Last month, Otto Frederick Warmbier, an American university student who was captured by North Korea in 2016, died after being repatriated to the United States in an unconscious state. Warmbier was arrested and sentenced to hard labor because of stealing political propaganda from a Pyongyang hotel. After he died, the North Korea insisted that Warmbier suffered from botulism caused by food poisoning and went into a coma state after taking a sleeping pill. However, the University of Cincinnati state Hospital in the United States did not find any evidence of botulism overdose in his body. The USA is suggesting that Warmbier was killed by repetitive beatings and torture in North Korea.
Many experts think that Warmbier’s case is consistent with human rights violations that North Korea has been continually accused of. Additional recent cases of human rights violations North Korea are accused of include Kim Jong-nam's assassination incident in February of 2017; Korean missionary Robert Park was detained in 2011; and a female journalist from the US was detained in 2009. There are many other North Korean human rights violation incidents from the past until now. North Korea is the only communist country in the world that is being ruled by a third generation ruler. North Korea is known for torturing people after judging people who violated their communist laws.
Many foreigners and North Korean defectors who have been imprisoned in North Korean prison camps have revealed that terrible tortures took place. They reported that natural human rights and the right to life were disregarded as many people suffer and die in the camps. Also, some people who were imprisoned in the North Korean prison camp committed suicide because they could not endure the terrible pain caused by prison life.
The issue of North Korea violating human rights, which worries and is strongly criticized by the world, was first exposed when the Venezuelan poet and Communist Party leader Ali Rameda published a book about his own detainment experience in 1979. After that, international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) made efforts to investigate and reveal the truth about human rights problems in North Korea. In 1989 Amnesty International determined that twelve prison camps existed for political criminals in North Korea. This revelation led to the United Nations (UN) mentioning the human rights problems in 1992. As the UN addressed this problem, they sighted the 1988 UN Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and made clear that North Korea was in violation of this resolution. In response nongovernmental organizations and religious people from South Korea and other countries set up an institution for North Korean defectors and they tried to reveal the suppression of many human rights violations which occurred in North Korea. These groups continue to offer support for North Korean defectors today. The interior of North Korea's situation, revealed by North Korean defectors, is now known around the world as a serious problem.
In 2013 at the Global Knowledge Sharing Conference ‘TED,’ a North Korean defector named Hyeon seo Lee appeared as a guest. She gave a lecture titles 'Escape from North Korea.’ During her twelve minute presentation she shared the horrors of frequent killing of starvation in North Korea, the dangerous journey of escaping, and the horrible torture that people have to suffer when they repatriate back to the North Korea. She also talked about a friendly stranger who gave her and her family help in escaping. In her conclusion, she sincerely appealed for the need of protecting North Korea's’ human rights. Her lecture was spread all around the world and resulted in more attention given to the suppression of North Korea’s human rights.
Every year the UN is adopting UN resolutions on the situation of human rights in the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea). Among them, it is worth noting the resolution adopted in 2014. In 2014, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) announced a report based on research that explain North Korea’s serious human rights suppression problem. The COI concluded that the crimes against humanity committed by North Korea are reason for the necessity that the top leader must face punishment. This was the first time that extensive evidence was used to confirm the serious cases of human rights abuse in North Korea and it was the first time that the international community called for North Korea’s to lead to face criminal punishment. After that, COI sent a related letter to North Korea's top leader Jung Eun Kim. Under the influence of this, North Korean human rights groups and human rights activists across the globe strongly argued that we must punish those who have suppressed human rights, and must rectify anti-human violation crimes.
Countries all over the world have tried very hard to solve North Korea's serious human rights problems. Missionaries from many countries and NGO donate food and medical supplies to North Koreans. They also offer educational opportunities for North Korean defectors and allow them to live in different countries including South Korea. In 2012, South Korea's independence movie "48M" was a film about North Korean defectors. The movie reenacted the process of how defectors escape North Korea. This movie was shared with the Geneva UN headquarters. It offered an opportunity for many people to understand the pain of North Korean defectors. Another short film, Aria, released in 2017, also addressed North Korea's human rights problem. It won movie awards at the Milan International Film Awards and attracted many people's interest.
Beyond personal and group efforts concerning human rights problems in North Korea, national measures have been enacted in the USA and South Korea to discourage violations of human rights in North Korea. USA and Korea announced that they will impose sanctions to North Korea and impose sanctions against humanity crimes. Subsequently, countries across the globe, including Canada, are also working hard to enact North Korean human rights laws. North Korea continues to lose the trust of the international community more and more. This situation is naturally connected to North Korea's economy crisis and it threatens the wellbeing of North Koreans. Additionally, this economic crisis will cause a lot of North Koreans to defect families will be separated. It may also cause more human rights violations to occur. It is important for North Korea to quickly acknowledge and respect everyone’s human rights as something all should be guaranteed and as specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone is equal in itself, regardless of social rank or power. Therefore, everyone's human rights should not be discriminated against or violated.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states is “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.