Latest Update: 31 March 2013
There has been little change in the human rights situation in DPRK between January and March. Concerns about ongoing abuses of the civil, political, economic and social rights of the DPRK people remain. The DPRK government continues to give priority to its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes (it conducted a nuclear test on 12 February).
Millions of people in the DPRK continue to suffer from chronic malnutrition. The British Embassy in Pyongyang observes that living conditions outside the capital remain very poor, with many people lacking access to adequate food, healthcare, water and sanitation.
On 21 March the Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in the DPRK by consensus. The resolution was co-sponsored by the EU and Japan. It strongly condemned human rights violations in the DPRK and established a new Commission of Inquiry to investigate systematic violations, including the use of political prison camps. The Commission of Inquiry will run for one year and will produce a report for the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. The inquiry will be led by a panel of three experts, including the current UN Special Rapporteur. The UK stands ready to offer the panel every assistance once its work programme has been established.
The British Embassy in Pyongyang has continued to support NGOs operating in the DPRK to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. A number of embassy sponsored projects have been completed in the last three months, including improving food production in Kumchon County, providing clean water to a kindergarten in Unryul County and supporting a rehabilitation centre for disabled people in Songrim. Embassy staff have held preliminary discussions with the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled and the Korean Federation for the Care of the Aged about future cooperation. The DPRK government continues, however, to refuse to engage in a wider dialogue with the EU on human rights.
In February the DPRK’s telecoms provider Koryolink announced the official launch of mobile internet services for foreigners in DPRK. It announced the provision of similar services for foreign visitors in March. This enables foreigners to connect to the internet anywhere in the country where there is mobile phone coverage. While the additional internet connectivity is a welcome step forward and will, for example, allow NGOs and UN agencies to operate more effectively, DPRK citizens will not benefit directly from the service. Most people in the DPRK are still unable to use the internet and access remains severely restricted for those who can. Restrictions also remain in place preventing all but a few people in the DPRK from having telephone contact with foreigners.