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12/13/04 - NORTH KOREA'S RIGHTS VIOLATIONS - 2004-12-14


Fifty-six years ago this month, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But across the globe, hundreds of millions of people are still denied basic rights. They include the people of North Korea. The Communist regime in North Korea has long been one of the world's worst human rights violators.

Defectors and refugees have reported that the North Korean regime executes political prisoners, forces pregnant women in prisons to undergo abortions, and in other cases kills prisoners' babies upon birth. There have also been reports that the North Korean regime's abuses may even include scientific experiments on political prisoners.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has condemned the North Korean regime for "systematic, widespread, and grave violations of human rights," including torture, arbitrary detention, execution of political prisoners, and extensive use of forced labor.

One especially objectionable aspect of North Korea's rights violations is the regime's denial of religious freedom. John Hanford is U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. In North Korea, he says, "religious freedom simply does not exist":

"North Korea is a country where you have the largest religious prisoner population in the world, where people are tortured, imprisoned, starved to death."

North Korea's Communist leadership deals harshly with all opposition. And according to the U.S. State Department's latest International Religious Freedom Report, this includes "those engaged in religious practices deemed unacceptable to the regime." Because of the strict controls placed on information by the North Korean regime, it is difficult to determine what is going on inside the country. But outside religious and human rights groups have provided numerous reports that members of underground Christian churches have been beaten, arrested, tortured, or killed. Because of such reports, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has designated North Korea a country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act.

The U.S. fight for human rights, says Secretary of State Powell, "will continue so long as tyrannical regimes infringe upon the freedom of citizens."

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