the transformative socio-economic changes introduced by market forces and technological developments in the past decade. The Commission finds that state-sponsored discrimination in the DPRK is pervasive but shifting. Discrimination is rooted in the Songbun system, which classifies people on the basis of social class and birth and also includes consideration of political opinion and religion. Songbun intersects with gender based discrimination, which is equally pervasive. Discrimination is also practised on the basis of disability although there are signs that the state may have begun to address this particular issue.
    • The state sponsors and implements a system of official discrimination based on social class, deriving from perceived political loyalty and family background as manifest in the Songbun system. The concept of songbun was originally conceived as a means to re-engineer the fabric of society, so as to replace the pre-1945 traditional elites with new “revolutionary” elites loyal to the leadership and the new state. In this regard, the DPRK remodeled pre-existing hierarchies in Korean society that were deeply rooted for centuries.
    • The Songbun system used to be the most important determining factor in an individual’s chances of livelihood, access to education and other services including housing and the opportunity to live in favorable locations, especially the capital Pyongyang. This traditional discrimination under the Songbun system has been recently complicated by increasing marketization in the DPRK and the influence of money on people’s ability to better access their economic, social and cultural rights. Money and heightened levels of corruption increasingly allow newly emerging business elites and others able to obtain resources to circumvent state-sponsored discrimination. Moreover, new information technologies, including mobile phones, help to facilitate the operation of the market system and the exchange of knowledge and information. However, whether an individual has the necessary access to make money in the most lucrative sectors of commerce is to some degree determined by songbun. At the same time, significant segments of the population that have neither the resources nor favorable songbun find themselves increasingly marginalized and subject to further patterns of discrimination, as basic public services have collapsed or now require payment.
    • Discrimination based on songbun continues to articulate itself today through the stark differences in living conditions between larger cities, in particular the capital Pyongyang, where the elites of the highest songbun are concentrated, and the remote provinces, to which people of low songbun were historically assigned. Discrimination remains a major means for the leadership to maintain control against perceived threats, both internal and external.
    • Early reforms aimed at ensuring formal legal equality have not resulted in gender equality. Discrimination against women remains pervasive in all aspects of society. Arguably, it is increasing as the male-dominated state preys on both the economically advancing women and marginalized women. Many women, driven by survival during the famine in the 1990s began operating private markets. However, the state imposed many restrictions on the female-dominated market, including prohibiting anyone other than women over forty years of age from trading. Gender discrimination also takes the form of women being targeted to pay bribes or fines. There is recent evidence that women are beginning to object and resist such impositions.
    • The economic advances of women have not been matched with social and political advancements. Entrenched traditional patriarchal attitudes and violence against women in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea persist. The state has imposed blatantly discriminatory restrictions on women in an attempt to maintain the gender stereotype of the pure and innocent Korean woman. Sexual and gender-based violence against women is prevalent throughout all areas of society. Victims are not afforded protection from the state, support services or recourse to justice. In the political sphere, women make up just 5 per cent of the top political cadre, and 10 per cent only of central government employees.
    • Discrimination against women also intersects with a number of other human rights violations, placing women in positions of vulnerability. Violations of the right to food and freedom of movement have resulted in women and girls becoming vulnerable to trafficking and increased engagement in transactional sex and prostitution. The complete denial of the freedoms of expression and association outside state-approved organizations has been a large contributing factor to the generally unequal status of women vis-à-vis men. Among other things, these limitations have prevented women from collectively advocating for their rights, as women have done elsewhere in the world.
    • Despite Kim Il-sung embrace of Marxist-Leninist theory and the DPRK participation in the Socialist International, the DPRK diverged from those ideals in its propagation of the notion of a pure Korean race that had to be kept clean and untainted by external influences. This construct flows from the general resistance to foreign influences and inward focus emphasized by Juche ideology. This deliberate withdrawal from the rest of the world bolstered the rationale for control by Kim Il-sung. The DPRK’s inward focus was one aspect of Juche ideology. Its other main element was the ever expanding cult of personality of Kim Il-sung. While justifying isolationist policies and elevating Kim Il-sung (and subsequently his heirs) to the supreme father-figure who could protect the nation from the hostile outside world, Juche ideology has had dire repercussions for persons seen as sullying the image of an untainted DPRK. Women and persons with disabilities experience particular discrimination, although the state has reportedly taken positive steps lately to improve its approach towards the latter group.
    • While discrimination exists to some extent in all societies, the Commission finds that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has practised a form of official discrimination that has had a very great impact on individuals’ enjoyment of human rights. Given the exceptional levels of state control, this official discrimination influences most aspects of people’s lives. Discrimination remains a major means for the leadership to maintain control against perceived threats, both internal and external.

Violations of the freedom of movement and residence, including the right to leave one’s own country and the prohibition of refoulement:

  • Freedom of movement and residence in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: State-assigned place of residence and employment, Liberty of movement within one’s country
  • Right to leave one’s own country: Total travel ban, Patterns of flight from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and underlying reasons, Border control measures, Torture, inhuman treatment and imprisonment of persons who tried to flee the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Forced abortion and infanticide against repatriated mothers and their children, Forced repatriation and refoulement of citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by China
  • Right to return to one’s own country and right to family
  • Principal findings of the commission: 
    • The systems of indoctrination and discrimination on the basis of state-assigned social class are reinforced and safeguarded by a policy of isolating citizens from contact with each other and with the outside world, violating all aspects of the right to freedom of movement. 
