[imText1]“Although difficult, it is still possible to improve human rights in North Korea”
Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the DPRK, visited South Korea on January 19 to conduct research for his report to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in March.
In an exclusive interview with DailyNK on January 24, Professor Muntarbhorn said that it is still possible to improve human rights conditions in North Korea.
However, he said, “if you look at the political rights’ front, it is more difficult in terms of liberalization of freedom of expression, assembly and whatever we associate with democracy because we are dealing with the epitome of a non-democratic system.”
Professor Muntarbhorn said, “I have had reports on public executions. In fact, I had a report just a couple of weeks ago of another public execution. This is distressing news, it is against the international law.” Professor Muntarbhorn also said, “Some really very odd laws and regulations are coming out, for example, a regulation that women under 50 years of age are not allowed to trade. That is a manifestation of the current administration’s attempt to control the markets,”
Professor Muntarbhorn said, “There is mismanagement at the top in terms of policy making as well as misallocation of resources. So much money is given to arms proliferation,” adding “That distortion is the one I am very concerned with, and I would certainly raise it very prominently in my report.”
Regarding the Six Party Talks and their possible influence over the North Korean human rights issues, Professor Muntarbhorn said, “We know the Six Party Talks are not primarily about human rights. We should not overload the Six Party Talks with many things. We should do well with what we said ought to be handled under the talks, which is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, particularly the facilities in the North. If that progresses well, there can be space for addressing other humanitarian issues.”
“For instance, there are currently various bilateral tracks which can cover and do cover some human rights related elements such as the track between DPRK and Japan, addressing possible steps to normalizing relations,” Professor Muntarbhorn said.
As to South Korea’s upcoming government’s policies on human rights in North Korea, Professor Muntarbhorn said, “Humanitarian aid is seen generally as non-conditional and subject to monitoring to insure the aid gets to the target groups. Now, economic aid or development aid of a more long-term nature is open for discussion and debate as to the conditions that must be attached to the provision of such aid to whatever country. All these issues will ultimately have to be raised, discussed and decided upon by any administration including the new administration.”
He added, “You got the reminiscence of the past you have to deal with such as the consequences of the Korean War. Today, it’s been done rather in a low-key manner. So it remains to be seen what the up-coming government will do with that.”
Professor Muntarbhorn said that he was greatly encouraged by meeting with those North Korean defectors who have settled down successfully in South Korea. He asked the South Korean government to help North Korean defectors establish themselves in South Korea by providing more systematic and comprehensive support for defectors.