“The Netherlands and other countries in Europe, and across the world are very well aware of what is happening in North Korea and are trying to improve the situation you are living in.” – Netherlands Foreign Minister Stef Blok in his radio recording to North Koreans
On Nov. 21, Netherlands Foreign Minister Stef Blok directly addressed North Koreans with words of encouragement by radio in the studio of the Unification Media Group (UMG), a non-profit South Korean organization that sends radio broadcasts to North Korea.
“The Dutch know very well that North Koreans do not live in the economic circumstances we have in the Netherlands,” said Blok in the recording. “We are aware that you are often lacking in food and medicine,” he continued, indicating awareness of North Korea’s dire economic and human rights situation.
“People everywhere in the world should have the possibility to elect their own governments, to be able to express themselves, to found a political party and to go where they please,” said Blok. “And all of this is, unfortunately, not possible because of the choices that the North Korean government has made, and I regret that very much.”
“It makes me happy that I am able to talk today on the radio,” said the minister, adding, “I would like to reach people in North Korea to tell them in my own words that the people of North Korea are not forgotten.”
The recorded segment was transmitted on Friday, Nov. 29 at 8:15 p.m. on 7355KHz.
Blok made time during a two-day trip to Seoul to record his radio message to North Koreans. Given the nature of the radio program itself, which is exclusively in Korean, the inclusion of a non-Korean guest is in and of itself also somewhat unusual.
But it is also an indication of Blok’s significant and persistent interest in the dire human rights situation in North Korea. UMG stated that this is the first time that a minister-level government official has made a broadcast to North Korea from the organization’s studio.
The Netherlands, known as the land of freedom and tolerance, is also characterized by its relatively high level of interest in North Korean human rights. During the United Nations Universal Periodic Review in May this year, the Netherlands recommended that North Korea dismantle its political prison camps and forced labor camps.
On the day of the recording, the UMG office hosted an informal gathering of Foreign Minister Blok, Dutch Ambassador Joanne Doornewaard, and UMG staff from both North and South Korea.
During the meeting, they discussed ways North Koreans acquire information about the world at large, how North Korea punishes those who access foreign information, and how best to improve freedom of information in the country.
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