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North Korean authorities complicit in torture, murder and slavery; report warns of likely 'genocide'

Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claps with military officers at the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 15, 2017. |

An inquiry by the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea has found that officials working with dictator Kim Jong Un have committed murder, torture, modern-day slavery and religious persecution, all of which amount to crimes against humanity.

There is evidence of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea officials' involvement in “murder and killings; torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and sexual violence, sex trafficking, forced abortions and infanticide; modern-day slavery; persecution based on religion or belief; and much more,” the report released last week states.

The report of the inquiry by the informal cross-party group looked at evidence of human rights violations since 2014 when the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK released its landmark report.

The 2021 report warns that "[t]here are reasons to believe that some of the atrocities reach the threshold of genocide, particularly in relation to three groups: Christians; half-Chinese children; and the ‘hostile’ group.”

The inquiry cites a 2020 report by the U.S. State Department, saying that executions have been carried out “for possession of Bibles, circulating antiregime propaganda material, and superstitious activities.”

The inquiry also cites a 2020 report by Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit that researches various human rights situations worldwide.

“Some female detainees reported that they experienced or observed sexual violence, including rape in detention and interrogation facilities," the All-Party Parliamentary Group report states. "Interviewees said that agents from the police, secret police, and the prosecutor’s office, most in charge of their personal interrogation, touched their faces and their bodies, including their breasts and hips, either through their clothes or by putting their hands inside their clothes. They said they were powerless to resist because their fate was in the hands of these men.”

The report urges the U.K. government to “assess cases of possible genocidal atrocities" and "ensure comprehensive humanitarian assistance to all those affected by atrocity crimes in the DPRK." The All-Party Parliamentary Group calls for the U.K. government to “review the options for accountability for the crimes in the DPRK” and “make the best of their sanction regimes to target individual perpetrators.”

Mervyn Thomas, founding president of the London-based watchdog group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, called on the U.K. government “to take heed of the report’s recommendations, and continue to call on North Korea to ensure that all human rights are upheld and defended by the government.”

For years, North Korea has ranked as the worst country globally when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA's World Watch List, which reports that tens of thousands of Christians are held in North Korean prison camps. 

Conservative estimates suggest that about 80,000 to 120,000 people are held in labor and political prison camps inside North Korea.

“Individuals can be sent to these prison camps for something as simple as having read the Bible, having watched a South Korean drama, listened to K-pop," Olivia Enos, a policy analyst in Asian studies at the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, said in July 2019 during the release of a documentary film exposing the challenges of North Korean Christians. "These are average, ordinary things that we as Americans take for granted.”

She said the Kim regime "sees religion as potentially threatening to its leadership.”

There are no definitive estimates on how many people have died inside North Korean political camps. But Enos said some believe the number ranges from 400,000 to many millions.

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