“North Korea’s human rights issues cannot compete with its nuclear and regime issues, but they are an important matter,” Gordon Flake told the ASAN Plenum 2012 at the Chosun Westin Hotel in Seoul yesterday.
Attempting to take into account the myriad abuses of human rights perpetuated on a daily basis by the North Korean regime, the participants, Sandra Fahy of the University of Southern California, Go Myong Hun of ASAN Institute for Policy Studies, Joanna Hosaniak of Citizens Alliance for North Korean Human Rights and Gordon Flake of the Mansfield Foundation, were at least able to point to better overall conditions for addressing North Korean human rights concerns from abroad.
“Before, a small pool had experience of political prison camps, but now the pool has gotten much larger,” Go explained. “The stories that come out of these camps are almost unbelievable, but through modern technology and the testimonies of individual experience we can verify them, including specific locations and buildings.”
“The very existence of the camps is a significant message for our side of the world, and Shin Dong Hyuk, a North Korean escapee, is a living proof of it “, he went on, mentioning Shin, whose story is currently making waves in western book stores in the form of Blaine Harden’s ‘Escape from Camp 14’.
Go continued, “First and foremost, satellite photographs directly refute North Korean assertions that there are no prison camps in North Korea.”
Joanna Hosaniak went on to add on this, “The level of attention paid to this in the U.S. is growing, and the attention paid towards the new leadership system has heightened that attention. The biggest change is of course taking place in South Korea. In the past, human rights were something nobody wanted to talk about because it would jeopardize the Sunshine Policy, but the recent repatriations have received attention from groups here in South Korea. It is a very important step; in the end, human rights are not a separate issue. They are all intertwined.”
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