International Conference Gets Tough on NK
On Sept. 8, some 40 human rights groups from 15 nations gathered in Tokyo to set up a nongovernmental organization called “The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity In North Korea” (ICNK). Four of LFNKR’s directors attended the conference.
I have attended quite a few international conferences on North Korean human rights, but all of them seem to have had – frankly – little impact on resolving the issue.
This impression comes largely because most such conferences focus on conceptual approaches, typically represented by reports. This differs greatly from the practical rescue actions taken by such organizations as MSF (Doctors Without Borders) or our own LFNKR. Download the 3-page Coalition statement
Honestly speaking, therefore, I had low expectations for this conference. A major purpose of the event was to set up the ICNK organization with the aim of bringing Kim Jong Il and the current North Korean regime before the international court to answer for the crimes of systematic, widespread and grave human rights abuses.
As usual, I was skeptical that the conference would have much effect. This time, however, I must confess that the conference actually inspired me; I was impressed by the excellent ideas contributed by the young professional human rights activists.
On the first day, the event was open to anyone, and a few hundred people were there. On the second day, only pre-registered attendees were allowed inside. The meeting was both friendly and constructive.
I learned about the UN’s extremely specific and scientific approaches for international trials. Also, it was good to learn that, following a trial, international sanctions against the North Korean regime are quite possible.
I realized that I have become rather impatient with the ponderous results from past international conferences. But it has been those previous international conferences that eventually led the international community to a full awareness of the human rights situation in North Korea. Those repeated conferences have, I believe, produced results. They helped prompt the UN to establish the special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea; they have led to resolutions against the violation of human rights; and they resulted in the Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council.
In 2010, when the UN voted on the resolution against the violation of human rights in North Korea, 106 nations voted for the resolution, 20 nations voted against it, and 57 nations abstained. It is possible that the activities of the newly founded ICNK, staffed as it is by human rights experts, could turn many of those opponents and abstainers into proponents. This could very well give China and Russia reason to change their attitudes.
This international conference has made me realize that history really is evolving, although it often seems only to be taking one step backward for every step forward.
New York Times: Kim Jong-Il’s Human Rights Atrocities
Wall Street Journal: Calling for Action on North Korean Crimes
After the press conference, the participants moved to the front gate of Chosen Soren (the General Association of Korean residents in Japan), which is North Korea’s de facto embassy in Tokyo.
There, they protested the human rights violations in North Korea. It was probably the first time for Chosen Soren to hear the protests in English.
One of the participating NGOs released white dove-shaped balloons from a cage. The balloons carried names of persons incarcerated in the forced labor camps in North Korea. Their release symbolized the world’s prayer of freedom for those now suffering under the repressive North Korean regime.
Report submitted by “Mr. Sympathy”, one of the LFNKR Directors