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Date : January 12, 2012
MPs urge UK Government to take the lead on North Korea
   http:// http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=9751 [779]
   http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtoday/cmwhall/01.htm [785]

11 January 2012
MPs urge UK Government to take the lead on North Korea
Members of the British Parliament highlighted North Korea’s human rights and humanitarian crisis in a debate today, three days after the birthday of Kim Jong Un, the new leader of the country, and less than a month after the death of his father Kim Jong-il.
The 90-minute debate, held in Westminster Hall in the House of Commons, was introduced by Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, who presented a detailed description of the dire conditions in the country based on first-hand accounts of defectors and international experts. She described the testimony of Shin Dong-huk, who had been born in a North Korean prison camp and escaped when he was 23. His story, she said, was “the reason why I was particularly stirred to call this debate”.
Mrs Bruce had met Shin in Parliament in October 2011, and chaired an event at which he spoke, during his visit to the United Kingdom organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). “On hearing Shin’s story I was moved with compassion for the North Korean people to highlight their dignified suffering in order to encourage support for the North Korean people in their plight. May I therefore record that in calling this debate I hold no hatred for the people of North Korea but rather am motivated out of a deep love and concern for North Korean people, for their needs and for their deep suffering over decades,” she said. “North Korea has become the world’s most closed nation, with little press freedom, little religious freedom, little political freedom, little economic freedom and little freedom of movement or communication with the outside world for its people.”
Throughout the debate MPs highlighted the plight of an estimated 200,000 people in North Korea’s prison camps, documented evidence of the use of torture, forced labour and executions, religious persecution, trafficking of women, and the serious humanitarian crisis in the country due to food shortages. China’s policy of forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees, and the plight of foreign abductees kidnapped by North Korea over recent decades, including the family of Dr Oh Kil-nam, were also raised.
MPs pressed the British Government to consider taking a lead and establishing a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in North Korea, and to continue to pursue a policy of constructive, critical engagement with North Korea on human rights concerns. The British Government was also encouraged to press the new leadership in North Korea on access to international human rights monitors, particularly the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in North Korea, who has repeatedly been refused access.
Replying to the debate, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jeremy Browne MP, who has responsibility for both Asia and human rights, said, “There are many serious human rights causes around the world that certainly deserve our attention but receive far more attention in this House and among campaigning organisations in Britain than North Korea. In my view North Korea receives insufficient attention considering the gravity of the situation in that country and in a small way we have started I hope to address that deficit this morning … Human rights are part of Britain’s national DNA and will be woven into the decision-making process of our foreign policy, and as such we treat the issues of human rights and humanitarian plight in North Korea with the utmost seriousness.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “I would like to thank Fiona Bruce MP for tabling this debate and speaking with such compassion and conviction. This debate was a rare and very important way of putting the spotlight on the human rights and humanitarian crisis in North Korea, the world’s most closed nation ruled by one of the most oppressive regimes today. We fully support the range of tools proposed during the debate, including a policy of critical, constructive engagement which opens up opportunities to raise these issues directly with the North Korean authorities, combined with increasing international attention and pressure on the regime to change. We are delighted that the debate covered the appalling situation in North Korea in some detail, including the severe violations of religious freedom. We hope, in particular, that the UK Government will have noted calls for the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity in North Korea, and that Britain will take a lead in pursuing this idea internationally. We welcome the Minister’s recognition of the gravity of the situation in North Korea, and hope that this debate will have contributed to raising the dire human rights situation further up the agenda of policy-makers, Parliamentarians, the media and the public.”
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is an organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
  1. To view the debate online, please visit  http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=9751
  2. A full transcript will be available in Hansard at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtoday/cmwhall/01.htm

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