Who will save the North Koreans?
About 50 miles from Seoul, exists one of the most “repressive authoritarian states in the world”, according to Human Rights Watch.
(Source: Human Rights Watch)
Since Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011 following the death of his father Kim Jong-il, human rights violations in North Korea have worsened. The North Korean regime has frequently been condemned by the international community, especially by institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council. The Council recently reported that “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.
The intense control over the border between China and North Korea prevents North Koreans from escaping their country to seek freedom. Most people, except a few high government officials, are not given the right to travel and immigrate to other countries. Governmental permission must also be given if North Koreans wish to migrate within the country; this means that they must give a valid reason for any changes in residence.
This leaves many with one choice only: to illegally cross the border and defect. North Korea and China have recently agreed to strengthen border control on between the two countries. Their “newly formed border brigade is conducting patrols” and the “whole [border] area has been placed under 24 hour video surveillance, including drones, patrol cars, and high-tech cameras”, according to an article by CNN. The United Nations High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein says, “tens of thousands of Korean people have escaped that reality, and through hazardous means, reached a new life in the Republic of Korea [South Korea]. But millions remain trapped in the grip of a totalitarian system which not only denies their freedom, but increasingly their basic survival needs”.
Censorship and propaganda
Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that “Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and import information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Tthe North Korea government, however, is violating the freedom of expression and right to information, through its extensive control over the media.
Kim Jong-il was once referred to as the "predator of press freedom", as had a huge influence over radio stations and broadcasting companies. For example, Korean Central TV (North Korea's main TV channel) produces numerous documents and movies that praise and “bombard the population with flattering reports about Kim Jong Il and his daily agenda”. North Korea’s main newspapers such as Rodong Sinmun, are also state-owned, making it impossible for the press to function as the 'fourth estate' to hold the government to account. In fact, it is the party's mouthpiece. The nation also has restricted internet access, only to government officials with state approval.
What's being done?
(Source: Human Rights Watch)
Many in the international community, as well as politicians, have keeping up with and are actively engaged in the North Korean nuclear crisis. However, we must not forget about the violations to human rights, as well as the atrocities being carried out in the country. International organisations are currently doing their best to try and help the millions of North Koreans subject to Kim Jong-un's totalitarian regime. The United Nations Inquiry of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the Human Rights Council for example, issued a report in 2014 “documenting extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortion, and other sexual violations”. The Human Rights Council and UN general assembly have both suggested that the Security Council should consider referring the violation of human rights in North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
No one can choose what ethnicity, race or nationality they are born into - the so-called 'birth lottery'. This applies to North Koreans as well. They did not choose to be born under such a terrible regime. In an Op-Ed by the New York Times, the authors mentioned how “North Korean leaders do not value human life or happiness, the essence of why we value peace itself”.
Millions of North Koreans are dying of starvation, and are waiting for someone to come and help them. Everyone deserves to live freely and safely, and these innocent men, women, and children must not be abandoned. The international community must raise awareness and talk more openly about these terrible human rights violations, before the situation worsens any further.