    • In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the state imposes on its citizens requirements as to where they must reside and work, in violation of the freedom of choice. Violations are subject to criminal punishment. Moreover, the forced assignment to a state-designated place of residence and work is heavily driven by discrimination based on songbun. This has created a socio-economically and physically segregated society, where people considered politically loyal to the leadership can live and work in favourable locations, whereas families of persons who are considered politically suspect are relegated to marginalized areas. The special status of Pyongyang, reserved only for those most loyal to the state, exemplifies this system of segregation. 
    • Citizens are not even allowed to leave their province temporarily or to travel within the country without official authorization. This policy is driven by the desire to maintain disparate living conditions, to limit information flows and to maximize state control, at the expense of social and familial ties. This regime of control had a particularly calamitous effect on access to food, livelihood and basic services during the height of the food crisis in the 1990s. 
    • In an attempt to keep Pyongyang’s “pure” and untainted image, the state systematically banishes entire families from the capital city if one family member commits what is deemed a serious crime or political wrong. For the same reason, the large number of street children who had been migrating clandestinely to Pyongyang and other cities – principally in search of food – have been subject to arrest and forcible transfer back to their home provinces, experiencing neglect and forced institutionalization upon return. 
    • The state imposes a virtually absolute ban on ordinary citizens travelling abroad, thereby violating their human right to leave the country. Despite the enforcement of this ban through strict border controls, nationals still take the risk of fleeing, mainly to China. When they are apprehended or forcibly repatriated, DPRK officials systematically subject them to persecution, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention and in some cases sexual violence, including during invasive body searches. Repatriated women who are pregnant are regularly forced to undergo an abortion, a practice that is driven by racist attitudes towards persons from China, and to inflict punishment on women who have committed a serious offence by leaving the country. Where a baby is born, it is then killed by the authorities. Persons found to have been in contact with officials or nationals from the Republic of Korea or with Christian churches may be forcibly “disappeared” into political prison camps, imprisoned in ordinary prisons or even summarily executed. 
    • Despite the gross human rights violations awaiting repatriated persons, China pursues a rigorous policy of forcibly repatriating DPRK citizens who cross the border illegally. China does so in pursuance of its view that these persons are economic (and illegal) migrants. However, many such DPRK nationals should be recognized as refugees fleeing persecution or refugees sur place. They are thereby entitled to international protection. The Commission is of the view that in forcibly returning DPRK nationals, China has violated its obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement under international refugee and human rights law. In some cases, Chinese officials also appear to provide information on those apprehended to their DPRK counterparts to the known danger of those affected. 
    • Discrimination against women and their vulnerable status in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as the prospect of refoulement, makes women extremely vulnerable to trafficking in persons. A large number of women are trafficked by force or deception from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into China or within China for purposes of exploitation in forced marriage or concubinage, or prostitution under coercive circumstances. An estimated 20,000 children born to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea women are currently in China effectively deprived of their rights to birth registration, nationality, education and healthcare because their birth cannot be registered without exposing the mother to the risk of refoulement to the DPRK under the present Chinese policy. 
    • The Commission further finds that the DPRK has repeatedly breached its obligations to respect the rights of its nationals who have special ties to or claims in relation to another country, in this case the Republic of Korea, to return there or otherwise enjoy a facility to meet long separated families. In an age where people everywhere take for granted the opportunity to travel and to converse using modern technology, the severe impediments that the DPRK unreasonably places on its people to prevent contact and communication with each other is not only a breach of DPRK’s obligations under international human rights law. It is arbitrary, cruel and inhuman and, particularly, in the circumstances of the cancellation of arrangements previously agreed in relation to reunions of separated families for wholly unpersuasive reason, especially given the advanced ages of the persons concerned.

Violations of the right to food and related aspects of the right to life:

  • Availability, adequacy and affordability of food in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Situation up until the early 1990s, State food distribution system, Hunger and mass starvation in the 1990s, Seeking alternatives to State distribution, Persistence of hunger and starvation after 2000, Impact on various groups.
  • Consequences of geographic segregation and discrimination
  • Awareness and concealment
  • Actions and omissions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Reluctance to change, Preventing and punishing alternative views, Confiscation and dispossession of food, Criminalization of coping mechanisms.
  • Obstructing humanitarian assistance and access to the most vulnerable
  • Non-utilization of maximum available resources: Prioritization of military expenditure, Use of aid to reduce State spending on food, Role of bilateral donors, Parallel funds for the benefit of the Supreme Leader, Advancement of the personality cult and glorification of the political system, Purchase of luxury goods
  • Violation of freedom from hunger, death by starvation and diseases related to starvation
  • Violation of the right to food and prisoners
  • Principal findings of the commission:
    • The rights to food, freedom from hunger, and to life in the context of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cannot be reduced to a narrow discussion of food shortages and access to a commodity. The state has used food as a means of control over the population. It has prioritized those whom the authorities believe to be crucial in maintaining the regime over those deemed to be expendable.
    • Confiscation and dispossession of food from those in need, and the provision of food to other groups, follows this logic. The state has practised discrimination with regard to access to and distribution of food based on the Songbun system. In addition, it privileges certain parts of the country, such as Pyongyang, over others. The state has also failed to take into account the needs of the most vulnerable. The Commission is particularly concerned about ongoing chronic malnutrition in children, and its long-term effects.
    • The DPRK was aware of the deteriorating food situation well before the first appeal for international aid in 1995. State-controlled production and distribution of food was not able to provide the population with adequate food from, at best, the late 1980s. The lack of transparency, accountability, and democratic institutions as well as restrictions on freedoms of expression, information and association, prevented the adoption of optimal economic solutions over those in accordance with directives of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The DPRK has evaded structural reforms to the economy and agriculture for fear of losing its control over the population. 
