Joint Letter to UN Special Rapporteur: Defend the Free Speech of North Korean Defectors and Human Rights Activists in South Korea

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.

“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. The South Korean government has repeatedly interfered with activists’ press interviews, public speaking opportunities, advocacy work, and sources of funding.

Why Get Involved?

An estimated 3 million North Koreans have perished under North Korea’s brutal dictatorial regime since the mid-1990s. Families continue to starve to death as the North Korean government withholds food rations to entire regions of the nation. The government arbitrarily detains, tortures, and executes its citizens, including children, in a large network of prison/labor camps. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled to China to survive, however they live in fear of forced repatriation, imprisonment, and possible execution after repatriation. Children whose parents have died or been separated from them wander the streets in search of food and protection. We must act now to bring relief!…

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