Feb 27, 2019

NEW YORK (February 27, 2019) — In a joint letter addressed to the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and the North Korea Freedom Coalition urge Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana to address the South Korean government’s efforts to silence North Korean defectors and other human rights activists, thereby abusing their hard-won rights to free speech and free assembly. HRF first began receiving reports of such interference before last year’s inter-Korean summit. Defectors’ voices are essential to bringing North Korea’s human rights abuses to international attention; notably, neither the inter-Korean summit nor last year’s Trump-Kim produced agreements that mentioned, let alone prioritized, human rights. HRF’s letter aims to inform the special rapporteur about this worrying trend, which has significant implications for the human rights situation in North Korea, as U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un meet in Vietnam this week.

“South Korea has historically been a safe haven for those escaping from human rights abuses in North Korea,” said the letter signed by Joy Park, HRF’s legal counsel on Asia. “It is unconscionable that defector-activists … are facing limits to their free speech and assembly yet again, this time in a country that many see as a shining example of democracy in Asia.”

Since President Moon Jae-in took office in May 2017, his administration’s “moonshine policy” has discouraged activism that it believes conflicts with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations with North Korea. According to reports received by HRF, the South Korean government has repeatedly interfered with activists’ press interviews, public speaking opportunities, advocacy work, and sources of funding.

The letter, which is based on interviews with defector-activists, includes information on specific incidents of government interference. It can be read in full here. HRF’s previous press release on last year’s incidents can be found here.

Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

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