    • During the period of famine, ideological indoctrination was used in order to maintain the political system, at the cost of seriously aggravating hunger and starvation. Official campaigns to collect food for soldiers, to eat two meals instead of three from an already deprived recipient population and the rhetoric of the Arduous March were used to compel the population to endure the hardships for a national purpose. The concealment of information prevented the population from finding alternatives to the collapsing Public Distribution System. It also delayed international assistance that, provided earlier, could have saved many lives.
    • Despite the state’s inability to provide its people with adequate food, it maintained laws and controls effectively criminalizing people’s use of key-coping mechanisms, including moving within or outside the country in search of food and trading or working in informal markets. 
    • Even during the worst period of mass starvation, the DPRK impeded the delivery of food aid by imposing conditions that were not based on humanitarian considerations. International humanitarian agencies were subject to restrictions contravening humanitarian principles. Aid organizations were prevented from properly assessing humanitarian needs and monitoring the distribution of aid. The DPRK denied humanitarian access to some of the most affected regions and groups including homeless children. 
    • The DPRK has consistently failed in its obligation to use the maximum of its available resources to feed those who are hungry. Even with available financial resources, the DPRK has not purchased the necessary food to compensate for its inadequate production even when starvation prevailed. Military spending has been prioritized even during periods of starvation. However, the DPRK still failed to feed ordinary soldiers. Large amounts of state resources, including funds directly controlled by the Supreme leader, have been spent on luxury goods and the advancement of the personality cult while ordinary citizens starve. 
    • The DPRK systematically uses deliberate starvation as a means of control and punishment in detention facilities. Cuts in rations have been part of guards training and described in prison documents. This has resulted in the deaths of many political and ordinary citizens. 
    • The Commission finds systematic, widespread and grave violations of the right to food in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. While acknowledging the impact of factors beyond state control on the food situation, the Commission finds that decisions, actions and omissions by the state and its leadership have caused the death of at the very least hundreds of thousands of human beings and inflicted permanent physical and psychological injury including intergenerational harm, on those who survived. 
    • The Commission finds what occurred during the 1990s a most serious indictment of the DPRK and its officials. In the highly centralized system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, decisions related to food, including production and distribution, state budget allocation, decisions related to humanitarian assistance and the use of international aid, are ultimately determined by a small group of officials, who are effectively not accountable to those affected by their decisions. In this context, the Commission considers crimes against humanity of starvation in section V of the present report. 
    • While conditions have changed since the 1990s, hunger and malnutrition continue to be widespread. Deaths from starvation continue to be reported. The Commission is concerned that structural issues, including laws and policies that violate the right to adequate food and freedom from hunger remain in place which could lead to the recurrence of mass starvation

Arbitrary detention, torture, executions, enforced disappearance and political prison camps:

  • Arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances
  • Interrogation using torture and starvation: Systematic and widespread use of torture, Torture and inhuman treatment by the State Security Department, Torture and inhumane treatment by the Ministry of People’s Security, Decision to punish through judicial process or extralegal means.
  • Political prison camps: Location and size of political prison camps, Evolution and purpose of the political prison camp system, Total control, torture and executions, Sexual violence and denial of family and reproductive rights, Starvation, forced labour and diseases, Deaths in custody and lack of respect for the dignity of the dead.
  • Gross violations in the ordinary prison system: Ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso), Short-term forced labour detention camps
  • Executions: Public executions in central places, Executions in places of detention
  • Medical experiments
  • Principal findings of the commission: 
    • The Commission finds that the police and security forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea systematically employ violence and punishment that amount to gross human rights violations in order to create a climate of fear that pre-empts any challenges to the current system of government and to the ideology underpinning it. Fear is the keystone that ultimately holds up the edifice of the current state structure in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The institutions and officials involved are not held accountable. Impunity reigns. 
    • Gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in respect of detention, execution and disappearances are characterized by a high degree of centralized coordination between different parts of the extensive security apparatus. The State Security Department, Ministry of People’s Security and the Korean People’s Army Military Security Command regularly subject persons accused of political crimes to arbitrary arrest. This falls short of the legal requirements set out by international law and even under the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s own laws. Subsequently, those so arrested are typically held incommunicado for prolonged periods of time. Their families are not informed about their fate and whereabouts. Persons accused of political crimes therefore become victims of enforced disappearance. Making the suspect disappear is a deliberate feature of the system that serves to instil fear in the population that anyone who does not show absolute obedience can disappear at any time for reasons solely determined by, and known to, the authorities. 
    • The use of torture is an established feature of the interrogation process in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, especially in cases involving political crimes. Starvation and other inhumane conditions of detention are deliberately imposed on suspects to increase the pressure on them to confess and to incriminate other persons. 
    • Persons who are found to have engaged in major political crimes disappear, without trial or judicial order, to political prison camps (kwanliso). There, they will be incarcerated and held incommunicado. Their families will not be informed of their fate even if they die. In the past, it was common that the authorities sent entire families to political prison camps for political crimes committed by close relatives (including forebears to the third generation) on the basis of the principle of guilt by association. Such cases still occur, but appear now to be less frequent than in past decades. 
    • The unspeakable atrocities committed against the inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps of the DPRK resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian states established during the twentiethh century. In the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the inmate population is gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, sexual violence including rape and a denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide. The Commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these political prison camps over the course of more than five decades. 
    • Although the authorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea claim that the camps have never existed and do not exist and have denied outsiders access to the areas where they are situated, this claim is shown to be false by the testimony of former guards, inmates and neighbours. Satellite imagery proves that the camp system continues to be in operation. While the number of political prison camps and inmates has decreased due to deaths and some releases, an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners are currently detained in four large political prison camps and a residual detention complex that remains from a fifth earlier camp. 
