Skip to main content

North Korea

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department has taken in relation to the human rights situation in North Korea in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (283948)

The Government take the human rights situation in North Korea extremely seriously. We are deeply concerned by continuing reports of serious, widespread and systematic human rights abuses there. We raise this issue with the North Korean Government at every appropriate opportunity. Our ambassador in Pyongyang raised our concerns most recently in February 2009 during the visit to North Korea by Lord Alton and Baroness Cox with the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Speaker of the North Korean Parliament. He emphasised the importance of dialogue on human rights and urged North Korea to accept a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur. However the North Korean Government refuse to engage.

With EU Partners we sponsored annual resolutions on North Korea human rights at the UN General Assembly (in December 2008), and at the UN Human Rights Council (in March 2009). The latter includes the mandate for the UN Special Rapporteur on North Korea Human Rights, whose work in evidence gathering we strongly support.

We have worked closely with a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) over the past year. We sponsored an NGO report on children's rights in North Korea ahead of the February 2009 periodic report by the UN Committee on the Rights of Child on North Korea. We also supported the participation of a leading UK NGO at an international conference on North Korean Human Rights in Canberra in March. We are now working with NGOs and international partners to prepare for the Universal Periodic Review of North Korea's human rights record which is scheduled to take place at the UN Human Rights Council session in December 2009. Locally, our embassy in Pyongyang has given support to the project work of Handicap International in the DPRK which is designed to help improve the rights of the disabled there, and is looking at ways to increase that activity.