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NORTH KOREA

Human rights chief slams North Korean ‘abuses’

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Monday demanded an international probe into the alarming human rights situation in ultra-authoritarian North Korea, decrying more than a half-century of devastating abuses.

Human rights chief slams North Korean 'abuses'
Navi Pillay. (Photo: UNHCR)

"It is time the international community took a much firmer step towards finding the truth and applying serious pressure to bring about change for this beleaguered, subjugated population of 20 million people," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a rare and strongly worded statement on North Korea.

Pillay lamented the "deplorable human rights situation" in North Korea, "which in one way or another affects almost the entire population and has no parallel anywhere in the world."

She acknowledged that there had been some hope that the change of leadership in the single-party state after the death of Kim Jong-Il in
December 2011 could bring change.
   
"But a year after Kim Jong-Un (Kim Jong-Il's youngest son) became the country's new supreme leader, we see almost no sign of improvement," she lamented.
 
 Pillay also cautioned that the international community had been so concerned about North Korea's nuclear programme and rocket launches that it had largely overlooked the situation of the population in the country.
   
Despite the countrys almost total isolation, the UN human rights chief said the little information that has filtered out bore testimony to "a system that represents the very antithesis of international human rights norms."

She described meetings with two survivors of North Korea's network of political prison camps, which are believed to hold at least 200,000 people.
 
 "Their personal stories were extremely harrowing," she said, listing rampant violations inside the camps, "including torture, . . . summary
executions, rape, slave labour and forms of collective punishment that may amount to crimes against humanity."
 
The living conditions in the camps were "atrocious", she said, describing an acute lack of food, medical care and clothing.
 
One mother told her how she had been forced to wrap her new-born baby in leaves to keep her warm.
 
The other person she met had been born into a camp, where he had spent the first 23 years of his life.
   
"He was not only tortured and subjected to forced labour, but, at the age of 14, was also made to watch the execution of his mother and his brother," she said.
 
The widespread use of the death penalty is also cause for deep concern, Pillay said, noting that people in North Korea could be executed for "minor offences after wholly inadequate judicial processes."
 
She also highlighted the still unresolved cases of Japanese and South Korean nationals abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s.
 
"I believe an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst, but least understood and reported, human rights situations in the world is not only fully
justified, but long overdue," Pillay said.

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NORTH KOREA

22 North Korean athletes will compete at 2018 Games: IOC

North Korea will send 22 athletes to next month's Winter Games in the South, the International Olympic Committee said in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday. The IOC also confirmed that the two nations will march together at the opening ceremony.

22 North Korean athletes will compete at 2018 Games: IOC
2018 Olympics President Lee Hee-beom, North Korea's Sports Minister Kim Il Guk, IOC President Thomas Bach, South Korean Minister of Culture Do Jong-hwan and South Korea's National Olympic Committee Pr
The IOC has further approved a plan for North and South to field a unified women's hockey team, Olympic chief Thomas Bach told reporters following a meeting in Lausanne with sport and government officials from the two countries.
 
The announcement from Bach marked the approval of a landmark deal between the two Koreas that has eased tensions building for months.
 
The 22 athletes will compete in three sports and a total of five disciplines, including figure skating, short-track speed skating, cross-country skiing and Alpine skiing, in addition to hockey.
 
North Korea will also send 24 officials and 21 media representatives to the Games in Pyeongchang, which start on February 9.
 
At the opening ceremony, the joint delegation “will be led into the Olympic stadium by the Korean unification flag” carried together by an athlete from each country, the IOC said. A special unity uniform will be created for the event.
 
“Today marks a milestone on a long journey,” Bach said after the meeting, which finalised details previously agreed between the two countries. “The Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula, and inviting the world to join in a celebration of hope.”
 
North and South Korea remain technically at war since the Korean war ended with armistice, not a peace treaty, in 1953.
 
The North's decision to compete in  Pyeongchang — just 80 kilometres south of the demilitarised zone that divides the Koreas — is an historic diplomatic coup, especially after months that saw nuclear and missile tensions surge to new heights.