    • Gross violations are also being committed in the ordinary prison system, which consists of ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso) and various types of short-term forced labour detention camps. The vast majority of inmates are victims of arbitrary detention, since they are imprisoned without trial or on the basis of a trial that grossly fails to respect the due process and fair trial guarantees set out in international law. Furthermore, many ordinary prisoners are, in fact, political prisoners, who are detained without a substantive reason compatible with international law. Prisoners in the ordinary prison system are systematically subjected to deliberate starvation and illegal forced labour. Torture, rape and other arbitrary cruelties at the hands of guards and fellow prisoners are widespread and committed with impunity. 
    • As a matter of State policy, the authorities carry out executions – with or without trial; publicly or secretly – to punish political and other crimes that are often not among the most serious crimes. The policy of regularly carrying out public executions serves to instil fear in the general population. Public executions were most common in the 1990s. They became less common after 2000. However, they continue to be carried out today. Shortly before this report was finalized, there was an apparent spike in the number of politically motivated public executions.

Enforced disappearance of persons from other countries, including through abduction:

  • Periods and types of abductions and other enforced and involuntary disappearances: 1950-1953: abduction of Republic of Korea civilians during the Korean War, 1953: denial of repatriation to prisoners of war from the Korean War, 1955 -1992: Post-war abduction and enforced disappearance of Republic of Korea citizens, Efforts to resolve the abductions and enforced disappearances on the Korean peninsula, 1959 - 1984: enforced disappearance of ethnic Koreans and Japanese nationals who migrated to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from Japan during the “Paradise on Earth Movement”, 1970s – 1980s: abduction of Japanese nationals, Late 1970s: abduction and enforced disappearance of women from other countries, 1990s to present: abductions from China.
  • Suffering, discrimination and persecution resulting from disappearances: Suffering and treatment of the disappeared and their descendants in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Suffering of the families of the disappeared, Gendered impact of enforced disappearances, Discrimination against children
  • Principal findings of the commission: 
    • The Commission finds that, from 1950 until the present, the DPRK has engaged in the systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequent enforced disappearance of persons from other countries on a large scale and as a matter of State policy. Well over 200,000 persons who were taken from other countries to the DPRK may have potentially become victims of enforced disappearance, as defined in the Declaration for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. More information would have to emerge from the DPRK to provide a more reliable estimate on the number of victims. 
    • For a nation state which seeks to live alongside other nation states, to act in this way for such a long time, in defiance of the sovereignty of other states and the rights of foreign nationals guaranteed under international law, is exceptional. 
    • The vast majority of abductions and enforced disappearances occurred during or are otherwise linked to the Korean War and the organized movement of ethnic Koreans from Japan that started in 1959. However, hundreds of nationals of the ROK, Japan and other states were also abducted and disappeared between the 1960s and 1980s. In more recent years, the DPRK abducted a number of DPRK and ROK nationals from the People’s Republic of China.
    • The DPRK used its land, naval and intelligence forces to conduct abductions and arrests. Both Korean War and post-war operations were approved at the level of the Supreme Leader. The vast majority of victims were forcibly disappeared to gain labour and other skills for the DPRK. Some victims from the Republic of Korea and Japan were used to further espionage and terrorist activities. The DPRK often targeted non-Korean women because they are women, an act of gender-based violence. Women abducted from Europe, the Middle East and Asia were subjected to forced marriages with men from other countries to prevent liaisons on their part with ethnic Korean women that could result in inter-racial children. Some of the women have also been subject to sexual exploitation. 
    • Some of the forcibly disappeared initially travelled to the DPRK voluntarily. Others were abducted through physical force or fraudulent persuasion. Subsequently, they were all denied the right to leave the DPRK. They have been subject to severe deprivation of their liberty and freedom of movement within the DPRK, denied the right to recognition as a person before the law, and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. All of the forcibly disappeared have been placed under strict surveillance. They have been denied education and employment opportunities. 
    • Ethnic Koreans from the Republic of Korea and Japan forcibly disappeared by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have been discriminated against for their origins and background. They were categorized as “hostile” and forced to work in mines and farms of remote marginalized areas. It is anticipated many of them were likely to have been the first victims of the famine in the 1990s because of their lower social status. Being forced to live in remote areas with limited resources has also resulted in the forcibly disappeared having limited access to medical facilities. 
    • Non-Korean abductees were not able to integrate into social and economic life in the DPRK as they were detained in tightly controlled compounds. They were denied the right to work, precluded from leaving their residence and moving freely in society, and unable to choose education opportunities for themselves and their children. 
    • Many of the forcibly disappeared were under the age of 18 at the time of their abduction or arrest. These children have not only been denied the right not to be disappeared, but also the right to family life, the right to not to be separated from their parents, and the right to be cared for by their parents. 
    • Family members abroad and foreign states wishing to exercise their right to diplomatic protection have been consistently denied requested information establishing the fate and whereabouts of the victims. Family members of the disappeared have been subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. They have been denied the right to an effective remedy for human rights violations, including the right to the truth. Parents of disappeared children have been denied the right to family and the right to guide their children. Children of persons who have been disappeared by the DPRK have been denied the right to found and maintain a family and the right not to be separated from their parents. 
    • Despite admitting to the abduction of 13 Japanese nationals by agents of the state, the DPRK has never disavowed the practice of international abductions. Since the 1990s, its agents have abducted a number of citizens and nationals from Chinese territory including nationals of the People´s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea, and in at least one case a former Japanese national. 
