UN Report Maintains Oh Kil Nam Pressure

The latest North Korean human rights report by UN Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman has been presented to the UN General Assembly.

The report provides an overview of the current human rights situation in the North, encompassing the contents of briefings delivered to Darusman by people from diverse agencies and groups including UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR, UNFPA, various NGOs, academics and diplomats, all with the latest information on the human rights situation in North Korea.

Important issues noted include abuse of refugees and asylum seekers by traffickers and the detention of refugees in transit countries, as well as other problems including freedom of opinion and expression and the ongoing use of the death penalty.

However, the report also notes the case of Dr. Oh Kil Nam, as discussed with Darusman in November 2011, and calls on North Korea to release his wife Shin Suk Ja, the so-called ‘Daughter of Tongyeong,’ and their daughters from custody.

Shin and the couple’s two daughters were sent to Yodok Political Prison Camp in 1986 following the re-defection of Dr. Oh, originally a South Korean citizen, while on a trip to Europe. It is unclear what happened to them thereafter.

In March this year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention sent a communication to North Korea requesting news of Shin and her daughters. North Korea responded that Shin died of hepatitis and that their daughters (Hye Won and Kyu Won) are living do not wish to see their father.

However, the UN does not accept this response as adequate, and among the report’s seven recommendations goes on to note, “The Special Rapporteur calls on the Government to release immediately all persons who have been held by the Government for guilt by association. The Special Rapporteur renews his call to the Government to release Shin Suk Ja and her two daughters and reunite them with Oh Kil Nam.”