North Korea is increasing repression as people are reportedly starving in parts of the country

North Korea’s repression of rights is intensifying, and the people in some parts of the nation are more desperate. They may even be starving as the economy worsens.

Volker Turk said that the North Korean people had suffered periods of economic hardship and repression in the past, but now they “appear to be suffering from both.”

He said that “according to our information,” people are growing more desperate as informal market and other coping mechanism are being dismantled. Meanwhile, their fear of surveillance by the state, arrests, interrogations and detention have increased.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shut down the borders of his nation in northeast Asia to contain COVID-19. Turk says that as the COVID-19 pandemic fades, the restrictions of the government have become even more severe. Guards are authorized to shoot anyone who approaches the border without authorization, and almost all foreigners including U.N. personnel remain barred from entering the country.

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He cited as an example of the growing repression of rights those who are found viewing “reactionary ideologies and cultures” — that is, information from outside, particularly from South Korea. They could now face up to 15 years imprisonment. He said that those who distribute this material could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Turk stated that the government had criminalized private income-generating activities and closed down many markets.

He said that this severely limits the ability of people to support themselves and their family. The state-run institutions are limited, and many people face extreme hunger and acute shortages in medication.

Turk says that many human rights violations are directly related to or supported by the militarization in the country.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said that forced labor, including the use of children in prison camps to harvest crops, families being forced to work and to provide a certain amount of goods to government, as well as the confiscation of wages of overseas workers, all contribute to the military apparatus and the ability of the state to manufacture weapons.

Elizabeth Salmon, U.N. Special Investigator on Human Rights in North Korea, agreed with Turk. “Some people are hungry.” Other people have died from a combination malnutrition, disease and lack of health care.

Technically, the United States and North Korea who fought in the 1950-53 Korean War are still at war because that conflict ended with a truce. It was not a treaty of peace. Salmon claimed that the frozen conflict was being used as a justification for the militarization.

Salmon stated that North Korea’s policy of “Military First”, which prioritizes the military, reduces the resources available to the people. The leaders then demand the people tighten their belts in order to use the money for the country’s nuclear and missile program.

The Security Council did not take any action but, afterward, the U.S. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield who read out a statement for 52 countries flanked with many of their ambassadors.

In the statement, the North Korean government is accused of “acts of cruelty” and “repression” both at home and abroad that are “inextricably connected with the DPRK’s weapons of destruction and ballistic-missile advancements which violate Security Council Resolutions.”

The countries called upon all 193 U.N. members to increase awareness about the link between human rights in North Korea and the international peace and security “and to hold DPRK accountable.”

North Korea denounced U.S. planning for the meeting of the Council on Tuesday as “despicable,” claiming it was only meant to achieve Washington’s geopolitical goals.

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Son Gong called the United States “declining”. He said that if any country was to be considered for the Human Rights Council, it should be the United States, “because they are the empire of evils against people, wholly depraved by all kinds of social evils.”

China and Russia, two allies of North Korea’s, were against the meeting. They said that North Korea’s human rights record did not pose a threat for international peace and safety.

Geng Shuang, China’s U.N. deputy ambassador, said that pushing the council to take human rights into consideration at a moment when the confrontation on the Korean Peninsula has increased will escalate the situation.

He said that it was irresponsible and unconstructive, as well as an abuse of power by the council. He called on the council to instead take “practical action to respond to reasonable DPRK concerns” and create the conditions for a return to talks.

Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador, called the meeting “propaganda.” He also described it as “a cynical attempt by the U.S. to further their own political agenda in order to increase pressure on Pyongyang.”

He called the attempts by Westerners to link North Korea’s human rights to peace and security “absolutely absurd.”

Thomas-Greenfield, however, said Pyongyang’s “war machine,” which is “powered by repression or cruelty,” is indisputable a concern for international peace and safety. She said the U.S.A., Japan and Albania had requested this long-overdue gathering on Thursday.