    • The Commission finds that almost all the foregoing victims remain disappeared and human rights violations continue against them and their families.

Crimes against humanity:

  • Definition of crimes against humanity under international law: Inhumane acts, Systematic or widespread attack.
  • Crimes against humanity in political prison camps: Inhumane acts (Imprisonment, Enforced disappearance, Extermination, Murder, Enslavement, Torture and subjection to extremely inhumane detention conditions, Rape and other forms of sexual violence, Persecution), Systematic and widespread attack pursuant to State policy
  • Crimes against humanity in the ordinary prison system: Inhumane acts committed against ordinary prisoners (Imprisonment, Extermination and murder, Torture, rape and other grave sexual violence, Enslavement, Forcible transfer of a population), Systematic and widespread attack pursuant to State policy.
  • Crimes against humanity targeting religious believers and others considered to introduce subversive influences: Inhumane acts (Imprisonment and torture, Murder, Persecution), Systematic and widespread attack pursuant to State policy
  • Crimes against humanity targeting persons who try to flee the country: Inhumane acts (Imprisonment, Torture and murder, Rape and other forms of sexual violence, Enforced disappearance), Systematic and widespread attack pursuant to State policy
  • Starvation: Inhumane acts (Extermination, Murder, Other inhumane acts), Systematic and widespread attacks based on State policy
  • Crimes against humanity targeting persons from other countries, in particular through international abduction: Inhumane acts, Systematic and widespread attacks pursuant to State policy, Continuous nature of the crime against humanity of enforced disappearance
  • A case of political genocide?
  • Principal findings of the commission: 
    • The Commission finds that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state. These crimes against humanity are on-going, because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their root remain in place. 
    • Persons detained in political prison camps (kwanliso) and other prison camps, those who try to flee the country, adherents to the Christian religion and others considered to introduce subversive influences are subjected to crimes against humanity. This occurs as part of a systematic and widespread attack of the state against anyone who is considered to pose a threat to the political system and leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The foregoing attack is embedded in the larger patterns of politically motivated human rights violations experienced by the general population, including the discriminatory system of classification based on songbun. 
    • In addition, crimes against humanity have been committed against starving populations. These crimes are sourced in decisions and policies violating the universal human right to food. They were taken for purposes of sustaining the present political system, in full awareness that they would exacerbate starvation and contribute to related deaths. Many of the policies that gave rise to crimes against humanity continue to be in place, including the deliberate failure to provide reliable data on the humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, denial of free and unimpeded international humanitarian access to populations in need, and discriminatory spending and food distribution. 
    • Finally, crimes against humanity have been, and are still being, committed against persons from the Republic of Korea, Japan and other countries who were systematically abducted or denied repatriation to gain labour and other skills for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. These persons are victims of ongoing crimes of enforced disappearance. Officials who fail to acknowledge their deprivation of liberty or fail to provide available information about their fate and whereabouts may also incur criminal responsibility, even if they did not themselves participate in the original abduction or denial of repatriation. 
    • In the DPRK, international crimes appear to be intrinsic to the fabric of the state. The system is pitiless, pervasive and with few equivalents in modern international affairs. The fact that such enormous crimes could be going on for such a long time is an affront to universal human rights. These crimes must cease immediately. It is the duty of the DPRK and, failing that, the responsibility of the international community to ensure that this is done without delay. 
    • In the following section the Commission considers the question of who is responsible for crimes against humanity and how they can be held to account.

Conclusions and recommendations:

  1. Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been, and are being, committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its institutions and officials. In many instances, the violations of human rights found by the Commission constitute crimes against humanity. These are not mere excesses of the state. They are essential components of a political system that has moved far from the ideals on which it claims to be founded. The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world. Political scientists of the 20th century characterized this type of political organization as a totalitarian state: A state that does not content itself with ensuring the authoritarian rule of a small group of people, but seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorizes them from within. 
  2. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea displays many attributes of a totalitarian state: the rule of a single party, led by a single person, is based on an elaborate guiding ideology that its current Supreme Leader refers to as “Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism”. The state seeks to ensure that its citizens internalize this guiding ideology by indoctrinating citizens from childhood, suppressing all political and religious expression that questions the official ideology, and tightly controlling citizens’ physical movement and their means of communication with each other and with those in other countries. Discrimination on the basis of gender and songbun is used to maintain a rigid social structure that is less likely to produce challenges to the political system.
  3. The state’s monopolization of access to food has been used as an important means to enforce political loyalty. The distribution of food has prioritized those who are useful to the survival of the current political system at the expense of those deemed to be expendable. Citizens’ complete dependency on the state led to one of the worst cases of famine in recent history. The authorities have only recently come to tolerate the fact that markets can no longer be fully suppressed. However, instead of fully embracing reforms to realize the right to food, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea maintains a system of inefficient economic production and discriminatory resource allocation that inevitably produces more unnecessary starvation among its citizens. 
  4. The keystone to the political system is the vast political and security apparatus that strategically uses surveillance, coercion, fear and punishment to preclude the expression of any dissent. Public executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps serve as the ultimate means to terrorize the population into submission. The state’s violence has been externalized through state-sponsored abductions and enforced disappearances of people from other nations. These international enforced disappearances are unique in their intensity, scale and nature. 
