Skip to main content

Angry over U.N. inquiry, North Korea touts its human rights credentials

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Fri March 22, 2013
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, tours a frontline military unit, in this image released July 16 by state run North Korean Central News Agency. A recent <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/17/world/asia/north-korea-un-report/index.html'>United Nations report</a> described a brutal North Korean state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world." North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, tours a frontline military unit, in this image released July 16 by state run North Korean Central News Agency. A recent United Nations report described a brutal North Korean state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."
HIDE CAPTION
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
Kim Jong Un and North Korea's military
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A leading human rights group calls the move "a landmark step"
  • An inquiry will examine "grave, widespread and systematic" rights violations in North Korea
  • North Korea calls the move a political ploy by "hostile forces" to harm its image
  • The U.N. decision comes amid high tension on the Korean Peninsula

(CNN) -- North Korea reacted with indignation to a United Nations decision to investigate allegations of human rights abuses inside the isolated state, claiming it has one of the best systems worldwide for protecting citizens' rights.

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva said delegates agreed Thursday to set up a commission of inquiry to examine what it called "grave, widespread and systematic" violations of human rights in North Korea.

The decision followed a recent report submitted to the council by an independent expert alleging North Korea had committed a range of abuses, including torture, enslavement, enforced disappearances and murder.

Many of the alleged acts "may amount to crimes against humanity," according to the report's author, Marzuki Darusman, an Indonesian lawyer.

New message from Pyongyang
Ominous new threat from North Korea
Ominous new threat from North Korea
N. Korea threatens U.S. military bases

The council's decision to take action on his report comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the North's latest underground nuclear test last month that prompted tougher U.N. sanctions on the regime of Kim Jong Un.

Pyongyang has ramped up its rhetoric, issuing threats to Washington and Seoul on a near daily basis. Annual joint military exercises by U.S. and South Korean forces this month have fueled the North's ire.

Unsurprisingly, the North Korean representative at the U.N. Human Rights Council, So Se Pyong, had strong words Thursday about the move to establish the commission of inquiry.

North Korean video shows imagined attack on Washington

The draft resolution on the matter, adopted by the council without a vote, "is no more than an instrument that serves the political purposes of the hostile forces in their attempt to discredit the image of the DPRK," So said, using the shortened form of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

He warned of "serious consequences" if the council went ahead with the inquiry.

North Korean citizens are "happy with pride and honor that they have one of the best systems for promotion and protection of human rights in the world," So told the council, according to the U.N.

Reports of suffering

His assertions run counter to the accounts of many North Koreans who have fled the country telling of horrific conditions. Humanitarian workers and others who have visited the reclusive state have also described a suffering population.

Officials from other countries at the U.N. council disagreed with the North's version of reality.

"For too long, the population of the country has been subjected to widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses," said Gerard Corr, the Irish representative speaking on behalf of the European Union.

Human rights groups estimate that as many as 200,000 people are being held in a network of prison camps in North Korea that the regime is believed to use to crush political dissent.

In his report to the U.N. council, Darusman identified nine patterns of rights violations in North Korea, such as depriving people of food, arbitrary detentions and heavy restrictions on freedom of expression.

Under the issue of enforced disappearances, he also included the abductions of foreign citizens.

A leading human rights group called the decision to set up the commission "a landmark step."

"This long awaited inquiry will help expose decades of abuse by the North Korean government," said Julie de Rivero, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

"The establishment of this commission sends a strong message to Pyongyang that the world is watching and its abuses must end," she said.

China: U.S. risks antagonizing North Korea

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:35 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions Monday in an exclusive interview with CNN.
updated 4:52 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
The crowd cheers as the stars make their way to the ring for first pro-wrestling bout North Korea has seen in almost 20 years.
updated 9:37 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley makes a rare live report from reclusive North Korea.
updated 10:45 AM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley is given a rare look inside North Korea and tours Kim Jong Un's pet project, a waterpark.
updated 3:18 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Several South Korean "comfort woman" attended a Papal mass, but hope the Pope will do more. Erin McLaughlin reports.
updated 10:28 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Pope Francis arrived in Seoul Thursday, marking the first papal visit to the country in 25 years.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
North Korea rejected an invitation to the Pope's Mass in Seoul. CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Wed July 2, 2014
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 11:13 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
updated 7:38 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
updated 8:12 PM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
ADVERTISEMENT