The 20th annual North Korea Freedom Week is taking place in Seoul from September 17th to the 23rd. The week is composed of rallies, seminars, protests, and cultural events that bring together activists from the United States and South Korea, as well as North Korean defectors, to shine a light on the horrific human rights abuses visited on the North Korean people by their government.
State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement that as the United States observes North Korea Freedom Week, “We recognize the courage of the North Korean defector and human rights community, which continues to speak on behalf of the millions of North Koreans suffering abuses who are unable to advocate for themselves.”
The State Department’s most recent human rights report on North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, categorizes the abuses. They include unlawful arbitrary killings by the government; torture and cruel, inhuman treatment and punishment; nonexistent judicial independence; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; total state control of expression and media through censorship and repression; severe restrictions on freedom of religion or belief; serious restrictions on freedom of movement within the country and on the right to leave the country; trafficking in persons; and the worst forms of child labor.
According to the State Department, estimates are that between 80,000 and 200,000 North Koreans are detained in prison camps, where they are subjected to torture, starvation, rape, and unremitting forced labor.
Spokesperson Miller noted that the regime diverts the country’s resources to build up the regime’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
In addition, “We remain deeply concerned about the plight of North Korean asylum seekers, including some 2000 North Koreans detained in China who are at risk of repatriation to the DPRK,” Spokesperson Miller said. “North Koreans forcibly repatriated are reportedly commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, forced abortion, other forms of gender-based violence and summary execution.
“The international community must act to promote accountability for those responsible for the DPRK’s human rights violations and abuses,” he declared. “Addressing the DPRK’s egregious human rights situation remains a priority for the United States, and we continue to work with the international community to highlight abuses and violations, promote accountability, and increase access to independent information into, out of, and within the DPRK.”