  5. Today, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea finds itself surrounded by a world that is changing rapidly in political, economic and technological terms. These changes offer opportunities for incremental social change within the state. In response, the authorities engage in gross human rights violations so as to crack down on ‘subversive’ influences from abroad. These influences are symbolized by films and soap operas from the Republic of Korea and other countries, short-wave radio broadcasts and foreign mobile telephones. For the same reason, the state systematically uses violence and punishment to deter its citizens from exercising their human right to leave the country. Persons who are forcibly repatriated from China are commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced abortions and other sexual violence. 
  6. A number of long-standing and ongoing patterns of systematic and widespread violations, which were documented by the Commission, meet the high threshold required for proof of crimes against humanity in international law. The perpetrators enjoy impunity. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is unwilling to implement its international obligation to prosecute and bring the perpetrators to justice, because those perpetrators act in accordance with State policy. 
  7. The fact that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as a State Member of the United Nations, has for decades pursued policies involving crimes that shock the conscience of humanity raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community. The international community must accept its responsibility to protect the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from crimes against humanity, because the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has manifestly failed to do so. In particular, this responsibility must be accepted in the light of the role played by the international community (and by the great powers in particular) in the division of the Korean peninsula and because of the unresolved legacy of the Korean War. These unfortunate legacies help not only to explain the intractability of the human rights situation but also why an effective response is now imperative. 
  8. The United Nations must ensure that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are held accountable. Options to achieve this end include a Security Council referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal by the United Nations. Urgent accountability measures should be combined with a reinforced human rights dialogue, the promotion of incremental change through more people-to-people contact and an inter-Korean agenda for reconciliation. 
  9. On the basis of its findings and conclusions, the Commission makes the following recommendations. 
  10. The commission of inquiry recommends that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: 
    1. (a) Undertake profound political and institutional reforms without delay to introduce genuine checks and balances upon the powers of the Supreme Leader and the Workers’ Party of Korea. Such changes must include an independent and impartial judiciary, a multi-party political system and elected people’s assemblies at the local and central level that emerge from genuinely free and fair elections. Reform the security sector by vetting the entire officers’ corps for involvement in human rights violations and by limiting the functions of the Korean People’s Army to defending the nation against external threats. Dismantle the State Security Department and place the Ministry of Public Security under transparent democratic oversight. An independent constitutional and institutional reform commission, consisting of respected members of society in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, should be constituted to guide this process and should be assisted by appropriate international experts.
    2. (b) Acknowledge the existence of the human rights violations, including political prison camps described in the present report. Provide international humanitarian organizations and human rights monitors immediate access to the camps and their surviving victims. Dismantle all political prison camps and release all political prisoners. Clarify with full detail the fate of any disappeared persons who cannot be readily traced.
    3. (c) Reform the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure to abolish vaguely worded “anti-state” and “anti-people” crimes and to fully enshrine the right to a fair trial and due process guarantees articulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Enforce existing provisions in the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure that prohibit and criminalize the use of torture and other inhuman means of interrogation that are illegal under international law. Reform the ordinary prison system so as to ensure humane conditions of detention for all inmates deprived of liberty. End the reprisals against persons on the basis of guilt by association. Abolish immediately the practice of forcibly resettling the families of convicted criminals. 
    4. (d) Declare and implement an immediate moratorium on the imposition and execution of the death penalty, followed without undue delay by the abolition of the death penalty both in law and practice.
    5. (e) Allow the establishment of independent newspapers and other media. Allow citizens to freely access the internet, social media, international communications, foreign broadcasts and publications, including the popular culture of other countries. Abolish compulsory participation in mass organizations and indoctrination sessions. 
    6. (f) Introduce education to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Abolish any propaganda or educational activities that espouse national, racial or political hatred or war propaganda. 
    7. (g) Allow Christians and other religious believers to exercise their religion independently and publicly without fear of punishment, reprisal or surveillance. 
    8. (h) End discrimination against citizens on the basis of their perceived political loyalty or the socio-political background of their families, including in matters of access to education and employment. Dismantle the neighbourhood watch system (Inminban), the secret resident registration file system, and all surveillance of persons and their communications that serve purposes of political oppression and/or are not subject to effective judicial and democratic control. Publicly acknowledge the extent of surveillance practices carried out in the past and provide citizens with access to their resident registration file. 
    9. (i) Take immediate measures to ensure gender equality in practice, such as by providing equal access for women in public life and employment. Eradicate discriminatory laws, regulations and practices affecting women. Take measures to address all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, sexual and gender-based violence by state agents and/or within state institutions. Respond immediately and effectively to trafficking in women. Address the structural causes that make women vulnerable to such violations.
    10. (j) Ensure that citizens can enjoy the right to food and other economic and social rights without discrimination. Pay particular attention to the needs of women and vulnerable groups such as street children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Promote agricultural, economic and financial policies based on democratic participation, good governance, and non-discrimination. Legalize and support free market activities, internal and external trade and other independent economic conduct that provide citizens with livelihoods. 
    11. (k) In light of the past expenditures by the leadership, the military and security apparatus, realign priorities and dedicate available resources, as necessary, to ensure freedom from hunger and other essential minimum standards for citizens, including those citizens serving in the armed forces. 
    12. (l) Where necessary to ensure the right to food, seek international humanitarian assistance without delay. Provide international humanitarian organizations with free and unimpeded access to all populations in need, including for the purposes of effective monitoring. Hold accountable state officials who illegally divert humanitarian aid for improper purposes.
    13. (m) Abolish the de facto prohibition on foreign travel imposed on ordinary citizens. Decriminalize illegal border crossings and introduce border controls that conform to international standards. Renounce orders to shoot and kill at the border. Cease to regard citizens repatriated from China as political criminals or to subject them to imprisonment, execution, torture, arbitrary detention, deliberate starvation, illegal cavity searches, forced abortions and other sexual violence. Abolish the state’s compulsory designation of places of residence and employment as well as the requirement to obtain a permit for domestic travel outside a person’s designated province.
