The United States is prioritizing protecting human rights as a central pillar in U.S. foreign policy. To help reach this goal, the United States and Albania co-hosted a UN Arria-forumla meeting to draw attention to systematic and widespread human rights abuses in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea.
In the meeting, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield discussed how Kim Jong Un’s regime fundamentally suppresses North Koreans’ rights of freedom of expression, religion, and movement, both inside and outside of the DPRK.
“These behaviors are egregious and violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she said.
Speaking out against these injustices within North Korea can result in being sent to political prison camps. The DPRK continues to hold 80,000 to 120,000 people in these camps. Prisoners are subjected to further human rights abuses such as starvation, torture, gender-based violence, and inhumane conditions, said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.
At the Arria, Joseph Kim, a North Korean defector, recounted his experience living in the DPRK before escaping:
“I saw my father die of starvation when I was 12 years old … I lost my mom to a North Korean prison, so I went from having a loving family to being homeless.”
Such testimonies “shine a spotlight” for the world, noted Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. “For every horrifying story we hear, there are countless stories that we will never hear that will never see the light of day. This, of course, is by design.”
North Korea “does everything in its power to hide its atrocities from the outside world,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. “But time and time again, they have failed.”
“We've all seen the evidence, including the U.N. Commission of Inquiry report, and many since, of the DPRK’s systemic, widespread and gross human rights abuses,” she said.
“We will continue to speak out against the DPRK human rights abuses and threats to international peace,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “They may be able to shut down the voices of the people in DPRK, but they cannot shut our voices down.”