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North Korea under the loupe


North Korea in the eyes of the European Union and the United Nations Special Rapporteur

Elizabeth Salmón presented, in mid-October, the progress of her first report as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In this report, she highlights the areas of focus that she will undertake during her mandate.
By Agustín Menéndez
Photo: Yonhap News Agency

In mid-October, the progress of the first report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Elizabeth Salmón, who took office on August 1, 2022, was presented.

Such report provides an update on the current human rights situation, including in the context of the first COVID-19 outbreak reported in the country since April 2022. The importance of the report lies in the focus areas it will undertake to implement her mandate.

As usual, the first channel of communication that is attempted to be opened is with North Korea, and the day after assuming her duties, Salmón wrote a letter to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea requesting a visit to the country, before the presentation of her first report to the General Assembly in October 2022. In the letter, the Special Rapporteur stressed that the visits to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea will be essential for the fulfillment of her mandate granted by the Human Rights Council, since they will allow her a more complete understanding of the human rights situation in the country and the opportunity to collaborate directly with government officials in the search for solutions to the country's human rights problems. In the letter, she communicated that she would prefer to make at least two annual visits to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea during the course of her mandate.

Given this request, North Korea, as is also customary, did not respond to the request. This stems from the lack of recognition and legitimacy of the position of Special Rapporteur, who is seen as a colonial and imperialist tool of the United States within the United Nations.

The Rapporteur therefore paid an official visit to the Republic of Korea to meet with DPRK fugitives living in the Republic of Korea and hear first-hand accounts of their experiences inside the country, country officials and human rights organizations.

On the other hand, she presented a list of recommendations for North Korea (such as resuming family reunions, respecting the right to be able to enter and leave the country and, in general terms, abide by the recommendations given in the universal periodic reviews) as well as for all other member countries, especially Russia and China, which continue to return fugitive North Koreans to the authorities, thereby suffering regime reprisals upon repatriation.

The European Union, for its part, through its High Representative Josep Borrell, made a Declaration on North Korea, given the illegal launch by the DPRK of an intermediate-range ballistic missile on October 4, 2022, which flew over the territory of Japan amid multiple ballistic missile launches in recent weeks.

This launch generated stupor in the populations of two northern prefectures of Japan, Hokkaido and Aomori, who had to sound their anti-aircraft sirens and images of children were recorded under their benches in schools.

The importance of this statement is that it underlines that the illegal actions carried out by the DPRK cannot and will never confer on it the status of a nuclear-weapon State in accordance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons ( NPT) or any other special status. It also commits to supporting any diplomatic process and working with all relevant partners to build a foundation of sustainable peace and security and take steps towards the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Faced with a framework of great uncertainty due to the retreat of the Russian occupation troops into Ukrainian territory, North Korea has been unable to attract considerable attention with its missile launches into the East Sea. On the other hand, the warning given by the United States and its intelligence agencies that North Korea would be predisposed to carry out a nuclear test and that the conditions for such a situation exist is still valid. This would further escalate the conflictive situation in Northeast Asia, where South Korea and Japan find themselves without valid interlocutors to reach a fruitful dialogue with North Korea.

Agustín Menéndez
Agustín Menéndez
Research associate
Degree in Political Science and Lawyer (Universidad de Buenos Aires), he took courses at the MSc in History from the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, he is currently completing his Law studies at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Korean Government Invitation Program scholar. He specializes in the Korean peninsula and the violation of Human Rights in North Korea. Currently, he works at the Financial Informations Unit in the division of International coordination regarding money laundering. terrorism finance and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He collaborates for different media.

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