    14. (n) Provide the families and nations of origin of all persons who have been abducted, or otherwise forcibly disappeared, with full information on their fate and whereabouts if they have survived. Allow those who remain alive, and their descendants, to return immediately to their countries of origin. In close cooperation with their families and nations of origin, identify and repatriate the physical remains of those who have died.
    15. (o) Allow separated families to unite, including by allowing citizens to travel or emigrate where they choose. Immediately provide such persons with facilities for unmonitored communications by way of mail, telephone, email and any other means of communication.
    16. (p) Prosecute and bring to justice those persons most responsible for alleged crimes against humanity. Appoint a special prosecutor to supervise this process. Ensure that victims and their families are provided with adequate, prompt and effective reparation and remedies, including by knowing the truth about the violations that have been suffered. Launch a people-driven process to establish the truth about the violations. Provide adults and children with comprehensive education on national and international law and practice on human rights and democratic governance. Seek international advice and support for transitional justice measures.
    17. (q) Take immediate steps to end all other human rights violations and to address the human rights concerns raised in this report, as well as in successive resolutions of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, in the procedures of Universal Periodic Review and in the reports of Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies.
    18. (r) Ratify without delay the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization.
    19. (s) Accept immediately a field-based presence and technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other relevant United Nations entities to help implement these recommendations. 
  11. The commission of inquiry recommends that China and other States: 
    1. (a) Respect the principle of non-refoulement. Accordingly, abstain from forcibly repatriating any persons to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, unless the treatment there, as verified by international human rights monitors, markedly improves. Extend asylum and other means of durable protection to persons fleeing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who need international protection. Ensure that such persons are fully integrated and duly protected from discrimination. Stop providing information on activities and contacts of persons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea living in China to the State Security Department and other security agencies in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Allow persons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea free access to diplomatic and consular representations of any state that may be willing to extend nationality or other forms of protection to them. 
    2. (b) Provide the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and relevant humanitarian organizations, full and unimpeded access to all persons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea seeking such contact. 
    3. (c) Request technical assistance from the United Nations to help meet the obligations imposed under international refugee law and ensure the effective protection of persons from trafficking. 
    4. (d) Adopt a victim-centric and human rights-based approach to trafficking in persons, including by providing victims with the right to stay in the country and access to legal protection and basic services, such as medical treatment, education and employment opportunities equivalent to those afforded to their own citizens. 
    5. (e) Regularize the status of women and men from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who marry or have a child with a Chinese citizen. Ensure that all such children can realize their rights to birth registration and Chinese nationality where applicable and access to education and healthcare without discrimination.
    6. (f) Take immediate measures to prevent agents of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from carrying out further abductions from Chinese territory. Prosecute and adequately punish apprehended perpetrators of abduction and demand the extradition of those giving such orders so that they may be tried in accordance with law. China should raise with the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other high-level authorities the issues of abductions, the infanticide of children entitled to Chinese nationality, forced abortions imposed on repatriated women and other human rights violations that target persons repatriated from China.
  12. The Commission recommends that the Korean People foster Inter-Korean dialogue in a phased approach leading up to an Agenda for Reconciliation. Inter-Korean dialogue could be furthered through such initiatives as friendly sporting events; academic and business interactions; scholarships and apprenticeships for young people from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; student exchanges; exchanges between civil society organizations including national Red Cross Societies; contacts between professional organizations and women’s groups; the development of “sister city” relationships and, eventually, the reestablishment of transport and communication links.
  13. States and civil society organizations should foster opportunities for people-to-people dialogue and contact in such areas as culture, science, sports, good governance and economic development that provide citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with opportunities to exchange information and be exposed to experiences outside their home country. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other states should remove applicable obstacles to people-to-people contact, including measures that criminalize travel and contact to the extent that these are not in accordance with relevant obligations under international human rights law.
  14. States, foundations and engaged business enterprises should provide more support for the work of civil society organizations to improve the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including efforts to document human rights violations and to broadcast accessible information into each country. Eventually, and once conditions are deemed to be appropriate, such foundations and enterprises should join forces with concerned Governments to coordinate efforts to adopt a coherent plan for the development of the country, creation of livelihoods for the population and the advancement of the human rights situation. 
  15. With regard to the international community and the United Nations, the Commission makes the following recommendations: 
    1. (a) The Security Council should refer the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court for action in accordance with that court’s jurisdiction. The Security Council should also adopt targeted sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible for crimes against humanity. In the light of the dire social and economic situation of the general population, the Commission does not support sanctions imposed by the Security Council or introduced bilaterally that are targeted against the population or the economy as a whole. 
    2. (b) The General Assembly and the Human Rights Council should extend the country-specific human rights monitoring and reporting mechanisms on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that pre-date the establishment of the Commission. These include the periodic reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Such mechanisms should be mandated to focus on ensuring accountability, in particular for crimes against humanity, and should report on the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.
    3. (c) The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with full support from the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, should establish a structure to help to ensure accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in particular where such violations amount to crimes against humanity. The structure should build on the collection of evidence and documentation work of the Commission, and further expand its database. It should be field-based, supported by adequate personnel deployed to the region so as to enjoy sustained access to victims and witnesses. In addition to informing the work of human rights reporting mechanisms and serving as a secure archive for information provided by relevant stakeholders, the work of such a structure should facilitate United Nations efforts to prosecute, or otherwise render accountable, those most responsible for crimes against humanity. 
