Human Rights and Democracy Report 2016 - CHAPTER VI: Human Rights Priority Countries - Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

There was no sign of improvement in human rights in the DPRK during 2016. We continue to have grave concerns about the DPRK’s disregard for, and violations of, international human rights norms and obligations. As documented in the UN Commission of Inquiry report on Human Rights in the DPRK, there are widespread violations, including torture; rape; summary executions; disappearances; and using starvation as a means of control and punishment.

In the field of disability rights, there was a small sign of progress in December, when the DPRK Government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, in March the country disengaged itself from the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), following the adoption of a Japan-EU-led resolution on the DPRK. The DPRK Foreign Minister stated at the time that the DPRK would never be bound by international resolutions that he claimed were politically motivated. For the remainder of the year, the DPRK continued to refuse meaningful engagement with the international community on human rights and rejected resolutions passed by the UN HRC and UN Security Council (UNSC). Despite this, they have continued to highlight and criticise human rights concerns elsewhere (particularly in the EU, Republic of Korea and the United States).

The UK continued to urge the DPRK Government to acknowledge the existence and extent of its human rights violations and to demonstrate a willingness to take steps to address these issues. The Ambassador and Embassy officials raised human rights issues at a number of meetings with DPRK Government officials in Pyongyang. Senior FCO officials used meetings in London with DPRK Embassy officials to raise concerns over human rights issues, including those documented in the Commission of Inquiry report. UK officials urged the DPRK Government to uphold its human rights obligations, to agree to a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur and other UN officials, and to engage with the international architecture on human rights.

We also maintained pressure on the DPRK through international fora such as the UN General Assembly, the UNSC and the HRC, where UK Government lobbying helped secure widespread support for strong resolutions. The Japan-EU-led resolution on DPRK at the HRC was adopted without a vote on 23 March and included the renewal of the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK.

As part of the UK’s policy of critical engagement with the DPRK, we will continue to work bilaterally and with international partners, including on further resolutions, and will raise human rights issues with the DPRK Government at every opportunity. We will continue to support small-scale humanitarian project activities in the DPRK which provide assistance to the more vulnerable elements of DPRK society in remote communities outside Pyongyang.