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Date : May 22, 2013
Human Rights Watch Urge North Korea to Cease Crackdown
   http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/15/north-korea-stop-crackdown-economic… [1286]

Human Rights Watch has released a press release urging North Korea to stop their crackdown on economic crimes. Moreover, their statement calls for the recently established UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the crackdowns as part of their investigations into violations of human rights.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director said, "The collapse of North Korea’s public distribution system of food and other necessities fueled a survival response resulting in increased private economic activities.” He then went on to say that, “North Koreans also have greater access to information through technology, so they know how the rest of the world is living and how bad the situation is at home. The response by North Korean police and security officials has been to crack down on efforts to survive by trading goods and services, showing the determination of the government to maintain control over people’s everyday lives.”

Despite initial hopes for reform under Kim Jong Eun, the economic situation is continuing to create hardship for North Koreans. Phil Robertson said, “Facing abject poverty and hunger because of North Korea’s chronic food shortages, increasing numbers of North Koreans have to risk violating the government’s controls on internal movement.” He also remarked that, “Leaders in Pyongyang who never lack food for themselves should end this heartless policy and allow the North Korean people to move freely within the country and exercise their right to a livelihood without fear of punishment or retaliation.”

Through extensive interviews with 90 North Korean refugees and other research, Human Rights Watch were able to obtain evidence of human rights abuses linked with non-permitted economic activities. The crimes that citizens have been accused of vary from violating travel permits to engaging in private enterprise.“In a world of fast-flowing information, even North Korea is susceptible to new communication technologies,” Robertson said. “Imprisoning those with CDs and DVDs is not going to stop the inevitable flow of information through new technology. Kim Jong Eun should immediately order an end to arresting and imprisoning people simply for possessing TV programs and music from other countries.”

The press release contains several examples of testimony about punishment for economic crimes. One trader told Human Rights Watch that, “I didn’t want to go against the law, but without doing that it is hard to earn money.… I know it is illegal to sell those things.… If someone is arrested, the rich can be released by paying money, but the poor will have to serve many years of a [prison] sentence.”

As the Commission of Inquiry is in the early stages, it is imperative that such crimes be investigated as part of their work, the release urges.

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