    4. (d) The High Commissioner for Human Rights should continue the OHCHR’s engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, offering technical assistance and enhancing advocacy initiatives. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should facilitate the implementation of a strategy led by the Special Rapporteur and involving all concerned human rights mechanisms of the United Nations system, to address, coherently and without delay, the special issue of international abductions and enforced disappearances and related matters described in this report. Member States should afford full cooperation to ensure the implementation of such a strategy. 
    5. (e) The High Commissioner should periodically report to the Human Rights Council and other appropriate United Nations organs on the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Commission’s report
    6. (f) The Human Rights Council should ensure that the conclusions and recommendations of the Commission do not pass from the active attention of the international community. Where so much suffering has occurred, and is still occurring, action is the shared responsibility of the entire international community. 
    7. (g) The United Nations Secretariat and agencies should urgently adopt and implement a common “Rights up Front” strategy to ensure that all engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea effectively takes into account, and addresses, human rights concerns including those collected in this report. The United Nations should immediately apply this strategy to help prevent the recurrence or continuation of crimes against humanity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The strategy should contemplate the possibility of the Secretary-General referring the situation to the Security Council. 
    8. (h) States that have historically friendly ties with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, major donors and potential donors, as well as those states already engaged with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the framework of the Six-Party Talks, should form a human rights contact group to raise concerns about the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and to provide support for initiatives to improve the situation. 
    9. (i) States should not use the provision of food and other essential humanitarian assistance to impose economic or political pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Humanitarian assistance should be provided in accordance with humanitarian and human rights principles, including the principle of non-discrimination. Aid should only be curbed to the extent that unimpeded international humanitarian access and related monitoring is not adequately guaranteed. Bilateral and multilateral providers of assistance should coordinate their efforts to ensure that adequate conditions of humanitarian access and related monitoring are provided by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
    10. (j) Without prejudice to all the obligations under international law that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must immediately implement, the United Nations and the states that were parties to the Korean War should take steps to convene a high-level political conference. Participants in that conference should consider and, if agreed, ratify a final peaceful settlement of the war that commits all parties to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. States of the region should intensify their cooperation and consider following such examples as the Helsinki Process.

Seoul Village 2014
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* to use Michael Kirby's words - see UNCoI DPRK press release (17 September 2013): “Unspeakable atrocities” reported by the UN Inquiry into the Human Rights Situation in North Korea
The head of a UN-appointed inquiry into human rights in North Korea reported Tuesday that testimony heard so far by his panel pointed to widespread and serious violations in every area it had been asked to investigate.
“What we have seen and heard so far – the specificity, detail and shocking character of the personal testimony – appears without doubt to demand follow-up action by the world community, and accountability on the part of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Michael Kirby, chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, said in an oral update to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
While the inquiry’s final conclusions and recommendations must await the end of the investigation and a final report in March, Kirby told the council that testimonies received in a series of just-completed public hearings in South Korea and Japan indicated a large-scale pattern of abuse that may constitute systematic and gross human rights violations in the DPRK. He cited a host of alleged abuses, ranging from abductions, torture and a policy of inter-generational punishment to arbitrary detention in prison camps marked by deliberate starvation and “unspeakable atrocities.”
“We heard from ordinary people who faced torture and imprisonment for doing nothing more than watching foreign soap operas or holding a religious belief,” said Kirby, a retired Australian judge with broad international experience.
“Women and men who exercised their human right to leave the DPRK and were forcibly repatriated spoke about their experiences of torture, sexual violence, inhumane treatment and arbitrary detention. Family members of persons abducted from the Republic of Korea and Japan described the agony they endured ever since the enforced disappearance of their loved ones at the hands of agents of the DPRK…”
The commission of inquiry was established by the Human Rights Council in March in Geneva. It was given a one-year mandate to investigate alleged systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the DPRK. In May, the council announced the three members of the commission, with Kirby as chair and joined by Sonja Biserko, a Serbian human rights campaigner, and Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia. In addition to his appointment to the inquiry, Darusman is also the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, a post he has held since 2010.
Under its mandate, the commission was asked to investigate several alleged violations, including those concerning the right to food and those associated with prison camps; torture and inhuman treatment; arbitrary detention; discrimination; freedom of expression, movement and religion; the right to life; and enforced disappearances, including abductions of nationals to other countries.
The commission has also stressed that it will investigate to what extent any violations may amount to crimes against humanity.
“As the Human Rights Council requested us to do, we will focus our inquiry on ensuring accountability, including with regard to potential crimes against humanity,” Kirby told the council. “We will seek to determine which state institutions and officials carry responsibility for gross human rights violations proved to have been committed.”
Kirby also noted that the commission had invited DPRK authorities to take part in the public hearings in Seoul, but received no reply. Nor has Pyongyang allowed the commission entry to North Korea to carry out its work.
“Instead,” Kirby said, “its official news agency attacked the testimony we heard as ‘slander’ against the DPRK, put forward by ‘human scum.’ Truth is always a defence against accusations of slander. If any of the testimony on political prison camps, international abductions, torture, starvation, inter-generational punishment and so forth can be shown to be untrue, the commission invites the DPRK to produce evidence to that effect. An ounce of evidence is worth far more than many pounds of insults and baseless attacks. So far, however, the evidence we have heard has largely pointed in one direction – and evidence to the contrary is lacking.”
Before making its final report to the Human Rights Council in March, the commission will continue its investigation, give an oral briefing to the UN General Assembly in New York in October, and meet with a number of experts, victims and officials with knowledge of the situation in North Korea.
Video and other information on the Seoul and Tokyo public hearings is now available on the commission’s website.

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