Beyond the World news headlines
The “hostile racket” that comes with North Korea’s human rights season
Once a year, North Korea’s often vitriolic rhetoric machine fires up with special intensity to attack those who attack its human rights record. The exchanges usually come toward the end of the year when the U.N. General Assembly approves what has become an annual measure criticising North Korea for having one of the worst rights records in the world.
Reclusive North Korea is a member of only a few international organisations so the annual rebuke at the United Nations stings particularly hard for the state that bills itself as a workers’ paradise, or as it said in a state media report on Tuesday: “the best socialist state in the world as it is centred on the popular masses”.
North Korea comes under special scrutiny this year because it will be subject to official international questioning of its human rights record at the United Nations in December, which could provide even more embarrassment for the North’s thinned-skinned leaders as the prickly state is put on the defensive.
North Korea has prepared for this event by changing its Constitution earlier this year and adding clauses about human rights protections.
But many of the rights of North Korean citizens spelled out in the document are not carried out. For example, it guarantees freedom of assembly, but Pyongyang can send to political prison anyone who gathers without permission of authorities. The regime guarantees freedom of religion, but jails those who try to exercise the right. Privacy is a right, but the government’s large internal spy network keeps tabs on almost all citizens.
According to human rights groups, the United States and other leading democracies, North Korea maintains a vast political prison system to stamp out dissent. It intimidates the masses through public executions and by guilt by association where it can jail family members of those it accuses of crimes.
North Korea’s official media usually unleashes some of its harshest rhetoric during this human rights season, saying this is all part of a plot by a hostile United States to topple its leaders. Already this week, the North slammed “the ceaseless mean ‘human rights rackets’ kicked up by the U.S. and its followers.”
“This is nothing but a despicable plot to attain their sinister purposes by putting political pressure upon the DPRK (North Korea),” its KCNA news agency said.
The points to watch this year when North Korea is raked over the coals for its record are whether Pyongyang will use the criticism as a means to back away from international nuclear disarmament talks – as it has done previously – or if it will finally grant the request of Vitit Muntarbhorn, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, to see for himself what is going on in one of the world’s most isolated states.