Open Letter to Ban Ki-moon

Faxed to ROK Permanent Mission at United Nations

October 19, 2006

His Excellency Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretary General-Designate and
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Republic of Korea
c/o The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations
335 East 45th Street
New York, New York 10017

Dear Foreign Minister Ban:

We, the undersigned, are gravely concerned for the human rights of the North Korean people, and we have also been following the news of your selection to be the next United Nations Secretary General with great interest. Allegations that the North Korean government has engaged in large-scale crimes against humanity will be among the U.N.’s great moral challenges in the coming years, and the institution’s moral authority will depend on how it responds to those challenges.

Human rights violations in North Korea are arguably as severe as any the world has witnessed. North Korean refugees report that the repatriated women who become pregnant while in China are forced to have abortions and their infants murdered, that entire families of political prisoners are gassed to test chemical weapons, that religious believers and dissidents are executed in public, that a quarter of a million political prisoners sicken and starve in prison camps, and that the regime manipulates food supplies as a method of political control. As you know, an estimated 2.5 million North Koreans died of famine in the 1990’s, and that during this same period, North Korea’s lavish spending on weapons, including nuclear weapons now being tested, could easily have covered the shortfall in its food supply.

North Korea has not only refused to cooperate with calls to investigate these allegations, it has also refused to cooperate with U.N. Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn. It has also been recalcitrant in permitting the World Food Program to monitor the distribution of food aid, despite recent reports that the food situation in North Korea is worsening. As you know, a videotape believed to have been smuggled out of South Hamgyeong Province recently suggests that your own government’s food aid was expropriated by the North Korean military, even after your country certified that the aid had been distributed to needy recipients.

The Peoples’ Republic of China, a member of the U.N. Security Council, continues to repatriate North Korean refugees found on its soil to North Korea, knowing that those refugees face severe punishment, including execution. China’s policy, which is in flagrant violation of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, demands the immediate and forthright attention of the next Secretary General.

We hope you will agree that North Korea has been recalcitrant in its obligations to humanity, and that the United Nations must do more to induce North Korea to ease its oppressive conduct. Along with the Sudan, and as with Rwanda and Bosnia before, North Korea carries out egregious atrocities without apparent fear of consequence, criticism, or effect on its membership in good standing before the United Nations. In the coming years, the credibility and relevance of the United Nations as protector of the world’s peace and security will balance upon its forthrightness in addressing these allegations. We respectfully ask that you meet with Special Rapporteur Vitit Muntarbhorn at your earliest opportunity and publicly assure him of your full support. We also seek your assurances that as Secretary General, you will credit the values upon which the United Nations was founded by defending the human rights of the North Korean people.


Willy Fautre
Human Rights Without Frontiers Belgium

Igor Blazevic
People in Need
Czech Republic

Pierre Rigoulot and Robert Pepin
French Committee fo Help the North Korean Population

Martin Lessenthin
International Society for Human Rights Germany

Kato Hiroshi
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees Japan

Jan Ramstad and Therese Jebsen
The Rafto Human Rights House

Rev. Benjamin Yoon
Citizens Alliance for North Korea Human Rights
Republic of Korea

Mervyn Thomas
Christian Solidarity Worldwide-UK
United Kingdom

Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Simon Wiesenthal Center
United States of America

Ann Buwalda
Jubilee Campaign
United States of America

Suzanne Scholte
Defense Forum Foundation
United States of America