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김정은 북방 국무 위원장이 조선 노동당 제7기 중앙위원회 제 3차 전원회의에 참석 한 모습. 북한 조선 중앙 통신 2018년 4월 20일 평양 공개. ⓒ 2018 조선중앙통신/로이터통신

(New York) – The North Korean government should immediately undertake meaningful reforms that will end the dire human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Human Rights Watch and more than 300 nongovernmental organizations said today in a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“North Korea’s increased dialogue with other countries is a positive step, but before the world gets too excited they should remember that Kim Jong Un still presides over perhaps the most repressive system in the world,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “As the UN Security Council has recognized, human rights abuses in North Korea and threats to international peace and security are intrinsically connected, so any security discussion needs to include human rights.”

The letter is signed by 52 organizations, including coalitions, representing more than 300 nongovernmental organizations from Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and North America. It urges Kim to:

  • Act on United Nations human rights recommendations;
  • Increase engagement with the international human rights system;
  • Respond to and take action on the findings of the seminal 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry;
  • End abuses in detention and prisons, including forced labor;
  • Establish regular meetings of separated families of any foreign national with relatives in North Korea; and
  • Accept international humanitarian aid with appropriate monitoring to ensure it reaches needy people and communities.
In the April 2018 Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula, Kim pledged to improve inter-Korean relations by encouraging cooperation and exchanges between civil society organizations, resolve the humanitarian issues that resulted from the division of the nation, and promote balanced economic growth.

“Kim Jong Un is trying to become an international statesman, but this effort will fail if he continues to preside over a country that has been referred to as the ‘world’s biggest open prison,’” Adams said. “If he really wants to end North Korea’s international isolation, he should take strong and quick action to show the North Korean people and the world that he is committed to ending decades of rights abuses. 

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